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(DE/ENG) India: biggest general strike in human history

category international | workplace struggles | opinion / analysis author Samstag Januar 11, 2020 02:36author by die plattform Report this post to the editors

January 8, 2020 will go down in the history books as the world’s largest 24-hour general strike to date. In India, more than 250 million workers went on strike during the general strike or “Bharat Bandh”, which was joined by ten major unions as well as a number of independent associations. Associations organising bank employees, farmers and teachers, but also the student movement played a leading role. The electricity supply was also affected, with up to 1.5 million people going on strike in the power stations. The same applies to local and long-distance public transport. Across the country there were also rail blockades.
generalstrike.jpg

The strike had the biggest impact in the politically leftist state of Kerala, where the “communist” party CPI traditionally receives the most votes. Here, but also in many other places in India, traffic and public life were virtually at a standstill.

The strike was directed against the policy of the ruling Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP), which not only tries to split the population along ethnic and religious lines with classic nationalist policies, but also to severely restrict workers’ rights, to massively promote precarious employment and privatisation of public institutions (such as rail transport) and to provide tax breaks to large corporations.

Core demands of the unions were the creation of new jobs for the unemployed (currently 8% unemployment in India, that is 73 million people), basic workers’ rights for all workers, the increase of wages and the minimum wage, as well as a five-day week. They also called for the withdrawal of the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes naturalisation easier for Hindu immigrants (or Jains, Sikhs) but excludes Muslims, Tamils or Tibetans. The law had already triggered massive protests across India in 2019. In addition, their demands were also directed against the biometric registration and counting of the entire Indian population, which also has special racist regulations, which are explicitly directed against Muslim citizens, for example.
More about the protests against the CAA for example here: anarkismo.net/article/31703

On the one hand, the right-wing BJP government tried in vain to enforce sanctions against strikers – for example, in the state of Tamil Nadu there were mass arrests of strikers; in Delhi, BJP youth organisations attacked striking students. On the other hand, the BJP publicly played down the importance of the protests.

In vain – the organized Indian workers yesterday demonstrated their enormous strength and raised the bar for the rest of the world. However, it remains to be seen whether they can sustain a prolonged confrontation with the government at this level of strength. From an anti-authoritarian point of view, the question also arises whether the strikers will allow themselves to be hitched to the cart of the parliamentary opposition parties, which ultimately only want to use the dynamics created by the mass struggles to come to power themselves – or whether the workers will succeed in taking their cause into their own hands…

The Indian anarchosydicalist organisation “Muktivadi Ekta Morcha” (Libertarian Solidarity Front) from Bhopal is rather skeptical in this respect. In a short statement (https://www.facebook.com/muktivadi/) it writes: “general strikes like these are for the most part electoral political facades at cost of genuine workers grievances. Most, if not all unions affiliated with “left” parties treat their workers as infants in these demonstrations controlling them more severely than they are in their workplace. There are some independent unions that are less authoritarian but hardly any genuinely democratic workers organization. We are working to change that.” – It is of course difficult for us to judge from a distance to what extent this assessment is correct, but we generally find it important to point out contradictions and limitations of social movements with the aim of overcoming them. In any case, we wish the Indian comrades a lot of success in their cause!

Either way, the success of the mobilization alone is a symbol that the organized, oppressed and wage-dependent class has the potential to unhinge the world!

Indien: bislang größter Generalstreik der Menschheitsgeschichte

Der 8.1.2020 wird als der bisher weltgrößte, 24-stündige Generalstreik in die Geschichtsbücher eingehen. In Indien streikten über 250 Millionen Arbeiter*innen anlässlich des Generalstreiks oder „Bharat Bandh“, dem sich zehn große Gewerkschaften wie auch eine Vielzahl unabhängiger Assoziationen anschlossen. Tragende Rollen spielten Verbände, die Bankangestellte, Bäuer*innen und Lehrer*innen organisieren, aber auch die Student*innenbewegung. Auch die Stromversorgung war betroffen, in den Kraftwerken streikten bis zu 1,5 Millionen Menschen. Ebenso der öffentliche Nah- und Fernverkehr. Quer durchs Land kam es zudem zu Schienenblockaden.

Am stärksten wirkte sich der Streik im politisch links geprägten Staat Kerala aus, in dem traditionell die „kommunistische“ Partei CPI die meisten Stimmen erhält. Hier, aber auch an vielen anderen Orten in Indien, standen Verkehr wie öffentliches Leben quasi still.

Der Streik richtete sich gegen die Politik der regierenden Partei der Hindunationalist*innen (BJP), die nicht nur versucht, mit klassisch nationalistischer Politik die Bevölkerung entlang ethnischer und religiöser Linien gegeneinander aufzuhetzen, sondern auch Arbeiter*innenrechte stark zu beschränken und prekäre Beschäftigung und Privatisierungen öffentlicher Einrichtungen (etwa des Bahnverkehrs) massiv voranzutreiben, sowie großen Konzernen Steuererleichterungen zu verschaffen.

Kernforderungen der Gewerkschaften waren die Schaffung neuer Stellen für Arbeitslose (derzeit in Indien 8% Arbeitslosigkeit, 73 Millionen Menschen), grundlegende Arbeiter*innenrechte für alle Arbeiter*innen, die Erhöhung von Löhnen und des minimalen Mindestlohns, sowie eine Fünf-Tage-Woche. Sie forderten auch die Rücknahme des diskriminierenden Citizenship Amendment Acts (CAA), das zwar die Einbürgerung für hinduistische Einwanderer*innen (oder Jains, Sikhs) erleichtert, aber Muslim*innen, Tamil*innen oder Tibeter*innen ausspart. Das Gesetz hatte bereits 2019 massive Proteste über ganz Indien hinweg ausgelöst. Ausserdem richteten sich ihre Forderungen auch gegen die biometrische Erfassung und Zählung der gesamten indischen Bevölkerung, die zudem auch rassistische Sonderregelungen aufweist, die sich z.B. explizit gegen muslimische Bürger*innen richtet. Mehr zu den Protesten gegen den CAAetwa hier: www.anarkismo.net/article/31703

Die rechte BJP-Regierung versuchte einerseits vergeblich, Sanktionen gegen Streikende durchzusetzen – so kam es etwa im Staat Tamil Nadu zu Massenverhaftungen von Streikenden, in Delhi attackierten BJP-Jugendverände streikende Student*innen. Auf der anderen Seite spielte die BJP die Bedeutung der Proteste öffentlich herunter.

Vergeblich – die organisierten indischen Arbeiter*innen haben gestern ihre enorme Stärke demonstriert und die Messlatte für den Rest der Welt ein gutes Stück höher gelegt. Allerdings bleibt abzuwarten, ob sie eine längere Konfrontation mit der Regierung in dieser Stärke durchhalten. Aus antiautoritärer Sicht stellt sich zudem die Frage, ob die Streikenden sich vor den Karren der parlamentarischen Oppositionsparteien spannen lassen, welche die von den Massenkämpfen erzeugte Dynamik letztlich nur nutzen wollen, um selbst an die Macht zu kommen – oder ob es den Arbeiter*innen gelingt, ihre Sache selbst in die Hand zu nehmen…

Die indische, anarchosydikalistische Organisation „Muktivadi Ekta Morcha“ (Libertäre Solidaritätsfront) aus Bhopal ist diesbezüglich eher skeptisch. In einem kurzen Statement (https://www.facebook.com/muktivadi/) schreibt sie (Übersetzung – die plattform): „Generalstreiks wie dieser sind hauptsächlich wahlpolitische Fassade auf Kosten tatsächlicher Anliegen der Arbeiter*innen. Die meisten, wenn nicht alle Gewerkschaften, die mit „linken“ Parteien verbunden sind, behandeln ihre Arbeiter*innen auf diesen Demonstrationen wie Kinder und halten sie noch strenger unter Kontrolle als sie es an ihren Arbeitsplätzen wären. Es gibt einige unabhängige Gewerkschaften, die weniger autoritär sind, aber so gut wie keine wirklichen demokratischen Arbeiter*innenorganisationen. Wir arbeiten daran, das zu ändern.“ – Wir können aus der Ferne natürlich schwer beurteilen, inwiefern diese Einschätzung zutrifft, finden es aber generell wichtig, auf Widersprüche und Beschränkungen sozialer Bewegungen hinzuweisen, mit dem Ziel, diese zu überwinden. Jedenfalls wünschen wir den indischen Genoss*innen viel Erfolg bei ihrem Anliegen!

So oder so, allein schon der Mobilisierungserfolg ist ein Symbol dafür, dass die organisierte, unterdrückte und lohnabhängige Klasse das Potential hat, die Welt aus den Angeln zu heben!

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