Maruti Strike: Workers remain resolute amidst offensive of corporate and its State

Rajesh Tyagi/ 15.10.2011

As corporate bosses at MSI fail to tackle the workers’ struggle, even with aid of the Stalinist Trade Unions, all arms of the pro-capitalist state have come out openly in support of the bosses. After the Haryana Government slapped a breach of settlement notice upon the workers and promptly declared the strike illegal, it was turn for the High Court to issue marching out orders upon the workers, declaring the peaceful sit-in protest of the workers inside the plant, to be illegal.

In anticipation of the order, MSI Chairman R.C. Bhargava already had told the Financial Chronicle. “We have moved the HC to get control of our factory at Manesar, we hope to get an order from the high court on Thursday and based on that we will proceed further.”

Desperate at the resolute action of the workers at its Manesar plant, which has led to total shutdown of not only the plant at Manesar, but the Gurgaon plant too, the MSI bosses have conspired with the government to resort to a massive police crackdown against the protesting workers. After Manesar, Gurgaon plant was also forced to halt as the workers in two other MSI subsidiaries, Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd and Suzuki Motorcycles, which supply diesel engine and parts to Gurgaon plant have also gone on strike in support of Manesar workers.  On Thursday management was forced to declare a two days' complete shut down at its Gurgaon Plant. Thereafter 18 workers have been sacked from Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd (SPIL) for participation in solidarity strike. However, workers at SPIL and Suzuki Motorcycles have resolved to continue their solidarity strike.

At Manesar plant itself, 22 more regular workers and three trainees have been sacked by the MSI management on Friday, for the continuing sit-in protest action inside the premises of the plant. The management had sacked 10 workers and five trainees, suspending another ten on October 9, while 44 are already under suspension.

In the meanwhile, Maruti’s shares have come down 16% since inception of the strike on June 13. Worried at the fall in profits, 167 corporate investors in MSI stocks, including ICICI Prudential, LIC and Bajaj Allianze, have held a meeting with workers representatives, in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Detailing their plight inside the plant, workers told the investor gathering that they are being victimised for protesting against the stringent sweatshop working conditions and for demanding their right to organise in a union.

Workers protest, factually continuing since June 13, was earlier brought to a grinding halt two times, as the Trade Union combine of Social Democrats and Stalinists (HMS-CITU-AITUC) prevailed upon the workers to enter into shameful settlements with the management, the recent on October 1. In no time, the settlements were shattered as the jubilant management took to further offensive against the workers, first time asking them to sign a ‘good conduct bond’ and second time refusing to honour the clause 8, the only clause creating an obligation upon the management, to take back the contract workers.

Declaring themselves for the ‘industrial peace’, instead of workers’ struggle, S.L. Prajapati, a CITU office bearer at Gurgaon, told ‘the new wave’ on phone, “we are satisfied with the settlement of October 1, and are supporting the same so that the workers may get inside after 33 days standoff and industrial peace may take place”.

Statement of the AITUC National Secretary, D.L. Sachdeva is all revealing in this regard. Expressing concern at radicalisation of the workers protest, Sachdeva said, “these are young men amenable to get misled. Knowing well that ultra-left elements have entered this strike, the Haryana government has been a bystander though it needed to play a more proactive role.”

Both AITUC and CITU are labour federations of Stalinist CPI and CPI (M), which have been instrumental in bringing and keeping the last UPA government in power. Under their flawed perspective of democratic revolution and ‘two stage theory’ of revolution, which they share with all other Stalinist and Maoist groups in India, these parties have remained adherent to sections of the capitalist bosses and their parties. Recent support of Maoists to TMC, assisting it to come to power is an exhibit to their flawed politics.

The concern of these unions go hand in hand with that expressed by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Friday, saying “Recently we have witnessed some incidents of industrial unrest. This is a matter of serious concern to me and I believe we need to address this issue with alacrity and sincerity.”

This statement however made it clear to the workers that the struggle they have entered into is not between them and the MSI employers, rather is part of the overall struggle of the whole working class against the corporate capitalism and behind the soft slogans of ‘industrial peace’ lurk the real interests of the capitalists to munch profits, supported by the iron-hand of the government. Concerted and swift action of the government, court and police demonstrates that this iron-hand is all set to smash the heads of working people, whenever they dare to rise in protest for improvement in their lives and working conditions. However, the capitalist state cannot do so, unless assisted by its more subtle arms- the Trade Union bureaucracies, Social democrats, and above all Stalinists.  

As by resuming their protest action, the striking workers had rejected both the disgraceful settlements brokered twice by these unions with the management, the unions in a damage control exercise to restore confidence of workers in them, issued a joint statement with other labour federations INTUC and BMS, one affiliated to ruling Congress party and the other to rabidly rightist Bhartiya Jananta Party, paying only lip-service to the strike. However, instead of calling upon the workers in the industrial belt to come out in support of the strike, these unions, in the joint statement, have appealed to the Congress government to intervene for the sake of ‘industrial peace’. The Haryana Government, however, intervened by slapping a ‘breach of settlement’ notice upon the workers and further declaring the strike as illegal.

Emboldened by the tacit support rendered by these labour federations to the authorities and armed with the orders of the High Court, the police entered inside the plant on Thursday evening, to terrorise and even carry out, if need be, a violent crackdown upon the workers. Unable to face the might of armed police on their own and deprived of the support of millions of workers in the industrial region, the strikers were forced to vacate the plant premises on Friday.

However, worried at the near prospects of a massive backlash, in case of police repression upon the workers, involving not only more than two and a half million of the industrial workers, but the peasantry in surrounding villages which are home to 60% of the workforce in the plant, the government had to restrain itself. MSI had boasted of an immediate police action to evict the striking workers, early this week. “We need the police to evict the striking workers. We’re telling the state government to evict them”, boasted an MSI spokesman to the AFP news agency on Monday. But on Tuesday, MSI withdrew its wings on immediate police intervention, with its Chairman Bhargava claiming “We will try and avoid the use of force to evict the workers from the (Manesar) plant... We have not reached that stage yet. We have the police presence for the security of our equipment inside the plant.”

The trade unions, particularly HMS-CITU-AITUC have been instrumental in forcing the workers to submit to the demands of the company and in isolating the workers struggle at Manesar plant, holding back and preventing the workers organised in the trade unions under them from rising in active class solidarity with the Manesar workers. Workers cannot expect a real victory in their fight against their class enemies-the corporates and capitalists unless they get rid of these hidden enemies.

The struggle of the Manesar workers is part of the overall struggle of the Indian and international working class aimed at destroying the rule of capitalists from the face of the earth and usher into a world socialist revolution. Establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government in India can be the first step in that direction. Workers struggle at Manesar must be made the spearhead of this broader working class offensive through a ‘general strike’ in the industrial region and even outside, against the pro-corporate governments and their anti-worker and pro-investor policies, from Chandigarh to New Delhi.

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