Workers are workers. Irrespective of how they want themselves to be treated, they are not employers. It is the employer who broadly decides how to treat his worker (employee). A worker, whatever way he/she wants to see herself/himself, has very less bargaining power in front of the employer. So under this light, workers will and always need some collective bargaining power to raise their demands. Their voice is heard only when they shout in a group. This is the reality, whether someone likes it or not. Workers always need labor rights Unions, leaders, political parties and ideologies to speak out collectively or on their behalf. Such representative bodies or worker collectives may not be called Trade Unions or Labor Unions today, but they will always remain there. And they are there. They may not be publicly acknowledged as Trade Unions or Labor rights unions, but they are there, whether the worker is white-collar, blue collar or some other shade. It is only that neither their members (workers) acknowledge them being labor, nor their employers portray them as an exploiter. The two silently and mistakenly assume the other to be someone other than the real worker and the real employer (the employer always hides his true stripes and the worker always assumes that his own status is higher than that of a worker).
On the day BJP won Tripura, its leaders were particularly disrespectful about Left and communists. In fact they termed the victory as a the end of Left, communist ideologies in India. A day later, some group vandalized or demolished two Lenin statues in Tripura. Later the statues of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in West Bengal and a Periyar statue in Tamil Nadu is vandalized. Who vandalized them? … We will never know. But that is not the point we must be focusing on. The acts of vandalizing statues, burning books and renaming cities don’t do much damage. In fact, they only strengthen them because people start looking at the ideologies behind them.
So the point we must be focusing on is — Should one election win or multiple election wins make someone declare the end of a political, humanist ideology which took years to get built? … From where people get such a bitterness which makes them say — We don’t need Vladimir Lenin’s statue in India become we don’t need statues of foreign Leaders?
We must think on this question. Because such vandalism makes some assume that Lenin and his ideology gets wiped off the moment someone vandalizes his statue.
Is Lenin that foreign to India?
Vladimir Lenin was the person who led Russian revolution against the Czar (autocrat monarch) and with the help of workers, farmers and commoners brought down the atrocious rule in 1917. Over time his ideology saw both positive and negative changes, but overall the communist or socialist or leftist movements brought significant bargaining powers in the hands of least dignified of workers and people. Whatever labor or worker rights which we see today have a significant contribution of Lenin’s legacy. If we apply some reverse thought then you will instantly get the answer as to why statues installed 30, 40 or 70 years ago were tolerated all these years. The answer is: People have some gratitude and respect for them. We cannot say Governments of certain ideologies installed some and ignored others. If people didn’t have any gratitude for Lenin or for that matter any other leader, they will not spare them for a second.
To conclude, workers are workers. They do need collective bargaining power before the employer. The shades of workers and Trade Unions or Labor Unions may have changed, but they do exactly what such groupings do. They speak for worker rights. Lenin and Left is as relevant today as anytime in the past. If as an employee, you see your work hours being extended all the time or you crave for work-life balance or better work conditions, then you need someone like Lenin and left to speak about your rights as a worker. If employer’s rights are there, then there surely are of employees. We cannot say ignore one for the other.
Periyars, Lenins, Gandhis, Ambedkars or Nehrus are not created in a decade. They and their ideologies take years, decades and centuries to get established. They take considerable sacrifice. Why go far. Nehru spent more than 12 years in jail during freedom struggle. Many trade Union leaders lost their lives in fast unto death for labor rights in India. For these reasons it is very difficult to announce the end of Lenins, Gandhis, Periyars, Ambedkars or Nehrus, they have a tendency to remain in people’s hearts even when their public symbols are desecrated. Vandalizing statues or burning books or winning elections or renaming places doesn’t mean a wipe off of such legends and their ideologies. They only get strengthened. Feeding people with concocted histories and less than palatable reasonings rarely kill such legends and ideologies. Such destructive acts will only encourage people to think reasonably and rationally.