Source: Labour Monthly, Vol. 9, October 1927, No. 10.
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
[The author of the following very informative article, who has made a first-hand study of the Indian trade union movement, has recently been committed for trial in Bombay as the alleged author of a pamphlet, “India and China,” now declared seditious.]
It is commonly said, indeed so commonly that the phrase becomes mechanical, that the Indian Trade Union Movement “is still in its infancy.” The present writer has frequently had occasion to combat the use of this phrase, not so much because it is untrue, as because it is misused. Every kind of mistaken policy, sheer inactivity, sectarianism, abstention from politics, are all excused on the same plea. And, on the other hand, it conveys the idea that the only policy for Indian Labour is slow, patient progress on the present lines. It is not intended to deny the truth of what is meant by the statement, namely that Indian labour organisation is poor by Western standards. But the analysis of the situation implied by it is inadequate. It is the thesis of this article that Indian unionism is in its second stage, in which it will remain until there come into being the conditions necessary for the next stage. That these conditions will ripen fairly soon is also expected, and indeed the beginnings are already to be seen.
The broad facts of the present position have recently been given very completely by Mr. Joshi in his pamphlet, The Trade Union Movement in India, and the figures in the table below are taken from it. Though necessarily based to some extent on guesswork they are as sound as can be obtained and are near enough in any case for the present purpose.
Of the population of just over 300,000,000, 138,000,000 are taken to be workers, divided according to occupations as follows: Agriculture, 100,000,000; industry, with mining, 15,517,000; transport, 1,900,000; commerce, 8,000,000; domestic, 2,500,000; public services, 4,000,000. The more detailed facts are arranged under columns: (a) estimated number of wage- earning employees, (b) wage-earners in organised parts of occupations, or such as can be organised in trade unions, (c) number of unions in existence, (d) total membership.
|82,000 (glass, &c.)||1||—|
|(printing)||5||6,000 1,000 15,000|
|(wood, leather, chemicals|
|332,000||food, clothing, building, gas, furniture, &c.)||—|
|100,000 docks &c.,||6||3,000|
The distribution by provinces is also important. In 1925 the numbers of workers in factories subject to the Indian Factories Act were: In Bengal, 551,342; Bombay, 370,460; Madras, 123,563; Burma, 97,346; U.P., 78,942; Bihar and Orissa, 73,461; C.P. and Berar, 67,104; Punjab, 53,533; Assam, 48,697. Others, 30,330. Total, 1,494,958.
Government employees, railwaymen, &c., will be distributed roughly according to population. The number of trade unionists by provinces is more difficult to state, but is approximately as follows: Bombay (June, 1927), 76,000; Bengal, probably 50,000; Madras, about 25,000; others up to a few thousands each. The total number of unions affiliated to the All-India Trades Union Congress is now 60, with 125,000 members.
It is also necessary to show roughly how the present situation is related to the past. Organisation on a large scale practically began in 1918, and at the first All-India Trades Union Congress, in Bombay, October, 1920, sixty unions were affiliated, having 140,000 members, while it was claimed that the total membership of unions expressing sympathy, &c., was 500,000. At the second Congress, at Jharria, November, 1921, it was stated that 1,000,000 affiliated members were represented. It is doubtful if these numbers were actually even approached, but it is certain that there was a very big fall after 1922. At the end of 1924, only eight unions were affiliated, but by the time of the fifth Congress, in Bombay, February, 1925, there were thirty-one unions with perhaps 80,000 members. The number has risen steadily from that time.
The more exact figures compiled by the Labour Office for the Bombay Government show the same tendency. There were in the Presidency in June, 1922, twenty-two unions with 58,000 members; in September, 1923, nineteen unions with 42,000 members; September, 1924, twenty-one with 47,000 members, and since then a fairly steady rise to the present figures: sixty-six unions with 76,000 members.
The Bombay Government commented on these facts in its criticism, dated January, 1925, of the draft Trade Unions Bill.
It cannot be denied that the progress of Trade Unionism in this Presidency is at the best stationary at the present moment . . . . the movement seems to be able to show solid progress only in Ahmedabad. The quarterly review . . . . is a tale of lassitude and disillusionment. The present slump in the movement is due largely to falling prices and rising wages.
The “slump” in the movement after 1922 would be better shown by statistics of industrial disputes. The period, 1919-22, saw a very intense “strike wave,” which fell away almost to nothing by 1924. In the character of the Congresses also, a similar contrast is to be seen between those days and the present. The first two Congresses were practically huge demonstrations. At Jharria there were several thousand delegates, and a strike was held specially for the occasion in the local coalfield. Many of the best-known political leaders of the country were present at both Congresses, and took active part. In the Trades Union Congress, which the present writer attended in March this year, the number of delegates was under fifty, not more than ten of whom were workers. Perhaps a score or so of members of the public were present, while as the place was Delhi, a few Congress leaders “dropped in,” but said nothing.
Mr. R.K. Das, in his book The Labour Movement in India (1923), remarks that, while in the first years of intense activity the unions were mainly industrial in type, in the later period in which he was writing, craft unions also began to appear. This is an important observation, for though the unions which were then making their appearance, and by this time are the predominant type, are not craft unions in the strict sense, they do closely resemble craft unions in many ways. The figures of unions for the whole country, and especially for the Bombay Presidency, show a large increase recently in the number of unions, but a fall in the average membership, and this is characteristic.
The union movement of 1919-22, and that of 1924-27, are really quite distinct in organisation, composition, and aims, as well as in magnitude and methods. The difference has been compared plausibly with that which came about in the British movement between the ’thirties and the ’sixties of last century. The former movement was the product of a period of universal instability and excitement, and was fundamentally a revolutionary response to a revolutionary situation. The economic circumstances were enough to bring about universal discontent and protest. But the workers were also undoubtedly affected by the political excitement of the time. Thus, during the famous pilgrimage in 1921 of the primitive and ignorant plantation “coolies” of Assam and Bengal, some hundreds of them were suddenly and brutally cleared out of the Chandpur station yard at midnight by armed soldiers. They made no resistance, but shouted “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.” The revolutionary consciousness was of course generally extremely dim, but there can be no doubt that it was present. Strikes took place in every part of the country in all kinds of occupations. There was in most cases no organisation before the strike, but some kind of union was often established afterwards. All grades of workers took part. Frequently the demands of the strikers were not formulated until they had been out for some days, and they were then of an “extravagant” nature. The chief concrete demand was nearly always for wage increases, with reduction of hours a close second, but there were others often not of an economic character. The unions then formed were what would be expected from the circumstances of their origin. They were industrial in type, but usually covered only a restricted area. They often had no regular membership, payments, &c., and have been, in fact, accurately described as “little more than strike committees.”
There are now few remnants of those days. The present movement operates in conditions of economic stability and political quiescence. Only in Bombay in the last two or three years has the depression in the cotton industry brought about a general tendency towards worsening of conditions. But the pressure has only sufficed to give a spurt to organisations of the present type.
The present movement, as has been remarked, while not strictly a craft unionism,1 is similar in several respects to a typical craft movement, such as that in Britain in the middle of the last century. It is mainly a movement of the upper grades of workers for extremely limited aims. The organisation is fairly thorough, but narrow as regards activities, the classes of workers involved, and the areas from which they are drawn. There is little inter-union organisation or solidarity, little class-consciousness, and a general avoidance of political activity.
It is proposed here to describe the trade union movement as the writer has hitherto seen it, in a little greater detail, in the hope that it will be of interest to Western readers, and will give some idea of present conditions and possibilities of development. The writer’s observations are limited to the Bombay Presidency and the Punjab, but conversations and published reports enable it to be said that statements applicable to those Provinces are fairly sound in regard to the rest of India, apart, perhaps, from Madras.
There are several unions which aim at covering the whole of India. They are mainly of long standing, contain only upper grade workers, and remain practically aloof from the general movement.2 The All-India Postal and R.M.S. Association and the All-India Postal and Lower Grade Staff Union are loose federations of provincial and local unions. In some places one or other is split, so that in these towns there are three Postal unions with perhaps not more than one or two hundred members each. Poona and Baroda are examples. The Association was founded in 1906, and is well established, with nearly 40,000 members and a fund of perhaps a lakh of rupees. The Union arose from local unions founded in 1918 and later. Both are recognised by the Government.
The All-India Telegraph Association was founded in 1908, and has about 3,000 members and substantial funds. A split occurred in 1923, when the All-India Telegraph Union was formed. The Association contains all the Anglo-Indian and European members, while the Union has only Indians. The lower grade employees have several separate local unions.
There are other All-India federations such as that of the Currency Office Associations.
The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants of India and Burma has 2,250 members, almost all Anglo-Indians and Europeans (drivers, guards, &c.). It was founded in 1898, and is thus the oldest union in India. It is strictly non-political and tends to separate its members from other railway employees. It tried, successfully, to keep its members at work during the N.W. Railway strike of 1925. There should also be mentioned the All-India Railwaymen’s Federation, founded in 1925, after similar attempts had been made in 1921. It includes most of the railway unions, but its existence is only nominal. During the N.W.R. strike of 1925 it sent its secretary to the scene of action, but, according to Mr. Miller’s report, he confined himself to mediation, and when that failed, to delivering defeatist speeches. During the B.N.R. strike of this year the federation was entirely inactive.
The G.I.P. railway has at present four separate unions, all situated at Bombay. One is for the Bombay shops, two for the headquarters clerical staff, and one for the suburban stationmasters, clerks, &c. The total membership is 5,000 to 6,000. The railway employs in all over 100,000 men. It is perhaps not an accident that the shop union, while perhaps less successful than the others in remedying grievances, &c., is the only one affiliated to the T.U.C. or the Central Labour Board, and has recently established a branch at Kalyan. The B.B.C.I. Railway has three separate unions, one with about 2,000 shopmen at Bombay, one with 6,000 members of all grades at Ahmedabad, and one at Ajmer. Even the N.W.R. has had separate unions at Karachi and Sukkur, but these are dying out. A separate union of railway clerks has recently been formed at Lahore, but it adopted Mr. Miller as its president, and is the result rather of discontent with the old union than of sectarian aims. Other militants, headed by Miller, have also recently broken away from this union and begun to organise a new one.
The N.W.R. union, at one time probably the most powerful union in Asia, really requires separate treatment. It began to organise in 1920, and in the same year fought a long and successful strike. The membership soon afterwards reached 85,000, out of about 125,000 then employed, and included all grades, among them a substantial proportion of the Europeans. It has fallen since then, with a temporary revival in 1925, owing partly to the general stabilisation of conditions, but also because of the special measures taken against it on account of the strategic importance of the line. Mr. Miller was imprisoned, other leading members were suborned, “tame” rival unions started, and so on. The paying membership of the existing recognised union is about 2,000.
Unions are now in most cases confined practically if not formally to, upper or skilled grades of workers. Thus, the Bombay Port Trust has three unions with a purely theoretical joint committee), one for the 600 men on the Port Trust Railway, one for the 1,000 workshopmen, &c., and one for the 1,600 tally clerks, shed superintendents, &c. And this last is the most successful and is the only one “recognised.” But the 2,000 or more dock labourers are entirely unorganised. Even in these unions the upper grades are more strongly represented than the lower. The same thing applies in a less degree to the railway shop unions, and to others.
Thus, the Bombay Port Trust Docks Staff Union shows the following composition (May, 1927):—
|Grade||No. Employed||No. in Union||Wage rates (Rs. per mth.)|
|Minor officials||120||105||125, 175, 225 (3 grades)|
Similarly with the G.I.P. Railway Workmen’s Union, which has the following membership (roughly) in the Matunga shops:—
|Grade||No. Employed||No. in Union||Wage rates (Rs. per mth.)|
This is partly the result of the natural tendency of the unions to fall into the hands of the more literate members, who in present circumstances do not urgently require the strength to be derived from the solidarity of the lower grades. It is one aspect also of the general difficulty of organising the more illiterate workers, which is exemplified by the failure yet to establish a really successful union in the Bombay textile industry. There are here two unions, the Bombay Textile Labour Union, founded January 1, 1926, which has about 7,500 members, and the Girni Kamgar Mahamandal (Mill Workers’ Association), founded 1923, with about 3,000. The total number employed is about 150,000. Even the Ahmedabad Textile Workers’ Union, with all its resources and traditions, is finding it difficult to keep its members. Though 20,000 strong in 1922, and successful in regaining nearly 15,000 members in two years after the strike of 1923, it is now losing members, and has about 11,000 (out of over 50,000). Similarly the textile unions at Broach and Sholapur have disappeared, though on the other hand one has been recently established at Indore. The migratory character of mill labour, of which much has been said, is decreasing, and is no longer of much importance, at any rate in Bombay.
Many other classes of workers of similar skill and education remain practically or wholly unorganised—in Bombay, building, oil, gas, tramway, and other workers, and generally miners, jute workers, &c. Even when organised, either in their own or in predominantly upper grade unions, workers of this kind tend to form a “floating population” in the union. All textile unions say the same thing. The Bombay Textile Labour Union had in January, 1926, 6,000 members. It increased to over 9,000 by the end of the year, but again fell to just under 7,500 in June, 1927. The Girni Kamgar Mahamandal speaks of a “steady stream of members through the union.”
The aims of the present movement are very limited. Though petitions and memoranda are continually being presented on general grievances, such as wages and hours, they are almost always unsuccessful, and there are not the spirit or material resources necessary to conduct a struggle for improvements. Strikes occur fairly frequently, mainly on account of attempts to worsen conditions, or victimisation, which is very common. Employers and managers are almost always arbitrary and provocative in their attitude, except when dealing with superior grades.
The efforts of unions are, therefore, directed mainly towards the remedying of individual complaints, and in this the upper grades are markedly more successful than the lower. The usual complaints are excessive fines, arbitrary dismissals, irregularities in promotions due to bribery and favouritism, &c.
There is a general sentiment in favour of benefit funds. The older unions, especially the A.S.R.S., have them in plenty, but the new unions and the customary contributions (1 to 8 annas per month) are too small to make them generally successful. Many unions already have Death Benefit schemes, and voluntary benefits with special subscriptions are becoming more common.
A few unions conduct educational classes for their members, the Girni Kamgar Mahamandal, the Bombay Postal and Lower Grade Staff Union, and the Ahmedabad Union in particular. (The last-named runs also temperance work, a research department, a hospital, &c.). But the education provided is in all cases the “three R’s” (plus religious instruction at Ahmedabad). Mr. Joshi has attempted an inter-union class in the history and principles of Trade Unionism, but without great success.
The organisation of unions is commonly good for the very limited purposes. The proportion of actual to possible members is often high, at any rate for upper grade workers. A committee is appointed in the early stages, usually representative of all grades, and is re-elected at annual meetings. (It is not unusual, after the first month or two, for the annual meetings to be the only occasions on which the mass of members meet or take any part, save payment.) The active officers, owing to the danger of victimisation, are often “outsiders.” The union has an office, usually a small room with a typewriter. These are sometimes shared with another union, especially in Bombay, where unions are numerous and rooms expensive. The older and bigger unions have permanent officials, and many of the newer unions in Bombay employ for part of their time the paid servants of the Social Service League or the Central Labour Board. The committees in most cases meet regularly and conduct the small amount of routine business. Rules and reports are published, in many cases in vernacular and English editions. The older unions publish journals, which rival their European counterparts in dullness, and some of the newer ones publish occasional bulletins. Contributions are usually collected at the place of work by committee members, and receipts are passed. A few unions adopt the system of membership cards. The books are in most cases well kept. In short, “Strict Business” might be the motto of Indian Trade Unionism.
A warning should at once be uttered against accepting this as a picture of the movement as a whole. It is correct of those unions of the upper grade type, which are active, as nearly all the Bombay unions are at the moment. But in a few cases there, and in many elsewhere, when demands are temporarily satisfied, or further advance is found to be impossible, or a severe defeat has been suffered, stagnation sets in. The union may simply cease to work, or if individuals try to keep it going, members drop a way. There is little or nothing, material or moral, to keep them together.
It is typical of social conditions generally that women’s organisation hardly exists. Women are employed in large numbers, but as lower grade workers. The Girni Kamgar Mahamandal has about twenty women members, and there are a few organised in Ahmedabad and Bengal (jute workers).
Inter-union organisation is not of importance. The All-India T.U.C. contains a majority of the organised workers, though not of the unions. It and its subsidiary bodies, the Provincial Federations (in Bengal, Bombay and Madras, and in a nebulous form in the Central Provinces and the Punjab) exist mainly because they are the representatives of the labour movement officially recognised by the Central and (sometimes) by the Provincial Governments. Owing to the great distances and the general poverty of the movement, meetings can seldom be held between Congresses, and the work done is mainly of a routine character. The members of the unions take little interest in its doings, and if they send delegates they do not usually receive reports.
There is only one body in the country which can in any way be compared to a Trades Council, the Central Labour Board of Bombay.3 And that is solely because of its constitution. It does not work as a Trades Council. It, or rather Mr. Jhabvala, organises separate unions, and sometimes conducts temperance propaganda. The former he does as provincial organiser for the T.U.C., the latter as secretary of the Central Labour Board.
There is commonly great solidarity among members of the same union, especially of the same grade, and strikes often result from this. But general class-consciousness is seldom to be noticed, except among lower grade workers. It may be mentioned that the writer was present at a meeting of railway workers at the time of the agitation against the dispatch of Indian troops to China, and although the men in question have grounds for grievance against the Chinese, who are employed in the railway on the same work for higher pay, they brought forward a young Chinese worker and cheered him loudly as a demonstration of class solidarity.
The first May-day demonstration was held in Bombay this year, and was attended mainly by municipal-, mill-, and railway-men, i.e., by lower and middle grade workers. (It is possible that the upper grade men were kept away by their characteristic petit-bourgeois “respectability complexes.”) It should be said that men of the lower grades, though generally unorganised, have some knowledge of what the Labour Movement means. Every worker in Bombay appears to know and respect Jhabvala, just as all Punjab workers know Miller.
A word should be said on the difficulties in labour organisation arising from differences of language, religion, &c. They are no doubt obstructions, but are not as important as is commonly thought in Europe, even in the Punjab, where communal feeling is at its worst.4 The chief difficulty of this nature is due to the relatively large differences in the wage rates of various grades (see tables on page 613). It comes about through the greater effectiveness of upper grade workers in pressing their claims, through the scarcity of persons with elementary or technical education, and partly, no doubt, through a deliberate dividing policy.
The influence of “outsiders” as officials and leaders is a delicate question, and one of great importance. They are certainly necessary, especially for lower grade unions, because of general illiteracy and the risk of victimisation. Only one such union, the Girni Kamgar Mahamandal, is carried on nominally without outside helpers. They tend to be eliminated for practical purposes by upper grade unions, when the need for them disappears. But it is the writer’s impression that the present “outsiders” as a whole deserve their bad name. Many enter the movement with interested motives, and though they may promote efficiency they are not to be relied upon. A notorious case is that of the B.N. Railway strike of this year. Even if, as is often the case, their motives are purely unselfish, they generally strengthen the sectarian and otherwise reactionary tendencies to which the movement is so prone. The Ahmedabad Union is perhaps the worst case. Here the President is an ordinary humanitarian, a member of a mill-owning family, and a conscious advocate of class-collaboration. Other officials, though they see something of its dangers, allow themselves to be completely led by Gandhi, whose policy is (in most respects, but not all) the same.
Bombay is blessed with disinterested and not unprogressive leaders. The Punjab is not so fortunate. The policy of the officially recognised body is one of sheer servility. Bengal has officials of both kinds, and has for years been divided by quarrels, which have more than once split unions, probably of purely personal origin. Many of the unions seem to be of the type described by Mr. Tom Johnston in his report on the jute industry. Three out of the four unions in that industry were bogus, and served merely to advertise their presidents. Madras has leaders who do not commit the usual error of abstaining from political activity, but their politics is not that of the working class. A Labour Party has been established which runs candidates in local elections. These make the grave mistake (in present circumstances) of opposing Congress candidates. The Party in fact seems to be entirely for electoral purposes, which are of very minor importance for labour at the present stage, and to have been organised in support of the reactionary remnants of the Home Rule League.
The acknowledged national leader of the trade union movement is Mr. N.M. Joshi, the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress. With all respect it must be said that he is as much out of place in his position as, let as say, Mr. Sidney Webb would be as Secretary of the Miners’ Federation. He carries on his work with the same disinterested care that Mr. Webb would no doubt devote to the position suggested, and undoubtedly does the best that is possible along his lines. But his function is observation, research and the drafting of Bills, not leadership.
Enough has now been said to give some idea of the movement as it stands. It is clear that the most important circumstances determining the present phase are the economic stability and the political deadness—the slow collapse of bourgeois nationalism, and the continued paralysis of the petit-bourgeoisie.
India can expect on general grounds a prosperous industrial future. But Indian industry and economics generally are still very closely dependent upon Britain, which is becoming more and more a broken reed in these matters. And it is almost certain that the immediate political future of the British Empire, and Asia generally, is a stormy one. It seems in any case safe to prophesy that the decades of peaceful progress, which many Indian leaders, apparently on the example of Britain, appear to expect, will not materialise. But it is even safer to predict that the present political quiescence in the country will not last for more than a year or two. The petit-bourgeoisie in the national movement are beginning to revolt against the bourgeois leadership, the last remnants of which are fast going over to the Imperialist camp, in preparation for the Statutory Commission. It is to be expected, in view of the generally difficult position of British capitalism, that they will not be disappointed. Substantial concessions, probably “Dominion Status,” &c., will be offered, and obviously the whole of the bourgeois political school will accept them thankfully. All pretence of Swarajist opposition will probably disappear fairly quickly. The mantle of nationalism will fall upon the shoulders of the petit-bourgeoisie, who will be forced to seek the assistance of the Labour Movement. (The example of Ireland must not be taken too seriously, as there the civil war upset the “normal” course of events.) The emergence of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties, of which four,5 counting the Young India Society of the Punjab, now in existence, shows this tendency. They have already made some impression upon the Labour Movement. Owing partly to their influence the T.U.C. at its last session carried a resolution in favour of industrial unionism. Unfortunately, a last-minute amendment by a railway representative was accepted, substituting “federations of unions” for “unions.” Thus the resolution, which might have had some little effect, was rendered absolutely useless, by the action of the industry which stood most to gain, at the moment, from its application.
In Bombay in particular, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party is carrying on propaganda for greater activity in the unions (some unions. have now commenced monthly general meetings) and for the transformation of the Central Labour Board into a genuine Trades Council, &c. It is clear from what has been said above that they will have largely to depend upon what has here been called “lower grade” labour, and the solution of the still unsolved problem of the organisation of the great mass of Indian Labour probably lies with them.
There is a general realisation in political circles of the future importance of the Labour Movement, and though nothing is done, Congress leaders speak more frequently than ever of Labour work. At the Delhi Congress, two leaders, Mr. Chaman Lal and Lala Lajpat Rai, who had been out of touch with labour for some years, reappeared. The former rejoined the movement because, after three years of Swarajist politics, he realises that bourgeois nationalism is dead, and that the future conduct of the struggle will depend upon Labour. The latter came for exactly the contrary reason, that he saw the future danger, for the bourgeoisie, and wished to check it in time.6 The struggle between Nationalism and Imperialism for the possession of the Labour Movement has begun. When it has fully opened out, the next great stage in the history of Indian Labour will have commenced.
1. Practically the only pure craft unions, apart from the Mechanical Engineers’ Association of Akola, which could almost be called a professional association, are those constituting the Ahmedabad Textile Workers’ Union. It is significant of the atmosphere in which this union, and indeed the movement generally, works, that craft unionism having been introduced, some workers demand more of it than their officials are willing to give them.
2. Only the Bombay section of the Postmen’s Union has been affiliated to the T.U.C., and has recently withdrawn because of the protest made by the Delhi T.U.C. against the dispatch of Indian troops to China. About the same time the Department of Posts and Telegraphs announced that unions of its employees must not affiliate to the T.U.C., as the latter is a political body.
3. The Provincial Federations of course tend to become in practice confined to Madras City, Calcutta, &c. And there is in Rangoon a general labour union with 10,000 members from different industries. It appears to be an unusually successful lower grade organisation, and is probably in practice nearer to a genuine Trades Council than any other.
4. Efforts are occasionally made by employers to arouse communal passions, e.g., recently in the Bombay Port Trust Docks Staff Union, and previously in the N.W.R. union. Neither had any success. In fact only three cases have come to the writer’s notice. The Moslems have recently withdrawn almost en bloc from the Ahmedabad Weavers’ Union. The Punjab Press Workers’ Union is said to have collapsed last year from this cause, but it was in any case a feeble body. The Indian Seamen’s Union, Bombay, has split nominally on this ground. Many of the saloon crews (Indian Christians, mainly Goanese) have withdrawn to form a new union, as the old one also contains engine and deck hands (non-Christians, mainly Mohammedans). Communal feeling is present, but the split was promoted by the shipowners and brokers, because the old union was opening its doors to the other crews, and was trying to extend its activities beyond the traditional limits of a mere employment bureau. The differences which often separate Indians from Anglo-Indians and Europeans are economic. The latter are invariably privileged, and often paid much higher rates.
5. In Bengal, Bombay, Rajputana (Ajmer) and the Punjab. The Punjab Society was the first to organise a May-day demonstration in India, in Lahore in 1926. The Bombay Party has established itself as leader of the opposition in the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee. It organised the May-day demonstration this year, and is leading the present (end of August) strike of protest against the attempt to make the weavers in some mills work three looms instead of two.
6. Cf. his remarks in the People (Lahore, March 20, 1927) on the Delhi session of the Trades Union Congress: “It (the Labour Movement) is a tender plant which requires careful nursing—careful watering and protection from the rigours of the climate. . . . What the Indian worker wants is not dogma, but help in organising, and in the redress of his grievances against the Government and the employers. To feed him on doctrines . . . . is to lead him astray.”