Over the past few years, following the cold-blooded murder of young Trayvon Martin in Florida by a wannabe cop, there has been a rash of police killings of Black males around the country in situations where it was clear that these, mostly young, victims were innocent. Furthermore, the police departments, even after carrying out these murders, treated their victims and their families and communities with cold disrespect, oftentimes creating a lynching atmosphere. Despite huge efforts by the police, the government and the media to portray these victims in a guilty light, their innocence rang true in their own Black communities and in other oppressed communities as well as among many justice-minded people of all ethnicities throughout the USA. Along with economic hardships, this is why a massive movement against police brutality has emerged. The Obama Regime and US imperialism have been trying to confuse, disrupt, divide and destroy this at least since the impressive and long lasting mass mobilization following the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri almost a year ago and then the failure of the Grand Jury there to indict the killer cop.
One of the most recent of these powerful mass responses, took place in Charleston, arguably the most important city in the old Slave South. This followed the April 4th fatal shooting of eight bullets by a North Charleston policeman into the back of Walter Scott as he was running away from the killer cop and then the cop’s planting of a taser on the dead man’s body, indisputable facts captured on film by a passerby. Because of the public outrage and mobilization that followed the video’s release, this killer cop was not put on a paid vacation like so many others, but was immediately fired and arrested. And he was indicted by the Grand Jury for murder on June 8th, just nine days before the nine Bible study victims, including Reverend Clementa Pinkney, the Church pastor, were murdered.
The outstanding revolutionary Black journalist, the still-imprisoned Mumia Abu-Jamal, observed, “White supremacy is the mother’s milk of Charleston, of South Carolina, of the South, of America.” And the twenty-one year old white man who carried out the Emanuel Church massacre clearly worships at the altar of white supremacy. The incredibly gentle, even considerate, manner with which the police arrested the mass murderer, including providing him with a bullet proof vest, reflected their approach that he was indeed one of them.
Reverend Pinkney was not only an influential Afro-American pastor in Charleston but a highly regarded veteran state senator. Following the murder of Scott, Reverend Pinkney had led prayer services for Scott and the community and played the key role in the S.C. Senate, spearheading the passage of a state law requiring the police to wear body cameras. Indeed, the entire June 17th tragedy may well have been a South Carolina Klan/police-inspired targeted assassination of Reverend Pinkney, covered up by a mass murder.
But more likely, the mass murder committed at the historic Emanuel Church, including against Reverend Pinkney, was a South Carolina Klan/police-inspired or a US Special Operations military attack on its whole great history of revolt against slavery and human bondage for human freedom. This very church, founded in 1816 in Charleston had been the organizing centre for arguably the greatest slave revolt ever planned in the history of US slavery, and was associated with Denmark Vesey, one of the Church’s founders. In crushing that revolt, the slave-owning rulers of South Carolina had banned all black churches in the state and burned many, including Emanuel, to the ground. Yet this church continued to function in violation of the South Carolina slavocracy’s laws.
In the current period, the Mother Emanuel AME Church, has functioned as a vital part of the AME network of churches. The AME congregations have been at the heart of the growing struggle of the Afro-American people against police brutality from Trayvon Martin to Ferguson to Baltimore and Charleston. Moreover, the AME Church helped mobilize the Afro-American farmers who were claimants against the decades-long land stealing practices of the US Department of Agriculture which resulted in the Pigford I and Pigford II settlements. Thus, the AME Church has been involved with contemporary issues concerning “Land and State Power in the Black Belt South” which is at the heart of the Afro-American liberation struggle.
In this setting, the US Empire brought US President Obama to Charleston to provide the eulogy for Reverend Pinkney. With more than six years as US Commander in Chief, what have been Obama’s deeds with regard to the defence of the Afro-American people?
The Afro-American people of South Carolina had provided Obama with his first Democratic Primary victory in 2008. “In a record turnout, more than half of the voters in the Democratic Primary were Afro-American. Eighty percent of the Afro-American voters supported Obama [against Hillary Clinton and John Edwards]. Yet Obama did nothing to encourage the hard pressed people of South Carolina ... Obama and his campaigners chanted ‘Race doesn’t matter!’ in the face of the obvious fact that ‘race’ had indeed mattered there. The Afro-American people of South Carolina had demonstrated political support for Obama in the hope that he would help alleviate their suffering. Instead of expressing appreciation to the Black masses for the victory ... Obama and his ‘campaigners’ insulted the Black masses, deprecating their effort. As if ashamed of their support, Obama distanced himself from the very people who had provided his victory.” (pages 6 and 7, Ray O’Light Newsletter #47, February-March 2008) We pointed out further, “Obama has no organic ties with any Afro-American civil rights or human rights groups or organizations.” (ibid., page 5)
As we pointed out at the time of Obama’s first inauguration, “The very first activity in the inauguration itself will be the invocation scheduled to be given by Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. By the time of the 2008 election, the only mass base of support still remaining for George W. Bush and transferable to Senator John McCain was the white evangelical Christian right. By selecting Pastor Warren to give the invocation, Obama is keeping the faith with McCain and George W. Bush!
“Obama’s choice of Warren for the invocation is a repudiation of the Afro-American church and its historical role, including its invaluable role in the struggle for Afro-American liberation that made Obama’s election possible. Just as Obama’s former minister and mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, has observed, the attack on him (Wright) during the election campaign was, in reality, an attack on the Black Church, historically the most important self-defence institution in Afro-American society. Thus, Obama’s repudiation of Reverend Wright led inexorably to the selection of Pastor Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration.” (page 8, Ray O’ Light Newsletter #52, January-February 2009.)
During the 2012 Presidential Election campaign, almost four years into Obama’s presidency, we noted the following: “Barack Obama ... had made his first political run for office against incumbent Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush, a long time civil rights activist. Obama, when he ran for the presidency, had the benefit of the heroic and bloody and relatively recent struggle for black voting rights that had been an integral part of the fight of the oppressed Afro-American people for freedom. And in 2012, Obama still has the benefit of the fact that the Afro-American people hold the vote in great reverence. Furthermore, the election of a black president represented a breakthrough triumph against ‘white exclusivity’ regarding the ‘cultural power’ of being able to be the First Family, as described by Ta Nehisi-Coates.” (The Atlantic, September 2012) And, as a still nationally oppressed people in the white supremacist USA, millions of Afro-Americans continue to identify themselves with Obama and his family and want him to be ‘successful.’ Tragically, this seems largely still true even when it is at their own expense (record Black incarceration rates, joblessness, racial profiling, home foreclosures, the firing of Shirley Sherrod by Obama’s U.S. Department of Agriculture, the execution of Troy Davis, the killing of Trayvon Martin, etc.) and at the expense of their brothers and sisters in Africa (Obama’s war on Libya, the activation of the U.S. military’s Africom, etc.).” (page 10, Ray O’ Light Newsletter #74, September-October 2012)
The epidemic of police killings of clearly innocent Black youth during Obama’s second term has included the militarization of the domestic police departments by the Obama government (connecting the war of terror at home and abroad) and the use of the Justice Department under Obama and Eric Holder to try to demobilize the increasingly frustrated and militant and growing opposition movement to police brutality. Even more striking is the testimony of Daryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Intelligence & Analysis from August 2004 to April 2010. His 2009 Report, “Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” was released and then disavowed by the Obama Regime after it was leaked to the public. Within days, Obama’s newly appointed DHS Secretary, Janet Napolitano, apologized for the report and Johnson’s DHS unit was slowly disbanded over the following year, leaving behind just one analyst to assess all non-Islamic extremist threats for DHS!! The Obama DHS, by focusing all its anti-terrorist attention on Islamists, paved the way for the rise of white supremacist groups inside and outside the police and military forces of the USA. As Rania Khalek recently wrote regarding Johnson’s report: “Obama ignored surge of right wing extremism that inspired Charleston killer.”
At the time of the 2008 presidential election, Mumia Abu-Jamal had counseled the Afro-American people that Barack Obama was running for the position as the head of “the most powerful white nation on earth.” It was this president, more than six years into his job, who delivered Reverend Pinkney’s eulogy. It was a masterful performance.
Obama declared that, “For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. ... We all have to acknowledge that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation. We see that now.” But where has Obama been on the Confederate flag issue in the first six years of his Presidency, while the twenty-one year old murderer and countless others have been inspired to commit atrocities against Afro-American human beings by reverence for that Confederate flag?!
Obama even told the truth about the historical role of such white supremacist terror as had occurred at Emanuel on June 17th. Obama said: “It was an act that drew on the long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress.” Then, after receiving applause for telling that truth, Obama flipped the script and said: “Oh, but God works in mysterious ways. God has different ideas. He [the murderer] didn’t know he was being used by God.” Thus, with no explanation of why or how this time the terror wouldn’t be successful, Obama claimed that by “Amazing Grace” it would be so. His only “proof” is that a few Southern Republican Governors had now spoken out in favor of taking down the Confederate flag from some official places.
Obama, following the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church, preached the same even more clearly bankrupt message to the oppressed that he spoke as he took office over six years ago: “we are one.” He told the oppressed Afro-American people that they should just wait for God’s grace. That the murderous oppressors and the murdered oppressed are “all sinners.” And all receive unearned grace. That’s why this time y’all should stop protesting police brutality, stop building a movement for social and economic justice. It’s all going to work out all right this time. Trust me, preached Obama.
What an effective stooge for U.S. imperialism!
Reverend William Barber, North Carolina NAACP President, by contrast, pointed out that “The work of bringing down racism is not over when we bring down only this flag ... As long as we pass voter suppression laws, unjust environmental laws, laws that underfund public education, and cause re-segregated, high-poverty schools, laws that block Medicaid expansion and a living wage, as long as we promote the racially applied death penalty and a broken criminal justice system, systemic racism still exists and continues to wave its ugly shadow over our body politic.” (“NC NAACP President Responds to Momentum Behind Removals of Confederate Flag,” 7-4-15 News Alert)
What is to be done to defend the Afro-American people today?
Beyond the vision of Reverend Barber, the fight by any means necessary against police brutality needs to be sustained and intensified. This needs to become part of the struggle for Black Power. Black political and economic power needs to be organized, with the struggle for “Land and State Power in the Black Belt South” at its core. And the struggle for Black Power needs to be connected to the struggle for a Socialist USA and a Socialist World, a world where economic exploitation is replaced by cooperation and national oppression is replaced by the equality and mutual respect of all nations and peoples. Black Lives Matter! Latino Lives Matter! Arab Lives Matter! Workers Lives Matter! The Lives of the 99% Matter!
Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite! n
(Source: RAY O’ LIGHT NEWSLETTER, Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA, July-August 2015 Number 9)
This move is not only in keeping with the Hindutva agenda of imposing majoritarian cultural and religious hegemony on a diverse society, but also a nefarious device of propagating and entrenching those very patriarchal values in society that are today responsible for spiralling rates of crimes against women and women’s subjugation.
It has been reported that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will impart a personal touch to Raksha Bandhan celebrations in his constituency, Varanasi. While the BJP has embarked upon a campaign to urge people to gift their sisters the PM Suraksha Bima Yojana on the occasion, the prime minister will lead the campaign by example. According to BJP national general secretary Anil Jain, as many as 51,000 women and girls will receive the prime minister’s gift of the insurance scheme in Varanasi. Modi will send a personal letter to all these ‘sisters’, which reads: “I am happy that you are joining a relationship of security... I had ideated to gift the insurance scheme in my Mann Ki Baat...I am confident that the Pradhan Mantri Bima Suraksha Yojana will add new dimensions of security to the lives of mothers and sisters.”
This begs the question, how can the PMSBY ‘add new dimensions of security to the lives of mothers and sisters’? (Woe betide the woman who is neither a mother nor a sister – the PM is not concerned about her security! But that is a different point.) The PMSBY is an Accidental Death Insurance Scheme, offering accidental death and disability cover for death or disability on account of an accident. It has a one-year cover, renewable from year to year and the premium is only Rs 12 per annum. On the occasion of the death of the policy holder (say, the sister), the nominee will get a sum of Rs 2 lakh. However, if the policy holder suffers ‘total and irrecoverable loss of both eyes or loss of use of both hands or feet or loss of sight of one eye and loss of use of hand or foot’, she will be awarded a sum of Rs 2 lakh. If she suffers ‘total and irrecoverable loss of sight of one eye or loss of use of one hand or foot’, she will be entitled to a sum of Rs 1 lakh.
It is clear from the above what kind of ‘security’ the prime minister envisages for ‘mothers and sisters’ – no security in this life, only in the next! That is after all, what mothers and sisters have been taught over the ages – undergo suffering and sacrifice in this life and you will be rewarded in the next! Do not stand up for your rights, ever. Be the epitome of forgiveness and forbearance, no matter how much you are oppressed. That alone is the tortuous road to divine deliverance.
Now the prime minister wants brothers to gift their sisters an insurance scheme which will ensure that the nominee – largely male members of the family – is well-rewarded in the event of the accidental death of the woman. ‘Accidental’ deaths are so common in the lives of women, especially when there is a question of considerable pecuniary benefit involved for her survivors, that such an insurance scheme as the one that Modi has ‘ideated’ as a special gift for women can only serve to increase the number and frequency of such deaths. Otherwise, the woman will have to undergo irreversible mutilation of her limbs and organs in order to benefit from the scheme! How such a scheme translates to financial security for women is thus a riddle guaranteed to confound the best brains.
Women do not need ‘security’ to be gifted to them by their brothers. Women want the right to lead a life of liberty, a life free from the shackles of fear, a life free from humiliation and charity, a fruitful and productive life, as a birthright. And this is something that Modi and his ilk are loath to ensure. Cushily ensconced in the prime ministerial beanbag, Modi has ruthlessly slashed budgetary allocations for schemes intended to benefit women. While last year a measly 4.19 percent of the budget had been earmarked for such schemes, this year it has been axed to a paltry 3.71 percent.
Take the Anganwadi scheme for example, which despite paying women employees a mere pittance, does provide for some kind of financial employment to thousands of women in the countryside and has contributed to these women coming out of the confines of home and hearth to engage in socially productive labour. However, while the 2014-2015 budget had allocated Rs 18108 crores for this scheme, the 2015-2016 budget has provided for only Rs 8245 for it. Similarly, budgetary allocations for the education sector including the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have been mercilessly reduced.
Crimes against women, on the other hand, continue to rise. According to a UNICEF report from 2014, India accounted for as many as 33% of female children who were married before the age of 18 years in the world. It has the sixth highest rate of child marriage with 58% women married before the legally permissible age. Recently released NCRB data have shown that in as many as 86 per cent of cases of rape across the country, the offenders were known to the survivors. According to NCRB’s latest 2014 report, there were 33,764 victims of rape in the country during the year 2013. 13.1% of the total victims of rape were girls under 14 years of age, while 26.3% were teenaged girls (14-18 years), 46.1% were women in the age-group 18-30 years, 13.8% in the age-group of 30-50 years and 0.7% over 50 years of age.
Earlier reports of the NCRB confirm this rising trend. In military-infested states like Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, the AFSPA and similar draconian laws enable the men in uniform to perpetrate sexual assault and rape on women at will and without fear of punishment, while, everywhere across the country tales of political vendetta are unexceptionally played out on the bodies of women.
It is against this gruesome backdrop that the prime minister has called on ‘brothers’ to gift the PMBSY to ‘sisters’ on the occasion of the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, never mind that even a large section of the Hindu population – say in the Southern states or the Northeast – is culturally alienated from this festival. As for non-Hindus, the prime minister expectedly has no message. One is reminded of the fact that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said in Bhubaneswar on Raksha Bandhan last year that the festival has national significance, adding, “Celebrating the festival is a way to protect Hindu culture and live the values enshrined in it.” It is indeed this communally divisive politics that the prime minister’s Raksha Bandhan call has wedded with patriarchy.
Women, as we stated earlier, do not need ‘security’ to be gifted to them by their brothers. Women want rights and an enabling social-political-economic environment to exercise those rights. They want free access to education, health and employment. They want the opportunity of equal participation in all sectors. They want the freedom to form and express opinions, the freedom to be seen and heard. They want freedom from all kinds of atrocities based on their sexuality as also the freedom from such fear. They want freedom from the subjugation of patriarchy. The only discrimination they want is positive discrimination, special remedial measures that will lift them up from a condition of historical backwardness and marginalization. They do not seek to be ‘protected’ by brothers – how often have they witnessed such protection extending to limits on their lives and even honour killing – donning the mantle of ‘protector’ by virtue of their gender. The prime minister needs reminding that women are not weak that they will need ‘protection’; rather, being historically oppressed and enslaved they need liberation. n
By choosing to nominate APJ Abdul Kalam as its candidate for the Presidential elections next month, the Vajpayee government has sent out an unambiguous message: It has no compunctions in making an appeal to crass militarism to advance its narrow parochial interests. And by going along with the nomination or co-sponsoring it, the bulk of India’s Opposition parties – the Left alone stands out as the exception – have shown they lack the stomach to question jingoistic nationalism.
Mr Kalam is India’s “Missile Man”, lionised and glorified as such. He was awarded the highest honour the Indian state gives – the Bharat Ratna, or the Jewel of India – many years before Amartya Sen, known for his liberal and anti-militaristic views, received it, after winning the economics Nobel Prize. In principle, elevating Mr Kalam to India’s Presidency is no different from making Dr A.Q. Khan, the “Father of the Pakistani Bomb”, that country’s president.
Mr Kalam has only two public faces: devotion to militarism, and his image as a Muslim, which fits the stereotype constructed by the Hindu-chauvinist core of India’s present ruling coalition, represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Unlike most Indians, and the vast majority of Indian Muslims, Mr Kalam is a vegetarian. He believes more in Hindu scriptures than the Koran. He takes pride in knowing Sanskrit but no Urdu. He plays the rudra veena and reads theBhagwad Gita.
His first face is the more important of the two. But the second is not unrelated to it. The Hindu-sectarian BJP is totally militaristic in its outlook, and wants Muslims to “Indianise” themselves, i.e. adopt “Hindu” (read Brahmanical upper-caste) ways. Its anti-Islam, anti-Pakistan ideology is closely connected with its obsession with nuclear weapons and missiles.
The BJP decided to nominate Mr Kalam for utterly cynical reasons. The “Missile Man” was not its first choice. Its original favourite until June 8 was Vice-President Krishna Kant. Then, it suddenly switched to Maharashtra governor P.C. Alexander. The reasons were connected with the BJP’s bid to topple a Congress-led government in Maharashtra, and Home Minister Advani’s attempt to score a point against Mr Vajpayee.At this point, the BJP’s internal power dynamics took over. Mr Vajpayee proposed Mr Kalam’s name basically to outmanoeuvre his own party colleagues. He succeeded.
Mr Kalam lacks experience in public life, government or Parliament. In India’s constitutional scheme, the President’s is a non-executive but political office. He/she is called upon to counsel the Cabinet and exercise discriminating judgment on sensitive matters.
The President need not have a party background. But s/he cannot be uncoached in politics. Most Indian Presidents have been academics, typically with high qualifications from world-class universities. But they have also been experienced diplomats, administrators or legislators with an understanding of the Constitution and politics.
Mr Kalam lacks such experience or orientation. He is an engineer who became a manager of cloistered defence-related programmes, with little exposure to the broader process of governance. He is wrongly thought to hold a PhD in science or engineering. His doctorate is purely honorary, like Margaret Thatcher’s.
Kalam has an overly-simple, untutored and at times unpardonably naïve understanding of political issues. Even a casual reading of his books, Wings of Fire and India 2020,will confirm this. Naiveté marred his first two post-nomination press conferences, at which he evaded inconvenient questions. He also attributed the recent avoidance of war with Pakistan to nuclear deterrence, which is at odds with the official view.
Strangely, Mr Kalam believes India is a “developed nation”. “We are among the top five ... in terms of GDP... Our poverty levels are falling, our achievements are being globally recognised today. Yet we lack the self-confidence to see ourselves as a developed nation.” Underdevelopment is not just a function of GDP. Even in nominal GDP terms, India is lower than Holland (pop. 15 million).
The per capita income-differential between India and the developed world is roughly 1:40, higher than 50 years ago. India’s poverty ratios are not falling. At any rate, what should shame Indians is not just poverty, but also staggering income inequalities. Mr Kalam has no understanding of these, or of the structural constraints, including hierarchy, caste and illiteracy, which keep India backward.
Mr Kalam shows little comprehension of the complex, double-edged character of technology, especially its destructive aspect: nuclear missiles, biological weapons and mind-control technologies. He ardently advocates investing in the Military-Industrial Complex as the key to “development”. The ethical questions posed by mass-destruction technologies do not bother him.
Mr Kalam’s thinking is replete with poorly constructed, half-baked or undigested ideas. For instance, he advocates “bio-implants” for “deficient” brains (reminiscent of eugenics?), using nuclear fission (why?) to power short-haul airplanes, and combining the occult with modern science. He believes India is eminently capable of making anti-ballistic missile defence shields, when even the US has so far proved unable to master that technology which involves, among other things, reliably detecting launches in distant continents, and then accurately attacking incoming missiles – akin to hitting a bullet with another travelling at the same velocity!
As Princeton-based physicist M.V. Ramana says, Mr Kalam tends to “dress up even mediocre work with the Tricolour to pass it off as a great achievement. In his autobiography, he says he reverse-engineered a Russian rocket-assisted take-off system, simply borrowing the crucial motors. Publicly, however, it was passed off as an ‘indigenous development’”. Although he is routinely called a ‘scientist’ by the media and by political leaders, Mr Kalam is not that. He is an engineer who has manipulated aspects of the physical reality – essentially to military ends.
Mr Kalam is not a great engineer either. The performance of the two government institutions closest to him, Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research and Development Organisation, has been deeply unsatisfactory. Besides the rather primitive, short-range Prithvi (range 150-250 km), their most important achievement has been the Space Launch Vehicle rocket in the 1970s. But this used an imported, not Indian, guidance system.
The SLV-3 was the base (actually, the first of two stages) for the origina lAgni (range, 1,500-2,500 km). But that Agni model went through three tests – one success, one failure, and one “limited success” (i.e. partial failure) – before being declared a “technology demonstrator”, rather than a prototype that would fly. Since then, there has been a longer-range Agni-II (2,500 to 3,000 km), and a renamed, wholly new, Agni-I (range 700-900 km) unrelated to the original missile, which uses a solid, not liquid, fuel in its second stage. Both were developed largely after Mr Kalam quit the DRDO.
India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (launched 1983) is not a success story. Of the five different missile-classes it was meant to develop, only the Prithvi and Agni have become (quasi-)operational. The Trishul, Nag and Akash are nowhere near that status, despite long delays and massive cost overruns. No Indian Navy or Air Force ship or plane carries a DRDO-made missile. The army’s main anti-tank missile, the Milan ATM, is French in origin. All three forces’ anti-aircraft weapons are of Russian origin.
It is only fair to judge Mr Kalam by the performance of the DRDO. He headed it for long years. This record is embarrassingly poor. The DRDO has never completed a major project on time. Its weapons are often of indifferent quality. Some of its big-ticket projects, like the AWACS (Advanced Airborne Warning Systems) or the aircraft carrier, are big disasters. Its sole experimental AWACS crashed in January 1999.
Three of DRDO’s most expensive projects, the Main Battle Tank, Light Combat Aircraft, and Advanced Technology Vessel (nuclear submarine) have each soaked up $500 million-plus, without delivering results. The Arjun MBT is so heavy that the army prefers Russian T-90 tanks. The LCA doesn’t even have an Indian engine. And the ATV’s design isn’t ready – after 20 years of “work”. The cumulative spending on these projects so far exceeds India’s entire annual budget on tertiary education!
The DRDO can burn almost $1 billion of public money annually without producing decent results – at least partly because it is shielded from public scrutiny, including the CAG’s. Such “power
without responsibility” has given the military-industrial complex a bad name everywhere. In India, jingoism and militarist nationalism have made the MIC a holy cow.
In this respect, Mr Kalam represents the seamy, undemocratic side of the Complex. His elevation as President will put the terrible stamp of militarisation on India’s highest office. Mr Kalam will also serve to whitewash the BJP after the Pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat, carried out by the party and its associates with state collusion. He has repeatedly refused to condemn those culpable for the Gujarat massacre; he only says the events were “very sad”. His “Hindutva-friendly” image will marginalise all those Muslims who don’t follow the BJP stereotype, but who are no less Indian for that.
India’s non-executive President is meant to reflect and defend a pluralist culture. Mr Kalam does not. His election, which is a mere formality, is a blow to the cause of Indian secularism and peace. n
In political economy, though the term crony capitalism has been in frequent use ever since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the phenomenon is yet to be classified as a Marxist class category in tandem with such conceptualizations as industrial or finance capitalism. However, it is easy to identify the phenomenon as inseparably linked up with the current corporatization or financialisation process flourishing under neoliberal accumulation. Of course, the roots of financial cronyism lay deep in the “parasitism” and “social decay” inherent in the transformation of capital itself as unravelled by Lenin a century back. Obviously, imperialism, the driving force of which is finance capital, is an immense accumulation of money and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a financial oligarchy. This arises from the extraordinary growth of the financial elite in close nexus with the bourgeois state as a parasitic class, a social stratum of speculators who take no part in any kind of productive economic activities but whose profession is outright speculation or ‘coupon clipping’ as Lenin said. From a Marxist perspective, therefore, capitalist cronyism is the inevitable outcome of the long drawn out transformation of industrial or ‘pure capitalism’ into finance or ‘corporate capitalism’.
The bourgeois state which played the role, as Engels said, of a “night watchman” during laissez-faire/free enterprise/industrial capitalism began to merge with the parasitic financial oligarchy paving the way for the emergence of state monopoly capitalism under imperialism. This unholy nexus with the state and speculative financial aristocracy has become indispensable for the enrichment of the wealthy elites and financial cronies on the one hand, and suppression of the working class and oppressed masses at home and establishment of colonies and spheres of influence abroad on the other. Under the internationalization of highly speculative finance capital in the post-war neo-colonial phase, and especially under neo-liberalism, settlements and deals done by the monopoly capitalist state with corporate CEOs are done outside the much trumpeted parliamentary democratic process. The so called GDP growth or “economic success”, according to imperialist think tanks and corporate cronies, depends everywhere on the corporate-politician-bureaucratic nexus, outside the façade of parliamentary democracy. The most recent example of the embodiment of crony capitalism has been the advent of WTO itself which is identified as the neo-liberal and neo-colonial pillar of imperialism where decisions pertaining to the interests of finance capital are taken in closed multinational corporate boardrooms and rubber-stamped on world people. Political corruption, swindles, money laundering, extortion and unprecedented accumulation of black money in offshore tax havens have become inalienable components of crony capitalism or corporatocracy today. In several countries, crony capitalism has led to an extreme concentration of economic and political power in a small interlocking group (such as the Ambanis and Adanis in India) prompting political analysts to characterize the situation as plutocracy (rule by wealth) or kleptocracy (rule by theft).
History of Capitalist Cronyism
‘Crony capitalism’ thus defined as the reactionary essence of speculative and parasitic finance capital is not an overnight development. It is to be situated in the whole course of transformation in the character of capital together with the terribly destructive levels of decay and degeneration finance capital has assumed since its ascendancy in the late 19th century. While analyzing the laws of motion of capital, though Marx had identified the emergence of “fictitious capital” led by what he termed “a new aristocracy of finance” engaged in “a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporate juggling, stock jobbing and stock speculation” and who are dealing in “money that is thrown into circulation as capital without any material basis in commodities or productive activity”, it was not yet the principal aspect of capitalism and formed only a subset of the main form of capital, that is industrial capital. However, it was during the process of transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism that the notorious “robber barons” of the old colonial era were reincarnated as “financial lobbyists” who began to direct not only the economic but even the military and foreign policies in several imperialist countries. The strengthening of financial speculation and ever-growing profits of speculative financiers relative to those engaged in production also led to chronic and irreversible crises under imperialism.
It was this hegemony of financial aristocracy and the fever of speculation that culminated in the Great Economic Depression of the 1930s originating as the panic known as Wall Street Crash of October 1929 and spreading as the Great Economic Depression to the whole world except socialist Soviet Union which was outside the orbit of finance capital. In a nutshell, it was the rigging of the entire financial system in favour of the financial oligarchs as revealed later from the disclosures of massive swindles and scandalous self-dealing and abuse of power on Wall Street, the nerve-centre of American finance, by speculators that led to the financial crash and then the Depression. As the Depression that shook the very foundation of the imperialist system eroded the credibility of financial oligarchy/aristocracy, especially in the context of the ideological-political advancement of the Left and surge in national liberation movements, Keynes, the well-known bourgeois economist and strong defender of capitalism even argued for “euthanasia” for speculative capital. Stringent actions including punishment to bankers guilty of financial fraud and cronyism were also initiated under the New Deal programme of Roosevelt based on Keynesian prescriptions. The Glass-Steagall Act that put limits on speculation by separating commercial banking from speculation was also passed.
In brief, among other things, one of the “favourable conditions” that facilitated capitalism’s “golden age” including the ascendancy of the so called “welfare state” at a global level during the quarter century following the Second World War had been Keynesian state regulation imposed on capitalist cronyism. But these “favourable conditions” of the immediate post-war neo-colonial period, most important being Keynesian state programming and regulation on finance capital necessitated by the political and ideological offensive on the part of the International Left were “external” to the inherent normal logic of imperialism which are speculation, parasitism, stagnation and decay. In fact, the phenomenon of “crisis-free capitalism” of the 1950s and 1960s had been an aberration. The imperialist crisis that began in the 1930s in the form of Depression, though kept in abeyance for a brief period, on account of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, bounced back with intensified vigour in the 1970s in the form of global stagflation — stagnation coupled with inflation — leading to the collapse of all Keynesian illusions.
Strengthening Crony Capitalism under Neo-liberalism
The unprecedented crisis of the Seventies, in the context of the global setbacks suffered by the International Communist Movement on account of both rightist and leftist deviations, prompted imperialism to unleash the dictatorship of finance capital in an intensified manner through a fundamental restructuring of the international economy by resorting to a change in the mode of accumulation through neoliberalism or monetarism. The speculative essence and cronyism associated with finance capital that became clear in the Crash of 1929 and Depression of the 1930s but camouflaged by Keynesian regulatory framework until the 1970s got unfolded through Thatcherism and Reaganomics and began to spread to neocolonial countries through imperialist globalization since the 1980s. Immense money capital accumulated by MNCs and global financial corporations including the huge volume of Eurodollars and petrodollars accumulated in world money circulation channels in the context of stagnating and less profitable productive spheres had to be deployed in the most profitable money spinning financial speculation. For instance, the Glass-Steagall Act that was promulgated in 1933 to control speculation under Roosevelt’s presidency was repealed in 1980 by Reagan as a green signal for unhindered global speculation. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Union in the late Eighties coupled with capitalist restoration in China and the eventual integration of all erstwhile socialist countries with imperialism was very much conducive for the internationalization of finance capital, the European Union also removed controls on international capital movements. A multi-dimensional network of financial institutions and services and bewildering array of financial assets and processes such as swaps, futures and options were built up. During the Keynesian period, while financial expansion moved more or less in tandem with production and employment, under neo-liberalism there emerged a clear dichotomy between the real and the financial and expansion of the latter started gearing itself for self-expansion through unhindered speculation.
Today the real economy is reduced to, what Keynes himself said in the 1930s, “a bubble on a whirlpool of speculation” and the so-called development itself has become the “by-product of the activities of a casino.” Quite revealingly, after an overview of the post-Keynesian international economy, Peter Drucker, an economist, commented in 1990 itself: “Ninety per cent or more of the transnational economy’s financial transactions do not serve what economists would consider an economic function. They serve purely financial transactions.” For instance, by the turn of the 21st century, the GDP of US, the leading imperialist power, was just around one per cent of the total financial turnover in that country. No doubt, crony capitalism today, therefore, is integrally linked up with the shift in the capital accumulation process and explosive growth in financial parasitism under neo-liberalism. Unfettered capital movements and internationalization of finance and the consequent boom in currency and stock markets coupled with real estate, land grab and commodity speculation have led to the ballooning of the speculative bubble.
At the time of 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Western media were propagating the myth that crony capitalism has been a specifically Asian, ‘underdeveloped’ ‘Third World’ phenomenon. However, the 2007-2008 American sub-prime crisis and the subsequent European sovereign debt crisis that triggered the ongoing irreversible global meltdown exploded this myth. The so called “quantitative easing” programme that pumped trillions worth of paper money into the coffers of corporate speculators the world over during the post-meltdown period in the name of stimulating the very same financial thugs who were responsible for the crises, also reflected worst forms of financial parasitism. Pumping money into the financial system has not boosted the real economy through expanded investment, employment generation and increased production, but led only to increased speculation everywhere. The whole world is experiencing a persistent fall in productive investment, deindustrialization and what is called “secular stagnation”, even as the corporate financial oligarchy and their cronies everywhere are highlighting sky-rocketing financial indices as true indicators of capitalist vitality. Interestingly, even neo-colonial financial institutions such as IMF and their counterparts in countries under neo-colonial domination such as the Reserve Bank of India in their recent reports and analyses have been compelled to acknowledge how crony capitalism acts as a lag on the much trumpeted GDP growth.
Among other things, the emerging trends associated with crony capitalism, which is a synonym for contemporary corporatization, are manifold:
1. Today the world has become far more unequal than any other period in history. Earnings of workers and common people in the form of wages, salaries and other welfare receipts have abysmally gone down while returns to corporate capital from stocks, bonds, real estate, land and natural resource grab and from newer and newer avenues of speculation and money spinning businesses have sky-rocketed. This has led to a terribly destructive concentration of income and wealth with the corporate-financial elite. For instance, today the US, whose real economy is shrinking at a level comparable with that of the Depression years has become far more unequal than any other period in history, as the top 10 per cent there receives more than 50 per cent of the national income and owns three-fourths of the national wealth. During 2008-14, while the GDP of US grew by 13 per cent, corporate profits rose by 300 per cent, such that wages, the major form of earnings for a vast majority of Americans, declined from 45 per cent of GDP to 42 per cent during the same period. In a similar vein, the first Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in India since 1934 recently released by the Union finance ministry depicts widespread prevalence of extreme multi-dimensional poverty among vast majority of Indians amidst corporate talks of India joining the world’s rich men’s club under the Modi regime.
2. Second is the paradoxical global situation of the coexistence of deepest economic stagnation with highest levels of corporate profits. Thus crony capitalism has altered the traditional economic understanding that stagnation logically leads to fall in profits. Rather, in the present neoliberal phase of corporate accumulation, amidst such negative trends as de-industrialization, de-peasantization, casualization of workforce, growing unemployment and underemployment, etc., which have totally pauperized the toiling people, the number of world’s billionaires and their wealth are growing at an alarming rate. Apart from indulging in money-spinning speculation, the soaring profits are attributable to the unleashing of a social counter-revolution on world people in the form of continued expenditure-reduction, falling real wages, automation and extraction of greater surplus value from workers and toiling people and, in the process, appropriating ever-greater proportion of the national product by corporate capitalists. While the wave of speculation and gambling push up corporate profits and stock values to new heights, the same phenomenon was accompanied by an enormous decline in social conditions and retrogression in the living standards of the vast majority of the world population. This has led to the biggest-ever economic and wealth disparities ever recorded in world history.
3. Another feature of financial parasitism or ‘crony capitalism’ engulfing the whole world at maddening pace has been the unbridled growth of corruption and unprecedented accumulation of unaccounted or black money in offshore tax havens by the ultra-wealthy from around the globe. For instance, the ‘hidden wealth’ held in ‘secret’ offshore accounts by tax-evaders reached $32 trillion in April 2013, which is nearly triple the figure of $11.5 trillion in 2005, reiterating the direct correlation between corporatization and corrupt deals engineered by crony capitalists.
4. Ecological catastrophe and gruesome cultural degradation of hitherto unknown levels are concomitants of financial cronyism. Under neo-liberalism, land grab and plunder of nature have become major sources of wealth accumulation by corporate financiers while the process of commodification of culture has reached unimaginable levels.
5. The devastating impacts of crony capitalism on the most vulnerable sections of society such as children, women and other oppressed sections such as dalits, adivasis, and minorities have become manifold. Unemployment and pauperization have left many families unable to provide the care, protection and opportunities to which children are entitled. According to ILO’s latest World Protection Report 2014-15, at a global level, 18000 children below the age of five are dying per day due to lack of food. The study that examined primary health care, maternal and child protection, condition of the workers and old age people in 200 countries found an average 37 per cent reduction in the availability of these services in the year 2013 compared with 2012. In the year 2013, only 25 per cent of the world’s women workers got maternity benefits and the US, still the leading imperialist power, is among the group of countries that deny even the minimum maternity benefits and minimum wages to women workers.
6. In India, which has been in the vicious grip of a cronyism-induced stagnation-financialization trap and falling growth rate that has almost halved now from the 10.26 per cent achieved in 2010, the wealth of the leading 100 billionaires here has gone up from $259 billion to $ 346 billion within the past one year alone. A corollary of the extreme concentration of wealth with the corporate financial elite has been India topping the worldwide list for black money with around $ 2 trillion, more than the country’s GDP, being stashed abroad illegally. The very same class of corporate elites is further enriched with fabulous tax exemptions in every budget which amounted to an estimated Rs 36.5 trillion (more than $ 600 billion at the current exchange rate) during 2005-2014. The ultra-rightwing shift in economic policies in India with the ascendancy of Modi regime has further intensified this trend. The pro-US, Hindu supremacist comprador Indian ruling classes led by Modi under the camouflage of saffronization is transforming India as a cheap labour “manufacturing hub” through the attractive formulation “Make in India.” A whole set of measures aimed at improving “ease of doing business” such as aggressive liberalization in labour and environmental laws and imposition of black laws for the unhindered plunder of workers and nature and the removal of barriers to the free entry and exit of MNCs including the offer of even extra-territoriality to them are already announced. Modinomics, with its ultra-rightist economic orientation despite its nationalistic pretensions, is bound to lead the ruling regime to hitherto unknown levels of compradorisation and cronyism.
To conclude, crony capitalism is inseparably linked up with the laws of motion of finance capital which has been reproducing and piling up its inherent contradictions on an unprecedented scale in the neo-colonial-neoliberal phase. The developments since the collapse of international Keynesianism in the 1970s and the subsequent launching of neo-liberalism have imparted an irreversible dimension to financial cronyism. The parasitism and decay associated with finance capital that could be camouflaged under welfare Keynesianism have come out in the open under neo-liberalism with intensified notoriety. In the mad rush for ensuring fabulous profits for finance capital, the neoliberal state itself is encouraging financial swindle, extortion, corruption and corporate criminality. The integration of erstwhile socialist countries, as already noted, with the imperialist market opened up new global avenues of parasitism and decay for finance capital. And the comprador state in neo-colonial countries has become a ‘facilitator’ for the rapacious grabbing of the country’s wealth and scarce resources by finance capital. Public funds mobilized through taxation and borrowing are driven to speculation in equity, currency, real estate and ‘forward’/’futures’ markets monopolized by financial giants, where fraud, artificial fixing of asset prices, market distortions, account manipulations, underhand deals, commissions, kickbacks, bribes, transfer pricing, false documentation, other tricks of trade and transfer of funds to Swiss banks and similar other safe tax havens across the world are justified for the sake of shoring up corporate profits within the shortest possible time. Interpenetration of finance capital into the various organs of the state and close integration between the two are indispensable in this scenario. Even the various institutions of parliamentary democracy right from judiciary, executive and legislature at the top to local governments at the bottom are becoming corrupt and rotten to the core under the influence of crony capitalism. The emergence of micro-finance led by NGOs under neo-liberalism has been an ingenious device by crony capitalism to integrate the local and grassroots with the financial stream, thereby permeating corruption even to the village level. No doubt, cronyism has become an integral factor in neoliberal accumulation. Though apologists and reformists of the ruling system suggest neo-Keynesian solutions to overcome the present crisis arising from crony capitalism, space for manoeuvre is fast depleting. The crisis is systemic and irresolvable within the capitalist-imperialist system. Though the capitalist-imperialist system having gone beyond its limits is in exhaustion, as Lenin pointed out, there is no final crisis for capitalism and until being thrown away, the capitalists can always find a way out of even the deepest crisis. Only a revolutionary political intervention based on a concrete analysis of the concrete situation can break this vicious circle and put forward a genuine people’s alternative.
1. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III
2. V I Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
3. J M Keynes, The General Theory of Employment,Interest and Money, 1936
4. Geoffrey Pilling, The Crisis of Keynesian Economics, 1986
5. Peter Drucker, The New Realities, 1990
6. Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 2014
7. IMF, World Economic Outlook, 2014
8. ILO, World Protection Report, 2014-15
9. P J James, Imperialism in the Neo-colonial Phase n
The greatest contribution of Mao is that he made deep, scientific analysis of the feudal, semi-colonial China where all imperialist forces were trying to gain a foothold, but were restricted to holding only enclaves in the coastal region till the Japanese made big inroads in the Northeast region; applied Marxist-Leninist teachings and the Comintern decisions according to these conditions; built up a Bolshevik style party fighting against both right opportunist and left adventurist deviations, and organized the masses for the successful completion of the People’s Democratic Revolution. The four volumes of his published works give a vivid picture of this theoretical, political and organizational offensive leading to the formation of the People’s Republic of China on 1st October, 1949.
The second phase of his great contribution was focused on completing the tasks of the democratic revolution and advancing China on the path of socialist revolution, socialist transformation. He had to face severe challenge from the capitalist roaders who wanted to limit the democratic revolution to the frame of a bourgeois revolution, who opposed his campaign for building People’s Communes, for self-reliant development paradigm and for socialist rectification in the party and among the people. The capitalist roaders with their theory of productive forces, the theory of whether the cat is black or white it should catch the mice, had become well-entrenched in the party, army and administration by the time of the 8th Congress of the CPC in 1956, by which time the Krshchovite revisionists had already usurped power in the Soviet Union. As Mao explained, it was proved that class struggle shall become more fierce after the political power is seized by proletariat led forces. The Cultural Revolution had to be launched calling on the people to get mobilized and to bombard bourgeois headquarters, continuing class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat against the capitalist roaders. This offensive succeeded in removing the leading capitalist roaders like Liu Shaochi and Deng Tsiaoping at least from the seats of power for the time being.
Mao had pointed out on every available occasion that the pre-revolutionary Chinese situation and the path of revolution followed there were unique and the experience of the Chinese revolution should not be mechanically copied anywhere else. But what happened was the reverse. When the fierce struggle against the capitalist roaders were going on, under the guise of fighting it a left adventurist line led by Lin Biao emerged during the Cultural Revolution. As explained in his book: Long Live the Victory of People’s War, which came out in 1966, Lin reversed Mao’s teachings on all fundamental questions and advocated “Chinese Path” as the panacea for the communist parties in Asian, African and Latin American countries. The positions it put forward included the concept of a New Era under which Mao’s Thought was explained as the Marxism-Leninism of this new era. In the Quotations from Mao published during these days the slogan “political power grows out of the barrel of the gun” was one-sidedly glorified, rejecting the importance of mass line. It led to left adventurist deviations in all the Marxist-Leninist parties and groups emerging at that time fighting against Soviet revisionist positions, as they were copying whatever was coming from China as gospels contrary to Mao’s teachings. It led to their weakening and disintegration very fast. This adventurist line dominated the 9th Congress of the CPC held in 1969. Internationally during the post-Mao years, it led to the emergence of the concept of Maoism which caused great damage to the reorganization of the communist movement nationally and internationally based on Bolshevik lines, applying Marxism-Leninism according to emerging concrete conditions.
The emergence of this left adventurist line under the guise of struggling against the .capitalist roaders and its sudden debacle by the 1970s, helped the rightists to return to positions of power after the 10th Congress of the CPC in 1973, which had failed to settle the basic problems of ideological struggle against the capitalist roaders as well as against the left adventurist line. As a result, the capitalist roaders as well as the centrists could continue to wage heinous attacks against the socialist roaders, dubbing them as Lin Biaoists. The post- 10th Congress years were once again a period of intense ideological political struggle during which the capitalist roaders well entrenched in the army and administration and important positions in the party tried to throw out the socialist roaders using all pernicious means. In this condition of ideological confusion, the Chinese government established relations with the US imperialists based on the concept of Theory of Three Worlds which was gaining dominance within the capitalist roaders that the Soviet social imperialism is a more dangerous enemy than US imperialism, even when the latter was intensifying its attacks on the Vietnamese people. The teachings of The Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963 were being replaced with the concept of this class collaborationist theory. Against these rightist offensives, the revolutionary forces were getting mobilized as in Shanghai Commune and elsewhere. This struggle reached the peak in the beginning of 1976 when utilizing the confusion created with the death of Chou Enlai like leaders, the capitalist roaders tried to usurp power and annihilate the revolutionary stream led by Mao through a counter-revolutionary coup.
In spite of ill health, Mao led from the forefront in this last struggle of his life and Deng like leading capitalist roaders were removed from positions of power once again. A call for arming the people and forming people’s militia was issued. But this struggle could not be carried forward as Mao’s illness increased and he died on 9th September. Within a week Mao’s followers who had majority in the standing committee of the PB were arrested, almost a repetition of what happened after the death of Stalin in 1953, dubbing them the Gang of Four and its followers. People’s resistance was barbarously suppressed utilizing the army as in the case of massacres against Shanghai Commune. Using the centrist Hua Kuofeng the capitalist roaders manoeuvred to usurp power and launched the capitalist offensive with the policy of Four Modernizations declared in 1978. Soon Deng returned to absolute power and transformed China into a capitalist power, vehemently starting to uproot all the manifestations of socialist transformation. China was turned into a state capitalist bureaucratic power.
It is the revolutionary task of the Marxist-Leninist forces to uphold the heroic struggle waged by the CPC under the leadership of Mao to lead the PDR to victory and to lead such a backward country through the path of socialist transformation. At the same time these setbacks suffered in China call for serious evaluation, though they do not in any way diminish the relevance of Mao’s contributions. Though the capitalist roaders are well entrenched in power in China today, when the new wave of revolution erupts around the world, it is bound to arouse the people of China also towards throwing out the present ruling class there. All over the world, in spite of the confusion created by the right reformists and advocates of Maoism, the Marxist-Leninist forces upholding Mao’s contributions, who are applying the Marxist theory including it in the concrete conditions of their own countries, are making slow, but definite advances. In this turning period, uncompromisingly struggling against all alien, right opportunist positions and sectarian, anarchist positions, let us struggle for communist upsurge firmly upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought. n
The present BJP government has taken the position that in order to deliver its election promises to both indigenous and global capital for cheaper labour and other resources and to revive economic growth, it must change the basic framework of labour and wage rights by rewriting the statute books to institutionalise the attack on the working class. Cost of labour in totality can be lowered by cutting (i) conditions of work and (ii) wages. Thus the BJP government is determined to drastically change both the conditions of work, including through an attack on the freedom of association and collective bargaining, and put in place a statutory framework that allows low wage labour.
Testing the waters in the states with BJP governments, this government has amended the Factories Act and raised the floor for establishments mandatorily to be registered under this act from 10 to 20 thereby effectively taking 7 out of 10workers out of its protection. Simultaneously, at the centre, this government has proposed a Small Factories Bill that will cover establishments of workers with less than 40 workers. This bill, if legislated, will take away the right to strike and the right to form trade unions of workers in these establishments. For larger establishments, the BJP is proposing to replace the existing Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes Act and the Standing Orders Act with an all-in-one Industrial Relations Code (IRC). The IRC among many other issues seeks to (i) withdraw the existing tri-partite mechanism of dispute resolution by taking away the power of the executive to issue reference while not providing anadequate bipartite mechanism in its place; (ii) take away the right of workers in establishments with less than fiftyworkers to challenge existing standing orders thereby further diminishing the rights of workers in small establishment;(iii) in the case of closure, change the existing provision of government approval in the case of establishments with 100and more workers to establishments with 300 and more workers. This amendment has already been brought in by the BJP governments in Rajasthan and MP; and finally, (iv) impose fines on workers and deregister the trade union in the event of an illegal strike, thereby gravely undermining the right to strike of workers. The IRC further gives government the suo moto right to interfere in the internal affairs of a trade union if it deems, or even apprehends, existence of inter- or intra-TU disputes, thereby undermining the autonomy of trade unions. These changes in conditions of work if implemented will take us back to the darkness of the 18th century pushing more and more workers to insecure and unsafe contract, casual and irregular jobs.
Through the proposed Wage Code (WC) that seeks to combine the existing Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wage Act, the Payment of Bonus Act and the Equal Remuneration Act, the BJP government is also set to remove basic wage rights of workers. Again, amongst other things, the WC undermines the definition of minimum wage by diluting its relationship with inflation indexation or dearness allowance. It restricts the role of trade unions in the tripartite institution that sets the minimum wage by leaving appointment to the Minimum Wage Advisory Board to the arbitrariness of government. It narrows the definition of wages thereby leaving the field open for un-equal remuneration violating the principles of the Equal Remuneration Act and the principle of equal work for equal pay. In the case of bonus, the WC does away with the mandatory disclosure of the profit and loss account and balance sheet of an establishment that allowed workers the right to negotiate a bonus higher than the minimum of 8.33 percent while allowing for a productivity bonus. And finally, when there is no doubt that the Minimum Wage Act is the most violated piece of labour legislation and that it has been held by the Supreme Court that non-payment of minimum wage amounts to a condition of bondage, the WC virtually does away with the entire machinery of inspection and enforcement opening the way for the privatisation of this machinery. The fines are also limited for what in effect amounts to a criminal offence The assault on wages is dovetailed with an attack on statutory provisions of social security and in particular the cardinal legislative protection provided to millions of workers under the Employee Provident Fund and the Employee Social Insurance that addresses retirement benefits and healthcare, including compensation and wage losses as a result of work place accidents and disability. The legislative proposal allowing workers to opt out for cheaper, market based social security preys on the desperation caused by low wages and the loss of disposable income.
On the other hand, decades of rural immiserisation due to sustained agricultural crisis and lack of alternative rural employments, employment under NREGA, in government programmes such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as teachers and MDM workers, in ICDS as Anganwadi workers, in primary health services as ANMs and ASHAs, despite their limitations, were seen both as providers of wage and of social protection. But the BJP government has brutally cut budgetary provisions for each of these. The reduced government expenditure on social protection will cut employment opportunities (NREGA) and lower the availability of necessary social services and health care further eating into incomes of the lowest income section of the working people. Simultaneously, the proposed changes in the LARR through successive ordinances, takes away the democratic right of people dependent on a particular tract of land to give consent for acquisition of that land. The amendment takes away the crucial Social Impact Assessment clause of the LARR that was institutionalised after the struggles against land acquisition. This amendment also moves compensation to only the landed, excluding the landless dependent agricultural workers while widening the definition of ‘public purpose’ to include all manner of private interests and restricting judicial remedy. This will lead to greater migration from rural areas leading to a further drastic lowering of wages and working conditions urban and industrial centres.
For the BJP government ‘Ease of Business’ is necessary for ‘Make in India’. What this means in reality is that government will put itself at the disposal of the private sector and global capital through tax breaks and concession and place the capacity and strength of the public sector at the disposal of the private sector. The delinking of coal mining and the end user; majority private and foreign control over defence production, the railways and the insurance sectors are steps to open the economy to the private sector and global capital without any safeguards. In much of the public sector we have already witnessed, apart from creeping disinvestment, privatisation by stealth through outsourcing.
Achieving all of this will not be easy for the BJP government even with the rest of the political class and thus it has resorted to ordinances and executive orders where it cannot get legislation through parliament. And for the citizenry, it will use every means to divide people along lines of religion, caste, community, region, language and gender.
It is our collective understanding that the undemocratic actions and intentions of the BJP government warrant spirited and sustained resistance from all sections of the working class. We all recognise that a one-day action will not be sufficient to meet this attack. We learn from our experience of the recent strikes in the coal industry, amongst state transport workers and others that there is already a strong resistance to the government’s actions. The one-day strike will contribute to this resistance. Whether or not we are a part of the 11 CTUOs platform our organisations have always responded to every joint-call in the interest of working class unity. We commit ourselves to together ensure the success of the strike. Wherever we are – we will join the strike or lead the strike to mark our resistance against the BJP governments’ actions. We call upon all sections of the working class to come together in strike action on 2ndSeptember 2015 and call upon all sections of the working class to join this strike. At the same time we commit ourselves to a more sustained resistance in the days and weeks ahead.
Resist the Attack on the Labour Rights, the Minimum Wage and Trade Union Rights!
Repeal the Land Acquisition Ordinance!
Win a Minimum Wage of Rs. 15,000 a Month!
Ensure Safe and Secure Jobs for All Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work! n
TUCI NTUI IFTU AICCTU
India, a cheap-labour based export-oriented economy, is one of the hardest hit as the cheapening of Chinese exports consequent to devaluation will cut into India’s meagre export markets abroad on the one hand, and intensively penetrate into its domestic market on the other, since Indian goods are uncompetitive compared to those of China. The sudden depreciation of the Indian Rupee arising from reduced export earnings and from pressure on the foreign exchange reserves explain only part of the vulnerability of India. Panic arising from Chinese action and the resulting shock waves on global currency, stock and commodity markets will have far-reaching impact on the Indian economy, which following its two-and-a-half decades of neoliberal policies, has been fully integrated and intertwined with the global markets. The present Chinese move to maintain its export markets and its aftershocks have once again shattered all the illusions that the Chinese growth engine will compensate for the global meltdown since 2008.
The vicious circle of stagnation and slump and ever-mounting social repercussions confronting humanity today can be resolved only through a fundamental restructuring of the international economy and national state systems through an alternative development paradigm based on an ideological-political clarity
It is in this situation that the Party has called on all state committees to organize a vigorous campaign from 9th September and observe 1st October as All India Protest Day with the central slogan: Unite against Corporate Raj, Communalization and Corruption, Struggle for People’s Alternative. At a time when the Modi government and all state governments in line with the central policies are intensifying attacks on the people and, in a sense, competing with each other to open the ground for increasing corporate domination through PPP like policies and indulging in more heinous forms of corruption, the Party state committees should explain the burning issues in different states through a vigorous campaign and by organizing a big mobilizations on 1st October.
State level charter of demands addressed to state governor should be submitted at state headquarters and district headquarters. The whole emphasis should be given on people’s issues and how any basic solution is possible only by transcending the limits of the present bourgeois parliamentary bureaucratic system to the struggle for a revolutionary alternative with a people’s democratic and development perspective. n