In September, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushed through labor and agricultural reform packages to “liberalize” the economy. As in many countries worldwide, the ruling class of India wants to “reform” labor laws and farming regulations to benefit the One Percent at the expense of workers and small farmers.
These so-called “burdensome regulations” that “need reforming” actually protect hundreds of millions of Indian workers and farmers from even worse exploitation at the hands of the global market. These changes, on the heels of massive unemployment and suffering stemming from the coronavirus lockdown, have provoked the rage of millions.
Since late September, millions of farmers have protested the agrarian reforms. Workers, their unions, and leftist organizations organized their forces against the labor reforms. And, on November 26th, all these forces merged into what may be the largest general strike in world history! Although estimates are not perfect, sources agree that at least 200 million workers struck, much of the huge economy ground to a halt!
Since then, farmers who participated in the strike have marched to New Delhi, encircling the capital city’s major roads. At least tens of thousands have camped on major roads, with their trucks and tents blocking traffic in the densely crowded metropolis.
The outcome of these strikes and protests remains to be seen. Demands have been issued, but many union leaders and left organizations are simply trying to channel worker energy to win a few reforms, and may discourage workers from going further.
Regardless, hundreds of millions have already shown that they are willing to stand together, to sacrifice for a greater solidarity, and to stand up to the greedy rulers of their society. It is the workers and farmers themselves – not their “leaders” – who have the power. And with that power, they can not only stop the anti-worker and anti-farmer laws from taking effect; if they build for power and develop a larger vision for a different future, they could even change the whole system!