For more than ten years now, our activities have been anchored by the publication of a monthly newspaper in Hindi language (Faridabad Majdoor Samachar FMS) and its distribution amongst wage-workers in Faridabad a major industrial centre just south of Delhi. There are more than 300,000 factory workers working in factories covering all the major branches of production, trans- portation & service industries with their up-to-date technologies and techniques of control. Besides these, there are a large number of ancillaries and small workshops.
Our experience of wage-work and interactions, dialogues, debates & conversations with wage-workers at a wider level form the core material of the newspaper. During this process many changes have occurred in our premises, conceptions, understandings and activities. Also, significantly we have at times failed and at times refused to form formal organisations. The resulting absence of positional and structural constraints has provided us immense flexibility & freedom for critical evaluation of experiences & conceptual frameworks and to evolve different modes of activities.
Initially, the newspaper (1000 copies) concerned itself with big unifocal struggles (mobilisation of workers as a unified entity on the basis of a factory or a branch of production around a charter of demands), critique of unions, alternative strategies for the effectiveness of unifocal struggles; and exemplary big collective struggles waged by workers without leaders in different parts of the world. Information about such struggles was and is rare. FMS also preach-teached critiques of nations, electoral politics, standing armies, reforms, patriarchy etc. Different aspects of commodity economy and their histories were also regularly served.
Attempts at formation of non- hierarchical workers’ groups through meetings and study circles were tried but failed. Participation and acquaintance with significant unifocal struggles forced upon us the realisation of the counter- productive nature of unifocal struggles which wage-workers at large are well aware of. This forced us to critically evaluate our understanding of resistances and struggles.
During this period, the lukewarm response of workers to our book containing five years of material from FMS made it imperative for us to question the foundations of the preach-teach project. The use of dominant terminologies prevalent in representational politics, font size- length of a write-up thickness of the book, pricing confusion between dissemination and selling, etc. were what we understand to be the reasons for the failure.
From 1994 there was a shift. FMS circulation varied between 4 to 10 thousand copies and moved towards free distribution. The concerns were big collective struggles to pre-empt unions & managements machinations, constant critiques of hidden agendas of agreements, lockouts, strikes etc. Letters from wage-workers became a regular feature. Response to the paper became vibrant. Preach-teach was consciously eschewed making possible an exploration of different forms of presentation and writing.
For the past two & a half years FMS circulation has stabilised at 5000 copies and further shifts occurred in our theoretical and practical activities. The stress has shifted to small everyday resistances and struggles that wage-workers wage without leaders-representatives- middlepersons. These struggles are innumerable and occur at all points & at all times by individuals & small groups of wage-workers. What we realise is that hierarchies constantly erase the memory of these struggles and motivatedly downplay their importance. These everyday anti- work, anti-productivity, anti- discipline faceless struggles have termite-like capacity to eat away the scaffoldings of hierarchies. The resultant situation could be a termitic revelry-tion !
These small struggles seem to have the capacity to create new forms of organised activity and resistance that will not allow the collective strength of wage-workers to get abducted by different unities. These struggles have their particular dynamics and momentum which have to be recognized, analysed, disseminated and tried-out in wider arenas. Our primary activity is to engender newer practices based on these small struggles and open up debate amongst wage-workers regarding their importance in the present and potential for a non- coercive, non-hierarchical and non- market future.
A corollary of recognising the importance of small steps that wage- workers take on their own is to counter concepts, ideas & activities which are barriers to their recognition and spread. Critiques of progress, development, produc- tivity, representation & delegation, heroism, bravery, knowledge industry, martyrdom, sacrifice etc. are now our main concerns. We also critique and attempt to pre-empt management strategies of work intensifications & control mechanisms. Our publications, ‘a ballad against work’ and ‘Reflections on Marx’s critique of political economy’ are a reflection of these pre-occupations.
Besides the circulation of FMS in Faridabad, we have also been distributing around 300 copies to some individuals & groups in other places in India. Parallel to our activities around the paper, we have been in touch (through corres- pondence and publications) with various individuals & groups in different parts of the world. These interactions have opened new terrains of questioning and brought forth new perspectives to evaluate our experiences. But our attempts to open up issues regarding some of the underlying premises of political economy to understand the present reality have not found much echo.
Individually most of us have passed through authoritarian hierarchical currents prevalent in the left fringe. These experiences have acquainted us with the premises and methods of these structures and forced us to raise questions about them.