Marxism may be flawed, and a communist society a failure, but there is no denying the fact that the critique of capitalism remains of importance and relevance in the present age, and possibly in the ages to come. Disguised under different names and labels, the relation of ‘bourgeoisie’ and the ‘proletariat’ has perpetuated through history and still exists in our society. The insatiable greed of owners of enterprises for more and more capital by exploiting the workers has become an unquestionable working principle of these enterprises. The control over the means of production has enabled the bourgeoisie to take advantage of the workers and exploit them. The difference between the value-creation by a worker (by production or giving a service) and the labour wages gives rise to the ‘surplus’ which the owner pockets, or in other words steals from the worker.
It is everywhere around us, in the shopping malls we go to, in the media houses where our news comes from, in small and big industries, even in the household labour of women (well, that is a separate topic) and finally in the privately owned schools – which I am here concerned with.
Education has become a lucrative business in Kashmir. An education industry has been created for the sole purpose of generating profit. Without commenting on the quality of education, which varies from one institution to another, the private school teachers have been treated as a ‘commodity’ for capital generation. Working below minimum wages and always vulnerable to layoffs, these oppressed workers go on piling money for owners while themselves living miserably from hand to mouth. The pay-cuts and layoffs are more common during prolonged lockdown in valley and now during the Covid-19 crisis many such cases are coming forth. The Covid pandemic has not caused any loss to this business of private schools as hefty fees are being charged from students while the teachers get only peanuts, even going without pay for months in a row. The insensitivity of the owners toward basic human values once again proves how capitalism puts profit over human relations and human dignity. The school owners are not so blind as to see that their establishments are dependent on these teachers, but they take advantage of the availability of ample number of unemployed youth who are ready to work on low wages.
Marx cautioned us that this mistreatment can lead to a revolution and an overthrow of the bourgeoisie. We can only pray that such a day may never come and the owners realise the basic human values and treat the teachers justly and humanely.
The writer is a student of English Language and Literature at Islamic University of Science and Technology. [email protected]