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The Militant, 3 August 1946

Duncan Ferguson

Strikes Spread Across India
in Reply to High Living Costs

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 31, 3 August, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


In a powerful demonstration of fighting strength, Indian workers crippled the huge city of Bombay by strike actions last week. The strikes quickly spread across the vast subcontinent of India to Calcutta, where telegraph operators and postal employes walked out. Communication services were at a standstill in both cities.

On July 23 the N.Y. Times reported that “India now apparently faces its worst labor crisis since the railway strike of 1928.” A UP report on the same day stated: “It was feared that a general strike, covering Bombay province and affecting about 500,000 workers would be called within a few hours.” No news of importance has been allowed to seep out since then.

The strike movement began on July 10 when 40,000 postal employes in six of the eleven provinces of British India went out on strike to back up their wage demands. Among the most poorly paid of India’s exploited workers, a postman receives as little as 18 rupees ($5.50) a month!

Refuse to Go Back

When the leaders of the Federation of Post and Telegraph Unions tried to get the men to return to work without satisfaction of their demands, the workers refused to go back, and seven of the thirteen postal unions affiliated with the Federation left it.

Telegraph employees in Bombay then walked out in sympathy and were joined by 70,000 other workers in various industries in the city. In Calcutta 14,000 postal and telegraph workers walked out, shutting down all mail deliveries and telegraph service. Railroad shop workers threatened to go out in sympathy.

These strikes are but the latest development in a great movement of strike struggle that has swept all the major cities of India since the end of the war. The war brought the Indian, workers nothing but unemployment, inflationary prices and a continuation of their misery – with the horrible specter of another famine looming ever closer.

Independent Role

A significant aspect of the latest strikes is that the Congress Party has played no role in them – except to urge arbitration. The Congress Party, which represents the interests of the Indian capitalists, has been engaged in negotiations with the British Cabinet Mission. The purpose of these negotiations is, under the cloak of “independence,” to make a new division of the profits and spoils between the Indian and British capitalists, with a larger share now going to the former.

The current strike struggles show that the Indian working class is beginning to play a more and more independent role. This will soon become manifest on the political as well as the economic plane.

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