Paltu Sen was a most illustrative model of a trade union leader 

Paltu Sen

On July 30, 2013 communist revolutionary movement and revolutionary trade union movement had lost a valiant fighter and most creative activist. Paltu Sen, President of the National Committee of IFTU and a member of the Central Committee of CPI(ML)-New Democracy had breathed his last.

For nearly half a century, Paltu Sen heart and soul waged a battle for New Democratic Revolution in India; from student days to the end of his life. His life was a perfect illustration of total devotion to the cause of revolution.  Paltu Sen led many workers’ struggles and till his last breadth strived to build revolutionary trade union movement. He was President of IFTU for nearly three decades i.e. from 1984 to 2013. At a time when workers in India are facing attacks at an unparalleled scale from the Govt. utilizing the conditions of Corona pandemic; when workers are facing unprecedented job losses, threats to life and livelihood; when unemployment, destitution and starvation stares them in face, it is absolutely imperative to rally them in struggle. All activists should imbibe Com. Paltu Sen’s methods of shaping  workers’ movement .

Paltu Sen (Amar Sen), President of the National Committee of IFTU died of a massive heart attack on July 30, 2013. Although suffering from severe diabetes, serious visual handicap and damaged kidneys, Com. Paltu Sen never allowed them to obstruct his role of leadership of the revolutionary trade union movement and was actively involved in this work till the end. Paltu Sen was a member of the Central Committee of CPI(ML)-New Democracy. Paltu Sen leaves behind his wife and two sons.

Born on 10th March 1950, Com. Paltu Sen a resident of Uttarpara, Dist. Hoogly, West Bengal became active in revolutionary student movement and actively participated in food movement in West Bengal in 1966. He was a very popular student leader at the time. He was a student of B.Sc. Physics (Hons) when inspired by the Naxalbari armed peasant movement he left his studies and plunged into revolutionary communist movement and joined communist revolutionaries and subsequently CPI(ML) when it was formed in 1969. He went to organize tribal poor peasants in Odisha from where he was arrested in 1970. He was charged with conspiracy to overthrow the Govt. (Section 120B IPC), convicted and sentenced to seven years prison term. After the end of Emergency rule he was released from jail in 1978.

On release from jail he immediately resumed active revolutionary political work and undertook  the responsibility of organizing the revolutionary trade union movement in Hoogly dist. Industrial belt and soon became a popular revolutionary leader of workers. The unions organized and led by. Paltu Sen were among the unions who gave a call for the formation of a revolutionary trade union centre culminating in the founding conference of Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) in Guwahati in 1978 where Paltu Sen was elected a member of the first national committee of IFTU. Com. Paltu Sen’s formative role in building of the revolutionary trade union movement and his leadership qualities were soon in evidence and he became President of the National Committee of IFTU in 1984 and was re-elected in 1987, 1993, 1998 and 2005 IFTU conferences.

On resuming political activities after release from jail, Paltu Sen became a member of the West Bengal state committee of the CPI(ML) and later also became its secretary, He was elected as Central Committee member of CPI(ML)-New Democracy in 2004. Under Com. Paltu Sen’s leadership IFTU became a formidable force to withstand in the Hoogly industrial belt and overcame the monopoly of reformist and reactionary trade unions in the big industries in the belt and in the jute industry in West Bengal. He directly shaped  many notable militant struggles in Jayshree Textiles, Hindustan Motors, India Jute Mill etc. While Com. Paltu Sen was actively involved in the workers struggles in big industries, he also concentrated on   work among unorganized sections. He organized brick kiln workers and recently Com. Paltu Sen was instrumental in getting minimum wages with the provision of VDA notified for the biscuit industry in West Bengal which employs over 40,000 workers.

Com. Paltu Sen displayed articulate skill as an orator who played the role of an architect in galvanising workers to militant agitations. He had an excellent grasp of all the vagaries of the trade union movement enabling him to repeatedly foil the machinations of the employers as well as reformist and reactionary trade unions against the workers’ struggles. Com. Paltu Sen had mastered all the aspects of TU struggles, particularly initiation, conduction and conclusion of workers’ strikes.

Com. Paltu Sen displaying untold resilience and braved many attacks by the goons of employers and CPM and many times underwent imprisonment in course of struggles.  Paltu Sen was severely beaten and arrested during a rally in Delhi on May 10, 2002 against imperialist globalization. Under his leadership IFTU played a major role in giving shape to the anti-displacement struggle of peasants in Singur. The newly formed Mamata Govt. framed. Paltu Sen on totally false charges and kept him in jail for over a month and a half although he was severely ill with the goal of   destroying the backbone of the IFTU’s organization among the workers. In earlier years CITU goons with CPM led Govt. conspired together to launch   physical attacks and attempts to eliminate Com. Paltu Sen apart from foisting various cases against him.

Paltu Sen’s death was an irreparable loss to the communist revolutionary movement in the country, particularly revolutionary trade union movement. While paying homage to this departed leader we must call upon the working class to consolidate the revolutionary trade union movement and intensify struggles against attacks by the employers and Govt. and against exploitation and oppression of the Indian people by imperialism and comprador ruling classes.

Paltu Sen was a shining example of a trade Union leader carving a mass line through forming trade Unions nad leading fractions within yellow Unions. Few worker leaders so bravely confronted CPM revisionism in days of globalisation or united workers as skilfully to link their struggles with the peasantry. At the very core he combated sectarianism and strived to establish the broadest working-class united front. His role and example is all the more relevant with Hindutva fascism penetrating at a magnitude unscaled to break the backbone of working class movement or unity. Sadly splittism is a routine feature in the revolutionary camp today in India.

The CPI(ML) PRC and the Indian Federation of Trade Unions(Sarvara) is hosting a one day conference in memory of Paltu Sen Delhi on December 29th at Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. It is addressing all the immediate and imperative tasks for the trade Union Movement and how to devise a strategy to confront the anti-worker offensive of globalisation.Empahasis will be given on contract labour system, retrenchments ,police brutalities, Hindutva fascism fascist laws etc.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has covered mass movements all around India

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