On the Organisational Question of the Working Class

Arvind Ghosh

“I have tried to dispel the misunderstanding arising out of the impression that by ‘party’, I meant a ‘League’ that expired eight years ago, or an editorial board that was disbanded twelve years ago. By ‘party’, I mean party in the broad historical sense.” (Karl Marx, Letter to Ferdinand Freiligrath, February 29, 1860)

“All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.” (Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848)

(1)          Within certain parameters, Marx was practical and impartial on the question of the form of organisation. Marx emphasised the concept of working class as an active, conscious SUBJECT, along with the forms, concepts and activities created by it. According to Marx, the organisational form is not pre-determined, but is created from within the real movement of the conscious and creative working class.

(2)          The most important historical process, for Marx, is the one through which the working class establishes itself as an independent, conscious revolutionary subject. It is this viewpoint of self-emancipation of the proletariat, which forms the content of the socialist revolution, and it is from this viewpoint that we ought to consider the question of organisational forms.

(3)          The positive aspect of this viewpoint is that it avoids fetishism of organisational forms as well as the tendency of these organisational forms to get ossified. It is open and flexible in accordance with the needs of the ever changing special conditions of the transforming agencies. Historically, it has been noted that the working class achieved maximum success when it succeeded in developing new forms of collective activity that challenged the established relations. Similarly, the working class experienced disastrous failures when in spite of the existing forms of collective activity getting degenerated and ossified, the working class continued to defend them instead of building new ones. In order to protect the forms of collective activity from degeneration, it is necessary that these organisations are developed continuously through a process of regeneration and reorganisation, and preserved in their changing forms.

(4)          Marx recognises the working class as the revolutionary agency. The basis for this recognition is that the working class is capable of independently determining its political-organisational forms. Although Marx’s theory of proletarian revolution is intimately connected with the organisational activity of the working class, Marx never attempted to theorise a proletarian organisation. In fact, any attempt to develop a theory of organisation from the point of view of the self-emancipation of the working class is contradictory, since such attempt would amount to declaring independence from the conscious activities of the working class and thus reject the creative powers of the working class.

(5)          For Marx, Subject plays the most important role in the process of revolution. Subject is the one responsible for both theory as well as practice, and also for uniting the two. Therefore, it is dialectically incorrect to say that the subject must unite with its theory, or there has to be a fusion of socialist theory with the advanced workers (for the birth of a communist organisation), as if socialist theory exists independently, outside the class struggle of the proletariat with which its advanced section must unite. “The long-prevalent conception of revolutionary theory – the science of society and revolution, as elaborated by specialists and introduced into the proletariat by the party is in direct contradiction to the very idea of a socialist revolution being the autonomous activity of the masses” (Cornelius Castoriadis, ‘The Proletariat and Organisation’, 1959). In fact, the working class while assimilating and developing socialist theory through its praxis moves towards its goal of destroying capitalist mode of production (CMP) and establishing  a new mode of production which Marx calls associated mode of production (AMP). This process is what constitutes working class self-emancipation.

(6)          From the dialectical viewpoint of Marx, means and aims are inextricably interconnected. From this viewpoint, means are the socialist end in the process of becoming. Means advancing towards communist revolution prefigures the communist society. Since organisation is the most important means to achieve a communist society, it is essential that its form is in complete accord with this objective and in no way does it contradict this objective. In other words, the journey of self-emancipation of the proletariat begins with self-activity and self-organisation capable of achieving the goal of a socialist society.

(7)          A socialist revolution can become a reality, according to Marx, only through conscious, active participation of the working class. A proletarian organisational form is a pre-condition for this revolution, which the working class itself creates through class struggle. This task cannot be done by representing class interests of the proletariat in an abstract manner. An organisational form established independently of this process of self-development of the working class forestalls this process midway, as a result of which the working class comes under the control of an agency outside or above it. Thus through a separation of the organisational form from the class, the division between leaders and the led existing within the bourgeois society is reinforced. Here the organisational form becomes an abstraction with an inherent possibility of incomplete development of the proletariat and its political alienation.

(8)          Marx had advocated a range of organisational forms suited to different politico-economic situations – from workers councils, workers clubs and committees to unions, general assemblies and even parties. But Marx’s argument that the working class needs to organise itself into a party did not amount to working-class party-building. For Marx, organising itself into a party meant getting organised as a revolutionary subject. By ‘party’ Marx had meant a party in an ‘eminently historical sense.’

In ‘The Fourth Annual Report of the General Council‘ (1868) of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA), Marx had written: “That Association has not been hatched by a sect or a theory. It is the spontaneous growth of the proletarian movement, which itself is the offspring of the natural and irrepressible tendencies of modern society.”

(9)          To declare any specific form of organisation as the only appropriate form means that the working class is not the revolutionary subject, but rather this specific form of organisation is the subject. It means that the proletarian revolution can be determined beforehand and that the development of the working class is not a creative process but a pre-determined process. To come out of this illusion, it would be necessary to establish the creative aspects of socialist revolution and to clarify how the free and conscious activities of the working class (expressed in whatever form) can create new communist social relations.

(10)      The existing communist movement defines power as a thing which might be captured (seized), monopolised and made more powerful (knowingly or unknowingly), whereas, from Marx’s standpoint, power should be defined on the basis of social relations. Instead of concentrating our entire energy on the seizure of power as a thing, the communist movement ought to be directed towards the transformation of social relations. Thus we conceive revolution not as an event but as a process.

(11)      The most important reason for the crisis in which socialism finds itself today (which is also the real tragedy of established Marxism) is that it has abandoned the concept of proletarian self-emancipation, whereas this concept is the essence and specificity of Marx’s Marxism. As a result, the existing communist movement has been alienated from its class as well as social roots. The established communist movement considers socialism to be a product of organisational activities. From this standpoint, it is the Party and not the class which acts. From this perspective, organisational form has been considered to be of crucial importance, while the conscious role of the class is neglected and even negated.

(12)      From his early critique of Hegel’s political philosophy Marx had initiated a new type of political discourse which goes beyond the division between economy and politics existing in the bourgeois society towards transition to a non-ruling class and stateless society. According to Marx, political activities should be subordinated towards the goal of social revolution. This principle is clearly stated in the provisional rules of the International Working Men’s Association thus: “The economic emancipation of the working class is the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means.”

(13)      As has been pointed out by Anton Pannekoek in his essay ‘Party and the Working-class’, “in relation to the proletarian revolution, a ‘revolutionary party’ is a contradiction in terms. This could also be expressed by saying that the term ‘revolutionary’ in the expression ‘revolutionary party’ necessarily designates a bourgeois revolution. On every occasion, indeed, that the masses have intervened to overthrow a government and have then handed power to a new party, it was a bourgeois revolution that took place — a substitution of a new dominant category for an old one. So it was in Paris when, in 1830, the commercial bourgeoisie took over from the big landed proprietors; and again, in 1848, when the industrial bourgeoisie succeeded the financial bourgeoisie; and again in 1871 when the whole body of the bourgeoisie came to power.” For Pannekoek, the Russian revolution of 1917 was no exception to this rule when party-bureaucracy monopolised over state power, and as we all know, what was established in Russia through this party-state was not socialism but state-capitalism.

Thus, we find that the party-form of organisation, although appropriate for a bourgeois revolution, is hardly adequate to the needs of a proletarian revolution. In a proletarian revolution, the working class has to seize power as a class. In this revolution, the proletarian class power is established through the destruction of the bourgeois state. But the workers’ state thus formed is not a ‘state’ in the conventional sense of the term since it is not an institution separated from the masses. Workers’ power is direct power of workers organised in the spheres of production. The specificity of the working class regime lies in the fact that in this regime the spheres of politics is not separated from the sphere of economics (i.e., production) but is integrated into one entity. In a workers’ regime, the working class takes control of the means of production, makes plans and executes them collectively. Thus a new mode of production is born designated by Marx as the ‘associated mode of production’ (AMP). In this new socialist society, time spent on ‘necessary labour’ (‘socially necessary labour time’) would be progressively reduced and humanity will have more ‘free time’ at its disposal geared to the development of creative powers of human beings.

However, the abstract representation of the working class through ‘Party Power’ contradicts the very concept of working class power. In spite of all the good intentions of the theoreticians in suggesting the new ‘revolutionary working class party’, party power can only be an elitist power, since this party will be an organisation of the so-called advanced sections of the working class frequented by the ‘socialist theoreticians’ from the bourgeois as well as middle class intelligentsia, presenting themselves as the ‘teachers’ of the working class. Marx’s philosophical dictum that ‘the educator must himself be educated’ is perfectly applicable in the context of these ‘teachers’. These elements from outside the working class naturally occupy the upper echelons – the “superincumbent strata” – of this hierarchical organisation. In its due course of development, this organisation begins to rule over the masses by bringing them under its control and trying to regulate their lives through the directives of their highest committees. Thus, the so-called ‘revolutionary party’, instead of helping the struggles of the working class, becomes an obstacle in the creative activities of the class. But, as we know through our experience of the failed revolutions of the 20th century, Socialism cannot be built through directives from above but is possible only through creative participation of the productive classes.

(14)      In order to grasp which form of organisation is most suitable for the working class, it is necessary to correctly define the aims and objectives of the working class movement, since organisation is only a means to achieve these aims and objectives.

The working class not only needs to destroy capitalism but simultaneously needs to create a new communist society which would be qualitatively different from capitalism. The task before this revolution is to go beyond capitalism by completely transforming this mode of production and establishing a new society based on this transformation.

The working class in accordance with its class objectives must create an organisational form and provide a political content adequate to these revolutionary socialist objectives. Historically, the Soviets and the Workers’ Councils – i.e., the organisations created and directed by the workers themselves during their attempts to act as a conscious, creative class – have proved themselves to be the most appropriate organisational forms to accomplish the socialist revolution and for the purpose of functioning of the socialist society. It is through these Workers’ Councils/Soviets that workers directly establish their political-economic power and organise a new socialist system of production. These organisations are inherently democratic, composed of delegates, not representatives, mandated by those who elect them and subject to recall at any time.

The basis of representation in Workers’ Councils is not abstract, since they represent workers engaged in revolutionary struggles. Based in the spheres of production and distribution, there is no place in them for either bourgeois interests or bourgeois representation. Thus, they represent exclusively the working class interests. During the revolution when the working class is faced with the responsibility of reorganising society economically, politically and socially, it becomes possible only through workers’ councils/ soviets and factory councils. In other words, these organisations are the instruments of proletarian dictatorship – the most complete democracy of the working class.

(15)      Socialism is not possible without the management of production, economy and the society by workers themselves. The experience of the Russian Revolution teaches us that the destruction of economic domination as well as of the state power of the bourgeoisie is not enough. The proletariat can achieve the objectives of its revolution only if it builds up its own power in every sphere. This implies that the power in post-revolutionary society has to be solely and directly in the hands of the organisations created by them, like the soviets, factory committees and councils. For a special organisation like the party to take on the function of governance or exercise power means perpetuating the existing separation between producers and the controllers of the conditions of production, the division between the rulers and the ruled.  However, this proposition necessitates a reconsideration of all the theoretical and practical problems facing the revolutionary movement today.

(16)      The question of organisation is not merely a technical question or a question of its form; rather, it is a philosophical question. Marx’s philosophy of revolution is not only about working class emancipation, but is primarily a philosophy of human liberation. According to Marx, working class cannot emancipate itself without simultaneously emancipating the entire oppressed humanity. The final goal of the proletarian revolution is to create a new human society free from all forms of exploitation and oppression. Thus the proletarian revolution is integrated with the women’s liberation movement (WLM), the movement of the oppressed castes, races and nationalities for Freedom. The proletarian revolution is also about redefining humanity’s relationship with Nature, the degradation of which has reached its limit today (to the point of a total extinction of the human as well as other species on the planet) due to the very existence of the capitalist mode of production.

Hence, while forming any proletarian organisation today it should be our endeavour to construct them in accordance with Marx’s vision of a new human society which takes care of all these concerns. This means first of all posing a direct challenge to the existing alienation between Organisation and Philosophy (which is also an expression of the separation between physical and mental labour existing in today’s bourgeois society), through the very functioning of the Organisation.

In other words, any proletarian organisation we build today ought to be free from Vanguardism, Hierarchy and separation of mental and physical labour. The organisation should operate on the principle of democracy from below. We may call it centralised democracy where the emphasis is more on democracy than on centralism to distinguish it from democratic centralism which amounts to control from above in practice.

Maruti: A moment in workers’ self-organisation in India

Pratyush Chandra

The Chairman of Maruti Suzuki, R.C. Bhargava, himself described the July 18 incident as a “class attack”. The management, which learnt from the Japanese how to instrumentalise unions as tools to educate and regulate workers in work discipline, are now learning a new lesson from their own Manesar workers – they want their own voice, which is in their control not in the control of the masters, whosoever they may be. They will tear away every interface if that obstructs their organic collectivity to emerge – then they will speak in their own voice, which will definitely be harsh and brutal, as it will be organic to the very core. They will speak in their own language, without any creative translation into a language that has systemic legitimacy.

The lesson that the Indian corporate sector learnt from the Japanese is graphically retold by Bhargava himself in his recent book, The Maruti Story. It is not just revolutionaries who called trade unions a school, even the Maruti management found them to be so – a necessary means for “continuous training of workers…if their attitude towards work, the company and its management was to be changed…. We understood the logic of their [the Japanese] system and so wanted to completely reverse the traditional culture and bring about a mutually beneficial relationship between workers, the union and the management.”(302) So the management “promoted a trade union at Maruti, before political parties and outsiders could establish”. The founder-Chairman of Maruti Udyog, V Krishnamurthy, “brought” even a union leader from BHEL. “The importance of the union was highlighted by ensuring that the president and general secretary of the union were seated on the dais at every Maruti function. They would, along with the top management of Maruti, receive all VVIP guests and garland them.”

Time and again, the Maruti workers have tried to build their unity beyond promoted, brought, bought unionism and its ritualism. Each time such unity has been institutionalised into a legal form, the management has either destroyed or bought it over, and promoted enterprise unionism. Since the last year, however, things have drastically changed. Maruti workers have understood the meaning of legitimacy, its functions and limits. This remarkable understanding is evident in what a Maruti worker expressed just after the worker-leaders were ‘bought’ and sidelined in 2011:

“Sahibs don’t understand the situation…. In these past few months, a handful of workers had risen to the position where they could control the workers…. By dismissing exactly those men, the management has thrown away a valuable tool.” (Aman Sethi, “Down and out on India’s shop floor”, The Hindu, July 29, 2012)

And again after the July 18 incident, in an interview recorded by a mainline news channel, a worker said:

“Our workers did not have faith in the union body. They were apprehensive about the union cheating them again…. [Yet they wanted that] the management should at least value and listen to the union body.” (NDTV, August 11, 2012)

They understood the limits and dangers of legality and representation, and the need to have extra-legal vigilance of their institutionalised body. Something the workers ensured by evolving shop-floor networks of line and departmental coordinators, and by frequent assertion of the general body. While the representative trade union, in accordance with the legal regulations and norms, included only the permanent workers, this organisational form was organic to the daily shop-floor coexistence of all segments of workers.

Defying every attempt to fragment and subalternise their collective consciousness, the Maruti workers forged a youthful (in a literal sense) unity among themselves beyond all kinds of regulatory and identitarian divides (including the caste and regional), demonstrating their uselessness, except for the purpose of regulating workers in favour of capital. This unity was remarkably visible during the 2011 strikes. They defied every agreement and manipulation from above that tried to break that unity, and they struck three times against them, and surprised the unions and their legitimate sense. Hence, even the need to form a sectionalist union (of permanent workers) – which the legalese and the prevailing industrial political culture compelled them to adopt for negotiations with the management – was continuously overwhelmed by the unity below that questioned the very basis for such unionist sectarianism and economism.

It was this collectivity that could not be destroyed by the management’s union busting, and it did form another union. But its easy registration and semi-recognition by the management made the workers evermore apprehensive, and they enforced constant vigilance on the representatives. However, the management misconstrued this collective apprehension as a distance between the general workers and the union, not understanding that its collective nature in fact tightens the workers’ grip over the union leadership. It is unlike the generalised yet fragmented weariness that leads to helplessness. The management miscalculated and thought its intransigence in dealing with the union will increase the distance and delegitimise the union in the eyes of the general workers. It could not anticipate that such an act was thinning the legal shield that protected it. And, so, what could have passed for the time being as another “class action” got transformed into a “class attack”, as Bhargava calls it. The management should not complain that it didn’t get the warning – workers themselves gave out sufficient signals.

However, one must grant that not just the Maruti management, the suddenness of the July 18 incident at Maruti astounded everybody – where was this anger among workers residing for the past one year? Nothing similar happened during the remarkable “non-violent” strikes in 2011. And prior to the incident nothing happened that could give a hint towards it. Therefore, a plethora of explanations and conspiracy theories has come up.

Interestingly, we can easily identify a basic logic behind the catalogue of ex-, post-facto explanations that various institutional and non-institutional bodies – the state, management, media, unions and radicals – are putting forward. A central thesis runs through all of them, which is that workers as a mass cannot have any coherent plan. Hence, those who see incoherence in the incident, either blame it on reactive spontaneity in the absence of (correct) leaders (radicals), or mob-like nature of the workers action (media elites). For many of these responses, there is some kind of pre-planning that must have come from outside (from Maoists/political unions, as the state and management maintain, or provocation from the side of management through their intransigence or by employing ‘bouncers’, as all the pro-workers institutions or groups opine). However, in the end no one is willing to concede general workers a coherent critical subjectivity that reasons them into taking things (read law) into their own hands, because for all the groups mentioned above, a rational subjectivity can emerge only through the repression of the inner nature (in the present case that of the mass).

All that even the pro-worker forces are willing to grant, and at most, is if the workers were accomplices in the July 18 incident, they were merely reacting to something the management wrongfully did that day (by calling the bouncers or by not resolving the issue of the suspension of a fellow worker) or have been doing lately (by not going for a speedy wage settlement or union recognition). All these self-actions by the workers are arrogantly clubbed together as spontaneity or spontaneous actions, which are generally considered to be reactive, and can have a political meaning only if harnessed by the organised political forces. It is interesting to note how these competitive forces, doing organisational shopkeeping, or at least advertising, among workers, have found workers’ direct actions erratic and even anarchic. They find the workers sensible and tractable only in those moments when they are led or when the consciousness of defeat and victimhood dawns over the workers – when “victim” workers are looking for respite and rights, and for experts who can represent them in the courts of law and negotiations.

These so-called political forces have a notion of politics that comes directly from the civics classes of the (post)modern schools that define politics in terms of institutions (or tangible forms of organisation) and their activities. Even the movements must be located among these activities, or else they are apolitical and even mere riots. Class struggle is reduced to the interplay of these institutions, ideologies and activities. They are unable to locate this representative interplay and their own activity as (re)originating in a continuous class struggle between capital and labour – in the daily imposition and subversion of the process by which capital acquires and incorporates living labour as merely an agency for its self-valorization. They are unable to see that recent unrests on the labour front in India have been largely political – i.e., they are related to a constant recomposition of class collectivity that short-circuits the re-segmentation of labour – the ever real-ising subsumption of labour by capital. In other words, this collective urge is not simply a wont to vocalise the aggregate demands of individual or sectional workers, as in a demand charter. Rather, it relates to their concern to transcend the segmentation on which the capitalist industrial polity thrives – the division between permanent, contractual, casual and interns. It is a marvelous experience to hear from general workers about these real divisions made on false premises. It is this open vocalisation that constitutes workers politics today. The Maruti workers’ struggle clearly is a finest example in this regard.

In one of the discussions that we had with workers in other industrial regions about the Maruti ‘violence’, a worker expressed how they work for the fear of the daily hunger and for feeding their family. Otherwise who would like to work under iron discipline and invisible eyes constantly watching over you, reprimanding you for every small mistake? Workers continuously look for every small opportunity that would enable them to dodge and abuse this system of surveillance.

The (more-or-less) open violence of primitive accumulation that joins the fate of labour to capital readies it for the inherent violence in the active imposition of work that capital as social power with its various apparatuses seeks to ensure. There is nothing reactive about workers’ actions to break out of this panoptic circuit which is now expanded throughout the society. The diverse immediate forms that these actions take are meant to surprise capital.

It is not the question of defeat or success of these forms or agitations that should concern us. In fact, our every success makes our actions predictable, increasing the reproductive resilience of the hegemonic system. Who knew this fact better than Karl Marx? He stressed on the need to watch out for opportunities to stage sudden radical leaps away from the guerrilla forms of daily resistance against the encroachments of capital, or else workers will be evermore entrenched within the system of wage slavery despite – and because of – frequent achievements in their everyday negotiations with capital. Those radicals suffer from the same Second International reformism and co-option politics, of which they accuse everybody, when they visualise class maturation as a linear succession of successes and achievements, not in the increased activity of the working class to catch capital off-guard by its volatile, yet collective thrust.

Today, the dynamism of this workers politics poses a crisis not just for capitalist strategies but also for itself as it constantly outmodes its own forms. The significance of the Maruti struggle and the July 18th incident lies in this process – they demonstrate the increasing inability of the legal regulatory mechanisms and existing political forms to ensure “industrial peace”. This means:

1) For capital, every crisis is an opportunity to restructure labour relations for its own advantage. Many times, it carefully shapes an industrial conflict to seek such restructuring. The recent conflicts have shown the limitation of the legal framework to generate industrial consent/peace, which has time and again forced capital to resort to coercion.

2) The automotive sector has been central to capitalist accumulation, so the needs of this sector have time and again restructured the industrial polity and economic regime globally. In India too, this sector has been in the leadership of pushing economic reforms in a pro-capitalist direction. The high-handedness and intransigence of the managements of Maruti and other automotive companies in recent conflicts is representative of the determination of Indian capitalists to force pro-capital labour reforms.

3) Legal unionism and existing organisational practices to compose and regulate working class assertion are becoming increasingly redundant. The labour movement must look out for new incipient forms in this self-assertion, as older forms are unable to lead working class consciousness, which is much more advanced than these forms, to its political end. The direct action of Maruti workers last year and this time cannot be simply explained by the crude notion of unorganised spontaneity, rather it shows their political will to transcend the segmentation perpetuated by the capitalist industrial polity.

From Nonadanga to Workers’ Power

Pothik Ghosh

तू है मरण, तू है रिक्त, तू है व्यर्थ,
तेरा ध्वंस केवल एक तेरा अर्थ.
(You are death, you are emptiness, you are useless,
In your decimation lies your only meaning.)
– Gajanan Madhav Muktibodh

The resistance of Nonadanga is – for the working-masses of Calcutta, West Bengal and beyond – a shining example of struggle against capitalist repression and exploitation. The Nonadanga movement is a wake-up call for Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government. It is an indication that the popular upsurge, which unseated the 35-year-old CPM-led Left Front regime in West Bengal 10 months ago, was neither meant to clear the way for Mamata’s Trinamool Congress to appropriate state-power by forming a new government in West Bengal nor was it meant, at a more general level, to affirm and consolidate the hegemony of and consensus for competitive electoral politics. The different people’s movements – whether they be in Jangal Mahal or Darjeeling, Dooars or Calcutta city – were all directed against the deviation of the Left Front and its largest constituent, the CPM, from the fundamental ideological principles of Leftist politics.

The determined resistance the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and its slum-eviction drive has come up against at Nonadanga proves the popular upsurge against the Left Front and its then government in West Bengal, not so long ago, was, without doubt, not an instrumentality for effecting a change of guard in the control room of state-power. By the same token, it was also not meant to play a partisan role in determining who would win the competition to usurp the privilege of enforcing and implementing the policies of neo-liberal capital. The Nonadanga struggle proves the working-masses care nothing about which party or electoral coalition gets to enforce the neo-liberal policy-vision by winning electoral and governmental power. Instead, it reveals that the working-masses will persist in their struggle until they have repulsed the neo-liberal assault on their lives and livelihoods, and have decimated capitalism, which is at its root. We hope this message, which rings loud and clear, gets across to Mamata Banerjee, CPM and all those political parties and non-political organisations that consider serving capital and its socio-economic and political system their good fortune and a matter of great honour.

In this context, the Nonadanga movement – which has emerged in less than a year since the change of regime in West Bengal — is an indication that no radical transformation in the material conditions of the working-people as a whole would be possible until and unless they manage to generate a new configuration of social power, based on the working-class logic of self-emancipation and self-activity, by forging a unity among their different struggles even as they keep intensifying those struggles in their separateness. As long as the working people, and the various left and progressive organisations that are part of their different struggles, are unable to accomplish that their dogged but divided struggles will continue to become cannon fodder for electoral competition and capitalist class-power that is the foundation for such bankrupt politics.

That is perhaps why the Nonadanga resistance should also compel the working people of not merely Calcutta and West Bengal, but all of India – together with the various left-democratic forces that are part of their larger struggle – to engage in self-criticism. We ought to view the experiences of our past struggles in West Bengal through the prism of repression and resistance at Nonadanga and the larger socio-political context within which it is situated. This would probably help us understand that as long as different sections of the working-people continue to wage their respective struggles against their particular oppressions in their separateness they would continue to find themselves incapable of constituting the new social configuration of working-class power. That is because capitalist socio-political organisation has the capacity to continually reform itself at its various levels by redressing the problems and demands of some sections of the working class, at times even managing to significantly reduce repression on those sections. But this system, which stands on the ethic of competition for hierarchy and domination, can never extinguish the culture of repression and oppression because without oppression (primitive accumulation) accumulation of capital through extraction of surplus-value (exploitation) is simply not possible. As a matter of fact, capitalism is compelled to continually reduce oppression on certain sections of the working class by transferring the crisis in accumulation, which is embodied by heightening oppression on those sections and the resistance it thereby provokes in them against such oppression, to other sections by simultaneously changing the organic composition of capital and recomposing the working class. It is this that segments and divides the working class and makes it appear as a sectionalised amorphous mass called the working people. In other words, capitalism, as a system of exploitation, is the condition of possibility of oppression and the repressive violence that renders such oppression most clearly evident. In such circumstances, every struggle against oppression must transform itself also into a struggle against exploitation and accumulation of capital.

We must ensure that our respective struggles against oppression do not turn into struggles for the proper enforcement of the rule of law but, instead, get transformed into struggles for the abolition of the very conception of the rule of law that is intrinsic to and constitutive of the unequal sociality of capitalism. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is an adage that could well have an analogy: “What is law for one section of society is the exception to law for another.” The legally-protected rights enjoyed by one section of society, more often than not, spell repression for another section. And that is because our unequal capitalist society – which is stratified and thus divided – makes possible through the rule of law, differential legal rights for its different sections or strata, which in turn enable the preservation and protection of their differential identities and thus the reproduction of the entire sociality constitutive of those differential identities. Such an unequal sociality of differential identities is crucial because otherwise competition, which is the diesel of capital accumulation, would be impossible. That is precisely the reason why a law that ensures and protects the rights of one identified section of society comes up as a wall of oppression and repression against another identified section lower than it on the social ladder, and its struggles to level the ground in between them. It would, therefore, not be incorrect to claim that the blanks that exist in between the different laws constitutive of the sociality of differentially included socio-economic identities constitute the happy hunting ground for oppression or primitive accumulation. A bench of the Patna High Court has, in a recent verdict, acquitted all the accused of the infamous Bathani Tola carnage of 1996. This judgement sharply underscores the intimate relationship between the rule of law and so-called illegal repression and oppression like never before.

Needless to say the conception of the rule of law – which reproduces the unequal socio-economic structure of capitalism even as it stands on it as its ground — doesn’t merely generate oppression but also separates and divides the working people and their movement into various identitarian ghettos. That is why this conjuncture of postmodern capitalism – when there is such an unprecedented sharpening of socio-economic inequalities that no section of the working people is unscathed by the experience of suffering and havoc it is wreaking– has yielded a world of undeclared Emergency for us to live in. The ruling class, unlike before, does not now feel the need to officially declare Emergency because the identitarianised sectionalisation and ghettoisation of the working people, and the resultant competitive orientation of their respective struggles vis-à-vis one another, enables state-power to be an expression of the covert dictatorship of capital, concealed by a sheer cloak of democracy, over sellers of labour-power. Italian political thinker Giorgio Agamben’s conception of the “generalised state of exception is meant to explicate precisely such concrete situations. And this generalised state of exception, which has transformed the entire society into a factory if not a large fascist concentration camp, is the appearance of the neo-liberal character of contemporary capitalism.

Hence, in the final analysis, Nonadanga cannot exhaust our politics. Our solidarity with and support for the Nonadanga movement would be effective – as opposed to being merely symbolic like it is now – only if we are able to take it to its right denouement. And this denouement would be the eruption of a larger, cohesive, country-wide movement of urban resistance. If we fail on that score, we will have condemned the Nonadanga movement to the electoral cauldron of the CPM (and its Left Front), which is currently waiting like a stealthy and cunning predator for the right opportunity to pounce on its prey.

The Nonadanga movement has shown the way of unity in struggle to the working-masses of this country. If, on the one hand, the political hitmen of neo-liberal capital are busy dispossessing a section of the working-people from its villages, farms and forests in the name of development, thereby forcing it to flee to cities as a mass of completely pauperised proletarians, the same hounds of capital are also expropriating the urban working-people of their homes and their basic rights by demolishing their slums to further the same project of ‘development’ and ‘beautification’. Worse, this political executive (read chattel-slaves) of capital has turned rehabilitation into an alibi to push these uprooted, homeless people into undeveloped areas outside the city-limits, where they are provided neither with respectable homes fit for human beings to live in nor with clean and safe drinking water. Besides, such bogus rehabilitations are pushing uprooted sections of the urban working people farther and farther away from sources of viable livelihood. The progressive increase in distance between places of residence and sources of employment/livelihood that is being imposed on the urban working-masses by this twin process of eviction and resettlement/rehabilitation is leading to a progressive lengthening of their average labour-day. This entire process – which is enforced and realised through repression carried out by both governmental and non-governmental agents – diminishes the value represented in the wages that the working class receive. It also reconstitutes the urban space in a manner that the vulnerability and precariousness of the proletarianised population is increased – insulating the spaces of production from the erratic reproductive domain, while the latter is increasingly made dependent on the former, i.e., it is more and more subsumed under the logic of capital. Consequently, valorisation of labour-power has rendered socio-economic existence into a biopolitical realm, where determination of social life, even at its bare biological level of the body and its vector, is progressively becoming a matter of centralised systemic control. That is yet another salient feature of our conjuncture of neo-liberal capitalism.

Clearly, repression and legally-sanctioned exploitation complement one another. The two processes in inter-weaving with each other constitute capital, its accumulation and its class-power. In such a situation, when governments and the larger capitalist state-formation are pinning adjectives such as Naxalism on to struggles against repression and expropriation of peasants, Dalits, religious minorities, tribals and sub-nationalities, we have neither any fear nor shame in saying that we are all Naxals. In fact, we insist that this Naxalism-against-repression must now be transformed into a description for a cohesive country-wide urban resistance against capitalist exploitation and its neo-liberal class-power.