Determined Preparation for 2nd September Strike
A Befitting Reply to Modi- Mamata’s Anti-Worker Policy
Trade Unions, along with different mass organizations had started preparing for the strike from the month of June. Although there was enthusiasm on the part of the workers, but the general momentum of the strike was picked up only towards the beginning of July and reached its peak from the first two weeks of August. Trade unions organized Joint Conventions in different industries, located in varied areas of West Bengal. Almost all Trade Unions, with the possible exception of TMC-affiliated INTTUC, joined in these conventions. All the unions of different industries like Jute, Steel, Coal, Construction, and Transport, came together to respond to the anti-worker policies of the current central Government. . As part of the preparation, Bengal also witnessed that central government employees, BSNL, Public Sector units and state employees and teachers, insurance and bank employees also held joint meetings and rallies across the state. Participation on the part of the unorganized workers were noticeable, as different segments of unorganized workers organized both separate and joint conventions to aware and organize, as part of the preparation for strike. Women workers, engaged in ICDS, mid-day meal, SHG etc. organized a state level convention in Kolkata on 21st August. An expected 2 lakh 20 thousand Anganwadi workers and 2 lakh 50 thousand mid-day meal scheme workers would join in the strike on 2nd May. Their salaries haven't seen any raise since Modi government came into power and at the same time the price of essential commodities has raised dramatically, living them in a most dismal situation.
The campaign for strike is not at all limited to conventions or hall meetings. Numerous meetings have taken place in front of factory gates. Organizing street drama attracted many people throughout the state, especially in the industrial areas. Campaign has been conducted in the workers’ residential areas too.
17 Left parties in West Bengal have supported the strike call and initiated campaign programme. Sit-in demonstrations were organized in district and sub divisional headquarters on their part. In Kolkata, Biman Basu, Surya Misra, Madan Ghosh and other leaders participated at the sit-in protest. Apart from trade unions, peasant organizations, student-youth-women organizations conducted joint campaigns.
In the middle of this preparation, TMC government had taken draconian, even illegal actions against strikers. The assault on striking workers had also happened in the past general strikes of 2012 and 2015. Mamata Banerjee has declared that West Bengal would become ‘strike-free’ under her regime. Despite all efforts from the state government the strike in 2015 was spontaneous in the state, although came at the price of blood bath in many areas. Apart from BJP, TMC is the only party which has chosen to oppose the strike even though the basic demands of the strike are centre-related.
The anti-workers attitude of TMC administration has been amply reflected in their growing attempt to create obstacles in the campaign for the strike. Thus, for instance, a rally, led by CPI(M) state secretary Surya Misra among others, was stopped in Haldia. However, the striking workers and trade union workers broke through barricades after a scuffle. CPI(M) leader Rabin Deb, local MLA Tapashi Mondal and many others were injured.
In a public meeting after the procession, Surya Misra called upon the Chief Minister to support the strike if she had any amount of political will to oppose centre’s policies. At the same time Misra warned that no amount of terror would be able to thwart the strike. People have gathered strength and determined themselves to make the strike successful.
As 2nd September edges closer, the campaign for the strike is achieving further urgency. Between 28th August and 30th August, dharnas are being organized outside factory gates, offices and markets. On the occasion of remembering the martyrs of the food movement and also as a part of campaigning for the strike, two rallies have been organized on 31st August at Subodh Mallick Square in Kolkata. Participation will be seen from 17 different mass organizations and political parties. In support of the strike, badges will be distributed all over the state on 1st September. A centrally organized rally has been planned on 2nd September, in Kolkata.
The Bengal Platform of Mass Organizations (BPMO) which comprises 113 mass organizations has also come out in support of the strike and has taken up various programs to campaign for the same. They are trying to bring to the fore the need of this strike for different sections.
In our state, apart from the common twelve demands that have been put forth, another two demands have also been raised. The first one is to reopen the closed industries and rejuvenate all weak industries. Thus, for instance, Bishnupur town was home to many factories and thus offered employment opportunities to numerous people. Since, 2011 the number of factories have closed down alarmingly, leaving many more jobless. Thus, the 2nd September strike remains to be of significance for the workers who have lost their jobs and their family members are working as farm hands and being forced to engage in unorganized sector. A jatha has been organised by these people in support of the strike and after the elections in the state, this is the first time people have organized themselves under the red flag, leaving behind their fears and inhibitions. Needless to say, the jatha saw huge participation.
Campaigning for the strike is finding much popular support in the farming and industrial districts of the state. Mass organizations have taken up various programs like blood donation camps for the same.
It is unfortunate that the state government is opposing the strike. As part of the anti-strike campaign, conducted by TMC government, they have already resorted to their age old and clichéd methods of instilling fear in the minds of the working classes who are enthusiastic about the strike. But, thanks to the organized effort of the trade union workers, the striking people are not willing to give up their right to strike at ease. The jute mill workers, Haldia dock workers and other working people are determined to take part in the strike regardless of the attack that they would be subjected to. There are cases where the mass organization workers and leaders have been beaten up in the course of campaigning for this strike. However, in accordance with the track record of the Government, no action was taken against the perpetrators.
The successful organization of the strike and fulfillment of the needful responsibilities by the CPI (M) and other Left Parties in ensuring the same will be the first step towards new struggles that we must be a part of.