A BIG convention held at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata called for making the August 20 nationwide strike on a set of six demands - issues touching the daily lives and livelihoods of the toiling people - a noted success in Bengal.
Addressing the convention, which was full-to-overflowing as were the surrounding open spaces, senior CITU leader, and CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP, Shyamal Chakraborty said that following the 'win' in the trust vote in parliament using means that were dubious to the extreme, the UPA government was elated that the 'reforms' would now go ahead full steam. The workers-employees were ready to deflate the balloon of celebration of the ruling classes, and the August 20 strike was only the beginning. The working class was ready to ask uncomfortable questions of the UPA government like what caused the food crisis.
What caused the shoot up in the prices of essential commodities? Who sabotaged the public distribution system? What makes 77 per cent of the people of India go to bed with stomachs churning in insistent hunger? The common saying in rural Bengal is that once you are stuck in the gum of the gum acacia tree, the tree would not let go of you. Much in the similar vein, recalled Chakraborty, would US imperialism never ever let go of India from its servitude, now more than ever, what with the Left support having now been withdrawn.
The people's response would be to make the strike an all-out success, and to quote an old and still popular revolutionary song in Bengali by the late activist-lyricist Salil Chaudhury, on August 20 across the land, the 'wheels of the factories would not turn, the furnaces would not be aflame, and the chimney would not belch smoke.'
'The strike must be made total, complete, and participatory - it would not be a holiday but a day of strike, the occasion for action against the exploiting classes and their political parties,' said Shyamal Chakraborty.
All-India vice-president of AIKS Benoy Konar said that the demands that the strike was based on, must be grasped appropriately by the organisers and leaders and taken down to the level of the teeming millions of the suffering toiling masses. 'Liberal' as a word sounds rather fair, with touch of the humane. Nevertheless, when put in as 'liberalisation' by the forces of imperialism and their running mates, the word assumed in its new form a menacing threat to the common people. Globalisation stands for the world as one village to be exploited at will by the imperialists.
The NDA and the UPA governments have been very dutiful to the imperialist way. Tariffs have been cut down. Quantitative restrictions were withdrawn. Essential Commodities Act left defanged. The strike is a struggle of the working class and the peasants against these moves. When the Left were in a striking position as a support to the UPA to stem the communal tide, 'we could intervene successfully in preventing selling off of all PSUs, introduction of the ruinous-to-the farmers Seeds Bill, resist with success the privatisation of the financial sector, and fight bravely against the proposed ruinous-to-the nation 'nuclear deal'.
Now more than ever the Left mass organisations, the workers, farmers, the women, the employees, the students-youth and all other sections of the working people and the toiling masses must stand together firmly in opposition to the anti-people policies of the UPA government and make it accede to the demands placed before it by the people of the nation. Thus, the task of this moment is to spread out to every nook and corner of Bengal, in villages and towns and take the people along in making the strike a success of unprecedented note, said the veteran kisan leader amidst great applause.
Other speakers included Avas Roychaudhury of the DYFI, Shibshankar Roy of 12 July Committee, Ranjit Guha of AITUC, Saral Deb of TUCC, Ashok Ghosh of UTUC, Prabodh Panda of Kisan Sabha (affiliated to CPI), Shyamashree Das (Mahila Samity),and Gautam Roy (RYO).