Mains Daily Question
March 3, 2021

  1. Trace the journey of working-class movement in India since the advent of modern industries. How did this disparate group emerge as an organized class in late 1920s onwards?


  • Introduce the advent of working class.

  • Trace the development of all India class consciousness in various phases.

  • Conclude appropriately.

Model Answer

The modern worker made their appearance in India in the second half of 19th century with the slow beginnings of Railways and modern industries. Before the nationalists began to associate with working class agitations towards the end of 19th century, there were several strikes, agitations. But these were sporadic, spontaneous and unorganized revolts based on economic grievances.

  • Phase 1 (1850s -1900): In this phase, the worker class remained largely unorganized on a class basis. There were some early organized effort to improve the conditions of workers. Ex: Workingmen’s club by Sasipada Banerjee in Bengal. One major reason for the relatively lukewarm attitude of the early nationalists was that during this phase they didn’t wish to create any divisions within the ranks of Indian people. Thus, we notice lack of class consciousness among workers in this period.

  • Phase 2: With the coming of Swadeshi movement, the situation began to change rapidly and the nationalists took up the task of organizing stable trade unions, strikes etc. Thus, there was a perceptible shift from purely economic issues to wider political issues.

  • Phase 3 (1910 onwards): In this phase, there was a close integration of workers movement with the national movement and class consciousness was fast developing among the workers. The formation of Ahmedabad Textile Labor Association in 1918, All India Trade Union Congress in 1920 were the important events of this phase.

Emergence As An Organized Class

  • Phase 4 (late 1920s onwards): The impetus given by the Russian Revolution in 1917 helped the leftist ideas to have a significant impact on the working-class movement. WPPs (workers and peasant’s parties) organized by various communist groups were rapidly gaining in strength within the Congress. Communist influence on the trade movement became very strong since late 1920s and onwards. After that almost all the trade unions barring few identified themselves with the radical leftist ideas and the working class emerged as an organized, self-conscious class in 1920s.

This process of emergence of working class as an organized all India class is inextricably linked with the growth of national movement as Indian working class could not exist before the notion of ‘Indian’ people had begun to take root.

Subjects : Modern History
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