The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rift in CPM on strike policy

Calcutta, Nov. 27: The contradictions within the CPM vis-à-vis the utility of strikes as a political weapon came to the fore today with former chief minister Jyoti Basu and a former member of his Cabinet, Shyamal Chakraborty, pulling a Citu unit in diametrically opposite directions from the same dais.

Strikes are the last resort for workers to resolve industrial disputes and realise their demands, Basu said today during the inauguration of the Krishnapada Ghosh Bhavan, the central office of the Calcutta Port and Shore Mazdoor Union.

However, Chakraborty, the president of the union, said a move was underway to downsize the Calcutta port, adding: “We should resist all attempts to privatise the country’s ports as this will undermine both the nation’s economy and security. We may even call an all-India strike against any such move.”

“The Left Front government was the first to recognise strikes as a legal right of workers. But this is a weapon of last resort and should not be used indiscriminately. Entrepreneurs, trade unions and the state government should conclude tripartite agreements whenever dialogue between labour and capital breaks down,” said Basu.

“The support base of our government is a happy combination of peasants, workers, middle class and capitalists. We have repeatedly asked the different chambers of commerce to co-operate with labour and the government so that industrial harmony is maintained,” pointed out the CPM veteran.

“But demands by labour should always be legitimate. Industrial disputes in the state are few and far between. This has been possible due to the political awareness of the people of Bengal.”

The veteran communist touched on the funds crunch faced by the state and said even chief ministers of BJP-ruled states were demanding a larger share of revenues that ordinarily accrue to the Centre.

“States are increasingly becoming cash-starved. The entire federal structure of the country should be overhauled so that more financial autonomy is enjoyed by the states,” he said.

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