Globalisation: new challenges to the working to the working class and the trade union movement 

The challenges faced with Globalisation by the Working Class and the Trade Union Movement in almost all countries in the world – be it in developing or developed countries, call for New Approaches, New Tasks and New Roles. The fast and dramatic structural adjustments imposed by the IMF/WB/WTO com bine at the behest of MNCs and American / EU imperialists powers, in the economics of the developing countries, have brought changes in the National  and International Labour both in respect to the worsening conditions and the power relations.

While the Working Class and the Trade Union Movement are both related to a long tradition of struggles of protecting workers, for better equipping people of work and for wider emancipation and democratisation, it is clear today that the Working Class and the Trade Union Movement are unable to counter the aggressive changes that are taking place in the broader economic and political environment in general. Today’s world is marked by a drastic rise of the multinational’s power and by a great fall of the state intervention capacity. Thus the trade union movement is faced with a radically different situation. It needs to gear up to this New Challenges or else, this may become a question of Life and Death for the Trade Union Movement ad the Labour Movement as a whole.

The history of the Working Class and the Trade Union Movement is deeply rooted for the last 2 centuries since the process of industrialisation that have developed very unevenly in countries around the world and since the industrial revolution. In the early years, in the developing countries as in the developed countries, national policies were drawn for the promotion of the industry and for the formation of labour through industrial relations legislations. 

The close association between the Trade Unions and Modern Economic sectors had been the history of the Labour Movement in India. Industrialisation procee ded under protective conditions with gradual shifts from labour intensive such as textiles and leather to capital intensive ones like engineering and capital goods. Protection of workers was often much enhanced as the state frequently became heavily involved in the economy as owner of strategic enterprises in the public sector. Under such circumtances, the Trade Union Movement was favourably placed to build powerful positions in collective bargaining process.                             

The complete turn about came in the 1980’s. The process was fostered by ideological, neo liberal preferences for Structural Adjustments at the behest of the Gang of Three – IMF/WB/WTO and the MNCs. Privatisation, Liberalisation and Globalisation were the main “Mantras” of this neo liberal policies pursued world over claiming that the world as become a global village. And since the 90’s, the capital has become more mobile and global, integrated and powerful, this speculative Capital crosses all the borders while the Trade Union Movement is getting fragmented and in many countries it is getting weaker. This change had a deep impact on systems of industrial relations that had developed for decade in close cooperation with the state. While the organised sector is loosing in strenght even in the state sector, it is the unorganised sector (contract labour) in the public sector as well in the private sector which is gaining in number. The availibility of the unorganised and cheap labour including of the vast army of unemployed and semi-employed, of child and of women became crucial in the struggle to conquer international markets.

Even in countries like India where the Trade Union Movement has a tradition of more than a century of struggle and where it has been an important actor in defending workers’ rights and in struggling for Independance and Democracy in the 19th and 20th century, it  is now facing tremendous hurdles as they are now more on the defensive to defend the hardly earned rights from the Neo-Liberal’s Onslaught. With Imperialist Globalisation, the emergence of a Global Economy and World wide Capital Markets, the Labour Movement as a whole is facing great difficulties. The globalisation of hunger, poverty, unemployment, price rise is accompanied by the reshaping of National Economies of developing countries and the redefinition of the Labour Movement in the new economic order.

The successive governments since the 80’s, be it the Congress Party and its allies (United Progressive Alliance - UPA ) or the Bharatiya Janata Party -  BJP ( the Hindou Nationalist Fascist Party ) and its alliance (National democratic Alliance – NDA), have adopted privatisation and liberalisation as the ‘’mantras for development’’ thus throwing open all sectors in the country to MNC’s and to foreign investments– industry (basic infrastructure – power generation, minerals extraction, rail, transport, roads etc) , agriculture, health, education. Agriculture, health, education have been thrown open with the state desisting from its social responsibilities.

Liberalisation has created thousands of SEZs (Special Economic Zones) which are flourishing throughout the country and in all the states including states ruled by the Left Front where laws of the land are not valid and labour laws are thrown to the dustbin. India’s colonisation started with the concession of one port to the British three hundred years ago, now the opening of these thousands of SEZs may leave the country subjugated and re-colonised for many many centuries to come. Privatisation through outsourcing and contract labour, is invading all the Public Sector which constituted the pillar of the infrastructure for development built since 1947. Workers are loosing their job security and contract labourers replacing them at very low wages and  with no social benefits and guaranties. The fact that India is having a huge pool of  unemployed, semi-employed and jobless youth, allows the MNCs to get cheap often well trained and skilled labour/manpower such is the case even in informatic technology. This explains the problem of outsourcing which is much talked in the Western countries  and where the Trade Unions in these countries have failed to educate their workers instead of putting workers of the developed and of developing  world against each other. Women are drawn in the SEZs as they are cheap and often unorganised. No MNCs allow workers to constitute their collective bargaining organisation –  In 2005, workers from the Honda factory in Gurgaon (just 50 Km from New Delhi) in Haryana, dared to organise themselves into an union, they were harassed  by the management with dismissal, lock-out and the state police colluded with lathi-charge and firing. After three months of struggle, workers were taken back in their job only after the state intervened to mediate. Workers were asked to submit undertakings stating that they will not organise themselves in an union or join any union in the future.

With every passing day, onslaughts on the workers are ever increasing. The 2 major Unions INTUC of the Congress and the BMS of the BJP are toeing their parties political line and they are subscribing to the neo liberal policies pursued by their governments. They state and justify this policy by stating that this is the cost, we need to pay to ensure a better future and development of the Country and this is the cost we need to pay to attain it. In the era of Globalisation, we can’t keep out of the globalised market and the competition, so we must allow the flow of the foreign investment and we must opt for liberalisation and privatisation which in turn will boost the national economy. The trade unions of the left parties – AICTU, CITU and also to an extent the HMS of the social democrats along with many others militant left trade unions are steadily putting fights against these anti-people and anti workers’ neo liberal policies and are struggling to defend and to preserve all the Rights which were won after years of struggle before they could be snatched away. On the 14th September 2005, the 27th December 2006 and 22nd August, there were  all India strikes with millions (50 to 60 millions) workers and employees from all sectors – industrial, services, education, and from all the unions and  with many employees and workers belonging to the INTUC and the BMS who defied their leadership and who joined the strike . It only proves “ workers’ readiness” to fight back  and that they are not agreeing to bow down to the diktat of the Imperialists powers or the MNCs, the governments and even unions which are serving them. 
Naturally, the oppression, the suppression and control of the labour organisation formed an important part of this neo liberal strategy of industrialisation. Now, ever than before, workers throughout the world need to come together and close their ranks to defend and to protect their hard earned Rights but sadly the Trade Unions and the Working Class Movement are remaining confined within their national borders and worse they operate as local branches in the factory or in the same industry. The Trade Union Movement that could earlier develop and resist strongly, is finding itself in the defensive. They are more at the receiving hand as the initiative has passed to the owners and the managements.

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, the Trade Union Moveemnt attempted to build itself on an international level. The First International ( 1864-76) brought together trade unions of different political shades. Since then many International were attempted and they did exist from time to time. But today, the need of such an initiative is heavily felt.

What is to be done today to stop this Onslaught?

Against a Globalised Onslaught of the Finance Capital which is now transparent with the Capitalist World Crisis, we need to organise ourselves for a Globalised Resistance.
Relate day to day Trade Union struggle against Globalisation, Liberalisation,  Privatisation with the organised and unorganised sector.
Organise the people so that they could defend the Public and Social Services. 
- Defend their hard won Trade Union Rights and the Right to Strike.
- Strive for collective bargaining at the International level in the same concern of MNCs
- Organise and mobilise people against Multinationals. Multinationals determine the Globalisation’s Policy thus the need to attack the very base of the concerned MNCs. 
Build bridges that brings together the trade unions with the idea of developing International Trade Union Solidarity.
- Organise International Struggles. Multinationals are having their own International Strategy but Trade Unions are still bogged within National boundaries.
- Build up Solidarity Movements with the multiple Social Movements – ecologist, feminist, civil rights, anti war/anti nuclear, anti racist/caste/ communal, Third World Solidarity Movements.

The word ” Globalisation ‘’ ie Internalisation of struggle is an old and fundamental concept of the working class and it requires to be seen how to rebuild the Solidarity and Internationalism of a new kind and an unprecedented in world history. Unity of purpose and World wide coordination of the Working Class Movement with diverse groups and social movements is crucial.

The world community should recognise the failure of the dominant neo liberal system. The globalisation of Poverty, Hunger (Food Crises) and the World Economic Crisis are bringing the world to an halt. This poverty is not the consequences of ‘Scarcity’ of human and materials resources. This global economic system is based on the relentless accumulation of private wealth and this leads to bankruptcy of the system as proved now with the World Financial Crisis. Against this global strategical onslaughts of the MNCs, IMF/WB and their imperialists masters, we need to build up an International Network, not only among trade unions and within the trade union movement but also strengthened the Unity and Solidarity with all Social Movements at the global level. A major thrust is required which brings together Social Movements and the Working Class’s Trade Union Movements together in all the major regions of the world in a common pursuit and commitment to the elimination of hunger, poverty, patriarchy, for the eradication of racism, casteism, communalism and for a WORLD  with “Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité”as its motto and for a lasting Peace for Ever.

This task and this aim could be achieved only with the building of strong ties with the multiple Social Movements – ecologist, feminist, civil rights, anti war/anti nuclear, anti racist/caste/communal and Third World Solidarity Movements.

We are certainly more powerful than the Enemies. 
United, we can Win.
Another World is Possible. 
A Socialist New World Order is Possible.  

P.K. Murthy
Center of Indian Trade Unions – CITU. India
World Forum For Alternatives – WFA

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