The Pandemic and the state

Part 9: Individual knowledge and Collective wisdom

Arup Kumar Baisya

Common sense and collective wisdom
There prevails a commonsense perception that the made-easy version of a complex subject is the best and praise-worthy endeavour of a skillful representation. The easier and simpler are the representation of a complex thing, the deeper the understanding of the presenter. This is a capitalist logic instilled in the minds of the people as common sense, especially among the activists who are inclined to believe that any positive change of reality is the result of only their activities. The logic of the market makes us believe that the question of profit is very simple, it is just market price minus production cost – the world of advertising also modulates our mindset to live in the simple superficial layer of “Buy one, get one free”. But the epistemology derived from the empirical world of interaction and observation becomes complex because it pierces the surface layer and goes on traveling to unveil the reality beneath the surface. So, this power of observation and interpretation thereof is a complex phenomenon that demands deep insight of the observer and cannot be communicated in a made easy version to the observers who lack this deep insight. But at a certain point in time and under certain conditions, the surface layer burst asunder and the existing complex episteme comes closer to the empirical knowledge of the common masses and transforms into collective wisdom. This is simultaneously the moment when a new world of epistemology which is very complex for the common people to understand starts taking shape. This mutually inclusive but contradictory journey of individual knowledge and collective wisdom is the hallmark of the development of human civilization. We can only imagine how this contradiction of individual and collective knowledge will be resolved in a communist society based on the fact that the question of freedom is intertwined with the question of knowledge, but it is now premature to develop a model for it.

Capitalism and the bourgeois revolution
Capitalism is a world system where Marx’s law of value derived from Ricardian one and the law of uneven development play the role. What the European Bourgeois revolution means is not very much well defined. What we term as the European Renaissance is more like new enlightenment in the superstructure based on a capitalist social relation of production. Wherefrom this new social relation of production came into being? Why did the enclosure movement was started in 15th century Europe for brute eviction of the peasants to transform them into wage workers by a section of the erstwhile feudal lords themselves? It was because the mode of production based on wage labourers were considered more profitable than the production for consumption based on the peasant-labour bonded to the land and by a religious belief system. The emergence of large factories and the much-touted industrial revolution was the result of technological development and colonial exploitation, the result of a being of capitalist social relations in the process of becoming. All these developments were decided by the direction of motion of a new relation of production marked by the law of value which became operational within the garb of feudalism before enclosure movement. So, the essence of the European bourgeois revolution was the result of a paradigmatic shift, a spatial quantitative expansion to entire Europe sidelining the domination of the church. This expansion occurred both under the sway of Monarchical absolutist and bourgeois liberal democratic rules. History of Japan also tells us that the Meiji revolution and the capitalist transformation occurred under the leadership of the erstwhile feudal warrior class ‘Samurai’. It means that the capitalist and pre-capitalist relations of productions are always intertwined with capitalism in the dominant position by continuously killing the space with time through the dynamic motion of the law of value. The capitalist mode of production, once set in motion, acquires the quality of expansion in space to take the global character. Capitalist development in a Marxist sense is a combined and uneven development throughout its system. 

The global economy and the capitalist crisis
Capital moves from a developed region to a backward region i.e. from the area of the high organic composition of capital to low organic composition of capital in search of and to maximize profit. Capital moves to the area where there exist cheap wage labour and natural resources. The existence of wage labour having earned a certain level of skill, though less than the developed regions entail the development of a certain level of the capitalist mode of production intertwined with pre-capitalist relations. The neoliberal phase of capitalism is marked by the Capital’s global movement and reach. The rapid change of technology and the monopoly competition compels the capitalist to change the fixed capital ingrained in the means of production frequently to expropriate above-average rate of profit. These frequent changes in fixed capital and rapid changes in the product varieties due to intense competition for market share increase the organic composition of capital and destabilize the balance between department I i.e. production of means of production and department II i.e. production of consumer goods. This causes the realization problem of capital and fall of the rate of profit for overproduction despite the increase of surplus-value or intensity of expropriation of labour and fall of the wage rate. Accumulation and concentration of capital in the era of global oligopolistic competition do not find the profitable destination of investment. The restructuring of capital by shifting the entire production units from metropolis to metropolis, from metropolis to low-waged nations fails to complete the process of reproduction of capital and labour to ensure the sustainability of the capitalist system for profit. The equilibrium between the productions in two departments cannot be predetermined and this makes the capitalist system inherently anarchic. The capitalism of post-sixties is inherently subsumed into this crisis of the failure of managing the reproduction process and situation of over-production. The attempt to bypass this anarchic situation of the systemic crisis of capitalism through the speculative financial market of bubble economy made the system more vulnerable and unpredictable and when the last bubble of sub-prime crisis burst in the US, hitherto the pivot of the global economy, the inherent anarchy of capitalist system hit the common sense of the masses to realize. The mass movement and uprising from occupy wall street to the Gilets Jaunes movement to Arab Spring epitomizes the transformation of the individual epistemology to collective wisdom to realize that the capitalist system is fundamentally oppressive and anarchic. This does not mean that capitalism as a dynamic system is unable to restructure itself to establish its hegemonic control over society. But the collective wisdom must rise to a higher plank of consciousness to realize that capitalism can restructure itself only through widespread destruction of civilization. 

This realization of the masses, at the first instance, is not voluntary and autonomous, but it develops through a process of conscious effort of the organizations and the parties which can unveil the here and now before the masses with a futuristic alternative project.

The Pandemic and the new opportunity
The pandemic and the lockdown created an unprecedented situation. The epistemological endeavour must go a long way to predict the definite course, the capitalism takes for its regeneration, and the course of action, the countervailing combatant force of labour to take for an alternative future project. It’s an opportunity as well as a predicament for the combatants, the capital, and labour. New sectors like health, FMCG, etc have opened up for the capitalist to invest for profit. But it’s not an easy task for the capitalist to grab the opportunity when the entire system is in deep crisis and agog with uncertainties. The restructuring for the new sector means keeping the old productive infrastructure of fixed capital idle, huge retrenchment of workers, and huge and rapid investment in R&D for technological research work due to competitive pressure. This initial huge investment engages very few highly skilled intellectual workers. The investment in other sectors also necessitates further automation for reduction of cost of capital and thus the intellectualization of highly skilled workforce for new productive restructuring will make the large section of the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce redundant. Furthermore, the initial investment for R&D does not by itself generate profit, but the winner in this competition will rule the roost and that’s why there is so much effort and claim and counterclaim in the field of COVID medicine and vaccine and packed nutritious diet. This new investment opportunity is a risky proposition for the capitalist amidst uncertainty, though we are witnessing the carmaker giant is also jumping into the fray by converting its factory unit for the production of ventilators. The invention had already become a systematically organized capitalist business in the capitalist production system. The Pandemic has generated a new business opportunity in this sector. One builds a laboratory, installs the necessary equipment, hires qualified personnel, and waits for the results. These like any other product either can be used directly by the same business in which they were made or can be sold to others. 

 But, this does not resolve the inherent intense contradiction arisen from the disequilibrium of capitalist production and the situation of overproduction. The rapid automation in the productive system already created a reserve army of labour beyond the threshold of its limit. Further privatization and automation for reduction of cost of capital due to competitive pressure will exacerbate the crisis of overproduction. The Government of India may privatise the coal sector, but the production of coal can only be ensured when its utilization as fuel is assured in other productive sectors. So, privatization does not automatically ensure the participation of private capitalists and their investment for generating employment. And without generating new employment, the political dispensation in power also remains vulnerable and amenable to face public wrath. Few crony capitalists may get engaged in the coal sector to start production, but it will remain amenable to closure again in the backdrop of an overall economic recessionary situation. The deep-rooted anarchy and uncertainty in the global economic situation which was arisen from the crisis of realization and reproduction have been deepened by the Pandemic and lockdown. Further automation in the ongoing rapid change of fixed capital through digitalization by Robotics and AI will exacerbate the recessionary crisis due to the replacement of human labour by machines and as such, further automation is no more an option for capitalists for a revival of the economy. So, this moment becomes another moment of emancipation for the working class and the people who internalize the idea that the existing system does not have any remedy to any of the existing problems, be it unemployment or natural disaster. This moment of history is the opportune moment to transform the individual episteme into collective wisdom to a higher plank.

Pre and Post-Pandemic Indian Government policy
Economic survey website of Government of India reveals that the Government has been pursuing the policy of “Assembly in India for the World”. It means that the global multinational giant will shift their final production units where the parts produced in diverse countries will be transported here in the Indian production center to assemble for final products that will be exported to the world market. As per Government projection, the export of Network Products (NPs) expected to equal $7 trillion worldwide in 2025, the incremental value added from exports at $248 billion in 2025 and the projected job creation from this export-led growth is 4 crore well-paid jobs by 2025 and 8 crore by 2030.

As per Economic Survey Report 2019-20: Statistical Appendix, the Gross National Income (Projected Estimate in current Price) is 11.3% in 2018-19 and 2019-20 is 7.6% (First Advance Estimate). Gross value added in all sectors (Projected Estimate) is 6.2% of GDP in 2018-19 and 4.9% in 2019-20 (First Advance Estimate). Gross Fiscal Deficit (Projected estimate) is 6.2% in 2018-19 and 5.9% in 2019-20 (Budget estimate). Rate of change of Export and import in 2018-19 (April – December) are 9.6% & 14.3% respectively and -2.0% & -8.9% respectively in 2019-20 (April – December). Though the trade deficit has reduced marginally from 148229 million US $ to 118100 million US $, the gap between the import and export is huge. These statistics reveal that the Indian economy was in doldrums before the Pandemic and there was limited scope in export-led growth. When the Pandemic and lockdown has created the major disruption in the global value chain, the Government is hoping against the hope to attract investment through shifting of production units from China to India in search of cheap labour and natural wealth and pursuing the same policy of pandering the investors and privatizing the public sectors. The present dispensation in power does not have the guts to tread the path of nationalist economic policy to promote domestic production and demand because the global oligopolists and their Indian capitalist hangers-on may destabilize the government and will not extend the support for electoral victory. This alternative bourgeois path of partial self-reliance necessitates the resurgence of the Indian people behind the ruling dispensation on democratic and secular values which is antithetical to the core ideology of the Sangh Parivar. This contradiction between the inward-looking economic policy of self-reliance at least by giving some credence to the nomenclature and the core ideology of the ruling dispensation puts this Government in a dilemma.

Defence Production and fascism
When the capitalists face the realization problem for over-production and anarchic situation due to the disequilibrium between the department I & II and when this crisis is exacerbated by a major disruption like Pandemic and lockdown, the capitalists allow the Government to increase defence expenditure and investment in defence production by raising taxes. This money collected by Government as taxes is also transferred from the values created in other sectors of machines and consumer goods production. Furthermore, as the defence production employs very few people, the rate of increase of investment in means of production soon increases the organic composition of capital and causes the rate of profit to fall. The continuous increase of tax for military investment will dampen the market for lack of demand for shrinking of purchasing power and deteriorating standard of living of common masses. The fall of the rate of profit below the average and exacerbation of anarchic disequilibrium in the production system cannot be arrested for a long period by emphasizing defence production. The rate of profit to increase above average can only be ensured by fascistisation of state and by creating huge incarcerated bonded labour by disenfranchising large sections of people through a meticulously planned NRC process and primitive accumulation. 

 Rosa Luxemburg in her analysis of arms expenditure wrote, “Some of the money circulating as variable capital breaks free of this cycle and in the state treasury it represents a new demand. For the technique of taxation, of course, the order of events is rather different, since the amount of the indirect taxes is actually advanced to the state by capital and is merely being refunded to the capitalists by the sale of their commodities, as part of their price. But economically speaking, it makes no difference. The crucial point is that the quantity of money with the function of variable capital should first mediate the exchange between capital and labour-power. Later, when there is an exchange between workers and capitalists as buyers and sellers of commodities respectively, this money will change hands and accrue to the state of taxes. This money, which capital has set circulating, first fulfills its primary function in the exchange with labour-power, but subsequently, by the mediation of the state, it begins an entirely new career. As a new purchasing power, belonging with neither labour nor capital, it becomes interested in new products, in a special branch of production which does not cater for either the capitalists or the working class, and thus it offers capital new opportunities for creating and realizing surplus-value. When we were formerly taking it for granted that the indirect taxes extorted from the workers are used for paying the officials and for provisioning the army, we found the ‘saving’ in the consumption of the working class to mean that the workers rather than the capitalists were made to pay for the personal consumption of the hangers-on of the capitalist class and the tools of their class rule. This change developed from the surplus-value to the variable capital, and a corresponding amount of the surplus-value became available for the purpose of capitalization. Now we see how the taxes extorted from the workers afford capital a new opportunity for accumulation when they are used for armament manufacture. On the basis of indirect taxation, militarism in practice works both ways. By lowering the normal standard of living for the working class, it ensures both that capital should be able to maintain a regular army, the organ of capitalist rule, and that it may tap an impressive field for further accumulation.” (Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital).  

New Moment of collective wisdom
But the Pandemic and lockdown has already lowered the standard of living of the workers and simultaneously created massive disruption in the production and labour process. This caused workers’ disillusionment about the reactionary imagined nationalist project of Sangh Parivar. Further accentuation of the standard of living of the working class will unveil the moment of the emancipation of the workers against the system. The moot question is how the revolutionary forces articulate the concrete situation for concrete analysis and set the strategic and tactical direction before the workers to resist. The hegemony of the existing system over the society is dwindling; the workers will rapidly rise to their collective wisdom provided the revolutionary philosophy of organizational praxis unveils the state character before the masses and set an immediate and long-term task before the working class without beating the bush. The broad outline of the immediate task is to resist the economic development model of the present dispensation in power at the center to defeat fascism and the long-term task is to build a new state where the coercive apparatus of capitalist class rule like standing army is dismantled.     

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Aug 8, 2020

Arup Kumar Baisya

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