In this final instalment of the series, I want to discuss the vexed question of employment and what can be called the ’employment mindset’. The mindset has dominated politics and the discipline of economics for the last century and a half for sure. Before that youthful capitalism simply put people uprooted from their habitats and traditional occupations (the artisans and peasants) into ‘poor houses’ and enacted the most vicious laws to force the dispossessed poor work for it. Marxists give this violent pillage the scientific- sounding name of ‘primitive accumulation’ (or primary accumulation). ‘Scientific’ because it was seen by Marx as the ‘historical process of the separation of producer from “his” means of production’ – as if it was an objective process that was in some sense inevitable. Marx’s chapter on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital Vol I, certainly shows that he was revolted by the plunder and robbery that this phenomenon entailed but in a manner of speaking, by giving it an aura of historical inevitability, he could displace the solution to some future. There is also no doubt that the sections of Capital where Marx deals with the enactment of Poor Laws in Britain are full of passion and anger at what capitalism was doing – but then, what can you do with a process that is historically inevitable? Remember too that it was the same logic of ‘objectivity’ of ‘historical inevitability’ that was used to justify colonialism as the ‘unconscious tool of history’. The British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson wrote of precisely these populations that perished in ‘the storm of industrialization’. He was so moved by their predicament that he wanted to ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Yet, Thompson believed, like a good Marxist, that the artisan or the handloom weaver that he was writing about were ‘obsolete’ (Thompson’s term). Thus, he wrote, Continue reading Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV→
In March this year, the Ministry for Labour and Employment unveiled the third of its series of Labour Codes aimed at simplifying and rationalizing the labour laws. The Draft Labour Code on Social Security has been placed in the public domain and comments and suggestions have been invited in respect of its provisions. The Draft Code is ambitious in scope and amalgamates the provisions of 15 central labour laws relating to social security. Continue reading The Draft Labour Code on Social Security-Workers’ Concerns: Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan→
This May Day comes at a very crucial juncture in our history. Crucial, not simply because there is a belligerent Hindu Right government in power but also because it comes in the wake of the most unprecedented belligerence of the upper castes and their all-round violence, especially on the Dalit communities across the land. Last year we had witnessed the most shameful incident of violence in the flogging of four Dalit youth by the cow gangs of Hindutva, which was followed by massive protests by Dalits and joined in by other sections of people, including some of the Left forces, as well. The attack had to do with the very specific form/s of labour that Dalit communities have been made to traditionally perform in Hindu society, in this case, the work of disposing of carcasses of dead animals, skinning them and so on. Continue reading Thinking Labour in Contemporary India – For a Different May Day Agenda→
The following is the text of the report released by the Fact Finding Committee that investigated the issue of lay-offs at the Tata Consultancy Services. The committee, which released its report on 6 February in Chennai, consisted of the following members:
Mr. BRP. Bhaskar, Senior Journalist and Human Rights Activist, Thiruvananthapuram;
Dr. M.Vijayabaskar, Assistant Professor, MIDS, Chennai;
Adv. Bobby Kunhu, Legal Expert, Salem;
Ms. Chandrika Radhakrishnan, Software Professional and Labour Rights Activist, Chennai
For some months now, I have been thinking of someone whom I saw on television during the parliamentary election campaign. The place was Benaras and Modi’s candidature from the seat had just been declared. The television journalist was interviewing a group of clearly poor people, taking their reactions on this new, though expected development. This person, fairly drunk in his Modi-elixir – and perhaps also a bit literally drunk – swaggered as he answered, affirming his support for Modi: Modi bhi chaiwala hai, hum bhi chaiwala hain (Modi is also a tea-seller and I am also a tea-seller). His words reflected the success of the remarkable gamble – that of projecting the new poster boy of corporate capital as a humble tea-seller. It was clear how so many of the poor had bought into this campaign.
What reminded me of this person initially, was that very soon after the election results were out, even before the government was formed, ‘team Modi’ announced a series of measures for the development of Benaras, which included the building of 60 flyovers – ‘to ease traffic congestion’. Mainly meant for the benefit of smooth flow of motorized traffic (rikshas, cycles and pedestrians, after all, have little place in the economy of the flyover), this was the beginning of a plan that would transform this holy city. If the experience of building flyovers anywhere in India is any experience, this would additionally mean mass demolition of settlements of the poor, shops and even entire informal markets – including tea shops that have long been part of life of local communities.
Then the government took office. Within a couple of months, the plan for Varanasi’s upgradation started being drawn up more concretely. Not everything in the proposed subsequent plan (end July 2014) seemed objectionable -not the least the idea to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) like the one in Ahmedabad. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi. Continue reading ‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor→
The lexicon of this election is very different. Some things are being said in coded language while for others, a new language is being invented. Hindutva is repackaged and reworded with suffixes like ‘constitutional boundaries’ and anti-women, anti-dalit, anti-tribal, anti-minority and anti-poor development agenda is being openly articulated as a model that works. The latest in this frenzy about newer ways of framing things is a coinage about policy decisions, especially policy decisions that have been made in the past by the elected governments of this country (See for instance, A game changing reform strategy, Arvind Panagriya’s, TOI special op-ed, April 5, 2014).
The two key policy decisions of the UPA namely, the Industrial Disputes Act and, the Land Ceiling Act, are viewed by Mr. Panagriya as a catastrophe fallen on the Indian people who are now “condemned to forever live with our past sins”. Why do only labour and land laws, which impact the vast majority of the working classes and the peasantry of this country, become ‘sinful’? Why living with primitive judicial system or uncivilized AFPSA or dark age 377, low tax rate laws and so many others are not equivalent to living with past sins? The irony of 2014 elections, it appears, is that there is no need to specify one’s vantage point. It is the point. The author’s confidence does not end here. His argument goes on further to say that if anyone disagrees i.e. if the provinces disagree with this definition of sins, then make them fall in line by redefining the federal structure. Continue reading All About So-called Sins and the Game Plan: Atul Sood→
This guest post is a statement by NEW PATH, a collective of people, mostly from backgrounds in social movements and mass organisations, who have been discussing how the work of people’s struggle and revolutionary transformation can be taken forward in the Indian context. Those discussions led to the decision to found a new organisation, tentatively called “New Path”.
Below is the draft manifesto, sent to us by friends associated with the initiative. It is being circulated for comments, criticism, suggestions and observations. New Path does not aim to be a traditional revolutionary party. Rather, it seeks to be a political formation that seeks out opportunities, through struggle, to weaken bourgeois hegemony in this country. Continue reading Manifesto of a New Initiative: Statement by New Path→