Frames from the General Strike

The struggle of the workers becomes a class struggle only when all the foremost representatives of the entire working class of the whole country are conscious of themselves as a united entity and launch a struggle that is directed not against the individual employers but against the entire class of capitalists and against the government that supports that class. For the first time in independent India - with eleven trade union organisations and national federations of professionals calling for a joint action - such a struggle has materialized.

The 48-hour general strike that has just concluded will go down in history as arguably the largest working class action in India. The bourgeois media was quick to report that the strike would have resulted in losses of over 260,000 million INR which would be nearly 50 percent of the economic activity of the nation. What they shamelessly do not talk about is what is happening in the 363 days that constitute the rest of the year. They choose to conveniently forget that the Government of India wrote off nearly INR 3,750,000 million during 2005-2011 as corporate income tax. There are also barely any references to the demands of workers, not to mention sincere attempts at analyzing the logic of the demands.

To defeat the historic protests in Chicago on May 1, 1886 for an 8-hour working day, Chicago police unleashed mindless violence on striking workers. Many were killed, hundreds wounded and several false cases were foisted on the strike leaders. The words of August Spies, one of the comrades hanged to death on a false accusation, still resonate after all these years.

If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement--the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery--the wage slaves--expect salvation--if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Comrade Narender Singh who was killed in Ambala, Haryana and countless others who even after getting beaten to pulp, ears cut off and dragged behind bars - cry out loud and clear “We shall overcome! Inquilab Zindabad!”

A mother carrying her young child joins the workers affiliated to the CITU in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Rising prices of essential commodities brought into the fold of the strike many homemakers who are struggling to make ends meet. Image Credit: PTI

A member of the AITUC stops a bus belonging to an engineering institution in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. In many cities, private educational institutions did try to ignore the strike but were forced to change their decisions by the striking workers. Image Credit: PTI

Subin Dennis, a student activist at JNU writes:

This is an area where most of the workers are not unionised, with very few plants having unions. But with the lead taken by unionised workers, the workers of Mayapuri responded positively to the strike call spontaneously, and in massive numbers. We started with a road blockade early in the morning today (20 February 2013), and moved on to the industrial area, appealing to the workers of all plants to join the strike. We met thousands of workers holed up inside various plants, with the owners, security guards (thinly disguised bouncers in many cases) and most importantly the police trying to prevent them from coming into any contact with the strikers. Owners and the police repeatedly lied about the whereabouts of the workers in the respective plants, and despite their dirty tricks, we often managed to find them. And the enthusiasm with which the workers joined the strike was electrifying. Finally a huge rally was taken out to the Mayapuri Chowk, where today's programme ended with a public meeting.

Workers from various unions protest in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The call for the general strike has cut across party lines with India’s largest Trade Union, the Congress-affiliated INTUC and the the right-wing BMS joining hands with the leftist trade unions.

Left trade union members sit on the tracks in Patna blocking rail traffic.

Muhammed Ibrahim Abdulsamad shares this image of a banner in front of the Infopark SEZ in Kakkanad near Cochin, Kerala.

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