Workers and the Trade Unions, Unite!

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!

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Apr 22, 2020

Arup Kumar Baisya

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