FMS, Issue No. 313
Everyone knows around 7 billion people inhabit the world today. All of us also sense, in one way or another, the enmeshed presence of 7 billion in our lives. We evoke the capacities of these 7 billion in our conversations, time and again. The restlessness and trembling, praise and pride, curiosity and creation of 7 billion affect each of us. The quality of this sensing, surfacing and affecting is decisive for the future of life on this planet.
It is our understanding that the self-activities, thoughts, conversations and relationships that are being enacted, formed and created here – in the industrial areas in and around Delhi – can provide for a qualitative shift in the possibilities and aspirations of the 7 billion. So, let’s talk again about some of the qualities and characteristics of ‘here’.
1. Who acts? Who reacts?
The collective action of the workers of Maruti-Suzuki (Manesar) startled everyone. They de-occupied the factory of the management’s control, over and over again. We looked attentively, and found workers de-occupying factories all around here – after, and before, the events at Maruti Manesar. And we realized that companies react to de-occupation by giving concessions. We saw how these concessions continually, and in large part, fail. Faced with this constant failure of control and concessions, companies and the government have reacted with repression. Given this, during this period, one dominant trend has been of workers attacking factories. In reaction, the government has taken many workers as political prisoners. Courts have refused bail. Hundreds of commandos have been deployed in industrial areas, and police has been stationed inside workplaces. The acceleration of action by workers makes transparent the weakness and failing power of companies and the government.
2. Actions that make control loosen its hold.
There is no pause, no stoppage. There’s a stirring of creation everywhere, at all times, in every interval, in gatherings, as individuals, groups and collectives. This brings on the visage of each person a sense of joy and fullness. Managerial frowns deepen. On some days, a few thousand women workers reach the gates, but don’t enter the factory. On another day, handwritten pamphlets in motion inside the factory frighten the management. Another day, workers from two shifts gather in one place and neither leave the factory nor commence work. Sometimes conversations in the canteen are so engrossing that the meal is forgotten. And what mobile conversations might unleash, trouble managements no end. No step is big or small, grand or miniscule. The tiniest and simplest of steps gather momentum and change scale in a matter of moments.
3. Away from representation
“What is it that workers want?” has become a mysterious, unsolvable, incorrigible, enigmatic riddle. Conventionally, the operation of speaking for, on behalf of and in the interest of workers has provided the condition for representatives to emerge. They alone would be the ones who’d know workers, enter into negotiations and settle disagreements. This has been a form of control. Contrary to this, what we find here is that no one is waiting to be spoken for, and every person and every collective is gauging his, her, their actions and the potency of these actions. This disposition has displaced the weight of long-term agreements, be they of three or of five years. Even short-term representational games no longer hold sway. This is the gift, the insight that is emergent from here: The soundness, agility, longevity and robustness of workers’ abilities and capacities lies in the riddle, “What is it that workers want?” remaining a riddle.
A companion who works in Maruti Manesar said, “After we de-occupied the factory of the management, it was as if all of us who’d been working side by side for three to four years were seeing each other for the first time.” This thought, this feeling, these words have been resounding everywhere. Whether it’s the workplace, a park, a maidan, or a college, this is the affect that gives velocity to, and inspires to, de-occupy. New thresholds of life and relationships begin to take form when control loosens during de-occupation. And even if the de-occupation is short-lived, countless words become necessary to define and give expression to the excitement and the mood that it brings in its wake. Some words find a new life, a new force, a new context. Like: thoughtful, knowledgeable, the one who keeps his/her word, the one who suggests solutions, the one who understands the world and its ways, the experienced, the one who keeps herself abreast of what’s going on in the world, the informed, the mystic, the renouncer, the one who has a story for every occasion, the one who brings news from afar, the one who advises, the one who can be trusted and depended on, the one who knows about things, the one who understands, the contrarian, the listener, the voracious reader, the one who gives you courage, the capable, the alert, the magician, the responsible, the heretical.
5. Changing the order of time
To sleep when you want, to wake up when you feel like it, to sing when the heart desires, to eat when you like, to speak when you have the urge to speak, to listen when you feel drawn to something, to rest when you choose, to dream whenever. No shift, no lunch time, no tea break, no tension to catch the bus, no worry about cooking, no separation between night and day, no anxiety about which day of the week it is, no fretting over the date of the month. Thousands of workers have de-occupied workplaces and created this collective time. This non-serial, undivided time gestures towards the time to come. It is an intimation of the joyful, vibrant life that is knocking at the door of the present.
What we can see here, from here, is a glimpse of that which is immanent in the seven billion who inhabit this planet.