Beyond Capital

The Struggle for an Equitable and Peaceful Society

Arup Baisya

The drive of Neo-liberal economy and the rise of fascist forces worldwide are systematically embedded twin evils that need to be combated for a new equitable and peaceful society. Unlike the rise of Nazi Germany following Hitler's Warmacht or 'war machine industrialisation', the rise of fascism in India in its present phase is in the backdrop of a ruling neoliberal ideology by which the Government has assigned to themselves the role of a promoter, an agent of private corporations, not one of regulating mediator between big business and poor people. In the name of high growth, industrialisation works ruthlessly against the poor majority, denying them the real political options within the orbit of the existing parliamentary democracy. The simmering discontent and popular anger within the toiling masses have now become visible. The militant resistance movement of the peasant masses against the large scale eviction or the capitalist accumulation through displacement especially in the state like Chattishgarh vis-a-vis central India, the peasant movement for MSP and for implementation of Swami-nathan Commission report is visible in large part of the country. The curtailment of labour rights, the Dalit oppression, oppression of the Tribal population, gender degradation, ecological degradation, curtailment of minority rights, discrimination based on languages and nationality bring forth passionate protests. But these movements are revolving around the idea of reformism, not the overcoming of imperialism or the ushering of socialism. The idea of laissez-faire capitalism is no longer valid; the global capitalism can survive all its inherent contradictions in a dystopian world through genocide and enslavement of populations. The attempt to go back to old form of nation-state with certain control over economy is destined to fail in the face of global movement of capital and neoliberal restructuring of capitalist production and reproduction. Such social order can only exist on the basis of fascistic mind control and the continuous exercise of daily police surveillance and violence.

The Experience of world-wide nationalist struggle under the leadership of middle class in this neo-liberal phase emphasies one thing that such nationalism is destined to doom or degenerate into intra-nationalists bickering. The revolutionary intellectuals in Gramscian sense of the term will of course play a pedagogic role in instilling nationalist world view which is directed against the hegemony of finance capital post 1970s. The combined and uneven development is ingrained in capitalism and as such nationalist struggle will prevail even if the drive for homogenisation of working class worldwide (Metropolis and Neo-colonies) is visible due to structural adjustment of capitalist production (Combined Development). Leninist principle which was formulated more than the hundred years back post-1905 insists that nationalism becomes reactionary if it is not led by working class or from a working class perspective. This principle is more relevant in today's world where capitalist centers like America are facing the brunt of capitalist restructuring. In colonial times, both capital and labour were confined to national geographical space-time. Now industrial capital has fled from places like Detroit and Pansylvania province to the destination of cheap labour, and finance capital is flying with meteoric speed from one end of the world to the other. The labour of capitalist metropolis is facing pressure of decline of wages and the increasing reserve army of labour world-wide. But as the movement of labour is somewhat restricted within the bounds of national geographical space-time, the question of democratic struggle of nationalities (Communities in general) is still the part of people's movement. But this struggle must be addressed from a working class and humanitarian perspective.

When reserve army of labour crosses a threshold, it creates downward pressure on wage and increases surplus which may not be converted into profit due to realisation problem arising out of limited scope for capitalist expansion. It may be the fact that the reserve army of labour has not yet crossed the threshold in US, but due to globalisation of capital, unlike colonial period, the US labour is facing the pressure of global reserve army of labour. Globalisation of capital means globalisation of technology and that means globalisation of skill of labour which is required for production and reproduction of labour.

Every country is now witnessing the phenomenal growth of the service sector along with the growing number of the service sector workers. This holds good for India too. "The expansion of capitalist service sector which typifies late capitalism thus in its own way sums up all the principal contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. It reflects the enormous expansion of socio-technical and scientific forces of production and the corresponding growth in the cultural and civilising needs of the produces, just as it reflects the antagonistic form in which this expansion is realised under capitalism: for it is accompanied by increasing over-capitalisation (difficulties of valorisation of capital), growing difficulties of realisation, increasing wastage of material values, and growing alienation and deformation of workers in their productive activity and their sphere of consumption." (Working Class of India: New Situation—Problems and Prospects: Sukomal Sen: p 547)

Whether this structural change of the working class into the field of service connotes capitalist mode of production? Quoting Marx and Braverman, Sukomol Sen in his book Working Class of India wrote, "A service is nothing more than the useful effect of a use value, be it a commodity, or be it labour. But the worker who is employed for producing goods renders a service to the capitalist. And because of this service a tangible and vendible object takes shape as commodity. But when the useful effects of labour do not result in a vendible object then it creates a different situation. Braverman's explanation of these circumstances appears quite logical. He states, 'when this does not offer the labour directly to the user of its effects, but instead sells it to capitalist, who re-sells it on the commodity market, then we have the capitalist form of production in the field of service."

The resistance against the dismantling of organised work force has failed. The drastic reduction of organised workforce in the entire production centre is visible in all the Indian industrial landscapes. The working class is fragmented spatially and temporally in terms of work-status and social-status. The emergence of new class of workforce in service sector is also characterised with fragmentation in terms of their immediate demands of wage hike and social security. The disjointed struggle of one section of workers or another are defeated with the shifting of capital from one workplace to another and by nullifying the struggle through the rapid centralisation of capital. But the transformation of these new kinds of industrial and informal working class and the transcendence of their consciousness from fragmented one to class-in-itself to class-for-itself can only be guaranteed through a united front of union struggle and the struggling unity of worker-peasant movements.

An alienating consumerism is needed to solve the dilemma of a sagging effective demand produced by wage repression and technologically induced unemployment for the mass of the worker. After the initial phase of neo-liberalism, the small section of upwardly mobile middle class is alienated and subsumed into crass consumerism through high-technology-dependent lifestyle. The rest of the large section of them is degraded into sub-human status with long-hour monotonous jobs with below value earnings. Their need and desire for a better life are modulated by the market values. The struggle with an alternative vision from a working class perspective can only release their suppressed ego and make this section a repository of revolutionary values for the entire working class. But this section of the working class constitutes a small part of the entire working class. The rest of the entire working class consists of SC-ST-OBC-Minority and Women. The working class in India is divided in terms of social status and differential wage and diverse working conditions. But all are exploited and expropriated and are crushed by the burden of crisis affecting the entire capitalist system of the economy. This entire section of working class has the potential to be transformed into revolutionary class provided the trade union movement strikes the right chord for the unity of fragmented working class and become part of the politics of revolutionary transformation. The demand for increased wage and the end of differential wage is an important demand for the working class unity in the third world country like India. But David Harvey in his book Seventeen Contradictions and The End of Capitalism rightly explained why wage demands, in fact, do not undermine the rationality of the economic system. He wrote, "Rational consumption—rational, that is, in relation to perpetual capital accumulation—becomes an absolute necessity for the survival of capital. Demands bearing on working hours, the intensity of work, its organisation and nature, are, on the other hand, pregnant with subversive radicalism; they cannot be satisfied by money, they strike at economic rationality in its substance, and through it at the power of capital. The "market-based order" is fundamentally challenged when people find out that not all values are quantifiable, that money cannot buy everything and that what it cannot buy is something essential, or is even the essential thing." (Page. 274). Trade Union movement in India should also incorporate this logic of going beyond capital at least in certain long-hour monotonous jobs while simultaneously fighting for wage hike, minimum wage and wage parity.

The Indian state, to some extent, maintained its welfare character under pressure from unionised organised labour especially of large sectors like Railways etc. These Railway workers have played vital role in rejuvenating the left and anti-emergency movement in the 1970s. This organised labour has already been dismantled in the neoliberal state of the economy. The project to unite all the sections of 'new proletariat' or 'precariat' along with all the diverse social movements may give rise to an effective force to transform the state or for transcendence of capitalism. But this project does not catch the imagination of many for whom this is a stupendous and long drawn out task, and the ruling class has the ample space to play divisive game with fragmented workers. But one single key sector of working class which holds the lifeline of the neo-liberal economy, if organised for a democratic project, has the capacity to compel the state to act in favour of the toiling masses, and this sector is the transport sector. The transport workers travelling extensively and interacting with diverse people imbibes somewhat secular values and develops necessary intelligence to become bad or good, lumpen or rebel. Recent all India strikes of transport workers had created ripple effect on the techno-managerial surface of the state.

After a prolong phase of neo-liberal policy drive and the shedding of welfare character of the state, the Dalit and identity movements are resurfacing with a new dimension under the coercive pressure from present NDA regime. More the working class of diverse oppressed castes and communities is becoming assertive, more the section of organic intellectuals are compelled to address the caste-community rights from a working class perspective. The grass roots pressure from below and the pressure from the fascist concentration of power from above are giving rise to new alignment and realignment of forces. The unity of SP and BSP in UP not only indicates the electoral arithmetic, but also reveals the transformation of feudal class division of labour between OBCs and SCs into the emergence of homogenous working class across the caste groups. The more the caste-community and class get woven seamlessly together, then the faster the fuse for revolution to burn. The emergence of this new reality brings forth new issues for mass struggle. The identity issue has primarily become intermingled with violation of human and citizen rights issues. The resistance movement needs to be built against state repression and caste-religious persecutions. The support to the identity movement needs to be extended on the basis of the principle of equal rights and dignity and right to self-determination. To develop the struggle for the direct provisions through addition of use value in the area of housing, health, education, food security instead of profit-maximising market driven exchange value must be the revolutionary agenda against neo-liberal capitalism. In addition to the workers-peasants issues of wage hike, social security and state support for agricultural development, the resistance movement against land acquisition and privatisation and the movement for public and cooperative ownership based production need to be the part of revolutionary agenda.

Amit Bhaduri in his book The Face You Were Afraid To See cited some alternative desirable goal against growth-only neo-liberal policy. He wrote "First, easy as it might sound, unemployment and poverty can be eliminated within the foreseeable future. Second, by putting purchasing power in the hands of hitherto destitute, the domestic market for industrial products and basic needs can be developed, creating a fresh source of healthy growth for industry and the macroeconomy. Third, through public works programmes that the rural poor will execute, infrastructure (like roads, irrigation etc) can be strengthened and expanded. Fourth, priority environmental projects (such as watershed development, afforestation, groundwater recharge and soil conservation) can be undertaken to stem and reverse the worsening ecological crisis the country will face in the imminent future. Finally, by generating employment in the countryside, the policy will reverse the flow of distress migrants to the cities (saddled as they already are with burdened infrastructure)" (Page. 174). This goal as public policy sounds illuminating. This is somewhat a reversal of policy drive from neo-liberal to welfare. But without severing the tie with global capitalist economy, reversing to welfare state is not possible in this phase of neo-liberal economy when the state is compelled to ensure the free movement of capital for annihilation of space with time within the framework of combined and uneven development. Thus the severing of tie with global capitalism necessitates the rise of working class to the status of ruling class. So the rise of a revolutionary class with democratic agenda and socialist development model can only ensure a paradigm shift from neoliberal economy.

This neo-liberal economic policy has already set the stage for the rise of fascist forces. A constitutional democratic state cannot survive when state takes the role of a promoter of finance capital. The rise of fascism and the fascist takeover of the state are dependent on the success of Hindutwa agenda of Sangh Parivar grasping the masses and the electoral success of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the forthcoming national hustings. The immediate task to defeat fascism is to defeat BJP in electoral battle and for which broad-based electoral unity of parliamentary parties is required. But fascism of Sangh variety of Hindutwa has had a long gestation period; it emerges as anti-liberal bourgeois mass-movement. So to defeat fascism in its entirety, revolutionary unity and the unity of all democratic forces to build a mass struggle on an alternative agenda of development beyond the growth oriented neo-liberal development model and a people's state with participatory democracy is urgently needed.

The ideological struggle against rise of fascism in India is basically a struggle against Hindutwa. This Hindutwa is a transcendental variant of Hindu religion and as such it promotes patriarchy. As the basic institutional unit that holds the value of Patriarchy is the family, the transformation of family structure is an important aspect that hinders the family to be repository of religious fascist values. This transformation of family structure squarely depends on the nature of women's domestic labour. The term patriarchy was introduced by the feminist movement in 1970s. Socialist feminists do not deny that the oppression of women is part of a system, but they think the determinants of this system are to be found in capitalism. They think that the system which oppresses women is at the base same as the one which oppresses male workers. With the rise of fascist onslaught, the women's assertions are becoming more and more visible against patriarchal values. But it is still confined in the ideological front and within the realm of enlightened educated section of women. That this struggle against patriarchy has not yet percolated down to the toiling masses is because of lack of materialist understanding of the women's movement and the all-pervasive misconception within the left. Christine Delphy delved into this misconception in her book Close to Home: A materialist Analysis Of Women's Oppression, and she wrote, "For a long time they refused any legitimacy to women's struggle in the name of the supreme and absolute pre-eminence of the economic over the super-structural, it being taken for granted that the oppression of women belonged in the latter sphere and in no way to the first, which was privately owned by the 'working class'. It seems that they have radically changed their battleground. Because women have invaded the economic sphere, not in traditional Leninist fashion by becoming employed more in the waged sector or by stressing their super-exploitation as 'workers', but, on the contrary, by refusing any longer to accept that certain kinds of labour and certain production—by a strange coincidence, theirs—are neither labour nor producing. They have redefined the economic in such a way as to include their exploitation. They say in the same breadth that they work and that their work is exploited. The 'discovery' of housework cannot be dissociated from the denunciation of its being unpaid. It could not be discovered first as work and then as unpaid work. It had to be seen simultaneously as work and unpaid work, i.e. exploitation…. Leftists can no longer pretend to restrict women's oppression to the super-structural, to 'backward thinking'."

A united protest movement of all revolutionary and democratic forces against every form of imperialist aggression and in support of anti-imperialist people's struggles for self-determination like Palestine needs to be built nation-wide. While opposing and building resistance movement against ecologically destructive and anti-people development through mass-displacement, it is essential to build worldwide solidarity movement to create pressure on developed nations to adhere to the spirit of Kyoto protocol. They are only a few short years to dramatically lower emissions to save the planet earth from climate change, global warming and resultant all-out devastation. The global climate movement must up the ante of their only rational demand—"polluter must pay". The fossil fuel companies which are some of the most profitable corporations in history, with the top five oil companies pulling in $900 billion in profits from 2001 to 2010, are rich simply because they have dumped the cost of cleaning up their mess onto regular people around the world. The climate movement needs to be spearheaded against those oligopolists to stop their misdeeds for making super-profit. The revolutionary pedagogic task to enlighten the working class to stand for diverse anti-neoliberal social movements and to build united action with all such social forces needs to be undertaken.

For the left radicals, politics must be the art of making the impossible possible and they will have to overcome the old and deep rooted error attempting to build political force without building the social force, because this form of conceiving politics ignores the people and their struggles. The debate on all strategic issues related to the radical change of social relation of production should not be confined to small revolutionary group(s), rather it should be made open to the public for wide participation.

The left radicals must have a vision for transcending capitalism. But emphasising Rosa Luxemburg's vision for the future, Martha Harnecker wrote in her book A World To Build, "Rosa Luxemberg never tired of repeating that the path to socialism was not laid down in advance, since the "modern proletarian class does not conduct its struggle according to any blueprint reproduced in a book or a theory; the modern workers' struggle is a part of history, a part of evolution, and we learn how we should fight in the midst of history, in the midst of evolution, in the midst of struggle". (Page. 177)

1.      Harvey David: 2014: Seventeen Contradictions And The End of Capitalism: Profile Books.
2.      Patnaik Prabhat: 2012: Re-Envisioning Socialism: Tulika Books.
3.      Sen Sukomol: 1997: Working Class of India, History of Emergence And Movement 1830-1990 (With an overview upto 1995): K P Bagchi & Company, Calcutta.
4.      Bhaduri Amit: 2009: The Face You Were Afraid To See, Essays on Indian Economy: Penguin Books
5.      Delphy Christine: 2016: Close to Home, A Materialist Analysis of Women's Oppression: Verso Books.
6.      Klein Naomi: 2015: This Changes Everything: Penguin Books.
7.      Harnecker Marta: 2015: A World To Build, New Paths toward Twenty-First Century Socialism, Monthly Review Press.

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