…And A World to Win!
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THE Communist Manifesto begins with the profound observation that the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles indicating history in the making through class contestations. Capitalism has undergone different regimes of accumulation coordinated through institutions and regulations conducive for particular regimes. During the neoliberal regime of accumulation, capital assumes ascendancy hegemonising almost all non-capitalist structures and subsumes them into the rule of global finance.
In all the past and current regimes of capital accumulation, capital imposed its rule upon society as immutable laws of objectivity that appeared inescapable. This time it has a global scope and hence the impersonal laws of capitalist accumulation seem to claim inexorable dominance over social life. This facade of ‘objectivity’ is the core of the TINA syndrome where description of capitalist dynamics becomes a one-sided story of capital, the way it intends to build the world according to its own image.
MYTH OF OBJECTIVITY
The myth of ‘objectivity’ emerges out of commodity fetishism where human relations are being replaced by exchanges between buyers and sellers and the world of commodities and rule of exchange makes human beings subordinate to its own creations, commodity production. Capitalism is an uncoordinated system which makes buying and selling or profit and losses as spontaneous outcomes of the immutable laws ofmarket existing ‘outside’ as against individuals. Hence the ‘other’ appears as a structure which is inescapable and insurmountable.
But human beings create history through conscious intervention instead of being enslaved by the structures built around them. One should not lose sight of the fact that capital cannot survive without the workers because labour is the source of surplus value, the life line of capital’s accumulation. But labour is potentially independent of capital relations. It existed without capital relations in the past and for the longer period of human history and will continue to exist in the future without capital! Hence labour has greater potential autonomy over capital which assumes a force in asserting its needs beyond the existing rules of the game and can determine the trajectory of history.
The process of workers emerging as a class conscious of its aims is different from the workers’ existence with respect to production relations. A worker in a factory or working in a small shop, and agricultural labourer, a gig worker are specificities related to their condition of work and occupation. The commonality is they all have to sell their labour power in order to survive. This commonality is a material condition existing passively to which the worker has to live with, it is a materiality that is internalised by anyone working in similar field. But from there arises another kind of commonality through confronting capital: capital as exploiter, oppressor or expropriator and such confrontations creates class consciousness. The formation of this class consciousness is not a one-shot game as EP Thomson says in The Making of the English Working Class: ‘The working class did not rise like the sun at an appointed time. It was present at its own making.’It is a process of making where working people from diverse occupations and with different degrees of solidarity relations identify their common cause of misery. While making of the class, the working people do not bear or represent a pre-given structure rather it is expressed through their collective conscious intervention that compel structures to undergo changes.
The biggest challenge for capital has always been workers. Regimes of accumulation had to be changed to control workers autonomy because even if the labour power is being sold by the worker, the expenditure of labour from the human body is not pre-given and automatic rather subject to contestation. This is a unique feature of ‘labour power’ compared to all other commodities in the world where worker is subjectively able to retain control over expenditure of labour and this continues to be the greatest perturbation to the capitalist class.
Capitalism of the twentieth century invented Fordist assembly line primarily to destroy the autonomy of artisanal workers and build a production process that involves cooperation among fragmented labour. The productive capacity increased to a great extent as a result, by which capitalism could eschew pre-capitalist forms of production but it could not escape its eternal rival. The workers involved in the assembly line individually lost control over the production process as compared to artisanal workers but eventually they could realise that this larger network of cooperation in the production process is the material basis of wider solidarity and potential terrain of class formation.
Capitalism had to acknowledge the rise of working class as a force which would not allow money wages to fall whenever there is unemployment and allow markets clear at a lower wage. This was the real context of Keynesian intervention to displace the crisis of ‘involuntary unemployment’ where higher investment of the government was suggested as a necessary recipe for increasing effective demand and create employment. Therefore, there had been efforts on the part of the capitalist class always to decompose the solidarity of the working class and give rise to a new regime of accumulation as it happened in the late 1970s by destroying trade unions and particularly the miners’ strike in Great Britain which signified the inauguration of Thatcher-Regan led neoliberalism. But history has shown on several occasions that neither the laws of capitalism are immutable nor the structures are fossilised to the extent that class agency of the working people is entrapped into unchangeable structures. The myth of objectivity has been broken time and again by real struggles that condense years of effort into moments of change.
MAKING OF THE CLASS
It is now about three to four decades the working people of the world had been under the sway of neoliberal reforms which came along with an assault on rights of working people, a regime of freedom of capital but unfreedom of labour. Neoliberalism seems to have reached to a phase when the process of accumulation creates challenge to the very existence of humanity in terms of rising inequality and destruction of ecology and climate change.
The squeezing of surplus on the basis of labour arbitrage by having access to differentiated labour across the globe has given rise to great divergence in income, which on the other hand created the material basis of new convergence towards resistance in different parts of the world. Moreover, this time the scope of converging interests has widened to a significant extent. It includes peasants and farmers who are dispossessed and expropriated by global and local corporates, the agricultural workers experiencing declining real wage, the gig workers who emerge to be the new segment of proletariat under the techno-normative regime of new technology, the factory workers who increasingly face the heat of hire and fire, casualisation and contractualisation, the middle class employees of the public sector seerampant privatisation that not only creates threats to their entitlements but facilitates the loot of public assets and critical national resources, the health workers who mediate the healthy growth of the new population are increasingly underpaid and denied of rights and the home workers and the huge mass of self-employed many of whom earn an income less than hired workers; the vast pool of unemployed, skilled and unskilled, educated and young constitute the widened class of exploited, oppressed and dispossessed. The MNCs and corporates create threat on humanity by destroying forests and ecology. Global warming and climate change triggered by profiteering and productivist ideas of development could be held responsible for destruction of livelihood and proliferation of disease. It is time to put a halt on this unbridled exploitation of human beings and nature by capital.
History never ends with the narrative of capital, howsoever ‘objective’ they try to portray it to be. It is once again the battles of classes that make history and every new phase of struggle against capital demand an appropriate configuration of class formation defined by new boundaries of friends and enemies. It is the ‘class-for-itself’, conscious of its aims and purpose, the becoming of the working class who recompose themselves through struggle, build the largest possible solidarity of working people because their lived lives tell them every day that they can’t fight alone against capital, neither can escape capital’s rule through individual negotiations. With these rich experiences of struggle the working class in the making emerge to be the potential force most committed to change the rule of capital because they have nothing to lose but their chains and a world to win!
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