Thousands of penniless, hungry and frustrated migrant workers from Bihar, UP and other labor supplying states and regions, called hinterland, hit the streets and thronged at Bandra railway station in Mumbai, a Covid-19 hotspot, in the afternoon of 14th April in complete ‘violation’ of the rules of the lockdown. Completely broken and frustrated as they were, some workers were relentlessly crying, saying (to the reporters) that ‘they will go home whatever may come, even when lathicharged’. And, as we all saw on the television, the police obliged! They were hunted like dogs and chased like animals making them run for life and safety! Thousands of chappals gathered at the place in the aftermath of the incident tell the horrific tale.
TV newsrooms were at the loudest pitch. Who instigated and organized them was their general outcry. The ear-shelling screams of the anchors subsided only when the errant, in-disciplined, irresponsible workers (however they poured mercy by not calling them anti-national) were forcibly herded back into their cages where they huddled together before the incident.
But it wasn’t a lone incident. By the time TV screams were at the top, more news of such errant workers came from Surat, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad who like their Mumbai brethren said they wanted to go home at any cost. Everywhere the reason was the same – uncertainty and lack of food, shelter and salary. Workers clearly said to the reporters, they had nothing to eat as well as had nothing to pay the landlords who had been threatening the workers with throwing them and their belongings on the road if they didn’t pay the house rent. Despite repeated PM’s request, the workers weren’t paid salaries. PM was rightly expected to have brought a notification or a government order in place of making repeated request. The Supreme Court was also approached but no positive outcome arrived from there, too. The court rather remarked saying ‘why the workers need salaries if they are being fed by the governments’ that further sent the workers in despair and broke their faith.
The workers very well knew they would not be able to go, still they came out, in utter despair. They might have thought that at least their plight would be telecast and made known i.e. their painful cries would be heard in the whole country. They might also hope their plight would be acknowledged and probably mitigated if made known to the PM. What they didn’t know is that PM in his morning announcement on the same day hadn’t announced any concrete means or measures by which workers would get salaries or they would be not hunted for house rents or they would be fed like human beings at least two times daily and of course without having to very often get abused and thrashed at the hands of either the police or other officials. What they didn’t exactly know is that the worst of their sufferings and plight is yet to come and no other but only they themselves would have to first stop crying and then brace themselves up for a class battle.
What this class battle looks like in the present scenario where workers are being kept half-fed under the most distressful conditions and not being allowed to go home, let alone making arrangements for their home-bound return journey. The reasons are quite obvious. If all of them return home, who will work in the factories? If they are fed well and all their woes meted out, how will they feel pressurized to work even longer and cheaper than before in the post-lockdown arena? And then, how will their blood be further sucked to extract surplus value as high as possible for their masters. The workers’ unending plight in the arena of lock down is the result of the unending class hatred on the part of capitalists and their lackeys who would like to utilize this situation to further clamp down and impose restrictions on the ‘freedom’ of bargain of the working class. That is why it’s not a moral question or even a question of lack of efficiency in providing better facilities to the stranded workers. The government subservient to the ruling bourgeois knows it well how to deal with migrant workers problem in the times of Covid-19 and how to ‘tactically’ provide them ‘limited’ supply of facilities so that they aren’t let die or flee away, even while using brute force to contain their ”go-home” agitations. They allowed a few ten thousand of them to return in the beginning knowing it fully well that fewer hands will be required in factories in post-lock down periods. For this, they have already enacted a law for 12-hour working day. This will further swell the already more than overflowing pool of unemployed labor that will further put immense downward pressure on wages and an upward push on working hours. That means unfettered high profits for blood-thirsty capitalists. The Corona time has dawned even more opportune time for those who hound for the flesh and blood of the workers. This is inherent in the laws of development of capital where there is no space for any love, humanity or kindness for the workers. More freely under a fascist rule these laws operate, more and more lust for profit generates and hence more and more intense the method of exploitation becomes. That is why the whole system is filled with unlimited hatred for those who live on selling labor power. Capital knows no mercy, no love and of course no freedom for others including even that of the capitalists (personified form of capital). Only capital enjoys freedom and no one else. So capital, a social relation in essence, is a chain for workers and humanity. Whatever we see today happening with the lives of the poor, the downtrodden,
the toilers and the workers, either in India or in the whole world, is nothing but the intensification of class
war, in which the capitalists are aggressively exploiting by utilizing the services of the fascists, while those being exploited i.e. toilers and workers are still lacking in class consciousness and are completely subdued, unorganized and scattered. The so-called advanced sections of this badly oppressed proletariat are likewise backward and incompetent. This is how the situation stands before us right now.
From here, the workers must learn valuable lessons from present experience. They need to fix it in their memory for always that where they presently live, breathe and work is a world dictated by the cruel laws of capitalist accumulation. It is not meant for development of all like you and us, no matter whichever party rules and whoever is leading the government.
The laws of growth of capital when left to themselves get at work most cruelly killing and ruining the vast majority, and at last leads to its own destruction setting in ghastly tendencies of barbarity and medievalism accompanied by unfettered plunder of Mankind as a whole. This paves the way for the emergence of fascist rule of big capital, like the one we have now in our own country, which has become the general tendency of the present-day world being governed by finance capital.
What is the scenario in India? Workers are addressed with sugar coated words in speeches but are very mercilessly subjected to exploitation even up to depriving them of the old laws that protected their rights to some extent. Merciful and kind words are used by the fascists just for duping or befooling them so that they do not see what they ought to see. Even the large chunk of intermediary classes lying in between the main divide of the bourgeois and the Proletariat are going to face the music of the ongoing capitalist accumulation. They are equally ‘ill fated’. They are workers’ future brethren, even if they are today aligned with fascists and behaving like enemies. Their future awaits them to align with the proletariat. The proletariat must keep this thing in mind whenever they take to the path of class battle. Even small and lower middle level owners of capital will be sacrificed at the altar of fascist centralization of capital. Excepting a tiny pro-fascist minority section of big capital all would be left to ruin and die whenever there erupts a serious crisis either related to health or something else. Although serious crisis will occur few and far between, yet for the majority of the humanity with the working class at the hardest hit pole, crisis is going to be a general norm.
Originally published in Scientific Socialism: PRC’s Theoretical & Political Weekly Commentary on Current Issues (Issue 1 / 15-21 April ’20)