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Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return

By Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne

(May 10, Colombo, Sri Lanaka Guardian) The attack on plebeians has started. It is a sign that the government is getting ready to confront the proletarians too. The attack on pavement hawkers, street sellers and small scale mobile traders was not confined to Colombo. It has spread throughout the country. The plebeian traders point out that their structures were demolished without prior notice and while discussions were being held to find alternate location for them to continue with their businesses. The UDA carried out the demolition with the assistance of the police and the agitators demand compensation for the damage caused to their businesses. In addition they want a licensing system to facilitate their small scale operations. These small scale operators represent an informal trade sector spread through out the country. In fact it unites small people of all communities involved in trade and transport. Though the number of traders involved, may be counted in hundreds of thousand, the customers may be several millions. All workers including some white collar workers depend on the informal market for their essential consumer items. The fact is, that what is available in super markets and in elite shops are also available in these informal trading joints. They are not necessarily damaged or imitations; may be the wholesale traders themselves feeding this market with their excess stocks.

Attack on working class

The truth is, may be unpleasant to some, that the workers manage with their poor salaries only by patronising this market of plebeian traders. Hence the attack made by the government on pavement hawkers is certainly an attack on the working class as well. This could be gauged from the sympathy these displaced hawkers got from the workers movement. In fact several prominent government politicians were forced to denounce the attack. Alavi Moulana, the governor of the western province was one of them to denounce this development. However, the agitation organized by the displaced traders was misdirected by some pro government sympathizers. The displaced hawkers had expected to hold an agitation against the act, and walk to the President’s House to present a petition explaining the injustice meted out to them. However, individuals from the government got involved in the organization of the agitation and were trying to dilute their protest movement, they said. The government supporters tried to prevent the agitators from marching towards President’s House.

It is not true to say that this was done without the approval of the President. Such an attack is very meaningful from the side of neo liberalism or open economy. Market of the small man is informal and it works outside the straight jacket set by the agenda of the system. The system is unable to allow any threat to its normal operations.

Norms of the system

All humans should be operating according to the norms of the system. Those who are unable, due to some reason or the other, should be thrown out as human waste. It is not possible to allow them to attach to the urban centres, without due payments and restrictions. Global capitalism has given a new meaning to God’s word that ‘dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return’. Any human who is not exploited by the global system should be detached and be part of the global human dust. Then if there is a protest from the human dust, it will be dealt with ruthless violence. We have ample evidence for that in the Middle East, in Latin America and in our own country. If you look at the problem in that manner you will see the intimate connection between the state terror in the north and in the south. You may disagree with that theory but, we can agree that this is violence against the plebeian masses who lead a miserable existence in the city.

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