Problems of the Labour Movement in the Delhi Region

Rajesh Tyagi

Delhi, the seat of political power, is naturally a subject of immense political interest for the class and its representatives who strive to wrest state power through political revolution from the hands of the historically obsolete classes. Delhi is also a region of utmost strategic importance, not only it is the capital region, but also because inside and around it is concentrated a considerable strength of the working class which is growing numerically day by day. And ultimately its historic-political significance is marked by the fact that whoever in history had gained control of the Delhi region, had subsequently succeeded in ruling the country.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves unable to underline any remarkable growth of the working class movement in its true sense in this region. Though the absence of big industry and the resultant scattered deployment of the working class may be pointed out to be a contributory factor in the backwardness of the working class movement, but this in no way may be termed to be determining. Primarily it is the backward and dogmatic approach and attitude of the working class representatives which can be credited in the final analysis for the backwardness of the movement itself.

Doubtlessly there had been many struggles of the working class in recent times in this region, but, broadly speaking, these struggles could not take the shape of a movement as, without exception, they remained isolated acts of workers and never had any impact on the socio-political life of the region. Apart from small groupings of various political shades in the left camp, there is no political organisation of the working class and it is doomed to the meager existence in trade union associations. More or less, working class activity in this region is confined to the narrow limits of economism. Apart from conducting struggles on the day-to-day issues no major breakthrough has ever been planned by any revolutionary group in this region. No serious thought has been given to the question of politicizing the working class en masse. Consequently, on the one hand there exist isolated, narrow, and politically insignificant groupings of intellectuals of different political shades in the name of parties, and on the other is the huge mass of toiling people who rise in struggle only to satisfy their most immediate economic needs against their employers, but remain quiet and aloof from the issues of social and political life which cannot promise them immediate and palpable results.

The trade union associations of industrial workers in this region broadly remain affiliated to the left camp. INTUC and BMS do not hold the ground in this region. Inside the left camp too, CITU, the front organisation of CPM controls the biggest number of trade unions. CPI's AITUC has only a small membership in the region. HMS has some sort of stronghold in the Faridabad region, while CITU is dominant in the Sahibabad industrial area. Apart from these major trade union centres, the labour organisations belonging to a variety of Marxist-Leninist groups also have a foothold. Delhi General Mazdoor Front, an organisation working in the Okhla Industrial Area, was established in 1984. Then AIFTU, which is active mainly in the Wazirpur Industrial Area came into existence in 1992, with the amalgamation of six trade union umbrella organisations, including IFTU. A fraction of IFTU still is active under the same banner. Another trade union is the Poorvanchal Mazdoor Trade Union which is active in some factories of Noida. Another association, which embraces a number of activist groups and trade union organisations has come into existence in the aftermath of the Apex Court verdict which has directed displacement of a number of industries outside Delhi region, and is active in the name of the Delhi Democratic Rights Forum.

But even then the shortcoming in the working class movement continues. Such a large number of organisations have utterly failed to elevate the movement qualitatively to a higher plane. Even today economism is the only tone in the movement and politics remain alien to it. Some groups like Peoples' War constrained to recognise the importance of the working class movement have only tried to introduce militancy to the economic struggles, stressing militant trade unionism. But even these groups have not attempted to activate the working class politically by carrying on political agitation. Their thrust is to introduce higher forms of struggle into the economic movements.

A few individuals have recently formed an organisation called 'Sangharsh Sheel Mazdoor Samiti' with a view to conducting political agitation amongst the mass of the working class and with this aim they are engaged in regular activity, mainly by circulating leaflets and organising meetings of workers. For the first time political issues are being agitated among the mass of workers in the region.

Yet the masses of working class broadly remain apolitical, and mostly engaged in their economic struggles. In the absence of political consciousness the working masses do not demonstrate determination and commitment even while fighting out their economic issues. The lack of political consciousness among the working class has resulted in stagnation in the movement, which for decades together is existing in an embryonic form in the form of the trade union movement. To put the things in the way they are we are constrained to say that the working class movement in this region has been synonymous with the trade union movement and has never gone beyond this narrow and sectarian framework.

Responsibility for this narrow and backward trend which is dominant amongst the working class in this region positively lies with the sectarian outlook of various political groups, who take special interest in excluding each other from economic struggles but seldom make an attempt to mobilize the working masses politically. Even when they talk of politics the ideas and expression never go beyond the 'trade union politics.' In practice, more or less all the groups consider politics to be a subject of intellectual studies. They invite the working class merely to respond to the issues of direct and immediate economic gains. The political issues are never carried into the midst of the working class. That is why in practice all the working class organisation irrespective of their colour and political affiliations do not demonstrate much difference in their practical functioning.

The other face of the picture is that while political parties like the CPI and CPM have lost interest in developing a revolutionary working class movement, the M-L groups have failed to conceive of the strategic importance of the Delhi region and the industrial working class itself. Consequently the importance of conducting political agitation amongst the working class in the Delhi region is recognised only in theory inside the left camp, but in practice politics amongst the masses does not exist on the agenda of any of the major political groups.

The Delhi region has good potential for the development of a genuine working class movement. Trade union struggles may be used as a forum to import political awareness into the working masses who hitherto do not understand the need to fight the class enemy politically. But to confine the movement to this narrow framework of economism would prove detrimental to the interest of the working class movement.

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