Saturday, May 29, 2010

May Day 2010 Public Meeting: A World to Win!

Public Meeting

 A World to Win: Challenges & Prospects before Working Class

Speakers: Ashim Roy (New Trade Union Initiative, NTUI), Prof. Babu P. Ramesh (Labour Economist, IGNOU), Ravi Sinha (New Socialist Initiative)

Time and Venue: 29th april, 2010, Jawaharlal Nehru Youth Center, Deen Dayal Upadhaya Road, ITO, Delhi

May Day Statement: More than one hundred fifty years ago, the Communist Manifesto concluded with these ringing words: ‘The Proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of all countries, Unite!’. The call of the last sentence should be addressed to ‘working People’, rather than just to men, since the overwhelming proportion of workers in fact have always been women. 

That apart, the late nineteenth century witnessed a number of militant struggles by workers world over to improve their working conditions. The demand for an eight hour working day became the rallying point for a series of general strikes. Police and capitalists in Chicago on 4th May, 1886 responded to one such strike by firing on workers. The event is known as the Haymarket massacre. The Second International of Working Men, decided to celebrate the 1st May, 1890 as a day of demonstrations by working people in all countries, to show their solidarity, organization and resolve to fight for a better world. And thus, the May Day was born. 

The description of capitalism given in the Manifesto still retains a measure of truth, and its exhortation and hope, are still a challenge. It was only towards the end of twentieth century that the majority of humanity began to be composed of workers. Capitalism has destroyed or subsumed all non-capitalist economic systems. The past thirty years world over have seen increasing economic and social in-equalities. Top five to ten percent of rich people in every country have become richer. Their hold on state policy, politics and culture is unprecedented. The workers on the other hand are seeing increasing working hours, a more brutal control by capital in factories and offices, and stagnant wages. Governments everywhere are serving the rich. The Obama administration in the US has given a hefty bail out package to rich bankers and speculators. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, ‘Never has so much money been transferred from so many to so few’, i.e. a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. In India the recent central budget has given income tax breaks to the super rich, but has imposed new taxes on essential commodities.

In these times of overwhelming majority of workers, and increasingly manifest in-equalities, it would seem that the spirit of May Day and the clarion call of the Manifesto to destroy an exploitative and unjust social system and to make a new social world based on equality would be eagerly taken up by the masses. Yet the reality of the current era is very different. The ranks of the working class have swelled, but it has lost the political organization and initiative. Self awareness of its historic potential has dimmed. Rather than forming larger and stronger collectivities, workers are seen fragmented along, national, ethnic, religious and caste lines. Erstwhile trade union collectivities have disintegrated in the face of joint assault by capital and state. New technologies are allowing capitalism to decentralize production processes at the global level, and yet retain centralized control. New arenas of high labour productivity like the information industry are seeing management successfully enforce individual control and wages so that every worker ends up fighting against every other worker. 

How does one understand the contradictions of the present era? What kind of new future is taking birth in the womb of current social world? What is the potential of working class in existing society to change it for better? Are emerging production technologies harbingers of a new age of social prosperity, or, are they creating new forms of wage slavery? Are workers in new industries liberated information entrepreneurs or disempowered ‘cyber coolies’? Trade Unions are institutions of the working class fashioned to fight daily depredations of capitalists and state. New management control systems, and an aggressively pro-capitalist state, police and judiciary have increased challenges before the trade union movement. It is becoming clear that old solutions are inadequate and new forms of solidarities and agitational programmes are essential. Working class has historically defined its political goal as establishment of socialism. This is visualized as a social and economic system based on equality and organised by collectivities; a social system ensuring greatest human freedom, in which ‘the free development of each is the condition of the free development of all’. The history of twentieth century socialism is filled with brilliant promises and beginnings, honest lessons and dishonest mistakes, painful reverses and eventual failures. How can the goal of socialism in future be envisioned and revitalized? As it gathers its strength for the coming May Day, finding answers to these questions is a serious challenge to the Working Class.


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