50 Years Later

That Frontier has survived to celebrate 50 years of publication is a puzzle. But there are people who are not in favour observing anniversary ritual. They think rationalists should not indulge in such ritualistic exercise. Then there are people who would like to observe anniversary. They think it is an occasion to reflect on the past. As for Frontier the past is riddled with too many odds. The long journey has never been a smooth one. Over the years Frontier has demonstrated what press freedom means. Frontier is in crisis. But the print media in general is in crisis. The world is changing very fast. This is the age of robotics and artificial intelligence. Advanced communication technology has opened up new fields of capital accumulation in culture and the arts and in the privatisation of public services, including health and education, and in the commodification of human sociality by way of mobile devices and social networking. All these trends are in turn accompanied by the dramatic restructuring of work rearrangement, paving the way for emergence of new contradictions, affecting the print media.

Gone are the days of Vietnam. Nor is there any international debate on 'theory and practice' that could galvanise the young generation the way it did in the sixties of the last century. In truth the very first inauguration editorial of Frontier was on Vietnam which has been reprinted in this issue elsewhere.

People these days talk more about neo-liberalism, not liberation struggles. And the Chinese in those days used to continually highlight the raging national liberation struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America through their print media and radio. But today the Chinese are more interested in how to compete with America and major western powers in sharing global market bonanza. Their much touted 'market socialism' with Chinese characteristics, is capitalism—pure and simple. Maybe, it is capitalism which Chinese characteristics. While a sense of frustration has gripped the old guards who are the mainstay of Frontier, the young people lured by market illusion propagated by the electronic media, are groping in the dark without knowing how to combat insecurity and uncertainty in life. Then they are attracted more by the dazzle of reactionary politics, not progressive politics, thanks to political and ideological bankruptcy of the left. Socialism is a dirty word. So is Communism.

The Soviet Union is gone. Whether the forces on the far left, admit it or not, the demise of Soviet Russia has hastened the process of decline of the left worldwide. But the rise of China in place of Russia as a superpower is not going to influence the moribund left movement. Workers are on the defensive even in advanced capitalist countries. Farmers otherwise totally devastated by market forces are rudderless. The peasant question in most third world countries, particularly in India, is no longer the same as it was five decades ago.

Peasant mobilisation was viewed as a main thrust in anti-imperialist struggle in colonial days. But today anti-imperialist struggle is totally absent on the left agenda. Some localised, rather independent initiatives, having no political affiliation and, in some cases some NGOs, that are protesting multinational onslaught, to protect ecology and livelihood of indigenous peoples. They are effectively resisting imperialist plunder. For all practical purposes the global digital economy presents a dizzying contemporary moment, one that obliterates the entrenched mechanism of exploitation and control at the core of capitalism. The hard reality is that this spontaneous and sporadic response to attack by multinational capital is no answer to the systematic destruction of occupational industries in the ever growing knowledge economy.

Interestingly, all the major issues that affect majority of the population, are not touched by India's major political parties, including left parties. They have been talking about jobless growth for long for the sake of talking without offering any alternative path of growth in which toilers can work with self-respect and dignity. This is a period in which a series of mutually reinforcing economic, political and technological factors have brought about a sea-change in the character of work. Speed is the byword everywhere, in every sector of manufacturing. Now a collapse of organised labour is all too apparent even in manufacturing which was unthinkable 50 years ago. Workers' ingenuity and ability to adopt and respond to new challenges leading to new forms of organising seems limited. But old forms are not working. Political forces on the left and far left are yet to reconcile themselves with the changing reality. So they depend more on spontaneous mass outbursts than on planned organising.

For one thing the decline of young people's interest in anything revolutionary and radical, has its serious impact on Frontier's readership. Dwelling in the past makes little sense. Nor does dreaming of the utopian future have any practical value. What matters most is how to concentrate on the present moment.

Autumn Number 2018
Vol. 51, No.14 - 17, Oct 7 - Nov 3, 2018