Universal Organizing Office


Chennai    I waited for a meeting with leaders of various informal workers unions at the Harbour Workers’ Union building in the small bottom floor office of the CPI (Communist Party of India), one of a number of left parties that are in and out of the state and federal governments.  India is a different kind of country with a different kind of politics!
    Sitting there for a while I watched as two cadres laboriously went through the paper membership renewals and copied them by hand into the ledger and on the forms to be sent to the state headquarters.  The 1700 members paid 25 rupees to the CPI on a monthly basis, and this same process was repeated endlessly by these volunteers.
    But more interesting to me is how I could pinch myself and imagine that I had been beamed into a hundred organizing offices that were identical to this around the world.  The stacks of membership newspapers gathering dust and waiting to be distributed were there in full force.  The old files covered with rust that hardly opened, yet in one case had a locked drawer.  The banners were in the corner.  The picket and banner signs were stacked up against the wall.  The flag was flying in front of the office. 
    The main differences were only three that I could see.
    There was no dirty coffee pot.  The chai walla simply delivered from next door.
    The floor was swept clean.  A welcome novelty for an organizing office!
    We took off our shoes as we came into the office.
    Oh, and the chairs were plastic, rather than metallic, but that’s a wash.
    I was home away from home!