Most recently, a number of news regarding the life of labour has been heard across the country and outside. Workers of the world have been at the receiving end of exploitation from the age of feudalism itself. They are the ones who actually move the system even though the tools of control are in someone else’s hands. The vehicles that we see, the roads we travel, the buildings in which we reside, the food which we eat and even the clothes we wear are made by the workers in the society. They actually build the society around us. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their work, Communist Manifesto stated, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
The working class or the proletariat have been facing exploitation in all the courses of history. Both capitalist and feudal modes of production existed side by side, but one had to win. Due to feudal ties upon the land and other general feudal organisations, capitalists didn’t get the freedom of centralising capital. But through the evolution of manufacturing, it doomed the feudal system steadily and the new system of profit oriented capitalism came into existence. It didn’t help the working class but ruined their life even more. The bourgeoisie were the middle privileged class that originated with the help of feudal society.
Marx observed that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production. The way they make a profit is through exploiting the proletariat. In this era of neo-liberalism, where the media propaganda lies in different types of societal glamorous components like music glorifying violence, anarchism, tolerance of drug uses, television soap operas with unprogressive and conservative propaganda, etc, it has made the society not believe in the idea of unions or raising concerns while its neighbour is in trouble.
All these years capitalism has made the working class believe that they should ‘work more’ for earning and blame not their employer but fate for not being on the right path. A mainstream media that only glorifies the success stories but won’t let the proletariat figure out that exploitation would come to an end when they unionise, call for reforms, relief of provident fund and other benefits.
While we talk about the working class groups that really help in moving the day-to-day structure of the social system, it has to be analysed on the basis of the field of work in which each exists and manages to survive.
The agrarian crisis started when globalisation and open market intruded into the farm economy. When the world capitalism was facing crucial failures, steps were regularly taken to modify the economic policies with the help of World Trade Organization in many developing and underdeveloped countries. Economic reforms monitored by capitalists crawled into the third world countries through the luscious term ‘globalisation’.
Puppets of capitalists – neoliberals – in those third world countries worked inside the society to make them believe that it would bring relief, but, it further damaged the situation by giving capitalists the power to make changes in national and even in provincial (within state) economic status.
Farmers and farm workers have to be referred to differently. There are big farmers and marginal farmers. In the case of India, the aftermath of the Green Revolution helped a smaller section of the rural farmers to become bourgeois farmers. The 2011-12 agricultural census shows that almost 5% of the farmers control 32% of India’s farmland. Even though the intense pressure of population on land, challenging weather and loss of fertility in soil accounts for today’s agrarian crisis, this could have been overcome if planned and effective reforms were made from the second five-year-plan itself.
The agrarian crisis alone killed over three lakh farmers since 1995, the data from the National Crime Records Bureau tells us.
In the rural areas of India, this condition exists even today due to lack of literacy and materialistic education. While referring to the need of literacy and materialism in educating the proletariat, it means they need to have the knowledge of differentiating things according to those matters.
People that we see each day picking up garbage, raking leaves, cleaning the windows of shops, filling potholes, scavenging (even though it is illegal, many manual scavengers continue to exist and some get killed) keep the city clean while we make it dirtier each day. They usually maintain the social stability for the smooth running of the elites in day-to-day life.
Domestic workers constitute of those who are doing part-time or full-time or even a life-time in the field. There are over 67 million domestic workers across the world out of which 80% are women. Even though they have rights and acts to protect them, most work as slaves.
Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
Today in India, an average domestic worker earns only ₹6000 to ₹9000 a month. The people working in this unorganised sector are being utilised as slaves for minimum pay and a significant number of such workers face sexual harassment. Sex work is not a job offered but it is a path that lit up for a section of society when nothing is left other than illiteracy and unemployment. Slavery has many faces in each country.
There is an oppressed community living and being forced to do job under an oppressor. Being a slave in another social, cultural and environmental condition does not mean it is not slavery. In pre-historic times, since men had muscular power they went out hunting and women would take part in cooking and other activities.
Now the reason why women are most commonly employed by capitalists for domestic work is that they are prepared to work for a low wage to earn a ‘little extra’ for themselves and their family for a single crust of bread. Women who were exploited as a commodity by slave-owners and medieval feudal lords still continue to be like that even after centuries.
Rag pickers and garbage workers who earn a very small amount each month (those under private agencies) aren’t an organised section. They work on daily basis for the same reason as that of a petty bourgeoisie who works in an a/c cabin. The work load is different in both situations, even though the pay is similar. Addressing these issues in a social system is somehow related to analysing how wealth is distributed. The lower section of society has remained the same for the past 50 years. But that of the higher section has become bigger and bigger by consolidating its wealth.
Working class people undergo lots of struggles each day in their workplace amidst the existing suffocating social structure. Since the belief in god and supernatural power exists in the society, many from the working class have no alternative and mostly end up at temples. Many from the working class become superstitious and start blaming their forefathers and fate.
A daily wage worker, being faithful that one day their living condition will change prays to the same god a bourgeois middle class entrepreneur prays to. The god here plays the role of a CCTV camera which can only be a surveillant. Because ‘creator’ or ‘god’ is a brainchild which evolved as an idea with the help of a significant factor – fear.
In philosophical materialism, such a thing does not exist. As I mentioned earlier, this is the reason why the need of materialism in education is necessary. Everything around us is composed of atoms and molecules. The palpable products that we see are extracted from the environment. The role of religion, caste, god and faith drives human to believe in non-existential elements which in turn play a major role in the communal polarisation of the society. What capitalists fear the most is an educated as well as a unionised proletariat. So capitalists make use of these elements to divide the proletariat into groups and prevent them from unionising.
“A display of proletarian women’s poverty and indigence will bring a different benefit: it will help wage-slaves, both men and women, to understand their condition, look back over their ‘life’, ponder the conditions for emancipation from this perpetual yoke of want, poverty, prostitution and every kind of outrage against the have-nots” said V.I Lenin in reference to the need of how the proletariat should become the vanguard of a new era. The world witnessed the most powerful and effective proletariat revolution in 1917 in Russia when the Tsar imperial government was overthrown.
The present commodity fetishistic society has a way lot to understand and learn. In a capitalist world, more than 800 million lack access to clean water; 795 million people are undernourished, millions die due to preventable diseases and other alarming statistics exist as well.
These people suffer not because we lack the ability to solve these problems but because it is not profitable to do so. When half of the world’s entire wealth is controlled by 1% of the world population, it is time for each to examine where the problem lies. Is it with the society that constitutes the working class or the growing imperial capitalism? For answers, one has to look into one’s own society.