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Human suffering during the pandemic and the need for a new society

 

 

By Raju J Das

May 14, 2020 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — During the on-going pandemic, humanity’s suffering has increased enormously. By May 11, 2020, 4.2 million people in the world had contracted the coronavirus, and 285,000 had died. In the richest and most powerful country of the world, more than 1.4 million cases have been reported, with 81,000 deaths.[1] The pandemic is producing massive adverse impacts, including on income and employment opportunities (Davis, 2020; Toussaint, 2020).[2] The pandemic is forcing us to think about what kind of society we wish to live in. This article discusses the ‘consequences’ of the pandemic for people and what they say about the nature of the society we live in. The article then talks about what a different kind of society would look like, one that is worth fighting for now.

The coronavirus pandemic and questioning the current social order

Millions of workers have lost their employment in the world, and small-scale self-employed business owners are in dire economic stress, just as they usually are in an economic crisis of declining profitability. Healthcare workers have been valiantly doing their work, often without proper protective equipment, which is in short supply even if resources are available to produce them in adequate amount. In many countries, workers are being forced by their bosses to go to work in unsafe working conditions where they are exposed to the risk of the virus. 

While the pandemic is affecting society as a whole, its actual impacts vary at a concrete level in an unequal world: there are already reports that the pandemic is affecting the most socially oppressed workers more than others, and the poor more than the rich. While the more affluent sections can choose to comfortably stay at home, millions of wage-dependent women and men are caught between a rock and a hard place: stay at home and face the risk of starvation that can cause illness/death, or go to work and face the risk of infection that can cause illness/death. In India, which is known to the world for its starvation deaths, several hundred people have already died during the pandemic lock-down, especially, among the hungry migrant workers. As well, cases of domestic violence against women and children have been reported and people from certain categories (e.g. Muslims) are discriminated against with respect to healthcare and even access to employment during the lockdown.[3] 

The majority of the populations of each affected country are suffering (and this suffering is magnified in the less developed countries given their huge absolute poverty and weak healthcare system) and are receiving extremely limited financial support. In contrast, big business in every country, rich or poor, has received large sums of money from their governments, as it did during the 2008 economic crisis, to provide economic stimulus. Apparently, businesses do not have money. No one is asking: what has happened to the billions that big business has been making from the work of the common people? 

Not only are people suffering now. The cost of the pandemic (loss of profit) will be inflicted on the majority in the very near future to make up for the loss of profit. Already in India, ruled by a fascistic government, there are plans to introduce a 12-hour working day. As well, in response to actual and potential protests against how the businesses and governments are responding to the pandemic[4], governments are using the pandemic as an excuse for increasing their authoritarian and coercive tendencies. These tendencies are likely to remain in place even after the pandemic.

The virus is a biological threat. But biology itself does not determine how many get sick or die. 

It is our social order that influences the actual effect of the threat. It is not rocket-science that with necessary public funding, a vaccine could have been created by scientists for the virus which is ‘one of a family of coronaviruses [such as SARS]’ (French, 2020).[5] It was not. An adequately-funded socialized healthcare could save many lives (Wolff, 2020; Duzgun, 2020).[6] This has not happened. Governments could spend more and could regulate enterprises more, to meet the daily needs of common people (i.e. wage-earners and middle class people), especially in poorer nations, rather than provide billions to businesses or worry about fiscal deficit and credit-rating agencies downgrading government’s creditworthiness. 

There is more to society’s irrationality. In some advanced capitalist countries, including the US, the blame for the pandemic is being put on one country – China – which has, in turn, led to cases of xenophobia. This is done to draw people’s attention away from the failure of the ruling class to respond to the situation properly. In countries such as India, obscurantism is peddled as a protection against the pandemic, diverting attention from the failure to deal with the challenge. India’s Hindu-nationalist forces, with government support, have suggested not only banging of plates to chase away the virus but also the use of cow urine and cow dung as a cure. The latter are said to have good chemicals, according to ancient Hindu science (Nanda, 2004; 2016).[7] Lockdown and social distancing are offered as the main ways of fighting the pandemic, as these measures – as opposed to large-scale testing, adequate provision of necessaries to the vast majority of the people, prompt expansion of health-care facilities, and so on – cost little to the governments directly. In India, the annual health spending as well as the spending to fight the pandemic is just a fraction of the annual budget on defense; it is also a fraction of the government’s write-off of the loans from state-owned banks amounting to billions of dollars that are owed to the big business, in the last 5-6 years.[8]

In the growing literature on the coronavirus, there is much criticism of the market or commodification (of healthcare, etc.).[9] This is necessary and justifiable. But the criticism of the market that does not challenge why healthcare is a commodity is limiting. More specifically, the criticism of the market that does not also challenge private property itself, including especially private property in its capitalist-class form, is limiting, just as the criticism of (capitalist) private property without the criticism of the capitalist form of the market is inadequate.[10] Relatedly, the criticism of the market merely as the criticism of the commodity form, the things and services, but not including the criticism of the commodify-status of labour power (which, when exercised, produces those things and services), is also inadequate. (for further details, see the Appendix).

My basic point is that the actual effect of the coronavirus on society, or indeed any such threat to society, inevitably depends on society’s level of preparedness and the extent to which it cares about human lives. The pandemic is forcing us to think about what kind of society we wish to live in. It is to this topic that I turn to. 

Production, work and human needs

Means of production – land and other natural resources, mechanical technology (e.g. tools and machines), biological technology (e.g. seeds and chemicals) and electronic technology (e.g. software and the internet) as well as the means of transportation and communication, factories, labs, warehouses and retail and wholesale stores, etc. –  will be collectively owned and controlled, initially by the workers’ state, and gradually, by men and women who do the work of production and exchange.

Means of production will be used to produce things that meet human needs – the need for food, drinks, shelter, clothes, energy, transportation, health-care, education, culture and leisure, etc. and to produce the things (e.g. machines) that are needed to produce the means of subsistence such as food, etc.[11] The motive of production will be to directly meet everyone’s needs and not to accumulate things or profit. The purpose of production will also not be to increase military and political power. 

Resources for production will be allocated on the basis of the planning for meeting people’s needs. If more food and shelter are needed than vacation houses, more of society’s total labour capacity and its resources will go to the former. There will be economic planning at multiple levels of society with active participation of people who will work a fraction of what is now their working day.

The process of production or labour process needs people and means of production. It does not require owners of means of production. Owning does not count as productive work. Owning does not produce anything. There will be no need for wealthy profit-driven owners or their highly-paid servile managers who direct and lord over the workers. One does not need Mukesh Ambani (India’s richest businessperson) or Jeff Bezos (the owner of Amazon) to run the enterprises owned by them. There are enough good engineers and managers who can manage the enterprises for a decent salary [12] subject to the democratic control over the managers by workers. Gradually, workers will perform the work of directing and superintending which is necessary in any large-scale labour processing involving numerous workers working side by side.[13] People, the workers (whether they work with hands or their heads or both) will be their own ‘boss’, where they make the decisions about everything in the workplace in a democratic way, together.[14]

No one will enjoy an income because they are property owners, whether as those who receive rent or profit or interest. In a good society, a few rich people, a few corrupt politicians, and a few corrupt officers, will not loot the people, in the name of serving people and the nation. People can enjoy the fruits of their work (mental and manual and both). Those who are now capitalists will be converted into workers.

Along with nature which supplies directly the bulk of the means of production (e.g. raw materials, etc.), human beings – as performers of labour – are the co-producer of wealth. Society will restore dignity to both nature and labour. Society will recognize individuals’ innate abilities and natural talents. It will make sure that people freely develop their multiple abilities and interests and that they are free to choose any vocation/s. No one will be forced to do a particular type of work, whether based on birth or any other criterion. 

No able-bodied adult should be unemployed or under-employed.[15] There will be little competition, either for work or for a market or anything else. There will be plenty of work to be done and there will be plenty of ‘demand’ (now expressed as a need to be fulfilled) for what is produced.

In a good society,  everyone should be able to perform enjoyable work for a few hours every week.[16] Everyone should have enough time for their family, friends, and for leisure, meditation, yoga, voluntarily helping each other, enjoying nature, expressing love and affection, painting,  singing, and so on. How much work one does in the workplace will not be governed by the principle that the more work people do, the greater is the profit. A part of people’s work will be the contribution to the management of common affairs of the society. More and more functions of the state will be transferred to people, as they learn new ways of living. 

Doing productive work will become a need, and not a means to earning a livelihood. And when people do their work because they love doing it, they produce, every day, things/services in more quantity and with better quality. Society’s productivity is enhanced. Society’s productive powers also develop because no longer does the economic crisis put a stop to production, as no longer is production driven by profit and exploitation. When productive powers are immensely enhanced, existing unmet needs are met and new needs emerge which are met, and people’s leisure time is also increased. People will perform surplus labour – i.e. they will perform longer hours than what is necessary just for their own reproduction. But they will control how much surplus is produced and how that surplus is used. 

It is through people’s work that they will contribute to society. Society, in turn, will meet the needs of the people, the needs that can be democratically justified (not a vacation on the moon or a million-dollar-car). Needs will be met in different ways. Initially, people will receive a compensation based on their work, and they then will procure their means of subsistence from society.[17] So, some people may receive more than others because they perform greater amount of work and more skilled work, initially: an engineer or a teacher might get more than a sweeper. Over time, however, when society reaches a stage of plenty, people will contribute to society depending on their variable abilities but the needs of all are met, irrespective of how variable the needs are and how much work one does. 

Unlike in the current society where for the vast majority, costs of maintenance are not covered (wages are extremely low), which is why there are millions of people who are working poor, in the new society, living wages will be enjoyed by all. The principle of equal ‘exchange’ will be practiced: the full cost of the reproduction of labour power will be paid. 

If initially, not everyone can be provided with, or is willing to engage in, wage-employment, all self-employed people should be provided full assistance from the government, and their living standards must be improved. They will be encouraged (but not forced) to form cooperatives. As workers’ wages rise immensely, many of them may switch to wage-work.

As associated producers, people will produce a social surplus but this will not be taken away from the owners of conditions of production. The compensation that individuals receive in return for their work will not be equal to how much they produce. Deductions will have to be made from the social product that people produce.[18] Society will save resources for supporting people when they cannot or are not expected to work (e.g. women during certain weeks of pregnancy; children; older people; people who are ill; people who have met with an accident). 

A part of the total social product produced by people will need to be set aside towards the cost of means of production (e.g. raw materials and machines and energy need to be replenished) and for the purpose of expanding the productive base (for example, to establish new factories or labs or create a new bridge across a river). A part of the social product needs to be aside for collective provisioning by the government (e.g. education, healthcare, etc.) and for dealing with emergencies and natural calamities (e.g. storms, floods, earthquakes, pandemic) and to restore ecological health. 

Harmonious spatial development and restoration of ecological health

In a good society, the gap between manual and mental labour will be gradually closed. Connected to this division is the one between villages and cities.[19] As well, the gap between rural and urban areas will be reduced: rural areas will have as many amenities as urban areas, and rural living standards will match those of urban areas. New hybrid spaces will be created which will have the advantages of rural life and urban life. It will not be a curse to live in villages. Rural life will not have the stigma it has now because of their relatively economic and cultural underdevelopment. A proper health-center, a library and a non-farm workplace will be built within a reasonable distance from where people live. Given that productive investment will be rationally planned, different regions of a country will develop in a more or less harmonious manner: the living standards of some people will not be lower than those of others mainly because of where they live. 

As relations of cooperation among countries develop, all countries will develop in harmony with one another, sharing their resources with one another. No country will subjugate another country in its own interest. Imperialism will become a distant memory. The majority of the world’s countries which form the Global South now will achieve a higher level of economic and cultural development. 

The new society, which is no longer driven by the profit motive, will live in as much harmony with nature as possible. The gap between what is extracted from nature and what is put back into it will be reduced, just as the gap between how much people contribute and how much they receive (in private wages and government benefits) is minimized. The new society, freed from the shackles of private profit, will take immediate steps to reverse global warming and other global environmental problems. It will make massive investment in public health and it will be eternally prepared to deal with natural emergencies such as pandemics. 

The new society will not necessarily reduce total production, because increased production of useful things is necessary to meet the unmet needs of millions and to meet new needs that will arise. But it will produce things differently (i.e. sustainably) and will produce different things (it will not produce polluted air or toxic chemicals as a commodity nor will it produce military weapons). More and more production, especially, in the areas of production of food and drinks, will be organic. Nature – its rivers, hills, plants and animals, seas and beaches, the skies and valleys – will be valued as a thing in itself (as a beautiful thing to enjoy) and as a source of things humanity needs. Nature, with labour, is the co-producer of wealth. The new valuation of nature, which includes ‘compensation to nature’, will influence the compensation to people as producers and workers (as explained earlier).   

Social consciousness, science and religion

As the system of production changes, and as material needs are met, there will be gradually a change in people’s consciousness, as material obstacles to the expression of humanity's goodness are removed.

In all societies, every human being wants to avoid suffering and wants his/her happiness. In a good society, there will be fewer reasons for one to intentionally cause suffering, emotional or physical, to another person. One will contribute to another person’s happiness and reduce their suffering. The relationship among people will be based on solidarity and compassion and not on competition and animosity.

People will not hanker after money, wealth, possessions as private property. One person will not look at another person as a way of making money or accumulating power (as a source of a vote or political influence, etc.) or as a source of status. One person will perceive meeting the needs of another person as one’s own need. Interpersonal relations, including in the most intimate sphere, will be based on a commitment to democratic rights of all. One will relate to another in a civil and polite manner.

In the fight against adverse natural conditions or natural calamities, or against people who are exploitative and oppressive, the toiling masses of all countries will be joined by a thread of internationalism. People living in one territory or ‘country’ will develop a sense of solidarity with people living in another place, and will have mutual respect for one another.

People of a country or a region will read about their history as a part of the history of the global humanity, and will enjoy and feel proud of the accomplishments of their country or region, and be critical of follies committed. And they will do the same with respect to other countries and regions and with respect to entire humanity. A country’s or territory’s political conduct will not be driven by animosity towards another country or territory. 

A good society must promote scientific temper[20], without believing that only science and technology can solve people’s problems. People will be discouraged from holding views about society which are not based in reason and in evidence, whether historical or contemporary. They will be encouraged to view things from the scientific standpoint of materialism and dialectics.

Society will increase investment of resources in basic and applied natural sciences and technology. It will build on the scientific accomplishments of humanity and further these accomplishments, by separating science and technology from their shell of profit-motive and militarism. Government and society will also make an effort to instill ethical values among scientists who must be sensitive to society’s material and cultural needs.

Neither religion nor government will decide the content of education. While the state will not influence the content of education, the funding for education will come only from the state (not from private individuals or religious or any other organization).[21] 

Every child will receive free school education. For children above a certain age, their education will include a direct experience in the workplace, subject to the protection of children’s health. Every adult will be encouraged to pursue higher education. Education will emphasize natural sciences and technology as well as the approaches to study society and its relation to nature, in a way that is scientific and that is critical of power relations and inequalities and that takes history and globally-interconnected character of humanity seriously.  

As long as there is a need for religion, people should enjoy religious freedom, but within limits: religion will not influence politics or education or the public conduct of individuals. Religion must be strictly a private affair. The government should be completely separated from religion and will not practice the ‘socialism of religion’: It will not practice the principle of promoting all religions equally. It will not promote, or be influenced by, any religion. No person or group will be judged based on their religion, either within government or outside. 

Society will fight religious obscurantism through scientific education and not through persecution. Whenever there is a conflict between religion and science or between religious values and modern laws that govern the state, the latter will be prioritized.

It is the case that sometimes, quasi-scientific ideas are clothed in religious ideas in ancient scriptures. Some of these ideas may have a degree of usefulness. But these ideas, before they can be shared widely and acted on, must go through scientific verification. The mention of an idea in some religious scripture is not the test of their validity. Even then the government has no business setting the agenda for scientific research. The scholarly community will have its independence.

Apart from external nature (the natural environment), human beings, who are a part of that nature, have an ‘internal nature’. Human beings tend to possess – suffer from – innate feelings of excessive anxiety, anger, sadness, jealousy, hatred, self-pride, lust, etc., all of which co-exist with numerous good feelings such as love, compassion and solidarity. More or less, human emotions, positive and negative, ingrained in the human brain, are products of the material conditions, including in class society since slavery, that humanity has lived under. The new society will not be a perfect society: people will have negative emotions. But the new social order will make available resources for human beings to reduce the impact of the afflictive emotions on the basis of scientific ideas such as brain plasticity, as advanced in, for example, affective neuro-science pioneered by Richard Davidson and others.[22] It is interesting that this neuro-scientific research, which has been able to observe the link between afflictive emotions and specific neural responses in the brain, intersects with certain ideas that originally came from world’s major religions such as Buddhism.[23] 

Material conditions where people compete with one another and where their needs remain unmet and where their lives are controlled by physical nature or those who control the social surplus are the most important reason for afflictive emotions. Yet, material deprivation is not the only reason. We find afflictive emotions in affluent families and individuals. Human beings will have to make an extra effort to weaken the afflictive emotions. This effort will be easier in the new society because the force of the adverse material conditions will not exist there.

Politics in the public and private spheres

In a good society, everyone’s democratic right – the right to free speech and assembly, etc. – will be respected, except for a limited period when the democratic right of only those who used to exploit and dominate common people (e.g. owners of big business; big landowners, powerful government officers, etc.) and who might want to return to their previous positions and who might create disorder in the new society, will need to be restricted in a way that is proportionate to their degree of resistance. No one will have the right or the freedom to appropriate the fruits of another person’s labour.    

No one will be discriminated against, whether in the sphere of employment or healthcare or any other sphere, because of their gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, caste, location, language, eating habit, and so on. One person will not be allowed to lynch another because that person worships a different god or eats a certain kind of food (beef or whatever) or decides to marry someone of his or own choice. People as workers-citizens will freely debate how to run a cooperative society with wealthy business owners and their compliant political friends, and may even form different types of political parties which reject the right to own private property and to exploit.

The power of politicians and high-level officers will be drastically curtailed as their material compensation will be almost like that received by the vast majority of the people and who may be recalled by the people if they do not perform their service adequately and in the interest of the people. Their role will mainly comprise the work of coordination among different parts of society and the government. They will be subordinated to the people and will not be allowed to behave like kings or wealthy business owners. No member of the family of big and medium sized businesses, to the extent they exist, will be allowed to stand in election or even contribute to election funding.

The new society will be judged by how well it treats traditionally oppressed groups such as women, religious, ethnic and racial minorities, and children. In all societies, parents can endure suffering in order to ensure the well-being of their children. Such a sense of parental love and sacrifice will permeate the whole of the new society such that the biological parents of a child will also look after the other children in a community/neighborhood. Gradually, children will be looked after by a community of parents and not primarily inside the closed doors of a family. 

The nature of the family will change. Sexual relations between two individuals, whether homosexual or heterosexual, will be entirely a private matter and fully democratized. These relations will not be affected by the government or by society, as long as no one’s democratic rights are violated and as long as public health is not endangered. There will be plenty of love and romance, and gradually, the jealousy and other negative emotions in love relations will lose their force. Two people will fall in love because they wish to and not because of extraneous conditions (e.g. a person needs to be financially supported by a partner; worries about child-care; inheritance). Conditions for love will be freer, subject to the fact that, once again, love relations should not have adverse impact on the physical and mental health of the partners involved. Men and women will share care work as long as and to the extent that they are a part of a household/family.

Conclusion

The pandemic has given humanity a great opportunity to ask fundamental questions about society. For example, why are people’s needs, including the need for good health, not being met? Why are governments which are supposed to meet the common needs of society failing to do their duties, including the duty to save lives? Why is the satisfaction of human need not being prioritized over private profit? These questions in turn prompt us to think about what kind of society we would like to live in.

While I discuss above some of the qualities of the new society, my intention is not to suggest that people just fold their hands and wait for such a society to come. It won’t. People must fight for those good things right now, under, and against, the present conditions. They must fight for de-commodified services such as healthcare, indexed living wages, the democratization of the state, and for its separation from the influence of the moneybags and religion. They must fight to have more and more control over what happens in the workplaces. People should make demands for things that they need even if business owners and the state cannot meet these demands. 

The new society will be one where resources are used, and work is performed, mainly to satisfy the material and cultural needs of people. It will be a cooperative society that will be increasingly run by people and where productive resources are collectively controlled. As people take more and more responsibility to look after the common affairs of society, their unreasoning trust and servile beliefs in the state and in those who own and control the means of production and exchange will attenuate.[24] People will be freed from the control of property-owners, democracy will permeate every pore of society, wealth will not be in the form of things for sale and will not be produced for its own sake, and yet the material obstacles to the pursuit of good health and happiness will be enormously weakened. 

In the new society, nature and labour, which are the two co-producers of wealth, will have their real dignity restored. In this society, real freedom and human flourishing will begin because nature will belong to that which it should always belong to, i.e. society as a whole, and labour will become what it should be, i.e. a human need itself. There is a simple name for that society. It is called Socialism. 

Raju J Das is a professor at York University, Toronto, Canada. Email: rajudas@yorku.ca

Appendix: Coronavirus and the critique of the market

What the ongoing pandemic, and indeed human suffering in modern society more generally, is pointing to is a three-fold problem. This signifies the nature of class society, which is based on relations of money, property and value.[25]

Firstly, things are produced as commodities, with some having the money to buy them to meet their needs while others do not have the money to do so. The ability to work itself is a commodity to be bought and sold. It is sold only when the buyer can make money off it.[26] This situation creates precarity in workers’ life.[27] And when sold, the seller of labour power does not receive the full cost of maintenance, including the expenses for health and emergencies.[28] This means that there is limited market-power (money) in the hands of the majority (the sellers of labour power) to meet their needs. 

Secondly, private property has been gradually taken away from direct producers and concentrated in the hands of a few. This has happened through class differentiation among commodity producers and through coercive dispossessions (‘modern-day forms of primitive accumulation’).[29] So while a minority are property-owners, the majority have access to little or no property in the means of production. Society’s productive resources are controlled by a tiny minority who decide how well we live and how we die.[30] For the majority, their access to means of subsistence depends on whether they can make the property-owners richer.

Thirdly, the majority work under the control of the minority (the property-owners and their hired managers/supervisors). Whether working longer than a usual working day or working with machines and software, etc., they are forced to produce more than what they need to live (they produce more value than the value of things and services that reproduce their ability to work). Workers are forced to give up a large part of the net product they produce in the form of surplus value, which then is expressed as profit, interest, rent, etc. In other words, they are exploited, even if their wages cover the cost of their reproduction (and this is not even the case in the real world, which is why there are millions of working poor). Their needs remain unmet. As well, the working conditions are not controlled by common people. So they often work under unsafe conditions (as during the pandemic now). 

The motive of production becomes accumulation of more and more money, which is converted into more and more capitalist property. The main motive of production is not the satisfaction of current needs of humanity or to save resources to meet challenges such as a natural calamity, accident, pandemics, etc.  

Notes

[1] These statistical data are from: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[2] Davis, Mike. 2020. ‘The Coronavirus Crisis Is a Monster Fueled by Capitalism’. In these Times. March 20. Toussaint, E. 2020. ‘The capitalist pandemic, Coronavirus and the economic crisis’. Monthly Review Online. March 20.

[3] Peterman, A., Potts, A., O’Donnell, M., Thompson, K., Shah, N., Oertelt-Prigione, S., and van Gelder, N.. ‘Pandemics and Violence Against Women and Children’; https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/report/pandemics-and-violence-against-women-and-children/ Gettleman, J., Schultz, K., and Raj, S. 2020. ‘In India, Coronavirus Fans Religious Hatred’, New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/12/world/asia/india-coronavirus-muslims-bigotry.html

[4] Wildcat strikes have occurred in the world in response to employers forcing people to resume working. There have been protests against inadequate assistance from the governments to the poor people.

[5] French, Nick. 2020. How Capitalism Kills During a Pandemic. Jacobin. March 26.

[6] Wolff, Richard. 2020. ‘Coronavirus: A Capitalist Crisis’. Dollars and Sense. March/April. Duzgun, Eren. 2020. ‘Capitalism, Coronavirus and the Road to Extinction’. The Bullet. April 5.

[7] Nanda, Meera. 2004. Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Hindu Nationalism in India. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. Nanda, Meera. 2016. Science in Saffron: Skeptical Essays on History of Science. New Delhi: Three Essays Collective.

[8] ‘The budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, …allocated just US $9.7 billion for health, while setting aside a massive $66 billion for the military, so that New Delhi can pursue the predatory global ambitions of the Indian bourgeoisie. On average, India has only a single state-run hospital for every 55,591 people, and a single hospital bed for every 1,844 people. It would require at least 500,000 more doctors to meet WHO’s recommended doctor to population ratio’. Rupasinghe, W. 2020. ‘Coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm India’s dilapidated health system’; https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/03/14/inco-m14.html

Between 2014 and 2019 September, the right-wing pro-business government has written off loans worth Rupees 6.6 lakh crore (1 lakh = 100,000) or $US 88billion (compare this figure to the annual health spending of less than US$10 billion). No one can say that India does not have the money to better fight the pandemic.

[9]  ‘Covid-19 has been linked to a number of truth claims long made by activists in South Africa and around the world. Perhaps most glaring is the need for universal healthcare and fortified public healthcare’ (Valiani, S. 2020. ‘Covid-19 Unmasks Dangers of Commodified Healthcare’; https://socialistproject.ca/2020/05/covid-19-unmasks-dangers-of-commodified-healthcare/

[10] This does not mean that there is no distinction between a) a post-revolutionary society where capitalist property has been almost eliminated and which resorts to market relations in a limited way internally and which may have to respond to the international market situation (international law of value), and b) a capitalist society as such, or a capitalist society where the state has de-commodified certain spheres of life and where it owns some enterprises (mainly in order to save capitalism from itself or to provide long-term conditions for capitalist development). 

[11] So, the means of production will not be used any more to absorb labour in its abstract form and to maximize the extraction of labour from people to produce more surplus in the form of profit, rent and interest.

[12] This will be perhaps a few multiples of the average salary of the workers, but not 50 or 100 or 200 times. In the US, CEOs make more than 250 times more than average workers in 2018 (Campbell, A. 2019. ‘CEOs made 287 times more money last year than their workers did’,  https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/6/26/18744304/ceo-pay-ratio-disclosure-2018

[13] ‘The work of directing, superintending, and adjusting, becomes one of the functions of capital, from the moment that the labour under the control of capital, becomes co-operative. Once a function of capital, it acquires special characteristics’, as Marx says in Capital 1. That is, the people who do that work of directing engage in despotic control over labourers subjecting them to oppressive power relations, in order to increase exploitation and overcome resistance to that exploitation. 

‘The directing motive…is to extract the greatest possible amount of surplus-value, and consequently to exploit labour-power to the greatest possible extent. As the number of the co-operating labourers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital, and with it, the necessity for capital to overcome this resistance by counterpressure’ https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch13.htm. All these aspects of labour process will become irrelevant in the new society.

[14] Of course, capital will resist this attempt of people to socially regulate production: 

‘The same bourgeois mind which praises division of labour in the workshop, life-long annexation of the labourer to a partial operation, and his complete subjection to capital, as being an organisation of labour that increases its productiveness – that same bourgeois mind denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to socially control and regulate the process of production, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and unrestricted play for the bent of the individual capitalist. It is very characteristic that the enthusiastic apologists of the factory system have nothing more damning to urge against a general organisation of the labour of society, than that it would turn all society into one immense factory.’ https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch14.htm

[15] Whether or they work will not depend on whether or not they can make money for the business owners.

[16] The work-week will be shorter than now, in part because the total work to be done will be shared by those who are currently employed and those who are forced to be under- and unemployed.

[17] Possibly, the process will be mediated by limited market relations initially, to some extent.

[18] Marx, K. 1875. Critique of the Gotha programme. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/

[19] ‘The most important division of material and mental labour is the separation of town and country’ (Marx and Engels, German Ideology: Progress: Moscow, pp. p 72).

[20] Das, R. 2028. ‘The age of unreason or misology: The knowledge-practice relation and its political significance’; http://links.org.au/age-unreason-misology-knowledge-practice-relation-political-significance

[21] Education will not be a commodity for sale and purchase nor will it be a tool to spread obscurantism.

[22] Goleman, D. and Davidson, R. 2017. Altered traits. Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain and  body. New York: Penguin.

[23] This is why it will be mistaken to automatically believe that all religious ideas serve as ‘the opium of the people’ Marx, K. 1843. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm)

Religious ideas express the humanity’s desire to be better than it is; these ideas reflect human beings’ struggle with their inner nature, as well as their struggle with the external nature and with fellow human beings who are ensembles of social relations and are generally forced by these relations to behave in certain ways, which can be oppressive and exploitative. A part of religious thinking has little to do with exploitation and oppression. Much rather it is driven by humanity's desire to overcome the negative emotions that human beings inherently possess, and to increase the influence of the positive emotions that they also possess. Both the positive and negative emotions are rooted in the human brain, and given the idea of brain plasticity (that the brain changes in response to people’s material and mental practices), negative emotions can be changed into positive emotions in scientific ways. Some of these ways have been pointed out in religious texts, although not in a fully scientific manner. 

It must be noted that living a non-alienated new life, a life of solidarity in a society where there is little competition and where people look after themselves will be among the biggest antidotes to afflictive emotions. These antidotes, which are rooted in objective social practice and which will shape human thinking and the human brain, are different from the methods advanced in religious and modern scientific literatures.  

[24] ‘People will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copy-book maxims. They will become accustomed to observing them without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state’ Lenin, V. 1917. The state and revolution; https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch05.htm#s2. Gradually the need for coercion by an external agency (the state) standing atop and apart from society will cease to exist: ‘Only habit can, and undoubtedly will, have such an effect; for we see around us on millions of occasions how readily people become accustomed to observing the necessary rules of social intercourse when there is no exploitation, when there is nothing that arouses indignation, evokes protest and revolt, and creates the need for suppression’. For example, people will voluntarily ‘put a stop to a scuffle or to prevent a woman from being assaulted’.

[25] This is discussed in detail in: Das, R. 2017. Marxist class theory for a skeptical world. Leiden: Brill (esp. chapter 7).

[26] ‘Labour-power is only saleable so far as it preserves the means of production in their capacity of capital, reproduces its own value as capital, and yields in unpaid labour a source of additional capital’. (Marx in Capital vol. 1).

[27] Precarity is not some new condition, as some argue. It has always characterized the proletariat. The distinction between the proletariat and the so-called precariat is not useful.

[28] ‘The cost of production of simple labour-power amounts to the cost of the existence and propagation of the worker. The price of this cost of existence and propagation constitutes wages. The wages thus determined are called the minimum of wages. This minimum wage, like the determination of the price of commodities in general by cost of production, does not hold good for the single individual, but only for the race. Individual workers, indeed, millions of workers, do not receive enough to be able to exist and to propagate themselves’ Marx, K. 1847. Wage labour and capital. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/wage-labour-capital.pdf

[29] This term is not to be conflated with what Harvey confusingly calls ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (See Das, R. J. 2017. David Harvey’s theory of accumulation by dispossession: A Marxist critique. World Review of Political Economy 8, no. 4: 590-616.) 

[30]  According to OXFAM, ‘The world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as the 6.9 billion people’ https://www.oxfam.org/en/5-shocking-facts-about-extreme-global-inequality-and-how-even-it

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