Maruti Suzuki Struggle: Social-Democrats and Stalinists Force the Defeat upon the Workers

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 1.10.2011

One month long struggle of the workers at Manesar plant of Maruti-Suzuki India (MSI)was brought to a screeching halt last night by its opportunist leadership, through the most shameful settlement arrived at between the social-democratic HMS (Hind Mazdoor Sabha) leaders who control the MUKU (Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union) and with tacit support to it from AITUC-CITU, Trade Union affiliates of Stalinist CPI-CPM, on the one hand and the MSI employers on the other. The deal was brokered with participation of the Labour Minister and officials of the Haryana government.
The MSI management and workers have been locked in a standoff since August 29, when the management unlawfully prevented workers from entering the factory premises unless they signed a "good conduct" bond.

Settlement was arrived at in odd hours of night at 3 a.m. wherein, Deputy Labour Commissioner J P Mann, Assistant Labour Commissioner Nitin Yadav and Gurgaon District Commissioner P C Meena, remained involved in the negotiations from the beginning, and later were joined by the Minister for Labour and Employment, in Haryana Government, Shiv Charan Lal Sharma.

Shameful agreement, signed by the MUKU in the name of the workers, stipulates amongst other, that the workers will sign the ‘good conduct bond’, pledging therein not to take to any protest direct or indirect, which may affect the production adversely. The bond required the workers to declare that they would "not resort to go slow, intermittent stoppage of work, stay-in- strike, work-to-rule, sabotage or otherwise indulge in any activity, which would hamper normal production in the factory.

This bond would deliver the workers bound hand and foot to the management, preventing them from taking to any protest action and making any and all such actions unlawful in anticipation. This would further embolden the employers at MSI to subjugate the workers to their whims and to impose arbitrary work conditions inside the plant.

As token of settlement, the company has agreed only to take back 18 suspended trainees, that too subject to numerous conditions, while at the same time keeping the 44 suspended regular employees out, against whom disciplinary action is already initiated and who are booked under criminal charges. "Against those under suspension, the law will take its course", the company official said.

Jubilant at the settlement, a company official who took part in the talks exclaimed, "this (settlement), reinforces the management's position that indiscipline is not acceptable. The agreement will create a conducive environment for the company's growth and the workers' prosperity".

Worst part of the settlement is the stipulation that “no work no pay” policy would be implemented for the standoff period, meaning thereby that the workers would lose a month’s wage. This would not only discount the losses of the company, but deter the workers in future from resorting to strike action.

The negotiations were conducted under the most servile conditions where management had clearly refused to talk directly to the rebel body, Maruti Suzuki Employees Union (MSEU).

Groundwork for this settlement was laid long back, with the Stalinist leaders of AITUC-CITU, hand in hand with the social-democratic HMS telling the workers repeatedly that they will have to sign the bond and that all suspended workers cannot be taken inside.

Before this, workers had refused to sign the bond. In support of their colleagues at MSI's Manesar plant, workers at three factories operated by two of Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp's subsidiaries located in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt -- Suzuki Powertrain India Ltd and Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd, had resorted to a two day strike earlier this month. This strike has brought tremendous pressure upon the management of MSI, but was scuttled treacherously by the same AITUC-CITU-HMS combine after two days, strengthening the hands of employers.

After settlement is signed, AITUC-CITU did not call the workers to oppose it or to continue the struggle, but thereafter in a bid to wash off their hands have made a meek criticism of the settlement.

Actual working conditions inside the Manesar plant is miles away from the rosy picture being drawn by the employers, government and the bourgeois media.

Work goes in two shifts of 8 hours each, in which workers have to report in ‘meeting’ 15 minutes before the shift time. Even one minute delay results in deletion of half day wages. This way shift comes to 9 hrs with half hrs of lunch and two tea breaks of 7 minutes each, during which workers have to finish their lavatory etc. A minute’s delay results in deletion of wage. While apprentices get Rs. 7000-8000, and regulars get around 16000, which includes basic pay plus HRA of 8000 and 8000 as appreciation allowance. Deduction of wage on one day’s leave is Rs.1500, for two days 2200 and for four days 7000. Since the inception of plant, no worker has got full wages. Deductions are made on one or the other pretext. Workers are designated as junior workman, associate workman etc. It takes at least 6 years for junior workman to become an associate workman, which is extendable at the discretion of company. In Manesar plant none has become associate workman till date. Trainee/ apprentice remains in that status for at least 3 years, but even after three years many are continuing in the same status.

Contract workers are in even worse conditions. They earn between 4500-6000 and they can’t refuse to work overtime. Workers at Manesar plant have organised their own union, in place of the old union at Gurgaon plant. From year 2000 there was no election of the office in old union, but as soon as workers organised their union, management arranged for sham elections of the old stooge union, but workers boycotted it. Management then made the workers to sign affidavits that they are members of the old union and are satisfied with it. Some did it, but then workers refused.

Workers demanded the affidavits back procured by management under deceit from them and as the management refused, strike began from June 4.

One of the significant demand of workers was that in the other plant being raised in the Manesar premises, workers already working as apprentice/ trainees or on contract be made regular, instead of taking freshers from the market.

In an official statement issued by the MSI management, published in ‘The Hindu’ English daily, in response to an earlier report, it is proudly claimed that the MSI has one of the best working conditions and pay packages in the entire auto industry in the country. This statement, which fails to refute the facts and figures stated above, only exposes the real plight of the workers in other auto manufacturing plants and underlines the need for them to put up similar struggles against their employers for better living and working conditions. Needless to say, that the huge sections of the working class and toilers in India are facing even worse conditions at work and in life. Recently Planning Commission has justified fixing of poverty line at meagre daily wage of Rs.27.

From the very beginning, both social democrats in HMS and Stalinists in AITUC-CITU have guarded the struggle against getting support from and from spreading in the industrial belt of Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal, which houses more than two and a half million workers. By deliberately confining the sweep of the struggle to one plant of MSI at Manesar, the opportunist Trade Union leaders have ensured the isolation of the struggle and ultimate defeat of workers at the hands of the employers. Not only they themselves took any steps to call upon the workers in the area to rise in support of Maruti workers, but consciously rejected and prevented all attempts made at mobilising workers in support of the struggle. Instead of re-inforcing the struggle with support from other sections of the workers, the HMS-AITUC-CITU combine continued to convince and prepare the workers for a half-way settlement.

We had pointed it out again and again that the opportunist HMS-AITUC-CITU combine was deliberately pushing the workers’ struggle into a blind alley. Since the inception of struggle, these opportunist leaders were just waiting for the opportune moment to diffuse this struggle.

Role of smaller Stalinist-Maoist formations was also complacent as they firmly refused to give a joint call to the workers to get rid of the capitulationist leadership of AITUC-CITU, seek aid from other sections of the working class and take to independent action against the employers and the government. All these groups had refused to resort to any active intervention against the trade union cartel, in the joint meeting of political groups on September 20 in New Delhi, rather had suggested that only ‘support action’ be taken. It is significant to note that all these Stalinist- Maoist groups-big or small- are advocates for the same Menshevik formula of ‘democratic revolution’ in conjunction with ‘progressive capitalists’ and are avowed opponents to the politics of permanent revolution, which led to October revolution against Menshevism.

The trade union cartel of AITUC-CITU-HMS working in the region under the banner of ‘joint action committee’ has, in similar manner, failed the June strike of 13 days in the MSI plant. They entered into similar shameful compromise with the management on June 17 earlier, canvassing the same to be ‘victory’ for the workers. However, emboldened by this outright betrayal, the government on August 14, had rejected even the elementary demand of the workers for registration of their union MSEU, and on August 29 the management has locked out the workers.

In collusion with each other, both social democrats and Stalinists have prevented the working class since long from taking to the path of independent class and political action against the corporates and their capitalist governments. In one way or the other they have rendered critical support to the ruling capitalists and have assisted them in subjugating the workers to their rule. While the workers show determination to fight against their enemies and the strikes in vital industries demonstrate clear potential to become launching pads for a revolutionary struggle against capitalists and their governments, Stalinists betray the workers repeatedly, imposing upon them defeat after defeat.

Under the conditions of monopoly capitalism, pure trade union (economic) strikes have lost their validity long back in history.  No struggle of workers against employers, whether big or small can be even addressed except in direct political context. It is in this context, that workers first and foremost need to dissociate themselves politically from Social Democrats, petty bourgeois radicals, bourgeois nationalists, Stalinists and centrists, before they can even think of taking up any serious struggle against the capitalist. Especially Stalinists, who hide themselves behind the red flag and claim legacy of Russian Revolution, are dangerous as hidden enemies of the working class. Stalinists have a long history of selling off the most vital interests of the working class to the capitalists in the last century, the world over. 

Alike social democrats, Stalinists have also played dubious role in favour of capitalist bosses, their parties and governments. They had supported the anti-worker and pro-capitalist government of Congress led UPA at the centre from May 2004 to June 2008, till they were kicked out by the Congress. In Kerala and West Bengal, where Stalinists have formed the governments, have pursued the same pro-investor and anti-worker policies. Maoists also share common illusions with Stalinists, that there are national-progressive sections of capitalists, who are ally of working class in ‘democratic’ revolution. Both Stalinists and Maoists have remained adherent to this or that section of national bourgeois and both pay only lip service to the cause of working class and revolution.

Lessons of the workers struggle at Manesar have once again endorsed that both social democracy and Stalinism are instrumental in subjugation of the workers to the capitalists and their governments. In the last century working class has suffered defeat after defeat the world over, under their stranglehold. Workers need an immediate break from these opportunists and turn to the program of permanent revolution and the Fourth International, founded upon the October Revolution, as is espoused by ‘the new wave’.

We appeal to the workers of Maruti-Suzuki at Manesar to reject the shameful deal brokered between the employers and the HMS-AITUC-CITU combine, continue the struggle and broaden its base by involving other sections of the workers to launch a political struggle against the capitalist employers in the region and their government.

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