Bharat Bandh - “General Strike”
January 14, 2019 9:15 AM   Subscribe

For two days, an estimated 150-200 million workers went on a strike against the Narendra Modi government in India, shutting down schools and public transport.(Quartz India) “Modi’s government is eager to amend the trade unions laws. Tapan Sen, the leader of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said that the new trade union laws would essentially lead to the enslavement of Indian workers. These are strong words. But they are not unbelievable.” (Common Dreams) “At Jadavpur in south Kolkata, senior Communist Party India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty along with several other strike supporters were detained by the police. Protestors squatted on tracks in some places to stop trains and burnt tyres on the roads.” Bharat Bandh Highlights: As many as 10 Central Trade Unions with at least 20 crore (ten million) workers affiliated to them have joined the strike.(NDTV) Photos and news of the Bharat Bandh (Economic Times India)

Related : Arundhati Roy on Fiction in the Face of Rising Fascism “But today in India, we are facing a situation where if the BJP comes back in 2019, I don’t think there’s going to be anything left of what we thought of. With all its flaws, it’s not that you’ll be voting for a friend, but just for the enemy that you want to have. So I don’t think we can afford to leave any spaces unchallenged and unfought, including the elections. But if all of us think that by defeating Modi or by impeaching Trump things are going to be OK, we got to have some extra iodine every night.” (Truth Out)
posted by The Whelk (13 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Bharat means India.
Bandh means a type of protest or strike.

You know, just in case you wanted to know.
posted by NoMich at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

One crore is 10M, so 20 crore workers is two hundred million.
posted by Etrigan at 9:30 AM on January 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

Labour Zindabad!
posted by infini at 10:05 AM on January 14, 2019

Btw, from my experience of bandhs and hartals, public transport is the first thing to shut down, always, followed by schools.
posted by infini at 10:07 AM on January 14, 2019

Great post! Thanks
posted by booksarelame at 10:28 AM on January 14, 2019

posted by persona at 11:49 AM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

MetaFilter: You know, just in case you wanted to know.
posted by reductiondesign at 11:52 AM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by nofundy at 12:37 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Wow. Millions, no, hundreds of millions of people on strike. And I was impressed with France's hundreds of thousands of Gilets Jaunes or LA's 30,000 teachers. inspirational.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

So this is an honest question: how do you convince fifteen to twenty percent of an entire country to strike at the same time? Is there that much.....fellowship, I guess, or unity...among labor unions, even in different trades? or are people really, genuinely that pissed off for unique reasons? (The first link makes it look that way: crazy.)

Dang, that's amazing turnout, both in raw numbers and participation rate.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

how do you convince fifteen to twenty percent of an entire country to strike at the same time? Is there that much.....fellowship, I guess, or unity...among labor unions, even in different trades? or are people really, genuinely that pissed off for unique reasons?

Usually that kind of fellowship or unity is called solidarity in this context. As to the specifics of how this was achieved, I'm not sure, but I'd take a couple of guesses - the CPI-M working hard to spread class consciousness and teach people that if they don't take action like this, and stand with those who share their class interest, they will always be betrayed. I'm sure there's terrible conditions that provide plenty of motivation and make starkly apparent the divide between worker and boss, but there always is. It probably helps that India has a history of (state?) socialism, so people probably don't have the same built up fears and absurd misconceptions that it still shocks me are so prevalent in the US.

A lot of my comrades have been very excited about this strike & associated actions. A couple have got family who still are or are ex CPI-M. It's very inspiring, and it helps with morale to know that it's not the case that we're all isolated Western leftists demanding free things as the right likes to claim, or deluded brocialists chasing a dinosaur when it's all about voting in the lesser of two evils as libs claim but instead continuing on however we can a long history of struggle which is alive and kicking worldwide.

Honestly just how much tension there is there still between labour unions - is that more of an American thing? I've come to realise that one of the reasons the IWW fell off here is because the unions adopted parts of the industrial model of One Big Unionism anyway, through the formation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Our strongest union is now a beautiful beastly conglomeration of the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy sectors.

From the IWW preamble: We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

If such a strike was going to happen here, and it probably won't any time soon, at least through the unions, it would start with CPI-M equivalent groups (probably not the CPA, although they do occupy a fair few union leadership positions) pushing it at a grassroots level. Individual union branches and shops would pass resolutions in favour of it, at a specially called meeting delegates would vote in favour of it on a state level and then on a national level. If you have full-throated support from a majority of the unions, even with our low levels of unionisation, it wouldn't matter what the cops or government said about whether you could go ahead or not. Organised labour on a mass scale > state.

What we'd need to keep doing here to reach that point is what I imagine the CPI-M has been hard at work at for decades. You organise in the workplace - because only so many people have the time or interest to come to a lecture or reading group. You make sure your co-workers understand that however you feel eachother personally, it's us vs them when it comes to management. You sign your co-workers up to the union, make sure there's union delegates in every workplace actively reporting in each direction as to what's going on at work and what's going on in the union. You take action on a smaller scale leading up to something like this, and then people come out because they've seen that the union will protect you wherever it can, and an injury to one truly is an injury to all, let alone such an obvious injury to all as is threatened by one such as Modi.

People definitely question whether this old model of labour organising is as effective as it once was, with the huge shifts in the capitalist mode of production over the many decades since it was pioneered and established, and I'm certainly sympathetic to those queries, but events like this do make me thing it's not quite ready for the pasture yet. Sure, it may not work for Uber drivers, but there's certainly a lot of places where it's still viable.

This got really long and rambly, my apologies, but basically I'm surprised that this seems so out of reach, because isn't it along the lines of what most socialists are aiming for? We're not here yet in Aus but it's not out of sight either. If my rough calculations are right, India has a union membership rate of about 1.9%? We have 12% or so here, down from 51% back in '76. So I wonder how much it's about union membership and how much it's about good politics.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

Also to keep in mind that both Kerala and West Bengal (where this began) are historically "communist" states, where the elected government has been communist and held power for extended periods of time. Labour laws and issues have always been strong in WB (I'm not familiar with Kerala's experientially), and such grassroots organization throughout the state, not just among factory labour but also the villages, has always been one of the strengths of the CPI (whichever) i.e. party workers would "look out for you" at the village level of organization. Also to add is West Bengal's traumatic history of Partition (Bangladesh was wrenched apart), famine (Churchill in 1943), and culture of erudite eloquent educated babu classes.

Kerala, otoh, has been historically far more literate than the rest of India, and still has vestiges of a matriarchal community i.e. unusually advanced gender and educational thinking, plus the same kind of heritage of communist state governments being elected every so often and thus again grassroots organization going into the village level.

I'm probably inaccurate here but my point is that the organization that AnhydrousLove mentions goes beyond worker/factory, and extends deep into the rural economy - part of this strike is the challenge faced by farmers - read the common dreams link

This is the informal economy and the bottom of the pyramid who are rising up, to use big business's words, because they're fed up of the bullshit, and the recent impacts of demonetization and GST probably only flamed the fire.

I was born on the wrong side of this class war (factory owners in Calcutta) but I'm rooting for this all the way.
posted by infini at 11:25 PM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

How Can We Understand India’s Agrarian Struggle Beyond ‘Modi Sarkar Murdabad’?

India is witnessing a new wave of agrarian protest. Grounded in a deep crisis in the country's agricultural sector, these protests express a deep sense of disappointment in the economic policies of the Modi regime. This article discusses how the new agrarian struggle should be understood as a symptom of the disintegration of the Modi regime's project of authoritarian populism. However, the author proposes that addressing India's agrarian crisis will require far more than simply ousting the Modi government. He argues that today's crisis is grounded in the neo-liberal reforms that have shaped India's political economy since the early 1990s, and it is therefore necessary to counter the crisis with a definite break with neo-liberalisation.
posted by infini at 8:29 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

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