In the last week of March, India saw workers across the private and public sectors conduct a two-day strike in opposition to the policies of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Bank, manufacturing and public transport workers struck in large numbers in at least six states, causing disruption of production and service in much of the country. The strike was called to protest the anti-worker policies of the government. Specific demands ranged from stopping plans to privatize banks and sell state assets, to a higher minimum wage and limits on bosses’ control over workers’ contracts and hiring.
While the strike itself may not accomplish any specific goals, the fact that it has happened at all, and the way it is being covered by the media, is significant. Deciding to strike, even for two days, can mean risking your job. That workers in India were willing to do that, without the expectation of winning those specific demands immediately, and mostly to make a political statement, shows both tremendous anger about economic conditions in the country, and an impressive level of solidarity among the workers.
Perhaps more significant, although some of the bosses’ news agencies are describing it as “disappointing” and even “low turnout,” 50 million participants is a huge number of strikers by any standard. For perspective, the entire population of California is 39 million, and the South American nation of Colombia has a population of about 50 million. Imagine all of California going on strike, or the entire nation of Colombia!
Although the strike ended without any of the demands being met, a work stoppage of this magnitude is yet another sign that huge numbers of working people of India are opposed to the policies of the Modi government, and that they are willing and able to conduct massive coordinated actions.
As the ruling classes of the world’s nations continue to exploit us while causing or intensifying wars, pandemics, and ever worsening environmental catastrophes, workers in India are once again showing the possibility we have to organize ourselves and begin to fight back against our oppressors.