Workers and the Trade Unions, Unite!

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Arup Baisya

There is no denying the fact that it is an unprecedented time and everybody from all walks of life concedes that. But it is also important that we must take stock of the situation to ascertain how the time is unprecedented. The Pandemic instills a sense of Shakespearean tempest in the minds of human species-being. But the Human being, the integral part of nature, completely breaking the metabolic link with nature through a long history of Capitalist plunder and profiteering suddenly have the feeling that Hell is empty, and all the Devils are here. But there is nothing called absolute truth in it. The dialectical Shakespearean wisdom within the opposing camps of Capitalists and Workers also starts germinating with an assertion that the Golden age is before us, not behind us.

The History of Capitalism is the history of expropriation of labour and nature. The expropriation operates through the social relation of Centre – Periphery, High and low Social Status, the privileged and subjugated cultural and social categories within the overarching relation of exchange value and primitive coercion for dehumanizing the labour. The money wealth accumulated in the hands of Capitalists creates the ‘Money illusion’ of heaven, the expropriated and the have-nots are destined to live in the perpetual creation of Hell. This real dehumanized world remains hidden through the reification of commodity relations and its most fetishized or doubly reified virtual images of commodities. This existing world of human relations appears to be normal. It becomes unprecedented when this existing normal space is disturbed by the immense pressure of the forces developed from within the rule of the game of plunder and profiteering, the polity becomes agog with the hustle-bustle of diverse section of the populace to cope with the new normal. The forces which generate to deform the space emerge both from labour and nature which are extremely exploited during the normal time of Capitalist history. This time is also no different, the final blow, of course, has come from nature.

The Capitalist mode of production had entered a systemic crisis in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The crisis is fundamentally the crisis of overproduction. In simple terms, the value the capitalist production process creates and objectified as commodities complete its cycle through the exchange for consumption in the market to start reproduction for the production process to continue. This value is the value of labour objectified as a commodity. But when more and more part of the value of labour is expropriated as surplus value by the Capitalists or the Capital personified in comparison to less and less part of the value is exchanged for labour-power or to the workers for subsistence, the commodities or the objectified labour go on accumulated as the total exchange in the market is not possible for value mismatch i.e. value as commodities and value as money to be exchanged for consumption. This crisis of overproduction is ingrained in the rule of the capitalist competition and the organic composition of capital and that is why, Capital needs creative destruction for its renewal and rejuvenation. The globalization of Capital for its expropriation and accumulation has also its geographical and natural limits. In the history of Capitalism, the last few decades have witnessed the immense globalizing spree of capital and the killing of space by time. The really existing Capitalism and its history reveal the fact that Capitalism cannot survive without its inherent logic of the pre-capitalist exploitation and symbiotic relation with the state.

When the early success stories of neo-liberal restructuring post-19880s collapsed and the neoliberal logic reached a cul-de-sac, the global economy strived to survive by creating a financial bubble. But the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008-09 and the US sub-prime crisis that snowballed into the global capitalist crisis had shaken the confidence of the Capitalists-Roaders. The Quantitative Easing for rescuing the institutions with the logic of ‘too big to fail’ gives rise to another bubble of debt. When this debt bubble started showing the sign of bursting, the policy of Quantitative Tightening was resorted to and the vicious cycle of bubble economy was set in. The Capitalist Roaders were at a loss to address the inherent and devastating crisis of capitalism of overproduction. Retrenchment, the rise of unemployment, casualization, and contractualisation, fall of wages and dismantling social security of labour for minimizing the cost of Capital to ensure profit had a devastating effect on the lives of labour when the Capitalists were also stuck in the uncertainty of keeping the production process to continue. The cold wave started flowing through the spines of the Capitalists and their hangers-on for multi-dimensional disruption in the system. The recent Pandemic has almost completely stalled the revenue-generating private productive and service sectors, and the global web-like supply and value chain which is so important for the neoliberal economy to survive have been almost completely disrupted. The production machines and conveyer belt are stopped, workers are disengaged from work. The financial market is struggling hard to keep illuminating their virtual image. It is a situation where the state and the toiling masses stand face to face. It is a situation where the Capitalists hide behind the state and the toiling masses start knowing them and becoming conscious of their social status as if the relation reified and fetishized by the commodity and exchange have vanished from the site.  This is the moment for new realization for the working class and also a new beginning for the Capitalist to redefine and restructure the relation to establish their hegemony. This is the dialectics for both co-operation and conflict.

Capitalists want the State to rescue them without undermining the logic of the market. It’s a sort of ‘privatized Keynesianism’. For them, it’s a phase of co-operation with the working class because without engaging the living labour with the productive machine and the conveyer belt of the service sector, there cannot be any capitalist profit. The working class can also best act through the state because citizens can influence the state, but not the market. For the Capitalist, nationalization means bureaucratic capitalism, but for the working class, it is a means to establish ‘Social Justice’ rejecting the logic of ‘Market Justice’. The bourgeois of all hues unite to influence the state to reinforce the rule of profiteering and as such, it is imperative that the structurally divided working class also unite to influence the production process through workers’ council at production center and workplace and to establish ‘Social Justice’ for the people.

The Indian economy had gone through a massive disruption during demonetization. Now the lockdown due to pandemic has caused the almost complete disruption in production and service sectors and the global value and service chain broken. Indian Inc. is united to influence the state for a bailout package to support a business model for a sort of ‘nationalist economy’ under their leadership. On the contrary, the working class needs to unite for workers’ power to influence the state for workers’ productive control and social justice. This is the best of time when workers can unite and be educated to defend their class interest vis-à-vis the people through the praxis of unity and struggle in their class organization.

But their own class organisations i.e. the trade unions are divided not only based on structural and functional divisions within the working class but also based on the petty interest of the Political Parties and their control through Trade Union leaders. The leaders of the Trade Unions are educators, but the educators are educated through the class struggle. The communists and the left should emphasize that the class interest and the class control over the Trade Unions, not the Party’s sectarian interest and Party’s control, should be the driving force behind the functioning of the Trade Unions. In this moment of crisis, it necessitates the unity of left Trade Unions to achieve the unity of the working class. Again, the Shakespearean wisdom tells us, “make use of time, let not advantage slip.”
It’s Marxism, stupid!

The moment of rediscovering Marxism and Revolution – (not for publication)

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 Arup Baisya

The Marxist and revolutionary praxis all over the world had lost its vigour post-collapse of the USSR. In front of the onslaught of neoliberal restructuring of production and labour process and the concomitant ideological influence due to the success stories at its initial phase led the working class to the receiving end and the revolutionary praxis to disarray. But the great things also happen in the epistemology of changing the world to change oneself at the time of retreat of a colourful and vibrant process of building a world beyond capitalism. The waning of revolutionary movements eo ipso shifted the limelight to the questioning of Marxism and its unilinear version. Hundreds of Marxism have emerged from the practicing Marxism and new insights have also surfaced in theoretical premise from the attempt to interpret the world from diverse dimensions. But the defeat begets defeat in theoretical and practicing renderings so long as the agency of changing of the world i.e. the working class remains within the confinement of the ideology of benevolent capitalism. The Marxist practice in India too visualized the working class as a victim of capitalism, not as the agent of change and as such hovered around the agenda of reformism. The real danger of Marxist practice lies in the linear interpretation of Marxism as a set of formulae and not as an evolving process and these have been adequately challenged by the Post-Marxist thinkers. But they inevitably failed to challenge the basic premise of Marxism “the philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, the question is how to change it”. When the global and Indian polity is agog with the possibility of change and the working class and the masses have upped the ante to challenge the capitalist relation of production, Marxism is once again becoming the common meeting ground of all the forces aspiring to go beyond capital. In the history of capitalism, whenever the capitalist production system entered a crisis, Marxism showed the light to the oppressed and the exploited for liberty.

During the last few decades, it was a common understanding among the Indian revolutionaries that the democracy in Kashmir with the right to self-determination is a precondition for democracy in India. Kashmir has a checkered history of rebellion and subjugation, but Kashmir question has never relegated to such a marginal question in Indian political lifeline as it is today. This compels us to review the past prescient positioning and putative understanding of Kashmir question as Marx changed his strategy on Polish question from time to time.

In 1847, Marx’s view was that the victory of the English proletarians over the English bourgeoisie is decisive for the victory of all the oppressed over their oppressors. Hence Poland must be liberated not in Poland but in England. Since the revolt in Poland of 1794, 1830, and 1846 had been crushed by its powerful neighbours Russia, Prussia, and Austria, Marx’s view was that England would give the signal for the deliverance of Poland and that therefore Poland would be liberated only when the nations of Western Europe had won democracy. Marx, Engels and their colleagues viewed the labour struggle and democratic one as closely related. Again in 1863, when a full-scale uprising broke out in Poland, Marx viewed it as the harbinger of a wider European revolution. The Marxist revolutionaries in India tend to fall prey to the staticity of mindset and formulate the strategy once for all. In the backdrop of a fascist danger and the rising people’s movement to challenge this menace, the revolutionaries need to review its strategy and assert that the victory of democracy in the rest of India is the precondition for a victory ofh7 democracy in Kashmir.  

In the Indian landscape, the fascist movement and its concomitant fallout of on-going meticulously planned subversion of constitutional democracy for a fascist take-over of power is facing tough challenges from the people’s multifaceted movement for citizenship rights, rights of the workers and peasants, women’s rights, forest rights, people’s rights on natural resources, ecological rights, etc.

Though all these movements are fundamentally directed against the neo-liberal economy and masculine nationalism, these are revolving around a defensive and reformist agenda. The participation of the working class is still not as class-in-itself for transformation to class-for-itself but as a group of workers especially in cities and urban centers.

The people’s upsurge in cities and urban areas on citizenship question has already brought the question of democracy and state character into the focus of political discourse. This indicates that if all the people’s movements can be coordinated with a common revolutionary direction, it can lead to a revolutionary crisis in the next round of popular uprising under the leadership of working-class and workers-peasants alliance in the event of a global economic meltdown.

One should not miss the social dynamics of ongoing spontaneous people’s movement in India on the citizenship question. Firstly, the epicenters of this people’s upsurge are urban areas and cities. Secondly, though the Muslims, Dalits, and women are at the forefront, it should be kept in mind the workers in urban and city areas are mostly constitutive of people from these communities.

If imperialism is defined as the domination of capitalist forces over the pre-capitalist relation of production, then imperialism is inherent in capitalism from its birth. Lenin defined imperialism as the latest form of capitalism, not highest, based on the dependence of industrial capital on finance capital for the emergence of monopoly capital and the domination of backward countries by the centers of capitalist nation-states and the imperialist conflict thereon with a danger of war. The center-periphery and capitalist and pre-capitalist relation is prevalent throughout the global capitalist system, it does not matter whether the imperialist is in driving seat or not. It is naïve and mechanistic approach to divide the totality into two separate continuum of imperialist capitalist center and pre-capitalist periphery without delving into the changes within the pre-capitalist relation of production due to killing of space by time for global expansion of capital.

The diversity is not always progressive, sometimes it may also act as a regressive factor for revolutionary change. Today’s identity or Dalit Adivasi movement is not the same as the movement in the nineteen-eighties. The new emerging leaderships are representing the students-youths, women and working-class and they are fundamentally fighting for a new India with the question identity rights underlying within this grand narrative. Prakash Ambedkar is leading a long march on the citizenship question. The Bhim army and other newly formed or reorganized Dalit organisations are unconsciously leading and addressing the inherent issues related to the working class gradually making the old class leadership redundant and that’s why the leaders like Mayawati are muted.

The global capitalism is in deep crisis and due to the inherent contradictions within capitalism or due to any external triggering effect, this crisis may lead to another global meltdown. The Indian people’s movement this time has set the stage for another popular uprising in the event of a global meltdown when the working class will be at the forefront. The epicenter of such uprising will, likely, remain as the urban and city areas with rural areas as rear. It is worth mentioning here that post-1905, Russia was predominantly an agricultural country with industrial cities and urban areas having deep penetration of European capital and Russia did not even achieve the basic tenet of bourgeois democracy of universal suffrage.
This necessitates a formidable revolutionary subjective force who can play the role from the perspective of “from the masses, to the masses” to emerge and this underlines the urgency of the unity, albeit through stages, of all the Indian communist revolutionaries.

In the absence of revolutionary subjective force organically linked with the people’s movement, there is every possibility that the people’s movements which have mostly developed spontaneously and from their life-experience either may be coopted by a new version of liberal democracy with a soft Hindutva core or fascist state may be successful to suppress people’s assertions.

But there is no denying the fact that this moment of the here and now is the moment for broadest unity against the imminent danger of fascist takeover of the state.

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Creative Energy Unfloding

A Near-Uprising Situation?
Arup Baisya

Of late people have been witnessing a situation of near-uprising which is generated by two apparently segregated but intertwined large-scale mass-movements. The movement against NPR-NRC-CAA which is designed to launch a body blow to the Indian civilisation and democracy and the participation of about 25 crore workers primarily against the wage-code which curtailed the legal rights of the working class, had the mutual complementary effect to give rise to such near-uprising situation. This people's activity has released the creative energy with a long-term consequence. This creative energy not only gave birth to the innovative forms of movements, but also unleashed new dimensions of popular practising art and culture. This is a creative energy which was non-existent in the status-quo of mutually alienated diverse communities prior to uprising. The question arises how this became possible for new creative energy to surface and how the observers could identify it as something new which was non-existent earlier.

The way new qualities emerge due to the chemical reactions within the matters, the conflict which arises due to the accumulated vibrant social interactions gives rise to new creativity through the transformation of qualitative change of time. Such change of time is not unrelated to the space. One would have failed to identify this change if the space and time are mutually segregated. This new space-time which Indians at the moment are observing through the unleashing of creative energy is the real Indian society. But in reality it as near-uprising because of the fact that it is not elevated to such an orbital level that the arrow of time cannot be reversed towards the centre for a new status quo ante. The efforts to reverse the direction in ongoing in the political arena.

This people's movement tantamount to an uprising has been directed against the fascist form of the same state and social structure. This too has also reverberated in diverse qualitative and quantitative dimensions in consonance with the uneven development of Indian landscape. The rule of the state and the illusion of the commodity fetishism which stand as barriers in between the diverse communities as driving force to obscure the social relations has not yet become the target of people's consciousness.

The rhetorical political discourse based on conspiracy theory to delineate the good or bad character of the parties and the personalities in the anti-fascist camp hinders the people's activism to visualise their objective goal and thus unconsciously pursues them to land in inactivity once again in favour of status quo. The anti-fascist people's movement can advance themselves to a higher plank through mutual co-operation amongst class-caste-identity and cultural groups by meticulously building a critique of liberal democracy and through new debate and discussions on the new construction of co-operation beyond the law of value.

To achieve this, it is imperative that a country-wide popular front is emerged from within the anti-fascist people's movement which will not only be active to safeguard constitutional democracy, but also directed towards real federalism for shifting the state power at the door of the people, towards challenging the capitalist mode of production by incorporating the agenda of redefining the production and labour process through factory council, peasant association etc., by challenging the commodity production and law of value by ensuring free education, healthcare and other services necessary for livelihood and welfare, by giving birth to a new initiative on practicing culture against the hedonistic and feudal culture.

The self-regulated and quasi-autonomous people's initiative based on this socio-political outlook can compel the political parties to rise above their petty squabbles and to focus on their immediate task to electorally defeat the fascist forces and simultaneously adopting the agenda of state policy keeping an eye on the desire of the people's activism. Such people's movement may be able to create the popular pressure to dissuade the political parties from smear campaign and rhetorical verbosity and socially aimless mudslinging in the pretext of liberal democracy. Such emancipation can only show the dream of a new dawn to the Indian people. Otherwise, amidst a deep crisis of capitalism, there can be no relief from fascism or overwhelming destruction, the status quo ante will once again set in to keep people waiting for a menacing future.

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