Friday, 24 May 2019 11:11

Class Unity - Class Struggle: Class Struggle to End Exploitation For Social Transformation

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It was with this vision that Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) was founded in 1970. The yearlong Golden Jubilee celebrations of CITU will start on its Foundation Day this year, on 30th May.

This vision was clearly spelt out in the Constitution of CITU thus: ‘The CITU believes that the exploitation of the working class can be ended only by socialising all means of production, distribution and exchange and establishing a Socialist State. Holding fast the ideals of socialism, the CITU stands for the complete emancipation of the society from all exploitation’.

Further, ‘It firmly adheres to the position that no transformation can be brought about without class struggle and shall constantly repel attempts to take the working class along the path of class collaboration’. 

This vision stood the test of time. Fifty years of experience has further strengthened CITU’s determination to carry forward this vision to achieve its Constitutional objectives.

CITU was born at a time when the working class of the country was simmering with discontent and anger at the growing attacks on their working and living conditions. Closures, job losses, increasing contractorisation, denial of collective bargaining rights, social security benefits etc resulted in outbursts of struggles and strikes in different sectors in different parts of the country. Jute workers, coal workers, steel workers, textile workers, transport workers and hundreds of thousands of workers in various other industries, were all on the struggle path.

The need of the hour was to unite all the workers in each sector, to unite all the workers in all sectors into a common united struggle against these attacks, against the policies of the then government, against the exploitative policy regime. The need of the hour was to unite the entire trade union movement to build a powerful class struggle against these attacks as well as the policies.

But the then leadership of the dominant Left trade union, AITUC chose, not the path of class struggle but the path of class collaboration in the name of the ‘two pillar policy’. The very idea of class struggle was sought to be ridiculed. The section of leadership within the AITUC that favoured class unity and class struggle was harassed, victimised and undemocratically and unceremoniously removed from leadership positions, from the unions. The unions that supported class struggle were denied affiliation; their affiliations were cancelled.

After all the efforts through a period of around ten years to steer the organisation away from the path of class collaboration and compromise with the ruling classes failed, the need to form a new trade union centre to bring the trade union movement of the country into the track of united struggles against the government policies was strongly felt. CITU was born with the thunderous slogan ‘Unity and Struggle’.

BT Ranadive was elected the first president and P Ramamurty, the first general secretary.

Soon after its formation, CITU, through its actions gave a befitting reply to all those who sought to isolate it and ridiculed its slogan of ‘unity’.

¨  Soon after CITU’s formation, in an attempt to isolate it, the National Council of Trade Unions (NCTU) was formed with INTUC, AITUC and HMS at the initiative the then Union Labour Minister, to support government policies. CITU effectively countered it by bringing the other trade union centres and industrial federation together to form the United Council of Trade Unions (UCTU) to fight against the government policies like wage freeze, compulsory deposit scheme etc

¨  The isolationist strategy of the ruling classes through could not be sustained for long in the face of vigorous efforts by CITU to unite the other forces both in industries and services to carry on united struggles. Within three years NCTU collapsed. New correlation started developing within the country’s trade union movement through CITU’s consistent fight against class collaborationist policies.

¨  Most important of the united struggles, soon after the formation of CITU, was the all India strike by the railway workers in 1974 that galvanised the entire working class in the country. The twenty day strike braving inhuman repression and victimisation is a source of inspiration to the working class even today. CITU also played an important role in bringing the railway workers into the path of united country wide struggles. The National Coordination Committee for Railwaymen’s Struggles (NCCRS) that the led the historic strike involved all major central trade unions except INTUC. CITU was an active constituent of the NCCRS. It organised solidarity actions, legal aid and all other forms of relief and support for the victimised workers.

¨  Despite the huge repression and attacks on democratic rights and freedoms during the Emergency, CITU actively supported people’s struggles and exposed the government’s attacks on trade union rights by lodging complaints with the ILO

¨  The Second notable event was the united struggle against infamous Industrial Relations Bill, 1978 brought by Janata Party government at the centre, which ultimately had to be shelved. In that process, National Campaign Committee of Trade Unions was formed comprising all central trade unions and independent federations except INTUC in 1981 during the Congress (I) regime.

¨  CITU was the pioneer in paying special attention to the task of organising working women, with a clear understanding that it is a class task – a part of uniting the class and strengthening class struggle. In 1979, it organised the first ever national convention of working women by a central trade union, and constituted the All India Coordination Committee of Working Women to advance its work among working women. This untiring work of over four decades has resulted in the increase of women’s membership in CITU to more than 33%, active participation of women in all activities of CITU including in its decision making bodies at all levels.

¨  The first ever countrywide general strike by all the trade union centres except INTUC, held on 19th January 1982 was the third historic joint struggle in which CITU had played a prominent role. Through this strike the working class has also raised the demands for farmers and agricultural workers drawing their active participation in various parts of the country. 10 workers including agricultural workers died in police firing in various parts of the country on that day. 

¨  CITU played a frontline role in unifying the public sector unions in united platform of struggle and in the formation of the Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions (CPSTU)

¨  Since the advent of the neoliberal reforms in the country, CITU took initiative to unite the entire trade union movement, the central trade unions and the all India independent industrial federations, in joint struggles. The Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions led several country wide general strikes. In 2009, for the first time all the central trade unions including INTUC and BMS joined the common platform that led three country wide general strikes including the two days’ strike in February 2013. However, after the BJP led government came to power at the centre, BMS deserted the joint trade union movement. Altogether 18 country wide general strikes were held under the leadership of the joint trade union movement, the latest one being the historic on 8-9 January 2019 in which around 20 crore workers participated and which received wide support of the common people.

¨  In addition the various federations of CITU have taken initiatives to build strong joint struggles including strikes in their respective sectors as in coal, steel, plantation, anganwadi, ASHA, midday meal workers etc

¨  The independent campaigns and struggles led by CITU were also instrumental in encouraging and motivating joint campaigns and struggles. However, CITU never hesitated to go alone to defend the interests of the working class even when it stood isolated and the other trade unions took a pro government line, as in the case of the Family Pension Scheme of 1971 and the issue of Employees Pension Scheme 1995.

¨  In addition to developing working class unity, CITU understands the importance of bringing all the other basic classes involved in the production process, the agricultural workers, peasants etc into joint struggles to fight the anti people policies, to achieve its ultimate objective of ending all exploitation. It has been organising joint campaigns and mobilisations on the common demands of the workers, agricultural workers and the peasants in commemoration of the martyrdom of the workers and peasants who died in police firing on 19th January 1982. The ‘Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally’ held on 5th September 2018, the first ever such mobilisation in the national capital, in which lakhs of workers, peasants and agricultural workers participated has inspired the toiling people and progressive sections in the entire country.

¨  With the expansion of the unorganised sector under the neoliberal policies, CITU directed its attention to organising the unorganised sector workers, as part of its efforts to unite the class, organising them trade wise and mobilising them on their specific demands. Today, 70% of the membership of CITU is from the unorganised sector.

¨  CITU understands that realising its vision of ending all exploitation and transforming society is impossible with a ‘cadre follow leader’ type of organisation. It has fought the anti democratic practices within the then AITUC and has been underscoring the importance of trade union democracy within the organisation. The Constitution of CITU itself emphasises this.

¨  Two important milestones in the fifty years’ history of CITU are the adoption of its two major documents on organisation. The first one adopted in 1993 called the ‘Bhubaneswar Document on Organisation’ remains its basic guideline to strengthen the organisation. This was updated in 2018 in Kozhikode to meet the requirements of the changed situation, while preserving and emphasising the basic thrust on democratic functioning and political ideological development of cadres up to the grass root level. The Bhubaneswar Document and the Kozhikode Document indicate, through its frank and open criticism and self criticism, CITU’s determination to concretely identify its weaknesses and strengthen the organisation by overcoming them. It is the clear understanding of CITU that its political task cannot be delinked from its organisational tasks.

Today, when we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our organisation, we can proudly look back to our glorious role in the history of the trade union movement of our country. We carry the legacy of the struggles and sacrifices of the thousands of workers and cadres who believed, since the days of the struggle for Independence, in class struggle as a means to end all exploitation and transform society, who believed in Socialism as an alternative to the exploitative capitalist system. We carry the legacy of those who envisioned such an exploitation free society when they formed the first national trade union centre, a century ago.

Thus, we celebrate our Golden Jubilee with the slogan ‘Carrying Forward -100 Years of Struggles and Sacrifices! 50 Years of Fight for Class Unity!

During the year long Golden Jubilee celebration of the foundation of CITU, let us rededicate ourselves to achieve our revolutionary objectives. Let us dedicate this year to making the working class aware of its role in transforming society.







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