While putting forward the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the first sentence itself pointed out how “all the powers of Europe have entered in to a holy alliance to exorcise” the spectre of Communism. A similar situation is now emerging in those regions of the world where the neo-fascists and neo-conservatives have ascended to power.
It’s latest manifestation has now appeared in Brazil where Bolsonaro, the arch-reactionary, is elected as the president. Immediately after coming to power, he has declared a war not only against Marxism, but also against all progressive thinking. To start with, he is reported to have given directions to the education ministry to totally revise the academic textbooks to eliminate Marxist, working class and feminist orientation in them. For instance, the education department has instructed all textbook publishers to avoid references to violence against women, leftist terminologies, etc. According to Bolsonaro, combating the ‘Marxist rubbish’ that has spread in educational institutions is essential for Brazil to achieve higher international rankings.
The irony is that Bolsonaro neither recognises the existence of Marxism, nor admits the threats from it. According to Brazil’s teachers’ unions, he is engaged in a shadow-boxing or fighting an enemy that for him not at all exists. However, the fact is that, like all other fascists, Bolsonaro is also afraid of Marxism. In spite of the political setbacks being suffered, Marxism is still capable of sending shivers through the spine of all right-wingers. All “end of history” and “end of ideology” prognoses have lost their steam and neo-liberalism is at crossroads.
It is Marxism with its materialist dialectics, the scientific method of cognition in science that is capable of envisaging the most dynamic, creative and revolutionary alternative to the irrational capitalist-imperialist order. It alone provides a programmatic orientation towards a new social order to the working class and the oppressed. Rather than an ideological discourse, Marxism continues as a philosophy and a guide to action for those who uphold the most advanced mode of thinking.
And this concrete reality is haunting all fascists ranging from Trump and Bolsonaro in the Americas, to Saffron fascists in India. Therefore, concerted efforts are in full swing everywhere to bring the entire educational and intellectual realms under ultra-rightist, neo-fascistic and obscurantist tutelage. Religious bigotry and obscurantism are superimposed on education, scientific research and culture. Marxist-dialectical, materialist thinking that constantly strives to seek truth from facts is the enemy of ruling classes and their cronies of all hues. The latest report from Brazil, the biggest country from Latin America on banning Marxism from campuses should be seen in this perspective.
Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has opened a new “anti-imperialist” military academy to counter US policies and military influence in Latin America. He said the academy will encourage ‘anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking’ to negate US-based schools that targeted indigenous people “If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression,” the country’s first indigenous president said at an inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.
“We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies,” he told a crowd that included the defense ministers of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Some Latin American officers trained at the US-based School of the Americas went on to commit atrocities under 20th century military dictatorships. In 2000, the academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
Morales, who expelled the US ambassador and counter-narcotics agents in 2008, accused Washington of encouraging “congressional coups” such as the impending impeachment trial of suspended President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. He also said the US promotes global terrorism through military interventions, citing the rise of the Islamic State group as an example. The Santa Cruz academy was initially inaugurated in 2011 as the “ALBA School” after the now-weakened regional alliance that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cuba.
Morales’s invitation to that event of then-Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi provoked an uproar in neighbouring Argentina, where judicial authorities have accused Vahidi of a role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre that killed 85 people. The re-inaugurated school carries the name of General Juan Jose Torres, a leftist who was Bolivia’s de facto president in 1970 and who expelled the Peace Corps for allegedly sterilizing indigenous women. Up to 200 cadets will learn about history, geopolitics and military strategy, the government said. A semester-long course required for advancement to captain is being taught by the Argentine Marxist intellectual Atilio Boron, deputy defense minister Reymi Ferreira said.
(Courtsey: The Guardian)
After “appointing” Guaido as Venezuelan President, Trump sends his emissary Khalil to dictate terms to US puppet Afghan Govt.
It was in the last week that Donald Trump declared Guaido as the President of Venezuela in the place of its legitimate President Maduro in violation of all international norms. And Guaido is directly seeking orders from the US, the chief war monger and sponsor of terrorism in the world today. Having one of the largest crude reserves, now Venezuela has become the latest hot-spot of inter-imperialist rivalry with US and it’s partners on the one hand, and China-Russia led grouping on the other.
Now reports speak of Khalil Saad, Trump’s envoy addressing Afghan cabinet and dictating US terms on Taliban question and US pullout from there preceded by a six-day marathon US-Taliban talks in Qatar. Compared with the direct US military aggressions in several countries and continuing hundreds of US military bases all over the world, these developments may seem normal by many.
But several intellectuals along with the social democrats still hold the view that colonialism is a thing of the past and use the post-modern usage “post-colonial” to characterise the new developments. However, during the Great Debate of the 1960s itself, Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong had pointed out uninterrupted continuation of colonialism in new forms which is more “pernicious and sinister” than old, and characterised it as Neo-colonialism. But due to the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the International Communist Movement, and the left-right deviations in China followed by its embrace of capitalism and eventual transformation to imperialism, this CPC position was also ignored.
Today, under Neo-colonialism, as international capitalist expansion has reached its farthest limits, what we experience is an aggressive imperialist offensive in its military, economic, and political manifestations led by the US, the international policeman. A serious ideological- political intervention is the need of the hour. n
The Supreme Court has ordered the forced eviction of more than 1,000,000 tribal and other forest-dwelling households from forestlands across 16 states after the government failed to defend a law protecting their rights. The final country-wide numbers of forced evictions are likely to rise substantially as other states are forced to comply with the court orders. The court’s orders came in a case filed by wildlife groups questioning the validity of the Forest Rights Act. The petitioners had also demanded that all those whose claims over traditional forestlands are rejected under the law should be evicted by state governments as a consequence.
The Union government failed to present its lawyers in defence of the law on February 13, leading a three-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee to pass orders giving states till July 27 to evict tribals whose claims had been rejected and submit a report on it to the Supreme Court. The written order was released on February 20. The court said that the state governments would “ensure that where the rejection orders have been passed, eviction will be carried out on or before the next date of hearing. In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this Court.” The next date of hearing is set for July 27 – the effective date by when states would have to evict tribals to comply with the court orders.
The total number of rejected claims from 16 states that have reported rejection rates so far to the apex court add up to 1,127,446 tribal and other forest-dwelling households shows an analysis of the court order. Several other states that have not provided details to court have been asked to do so. Once they follow suit these numbers are likely to swell.
The Forest Rights Act, which was passed during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s first tenure, requires the government to hand back traditional forestlands to tribals and other forest-dwellers against laid down criteria. The Act, passed in 2006, has seen opposition from within ranks of forest officials as well as some wildlife groups and naturalists. This, combined with the fact that at the ground level it is the forest bureaucracy that has to administer the law has made the implementation difficult and tardy.
Tribal groups contend that their claims have been rejected systematically in some states and need to be reviewed. In several states there have been reports on administrations going particularly slow on even accepting community-level claims. Petitioner Bangalore-based Wildlife First, believe the law is against the Constitution and it has led to deforestation. They say that even if the law now remains in place, rejection of claims should lead to automatic eviction of tribal families by the state authorities.
Tribal groups have argued that the rejections in many cases are faulty, need to undergo review under new regulations that the tribal affairs ministry brought in mid-way to reform the process, the law does not lead to automatic evictions and in some cases the claimants are anyway not in possession of lands they had sought as their ancestral forests.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government is squarely responsible for being a ‘silent spectator’ in the case and that the absence of central government lawyers betrayed the government’s intention to drive out lakhs of tribals and poor farmers from forests. At first, the court hearing and oral observations of the judges had left an ambiguous note about whether the court had ordered evictions or merely a report on the status of evictions from states. The written order on February 20 left no doubt. The Union government is yet to react to the order. If the central government fails to take immediate action, mass-scale country-wide evictions at this scale never been seen before would take place.
The last time country-wide evictions took place was in 2002-2004, during Vajpayee government’s period, again triggered by a Supreme Court order, which led to many cases of violence, deaths and protests in the central Indian tribal forested areas and uprooting of around 300,000 households.
CPI(ML) Red Star calls on all progressive democratic forees to immediately take necessary steps to mobilize the affected sections of people and resist any evictions.
GS, CPI(ML) Red Star
As the dates of Lok Sabha elections are coming nearer, the Modi-Shah combine, disturbed by growing people’s resentments against the BJP rule, are recklessly indulging in saffronization and de-politicization of the campaign, trying to divert attention from all cardinal socio-economic-political issues. By pressurizing the Supreme Court to hand over land to start the temple construction at Ayodhya before the elections, its aim is to foment communal strife in its name. Utilizing enormous funds, and modern technology, they have launched a no-holds-barred campaign. In this situation, defeat corporate-saffroen fascist forces, defeat BJP, has become the central slogan today.
But, the opposition parties are not prepared to change their past policies. They raise anti-Modi slogans, only to benefit from the growing anti-Modi anger among the masses. They are pursing soft Hindutva to combat BJP, and promoting casteist agenda. They are also loyal to neo-liberalism and had no hesitation to vote for the 10% economic reservation move of Modi. They do not put forward even a reformist alternative program.
As far as CPI(M) and the Left Front under its leadership are concerned, they have degenerated as a social democratic combine, pursuing neoliberal policies wherever they come to power. In spite of severe setbacks to the communist movement at global level, and to themselves in W. Bengal and Tripura, they pursue the very same neoliberal policies in Kerala. In each and every issue, the LDF govt. in Kerala is disappointing the left masses. In the name of opposing the saffron fascist forces they align with Congress and other opposition parties, devoid of any alternative to offer.
It is in this context, the 11th Congress of CPI(ML) Red Star has called for a resolute ideological-political campaign against the reactionary ruling system, against corporate-saffron fascism. With this perspective, it is holding discussions with revolutionary, left and democratic forces and other struggling forces for a national coordination based on common manifesto to resist and defeat the corporate-communal fascist threat. While fielding candidates in areas where we have mass base, all state committees have taken up the task of building struggle-based Mass Political Platforms according to the objective situation prevailing at the state level. Our aim is to develop a Political Alternative at the national level. This political line of our Party calls for strengthening independent left assertion which shall provide powerful boost to oust Modi rule, and to lead the people towards alternative path of development and democratization. n
Introduction by The Wire — In an interview with The Wire, Harvey talks about the problems of neo-liberalism and the surge of populist and right-wing politics. British scholar David Harvey is one of the most renowned Marxist scholars in the world today. His course on Karl Marx’s Capital is highly popular and has even been turned into a series on YouTube. Harvey is known for his support of student activism, community and labour movements. In an interview with The Wire, he talks about the problems arising out of the neo-liberal project, the resulting surge of populist politics and right-wing movements. He also talks about the relevance of Marx’s critique of capitalism in the present context and the threat to labour from automation. The interview has been edited slightly for style and clarity. Red Star suggests study and discussion of points raised below.
Could you trace the origin of neo-liberalism? What were the structural reasons for its emergence?
The idealist interpretation of liberalism rests on a utopian vision of a world of individual freedom and liberty for all guaranteed by an economy based on private property rights, self-regulating free markets and free trade, designed to foster technological progress and rising labour productivity to satisfy the wants and needs of all.
In liberal theory, the role of the state is minimal (a “night-watchman” state with laissez faire policies). In neo-liberalism it is accepted that the state play an active role in promoting technological changes and endless capital accumulation through the promotion of commodification and monetisation of everything along with the formation of powerful institutions (such as Central Banks and the International Monetary Fund) and the rebuilding of mental conceptions of the world in favor of neoliberal freedoms.
These liberal and neo-liberal utopian visions have long been critiqued as inadequate because as Marx so clearly shows in practice, they both support a world in which the rich get richer at the expense of the well-being and exploited labour of the mass of the population.
Keynesian policies and the redistributive state after 1945 proposed an alternative utopian vision that rested on the increasing empowerment of the working classes without challenging the power of private property. In the 1970s, a counter-revolutionary movement arose in Europe and the Americas organised by the large corporations and the capitalist classes to overthrow the Keynesian system and to replace it with a neo-liberal model (along with all its ideological baggage) as a means for the capitalist class to recuperate its waning economic strength and its fading political power. This is what [Margaret] Thatcher, [Ronald] Reagan, [Augusto] Pinochet, the Argentinean generals etc. did throughout the 1980s. It is continuing today. The result has been rising economic and political inequality and increasing environmental degradation across the globe.
You describe accumulation by dispossession as one of the most important characteristics of neo- liberalism. How does it work and what are its structural consequences?
Capital can accumulate in two ways. Labour can be exploited in production to create the surplus value that lies at the basis of the profit appropriated by capital. Capital can also accumulate by thievery, robbery, usury, commercial cheating and scams of all sorts. In the theory of primitive accumulation, Marx points out how so much of the original accumulation of capital was based on such practices. These practices continue but have now been supplemented by a mass of new strategies.
In the foreclosure crisis in the USA of 2007-8 maybe 6-7 million people lost the asset values of their homes while Wall Street bonuses soared. Speculation in asset values (land and property for example) provides a non-productive avenue for accumulation. Bankruptcy moves by major corporations (e.g. airlines) deprives employees of their pension and health care rights. Monopoly pricing in pharmaceuticals, in telecommunications, in health care insurance in the USA provide lucrative avenues for profiteering. Increasing extraction of wealth through indebtedness is evident. Rentier extractions based on accumulation by dispossession (e.g. acquiring land or mineral resources illegally or at cut rates) have become more common because the rising mass of global capital is finding increasing difficulty in procuring productive uses for surplus capital.
Even during Marx’s time, there were several critiques of capitalism. How do you differentiate Marx’s critique from these strands?
Many of the critiques of capitalism were based on moral categories (evil and greedy capitalists versus impoverished and badly treated workers or more recently, environmentally callous capitalists versus the ecologists). Marx’s critique is systemic. Moral and ethical objections remain, but Marx treats them as secondary to the systemic problem of why and how to replace the capitalist mode of production and its disastrous laws of motion by some other way of meeting human wants and needs.
Do you think capitalism has reached a dead end, especially in context of the 2008 crisis? Can capital recover?
Capital is not at a dead end. The neo-liberal project is alive and well. Jair Bolsanaro, recently elected in Brazil, proposes to repeat what Pinochet did in Chile after 1973. The problem is that neo-liberalism no longer commands the consent of the mass of the population. It has lost its legitimacy. I already pointed out in The Brief History of Neo-liberalism (2005) that neo-liberalism could not survive without entering into an alliance with state authoritarianism. It now is moving towards an alliance with neo-fascism, because as we see from all the protest movements around the world, everyone now sees neo-liberalism is about lining the pockets of the rich at the expense of the people (this was not so evident in the 1980s and early 1990s).
Marx believed that capitalism would die out due to its internal contradictions. You don’t agree with this. Why?
Marx sometimes makes it seem as if capital is destined to self-destruct. But in most instances, he looks on crises as moments of reconstruction for capital rather than of collapse. “[C]rises are never more than momentary, violent solutions for the existing contradictions, violent eruptions that re-establish the balance that has been disturbed,” as he says in Volume 3 of Capital.
Where he does see capital ending, it is because of a class movement. I believe my position is in agreement with Marx. Capitalism will not end of its own accord. It will have to be pushed, overthrown, abolished. I disagree with those who think all we have to do is wait for it to self-destruct. That is not, in my view, Marx’s position.
You consistently argue that Marx talked not just about value at the production level but also the arena of realisation. Could you elaborate this in the present context?
In the first chapter of Capital, Marx recognises that value is created in production and realised in the market. If there is no market, then there is no value. So value is dependent upon the contradictory unity between production and realisation. Realisation depends upon the wants, needs and desires of a population backed by the ability to pay.
The history of capitalism has been about the production of new wants, needs and desires (e.g. consumerism of various sorts and the production of daily forms of life to which we must conform in order to live reasonably such as automobiles and suburban living). I now teach an audience where everyone has a cell phone (which did not exist twenty years ago). To live in most US cities, you need an automobile which pollutes.
Marxists have paid a lot of attention to production, but have neglected issues of realisation. In my view, it is the contradictory unity of the two (which Marx mentions as crucial but does not elaborate upon) that should be the focus of our attention. Extraction and appropriation of value (often via dispossession) at the point of realisation is a political focus of struggle as are the qualities of daily life.
German socio-economist Wolfgang Streeck has identified five problems of capitalism in his How will Capitalism End. Instead, you identified 17 contradictions, not problems, of contemporary capitalism. What is the difference between problems and contradictions regarding the crisis of capitalism?
Problems have solutions. Contradictions do not: they always remain latent. They can only be managed and as Marx points out, crises arise when antagonisms are heightened into absolute contradictions. The contradiction between productive forces and social relations cannot be solved. It will always be with us. The contradiction between production and realisation will always be with us, etc.
I listed seventeen contradictions in order to emphasise that crises can arise in many different ways and that we need to develop a theory of crises which understands their multiple sources so we can get away from the “single bullet” theory that too often haunts Marxist thinking.
Under capitalism, automation causes significant job loss all over the world. Even the World Bank has raised concerns regarding automation. What is the challenge of automation under capitalism? What effect will it have on working class politics?
The parallel with automation in manufacturing and AI in services is useful. In manufacturing, labour was disempowered by tech change. Plus, offshoring with tech change is much more important. But manufacturing did not disappear. It continued to expand in different ways (e.g. fast food restaurants that produce hamburgers rather than factories that produce automobiles).
We will see much the same thing in services (we check ourselves in or out in supermarkets and airlines now). The left lost the battle against automation in manufacturing and is in danger of repeating its dismal record in services. We should welcome AI in services and promote it, but try to find a path towards a socialist alternative. AI will create new jobs as well as displace some. We need to adapt to that.
What do you mean by ‘new imperialism’? What is its basic characteristic? How is it qualitatively different from classical imperialism?
I called it “the new imperialism” since it was an explicit theory advanced by the neo-conservatives in the US in the run up to the Iraq war. I wanted to critique that, not to get back to Lenin’s theory, but to point out that the neo-liberal world order was sucking out value in all kinds of ways from all manner of places (e.g. through commodity chains). This was, of course, the topic of Brief History of Neo-liberalism, which followed on from The New Imperialism. The two books should be read together.
There is an argument and belief, even among left intellectuals in the West, that the global south delinking from globalisation will result in a return to pre-modernity. What is your take on this? What should constitute the development agenda of the global south?
I think the idea of a total delinking would be disastrous. But I think selective delinking and the search for autonomous regionalities though bioregionalism is a good idea. The idea is to build alternative geographies of interrelations, but the global perspective (e.g. on global warming) is critical.
Study on cities is one of your areas of interest. You analyse cities as spaces of surplus appropriation. How does this work, especially in the context of neo-liberal cities? What is the importance of the right to city?
Urbanisation and capital accumulation go hand in hand and that is one of the aspects of Marxist thought that has been historically underdeveloped. Now half of the world’s populations live in cities. So questions of daily life in environments constructed for purposes of capital accumulation is a big issue and a source of contradiction and conflict. This is emphasised politically by the pursuit of the right to the city: e.g. class struggle in and over the qualities of urban life. Many of the major social movements in recent decades have been over such questions (e.g. Gezi Park in Istanbul).
Your condition of post-modernity looks into its material base. On a philosophical level, what is the larger influence of post-modernism on social life? What about the idea of post-truth?
Like many other broad-based, and to some degree incoherent cultural movements, the post-modern turn created positive openings along with absurdities and retrogressive impacts. I liked the fact that it opened up perspectivism and emphasized space, but I could see no reason why this would be antagonistic to Marxism, since in my own work, I emphasize how to integrate space, geographies and perspectivism into Marxism.
At the end of the day, as Eagleton pointed out at the time, the movement went too far in seeing “no difference between truth, authority and rhetorical seductiveness” such that “he who has the smoothest tongue and the raciest story has the power.” It “junked history, refused argumentation, aestheticized politics and staked all on the charisma of those who told the stories.” Donald Trump is a product of this post-modern excess.
In the initial stage, we thought internet as the great liberating force. But over the course of time, big monopolies emerged, profiting from the digital space. Cases like Cambridge Analytica reveal how personal data is being manipulated by these monopolies. What is the danger it poses? How to liberate internet as a public utility?
There is no such thing as a good and emancipatory technology that cannot be co-opted and perverted into a power of capital. And so it is in this case.
How do you locate the emergence of Donald Trump? How can the rise of populism in different parts of the world be addressed?
He is a post-modern president of universal alienation.
Does the growing popularity of Bernie Sanders and Jermy Corbyn in the US and UK elections respectively make you hopeful? Were they just election mobilisations? What should be the form and content of present day socialist politics?
There is a big difference between mobilisation and organisation. Only now, we are beginning to see elements on the left that see that building an organisation is crucial to gaining and holding political power. In the British case, the rise of momentum alongside a resurgence of party building provides hopeful signs, as does the manifesto for bringing key elements of the economy into the public domain (which is different from nationalisation) as a political strategy. But the problem is that many in the parliamentary Labour party are as yet unsupportive. As yet, we do not see enough of this sort of thing in the US.
There is surge of right-wing politics across the world. The latest is example is the election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Is the world moving towards fascism, similar to the 1930s and 40s? What is the political economy behind the sudden rise of ultra right-wing politicians like Bolsonaro in a Latin American country which was famous for left politics?
Alienation produced by neo-liberalism managed by the Workers Party, coupled with widespread corruption, produces a mass base prone to be exploited by neo-fascist delusions. The left failed to organise and now has to do so in the face of repressions.
Your course on Marx and Marxism has been very popular worldwide. How relevant is Marxism today? What do you think are Marx’s contributions?
Marx wrote the beginnings of a stunningly perceptive analysis of how capital works as a mode of production. Capital was developed in Marx’s time in only one minor part of the world. But it is now everywhere, so Marx’s analysis is far more relevant now than it was in his time. Everyone who studies Marx carefully recognises this, which in some ways, explains why political power is so desperate to repress this mode of thought.
There exist significant despair and dissatisfaction among the common masses under neo-liberal capitalism. Where does the hope for a better world lie? What sustains your hope?
In spite of all the attempts at repression, people are increasingly seeing that there is something wrong with not only neo-liberalism, but also capitalism. It plainly does not and cannot deliver on it promises and the need for some other form of political-economic organisation is becoming ever more obvious.
Manufacturing jobs actually fell in absolute terms from 58.9 million in 2011-12 to 48.3 million in 2015-16. Economists have been writing for some months that, contrary to the claims of the government, there is plenty of data available that shows unmistakably that unemployment is high and rising. Educated unemployment has worsened just as young people are getting better educated, and expect to work outside agriculture in industry and services.
We have done this on the strength of analysis of household surveys – Annual Survey, Labour Bureau (LB) 2015-16 – with a sample size the same or larger than the five-yearly employment-unemployment surveys of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). We also used survey data, available since 2016, of the Centre for Monitoring of the Indian Economy (CMIE), which has a sample size larger than the LB Annual Survey and the NSSO surveys. Both surveys that were used cover both rural and urban, and both organised and unorganised sector employment. In a nutshell, they capture both EPFO/NPS (organised) as well as such employment as might be generated by MUDRA loans or platform economy jobs. The latter two sources are precisely what the government claims are not being captured by whatever data on jobs is available.
We have repeatedly stated that government claims that there is not enough ‘good’ data on jobs is simply untenable, for the reasons noted above: recent available employment data all capture jobs that the government claimed were not being captured. The recently leaked data from the NSSO’s latest labour force survey (PLFS 2017-18), using the same questionnaire and same definitions of employment/unemployment as earlier NSSO surveys on employment should have laid to rest any government claims forever.
What became clear from the NSSO’s 2017-18 data is that actually the jobs situation is even more grim that has been consistently argued. We had argued earlier the overall rate of open unemployment (as opposed to under-employment or disguised unemployment) had risen sharply after 2011-12. That has been proven in the leaked numbers. However, the “believers” prefer the new chief economic advisor’s response: “People talk about unemployment rate. Debating the unemployment rate misses the point entirely. The key aspect is meaningful employment.”
What the leaked data has shown is that while the open unemployment rate by the usual status was never over 2.6% between 1977-78 and 2011-12, it has now jumped to 6.1% in 2017-18. This is not entirely surprising as more and more young people have gotten educated in India in the last 10-12 years particularly. Tertiary education enrolment rate (for 18-23 year olds) has risen over this period from 11% in 2006 to 26% in 2016. Gross secondary (classes 9-10) enrolment rate for 15-16 year olds had shot up from 58% in 2010 to 90% in 2016.
The expectation of such youth is for a urban, regular job in either industry or services, not in agriculture. If they have the financial wherewithal to obtain education upto such levels, they can also “afford” to remain unemployed. Poor people, who are also much more poorly educated, have much lower capacity to withstand open unemployment, and hence have lower open unemployment rates.
What the recently leaked data also reveals is that as open unemployment rates increase, more and more people got disheartened, and fall out of the labour force. In other words, they stopped looking for work, even though they were in the working age (15+). The result is that labour force participation rates (LFPR), for all ages, have fallen sharply from 43% in 2004-5 to 39.5% in 2011-12, to 36.9% in 2017-18. As we will show below, this shows up in the rising numbers of youth who are NEET (not in education, employment or training). This is a potential source of both our demographic dividend, but also of what is looking like a mounting demographic disaster.
Meanwhile, we have been repeatedly told by government economists that there is no jobs crisis. Surjit Bhalla, till recently a member PM’s Economic Advisory Council, keeps repeating that we shouldn’t about slow growth of jobs based on his employment estimates (on January 5, 2019). However, estimates based on both principal and subsidiary status suggests the following (see below table).
Table 1: Sectoral Employment, Unemployment, Labour Force and NEET (Usual Principal+Subsidiary Status)
Employment and unemployment Estimates
2004-05 2011-12 2015-16 2017-18
Agriculture 266.2 230.4 225 222.4
Manufacturing 53.1 58.9 48.3 44.1
Non-manufacturing 29.6 55.2 61 64.2
Service 107.5 127.3 140.8 148.4
Total employed 456.5 471.8 475.2 476.9
Unemployed 10.7 10.3 16.5 21.8
Labour force 467.2 482.2 491.7 496.6
NEET (15-29 yrage group) 70.3 83.9 103.3 115.6
Note: Estimates for the year 2017-18*, are projected figures under the assumption that all else remains unchanged. NEET = Not in education, employment or training. Source: Authors estimation using NSS and LB unit data.
The overall labour force (LF) is not growing at 12 million per annum. Never in India’s history, except 1999-2000 to 2004-5 due to a baby boom in the early 1980s, has the LF grown by 12 million. Instead it had grown by 2.1 million per annum during 2004-05 and 2011-12, and about 2.4 million per annum during post 2011-12 periods. The sharp supposed “fall” in jobs that we find post 2004 is actually on account of a sharp increase in school enrolment. The volume of open unemployment was almost constant at around 10 million until 2011-12, but it increased to 16.5 million by 2015-16. Increased open unemployment post 2011-12 periods suggests that those in education prior to 2011-12 would start searching for non-agricultural jobs – but did not find them. The latest data suggest that this situation has worsened further by 2017-18.
Worse still, it shows up in a sharp increase in unemployment rate (UR) of the educated (based on our estimates of Annual Survey, Labour Bureau). The UR rose over 2011-12 to 2016 from 0.6 to 2.4% for those with middle education, 1.3% to 3.2% for class 10 pass, 2% to 4.4% for class 12 pass, 4.1 to 8.4% for graduate and 5.3% to 8.5% for post-graduates. Even more worrying, for those with technical education, UR rose for graduates from 6.9% to 11%, post-grads from 5.7 to 7.7% and for vocationally trained from 4.9% to 7.9%. The more educated you are, the more likely you will be unemployed.
Bhalla has argued that “During those seven UPA years [2004-5 to 2011-12] only 10 million jobs were provided or just 1.4 million per annum”. Earlier Bhalla claimed: “…that the lowering of GDP growth for 2004-5 to 2011-12 was entirely expected. Primarily because of the surprise [sic] low employment growth between 2004-5 and 2011-12”. For 2004-5 to 2011-12 he erroneously claims that NSSO data “reveal” a total job gain of “only 9 million”. Bhalla seems to believe all kinds of jobs, including in agriculture, are “jobs” to be valued. For an economy at India’s stage of development an increase of workers in agriculture (that took place over 1999-2004) is a structural retrogression – in a direction opposite to the desired one.
Between 2004-5 and 2011-12 the number of workers in agriculture fell sharply, which is good – for the first time in India’s economic history. Until then, the absolute numbers working in agriculture had increased (even though the share of employment in farming was falling, slowly). Similarly, youth (aged 15-29 years) employed in agriculture fell from 86.8 to 60.9 million (or at the rate of 3 million per annum) between 2004-5 and 2011-12. However, after 2012 youth in agriculture actually increased to 84.8 million till 2015-16 and even more since then (as CMIE data would attest). Bhalla is clearly innocent of such nuances. Job growth is lower in recent years than over.
Bhalla’s claim that only 1.4 million jobs were provided during 2004-5 to 2011-12 (or just <10 million total) is facile. Yes, that is true only if you deduct from total job growth in all sectors those leaving agriculture (less agri-workers is a good thing for the workers, agriculture, and economy as a whole). What really matters for India at our stage of development is the growth in non-agricultural jobs. During that period 51.2 million non-agri jobs were created, or 7.3 million per annum. By contrast, post-2012, only 1.2 million pa (or 4.8 million total) non-agricultural jobs were created until 2015-16, and then 1.75 million (3.5 million total) are likely to have been created (all other things remaining the same) till 2017-18.
What is most worrying is that manufacturing jobs actually fell in absolute terms from 58.9 million in 2011-12 to 48.3 million in 2015-16, a whopping 10.6 million over a mere four-year period. This is consistent with the slowing growth in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP, which consists of manufacturing, mining, electricity). IIP had risen from 100 in 2004-5 to 172 by 2013-14 (in the 2004-5 series), and from (a base of 100 in 2011-12 in the later series) to 107 in 2013-14, but only rose to 125.3 in 2017-18. Slower industrial production recently is also suggested by other indicators (slower credit offtake, lower plant load factor). Declining manufacturing jobs is indicative of stalled transformation of the Indian economy.
What is tragic is the growing number of educated youths (age 15-29) who are “Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET)”. This number (which was 70 million in 2004-5, Table 1) increased by 2 million per annum during 2004-5 and 2011-12, but was growing by about 5 million per annum 2011-12 – 2015-16, and if that later trend continued (as there is evidence it has) we estimate it would have increased to 115.6 million in 2017-18. These NEET and unemployed youths together constitutes the potential labour force, which can be utilised to realise the demographic dividend in India.
Bhalla’s claim: “A large part of the so-called jobs crisis is because of demand for government jobs, not jobs per se” is therefore without foundation. There is a real crisis. Also, the NEETs have grown by a massive 20 million in just four years (2011-12 to 2015-16). Plus there is the 10 million actual increase in the LF. In other words, just over 4 years, India should have created at least 7.5 million new non-agri jobs each year (which India had managed to create over 2004-5 to 2011-12); it actually created only 2.2 million. This is not counting the new non-agri jobs needed for agricultural workers wanting to leave agriculture; this number fell as construction growth fell sharply in the last few years. If the government is not willing to recognise a jobs problem it is unlikely to do very much about it – and continue to keep relying upon EPFO data (inadequate as it is) and MUDRA loans to keep informing us that there is no jobs crisis. It’s not surprising that the NDA-II’s budget speech did not mention “jobs” once.
(Writer is Prof of Economics, Centre for Labor, JNU) n
Speech at the First All Russian Congress of Working Women, November 19, 1918
Comrades, in a certain sense this Congress of the women’s section of the workers’ army has a special significance, because one of the hardest things in every country has been to stir the women into action. There can be no socialist revolution unless very many working women take a big part in it.
In all civilised countries, even the most advanced, women are actually no more than domestic slaves. Women do not enjoy full equality in any capitalist state, not even in the freest of republics.
One of the primary tasks of the Soviet Republic is to abolish all restrictions on women’s rights. The Soviet government has completely abolished divorce proceedings, that source of bourgeois degradation, repression and humiliation.
It will soon be a year now since complete freedom of divorce was legislated. We have passed a decree annulling all distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children and removing political restrictions. Nowhere else in the world have equality and freedom for working women been so fully established.
We know that it is the working-class woman who has to bear the full brunt of antiquated codes. For the first time in history, our law has removed everything that denied women rights. But the important thing is not the law. In the cities and industrial areas this law on complete freedom of marriage is doing all right, but in the countryside it all too frequently remains a dead letter. There the religious marriage still predominates. This is due to the influence of the priests, an evil that is harder to combat than the old legislation.
We must be extremely careful in fighting religious prejudices; some people cause a lot of harm in this struggle by offending religious feelings. We must use propaganda and education. By lending too sharp an edge to the struggle we may only arouse popular resentment; such methods of struggle tend to perpetuate the division of the people along religious lines, whereas our strength lies in unity. The deepest source of religious prejudice is poverty and ignorance; and that is the evil we have to combat.
The status of women up to now has been compared to that of a slave; women have been tied to the home, and only socialism can save them from this. They will only be completely emancipated when we change from small-scale individual farming to collective farming and collective working of the land. That is a difficult task. But now that Poor Peasants’ Committees are being formed, the time has come when the socialist revolution is being consolidated.
The poorest part of the rural population is only now beginning to organise, and socialism is acquiring a firm foundation in these organisations of poor peasants.
Before, often the town became revolutionary and then the countryside.
But the present revolution relies on the countryside, and therein lie its significance and strength. the experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it. The Soviet government is doing everything in its power to enable women to carry on independent proletarian socialist work.
The Soviet government is in a difficult position because the imperialists of all countries hate Soviet Russia and are preparing to go to war with her for kindling the fire of revolution in a number of countries and for taking determined steps towards socialism.
Now that they are out to destroy revolutionary Russia, the ground is beginning to burn under their own feet. You know how the revolutionary movement is spreading in Germany. In Denmark the workers are fighting their government. In Switzerland and Holland the revolutionary movement is getting stronger. The revolutionary movement in these small countries has no importance in itself, but it is particularly significant because there was no war in these countries and they had the most “constitutional” democratic system. If countries like these are stirring into action, it makes us sure the revolutionary movement is gaining ground all over the world.
No other republic has so far been able to emancipate woman. The Soviet Government is helping her. Our cause is invincible because the invincible working class is rising in all countries. This movement signifies the spread of the invincible socialist revolution. n