Video: 9th December 2012 – Automobile Workers’ Convention

Delhi Gang Rape and the Feminism of Proletarian Militancy

Pothik Ghosh

Demands for harsh and summary punishment for rapists, or for that matter, stringent laws to deal with  rape – fuelled as they are by moral outrage – do little else than reinforce the capitalist structure of patriarchy that thrives on gendered division of labour between waged productive work and unwaged reproductive work. For, any such legal-juridical demand or move is willy-nilly grounded in the assumption that the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of social relations need not be transformed to protect women from sexual violence. In fact, such self-righteous moral outrage underpinned by the lust for inquisitorial-gladiatorial spectacle is, at the systemic-structural level, nothing but an ideology that legitimises the capitalist-patriarchal structure. It tends to reinforce the general consensus – precisely by marshalling the crises of the system it can no longer conceal – that the only matrix capable of protecting women against violence is one that is normatively capable of instituting stringent laws against perpetrators of such sexual and/or gender violence, ensures their strict enforcement and delivers harsh punishment to offenders. The reinforcement of such a consensus does no more or less than preserve and reproduce the structure of gendered division of labour, and sexual inequality.

Moral Outrage and Capitalist Juridicality

The legal-juridical approach to protect women not only denies them autonomous agency, as it serves to interpellate them as unequal subjects of a gendered socio-economic system, but also masks the implication of the agency of all its citizen-subjects in that gender-unequal structure of social power. Meanwhile, those citizen-subjects, who turn agents of such legal-juridical approach to anti-systemic politics, live in the neurotic comfort of condemning rape and baying for the blood of rapists even as they perpetuate the gender-unequal structure of social power through their agency as citizen-subjects of civil society and its constitutive unit: the family. This structure of social power is the very condition of possibility for such gruesome acts of sexual and gendered violence, which are, therefore, its cultural and ideological embodiments or mediations. Hence, such moral outrage of citizen-subjects ties up neatly with the legal-juridical approach that serves to sidestep the fundamental question of socio-economic transformation by sweeping the collective consciousness clean of it, thus enabling the system to manage its structural crisis by transferring it, either fully or partially, from one location to another. As a consequence, the system is not only preserved but it also reproduces itself through the further extension of its panoptic web of biopower and the political-economic logic that inheres in it. Clearly, morally outraged demands for fixing gruesome acts of sexual violence such as rape in their sheer immediacy is the political language constitutive of a subjective agency of opposition that is integral precisely to the extended reproduction of the very system it seeks to oppose in one of its many determinate moments. That, needless to say, reinforces the legal-juridical approach even as it precludes the transformation of the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of socio-economic power through its decimation.

The immediate fight against sexual violence such as rape must grasp such despicable violence not as a problem of sheer lawlessness that, therefore, can be eliminated through the enforcement of the law and the reinforcement of its concomitant system, but as a crisis of the very system and its structure that, therefore, needs to be destroyed in order to abolish such crises integral to it. Rape is not an aberration of the system that the latter can eradicate by asserting – instituting/enforcing – the law that holds the system together as its raison d’ etre. Rather, it is one of the many forms of heinously oppressive violence that is integral to regimes of class domination that is enshrined in and as the systemic rule of law. Hence, the eradication of rape and other such forms of coercive patriarchal oppression, which make for the constitutive exception of the law, is contingent not on extending the remit of the legal. Instead, it lies precisely in the abolition of the law and the capitalist socio-economic structure coeval with the legal and, which to reiterate the earlier point, is the condition of possibility of patriarchy and all its forms of control and coercion.

It is no accident that moral outrage against gruesome acts of rape and sexual violence, which fuel demands for either more stringent anti-rape laws or harsh punishment for rapists, or both, is inseparable from disciplinary control over the vector of women’s bodies and lifeworlds. All for their safety and security. The social, if not the individual, subject that articulates both those discourses is indivisible.

This argument does in no way, however, preclude the question of politically fighting rape in its immediacy. Rather, what it insists on is the inescapable need for such a struggle to figure how the general strategy of fighting capital in order to overcome it should articulate its tactics in their immediacy, and not be conflated with it to be hypostatised. The legal-juridical fight against rape is a tactical position that ought not to be blinded by the affect of moral outrage that animates it to the strategy of decimating the capitalist-patriarchal structure. A strategy that ought to inform, articulate and orientate the social subject waging the immediate, tactical struggle for legal-juridical measures against rape. As for the question about whether or not moral outrage about rape is necessarily inseparable from patriarchy, the need is clearly to deal with it at its two different levels of determination: one of individual subjectivity and the other of social subjecthood. In the first instance, the correlation is not necessary, while in the second case, if the morally outraged social subject is interpellated by the legal-juridical approach and is thus rendered incapable and/or unwilling to pose the fundamental structural (or mediated) question then moral outrage is doubtless coeval with patriarchal power. It is actually no less than the ideology of capital in this, its late conjuncture. Of course, there is no duality between the two subject-positions as they are in a dialectic. And precisely, therefore, there can be no unidirectional determination. That is, an individual subjectivity of moral outrage, even if it is informed by a conception of social subject for structural transformation, cannot, merely by claiming to be informed by such radical subjectivity, stand in as such for the actuality of the radical, system-transforming social subject. That social subject, which is incipiently present in the subjectivity of a radical individual, has to be generalised beyond that incipience for it to be sustained in its actuality. Politics is what politics does. Not what it says it does.

Class Struggle on the Woman Question

Therefore, the woman question should not be reduced to a question of juridical identity and that it should, in its tactical determinateness, articulate the generalised strategy of class antagonism. This is not to say that rape becomes a secondary question from the vantage point of revolutionary working-class politics. And that, therefore, the struggle of the hour is for socialism, whose coming would automatically take care of gender inequality and sexual oppression. Instead, there is an urgent need to stake out a revolutionary working-class position with regard to intervention in gruesome instances of sexual violence where the public consensus is single-mindedly focused on meting out harsh punishments – death by hanging, castration, etc – while remaining incapable of or unwilling to question how gender-insensitive laws and law-enforcement are integral to the capitalist-patriarchal structuring of social relations, or social power.

However, what must at this juncture be openly acknowledged, and admitted – without a shred of ideological sophistry – is that the dominant current of movements, which have based themselves on the conceptual centrality of the class question, have been paradigmatically blind to how, among other things, capital has engendered class. In other words, the working-class movement should recognise that its dominant tendencies have failed to foreground how the structure of capital has divided labour and thus segmented the working class through the political-economic specification, re-inscription and re-articulation of the pre-capitalist gendered power relations. The capitalist structure has specified pre-capitalist patriarchy to effect gendered hierarchisation of the domains of productive and reproductive work to enable transfer of value to preserve and perpetuate a system constitutive of differential rates of exploitation (extraction of surplus value). Not just that. The capitalist-patriarchal ideology of ‘legitimate’ sexual inequality generated by this gendered privileging of productive over reproductive work has been instrumental in the gendered segmentation of labour – through unspoken custom if not enshrined contract – in the productive sphere itself as also the larger sphere of so-called non-work socialisation. The working-class movement would, therefore, do well to realise that the paradigmatic blindness of its dominant tendencies to this dimension of our political-economic reality has yielded a conception of working-class unity that is nothing but the instrumentalisation of the everydayness of working-class women by the politics of the male proletariat. That has rendered the latter the oppressive intermediaries of capital and dominant petty-bourgeois agencies of property-forms vis-à-vis the former. In short, such ‘working-class unity’ has been integral to the restoration of capitalist class power.

The women’s movement would, meanwhile, do well not to repeat such a paradigmatic error. The specification, and rearticulation, of the gendered relations of power by the capitalist structure cuts both ways. Capital does not merely engender class but also, in the same movement, classi-fies gender. It marshals gender inequality to segment the working-class even as the homogeneity of gender is itself subjected to a class-based internal differentiation based on a hierarchically relational gradation of property-form and labour-dimension. In such circumstances, to target only patriarchy as the root of such gender oppression and sexual violence as honour killings, rape and so on is to attack only the ideological form – culture if you will – of gender oppression and violence while leaving the capitalist structure that animates or articulates it intact. A structure that is capable of coopting anti-patriarchal women’s  movements by articulating them in a manner that enables such movements to raise the perfectly just demands for the abolition of various unfreedoms that shackle womankind in its gendered entirety even while bringing emancipation from such gendered unfreedoms to certain locationally select segments and sections of women to the exclusion of the rest, and thereby neutralising the movements by weakening the strength and/or energy of the mass that drives such movements by accentuating the segmentation within it.

Towards the Feminism of Proletarian Militancy

The point here is certainly not to join the chorus of status-quoist cynics, who are seeking to diminish the current anti-rape mass upsurge on the streets of Delhi as a middle-class fad. Such cynicism is insidious to say the least. Sexual violence and gender oppression cannot, by any stretch of imagination, qualify as a middle-class or petty-bourgeois concern. Insofar as gender inequality, which is a form of class domination, is co-constitutive of such violent oppression, sexual violence is a working-class question at its core. Rather, the point of the argument really is that the mass upsurge should recognise its objectively incipient working-class character so that it can be generalised. In short, this movement against sexual violence must not only challenge the dominant culture of patriarchy – which it is doing in large measure, thanks to the participation of various communist-left mass organisations and other radical women’s groups – but must also simultaneously become a struggle against segmentations and divisions within the gendered class of women proletarians if its battle against patriarchy has to really succeed. In other words, an effective struggle against patriarchy can only be a revolutionary working-class struggle. One that doesn’t evade the gender question in the name of some larger, beyond-gender working-class unity, but focuses on the gender question in its specificity in terms of rearticulation of the culture (ideology) of patriarchy within and by the materiality of capital. To do merely the former is the path of radical feminism while an approach that dialectically articulates the former with the latter is the feminism of proletarian militancy.

What would the adoption of such an approach mean in the concrete specificity of the current anti-rape mass movement in Delhi, though? For starters, it would not only mean stoutly resisting calls for capital punishment for or emasculation of the perpetrators of sexual violence but even steering clear of such juridical-legal demands as improving the abysmally low rate of conviction  in rape cases, making rape investigations less patriarchally prejudiced and strengthening our frail and ineffectual anti-rape laws. Such demands – which are currently emanating from the more politically progressive tendencies in the movement – presuppose that the current system is capable of delivering on them and that such delivery is contingent merely on some disembodied, spiritualised will of the system. In other words, the socio-political subject that articulates such demands is a subject of reformist politics interpellated by the juridical-legal ideology and the concomitant hope that the system is structurally capable of reform. It is, therefore, unwittingly or not, complicit in the perpetuation of the capitalist systemic structure that is the necessary, if not sufficient, condition for the generation of cultures of gender oppression and sexual violence. Clearly, the stress of radical politics cannot, for that reason, lie on mobilising the street to berate and condemn the patriarchal mindset of the administrators either. Such an approach to the state of affairs dovetails nicely with the juridical-legal mode of reformist politics because such condemnation implies that it can shake a patriarchally callous and prejudiced administration from its anti-woman mindset by the sheer force of its intensity, and that therefore there is no structural constraint on the latter to transform itself for the better. Nothing, as we have seen, is farther from the truth. Worse, the discourse of such politics, thanks to its reformist modality, is inevitably populist that can (often has) dangerously veer to the right in the course of the mass movement. For, registers and idioms have a way of taking a life of their own, not least because they are inscribed within systemically operational structures.

Radical political intervention should learn to shun the discourse of crime and punishment to relearn its classical language of oppression and resistance. A language that disentangles the question of justice from that of law by freeing the former from the hypostatized prison of the latter. It should pose the very same systemic problems – low conviction rate, weak laws, culturally biased investigation and custom-based, communitarian subjugation of bodies and lives of women – with regard to gender oppression and sexual violence such as rape to expose the structural incapacity of the system to reform itself and remedy the situation. And through such exposure conscientise – orientate if you will – the mass upsurge triggered by perception of such ‘crimes’ to demand the impossible of the system: that its administration, police and, eventually, its private and public corporations, must cede their governmentalised control over and determination of every aspect of the lifeworld of the working masses to the popular subjectivity of the mass movement. A politics based on demanding the impossible is needed in this case not only because the system is structurally incapable of riding itself of gender-inequality and the patriarchal ideology co-constitutive of it but also because the juridical-legal approach legitimizes the politics of demands the system can possibly deliver on and, in the process, articulates a subject that reproduces the logic of duality and determination – which is constitutive of the capitalist law of value and phallocentric patriarchy, both embodied by the state.

Only when the current mass upsurge comes to be animated by this radically (im)possibility will it have begun actualising its revolutionary incipience by struggling to not merely occupy Delhi but seeking to take control of that occupied urban spatio-temporality by re-organising the social relations constitutive of it through the general assembly-driven mode of popular vigilance into a free associational or solidaristic sociality. The actualisation of such a radical subjectivity by the movement in question would enable it to see and envisage its struggle against the system in its dialectical indivisibility with the task of re-organising the given social and production relations. Something the class power constitutive of the system in question tends to render impossible, thus making the deployment of popular force by those who struggle indispensable for their task of generating counter-power through such re-organisation of the given socio-economic relations. That would, inter-alia, put an end to the false and grossly counter-productive binary between violent and peaceful protests that we have seen emanating from within the movement over the past few days. One that threatens to sap the movement of its unity and energy, what with the clear and present danger of the movement being hijacked from within – either by the reformists or the petty-bourgeois right – staring it in the face.

That this is no flight of fancy is more than evident in what the anti-rape mass movement itself has thrown up. Some radical students and youth organisations and individuals of Delhi have imagined into being a campaign, as part of the ongoing protest movement, to “reclaim the nights of the city”. The carnivalesque spontaneity of this reclamation campaign posits – of course, in a rather nascent form – the possibility of an insurrectionary sociality of people’s militias that wrest Delhi and its streets from all oppressors – the rapists, as much as the police and administration that is structurally complicit in such oppression – for popular vigilance and control. That possibility must, however, be recognised if the campaign is not to get caught in its carnivalesque spontaneity and degenerate into another festival of the anarcho-desiring petty-bourgeois youth. Only through such recognition can the politically conscious elements of the revolutionary left that is part of the campaign seriously strive towards building wider solidarity networks with the larger sections of the working people of the city, beyond the student-youth axis of the current campaign. Such wide-ranging solidarity networks are, needless to say, indispensable and integral to the process of occupation of a city and the simultaneous subordination of the socio-economic process constitutive of it to popular vigilance and control. Ironically, it is only by organising the carnivalesque spontaneity of the so-called reclamation campaign into a mode of popular control and vigilance of the sociality that are the nights, as also the days, of Delhi can this carnival preserve itself by obviating its day-after to become, in Ernst Bloch’s words, a “concrete utopia” of uninterrupted insurrection.

Instead, what we have so far  from the radicals in the anti-rape mass movement, the communist left groups included,  is, at best, a version of the juridical-legal approach tinged with the rhetoric of radical feminism. This approach has given their politics, even though they raise precisely the very same set of pertinently concrete questions they ought to have raised in order to radicalize the situation, a disagreeably unradical populist odour. It even risks reversing the good faith of such politics into bad. Such juridical-legal demands, regardless of the nobility of intent of the subject of such politics, can only serve to further securitise and thus governmentalise the political discourse and enable the extension and intensification of repressive state apparatuses and biopolitical instrumentalities such as the police force, and CCTV cameras and global positioning systems in public spaces respectively. And that is because the nobility of its intent does little to change the fact that such politics is wholly geared towards eliciting governmental – executive, legislative and judicial – responses from the system. Those are not merely the only responses the system can possibly come up with but ones it must come up with in order to extend its dominion and thereby reproduce itself.

In a more general sense, the communist left must remember that a revolutionary subjectivity is not one that evades certain immediate questions that history/capital throws at it. Rather, that every such question is a ground for leap against capital and its history, and that such a leap can concretely, as opposed to abstractly, come about only if it is able to understand and plot its interventions with regard to the concreteness of those immediate or determinate questions in terms of two mutually related characteristic features of our responses as subjects situated within and informed by capitalism and its history: one, commonsense is ideological and two, our struggle against any immediate domination must in the same determinate instance also articulate a struggle against the generalised hegemony within whose structure both immediate domination and the struggle against it are situated. A social subject of opposition that is not orientated by such knowledge runs the grave and virtually imminent risk of falling prey to the cunning of capital in precisely the same moment when it puts up its most spirited fight against it.

Centre for Struggling Women: Appeal and Demand Charter on growing sexual violence

The recent brutal gang-rape of a 23-year old woman in Delhi has left the entire nation shocked and outraged. The fact that the woman was picked up along with a male companion from a crowded bus stand and then raped in the moving bus has left the public stunned. The sheer brutality with which the rape was committed has fuelled large scale protest. This widespread agitation by women and general masses all over the country reflects not just shock, but is also an expression of tremendous anger against continuous and growing violence on women. After all, the recent case of gang-rape is not an anomaly but a latest manifestation of a deeply ingrained rot that corrodes our lives, now overtly and at other times covertly.

Unfortunately, while there has been massive public outrage and a long dormant anger has spilled onto the roads, there has been little effort to tackle this issue in a rational manner. Spontaneous anger and symbolic violence have given vent to our frustration, but also carry the danger of being co-opted by the vested interests of the ruling class and its decadent culture. Therefore, this is an opportune (and imperative) moment for us to envisage ways in which to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future, and to ensure that the agitation against violence on women is not misused by vigilante groups (and other dubious social forces). We have to keep our autonomy of action, as well as the independence of our will intact. Thus, we must consciously deliberate upon the direction and content of the ongoing struggle.

It is important to remember that we are not fighting against only one brutal incident of rape, but against an entrenched phenomenon. It is a fact that women in this country have and are facing sexual exploitation and oppression in diverse forms. Recently cases of rapes have been reported from Haryana, Gujarat, UP and other states but the media has made the current case a city specific issue. Clearly, not all incidents of rape have met with the same quantum of media coverage and public outcry (at least at the level of the capital and its corridors of power). This is not to say that there have been no movements or agitation against sexual violence on women. Indeed, the ongoing protests should be seen in continuation with and connected to other protests against similar violence on women. Hence, the current protests should not be de-linked from, or stand unaware of the ground prepared by preceding struggles like those of the stone pelting spirited masses in Kashmir, the naked protest by Manipuri women against the sexual offences committed by army personnel, the protest against the rape and murder of Dalit women in Khairlanji (Maharashtra), etc.

Of course, for many, the current protests in Delhi might be a belated response to all these equally spine-chilling incidents of rape and brutality. However, for many others, it is the (uncomfortable) proximity of the incident (the feeling that the rape took place in the capital itself and could happen to anyone) which might be propelling the response. Moreover, some are troubled by the fact that political opportunists have increasingly taken hold of the spontaneous mass reactions. From the unfortunately named Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (which has absolutely no relationship with the progressive ideology of Bhagat Singh, nor any connection with kranti), Shiv Sena activists, misogynist ‘babas’, funded ‘anti’-corruption crusaders, cadre from a Party of rapist-rioters to all kinds of agent provocateurs have high jacked the reactions of common masses. Some have rightly pointed to the hypocrisy of the media which has been ‘earnestly’ covering the current protests. Indeed, the very media which talks about reform measures to curb such incidents also projects women as objects of sexual fulfillment through advertisements, promotion of nudity through newspapers, etc.

In this light, we must realize that we need to assert our autonomy from such elements, and recognize who are the genuine and authentic fighters. We must also plan and prepare for the long run so that the next time, instead of them outnumbering us, we overpower them with, both, our ideological preparation and organizational resilience.

We need to realize that in no movement or mass reaction of such kind can we find a pure constituency, i.e. people who want to genuinely fight against women’s oppression because in the safety and freedom of all women they see the liberation of women they know.  Of course, the general male chauvinist response is to protect ones’ own womenfolk, but to do the same to others. This is precisely why at various venues of the ongoing protests, many male ‘agitators’ were seen harassing (ogling, touching inappropriately, etc.) women protestors. Even the recent rape of a factory woman worker by a rapist whose own daughter was raped earlier (19 December 2012 newspaper reports from Welcome area in northeast Delhi) points to the hypocrisy with which male chauvinism functions.

This then brings us to the question of the mentality and conditionswhich perpetuate inequality and violence. While we need to continue our struggle against all odds like Article 66A of the IT Act which prevents us from protesting on the internet, road blocks, tear gas, water cannons, metro blocks, Article 144, etc. which prevent our expressions of discontent from spilling onto the streets, and hence to become visiblethe need of the hour is to make a level headed analysis of the concrete situation and to put forward a set of concrete demands that are rational and desirable. Such an approach also demands that we look beyond the immediate event which is but a mere symptom of several grave problems, and focus our eyes on the disease itself—a disease that will outlive the current event and short-term remedial measures tabled in the name of ‘providing justice’. It is with this objective of fighting the actual malaise and to uproot it as a whole that we are putting forward this set of concrete demands, though without forgetting the old wisdom “without changing everything, we do not change anything”.

Without a doubt, our most formidable weapon against sexual violence is a sustained mass movement. Of course, a list of demands, as the one below, will only see the light of day until women across the country organize themselves under women organizations, and launch a multi-pronged and consistent movement on the issue of women’s exploitation and oppression. We, thus, appeal to all women and men to become part of progressive and democratic organisations so that even after these protests ebb we don’t just go back to leading our existing lives, but continue to aspire and struggle for a more just and equitable society for all. It is in this light, that our demands below are not just demands from the state but also stand for our claims on society.

DEMAND CHARTER

  1. Provide safe and adequate public means of transport. In Delhi itself there is a shortage of more than 5000 buses. This creates overcrowding and scope for sexual harassment of women commuters.
  2. All public means of transport (buses and autos) should be monitored. Every vehicle must be connected with a Global Positioning System (GPS) device so that its movement is monitored by the Traffic Police.
  3. All employees working in DTC, Cluster buses, BEST, city and state transport buses, auto rickshaws, Grameen Sewa must wear the public service vehicle (PSV) badge.
  4. In future recruitment of BUS conductors, priority should be given to women.
  5. No unregistered tourist/travel agencies must be allowed to ply their private vehicles. Further, there should be proper monitoring of personnel working in these private tourist agencies.
  6. Banning of unsafe private transport.
  7. Increase frequency of Delhi Metro trains so that overcrowding and scope for sexual harassment can be checked. Metro trains should ply throughout the night.
  8. Severe punishment for violation of traffic rules, especially tinted glasses, unclear/small-lettered number plates, use of loud music, and loud honking aimed at harassing women commuters.
  9. Vehicles plying at night should be properly scanned.
  10. Increase the number of ladies’ special buses, including their night services.
  11. No auto or taxis should be allowed to refuse passengers. License fees and other charges levied on these modes of transportation must be kept at minimum so as to keep the fare low. Majority of autos and taxis are owned by a handful of cartels-mafias. Such cartels must be busted, and instead, recognition must be given to auto workers’ own unions.
  12. Special women protection cells should be formed in Railways. All compartments in trains should have emergency alarm and other provisions for security of women commuters.
  13. Provision of separate school buses for government school students so that there is no overcrowding on certain routes.
  14. Proper and adequate street lighting.
  15. Women employees working in night and early morning shifts should be provided company transport facility.
  16. Increase the number of affordable working-women’s hostels to ensure safe accommodation for single working women.
  17. All out-station girl students studying in colleges must be provided cheap and safe accommodation by their respective institutions so as to hinder harassment by private landlords.
  18. There should be a clear distinction in the degree of punishment between rape and rape-brutality-murder; the latter should be punished more severely than the former. The quantum of punishment between the two types of rapes should be clearly separated. Death penalty is not a rational option because it would create the danger of every rapist considering murdering the victim so as to efface evidence and escape death penalty. There should be a legislation which recognizes the graded nature of sexual assault/violence based upon the concepts of hurt, harm, injury, humiliation, and degradation. The logic of awarding death penalty to a rapist is based on the male chauvinist belief that rape is a fate worse than death. In this context, the most important deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form.
  19. Separate fast track courts for cases of violence on women should be constituted. 25,000 more courts are required in addition to the existing 16,000. All pending cases of rape (All India-100,000, Delhi 1000) should be solved by specially constituted courts within 100 days.
  20. Medical examination of rape victims should be conducted by lady doctors wherever possible and no intrusive or archaic methods for medical examination should be conducted against the will of the rape victim.
  21. All districts in the country must be equipped with facilities for forensic test.
  22. All rape victims must be provided the needful psychological counseling.
  23. All requisite steps should be taken for the rehabilitation of the victims including adequate employment opportunities.
  24. The onus of proving oneself not-guilty should lie on the accused.
  25. Cross-examination of rape victims must not be allowed to become a cause for harassment.
  26. All those persons whose charge sheets have been filed for rape cases by the Election Commission must be barred from contesting elections for public bodies.
  27. Fill up all vacancies in various subordinate and higher courts. A law should be passed ensuring trial by an elected jury in all courts
  28. Proper protection must be provided for victims and witnesses in the cases of sexual offences.
  29. Rape-trials must be held in-camera and should be presided over by women judges.
  30. Women helpline and other emergency services should be provided round the clock and should be well advertised.
  31. Creation of a special vigilance team to monitor PCR vans.
  32. CCTV cameras should be set in all police stations, and swift action must be taken against errant police personnel. This is in the light of cases like Soni Sori who was tortured and raped in police custody. Shockingly, she is still languishing in a prison in Chhattisgarh.
  33. Increase the proportion of women in the police force. Currently there are less than 6.5 per cent women in the Delhi Police.
  34. Introduce compulsory courses on gender sensitivity in the training module of the Police Force instead of a few token workshops for a handful of Police Officers. Around 80,000 human rights violation complaints are lodged every year against the Police force of which a large number pertain to sexual offence against women.
  35. No male Police personnel should be designated to deal with victims of sexual offences, i.e. for enquiry and for escorting the victims to the court for trial. Instead, lady Police personnel in plain clothes should be deployed for the purpose.
  36. There should be proper distribution of Police between common masses and VIPs. A whopping 50,059 are guarding VIPs, which is 20,000 more than the sanctioned number. These Police personnel should be employed to serve the common masses and not for the security of VIPs and for curbing democratic movements of the masses.
  37. The role and functioning of National Commission for Women (NCW) should be audited annually and made public. There has been a tendency among the ruling Parties to distribute posts in this office as favors to its henchmen! This practice should be discontinued and free and fare elections should happen for all the posts so that individuals with credibility and standing in the women’s movement may be able to make their way to this important office.
  38. Gender sensitization to be included in school and higher education curriculum.
  39. Religious texts and practices/rituals which degrade women and create misogynist culture should be debated, boycotted and banned.
  40. Ban on the sale of liquor after 8pm.
  41. Unauthorized selling of liquor must be stopped and the culprits responsible for the same should be severely punished. Concerned authorities should be reprimanded for their negligence.
  42. Severe punishment for consumption of liquor at public places.
  43. Movement of inebriated groups of men late at night must be monitored and they should be fined/detained if they are perceived to be a threat to the safety of women. Drunken brawls, hooliganism, rowdyism by individuals and particularly groups of men are a major hazard for women travelling late at night. Adequate laws must be passed and efficiently implemented so as to ensure that women may be able to commute safely and free from fears.
  44. Serving of liquor in bars and pubs till late must be banned.
  45. Prompt registration of FIRs must be ensured. If the same is not accepted a written explanation must be provided by the concerned Police Station. Refusal to lodge FIRs filed by Dalits, minorities and tribals should be punished. As per the National Crime Records Bureau Report of 2011, out of the total 14618802 complaints of crime received by Delhi Police only 59249, i.e., less than 0.5 per cent, were registered as FIRs. This shows the general apathy of the Delhi Police towards all crimes in Delhi. As per Delhi Police Annual Report of 2010, only 11.88 per cent of all complaints received by the Crimes Against Women (CAW) Cells in Delhi were converted into FIRs. This criminal apathy is responsible for the confidence enjoyed by criminals in the state. Needless to say here that if the situation is so dismal in Delhi then it must be much worse in the rest of the country.
  46. All necessary steps should be taken to ensure that speedy and efficient investigation is done in rape cases.Currently, a larger proportion of those charged with rape and other crimes against women go scot free. The conviction rate in crimes against women has fallen in the country from a meager 27.8% in 2010 to 26.9% in 2011. As per studies conducted in Delhi, rape convicts imprisoned at the Tihar Jail of Delhi have committed an average of four rapes before conviction! This betrays the failure of the entire criminal-justice system.
  47. Conduct periodic audit on women’s safety in the city. Local women’s organizations and women’s hostel unions must be involved in this process.
  48. Police should be made accountable to women in all urban and rural localities and for this purpose regular Police-woman interactions must be conducted.
  49. Women under no circumstances should be detained at Police Stations during night time. Every Police Station must have women personnel.
  50. A special ‘crime against women’ cell should be constituted within the army to prevent sexual harassment of lady army personnel, to check misogynist culture and to prevent sexual offences against civilian women by army personnel.
  51. Scrap Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act which are being used by the army and Police, respectively, to commit atrocities upon women. Even some of the particularly atrocious cases like Kunan-Pushpor incident (February, 23 1991) in which least 53 women were raped in a single night by the soldiers of the 4th Rajputana Rifles; abduction, gang rape and murder of Neelofar Jaan and Aasiya Jaan of Shopian (Kashmir) on May 2009 by CRPF personnel; and torture, rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by 17th Assam Rifles in Manipur 2004 are yet to be creditably dealt with as a result of the protection provided to the armed forces through the aforementioned Acts.
  52. The C. Upendra Commission Enquiry (2004) Report regarding the Manorama rape case should be made public.
  53. An independent enquiry commission should be constituted to look into the matter of crimes on women committed by army/paramilitary force/police personnel.
  54. All kinds of custodial (prison, police stations, convent, temples, mental asylums, NGOs and hospitals) rapes must be considered as aggravated sexual offences warranting more severe penalty.
  55. Constitute a ‘Children’s Safety Task Force’ and ensure its periodic inspection-visits of schools, orphanages, etc.
  56. All play schools should be properly regulated and monitored.
  57. Selling of dangerous substances like acid, which are used to commit violence on women, should be banned immediately.
  58. Agencies which provide domestic workers (maid servants) should be banned and the agencies should be taken over by the employment exchange department run by the local government.
  59. Depiction of women as sex-objects in advertisements, newspapers, magazines and all other forms of media should be banned and punished.
  60. Complete ban on pornography and on the screening of movies in theaters and songs which portray women in a misogynist manner.
  61. Ban on fashion shows, beauty contests which objectify women’s bodies as sex objects.
  62. Festivals related hooliganism should be severely punished and preventive measures like banning of balloon-selling before Holi should be strictly implemented.
  63. Ensure proper safety of women at all workplaces. Constitute ‘Crime Against Women’ cells in Police Stations of industrial areas, and constitute anti-sexual harassment committees within factories which have trade union representation within them.
  64. Forcing women employees to wear skimpy clothes at airports, pubs, auto expo, restaurant chains, etc. must be banned. Any change of uniform should be done only through consultation and approval of the workers’ union, or representative body of the employees in cases where no union exists.
  65. Make marital rape a punishable offence.
  66. Paid-rapes (prostitution) should be abolished along with proper rehabilitation of victims of prostitution. Complaints of sexual violence perpetrated on prostitutes should be immediately filed.
  67. Trafficking of women and children must be prohibited in all forms and severely punished.
  68. Since in many cases women and children are sexually exploited within the four walls of their home by people known to them, the government should develop an alternative system of accommodation, financial assistance and job opportunities for those women who feel inclined to leave their homes and live independently. Special attention should be paid to the difficulties and needs of disabled women.
  69. All women should be provided job opportunities by the government so that they become independent from their male family members and in situations of conflict may be able to lead their lives independently.
  70. Khap Panchayats, casteist-communal organizations and other kinds of vigilante groups responsible for spreading and normalizing misogyny must be banned.
  71. Severe punishment for the perpetrators of honour-killings, including those who abet this brutal crime.

Released By: MAYA JOHN on behalf of Centre for Struggling Women (CSW)-Sangharshil Mahila Kendra

Contact: cswdelhi@gmail.com

SUPPORTED BY:

Mazdoor Ekta Kendra (MEK), Blind Workers Union (BWU), Anand Parbat Industrial Area Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS)-Delhi, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS)-Haryana, Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (NMSS), Ghar Bachao Morcha-Baljeet Nagar, Mahila Panchayat-Punjabi Basti, ITI Students Solidarity 

Rape Culture and Capitalism: What is living and what is dead

Saswat Pattanayak

I understand many of us, Indians, are ashamed these days. And it is true that protests and placards do not educate the rapists. And that the students came out on the streets only because it is New Delhi. But we should not miss an important aspect of it all – most protesters clearly defying governmental bans are demonstrating an important tactic in the struggle for women’s rights anywhere in the world. This is a strategy that should not be discouraged, rather used everywhere – be it in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Orissa or Manipur.

Or for that matter, in London, New York and Stockholm. Because last checked, India is as unsafe a country for women as are the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden. Statistically speaking, there are more rapes taking place per hour in the US than in India. Whereas in India the number of rape cases amount to over 20,000 a year, the number well exceeds 90,000 in the United States with third of the population. The unreported cases of rape and ridiculously low conviction rates are also common and comparable across the modern capitalist nations.

It is necessary to fight for women’s rights, but why should the drive stop at the borders? Those of us who refuse to adequately acknowledge the protest movement in Delhi by citing the relative silence in Gujarat and North-East also commit similar fallacies when we fail to protest against abuse of women elsewhere in the world. Why should a “safe Delhi” narrative be replaced only with an equally jingoistic, “safe India”? Protesting against social injustice anywhere should be encouraged, not spurned. No matter the intensity, no matter the limited purpose, no matter the viability. True, that the goals go astray when people demand for death penalty instead of conviction, and true, that some reactionary elements at times also end up hijacking the movements, but it is also true that inaction, silence and skepticism are not going to help the principled oppositions to the status quo, that takes place in any shape, way or form.

Violences on women are rising everywhere, in every corner of the globe. But that is only because more cases are being reported today than it used to be the case earlier. The journey from feudalism to capitalism in the case of India is a journey of advancement, of progression. More women today than ever before are aware of what comprises sexual harassment. More women understand their reproductive rights today than they could in the “good old days”, return to which some Indians are craving for by citing the modern “vulgarization of Indian culture” as the prime factor behind growing rape statistics.

Rape culture is a necessary culmination of capitalism, only because it is acknowledged as thus. In the days of slavery and feudalism, women were not even counted as human beings with needs and demands. Certainly there was no hue and cry about “rape” and in the days of the past, the ruling classes comprised kings and landlords – for whom total ownership of women was not something to be ashamed of, but something to take pride in. “Conquest” of women used to be the prevalent culture and rape was never treated as an exception or aberration. Young girls used to be “gifted” to the royals before they could be married off during their childhood days. In many a cultural settings of the past, the “virgins” were first offered to the rulers. It is no wonder that the sanctity around virginity is a result of feudal structure and its remnants today aid the common men in craving for virgin women.

The Good Old Days Fallacies

Any romanticization of the brutal days of the past must end immediately. Neither India nor any other country in the world can claim to have provided for a safe society for women during their feudal stages of developments (barring probably the tribal and other matriarchal phases, which anyway suffered from other malaises). The reality today may not be any better when other factors are taken into consideration, and I shall dwell on that shortly, but uncritical assessment of the days of yore are grossly regressive and we cannot afford to model a future society after such heinous past.

When serfdom gives in to the rise of modernity and capitalism, there are bound to be struggles, but recognition and knowledge of such struggles empower women and other oppressed sections in unprecedented manners. A growing challenge to narrow nationalism helps borrow and reproduce cultural imports, including some progressive ones – and this becomes a step in the right direction for the traditionally oppressed. Thanks to the growing cosmopolitanism, more Dalits and more women are finding for themselves avenues for education and empowerment today. These are by no means small achievements. Indeed, these are the only justifiable achievements a country like India can boast of in its long “glorious” history.

With advent of capitalism and industrialization, more women find themselves at the workplace, and such a shift is bound to challenge the male hegemony. Through empowered outlooks, more women begin to challenge patriarchy, and that too disturbs the traditional males. Through greater involvement in decision-making processes, more women begin to exercise their rights to bear a child – or to opt for abortion, to marry – or not to marry, and finally they begin to articulate as sexual beings, and not just as sexual objects. Of late, India has witnessed a LGBTQ “pride” movement that could not have surfaced without the present consciousness. Through “Slutwalk”, another movement of solidarity among feminists is shaping up globally and Indian women have joined the cause, despite some obvious flaws in conceptualization and appropriation of the word “slut”. Defying the moral police that run ruckus all over the country during “Valentine’s Day”, women in India are now openly flaunting their love interests in the public. Suffice it to say that such liberated outlooks have started to cause a crisis that is about to shatter the status quo and challenge the norms of capitalism.

Capitalism replaces feudal society, but the wealth still remains concentrated along the lines of traditional privileges. Although education and empowerment are ushered in through capitalism, they are properly utilized only by the families of the former landowners. Slaves get emancipated, but they have no way to compete as equals. Capitalism establishes the “old boys networks”, thrives on favoritism and develops a meritocracy whose rules are defined by the traditionally privileged which go a long way in sustaining the class society. Capitalism firmly enforces the class divide and this in turn plays right into the hands of the traditionally oppressive gender, the male.

Be they Indian men or North American men or European men or Australian men or Arab men or Hindu men or Muslim men or Christian men or Buddhist men – the men typically and automatically advance faster than the women under capitalism. Male advancement invariably accompanies brutal competitiveness that characterizes such individualistic societies. At the same time, they are constantly challenged by more women and children – a development for which men, owing to their historical and superconscious makeups, remain clearly unprepared for. Gender violence is akin to class war and racial struggles in the sense that the historically privileged social location retaliates against those it had oppressed whenever it faces a challenge to its dominance.

It will be a wishful thinking to suggest that we go back to the “golden era” of Indian culture. Wishful only because that is clearly not going to happen. Even the societies where feudalism still remains intact will have to advance to capitalism sooner than later. And with contradictions of capitalism – which are of a very different nature than the struggles within feudalism – are going to pave way to even more advanced forms of struggles – the class war. But we have not reached a stage where majority of people are class-conscious and we must go through this essential period of struggle to duly recognize variety of social locations such as caste, race, gender, ability among others, and allegiances such as nationality and religion – the factors that hinder critical social justice education from empowering everyone.

The cultural contradictions

It is necessary to understand that the protests against rape in Delhi have two basic components – one that cries out for death penalty or stricter punishment, and another that demands equality of status for women. While the former is an endorsement of feudalism and a reinforced belief in the status quo, the latter is an unqualified call for socialism. Delhi Police long infamous for being sexist has hired a renowned Bollywood actor-director Farhan Akhtar to entice men into becoming more “man enough” to join them in protecting Indian women. This is not just a crude display of macho tendencies that make the world an unsafe place to begin with, what is even worse is such artistic collaboration lends credence to a law and order system that is inherently oppressive – Indian police and military system systematically brutalizes countless poor through rape, murder and torture as tools to suppress any dissenting voices. No wonder then, despite the advertisements claiming that Delhi Police is interested in protecting women, once the people gather to register their protest on the streets, the state power unleashes its menace through violent suppressions.

But it would be wrong to exclusively focus on Delhi Police. Same calls for feudalistic past are being made by leading women leaders of India as well. Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal has commented on the increasing number of rape cases thus, “The way media is cooking up rape stories, it would be difficult to believe a genuine rape case.” Sushma Swaraj, the leader of opposition in India has dehumanized rape survivors as “living corpses”. Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi has advised women “not to be adventurous”. In each of such assertion lies the firm refusal on part of ruling class women, along with their men, to break away from India’s feudal past.

Just as the struggle continues in modern India to destroy the last remnants of feudalism, so also the struggle must continue to recognize the early symptoms of Indian capitalism. As the traditionally privileged males – the landowning, slaveowning and women-owning –  fail to understand the historical advancements made by women today in almost all spheres of society, their resistance against this upheaval is going to emerge all the more. Traditional men are puzzled over the emerging idea that women no longer need to be bound by traditional family roles, and that such a shift also extends to women’s prerogatives to choose sexual partners whether or not they are married. A major resentment against the sexual freedom for women represents itself through variety of censorships, sexist laws and moral dictates on clothing patterns. Even as rapes continue to be condemned by the society which is ready to shun feudalism, various factors and societal excuses leading to rapes are being deliberated upon by the same society that is struggling with capitalistic values.

A substantial section of the men who oppose rape also are quick to offer the dress codes and time limits for women as well as raising objections against “clubbing”, “smoking”, “extra-marital affairs”, and a general sense of “cultural degeneration” that apparently make women “easy prey”. At the same time, they refuse to acknowledge that men have continued to indulge in every such “vices” without hindrances for centuries. Patriarchy is just not open to letting women join the scene at equal footing, because that would end the system as we know it. And since capitalism provides for the “opportunities” for women to either reject – or, conversely, accept – the terms of objectification, disgruntled men then hold “cultural corruption” accountable as the convenient culprit.

Not only have upper caste Hindus started quoting Manusmriti to reduce women into symbols of “worships”, even the Bahujan Samaj Party which represents Dalit mainstream interests has found itself embarrassed over calls for feudalism as a method to “protect” women. Rajpal Saini, a BSP member of Parliament recently was quoted saying, “There is no need to give phones to women and children. It distracts them and is useless. My mother, wife and sister never had mobile phones. They survived without one.” BSP supremo Mayawati likewise has joined the right-wing ideologues in calling for “stricter laws” as a deterrent to rape. “It is not enough to just arrest them (the rapists), but action should be so strict that no one should dare to act in such a manner.”

What is to be done?

The reality is, conviction rates in cases of rape are abysmally low. Not just in India, but around the world as well. In the United States, there are an estimated 400,000 “rape kits” (just in case, that’s the situation for 400,000 women) currently backlogged. And by the time the kits are tested the statute of limitations expires and the rapists no longer get charged. Only 24 percent of rapists are arrested in America. The statistic is not any more encouraging in the United Kingdom either. The British government acknowledges that as many as 95% of rapes are never reported to the police, and the country has roughly 6.5% conviction rate.

Precisely because of the nature of patriarchy and the way it engulfs feudal/religious societies as well as capitalistic/liberal societies, the need of the hour is to recognize the war against women as a systemic feature of the world, and to collaborate with every progressive force looking to replace such a status quo. Harking back to the past is not the solution. Looking forward to dismantle the forces of feudalism/capitalism is the approach we must adopt. Let there be no surprise or disappointment in the increasing number of rape cases being registered. More the number of women report assaults, more certain are we to become that the political economic system within which we seek solution is an inherently evil – and fragile – one. Arundhati Roy recently spoke about the fact that the rich people used to oppress women exercising a certain amount of discretion in the past, while thanks to the cultural shifts and movie culture today, their disdain towards women is becoming more apparent. While that is true, we also need to acknowledge this as an evolution for the better. The more racist and sexist people expose their real colors, the greater will the need be felt to overthrow the existing system. Just as in the similar vein, the greatest challenge to racism are not the avowedly racists, but those that deny their race privileges.

What is happening in India is truly remarkable. The collective disdain towards the system may not last forever, since right-wing moralists are going to take it over with sheer power of wealth and media distractions, just as the Occupy movement in America got co-opted by the liberal Democrats for their political aspirations. And as such, the dissenters do not always represent the best interests of the most oppressed in such outbursts, where Dalits, blacks, and the poor often do not find themselves represented. But these outbursts, howsoever temporary, do provide for a recipe for non-cooperation and for civil disobedience. As Howard Zinn reminds us, gradual reforms take place not because of good laws suddenly finding their way in, but because of dissenting people compelling the bad laws out of the system through mass movements. The truth is dissenting voices against the ruling classes world over are increasing phenomenally with more people ably aided by critical education and alternative media. Majority of the world is still too poor, and underprivileged to exchange a wage-earning day in favor of a placard-holding session. And that is precisely why oftentimes in history, progressive sections of the society across classes form larger alliances and go against the grains. And towards that extent there is a need for all of us to collaborate with resistance movements that aim to challenge the ruling order no matter if the causes immediately impact us or not, or if the causes are too narrowly framed by taking on specific agendas. Warmongering against Iran must be opposed just as we should protest massacre of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, and demand for rescue of Palestine from the reactionary Zionists. Role of the revolutionary is to recognize that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

In Indian context, some of us are protesting against communalism in Gujarat, some of us are raising voices against militarism in Manipur, some engaged in defending lands in Orissa, some protesting against the rape in Delhi. Each of these movements has the potential to be hijacked, infiltrated, and demolished. And yet, each also has the potential to collaborate with fellow resisters all across the globe, and to encompass the ethos of revolutions that will annihilate feudalism, smash down patriarchy, and shatter every iota of capitalism that is inherently exploitative. Eventually, what capitalism produces are its own “grave-diggers”. And its fall and the victory of the revolutionaries are equally inevitable. And there is never a better time than now, to emerge united with the working women and men, the world over – regardless of the prevailing challenges and, because of them.

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union: On the Automobile Workers Convention (December 9)

This convention is being organized to express the legitimacy of the struggle waged by the workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar in the last one and a half years under the leadership of Maruti Suzuki Workers Union, for which we have come under constant attack, conspiracy and misinformation campaign by the management aided by the government and administration of Haryana.

As you all know, our struggle in Maruti Suzuki Manesar started with our demands for our legitimate trade union and constitutional rights. But just when we raised our voice in demanding our right to Union formation, and also raised the question mark on the illegal practice of contract worker system in the factory, the management started a full-fledged attack on us workers, and as we learnt during our struggle, the company management will go to any lengths to crush our legitimate voices.

In the space of these one and a half years, we have closely seen the real anti-worker face of those in power. We have seen how the government of Haryana and its administration has openly colluded with the management of Maruti Suzuki to safeguard the interests of Maruti Suzuki company-like big capitalists, to wage a battle, nay a war, against the workers. We have no doubt now, after having seen all this, that the incident of 18th July has been orchestrated to serve this war against the workers.

Not satisfied with this, the government machinery has for the last 4 months after 18th July 2012, ensured full cooperation with the management of Maruti Suzuki and made sure that we are given no space at all to raise our voice any further, first with police torture and even shrinking all legal avenues open to us. The 149 workers languishing in Gurgaon Central Jail for more than 4 months now have all the legal right to getting bail, but the state has put all its weight to ensure that they are denied bail and continue to be treated as criminals. On 4th December 2012, all 15 workers (mostly contract workers, who do not even have their names in the original FIR) were denied bail, when all evidence suggested otherwise. But this kind of arrogant and corrupt attitude of the management and the government has only made our resolve to wage our legitimate struggle even stronger.

During the entire phase of our struggle, we have learnt that this kind of corrupt antidemocratic worker attitude and open flouting of all labour laws is not only limited to our Maruti Suzuki but this is the general condition of all workers in the entire auto sector of industry. So to raise the demand of Union formation and to point out the illegal practice of contract workers system under which contract workers in the entire industrial belt in the NCR region are exploited, all of us workers must be united and highlight the legitimacy of our struggle in society. We know that this is a difficult road, full of challenges, but having seen and suffered the inhuman and illegal attack and suppression of our voices and demands, we are accepting this challenge and take a vow to take our ideas and to all the workers of the entire NCR industrial belt.

We once again reiterate our demand to immediately take back all terminated workers and release all 149 arrested workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar. We want to return a healthy working atmosphere to the company through negotiation and dialogue, but on respectable and dignified terms and not on the conditions of slavery that is being imposed on us. Along with this, we are also raising our voice against the open loot by capitalists in Haryana and flouting of labour laws, and resolve to wage our legitimate struggle by uniting all auto workers of the region. As part of this, we are organizing a
Convention to make manifest our resolve, and call upon all members of the press to this Convention.

We demand that:

1. In the permanent nature of work in the auto sector in Gurgaon-Manesar- Dharuhera-Bawal-Faridabad-Noida-Ghaziabad industrial region, completely abolish the illegal contract worker system by the year 2013. Till they are not
made permanent, all workers in the auto sector in this region should be given minimum wage of Rs.15,000.

2. All permanent workers in the auto sector must be given minimum wage of Rs.25000.

3. Unions must be formed in the auto belt industrial region. Within 45 days of application for registration of Trade Union, the concerned labour department must ensure the registration of the Trade Union with due process.

4. The High Court order in favour of workers of Eastern Medikit must be immediately implemented and the illegal lockout be ended. Take back all the workers of Eastern Medkit and ensure payment of due wages.

5. Along with all the 546 illegally terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar, all the contract workers must be immediately taken back to work.

6. All the arrested workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar must be immediately released, the false cases withdrawn and stop the repression and torture of workers.

Provisional Working Committee
MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION

Program details

Date: 9 December 2012; 11am to 6pm.
Place: Ambedkar Bhavan, Panchkuiyan Road,
near Jhandewalan Metro Station,
New Delhi

Contact: Imaan Khan- 09467704883, Ramnivas- 08901127876, Omprakash-
08607154232, Mahavir-09560564754, Yogesh- 08510043143, Katar Singh-
09728778870, Rajpal- 0955542517

Maruti Suzuki Workers Union: The First Day of the Hunger Strike

The terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar plant launched their mass hunger strike today in front of the District Magistrate Office, Gurgaon demanding an impartial inquiry into the incident of 18th July, immediate release of all arrested workers and the withdrawal of all the false charges put on them, immediate reinstatement of all terminated workers, including the contract workers.

The 149 workers in Bhondsi jail, arrested after the July 18 incident also embarked on a parallel hunger strike despite repeated threats of torture by the jail authorities since yesterday. They were threatened to be beaten up, separated and removed to different jails across the state, but have continued their hunger strike since early morning, even boycotting the early morning tea.

Majority of workers in the Manesar plant were also planning a solidarity action of lunch boycott. But just as they embarked on the solidarity action, immense pressure was put by the management and a heavy deployment of around 1000 police was brought in, in the already fortified company premises, to ‘dissuade’ them. The Union President and workers from Gurgaon plant also joined in solidarity with the workers in front of the DC Office, Gurgaon.

From the very beginning, the police and the administration vehemently displayed their anti-worker attitude. In gross violation of the democratic right to protest, the police dismantled the tent and other amenities (eg. Water tanker and sound system) that the workers had set up for the peaceful sit-in event in front of the mini-secretariat. The workers remained determined and vowed to continue the protest as planned in assertion of their rights. In response, the police continued its attack on the workers and detained about 40-50 workers who were packed off to Bhondsi thana. It is only after continued pressure from the workers and the unions present did the police release the detained workers. However, 2 members of the Provisional Working Committee, O.P.Jat and Ramnivas, have been illegally detained inside the police station for so-called further questioning and enquiry. We fear that, as the Haryana police on orders from the company has done, will again put false cases on the workers.

However, despite all these attempts at disruption and intimidation by the police, the first day of the dharna has proved a success and the hunger strike was continued at the decided venue. Representatives from different trade unions and other organizations across India came in solidarity to the protest and spoke at length about the immense injustice faced by terminated/jailed Maruti workers, the highly exploitative working conditions of workers across the country and committed themselves to taking this struggle forward. The speakers emphasized how the united struggle of the Maruti workers is very crucial and that it has served as an inspiration to workers across the country. The assembly was addressed by leaders of various factory unions in the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Bawal industrial belt, including Rajkumar of RICO Employees Union (Dharuhera), Jaspal Rana of HMS, Anil of AITUC, Satbir of CITU, Animesh of IFTU and Shivmangal Sidhankar of ICTU. Workers’ Rpresentatives from Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh, Chattisgarh (like Kaladas) and Sangrami Shramik Karmachari Union, Hindustan Motors, West Bengal (Amitava Bhattacharyya), as well workers from Ghaziabad, Noida, Delhi, and Uttarakhand also spoke in solidarity.

The hunger strike will continue throughout the night, and tomorrow. There is a massive rally planned for 4pm tomorrow that will culminate at the local minister’s house, which is expected to be attended in large numbers by students, teachers, other members of the civil society and workers from across the industrial belt.

The Charge of Neoliberal Brigade and Higher Education in India

Ravi Kumar

This paper looks at the state of higher education in India – in terms of policies and the trajectory that it has taken in the aftermath of neoliberalisation of the economy. Through studying the discourses that  construct the edifice of the educational complex in the country, it unravels the dynamics of how economy, politics and education interact. Lastly, it explores the possibilities of countering the neoliberal offensive of capital and create a more egalitarian higher education system. Download:

Courtesy: The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies

The Faltering Miracle Story of India

Anjan Chakrabarti

Last time Indian economy ran into a major systemic crisis was in the late 1980s; it was a result of and also the final nail in the coffin of state sponsored planned economy. Along with the collapse of Soviet style command economies, it signalled the unsustainability of economic system built on absolute or near total control of state over the economy. That crisis helped spread the philosophy of neoliberalism in India which led to this lesson from the experience of centralized planning: for the goals of rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, state control over the market economy does not work and hence should be abandoned. Since then, structural adjustment program evolved in a gradual process of two decades, giving rise to a competitive market economy that is integrated into the global economy; as against the privileged position of planners, this new paradigm also protracted the supremacy of the mass of homoeconomicus (optimizing economic man, whether as consumers or producers) whose decision making transpiring in and through this global competitive market regime are supposed to generate the economy wide outcomes that are efficient. A connection between macroeconomics and microeconomics is thus made whereby the macroeconomic outcomes were seen as result of microeconomic behaviour in a competitive market economy1; it was believed that such a connection will produce high growth rate regime, stable and reasonable inflation and rapid employment in the industrialized sector (inclusive of manufacturing and services). Among the microeconomic decision makers were, of course, the global capitalist enterprises which, like the homoeconomicus as consumers, were taken as privileged for they were seen as essential instruments of generating high value and hence growth. Evidently, this competitive market economy helped create and facilitate global capitalism in the Indian economy. It is to this structural change that we move next.

Problem over Sharing the Indian Growth Miracle

As it has evolved gradually through an assortment of reforms, this paradigm shift produced a structural remapping of Indian economy taking the shape of circuits-camp of global capital qua global capitalism and its outside world of the third2. This changing map of Indian economy was driven by, among other things, the primacy accorded to global capitalist performance, appropriation and distribution of surplus which, via high growth rate, resulted in the expansion of the circuits-camp of global capitalism; this expansion, not surprisingly, meant a war on, or primitive accumulation of, world of the third3. In other words, process of primitive accumulation ensured that growth has been exclusionary (that is, devoid of trickle down effects), where the exclusion has taken two forms: one, by excluding a vast section of the population from the benefits of rising income growth, a phenomenon symbolized by worsening Gini coefficient, and two, further exacerbating existing social inequities (based on caste, ethnicity, gender, etc.). In fact, the dual phenomena of income equality and social inequity compensated, complemented and reinforced one another to exclude a large section of Indian population (residing in the margins of the circuits-camp of global capital and world of the third) from the benefits of economic growth; while due to measurement problems there is some controversy over the exact trend of income poverty, there is a strong indication that non-income factors of poverty (captured by the statistics of malnutrition, health, education, etc.) may have stagnated or worsened. The overall picture is that of a country of increased prosperity (concentrated in the hub of the circuits-camp of global capital) but growing divide as well.

The event of exclusionary growth was acknowledged and internalized by the policy circle and many economists after the disaster of ‘Shining India’ in the 2004 elections; it was agreed that exclusionary growth must be tempered by an attempt to include the left out population through redistribution of benefits of economic growth; inclusive development aspires to become the new national trope supposedly uniting Indians, notwithstanding their other differences, into a single national project of development in which all are participants and beneficiaries4. Rather than being in conflict, this imagery sees growth and redistribution as complementarity; high growth (that is, a bigger pie) sustains greater redistribution and greater redistribution in the form of more productive investment among the poor is supposed to secure and propel further growth. Global capitalism (circuits-camp of global capital), working via the competitive market economy, is thus not only good in itself because it rapidly expands growth. It also has instrumental value by delivering direct benefits of growth (the trickle-down effect) and indirect benefit of growth (through redistribution) to reduce poverty; the former will function through market (which, in Indian case, even the policy makers agree is weak) and latter through the intervention of the state. At another level we can interpret this imagery and its underlying policy paradigm as trying to combine the capitalist performance, appropriation, distribution and surplus in a global setting that is fundamentally private-centric and the domain of redistribution which is fundamentally state-centric. Thus, Indian state now encapsulates two rationales, one liberal (minimal interference in the competitive market economy, that is, in the circuits-camp of global capital) and the other dirigiste (directly intervening and controlling the redistribution process to world of the third); it combines these to secure the modernization process via the expansion of global capitalism (or, circuits-camp of global capital). This is projected as a truly win-win situation which is a result of the gift of globalization and the benefits derived from it in the form of enhanced wealth creation that the integration of Indian economy into a globalized world has enabled. Not only has the Indian growth miracle permanently arrived, but inclusive development enables the entire country – all population – to share and be a partner in this miracle. It is of course another matter that rulers at different times spare no effort in producing and disseminating pictures (in which nothing can seemingly go wrong) that in the end turn out to be delusional; previously, the picture of ‘Garibi Hatao’ and ‘Shining India’ were two such pictures. As in all case of delusional pictures that promise everything to everybody, this imagery is now in a state of crisis in more than one ways. We discuss one axis of that crisis here.

Microfoundation of Macroeconomics: A recipe to end depression or to begin one

Critical to this imagery is the assumption of high growth; an assumption bolstered no doubt by the actual realization of high growth rate regime which in turn is traced to the creation of a competitive market economy. This in turn has led to a sacrosanct belief and robust defence of the competitive market economy as against state intervention/control, and global capitalism as against national capitalism. However, since 2007, that growth story is in serious danger which in turn forces our attention to areas taken thus far as immune from discussion. In fact, Indian economy’s trouble expands well beyond the faltering growth story. In the last five years, Indian economy has slowly moved into a terrain of a deep crisis, perhaps in the same scale as the earlier one; in the sense that it is threatening to take the semblance of a systemic crisis. This time though, with a drastically truncated role of state vis a vis market and weak trade union opposition, the blame for this crisis can only fall on the combined effects of neoliberal globalization and global capitalism or the mechanism of global capitalist centred production, distribution and consumption of goods and services functioning through the conduit of competitive market economy. Is it then the case that the source of the systemic crisis resides in the illness of competitive market economy? This though is not the accepted position; nor is it yet the point of debate in India.

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insists that Indian economy’s fundamentals are robust, and hence its growth story, while faltering in the short run, is protected in the long run. If we accept Keynes’ dictum that ‘in the long run we are all dead’ (by the way, five years is not a very short period either) which in no small part is substantiated by the overdetermined and contradictory processes pulling and pushing the Indian economy into who knows where, then a question crops up. What is meant by saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong?

Now, surely the Prime Minister is not referring to the macroeconomic fundamentals. A cursory glance at the basic indicators tells a sorry story in that front: growth rate is falling, inflation rate is resiliently high (transpiring, says RBI, mostly from supply side factors which keeps accumulating the problem), falling private saving and investment, growing current account deficit driven mainly by worsening trade deficit, pressure on capital account, declining rupee value and at times volatile exchange rate movement, and increasing fiscal deficit. This is indeed a case of fundamentals gone haywire and, as we are witness to, seem to be resiliently invariant to policy changes (pertaining to fiscal, monetary and exchange rate regimes), that are transpiring rapidly, being fired from all possible directions; this trouble is in fact finding further fodder through the global inter-linkages that is exporting the global problems into India in plentiful forms (the deleterious effects from Europe being the latest addition) thereby aggravating an already difficult situation. The trouble is not merely that the economy is faltering, but that the process is transpiring in a dynamic environment that is private (competitive market economy) and global, in which many processes/variables are not under the control of the policy makers if they are at all known to them in the first place. So much has been talked about the benefits India has garnered from its integration into the global economy; our mainstream friends would like us to be held captive by that picture. Yet, the last five years have shown that there is a cost of this integration too which now can hardly be left unquestioned. A lesson: there is no win-win harvesting from globalization. Like all other entities, the process of globalization is beset with overdetermination and contradiction, throwing up unpredictable outcomes and harbouring unknown possibilities, and for a competitive market economy integrated into a globalized world thus suggests the existence and the need to not only accept the possibility of business cycles, but also of breakdowns.5

If not macroeconomics, it then appeals to reason that the Prime Minister must be referring to the strong fundamentals pertaining to microeconomic environment; this can only mean the competitive market economy materializing from the liberalization policies of the last two decades. The suggestion here is that creating such an economy has succeeded in producing a level effect meaning that the minimum bar on the growth rate has been permanently raised as compared to that of the planning era. As a justification of this position, the high growth rate in the previous decade is presented as a proof. If this is accepted then it follows that the neoliberal policies by creating this competitive market economy have done a service to India. Because of the level of high growth rate, India stands a better chance not only to become richer but also reduce its poverty sharply.6 But then, if we are to accept this, how do we reconcile a sound microeconomic environment with a disturbing macroeconomic picture? How could the two set of fundamentals be moving in opposite directions? Can they in the first place do so? This leads to a deeper issue as the following argues. Let us begin by positing the position of neoliberal economics.

That sound microeconomic picture can co-exist with a systemic failure at the macro level is contrary to the neoliberal dictum which theorizes a picture of macro economy emanating from microeconomics; this is now the consensus of mainstream neo-classical economics. In addition to this frame as being methodologically robust in the sense of capturing the concrete reality, it is further held that a competitive market economy functioning with a supporting but non-intervening state7 will produce better macroeconomic outcomes than otherwise. And, to cap it all, such an economic system rules out systemic failures such as depression; any state interference here will produce an inferior outcome or worse; the role of state is only to ensure that competitive market economy is created, facilitated and secured from outside interference (such as anti-competitive practices, trade union activities, expropriation, etc.) and its own discretionary behaviour (following rules is better than discretionary policies). The confidence entrusted in this new paradigm can be gauged from the following quote in a Nobel Prize acceptable speech by Robert Lucas.

Macroeconomics was born as a distinct field in the 1940’s, as part of the intellectual response to the Great Depression. The term then referred to the body of knowledge and expertise that we hoped would prevent the recurrence of that economic disaster. My thesis in this lecture is that macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded: Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved, for all practical purposes, and has in fact been solved for many decades. There remain important gains in welfare from better fiscal policies, but I argue that these are gains from providing people with better incentives to work and save, not from better fine-tuning of spending flows. Taking U.S. performance over the past 50 years as a benchmark, the potential for welfare gains from between long-run, supply-side policies exceeds by far the potential from further improvements in short-run demand management. (Robert E. Lucas, JR. 2003)

Coming from arguably the chief architect of modern macroeconomics and the economist principally responsible for demolishing Keynesian macroeconomics, the claim that depression – the term mainstream economics uses to signify economic breakdown as opposed to business cycle or fluctuations around trend which is regular – is over was a colossal claim8; colossal but also one which fell flat with the appearance of the global economic crisis. It showed that macroeconomics has still not solved its self-proclaimed central problem of depression and by corollary that what some such as Paul Krugman calls the ‘voodoo’ economics of supply-side is, to put it mildly, deeply problematical. Paraphrasing Lucas from our vantage point it appears that Marx’s observation of capitalist economic system containing the seeds of its breakdown was true in 1940s as it is now. The trouble is that the ‘voodoo’ economics continue to be the dominant economics, whereby its influence is deeply rooted in the currently policy making circles; even as depression can no longer be denied, the theoretical consensus that had resulted from the anti-Keynesian revolution enacted by supply side macroeconomics continue to hold considerable sway. And this theoretical consensus presents a deeper trouble. It lies in the inherent claim that a global capitalist regime under the conditions of free agents functioning in a competitive market economy with minimal state interference will lead to the disappearance of systemic failure such as that epitomized by depression.

If evidence is any proof (and economists revel in it), then we can conclude that there must be something fundamentally wrong with the axiom of Cartesian methodological individualism in a competitive market economy producing a depression free system. This hypothesis evidently rules out any autonomy to the economic structure which is specified in neoclassical economics as general equilibrium economy. If autonomy of structure is granted then that could carry the possibility of effects and outcomes irreducible exclusively to the optimizing behaviour of the agents interacting through market.9 However, unless we agree that this autonomy exists, it becomes difficult to locate and explain the appearance of the current economic crisis that is now global. That being the case, one of the central hypotheses of neoliberal economics – if individuals are free decision-makers, markets are self-regulating and hence sufficient for the system – becomes moot. Markets do have unique features and effects, but to enable a depression free economy is certainly not its forte. In short, the framework of neo-liberalism or its economic discipline of neoclassical economics cannot explain systemic collapse. In contrast, Keynes and Marx, in their own different ways, insisted on the relative autonomy of the structure, a relative autonomy that can be traced to the structure and, at times, the non-optimizing behaviour of the agents. It has also been suggested by others that parts do not add up to the whole; that the whole also needs to be specified and analysed in terms of its unique features and effects.10 This is not to say that individual decisions and market do not influence the structure (we believe that they certain do), but that structure cannot be seen as mere sum total of individual decisions.

If, in contrast, we accept that indeed microeconomic foundations produce macro economy or even go with our milder proposition that microeconomics do partially, but not totally, influence macroeconomics, then one must confer some quarter of blame (and if we are to follow the framework of neoclassical economics) to the kind of basic economy that constitutes microeconomics. Merely blaming the Indian economic crisis on the global economic crisis (a common refrain among Indian policy makers now) sidesteps the issue we are raising here.11 Since the 1980s, the neo-liberalization of global economy has produced a transformation towards a competitive market economy, a move that was propelled by developed countries (Harvey 2007). But it is precisely in the latter that the globalness of the current crisis originated and spread.12 If indeed we accept that macroeconomic outcomes are a result of agents’ decision-action in a competitive market economy, then surely it is that economy which must be held accountable for the outcome. In other words, instead of the fundamentals of microeconomics being good, they must be seen as deeply problematical and could be held as containing seeds of instability and destruction at a broader level.

The above underscores that microeconomic environment constituted by the competitive market economy populated by free agents can and does produce economic and social disasters, as it has; far from being self-regulating, markets may produce, as it has, self-annihilation leaving people, regions and even nations struggling to survive. Therefore, not only do we get the insufficiency of the neoliberal qua neoclassical framework in locating and explaining depression (as we argued earlier), but we additionally also find its chief logical conduit of explaining the functioning of economic system faltering. Surely, there is something wrong with this microeconomic environment which in turn calls for a rethinking of the basic economic system itself, the way production, distribution and consumption of goods and services materialize under capitalist form. One the other hand, if one still maintains that microeconomic fundamentals are sound, then one will have to concede that there is a dissonance between micro and macro, that macro economy has relative autonomy including possibilities of structural failure. This realization entails the role of state including active policy ones pertaining to control of the economy, if prevention of economic crisis or disaster (or, what Lucas called depression) is considered as desirable objective. Perhaps, the current economic crisis in India shows that both the aspects are true: there is a problem with the basic economic system produced by global capitalism functioning through a competitive market economy and that a role of the state as an active and intervening player in the economy is necessitated. The importance of the first was argued for by Marx whereby he related the macroeconomic crisis (the crisis of capitalism as such) to the contradiction, convulsion and failure of the competitive market economy functioning through capitalist organization of surplus and suggested the abortion of capitalism as a recipe for resolving the macro crisis. He thus favoured a systemic transformation. The second issue was taken up by Keynes when he suggested the role of the state in overcoming recession and ensuring smoothening of business cycles by actively intervening in and influencing the market economic outcomes, a point we saw was fiercely opposed by Lucas and his acolytes. This also shows that while both Marx and Keynes appreciated the relation between macro and micro (albeit in very different ways), Marx argued that systemic instability and disaster cannot be averted except by replacing capitalism as a system and Keynes suggested that the same can be averted, that is, capitalism saved with the active role of state preventing business cycles from turning into possible depression. Not surprising, neoliberalism as an economic-politico philosophy is not just hostile to Marxism, but also to Keynesianism (even as Keynes’ objective was to save capitalism).  Leaving aside their differences, it is perhaps more pertinent to realize that the current economic crisis has demonstrated that the suggestions of both Marx and Keynes, in tandem, need to be taken seriously. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s allusion to strong microeconomic fundamentals which is tantamount to taking the competitive market economy as sacrosanct that in turn demands a thin role of state, it is perhaps time to seriously question this conjecture and begin a debate on both the nature of economic system and state; to debate them not distinctly, but in tandem as in overdetermination. It is my position that in the current climate of India, this is not happening, either from the Right or Left.

Conclusion

Policy paralysis appears in a different way here. The policy paralysis is a paralysis of thinking that shuts out any solution other than what is the ‘consensus.’ Competitive market economy with capitalist appropriation and distribution of surplus in a global setting is the consensus in this historical episode that, however, also continues to burden us with a growing set of changes or ‘reforms’ that deepen the very processes and system which are responsible for this crisis. How and in what manner these so-called ‘reforms’ are going to put the Indian economy back on track are issues not touched upon? How they are going to put some sanity into our present unstable and volatile systemic regime is left untouched? Indeed, in a scenario where the malaise is systemic encompassing both the micro and macro, it is hardly surprisingly that the policies are not working. The debate from the radical side is disturbing too, being stuck on the need for the enhanced role of state which is, at times, combined with the nationalist trope of self-reliance. There is hardly any questioning of, and debate on, the issue of systemic transformation and the politics of producing it. Well, we have moved from a state sponsored development paradigm to a private market economy driven paradigm, and found both to be wanting. Changing the role of state (say moving towards a strong state) without challenging the economic system is unsustainable as history has shown us; in fact, both must be addressed together. To put it somewhat differently, both the micro and macro, in tandem, must be made the object of questioning and transformation.

Anjan Chakrabarti is Professor of Economics, Calcutta University. He can be reached at chakanjan@hotmail.com.

 

References

Chakrabarti, A and Dhar, A. 2009. Dislocation and Resettlement in Development: From Third World to World of the Third. Routledge: London.

Chakrabarti, A and A.K. Dhar. 2012. “Gravel in the Shoe: Nationalism and World of the Third,” Rethinking Marxism, 24 (1).

Chakrabarti A, A.K. Dhar and Cullenberg, S. 2012. Global Capitalism and World of the Third. World View Press: New Delhi.

Harvey, D. 2007. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, USA

Lucas, Robert, JR. 1976. “Econometric policy evaluation: A critique”. Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy 1 (1): 19-46.

Lucas, Robert, JR. 2003. “Macroeconomics Priorities”, American Economic Review, Vol. 93, No.1.

Resnick, S. and R, Wolff. 2010. “The Economic Crisis: A Marxian Interpretation”, Rethinking Marxism, 22(2).

 

NOTES


[1] Under mainstream economics, Microeconomics is the study of choices of individual decision-makers (not matter how large) to fulfil their wants (satisfaction or profit) in the face of scarcity of resources, while Macroeconomics is the study of economic aggregates intending to capture the overall health and behaviour of entire economy (no matter how small). In the former, the emphasis moves to resource allocation and income distribution which in case of the latter is on economic growth, inflation and unemployment.

[2] Our usage of the terms such as circuits or camp of global capital and world of the third follows the theoretical insights of Chakrabarti, Dhar and Cullenberg (2012) and Chakrabarti and Dhar (2009, 2012) who produce a unique frame to analyse the historical phenomenon of modernization in the Southern setting. In the context of our current issue, these terms can be roughly put in the following way. Following liberalization policies in India, spurred by its wide industrial base (paradoxically, a gift of its previous import substitution policy) and fairly advanced higher education system (also paradoxically courtesy of its erstwhile planning system), Indian industries, particularly the big business houses, gradually adjusted to the rules and demands of global competition and, along with new enterprises, mutated into global capitalist enterprises. Through outsourcing and sub-contracting, they forged relation with local enterprises procreating and circumscribed within a nation’s border (the local market) and with enterprises outside the nation’s border (the global market); it is the symbiotic relation through local-global market that allowed the formation of circuits. Specifically, via the local-global market, global capital was linked to the ancillary local enterprises (big and small scale, local capitalist and non-capitalist) and other institutions (banking enterprise, trading enterprise, transport enterprise, etc.) and together they formed the circuits of global capital. Rapid growth of Indian economy propelled by the expansion of the circuits of global capital (inclusive of manufacturing and services) is feeding an explosive process of urbanization, and producing along the way a culture of individualization and consumerism. It is being complemented by new-fangled notions of success, entrepreneurship and consumerism, of ways of judging performance and conduct, of changing gender and caste relations, customs and mores, etc. Resultantly, what appears is a social cluster of practices, activities and relationships capturing literally the production of an encampment: we name it as the camp of global capital. This camp, especially its hub, is becoming the nursery ground of a new nationalist culture bent on dismantling extant meanings of good life in India and replacing it with the tooth and claw model that emphasizes competition, possession and accumulation. We refer to circuits-camp of global capital as global capitalism. Evidently, in the formation, global capital is taken as the privileged centre.

World of the third, on the other hand, is conceptualized as an overdetermined space of capitalist and non-capitalist class processes that procreate outside the circuits of global capital. A large number of these ‘non-capitalist’ class processes are independent, feudal, communitic, slave and communist as also capitalist class enterprises of simple reproduction type. World of the third is thus a space that is conceptually never part of global negotiations; it is outside, if we may borrow a term from Gayatri Spivak Chakravarty, the Empire-Nation exchange, which refers to exchanges within the local-global market connected to the circuits of global capital. In short, world of the third embrace an overdetermined cluster of class and non-class processes procreating outside the circuits of global capital and are knotted to markets as well as to non-market exchanges. Social cluster of practices, activities and relationships connected to the language-experience-logic-ethos of this space constitutes the camp of world of the third. It may be recalled that what for us is world of the third is for modernist discourses (like colonialism, development, and so on) third world: this is the Orientalist moment through which the modern emerges as the privileged centre. Third world supposedly contains inefficient practices and activities; as nurturing excess labour, labour that is presumed to be unproductive and hence a burden on society; as harbouring a large reserve army of the unemployed/underemployed. In short, it is re-presented as a figure of lack. The foregrounding of category of third world then provides an angularity to world of the third thereby foreclosing its language-experience-ethos-logic and discursively producing a deformation of its practices, activities and relationships. One does not get to appreciate the possibility of an outside to the circuits of global capital; one thus loses sight of the world of the third. Instead, what awaits us is a devalued space, a lacking underside – third world – that needs to be transgressed–transformed–mutilated-included. Thus, world of the third is brought into the discursive register and worked upon, but without taking cognizance of its language-logic-experience-ethos. Critically, this foreclosure of world of the third through the foregrounding of third world (or, by substitute signifiers such as social capital, community, etc.) helps secure and facilitate the hegemony of (global) capital and modernity over world of the third. Taken together, a knowledge formation emerges in which global capital and modern emerges as the privileged centres. Chakrabarti et al unravels and critiques this knowledge formation and through the return of the foreclosed world of the third lays down the contour of a contesting way to theorize the Southern context.     

[3] Chakrabarti and Dhar (2009).

[4] Chakrabarti and Dhar (2012).

[5] On being quizzed as to whether India’s integration into global economy has made it more prone to shocks and instabilities, a friend of mine holding a senior position in a financial institution suggested a few years back that one reason why competitive market economy is good is because it enhances the ability of the economic system to absorb and internalize shocks; this is by no means a very uncommon refrain, at least till a few years ago. In short, breakdowns can never happen. I wonder what he has to say now.

[6] Of course, as we have seen, the question of ‘who is exactly becoming richer or becoming richer much faster than others’ has raised a few hackles and is on its own a question of some importance.

[7] Unlike a robust state (of command economies or welfare capitalism) which believes in ‘more governance is good governance’, neoliberalism believes in, at the level of political philosophy at least, ‘less governance is good governance.’ Of course, given the astonishing quantum of plunder, violence and destruction produced in the name of ‘freedom’ that is neoliberal in nature, one must take this refrain with a grain of salt. But then we are discussing its logical conduit here.

[8] It is notable that macroeconomics not only originated in the West, but its central problem is fundamentally that of the modern market economy as well. USA and Europe have been the theatre of macroeconomics and developments there influenced the macroeconomics discipline and the policy paradigm of state not only in Europe but all over the world. In this sense, macroeconomics has been imperial in nature or should we say it is an indispensable component of any imperialist policies bent on modernization. Interestingly, three episodes of systemic breakdown or depression produced three turns in macroeconomics in the West that in turn enforced a switch in macroeconomic understanding and management across the world. The first was the depression of the 1930s that saw the collapse of the classical paradigm (emphasizing the dichotomy between nominal variables such as money and real variables such as output) which disparaged state intervention; this collapse saw the concurrent rise of Keynesianism (emphasizing that the classical dichotomy is wrong, at least in the short run) which maintained that state intervention and active stabilization policy is necessary to prevent depression and this could be done since there is a tradeoff between inflation rate and unemployment and between unemployment and output. The second episode of depression was marked by stagflation in USA (high inflation and stagnating output) in the late 1960s which even in the face of active stabilization policy to exploit the mentioned trade off failed to get the economy out of depression; this failure of stabilization policies saw the collapse of Keynesian economics and the rise of supply side or new classical economics that once again reiterated the classical dichotomy and the inherent inability of the state to improve welfare in the face of active and enterprising individuals. It was shown that not only did the state led stabilization policy fail to improve the welfare, but also that such interventions created inefficiencies of all kinds. Important in this attack was the paper of Lucas (1976) that showed that there is something methodologically wrong in the way Keynesianism poses its own macroeconomic structure; it does so, he claims, by treating the individuals as docile, passive who would not react to changes in the stabilization policies, precisely what the liberals have condemned as contravening the principle of freedom. Arguing that it is fundamentally wrong to treat the individuals as bereft of agency, he showed that with the introduction of stabilization policies, rather than being passive to the changes brought about by the state, the agents will internalize that information and change their behaviour which in totally will produce an outcome very different from (and inferior to) the case in which it is presumed (as under Keynesianism) that individuals behaviour will remain invariant to change in policies. The Keynesians, contrary to what the liberals would emphasize, took the structure as primary and tried to fit in the individual to this structure (the attempt of what came to known as Keynesian-neoclassical synthesis) when the liberal economists such as Lucas and Edward Prescott were emphasizing the method to be the other way round: individual was to be the primary unit from which the structure is to be derived; not surprisingly then, for the neoliberal economists (the new classical/real business cycle school) the neoclassical micro structure became that fundamental ground and (macro)economy was the derived general equilibrium structure over which macroeconomic analysis and policies are to be examined. The invariance principle and inability to posit the microfoundation of macroeconomics constituted the basis on which Keynesian macroeconomics was attacked and the stabilization role of state found wanting; the macroeconomics that developed through this attack and reconstruction via microfoundation become the missile head of neoliberalism in the field of economics and policy making. The third episode of systemic crisis or depression is the global economic crash since 2007 which has turned the table on neoliberal macroeconomics which has claimed that it has solved the problem of depression by legitimizing the creation of a competitive market economy made of private players and in which stabilization policy of state is not encouraged; a systemic crisis that rose not because of state or any third party intervention (since, in the last three decades they were heavily discouraged) but through the very mechanics of the private competitive market economy certainly did not do the reputation of neoliberal macroeconomics any good. What will come out of this crisis in the field of macroeconomics is yet to be seen though no doubt it has exploded the myth of the fundamental proposition of neo-liberal macroeconomics. As it stands now, macroeconomics lie in tatters.

[9] In modern macroeconomics, general equilibrium is after all the point of reference and departure (even in case of New Keynesian economics where markets are shown to be failing to clear as a result of the behaviour of agents in a free market environment).

[10] Micro and Macro divisions are typical of mainstream economics and not of Marx or Marxism. Accepting the importance of not reading or writing on Marx by reducing him to this structure, in this presentation at least, we invoke Marx with reference to this division of micro and macro for the sake of organization that includes an encounter with neoclassical economics. Rather than reducing Marx to neoclassical economics, it is to highlight the uniqueness of Marx’s contribution.

[11] This comes on top of the fact that this blaming is hardly stopping the policy makers from taking ‘reform’ policies that deepen India’s integration into the global economy and hence, by their own confession, must be taken as increasing the possibilities of transporting global crisis into Indian economy. In other words, the ammunition that they are supplying with the intent to overcome the crisis may end up deepening it. At least, the policy makers need to spell out clearly as to why this would not happen.

[12] For a superb analysis of US economic crisis, see Resnick and Wolff (2010).

Seminar: Challenges facing the labour movement in India (Oct 20, 2012)

Seminar organised by various workers organisations in New Delhi (Oct 20, 2012) to assess the challenge before the workers movement in India in the context of the Maruti Struggle.

Banaji and Hensman on multinationals and industrial conflicts in Bombay (1956-84)

Courtesy: Economic & Political Weekly