Material for the debate on ‘global working class’ and organisation
This newsletter is dedicated to our comrade Chintamani, a gentle man, who died in July 2015. He was, amongst many other things, a metal worker and active participant in Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (FMS). We will miss him.
We haven’t published GurgaonWorkersNews for over a year and we won’t publish another newsletter for a while. While FMS continues the monthly publication and distribution of their Hindi newspaper, we won’t have as much time for translations and additional research in the near future. This is mainly due to new political priorities: we started publishing a workers’ newspaper in the west of London, amongst mainly food processing and warehouse workers. It was possible to publish GurgaonWorkersNews while at the same time working low paid working class jobs, but to do so and publish and circulate a regular workers’ paper is not. Comrades who have more time and want to become involved in GurgaonWorkersNews, feel free to contact us. Otherwise check out our London-based paper. Reflections and comments are welcome.
Giving GurgaonWorkersNews a break does not mean that our political activities in Delhi and London will become detached. This is mainly due to the fact that workers’ conditions become increasingly similar: being new in town, not finding permanent jobs, living on the minimum wage, sharing rooms to be able to pay the rent, working 12-hour shifts, finding no solution in the traditional trade unions, searching for ways to organise under the conditions of enforced and voluntary mobility. As you can read in this newsletter, Amazon workers’ conditions in India are not that different from the conditions of their class-mates in, e.g. Poland. Other connections are even more direct: as you can read in the article below, working in fashion warehouses in London or Hamburg puts you in the same value chain as garment workers in Delhi, Gurgaon or Faridabad. Or to be more concrete: we were smiling when, while we were working as agency workers at Jack Wills in London, our shop-floor manager started crying about having to send back a shipment of clothes from Modelama because of too many ‘quality flaws’ , because we knew that the Modelama comrades in Gurgaon are in constant struggle with management.
In this issue of GurgaonWorkersNews you can find:
*** In memory of Comrade Chintamani
Friends wrote down their memories and appreciations of our late comrade.
*** Amazon in India – The E-Commerce Jungle and Workers’ Reality
Recent workers’ disputes in the e-commerce sector in Pune and Mumbai are expressions of the fragile nature of India’s ‘start-up bubble’, the share-inflation-based boom of retail and service companies, which use both new technologies like mobile phone apps and cheap labour for their business success. The fragility is both external and internal. Externally, the recent jitters that went through the stockmarket in China can be seen as a sign towards the brick wall that the model of ‘non-profitable’ share-inflation-based expansion a la Amazon is about to hit. Internally, the discontent of workers within the newly developed software departments, warehouse clusters and delivery networks rips apart the facade of the sanitised and effortless world of online services. We spent some time talking to warehouse workers of different ‘e-commerce-retailers’ (Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra) in the outskirts of Delhi. Before looking at the conditions of Amazon workers and their colleagues we give a broad overview of the e-commerce and retail sector in India.
*** Wildcat Strike of Temporary Maruti Suzuki Workers in Manesar, (from: Faridabad Majdoor Samachar, October 2015)
On 24th of September 2015 the Maruti workers’ union and management signed a wage agreement. The wages of the permanent workers will increase by Rs 16,800 over the next three years (the previous agreement stipulated Rs 18,000). Being pleased about the fact that the whole procedure had remained peaceful the managing director gave a present of Rs 3,000 to each of the permanent workers. The media and national newspapers applauded the successful agreement. The temporary workers were excluded from this agreement and the wage gap between them and their permanent colleagues had further increased. On the 26th of Setember, 400 temporary workers of the A-shift at the Maruti Suzuki Manesar plant did not enter the factory. The B-shift workers who lived close to the factory also gathered at the gate. A total of 600 workers debated and started to become agitated. As part of their corporate social responsibility scheme Maruti Suzuki had ‘adopted’ fourteen villages in the vicinity of the factory. People arrived at the plant in cars from these villages and started attacking the temporary workers. The police also arrived en masse, started beating workers and arrested around 100 of them. More than 1,000 police were stationed within and around the factory premises. Management announced that production was not affected by the commotion, but workers reported that the assembly lines run ‘stop-and-go’, so that only about half of the usual 1,440 cars were assembled on the 26th of September. After the inspiring series of factory occupations at the Maruti Manesar plant in 2011 involving both permanent and temporary workers, this trade union agreement is like a tomb-stone for future common actions.
*** ‘Make in India’ or global struggles? – On the series of factory riots, wildcats and factory occupations in Delhi 2014 – 15
We summarised FMS articles on eighteen struggles, mainly factory riots and factory occupations, which took place during 2014 and early 2015. The article puts these struggles in context of the global surge in workers’ struggles after the mid-2000 in general and the garment workers’ riots in Bangladesh and the wildcat automobile strikes in China 2010. It shows that while the official trade union federations are not a vehicle to overcome the company boundaries of disputes, workers’ own steps towards wider coordinations take place on a largely informal and temporary level.
*** Changes in class composition and political practice – Past and present of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar / Kamunist Kranti
Friends translated, and we edited, a presentation by FMS comrades of the political history of their collective. Starting from the mid-1970s the presentation reflects on experiences within local class struggles and the collective’s own political practice – and moreover, the necessity to criticise and change one’s own practice. Read how the experiences of trade unionism during local textile mill and metal factory struggles, international contacts and the hungry reading of historical debates led to a new practice that put workers’ self-activity into the centre.
*** A global connection: Garment workers in Gurgaon – Fashion warehouse workers in London and Hamburg
Conditions becoming more similar globally and connections between workers becoming more direct is the basis for a truly global class movement against the current system. Our political efforts have to reflect these objective potentials for struggles beyond borders. We have to understand the global dimensions of local class disputes, intensify the international debate about them and wherever possible support workers in coordinating steps on a multi-national scale. The reflection on struggles at the same time becomes a reflection concerning our own ways to organise. We hope the following texts will contribute to this debate on the global character of the working class today and on the relation between changes in class composition and changes of political practice.
*** Emergence of a global working class – Article by Wildcat, Germany, Summer 2015
We translated a longer analysis by Wildcat concerning objective changes of the global organisation of production and the working class, as well as their own efforts during the last few decades to grapple with these changes, e.g. their debates on the ‘peasant-question’ or on the hype of ‘globalisation’. Interestingly the article covers a similar period as the reflections by the FMS comrades: the counter-revolution of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the restructuring process during the 1990s and the emergence of a new generation of struggles since the mid-2000s. While the wildcat article provides a more global picture, the reflections by FMS put us in the driving seat: what to do and what not to do facing this world in unrest.
*** ‘Turkey – Twelve days that posed the question of workers autonomy’ – by Mouvement Communiste
Comrades had a closer look at the recent series of wildcat strikes in the automobile sector in Turkey, which has significant similarities to the factory struggles in Gurgaon and Manesar.
Stay tuned, keep in touch!