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Capitalist trap? Pandemic severely weakens collective bargain of labour movements

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* 

The coronavirus pandemic has already caused the colossal loss of lives and livelihoods around the world. It continues to create havoc in different countries like Brazil and India. It has destroyed livelihoods, communities and families. This global health crisis has taken a terrible toll on individual lives by expanding unbelievable levels of anxiety, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and loss.
The conservative commentators, writers, columnists and typewriters of ruling class voices locate the impact of these crises and its outcomes as individual problems or state and government failures. There is no doubt that the states and governments have failed to protect their own citizens who elect them to power.
But the same states and governments have enabled conditions for the billionaires and millionaires to increase the profit of their corporations in a massive scale during this crisis. The corporate profits and palaces of these corporate owners are relatively well insulated from the virus. For them, this pandemic is an opportunity to make profits when people are dying on streets without basic medical care and oxygen support.
It is clear that mass vaccination will bring an end to this pandemic at some point of time. The pandemic led lockdowns will end and economic activities will restore the sources of livelihoods for the working classes.
During these tough times, it is important to ask difficult questions to fix accountabilities. These accountabilities are both political and intellectual questions. Are anxieties, multiple forms of alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses simply individual problems? The ruling classes have used medical science and psychologists for a long time to argue that these are individual problems.
These problems are either biological problems or mental health issues. The crisis only accelerates these problems. The counselling and therapy industry helps individuals and society to recover from these problems temporarily. The ruling class intellectuals and their corporate media outsource these problems to god, fate and religions to create a moral and spiritual hiding ground, where individuals are disposables based on their skills and abilities.
Such processes produce democratically elected ruthless leaders all around the world. These leaders stand with their crony capitalist friends while ignoring mass sufferings. The pandemic of anxieties, multiple forms of alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses are older and more fundamental problems than the current global health crisis. It is killing people for centuries. The medical science and psychologists have failed to provide any permanent solutions to these problems.
It is within this context, it is important to locate the issues of anxieties, multiple forms of alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses as political and ideological questions. There is no individual, moral or religious answer to it.
The pandemic of anxieties, multiple forms of alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses move beyond national boundaries. These are global humanitarian issues created, sustained and promoted by a market driven capitalist society devoid of any form of commitment to people and the planet.
Anxieties are not only mental and emotional shifts embedded with nervousness, fear and worries but also reflects physical symptoms like increased heart rate, panic attack and adrenaline rush. These issues are not natural and individuals suffering from these issues are not born with anxieties.
Human beings grow up with different forms and levels of anxieties based on their social, political, cultural, religious and economic conditions. Anxieties can be spiritual, economic, sexual and personal but it is produced by different institutions and structures from families, schools, universities, homes, hospitals, prisons, workplaces to relationships.
During these tough times, it is important to ask difficult questions to fix accountabilities. These accountabilities are both political and intellectual
All these institutions are heavily influenced by political and economic systems of the country. Anxieties are less in more egalitarian, secular, democratic and progressive societies whereas authoritarian, hierarchical, unequal, insecure and conservative societies are manufacturing ground for anxieties.
The capitalist system, its ideology, its institutions and processes have formed an organic alliance with all forms of reactionary, conservative, religious and authoritarian forces. The capitalist markets find their natural ally in authoritarian politics and religious fundamentalists.
The religious and authoritarian forces work as shock absorbers of alienation and loneliness produce by capitalism as an economic, political, cultural and social system. The capitalist system is a breeding ground for multiple forms of loneliness and alienations. This pandemic has helped to socialise issues of mass alienation, loneliness and social distancing as a survival strategy.
The psycho-social distance between people, their work and workplace has produced enormous levels of alienation and loneliness. The online work, social media interactions and indoor entertainments are time killing machines. It can never replace face to face interactions where affection, love, share and care has its material and emotional foundations.
The idea of rationality and science has taken a backseat with the growth of reactionary forces in politics and society. The capitalist system helps these forces to grow for the survival of its crisis ridden system. The lonely, alienated and hungry individuals can never fight capitalism as a system to reclaim their rights.
The Coronavirus pandemic has severely weakened the collective bargaining of labour movements, social, economic and political struggles for human emancipation from conditions of poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment and different forms of inequalities. These conditions produce multiple forms of anxieties, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and loss. It is important to locate these issues as political questions and systemic issues, and not individual problems.
The issues of anxiety, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses are capitalist traps. It weakens individuals, families, states and societies and make them subservient to the interests of capital. Therefore, the struggles against the pandemic of anxiety, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses are struggles against capitalism that brings viruses like Coronavirus from the wild by destroying natural life world.
Our collective survival depends on our collective abilities to understand these fundamental issues and take collective responsibilities to struggle for emancipations from all forms of capitalist narratives in the field of politics, culture, society and economy. There is no third way. There is no second way. The only alternative is to understand and fight back capitalism till its end.
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*Glasgow University, UK

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