|Social justice is not a gift of the powerful. It has to be fought for by the people, whose sacrifices and struggles make our world a happier place. In Tunisia, the government has been forced by social struggle to adopt an equal inheritance law, a law that no longer privileges men over women (see above). In Ecuador, it will be the protests by students and teachers that might reverse the government’s decision to cut education funding. In France, it will be the protests of the yellow vests (gilets jaunes) that will undo the fuel price hikes from the Macron government.
It is always the fight of the marginal and the vulnerable that allows human ideals to remain alive in our world.
This is why our friends in the MST have asked us to join their campaign against companies that benefit from the expulsion of MST members from the Quilombo Campo Grande. At this cooperative, 450 families produce organic food, including coffee. The beneficiary of this expulsion is João Faria de Silva, the owner of Terra Forte Café Company. The MST has begun an international campaign against monopoly firms that buy goods from this company. These firms include Nestlé and Nescafe. The hashtag for this campaign is #NoMeuBuleNão (NotInMyCoffeePot). Please read my note on it here.
This week, we celebrate the birthday of Fredrich Engels (1820-1895), the collaborator of Karl Marx and one of the key intellectuals of the socialist movement in the 19th century. In his landmark book The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844), Engels investigated the lives of the workers who produced the wealth of the United Kingdom. Recently, the economist Utsa Patnaik said that the British colonialists siphoned off $45 trillion from India. That was the down payment for the British industrial revolution. It was the money that was then used to hire the workers, who lived in wretched conditions as British capitalists built up their astronomical wealth. In his book, Engels writes of the lives of the workers,
All conceivable evils are heaped upon the heads of the poor. If the population of great cities is too dense in general, it is they in particular who are packed into the least space. As though the vitiated atmosphere of the streets were not enough, they are penned in dozens into single rooms, so that the air which they breathe at night is enough in itself to stifle them. They are given damp dwellings, cellar dens that are not waterproof from below or garrets that leak from above. Their houses are so built that the clammy air cannot escape. They are supplied bad, tattered, or rotten clothing, adulterated and indigestible food. They are exposed to the most exciting changes of mental condition, the most violent vibrations between hope and fear; they are hunted like game, and not permitted to attain peace of mind and quiet enjoyment of life.
And then, Engels asks, ‘How is it possible, under such conditions, for the lower class to be healthy and long lived? What else can be expected than an excessive mortality, an unbroken series of epidemics, a progressive deterioration in the physique of the working population?’
What else can be expected unless, in memory of our friend and comrade Amit Sengupta and so many others, we fight to build a better world.
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