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Trade Union Movement in 25 Years of Independent of Bangladesh

Trade Union Movement in 25 Years of Independent of Bangladesh

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Published by: motaharhossain on Oct 18, 2009
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12/21/2012

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TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN 25 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT OF BANGLADESHDuring the 25 years of independent Bangladesh, side by side with its peoples’ struggles, theworking class and trade union movement has played a significant role. Not only during thisquarter of century but also during 24 years of Pakistani rule (1947-1971) and even before thatwhen Bangladesh as part of India was under British rule trade union movement played quite animportant role and deserves special study to understand peoples struggle in Bangladesh.The history of trade union movement in Bangladesh dates back to middle of the 19
th
centurywhen modern industry started to develop in the Indian sub-continent. Like many other movements Trade Union movement in Bangladesh and India has a common heritage.The British rule in India (1757-1974) destroyed its self-sufficient village economy based onagriculture and rural industry with traditional handicrafts. Measures taken by the colonial rulerslead to displacement of peasants from land, increase in number of absentee land owners andmiddlemen, exposure of villages to the vagaries of market and undermining requirements of  biodiversity and ecological balance. All these supply of free labor. A higher but alien form of economy was superimposed fitting not ot national but foreign interest. India was to be thesupplier of raw materials and market of foreign manufactured goods. To serve these purposeBritish rulers constructed railways, developed tea, jute, indigo plantations. Cheap industrialgoods were dumped and marketed ruining millions of artisans, craftsmen, spinners, weavers, potters, smelters, smiths etc. In this process no method was undemocratic and inhuman for theBritish. The world famous Muslin of Dhaka was pushed out of competition not by marketmechanism but by simply cutting the thumbs of hundreds of weavers. Even after this Britishindustry had to be protected by imposing 70 to 80 per cent tax on silk goods of India. (History of British India vol. 1. H. H. Wilson). From 1920 to 35 the first textile mills started operation in andaround capital city Dhaka and other places. During this time the Jute bailing companies werestarted.The first railway line in areas now under Bangladesh was opened in 1892; during 1860-1880 thefirst tea gardens were commissioned. In the early part of this century the first waterways werestarted.
 
The formation of modern Trade Unions was preceded by coolies or porter revolt in 1794 leadingto signing of an agreement, strike of palki (palanquin bearers) workers in 1827 and several suchrelvolts and sporadic action. The first Indian Independence Movement in 1857, called as such byMarx but commonly known to us as sepoy Mutiny as British rulers wanted us to call it, madesignificant impact on mass mood. The railway strike in 1862, workers rally in 1866, formation of working Men’s association in 1870 which undertook social activities like adult education;cooperative Banking, drive against drunkenness, the publication o f Indian workers 1872, under the editorship of Shasipada Banarji and Baranhnagar Samachar 1873, the first Trade Union Newspaper all these were prelude to the formation of Trade Unions.The textile workers strike in Bombay in 1890 was significant event and general strike or Hartalas we call it throughout India for the release of Nationalist leader Tilak was the 1
st
political strikeof the working class in India in which at least 200 people were killed in police firing. Thesestruggles brought militancy in Trade Union movement.The 1917 socialist revolution in Russia had a tremendous impact on the working class in India.Many revolutionaries who are fighting against the British rule came in touch with Marxism anddedicated themselves to trade union and working class movement.1920 saw the formation of all India trade union congress (AITUC), the 1
st
National Trade Unionwhich affiliated 64 unions with a membership of 140,854. 43 other unions expressed sympathy.From Bengal one union affiliated with membership of 2,505 and 4 other unions sympathized.The condition of working class during the beginning can only be compared to slavery. Unlimitedworking hours, poor working and living condition, meager wages and lack of legal protectionwas the rule of the day. In the beginning workers organized on the basis of religion and castes.Only after prolonged struggles and experience they started to organize into trade unions.In 1921 railway workers went to strike. Tea garden workers fought against physical assault byBritish employers and went on strike. Many of them were migrant workers coming from Madras,United province and other states of India. Brutal repression compelled them along with their family to leave the gardens and return to their homeland. They were refused railway ticketsdeprived of other transportations and were stopped by police in different places and fired upon.Hundreds died due to repression and illness during travelling. Solidarity action by railwayworkers and waterway workers and different sections of the population condemned the
 
 brutalities of employers and the Government. People in Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Barisal cameout in support of the workers. J.M. Sen Gupta of Chittagong, the port city of Bangladesh, whowas also Mayor of Calcutta came out in support of the workers. The working class succeeded indrawing the attention of the whole nation. In 1926 Trade Union Act was passed.Trade Union Movement was very closely connected with other mass struggles and particularly popular struggle for national independence. Eminent national leaders participated or sympathizedwith trade union movement, some more some less. Participation of the working classtremendously increased the militancy of the national movement and counter balanced thevacillations of the national leadership.From the very inception two distinct trends existed in the trade union movement. One fightingand militant trend based on the concept of class struggle lead by left leaning nationalist andcommunists, and the other reformist and conciliatory trend based on class collaboration. Thelater trend though patronized by employers and supported by national leaders like Gandhi was inthe minority.Inspite of reformist machinations strike wave swept India from 1937. The workers fought for decrease in working hours for higher wages, better working and living condition for trade unionand democratic rights. Against atrocities of employers and government and police repressions in1938 only 399 strikes involving 401,075 workers took place causing 9,198,708 man days lost.The reformist leadership alarmed by the militancy of trade union movement even split theAITUC but failed to control the movement. Waves of struggle rather forced them to merge withAITUC.After the glorious victory of the allies under the leadership of Soviet Union and defeat of fascismworking class and nationalist movement in India found new inspirations. India was sin ferment.Powerful strike of about a million railway workers 1, 50,000 postal workers and other workers indifferent provinces could not be stopped in spite of the fact that hundreds of trade union leaderswere kept in prison and hundreds were killed on the street. Peoples struggle against trial of  patriots and strike of Army, Navy, Air force and Police in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Karachi andtheir places and mass solidarity action not only convinced the British rulers that it was high timeto quit Indian but also make the Indian bourgeoisie nervous about radicalization of themovement. India was divided on the basis of communalism on 14
th
and 15
th
august 1947 Pakistan

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