Social Scientist. v 5, no. 60 (July 1977) p. 24.

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The Origin of Trade Unionism Among the Agricultural Labourers in Kerala

UNIQUE AMONG the regions of the country, Kerala is characterised by both the numerical strength and militancy of organisations of landless labourers. In this paper we shall examine briefly the conditions leading to the emergence of these organisations. Essentially we argue that the rise of trade unionism among agricultural labourers is linked to the institutional and technological changes associated with the permeation of capitalism into traditional agriculture. Such changes lead to the differentiation of the peasantry and subsequently to sharp polarisation of the class forces. We shall show that in Kerala, technological changes led to the deterioration of employment and income earning opportunities of the landless labourers and undermined the traditional landlord-labourer relationships. But such objective conditions alone are not sufficient for the emergence of trade unions. We shall also show that in Kerala factors such as the politicisation of the agricultural labourers and the presence of well organised industrial trade unions played a significant role.

We intend to pursue this reasoning by analysing the factors that led to the growth of agricultural labourers' organizations in two selected regions of Kerala namely, Kuttanad and Palghat, the two principal rice bowls of the State, where trade unions among agricultural labourers are

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