The following text was translated in Hindi and published by our comrades in Nagpur, for the first issue of “Parivartan ki Disha” (January 2013):
Maruti Workers organised a whole day convention of automobile workers on December 9 to oppose continuing contractualisation and casualisation of the workforce and to press for the workers’ rights to organise and to get decent wages. They showed their commitment to the struggle that they have been waging for the last two years despite intimidation and repression. The continuous attempts to alienate their representatives from them, either by buying them off or by accusing them of criminal offences and incarcerating them have failed to deter their resistance. Of course, the process of open victimisation that has started after the July 18 incident has embroiled a major section of the workforce in the legalese, which has put the workers on defensive. However, this call for a convention demonstrated their political astuteness, since only such moves can rebuild their strength and can renew their struggle to a wider scale.
It is difficult to assess the immediate impact of organising symbolic events like a convention – but it is a marvelous example of how workers themselves develop their political agencies and institutions within their own experiences. Of course, the proceedings of the convention were not unique and fell into the line of the usual spectacles which workers are forced fed, where leaders of various trade unions and workers organisations competed to sell diverse shades of representative languages and tactics. But as said earlier what matters is workers’ resolution to test and taste all forms of institutions available to them and go ahead searching for newer ones until they find ones that can really resonate with the levels of their everyday struggle and consciousness.
The Maruti Suzuki workers’ struggle is different from earlier struggles in the automobile sector in the sense that in this struggle there has been a continuous destruction of the various forms of segmentation that capital imposes on workers to break their unity. Earlier, the forms of workers organisation and struggles were determined by these segmentations, thus they remained largely within the limits of law and capital’s control. But Maruti workers have openly subverted the industrial order, reducing even the legal forms of organisation to mere instrumentality (i.e., even when the official union is that of the permanent workers, the non-legal form of workers unity across industrial divides is primary, thus reducing the union to a mere tool to negotiate and issue statements).
After the July 18 incident, the police repression was meant to subdue the workers, and alienate them from their arrested comrades. Of course, it put them on defensive, but the bond among workers forged during their long struggle was never broken. In fact, it strengthened more and more, and workers came out openly in support of their comrades both within the factory premises and outside. Whenever the management tries to appease the workers (like, by proposing to form a grievance committee), workers refuse to negotiate until their comrades are in jail.
Another aspect of the post-July 18 developments has been a wide support among the regional working class for the Maruti workers. The official and mainstream unions have been forced by their rank-and-file to rally in support of Maruti workers. Even the company union of Maruti’s Gurgaon plant had to extend their support. A general perception of Maruti (Manesar) workers has been that of a self-sacrificing youth committed against the contract labour system, wage disparities and oppressive working conditions. All this has put them in the leadership of the regional working class and its struggle. And this convention too showed their determination to take up this responsibility.