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Karl Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’ Will Remain Significant As Long As Capitalism Exists

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It’s often said that without knowing Marx’s ideas, a student cannot become a good economist, political thinker or social philosopher. I believe that Marx was not a philosopher for a group of people who sought alternatives to capitalism; he was the philosopher for the people in general. Hence, Marx’s ideas are still relevant to some of the most troubling issues humanity is facing today. The rising economic inequality, deepening economic instability, and growing unsustainability of human-nature interactions signify a looming planetary crisis.

In the early 1990’s, after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, which was set up in 1917 by one of Marx’s revolutionary follower, Vladimir Lenin, Marxism as a political theory lost its significance. By celebrating the victory of liberalisation and fall of Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama wrote in his work, “The End of the History and the Last Man” (1992) that there is no alternative to liberal democracy.

However, some critics saw the 2008 global financial crash, as a classic example of capitalism in crisis, which was just as Marx had predicted. After the breakdown of Soviet Russia, the world turned into a unipolar system, under the hegemony of the USA. A revolution is needed to compete with the US hegemony and liberal economic inequality. Therefore, Marxism is still relevant as an alternative ideology to capitalism and liberalism.

It is also important to acknowledge that the revolutionary potential of Marx still inspires the people around the world. The mechanism of rising expectations is being sought to be achieved through the methods devised by Marx. The Marxian ideology remains the only alternative to liberalisation. When liberalisation does not fulfil the needs of the people, they seek to interpret Marxism in their way to suit their local milieu.

Das Kapital

Written in the middle of the 19th century by German philosopher and economist, Karl Marx, this book describes how the capitalist system works. In this revolutionary work, Marx claims that capitalism is a system that will litigate by itself. Before this book, Marx had already given brief ideas on class struggle in his “Communist Manifesto and other writings”, where he simplified how the workers of the world would seize power from the ruling elites. “Das Kapital” was just a stepping stone for Marx, who gave these ideas grounded in facts and proper scientific analysis. It is important to mention here that it is not an easy task to read and understand this book in the first attempt.

“Das Kapital” is the product of 30 years of work and experience by Marx. His study of the condition of workers in English factories at the height of the industrial revolution is a significant part of history, economics and sociology today. Marx published the first volume of “Das Kapital” in 1867 when he was in London with his family and was financially supported by his friend Friedrich Engels. It was the first successful document which marked a significant inflexion point in the history of politics, economic and social sciences.

Marx argued that commodities have both a use-value and an exchange value and that their exchange-value is dependent and rooted in how much labour-power went into their production. While traditionally people bought commodities to use them; the capitalists use commodities differently. Their final goal is to earn a profit. Therefore, they spend money to buy commodities, to sell those commodities according to the demand of the market for a profit. This is a cyclical process. The capitalists can make a profit because they only need to pay for the worker’s value, but the workers produce more than the worth amount they get paid in a day. This is how the workers are exploited.

The capitalists can do this easily because they have the power, and they control the means of production. As a result, the workers are negatively affected by the system. They don’t own the products of their labour, and the repetitive work they do makes them a little more than machines. But Marx’s idea of ‘planned economy’ will not make any place easy to live either. As consumers, we have nearly no control over the products we require. We will always receive poor quality goods because the government apparently won’t go out of business if it fails to please us.

The Labour Theory Of Value

Marx stated that workers’ wages should only be dictated by the number of hours that the worker puts in, rather than what the value of the products or services the labourer produces. So, if a neurosurgeon works for a period of time, the worker will be compensated for the amount of labour they put in, and not based on the value of doing a surgical operation. This questions his earlier idea of equality.

Marx and Engels rejected the liberal view that the state is a natural institution and it exists to promote the well being of all the people. Instead, they held that the state is a product of society at a certain stage of its development. It is a historical entity. It emerged out of the class division of the society and out of the need to hold the class antagonism in check. The state was not present in the primitive society where the institutions of law, government and politics were absent.

To conclude, Marx’s work ‘Das Kapital’ will remain significant as long as Capitalism exists. Yes, it was written one and a half century ago, but the political economy hasn’t changed much, the basic elements still exist. Capitalism is a system of wealth accumulation through the production of profit. Everything might not be relatable to the struggle between two social classes with the Marx’s view, and history does not seem to be deterministic in the sense of Marxian thought. Capitalists’ influence on policymaking and the common man’s fear of losing the democratic power, can be related as a struggle between the capitalists (bourgeoisie) and the workers (proletariat) in the present day context. This article is a tribute and expression of gratitude to Karl Marx for his socio-political philosophy from a non-Marxist.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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