Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
Discover the role of trade unions. Pixabay

As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, denting economies and devastating medical infrastructures, the role of the trade union movement in India and its widely accepted irrelevance in the changed circumstances, merits a deeper analysis. What is the role of trade unions in a new globalized, privatized, and liberal socio-economic order that seems to have found popular acceptance in most emerging societies?

Looking at the long queues of litigants at the labor courts, it would appear that trade unions have lost the will to fight it out in the field with strikes or direct action. They now prefer to get engaged in protracted disputes settled by litigation committees or tribunals.


Follow NewsGram on Facebook to stay updated.

“The reality is that in the new so-called liberal economic order, the workers are totally at the mercy of the employers who can fire anyone at will. Job security is an outdated concept. With most government departments these days outsourcing services, the bargaining power of unions has been drastically reduced,” says Abhinay Prasad, president of the Self-employed Workers and Vendors Association, of Agra.

In a country populated by farmers and an unorganized workforce, the relevance of celebrating May Day remains highly questionable, if not amusing, adds former trade union activist Shravan Kumar Singh. “Who is fighting whom? Trade unions as ‘schools of revolution’ is a dated concept. The leftists these days feel left out from all spheres of public discourse. They hardly have any contribution to make in a system where roles are not clearly defined and the economic classes not clearly segregated, as Marx would have wanted,” Singh added.


India is populated with farmers. Pixabay

As the number of self-help employers is going up steadily, it becomes difficult to decide who is exploiting and who is being exploited. “But our fight is chiefly against the government agencies and the police who harass and often turn to exploit vendors or petty shopkeepers,” says an aging trade union leader.

“Trade unions everywhere are losing their revolutionary character and are seen degenerating into litigation committees, striking deals, and bargains with management. Their preoccupation is no longer waging a class struggle or sharpening the political consciousness of their members but winning small mercies from the establishment,” opines a former left-leaning commentator Paras Nath Choudhary.

Strikes are no longer in fashion. This is because trade union leaders are now members of the management boards, with a responsibility to keep the wheels of industry running in their collective self-interest, adds Ram Kishore, president of the Socialist Foundation. “These days we do not see any effort by the working class to wage a relentless struggle for restructuring society according to Marxist thinking. Karl Marx visualized that the working class would eventually become the vanguard of the socialist revolution, with trade unions acting as the organizing centers for uniting the forces of workers competing with one another and to give them elementary class training.


Strikes are no longer in fashion. Pixabay

But experience has shown that these institutions have emerged neither as independent centers of power nor as schools of socialism and solidarity. Of late we have seen a tendency of most unions to appear “apolitical”. Many have refused to make political statements that could lead to a change of governance. Union leaders do not realize that the genuine interests of workers lie not so much in the percentage of dearness allowance or gain in salary structures but in the real purchasing power of money which depends on the political and economic policies of a government.

In practical terms, the main function of union leaders is to “keep the fellows in order” to help keep the industrial wheel running at any cost. It is not surprising therefore that in the industrialized West, trade unions are considered an extremely vital part of the establishment and involved in the decision-making process. Today’s grim reality is that as institutions of labor activism, they cannot challenge the system or even question the existence of a society based on a division of classes. The history of the trade union movement in India proves that the unions can never be a vehicle of advance towards socialism. They are tied to capitalism and therefore cannot transform or rebel against the given system.

The isolated case of a big union’s involvement with the changing of the system was the 18-day long railway strike in 1974 by George Fernandes that hastened or created conditions for the imposition of emergency. Clearly, the trade union movement is at a crossroads. It has to redefine its agenda and its ideological parameters. Organizing rallies to promote sectarian interests is one thing, but getting involved with a larger struggle to usher in socialism and leading the working class to dismantle the feudal-capitalism complex is quite another.

ALSO READ: Business Interview: Why A Mega Trade Deal Is On The Anvil

Trade Union leaders no longer want to play a political role. The old model of a trade union always being in conflict with the establishment has changed. Now there is close coordination and co-existence. This has put the ordinary worker in a permanent state of tension and uncertainty.

The labor class can not afford to fight as alternatives are no longer available, due to the shrinkage of the job market and the economy not really looking up. Clearly, the trade union movement is at a crossroads. It has to redefine its agenda and its ideological parameters. Organizing rallies to promote sectarian interests is one thing, but getting involved with a larger struggle to usher in socialism and leading the working class to dismantle the feudal-capitalist complex is quite another. (IANS/SP)


Popular

wikimedia commons

Children playing ringa ringa roses in an open backyard in England

Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.

Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.

Keep Reading Show less
wikimedia commons

Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.

In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.

Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Medhat Dawoud on Unsplash

It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation.

Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.

Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Keep reading... Show less