Report of the meeting by correspondent of Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC)
The Kamgar Ekta Committee conducted a meeting in Mumbai on Sunday, 11th June 2023, on the important topic of “Challenges facing the working class movement in India.” The hall was full of workers – men and women of all ages and from diverse occupations like railways, electricity, defence, IT, education and garments.
At the outset, homage was paid to the victims of the recent Odisha train tragedy. The participants were reminded that the time has come to unitedly ask tough questions to the government and rail authorities and demand accountability for this systemic failure.
This report presents the salient points made by various participants who expressed their views.
Though workers and farmers who make all items of necessity and feed the country constitute over 90% of the whole population, their very simple, basic needs – food, water, sanitation, housing, clothes, electricity, good health and education services, are not being met, and the situation is going from bad to worse. We have no say in how the laws and policies of the country are decided and implemented. The rulers do all in their power to crush our struggles. Irrespective of the party in power, the agenda of the capitalist class is implemented so that they keep growing richer at our expense.
Capitalism is the primary mode of production in our country, driving the economy. Capitalists own the means of production and financial resources as their private property and live entirely off the labour of others. They include owners of large industries, mines and service providing companies, big wholesale traders, money lenders, land and building owners and big capitalist farmers. They are just a few tens of lakhs in numbers.
There are 166 US dollar billionaires in India, with a combined wealth of about $750 billion (Rs. 60 lakh crores). The combined wealth of these 166 individuals is more than one quarter of the total annual income of the entire Indian population of 140 crore.
While there are over 14 lakh registered companies in the country producing a very wide range of goods and services, less than 1000 companies owned by about 150 monopoly groups dominate almost all the markets. To an increasing extent they dominate all areas of our lives – food, basic services like electricity, education, transport, communication, IT, etc. These monopoly companies exploit their workers by paying them as little as possible, and by looting the users and consumers by charging exorbitant prices.
The gap between the capitalists and the people at large keeps on growing irrespective of the party in power. These business houses fund parties like the BJP and Congress to the tune of tens of thousands of crores. That makes them the masters of these parties. When any party or coalition of parties form the government, its job is to implement the agenda of its funders, while the party in opposition fools the people by pretending to uphold their interests.
It is evident that if we allow the rule of the capitalists to continue, our future will be very dark. The alternative is to establish the rule of the working class and toilers and create a heaven on earth for them. That is the aim of KEC. The first step is to identify who constitutes the working class.
It is wrong to identify the working class on the basis of income or type of job. Whoever earns their livelihood by selling their labour power to those who own the means of production and services is a worker. This includes menial workers as well as the highly qualified ones like doctors, professors, IT workers, etc. The sole aim of the owners of means of production and services is to continue to amass the maximum profit. This can be done only by paying the workers the lowest wages possible. The interests of the owners and workers are diametrically opposed and can never be harmonised.
Along with farmers, workers fulfil a role that is necessary for the life and well-being of people. Today capitalists, particularly the biggest corporate houses, are entering agriculture to an increasing extent and ruining the farmers as well as the working class. This class is the common enemy of both the workers and farmers, and it is necessary for both to recognise that and unite against the capitalist class.
The capitalist class knows this very well. One of its most reliable methods of maintaining its rule is the British policy of “Divide and Rule”, which it has further developed. Every day we see workers and toilers of our country divided and targeted on the basis of their religion, caste, language, nationality and so on. We need to understand that this is not an attack just on that particular community, but on the working class as a whole!
The capitalist class also divides workers and diverts them by dividing them on the basis of union and party affiliations, workers against supervisors and managers (who are also really workers), blue collar and white collar, manual and intellectual (who are not even recognised as workers), permanent and contract, worker, employee and manager, and so on.
The only division of Indians that we must never forget is class division. The interests of the capitalist class and those of workers and other toilers are diametrically opposite and can never be harmonised. Our primary identity should be a member of the working class. Our primary loyalty should be to the working class.
In this capitalist system which keeps patriarchy alive, women are doubly exploited, as workers as well as women. If awakened and organised, they would multiply the strength of our class manifold. Likewise, youth have a great revolutionary potential. They have unbounded energy and optimism and come up with as well as love new ideas. Historically, all over the world, women and youth have played a big part in the progress of humanity. Workers’ organisations should take special efforts and create conducive conditions that encourage the participation of women as well as youth.
If we unite as a class we will be able to foil the increasing attacks on us. While it is vital to do that, it is also important to keep our strategic goal in mind. We need to organise and along with the farmers and other toilers, become the rulers of our country!
We must convince our class brothers and sisters that we are capable of ruling, because a large number of them underestimate the strength of our class. The primary duty of a ruler is to ensure the safety, security and well-being of all who work and contribute to society! The present day rulers are doing just the opposite.
It is we who save innumerable of our fellow citizens whenever natural calamities as well as man-made ones like the hurried lock downs and the state organised communal “riots” strike. The one year long farmers’ agitation was an excellent example of the way people’s needs as well as security were taken care of by the people themselves, in a very well organised way.
We have time and again exhibited our willingness and our ability to do that with the meagre resources we have. If we controlled the resources of the country instead of the billionaires who control them today, we will be able to create a heaven right on this earth!
Already different parties have started wooing us in preparation of the 2024 elections. We should not be deceived that this or that party coming to power in 2024 is going to solve our problems, but carry on as wide ranging discussions as possible to develop and unite around the independent program of the working class: the economy should be oriented towards maximising the well being of all the toilers by catering to their ever increasing material and spiritual needs, and there should be no scope for exploiting or oppressing anyone; ultimate decision-making power should vest with the people and elected representatives should be accountable to the people; friendly relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation should be built with the people of neighbouring countries of South Asia.
We should strengthen our fighting capacity by strengthening our organisations qualitatively and in terms of numbers. We have to unite and bring the agenda of the working class and other toilers to the centre stage! We have to organise to become the rulers of our land!