At least 11 workers at a tea plantation in the north-east Indian state of Assam have died due to starvation or malnutrition recently. After the privately-owned tea plantation closed in October of last year, its owner fled and refused to pay the workers’ wages from the previous nine weeks. Left without any means of subsistence or state assistance, around 3,000 tea laborers and their families are now threatened with starvation.
The scene is all too familiar. Starvation and malnutrition takes the lives of around 30,000 children each day globally. India, like many Third World countries, is particularly affected. In many cases, people die because they are denied sufficient access to the means of subsistence. Sometimes however, it is due to plain corruption and exploitation, in which workers are paid not enough to maintain their own lives. This was the case in Assam when over two months of wages were withheld from thousands of workers.
Capitalism not only depends on the exploitation of workers in the Third World, it depends are their super-exploitation. By paying workers in the Third World as close to nothing as possible, massive amounts of surplus labor can be appropriated. This surplus value, or profit, is not just retained by the ruling class in India or individual countries, but is dispersed into the capitalist-imperialist system generally. It is through such super-exploitation of Third World workers that the standard of living in the First World is so high despite its lack of actual production, for example.
Capitalism is a system which cares not for people but for the profits of those in power. Today in many parts of the world, living conditions are scarcely better- or as often the case, they are worse- than 200 years ago. While some, mostly those in the First World or otherwise benefiting from Third World exploitation, may get to enjoy tea and other similar products, most are negatively affected by expanded commodity production. Dispossessed of land or other means of subsistence, Indian farmers, like many of their Third World counterparts, are exploited under the harshest conditions and often threatened with starvation.
People need a way out of capitalism, not merely referendums, hallow declarations or state and capital-funded ngo’s. Independent organizing by Third World people is needed to liberate themselves from super-exploited under imperialism. A broad revolutionary movement against capitalist-imperialism can overthrow this system and in its place build a new one which truly satisfies the basic wants and needs of all people and treats all as equals.