Labour Strikes
It’s only the second week into the new year and there’s already been a series of strikes around the world across numerous sectors prompted by the rising cost of living and high inflation eating into workers’ stagnant wages. Strikes are having an increasing impact, with implications for sustainable business.

Britain's Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said 100,000 of its members across 124 government departments would take strike action on February 1 in a dispute over pay, pensions and job security.

Britain is experiencing a wave of strikes across sectors ranging from healthcare to railways, as pay rises fail to keep pace with double-digit inflation. Thousands of ambulance workers held a second day of strikes on January 11, while many schools in Scotland were closed by a teacher walk out.

Talks between government ministers and trade unions failed to produce a breakthrough to avert further planned strikes. The British government’s response to the increasing strikes was to introduce legislation to parliament which would require key public services to maintain minimum safety levels during strike action by workers. The new law could make effective strike illegal and workers may be sacked for exercising their right to withdraw their labour.

On the subject of new laws targeting strike action, Zimbabwe’s government has signed a bill into law outlawing organised protests by healthcare workers, who could now face a fine or an imprisonment of up to six months. This comes after thousands of nurses and doctors at state-run hospitals in the southern African country went on strike last year demanding a hefty raise and wages in US dollars due to a slide in the local currency and steep inflation.

Meanwhile, French unions and opposition parties said they would fight hard to try to derail a highly unpopular plan to make people work longer before receiving a pension. President Emmanuel Macron's government, in turn, said it wasn't afraid of a nationwide call for strikes and protests on January 19 and would carry on with its plan.

The French will have to work two years longer to age 64 before retiring, if the reform, announced recently, is adopted by parliament. They will also need to work longer to get a full pension.

"I started work when I was 18 and I'm tired," said 57-year old accounts department worker Francesca Lemolt. "I don't understand the principle of making people work longer when there are lots of young people looking for work."

In the United States, as a strike involving more than 7,000 nurses at two New York City hospitals ended after three days, as they reached tentative deals over staffing levels, according to the New York State Nurses Association..
Sharon Kimathi, New York

War and Left
The division of Left political positions and ideological formulations over Russian invasion of Ukraine are disturbing. It sends a wrong message to the working-class politics across the globe. It is imperative for the Left to reflect on how its political confusions provide ideological justifications for different forms of wars and conflicts. Bourgeois wars and conflicts don’t serve working class interests.There is no nobility and national glory in deaths and destitutions.

Wars and conflicts are different from class struggles. Class struggles are ideologically driven by working class to uphold their interests while changing society for better whereas wars and conflicts uphold ruling and non-ruling class interests represented by states and governments. Class struggles enable progressive and democratic transformations in the society whereas wars and conflicts maim, kill, control, create and domesticate large army of unemployed, marginalised, homeless and displaced people. Wars and conflicts destroy civilisations and societies to uphold the interests of the powerful and marginalises the masses. It creates the republic of refugees. Deaths and displacements are twin outcomes of wars.

The theatres of war and conflicts are slaughterhouses for the most committed, dedicated, idealist, skilled and healthy youth. The war propaganda cripples the abilities of people to think rationally in the name of nationalism, territory and motherland. Science and technologically driven modern wars kill scientific thoughts. Working class people die and surrender their interests whereas elites prosper in all wars and conflicts. The imperialist military industrial complex makes super profits at the cost of human lives and livelihoods.

Therefore, the unconditional opposition to Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO and the neo–Nazi Azov battalion in Ukraine is central to left politics for peace, solidarity and internationalism. It is ideological bankruptcy and reactionary politics to choose one over the other in the name of fighting the enemy and protecting the territorial sovereignty. Whose enemy? Whose territory?Whose sovereignty? Defending people irrespective of their national origin is central to left politics and internationalism. Territorial nationalism is a ruling class ideology, which is shaped by colonialism, and promoted by states, protected by governments and consolidated by the military power and wars. The wars for homeland create homelessness.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine serves war mongering American and European imperialists, and oligarchs of Russia and Ukraine. There are no culturally relativist and ideologically expedient arguments available in favour of Russian invasion of Ukraine. The struggle of peace, citizenship rights, equality, liberty, democracy and socialism are core values of left politics. These ideals can never be separated from each other. The opposition to Russian invasion is the first step towards peace and working-class politics of internationalism.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak,
University of Glasgow, UK

Kerala Film Institute Row
Philosopher and associate professor of IIT Delhi, Divya Dwivedi, has expressed her concerns over the ongoing protest against alleged caste discrimination at KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA) in Kottayam.

“I feel a deep sense of sorrow, concern, trepidation and rage after learning about the casteist officials of KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts and their lower caste victims who are students and staff members. The nature of these casteist acts is dehumanising and paralysing; it includes episodes of forcing scavenging upon the lower caste employees by the upper caste director’s family while telling the victims that Savarna excretions are quite special,” she said.

She pointed out that “an atmosphere of impunity has been created” instead of taking action against the Savarna supremacists in the institute.

It may be noted that students of KRNNIVSA have accused institute director Shankar Mohan and his wife of caste discrimination. The institute’s chairman Adoor is accused of protecting them. The protest has been going on for months. Dwivedi’s remarks come in this context.

Dwivedi condemened the remarks of institute chairman Adoor Gopalakrishnan against the ongoing protest. She also criticised the support given by a high-ranking member of the ruling party to Adoor.

“But all this should not surprise anyone since Kerala is still governed by the ‘vanguard’ of the upper caste ancestral rule, which continues to arrive, as we found with the implementation of EWS quota for the upper castes,” she said.

She further said that an institution named after the first Dalit president of India, KR Narayanan, could only find members from the minority upper-caste communities to govern it.
Mathru Bhumi, Kerala

This is in response to a letter regarding Bhima Koregaon by a reader, Pune, published in Frontier (Vol 55 No 29, January 15-21, 20230, {and with no connection to or comments on the current right/left tussle on the incidents}:

1. In my opinion, it is unbecoming for any party/organisation calling itself as 'leftist' to celebrate this occasion.

2. Because, basically it celebrates the 'claimed' victory of the British East India Company forces against Peshwa's Maratha forces and there is nothing to be celebrated by Indians in it.

3. Wikipedia informs "the Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde has argued that portraying the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as the battle of Mahars against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule is misleading. Teltumbde mentions that most of those died in the battle (27 out of 49) were not Mahars, and the Peshwa army actually retreated fearing the arrival of a larger British force. Thus he considers painting of the battle as "Mahars' against the Peshwas' Brahmanic rule" to be misleading."

4. It is also to be noted that the Mahars first volunteered to serve under the Peshwa (but on condition of some anti-discrimination remedies to them) but on his refusal, joined the British side.
I M Sharma, Advocate, Editor,
Law Animated World, Hyderabad


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Vol 55, No. 32, Feb 5 - 11, 2023