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Bangalore Public Sector Strike, 1980-81-A Critical Appraisal

A Critical Appraisal II: The Strike Dilip Subramanian The longest and costliest conflict in the history of the public sector in India, the Bangalore public sector strike of 1980-81 possessed a number of characteristics specific to it, The confrontation directly pitted the unions against the government and that too the central government which could deploy the full might of all the institutions of state power to smash the workers' resistance. This would have a decisive influence on the nature and outcome of the struggle. Secondly, even though generalised and massive, the strike was above all an affair of the leadership. Beyond a few symbolic agitations, the Joint Action Front made no serious attempt to draw the mass of workers into the struggle. This again would have an important effect on the distribution of power between the two sides during the course of the struggle. Thirdly, the strike remained, by and large' extremely peaceful despite the highly aggressive attitude of the government in the later stages of the conflict. Finally, this was the first time in the country that a collective leadership coming from different political horizons was leading such a large strike and for such a long period. From start to finish, the workers' representatives manifested a remarkable degree of unity and allowed no dissensions to trouble the organisation and co-ordination of the struggle.

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