May 5 this year marked the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx, the founder of scientific socialism. On this occasion, a meeting was organized by the Communist Ghadar Party in New Delhi.
The meeting began with a brief presentation of the main teachings of Karl Marx, which is summarised below.
Marx and Engels amongst workers
Karl Marx was the first to give socialism and the working class movement a scientific foundation. He and his comrade-in-arms, Frederick Engels, published in 1848 the Manifesto of the Communist Party, which has remained the most influential political document in the world since that time until today.
Marx discovered the general law of development of human society and the specific law of motion of capitalist society. His theory of surplus value showed that the exploitation of wage-labour is the source of capitalist profit. He showed that capitalist society is the last form of class society, which will give way to the next higher stage, a society without class distinctions – a modern communist society, whose initial stage is socialism.
Marx identified the proletariat as that revolutionary force which alone has the capacity and the interest to lead the transformation of society from capitalism to communism. He pointed out that of all the classes and strata oppressed by capital, the proletariat is the only class that grows with the growth and concentration of capital. The peasants and other small producers disintegrate over time, with the majority of them losing their property and becoming wage workers. He observed that by bringing workers together in large-scale production, the capitalist class creates its own grave-diggers, the modern proletariat.
While acknowledging that class struggle had been recognised by thinkers before him to be the motive force of social development, Marx made his unique contribution with the conclusion that the class struggle in modern society will inevitably lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The bourgeoisie constantly spreads the lie that the teachings of Marx are outdated and no longer valid. Their aim is to prolong the life of the man eating capitalist imperialist system. They want to prevent the working class from being armed with the revolutionary theory to guide it in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and build a new socialist society.
The presentation concluded that all the developments that have taken place in the world in the past 170 years confirm the scientific validity of the teachings of Karl Marx. We must focus our attention on making the working class conscious of its own strength and historic mission.
This was followed by a power point presentation and discussion on the question “Who is a worker?” Today, when the very identity of the working class is being attacked, it was felt to be very important and appropriate to discuss this question, to enable us to unite the entire working class to carry out its historic mission of overthrowing capitalism and building the new socialist society.
In the presentation “Who is a worker?”, it was pointed out that Marx and Engels put forward their thesis in the Communist Manifesto, published in 1848, that society as a whole is more and more splitting into two great classes with opposing economic interests – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. As the wealth of the bourgeoisie grows and gets more and more concentrated, the numerical strength of the proletariat also grows, alongside the intensification of exploitation and misery. Marxism identified the proletariat as the class which has both the interest and the capacity to liberate itself from exploitation and liberate all of society from class divisions, by overthrowing capitalism and building socialism, all the way up to a classless communist society.
At the present time, one of the main unscientific ideas being spread to counter the ideas of Marx is that the majority of people in modern society belong to the “middle class”. The notion is created that only those who get the lowest wages are workers. This propaganda has a definite political aim, viz., to prevent the working class from realising its own strength and uniting to lead a social revolution against the capitalist class.
The scientific definition of economic classes in society is based on their relation to the means of social production. The capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, consists of those who own the means of social production. The proletariat, or the working class, consists of those who do not own any means of production and depend for their survival on selling their labour-power in return for wage income. The capitalists pocket a part of the value created by the working class, in the form of profits, which is the source of accumulation of their wealth.
In between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, there are those who work with their own small means of production, such as peasants, artisans, petty shopkeepers and other “self-employed” people, also called the petty-bourgeoisie. These intermediate strata face an extremely uncertain fate. A minority of them move up into the bourgeois class while the majority ultimately sinks into the ranks of the working class.
The working class, including wage-workers in agriculture, miners, factory and construction workers, railway, airline and road transport workers, bank employees, IT and media workers, school and university teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. accounts for roughly half the entire population of India. The working class is multi-national and multi-lingual. The most organised and potentially the most powerful section consists of workers employed in large-scale industry and services.
The bourgeoisie uses the wide disparity that exists among wage levels of different sections of workers to keep them divided. The reality, however, is that all sections of workers are facing increasing intensity of exploitation.
The presentation explained how wages of labour are determined in the existing capitalist economic system. The value of labour-power is the sum of the value of all those commodities required to keep the worker alive and healthy enough to report for work day after day. Wage levels vary in proportion to the level of skill and training required to perform a particular job. Labour power of the same kind and skill level has different values in the US and Canada as compared to China, India or Bangladesh. This is due to the differences in historically evolved living conditions and standards of the necessities of life. The wage rate fluctuates around this value of labour power.
It is important to understand that the degree of exploitation of labour is measured by the ratio of the surplus value extracted by the capitalists to the value paid as wages to the workers. There are sections of the Indian working class who receive relatively high wages but are exploited to an extraordinarily high degree by foreign capitalist companies. The main point that was repeatedly stressed was that the rate of exploitation of all sections of workers is increasing. This is drawing all sections of workers into the common struggle against the capitalist offensive at this time.
The presentation also explained how the laws relating to the rights of workers are defined and applied in such a way in our country that excludes large numbers of workers from any kind of legal protection. For example, the Industrial Disputes Act excludes anyone who earns more than Rs. 10,000 per month. The Employees State Insurance excludes workers who earn more than Rs. 15,000 per month. A person employed in managerial capacity or administrative capacity, or an apprentice is not recognized as a workman. Strict limit on the working day, as per the Factories Act, is not applicable to workers in IT, media, banks, etc. Workers in “essential services” are denied the right to strike. Artificial official distinctions between workers, employees and officers, and the distinction between non-essential and essential activities, serve to weaken the united struggle of the working class in defence of rights that belong to all workers.
The presentation concluded that all sections of workers are facing the drive of the capitalist class to increase the degree of their exploitation. This is the reason why there is growing united opposition among the workers. It is one common struggle against one common enemy. We have to make the proletariat conscious of its own strength and capacity to lead and carry the struggle against capitalism through to the end.
Following the presentation, several members and activists of the party, including a large number of working youth and students, gave live examples from their own experiences, to substantiate the point that the degree of exploitation of all sections of workers is increasing. The increasing use of contract labour and the introduction of “fixed-term contracts” in many sectors were pointed out. The example of airline pilots was used to explain why some kinds of skilled labour-power commands a higher value in the market, but even in such cases the workers are fighting against the intensification of their exploitation. The condition of drivers in taxi aggregator services such as Uber and Ola, who are called “business partners”, was highlighted by a participant. He pointed out that they are forced to take loans to buy their own cars, but their incomes are steadily decreasing, so they are unable to pay back their loans and many are ruined completely. Others gave examples of how they had, in the course of selling Mazdoor Ekta Lehar in industrial areas, convinced various so-called managers and officers that they too are workers, who could be on the streets any day if the owners decide to throw them out. The problems faced by lakhs of Indian workers who go abroad in search of livelihood were also discussed. It was reiterated that Communist Ghadar Party considers Indian emigrants abroad as part of our people and as an important source of strength for the Indian revolution.
The meeting concluded that we must clarify to the widest sections of the working class this question, i.e. “who is a worker?” Unity of thinking on this question will greatly assist the communist movement to unite and lead the working class to realise its potential as the gravedigger of capitalism and the harbinger of socialism.