Social Scientist. v 11, no. 126 (Nov 1983) p. 47.

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The Context of the Russian Revolution in the Genesis of Labour Movement in Tamil Nadu

THE SECOND DECADE of the twentieth century was noted for far-reaching political changes at the global level, The great October Revolution of 1917 represented the violent reaction of the masses against the socio-politico-economic maladies that figured in the autocratic Tsarist regime. As a consequence, for the first time in world history, there emerged the rule of the working class. The Russian Revolution had world-wide repercussions. In Russia, the Revolution had brought about a fundamental change in the organisation of society and in the approach to the solution of the socio-economic problems of the people. By and large, this development kindled the spirit of the masses of the working people to rise against their age-long oppression and exploitation. The wave of awakening was so profound and irresistible that it had a significant impact on the workers and their leaders even in distant Tamil Nadu. Nevertheless, in the bourgeois writings on Indian labour, little attention is paid to the working class movement in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, no specific mention is made of how the Russian Revolution served as a source of inspiration for the emergence of the labour movement, Hence it is necessary to draw attention to the influence of the Russian Revolution in awakening the working class in Tamil Nadu and in inspiring them towards organised resistance. This is what the present paper in a limited way attempts to do.

The Condition of Factory Workers

In the second half of the nineteenth century, India, predominantly an agrarian country, had entered a phase of gradual industrialisation. With the rise of modern industries, from among the agricultural and traditional industrial workers there emerged a new 'class' known as ^working "class". Several factors accounted for the transformation of the agricultural workers and handicraftsmen into factory workers. The number of persons on land was much greater than the number required for cultivation.1 From time to time, famines

* Research Scholar, School of Historical Studies, Madurai-Kamaraj University.

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