Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC) organised a web meeting on the topic, “The Way Forward for Workers and Peasants” on 4th October 2020. Birju Nayak made the main presentation.
This discussion was most timely and necessary given that the government had rushed various anti-worker and anti-peasant legislations through Parliament. These laws are a vicious attack on the livelihood of workers and peasants. Lakhs of workers and peasants are expressing their anger in no uncertain terms by organising large protest actions notwithstanding the pandemic. The meeting addressed the necessity of strengthening worker-peasant unity to carry forward the fight.
Trade Union leaders as well as leaders of several workers’ and peasants’ organisations joined this meeting. Activists from many states of India participated. All the participants appreciated MEC’s initiative in organising this most important discussion. They applauded the clear presentation made by the speaker (please see a separate post with the text of the speech) and endorsed the call for consolidating the growing worker-peasant unity around the program of establishing worker-peasant rule.
Many participants intervened in the discussion and gave their views. These included Hanuman Prasad Sharma of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Hannan Mollah from the All India Kisan Sabha and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Salim Engineer from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Shivaji Rai from All India Workers Council, Krishan Kant from Lok Paksh, Brij Pal from Haryana, Santosh Kumar from Bihar and Ravindra Dwivedi from Kanpur.
The government is spreading all kinds of lies to confuse the workers and peasants, they said. Ministers and spokespersons of the government are claiming that peasants can continue to sell at the Minimum Support Price (MSP), when in reality, the aim of these bills is to complete eliminate MSP. Many participants spoke from their experience of being small peasants. They strongly condemned the absence of any mention of MSP in the new farm Bills. Peasants are asking the question —if the government is so interested in protecting their interests, then why does it not guarantee procurement of their produce at remunerative prices? They demanded that the government facilitate the purchase of the produce of the peasants by providing transportation to the mandis and by not restricting the time period for procurement.
Participants gave the example of states like Bihar, where the APMC Act has been eliminated. Big traders buy the produce of hundreds of peasants in those states, at a rate much lower than the MSP, and then make a huge profit by transporting the grains to Punjab and Haryana and selling it there at MSP!
The participants also condemned the law that is enabling the expansion of contract farming. They pointed out that initially peasants may get better prices but very soon, once corporates occupy the dominant space in agricultural trading, they will beat down the prices. Peasants will be totally devastated in the face of this onslaught of the monopoly corporations.
Several participants raised the question that if these laws were really for protecting the rights of peasants, then what was the need of the government to rush the bills through parliament without any debate? The government was afraid that peasants will oppose these bills. This only proves that these bills are aimed at benefiting the big monopoly corporate houses at the expense of masses of peasants.
Denouncing the anti-worker legislations, participants expressed the view that the labour code dealing with industrial relations will increase the exploitation and impoverishment of workers. It is an outright attack on the rights of workers to form unions and go on strike. Capitalists are being given a free hand to hire and fire workers by raising the limit from 100 to 300 workers, for closing an industrial unit without taking any permission from the government. This means that nearly half the factory workers will not be protected against arbitrary lay-offs and factory closures.
All these laws clearly show that it is the capitalists who rule India. Workers and peasants are the real producers of the wealth of society but they are intensely exploited in this system. Peasants are born into debt and die indebted. The big capitalist enterprises have utilized the lockdown to make huge profits, whereas workers and peasants have only suffered. The ruling class is using the Coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to attack the rights of toilers, at a time when all protests have been banned.
Many participants in the meeting hailed the positive signs of growing worker-peasant unity in the face of these attacks. There have been a number of actions in which workers and peasants have joined hands. The sons of peasants, the rural youth, are migrating to the cities to work; they are the bridge between the workers and the peasants, forging worker-peasant unity, said a participant.
It is the capitalist orientation of the economy, and not just the Modi government, that is driving these anti-worker and anti-peasant measures. Participants gave examples to show that the present government is following the same orientation as previous governments. The Swaminathan Commission report was released during Manmohan Singh government but the UPA did not implement it. Clearly, the solution does not lie in changing governments. We have fight to change the system and bring in the rule of workers and peasants.
In conclusion, Santosh Kumar thanked all the participants. He said that MEC is committed to work for the unity of workers and peasants. It is this fighting unity that can take the struggle through to the end, to usher in the rule of workers and peasants and change the course of society in the interests of those who toil.