India’s general strike

Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, September 13th, 2016 - 9 comments
Categories: capitalism, International, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:


On September 2nd, India’s workers generated a strike involving between 150 and 180 million people. That would make it the biggest general strike in history. There was a strong call-out from many unions, co-ordinated by the Centre of India Trade Unions.

Few in the media reported this enormous move, apart from The Guardian.

Only 4% of the Indian workforce is in unions. If they fought simply to defend their tenuous rights, their power would erode even further. Since 1991, government policy and Supreme Court rulings have cut their power, making unions embrace the labour conditions of workers and peasants in the informal sector. They know that’s the best way to grow, and to involve workers and peasants into the culture of unions and of class struggle.

Communist unions joined with other unions to ensure the widest mobilisation.

Workers in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat joined the strike with great enthusiasm. This included over 70,000 crèche and mid-day meal workers, and port workers in Bhamagar. Garment workers in Tamil Naidu and auto workers in Karnataka joined in. Bank and insurance and telco employees, power loom operators, and iron ore miners joined. Transport workers across the country decided to stand outside their bus and truck depots.

The co-operation across sectors, across states, across cities, and across classes, was unprecedented in India.

They wanted, in summary:

– monetary controls to prevent inflation
– universal social security coverage
– a minimum wage rise
– an end to anti-union law amendments
– a pension for every worker
– a ban on the foreign ownership of things like railways, insurance, and defence sectors

The government has ignored their demands. But whether it shifts the Modi government or not, India’s workers remain alive to the class struggle.

9 comments on “India’s general strike”

  1. Richard McGrath 1

    I support two of their aims, imposing monetary controls to control inflation (privatising money would do it), and ending anti-union law amendments (while retaining laws against thuggery).

    “India’s workers remain alive to the class struggle.”

    A nightmare for many on this discussion group would be for all those Indian workers to succeed and become affluent middle class citizens. Whatever would happen to the “class struggle” then?

    • Siobhan 1.2

      The Indian definition of middle class…”This segment is typically split into two: the lower middle class and the upper middle class. The first spends between $4 and $6 per capita per day and the second between $6 and $10.”.

      So, “middle class” or not, that’s still a class struggle given the wealth of Indias 1%’s.

  2. ianmac 2

    Maybe another example of the masses warning the ruling class of their defiance.

  3. AmaKiwi 3

    Lack of MSM reporting = denial.

    Not long ago Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the so-called BRIC countries) were hailed as the places to invest.

    They were right, but only if you are a neo-liberal banker/investor/industrialist borrowing trillions of dollars at zero interest which the next generation of peasants will have to repay as government debt.

    The Indian strikers are telling us revolution is in the wind. Best not to report it lest the message spreads. It’s too late. Worldwide too many people are in too much pain.

    • Rosie 3.1

      Hi Amakiwi. There was plenty of coverage on Al Jazeera news on freeview chanel 16. That’s where I followed it.

      But yes, the MSM, less. The day after the protest One News dedicated a few seconds to it on the 6pm bulletin on 3rd September.

      • Siobhan 3.1.1

        Then again, here we are on a so-called left wing site…and its taken 2 days to get 6 comments. That says something not very good about our attitudes towards the value of different groups struggles don’t you think??

        [lprent: You really need to read the about. Does it mention anything about “left-wing”? Do we claim that it is?. Nope. So your claim about the site is simply just a lie, and a repeated one at that.

        The reason for us not claiming “left-wing” is quite simple. It is a vague phrase that is used by nutters like yourself as a tool to denigrate others on undefined religious grounds. It is like saying that someone doesn’t believe in god or has bad manners by authoritarian morons (like yourself). Every political movement is ripe with such siloed critics trying claim authority rather than doing anything – you read like one of them.

        Now, if you look at the policy, you’ll find that all vague suppositions about the site are directed to me personally as the sysop, and I love taking offense at them. I find that leads to behavioral changes from gormless idiots like yourself who are too frigging lazy don’t read our description of the site and its intent or who prefer not to take us at our word.

        Since I have already pointed the about and the policy. Banned for 2 weeks for stupidly lying about the site. That should give you both time to read and (less likely) to understand the links I just provided. ]

        • Rosie

          I spoke about it a lot on facebook, when it happened over two weeks ago, so didn’t see the need to repeat myself all over again. Mind you I was disappointed at the lack of reaction on faceblab, among the few left wing friends I have on it.

          India has a long history of worker struggle and they have suffered greatly, just consider the Kilvenmani massacre:

          so I would have thought it would appeal, also given Narendra Modhi’s statements about “taking on China in manufacturing” when he was elected, indicating there would be labour law changes ahead – a race to bottom.

          So, I agree, it appears we may value the struggles of others less than we value our own.

        • Siobhan

          That seems a reasonable reaction to a very mild comment on my part. You have entirely missed my point. Being Left wing was not an accusation…just an observation based on your use of the title “The Standard”. Sorry to offend you.

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