Speech by Ramasamy Singaravelu (CWFI India) at the Euro-Mediterranean Meeting in Athens, July 2017
The world economy continues being under the grip of the global economic crisis. According to OECD report, annual growth rates in G7 countries are stagnant—1.8% in Germany, 1.1% in France, 1% in Japan. The world capitalist class continues its attempts to come out of this crisis by further intensifying its attacks on the working class and the toiling people, in order to protect and increase their profits. The so-called austerity measures make life more miserable.
The Oxfam report on inequalities speaks about enormously increasing inequalities during the last 30 years, since neo-liberalism became the ideology of the ruling classes. 8 men, 6 of them from USA, today own 50% of the world’s wealth, i.e. the same wealth as 3.2 billion people who constitute the poorest half of humanity in the world. The bottom 50% of the world’s population owns just 0.12% of the world’s wealth.
People are deprived of basic necessities of life as follows:
* Across the world, 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation facilities
* 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity.
* 730 million people do not have access to clean drinking water.
* 3-5 million children die of hunger every year.
*Around 800 million people are long-term malnourished.
* More than a billion people still lack access to the internet.
Permanent jobs are replaced by vulnerable jobs. 42% of the total number of workers are in such vulnerable jobs, as per ILO reports. Use of mechanisation, automation and of robotics is increasing at a fast pace. Huge taxes evasion takes place. Natural resources and public enterprises are handed over to corporate at throw-away prices. Agriculture is made unviable.
Neo-liberalism attacks the basic rights of the working class including its right to organise; it seeks to weaken trade unions.
Between 2015 and 2018, 1.3 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. Robotics today can perform a variety of jobs. They can milk cows, pick fruits, load trucks, serve around 120 coffees in one hour, run an entire hotel, make decisions for managers, write corporate reports, teach children science and mathematics, edit articles, compose music, stitch up soft tissues in surgeries entirely independent of human control, lay bricks and produce modular houses.
Maruti Suzuki in India has around 5000 robots in its plants in Haryana State which is at least one robot for every 4 workers. Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, automation, etc. constitute the “fourth industrial revolution”·1. We need to study these developments and the impact closely. Today discontent against the impact of the neoliberal policies is also growing around the world, leading to changes in the political situation also. Bernie Sanders in USA, Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and the Left in France have come to focus. The victory of Lenin Moreno who defeated the rightwing candidate in Ecuador is a good sign of growing Left ideology.
A survey found that 3 in 5 British people viewed socialism favorably. Another study conducted last year by Harvard University found that 51% of young citizens between 15 and 29 in the USA do not support capitalism.
It is only the WFTU which is trying to organize workers with a class approach and with a proper understanding of the role of the working class in ending exploitation.
It is most distressing to note that several right wing parties are gaining popularity and electoral victories in different countries in Europe. One of the important reasons for the rise of the right wing forces is the betrayal of the social democratic and other left parties, which have abandoned their pro-worker and pro-people stand, to advocate neo liberalism.
US continues the attempts to establish its global hegemony through its military strength. After Trump assumed power, the US launched military attacks on Syria on the pretext of the use of chemical weapons by Syria. The US military dropped America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, the ‘mother of all bombs’, on ISIS insurgents in Afghanistan. US along with its Saudi Arabian allied air force, mounted attacks resulting in the death of hundreds of civilians in Yemen. Trump banned people from seven Islamic countries from coming into the US. Trump’s restrictions of Η1-B Visas created uncertainty for large numbers of Indians working in the USA. He also cut down budgetary allocations to various welfare schemes, cut down taxes for the rich and increased military expenditure. He has withdrawn the US from the Paris accord on climate change accusing India and China of getting undue benefits and concessions.
Inhuman economic sanctions on Cuba have not been lifted. USA continues to occupy the Cuban territory of Guantanamo Bay. The right-wing reactionary forces in Venezuela were encouraged to intensify their attacks against the Maduro government. 196 illegal Israeli settlements exist in the West Bank. This has been legalized by Israeli Parliament. 7000 Palestinians are detained in Israeli prisons including 300 children. Qatar is being punished for not toeing the US line on Iran. Thousands of migrant workers, including Indians working in Qatar, are facing difficulties and uncertainty due to the ban on air, land and sea travel to the country. Socialist China has been able to reduce inequalities by government interventions like increase in minimum wage and social security benefits.
Situation in India
PM Modi has madε India a strategic military junior partner of USA as non-aligned policy was given up. Reckless entry of 100% FDI and private corporate sector in strategic sectors like Railways, Defense, Port and Dock, Coai, etc., became the norm. Prices of essential commodities are on the rise. This is further accelerated by the introduction of GST with effect from 1 July, 2017. The top 1% of people in India own wealth equal to that of the bottom 55.4 % .There are 57 billionaires now.
Tax evasion by corporations rises to the tune of 90 billion Euros. Non-repayment of bank loans by corporate is 100 billion Euros. In addition the concessions and tax exemptions provided to them every year amount to 70 billion Euros. The land of peasants is being grabbed and handed over to corporations.
The ruling party BJP in its election manifesto promised to create 20 million jobs per year. But in the last 9 months of 2016, only 0.231 million jobs were created-International agency McKinsey has projected that nearly 50%-60% of the current employees in the IT Sector will become redundant over the next 3-4 years, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, TCS, Tech Mahindra etc., are reportedly considering retrenchments of 60000 workers.
Government has imposed a ban on the state of cattle for slaughter in cattle markets across the country by notifying amendments to the rules under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Bulls, cows, bullocks, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels are defined as cattle. The peasants will not be able to sell their unproductive cattle which in turn will deprive them of the money required to buy new animals. Being unable to sell their cattle in the markets, they will be forced to sell to big traders and corporate who will buy them at the farmers’ doorsteps at throwaway prices. In addition to the farmers, the beef export industry worth 1.07 billion Euros and the large number of workers employed in it will also be badly affected. The feather industry, which provides employment to 2.5 million people, mostly from the weaker sections of the society, will also be seriously affected. Cow vigilante groups of the ruling party are instrumental in mob attacks on Muslims and others. 23 persons including women and children have been killed.
The Government has amended the Companies Act, thereby removing the limit of 7.5 % of net profit in the last financial year and the requirement to disclose the name of the political party to which contribution has been made. Corporate can now pay unlimited amounts through the Election Bonds Scheme.
Government is promoting Unions affiliated to BMS, an affiliate of RSS. RSS is an organization propagating the ideology of Hindu Rastra. It considers Muslims, Christians and Communists as its enemies. Prime Minister Modi is a RSS man from 1975 onwards. Any opposition to the government’s stand is being termed as ‘anti national’. The RSS cadres have been attacking offices of left parties in different states.
Government demonetized Rs. 500 and Rs.1000 notes with effect from Nov 2016, without making available equivalent amounts of new currency. This had put the mass of the people in immense miseries.
The Central Cabinet has decided to reduce 44 basic labour laws to 4 labour codes. They are wages code, and they amalgamate social security laws pertaining to formal and informal workers.
The construction workers welfare act is one among the 15 laws. The government wants to grab the entire fund at the disposal of various Social Security funds to the tune of 160 billion Euros under the control of the National Council of Social Security, headed by the Prime Minister. The huge Social security funds will be at the disposal of a single central authority without any tripartite participation and make them available for speculation to satisfy the finance capital Lobby.
Attacks on trade union rights have gained momentum. A conspiracy was hatched by the Japanese management of Maruti Suzuki in Haryana State with the help of the bouncers appointed by them; violence was organized in which a general manager was killed. The workers are in no way involved in his killing. But still, 200 workers including the union leaders were arrested and put to jail while 500 permanent employees were dismissed. After long 4 years, 13 workers were punished with life imprisonment on murder charge and 14 others were imprisoned for 5 years.
Now again in the same Haryana state in AISIN Automotive Ltd., 20 workers including 4 women who took initiative to form a Trade Union, were summarily dismissed. When other workers protested, all 700 were sent out of the factory, directing them to join work only after giving a written agreement not to join any union.
All sections of people, the working class, farmers, youth, women, progressive intellectuals, are on the struggle path against the fascist approach by the Government of India.
We seek support and solidarity by the international working class movement so that we will be able to face the challenges and march ahead, towards building an exploitation-free society which will fully utilize natural and human resources including advancement of Science and Technology in the progress of the toiling people. All the central trade unions except BMS met on 2 June, 2017 and decided to convene a massive National Convention of workers in August, 2017 in New Delhi to discuss and decide the course of joint campaign and countrywide united struggle.