The Mazdoor-Kisan-Strike in India and what we can learn in the UK

Over a quarter of a BILLION people are taking part in the Worker and Peasant Strike in India. That’s almost 3.5% of the world’s human population, the number often quoted (albeit problematic) by XR needed for #systemchange. What has this got to do with the UK? If you want to keep up to date with strike itself then follow @deepakurup and @newsclickin on twitter or check out this short video explaining the reason for the strike.

Here I want to do something different. I am going to think aloud and explore the strike’s relevance to people in UK, because the strike in India is ostensibly in response to new agricultural legislation introduced by a nativist+neoliberal government, whilst people in the UK are also facing new agricultural legislation introduced by a nativist+neoliberal government. However, I am not interested in conflating the two situations, but instead through outlining the situation in the UK, opening up space to consider what lessons can be learnt in the UK from the response in India to new agricultural legislation.

But to do justice to this in the form of an evidenced article, requires care and patience. In the meantime here is a summary of the argument and takeaway points (in progress) as they currently stand:

The argument

(1) New agricultural legislation in India and UK will maintain and increase exploitation of ‘sustainable’ peasants/farmers, land, animals, and global public health in spite of positive sounding sales pitches by respective governments.

(2) More Indian workers have a better education in their history, colonialism, and cultivating some unity between field, factory, and service worker, rather than suspicion and ignorance between them. The latter stemming in large part from green politics in the UK being largely bourgeois and nativist+neoliberal leaders being adept at manipulating this in different ways.

(3) New historic coalitions have formed in India and UK to resist and amend agricultural legislation. However, the difference in membership of these reflects different class interests and land politics. And this difference will define the long-term success of these coalitions.

(4) My bet is the outcome for Indian workers, habitat and animal welfare will be better than for their UK counterparts, for who success is really a matter of ‘for whom’, as some members of the UK coalition are going to really benefit – but not you, me, or the planet.

The takeaway

(1a) UK landworkers allied around a progressive land politics need to initiate the hard work of reaching out to service-sector trade unions and associations of people who share some of the following commonalities: precarious, young, urban, tenant, migrant. At the same time centring land knowledge and justice in green politics and decentring blind localism, green growth, carbon reductionism and ethical consumerism; bourgeois environmentalism. Over the coming years this solidarity and education needs to be grown in order to direct the future of agriculture and trade. It’s about innovating across many unfamiliar group boundaries because land justice is just as much about renting a room in London as growing vegetables (Thank you to Josina of LION for articulating this last point).

(1b) Equally other workers like people who work in education, for example, need to form their own worker alliances, that transcend, for example, the division between higher and lower education, teachers and researchers, and the bourgeois co-opted unions that are either populated by the professional managerial class or work from a position of bargaining with rather than aiming to take over and democratise ownership and direction.

(2a) The concept of public goods used in new UK agricultural legislation is very ambiguous right now. It is on course to be fully appropriated by nativist neoliberalism, if landworkers simply try and amend, rather than educate themselves in the concepts being used and what they can mean in practice rather than on paper. It is about the political, economic, and cosmological medium ideas are embedded in, not whether their message is worthy itself. Because there is no relying on bourgeois thought leaders, organisations, and academics in the environmental sector to navigate this.

(2b) Equally other workers like people who work in education, for example, need to educate themselves in the concepts their work is embedded in. For example, about deeply problematic concepts like schooling, the bourgeois environmentalism they publish and/or teach, and the fact that their pensions are a bubble, feeding all kinds of horrors.

(3) Otherwise a nativist neoliberal alliance will succeed and you, me, and the planet will pay for it with little respite. This is all the more poigniant right now as the zoonotic pandemic, syndemics and nativist+neoliberal responses we currently face are rooted more than anything in the neoliberalization of land, agrifood and trade legislation over the past decades. The continuity of such legilsation will only increase the frequency of zoonotic pandemics, syndemics and the deeply troubling nativist+neoliberal responses.

If these takeway points land, I still do not expect them to happen tomorrow. But we can start, by landworkers in the UK learning from landworkers in India, and other workers in the UK learning from landworkers in the UK. Then we can also start to prioritise care work, play and creative innovation, rather than fighting for or over increasingly bullshitized jobs.

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