1990s >> 1997 >> no-1120-december-1997

Book Review: ‘A Ballad Against Work’

‘A Ballad Against Work’. Collectivities. Majdoor Library, Autopin Jhuggi. NIT Faridabad, India.

It is difficult to get one’s head round the facts of this publication (62 double-column A4 pages). The physical facts, that is, It is free, coming from a country where the great mass of people are not overpaid. Faridabad is an industrial suburb of Delhi, population around 300,000, most of them overworked, living in overcrowded conditions, reminiscent of Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. But this is not a lumpenproletariat. Many are overqualified, overeducated for the jobs they do. Bhupender and Ranbjan, the pamphlet reveals, have difficulty keeping body and soul together despite their PhDs.

The pamphlet’s basic argument is that the key problem facing those presiding over the accumulation of capital is to get as much work out of their labour forces as they can. This is a problem for them since workers, as humans, have a natural inclination to spontaneously resist the imposition of such an alien work burden. Collectivities see this spontaneous resistance as the potential beginning of a movement that will lead to a non-hierarchical, wageless, moneyless world community.

They have been taken to task by one group in Britain who have accused them of neglecting the revolution. The Communist Workers Organisation in true Leninist style have urged them not to oppose leadership by :exceptionally talented or skilled individuals in particular fields (who) will always be recognised and admired by their fellow creatures, albeit that in a communist world different talents will be appreciated”. All will be equal but some will be more equal than others.

How hierarchical organisation could survive in a society where there is free access to all our needs is difficult to see. Those who did not want to co-operate could not be forced to; they could simply walk away. And we could easily accommodate that. If Collectivities’ estimate that about two percent of the labour force in the developed countries could supply all needs is correct, the problem in a rationally organised world would lie in finding something to do for those people who wanted to be active, i.e. all those who were sane and healthy. Creative work as opposed to present useless toil.

This is where the Faridabad “Collectivities” group show that they have passed the reform-of-capitalism thought barrier and reject bogus follow-my-leader alternatives to that of complete autonomy. Only free people can organise a free society, something the majority in the “developed” world have yet to learn. And this Indian group take the whole world for their oyster.

Ken Smith

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