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A Broken Search for the Humane – Story of a Political Defeat

The political economy of the labour crisis and the inability of the Left to learn from past experiences has led to a lot of chaos and confusion during the lockdown.

By Dhrupadi Ghosh       

I am writing this piece like a confession in a lockdown state where health care like every other problem is in muddles. Humans are suffering more from the panic than the virus. And the chaos thrives around hunger of poor mass. Through the eeriness of present normalcy, Coronavirus or COVID-19 has been transmitting along with its receptor in human bodies. A receptor is like a route, says a retired biophysicist from Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Mr. Subrata Banerjee(1). Further says he, “it’s a virus that is mutating fast”. Any person could be asymptomatic yet carrying the virus. He believes the virus could be a mere leak from a laboratory. While the US has alleged China recently of COVID-19 as a laboratory made virus, Chinese officials have blamed the US army of SARS-CoV-2.

In this mutual blame game of both the economic and military superpowers, the huge number of COVID-19 affected people have been dehumanised by their own states. On the other hand, it’s only the rich profiteers who fetched the virus in, as they continued to abolish nature all along the past years. As the crony capitalists have all participated in feral games around the power of finance capital, the game changed into a more complex multi-player one. The world economic order too has shattered in the meantime. While President Trump has almost twisted American politics on its head, the madness of it seems amazing beside record increase in excise duty in oil. It is bringing huge revenue to the Government to fill their treasury up while the common masses get bereaved of any revenue.

Without any political engagement, this huge lockdown took place where so many fundamental rights got suspended. Even the off-mainstream Left in India didn’t understand at the beginning what was to come. It has failed significantly. The Left largely (with a few exceptions like Kerala) has lagged behind to gauge the situation for the common masses. It’s time to recognize and understand this failure so as to work better. In the meantime, labour laws and social security systems too are changing in India while we are getting too happy with a Twitter Storm, a well-written article or gathering of spirited people over social media. We have refused to learn and have been unable to learn from our own defeats hence the situation is very dire indeed. But we live in a delusory, fancied world, where only token resistance and legal cases have surfaced like weak soldiers in front of fascism paying us illusory tributes.

Since we are moving through a virtual opposition-less time, politically, no leader or party so far has raised the issue to reduce the price of petrol and diesel due to the international oil price drop that would benefit citizens. It could have been an important political demand. This is all the more important given that the oil price slump would lead to massive production cuts then if demand rejuvenates after the lockdown, prices would fly like there is no tomorrow.

Illustration by Dhrupadi Ghosh.

This is an interesting time when the clear division between rich and the poor has surfaced again. There is fear of the rich making the poor more vulnerable. No sustainable political model is equipped to fight the current fascism. We are staying at home bolting our doors shut, in the security of privilege with revolutionary literature on our desks and trying to organise ‘relief’ online for the stranded migrant workers. In the meantime, the Prime Minister of India has reiterated the important role of social organisations helping the poor. The poor won’t like our rhetoric of any Marxist literature but harp on a maddening reality – the dominant right wing parties are feeding the poor and the riot victims in North-East Delhi while our so-called Left is caught up in debates at home, following the lockdown order given by Prime Minister Modi showing utmost obeisance.

We have stopped searching for humans in poor working masses and have refused to wake up to their reality. We have failed to create loose political bodies and some steps towards collective bartering. Migrant workers are made so that virtually there is no political agency or right as a migrant. In my own state West Bengal, there is a social network and a right to litigation but we always get confused between politics and ideological debates and deal with the stranded workers issue with either charity or any ideological extreme. While the token dole from the ruling fascist party, their mind and patience testing act is winning over a huge section. We are getting dependent on self-satisfaction from ‘doing our bit’ but our will gets weakened as a result. Imperialism can’t be so concerned for people. This episodic emergency in capitalism won’t naturally give birth to a more democratic social order unless the common working mass participates as a political opposition on ground. We need to get out on the ground, make our presence and our work visible and relatable to the masses. Else, at the end of catastrophe, only a bunch of new elites will replace the old elites and ‘The Democratic Tasks of the Revolutionary Proletariat’(2) would only remain a closed chapter in some museums.


[1] SINP is in Kolkata where Banerjee was a researcher in the field of Human Genome.

[2] By V I Lenin, Proletary, No. 4, June 17 (4), 19O6. Published according to the text in Proletary.

Cover illustration by Dhrupadi Ghosh.

About the Author

Dhrupadi Ghosh is a PhD Scholar at Department of Sociology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Her focus is Focus: Art, Domination and Resistance. A respository of her artwork could be found here.

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