Indian cities never go silent. Sound is a constant feature—the horns of cars, the chirping of birds, the cries of hawkers, the steady hum of a motorcycle engine. On Tuesday, India is on strike. It is likely that about 150 million workers will stay away from their workplaces. Trade unions of the Left have called for the strike, a general strike in a country exhausted by rising inequality and a mood of dissatisfaction.
Get your yellow vests, people. It’s way past time.
If it wasn’t for the mass addiction to the Status Quo of Corporate political parties beholding only to the MIC and the 1%, the United States of America in another time, might have been able to generate this type of outrage.
Some nuggets from this excellent article (which apply to almost any nation – even exceptional ones:
If workers have no power, then they are effectively enslaved to the firm. This is already the case in factories that operate almost like concentration camps.
Walking through factories along the Chennai-Coimbatore corridor or in the Manesar area gives you a sense of the power of these new factories. They are a fortress, difficult to breach. Or a prison. Either way, trade unions are not welcome there. They are kept out by force—either violence or political muscle. Workers are often brought in from far away, migrants with few roots in the area. No workers stay long. As soon as they appear settled, they are removed.
Footloose workers and harassed trade unionists make for a harsh work environment. The culture of working-class solidarity erodes, social violence grows—the seedbed of neofascist politics.
When the Left is in power—as it is now in power—it does not introduce new policies by fiat. Mass movements of the Left develop public campaigns to raise awareness and build a political will behind policies. This is one of the reasons why the air of hopelessness does not hang over Kerala.
Elsewhere in India, about 300,000 farmers have committed suicide largely because of the agrarian debt crisis. Professor Siddik Rabiyath of the University of Kerala tells me that the fisher folk have a higher debt burden than farmers, but that they do not commit suicide. He suggests that this might be because of the hope that the next day’s catch will rescue them from debt. It is also because of the general atmosphere of hopefulness in Kerala.
Last year, when this state of 35 million went underwater in a flood, the fisher folk grabbed their boats and became the frontline of rescue workers. They did not do this work for money or for fame. They did it because of the tradition of social solidarity in the state and because of the culture of public action here (see the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research dossier on the floods in Kerala).
Thanks to the people of Kerala for showing us what hope can look like. In Struggle There is Hope.
Thanks to Vijay Pradash for bringing us this piece.
Thanks to the strikers of India and strikers everywhere.
This would not happen in the USA>
It would definitely “not happen in the USA”.
The union that I was required to belong to for 15 years was opposed to strikes because nobody paid union dues during strikes and dues were their highest priority as they rarely made any gains for us when contracts were “negotiated”.
Don’t tell me the Brits and the Americans got to the government!
It seems to me that both in small social groupings and in large ones that building and climbing hierarchies are the favorite activities of psychopaths and narcissists. They also enjoy creating chaos, and thus divide and conquer activities are enjoyable as well as useful activities for them. Control is important to them, and the independent spirit, thought and action of others is perceived as a threat. When the numbers of psychopaths and narcissists in the various control structures massively increases then the activity of normal people tends to be marginalized in these structures and psychopathic and narcissistic thinking becomes normal in the society.
Tthe people of Kerala have gotten it right when they decided to focus their efforts on attacking hierarchy and division. If we had a strong union movement and wanted to send a message to our own elites to back off from their attacks on us we would see our unions calling sympathy strikes in support of the people of Kerala. We would give them a taste of what is possible if the workers of the world choose not to be divided and exploited.