Invitation for First Arvind Memorial Seminar
(24 July 2009, New Delhi)
“Labour Laws and New Forms of Working Class Resistance in the Era of Globalisation”
Discourse on globalisation remains a fashionable thing in the academic world, but it is a central subject for serious study, thinking and discussion for those who think with genuine concern on questions related to the emancipation of the toiling masses as well those who are engaged in untiring efforts to build the working class movement on a new ground.
The macro and micro changes in the modus operandi of capital and the new techniques that have been developed for appropriation of super-profits with the emergence of new forms and structures of global control and domination during the last two decades of the past century constitute the central core of the phenomenon called globalisation. This was also the time when the wave of reversal and reaction had become worldwide. After the defeat of proletarian revolutions of the twentieth century, the ideologues and propagandists of capitalism were declaring that capitalism is now immortal. Needless to say, the present global recession has demolished this myth by exposing the severity of the incurable structural crisis of capitalism. But the world capitalism system will not collapse on its own to make way for a new structure. It will continue to exist and crawl on by force of its inertia and will partly restructure itself, until the forces of labour smash it through planned efforts and build a new structure.
The point to ponder is that the working class is not able to give an effective reply to the organised attacks and pressure of capital other than some dispersed skirmishes, unorganised-spontaneous protests and self-defensive attempts. The working class is in no position to further its historical mission and long-term political struggle, it is not even able to effectively organise its struggle on economic demands and limited democratic rights. This is a burning question facing us today!
It happens quite often that we are so enamoured of glorious and successful struggles in the past that we tend to imitate them. One of the reasons behind this is our eagerness for change, when the need is to study the new changes and explore new ways and paths. It is necessary to study and sum-up the working class movements of nineteenth and twentieth century, but we cannot see today’s working class movement in their image. We will have to correctly understand the dialectics of continuity and change.
The modus-operandi of capital is no more the same as it was in the twentieth century and it has undergone many basic structural changes. Obviously, this makes it necessary for the working class side to make some basic changes in the forms of protest and strategy. Capital has developed new ways and means to appropriate super-profits through automation and other new techniques. In most cases, concentration of large number of workers in big factories has been replaced by the dispersion of small numbers of workers in several small factories. Ten parts of a commodity are not only manufactured in ten parts of a country but in several plants distributed over ten countries of the world and then assembled at an eleventh place. This is often called ‘global assembly line’ or ‘fragmented assembly line’. In almost all of these factories most of the workers are either contract, daily wages, casual workers or work on piece rate. A very small percentage of skilled workers are regular workers. More and more women and children are employed on still lower wages. These are the new things that are called informalisation, peripheralisation, contractisation, feminisation etc. All this means that the organised force and consciousness of the working class has been fragmented in various ways; the workers themselves have been divided at several levels and pitted against each other. Organised large unions are reduced to representing the economic interests of regular workers with better wages and living conditions and a very small segment of labour aristocracy.
The era of globalisation has also redefined the role of nation-states. The boundaries of nation-states are more open for the movement of capital while the movement of labour now faces even more restrictions and conditions. In the unbridled drive of privatisation everything education, health and all such things have been declared mere products and given away to market forces, but the government, bureaucracy and judiciary are now playing and even more active role in controlling labour. Even before, the bourgeois labour laws provided only a limited security for the economic interests and political rights of workers but now it seems that the labour laws and labour court have become totally irrelevant. Working class has lost the basic rights of job-security, working hours, minimum wages, overtime, housing which it had won as a result of long struggles, and the conditions for building a movement on these issues are not the same as they were hundred or fifty years before.
Presenting all these questions and problems related to the working class movement does not mean that we are pessimistic. On the contrary, we want to solve these problems on theoretical and practical planes by adopting a scientific and realistic approach and provide an impetus to the efforts to break this impasse.
We have only briefly discussed the problems and challenges present before working class movement today. We want to discuss not only these problems but new forms and new strategies of working class movement with the participants in the seminar.
We are organising this seminar in memory of our beloved comrade Arvind Singh. 24 July, 2009 is the first death anniversary of comrade Arvind. He left us on this day last year. He was only 44 then. Most of the left-progressive intellectuals, political workers of the revolutionary left and working class organisers know Arvind. He was associated with the worker’s paper Bigul and left intellectual magazine ‘Dayitvabodh’. After being active for over fifteen years in the students and youth movement, he was engaged in organising workers for almost a decade. He played a leading role in several struggles of the workers from Noida and Delhi to Eastern Uttar Pradesh. He was leading a movement of sanitation workers in Gorakhpur in his last days. His short but intense life is an eternal source of inspiration for political workers.
Organising a seminar on a burning and live topic like ‘Labour Laws and New Forms of Working Class Resistance in the Era of globalisation’ is perhaps the most fitting way to remember a comrade like him.
We are extending a warm and hearty invitation to all labour activists, and all intellectuals and citizens who are concerned and sympathise with the working class movement. We believe that we will have a lively and useful discussion on the present challenges of the movement.
Thanks and regards,
Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi
Programme: First session: 11 AM to 2 PM, Lunch break: 2 PM to 2.30 PM, Second session: 2.30 PM to 7.30 PM
Contact: Katyayani (0522-2786782), Satyam (099104 62009 / 011-27834130)