People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Bengal Observes May Day
MAY DAY 2001 was observed with great fervour all over Bengal. From the tea plantations of the Terai and Dooar regions to the industrial belts of central and south Bengal to the agricultural plains of Burdwan and Midnapore, workers, employees and agricultural workers took a pledge to stand firmly opposed to the crassly anti-people economic and financial policies of the BJP-led union government. They also resolved to ensure that in the emerging political battle of the assembly elections, they would ensure a massive win for the pro-people Left Front.
The Red Flag was raised on May Day in the innumerable factories and production units that dot the countryside of Bengal. Every branch of the CPI(M) in the state also raised the banner of the working class early in the morning before congregating for meetings addressed by the trade union leaders in the state or taking out orderly processions carrying banners, flags and buntings.
The principal speaker at the central trade union rally held at the historic Shahid Minar maidan was the all-India general secretary of the CITU, Dr M K Pandhe.
Looking back at the past year, Dr Pandhe said one could not but feel that the two things had happened at the same time following the immutable principles of history. The ruling classes and their fawning representatives in the BJP-run union government had gone on increasing the depth and intensity of assault on the rights of the working class.
But the working class responded with greater solidarity and with bigger movements and struggles that made the wheel of everyday life come to a grinding stop in states like Maharashtra. Here, anger against the repressive measures prompted people from every section of life to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the working class in condemning the WTO- and IMF-dictated economic measures of the anti-people NDA régime.
The union budget, said Dr Pandhe, represented the nadir of ferocious assaults on the lives and livelihood of the workers. The budget proposed the astonishing resolve to look the other way if a factory owner employing up to 1000 workers chose to go in for rampant layoffs.
Contract labour is being introduced with the blessings of the government at Delhi, even as the number of perennial jobs are allowed to go on shrinking all over the country, putting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families in jeopardy.
The provident fund of the workers was not spared either. Interest rates on the fund was cut down from 12 to 9.55 per cent, and there would be worse to follow. The step, proposed and railroaded through the union cabinet with the full support of the Trinamul Congress, reminded Dr Pandhe, would cause a net loss to the workers to the tune of Rs 2000 crore every year.
Pensions were reduced, as was the rate of interest on small savings. An exit policy is on the cards, as dictated to the government. More than 10 per cent of government jobs would be reduced per annum, and this is the régime that had once spoken in terms of creating a large amount of jobs each year.
The abolition of a wide variety of import duties and removal of quantitative restrictions on no fewer than 1429 items of common consumption has hit both the small consumer and small producer considerably hard.
"Just as the attacks have intensified on the rights of the workers and employees," declared the CITU leader, so "has the resolve of the working class to meet the challenge thrown before it."
The National Platform of Mass Organisations (NPMO), said Dr Pandhe, has its strength augmented with the joining in of such organisations as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh led by Dattopant Thengdi of the RSS, and the HMKP, which formally supports the Samta Party. The great success of the Maharashtra bandh on April 25 is one example of the combined might of the trade unions at work.
The heroic struggle put up by the workers and employees at BALCO, said the CITU leader, was but another example of the mass of the people coming to support the trade union actions against privatisation. "Putting aside political differences, the trade unions must join hands in the days ahead to build up such fierce resistance against the patently anti-worker and anti-poor policy of the BJP-led union government that it is forced to retrace its steps or face nationwide chakka jam movements," declared M K Pandhe.
In his brief but important address, state CITU general secretary Chittabrata Majumdar highlighted the principal differences between socialism and capitalism. He said that while the former system ensures the redistribution of wealth among as many people as possible, the modus operandi of the latter was to encourage the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.
The Left Front believed in redistribution of wealth in whatever limited way it could under the present dispensation. The land reforms, the generation of employment, the free and compulsory education were but some examples of its honest attempt at ensuring that a pro-people and pro-poor process of development took place in Bengal, as against a pro-rich process.
Those, said Majumdar, "who speak blithely in terms of change and removal, have always been found to be consolidating the ranks of those who pontificate shamelessly about concentration of wealth, goods and services in the charmed circle of the chosen few."
Majumdar recalled: When the union finance minister Yasawant Sinha (whom the RSS and the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch now inevitably refer to as a criminal in public meetings) chose to provide a relief of Rs 5500 crore worth of corporate tax, and sliced off the top end of the structure of excise duties, the "pro-changers" lustily sung paeans of praise in support of what they called a pro-people budget.
When the worthies of the Trinamul Congress, the Pradesh Congress and the BJP speak of change, said the CITU leader, they merely seek to undo whatever little the Left Front had been able to do to provide a modicum of relief to the mass of the people.
Elections, concluded Majumdar, formed a part of the political battle from which the working class must never turn its face away. Hence, when the time comes to cast their votes, the working class would not hesitate to reject outright the purveyors of the capitalist nightmare and would ensure the return of a bigger and stronger Left Front to office.
The central May Day rally was also addressed by Sunil Sengupta and Ashok Ghosh (UTUC), Gurudas Dasgupta (AITUC), Sailen De (TUCC), Chunilal Dasgupta (12th July Committee), Sankar Saha (UTUC-Lenin Sarani) and Santosh Brahma (Railwaymens Federation). Sunil Sengupta presided.