India: Rotten conditions for autoworkers worsen, and rebellion grows

[This week’s militant rebellion and workstoppage of autoworkers at the Maruti Suzuki plant in the Delhi area has brought with it typical (unsubstantiated) bourgeois media speculation about Maoists or Naxalites sparking the whole thing off.  But, as Mao Zedong said, “Where there is oppression, there follows resistance.”  It is the oppressive character of capitalist exploitation itself that gives rise to the rebellion of the workers–at times, beyond the limits of trade unionist arrangements.  In this article, by RUPE’s journal “Aspects of India’s Economy” the changing conditions the autoworkers are confronting, are described. — Frontlines ed.]

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Behind the Present Wave of Unrest in the Auto Sector

“Motown braces for wage revisions after three years”, reads a headline in the Business Standard on April 6, referring to wage negotiations in the Gurgaon-Manesar auto belt. “Haridwar factories brew Manesar-like labour situation” warns another headline in the same paper, reporting strikes at two major auto parts suppliers. The Reserve Bank of India, in its latest “Monetary and Macroeconomic Developments”, warns of the “pressure on generalised inflation from sustained increase in wage costs”.

What is happening to industrial wage levels? Is the prosperity of which the ruling establishment speaks now ‘trickling down’ to workers? Do workers now have the upper hand, and are they grabbing a bigger share of value added?

The last few years have indeed seen a rise in labour unrest, particularly in the auto and auto parts sector. Among the prominent instances are: Mahindra (Nashik), May 2009 and March 2011; Sunbeam Auto (Gurgaon), May 2009; Bosch Chassis (Pune), July 2009; Honda Motorcycle (Manesar), August 2009; Rico Auto (Gurgaon), August 2009, including a one-day strike of the entire auto industry in Gurgaon; Pricol (Coimbatore), September 2009; Volvo (Hoskote, Karnataka), August 2010; MRF Tyres (Chennai), October 2010 and June 2011; General Motors (Halol, Gujarat), March 2011; Maruti Suzuki (Manesar), June-October 2011; Bosch (Bangalore), September 2011; Dunlop (Hooghly), October 2011; Caparo (Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu), December 2011; Dunlop (Ambattur, Tamil Nadu), February 2012; Hyundai (Chennai) April and December 2011-January 2012; and so on.

Unrest is not limited to the auto industry, but it has been centered there. The auto industry has grown very rapidly in the last few years: From 8.5 million vehicles (including two wheelers, three wheelers, passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles) in 2004-05, production has risen to 20.4 million in 2011-12. Passenger car production has risen from 1.2 million vehicles in 2004-05 to 3 million in 2010-11 (and probably further in 2011-12). The auto industry is a well-known ‘success story’ of the rapid growth of the last decade, and the Government is set on making India a global manufacturing ‘hub’ for automobiles, with the help of large State subsidies.1

On the other hand, it is a well-kept secret that real wages in the auto sector – i.e., after discounting for inflation – actually fell continuously in the period 2000-01 to 2009-10. (The latest data available from the Annual Survey of Industries [ASI] are for 2009-10.) True, annual wages in the motor vehicles industry rose in nominal terms from Rs 79,446 in 2000-01 to Rs 88,671 in 2004-05 to Rs 109,575 in 2009-10.

However, the Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers (CPI-IW) consistently rose more steeply than wages. So real wages in the auto industry fell 18.9 per cent between 2000-01 and 2009-10. (See Chart 1.) Continue reading

Greece: Riot Police Raid Hellenic Halyvourgias Steel Mill

By , opednews.com, July 21, 2012

Greek riot police guard the entrance of the Halyvourgia steelworks factory during a protest, in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens, on Friday

After a heroic nine-month strike that effectively shut down the Hellenic Halyvourgias Steel Mill in Aspropyrgos, the fascist regime in Athens decided it was time to attack the steel mill strikers.

At 5:30am on Friday, 20 July, public prosecutors and rioting police raided the plant, wielding chemical weapons and their trademark brutality, against the strikers. The police evicted ALL of the steelworkers who have been on strike for 9 months, forcing them out of the building. Six people were detained and later arrested. Several casualties have also been reported.

As it stand now, the municipal police are guarding the factory for a private company!

According to a report by ekathimerini:

The police intervention reportedly came at the behest of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday night after talks between Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, unionists and the Halyvourgia management broke down. According to sources, Samaras stressed the importance of upholding the law and protecting citizens’ right to work, as well as to strike. “The right to work is sacred and the government will do everything to protect it,” Samaras is quoted as saying. Continue reading

India: Protests of government’s June 28 massacre of adivasis continue to grow

[As a revolutionary democratic activist has noted, The 28 June Adivasi Massacre is the biggest ever single incident in which the largest number of adivaisis have been killed since 1947. The massacre is indicative of scale of atrocities that are presently going on in the tribal regions.” It is essential that international attention and protest is brought to this atrocity by the Indian government—but, unfortunately, many “progressives” and “leftists” continue to turn a blind eye to such realities.  Here we post (1) a report from an all-India fact finding team; (2) a report from investigators; and (3) statements from families of villagers killed.  We have heard that local and countrywide protests are underway, involving a wide spectrum of political forces. – Frontlines ed.]

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Report from Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations

An all-India fact-finding team of rights activists belonging to the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) visited the area in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh where 17 adivasis died as a result of firing by CRPF forces on the night of June 28, 2012. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta and elicited information about the events. The following is a brief report of the team. A more detailed report will follow in due course. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta on July 6 and 7 and elicited information about the events.

All three villages are small settlements located close to each other and in the jurisdiction of the Basaguda police station which is located about a km. away. There is a CRPF camp at about three km from the three villages. While Sarkeguda with 25 households and Rajpenta (12 households) are in Korsagudem panchayat, Kottaguda with 30 households is in Cheepurupatti panchayat. Most residents of the three villages belong to the Dorla Koya tribe.

About 60 adivasis of these three villages assembled from around 8 pm on June 28 in an open area between Sarkeguda and Kottaguda. Such meetings where decisions have to be taken collectively are usually held during the night since adivasis are busy with work most of the day. As the sowing season was upcoming, the meeting was held to discuss several issues related to farming including fixing the date for the traditional seed sowing festival known as bija pondum- (this was to have taken place a few weeks earlier but was delayed because the pujari who conducts the ritual had died), distribution of land for tilling, lending help to those families who were without cattle, deciding the amount of rent for using the new tractor they had brought and how to raise fish. Arrears of Rs 10,000 due to the adivasis since two years for tendu leaf collection were paid only recently and they also wanted to discuss what use to put it to. It was a fairly cloudy night and visibility was poor. All those in the gathering were adivasi residents of the three villages and unarmed.

While the meeting was going on, a large contingent of CRPF personnel and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, a specialised anti-naxalite guerilla unit of the CRPF) commandos numbering well over a hundred, cordoned off the area. According to the villagers, at about 10 pm there was gunfire without any warning. The first burst was from towards the west and it hit three adivasis who died instantly. This was quickly followed by firing from three other directions. Terrified villagers began screaming and running. Most ran towards their respective villages. Some tried to hide in a hay-storing enclosure. Those who were fleeing for their lives were also fired upon. The firing continued for about 30 minutes after which, as if to survey the dead, the CRPF forces fired two flare guns that lit up the area. The forces stayed on in the area.

It was clear to the fact-finding team that a peaceful gathering of adivasis, none of whom carried any firearms, was surrounded by the CRPF and without any warning fired upon indiscriminately. As a result of this firing, 16 adivasis died — 15 that night and Irpa Suresh (15) in Bijapur hospital the next day. Six of the dead were minors, including a 12 year old girl Kaka Saraswati, daughter of K Rama. She was hit while fleeing towards her house in Kottaguda. Of the other five minors, two — Kaka Rahul (16) and Madkam Ramvilas (16) — were studying in class 10 at a school in Basaguda. Both stayed at a hostel in Basaguda and had come home during the summer vacations.

It was plain slaughter that night near Sarkeguda.

According to the villagers, those who did not die from the bullet wounds were killed by the police with axes they picked up from the village itself. Several eyewitnesses from outside the village, including mediapersons who saw the bodies before they were cremated, referred to some of them as having been brutalised with deep hacking cuts on the chests and foreheads.

The 17th victim of this senseless butchery was Irpa Ramesh, husband of I Lachmi and father of three children. After the firing began, he ran and made it to the safety of his house and stepped out at dawn at about 5 am to survey the area. He was fired upon immediately and though he was hit, managed to get back inside his house. The CRPF men followed him in and clobbered him to death with a brick in front of his family members. According to Ramesh’s father Irpa Raju, the CRPF men also stole Rs 5,000 from their house. The same night the police also stole Rs 30,000 from Irpa Narayana’s house in Rajpenta as well as Rs 2,000 from the house of Madkam Nagesh. Continue reading

India: Press Statement by Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, 19TH July 2012

The Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) is anguished at the recent developments in Maruti Suzuki plant, IMT Manesar where the management has resorted to anti-worker and anti-Union activities in a pre-planned manner leading to violence and the closure of the factory yesterday.

We have had a long tough struggle with the strong unity of our permanent and contract workers to establish and register our Union last year, and had recently as of April 2012 submitted our Charter of Demands to the management of Maruti Suzuki, and the process of negotiation for wages and other demands was underway. However the management has done its utmost to derail the process since long and is trying to break the back of the spirit of unity of the workers and the legitimacy of the Union

It is due to this, and continuing with this vindictive attitude and in a pre-planned manner, yesterday, the afternoon of 18thJuly, a supervisor in the shop floor abused and made casteist comments against a dalit worker of the permanent category, which was legitimately protested by the worker. Instead of taking action against the said supervisor, the management immediately suspended the worker concerned without any investigation as was demanded by the workers. When the workers along with Union representatives went to meet the HR to demand against the supervisor and revoke the unjust suspension of the worker, the HR officials flatly refused to hear our arguments, and it was in no mood to resolve the issue amicably.

When the negotiation was going on with the leaders of the Union inside the office, the management called in the entry of hundreds of bouncers on its payroll from outside the plant to attack the workers, and blocked the exit. This is completely an illegal vindictive action in the spirit of conspiracy to corner us into submission even as our demands and methods are legitimate and peaceful. The exit gates were closed by the security on behest of the management and the bouncers brutally attacked the workers with sharp weapons and arms. They, joined by some of the managerial staff and police later, beat up a number of workers who have had to be hospitalised with serious injuries. The bouncers, who are anti-social elements on hire, also destroyed company property and set fire to a portion of the factory. The gates were later opened to oust the workers and enforce a lockout by the company. Continue reading

The US hand in which Egyptian glove? — Military, or Muslim Brotherhood, or both?

[When the people rose up against the Mubarak compradarchy, some said the US-Mubarak relationship would not be broken.  But soon, the US imperial hegemonists decided to unhinge their prospects from Mubarak, and focus efforts on sidelining the popular revolt by encouraging the Egyptian military to declare “support” for the uprising.  Some said the US now had the new, effective puppet relationship with the military, to further stem popular revolt and prevent Muslim Brotherhood seizure of the the process.  But ongoing struggle discredited the military, and the Muslim Brotherhood took advantage and jockeyed for position, and power.  The Obama administration then maneuvered toward rebranding the Muslim Brotherhood “democratic” and finding suitable enticements for the hegemonist’s new Egyptian alliance–and overtly took sides with MB primacy over the military. Yet the people, whose historic Tahrir Square revolt unhinged all the old imperial arrangements, are not satisfied with any of this shell game in the halls of power.  Democratic pretense only works on the gullible, and the people have learned far too much to be taken in.  The wheels will continue to revolve. — Frontlines ed.]

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Egypt: US for Strong Mursi Presidency

By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, BBC, 16 July 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged the new President to fully assert his authority.

The new Egyptian leader, Mohamed Mursi on Sunday July 15, received a much-needed backing in his standoff with the country’s military when the visiting United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton urged him to assert the full authority of his office.

Clinton on the other hand told the country’s military officers to return to what she described as a purely national security role, after they stepped aside last month, promising to retain wide-ranging legislative and political powers.

Shortly after meeting with the US official for about an hour, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi in a rare public rebuke apparently directed at the powerful Moslem Brotherhood to which Mursi belongs, declared that the Armed Forces would not allow people he described as pushed from outside to dominate the country. Al Jazeera Television reported that Tantawi’s comments that were delivered to reporters after a military ceremony in the city of Ismailia, sounded a discordant note after Clinton’s urgings.

Clinton’s discussions with President Mursi on Saturday July 14 focused on the domestic political deadlock and economic development. She pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in debt relief, private investment and job creation funds – money the US administration had earlier promised. Clinton said her country’s shared strategic interests far outnumbered differences with Egypt. At a joint news conference with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Amr, the US Secretary of State said her visit to Cairo was to re-affirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and their democratic transition.

However, on Saturday evening, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel, chanting anti-Islamist and anti-US slogans in protest at her visit. Another protest outside the US Embassy was organised by Coptic Christian youth activists who chanted that Americans and the Moslem Brotherhood could not be trusted, the BBC said.

NYPD Posts ‘Wanted’ Flyer Targeting Couple That Legally Videotapes Stop-And-Frisks

By Aviva ShenThinkProgress, July 3, 2012

The New York Police Department has put out a “police advisory” flyer warning cops and residents to look out for two “professional agitators,” a Harlem couple who film officers stopping and frisking young New Yorkers of color.

DNAinfo reports that Matthew Swaye, 35, and his partner Christina Gonzalez, 25, came across the poster, complete with mugshots and the official seal of the NYPD’s intelligence division, taped to a podium in the 30th precinct’s public hearing room while attending a precinct council meeting. The flyer listed the home address of the couple and warned:

Be aware that the subjects are known professional agitators that live at [home address]. Above subjects mo is that they video tape officers performing routine stops and post on youtube. Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and too deter officers from conducting there responsibilities. Above subjects also deter officers from being safe and tactical by causing unnecessary distractions. Do not feed into subjects propaganda.

Swaye and Gonzalez have been arrested several times in the past year for civil disobedience. Swaye was detained at a stop-and-frisk protest in Harlem, along with a a group of advocates including Cornel West. Gonzalez was arrested at a Father’s Day stop-and-frisk march and, on a separate occasion, spent a few days at Rikers on a contempt charge after refusing to apologize for calling conservative Brooklyn Judge John H. Wilson a “white racist pig.”

The couple post videos on a YouTube channel showing NYPD officers conducting stop-and-frisks and assaulting demonstrators. Swaye explained, “We see ourselves as peace activists. The mug shots were for civil disobedience. They have us here like we robbed a bank.”

Another person attending the meeting told DNAinfo, “I thought: ‘Why isn’t anyone arresting them? When you see something like that, you think there’s a reward out for the person on the flyer.”

According to DNAinfo, the New York Civil Liberties Union recorded 7,550 total stops in the 30th precinct last year, 3,987 which involved a frisk, ranking it 38th in total number of frisks city-wide. On June 20, the NYPD invited reporters to a press conference and demo of an updated stop-and-frisk program after coming under fire for the racially-skewed practice.