Factory occupation! Temporary and permanent Honda workers in Manesar, India

Factory occupation! Temporary and permanent Honda workers in Manesar, India

The global undercurrents of class struggle are not always immediately visible. We see waves of protests erupting in Chile, Honduras, Iraq and Lebanon, which don't refer to each other in any obvious ways. While there might not be any conscious mass communication between these movements (yet), we can reasonably assume that they are more than just the result of economic downturns, the global ripples of which have impacted negatively on working class consumption.

These struggles take clues from each other, as past examples have shown us. Do you remember the striking migrant warehouse workers from north Africa who blocked a TNT depot in Italy during the so-called Arab spring, shouting "Down with Mubarak, down with the bosses?" They felt that if the poor can take on a police state 'at home' they would surely be able to take on a global logistics company. Do you remember the Maruti Suzuki workers in Manesar, who left their factory after five days of a sit-down strike in 2011 and who, when re-entering the outside world and seeing that Occupy had occupied Wall Street at the same time, said: "It seems our struggle has spread!".

The current factory occupation of the Honda Manesar plant has its own local history and reference points. The older workers in the plant might remember the brutal police attack in 2005 [1], shortly after the factory was opened. They might remember the wildcat strike of temporary workers in 2010 [2] after the union of permanent workers was established. The temps struck against a management-union agreement which excluded them and based the bonus of the permanent workers on the productivity increases squeezed out of the temps. Many will have taken their clues from the 2011 occupation of both temps and permanents at the neighbouring Maruti Suzuki [3] plant or the wave of wildcat actions in 2014. [4]

And again there are links beyond the immediate local experience. The automobile industry is at the heart of a global crisis, not only in terms of profits or sales, but in terms of the legitimacy of the entire polluting and exploiting system. So it is no coincidence that there was a recent workers' offensive in the automobile sector on both sides of the US - Mexican wall. The special-economic zones in Mexico were shaken by wildcat strikes in the supply-chain [5]. These struggles on the ‘low-wage’ side of the wall will have encouraged General Motors workers in the US to attack the divisive two-tier system, which their union had agreed to, a few months later. [6]

While large parts of the left still focus on the 'representatives of evil' personified by Trump or Modi or the 'saviours' in form of Corbyn or Sanders, workers must, and have, taken steps beyond representation. Over the last few months, their protests have questioned 'leftist' governments in Bolivia as much as 'right-wing' governments in Hungary. What we lack is a collective reflection of the inner-dynamics and global dimension of the current protests. We lack a vision of how to go beyond the clash with state forces and to imagine a collective take-over of the means to produce a better life. This is why struggles such as the current factory occupation of Honda workers are of essential importance. They are literally occupying the means to produce, and in doing so, finding new ways to develop collective knowledge.

Our information regarding this struggle are patchy, we rely on comrades who visited the workers at the gate, and who are in touch with them through WhatsApp, and a few press articles and videos. [7]

The struggle

The sales of Honda scooters and motorcycles are down. Management planned to sack workers hired through contractors first. Some of them had worked there for ten years. Management talked about a three month break, after which they would consider re-hiring workers - by avoiding a formal dismissal they get around paying redundancy pay. The first workers were sacked in batches. Some workers hired through contractors reacted with a boycott of the canteen in October, which has significant symbolic weight.

There are in total around 4,000 workers employed, 2,500 of them through contractor. The plant has an annual capacity of 1.5 million units. Output has recently been cut by 50 per cent. The temps are paid around Rs 14,000 per month, while the permanents get four to five times as much. Although this wage gap has proven to be a fairly reliable tool of divide and rule, currently permanent workers are disgruntled due to delayed pay negotiations. They express solidarity with the action of the temps.

5th of November
Management refuses entry to 400 workers hired through contractors. Inside, some workers start a sit-down protest in front of the union office. Negotiations between union, management and government have no results. The company puts a copied court order up at the gate saying that workers have to stay 200 metres away from the gate, but workers don't pay any attention.

6th of November
The day shift starts with a sit-down strike inside the factory at 11:30am. Police arrive and threaten individual workers. The late shift is let into the factory and joins the sit-down, while the morning shift refuses to leave. Thousands are inside and 300 workers gather outside of the gate. There are in total 2,500 workers hired through contractor employed at Honda.

7th of November
Management circulates a notice to the permanent workers that the workers hired through contractors are engaged in an illegal sit-down strike and that therefore production is suspended. They tell the permanents to stay at home. Management stops the food supply to the canteens, workers arrive with food at gates. The sit-down continues.

10th of November
Still around 2,000 workers inside. Management publishes the following statement:

Dear Associate,
Due to prevailing IR situation in the plant operations have been suspended and plant will remain closed till the further intimation to you.
Regards
Naveen Sharma
AGM- General Affairs
Manesar Plant

-------

[1]
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no7/#fn4

[2]
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-935/#fn5

[3]
https://gurgaonworkersnews.wordpress.com/gurgaonworkersnews-no-951/

[4]
https://libcom.org/blog/struggles-%E2%80%98make-india%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93...

[5]
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/01/26/mata-j26.html

[6]
https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/gm-strike-sends-ripples-across-auto-...

[7]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8KZtwKRNsA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGwhCSPb8go
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUjV4eBoQsw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZG1sFRfBBvE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Avd44XVMhUI

Posted By

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 10 2019 18:35

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  • Over the last few months, their protests have questioned 'leftist' governments in Bolivia as much as 'right-wing' governments in Hungary. What we lack is a collective reflection of the inner-dynamics and global dimension of the current protests.

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AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 11 2019 15:35

This article provides a bit more background about the situation of the local automobile industry.
https://www.hindustantimes.com/gurugram/in-gurugram-workers-stare-at-an-...

Fredo Corvo
Nov 12 2019 13:16

Today I translated the report above into German language on my blog arbeiterstimmen.wordpress.com :

To this translation I have added a comment, that you will find here in English, and that is 'awaiting moderation' by Angry Workers of the World:

fredocorvo on November 12, 2019 at 10:16 am said:
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I was happy to translate this report in German. I have added following comment:

The report from the Angry Workers of the World group contains some points that seem to us to be cause for discussion.

How does this group see itself? In the report it gives us the impression that it sees itself as part of the “left” of which it regrets large parts “still” concentrate on the juxtaposition of Trump and Modi on the one hand and Sanders and Corbyn on the other hand. Yes, what else can one expect from these proven leftist bourgeois politicians, Trotskyists, Stalinists and anarchists who adhere to pacts with the ruling class to save bourgeois “representation” democracy and “anti-fascism”? Angry Workers of the World historically refers to the group Solidarity, whose only partial break with the leftist bourgeois ideology, whose flight into workersism it took over, and which ultimately led it into the alternative trade union IWW.

Why ‘workerism’? Here:

“What we lack is a collective reflection of the inner dynamics and global dimension of the current protests.”

It seems to us that Angry Workers of the World does not understand that itself as a minority in the working class should participate in this consciousness process of the working masses through public statement. It is not enough to ask the question, it should be answered on the basis of the theoretical positions taken by the communist left, from “Bordigists” to “Council Communists” in their various attempts to learn lessons from the first wave of the proletarian world revolution from 1917 to 1923.

“We have no idea how we can go beyond clashing with state forces and imagine a collective takeover of the means to create a better life.”

The question is meant rhetorically. But to ask the question wrong, is to answer it wrongly:

“That’s why struggles like the current occupation of the factory by Honda workers are essential. They literally deal with the means to produce and find new ways to develop collective knowledge.”

But that seems a little premature to us.

With Honda, the sit-in, like the boycott of the canteens before it, is a means for the precarious workers to draw the attention of the workers still working in the factory and call them to solidarity in their fight against mass redundancies. It’s typical for the comrades of Angry Workers of the World to think of …. Self-management.

We are convinced that only when

“in an industrial country the rule of the working class becomes a fact does the proletariat face the task of converting the economy according to new communist principles.The abolition of private property is easily pronounced, it will be the first measure of the political violence of the working class.But this is only a legal act, which is supposed to create the legal basis for the real economic process.The real transformation and the real revolutionary work begins only then.” (Jan Appel/Gruppe Internationaler Kommunisten, quoted in F.C., The G.I.C. and the economy of the transition period, part 1 , part 2 ).

This means that only when the working class has conquered political power through its councils do the working masses face the question of who should administer the factories, the workers themselves, or a state or party. It’s nice that comrades Angry Workers of the World are already thinking about it, but right now the question is different:

- should the workers within capitalism, in companies occupied by them, but further isolated, try to shape workers’ self-management?

or

- should they actively try to extend their struggle to workers in other factories, such as the workers council at Haft Tapeh in Irandis? See F.C. Iran: What after the repression of the Haft Tapeh workers and the steelworkers in Ahvaz?

F.C. 12-11-2019

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator from https://arbeiterstimmen.wordpress.com/2019/11/12/indien-fabriksbesetzung...

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 13 2019 08:03

Thanks for the translation, comrade. Your comments are a little off the mark though, as we don't propose self-management - we merely state that while the riots and protest we see are part of the collective learning curve of our class, occupations of factories and other 'means of production' will hopefully help to shift the focus of the protest wave towards the question of how we can come from 'opposing government' to 'fighting for a different mode of production and life'. To accuse us of 'workerism' doesn't really bother us too much, as we feel that this traditional label keeps us in good company. We think that depending on the phase of class struggle there is a role for both political organisation and class unions - that the current IWW is not a class union is a different matter. In any case, the main question is whether the old theoretical contributions of the 1920s you refer to are able to give us the tools to analyse 21st century class struggle and the revolutionary tendencies within. So far the organisations that mainly refer to their traditional left-communist or whatever ancient roots have not been able to produce any interesting contribution for the debate - mainly because they use their 'programmatic tradition' to keep in a secure distance to the messy and contradictory struggles of our class.

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 13 2019 08:07

Short update from the 12th of November:

The permanent workers' union tried to provide food for the temporary workers inside, but the company brought in additional security guards to prevent this.

A comrade summarised earlier events:

A correspondence (aadaan-pradaan in Hindi) on whatsapp in Hindi apropos the stirrings at the Honda Manesar bike and scooter factory since 4th November.

×÷ The workers employed through contractor companies at the Honda Manesar factory boycotted the canteens on 10th and 11th October; while on the evening of 4th November some temporary workers who had been sent on three months break (indefinite) sat inside the factory.

×÷ On 5th November morning, there was police at the factory gate. The police also picked up some workers from the factory gates.

×÷ Also on 5th November, at 11.30 am (lunch break), workers instead of going to the canteens, gathered and sat at one place in the factory. At 3 O'clock, the B shift entered and the A shift did not leave. Outside the factory 250-300 workers and inside the factory thousands are together in one place. Cacophonic euphony!

×÷ On 5th November itself, the police released the workers it had picked up from the factory gate.

×÷ On 6th November, 250-300 workers outside the factory and during lunch break at eleven thirty in the factory workers did not go to the canteens. G gathered at one place in the factory. Cacophonic euphony!

×÷ On 7th November, notice from the management to suspend production on 8th and 9th November. Thus providing a pretext to the permanent workers from coming to the factory.

×÷ There is a possibility that the management/government could attempt to do something on the 8th /9th to remove temporary workers from the factory.

×÷ The atmosphere has changed. It needs to be changed further.

This is not a struggle for honour nor is it an either/or struggle.
This is not something to be negotiated across the table.

The table and negotiations have become irrelevant. They have become obsolete. They have become meaningless.

Everyone knows this.

To advance and to recede like waves . To spread the collective's ideas, views and practices. This is the time for workers of one factory to become workers of a thousand factories.

The restlessness of the company and government will increase.

×÷ What the company and government do is not important rather the significant is what workers do and think.

×÷ Apas me baat cheet ki (talked amongst ourselves).

×÷ Good.
It behoves to avoid speeches.

×÷ Blocking the entry today, 8th November is a defensive step of a frightened Honda management.

Unable to understand, Honda company has done this to instigate the thousands sitting inside the factory and those workers sitting outside the factory. Workers provoked thus do something for power to use the police.

The lesson learnt from the 2011 experiences of Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory workers is to not get provoked.The workers did not get provoked even when their fellow workers who were called for talks were arrested.

In October 2011, when the factory was de-occupied for the second time, a Maruti worker shared this about the time spent sitting together in the factory : "We, who had been working together for years, felt during those seven days as if we were seeing each other for the first time.We conversed a lot. We sang. We danced.Those were the best days of our lives". And, the Maruti management had to back down, conceding concession after concession.

For the temporary workers gathered in Honda factory, the factory is now their space. Lots of conversations. Lots of rest. Sing to your heart's content. Compose new songs. And do convey your songs and conversations to us outside.

Enjoy.It's a time for jubilation. These are moments of joy. Let's make this time and these moments more memorable.

The Honda management does not know what to do.

×÷ Friends in the factory are firm. In thousands. With their actions friends have created a wide platform. This is a global platform. The management has now closed the canteens. Nourish the platform. The atmosphere is ecstaticand full of zeal. Come with food. Let each one participate in their own way.

# day 4 hazaartareeke#recipeforshamil#hondamemanch#manchkarenvyapak#extendthe platform

×÷ #day5#hazartareeke#recipeforshamil#honamanch#extendthe platform

×÷ The workers in the Manesar factory at night [photo]

×÷ Tomorrow (on 10th November), comrades, do come from 11 to 12 O'clock to support your fellow temporary workers and bring what you can cook at home so that there is no let up in the movement.
One friend said, to the amazement of all, that he will bring a packet of beedis, since he lives alone and cannot bring food and some friends do smoke beedis. A red salute to this thoughtfulness. For, as some say, regardless of whether or not we get meals, we can survive by smoking beedis. Amazing that we have friends like this. So thanks to all friends. Tomorrow also we will wait for you.

×÷ The above is an expression of support and discussions taking place about the firmly entrenched Honda Manesar factory workers.

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 13 2019 08:16

Honda tries to shift production to other factories, but at least the plant in Rajasthan won't be a safe option, as there are close relationships between workers of both factories...

Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) has increased production at its plants in Rajasthan and Gujarat, as labour unrest at the Manesar facility has led to zero production for the eighth consecutive day on Tuesday. People aware of the development said workers at the other plants have been doing double shifts to make up for the output loss at the Manesar unit.

Gaur [union leader] said the Rajasthan plant is just 25 km away from the Manesar unit and daily production numbers have increased there since last week. "While the company has cited slowdown in demand as the reason for such large scale layoffs, that could not be the only reason as other plants are functioning as usual," Gaur said, adding the management has refused to have settlement talks on the matter.

https://www.financialexpress.com/auto/bike-news/manesar-shut-hmsi-moves-...

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 13 2019 19:23

Further slightly contradictory news from today:

It seems that small groups of (permanent?) workers try to stop food from going inside the Honda factory where still around 2,000 workers are on sit-down strike. Their argument is that a collective hunger strike of 2,000 workers would put more pressure on management - the question is if this tactic has been agreed on by the workers inside! A comrade send: "The unions announce 'Fast unto death by two thousand workers'". Question is if the (permanent) workers union strategy differs from the trajectory of the (mainly temp) workers inside - it would not be the first time that the Honda union stabs wildcat actions of temps in the back, though this time things seem less clear cut.

Fredo Corvo
Nov 14 2019 13:01
Quote:
In any case, the main question is whether the old theoretical contributions of the 1920s you refer to are able to give us the tools to analyse 21st century class struggle and the revolutionary tendencies within. So far the organisations that mainly refer to their traditional left-communist or whatever ancient roots have not been able to produce any interesting contribution for the debate - mainly because they use their 'programmatic tradition' to keep in a secure distance to the messy and contradictory struggles of our class.

It seems to me that it is dangerous if workers believe they can entrench themselves in a factory in stead of enlarging their struggles as far as possible to other workers. This is a lesson the Italian Communist Left (Amadeo Bordiga) learned from the factory occupations in Italy after World War I, against the false slogans of Antoni Gramsci. The tragic of the defeat of the 1917-1923 revolutionary wave of workers' struggles, should not be repeated.

This lesson by the Communist Left is proven by the fact that the unions in Manesar have proposed the workers to starve themselves to death, while 'entrenched' in the Honda factory.

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 14 2019 14:33

There is an obvious danger in getting trapped in a factory, but we don’t have to go as far back as 1923 to see what can happen if you don’t turn the factory walls into a barricade. This is what happened to the workers of this factory in 2005:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lOMWz7GH33c

Since then they have learnt that management is reluctant to attack them as severely inside the factory, given the machinery and all. But they also learnt that management will switch off water and food supply and, as Honda management did during this occupation, welded the toilet doors shut. So at least one shift is outside to support. These workers live together with workers from other companies in nearby villages, they certainly spread the word in Rampura, Mujhesar and other workers’ colonies. During the Suzuki occupation in 2011 groups of 100 Suzuki workers went to nearby smaller part manufacturers and demanded outstanding sick pay for injured temp workers. These are practical ways to create links. It is true, apart from the permanent workers unions there hasn’t been any formal creation of ‘struggle committees’ of workers from different companies. Out of the 2014 series of Wildcat actions some temps intended to create more permanent structures, but this failed.

Fredo Corvo
Nov 14 2019 15:28

Dear comrades,

You seem to say that I stated the "obvious" in a "'programmatic tradition' to keep in a secure distance to (...) struggles of our class". The point is you proposed nothing of the kind, and you still stick to just describing what happened. That is what I mean with 'workerism'.

You qualified struggles as "messy and contradictory", whereas it is you that on the one hand talks about to "turn the factory walls into a barricade", on the other hand you tell that in the past workers went to other factories, and that no 'struggle committees' does exist at the moment. Isn't what you say, that is contradictory? That is what I mean with 'workerism'.

Probably workers are discussing if they should stay inside and starve (as the unions wish!) or that the should look for solidarity from other workers. I believe the latter should be done and I was completely clear about that. Communists "have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement."

Not that I know what is the best concrete way how to do this. The workers will know how to, when they agree that extension is the 'line of march'.

In India as in England the "most advanced and resolute section of the working-class" should act in this sense, not to be 'at the tail' of 'the workers' or even the official unions.

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 14 2019 16:49

Sorry, I hope this doesn’t turn into a defensive and tedious ping-pong game, but your accusations of ‘workerism’ just don’t cut it. We promoted workers’ organised coordination in Delhi’s industrial area beyond the workplace in two ways.

Firstly, by taking part in this initiative of our comrades to set up independent meeting places in various workers’ colonies. For various reasons the initiative remained minoritarian.

http://faridabadmajdoorsamachar.blogspot.com/p/fms-talmel.html

Secondly, by engaging with and analysing the various small steps that workers took themselves, primarily during the 2014 wave of wildcat action. Through the newspaper Faridabad Majdoor Samachaar comrades always emphasised the need for wider coordinations. As you can read below, we clearly point out the potentials and shortcomings of workers’ efforts, criticised the general approach of the far-left and proposed independent forms of coordination.

*** The factory struggles ‘communicate’ with each other, but they don’t yet coordinate amongst themselves. Workers still leave it largely to the unions to organise beyond the company level, which in most cases means that struggles remain isolated.

What kind of indicators or examples do we have of workers’ struggles overcoming company boundaries?
* The most obvious question will be: have the struggles at the suppliers impacted on production at Maruti Suzuki? And here we are at a certain loss, because we lack information from Maruti workers themselves. While the dispute at Maruti caused many of the suppliers to close down or reduce production, it seems that at least when it comes to smaller parts like AC components etc. the supply-chain is fairly flexible and necessary parts can be sourced from other local companies.
* The fact that struggles concentrated in time and space in IMT Manesar during early 2014 means that although there is no formal link between them, the fact that workers live and work closely together influences their struggles. To a certain extent, experiences are passed on informally, e.g. workers at Asti could tell the AITUC leader about how his union had treated workers at other factories nearby. News about struggles tends to spread quickly e.g. through mobile phone messaging.
* Certain struggles change the atmosphere in companies around them, e.g. after the Maruti Manesar riot in 2012 many company managements in the area gave concessions to their workers, similarly the riots in Noida and Okhla led to companies sending their workers home the following day.
* During the Maruti Manesar struggle a former Maruti worker managed to mobilise 200 Maruti workers to protest in front of a supplier company to force management to give treatment and a job guarantee to a worker injured after a work accident. On a different occasion Maruti workers supported locked-out Senior Flextronics workers in 2012 [24] by turning up and shouting slogans in front of their factory – which scared both management and police. There are several examples of such type of ‘solidarity actions’, but they rely largely on personal contacts.
* The high point in terms of coordination of struggles happened during the second occupation of the Maruti Manesar plant in 2011, when workers of eleven factories occupied at the same time. We assume the coordination was established through the rank-and-file contacts between different HMS shop floor workers, given the fact that most of the factories had HMS representation and, more decisively, after HMS regional and national hierarchy intervened and reduced the occupations to the four factories of the Suzuki group.
* During the Asti and Jai Ushin protests outside the factories the workers camp temporarily turned into a wider proletarian public sphere, e.g. struggling workers talked to other workers who were going to or coming back from work. Students came to support the workers. The idea to have a ‘mobile’ protest camp and to circulate within the industrial areas came up, but was not executed. Similarly, Premium Moulding workers started to address other workers through self-made placards, but their focus of activity remained on the developments at the labour court.
* After the Asti dispute, dismissed workers aimed at setting up an independent committee to ‘coordinate’ between colleagues who had started working in other factories in the area. They planned to meet regularly and to support each other in the new jobs. As far as we know though, the committee still tends to focus on the court cases of a minority of workers.
* We heard of an ‘independent struggle coordination’ between different factories in the Bawal area, closer to the Rajasthan border area, where mainly local factory workers linked up with local small peasants in struggle. We know about a series of factory struggles in that area, but little about the influence or role of the struggle coordination.
* The coordination of dismissed permanent Maruti workers unfortunately focused largely on the legal case and attempts to mobilise local ‘political’ support in the dismissed workers’ villages, as well as to influence the trade union elections in the Manesar plant. As far as we know there were little efforts to use the time and collective energy to set up a wider general workers’ coordination beyond the rather minoritarian union representatives.
We can see that coordination’ takes place on a rather random and informal level. Efforts to build more consistent structures are often sucked up into the power games of the existing trade union federations – which leads us to the question of the role of working class activists.

RESPONSES OF THE LEFT
*** We witness tragic misconceptions on the far-left: at times where management and trade union apparatuses have difficulties keeping class struggle under control, (rioting) workers are portrayed as victims, while trade unions and the labour law are defended against ‘Modi’s fascism’.

The left and ‘far-left’ reacts with a certain ‘anti-fascist’ reflex to the Modi government’s proposed labour law amendments: “the political right attacks the ‘labour movement’, we have to defend it”. The changes basically propose to narrow down the conditions for the registration of a trade union and redefine the strike laws. [25] The leftist response tragically ends up re-focusing workers attention back to the framework of the law, just at the moment where ‘wildcat occupations’ as an unlawful, but the only effective practice of workers’ struggle, have started to proliferate. Similarly, instead of supporting workers’ agency in their discontent as they attack ‘their own’ factories during riots, most leftists declare angry workers to be the sad victims of ‘management conspiracies’.
First of all we have to state that the labour law does not play a role for most of the workers, be it in the so-called informal or in the organised sector: they are not paid the minimum wage; they don’t appear on company books, as they are hired through contractors; they can’t become members of the company unions. Even though the ‘registration of a trade union’ under current law is supposed to be just a minor formal act, in reality it depends not on the law, but the will of the administration, political class and management if a union is registered, and more importantly, recognised. The proposed changes in the labour law won’t change this dynamic. The only way to curb the disrespect for the law emerging amongst the casualised mass of workers is through linking the permanent workers to the labour law and the companies’ future. Under the conditions of crisis the latter becomes increasingly difficult.
Trade unions themselves, similar to the unions in the UK or in Germany where currently governments are also launching rather symbolic ‘attacks’ on the unions, present themselves as the guarantors of law and order: “Trade unions across India see a grave threat in these changes. Tapan Sen, a Rajya Sabha member and vice president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said that by enforcing a law that restricts workers’ participation in unions, the government is taking away all their outlets for grievances, pushing them towards more militancy. “If you push someone against the wall, what will they do?” asked Sen. “They will hit back at you.”” [26]
Here we have to ask what the political motivation behind the reaction of the (far-) left is. It might be a mere naïve reflex to defend whatever a right-wing government seem to attack. Or it might be a tactical decision to defend the union bureaucracy as the main organised form, which could guarantee a small, mainly middle-class left access to, and political influence over, the working class. From a similar perspective we can question the motivation of the political left, leftist academics and NGOs of establishing independent trade unions in China: is it actually ‘in the interests of the working class’ or in the interests of their own political trajectories?

The challenge for us lies in taking account of all the experiences of independent shop floor actions and their relation to efforts in building wider co-ordinations. This requires a daily engagement with workers’ reality in a concrete form, e.g. in the form of newspapers like Faridabad Majdoor Samachar. But it also requires proposing bold initiatives at the various isolated protest camps in order to transform them into permanent workers’ bodies, open for other workers’ in struggle – and an organised national and international debate of workers’ experiences.

https://libcom.org/blog/struggles-‘make-india’-–-series-factory-riots-occupations-wildcat-strikes-delhi’s-industria

Fredo Corvo
Nov 15 2019 12:36

Dear comrades,
Thank you for the information on struggles and on what you did for their extension.
This really helps to understand the problems of the present wave of social struggles all over the world, and in which the Honda workers play an important role because they fight as part of the working class.

In this sense, I believe that we are having a real conversation and not a "ping-pong game" with defence and attack. I'm sorry if the term 'workerism' didn't make clear my point. I'll try to clarify our differences by commenting on your efforts to promote "workers’ organised coordination in Delhi’s industrial area beyond the workplace". When you tried to set up "independent meeting places in various workers’ colonies (...) the initiative remained minoritarian." At the end of your text you wrote about your "initiatives at the various isolated protest camps in order to transform them into permanent workers’ bodies, open for other workers’ in struggle".

Within both the Italian as in the German/Dutch communist Left there are different positions on the possibilities of the existence permanent working class mass organisations outside periods of open struggles. Apart from this there is an agreement that minority organisations — as yours in fact is — can persist outside open struggles and that their task is political / programmatical in the sense of learning lessons from recent class conflicts and to integrate them in our understanding of 'the main lines' of its future evolution. In the present situation in Manesar this implies agitation by this minority organisations for extension to other workers. I'm sorry to say that I have no indication that you are doing this now, and that you seem to wait that workers will do this 'spontaneously'. This is a point to clarify because this doesn't only concern Manesar or India but workers all over the world, a tiny minority is trying to follow what you are doing.

Is it possible that your efforts in creating a permanent organisation for larger numbers of workers, have made you reluctant to bring forward what you as a smaller minority see as necessary in struggle?

Finally, I believe some clarification is needed on what you call the left, that I consider as the left of capital, or bourgeois left, when you wrote "tragic misconceptions on the far-left: at times where management and trade union apparatuses have difficulties keeping class struggle under control, (rioting) workers are portrayed as victims, while trade unions and the labour law are defended against ‘Modi’s fascism’." Independent what these trotskyists, maoists or anarchist believe themselves, the Communist Left has underlined that anti-fascist front with bourgeois democracy is no misconception but in line with the counterrevolutionary function of this bourgeois left. This is the more important because - if I'm informed well - you came from this left.

Fraternally,

Fredo Corvo

AngryWorkersWorld
Nov 18 2019 10:47

Management threatens striking workers with high-court eviction ruling. In the meantime 50 workers have been hospitalised after over a week inside the factory with little food and sanitation
https://www.newsclick.in/Manesar-Tussle-Honda-Reaches-Court-Management-W...

AngryWorkersWorld
Dec 12 2019 18:40

A new longer text on the Honda Manesar occupation, by comrades of Faridabad Majdoor Samachar:

New Axis, New Terrain, New Milieu - Activities of workers hired through contractor companies in Honda two wheeler factory in Manesar, India

The November issue of Majdoor Samachar was getting ready to be published. We received and added the following message from a worker hired through a contractor company from inside the Honda factory on 5th November: “In A-shift during lunch break at eleven thirty, workers did not go to the canteens. They gathered at one place in the factory. Euphonic-cacophony! Production stopped in the factory. The B-shift came in the factory. A-shift workers did not leave the factory. Outside the factory 250-300 workers and inside the Honda factory thousands of workers gathered at one place.” After the permanent workers left the factory, 1500 workers hired through contractor companies stayed-put inside the factory. They stayed for 15 days. This brought to the fore with amazing clarity, the changes that have taken place during these twenty five-thirty years. This has made it very important for all workers. Rather, it is important for a more widespread arena. Therefore, despite it taking more space, we are publishing the excerpts from the aadan-pradaan (conversations/exchange) that had taken place between 5th to 28th November:

7th November: Temporary workers of Honda bike and scooter plant are sitting together inside the factory.

Yesterday, Honda management tried to start production through permanent, company casuals, apprentice, and staff. (Company casuals are workers who have been working for years in the Honda factory and who are made temporary for two more years before being made permanent workers). Only 50 vehicles in a day. Through a notice, the management had called all of them in one shift today. Permanent workers decided to stay in their own departments and refused to work on the assembly line. Assembly lines shut down.

# Notice from the Management to suspend production on 8th and 9th November.

# Work suspension notice is providing a pretext to the permanent workers to not come to the factory tomorrow and day after.

# Tomorrow and day after the management and the government together could do something to throw the temporary workers out of the factory.

# Solution...together only.

Now whether inside or outside the factory, the immediate task seems to be to think and prepare to defeat what is likely an imminent attack by the company and the government.

# This is not a do/die struggle. Like waves of the ocean, advance-recede, again and again, repeatedly, continuously. It behooves to have conversations regarding paths to exhaust the power.

# Company and government are scared. They are disconcerted. Their weakness is symbolized by their preparations.

All of you temporary workers’ self-confidence is something fantastic. It behooves to stay calm. Discussions at length on everyone's suggestions are indispensable.

# The atmosphere has changed. The environment needs to be changed further.

This is neither a struggle for honour nor a do/die struggle. This is not something to be negotiated across the table.

Table and negotiations have become irrelevant. They have become obsolete. They have become meaningless.

Everyone knows this.

To advance and to recede like waves. To spread your ideas, views and practices. This is the time for workers of one factory to become workers of thousand factories.

The company and government's consternation will increase further

# It seems bankruptcy is covered under the garb of honour.

8th November: Now food and water of all the workers sitting inside has been stopped.

# No one is being allowed to enter the company premises.

# Blocking the entry today is a defensive step of a frightened Honda management.

Unable to understand what is going on, Honda Company has done this to instigate the thousands sitting inside the factory and those workers sitting outside the factory. Provoked workers do something so that power can go in for police action.

The lesson learnt from 2011 experiences of Maruti Suzuki Manesar factory workers is to not get provoked. The workers did not get provoked even when their fellow workers who were called in for talks were arrested.

In October 2011, when the factory was de-occupied for the second time, a Maruti worker shared this about the time spent sitting together in the factory: "We, who had been working together for years, felt during those seven days as if we were seeing each other for the first time. We conversed a lot. We sang. We danced. Those were the best days of our lives". And, the Maruti management had to back down, conceding concessions after concession.

For the temporary workers gathered in Honda factory, the factory is now their space. Lots of conversations. Lots of rest. Sing to your heart's content. Compose new songs. And do convey your songs and conversations to us outside.

Enjoy. It's a time for jubilation. These are moments of joy. Let’s make this time and these moments more memorable.

The Honda management does not know what to do.

9th November: Tonight, at around 8:30, workers sitting inside the Honda Factory were given biscuits, snacks, bread, and juice.

# Tomorrow friends, do come from 11 to 12 o'clock to encourage these casual brothers and if you can cook at home then do bring food so that there is no let-up in our brothers’ movement. …Beedi to smoke…

# Increasing discussion and support for workers firmly sitting inside the factory

10th November: Dear Associate, due to prevailing I R situation in the plant operations have been suspended and plant will remain closed till further intimation.

# What does this mean?

This means that the company does not know as to what it should do. The management had suspended the production for two days thinking that by 8-9-10th you will mellow down.

# What does it mean next?

The new and significant difference from Maruti Suzuki 2011-12 is that thousands of workers hired through contractor companies by Honda management are together determining the turmoil. There is no basis for representative-demand-negotiation-agreement to maintain the status quo. This is a new terrain.

12th November: Today, November issue of Majdoor Samachar was available near the power house in Sector-3 of Industrial Model Town Manesar from 5:30 to 9:30 am. 1800+500+250 copies amongst workers in many factories in IMT Manesar. Then we met workers sitting outside the Honda factory.

Thanks to the Honda workers who met us joyfully, said what they wanted to say, heard us, discussed. It was a good example of aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchange) for us.

Thanks to those Honda workers also who tried to see to it that the November issue of Majdoor Samachar is not read by Honda workers. They must have had their reasons for this.

After meeting Honda workers it seems that:

Some sections are troubled by the zest and enthusiasm of workers firmly entrenched inside Honda factory.
Their trouble seems to be that this can go on for long if the workers sitting inside the factory are not in distress.
The management had shut down the canteens and kept the firmly entrenched workers in the factory hungry for 24 hours.
The fear became overwhelming that the situation could worsen if the workers sitting inside were kept hungry. The union of Honda permanent workers came forward and made the food available to workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory.
[Propaganda that 2500 workers sitting inside the factory had begun fast unto death. And, the Honda union stopped supply of food.] To see to it that no food enters the factory from any side, some from amongst the workers hired through contractor companies and sitting outside the factory were put up as additional guards.
The tested method of creating an emergency is being tried in the Honda factory. Due to an emergency situation the bad agreement had to be accepted is a raag heard ad nauseam.

Laughing. Singing. Dancing. Seeing joyful workers, the bosses sweat.

More the agreement is deferred, the position of workers hired through contractor companies will get stronger. The discussions amongst workers in thousands of factories in IMT Manesar are providing them strength. It behoves to further expand these relations.

13th November: Forcibly keeping workers sitting inside the factory hungry to create an emergency has advanced. Inside, three workers have fallen ill. Leaders by beating the drum of “thousands of workers inside the factory on fast unto death” reminded of the deceptions in the war epic Mahabharat.

14th November: At 2:30 in the night, one worker fell sick. Was sent to Employee State Insurance hospital.

# Those who are against you, their very plan is to create an emergency situation. Have discussions amongst yourselves. Is it in your favour or is it in the company’s favour to keep you hungry?

# Instead of being serious, this is the time for laughter and singing. The company’s emergency plan will get bogged down.
Worker’s joy is distress for leaders and officers.

# The B shift going to the factory and the returning A shift of the workers hired through contractor companies in Maruti Suzuki Gurgaon Factory showed great interest, curiosity, hope and enthusiasm in the turmoil created by workers hired through contractor companies in the Honda factory from 5th November.

15th November: The conspiracy to create an emergency by keeping the workers hungry for a quick resolution collapsed the moment it was revealed. Milk-bread-bananas are being given to workers sitting inside the factory.

17th November: I am standing outside Honda. Spoke with a few workers about giving food inside. They said that they are giving food which is just sufficient for survival… they are just trying to exhaust the workers inside.

1) Honda Manesar factory workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda Manesar factory since 4-5 November are not complying with anyone's consent.

They are not sitting inside because some leader told them to.

They are not sitting inside because some court ordered them to.

They are not sitting inside on the instructions of some representative.

In fact, workers hired through contractor companies cannot have any representatives.

There being absolutely no space for negotiations, in these circumstances such workers take collective decisions based on their thinking and understanding.

It seems to be a new terrain. This is absolutely different from the tussle going on in the world to keep the status quo intact. Workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside Honda factory and staying firm seem to be a part of attempts to bring about real change in society

2) Those who want to throw out the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the Honda factory since 4-5th November, are scared.

In whatever they think of doing, they at once see more harm and they also become aware of big danger.

Thousands of factories being next to each other. Millions of workers being close to one another. In the capital and surrounding area, ten million factory workers, together.

The government's hands are tied. If they use the police there is a possibility of the situation getting out of control. Millions of workers close to one another can make the situation explosive in minutes. What can the army do?

Honda management does not know what to do? What can the bouncers do?

Workers hired through contractor companies very well understand and recognize the Honda factory permanent workers’ union and its leaders. But for "support", what else can the leaders of various shades do?

What can the courts do? Violation of laws is common in the "rule of law" and adherence to laws is the exception. Hence, the courts keep deferring by giving date after date. And, it is common to not implement court rulings.

3) The position of the workers hired through contractor companies sitting inside the factory is getting stronger with each passing day. The position of Honda Company is becoming weaker and weaker with each passing day.

18th November: It is necessary to say this.

Government, labour department, and all unions in Gurgaon region (including the Honda union) have for the present, rescued Honda Company stuck in a dead-end. There is no longer any need to say anything about the assurances of leaders and officials.

In Honda Manesar factory, the workers hired through contractor companies de-occupied the factory. Removed the management's control over the factory for 13-14 days. Workers created a space for themselves. This experience requires a lot of discussions. Now, the point is to increase workers' own space. The point is to create workers own space beyond a factory's walls. This is the time to create and spread the space in many factories, in the whole industrial area. Workers hired through contractor companies in Honda factory have shown a glimpse of this.

23th November: Read the special notice of Honda Manesar Management. A few things in this context:

In Faridabad, from 1990 to 2000, many such notices were seen. The process was somewhat like this:

After the notice, representatives warm-up. Conditions unacceptable. Will not sign.
No entry into the factory. Sit outside.
On the one hand it is illegal lockout and on the other hand it is illegal strike.
At that time some major transformation was underway in the production process. Demand in the market had fallen greatly.
Indefinitely outside the factory. Wither.
Restructuring by the company. Or declaration of bankruptcy, selling of assets.
Workers obtained extremely small amounts of their legal dues from the courts.

It seems that this process is again at play. But now workers are alert. So, this process will not be effective.

The new methods that workers have adopted: collective, spreading, staying-put at workplaces, and shutting out the language of negotiations.

Good times are ahead.

24th November: Greetings. Attaining success is becoming difficult. Six persons of the union have also been suspended by the management. Result is not in sight. Unable to understand what lies ahead. Offers from contractor companies. Some have broken ranks which is terrible.

# When you people were inside the factory, Honda Management was very weak.
After you people came out of the factory, the scale tilted in the favour of Honda management.

At such opportunities in the future, it behoves to think about means-methods to stay for longer periods in the factory. Now, it behoves to reach out to workers in other factories in IMT Manesar. Your experiences of 15 days inside the factory need to be spread in the entire industrial area. .

Managements are scared by two things. One is when workers do ‘sit-in’ inside the factory and second, when workers spread their experiences and ideas. Spread what all you did in last 15 days. This is your force.

25th November: Sitting inside and outside the factory for 15 days, workers hired through contractor companies in Honda Manesar factory became an axis. Support and opposition revolved around them.

It seems that a new terrain got constituted/was constituted. Temporary workers, casual workers, workers hired through contractor companies constituting the axis seem to be a new phenomenon. When it is said that "the workers have taken things way ahead" then it can be said to be an expression of this new

Workers, who have come out of Honda Manesar factory, after sitting inside for 15 days, are getting rid of their tiredness. They are acquiring energy. Becoming strong and robust, they will take the phenomenon greatly forward. In every industrial area, temporary workers will further speed-up the transformation.

The new terrain has come with new questions. No one knows now what the paths are.

By the factory sit-in, the 1500 workers have answered many questions with amazing and astounding clarity. The old questions have become passé.

The new terrain needs a new thought. New questions and widespread aadaan-pradaan (conversational exchanges) seem to be a primary necessity.

••• [After signing the conditions as per Honda management’s directions, permanent workers entered the factory from 25th to 28th November.]

28th November: From 6:00 A.M to 9:30 A.M, we were near the power house in sector-3 of IMT Manesar in conversation with workers of different factories. Then with a little apprehension we decided to meet the Honda workers on our way back. Now sitting outside the factory, the workers hired through contractor companies had to be searched a little.

The moment we met them we were elated. Workers who were inside the factory from 4th to 18th November met us with enthusiasm.

One worker: Stepping out of the factory was falling in the pit.

A number of workers: The moment we came out of the factory, we became weak. The scale turned in company’s favour. The management removed us from the factory gate. We have been made to sit in this far-away empty plot covered by trees. .

Workers took the copies of the November issue of Majdoor Samachar and started distributing it themselves. This refreshed the memories of 12 November, when some people at the factory gate had tried to stop the circulation of Majdoor Samachar amongst workers sitting inside and outside the factory.

The demonstration on 27th November organised by the Trade Union Council of Gurgaon at the district administration’s head office and the assurances given there were brushed aside by the workers by mere mention of Honda union president's “two hundred percent assurance” of result on behalf of this Council on 18th November, within two days of the workers coming out of the factory.

Regarding prolongation of sitting out and weakening the workers: unlike workers of other places, we Honda workers will not become weak vs Honda workers have not come from the moon. Discussions in some groups regarding increasing the strength of workers. Conversations on paths to transform one factory's workers into workers of thousands of factories. Mention of sitting at six-seven locations instead of the one presently in IMT Manesar. Regarding sit-in at a very important place, some details of the experience of Honda Tapukara factory workers sit-in at Jantar Mantar in Delhi were shared. Experiences in Faridabad, and in Okhla Industrial Area (Delhi), of workers of one factory taking their experiences amongst workers of thousands of factories by writing on cardboards were discussed. Discussion regarding 30-40 Honda workers standing during morning shift hours with their written cardboards along roads at 6-7 places in IMT Manesar from where large numbers of workers go to the factories.

It seems that the 1500 workers hired through contractor companies who sat in the Honda factory for 15 days, have the capacity to take things very far.