Unity of the Working Class with Progressive and Democratic Forces to Defeat Imperialist Globalisation and Resist the Right-Wing Offensive
Deepening economic recession and rise of inequality
After more than two decades, imperialist globalisation is reaching its limit. Deep recessionary trends in the global economy are still persisting and signs of possible economic recovery have been feeble since 2011. Even the recent UN Report on the World Economy is predicting the risk of synchronised economic downturn across both the developed and developing countries
The major impact of these developments has been on the working people, with the ILO estimating unemployment reaching 197 million by 2012, of which most are youth and from developing countries. Moreover, there is now strong evidence that income inequality has increased, and more significantly, wage share in the national income – a key driver of income inequality – has declined all over the world since the 1990s. Both the ILO and the UN report that financialization has been the main cause of the decline in wage share and globalization has polarized income distribution. Further, privatization has reduced availability and access to public services and made health, education, transportation and housing less accessible and more costly.
More significantly, this phase has witnessed an increase in the predatory character of global capital, evident in the increasing incidence of land and resource grabbing throughout the world. With national institutions and ideologies collapsing or acquiescing to this resurgent primitive accumulation of capital and state allowing coercion and repression of people in order to seize these resources, affected people are rising up to confront, resist and fight back at the grassroots against this takeover. There is a global rise of opposition in many parts of the world with peasants, pastoralists, fisher-folks and indigenous communities resisting this onslaught. This is the bedrock of the global upsurge against neo-liberal capitalism.
Rising unemployment, declining wages and loss of livelihood have increased poverty and social inequality. It is estimated that 870 million people are in extreme poverty across the globe today. In India, evidence of this poverty is the reduction of per capita availability of food grain, which has declined from 180 kg before the onset of economic reforms to 160 kg in 2008-09. Imperialist globalization is essentially an offensive against the working people, a fact known to working class and people all over the world from their own lived experience. Therefore, their opposition and resistance have grown in scale and militancy. The financialisation of the global economy and the restructuring of production by its fragmentation, and global dispersion of tasks and activities to various low wage regions is a response of finance capitalism to sustain its rate of profits in a condition of declining profit rate. It has led to increase in inequalities within and between the countries. The eye wash of trickle-down theory of growth has been exposed.
The prolonged crisis and this enormous growth of inequality manifest as lack of demand. Although this is an expression of the structural logic of neo-liberal capitalism that redistributes value from labour to capital, it is not inevitable even in this phase of globalization because class struggle and people’s resistance can change governments and compel them to undertake progressive economic policy. Latin America has shown the possibility of enforcing a program for social development and productive employment through public finance and progressive taxation. Now even the ILO has called upon the working people to become agents for equalising distribution. In other words, it is for the trade union movement to organise people and institutionalise their capacity and power to evolve a framework for social change for equitable distribution within a sustainable development framework.
Imperialist Order is in Political Crisis
At the Third General Council in 2012, NTUI noted that the economic crisis is precipitating a political crisis. This has become more pronounced since then. The political crisis has extended to every level of world imperialism. The capacity, as well as the credibility, of the interstate governance structure has been put into question. Let alone convergent action to address the economic crisis, there is not even a common assessment of its nature and extent. There is a major gap between the G8 and the rest of the world and new blocks like BRICS are asserting themselves with their own positions and actions.
More significantly, political crisis has engulfed US imperialism. The retreat from war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in exhaustion, without achieving any clear strategic objective has, both revealed the weakness of US imperialism’s over reach and the illegitimacy of armed intervention. The prolonged unemployment, massive inequality and anti-labour policies are drawing the youth and immigrants to mobilize in large numbers for the ‘Occupy’ and immigrant reform movements, joined now by waves of strikes by workers. The massive mobilization of thousands of people on 24 August 2013 on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington is the testimony of this assertion. All these struggles have undermined US-imperialism’s capacity for armed intervention. The intervention in Syria was opposed by a combined group of 140 members of the US Congress and mainstream public opinion. This was reinforced by the rejection of such intervention by the British House of Commons subsequently followed by opposition from other NATO members. In the end, the compromise with Russia, which had openly defied the US on Syria, revealed the retreat, and more significantly, the split in the ruling class and in the imperialist camp. NTUI believes that this breach within the ruling class has to be widened by a global mobilization and the struggle against war has to be linked with the struggle on economic and social issues – to break with imperialism.
Even the limited global consensus on sustainable development goals, as agreed in Rio+ 20, is breaking down, though the working group of international scientists – Inter-governmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) – has in its recent report strongly articulated the threat of climatic change to human civilization IPCC has warned that this warming trend is man-made, in particular, due to excessive industrial development based on the fossil fuel , beyond the needs of people, for luxurious and obnoxious consumption, producing excessive waste under capitalism, and the change in land use is resulting in shrinking natural forest sinks that absorb carbon dioxide. The report has also highlighted the maximum capacity of the earth’s environment to absorb carbon, i.e., the carbon space, and the fact that about 65% of this carbon space has already been used up by the developed countries, whereas the majority of the people are in underdeveloped regions needing industrialisation even within a sustainable development framework.
Ordinary people experience these changes in weather patterns throughout the world, specifically the lengthening of the monsoon season, more frequent and extreme temperatures variations and heat waves. As capitalism reaches its ecological limits, it has opened up the opportunity for people to fight back collectively in order to sustain the conditions of life on earth. NTUI believes that the international trade union movement has to force global capitalism on the issue of energy transition toward renewable energy and for equitable distribution of carbon space for development.
Imperialist globalisation exercises its hegemony through the neo-liberal regime: capital flows over capital control leading to excessive flow of foreign capital over current financial needs; dependency on currency and capital markets over savings and developmental financial institutions; private investment over public investment; and lenient tax regimes and repressive fiscal regimes over expansionary fiscal budgets. In other words, the neo-liberal regime is serving the interest of finance capital, abstracted from the needs of national economies, communities and people. NTUI believes that the working class has to act on a national plane to fundamentally shift the political balance of class forces to open up the possibility of restructuring the national economy. This is possible only by reorganizing the left forces, forging trade union unity and building broad alliances, and the NTUI is committed to that struggle.
Rising Curve of People’s Struggle
The economic crisis is intensifying class struggle leading to direct actions and occupations. The rising curve of people’s upsurge globally has not declined and is compelling political shifts – left and democratic – in many countries. Similar discontentment among wide sections of people is evident in India and is translating into an anti-government mood and movement. The emergence of intensified class struggle is resulting in an increasing attack on workers and their organisations. The violent outbursts at Rico, Pricol, Graziano, Yanam and now Maruti, shows the tenacity of the working class. Not only have the workers’ struggles becoming more militant, they are also overcoming the divisions between regular and contract workers and other social divisions as well. As fresh workers enter employment as casual and contract workers – more than 50% in the organised sector – new waves of organisation and struggles will emerge from their ranks.
Government response has been an increasing militarisation of police and an increasing policing of labour. In recent years, the focus of the state has been to thwart the implementation of labour laws, undermine the formation of trade unions and view working class struggles as solely law and order problems and as internal security threats. This deprives the working class the support of legal and democratic forms of struggle and compels them onto militant paths, which then gives capital an excuse to project the working class struggles as illegitimate and justify the use of extra-legal force, mostly in collusion with the state, to crush workers, unions and their struggles. The trade union movement has to respond to these emerging needs and struggles. The NTUI has to defend the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining as core components of human rights and build a strong coordination to defend trade unions, trade union rights, and trade unionists.
The political mood in the country is being shaped by a series of massive upsurges against the government. Increasing reports of large scale corruption in government and the malfeasance of big capital has exposed the nexus between the state and crony capitalism. The massive outrage against sexual violence, brutality and rape and the state’s apathy towards this issue and the resulting democratic movement has focused attention on all forms and locations of sexual violence and compelled a national discourse on the deep prejudice, inequality, and violence against women in our society. This oppression of women deepens their experience of subordination and of extreme exploitation in the realm of work. Working men are not immune from this prejudice. The dehumanised world of work and life along with exposure to rampant commodification of sexuality, in a capitalist system, does not moderate this mind set, let alone eliminate it. This is a challenge for the union movement. The unity of the working class is undermined when male co-workers and unions are indifferent to gender concern and condone sexual harassment. NTUI believes that the trade union movement must address the issue of sexual violence in all forms and in all locations – public and private, and lead the struggle against sexual violence and sexual harassment at the workplace, understanding it to be a key axis for building a larger struggle for dignity and equality, and for ending all forms of exploitation.
Deepening Trade Union Unity
This intensifying mood of the working class to fight back the offensive of capital and state through strike actions is broadening the scope for united action. The call for a two-day strike by CTUs in February 2013 was a positive step, although the uneven nature of the two-day strike, with many unions not being able to sustain a strike for two days, showed the need for organisational consolidation and effective public education and campaign. In addition, large numbers of federations and organisations, more militant and more rooted among the un-organised workers, were not brought into this convergent process, a weakness that NTUI made an effort to address. Further, this unity of action at national level has to be deepened by building unity across states, regions and industrial sectors. It should be the task of NTUI to catalyse this unity at state, regional and industrial levels through effective and sustained joint committees and build public education and campaigns to draw people in by helping them to understand the need for and legitimacy of general strikes.
Failure of the UPA Government
The UPA government has failed in finding a possibility of emerging from the global crisis of 2008-09 and to sustain the initial recovery on the basis of domestic demand. It couldn’t reorganise the policy framework to suit the needs of the domestic economy, industry, agriculture and wage goods for people, with tax and debt financed public expenditure as the main stimulation for growth. Instead, the generalized inflation that started in August 2009 is still persisting. In the context of declining growth, the persisting inflation is a sign of the national economy heading for stagflation. In addition, the present currency crisis follows the structural logic of the present neo-liberal regime and the possible collapse of the rupee and an eruption of debt crisis due to this debt financed private expenditure, is serious.
The political crisis is affecting the institutions of state, parliament and even political parties. Although the opening up of democratic space resulting from the electoral defeat of the NDA has seen a shift from the earlier patronage based welfare programmes to rights based entitlements, even these limited gains are unpalatable to finance capital. The UPA has been caught between responding to the popular mandate it got, and the decision to maintain the neo-liberal framework. As a result, the UPA is faced with an internal crisis of leadership and ideology. Regional parties express the aspirations of people in the region without a coherent programmatic orientation. Their ambiguity arises from their simultaneous expectations and contention with finance capital and central state. As a result these parties have not evolved into an alliance with a hegemonic political core at the national level. The left parliamentary forces are yet to recover from their setback. In absence of self-critical view they still have a long way to go to be able to respond to this intensifying class struggle. Moreover, the left parliamentary forces are even hesitant to engage as a hegemonic contender within the anti UPA and anti NDA, political space. Such a political crisis opens up the ground for a right wing offensive. In this context the resurgence of BJP, with massive support of big capital, is a serious threat.
Renewed Right Wing Threat
Though, BJP and Congress act within the neo-liberal framework and have wide overlapping consensus, they also have different and distinct policy options and political edge. With Narendra Modi resolving the leadership issue in BJP, he is reorganizing the party, reframing its ideology and constituencies to the needs of Big Capital. The BJP is fiscally conservative, oriented exclusively for state enabled private capitalism, supports privatization of public services and corporatization of agriculture, and aggressive projection of Indian power in the region. Moreover, its ideological offensive is to eliminate the intellectual influence and policy framework of public sector, planning and redistribution in national development. More significantly, it is fundamentally transforming communalism, from recurring disruptive violence into institutionalized communalism of the state in order to hierarchise and fragment the society. This will lead to more repressive conditions for entire segments of the working class and the state will rely on existing prejudices to legitimize this move. This threatens to undermine the unity and fighting capacity of the working people and must be addressed urgently.
With the working class experiencing the continuous offensive of the different ruling class fronts, NTUI resolves to seize this moment of deep crisis of imperialist globalisation to build resistance at grassroots and expand union building process; make all efforts for initiating, joining and consolidating a national alliance of trade unions and people’s organisations for formulating a programmatic alternative to neo-liberalism, a framework of electoral intervention to make politics more conducive to such alternative, and to strengthen the international unity of working class with progressive and democratic forces to breach the imperialist order.
Proposed: Ashim Roy, Chemical Mazdoor Panchayat
Seconded: V. Chandra, Koyla Udyog Kamgar Sangathana