India: Power loom workers dispute escalates

The struggle of the Power Loom workers in Ludhiana, Punjab has escalated with the workers taking the step of starting an indefinite Gherao (encirclement) of the local Labour Offices in order to get the State government to force the employers to cede to their demands. This marks a stepping up of the struggle and shows a firm willingness on the part of the workers to fight until their demands are met.

The workers, who have been on strike since 22nd September, made the decision to Gherao the labour offices at a meeting on 5th October at which they also decided to send revolutionary greetings to the Occupy Wall Street Movement in America and commemorated the death of Gursharan Singh. This follows on from a demonstration held outside the Labour Offices on Monday, 3rd October India power loom workers strike back in punjab state. This strike currently includes workers from 155 factories.

The fact that the workers have decided to Gherao the labour offices shows that they fully understand that this is not simply an economic dispute but has direct political consequences. After all, the government has so far taken no action to force the employers to enact the labour laws. This should come as no surprise to us, however. The state is a bourgeois state and as such it expresses the interests of the bourgeois class. It represents the interests of the very factory owners that are denying the workers their rights. How could we possibly hope that they would attack their own class interests in forcing the employers to comply with the rules? The bourgeoisie, the ruling class, does not give ground easily but must be fought time and time again. Only through bitter struggle can the working class force the bourgeoisie to offer concessions. To force the employers to back down and to force the government to take action will take the strongest possible response from the Power Loom workers to make them stand up and take notice.

That the workers did not limit their meeting on 5th October to a discussion on the immediate tasks that they face in their strike but made the decision to express solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in America (USA wall street rocked by anticapitalist protests - time to build a labor party) shows that the workers are drawing wider political conclusions as well. They understand that although the struggles may on the surface appear to be different and have nothing in common, in the final analysis these struggles both express the same thing: the complete and utter impasse of the Capitalist system which is unable to develop the means of production in any meaningful way or even to satisfy some of the most basic needs of the people within our society. The Occupy Wall Street movement which continues to spread across America is an expression of the feelings of betrayal of the workers and youth of America who feel sold out by the system. They see that the ruling class can get away with anything and that the government is deaf to their pleas. Is this what real democracy is? Although the American movement does not have a programme yet, with the entrance of the Unions into this struggle profound developments are taking place in American society and the Indian workers are proud to stand in solidarity with their fellow workers. The profound crisis of the capitalist system means that all workers throughout the world are being forced to pay, with the worsening of wages and conditions and with the crushing of the living standards of the mass of the workers. No country is immune from this.

The Power Loom workers will face strong opposition from their employers but they can take strength from the fact that they are not alone. Just as they show solidarity with those in struggle in America, so too will the American workers, and workers throughout the world, see the struggles of the Power Loom workers and they will offer their support and solidarity. They will stand side by side in victory and defeat until the workers of all countries unite and put an end to this exploitative system.

Any victory won by the workers will be won in the face of strong opposition not just from the factory owners themselves but also from their representatives in the government. The only way to safeguard the reforms and gains of the workers, in the long run, will be through the ending of capitalist exploitation through the nationalisation of the main industries and financial institutions under democratic workers’ control and the implementation of a planned economy. Only when the working class rises up and takes over the reins of power within society will they be able to protect themselves against the parasitic bourgeoisie and begin its historic task of the socialist transformation of society and the further development of the means of production on the basis of need not profit. But this cannot happen in one country alone. Due to the interlinked nature of the world economy, with the global division of labour, the coming to power of the working class in one country needs to be the first in a chain of many. The socialist revolution in one country needs to be the harbinger of the world socialist revolution and the death of the capitalist system and its exploitation.

The wealth exists within society to feed and clothe every man, woman and child and to offer affordable housing and meaningful work to all able bodied people. It is the task of the working class to take this wealth out of the hands of the minority who currently own it and to use it to satisfy the needs of all.

We will continue to report on the developments of this dispute as it happens.