This year’s May 1st, the International Labour Day, comes at a time when the millions of migrant labourers in India are either languishing in a semi-starving and a semi-pauperised condition in the cities where they came to work, or are walking, hundreds of miles towards their native places and eventually dropping dead on the way due to hunger, accidents or sickness. The grotesque face of foreign monopoly-finance capital and its Indian crony-comprador allies, who own the Indian government and state apparatus, was never so clearly visible as it’s today. Yet the working class, barring a few places, didn’t fight vehemently for their rights as they are unorganised, helpless and powerless. The major challenge of celebrating International Labour Day 2020, amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the subsequent lockout, is to instil hope in the minds of the distressed workers and organise them for a political goal.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has long become a fiefdom of corporate-feudal tyranny, which is executed by a zealot axis of Hindutva fascists under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its parental body and ideological compass Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the brahminical-feudal Indian bureaucracy and judiciary. From suppressing the tribal people’s genuine struggle for Jal, Jangal, Zameen (water, forest and land) to the curbing of dissent in urban India by gagging its vocal critics, the Modi regime has left no stone unturned in transforming India into the most reactionary autocratic state in the world.
When one would celebrate International Labour Day 2020 anywhere in the world, they can’t ignore the Indian labourers’ plight. Despite being the haven of foreign monopoly-finance capital’s loot and plunder, India is also the epicentre of a future revolution as the antagonistic contradiction between the handful of exploiters and a vast majority of exploited didn’t ever become as acute, as it’s now and also it’s the weakest spot in the chain with which capital has tied the world. But there is a catch. In Modi-fied India, the workers and peasants – the majority of the population – are communally polarised. Modi’s Hindutva fascist regime has toxified the minds of a majority of the poor ostracised dalits and tribals with its vitriolic Islamophobic propaganda. A communal division, rampant Islamophobia and the cult worship centring Modi have together played in favour of the ruling classes.
With sheer comfort that this communal division has provided, the Indian crony-comprador capitalists and their foreign masters are having the Modi regime and the RSS-BJP to use COVID-19 paranoia to snatch the hard-won rights of the working class. The BJP-led government is trying to prolong work hours to 12 hours a day to ensure maximum exploitation of labour. The plan to conduct the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise is at the top of Modi’s priority list. The NRC will create a pool of stateless workers without the right to bargain wages and will, therefore, virtually establish a slave-owner relationship within the capital-labour framework. On the International Labour Day 2020, such threats hover above the working class.
People like NR Narayana Murthy, the founder of IT giant Infosys, is proposing that the blue, grey and a small section of white collar workers are made to work for 60 hours a week so that the big capitalists like him can continue to buy more expensive villas throughout the world. The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce, as per a report by Niyati Parikh in The Times of India’s Ahmedabad edition on April 19th 2020, requested the Union labour ministry to prevent the working class from forming trade unions or organising labour movements for the next one year. They didn’t ask restrictions on their own rights to form chambers and lobbyist groups to gain access to public resources by greasing a few palms.
Such calls to impose the burden on the working class is quite loud and clear. On International Labour Day 2020, we can’t afford to ignore it. Under no circumstances can the working class barter or surrender its hard-won rights. The only way out of this is to reach out to the working class with messages of hope and a hand of assistance. It’s only by politically arousing them and detoxifying them that the anti-fascists can bring down the Hindutva fascist enterprise.