In history

One icon of the official left in India is the worker buy-out of Kamani Tubes Ltd. in Bombay, the Indian variant of the French LIP strike of 1973 (8), or the more recent ESOP’s (Employee Stock Option Purchase) in the U.S. Kamani Tubes Ltd. was taken over in 1987 by its work force of 450, after 60 workers were laid off. The workers raised the buyout funds by taking out mortgages, and received support from the Bureau of Industrial Finance and Reconstruction. The Kamani Tubes experience of self-managed austerity is still used as a paradigm by India’s NGOs and official left, and has been copied in a few other well-publicized instances, such as the Kanoria Jute Mill in Calcutta after 1993.

Not all workers’ struggles in India, however, are successfully contained or manipulated by the unions. In 1989, 35,000 textile workers in Kanpur, an old industrial city in Uttar Pradesh, revolted against all local unions and blocked the railway lines through the city, taking turns by shift. 100 trains were cancelled, and the government conceded their demands in 5 days. In this case, in contrast to the nation-wide, union-controlled Bata Shoe strikes, government propaganda and the media weighed in heavily against the action, and trade union officials also attacked it. (In 1977, just after Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency had been lifted and the anti-emergency Janata Party had taken power, the government had fired on Kanpur textile workers inside the Swadeshi Cotton Mill, killing between 30 and 150 workers and running off all trade union leaders. The textile mill had been nationalized shortly after the shootings.) In 1989, however, an impending election year militated against government violence. Nonetheless, once the struggle had died down, the government announced a retrenchment program and pushed it through over the next 4 or 5 years.
Similarly, in December 1988, at the No.7 mining area at the Dhanbad Coal Mines in the state of Bihar, the piece-rate workers, fed up with the unions and their goon squads, revolted. They drafted demands and started a hunger strike at the union regional headquarters, and surrounded the regional management offices with slogans denouncing both corrupt management and corrupt unions. Unrest continued till July-August 1990, workers actively fought back mafia attacks. Subsequently two workers were killed in a police firing during a state attack on strikers.
In July 1990, another struggle outside and against union control erupted. 5,000 miners from the Munidih mines of the Bahrat Coking Coals Ltd. (BCCL) struck on their own. The police opened fire, killing two miners. All unions opposed the strike, and denounced the influence of “outsiders”. Management refused to negotiate, until Aug. 7, when 2,000 workers surrounded BCCL headquarters and forced talks, in which management persisted in pressing charges against the strikers. On Aug. 10, fighting erupted with police, and union goons threatened workers. Under this pressure, 50-60% went back to work, but after an Aug. 17 solidarity demonstration that mobilized 1,000 workers, management caved.



Extracts from Revolutionary “termites” in Faridabad: a proletarian current in India confronts third worldist statism by Loren Goldner retrieved from on August 30, 2011.


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