There exists a major problem in giving a precise definition for trade unionism as it has many facets with society, economic condition, political and psychological aspects. Even though such attempts provide partial view of unionism as an institution, their usefulness cannot be denied from the view point of analysis of union activity and assessment of place and role of trade unions in the economy. The role of powerful trade union movement in the large picture of society brings about fear to some people and gives impetus to anticipation and hope for others. The basic difficulty in defining the trade unionism is that, with the change in circumstances, the nature of unionism may also change. Thus there is no factual, accepted and unified insight of trade unionism.
In India however the field of economic analysis of trade unions has by and large been a neglected area. Probably the reason lies in the fact that the most apparent characteristics of unionism in India are its predominantly political origin and character. The foregoing analysis suggests that while the internal problems of trade unions and labour movement have been analyzed to some extent, systematic attempts seem to have been few on the role of unions fulfilling the demands of their labourers and organizing themselves into institutions useful in the growth and development of the economy. There is no doubt that the workers expect mainly higher earnings and better conditions of work and that is the major motivation in their joining the unions. There is a view that the problems may not be so much created by unions as they are the results of weak and inefficient labour markets and poor management. However there is some wider questions which have not been attended to. Trade unions with their frequent use of direct action as a weapon for struggle have been painted as one of the major culprits in the drama of the slow pace of industrial development. The role expected to be played by the unions may be constructive and cooperative one, but the institutional framework may hinder its fulfillment. There are hypothesis concerning the relationship of the union’s attitude and use of weapons with the labour market condition which also need to be verified for a proper perspective on union and labour policy.
Marx and his followers insisted on a rapid revolutionary and violent action for abolishing the capitalism. According to Marx, Unions had a necessary task to perform in ensuring the protection of wages and the working conditions, but should not limit themselves to these smaller economic goals. They should use their organized power to uplift the working class by destroying the capitalist system. Further he says that It is the responsibility of the intellectuals to lead the struggle of working class not only for better terms for the sale of labour power but also for the abolition of the social system which forces the labour class to sell its property to the rich. In the words of Marx, the union must not adopt the traditionalist motto, “a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work” instead they must depict on their banner the revolutionary watch work, “abolition of wage system”.
In this way, trade union movement became a major instrument of the class struggle between the proletariat and the capitalist. Primarily the purpose of the trade union movement was to overcome the competition between the individual workers which kept them disorganized under their masters. As days roll the trade union movement has to achieve its fundamental part as soon as the political and the military force destroy the capitalist. Therefore, according to Marx, as the trade union movement emerges, the capitalism will decay automatically.
For Marx, the working class was the only revolutionary class facing the capitalist class. In the Communist Manifesto he said, “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of modern industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product”. Every activity of this class was therefore, important for Marx’s activity in which the class got consciousness to move forward. The formation of trade unions and the trade union movement were important steps in the formation of a common-class consciousness. The superior organization that is, the political party of the working class could not be formed and expanded in isolation from this practical struggle involving the large number of workers. Marx and Engels link the struggle of the trade unions and the strikes with the struggle for class emancipation. Their contemporaries did not share this view. They looked to emancipation of the society outside the class struggle of the working class and therefore failed to understand the true meaning of the contemporary trade union movement.
Avtar, R. Lectures on Labour Problems and Social Welfare in India. Jullandar: New Academic Publishing Co.
Bhagoliwal, D. T. (2003). Economics of labour and Industrial relations. Agra: Sahitya Bhawan Publications.
Butler, A. D. Labour Economics and Institutions. New York: The Macmillan Company.
Hajela, T. N. (2008). History of Economic Thought. New Delhi: Ane Books India.
Mamoria, C. B. Industrial Labour and Industrial Relations in India. Udaipur: Kitab Mahal.
Richard A. Lester. (1941). Economics of Labour. New York: The Macmillan Company.
S. D. Punekar S. B. Dheodhar Mrs. Saraswathi Sankaran. Labour Welfare Trade Unionism and Industrial Relations. Bombay: Himalaya Publishing House.
Saxena, R. C. (1974). Labour problems and Social welfare. Meerut: K. N. Gupta.
Tyagi, D. B. (1986). Labour Economics and Social Welfare. Meerut: Jai Prakashnath& Co.
Van Dusen Kennedy. Unions, Employers and Government. Bombay: Manaktalas.