Maruti Suzuki strike over

Maruti Suzuki and workers reach agreement


(article by Kristyne Peter)

7000 Suzuki workers return to work after an intense and violent 14-day struggle that ends at the country’s largest car maker.

INDIA: Amid mounting international pressure, a tripartite agreement was reached today between Maruti Suzuki management, workers, and senior officials of the Haryana government ending an intense 14-day struggle that brought the Suzuki production to a crawl and revealed an unprecedented show of worker strength and solidarity.

Workers at Maruti Suzuki went on strike on October 7 after the company broke a September 30 agreement to recognize the union, honour basic labour rights, and reinstate contract workers who had gone on strike in solidarity with permanent workers during a previous struggle. Workers at Suzuki Powertrain India and Suzuki Motorcycle India immediately laid down tools in support of their colleagues at Maruti Suzuki resulting in a total of 7000 workers taking action.

The conflict and the anti-union behaviour of the local Maruti Suzuki management created an international uproar, involving unions all over the whole world, notably in Japan, where the IMF-JC and JAW were in contact with the international Suzuki management. In India, all major Indian national trade unions condemned Maruti Suzuki’s’ behaviour, calling it “vengeful”, and a Labourstart campaign delivered more than 4200 letters to local management in less than 24 hours, calling on the company to respect fundamental labour rights.

Details of the agreement, which was reached between Maruti and Suzuki managements, workers and unions of the three plants, and in the presence of government officials, includes:

  • No pending disciplinary proceedings at Suzuki Motorcycles. All disciplinary proceedings pending against workers were dropped;
  • At Suzuki Powertrain, disciplinary proceedings against three workers will continue;
  • 1,200 contract workers will be reinstated but disciplinary proceedings against 33 workers will continue at Maruti Suzuki. Transport services will resume.

Shiv Kumar, General Secretary of the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU) thanked the IMF, IMF-JC, JAW and Labourstart for their solidarity extended to the striking workers throughout their struggle. ” I want to express our sincere appreciation for making our strike known across the globe. The timely support and solidarity boosted workers’ morale, strengthened their resolve to fight and gave them the feeling that they are not alone, that workers across the world are with them. This assurance was a big motivating factor.”

Occupy Movement goes to Pakistan! (10/22 in Karachi)

سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی
Anti-Capitalism Movement / In Solidarity with Wall Street Occupiers
اکتوبر 18 2011
پریس ریلیز
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے سے یکجہتی اور سرمایہ داری کے خلاف احتجاج ۲۲ اکتوبر بروز ہفتہ کراچی پریس کلب پر ہو گا
سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کراچی کا قیام
وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کے ساتھ اظہار ِ یکجہتی کے لیے کراچی کی مختلف سیاسی و طلبہ تنظیموں کا ایک اجلاس پی ایم اے ہاﺅ س کراچی میں منعقد ہوا ۔ اس اجلاس میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنا دینے والے نوجوانوں اور سیاسی کارکنوں کی جدوجہد کو خراجِ تحسین پیش کرتے ہوئے سرمایہ داری نظام اور اسکی لوٹ کھسوٹ کے خلاف ابھرنے والی عالمگیر تحریک کو سراہا گیا۔ اس اجلاس میں نیشنل اسٹوڈنٹس فیڈریشن، انٹرنیشنل سوشلسٹ پاکستان، نیٹ ورک فار وومن، کراچی یونیورسٹی، آغا خان یونیورسٹی، سی بی ایم، آئی بی ایم اور دیگر تعلیمی ادروں سے تعلق رکھنے والے طالبعلموں اور اساتذہ اور محنت کشوں نے شرکت کی۔ اجلاس میں یہ فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ وال اسٹریٹ دھرنوں کی طرز پر کراچی میں بھی سرمایہ داروں کی لوٹ مار، مہنگائی، بے روزگاری، مہنگی تعلیم و صحت، مہنگی بجلی، گیس اور مقامی و ملٹی نیشنل کمپنیوں اور بنکوں کی منافع خوری کے خلاف آگاہی و احتجاجی مہم کا آغاز کیا جائے۔ اس سلسلے میں کئی کمیٹیاں تشکیل دی گئیں تو شہر بھر کے تعلیمی اداروں اور مزدورتنظیموں سے رابطہ کر کے انہیں سرمایہ مخالف تحریک کا حصہ بنائیں گی۔ اجلاس میںیہ بھی فیصلہ کیا گیا کہ لیکچرز، فلموں کے زریعے پاکستان میں سرمایہ داری کے ظلم و ستم، فوجی آپریشنوں ، مظلوم قومیتوں پر ظلم و جبر کے خلاف پروگرامات کیے جائیں گے۔ اجلاس میں طے ہوا کہ ہفتہ ۲۲ اکتوبر کو سہہ پہر ۳ بجے کراچی پریس کلب پر پہلا احتجاجی مظاہرہ کیا جائے گا جس میں شہر بھر میں وال اسٹریٹ دھرنے کی حمایت کرنے والوں کو شرکت کی دعوت دی جائے گی۔
جاری کردہ
(نغمہ شیخ)
برائے سرمایہ مخالف تحریک، کراچی

Reinstate Drs. Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro!

To the Board of Trustees of CIIS and President Joseph Subbiondo:


We, undersigned faculty and allies, were shocked to learn about the suspension and ongoing termination proceedings against Professors Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro of the Social and Cultural Anthropology Department at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).


In a time of increasing corporatization and mediocrity of the Academy, which degrade and devalue spaces for progressive thought and politics, we are deeply disturbed to hear about the targeting of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro. Their academic and advocacy work have focused on justice and restitution in conflict areas, anti-oppression work, and scholarship critical of systemic forms of oppression. This work should especially merit support from an institution which claims as one of its primary ideals “to further the effectiveness of emancipatory movements such as feminism, social and political liberation, cultural self-expression, and ecological activism”.


We are appalled to hear about the many procedural irregularities in the investigation against Professors Chatterji and Shapiro, as well as the student testimonies of mistreatment throughout these proceedings by members of the CIIS administration. We understand that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has examined all of the evidence presented to faculty by the administration and urged their reinstatement. We also understand that a majority of their students insist that their education continue with Chatterji and Shapiro, and have secured legal counsel to demand their professor’s reinstatement.


We see this targeting of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro, and their students, as part of a trend to consolidate autocratic administrative powers in higher education, which undermines academic freedom and faculty and students rights. We understand that both Professors Chatterji and Shapiro have been a vocally political force within the Institute and have consistently advocated for collective and participatory governance, student rights, and faculty empowerment at CIIS. The Anthropology Department, designed to privilege social justice and advocacy, enables academic and ADVOCACY work in solidarity with marginalized communities.


We urge that CIIS extend its support for education offered by Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro.


We urgently request:

1. The IMMEDIATE reinstatement of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro to their full faculty status, in keeping with the AAUP’s August 11th letter to CIIS;


2. The IMMEDIATE formation of a faculty committee, with the guidance of the AAUP, to investigate the conduct of the relevant Institute Administrators in this matter, with the power to terminate any

Administrator for misconduct of a grave nature;


3. An expeditious procedure addressing Anthropology students’ grievances about the degradation of their education and their experiences of mistreatment by members of the Administration;


4. That any credible and outstanding grievances against Chatterji and Shapiro be dealt with through established protocols.


Please be informed that we will continue to watch this matter very closely.



Open letter to Austin unions

Open Letter to Austin Unions:

We, the undersigned, are union activists in Austin who have been watching the protests taking place in New York City (under the heading “Occupy Wall Street”) with much interest and enthusiasm.  They represent the feelings of ordinary Americans who are not only being left out of the economy but who are being robbed of their futures by the Wall Street bailout.

Starting on Thursday, October 6, 2011, activists in Austin will be starting a similar action called “Occupy Austin.”  The current plan is to assemble in front of Austin City Hall and show our discontent at the way the leaders of this state and this nation have wrecked the economy and helped the rich get richer.

We are appealing to you to support this action.  We think that this nonviolent demonstration is part of a process that began in Tunisia, and spread through Egypt, Greece, and Madison earlier this year and represents the feelings of millions of people throughout the world that the priorities of the people at the top no longer represent them.

Earlier this month, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 joined the Occupy Wall Street protest and posted this on their website:

“The Transport Workers Union Local 100 applauds the courage of the young people on Wall Street who are dramatically demonstrating for what our position has been for some time: the shared sacrifice preached by government officials looks awfully like a one-way street. Workers and ordinary citizens are putting up all the sacrifice, and the financiers who imploded our economy are getting away scot-free, increasing their holdings and bonuses.

Young people face a bleak future with high unemployment, and minimum wage jobs. Public sector workers face Mayors and Governors who demand massive wage and benefits givebacks or face thousands of layoffs. That’s not bargaining. That’s blackmail.

One out of six Americans lives in poverty today, and the richest one percent control more wealth than at any time since the Gilded Age of the 1920’s.

The TWU Local 100 Executive Board is united in our determination that this state of affairs is dangerous for America and destructive to its citizenry. We support the Wall Street protesters and their goal to reduce inequality and support every American’s right to a decent job, health care, and retirement security.”

We encourage all unions in Austin to do the same with Occupy Austin: pass resolutions in support, encourage members to attend, and make contributions of resources if you can.

If you have questions (or would like someone to speak to your local) please feel free to contact us at

In solidarity,

Workers Defense Project

Snehal Shingavi, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Mike Corwin, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Will Wise, Texas State Employees Union, CWA local 6186

Ben Brenneman, IBEW 520

Emily Hersh, Education Austin

Julien Devereux, Texas State Employees Union/Communications Workers of America, Local 6186

Repeal the Land Acquisition Act!

Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta

Image via Wikipedia

Demanding Repeal of Land Acquisition Act and Enactment of National Development Planning Act Thousands to Attend Sangharsh Dharna from Aug 3-5 in Delhi


New Delhi, August 2, 2011: In the wake of the new draft of Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement slated for debate in the ongoing session of the Parliament, thousands of people from at least 15 states, affected due to the archaic Land Acquisition Act 1894 (LAA) is reaching Delhi tomorrow (Aug 3), demanding immediate repeal of LAA and replacement of it with a comprehensive National Development Planning Act.


“We welcome reopening the whole process and focus on the pre-legislative consultations. However one needs to keep in mind that the proposed draft is not a comprehensive draft but merely a combination of the earlier proposed two bills on land acquisition and rehabilitation, and fails to take in account the concerns raised by the millions of project affected people” Medha Patkar said.


Movements who have been opposing LAA have also been for long demanding community control over natural resources and the right to livelihood – some of it achieved under comparatively progressive legislations like the PESA Act, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Unfortunately, these very legislations are today under threat of being not implemented or worse misused for distributing land titles to some.


People are coming together in Delhi at a very crucial juncture. The poor from the cities who face eviction on a daily basis and whose livelihood is under threat, and those who are threatened by various developmental activities in the coastal states and the peasants whose land is constantly being grabbed for developmental activities would come and raise their issues. The question of establishing land rights of the marginal farmers, landless workers and peasants and their control over the natural resources, should be the focus of any new legislation dealing with the questions of land for development” Ashok Chaudhary, of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, said.


Other than the general focus on Land Acquisition Act repeal and replacement with a comprehensive legislation, 3-day dharna (Aug 3-5) under the banner of Sangharsh would also address specific issues around: Dams (in Narmada Valley, North East India, Himachal and Central India), Thermal & Nuclear Power projects, Urban displacement, Forest Rights and Community Governance, struggles against Corporations (POSCO, Jaypee, Adanis, Tata, Coca Cola, Vedanta, Mittal, Reliance, Jindal, etc), and protecting livelihood rights of rural and urban communities in the form of statutory government entitlements such as demanding a universal PDS and adequate beneficial rights to BPL members and oppose any move at introducing cash transfers.


Representatives of people’s movements would meet with the Ministers  / senior officials of the Ministries to discuss in detail their issues. People would meet Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment and Forests, Urban Development, Commerce and Industry, Social Justice and Empowerment and Planning Commission.


Key organizations attending the 3-day dharna would be national networks likeNational Alliance of People’s Movements, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, National Hawkers Federation, National Domestic Workers Union, SEZ Virodhi Manch and Jan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti, organizations like Narmada Bachao Andolan – Madhya Pradesh, PennurumaiIyakkam – Tamilnadu, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti – Assam, Nadi Ghati Morcha – Chattisgarh, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan – Mumbai, Aadivasi Mul Nivasi Astitva Raksha Manch – Maharashtra,  Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Matu Jan Saghatan – Uttarakhand, Machchi  Maar Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti – Gujarat, Renuka Dam Sangharsh Samiti – Himachal Pradesh, Birsa Munda Bhu Adhikar Manch – Jharkhand, Posco Prathirodh  Sangram Samiti – Odisha and others.



Vijayan – 9582862682 / 9868165471,

Madhuresh – 9818905316

Joe – 9871153775




For daily updates on the dharna:

For Podcasts:

Follow us on Twitter: #sangharsh

For higher resolution photos of dharna, contact: +91-9871153775



National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office: Room No. 29-30, 1st floor, ‘A’ Wing, Haji Habib Bldg, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014;
Ph: 022-24150529

6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316

E-mail: |
Web :

5000 Rally in Raigarh to Protests Arrests

Live reporting by Bhan Sahu on CGNet Swara (audio in Hindi):

Bhan Sahu is reporting live from a rally in Raigarh in Chhattisgarh where around 5,000 men and women have assembled to protest the arrest of social activists Ramesh Agrawal and Harihar Patel. Both were arrested on 28th May on a complaint of misbehavior by an employee of Jindal steel in a public hearing a year back. Meanwhile high court has rejected their bail application. Bhan says people are expressing their sorrow and anger in the rally and the atmosphere is very charged.

Bangladesh steals from its citizens to give to the oil giants

Bangladesh’s government signed a deal with ConocoPhillips last year to explore possibilities for deep-sea drilling in the Bay of Bengal.  There are some 7.3 trillion cubic feet of known gas reserves in the Bay. The deal will last nine years and will involve some production sharing with PetraBangla, the nationalized petroleum processing corporation.

Bangladesh is projected to run out of its current natural gas reserves in less than 4 years, and so it is anxious to try and find new energy sources domestically.  Depending on international petroleum markets leaves the nation vulnerable.

There are a number of problems with this deal (not the least of which is the treacherous game that is played with the ecosystem every time energy corporations go hunting for profits in ever deeper waters).

The Bay of Bengal is disputed territory and Burma, India, and Bangladesh all have made competing claims about territorial boundaries.  Because all three countries are oil-dependent and energy-poor, the discovery of series petroleum reserves in the Bay of Bengal will only intensify competition between the three nations.  The Burmese military junta, for instance, sent warships into the Bay as a warning to Bangladesh not to go hunting for oil.

At the same time, ConocoPhillips is undergoing a major restructuring of its operations to restore profitability and investor confidence.  They’re already planning on selling some $17 billion in assets and need new finds in order to prove their long-term profitability.  The Bangladesh deal comes at a crucial time for them; it’s hard to imagine that ConocoPhillips won’t take advantage of Bangladesh’s relatively lax environmental restrictions in the pursuit of “exploration success.”

A citizen’s network called the Committee to Protect Oil-Gas and Mineral Resources, with allies drawn from leftist parties, workers, environmentalists and professionals staged a demonstration and clashed with riot police on Tuesday protesting that the contract would hamper national interests.

Prof Anu Mohammad, leader of the citizen’s network argue that the deal with Texas based corporation would lose ownership of the blocks once the contract was signed, which is nearly 150 miles away from the coast. It which would be suicidal for the nation, observed the economic professor of a state university.

ConocoPhillips would get to keep 80 percent of the profits, while Bangladesh would get 20%.  There are a number of other clauses that make this a sweetheart deal for ConocoPhillips.

But there are other reasons to be worried.  Deals struck with other Canadian (Niko Resources) and American companies in Magurchara and Tengratila in the 1990s resulted in unsafe processing facilities and massive explosions in 2003 and 2005.  ConocoPhillips itself has a record of major accidents, too, in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Some of the details of the current deal were uncovered through WikiLeaks:

The controversy further deepened after whistleblower site Wikileaks revealed that U.S. Ambassador John F. Moriarty in 2010 pressured the Bangladesh prime minister’s energy advisor to award the contracts to Conoco Phillips, Halliburton and another American company.

Over the weekend there was a student demonstration at Dhaka University.  On Tuesday, they organized a protest in Dhaka and 6-hour strike that was joined by some 600 students, activists, and union members.  More than a hundred protesters were arrested including several left-wing bloggers (all appear to have been released).  There is a call for a black flag march this Thursday if the deal moves forward.

Class Struggle in India

Industry near Mumbai, India

Image via Wikipedia

Notes from my presentation at Socialism 2011

Thesis 1: India Shining is the name given to aggressive neoliberalism in India so that middle-class prosperity is supposed to mask the absolute immiseration of immense majorities of the population; the devastation of state-led social spending has made people increasingly vulnerable while given a free hand to corporations in India to do what they can.

Thesis 2: the last thirty years have been a one-side class war in India which the working class, the peasantry, and the poor have lost decisively

Thesis 3: there are five main areas of class struggle in India (broadly understood): the fight between indigenous people and the state-corporate combine over land; the fight of national minorities against the state for greater autonomy and resources; the fight of the peasantry and poor farmers against the state and the large landlords and agri-business; the fight of the urban poor for greater access to rights and jobs; and most importantly, the fight of labor against capital

Thesis 4: there have been four main ways the class struggle has been contained over the last thirty years: state coercion and force; the diverting of class anger into electoral politics; ideologically through either state-led Pakistan-phobia or populist-chauvinist communalism that is also called Hindutva; the maintenance of an immense reserve army of the unemployed.

Thesis 5: the development of a revolutionary left in India has absolutely been paralyzed by the persistence of mass Stalinist and Maoist parties

Thesis 6: in the absence of major working class fight back the center of gravity has shifted to a civil-rights campaign in defense of indigenous peoples against land grabs, largely produced by the nexus of urban middle-class intellectuals and the indigenous poor – this has an anti-capitalist but not a revolutionary socialist character.

Thesis 7: the development of an independent left in India and the development of mass working class activity is a dialectical process, the beginnings of which are more possible now given the exposure of the CPM as vulnerable in the last state elections.

Thesis 8: the only way that the Indian and Pakistani working class can win real social transformation will be the elimination of the national boundaries between them on the basis of real equality

At the outset let me say two things.  The idea behind pitching this talk was to think about how the Arab Spring might eventually turn into the Indian and Pakistani summer (and make that awful phrase mean something better).  Of course, the spread of struggle is neither spontaneous nor automatic and it rests on developments both structural and organizational that have happened in the various countries in which the mood of revolt has quickly met with the everyday experiences of people living under the brutal heel of both neoliberal capitalism and aggressive American imperialism.  But if you were to do a thumbnail sketch of the countries in which the protests have broken out, I think that you would find enough similarities between India and Pakistan and the countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe to make the question more than simply academic.

Increasing rates of absolute immiseration – depending on how you calculate it between 60 and 80% of the population of the Indian subcontinent lives in poverty (every year there is a big debate about this, but the economists change the way that they calculate poverty, sometimes ideologically to drive the numbers down); there is massive inequality (Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India built a 27-story skyscraper/mansion for himself and his family worth 1 billion dollars US – it’s spitting distance from some of India’s largest slums in Mumbai); massive growth but horribly uneven: 40% of the gains of growth go to something like 1% of the population; the last twenty or so years have been spent liquidating all state industries and social services and giving massive amounts of what can only be graft to corporate interests both foreign and domestic (in fact, much of the growth of the last twenty years has been the product of a massive giveaway of industries on the cheap to private capital); massive assaults on civil liberties; high rates of unemployment among educated young people (something like 20-30% of college graduates can’t find work); immense social polarization with spectacular spending at the very top and farmers who can’t make enough to feed their own families at the bottom; an enormous ratcheting up of absolute levels of exploitation in manufacturing in the interests of accumulation under the alibi of competition; and the lack of any real political alternative to the neoliberal agenda.  This should all make for explosive social conditions.

At the same time, there is a kind of disconnect between that picture and the picture laid out by the financial experts in the US and the political elites in India, which is a picture that has come to be called “India Shining” in which the vast majority of people are benefiting from economic growth and India is now one of the growing powers in the world.  This claim gets repeated over and over so often that it doesn’t ever really get investigated, because despite the fact that the Indian economy has grown somewhere between 12 and 15 times in the last twenty years, that growth has been predicated on some economic choices that cannot be continued indefinitely.  Much of India’s growth has been financed on credit, transferring wealth from the middle and working classes to the rich, which has contributed to inflation (9.6% over the last 12 months and even that doesn’t tell the whole story as food prices are quite high) on the one hand and real-estate speculation on the other.  Much of the growth has been in the finance and service sector rather in manufacturing, which is also some indication that there are limits to profitable investment in accumulation.  And between 2004 and 2010 the Indian economy generated no more than 2 million jobs for the 55 million people who entered the job market.  There has also been an decline in foreign direct investment into India partly because of the rotting infrastructure but also because of corruption, which has prompted the media shenanigans of people like Ana Hazare and the various political parties to come out and condemn corruption (even though they are all on the till).

Let me just say very quickly, that while there are differences between the BJP, the Congress, and the Communist Parties, at one level or another one is merely choosing between different kinds of neoliberalism not between neoliberalism and its alternatives.  Alongside these processes you also have some very intense levels of struggle that I will talk about in some detail, but just to sketch it out at the beginning: massive resistance to land dispossession through massive social movements or all out military confrontation with the state; a long tradition of labor struggle that is beginning to come up against the leadership of the unions which is connected usually either to the Congress Party or the Communists and therefore unwilling to lead most strikes to successful conclusions; long-standing grievances about national liberation in Kashmir and in the Northeast, places like Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Manipur.  Ultimately, I want to say that these are all part of a struggle between a state allied very closely to capital and ordinary people trying to exist, which sometimes takes the form of economic struggle at the shop floor, sometimes gets routed into political processes, and sometimes becomes open armed conflict.  There are also openly fascistic forces in India which attack these struggles: the far-right parties in the urban areas and the paramilitary groups like Salwa Judum in the rural areas.

To make matters worse, just like Tunisia, India is the darling of the international economic punditocracy.  It’s enviable rate of growth has meant that the economy has doubled every five years for the last twenty years.  This is the image of “India Shining” that the elite in India want to project, growing middle class, fancy technology, slick malls and high rises, Bollywood, and they therefore chafe if you talk about “Slumdog Millionaire” which will be my catchall for poverty with anything other than an air of ironic disdain for a putative Orientalism.  All of this seems like an explosive combination.  In fact, wages for some sections of the new middle-class have gone up for the last 20 years, but we’re really talking about the highly skilled workers in manufacturing or the managerial and clerical workers that make up the army of India’s new high-tech service industries.  Real wages among workers have stagnated over the last 25 years.  There’s almost universal agreement that this is because the vast army of the unemployed, which politely gets called the informal sector, exerts a downward pressure on wages, as employers always have a labor surplus from which to hire.

To be clear, I’m making predictions about any of this – as I read it, the organizational development of a far left in India is so much farther behind than it is in places like Egypt and Greece that you can’t really expect it to happen soon, but at the same time, I thought that about Egypt six months ago.  So what I want to do in the rest of this presentation is really lay out how India came to look the way that it looks and what the primary axes of struggle are in India.

1947-1991: From independence onwards, India pursues a strategy of Import Substitution Investment or ISI to try to get industrial development in India to replace external competition.  So this means a few things: first the raising of tariffs – some as high as 100% — to allow Indian industry the ability to develop, and second the direct control over certain sections of the economy to ensure development and industrialization: construction, infrastructure, communications, mining, etc.  These were done through a series of 5-year plans and the goal was to try to get Indian economic development internally with some gestures towards social redistribution.  Land reform was implemented (though incompletely) and there was investment in education and social services.  Up until the 1980s, though, India performed quite badly economically, growing at 3% a year, what some economists called in a marvelously racist way, the Hindu rate of growth.  The real problem was that India was pursuing a kind of weak state capitalism, which could take advantage of few of the benefits of trade or competition but without the development to be able to meet the needs of its population.

Under Rajiv Gandhi, the process of changing the economy commences more fully.  He ends what was called the “License Raj” because of India’s investment-averse regulatory regime which prevented the free movement of capital; privatizes many of the nationalized industries; and more or less enforces labor discipline on the working class.  But Rajiv Gandhi’s plans are financed through massive increase in public debt by borrowing for international sources which leads to a bailout by the IMF in 1991 and a more aggressive series of neoliberal reforms.  Incidentally this is exactly the period that leads up to the Mandir-Masjid-Mandal crisis of the early 1990s.

In 1991, under pressure from IMF but also indigenous interests in favor of liberalization, India pursues a full-scale liberalization of the economy.  Tariffs and duties are lowered to zero, state industries are fully privatized, international trade was encouraged, and everything was done to cultivate foreign direct investment.  One of the more brutal aspects of this period was the wholescale transfer of investment from the countryside to the urban areas when food subsidies and development schemes for India’s farmers were removed.  This not only impoverished farmers, but it also pushed them into the cities into the slums.  The other that has happened is that ideologically the state has moved over to backing capital at almost every point, so development schemes are now in the interests of big business rather than poverty reduction with the idea that the benefits of growth will trickle down at some stage.

One of the main features of this has been an accelerated push for raw material inputs for the development of manufacturing in India (iron and bauxite, etc.) and taking advantage of natural resources for infrastructural developments (rivers, dams, forests) which all happen to be right underneath the land that adivasis live on.  I’ll say more about this minute.

The resulting picture is one of untenable and protracted crisis all over India.  I want to point to the five main areas along which resistance and suffering are happening: 1) the persistent crisis in agriculture in India, 2) the still unresolved national liberation struggles (Kashmir, and the northeast), 3) the process of accumulation by dispossession that is happening in the “red corridor”; 4) the fight of the urban poor against things like slum demolitions, and 5) the exploitation of labor by capital.

However, it is clear that dualism in the economy (whatever be the terms one uses to describe it) has persisted, even hardened. The vast under-employed labour force in agriculture, despite being available to industry at subsistence wages, has not been, and is not being, absorbed in industry. This fact stands out particularly starkly against the current boom in corporate profits and investment. Of the population between 15 and 64, less than 60 per cent was ‘usually employed’ in 2004-05. More than half of India’s workforce remains self-employed, and the share of wage employment in the economy has actually declined during the last decade.  It was once anticipated that with the spread of new technology from the original areas of the Green Revolution (Punjab, Haryana, western U.P., and pockets elsewhere) the rest of India would catch up with the growth in these original Green Revolution (GR) regions, and regional disparities in agriculture would diminish. However, the liberalisation period witnessed disparate trends: in the GR centres, growth slowed;  in regions without irrigation but with heavy rainfall, crop prices collapsed and so farm incomes declined despite some production growth; and in dryland regions both production and incomes declined. Production in rainfed agriculture, which accounts for 60 per cent of cultivated area, is not only much lower than in the irrigated area, but is more or less stagnant. The bulk of growth has come from expansion of irrigated area and increased production of irrigated land; since the growth of irrigated area has come to a virtual halt under the neo-liberal policy of restricting public sector investment, agricultural disparities have widened.

Manufacturing not keeping up with population growth – means that people who are moving to the cities are caught in a permanent low-wage trap against an enormous reserve army of the unemployed.

Where manufacturing has been able to absorb rural labor, its practices are barbarically exploitative.  Textile manufacturers in Tamil Nadu for instance, recruit young girls from rural areas and place them in gender-segregated labor camps from which they are not permitted to leave in exchange for 3-year contracts and a promise of 30,000 to 60,000 rupees upon completion of the contract – this not only makes them vulnerable to extreme economic exploitation but also sexual exploitation;  those of us who have been involved in the antisweatshop movement in the US will see this as a familiar pattern.  It’s not accidental that the financial and economic planners in India have tried to help Indian textile manufacturers try to pick up the fallout from the collapse of the Chinese textile manufacturing industry.

Capital – land (usually adivasi controlled) – national liberation (can extend the analysis to large chunks of the northeast, much of the red-corridor) – doesn’t explain Kashmir

State hands over land to capital in exchange for “development”; deals are cut with multinational corporations and indigenous capital to develop manufacturing, real estate, or technology.

State uses its eminent domain powers to take land that people use for their subsistence, occasionally using colonial laws which required papers to prove ownership of land to displace and dispossess the local population

Local resistance then keeps the basic infrastructural inputs stalled as long as it can, but more often than not it fails.

Primitive accumulation or accumulation by dispossession.

Farmers – land

One significant feature was the participation of agricultural workers. Agriculture, which is still the mainstay of the Indian economy, provides nearly 60% of total employment. Aggressive liberalisation has deprived the small peasants and the rural workforce of their livelihood. The doing away of agricultural and food subsidies has resulted in the large-scale pauperisation of the rural people. Obeying the dictates of the WTO, the Indian government withdrew the restrictions on the import of agricultural commodities. As a result, the rural economy is in shambles. The dumping of cheap agricultural products has driven many farmers and peasants to distress suicides in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and even in Punjab.

Immiserated peasants then try as hard as they can to get to the cities.  Some of the better-off farmers can afford to send a son or two to college, where the majority of them become skilled blue-collar workers and the lucky ones get white-collar jobs.  Otherwise they migrate as entire family to the city where they join the ranks of the slumdwellers.  In Bombay for instance, almost half of the population is composed of migrants who are all a part of the informal economy.  60% of Bombay lives illegally because housing prices are so high (the real estate bubble has not yet burst in India).

Capital – labor

The contradiction of growth in India is such that the consumption patterns of the top 20% of the population make up for the declining or stagnant consumption of the bottom 80% — so it looks like the country is doing better off as a whole.

One of the key problems continues to be the domination of unions by the various political parties (and the proliferation of large trade union federations).  So in India there is the All-India Federation of Trade Unions (run by the CPIML-Janashakti), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (run by the CPIML), All India United Trade Union Center run by the Socialist Unity Center, the All India Trade Union Congress (run by the CP) – roughly 2 million members, the Hindustan Mazdoor Sabha run by the BJP, Center of Indian Trade Unions (CPIM), United Trade Union Congress (Run by the Revolutionary Socialist Party), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (run by the Congress Party).  Now since many of these parties are no longer revolutionary parties in the long run, they tend to play a dampening rather than developing role on class struggle.  Which is not to say that workers don’t fight back, they do, but that their fights are limited from the top.  In 2006, there was an attempt to form a federation of Independent Trade Unions called the New Trade Union Initiative, but that is still too new to tell the story of.

But there have still been major bits of resistance: in 2005, more than 29.6 million days of labor were lost to striking activity in 456 industrial disputes – some of these are industry-wide and so they get aggregated; in 2006, 20.3 million days in 430 disputes, in 2007 27.1 million days in 389 disputes, fast-forward to last year, though, and the number drops off quickly to 1.7 million days in 99 disputes.

All of this is really to point out that the coming years will see the intensification of struggle in India, but it will require two things.  First, the development of an independent left and second a more serious fight from labor against capital.  Those two processes are inter-related, of course, and whatever we can do to support them from abroad will be instrumental in bringing Tahrir Square to India.

Struggle over land and democracy in India continues

Public Convention on Save Democracy

Desh Bachao – Desh Banao


June 27th 2011, New Delhi

We all who have assembled here today discussed the political situation in the country in the wake of ongoing struggles across the country in Assam against evictions, Narmada Valley against submergence and displacement, Golibar, Mumbai against Shivalik; Jagatsinghpur, Orissa against POSCO; Raigarh, Chattisgarh against Jindals; Mundra, Gujarat and Chausra, MP against Adani; Kalinganagar Orissa against Tata and thousand other places. The struggle against Reliance, Jindal, Tata, Adani, Jaypee, Mittals and other Corporations and the collaborating State power is not only to protect their livelihood but central to this is defending the basic tenets of our democracy. The overall struggle is for deepening of democracy in the country – to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, to ensure democratic control over natural resources – jal, jangal, jameen and Khaniz (land, water, forest and minerals).

The social and political churning witnessed at this moment in the country today is encouraging. In a political context where the questions of working class and poorest of the poor assumes prime importance we RESOLVE that :

  •  Our collective struggles have to deal with the corruption at every level and work towards establishing communities control over the natural wealth of the country. In the wake of increasingly oppressive power of State and Corporations, our collective struggles of dalits, adivasis, women, urban poor, the displaced, workers, farmers etc. have to challenge the crony capitalism and work towards a society based on equality and political freedom.
  • Everyone need to join this struggle for stronger legislations like Lokpal Bill which will control the corruption in this country and other measures which will bring back the black money stashed in the country in different forms of illegal and benami investments and tax heavens in foreign countries.
  • We will struggle together to scrap the regressive legislations like Land Acquisition Act, Special Economic Zone Act and others and agitate for drafting of a development planning act in this country with the free informed and prior consent of the strengthened Gram / Basti Sabhas and other local self-government institutions.

We urge everyone – people from all walks of life workers, adivasis, dalits, urban poor, women, men and professionals, intelligentsia and everyone else to join in this struggle against exploitation, oppression and inequality and secure justice and dignity for everyone. Let us all join hands to work together !

The Convention was addressed by Medha Patkar, Kuldip Nayar, Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar, Swami Agnivesh, Mastram Kapoor, Yogendra Yadav, Arvind Kejariwal, Raja Bundela, Dr. Sunilam, Ravi Kiran Jain, Smt Manju Mohan, Kavita Krishnan, Ajit Jha, Rakesh Rafiq and many other activists.

Note : Next national meeting on July 3rd, Sunday, 10:00 am onwards @ Centre of Science for Villages, Wardha, Maharashtra. For details write to | 9818905316