Neoliberal Capitalism, Resistance and Crisis of the Left in India

Neoliberal capitalism is no longer restricted to one geographical location. It is universal. Those who opposed the universal categories on grounds of it being undemocratic, homogenizing and limiting are confronted with the fact that capitalism is a universal phenomenon and the battle against it has to be fought through the universal category of class. Only a political struggle grounded in commitment to an exploitation free world can contest the callousness, aggression, arrogance and unimaginative world of capital. However, this struggle is not easy as ruling class, today, has at its disposal technology and instruments that ensure maximization of profit and limit the realization that capitalists survive only because labour creates value that is unjustly appropriated by it. This was realized by Engels when he was writing preface to Wage, Labour and Capital:

“In the present state of production, human labor-power not only produces in a day a greater value than it itself possesses and costs; but with each new scientific discovery, with each new technical invention, there also rises the surplus of its daily production over its daily cost, while as a consequence there diminishes that part of the working-day in which the laborer produces the equivalent of his day’s wages, and, on the other hand, lengthens that part of the working-day in which he must present labor gratis to the capitalist.”

Neoliberalism takes this whole process to a whole new level but also produces contradictions that threaten capital’s own existence. These contradictions are generally latent and come to the surface when capitalism is in crisis. Recent times have also shown that crisis is there but capitalism successfully manages it, largely due to absence of a sharper and potent class consciousness. For instance, in recent times one has seen an extremely narrow understanding of the idea of privatization. The Indian state, in case of Indian Railways, has been trying to tell that they would not hand it over to private capital but in reality component of its operation are being gradually privatized. In other words, contradictions are to be sharpened and made use of in order to defeat the rule of capital. This paper is an effort to briefly map the situation of pauperisation and marginalization that contemporary capitalism has produced in India while a few keep getting richer and how it also produces possibilities of resistance from the Left which is somehow lacking.
296,438 farmers have committed suicide in India between 1995 to 2013 (Sainath, 2014).Almost 60% of total health expenditure in India was paid by the common man from his own pocket in 2009 as over 39 million Indians get pushed to poverty because of illnesses annually. In fact, illness is one of the major causes of indebtedness in India as nearly 47% and 31% of hospital admissions in rural and urban India, respectively, were financed by loans and sale of assets (Sinha, 2012). Educationally, there has been a segmentation of schools wherein the poor, girls and other marginalized groups go to ill-equipped state run schools and those wanting a ‘better’ education go to the private schools. The drop-out rates are still huge leave aside the issue of quality in education. The pauperization of teaching labour-force like any other site of production continues unabated.
On the other hand, poverty is increasing amidst the clamour of a high growth rate. In fact, the growth rate has been driven by the skewed wealth accumulation in a few hands. This skewed wealth accumulation, generally, has happened because of failure to share the fruits of rising productivity in form of wages with workers. In fact, reports have indicated that the real wages have not grown at the same speed as the growth of labour productivity (ILO, 2013, p.46).In last few decades the gap between rich and poor has increased in India. The larger picture shows that there is a vast gap between those having income under $ 10,000 and those having income above that. In fact, the difference between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% of population is huge.

Chart No.1: High Net worth Individuals by region and country (Figure in $)
Chart No.1: High Net worth Individuals by region and country (Figure in $)

There is a growing tendency of polarization between rich and poor in the society today. While productivity increases it does not translate into improvement of condition of vast mass but rather in skewed accumulation of wealth as indicated by the figures below. In recent past this has happened steadily.

Chart No. 2: Wealth share of India’s top 10% over years
Chart No. 2: Wealth share of India’s top 10% over years

This growth in wealth of a few people has been obscene. In fact, it is so stark that the growth in their wealth leaves behind the growth of top 1% richest people across the world. In the year 2000 India’s richest 1% had “a lower of share of India’s total wealth than the world’s top 1 per cent held of its total wealth. That changed just before and after the global recession – though the world’s superrich are recovering and India’s top 1% holds close to half of the country’s total wealth” (Rukmini, 2014).

Chart No.3: Wealth share of top 1%
Chart No.3: Wealth share of top 1%

The stark impoverishment of the vast mass of population is creating dehumanised living conditions for them. This dehumanization process emerges out of the social relations wherein the enhanced productivity of the workers is creating purchasing power for the owners of capital and not for workers. No doubt capitalism is destined to be this skewed at this stage but the process of dehumanization created commodification of every sphere of our existence when purchasing power does not grow accordingly for everybody creates a situation of crisis – the starkness of inhuman system. Capitalism is creating commodities out of education, health, social security but the consumers (every human is a potential consumer today) cannot buy it. The earlier avatar of the welfarist state no longer exists as the state continues to withdraw from its responsibilities and subcontracts everything to the private capital. State managed enterprises are either sold off or the jobs are gradually subcontracted to private capital. Human resource companies are a big investment which supply workers to universities, ministries, banks, etc. this has pauperized the labour force by not only taking away their social and economic security but making them underpaid without any rights to question the employees. With the state already spending less on social sector (Chart No.4), it further decides to cut down the budget on the two basic human needs such as education by about 11000 crores[1] and health budget by 6000 crore rupees[2].


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