November 07, 2021
Inescapable: Remembering November in the Midst of a Pandemic

Nilotpal Basu

SINCE the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades back, efforts to rubbish the November revolution and its underlying principles continue. It is another matter that the questions raised and the answers provided to some of the profound issues confronting the human society cannot be ostracised for good. They stand up with the full range of its ideological posers. In fact, with the passage of time they raise new vision in engaging with the current and evolving reality under contemporary neo-liberal capitalism. The failure to wish off the ideology of the November revolution in a way underlines the alternative it proposed to the current dispensation.


The history of the November revolution brings out the theory and practice which welded into what Lenin described as praxis. It will be a truism to repeat that Leninist praxis was the core which anchored the November revolution. Deeply embedded in Marxism, the primary focus of Leninist praxis is hinged on the concreate study of the concreate situation in Tsarist Russia. Lenin proceeded from analysing the factors which kept Russia backward in the context of an emerging capitalist development.

It is this concreate study which made it obvious to Lenin that contemporary capitalism was not autonomous, but an integral part of the global capitalist order. Further, capitalism itself was in a process of transformation into imperialism. Marx’s prognosis of capital with its tendency to continuously centralise and concentrate, a rapid growth makes expansion of capital inevitable. This was being achieved through two ways; a structural change with the appearance of finance capital and the scale of its operation spilling beyond the geographic boundary of a nation state.

This understanding of imperialism was not a mere addition to Marxism, but actually a critical and new contribution to the Marxist analysis. This, therefore, came to be regarded as a qualitatively new phase of development in an era where capitalism rose to its ‘highest stage’. Lenin, tracking this development also unravelled that this was its moribund stage.

Going beyond the theoretical poser, Leninist praxis emphasise the potential of the working class to rally other classes and sections which were under the severe adverse influence of capitalism. Together with this, the Leninist praxis also trumped the popular notion that the socialist revolution will be staged in advanced capitalist societies where the working class were present in larger numbers and more developed in their evolution as a class. Leninist praxis counter posed that contemporary reality demanded that such revolutions have to take place where the ‘link in the imperialist chain’ was the weakest and the rest is history.

The Leninist praxis underlined the need for liberating the productive forces and paved the way for their continuous and revolutionary changes and by eliminating restrictive and exploitative production relation to unleash the unlimited creative energies of the working people for a better world where human societies could be more empowered so that, the benefits could flow to every toiler.

It is here that the Leninist praxis distinguished between photographic realism and socialist realism. The photographic realism represented reality as it is while socialist realism indicated the fleeting nature of the current reality and prompted to look at the nature of the changes that it was potent with.


The 21st century battle between imperialism and socialism was much about the imperative of developing science and technology for the common good of humanity based on international cooperation. A core advance in this crucial battle particularly during the post-war capitalist recovery was the idea that progress depended on the universal and public nature of health and education. Though the constant push for putting profit before the people remained but, the massive levels of advances in public health and public education ensured the benefits accrue to wider sections of human population.

However, with the advent of neo-liberal globalisation with its nation specific variations under the imperialist hegemony and actualisation by international finance capital, this process was severely disrupted. The sphere of public health went into a decline driven by predatory profiteering by global insurance and big pharma. This development in the last five decades have greatly affected access of an overwhelmingly large sections of the population to health and its capacity to fight back disease and  public health crisis. Coupled with contemporary global economies’ characteristic feature of sharply intensifying inequality has left the world unprepared to face outbreak of epidemic. This was demonstrated as never before with the havoc of Covid-19. Even in large parts of Europe which was known for a fairly developed public health system and infrastructure, the trail of death and inadequacy to cope with the severity of the pandemic was loud and clear. While apologists of international finance were quick to dismiss the destruction as the outcome of the pandemic, it was clear that it is not Covid-19 which has ‘broken the system’ but merely exposed the ‘broken world’.

The worst manifestation of the public health collapse and unprecedented undermining of the principle of universalism in fighting a pandemic is the gross inequality in vaccine availability. Higher income countries have administered 70 times more doses per inhabitant compared to low income countries. Countries with 15 per cent of the world population pre-purchased 50 per cent of available doses. WHO has reported 32.4 million doses have been administered in 50 African countries – mere two percentage of population getting a single dose. Conversely, 10 countries account for 77 per cent of globally administered vaccine doses. What has led to experts describe as vaccine imperialism is the fact that if the developed countries which accumulated many times more than their needs had shared one billion doses they would still have enough  to vaccinate 80 per cent of their 12 years plus population. Without having a universal protection for the global population, no one would be safe underlining a fundamental of the Leninist praxis that without socialisation of distribution the world is doomed. It is either socialism or barbarism the choice is stark.



The Glasgow summit on the climate challenge is ongoing. It underlines that another global catastrophe is staring at our face. The crucial question here is as much as the virus pandemic the climate challenge is a consequence of the same principle of putting ‘profit before the people’ as much as threatening the very survival of the planet. The latest report of the inter-governmental panel on climate change (IPCC): ‘Climate change 2021 – the physical science basis’ has red flagged the global warming trends. Here also the criminal nature of irresponsibility of the developed capitalist economies is clear. Seven of the world’s biggest historic emitters of the greenhouse gases spend more than twice as much on borders as climate finance.

Antonio Guiterres, secretary general of United Nations while addressing the opening ceremony of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow brings out this nightmare: “It is time to say enough. Enough of brutalising bio-diversity. Enough of killing ourselves with Carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves”. What he does not mention is that all these suicidal ventures are prompted by the lust for predatory corporate profits.



The broken world exposed by the pandemic as never before is unfolding the magnitude of the global economic catastrophe. Not just a recession in global GDP, the world is being ravaged by hunger.  In July 2021, the Agricultural Commodity Price Index remained at its highest level since 2013. With rising prices and reduced incomes, UNICEF estimates a tenth of global population (around 811 million) were undernourished last year and nearly 150 million children were stunted; 45 million wasted in 2020. With around 180 million more facing chronic hunger than last year, 30 per cent of the global population (2.37 billion) lack adequate access to food in 2020 – an increase of 320 million in one year. Oxfam has estimated a six fold rise in people living in famine conditions. Globally, 11 people are dying every minute from acute hunger. Similarly, poverty, rising inequality, unemployment and educational deprivation are also rising.

It is projected that people living in extreme poverty will reach 745 million by the end of 2021, an increase of 100 million. Employment loss cost women around the world at least $800 billion in lost income in 2020. An additional 47 million more women worldwide are expected to fall into extreme poverty in 2021. In response to Jeff Bezos’ space flight, Deepak Xavier, Oxfam International’s Global Head of Inequality Campaign, said: “We’ve now reached stratospheric inequality. 11 people are likely now dying of hunger each minute while Bezos prepares for an 11-minute personal space flight. This is human folly, not human achievement.” The ultra-rich are being propped up by unfair tax systems and pitiful labour protections. US billionaires got around $1.8 trillion richer since the beginning of the pandemic and nine new billionaires were created by Big Pharma’s monopoly on the Covid-19 vaccines.

Global working hours declined by 8.8 per cent in 2020, equivalent to loss of 255 million full-time jobs. The ILO projects the global crisis-induced ‘jobs gap’ to reach 75 million in 2021. This fall in employment and working hours comes on top of persistently high pre-crisis levels of unemployment, under-employment and poor working conditions. Global unemployment is expected to reach 205 million people in 2022, leaping from 187 million in 2019.

According to the UNESCO, as of May 2021, schools in 26 countries were closed and partially open in 55 countries. An estimated 90 per cent of the world’s school-aged children have had their education disrupted by the pandemic. School closures and the resulting disruptions are projected to amount to losses valued at $10 trillion of affected children’s future earnings. For millions of students, school closures will not be a temporary interference with their education, but the abrupt end of it.


The extreme convulsion of the global economy is more pronounced in India which is underlined by official statistics. There is alarming rise in poverty despite the statistical manipulation for nutrition norm. There is an absolute drop of nine per cent in per capita rural consumption expenditure in rural India showing an unprecedented increase in absolute poverty in both rural and urban India even before the onset of pandemic.  The pandemic and the lockdown have accentuated indebtedness and from a livelihood crisis it is now a survival crisis. The unemployment rate rose to 24 per cent in 2020 after the lockdown began and notwithstanding the confusion on data 21 million salaried jobs were lost mostly in the unorganised and the MSME sector. Now government statistics have revealed that in 21 states the REGA funds have gone into the red. Additional to this is the runaway inflation powered largely by the unprecedented level of hike in central taxes on fuel conceding that a 79 per cent hike in revenue collection has taken place on this account. No wonder that global hunger index places India in the serious category.

That this disastrous condition for the people’s survival is accompanied by obscene growth of inequality is a foregone conclusion. The number of billionaires in India has increased from 102 to 140 in this pandemic year according to the Forbes. Their combined wealth has doubled to 596 billion dollars. The inequality is pronounced across socially vulnerable sections like women, dalits and adivasis.

The ominous situation is highlighted by the nexus between the policies of the government and corporates. Obviously, this is resulting in an all-round attack on democratic rights, social justice, federalism and the functioning of the parliament itself. The stranglehold of the corporate-government nexus on media and electoral democracy is near complete. Communal polarisation has reached nearly explosive proportions.

The large breadth of impact on the people and the constitutional rights is leading to opposition and resistance. This is highlighted by the growing intensity of the farmers’ struggle against the attempt to hand over the entire agricultural sector through the farm laws through the backdoor in the parliament. The workers and employees of different sectors are also up in arms against privatisation and disposal of public assets through privatisation and monetisation and establishment of private monopolies.

Undoubtedly, this multi-dimensional assault on the people and growing fascistic trend to convert the very nature of the Indian Republic is actually dovetailed with the global paradigm under the hegemony of international finance capital under the watch of global imperialism. Therefore, it is the Leninist praxis which should inform us that this turn of events is clearly   a recognition of the failure of international finance capital and its India variant to address the very crisis of people’s survival. It is here that November revolution’s vision that throws up an alternative, is important.

It is inescapable that if the planet has to survive with its inhabitants, the catastrophic trajectory embarked on by neo-liberal globalisation and its associated processes has to be challenged. The battle has to be reared in the daily unfolding issues of livelihood and survival which ought to link seamlessly with the ideological underpinnings which is holding sway over the current reality. It is a stark choice – socialism or barbarism! But, for this, there is no other way to remember November revolution and its motive force, the Leninist praxis.