Around 200 million workers are estimated to have participated in the worlds largest general strike action in India against the “anti-worker and anti-people policies of the Modi government,”. The strike, which was organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Union who was assisted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has led to the detention of communist party leaders in West Bengal and Kerala where communist activists shut down transport services.
The strike has come amongst a notable growing trend of tension within India between the Modi government and the RSS far-right paramilitary against left-wing progressive activists in the country. Within Kerala, a communist stronghold state led by the Left Democratic Front, tensions have run especially high. Political murders have increased in recent years with the rise of both Hindu nationalist sentiment and communist party activism. Beatings, stabbings and hackings have dominated Kerala party politics.
The strike itself has seen the visible presence of a vast array of workers from factory workers to bus drivers to bank workers. It can be seen as a vast show of strength by the leftist linked Indian trade unions protesting against the recent neoliberal reforms of the Modi/BJP administration which has included the privatisation of the transport system as proposed in a recent government bill. Recent job losses from the economic crisis in India has led to rising support for the various movements that occupy the Indian left.
Indian left-wing politics is lead by its militancy. Amongst the strikers at the various demonstrations were cadres from the Maoist CPI (ML) Liberation, a former guerrilla outfit now involved in organising landless farmers and street vendors. The struggle in the rural areas over land rights has been especially militant over the years. The Indian government is currently fighting an on-going 50-year insurgency from Maoist rebels known as the Naxalites. The group has in more recent times come to prominence after it assassinated 24 Indian National Congress leaders in a single attack.
The strike has continued in certain areas since its callout by union heads. In Mumbai, transport workers are on an “indefinite” strike against the municipal government-owned Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking. 32,000 workers in the city have shut down the transport service that usually accommodates over 4 million people.
The strike will no doubt worry president Modi who is only months away from running for re-election. Accusations of fascism and sectarianism have haunted the president who has been accused of repealing India’s secularist past by inflaming tensions between Muslims and Hindus. In 2002, the BJP government refused to intervene in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat which led to the deaths of over 2000 Muslims.
With the strike uniting both rural and urban workers and official unemployment rising to 7.4 percent, the radical left in India has built some solid ground to challenge the anti-working class Modi government and their fascist para-militarist allies. Coming elections will be telling but the success of parliamentarian-ism has been questioned by young militant communist radicals who can now be seen at the frontlines of the struggle. Whether further revolutionary sentiment can be developed within India remains to be seen. However, with violence and militancy growing, revolutionary fervour appears to be expanding day by day.