Saturday, October 6, 2012


Practicality in these Times

(New Series No. 291, September 2012)

*Waking up a three/four/five years old at 5/6/7’o clock in the morning. Forcing the child to defecate when neither body nor soul is willing. Forcing the child eat even if she or he is unwilling. Washing the sleeping child’s face. Forcing the unwilling child into a uniform. To be practical, parents suppress their own desires and their child’s childhood. In order to keep them practical, schools teach children how to sit still – they destroy childhood.

*To be practical in our times one has to accept a habitation made of cement, steel and paint. Practicality demands roads outside. Electricity within. Children long for mud and sand. They long to run and jump around. To bring up a child properly, 50 people of varying ages are required but only one or two or three or four are available. So practicality requires that a child be checked at each step, at all times. Practicality is transforming each child into a bomb.

*For a bright future, practicality requires that the child be sent to school. A good school is that whose students fetch a good price in the market. A good school is an expensive school. Practicality asks us to choose between a good and a not-so-good school. Whether it be a better or a worse school, post-school tuitions are accepted practice. The child is able to spend little time with grandparents. It is in the nature of schools to break down relations between generations. Practicality requires the mushrooming of old-age homes. The elderly waiting to meet their death.

*A society characterized by hierarchy, market-and-money, and a wage-slavery requires everyone to be both cunning and intelligent. Especially in youth, practicality requires the ability to sell oneself –to hide anger behind an ever smiling face. The intense and turbulent reality of market-and-money shapes the practicality of everyday relations. To live up to our images, constantly trying to hide our reality produces shallow-superficial-temporary relationships.
Can there be a practice of life different from the practical life in a hierarchic, commericalised, monetised, wage-labour based society that we described above?

Straight-forward, simple, truthful behaviour is impractical in our times. Deep, long-term relationships are today impractical.

What one does to become a wage-worker, to remain a wage-worker is practical. Not to have wage-workers, to end wage-slavery is impractical.

To challenge hierarchy, market-and-money, and wage-slavery is definitely impractical. However, it is an expression of the life-force, of life itself. The growing impracticalities throughout the world today are increasingly challenging the practicalities.

As an example, let us take a look at a beautiful expression of impracticality in the activities of the Maruti Suzuki workers from June 2011 to July 18, 2012.

*On June 4, 2011 the workers of the A & B shifts got together to remove the company's and the state's control over the factory. Forming networks and chains, the workers established their own control. Production stopped, and permanent workers, trainees, apprentices, contractual workers interacted among themselves with a new intensity. The company got cold feet and the government stood aghast at the workers' impracticality. The practical people in support of the company and the state were joined by the pro-workers practical people calling to normalize the situation. The normal situation meant resuming production, making cars. To be practical means exchange, measurement and bargaining. The workers continued to remain impractical; they remained so for 13 days. The workers were treading an unfamiliar path. The practical side became dominant because this unfamiliar path could not acquire a definite form and production restarted in the factory after the negotiations.

*The management is very practical, but the presence of impracticality is always felt among the workers. Standing up for contractual workers, in July the permanent workers gave another proof of their impracticality. The company made preparations and wove a net to force practicality down the workers’ throats. They surreptitiously brought new recruits. At night on Sunday, August 28, 400 policemen and management staff were sent in to fire the brahmastra of expulsion, suspension and signing of a good conduct bond on the workers who reported on the 29th morning. Workers were outside the factory. The police, management staff and new workers were inside. If, on the one hand, there were attempts to restart production in the factory, on the other, the association between permanent workers, contractual workers, trainees and apprentices strengthened. Three thousand workers organized themselves. Whenever the impracticality of workers manifests itself, pro-worker, yet practical people and organizations become hyperactive, trying to teach practicality to workers. The Company was overconfident because it was playing a tactic that has been tested many times in Mumbai, Faridabad, Gurgaon etc. Remaining limited to the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar was weakening them. Yet the young workers seemed capable of prolonging the conflict for quite some time – this once again brought in the practical people from both sides to exert their pressure. In order to make workers relearn the lessons of practicality, a new agreement was signed on September 30.

*The new workers recruited in September continued to remain in the factory. After the agreement, leaving 44 expelled workers, permanent workers, trainees and apprentices reentered the factory. But 1200-1500 contractual workers were not allowed inside by the company. The management was ready to break the networks that had formed among workers and to replicate a strategy that had worked successfully in 2005 in the Honda Motorcycle and Scooters Company – the permanent, trainee and contract workers had waged a united struggle in Honda, yet the management took back the permanent workers, but retrenched all the existing contract workers, employing new ones in their place, and stopped keeping trainees altogether.

The impracticality of the workers reasserted itself on October 7. Including the Maruti Suzuki plants, workers liberated eleven factories in the Industrial Model Town of Manesar from the control of the management and the state. The forces of practicality pushed themselves in through all kinds of measures. On the 8th, workers removed their control over seven factories which the companies recaptured. October 8th onwards, the struggle was now limited now to four factories of the Suzuki group. The workers' control started acceding to practicality. Yet in the words of one worker:
“The time we spent in the Maruti Suzuki factory between the 7th and the 14th of October was very good. No tension regarding work or travel. No anxiety to catch a bus. No worries about cooking. No more trouble about when to eat our meals. No need to count days in the week or to keep track of the date. There were many intimate conversations. We had never been as close to each other as we came in those seven days.”
*The practicality of the state and management took a step back and made concessions to the impracticality of the workers. A third agreement was signed on October 19th. Contract workers returned to the factory. And also, the time for assembling a car was increased from 45 seconds to a minute.

*Practicality started designing a new ploy. Three workers of Suzuki Powertrain had played a key role in forming links with the workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar in the month of October. Because these three workers had taken a strong stand against the state and the company, and the October 19 Maruti Suzuki agreements, they had to be sidelined to finally clinch the agreement on October 21. The three protesting workers were suspended, and in order to establish the ones who had put down their signatures, a three-year agreement was reached between the Powertrain management and the union. Regaining confidence in their control, the management finally fired these three workers on the 17th of April, 2012, while those who were involved in the agreements maintained order among the workers. Then the bosses decided to merge Suzuki Powertrain and the Maruti Suzuki companies – this was done in order to weaken the specific rebellious workers. By keeping those who were brought in the factory in September 2011 and by starting a B-Plant, the bosses had already weakened the strength of these workers. By registering and recognizing the union, the management had already made a solid arrangement to create a rift between the permanent and other workers. By provoking and fomenting managed explosions, the bosses were on the way to reestablish practicality among workers.

*Of course, the concessions gave some reliefs too, but nothing much really changed in their lives. However, Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers had the determination to change their lives, make them better. Despite concessions on the company’s part, the lives of Maruti Suzuki Manesar workers remained the lives of workers, unbearable as ever. And so on July 18 2012, the workers targeted two symbols of the status quo – the factory and its management.

*The impracticality of past generations brought many significant junctures in the social process. If one were to speak of workers, then in 1871, in France, workers established the Paris Commune – the army, police and judiciary were dissolved, the jails were torn down, and the workers were up in arms. The supporters of hierarchy, market-and-money and wage-slavery did destroy the Paris Commune by massacring thousands of workers, yet the Paris Commune continues to show the way today. In 1905, in Russia, impractical workers did step forward on the path of the Paris Commune by constituting the Soviets, and suffered much violence. The Soviets emerged once again in 1917. In October 1917, dissolving the army, the police, the courts and the jails, the general workers took up arms and the Soviets became the harbingers of a new society. But due to adverse conditions, practicality reared its head once again and a standing army by the name of the “Red Army” was reestablished in 1918. The establishment of an army and increase in its strength implied a decline in the power of the workers’ soviets. Instead of being destroyed altogether, the Soviets were made powerless; they existed as a smokescreen that contributed to the maintenance of hierarchy, market-and-money and the system of wages.

We find ourselves surrounded by the circumstances similar to those of July 18 at Maruti Suzuki Manesar and increasingly so. The same situation is found the world over and increasingly so. Can there be anything more satisfying for us in our struggle against hierarchy, market-and-money and wage-slavery, and for a new social order? We are face-to-face with destruction, the end, and a new beginning – can there be a better present, a better near future for humanity?

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