Manifesto

(Prepared in 1948 for the Foundation Conference)

1. In the past thirty years the trade union movement has grown and gathered in its wake a harvest of experience. The time has come to sift the experience and draw from it lesson for the future.

2. For such a re-interpretation of the trade union movement no time was more suitable than the present. With the attainment of independence a responsibility has developed upon the working people to establish a free and equalitarian society. The time has come for the working class to play an increasingly significant role in the affairs, economic and political, of the country.  The day is not distant when the working class will play a decisive role; its organisation has therefore to be judged by the new opportunities as well as by the old objectives.

3. While a new opportunity has thus opened, a danger has also emerged. It is the danger of the regimentation of the trade union movement with the growing fascisation of the state as a result of the ever-increasing pressure of the vested interests. The cramping limitations on fundamental rights in the Constitution, now on the anvil, render these rights illusory and constitute not only the negation of democracy but also pave the way to totalitarian regime under which no trade union rights can be expected to survive. This challenge to the very existence of a Free Trade Union Movement is indeed so grave that unless the working class fights back this onslaught with courage and determination, it runs the risk of being subjected to new forms of slavery.

4. The truth that past experience has brought home is the absolute necessity of maintaining the freedom of the trade unions from domination of any Government, employer or political party. Safeguarding of these fundamental freedoms must become the first task of the new trade union movement.

5. The deepening shadow of Government on our Labour Movement and the cynical exploitation of trade unions for sectarian ends by certain groups working in the Labour Movement make it necessary to underscore and emphasise the fundamental freedoms. It is their denial in the existing organisations that compel the workers to band together and build up a new central organisation of trade unions.

6. The autonomy of every trade union follows as a necessary corollary to the above premise. Every trade union must be assured against outside interference. In its affairs while in its turn the trade union must assure the fullest internal democracy to its members.  The will of the members, democratically ascertained and collectively expressed, must remain sovereign.

7. Though the number of industrial workers has increased slowly and unevenly due to the colonial conditions prevailing in the country till recently, the pace of trade union organisation and of socio-political awakening of the workers has been comparatively rapid. There are today about 2,000 trade unions claiming a membership of about twenty lakhs. This strength is unfortunately fragmented into a large number of unions. The average membership per union has fallen from 3,594 in 1927-28 to 1,335 in 1946-47. 25 per cent of the unions, it was recently calculated, have less than 300 members, while only 12 per cent of the unions claim a membership of about 2,000. The very fact that in 1946-47, out of 1,728 registered unions only 998 submitted returns, as laid down under the Trade Unions Act, shows that a number of unions fail to outgrow the teething stage. These facts emphasise the necessity of a well-knit central organisation capable of helping unions, overcome these defects and become stable mass organisations.

8. The time has come to build up nationwide unions, one union per industry, with their locals. When Labour is demanding uniform wages and standard conditions of work, it is pre-eminently necessary to integrate the trade unions into national industrial unions. The new central organisation will not weed out rival trade unionism but sternly discourage small and scattered unions and foster industrial mass unions that will command the resources needed for new tasks and responsibilities.

9. The Trade Union Movement while maintaining its character as a class organisation will also strive for the realisation, in concrete form, of the principles of Industrial Democracy. With this end in view, it must ensure statutory provision for the participation of the workers in the control and regulation of industry. This claim to a share in the control of industry rests primarily on the simple democratic right of the work-people to have an effective voice in the determination of their industrial destinies. Only by the adequate recognition of this claim can the potentialities, experience and co-operation of the workers be drawn upon and the full productive capacity of the industry effectively harnessed.

10. The trade unions today cannot foreswear political responsibility. In the final analysis the emancipation of the working class can be achieved only through labour s assumption of authority in the state. The political wing of the labour movement is therefore as important as the trade union wing. In order to achieve fruitful co-ordination between the two, the new central organisation will further all efforts at the political organisation of the working people.

11. While steadfastly keeping the main objective of socialism in view, the new central organisation will try to secure in the immediate future the fulfillment of the following programme:

(A) A living wage to all work-people.

(B) Guaranteed right to work for every citizen

(C) The introduction of full social security measures to provide a basic income
to all in need of such protection and comprehensive medical care.

(D) Provision for adequate leisure in the form of reasonable hours of work and
holidays with pay.

(E) Slum clearance and provision of adequate housing with facilities for
recreation and culture.

(F) Introduction of free and compulsory primary education, provision for adult
education and facilities for vocational training.

(G) Adequate provision for child welfare and maternity protection.

(H) The effective recognition of the right of collective bargaining.

  1. Repeal of all legislation encroaching upon the fundamental rights of labour, such as right to strike, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of speech, right to personal liberty and freedom of movement.

(J)  Nationalisation of key industries and banks.

12. The new conception of a trade union as a nationwide organisation functioning democratically and aspiring to play a decisive role in the affairs of our country demand that the workers must be adequately equipped to undertake this new responsibility. Workers must have sufficient education to man the trade union offices, to grapple with the problems of national importance, economic as well as political and to develop a breadth and clarity of vision necessary for running the affairs of the state. Workers  education capable of fulfilling this task must receive top priority from the trade union movement.

13. The co-operative activity is an important wing of the trade union movement. It inculcates the spirit of self-help and solidarity among the workers, the two vital principles on which trade unions are based. The new central organisation will therefore forge the closest links with the co-operative movement.

14. In the establishment of a free and equalitarian society a close link between the movement of the working-class and the peasantry will be essential. With this end in view, this organisation will endeavour to forge a united front of the toiling masses.

15. Those who seek to change the society, have first to change themselves. The span of the arch depends upon the strength of the brick. The new trade union movement, through its constructive and combative activities, its economic and political work, its educational and cultural efforts, will strengthen the intellectual and moral fibre and make the worker a citizen worthy of the new civilization of free and equal men that the great travail of our time is leading to.
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