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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 25, New Delhi, June 6, 2020

National Lockdown and Primitive Accumulation in India

Saturday 6 June 2020, by Arup Kumar Sen

While discussing ‘The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’ in Capital, Vol. 1, Karl Marx observed: “The primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology”. In the history of primitive accumulation, Marx identified “those moments when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence...” Marx’s characterisation of primitive accumulation is organically connected with his analysis of the logic of Capital: “The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process”.

The coronavirus-induced national lockdown in India has given birth to a different kind of primitive accumulation, expropriating a vast mass of industrial workers, especially migrant workers and daily-wage earners. We have come to know from estimates of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) that over 122 million people in India lost their jobs in April 2020. Around 75 per cent of them are small traders and wage-labourers. According to CMIE, while the small traders, which included hawkers, may return to work after the lockdown, wage-labourers will find it difficult to get their jobs back. (See The Hindu, May 7, 2020)

The Indian State is playing a seminal role in the ongoing process of primitive accumulation in India.

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