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Some Reflections on Capital and the Workers’ Movement After Manesar

July 22, 2012

Workers’ Violence and Corporate Violations of Law

It has been a long time in the making. The violence at Maruti-Suzuki’s Manesar plant on 19 July 2012, that led to the ghastly killing of the general manager, Awanish Kumar Dev was waiting to happen. While the killing was gruesome, I believe this is merely a ‘freeze shot’ of a larger film that has been playing for a very long time now. While it is the media’s wont to focus only on these moments of spectacular violence and then dish out reports from handouts provided by managements and the police, sometimes, such moments of conflagration do illuminate what has been in the dark for so long.

What follows below is an attempt to think through some of the issues that seem to me to lie at the bottom of the violent event. The ‘violent event’ here is not simply what took place in Maruti-Suzuki’s Manesar plant now; it is rather a shorthand for the whole series of such conflagrations that have been taking place over the past few years in the National Capital Region (NCR) – starting with Honda Motors and Scooters 2005,  Graziano Transmissioni 2008, and many others since – Rico Auto Industries, Pricol Ltd and so on. The struggle in Honda Motors that had been brewing for a long time had eventually spilled over into a series of public protests with severe police violence in the full glare of the media. Things have never been the same in the entire belt since. Rico Auto Industries incident in September-October 2009 subsequently became an important milestone – galvanizing as it did a number of other workers’ strikes. There it had started when the workers struck work after 17 of their colleagues had been dismissed ‘on disciplinary grounds’. Actually, the workers rightly felt that this was to quash their attempt to form a union. And while the workers were protesting at the gate, a group of hired goons attacked them, killing one of the workers and injuring many others. In the Graziano Transmissioni the issue of contention was the reinstatement of 136 dismissed workers which led to a massive unrest in the unit in Greater NOIDA, leading eventually to an incident not very different from the present one.

These are not aberrations in the otherwise happy story of the growth of the Indian economy. Violations of law and indulgence on what is know in labour law as ‘unfair labour practices’ is rampant in 21st century India. Especially in the neighbourhood of its Capital where the most disgusting and vulgar display of new wealth of a lumpen-bourgeoisie is the most evident. A word about this lumpen-bourgeoisie. Andre Gunder Frank once used this term for a middle-cum-capitalist class that was apparently inauthentically capitalist, unlike say the European capitalists who were of course, modern and with some kind of respect for the rule of law. I personally do not believe that capital anywhere in the world has become capital without being immersed in violence. Nonetheless Frank’s description of the lumpen bourgeois is important for us in one respect – this section of the middle class-turning-capitalist (through real estate, through labour frauds like non-payment, plain theft of the public exchequer through political nexuses as for instance in the mining sector or CWG games) is fundamentally criminal in its dealings with others. Their relationship to people whose labour they steal on a regular basis – from domestic helps to factory employees – is among other things, also a marker of their deeply caste-structured contempt for labour. From stealing two rupees from the rikshaw puller or three from the vegetable vendor, this class rises to more serious kinds of labour theft that then become the basis of its accumulation. In more recent times, the term “lumpen political-economic power” has been used by some intellectuals in the context of Latin America in the 1990s, where again the reference is to a criminality that is in some sense outside the law. I use the term here to refer to a certain criminality that is internal to the law and the political structure: the lumpen bourgeosie in 21st century India is a parasitic class that inhabits state institutions, makes use of them, feeds off them and ‘accumulates’. In a sense, there is a fair bit of the lumpen element of labour theft at the heart of all all our corporate enterprises – with very few exceptions. That most private corporations actually violate the law in this regard with complete impunity was stated in the immediate aftermath of the Graziano Transmissioni incident, by the then labour minister for which of course, he was wildly attacked by the corporate media. As one report stated:

“Indian labour minister Oscar Fernandes, in a surprising moment of truth, let the cat out of the bag. He mentioned the “unmentionable” fact -– that companies like Graziano habitually violate labour laws –- including minimum wage laws; restrictions on contract work; working hours; right to unionise; and basic human rights liberties of workers at the workplace. And he said that the lynching of the Graziano CEO ought to serve as a “warning” to industry to mend its ways.” Of course, corporate industry and the government which is its faithful servant could not bear such a home truth to be told -– and Fernandes has been forced to issue an “apology”.

Every one of these practices, declared unfair and unlawful in the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, are followed in the Maruti-Suzuki plants among many others. What is even more interesting is the way the state government of Haryana has perfected its deep alliance with the private corporations in ensuring that no new workers’ union can be formed/ registered. Trade unionists from Haryana allege that there are a number of strategies that are followed in this regard. First, the strategy that is adopted by Honda, Rico and Maruti. Simply dismiss the key workers who seem to be taking a lead in organizing unions. Usually, dismissals are not – obviously – on grounds that they were trying to form a union; rather the charges are of ‘indiscipline’ or not fulfilling duty. In this they have the full backing of the state government. If by some magic, workers do manage to form unions and try and get them registered, they are almost always not registered by resorting to technicalities and delaying till such time as the information about the leading characters  can be passed on to the employers, who then do the needful.

Wages of Neoliberalism

And yet there are those dreamy-eyed advocates of neoliberalism who believe that corporations are God’s gift to humanity and that workers are basically party-poopers who have come to destroy the happy life they have been living in Indian cities in the past two decades. The moon-struck middle class of India (and I am not saying that the entire middle class is moon-struck) has never had it so good. For the first time they have been freed of all responsibility of even thinking – leave alone doing anything – for those who make their lives what they are. Despite its serious problems, the Nehruvian dispensation, at the very least did not let you forget that there are others too whose lives are at stake; that the world is not for the consumption who can afford to do so right now. These sections of the middle classes had a ball till at least the middle of th 2000s and they had, along with their corporate gods and goddesses, started believing that everything was theirs – the land on which adivasis live, the minerals, the forests, the rivers, the groundwater, the commons. And why not? It was after all the state’s call: It was the state in the early nineties, when the current prime minister and other assorted World Bank and IMF trained economists took over our lives, that ‘the state’ itself gave the clarion call to consume, consume and consume! That was the new mantra. How can you have 10 percent growth if people do not consume?

But there is a catch here. After all, you cannot consume unless you have enough disposable income. The economy cannot continue with a high growth rate merely on the basis of this moon-struck middle class youth. All the brouhaha about a 150 million strong middle class was okay to start with – but in the final analysis, it is also the new working class of Maruti Suzuki or Honda that must become a consumer. This new working class is culturally a different entity from the earlier working class. It is simultaneously a consumer and wants to have all the things to play with that our middle class consumers want. They too have EMIs to pay, they too have access to credit. Many of them are local youth who have a sizeable backing of a reasonably well-off peasantry from which they come. Following our post of the Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union statement, there was a flurry of horrified comments from mainly anonymous commenters who clearly belong to the globalization-drunk middle class. The burden of their song was: how can workers use high end cell phones? Perhaps they have other aspirations too – of joining your hallowed class. Think about that! And why should they not? [As it happens, even as I write, a comment by Faiz gives the lie to the iphone story...]

I do not wish to reduce the effects of ‘neoliberalism’ to just this circumstance. Unlike many of my other friends on the Left, I do think that there is a seductive, cultural-political aspect of neoliberalism that constitutes us as desiring subjects. This part of neoliberalism builds upon a potential entreprenuer within all of us – it opens out a world that was not available in the Nehruvian years. And that is the part of neoliberalism that has enlisted a huge section of middle classes to this new dispensation. However, I do not claim that this is the only level at which neoliberalism works. The other level at which it works, is in fact, more well-known. At this other level, it was the way in which, with the advent of the early 1990s, suddenly everything was overturned. ‘Flexible labour markets’ became, along with privatization, the new clarion call. And, as  if the socalled economic logic of labour market flexibility had some self-evident priority over the larger economic question of livelihoods, everybody from political leaders/ parties to the judiciary fell in line. As if this was the law of gravity that could not be violated! That was the argument through which a new regime was put in place where everything from ‘hire and fire’ to increasing resort to contract labour – all in violation of existing laws – were seen as necessary for the greater good. So pervasive was this common sense that even senior judges in the higher judiciary now began reinterpreting the law in keeping with this new logic of corporate neoliberalism. The real victory on neoliberalism however, was that it was able to convince a large number of people, opinion makers in particular, that privatization was somehow the panacea for all our ills and that everything from public property (like PSUs) to common property resources, had to be simply handed over to private capital. It managed to convince a very large number of people that this was nothing short of a theological matter on which no debate was possible: henceforth the priestly class would decide on what was right and what was wrong. Everything else then followed.

Some Posers for the Workers’ Movement

One of the key issues that the current spate of workers struggles throws up, it seems to me, has to do with the crisis of the old kind of trade unionism. It is amusing to read statement after statement of various industrialists bodies from the Gurgaon-Manesar industrialists to FICCI – how the wave of unrest is creating a situation of insecurity for the employers and sending out wrong signals for prospective investors. The employers want to have their cake and eat it too, it seems. If they thought – as many of them certainly did through the 1990s – that they could  simply crush the workers’ unions and exploit their labour without a murmur from the workers, then clearly that assumption has proved completely false. It may be possible to suppress the resistance for some time but people cannot take indignity endlessly. A case in point was the very same Manesar unit of Maruti-Suzuki where the two erstwhile leaders of the union (who led the struggle last year) were ostensibly bought over by the management. Sonu Gujjar and Shiv Kumar opted for ‘voluntary retirement’ and were said to have quit the company after receiving Rs 40 lakhs. The company clearly thought that the unrest was simply the creation of a handful of trouble makers and once they were taken care of, things will be back to normal. That clearly did not happen and the tactic has in fact created a more volatile situation.

The simple point that trade unions were actually never the schools of communism but essential to the maintenance of a more  stable capitalism is something that the lumpen capital of 21st century India does not recognize. That collective bargaining through an independent union (independent of the management, that is) should be a central feature of any half-way decent capitalist enterprise is widely acknowledged. This was one of the key issues in the ‘social clause’ debate in the mid-1990s, when many Northern governments wanted to introduce a clause linking trade to unfair lablur standards. And one of the key issues there was of free collective bargaining that would ensure a decent wage. True, it was a struggle between two different capitals over the export market that prompted the idea of the social clause. The Indian trade unions in their wisdom decided to rally behind their own governments and are now reaping the benefits of having once given their unconditional support to ‘their own’ capitalists and government. The idea of collective bargaining through independent trade unions, it may not be out of place to mention, also found favour with the World Bank which in its World Development Report 1995, entitled ‘Workers in an Integrating World’ vigorously advocated it. The Indian capitalists and government supported by the Left parties and trade unions rejected the move. But have the  Left parties and trade unions managed to come up with any kind of action plan, any ideas about how to ensure the minimum labour standards including the right to collective bargaining? Unfortunately no. After that initial grandstanding about ‘imperialist conspiracy’, they went back to their routinized ways.There once used to be a practice of tripartite wage negotiations where, apart from the employers’ representatives and union representatives, government representatives too used to be present. These industry-wide wage negotiations could have been expanded in scope and a wider range of industries and issues could have been brought into their ambit.

However, already by that time, the old kind of  unionism had become toothless; that was perhaps also what left the new work force at the completely at the mercy of these predatory corporations and they decided to find their way through mostly unpredictable wildcat actions. The difficulty with the struggles in this format is that they are always only workplace centred. The capitalist, on the other hand functions politically, fully in cahoots with the government, with political parties and with the bureaucracy. Can the fight against capital then be simply confined to the workplace where a groups of always new and inexperienced workers are pitted against the all-powerful, politically-backed managements? What can be possible ways of making the struggle more political, more public?

As I indicated above, in many of the industries we see a working class that is very different from the old working class of say the textile or engineering industries. In the first place, these are not the most proletarianized workers (‘nothing to lose but their chains’ kind). They are local and come from a relatively more ‘well-to-do’ sections of the neighbourhood. They are skilled workers, many of them trained in ITIs, and they have ambitions of moving up the social ladder. They do not come to work in a factory with the idea that they will retire from there. As such they are also more impatient. Talk to any of the older trade union organizers and they will tell you that they do not have the grit to slowly and diligently build up a movement. They want results here and now. Now, this opinion might be in part, a reflection of the failure of the older kinds of trade unions and leaders in dealing with the new challenges, but only in part.  For the fact is undeniable that this is a different working class – one with middle class aspirations. And how can one hold it against the workers? The point I am trying to make here is that this situation calls for a different kind of response. In another time, we would have raised slogans of workplace democracy and in its more ‘management studies’ form also of ‘workers participation in management’. I am not sure that the former, an essentially anarchist/syndicalist idea can work in the absence of a highly political workforce that sees its place in the factory as the microcosm of the new society. That utopian moment has long passed. However the idea of ‘workers’ participation in management’ is an eminently achievable one, though employers have always resisted it. In India, during the National Front government headed by VP Singh in 1990, the idea of workers’ participation was taken up quite vigorously by the government for a brief moment. But then the neoliberal deluge set in and that was that!

Today, it seems to me however, this can become a slogan for demanding accountability of corporations. In fact, it is entirely possible to demand that not only should there be workers participation in management, other stakeholders too must find a place in management – the local community for example, whose water and air the corporations pollute or destroy. Today, capital is not simply about exploitation of workers; it is about the destruction of the life chances of the ’99 percent’ – to borrow from the slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement. So, industry management must include not private persons who profit from its activities but also those who are continuously losing.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Sangam Tripathy permalink
    July 22, 2012 11:12 PM

    Good analysis. Well written. Couldn’t agree more based on my own experience of being involved with activists/unions trying to organise workers for `dignity’ and `decent wage’ in workplaces at the new multinational port operators and global express delivery companies like DHL, FedEx and UPS.

  2. Ammu Abraham permalink
    July 22, 2012 11:32 PM

    It’s an interersting angle on the events. But can worker’s participation in management occur when even unions are resisted. And Is this ‘new’ kind of worker in the NCR then so different from the old type as to be able to manage not only worker rights, but also impact on natural resources? And where do they stand on ‘social’ issues, like caste, Khaps, and women’s rights?

  3. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    July 23, 2012 7:30 AM

    Thanks Sangam. Ammu, I used the word ‘new’ in a purely descriptive sense – not as in ‘new man’ but simply that s/he is a product of different times and with different aspirations altogether – in fact , with clearly middle class aspirations. S/he (though largely he) may be, on social issues that you mention, not any different from the older worker – who was no less casteist and patriarchal. However, I dont’ want to simply assert this new orthodoxy today because it is not as if there haven’t been significant instances and moments when workers have transcended caste barriers in struggle. I do not think therefore that there is never, ever, any possibility of that transcendence. One can choose to see only that but I have experienced moments of amazing transcendence – usually in times of collective struggle. Gender in fact is more complicated because even when women have participated ‘shoulder to shoulder’ as they say, the gender roles have not been much challenged. In any case, I hope I have not conveyed the impression that I was trying to present another rosy universe of the new working class. On the contrary, my purpose was to show that things are far more difficult than we might imagine. I f I have conveyed the opposite impression, it is my failure.

  4. Somnath permalink
    July 23, 2012 3:19 PM

    “Worker participation in management”? Unbeknownst to the Left, it has already happened, in a neo liberal avatar. In vast swathes of (essentially the services sector), employees own a piece of the enterprise they are working for. In the highly skilled sectors (especially IT and financial services), middle class employees have transformed their lives through these stock options.
     
    Aspirations of the Maruti workers are similar – get material privileges quickly. The challenge though is one of skills not keeping pace with aspirations. Juxtaposed against the glitzy backdrop of Gurgaon, the impatience only grows stronger. There is a need for more imaginative industrial relations policies.
     
    The issue is not of “desperate workers fighting rapacious management”. Workers wielding IPhones are hardly “desperate”, desparately aspirational yes, but not desperate. And the only way to meet these aspirations on a structural basis is to actually do some more of the so-called neo liberal initiatives!
     

  5. Kaveri Gill permalink
    July 23, 2012 6:22 PM

    Aditya, thanks very much for a really thought-provoking and nuanced piece! I wish the mainstream media would follow suit (perhaps they are incapable of such sophisticated thinking on their own!) and introduce some complexity and historical perspective into their reportage (won’t even say ‘analysis’ or ‘reflection’, as there’s no evidence of that!) Yes, violence and deaths are appalling, whenever and whoever is involved, but the incidences must be seen against the backdrop of context and everything that has gone before, rather than hysterical coverage of the event alone.

    Without some knowledge and deconstruction of various phases of trade union movements, as your piece touches on, the role TUs have played not just in the Anglo-Saxon world and economies, but also the very specific and purposive industrial organisation and strategies adopted in Japan and then the countries of the East Asian miracle (Korea et al) that any heterodox and revisionist scholar worth her salt would acknowledge were not free market economy at all, rather involved at various stages some forms of tripartite agreement between the state, K and L (different to India’s ISI Import Substitution St years precisely because there was discipline and a finite end!) and if only cynically to stem discontent of mammoth proportions amongst the working class; how international trade dynamics were shaped and contoured by these very interventions, which put paid to any simplistic notion of level playing fields, but rather, created flying goose formation synergies in the entire region, with an eventual geographical relocation of whole manufacturing industries in certain areas from the west to the east, we risk a grave misreading of these events and what they portend for India!!

    As you point out, there may be less room for truly ‘decent work’ conditions for L, as the ILO puts it, in the age of more or less free transglobal K movements (with no countervailing transglobal regulation body of any kind, be it in finance or then manufactiruing), flexible labour markets and down competitive spirals between countries racing to try and attract the elusive shifty ‘foreign investor’ – come to think of it, this argument could well apply between states and UTs of India, as their govts seek to create conditions, no matter how dire, conducive to the project of attracting K, be it for auto mfging or natural resource mining (suggested by conspiracy stories doing the rounds about Manesar!!) All of this is exacerbated by the world economic downturn. But to forget what the emasculation of TUs and collective shop floor bargaining under Thatcher did to that economy down the road, and countless others, is to really be rather obtuse and short-sighted. And unlike China’s Apple factory debacle under the watchful eye of the CP, one would like to think we are still a democracy and therefore, unwilling and unable to foist similar condis on any of our citizens.

    Is the dismantling of the IDA and other labour reforms really the way to go, as many are demanding, or is it rather to step back and step up employment conditions for the working class, so that their aspirations – as you nicely put it – are seen by them as counting in the India success story, too, and eventually, they contribute to aggregate demand, the loop back benefits of which Keynes saw as key to a flourishing economy? It’s really time to ask this question very seriously, as it’s fundamental to what we determine and see as causing the problem and its solution.

  6. July 24, 2012 12:43 PM

    Extremely good article. If you start questioning the capitalist structure , you become a bloody maoist. Well the Workers Union may or may not be penetrated by Maoists but they are being ascribed to.

    The main stream media and the “intelligent middle class” form a not so friendly relationship only for sake of being not branded. The middle class does not see beyond mainstream media and the main stream media does not see beyond its watchers. Hence both of them are fine with “no stand ” approach. Actually the education is dwindling about the issues beyond the carnal ones. The context on which this violence seems to have been ignored and if one does not look beyond main stream media , one would never understands that.

    Thanks for putting this blog.

  7. Vijay Dahiya permalink
    July 24, 2012 1:17 PM

    a little out of context but wish to share a small analysis…around 5000 people like ‘Kafila’..a big number in every way in relation to the ‘following’ for a serious issue..on the other end, if i become very optimist still i don’t think that more than a few hundreds actually follow all posts, give comments, share their own experiences…and by saying so i am in no way demeaning the honest effort of Kafila (or any other such platform) in letting people discuss and ponder over which otherwise is untouched by media for the very reason that it is very important to discuss such issues…but what i do wish to add and taking from what Aaditya has written in his article that mere raising slogans wont help due to absence of highly political workforce…would i be wrong in saying that as this hidden agenda of corpoartes (Indian or foreign..not much of a difference) to make the 99% their slaves is progressing so fast there is need that yes we discuss and share; and share and discuss and….then DO SOMETHING..i may understand what Aaditya (in relation to this article) is feeling and vice versa but there is also a need to tell EVERYONE that 25 Rs. Aaloo Tikki burger by MacDonald or that ‘toofani’ thumbs up is really not that cheap as it looks like..there is blood of thirsty farmer in that cold drink, cries and sighs of innocent tribal in that every pseudo reform that will come through the mineral wealth..and this EVERYONE is that friend of ours who sits with us, works with us, drinks and parties with us but starts getting bored the minute a few like us try to tell them that the maruti story is not actually what it looks like or there is still a long way to go before we can call over selves ‘not patriarchal’ and loads of such issues…i know its an arrow in the dark but can we just infuse fire in our veins and let our education, talent, intellect be in use to at least come up to such a situation when one Mr. Nigam will not be required to show the inside story but a lot many will start question this illusionary world created by neoliberal policies and question in their daily life…when on weekends along with discussing ‘which bar to go’ and ‘what movie to watch’..people (the blind folded middle class) start seeing every exploitation around them…everything that is visible only when we wish to see…do not know the clear way of doing this but very much willing to meet like minded people face to face…my number is 9654617640 and i stay in delhi and studying Law (DU).and am part of one such very informal group who wish to come up with some workable solutions to make ‘Janta’ awake..

  8. Pravin permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:16 AM

    Sir curious to know; who do you support in this? You have ranted against the lethargic Government and bureaucracy (justified), against the corrupt managements (justified again) and most surprisingly against the Unions too (no comment here). Also, along the way you have taken a swipe at the `globalisation drunk’ middle class (bourgeois, corrupt capitalist influences etc.. ) and then confusingly justified the workers for having these same middle class aspirations! So, who pray in your eyes is correct in all of this?

    Whereas you have not justified the killing of the Maruti GM, you have said it was expected – so will this ( and the other earlier killings) create a change in the attitude of the corrupt managements or will it create a greater backlash? And maybe lead to even thicker partnerships between the depraved political class and the morally bankrupt managements?

    Further, sir, what is the solution you have? Yes, you have hinted at workers’ participation in management (WPM) as a possible solution but I suspect in a single sentence, you also threw it out of the window by referring to the change-resistant, closed and rigid minds of the managements. I know of instances where this WPM has been a success but where both sides have had to firstly put aside mutual distrust and operate in a framework where just as managements are not expected to have their cake and eat it too (as per your own terminology) then workers also are expected (logically correctly, I feel) to work outside the Union umbrella and protection to make WPM a success.

    And just by the way, whereas you have shed so many tears for the organised labour Unionised class that is but a mere single digit fraction of the total working class in this vast country, what of those who are under no protection and toil away from the big cities and hence by extension away from the the gaze of the urban-obsessed media; yes those who work in the stone mines of Jodhpur, the salt pans of Kutch and so many more……

    Or will talking about that not get you so many browny points and attention again from the same readers and media that you seem to so vehemently speak against?

  9. abhishek permalink
    July 25, 2012 11:59 AM

    Reblogged this on बकर.

  10. July 30, 2012 4:27 PM

    No liberalism consists of a large mix of polices and most people and writers are ignorant of the complex and various aspects of it. For example, the balance of payments crisis of 1991 was solved permanently (until then we had borrow repeatedly from IMF every year to bridge the forex defict) only by this new liberalism ! And until 1991, our inflation rate was above 15 % and bank rates were correspondingly higher. Poverty and unemployment rates were terrible until the much maligned neo liberalism was ushered in. Only those who are 45 and above can understand this..

    Agreed that the wages in a factory like Maruthi are low and there is no job security. But the point is ‘something is better than nothing’ ; previously even these kind of jobs were not available. And compared to the workers of other sections (like in tiny and unorganised sectors, brick kilns, small eateries, etc) where the great majority of workers are employed, these Maruthi workers can consider themselves lucky. In a nation where there crores of people working for pittances, it is IMPRACTICAL to expect developed nation wages for organised workers alone. The same Suzuki company’s employees in Japan enjoy very high standard of living. Simply because Japan is a developed nation. And it may take decades for India to improve the standard of living for all, provided we adapt sane polices and get rid of ‘leakages’ in public spending due to corruption, mis management, etc.

    All the attempts at ‘socialism’, conquering the ‘inequality’ had only resulted in worsening the poverty levels and misery. that was our past history. In spite of all the ills and problems , we have no other option to this much maligned neo-liberalism. Otherwise we would have become bankrupt like the present day Zimbabwe while mass poverty would have soared.

    And by the way, I wonder how many readers and writes who hold forth here against MNCs own and use Maruthi Suzuki cars !!

    • Kaveri Gill permalink
      July 30, 2012 6:40 PM

      1) Is it really true that the BOP crisis of 1991 was solved ‘permanently’ in 1991, or are we treading dangerous waters once again?
      2) Jobless growth and informalisation of formal sector work – even apart from the huge 93% that are in the informal sector, brick kiln work etc – in India today means neoliberal policy has not been the panacea it’s made out to be (even an under-40 can understand this, if they read and value historical lessons, for otherwise we’re consigned to always repeat mistakes of the past :). One has only to read about the glorified ‘Washington Consensus’ and IMF’s structural adjustment recos, and what followed in various parts of the world, or then understand the genesis of what the global recession we are currently in the midst of is, its links to unfettered capitalism and free mkt philosophy, to understand that this is more generally true.
      3) Nobody is suggesting developed country wages for India (but is a complete dismantling of every labour right, from social security to work condis and benefits really the way to go, competitively downgraded by each state in their rush to attract K?). And Japan never got where it is today i.e. becoming developed, by following free mkt neoliberal policies (cf. Ha-Joon Chang and other’s work). Neither did any of the East Asian miracle countries or indeed, China, not even under Deng Xiaoping post 1976.
      4) Don’t see how Zimbabwe, with complicated race and other issues, comes into this, but perhaps I’m missing a link!
      5) And yes, maybe it’s time to boycott and have civil society implicitly have sanctions against the use of Maruti Suzuki cars, if that’s what you’re suggesting :))

      • August 3, 2012 4:27 PM

        1. Yes, we are no longer dependent on IMF loans now as it was the norm in the past. This is unprecedented in Inidan modern history. And yes, current situation is tough but nowhere as dangerous as in 1991. And Zimbawe went bankrupt recently and inflation reached 100000 times while their currency turned worthless. Germany experienced the same in 1923. The same misery and hyper inflation was looming over India in 1991. not many realise this or how we overcame that thru LPG.

        2. Jobless growth is a misnomer. every small percentage of growth is possible only if production increases (and this is not possible without more ‘jobs’). yes, the job creation is in unorganised sector. but previously we had not even that and people starved. yes, there was more starvation in the 70s when compared to now, even though population was very less then..
        and our poor are better off now than then. try this excellent report from EPW, a supposedly left leaning journal :http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/Shining%20for%20the%20Poor%20Too.pdf

        3. Japan was not the model of real free market (no nation is) ; but they did not follow our foolishness in economic policy nor did they treat their industrialists as villains. Their path certainly was not the same that we took in the 50s. They did not curtail the private sector nor did they flirt with ‘socialism’ as we did..

  11. February 2, 2013 6:18 AM

    Almost throughout the article I could sense a feeling of frustration towards the new and successful middle class who has been able to take the advantage of liberalization, worked hard and achieve something in life. “middle class-turning-capitalist is fundamentally criminal in its dealings with others” is a far more dangerous generalization then even tying up religion with terrorism.

    “From stealing two rupees from the rikshaw puller or three from the vegetable vendor, this class rises to more serious kinds of labour theft that then become the basis of its accumulation.” – do you really think such 2-3 rupees here and there accumulates into millions for this middle class?

    It is this frustration that result in incidents like Manesar plant. Unless people stop blaming others for their plight and instead think what they can do to improve it, such incidents would keep occurring. It should be understood that even the current lifestyle wouldn’t be possible for workers, had they been living in pre-1991 India. And India is not the first country in the world to face the problem of capitalists vs. socialists. It has been the fundamental problem with many countries.

    Manesar incident is not only the failure of capitalists but also the political class which also includes the section chosen by the worker class. Unless there is some activity from the “promising” top, the bottom will continue to suffer and the middle will continue to be accused.

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  2. May Day – Let us Talk ‘Degrowth’ | Kafila

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