Indian workers hold biggest strike in history

Via Industriall Global Union

150 million Indian workers took strike action in what is reported to be the biggest work stoppage in history.

Ten trade union centres and several independent federations joined together for an historic general strike on 8 and 9 January 2019. Workers in manufacturing, mining, energy, transportation, banking, public services, construction  and many other sectors took part, including many IndustriALL Global Union affiliates. For the first time, agricultural workers and farmers also called for a solidarity shutdown of rural India.

The unions sent a strong message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance ahead of the May 2019 general elections.

The key union demand is to engage in genuine consultation with unions over reform of labour laws, including the Trade Union Act 1926. Unions demand that the government ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 and stop pro-employer labour law amendments.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches sent a letter of support, saying:

“Millions of workers took to the streets of India to call attention to the serious deterioration of their working conditions, and to call for the implementation of urgent measures to contain price rise through universalization of public distribution systems and banning of speculative trade in the commodity market; reduce unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation; and achieve the strict enforcement of fundamental labour laws.

“We reiterate our solidarity and support of your demands.”

Unions also demand:

  • Universal social security coverage for all workers
  • A minimum wage of not less than Rs 15,000 (US$213) per month, with provisions of indexation
  • A pension of not less than Rs 3,000 (US$43) per month for the entire working population
  • An end to disinvestment in and sale of central public sector enterprises
  • An end to casualization of permanent work
  • Compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days

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Class struggle: the beginning of the end or just the end of the beginning? – by Mal Content.

This will be a more exploratory and speculative piece than my usual. Maybe it’s the drugs I’m on. I don’t mind whether anyone ‘likes’ it or not, this isn’t a game, but we need to come up with some answers, and fast.

Thirty years ago* Murray Bookchin wrote that the ‘particularism’ of proletarian revolution was inadequate to fend off the looming environmental catastrophe. At the time we all expected to perish in a nuclear holocaust rather than an ecological one. Then we thought we were going to run out of fossil fuel, but enough has been surveyed already to cook the planet three times over.

* ‘Remaking Society’ 1989.

Bookchin’s description of ecology and feminism as ‘transclass’ issues grates a bit. If I read him correctly, and I’m pretty new to his work, he postulates that the imperative of human survival would even bring the bourgeoisie on board, but it’s clear by now their even greater particularism can do nothing for us. We see the commodification of morality, with ‘fair trade’, carbon trading and green capitalism. Caring for the environment we are told, is a ‘luxury good’, the commodification of social duties like care of the elderly, and a new trade in the lives of the incapacitated and mentally ill. This is because there isn’t anything specifically human about capitalism. It’s a simple formula for extracting value from labour and the planet; it doesn’t have an end point.

We’ve just been told that there are eleven years left before destructive climate change becomes irreversible. It doesn’t seem to have had much impact on the mass media. Meanwhile rich wankers put fancy cars into outer space. Politicians chat and bourgeois move their fictional money around, we are going to have to save the world because we are the only class that ever does anything.

We could still just fold our arms.

As I pointed out in my rant against fortress Europe, large segments of the earth’s surface are shortly to become uninhabitable, and the dominant political class is frantically trying to re-establish notions of national and folk identity to soften us up for some serious crimes against humanity. The latter concept may become obsolete. Nearly a million people have lost their lives in natural disasters already this Century, and a tsunami that cleared the Netherlands sea defences could kill hundreds of millions.

The proxy war in Yemen holds millions of lives in the balance, potentially a holocaust in the making, as the politicians sit on their hands and make noises off. They’re all too deeply invested in the great game being played out on someone else’s ground, and in the only trade that still shows a return.

We’ve been here before.

Have forty years of neoliberalism left us immune to each other’s suffering? I’ve been told the English Working Class are too busy with their own survival to care about Palestine. I beg to differ, if caring about my Fellow Workers is a luxury or a privilege better I do that than stick my wages up my nose, because my freedom and theirs are inextricably linked. It doesn’t matter whether you appreciate this or not, it happens to be true.

Though Marx’s analysis of capitalist accumulation still works in general terms* the industrial proletariat is no longer the primary driver of social change. The best chance we had of using those productive relations was during the first quarter of the last century, and the establishment of the Comintern put the tin hat on that. Bolshevism was the Wetherspoons of class conflict: take ‘em over, shut ‘em down or make ‘em all the same, a plastic imitation of Working Class culture.

* Like Newton’s laws of mechanics which are fundamentally flawed but perfectly adequate if you want to build a bridge or fire a projectile.

21st Century capitalism is little concerned with the production of things*, and even the production and accumulation of value is simply a vehicle for the reproduction of power relations, capitalism’s sole purpose. It lurches from crisis to crisis, from war to war, ever refining itself as a mechanism for maintaining the dominance of the few over the many. As it lays waste to its habitat and its subjects, it remains entirely successful in this.

* Yet it produces more things than ever!

Tired of the circular arguments over class versus identity? It’s inarguable that there are a few people whose bloated purchasing power, validated by conflict and disaster, keeps the vast majority of humanity in poverty or debt-peonage. There are seven billion of us and most of us are not white, only a tiny fraction are bourgeois. A disproportionate amount of the work is done by women and children. Many of the workers who produce the things, in the gadget, garment and gimmick factories of Asia, are de-facto slaves. If we can’t even free the slaves, or create the conditions under which they can free themselves, we will never be free. We must destroy the economy and the social context in which it resides. It falls to us, in Europe and North America who fall into the hegemonic group to attack the source of the misery.

If we can agree then that capitalism is lethal and must be destroyed, we can sort out what happens next after we’ve killed it. Of course we have to use an intersectional analysis of oppression in both our means and ends, or the disparity in gains will be used to claw them back from us, long before we reach our goal – which must logically be to stop putting relative values on human attributes, needs and abilities. This renders the constitutional left, all political and industrial representation, redundant.

Privilege theory is a useful tool that reminds us that the oppressed often don’t need too much encouragement to oppress each other. Is it difficult to understand that a tool ideally suited to one context is entirely inappropriate in another? I don’t put nails in with a toothbrush or take a hammer to my teeth. Privilege isn’t about establishing a hierarchy of oppression and forming an orderly queue to air our grievances, it’s about the flow of information within the class, using direct experience to put each fragment of class struggle in its own context. Then we can piece together the whole jigsaw, we want to win this don’t we? Now we rush them all at once.

I offer just two examples that illustrate the pitfalls of neglecting this analysis.

A Faustian bargain was struck between capital and labour for most of the last century, to keep women out of the skilled workforce. Negotiation centred on the ability of a male wage worker to support a family on a single wage. His payoff was free domestic labour – in itself a massive subsidy to the bourgeoisie, who had tricked the class into reproducing itself at its own expense – and economic control over his spouse. For the bosses, they faced half as many organised workers as there could have been.

In 1949 Britain’s social democratic settlement collided tragically with cold war politics and imperialism at the state-owned Enugu colliery in Nigeria. The Labour government and TUC tried to impose their corporatist collective bargaining processes on an African workforce that had a syndicalist organisational structure along with tactics familiar to miners everywhere. They had recently saved the British Empire and been led to believe they were going to get a new deal in return, they weren’t going to be taken for mugs. Twenty-two workers lost their lives in the resulting massacre.

There isn’t much point in reflecting on privilege unless you subvert it or do something with it. Suppose an event doesn’t have disabled access; you could boycott it or even picket it, unless you are going there to perform a specific act. On the other hand, if it is necessary to spy on some fascists it would be useful to be white and straight-looking, and capable of making a swift exit, the revolution will not be a safe space, and there will be casualties, otherwise we’re all doomed anyway. What can you find to fuck with? If I had my time again I would study maths and computing and get an I.T. job in a stock exchange, the better to fuck shit up. I believe a dedicated, well prepared insider could destroy capitalism in an afternoon.

If you’re reading this and you work at the stock exchange, go on, you know you want to!

Use what you’ve got: Speak more than one language? We need you. If you’ve got a car, give people lifts, if you’ve got room put people up, if you’re not strapped for the cash you could pay for the meeting venue or at least buy a fucking round. If you see someone sitting on the pavement, give them something, don’t wait to be asked, they’re sat on a pavement and you’re not.

The myth of scarcity.

There isn’t enough: money, work, food, space. We hear this crap all the time from people who actually do know better but think we’re all mugs.

Even the bourgeoisie are beginning to suspect that wage labour and commodity production may not be sustainable. They regularly resort to primitive accumulation and state capitalism, fictitious capital augments itself without the intermediary of commodity exchange, somebody must then be made to need it or it confers no power. Remember capitalism is about domination, and there are other ways of dominating someone than making them work for a living, like knocking them to the ground and standing on them. We might see domination imposed directly, a new pauperage, a massive expansion of the prison-industrial complex.

Food has always been a blessing, its production the basis of stable social life, its consumption the cement of social relationships. Capitalism has made of it a curse, turned it into pollution, an environmental hazard, a source of ill-health and unhappiness, and still people starve. I like Kropotkin’s idea of technologically-intensive urban gardening to feed people at source without the need for wasteful transport and storage. Ah, and which plant grows ever so fast and sucks up water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide like nobody’s business? – Have a think.

Creative destruction.

We’re building the new world in the shell of the old, but we’re being too kind to the shell. Co-operatives, green initiatives, youth and community projects, these are good ideas, so capitalism co-opts them, and crucially, finds a way to profit from them. We should keep these things free of their interference.

The shell must not limit or confine us, even as it’s expanding and absorbing our blows, we have to break it to pieces. Transaction, and its evil twin coercion, can form no part of a humane society. As long as they are at its heart, there will be status, there will be power, and it will be self-perpetuating.

“Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!”

– Mikhail Bakunin: ‘Reaction in Germany’ 1842

A fungal spore alights on a fallen trunk, it embeds itself in the dead wood and weaves its threads between and along the fibres, prising them apart, and taking such sustenance as it needs, spreads out through the forest floor, feeding the living trees and carrying their chemical messages back and forth. It breaks down the useless old material into its components and builds them up into something new and magnificent that blasts more spores into the wind. Countless organisms feed on its body, when conditions are unfavourable it lies dormant, but it never dies.

There are many well-rehearsed arguments against terrorism (vanguard adventurism, revolutionary gymnastics, propaganda by the deed etc). It makes the population feel unsafe and justifies state repression, it separates the revolutionary from their own class, and can corrupt those who practise it. The masses are seldom inspired by bandits and no state that wasn’t already on its way out was ever overthrown this way.

Nevertheless, in a world run by the likes of Assad, Bin Salman, Ergogan, Putin, Trump and Xi, imagine the sum of human suffering and conflict that could be saved by simply blowing the heads off them. That isn’t propaganda by the deed, it’s more akin to clearing up the dog shit in the park. Guerrilla gardening and tyrannicide share a common motivation: making your environment more pleasant to live in. The CNT-E’s assassinations of Cardinal Soldevilla and Bravo Portillo come into that category. We haven’t got time to build a worldwide revolutionary organisation, we could take a leaf from the nihilists*. We are implacably opposed to every aspect of this dead society so we can strike it anywhere, any time.

* Now, according to Volin, Russian nihilism was only an intellectual and philosophical current, and self-styled ‘nihilist revolutionaries’ were just appropriating the name because they liked the sound of it; I don’t know.

Nihilism was a reaction to the partial reforms of a leader who remained explicitly an autocrat*. It was a rejection of style in favour of substance, a rejection of mysticism and mythology in favour of natural science, a rejection of ideology in favour of utility.

* Tsar Alexander the second, killed by ‘nihilist revolutionaries’.

Everywhere there is talk of reform, of liberalisation, of progress, yet the grip of the bourgeoisie, of the spectacle, grows ever tighter. Is global warming being caused only by fossil fuels or by all this hot air? We’ve got used to our leaders being crooks, now we expect them to be clowns as well. There’s so much shit to fuck up.

Like it or not, most political discourse currently takes place online and I see fundamental flaws in it. The most serious I think is the ownership of facts. Facts don’t belong to anyone, they are just objective truths that can be tested empirically*, and truth serves no-one but those who seek it for its own sake. You may feel like an anarchist but if you only consider the facts that support your argument you’re engaging in party politics – and you don’t even belong to one.

* Otherwise they’re opinions.

People online do not so much express opinions as they take positions, and by a ratcheting process tighten that position’s grip on them until they cannot move. We spend a lot of our time exchanging views with virtual strangers, this could be a very good thing, but we’re judging each other not through close association but snippets of polemic. It lends itself to correspondence and confirmation biases, ad hominem, and my favourite: ‘no true Scotsman’.* Just as a person who follows the herd is no use to anyone but the herdsman, having one dud opinion doesn’t make you an idiot.

* I like to regularly scroll through a list of cognitive biases and see where I might have fallen for them. I recommend it as a useful daily meditation.

It seems to me that the proudly-identifying class-reductionists are dividing the class by making arbitrary judgements about who’s allowed to play. We need to abandon cultural conceptions of class entirely. It doesn’t matter whether you listen to hip-hop or opera, or whether you know which fork to pick your nose with, class is a power relation, and it’s pretty daft opposing people who have no discernible power over each other. It’s not just posh people who have a sense of entitlement either, one Trump supporter lamented that: “white people always go to the back of the queue” – well that’s how you queue mate.

It goes without saying the bourgeoisie would like to abolish class struggle altogether, their aim is to de-stratify their market, leaving a socio-economic continuum in which no member will easily recognise a common interest with any other – unless they specifically want to. If they succeed in this have they won? Must we refuse to trust one another or work together? Alternately aspiring and resenting, or sneering at the one next to us on the slope? They told us they’d won when the Berlin wall came down and a certain mirage of Working Class-ism evaporated, but now it’s all up for grabs and the stakes have never been higher.

Well that was a bit of a disjointed ramble, I’ll post it anyway, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, heh, heh, heh.

Mal C x.

IWW Couriers Network Demo at Uber Office in Cardiff!

Spoons strike solid.

From Bristol SolFed on twitter

ACG Stickers.

From Surrey ACG

The Anarchist Communist Group has produced a set of three sticker designs:

“Slum Landlords”

“Universal Credit. Stop It! Scrap It!”

“Migrants Don’t Push Down Wages – Bosses Do!”

Get a set of each design and stick them up around your town.
Any donations for post and packaging much appreciated.

Just drop us a line via our contact page ACG: