Due to the anti-people policies of the erstwhile governments that ruled us, the poor in the prosperous state of Karnataka have become poorer and the rich have become filthy rich. Financial sectors like Agriculture, Industry and the new emerging service sectors have been victims of liberalized policies of the government, giving birth to a neo-bourgeois class which has become the new landlords and neo-capitalists who own everything, erecting a new class rule of different order. The people who actually slug, ie, the industrial labourer, the farmer and the Coolies have lost all hope. They have neither the security of food, nor that of the job and have been relegated to the most heinous role due to exploitation. The rights that people fought hard for and acquired, and the right to basic minimum life are being slowly taken away from them. More than ever, there is a continuous onslaught on the rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution. Efforts are afoot to uproot multi-cultural spirit of the society and enforce mono-cultural practices by fascist forces in all domains of life. Instead of fighting the divisive forces and ensuring brotherhood all across, certain forces are enforcing neo-fascist practices in the name of secularism and trying to usurp power in the guise of being pro-people.
Further, casteism and untouchabililty are being practised in very subtle forms and the exploitation of the oppressed continues unabated. Voices that question the right to very existence of the religious minority groups in the country, subtle attacks on their rights-sometimes direct and sometimes indirect, and concerns that question their right to food and the louder voices of the genocide mindset and the groups that take sides with ulterior political motives are ruling the roost. Women suffer the double disadvantage of gender and the class and are being subjugated in very worst forms. The physical exploitation of women, domestic violence, and all kinds of subjugation combined with the exploitation associated with the world of work is making matters worse. Rape and sexual violence on women and girl children has become the order of the day.
More than ever, half of the population is unemployed and it has made life an impossible affair. The bitter battle for survival stares squarely into the eyes of many young people today. Education, which should have been free and fair and the basic right of every human being seems a luxury. Higher education in particular looks an impossible proposition for the youth of the nation. The cost of living is sky-rocketing and the right to dignified life is robbed off from the common man. The life standard of the common man has reached the abysmally low level more than ever. The precious natural resources over which every individual has a right are being swindled off by the select powerful in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘development’.
This jinx continues to haunt human life in all domains and there have been voices here and there to ameliorate people’s lives and provide relief. There is a need to comprehensively change this context and fight tooth and nail against all these forces that are detrimental to human life. It is in this context, the pro-people and secular forces have come together and attempts are being made by the leftists and democrats to align all interested parties in this direction. Proactive attempts are being made to find remedies through participation in democratic process during the general elections to the Assembly this year. We call this force as Struggling People’s Alternative Alliance (Janandolana Mahamaithry). We look forward to fight against the neo-liberals and metamorphosed caste messiahs, the corrupt and the corporate world that perpetrates atrocities. Political Parties that have supported and perpetrated these forces from their inception, ie, the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (S) are our opponents. The People’s Alternative Alliance proposes to fight these divisive forces and their anti-poor, anti-people and anti-democracy policies through the democratic process by partaking in the general elections.
Building Prosperous Karnataka through a strong Political Will: (Building Prosperous Karnataka is our Political motto)
Fighting the fascist forces that oppose democracy, secularism and equality of opportunity. We vow to fight against the casteist forces; be the Hindu or any other group that perpetrate caste and class. We are resolved to establish a society that is strongly poised on secular, democratic, social and equitable principles that believes in equity, equality and political participation to all. We vow to fight the neo-liberal corporate forces that perpetrate exploitation in the neo-modern order and policies that exploit the working class. We are resolved to oppose the new economic policies of the World Bank, International Trade and Industrial World Order which hit at the root of the native economic policies that sustain self-sufficiency and self-reliance. We propose to uphold the spirit of native culture, shared rights, self reliance in the industrial and agricultural sectors that give absolute rights and equity to the people. We shall make efforts to revive all the Medium and Small Scale Industries which have been closed in the name of being ‘sick’, thereby giving thrust to employment and dignified labour. Strict and austere financial code will be followed in the interest of the people and new vistas will be opened in the prevention of unemployment. We shall also abolish the outsourcing method for the exploitation of labour, and ensure the job security for them. We shall strive to liberate sectors like mining, infrastructure, sourcing of raw material necessary for the manufacturing sector, forest resources etc from the grip of the private and selfish operators. Under the State enforcement, the revival of all industrial units will be ensured. We shall strive to achieve the goal of scrapping anti-people policies regarding price control, land control and agri-control and comprehensive pro-people policies will be drafted. Optimum utilization of land, support price, resource supply etc will be ensured. From mono-crop to multi-crop method and implementation of the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission so as to help the farmers. Improved and scientific ways of utilisation of water resources and the governing policies will be put in place. We shall draft policies that govern support price for the farmers, support system and labour enabling governance mechanism will be developed. We shall strive to put systems in place that build confidence among the farmers and the pro-farmer state policy will be evolved. We shall, at all costs prevent the suicides of the farmers and labourers. Enabling policy for free education enshrined in the Constitution will be extended to the higher education sector also. We shall strive to do away with the role of the private players who yearn ‘for –profit’ in the name of providing accessible higher education. Monopoly and exploitation in the education sector will not be tolerated. Enabling policy for education will be evolved that will focus on employment and empowerment. Scientific policies will be drafted that free the system from the cudgels of the selfish bourgeois. Special efforts will be made to bring the hapless, the oppressed and the dalits in to the education system so as to build an enabling society which liberates the hapless from the clutches of the powerful capitalists who deny basic rights. Employment generation will be the focus on the education system and vocational education will be given the necessary thrust. Efforts will be made to empower and enable to the young so as to prevent them from being forced into the world of neglect and crime. Women empowerment will get its prime place. We shall strive to shoulder the responsibility of freeing women from the exploitation in the name of gender, caste, financial dependency, illiteracy etc. further, we shall fight tooth and nail against consumerism, commercialism and capitalism. Women trafficking, commodifying women an object of sexuality will not be tolerated. Child trafficking, oppression against women will be rooted out. We shall create an authority that ensures equality of opportunity to women all across the domains. We shall ensure the state’s intervention in the upbringing of the girl child so as to make it flourish in to its full ability. We shall restore all the rights of the Tribals and their pristine world will be returned to them. We shall scrap all policies which throw the Adivasis from their own mother land. We shall ensure their right to livelihood and their native land. Autonomous boards and bodies will be constituted which will be governed by themselves to ensure their comprehensive development. We shall strive to control the foreign direct investment and bring rationale in the entire system. We shall place systems to ensure appropriate authorities which regulate such policies. We shall also fight against the nuclear policies and power generation schemes which jeopardise people’s safety and security. We shall work to ensure the sustenance of the forests, pristine resources, and fight against deforestation, exploitation of natural resources in the name of development etc. Autonomous bodies will be constituted to regulate the same. National Industrial policy will be formulated which will ensure inclusive growth besides which will respect nature, forests, natural resources, rights of the adivasis, etc.
The People’s Alternative Alliance shall strive towards the well being of the people of Karnataka. It shall strive to achieve all the above formulations and shall continue to work in the interest of all the people of the State.
Come! Join hands to strengthen the Alliance! Vote for Mahamaithri Candidates!
THE 2017 has dawned with heavy bomb blasts and aerial bombings in Turkey, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the midst of intensification of acts of terrorism, arms race, inter-imperialist contradictions and realignments, and oppression and aggressive assaults against peoples of all countries by the ruling hegemonic system which is becoming increasingly reactionary. The victory of Donald Trump in US presidential elections in spite of all round media and establishment hostility has surprised large sections inside and outside US. While only below 60% voted, he was elected with just 25% of the electoral votes as the 45th US president. When the workers and oppressed sections were facing increasing hardships under 8 years of Obama’s Democrat rule, it is a fact that Trump presented himself as an advocate of the unemployed and impoverished workers and middle strata as well as an opponent of the corrupt Wall Street establishment. So, in further confirmation of the ongoing crisis in the world economy, Donald Trump, in spite of making the most atrocious statements against Muslims, Mexicans, blacks and women still got elected. The backbone of his vote was from the white blue collar working class. The attraction of Trump for this section was obviously that he promised to stop jobs from going abroad. In other words, he has pledged to bring in a sort of protectionism into the US economy. No doubt this is also a vote against the existing state of affairs in the economy. Though, due to social security, the average working class US male may not have to worry of putting food on the table, one cannot doubt that there is high level of unemployment. It is in the hope of changing this that Trump has been voted into power.
Trump’s victory, combined with Brexit, makes a clear case of how the leading economic powers of the world are now moving towards protecting themselves from “globalization”. Both the US and the UK, till recently the largest economic powers in the world and the leaders of the imperialist camp, are now trying to insulate themselves from the economic crisis that is engulfing the world. They are building walls, both physical and economical to insulate their economies.
The working class is still struggling all over the world. The number of strikes in 2016 world- wide became the largest ever in history. In spite of this, nowhere do we see any political alternative emerging which satisfies the aspirations of the working class. This is the situation in the world which is reinforced with the Trump victory. At the same time, on the one hand the political and social practice of the right reformist trends, the former communist parties including those of former socialist countries like China and Vietnam, degenerating to social democratic positions, have defamed the communist movement seriously. On the other hand, immediately following the degeneration of the ‘Maoists’ in Nepal to opportunist positions, the Colombian peace treaty preceded by the collapse of ‘Maoists’ and other anarchist forces in a number of countries have increased the dissatisfaction of the common people with the left sectarian alternatives. Similarly, the thousands of anti-government protestors who gathered in Venezuela protesting against inflation which has reached triple digits with no food and medicine available, have also showed the weakness of the models of resistance against US imperialists like the ones witnessed in the Latin American countries.
The rightist trend visible in Brexit in Europe, in Brazil, Venezuela etc in Latin America, and in India like countries in Asia has further strengthened with Trump’s victory, such that it will encourage neo-fascist forces everywhere. It may be repeated with intensified vigor in the forthcoming elections in France, Germany, etc. This calls for increasing vigilance on the part of the world people. They have to become vigilant about this impending danger. They have to be ready to confront it. In order to carry forward this confrontation against these unprecedented challenges, the alternative against the imperialist system should be built up by assimilating and developing the positive lessons of the international communist movement and based on the rectification of its hitherto ideological-political mistakes, while developing its ability to evaluate the concrete situation including the discontent of the people which is not reflected in mainstream media analysis. Why the ruling class is successful in deviating people’s fury to the advantage of far right has to be correctly analyzed. It calls for ideologically, politically equipping the workers and oppressed peoples. In a situation when the people are voting for Trump like forces as representatives of anti-establishmentarian, anti-institutional element, it has to be recognized that it is in the absence of genuine and powerful left alternatives to the imperialist system and lackeys.
Presently when the world proletariat and socialist forces are observing the centenary of the October Revolution, learning lessons from it and developing the theory and practice of revolution according to present concrete conditions, they have to get prepared to build powerful Marxist-Leninist parties for throwing up genuine alternative to the forces of reaction with the perspective of advancing towards people’s democracy and socialism. This calls for putting the ideological struggle against both right opportunist and left sectarian tendencies in the forefront and developing the theory and practice of revolution according the resent conditions, based on an in-depth analysis of imperialism today.
The history of the ICM teaches that it had many up and downs and was very complex. As the capitalist system had intensified its onslaughts against the working class, it was by fighting first against the utopian trend and then against reformist and anarchist tendencies Marx and Engels put forward the theory and practice of scientific socialism. Upholding the spirit of proletarian internationalism, taking the lessons of Paris Commune the First International was reconstructed as the Second International. But when capitalism transformed to monopoly capitalism, imperialism, it failed to address the challenges it raised. The ICM as a whole confronted a great challenge of getting liquidated. It was then Lenin succeeded in scientifically evaluating imperialism and in putting forward the theory and practice of revolution in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. He analyzed that the centre of revolution has shifted to the weak links of imperialism and to the large number of countries colonially oppressed by the imperialist system. Thus, developing Marxism to a higher stage, he successfully led October Revolution to victory, founded Soviet Union, and launched socialist construction there to develop it as the base area of world revolution. Summing up the experience of the First and Second Internationals, and according to then concrete conditions, he reorganized the international as the Third or Communist International (Comintern) and laid the foundation for the expansion of the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution. All these contributed greatly to the historic advance of the ICM.
The path pursued by the SU in advancing the socialist construction, supporting the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples, in strengthening the communist movement and in defeating the fascist forces during the Second World War gave immense prestige to the ICM. By the 1950s the socialist camp had made great advances. One third of the people were living in socialist countries. The ICM threw up great challenges to the imperialist camp. In spite of all these, why it suffered such great reverses, and got reduced to its present weak condition?
From the time of Marx, it is repeatedly pointed out that the seizure of political power by the working class should lead to the phase of socialist transition in a country, to the building of an alternative to the capitalist imperialist system in all sense. It should not be copying the capitalist system in any sense. It should lead to transferring all powers to the people, developing democracy transcending the bourgeois democracy by many strides. Though the October Revolution led to a great beginning in all these respects, due to challenging objective and subjective reasons many weaknesses started surfacing soon, which led to the growth of bureaucratic, state capitalist tendencies. As a result, during the post- SWW years when the US led imperialist forces transformed its colonial policies to neocolonial ones, it failed to analyze these changes taking place in the imperialist policies. When the US led forces built up financial, trade, political and military establishments to advance neo-colonization, the Soviet led communist forces failed to challenge them; on the contrary, the SU also took membership in IMF, World Bank and in the UN like agencies. By the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956, the Soviet leadership came to the understanding that imperialism has weakened, colonialism had ended and it advocated peaceful competition and peaceful co-existence with imperialism and peaceful transition to socialism. Starting with the failure to make a concrete analysis of the changes taking place in the imperialist system, the Soviet led forces abandoned the path of class struggle, advocated class collaboration and turned in to apologist of neocolonialism. They degenerated to revisionist positions, and the serious setbacks to the socialist advance started intensifying..
In 1963, in the course of the Great Debate, the CPC led by Mao put forward the General Line of the ICM challenging this basic deviation of Soviet revisionists from the Marxist-Leninist path. It stated: Workers of all countries unite; Workers of the world unite with the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations; Oppose imperialism and reaction in all countries; Strive for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism; Consolidate and expand the socialist camp; Bring the proletarian world revolution step by step to complete victory; and Establish a new world without imperialism, without capitalism and without exploitation of man by man; This, in our view is the general line of the international communist movement in the present stage. The CPC challenged the Soviet theorization of the disappearance of colonialism and characterized neocolonialism as “more pernicious and sinister form of colonialism”. The class struggle in all fields developing in socialist China and the Great Debate documents enthused the revolutionary forces around the world. Challenging the Soviet revisionist line, the Marxist-Leninist parties and groups emerged in most of the countries. But the CPC failed to mobilize these forces and to reorganize the Communist International. Soon the left adventurist forces came to dominate the CPC by the time of its Ninth Congress in 1969 advocating the new era of total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialist forces. It encouraged all the emerging ML forces to copy the Chinese path. This deviation not only led to degeneration of socialist China to capitalist path, but also to all the newly emerging ML forces around the world to left adventurist positions and to disintegration. In spite of the great victory of the national liberation struggle in Vietnam, by the second half of 1970s the ICM faced another round of severe setbacks. According to our understanding, almost all the revolutionary parties and organizations united in the ICOR also have similar understanding on these developments, though they may differ on certain details.
After the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, the imperialist forces once again intensified their attack on the communist forces raising slogans like “end of socialism”, “end of history” etc. In order to confront these challenges, the ML forces had to make a concrete analysis of the emerging world situation, especially the changes adopted by the imperialist system for its survival, overcoming the series of severe crises faced by it. If the world during the colonial phase of imperialism was divided in to imperialist countries on the one side and countries under colonial domination (colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries as Lenin explained in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism), presently the world is divided in the imperialist countries on the one hand and neo-colonially dependent countries on the other.
The Comintern had analyzed that in the then conditions the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution consists of socialist revolution in the imperialist countries and People’s democratic Revolution (PDR) in the countries under colonial domination. During almost one century after that, presently the world has undergone many changes which the ML forces are evaluating in all countries while observing the centenary of the October Revolution. One of the most important of these changes was the transformation of imperialist oppression from colonial to neocolonial phase, along with the further speeding up of the efforts of capitalism to recreate the world in its own image. Under neo-colonization, that is, under plunder mainly through the capital, market and advanced technology, the feudal, semi-feudal relations are fast changing to capitalist relations. In most of the countries, capitalist relations have come to dominant positions.
As Comintern had analyzed, the two principal targets of the PDR are imperialism and feudalism. Under the neo-colonization since the feudal relations are reduced to its remnants in most of the countries, as some forces claim, can we say that these neo-colonially dependent countries have transformed in to capitalist countries and the stage of revolution has changed to socialist revolution? Or, can the ‘export of capital’ identified by Lenin as one of the essential characteristics of imperialism, which is taking place even from the neo-colonially dependent countries in accordance with the complex dimensions of both accumulation and circulation of capital in the present epoch of internationalization of finance capital and production, be used to mechanically interpret that several neo-colonially dependent countries have transformed in to “new-imperialist countries” as some sections of the Left camp do? These are erroneous interpretations of the present world situation without taking in to consideration the ‘qualitative’ changes taking place around us after the severe setbacks suffered by the ICM and under the vast transformations in the imperialist system in the course of striving for adapting to the continuous crises confronted by it.
Present international developments as explained above shows that today the imperialist system is more barbarous, oppressive, parasitic, decadent and militaristic, subordinating every realm of social life to the dictates of finance capital. Though the productive forces in a number of neo-colonially dependent countries have increased sizably and they are also engaged in ‘export of capital’, the fact that these are countries are increasingly subservient to technology, finance and market forces of the MNCs based in the imperialist countries cannot be ignored. Though the pre-capitalist relations have undergone vast changes and capitalist relations have become dominant in these countries, the fact that these are taking place under imperialist domination cannot be ignored. Such theorizations will only lead to further stagnation of the ML forces and should be exposed and defeated.
Presently, the international contradictions are intensifying under hectic imposition of the neoliberal policies everywhere. In addition to the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations, the contradiction between capital and labor, the contradiction between imperialism and the socialist forces and the inter imperialist and inter monopoly contradictions, the contradiction between capital and nature also has intensified threatening the very existence of humankind. In this situation, any understanding that imperialism is weakening or rejection of the imperialist threat in the neo-colonially dependent countries shall further weaken the ICM. So, correctly situating the imperialist system and evaluating the consequences of the intensification of neocolonial plunder through neoliberal policies, the socialist revolution in the imperialist countries and the PDR in the neo-colonially dependent countries should be advanced. This demand strengthening of the revolutionary parties in each country ideologically, politically and organizationally, making them capable of developing the program and path of revolution and leading the revolutionary classes and sections under the leadership of the working class, fighting against the right opportunist and left adventurist deviations. This also demand strengthening of the ICOR based on proletarian internationalism.
Long Live Marxism-Leninism- Mao Tsetung Thought!
Advance Towards World Proletarian Socialist Revolution!
Observe Centenary of October Revolution; Let its Lessons Serve Present Day Revolutions!
Long Live ICOR!
THE greatest challenge facing the international working class and the oppressed masses presently is that the crisis-ridden global imperialist system is hell-bent on to promote the neoliberal policies of globalization-liberalization-privatization along with corporatization through all possible means to intensify its neocolonial domination in all fields for perpetuating its hegemony. Linked with this, it is also pursuing behind their backs, war preparations far exceeding the level of popular consciousness which only benefits the capitalist elites. It was over one hundred years ago the First World War was imposed over the people for the division of the world among the imperialists. The end of WWI in 1918 was followed two decades later by the eruption of the Second World War, accompanied by the horrors of fascism, for the re-division of the colonial possessions. Together, they took the lives of 100 million people and devastated vast portions of the globe.
The brutal colonial plunder and the consequences of these world wars increasingly put forward the choice of imperialist barbarism or socialism sharply before the world people. The increasing awareness of the barbarous character of the imperialist system among the working class and colonially oppressed peoples, the initiation of the socialist path of development in Soviet Union and its great contributions in defeating the fascist forces paved the way for the emergence of a powerful socialist camp by the end of the WW II. The national liberation movements against colonial powers were also becoming stronger. Confronted by these great challenges from the socialist forces, the imperialist camp under its newly emerged leader, the US, realized the need for new devices and methods of capital expansion and plunder. Therefore imperialism initiated important steps for transforming the colonial forms of plunder with neocolonial forms, by launching the process of ‘de-colonization’ transferring power to the comprador classes during the post-WWII years in order to facilitate further global expansion of finance capital and its free entry everywhere. This transformation imparted a qualitative dimension to imperialist domination defined as neocolonialism in the postwar period.
For augmenting this process of neocolonial plunder, a whole set of institutional arrangements were needed. At the political level, the United Nations, its Security Council and various agencies were established for exerting political control over the global community of countries. At the economic level, through the Bretton Woods Conference, IMF and World Bank were installed with US veto power for speeding up the imperialist control over international monetary system and free financial flows. The GATT was established for manipulating international trade in tune with imperialist market interests. To ensure global military domination, NATO was formed involving both US and European imperialists with its headquarters in Europe. A whole set of US-led military engagements like SEATO, CENTO, etc. along with hundreds of military bases around the world for military interferences also came into being. In continuation to these, based on Keynesian economics, the state intervention in the field of production and services, along with welfare concepts were promoted. Side by side, the imperialist think tanks were promoting all anti-communist, reformist ideologies. To weaken the left advances in West Asia during the post-WWII period, the Zionist rule in Israel, and in the name of opposing it, the Islamic fundamentalists were promoted. In a way it was a continuation and advancement of the ‘divide and rule’ policy used by the British and other colonialists to create communal divide and weaken the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal movements.
The developments during these post-WWII decades reveal that neither the international communist movement (ICM) could correctly evaluate and take lessons from these counter revolutionary offensives by the imperialist camp, nor it could develop its own theory and practice according to the new situation to combat them effectively. The Keynesian policies and public sector and other forms of state capitalism promoted by imperialism to tide over its crisis were misinterpreted by the right opportunist and revisionist trends in ICM as automatic and peaceful move towards socialism. Including these, the severe setbacks suffered by the ICM during the last five decades and the survival of the hegemony of the imperialist system along with the growth of religious fundamentalism and sectarian racist, neo-fascist, and casteist like forces should be seen in this context.
The history of the earlier phase of the ICM show that Second International got liquidated when its leadership failed to correctly analyze the transformation of capitalist system to monopoly capitalism, or imperialism, and to develop its own theory and practice accordingly. Only when this weakness was rectified under Lenin’s leadership, only when a correct analysis of these changes was put forward in “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, developing the theory and practice of revolution in the imperialist era, and developing the path of revolution in Russia, the October Revolution could become victorious and the ICM could advance under the Communist International. When the imperialist camp transformed its colonial plunder to neocolonial forms during the post-WWII years almost a similar challenge confronted the ICM.
The right reformist trend which came to dominance in the CPSU by that time argued that the imperialist system has weakened and the ICM can advance through “peaceful co-existence and peaceful competition with imperialism, and through peaceful transition to socialism”. The path of class struggle was replaced by path of class collaboration. Though Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Tse-Tung in its polemics against Krushchovian revisionism correctly interpreted neocolonialism as more “pernicious and sinister form of colonialism”, the subsequent advent of left adventurism in CPC failed to make any concrete analysis of it further. The vigilance against the ideological, political offensive, against the policies and dominant ideas of the ruling imperialist system was abandoned. The line of demarcation between the imperialist and socialist path started getting obliterated. It was in this situation all alien ideological trends, like post modernism, post-Marxism and its offshoot the ‘identity politics’, religious fundamentalism, racism, casteism, etc. got strengthened under the patronage of imperialists and their lackeys.
But, in spite of the severe setbacks to the socialist forces under this rightist offensive and the weakening of the socialist challenge to it, the imperialist camp had started confronting a new crisis as manifested through the intensifying stagflation by the 1970s. State intervention, ‘welfare state’, regulation of financial markets, etc., pursued in the initial postwar decades could provide only temporary relief to the capitalist imperialist system. On the other hand, under the Keynesian camouflage, imperialism had been reproducing and piling up its inherent contradictions on an unprecedented scale leading to stagnation in production, massive unemployment and widespread inflation throughout the world in an unparalleled manner. This crisis arising in relation to growing inter-imperialist rivalry also exposed the relative weakness of USA, the supreme arbiter of the postwar neocolonial order and, as a manifestation, it was forced to abolish the convertibility of dollar in to gold, exposing the vulnerability of the Bretton Woods system itself. The “oil shocks” of the early seventies also fuelled this crisis further. All these developments compelled the imperialists to abandon Keynesian policies.
Unlike in the past where temporary recoveries were possible, the developments since the crisis of the seventies have revealed certain new trends in the global political and economic scenario. It was very clear that the so called “crisis-free capitalism” of the fifties and sixties could not be repeated anymore. The internationalization of production led by MNCs using the latest developments in production, transportation and communication technologies and unprecedented expansion of world market have transformed every crisis appearing in any part of the world in to a global one. Imperialist efforts to overcome stagflation through neoliberal policies starting with Thatcherism and Reaganomics have imposed greater burdens on the working class and broad masses of people. Deindustrialization, outsourcing of work to global destinations with cheap labour, downsizing and roll back of the state, cut in social spending and deregulation of finance, etc. had laid down the basis for a prolonged period of joblessness and global financial explosion. At the same time, the collapse of East Europe and Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s and capitalist restoration in China followed by its eventual integration with imperialist market opened up new avenues for finance capital by way of a further expansion of the world market and inter-nationalization of speculative finance capital. Under imperialist globalization since the 1990s, downsizing of the public sector, privatization and liberalization became the mantra even in neocolonial countries. Incessant attacks on the hard-earned democratic rights of workers and oppressed peoples became the norm. As a result, even as stagnation and unemployment continued, profits of MNCs and global financial giants went on reaching new heights. This enabled imperialist centres and funded research institutions to carry on with their “end of history” and “end of ideology” prognoses.
But this euphoria was short-lived. The eruption of the 2008 crisis and the financial and economic breakdown that continue without any let up once again exposed the vicious cycle of crisis engulfing the whole imperialist system under neo-liberalism. The exponential growth of financial speculation worth trillions of dollars utilizing the latest developments in digitization and plunder of nature at the expense of job-oriented genuine productive activity have led to a social and ecological crisis threatening the very sustenance of humankind itself. In this context, imperialism faces both a policy paralysis and an ideological crisis. Though apologists and reformists of the ruling system suggest neo-Keynesian solutions to overcome the present crisis, erstwhile fiscal manipulations are non-viable today on account of soaring public debt at a global level.
As space for manoeuvres such as “rescue packages”, such as “quantitative easing” for big corporate companies is fast-depleting, talk of a return from monetarism—contemporary version of laissez-faire—to neo-Keynesianism by bourgeois ideologues is not all a sustainable solution. As a reflection of the mounting crisis arising from imperialist aggression and plunder, the international “refugee crisis” has become unmanageable even as imperialist countries and centres such as US, EU, etc., are propping up anti-immigrant, chauvinist, neo-fascist forces to divert people’s simmering discontent against the ruling classes. Brexit like phenomena should also be seen in the broader context of mounting imperialist crisis. Meanwhile, unknown levels of concentration of wealth with corporate MNCs and billionaires on the one hand, and unprecedented poverty and deprivation of the world people on the other together with gruesome ecological destruction have reached horrific proportions the world over, both in imperialist and neo-colonially dependent countries.
In spite of this counter revolutionary offensive involving neoliberal attack on workers and broad masses of toiling people along with increasing plunder of natural resources, the world crisis since 2008 is a clear manifestation that the imperialist and the comprador regimes could not overcome the mounting crisis confronting the system in diverse forms. In resistance to neoliberal offensives a series of upsurges have taken place all over the world, especially in North Africa and West Asia. Some of these uprisings were so powerful that they uprooted decades’ long dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt and stirred up revolts in countries where the rulers were having apparently peaceful times. But in the absence of powerful communist parties capable of providing orientation and leadership to them, the Islamic fundamentalists or such other forces aligned with imperialists and their lackeys could come to their leadership. The experience of 25 years of war on terror shows this.
Presently, against the ever intensifying neoliberal attacks the toiling masses are waging numerous agitations practically in all the countries. Though it is not leading to any basic social change in the absence of genuine communist parties capable of leading them to revolution, the repeated agitations of the people are creating trouble for the imperialists and their lackeys. Even in the Latin American countries, where the US is succeeding to topple most of the comparatively progressive governments which had come to power, the continuing people’s movements are causing trouble for the imperialists. As the crisis-ridden imperialist system and the corrupt comprador governments are taking away all the welfare measures, the contradiction between the people and the ruling system everywhere is intensifying.
In this situation, the imperialists and their lackeys can continue their hegemony over the people only by continuous reduction of their democratic rights or by increasing fascisization of the ruling system. For achieving it, everywhere the religious fundamentalist and other reactionary forces are strengthened by spreading their sectarian ideas with the help of state power and corporate media. No doubt, the crisis is systemic and irresolvable. But until being thrown away, as more than three centuries of capitalist history shows, the capitalist-imperialist system can always find a way out of even the deepest crisis.
Only a revolutionary political intervention led by the international working class can provide an alternative and resolve the crisis.
(AIKKS PAPER IN KATHMANDU WORLD PEASANTS' CONFERENCE NO. 2)
OVER a century, world capitalist agriculture has transformed from ‘industrial’ to ‘corporate’ in consonance with the laws of motion of finance capital. In conformity with this, corporatization of agriculture and depeasantization and proletarianization of vast majority of the peasantry are the two major inseparable trends visible in global agriculture today. Intensification of corporate land grab and unprecedented expropriation of the peasantry from land and massive displacement of rural population from their habitats resulting in horrific levels of migration in search of livelihood and sustenance leading to worldwide refugee crises and swelling urban slums are all integral part of the crisis confronting agriculture now. Coupled with these, neoliberal pricing and market policies pertaining to agricultural inputs as well as outputs that serve the interests of corporate farms, agribusiness MNCs and commodity speculators also contribute to the forced withdrawal of peasants from agriculture. As a corollary of corporatization of agriculture as manifested in large scale dependence on imports of food, fertilizers and animal feeds for the breeding of animals in mechanized or “factory farms”, cultivation of bio-fuels and ever-intensifying use of genetically modified seeds, mono-crop agriculture , all resulting in loss of biodiversity, etc., have acted as major factors behind the ecological catastrophe and environmental crisis along with food insecurity for the vast majority of the common people. According to FAO, three quarters of the global genetic diversity of crops (along with animal breeds) have been lost by the turn of the 21st century.
The ubiquitous global drive to corporate farms together with new trade agreements especially based on Market Access and Plant Breeding provisions (including intellectual property rights pertaining to plants, animals, and micro-organisms) of WTO have compelled peasants to abandon agriculture altogether. For instance, the North American Free Trade Agreement –NAFTA (repercussions from the forthcoming Tans-Pacific Partnership—TPF—which encompasses a geographical area comprising 48 percent of global GDP will be more disastrous) — has forced subsistence farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean to withdraw from agriculture and join the ranks of urban slum dwellers or ‘informal working class “ as they cannot compete with massive imports of cheap grains and other agricultural products from corporate farms in the US. This is in addition to the IMF- World Bank mandated “structural adjustments” and imposition of neoliberal policies in which protective tariffs on food and agricultural raw materials were lowered or eliminated in many countries.
In several Afro-Asian Latin American countries “contract farming” has become the dominant trend where farmers are fast transforming as appendages to agribusiness companies and commodity speculators (so called futures traders) at terms dictated by the latter. Coupled with this, unprecedented land concentration with big corporate farms has rendered the tillers of the soil landless leading to a rapid growth in the number of agricultural workers relative to that of the ‘peasantry’ almost everywhere. Thus, the economic, social and ecological problems created by corporatization of agriculture have become part of the central political question in both imperialist and neocolonial countries albeit with their own specificities.
As other spheres of the economy, it is common logic that capitalism subjugates agriculture also to the narrow perspective of profit accumulation. According to Marx, “the dependence of the cultivation of particular agricultural products upon the fluctuations of market-prices, and the continual changes in this cultivation with these price fluctuations—the whole spirit of capitalist production, which is directed toward the immediate gain of money—are in contradiction to agriculture, which has to minister to the entire range of permanent necessities of life required by the chain of successive generations.” However, the dislocations and distortions created by corporate agriculture today are more complex than the situation under industrial capitalism and even incomparable with any other previous epochs in history. For instance, while subsistence farmers and real tillers of the soil including agricultural workers everywhere are ready to incorporate environmental and social goals into cultivation, corporate farms and agribusinesses are opposed to it.
Though several governments under compulsion have passed laws mandating access to food, clean water and sanitation facilities to agricultural workers and rural people, they cannot be implemented due to the power of the corporate agricultural lobby and relative lack of power of the peasantry and rural proletariat. At a global level, enough food is currently produced to feed everyone in the world and it is possible that hunger could be abolished. However, pro-corporate policies that allocate plenty of money to subsidize financial speculators, provide corporate tax breaks, and divert money for military expenditures will not allow adequate spending for food subsidy that can feed everyone. To be specific, environmental degradation, growth of urban slums and food insecurity are the outcome of corporate agriculture today.
De-Peasantization and Proletarianization
Within a span of a century, concentration of land among the corporate monopoly farms has shown steady growth. Thus, total number of farms in USA that stood at 5.9 million in 1945 declined to 2.1 million in 2000 even as average farm size has grown from 19.5 to 441 acres and percent of rural population dwindled from 36 to 21 during the same period. The same period also witnessed a steep fall in the proportion of agricultural work force from73 percent to 7 percent of the total workers in US (www.agriculture.org). However, by the year 2010, the number farmers in United States has further declined to 1.3 million compared to 2.3 million prisoners in American jails. According to the latest Global Report of FAO, the average farm size in the entire North America comes to 300 hectares. The same is 166 hectares and 67 hectares in Latin America and Western Europe respectively. While the total number of small farms in the world defined as those with less than 2 hectares is estimated at 404 million, Asia is having their largest concentration with 87 percent. Africa, Americas, and Europe respectively are home to 8, 4 and 1 percent of the small farms in the world (www.fao.org). Among the Asian countries, India still has an agricultural population of almost 50 percent where the per capita availability of agricultural land is just 0.29 hectare.
In fact, the trend towards increasing land concentration in Asia and Latin America and to lesser extent in Africa during the postwar period has been inseparably linked up with the transplantation of what is called industrial agriculture to them under the camouflage of Green Revolution backed by imperialist-sponsored research and development investments. Concentrating on favourable agricultural areas and sometimes supported by massive infrastructural investments in irrigation, transport and storage, industrial monocultures of rice, maize and wheat, as well as cotton and oilseed cash-crops replaced traditional agro-food systems. Introduction of high-yielding varieties combined with artificial fertilizer, pesticides and machinery increased agricultural output dramatically, yet not necessarily food security in those regions. The adverse impact on soil, water and natural resources and the consequent environmental, social and cultural consequences of Green Revolution have been far-reaching.
However, the most conspicuous transformation brought about by the super-imposed Green revolution has been the nurturing and building up of an agricultural bourgeois class as a social base and a firm ally of state power in neocolonial countries. Since the adoption of new agricultural technology necessitated substantial investments which were beyond the reach of vast majority of small and marginal peasants, at the instance of World Bank, USAID, Ford-Rockefeller philanthropies and other funding agencies, comprador regimes had to resort to a series of super-imposed land legislations that brought about changes in feudal or pre-capitalist land relations not based on the principle of ‘land to the tiller’ but with the purpose of creating a bourgeois landlord class or ‘kulaks’ who can imbibe both the ideology and technology of green revolution. The logical outcome of the imposition of this American agricultural model in neocolonial countries has been what is called depeasantization or proletarianization of the peasantry.
Of course, India is a classic case of this transformation. The first Green Revolution implemented by US imperialism in Indian agriculture along with other neocolonial countries since the sixties acting as a conduit for the penetration of imperialist capital and transforming it as an appendage of agribusiness MNCs has also led to the strengthening of land concentration in a new agricultural bourgeoisie and corporate farms on the one hand, and accentuation of landlessness of the peasantry on the other. It has also led to the complete loss of Indian peasants’ self-reliance on domestic seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transfer of the Indian gene pool of food crops to the seed banks controlled by MNCs, and above all the irreversible soil degradation and natural resource depletion having long lasting ecological problems. In the twenty-first century, the so called second Green Revolution in continuation of the first has added a new dimension to India’s agrarian crisis. With the inclusion of agriculture along with intellectual property rights into the WTO regime, led by agri-business MNCs who have completely monopolized the agriculture technologies, India is now witnessing an unprecedented corporatization of agriculture.
Along with the ongoing corporate land grab in the name of various neocolonial projects such as SEZs, tourism zones, townships, etc., agri-business companies in the name of corporate agriculture are also concentrating vast land areas leading to further landlessness and destitution of the peasantry. Even existing land ceiling acts are repealed to facilitate this corporatization resulting in large scale displacement of the peasantry. Corporate and contract farming of export-oriented cash crops are replacing vast areas of foods crop agriculture in different parts of the country.
Together with the worsening land question, corporate control over agricultural inputs and output markets through various price and exim policies of the comprador regime is also mounting. In continuation of the green revolution that facilitated the monopolization of the entire input-output market for agriculture by MNCs and agri-business companies, WTO dictated agricultural policies including anti-peasant credit and price policies coupled with the curtailment of state support programs like subsidies and public procurements have led to mass suicides of peasants throughout the country.
On account of these new developments in agriculture, the marginal and poor peasants who cannot maintain their meager holdings are compelled to sell them off to corporate farms, rural elite and the rich and are migrating to the urban slums to join the ranks of unorganized and ‘informal’ workers, the fastest growing segment of world proletariat today. Homelessness, joblessness and mushrooming of slums have become the hallmark of so called development today. As a result of the massive displacement of the peasantry and extreme pauperization of the country-side, currently India is facing one of the fastest growing internal migrations ever recorded in history.
Corporatization of agriculture and the consequent surge in corporate farms coupled with the growth of “factory farms” for animal breeding have forced the vast majority of displaced land less poor peasants everywhere, to migrate to urban slums as “informal working class” or enroll themselves as agricultural workers in corporate farms. And the problems confronted by farm and processor labour are immense and quite unprecedented. Of course, grain production all over the world is more or less mechanized now. But there is a limit to mechanization of several farm operations. This is especially the case with the production of fruits and vegetables as well as animal farms. Farm workers who apply pesticides and harvest crops, especially fruits and vegetables that form one of the largest agribusiness components today are abysmally facing inhuman conditions. Their wages are low and their housing is generally nil or substandard. State laws on treatment of farm workers wherever exist are commonly ignored. Workers, many of whom are like bonded labourers, are often undocumented. They rarely complain since they are in a subservient position, quite reminiscent of the feudal periods. Workers in slaughterhouses (euphemistically called animal-processing facilities) have high rates of injuries, and are often treated as animals. More often, slaughterhouse workers are immigrants or informal workers who are recruited to subvert unions and reduce wages. Undocumented immigrants live in fear, reluctant to report violations of the labour code. Ironically, many animal rights groups which are so concerned over the inhumane treatment of farm animals (which is true) safely ignore the gruesome conditions of human workers in modern factory farms.
For instance, a recent report in Los Angeles Times has exposed slavery-like conditions prevailing in several corporate factory farms situated in northwestern Mexico which supply a major part of the food requirements to US during the winter season. Displaced people brought in from southern part of Mexico work under harsh conditions, including near-slavery. Many farm workers who are mainly immigrants are trapped for months in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. It is usual on the part of bosses in charge of camps illegally withholding wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods. Workers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It is common for workers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest. Those who seek to escape from their miserable living conditions are dealt with guards, barbed-wire fences, and threats of violence and even death from camp supervisors.
In the modern corporate farming system, the fate of peasants who have no other option except to cling to agriculture is not basically different from that of workers. The farmers have no say in the decision-making with regard to cultivation/breeding as everything is dictated by the corporate agribusiness firm. Based on their market survey, the agribusiness firms enter into contract with farmers who must adhere to the corporate specifications. Such “contract farmers” will be supplied with seeds in the case of cultivation and in the case of chicken farming, for instance, with baby chicks, feed, veterinary medicines like antibiotics, etc. The farmers own nothing but the barns and the manure, and are paid based on how many birds are produced and their rate of weight gain. The farmer is in reality a bonded labourer for the corporate firm. Under pressure from corporate agribusiness, in 2005 the US passed the Agricultural Appropriations Bill that took away even nominal protections that existed for contract farmers. With the emergence of large scale domestic and export-oriented plants for processing (slaughtering) animals controlled by integrated corporations, medium and small independent farmers have no way to process large numbers of animals. They are also driven to penury and destitution.
Loss of Biodiversity and Mounting Ecological Crisis
Profit-oriented mono-crop cultivation and commercialization of agriculture have inflicted immense damage to global biodiversity. Biodiversity is lost as native plant species are eradicated in order to grow the crops desired by agribusiness companies for sale in the market. The loss of habitat for diverse species means that there is also a loss of natural control mechanisms. There is also loss of biological diversity in soils as a single or a few crops are grown consequent to which soil organic matter is depleted. Another type of biodiversity loss is that of the genetic diversity of the crops themselves arising from the application of genetic engineering to plant breeding. According to an estimate of FAO in 2004, about three quarters of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost over the last century. And of 6,300 animal breeds, 1,350 have become endangered. Seeds from commercial companies have penetrated much of the world’s agriculture, displacing native varieties even in the areas of the species’ origin where the highest genetic diversity is normally found.
For instance, in India, there were about 3000 rice varieties prior to the so called Green Revolution. Today there are around ten only. This has been the direct fall-out of the super-imposed monoculture and crop homogeneity enforced by corporate finance capital. As private agribusiness companies focus on few varieties that are themselves genetically uniform, this creates a lack of genetic diversity within the crop making it more susceptible to pest/insect infestations leading to heavy reliance on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Along with the social repercussions arising from the shift away from small landholdings to large commercial farms, the environmental and ecological issues arising from new practices such as bio-fuel cultivation aimed at producing ethanol-fuel by corporate agriculture have made cultivation itself unsustainable. Surveying the new developments in agriculture at a global level, a study conducted by the Institute for Food and Development Policy in 2000 noted the complex agrarian scenario thus: “First, where farmland is bought and sold like any other commodity and society allows the unlimited accumulation of farmland by a few, super farms replace family farms and all of society suffers. Second, where the main producers of food—small farmers and farm workers—lack bargaining power relative to suppliers of farm inputs and food markers, producers get a shrinking share of the rewards from farming. Third, where dominant technology destroys the very basis for future production by degrading the soil and generating pest and weed problems, it becomes increasingly difficult and costly to sustain yields.”(www.foodfirst.org)
Growing Food Insecurity
Despite agriculture’s long trajectory from subsistence to industrial and finally to corporate farming constantly increasing agricultural production, the number of hungry people the world over has steeply increased over time and reached an historic peak of about one billion victims as of now. The solemn commitment of the World Food Summit in 1996 to halve the number of the then 830 million undernourished to 415 million by 2015 and its continued reiterations during the past ten years have all become mere rhetoric. While one-seventh of the world population suffers from acute hunger, five million children are dying from hunger every year. And this is the worst global assault on human rights and dignity by corporate capitalism today. Hunger has become the underlying problem beneath displacement, migration, social instability and the unprecedented refugee crisis. World hunger is also linked with environmental degradation and natural resource depletion in many regions of the world.
From a global perspective, sufficient food is there to feed all and lack of food output is not the cause of hunger. While world population has doubled over the past 40 years, agricultural production including food has increased about two-and- a-half times. Of course, nobody can deny the fact that adequate levels of food production are a prerequisite to ensure the right to food. According to well-meaning agricultural experts and economists, world output of food today is more than sufficient to provide all people of the world with enough healthy food and will also be able to nurture a population of 9 billion, predicted to inhabit this planet in 40 years time. Paradoxically, most hungry people today actually live in countries that are exporters of food and agricultural products. It is deplorable indeed that India, a country which inhabits more than half of world’s extreme hungry is one of the exporters of grain and vegetable oil to the US. Today, rather than its availability, the food question is directly related with both international and national policies dictated by global agribusiness and market forces who through unfair trade practices, concentration of market power and outright speculation create artificial scarcities of food and essential items of livelihood. For instance, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (2000) of the US that came into being at the behest of corporate speculators including pension funds, hedge funds and investment banks has allowed them to speculate in food and commodity futures without any limit or regulation. While the prices of industrial raw materials like copper, iron, rubber and oil are collapsing, food prices are galloping. The value of speculative trading in food and other necessaries of life through what is called “index trading” has reached around $ 9 trillion at the end of 2007.
According to a US Congressional Report, on the eve of the ‘sub-prime crisis’ in mid-2008, 42 percent of all soybean trade and 64 percent of wheat trade in America have been owned by what are called “index traders”. The obvious outcome of this commodity speculation, which yields super profit to financiers at the expense of both producers and consumers, is sky-rocketing prices of food and other essential items. A striking trend in recent years is the flocking together of leading financial companies to indulge in futures trading in commodity exchanges in the context of the huge reverses they are facing in currency and financial markets. With the institutionalization of futures trading in commodities in the neoliberal period, the erstwhile International Commodity Agreements that came into being for avoiding fluctuations in the prices of primary commodities exported by neocolonial countries during the decades of international Keynesianism have practically become redundant.
Not only agribusiness companies but even leading global financial corporations like JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan, HSBC, etc., have specialized wings for futures trading in food grains. Cargill, the biggest world trader in food products has trebled its profits in 2009 immediately after the sub-prime crisis solely due to rise in food prices. It has been reported that a portion of the recent “bailout” that transferred trillions of dollars of public money to financial monopolies in America, Europe and elsewhere is being driven to speculation in food grains. Comprador regimes in neocolonial countries are also pursuing the same policies. In India, for instance, while the credit needs of tens of millions of real peasantry are seldom met, taking advantage of the deregulation in banking and finance, banks are channeling huge amounts to food grain speculators who are operating as per the 2005 Forward Trading regulation of the Indian government, modeled after the aforesaid 2000 American Act. Reliance, the leading comprador Indian corporate financial player has already invested Rs. 250000 million in food grain speculation. The consequent rise in food prices has made it beyond the reach of common people. According to FAO, global food price index at 2002-04 prices has doubled during 1990-2011 and the trend is still continuing. The recent political upheavals in North Africa and West Africa, including Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Mozambique, Jordan and Yemen and so on are directly linked with the speculation-induced rise in food prices.
The problem of hunger and lack of food for the poor are also linked with other trends. For instance, only less than half of the total global cereal production is presently being used as food. Much of the increased output of cereal is diverted to ‘other uses’ comprising fuel, energy production, animal fodder as well as other industrial uses. According to an FAO study, a 5 percent increase in cereal production in today’s conditions will result in only 0.1 percent increase in food availability per capita. Hoarding, black marketing and futures’ trade in food and diversion of it to other means reduce the actual availability of food in accordance with people’s requirements.
Recent explosion of food prices has been attributed to, among other factors, an increased demand for bio-fuels. It has a direct impact on climate too. Worldwide diversion of prime agricultural land for bio-fuel or agro-fuel production by the US and EU and emulated by other countries with a view to breaking the influence of oil producers and promote so called “greener” fuels (which are not at all “green”) is a threat to sustainable agriculture. In 2008 some 30 percent of the entire corn crop in the United States was used to produce ethanol to blend with gasoline to fuel cars. Estimates of how much ethanol production contributed to the rise in food prices varied from less than 5 percent (as reported by U.S. Department of Agriculture) to upwards of 80 percent (as estimated by the World Bank). For, corporate agriculture today accounts for more than 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions though the plants and soil it is based upon have the potential to reduce rather than increase global warming.
Price volatility of agricultural products arising from corporatization and commercialization has an immediate bearing on the prevalence of hunger as it encourages the conversion of land for cash-crop production, competing with food production. The poorest food-importing countries as well as the marginalized and downtrodden sections are the worst sufferers. Without a reversal of these pro-corporate policies, any strategy to fight hunger and poverty will be meaningless.
Market Dynamics and Agriculture
According to conventional capitalist market logic when prices are high producers seek to maximize production to capture the higher prices and maximize total income, and when prices go down production will be curtailed with the expectation that reduced supply will boost up prices. This usual response applicable to other economic activities is not the case with agriculture. Firstly, because of the seasonal as well as climatic and geographical character of agriculture, a time lag needed either to increase or decrease production according to market logic is much longer in agriculture than in other spheres of economic activity. Certainly, as with other businesses, high prices will tempt peasants to produce more.
But when prices are low, the conventional practice of decreasing production will be at variance with agriculture. When prices are low, farmers need to maximize production in order to reduce the per-unit cost of production, with the goal of covering variable costs and as much of the fixed costs as possible. Because farmers have high fixed costs relative to other businesses they face challenges quite different from those faced by non-agricultural avenues. However, the efforts on the part of peasants to increase production and cover costs and reduce losses inevitably lead to a further reduction price. Thus a decision which may appear to be rational for the particular farmer may end up being irrational for the farming community altogether.
It is this vulnerability of the peasantry that is being exploited by corporate finance capital led by agribusiness companies and commodity speculators. Agricultural policies of the neoliberal state dictated by financial corporations are intended to accentuate this inherent vulnerability of the agriculture. World’s agribusiness MNCs such as Cargill, Monsanto, Pepsi, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Du Pont, Nestle, Kraft, Coca-Cola, etc. who are the largest purchasers, sellers and processors of grains and agricultural products the world over can expand their profits manifold by manipulating state policies and influencing agricultural output prices, often compelling peasant to resort to “distress sales.”
While corporate monopolies on account of their global reach and clout in national governments and international institutions are “price makers”(due to their control over market), peasants in general are “price takers” as exemplified in their abject dependence on market fluctuations. Today, the entire WTO provisions pertaining to agriculture such as “market access”, “tariff and non-tariff barriers”, subsidy regulations, input-output prices, export-import policies and intellectual property rights including plant and animal breeders’ rights are all driving global peasantry to destitution and pauperization of hitherto unknown levels.
Disregard of Environmental, Social and Equity Goals
In brief, global corporate agriculture driven by profit accumulation is far removed from the basic needs people. Rather than serving the social and environmental goals of society, its exclusive focus is on maximization of productivity and output of individual commodities. In the process, it props up mono-cultural practices that heavily rely on chemicals and fossil fuels at a level often comparable with that in industry. For large farms, the investment needed for installation of huge equipment and big machines is very high. Though the manufacture and use of machinery takes lots of energy, approximately one-third of all the energy used to grow corn, for example, is used to make and apply the nitrogen fertilizer as it takes a lot of energy to convert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere into forms like ammonium and nitrate that can be absorbed by plants. Peasants’ control over land and its use, local and regional knowledge and social and cultural values which are essential for the sustenance of agriculture whose main purpose should be provision of food and livelihood are totally disregarded.
Commodification of food itself on a global level is a major challenge at present. While humankind has never before produced as much food, feed and other agricultural produce on this planet, the number of unfed and underfed people has also never been as high as today, nor has been the number of obese individuals, often living right next to those undernourished. It is not an exaggeration to say that in terms calorific value, the waste of prepared food alone is more than what is required to remove world people’s hunger. The development paradigm encompassing the entire policies, R&D, etc. pertaining to food postulating that continuous increase in both production and productivity of food is the key to fight hunger has been met with several flaws. Rather than ensuring food security, corporate production, processing and marketing of food along with the concomitant policies is destroying the very basis of food security itself. More precisely, global market-driven corporate agriculture has little concern regarding the social, environmental and equity goals of agriculture.
1) In the background of the brief sketch above, the grave challenges that strike at the very root of the sustenance of humanity call for a fundamental restructuring of entire global agriculture today, the basic ingredients of which among other things are:- (!) Neoliberal policies and corporatization of agriculture leading to depeasantization should be stopped forthwith. Urgent steps should be initiated towards changes in land relations by which the real peasants, the tillers of the soil, wield control over land in an appropriate collective or cooperative form as necessitated by concrete conditions. Corporate farms and urban elite holding of agricultural land should be abolished. According to a study by FAO, in India, redistribution of only five percent of farm land in favour of the tillers of the soil coupled with improved access to water could reduce rural poverty levels by 30 percent. A six-country study by the ILO, which estimated that if land were equally distributed among all agricultural families including the landless and the new holdings achieved yields equal to the present holdings of the same size and used similar level of inputs, food output could potentially rise by anything from 10 percent (Pakistan) and 28 percent (Colombia and rice growing Malaysian regions) to 80 percent in Brazil.
2) While ensuring peasants’ and women’s (not only women are the pioneers of agriculture but still provide the larger part of agricultural labour, food processing, health and nutrition services in many societies) access to and control over land who prefer to work with less expensive methods and use local resources more than purchased industrial inputs, adequate and unhindered distribution of farming resources, production inputs, and services as necessitated by local conditions is indispensable.
3) The first and foremost priority of agriculture is production of the required food for humankind starting from local residents. All other uses of agricultural land must be compatible with and adapted to “food first” as the fundamental human right for which all governments and international institutions should be held accountable.
4) Mono-crop cultivation should be replaced with multi-crop and diversified agriculture. Monocultures are propagated in the name of productivity and economies of scale, but bourgeois economic and industrial concepts have no little relevance in agriculture. While mono-crop may result in higher yield of a particular crop, it is prone to pest, insect and weeds infestation on the one hand, and decline in fertility and soil nutrients on the other requiring more capital investments in agriculture. From a scientific perspective, both wild and domesticated diversity of plants and animals, as well as the cultural and traditional diversity of agricultural practices and solutions evolved over time according concrete conditions is the safeguard against ecological catastrophe and crop failures. Disproportionately large scale diversion of corn grain and soybeans to factory farms as animal feeds and increasing share of meat and decreasing share of grains total food availability are inauspicious trends associated with the growth of agribusiness.
5) WTO provisions pertaining to agriculture including the role of genetically modified seeds in consolidating corporate control over the input sector and neoliberal farm practices such as contract farming should be repealed. Though agribusiness corporations have aggressively promoted the idea that the genetic engineering of crops and seeds is the key to improving world agriculture, so far GM cultivation has no reliable and documented results on increase in yields over equivalent non-GM crops. Claims that genetic engineering will “feed the world” by making crops more resilient and healthier have time and again proved false. Meanwhile, though independent research on GM crops is largely stifled by proprietary control over it by agribusiness MNCs who have every interest in suppressing systematic studies of the technology’s consequences, scientists continue to reveal new information demonstrating that the technology is inherently disruptive of cellular metabolism and gene expression.
6) Redrafting of agricultural policies in such a way as to enhance the multiple social, cultural and ecological functions of agriculture along with food security is an urgent task. Agricultural finance and R&D research must be redirected towards achieving these goals. Corporate farming models that promote unsustainable, input-intensive and export-oriented agriculture are to be reversed.
7) Waste of food and other agricultural products at every step of production, processing and distribution should be avoided. Starting with minimizing post harvest losses at farm and storage facilities, to reducing losses in production and processing, waste of food in supermarkets and on catering and household level has an enormous potential to improve eco-efficiency and availability of food worldwide.
8) It is common knowledge that agriculture today just like any other economic enterprises is energy intensive and based on large-scale use of fossil fuels such as diesel. Minimization of fossil fuel dependency should be one of the conditions for making agriculture people-oriented. Certainly, unavoidable situations may be there where improved efficiency and productivity will require machinery in relation to irrigation, preservation and storage of agricultural products. However, as a general rule reducing fossil-fuel-based imported inputs is essential for reducing overall global warming and to free agriculture from external price shocks.
10) Postwar farming experience at a global level proves that the chemical war against pests will never be won. Efforts to control pests and microorganisms by means of toxic chemicals has resulted in poisoned rivers and air, contaminated soils, and globally dispersed proliferation of acute and chronic toxins in all biotic systems. Loss of biological checks and balances and disruption of natural ecosystems have led to threatening pest levels. In this context encouragement should be given to such practices as “organic farming” combining with biological and agro-ecological methods, based scientific understanding biological process including both traditional and modern knowhow.
These and other tasks are not easy to fulfill. Only a broad democratic agrarian movement of the peasantry led by the most advanced ideology and politics with an internationalist perspective and capable of allying with all progressive sections of society can shoulder this responsibility. What is needed is a thorough overhauling of the existing institutions and policies pertaining to not agriculture alone but to all aspects of the polity, society, economy, culture and so on. Obviously, it can never be an isolated task, but is integrated with the fundamental transformation of the existing ruling system and capture of political power by the people based on a revolutionary alternative to today’s mainstream development paradigm.
In preparing this Note, the following sources among others are used
1. Asian Agricultural Conference: A Compilation of the Papers Presented and Summary of Discussions, Convening Committee, New Delhi, 201
2. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1
3. Peter Rosset, Lessons from the Green Revolution”, Institute for Food and Development Policy, April, 2000
4. S D Sawant and C V Achutan, “Agricultural Growth Across Crops and Regions”, EPW, March 25, 1995
5. P J James, Imperialism in the Neocolonial Phase (Second Edition), Massline Publication, Kerala, 2015
COLONIALISM including the so called informal colonialism which was specifically practiced by US imperialism in the pre-World War II period had subordinated every sphere of economic activity in Afro-Asian and Latin American countries to the requirements imperialist powers. While mercantile capitalism was interested mainly in ‘colonial products’ such as spices and slaves, the demands of industrial revolution broadened out to include an insatiable hunger for raw materials and food for the rapidly expanding capitalist countries. The pressures of capital accumulation and the concomitant colonial division of labour that converted colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries as agrarian appendages to imperialism also led to a disruption of the socio-economic formations of these countries. Along with the introduction of private property in land and distortion of the traditional village communities, enforced monetization and exchange relations and forced commercialization of agriculture, imperialism in the colonial era took particular attention to prop up a reactionary agrarian elite class in the colonies and dependent countries as the social base of colonial plunder. Commodity production, monetization and exchange relations paved the way for rapid strides in export oriented cash crop agriculture and the gradual entry of capitalist land relations in colonial agriculture. This also led to the massive displacement of landless poor peasants from agriculture that swelled the ranks of landless poor peasantry and agricultural workers as the largest section of rural population even in the colonial period.
2. However, the post-War neo-colonial phase witnessed fundamental transformations in the agricultural sector in Afro-Asian Latin American countries. With the global expansion of finance capital led by US imperialism, massive capital export and technology transfers to neo-colonial agriculture took place under the auspices of the institutions and agencies designed for the purpose. This international process that coincided with Keynesianism by which finance capital penetrated into the entire agricultural sector of neo-colonial countries through the development and distribution of high-yielding varieties of seeds, modernization of management techniques, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to farmers, etc., is characterized as Green Revolution that spanned the entire globe from Mexico to Philippines. Sponsored by such neo-colonial centres as US State Department, World Bank, USAID, Ford-Rockefeller foundations and so on this ‘new strategy of agriculture’ enabled imperialist finance capital, especially US finance capital to enforce its neo-colonial control over the entire input-output market and technology channels for agriculture. Through Green Revolution, imperialism, utilizing the comprador regimes in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries succeeded in nurturing and building up a comprador agricultural bourgeois class, albeit with variations, as a social base and a firm ally in its neo-colonial plunder in the place of the erstwhile feudal forces who were reluctant to experiment with the new agricultural technologies.
3. As a corollary of this, in several neo-colonial countries, at the behest of neo-colonial agencies such as World Bank, comprador ruling regimes, which were ruthlessly suppressing progressive democratic forces who demanded a democratization of land relations, brought about several superficial changes in land relations including the abolition of feudal relations through super-imposed legislations. Obviously, these changes in land relations were not necessarily based on the land-to-the-tiller principle, as the adoption of new agricultural technologies required substantial investments which were beyond the capacity of small and marginal peasants. In brief, under Keynesianism, the neo-colonial countries according to the logic of imperialist capital in general witnessed a further concentration of land with the newly emerged landlord classes as ‘junior partners’ of agribusiness MNCs and integrated with global market on the one hand, and abysmal growth in the number of landless poor peasants and agricultural workers on an unprecedented scale, on the other. As a whole, agriculture remained retarded, distorted and extraverted on account of Green Revolution-induced developments.
4. However, the advent of imperialist globalization since the beginning of 1990s under unhindered global movement of finance capital has added a new dimension to the agrarian crisis confronting neo-colonial countries. In continuation of the land concentration in new landlord classes and accentuation of landlessness of the peasantry, loss of peasants’ self-reliance on indigenous seeds, ecological problems including soil degradation and natural resource depletion, etc., that took place under the first Green Revolution, today the Second Green Revolution is taking the overall dependence of neo-colonial peasantry on imperialist finance capital to its farthest limits. If the first Green Revolution had taken place under the aegis of Keynesian state-led, import-substitution policies and mainly within the domain of public sector, under neo-liberalism, the whole agriculture is now opened up for the penetration of finance capital along with the shift in emphasis from food agriculture to export-oriented cash crop cultivation. In continuation of the World Bank dictated agricultural policies of the erstwhile Keynesian period, with the forcible inclusion of agriculture along with the entire intellectual property regime pertaining to plants and animals in to the WTO regime, the neo-colonial countries are subjected to an unprecedented corporatization of agriculture led by agribusiness MNCs. The concentration of vast land areas with MNCs and speculative corporate companies who have completely monopolized the agricultural technologies including genetic engineering, landlessness and destitution of the peasantry in neo-colonial countries have reached horrific proportions. Repealing of existing land ceiling acts and introduction of Land Acquisition Laws for facilitating this corporatization of agriculture has already led to large scale further displacement of the peasantry from land and agriculture, while corporate contract farming of export-oriented cash crops and bio-fuels are replacing vast areas of food crop agriculture in various parts of the world. Today, WTO dictated agricultural measures including anti-peasant export-import, credit and price policies coupled with the curtailment of state support programs like subsidies and public procurement programs have led to mass suicides of the real peasantry at a global level.
5. Asian countries are predominantly agrarian societies. In the Asia-Pacific region, agricultural land as a percent of total land is estimated to be 17 percent compared to the world average of 12 percent. However, agricultural population as a percent of total population in Asia comes to 51 percent as against the world average of 40 percent. Thus, while the availability of agricultural land in this region is 0.22 hectare per person implying a relatively high dependency on land, the corresponding figure for the world as a whole is 0.60. On the other hand, as a legacy of the super –imposed Green Revolution, fertiliser use in Asia is 157 kg/hectare while at the global level it is only 103kg./hectare. Subsistence farming and dependence on land and agriculture as the main source of livelihood and employment for majority of the people are common features of all Asian countries where democratic revolution has not yet taken place. Highly skewed distribution of land ownership, with as high as 80 percent of the land being owned by the upper 20 percent of the population, is the general trend in this part of the world. The so called land reform initiatives that have taken place in many Asian countries during the post- War period in conformity with the neo-colonial requirements of imperialist capital, led to the evolution of a comprador section of agrarian elite integrated with world agribusiness interests on the one hand, and the intensification of landlessness among the peasantry, the class of real tillers of the soil and marginalization of women, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples on the other. At the same time, devastating ecological problems arising from degradation of land due to soil erosion, overuse of chemicals and pesticides, mono-crop cultivation, deforestation and desertification, and so on which as balance sheet of green revolution-induced capitalist penetration of agriculture continue as irresolvable problems of Asian countries. The export orientation of the agriculture, over dependence on commercial crops and the growing integration with the fluctuating global market has aggravated the crisis confronting the vast majority of the peasantry here. The WTO led liberalization of agriculture and its corporatization led by agribusiness MNCs under neo-liberalism have added a new dimension to this crisis.
Agrarian Problem in India
6. India is no exception to the aforesaid global and Asian trend. During the full fledged colonial domination over India since the second half of the 18th century, the Permanent Settlement of 1793, that imposed the Zamindari system, and various other changes brought about in the agricultural sector by British rulers were mainly aimed at winning over the feudal forces, the landlords, money lenders and traders associated with agriculture as their political allies. It was for furthering colonial plunder by transforming the agricultural sector according to imperialist interests. While the Zamindari system enabled them to win over the feudal forces, the Ryotwari system through which the colonial state directly controlled the peasants, was convenient for commercializing and converting Indian agriculture as an appendage to the sprawling British industries. The super-imposed changes in existing land relations imposed by colonialists and the monetary relations that took place as a result of the export oriented cash crop cultivation converted India as a source of agricultural raw materials and natural resources during the colonial period. Under this ‘colonial mode of production’, composed mainly of the dominant semi-feudal and pre-capitalist relations in general along with emerging capitalist relations in commercial agriculture, got strengthened throughout the length and breadth of the country.
7. The transformation from colonialism to neo-colonialism and the consequent transfer of power in 1947 to comprador bureaucratic bourgeois-land lord classes opened the country for penetration of imperialist finance capital from all imperialist countries led by US imperialism. As a result, many changes in agrarian relations took place without basically altering the landlord system. The superimposed land reforms such as abolition of Zamindari system (which spanned 57 percent of the country at the time of power transfer) and fixing of land ceilings in different states that served neo-colonial agricultural interests on the one hand and hoodwinked the masses on the other, did not lead to implementation of ‘land to the tiller’ slogan. The land ceiling proposed was flouted in practice through various methods allowing the landlords to own huge land holdings far above the ceiling. Even in states like Kerala and West Bengal where land reforms were implemented under CPI and CPI (M) -led governments, it was the intermediaries and the newly emerged land lord classes who got the benefits.
The neo-colonial orientation of such land reforms was evident from the super-imposition of capitalist relations suited for facilitating the entry of imperialist capital and market on a large scale. Thus instead of the old feudal lords who were reluctant to experiment with new technologies, the new agricultural ‘bourgeois class’ who combined pre-capitalist and capitalist methods of exploitation were effective conduits for implementing the imperialist sponsored ‘green revolution’ in various parts of the country beginning with Punjab and Haryana. In these areas, feudal relations were transformed and agricultural production took a capitalist form. While introducing capitalist mode of production and creating conditions for the entry of modern technology and agricultural inputs, the ‘green revolution’ paved the way for overall land concentration with about 60 percent of the land controlled by the landlords constituting less than 10 percent of population linked to agriculture. This neo-colonial onslaught in agriculture intensified the unevenness in agrarian sector and contradictions in the countryside. Vast majority of the peasants, the real tillers including the adivasis, dalits and women continued to remain landless. Together with the emergence of the new class of capitalist farmers, large sections of poor and landless peasants are transformed as agricultural labourers, a phenomenon which went on getting strengthened in direct proportion to the intensification of neo-colonisation and penetration of imperialist and corporate capital in agriculture.
8. The Green Revolution that opened up Indian agrarian sector to international market and to the penetration of corporate capital has brought about significant changes in agrarian relations. Though capitalist relations in the classical sense cannot develop under neo-colonial conditions, penetration of capital, technology and market forces into agriculture has made feudal and semi-feudal relations increasingly redundant. Market transactions in surplus output and various inputs including seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and modern agricultural equipments reinforced widespread credit and cash transactions throughout the country. Private capitalistic form of land ownership and documents pertaining to that became indispensable for agricultural loans and credit transactions. While land concentration with the new landlord classes and landlessness of the peasantry strengthened on the one hand, increased cash transactions and replacement of wages in kind by money wages eroded many feudal and traditional relations on the other. Green Revolution has also led to the complete loss of Indian peasants’ self-reliance on domestic seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transfer of the Indian gene pool especially of food crops to the seed banks controlled by MNCs, and above all the irreversible soil degradation and natural resource depletion having long lasting ecological problems.
9. If the first Green revolution in India was implemented within the domain of public sector as part of state-led Keynesian strategy of neo-colonisation, the Second Green Revolution taking place now as an inseparable component imperialist globalization is completely under the control of corporate agribusiness. With the forcible inclusion of agriculture including even patenting of plants and animals under the WTO regime, as inseparable component of corporatization of agriculture since the 1990s has further sharpened all the contradictions in the agrarian sector of the country. Agribusiness companies in the name of corporate agriculture have intensified land concentration throughout the country leading to the large-scale displacement of the peasantry, the real tillers of the soil resulting in their further landlessness, destitution and pauperization. Even existing land ceiling acts are repealed to facilitate the land grab by speculative and parasitic classes with the result that millions of displaced landless peasants and agricultural workers are migrating to urban centres rapidly swelling the ranks of slum dwellers. Consequently, the country is facing one of the biggest-ever internal migrations recorded in history. Corporate and contract farming of export- oriented commercial crops and bio-fuels are replacing vast areas of food crop agriculture in different parts of the country with devastating social and ecological repercussions. Along with the worsening land question, corporate control over agricultural inputs and output markets through various price and Exim (Export-Import) policies is threatening the peasantry.. WTO dictated agricultural policies including anti-peasant import, credit and pricing policies coupled with the curtailment of state support programs such as subsidies and public procurements have led to mass suicides of peasants which are continuing throughout the country. Due to the liberalization and corporatization of agriculture, apart from the devastation of tens of millions of poor peasants, the middle peasants and even a section of the rich peasants are also in crisis.
10. The ongoing land grab for corporate agriculture by agribusiness, speculative financiers and real estate mafia with the backing of the comprador regime have taken worst forms in the name of various neo-colonial projects such as SEZs/Smart cities, townships, tourism zones, express high ways, infrastructure development, etc. To facilitate this process, at the behest of corporate land mafia, giving more teeth to the Colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894, if the comprador UPA government enacted the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation/Resettlement Bill 2011, the present NDA government led by BJP is trying to enforce worse land acquisitions overtly or covertly. Everywhere, land is being converted into a money-spinning speculative asset. Yet another trend resulting from the direct entry of speculative finance in to the agrarian sector is the large scale diversion of millions of acres of agricultural land for lucrative bio-fuel production leading to appalling reduction in area under food agriculture. Even existing land reform acts and ceiling laws are openly flouted. Consequently, under imperialist globalization, which is the latest phase of neo-colonisation, land question has become the central issue more than ever.
11. Since colonial times large tracts of fertile agricultural land in the form of estates, plantations and farms have been owned by MNCs, corporate houses, NRIs and other comprador sections. Numerous trusts and mutts floated by vested interests, and religious and caste based organisations and institutions also control vast areas under plantations and farms. Due to well entrenched neo-colonial interests, even the nominal land reforms of post-1947 period implemented by Indian state completely excluded them from all land ceiling acts. Under neo-liberalism, as even these ceiling acts are repealed and MNCs and corporate houses are allowed free entry to acquire agricultural land in the name of promoting agri-business, there is a proliferation of plantations and farms of different categories. Under the ‘market access’ provisions of the WTO, as import liberalization is pushing down the prices of several plantation products, to overcome the crisis, plantation land is fragmented and increasingly converted into non-agricultural money-spinning businesses such as tourist resorts. In this way, the burden of this crisis is increasingly shifted to the shoulders of the plantation workers not only by denying their hard earned benefits but also retrenching hundreds of thousands of them from employment altogether. The resolution of this problem by throwing out all vested interests from plantations and confiscation of them along with those floated by religious institutions and mutts is also part of democratization of agrarian relations. Demands to bring such plantations, farms and estates under workers cooperative and under collective control should be raised appropriately.
12. The present situation demands a revolutionary agrarian program which envisages the confiscation of all land owned and controlled by all varieties of landlord and parasitic classes and even feudal remnants and its distribution among the peasantry based on the principle of land-to-the-tiller is an essential ingredient of the people’s democratic revolution in India. Only a people’s democratic state led by the proletariat including all democratic forces can make the agrarian sector self-reliant and productive by liberating it from the grip of imperialist finance capital and market system. It will lead to the people-oriented and eco-friendly development of agriculture in proper relationship with industry and other sectors of the country including the attainment of self-sufficiency in food and agricultural raw materials. The prime task for achieving this is to mobilize the peasantry based on a revolutionary agrarian program and intensify the agrarian movement under proletarian leadership as required by the concrete neo-colonial conditions of today. Considering the vastness, unevenness and diversities of a country like India, the concrete application of such an agrarian program proposed at the national level will have its regional and state-level variations according to concrete conditions.
Failing to fight out these attacks many erstwhile propagators of the dictatorship of the proletariat renounced their own stand and began parroting the bourgeois Pundits by asserting that since dictatorship is anti-democratic, ultimately the dictatorship of the proletariat will obviously develop into the dictatorship of the Party and then into the dictatorship of the highest leadership – the supreme leader – of the Party. These renegades assert that there should be no talk of ‘dictatorship’, they are all for democracy ..., so the aim should not be the establishment of dictatorship of the proletariat. According to them, we should say that we are fighting for democracy.
There is yet another section which maintains that though they are not against of the dictatorship of the proletariat, they choose to conceal their view because people don’t want dictatorship, people only want democracy.
Through these various ways the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat is contra-posed against democracy and put under attack not only by the bourgeoisie but by even those who claim to be fighting against the bourgeoisie. Citing some experiences from Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea they want to repudiate the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
I have already said in the beginning that to discuss this question we have to start with the question of the state. Communists are in favour of equality. That means communists are fighting to establish a society where no state will exist, where no discrimination between humans will exist, no oppression or exploitation of human by human will remain As Engels said, “The proletariat seizes state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state” (Engels, Anti Duhring).Communists know well that this aim cannot be achieved all of a sudden one fine morning, or through a straight line. Following the law of social development Marx and Engels declared in the Communist Manifesto: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
So the point is that Marxists or Communists know that without violent overthrow of the existing social order, without violent suppression of the existing exploiter class, without despotic expropriation of the propertied class, equality cannot be established. Similarly without smashing the existing state machinery and replacing it with a new one this cannot be achieved. The state is necessary as far as the necessity to suppress the exploiter class remains. So the point is that when we are talking about the necessity of proletarian state it is implied that we are in favour of a stateless society. Because we know that establishing the proletarian state is the first footstep towards a stateless society. Achieving a stateless society is impossible without first establishing a proletarian state. Similarly, without establishing dictatorship of the proletariat, oppression of human by human cannot be eliminated. We can quote Engels regarding the necessity of state, “Now, since the state is merely a transitional institution of which use is made in the struggle, in the revolution, to keep down one’s enemies by force, it is utter nonsense to speak of a free people’s state; so long as the proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist.” (Engels, Letter to Bebel, 1875)
So the point is that to establish a stateless society free of exploitation and oppression, we have to establish a state, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. Obviously this state will be fully different from all previous kinds of states. Actually this state will not be a form of any of the previous kinds of state that existed in history or of the kind of state which exists today. This has been explained by Engels in his summing up of the experience of the Paris Commune ‘semi state’.
Now we can enter the question of the dictatorship of proletariat. To deal with this first of all we have to be clear about what is dictatorship.
Some are raising the question that if the proletarian state is a semi state, then there is no need of any dictatorship. Only democracy will prevail. We shall come to the question of democracy later, now we are dealing with the first part of this question. First of all the essence of this dictatorship is also different from the dictatorship of other classes. All of us may be aware about the great debate on this question between Lenin and Kautsky. Karl Kautsky had said “Taken literally, the word signifies the suspension of democracy. But taken literally it also means the sovereignty of a single person, who is bound by no laws. A sovereignty which is distinguished from a despotism by being regarded as a passing phase, required by the circumstances of the moment, and not a permanent institution of the State. The expression ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’, that is the dictatorship not of a single person, but of a class, excludes the inference that Marx thought of dictatorship in the literal sense.” (Karl Kautsky, Dictatorship of the Proletariat)
To this erroneous view, Lenin replied, “Dictatorship is rule based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws” (Lenin, Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky). We can understand the meaning of the dictatorship of proletariat from this but may misunderstand the actual process. To avoid such misunderstanding, it is better to quote the whole of Lenin’s answer to this.
Lenin said, “Kautsky chose to approach the question in such a way as to begin with a definition of the ‘word’ dictatorship. Very well. Everyone has a sacred right to approach a question in whatever way he pleases. One must only distinguish a serious and honest approach from a dishonest one. Anyone who wants to be serious in approaching the question in this way ought to give his own definition of the ‘word’. Then the question would be put fairly and squarely. But Kautsky does not do that. “Literally,” he writes, “the word dictatorship means the abolition of democracy.” In the first place, this is not a definition. If Kautsky wanted to avoid giving a definition of the concept of dictatorship, why did he choose this particular approach to the question? Secondly, it is obviously wrong. It is natural for a liberal to speak of ‘democracy’ in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask: “for what class?” Everyone knows, for instance (and Kautsky the ‘historian’ knows it too), that rebellions, or even strong ferment, among the slaves in ancient times at once revealed the fact that the ancient state was essentially a dictatorship of the slave owners. Did this dictatorship abolish democracy among, and for, the slaveowners? Everybody knows that it did not.Kautsky the ‘Marxist’ made this monstrously absurd and untrue statement because he ‘forgot’ the class struggle... To transform Kautsky’s liberal and false assertion into a Marxist and true one, one must say: dictatorship does not necessarily mean the abolition of democracy for the class that exercises the dictatorship over other classes; but it does mean the abolition (or very material restriction, which is also a form of abolition) of democracy for the class over which, or against which, the dictatorship is exercised.But, however true this assertion may be, it does not give a definition of dictatorship.Let us examine Kautsky’s next sentence: ‘...But, of course, taken literally, this word also means the undivided rule of a single person unrestricted by any laws...’ Like a blind puppy sniffing at random first in one direction and then in another, Kautsky accidentally stumbled upon one true idea (namely, that dictatorship is rule unrestricted by any laws), nevertheless, he failed to give a definition of dictatorship, and, moreover, he made an obvious historical blunder, namely, that dictatorship means the rule of a single person. This is even grammatically incorrect, since dictatorship may also be exercised by a handful of persons, or by an oligarchy, or by a class, etc.Kautsky then goes on to point out the difference between dictatorship and despotism, but, although what he says is obviously incorrect, we shall not dwell upon it, as it is wholly irrelevant to the question that interests us. Everyone knows Kautsky’s inclination to turn from the twentieth century to the eighteenth, and from the eighteenth century to classical antiquity, and we hope that the German proletariat, after it has attained its dictatorship, will bear this inclination of his in mind and appoint him, say, teacher of ancient history at some Gymnasium. To try to evade a definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat by philosophising about despotism is either crass stupidity or very clumsy trickery.”(ibid)
When we are talking about dictatorship of the proletariat, it is obvious that we mean that this rule – unrestricted by the law and everything – must prevail in the interest of the proletariat. Lenin made this very clear. The law and the state system and all other things will be made under the dictatorship of the proletariat. A proletarian state will do everything in the interest of the proletariat. This is the dictatorship of proletariat. Without this dictatorship proletariat cannot conquer power suppressing the bourgeoisie. Not only is the dictatorship of the proletariat authoritarian against the bourgeoisie, revolution also is an authoritarian thing. We also know that revolution is a continuous process. Expropriation of bourgeoisie, abolition of bourgeoisie as a class cannot be done at one stroke. This is a process. Without this revolutionary dictatorship, revolution cannot be sustained for one day. So, like revolution,which Marx termed as the “most authoritarian thing”, this process will continue through the whole of the transitional period. So we can conclude about the necessity of the dictatorship of proletariat recollecting Marx’s famous words, “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”(Marx-Engels, Critique of the Gotha Programme).
Reading up to this, the people who are rejecting the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat may say loudly, “See how despotic these communists are! They are openly advocating suppression of their opponents. But when the bourgeoisie are suppressing them they cry foul and allege that the bourgeois are despotic. Is this not an anomaly?”Discussions of this type are flourishing all over the world. In the face of such an onslaught at the ideological level, many so-called communists are opting for the easy way out and simply rejecting the concept of the dictatorship of proletariat, without analyzing the proper relation between democracy and dictatorship. When we say that the dictatorship of proletariat is rule based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws we are saying that this is the rule of the proletariat. Even Kautskywas not able to oppose the question of the class. The dictatorship of the proletariat is not the dictatorship of any individual or any oligarchy. This is the dictatorship of a class, the dictatorship of the majority of the population. If any rule is based on the interest of the majority of the people, and is conducted by the majority of the people, then is it not democratic?
Let us now deal with the question of the relation between state and the dictatorship of proletariat.
Is dictatorship a form of government or not? Kautskyhad argued that dictatorship is a form of a government. Citing the example of Paris Commune he said that dictatorship of a class cannot be authoritarian. It should be democratic, because Paris Commune was democratic! Repudiating this argument Lenin clearly said that dictatorship is not a form of government. It is a form or type of state. To quote Lenin, “Dictatorship is not a ‘form of government’; that is ridiculous nonsense. And Marx does not speak of the ‘form of government’ but of the form or type of state. That is something altogether different, entirely different” (Lenin, Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky). That means when we are talking about the dictatorship of proletariat, we are actually talking about the type of state. On that basis the government can be established.
It is extremely important to keep in mind this distinction between the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is a type of state, and the government thereof. Why am I raising this point? In general, a government can be an autocratic or democratic government, but that is not the index of the dictatorship of a class. A class can be ruled in an autocratic or democratic way. But a definite class dictatorship can run smoothly only under a particular form of government. In feudal society, monarchy was the suitable form of government for the dictatorship of the feudal class. In capitalism, parliamentary democracy is the main (and arguably the best) form of government for the dictatorship of the capitalist class. And in socialism – in the period of dictatorship of the proletariat – the Soviet form or commune form of democracy is the most suitable (this is the essence of the form of government – other forms can also evolve from this essence).
In a class divided society, the democracy that prevails is actually of the ruling class. So in the debate on the question of the dictatorship and democracy between Kautsky and Lenin the main point was that Kausky was in favour of “pure democracy’’ which is independent of any class, and Lenin categorically stated that democracy always has a class nature. To quote Lenin, “If we are not to mock at common sense and history, it is obvious that we cannot speak of ‘pure democracy’ as long as different classes exist; we can only speak of class democracy.” And further, “‘Pure democracy’ is the mendacious phrase of a liberal who wants to fool the workers. History knows of bourgeois democracy which takes the place of feudalism, and of proletarian democracy which takes the place of bourgeois democracy.”
There is a difference regarding the explanation of democracy also. Lenin defined democracy as, “Democracy is not identical with the subordination of the minority to the majority. Democracy is a state which recognizes the subordination of the minority to the majority, i.e., an organization for the systematic use of force by one class against another, by one section of the population against another” (Lenin, The State and Revolution).When we talk about the democratic form of government, that government must be a representative institution. So Lenin said, “We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie is our earnest and sincere desire, and not a mere ‘election’ cry for catching workers’ votes, as it is with the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and also the Scheidemanns and Legiens, the Smblats and Vanderveldes.” Through these words Lenin made clear the essence of democracy and the difference between the bourgeois form and proletarian form of democracy. In both of these societies democracy may be the form of government but obviously of a definite class. We cannot imagine proletarian democracy without the dictatorship of proletariat. In bourgeois democracy the right of people is restricted to vote to elect the government. But there is no real right to participate in state affairs. This is why Lenin said that bourgeois democracy is hypocritical to the workers and intended to fool the workers. So democracy for the working class cannot be achieved without overthrowing, without expropriating the bourgeoisie.
To quote Lenin again, “Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or ‘equality of all citizens before the law,’ and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violation of public order’, and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and omits to mention, for instance, how the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie in America or Switzerland deal with workers on strike.” (Lenin, Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky)
Despite the fact that the bourgeoisie claims that their democracy is for all, the fact remains that uphold only the sovereignty of the representative body. Take Abraham Lincoln’s famous definition of democracy: “It is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. A government that is to be upheld by all freedom loving people and not just the select few who hold a seat in the state. It is also a government to be free of injustice that would violate the country’s laws and by-standards.” It is the best definition acceptable by bourgeois theoreticians. What is important is that here Lincoln does not talk of the sovereignty of the people – rather he emphasizes the sovereignty of a government, a government that is to be upheld by all freedom loving people! Can we imagine that freedom will exist where bourgeois property relations prevail? In a bourgeois democratic republic the main pillars of the state are the bureaucracy and army. Representative institutions are actually institutions of talk, not action. So the point is that bourgeois democracy is fully connected with the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Working class right is permitted as far as the rule of the bourgeoisie is not jeopardized. When the rule of the bourgeoisie appears to be in jeopardy, the state violently suppresses the working class. That is the role of state, role of dictatorship and the law of class struggle also. So to win the battle of democracy, the proletariat has to violently overthrow the bourgeois class and impose its own rule upon them and only thus can the democracy of the proletariat be established.
So there is no antagonism between the dictatorship of proletariat and democracy. Actually in every state with the inception of the dictatorship of the proletariat, democracy expands to a qualitatively higher stage. The dictatorship of the proletariat and proletarian democracy complement each other. This is obvious. From Paris Commune to Russia and then China, the democracy of the people was qualitatively different from that in the previous society and it was more developed than the most developed bourgeois republic of that time. This is quite natural because bourgeois democracy is the democracy of a tiny section of the society but proletarian democracy is the democracy of the majority of the people of the society and in the interest of the majority of the people of the society. So Lenin said, “Proletarian democracy, of which Soviet government is one of the forms, has brought a development and expansion of democracy unprecedented in the world, for the vast majority of the population, for the exploited and working people... Take foreign policy. In no bourgeois state, not even in the most democratic, is it conducted openly. The people are deceived everywhere, and in democratic France, Switzerland, America and Britain this is done on an incomparably wider scale and in an incomparably subtler manner than in other countries. The Soviet government has torn the veil of mystery from foreign policy in a revolutionary manner.” (Lenin, Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky)
A thorough discussion of the practice of socialism is not within the purview of this article. But we can say in a nutshell that countries like Russia and China where socialism was practiced were far more democratic than the most advanced capitalist countries in all respects. That doesn’t mean that there were no shortcomings. But the nature of these shortcomings is not comparable with bourgeois democracy. For instance, bourgeois advocates go on and on about Stalin’s ‘ruthlessness’ citing the existence of CHEKA. But, what about the role of the CIA of America, the citadel of bourgeois democracy? What about the role of RAW in India? Are we not seeing how people are regularly killed by the military, the secret police, goons in the pay of the state, etc.?
So when bourgeois advocates talk about ‘un-democracy’ in socialist Russia, China etc. we can only laugh. We know that in Russia and China, where people were actually liberated by revolution, there was no existence of democracy before revolution. These countries reached socialism directly from autocracy. But what is unquestionable is that the rights of the people in these countries under socialism were far greater than those enjoyed by the masses in the highest developed capitalist countries. Voting right of women was established in Russia immediately after the revolution. At that time, this was something that could not be imagined in developed capitalist countries like England and America. Equal pay for equal work for women and men was established in Russia much before it was made statutory in the developed capitalist countries (in America the Equal Pay Act came into being only in 1963!). The Russian Constitution gave the people the ‘right to recall’, something which is still a dream in today’s world. It is well-known that the welfare system was adopted in imperialist and capitalist countries to keep the masses from being lured towards socialism. The welfare system in the then socialist countries had reached such a height that the imperialist countries were compelled to take this path to resist an upheaval in their countries. So when they talk about the loopholes of socialism, we can only laugh.
The apologists of bourgeois democracy argue that democracy did not exist in Russia and China because there was single party rule in those countries. Let us keep aside the question of Russia for the time being because that was a special case. The fact is that in China there still exists more than one party. But what about America? In the American Presidential election, we know that there are generally two parties that compete, often fighting neck to neck. But is there any basic difference between those two parties – the Republicans and the Democrats? Are they not both firm representatives of monopoly capital? Are they not both committed to implementing imperialist policies? So what choice do the people of America actually have even if they do have the formal right to choose between more than one party? The answer is clear – the American people have no real choice but to vote for the party they think will be a little less ruthless towards them. So the point is that the right to vote is only a formal right in all these countries. As Lenin said, “Take the bourgeois parliament. Can it be that the learned Kautsky has never heard that the more highly democracy is developed, the more the bourgeois parliaments are subjected by the Stock Exchange and the bankers? This does not mean that we must not make use of bourgeois parliament (the Bolsheviks made better use of it than probably any other party in the world, for in 1912–14 we won the entire workers’ curia in the Fourth Duma). But it does mean that only a liberal can forget the historical limitations and conventional nature of the bourgeois parliamentary system as Kautsky does. Even in the most democratic bourgeois state the oppressed people at every step encounter the crying contradiction between the formal equality proclaimed by the ‘democracy’ of the capitalists and the thousands of real limitations and subterfuges which turn the proletarians into wage-slaves. It is precisely this contradiction that is opening the eyes of the people to the rottenness, mendacity and hypocrisy of capitalism. It is this contradiction that the agitators and propagandists of socialism are constantly exposing to the people, in order to prepare them for revolution! And now that the era of revolution has begun, Kautsky turns his back upon it and begins to extol the charms of moribund bourgeois democracy.”(Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky)
So there is no point in asking whether dictatorship of proletariat is more democratic than the democracy existing in other countries or not? But when we discuss the problems of socialism, the shortcomings of socialist states on the question of democracy, it is a fully different matter. As explained above, it is absurd to compare how much democracy exists in capitalist states and how much in socialist states. The task of socialist states is to transcend bourgeois democracy. We know that Soviet Russia and other socialist countries tried their best. But it cannot be done in a single stroke. We know that democracy can be expanded in a peaceful situation. Democracy has to be squeezed when war is the order of the day. Those who are aware of the history of the development of the Soviet Union may know that from its very inception, Soviet Russia had to face repeated and vicious attacks. Millions of people sacrificed their lives to protect their socialist country. All of us know that it was Soviet Russia who played the key role in defeating the Fascists. In that situation if we try to go into a threadbare discussion of its shortcomings, of its supposedly undemocratic measures, it will be a great injustice to them. If there was no democracy was it possible to face the vicious attack of the Fascists?
However, despite all this, we still say that there were shortcomings. But those were shortcomings that could scarcely have been avoided in that day and age and in that infant state. We can say that those shortcomings were in the main historically unavoidable. Today, we need to evaluate those shortcomings, keeping in mind the concrete conditions of that time, and develop our struggle in a more prepared way. We have to take the lessons from them. We can recollect Engels to understand the problem. “In every revolution some follies are inevitably committed, just as they are at any other time, and when quiet is finally restored, and calm reasoning comes, people necessarily conclude: We have done many things which had better been left undone, and we have neglected many things which we should have done, and for this reason things went wrong.”(Engels, The Programme of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune)
In a backward country where socialism was established, there were bound to be some mistakes. Lenin pointed out those problems in his last writing. To quote him, “What elements have we for building this apparatus? Only two. First, the workers who are absorbed in the struggle of socialism. These elements are not sufficient educated. They would like to build a better apparatus for us, but they do not know how. They cannot build one. They have not yet developed the culture required for this; and it is culture that is required. Nothing will be achieved in this by doing things in a rush, by assault, by vim or vigour, or in general, by any of the best human qualities. Secondly, we have elements of knowledge, education and training, but they are ridiculously inadequate compared with all other countries.” (Lenin, Better, Fewer but Better)
So the point is when we discuss the mistakes of socialism we have to point out the positive features first. Then we can develop the whole theoretical understanding. Making a big to-do over the problems of the construction of socialism in Russia under the leadership of Stalin, Khruschev and Co. finally rejected the socialist path. The mistakes committed by Stalin were only an excuse for them. In the Great Debate, the Communist Party of China took the correct approach regarding this. They said in a letter to the Russian Party, “Communists must adopt an analytical attitude to errors made in the communist movement. Some people consider that Stalin was wrong in everything; this is a grave misconception. Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist, yet at the same time a Marxist-Leninist who committed several gross errors without realizing that they were errors. We should view Stalin from an historical standpoint, make a proper and all-round analysis to see where he was right and where he was wrong, and draw useful lessons there from. Both the things he did right and the things he did wrong were phenomena of the international communist movement and bore the imprint of the times. Taken as a whole, the international communist movement is only a little over a hundred years old and it is only 39 years since the victory of the October Revolution; experience in many fields of revolutionary work is still inadequate. Great achievements have been made, but there are still shortcomings and mistakes. Just as one achievement is followed by another, so one defect or mistake, once overcome, may be followed by another which in turn must be overcome. However, the achievements always exceed the defects, the things which are right always outnumber those which are wrong, and the defects and mistakes are always overcome in the end.” (The Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the proletariat, Renmin Ribao)
Actually we can see there were various forms of government in various socialist countries but in case of all those countries the objective was the same – to expropriate capitalists and establish equality. But at a certain time when the dictatorship of proletariat was confined in a clique or an oligarchy or the leadership was snatched by the agents of the concealed bourgeois elements then the situation became different(this will be discussed in another article later). But in every place we can see the rights of the people expanded, livelihood of the people achieved a qualitative difference and improvement. But still the power was snatched by the bourgeoisie. Why? Is the dictatorship of the proletariat to be held responsible for this? No. Actually, the failure to develop the revolutionary movement in those countries, alienation of the state from the people, and shortcomings in fighting against bureaucratic development in those states were the factors responsible for this. When the class is alienated from the state then there will arise problems in exercising the dictatorship on their behalf. Obviously, failure to expand the democracy was also a problem. Similarly, failure to exercise dictatorship on the bourgeoisie was also a problem. We have to discuss these questions more thoroughly. Yes, we do have to discuss the questions of the relation between party and the state, existence of multi-parties in a socialist state, how a socialist state can come out from bureaucratic twist. All of these are relevant questions, particularly in this situation. But these cannot be discussed contra-posing dictatorship of proletariat with proletarian democracy.
In lieu of a conclusion we can quote Etienne Balibar, a French communist who fought against the French Communist Party’s effort to discard the concept of dictatorship of proletariat. He clearly stated that relevance and correctness of the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be made to depend on the practice in the Soviet Union. He tried to provide an orientation of thinking. Thus he wrote, “I want to concentrate on this idea, even though I have had to present it schematically, because it plays a crucial role in the thinking of many Communists. And here again the question of the Soviet Union arises. It is this idea for example which might lead us to say: from the ‘economic’ point of view, essentially, socialism is the same everywhere, its ‘laws’ are universal; but from the ‘political’ point of view, it can and must be very different, since Marxism teaches the relativity of the superstructures, the relative independence of the political superstructures and of the State vis-à-vis the economic base. And it is this idea too which might lead us to say: the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union resulted in catastrophic consequences from the point of view of the political régime, it resulted in the establishment of a political régime which is not really socialist, which contradicts socialism, because, from the political point of view, socialism implies the widest possible liberty and democracy. But, it will be argued, this did not prevent the development of socialism as an ‘economic system’, or at least it only held it back a little, hindered it, made it more difficult, without affecting its ‘nature’, its essence. The proof: in the Soviet Union there is no exploiting bourgeoisie, monopolizing property in the means of production, no anarchy in production; there is social, collective appropriation of the means of production, and social planning of the economy. Thus the anti-democratic political régime has, it is argued, nothing to do with the ‘nature’ of socialism; it is only a historical ‘accident’. To which it is added, with an apparently very materialist air, that there is nothing astonishing about the fact that the superstructure is ‘lagging behind’ the base — such is the law of the history of human societies, which guarantees that, sooner or later, the political régime will come into line with the mode of production, will come to ‘correspond’ with the mode of production” (Etienne Balibar, On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat).
THE term development having many synonyms such as growth, evolution, expansion, enlargement, spread, progress, maturing, event, outcome, occurrence, phenomenon, happening, improvement and so on with shifting nuances depending on the contexts in which it is used came in to frequent use in political discussion with the origin and development of capitalism since the mid-eighteenth century. Originally meant as the natural progression from a previous, simpler, or embryonic stage to a later, more complex, or adult stage, the term was used to denote “advancement through progressive stages” since the 1830s and finally it was in 1902 that the term development assumed the concrete meaning “state of economic advancement” (http://dictionary.reference.com/cite.html). Thus, in mainstream discussions today, the term development generally connotes economic growth or the quantitative expansion of goods and services, or wealth of society often measured in terms of Gross Domestic Product/Gross National Income (GDP/GNP) or per capita income.
From this perspective, a lower GDP or per capita income conventionally denotes economic backwardness or underdevelopment manifested in deprivation, degradation and poverty. On the contrary, decrease in human/maternal/infant mortality, high doctor-patient ratio, high life expectancy and adult literacy rate among others are generally upheld as general indicators of development. Development theorists have recently put forward ‘human development’ and ‘sustainable development’ as broader terms that incorporate all aspects of individuals’ and society’s well-being, from health status to economic and political freedom, and in recent years, the notions of equity, empowerment and environmental sustainability are also added. The notion that increase in a nation’s total wealth as measured through GDP reduces poverty and other social problems is countered by well-meaning people citing historical examples where economic growth was not followed by progress in human development but was achieved at the cost of greater inequality, higher unemployment, cultural degradation, weakened democracy, loss of identity, overconsumption of natural resources and environmental catastrophe. Linking economic, social, cultural, political and environmental dimensions of development, they have argued that the present development model with its one-dimensional ideology of modernization has become unsustainable. Thus obsession with development or “development mania” or what Deng Xiaoping said on “development as the absolute principle” while elucidating his pragmatic philosophy that “the cat that can catch mice is a good cat no matter what colour it is” (“Why China Has Opened Its Door?”, Bangkok Post, February 10, 1980), has been regularly inflicting heavy damages upon human beings and natural environment.
Marx and Engels on Development
ACADEMIC circles often deal with mainstream development paradigm as not only capitalist but also supposedly-Marxist. As a matter of fact, vehement attacks from postmodernists and anti-Marxists on the alleged “materialistic determinism”, “technological optimism”, belief in the “abundance of natural resources”, etc., of Marxism have even prompted several “neo-Marxists” to try for what is often called a “greening of Marxism” (or “greening of capitalism” as attempted by liberal scholars and NGO theorists). To an extent, both the mechanical and anarchic trends associated with the International Communist Movement (ICM) are responsible for this malicious campaign based on misconception. Of course, by the time of Marx, following Industrial Revolution, capitalism in England had become the dominant mode of production together with the creation of the industrial proletariat. Capital accumulation then took on its definitive form and became the basic law that governed society. Compared with previous social formations, the capitalist form of accumulation was ‘constructive’ as it enabled a prodigious and continuous acceleration in the productivity of social labor. Thus, while being the most powerful and best known critic of capitalism and free market, Marx himself acknowledged bourgeoisie’s efforts to constantly transform the instruments of production for accomplishing the marvels of productivity. During its short mature period, capitalism fulfilled undeniable progressive functions. Together with an increase in material production, it created a new political and cultural consciousness. As a new stage of human history, capitalism thus brought about a dynamic economic arrangement on the one hand, and revolutionary social, political, cultural transformation on the other. It shook the old aristocratic/feudal/archaic systems to its foundations and created a new culture that put its mark on every facet of human thought and behavior. No doubt, nineteenth century was the triumphant age of this capitalist revolution.
However, while acknowledging its historically constructive role in comparison with previous “modes”, Marx was unequivocal in pinpointing the destructive aspect of capitalism. Marx observed that capital accumulation destroys the two bases of social wealth by undermining “the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker” (Capital, Vol. I), or both nature and the human beings. Explaining human beings themselves a part of nature and describing the labor and production process as part of the “universal metabolic process” (Capital, Vol. I), Marx called for the overthrow of capitalism that simultaneously plunders labour and nature for the rational regulation of the metabolism between humanity and nature.
According to Marx, no one owned the earth; they held it only in usufruct as “good heads of the household,” and were meant to pass it on in improved condition to future generations (Vol. 3). Implicit in this was a materialist conception of nature upheld by Marx along with the materialist conception of history that he enunciated. Making a fundamental departure from the bourgeois approach of synonymously using or equating “productivity” with “profitability”, Marx envisioned how socialism was more “productive” in the absence of the profit system. That is, unlike the post-Marxist and postmodern prognoses which, though from apparently differing persuasions put both Marxist and “capitalist modernization” (often defined as the impact on human life of scientific rationality and its technological achievements) paradigms of development together in one basket, the Marxist approach to development from the very beginning has been at various with that of the bourgeoisie. Socialism was conceived by Marx as a superior “mode of production” on account of its capability not only of accelerating development of the forces of production and of associating them with an “equitable” distribution of income but also of achieving a higher stage in the development of human civilization together with the abolition of capital’s stranglehold over nature.
In the Critique of Gotha Program, which both the so called Marxists as well as critics of Marxism have relatively ignored, this Marxist approach to development has been beautifully elucidated. Without elaborating much, suffice it here to quote Lenin, who after reading the Critique Gotha Program said:
“The great significance of Marx’s explanation is, that here too, he consistently applies materialist dialectics, the theory of development, and regards communism as something which develops out of capitalism. Instead of scholastically invented, ‘concocted’ definitions and fruitless disputes over words (What is socialism? What is communism?), Marx gives analysis of what might be called the stages of the economic maturity of communism.”(Collected Works, Volume 25, p. 471)
The basic characteristic of socialism and communism in Marx’s projection is its overcoming of capitalism’s social separation (alienation) of the producers from necessary conditions of production. It requires a complete de-commodification of both labour power and nature along with the advent of a new set of ‘communal property rights’. Production is planned and carried out by the producers and communities without the class-based intermediaries of wage-labor, market, and state. Thus according to Marx, the primary means and end of production is free human development.
To be precise, Marx’s fundamental discovery of surplus value as emanating from the exploitation of social labour by capital and his agenda of “changing the world” through “class struggle” or through the required social and political action are inseparably connected with a perception on development which is different from the capitalist paradigm rooted in the plunder of labour and nature. However, from a scientific perspective, Marx’s critique of capitalism put forward in Capital and other works has its historical limitation and therefore not exhaustive. For instance, at the end of the nineteenth century itself, the “destructive” dimensions of capital accumulation began to supersede its “progressive” or “constructive” dimension. These new developments associated with the transformation of capitalism into imperialism and capital’s global expansion in close alliance with imperialist colonial policy called for new theoretical and political interventions. The integration of the amassing of super-profits from internationalization of capital with the entire process of surplus value extraction and its distribution under imperialism required concrete formulations. During the imperialist epoch, capital accumulation’s destructiveness is more manifested in the material, ecological and cultural dispossession of the dominated peoples of the oppressed nations. Though Marx could foresee this unfolding reality as exemplified in his criticism of the allegiance of the English working class towards the colonial exploitation of Ireland by Great Britain, the then historical context necessitated Marx’s attention to analyze the “primitive accumulation” of capital in the main.
In the meanwhile, Engels had been working on his manuscripts on Dialectics of Nature during the 1870s which he could complete in 1883. In that he meticulously unraveled the interrelationship among science, nature, society and development from a dialectical-historical perspective. But the same could be collected, edited and published in a rudimentary form only in 1927, three years after the death of Lenin, by Riazanov who got the manuscript from Einstein, while a satisfactory version came out only in 1935. In the preface to Dialectics of Nature JBS Haldane wrote: “It was a great misfortune, not only for Marxism, but for all branches of natural science, that Bernstein, into whose hands the manuscript came when Engels died in 1895, did not publish it. In 1924 he submitted it (or part of it) to Einstein...”
In the Dialectics of Nature, Engels opined: “Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us. Each of them, it is true, has in the first place the consequences on which we counted, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that they were laying the basis for the present devastated condition of these countries, by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture. When, on the southern slopes of the mountains, the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, with the effect that these would be able to pour still more furious flood torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons. Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that they were at the same time spreading the disease of scrofula. Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature - but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws. And, in fact, with every day that passes we are learning to understand these laws more correctly, and getting to know both the more immediate and the more remote consequences of our interference with the traditional course of nature. In particular, after the mighty advances of natural science in the present century, we are more and more getting to know, and hence to control, even the more remote natural consequences at least of our more ordinary productive activities. But the more this happens, the more will men not only feel, but also know, their unity with nature, and thus the more impossible will become the senseless and anti-natural idea of a contradiction between mind and matter, man and nature ...”
“But if it has already required the labour of thousands of years for us to learn to some extent to calculate the more remote natural consequences of our actions aiming at production, it has been still more difficult in regard to the more remote social consequences of these actions. We mentioned the potato and the resulting spread of scrofula. But what is scrofula in comparison with the effect on the living conditions of the masses of the people in whole countries resulting from the workers being reduced to a potato diet, or in comparison with the famine which overtook Ireland in 1847 in consequence of the potato disease, and which put under the earth a million Irishmen, nourished solely or almost exclusively on potatoes, and forced the emigration overseas of two million more? When the Arabs learned to distil alcohol, it never entered their heads that by so doing they were creating one of the chief weapons for the annihilation of the original inhabitants of the still undiscovered American continent. And when afterwards Columbus discovered America, he did not know that by doing so he was giving new life to slavery, which in Europe had long ago been done away with, and laying the basis for the Negro slave traffic. The men who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries laboured to create the steam engine had no idea that they were preparing the instrument which more than any other was to revolutionize social conditions throughout the world. Especially in Europe, by concentrating wealth in the hands of a minority, the huge majority being rendered property-less, this instrument was destined at first to give social and political domination to the bourgeoisie, and then, however, to give rise to a class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, which can end only in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the abolition of all class contradictions. But even in this sphere, by long and often cruel experience and by collecting and analyzing the historical material, we are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote, social effects of our productive activity, and so the possibility is afforded us of mastering and controlling these effects as well. To carry out this control requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and with it of our whole contemporary social order. All hitherto existing modes of production have aimed merely at achieving the most immediately and directly useful effect of labour. The further consequences, which only appear later on and become effective through gradual repetition and accumulation, were totally neglected. Primitive communal ownership of land corresponded, on the one hand, to a level of development of human beings in which their horizon was restricted in general to what lay immediately at hand, and presupposed, on the other hand, a certain surplus of available land, allowing a certain latitude for correcting any possible bad results of this primitive forest type of economy. When this surplus land was exhausted, communal ownership also declined. All higher forms of production, however, proceeded in their development to the division of the population into different classes and thereby to the contradiction of ruling and oppressed classes. But thanks to this, the interest of the ruling class became the driving factor of production, in so far as the latter was not restricted to the barest means of subsistence of the oppressed people. This has been carried through most completely in the capitalist mode of production prevailing today in Western Europe”. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch09.htm)
It is a sad historical fact that in contradistinction to mechanical materialism of “vulgar Marxists”, this Marxist approach to the whole course of social development properly linking economy and ecology so beautifully elucidated by Engels at a time when the environmental crisis was not a topic discussion as it is today, remained unknown for almost half-a-century since its drafting by him. While industrial capitalism was flourishing in Europe, Engels identified how capital accumulation as a system based on profit and greed, from the very beginning, was inseparable from plunder of nature and ecological destruction. That is why in his Dialectics of Nature he had pointed out how under capitalism the contradiction between people and nature becomes antagonistic. The problem of environmental pollution created by Industrial Revolution and plunder of the natural and mineral resources of colonies which formed part of the ‘primitive accumulation’ of capital had also wrought havoc in several parts of the world. The colonization process that strengthened along with the emergence of finance capital by the turn of the twentieth century caused irreparable damages to environment in the process of installing factories, plantations, mines without any concern for environment and ecology. The ruthless destruction of tropical rain forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America which are crucial in maintaining earth’s ecological balance and biological diversity, by imperialist colonial plunderers is an example. Engels in the Dialectics of Nature could predict these developments which were in store for the future. Several of Engels’ observations on physical sciences also were correct. Here it would be apt again to quote Haldane: “Had Engels’ method of thinking been more familiar, the transformations of our ideas on physics which have occurred during the last thirty years would have been smoother. Had his remarks on Darwinism been generally known, I for one would have been saved a certain amount of muddled thinking. I therefore welcome wholeheartedly the publication of an English translation of Dialectics of Nature, and hope that future generations of scientists will find that it helps them to elasticity of thought.” This logic of Haldane is equally applicable to the realm of evolving a Marxist approach to development too, as Engels’ revealing conclusions, which no environmentalist at that time could even think, would have immensely contributed for enriching the formulation of an alternative development paradigm during the initial years of Soviet Union led by Lenin.
Of course, in continuation of Marx’s method, by analyzing the qualitative essence of the passage from industrial (competitive) capitalism to finance (monopoly) capitalism, Lenin identified that by becoming parasitic, capitalism had ceased to be a progressive stage in history and that it was now “putrefied” and had become decadent. Unraveling the laws of motion of finance capital, he developed the theory and practice of revolution in the “weak link” or periphery (e.g. Russia) of the imperialist system and through the Colonial Thesis later conceived of the transfer of the revolution to the oppressed East, thereby fusing together the anti-imperialist/national liberation struggles of the “ underdeveloped periphery” with the struggle for socialism in the “ developed centre” leading to the further development of the slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” to “Workers of all countries, oppressed peoples, unite!” And the practical application of this found its expression in China where by evolving the theory and practice of People’s Democratic Revolution according to the concrete conditions there, Mao Zedong further developed Marxism-Leninism. While this epoch-making process was going on, the “labour aristocracy” and “radical intellectuals” (with reference to whom Perry Anderson later coined the phrase “Western Marxism”) who also benefitted from imperialist super-profits, after renouncing the task of revolutionary social change committed themselves to mere academic Marxism devoid of any political impact such that Paris Commune of 1871 was turned out to be not only the first but also the last socialist revolution taken place in a country that was part of the “capitalist centre”. In course of time, intellectuals (such as Antonio Negri) of Western radical schools also abandoned even political terms such as “imperialism” and “people” from their “discourses” and replaced them with de-ideological and apolitical terminologies like “empire” and “multitude”.
Development and Erstwhile Socialist Countries
OBVIOUSLY, as “Euro-centric”, “Western Marxism” refused to go into the crucial question of imperialist super-accumulation and the logic of finance capital including its decisive stranglehold over production and hegemony over the entire political, social, cultural, and ideological spheres of life, the life-and-death struggle against all-embracing imperialist world system including the task of formulating a development path as opposed to capitalism was left to erstwhile socialist countries, especially Soviet Union and China in the main.
The peculiar situation including its backward economic condition in Soviet Union following October Revolution is already a much discussed topic. Marx’s thrust in Capital was on unraveling of the laws of motion of capitalism, and it was mainly in the Critique of Gotha Program that, as Lenin said, he put forward some hints on the economic situation of a future socialist society. In general, socialism was envisioned as a society that comes out of the womb of mature capitalism in which the necessary conditions for the transformation to a higher social order that bears the birthmarks of capitalism were already laid, and the proletariat was expected to overcome the “narrow bourgeois horizon” and move to the next stage based on the principle of work according to one’s capacity and reward according to one’s need. While smashing the “weakest link” and breaking the predominantly agrarian Russia away from the imperial chain, the expectation of the Bolsheviks led by Lenin was a chain of simultaneous revolutions in industrial capitalist countries of Europe. But nothing happened in that way. In such a situation, while academic Marxists and “socialist economists” like Oskar Lange and Ludwig von Mises predicted “hopeless chaos” and even doom—emanating from peasant unrest, undisciplined labour force, inexperienced management, destruction of the old production organization before developing new, minority position of Bolsheviks in the Soviets and having no influence over the vast territories of Soviet Union outside Moscow, etc.— it was left to the genius of Lenin and the Bolsheviks to shoulder the gigantic task of designing a development paradigm for Soviet Union maintaining the necessary link between socialism and capitalism as a transitional scheme together with ensuring victory of the Red Army over US-led imperialist encirclement and putting down the internal enemies. In retrospect, it may be stated that this policy including planning that eliminated market anarchy continued by Stalin transformed a backward economy into an industrial society in the absence of bourgeois property relations completely repudiating the foundations of bourgeois economic theory that development is impossible without the institutions of private property and profit motive. Thus between 1929 and 1955, industrial production in Soviet Union grew more than twenty fold while during the same period imperialist countries found it impossible even to double their industrial production, which on an average even halved during the Depression years. It was this economic and industrial base that also made possible Soviet Union’s survival and resistance against Hitler’s fascist aggression in 1941.
This does not mean that Soviet Union was oblivious of the environmental questions. As an example, nationalization of land enabled Soviet Union to assign large tracts of protected area called zapovednik (meaning nature sanctuary) which was kept “forever wild” as the highest degree of environmental protection and for incorporation of historical, cultural, archaeological, and natural heritages, and also as important sites for historical research and education. The recognition of zapovedniks was put on a firm legal footing by a measure “On the Protection of Nature Monuments, Gardens and Parks”, signed into law by Lenin in 1921. By the time of its collapse in the late 1980s, Soviet Union had 101 zapovedniks covering about 330,000 square kilometers or about 1.4 percent of the country’s total area (“Current Zapovedniks of the Russian Federation”, Russian Nature Press Information Bureau).
Meanwhile, emphasis on Lenin’s view that ‘Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country’ is a simplification as his intention in the specific context of inner party debates then was to pinpoint the importance of planning and scientific approach for transforming backward Russia in to a progressive society. At the same time, till his death, both under “War Communism” and NEP Lenin stressed that it was necessary to understand the forces and laws of nature, because any desire for the increase of productive forces and the growth of socialism had to take place by obeying those laws and acting in tune with them. He was therefore fully interested in cooperating with scientists as scientists, regardless of their political positions. The level of ecological conservation achieved through healthy debates among Soviets, Party, scientists and environmental activists that continued throughout the “industrialization debate” of the 1920s was well in advance of anything that existed in the capitalist countries and being ahead if its counterparts, and it was Soviet Union that led the world in environmental protection until1930s. The deviations from Marxist perspectives on biology and ecology leading to a defeat of “socialist conservationism” started in the 1930s when erroneous view stressing that scientific theory had little use if it did not enhance economic competitiveness with the West came to prominence led by Prezent, Lysenko and others with the proclamation of dialectical materialism as super science over particular sciences (www.climateandcapitalism.com).
But by the 1930s, however, a one-sidedness in the whole development orientation began to emerge and catching up with the West, especially USA became the favorite theme. From this period onwards the presence of American experts as well as American engineering firms could be seen in Soviet infrastructure development. Even the influence of bureaucratic/bourgeois methods of organizing industrial production and work places such as Taylorism and Fordism could be identified in the implementation of Five Year Plans. Stalin said: “American efficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognizes obstacles; which continues on a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable...The combination of the Russian revolutionary sweep with American efficiency is the essence of Leninism” (Quoted in Thomas P Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm 1870-1970, University of Chicago Press, 2004). Fascination for the ‘the development of productive forces’ and the obsession with ‘economic growth’ measured in the same GDP yardstick as used in capitalism gradually got official recognition. Though the term “Soviets”, the embodiment of fighting people’s political power as Lenin conceived it, continued to be in use, for all practical purposes, powers began to be centralized in bureaucrats and technocrats. The basic tenets of socialist planning and development such as unity between workers and peasants, balance between “capital goods” and consumer goods industries, industry and agriculture, balanced regional development, ecological balance, etc. which had been catchwords even during the turbulent years of civil war and external aggression when Bolsheviks were a minority experienced a tragic reversal.
Mao Zedong and Socialist Orientation to Development
FROM the very beginning Mao was very skeptical of the one dimensional ideology of economic development including idea of “catching up with the West” that got official recognition in Soviet Union and in East European countries. Despite achieving GDP growth rates several times higher than that of capitalist powers, among other things, Soviet Union experienced prolonged failure to reach the highest pre-October Revolution level in grain output and suffered grave difficulties arising from glaring disequilibrium between the development of heavy industry and that of light industry. It was in this context that speaking at the Enlarged Meeting of the Polit Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party on April 25, 1956 bearing in mind the lessons drawn from Soviet Union, Mao had identified a number of problems concerning socialist construction and socialist transformation which later published as “On The Ten Major Relationships” such as: 1. the relationship between heavy industry on the one hand and light industry and agriculture on the other; 2. the relationship between industry in the coastal regions and industry in the interior; 3. the relationship between economic construction and defence construction; 4. the relationship between the state, the units of production and the producers; 5 The relationship between the central and local authorities; 6. the relationship between the Han nationality and the minority nationalities; 7. the relationship between party and non-party; 8. the relationship between revolution and counter-revolution; 9. the relationship between right and wrong; and 10.the relationship between China and other countries. (Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Volume V, pp 284-307)
Much before the formulation of these principles, immediately after the Revolution in 1949, at the Third Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Party in 1950, to avoid a repetition of the mistakes in Soviet Union, Mao had raised the question of streamlining state apparatus and reducing military and administrative expenditures as fundamental pre-requisites for achieving a “better financial and economic situation.” The Central Committee had also taken a decision to reduce the outlay for military and administrative expenditures in state budget from 30 percent in the First Five Year Plan to 20 percent in the Second Five Year Plan. Mao was very critical of the manner in which peasants were “squeezed” in Soviet Union for capital accumulation and even questioned the system of taking too much away from peasants through “obligatory sales” at reduced prices. Mao sarcastically said: “You want the hen to lay more eggs and yet you don’t feed it, you want the horse to run fast and yet you don’t let it graze. What kind of logic is that”! And regarding decentralization of power and the devolution of it to people at the local level, Mao added: “We must not follow the example of the Soviet Union in concentrating everything in the hands of the central authorities, shackling the local authorities and denying them the right to independent action.”
In the same vein, Mao appealed to the Party and the people to pursue a dialectical approach to foreign relations. While insisting the need to “firmly reject and criticize all the decadent bourgeois systems, ideologies and ways of life of foreign countries”, he also upheld the need for “learning the advanced sciences and technologies of capitalist countries and whatever is scientific in the management of their enterprises”, and also called for translating research papers from English, French, German, Japanese, etc. into Chinese and vice versa. Mao opined: “Neither the indiscriminate rejection of everything foreign, whether scientific, technological or cultural , nor the indiscriminate imitation of everything foreign... has anything in common with the Marxist attitude, and neither in any way benefit our cause.”
More strikingly, it was in his long speech on The Ten Major Relationships that Mao made an evaluation of Stalin. He said: In the Soviet Union, those who once extolled Stalin to the skies have now in one swoop consigned him to purgatory...It is the opinion of the Central Committee that Stalin’s mistakes amounted to only 30 percent of the whole and his achievements to 70 percent, and that all things considered Stalin was nonetheless a great Marxist.” Mao made this assessment even while acknowledging Stalin directly doing “a number of wrong things in connection with China.” Appealing for a study of all that is universally true linking it with concrete reality, Mao concluded: “It would lead to a mess if every single sentence, even of Marx’s, were followed. Our theory is an integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution.” (On The Ten Major Relationships)
A reading of On the Ten Major Relationships provides, albeit in a rudimentary form, a view on development that was profoundly revolutionary, scientific, realistic and lucid. It is capable of generating insights for effectively challenging the mainstream conceptualization of development, making it possible to deduce effective strategies for successive advances along the long road of transition to socialism. However, despite this farsightedness and precaution taken by Mao including the launching of the historic Cultural Revolution to ward off a repetition of capitalist restoration in China, Deng, who became the supreme leader in China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, with his pragmatic “cat theory” unleashed a strategy of “four modernizations” in agriculture, industry, defence, and science and technology completely repudiating the socialist development orientation laid down by Mao. The so called “market socialism” of Deng initiated a rigorous dismantling of the self-reliant commune system, the iron rice bowl of socialism that ensured food, housing, health, education and employment for all, and abolished the erstwhile principle of walking on two legs, bringing forward all the evils of “uneven development” associated with capitalism and market-led growth. With the capitalist restoration, GDP growth became the accepted indicator of development, and as everybody knows, in terms of GDP ranking, crisis-ridden China is the second largest imperialist power today. The “economic growth mania” and the “modernistic”, “technologically determinist” way of thinking that engulfed the Chinese ruling system have today driven that country to an unprecedented social and ecological catastrophe too. Mechanical materialist emphasis on productive forces and unilinear approach to realize capitalist industrialism or modernization first and dealing with social and ecological issues later have pervaded the entire policy documents of China. As Li Xuan, an official Chinese policy analyst recently put: “Economic construction precedes environmental protection.”
Neocolonialism and Bourgeois Initiatives
PARALLEL to the rise and fall of the socialist development initiatives briefly outlined above, in the context of the transition from colonialism to neocolonialism, imperialism led by USA took concerted efforts to use development itself as an ideological weapon to hoodwink world people on the one hand, and to win over a section of the intelligentsia together with keeping the comprador ruling classes in neocolonial countries on the side of global reaction. Starting from the period of Truman who initiated ‘the grand idea of development’, the fear of socialist advancement and radicalization of national liberation movements in Afro-Asian Latin American countries prompted US imperialism, the supreme arbiter of neocolonial world order then, to profess itself as the champion of “development” of the “underdeveloped” world. By the time of “decolonization”, a whole set of “modernization theorists”, Keynesian economists, policy experts and think tanks who were integrally associated with American social science institutions, US State Department and Bretton Woods organizations had propounded a ‘universal theory of development’ applicable to the whole world irrespective of the historical trajectories of countries. The basic contours or the philosophy and ideology of this development paradigm were later summarized by Galbraith, the well known American bourgeois economist as “the faithful imitation of the developed” by the underdeveloped.
A typical example of this ‘universal development paradigm’ was that of W.W. Rostow, a leading policy analyst of both US State Department and World Bank who presented a general theory of “five stages” through which all societies irrespective of their historical, social, and cultural differences had to pass. To counterpoise his theory as an alternative to Marx’s analysis, Rostow even gave the title, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-communist Manifesto, to his book in which he had outlined five essential stages through which an underdeveloped country had to traverse such as: a) primitive society, b) laying preconditions for development, c) take off, d) maturity and e) high mass consumption.
Obviously, without going in to the details of this prognosis, it must be stated that the political intention of this linear theory of development that simply compared the contemporary situation in ‘underdeveloped’ countries to the pre-capitalist situation in present day imperialist countries was to camouflage the centuries of colonial and postwar neocolonial plunder that lay behind “underdevelopment”. The proponents of this thesis that became the official international development paradigm also advised comprador regimes in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries to open up their economies to the unfettered flows of foreign capital along with various “aid” programs to overcome the ‘successive’ stages of growth presented in this scheme. In brief, this development paradigm which formed the basis of the “Development Economics” framed by the World Bank and the “Development Decades” coined by the UN had been an integral part of international Keynesianism at least until the 1970s. At the political level, this super-imposed development agenda found its expression in the Bandung Project under the umbrella of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Collapse of Keynesian Illusions and Post-Modern Prognoses on Development
THE ideological-political setbacks suffered by the ICM and its inability to further develop the Marxist approach to development according to concrete conditions based on an objective evaluation of the erstwhile socialist experience on the one hand, and ever-mounting economic, social, cultural and ecological crises imposed on womankind by the neocolonial order of imperialism on the other, have given rise to a wide range of streams of thought on development having differing ideological persuasions. The 1970s that can be considered a watershed provided the background for this. The unprecedented imperialist crisis of the 1970s and the advent of stagflation led to the collapse of postwar “development optimism” and the abandonment of international Keynesianism and welfare state. Along with that, the idea of universalisation of development that flourished under the Development Decades of UN also came to a halt. The universally accepted central role of the Keynesian welfare state in all postwar bourgeois development theories and policies, an idea which was exported from the western industrialized world to neocolonial countries was suddenly gave way to “development pessimism”. Concerted efforts were made by imperialist think tanks, “development theorists” and Bretton Woods twins to replace all erstwhile conceptualization on welfare and development with Thatcherism and Reaganomics and turn postwar “Development Economics” on its head completely abandoning the project of “Development Decades” altogether. To be very precise, this called for a New Right redefinition of development setting aside all postwar faith in the “reformist” welfare state being cherished not only by bourgeois ideologues but also by “disillusioned Marxists”. Its outcome has been a transition from Keynesianism to neoliberalism comprising a restructuring of the mode of accumulation and further internationalization of capital primarily through financial speculation rather than production and the complete abandonment of the ‘development project’ so assiduously built up by imperialism over the years as an integral component of both Cold War and international Keynesianism.
The sudden impact of this twist in policy from Keynesianism to neoliberalism has been the transformation of erstwhile Development Decade into “Lost Decade” (or what is called the transition from “development optimism” to “development pessimism” by academic theorists ) as far as neocolonial countries are concerned. (Susan George has given a vivid picture of this situation in A Fate Worse than Debt). The Brandt Commission appointed by the UN and sponsored by the World Bank to recommend an alternative development agenda has nothing to offer except the suggestion of a process of “trickle down” from the “developed North” to “the underdeveloped South”. On the other hand, the World Bank whose purpose of incarnation was “development” itself along with international funding agencies and international development organizations and a whole network of action groups, civil society organizations and NGOs that suddenly sprouted during the neoliberal period started to deal in “good governance”, “participatory democracy”, “participatory development”, etc. instead of parroting the erstwhile mainstream development jargons such as “state-led development”, “welfare state”, etc. as the whole project of “development” itself was replaced by what is called “post-development”. Some have even suggested a “de-development” process to erase the remnants of welfare state. Instead of nation-centered and state-led production, right wing “discourses” began to espouse “leaner models of welfare” using minimal state resources and pleaded for improving competitiveness of countries in global market through corporate tax reduction, increased rate of return on capital, reduced labour costs and liberal environmental regulations.
Of course, related to the central theme of this paper, has been a fundamental restructuring of the mode of capitalist industrial and business organization that took place during the contemporay period will be in order here, especially to comprehend the complex linkages behind the conceptual shift towards the neoliberal development paradigm. It is often said that the basis of Keynesian welfare state had been “Fordism” as typified by centralized and standardized mass production techniques based upon high division of labour, hierarchical factory discipline, centralized and collective wage bargaining and nationwide forms of welfare. With the crisis of the 1970s, MNCs gave up this Fordist method of factory organization and resorted to post-Fordist approaches for regulating production as manifested in a multi-stage decomposition of production, high variety of products, market diversification, autonomous profit centres, network systems, outsourcing, casualisation of labour, divided workforce, localized bargaining and so on. The most striking feature of post-Fordism has been what is called “flexible specialization” of workers taking advantage of the new developments in production and processing technologies making it possible to regiment and regulate workers relatively easy and to use even unskilled labourers who could easily be trained to perform otherwise complex operations. Together with these, the emergence of new technologies relating to transportation, communication and information and data processing that rendered location of production increasingly less dependent on geographical distances enabled international capital to launch the “global assembly line” and visualize a “new international division of labour” turning neocolonial countries like India in to a cheap labour destination for “low-end jobs” on the one hand and dumping ground for hazardous toxic wastes on the other. No doubt, these post-Fordist developments have also encouraged academic theorists to point out capitalism’s transformation into a “post-industrial” society. Whatever are the interpretations, there is truth in the argument that in the context of the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the Left, these developments among other things have enabled imperialism to reorganize itself through redesigning the mode of accumulation after the severe shocks it suffered from stagflation in the seventies. As already noted, this is the context that gave rise to several postmodern and post-Marxist conceptualizations on development.
Of course, inseparable from the imperialist crisis of the 1970s has been mounting ecological crisis that challenged the “business-as-usual” approach upheld by imperialist centres compelling them to take up the environmental question also. It was in this context that, as the outcome of a project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation of Germany with intellectual inputs from MIT of USA and commissioned by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth was brought out in 1972 as the outcome of a computer simulation of exponential industrialization and population growth with finite resource supplies (www.clubofrome.org). Exposing the inherent contradiction between the “exponential” growth in five variables such as world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resources depletion on the one hand, and the linear growth in the ability of technology to increase resources on the other, the study put definite limits on the mainstream model of universal development based on GDP growth. This was followed by the UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm in the same year, which was the prelude to a series of UN initiatives on the issue since then. As a corollary of the ever-growing ecological consciousness at a global level, there has been a spurt in the activities of international NGOs specializing in environmental questions with the catchword, ‘sustainable development’ while keeping silence on the non-sustainable resource appropriation by finance capital and the neocolonial political and economic relations behind it. The first official proposal for sustainable development appeared in the release of the report entitled “Our Common Future” by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) set up by UN General Assembly in mid-eighties popularly known as the Brundtland Report (1987) which pleaded for a “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” However, the more appealing definition on the concept is that given by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1994: “Sustainable development is development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably, that regenerates the environment rather than destroying it; that empowers people rather than marginalizing them. It is development that gives priority to the poor, enlarging their choices and opportunities and providing for their participation in decisions that affect their lives. It is development that is pro-people, pro-nature, pro job and pro women.” (Human Development Report, 1994)
And it has been in continuation of this initiative that since the 1990s, the UNDP started to popularize the flagship concept Human Development through its annual publication, the Human Development Report in which the major focus is on the preparation of Human Development Index (HDI) for the countries of the world. Coordinated efforts by both the World Bank and the UNDP in closely knitting together the former’s idea on “good governance and participatory development” with the latter’s formulation on “sustainable development” have contributed much in popularizing the concept of Human Development as an adjunct of corporate development necessitating the incorporation of “corporate social responsibility” as an item in company balance sheets. No doubt, the UNDP’s “pro-poor” posture and its advocacy on sustainable development that keep silence on the neocolonial structures which facilitate the non-viable and non-sustainable pattern of ‘development’ and resource use by corporate capital have immensely helped international capital and funding agencies to impart a ‘human face’ to neocolonial plunder. The UNDP’s sustainable development initiatives have also become a rallying point for several postmodern and post-Marxist and “post-colonial” development alternatives led by civil society groups, NGOs and recently by the World Social Forum.
Ironically enough, the very same centres that conceptualize ‘sustainable development’ in a populist way themselves are ardent proponents of “economic liberalism” (neoliberalism today) and free market ideology. In this manner, the whole issue of ecology and environment which is inseparably linked up with the operation of finance capital and profit accumulation under neoliberalism today is being depoliticized in the interests of ruling classes. In spite of the voluminous reports printed out by UN, international funding agencies and NGOs, none of them goes into the crucial questions of corporate plunder of world’s resources and nature, imposition of imperialist dictated policies on neocolonial countries and the transplantation of ecologically harmful and toxic industries including the dumping of obsolete nuclear plants on them. Even after the beginning of concerted international efforts for controlling “global warming” through targeted reductions in “green house gas emissions” in the Rio Summit, through Kyoto Protocol, etc. in the 1990s, the UN and its specialized agencies could do nothing except reducing the whole issue to questions of “emission management”, “carbon trading”, distribution of carbon budgets and so on.
Meanwhile, global NGO network like the WSF in recent years has also added to the discussion on an alternative development paradigm through its attractive catchword “Another World”. In consonance with “neo-Marxian” ideologues like Antonio Negri (an aspect already noted), the hallmark of WSF’s postmodern development alternative has been its reluctance to use the terminology imperialism as defined by Lenin. Accordingly, imperialism according to postmodernists is a “discourse of power over the third world” and at the most it refers to the “developed countries’ involvement in the developing world.” Negation of the Marxist conception of class, private property, wage and state and the use of non-Marxist concepts of exploitation and oppression by postmodern development “discourses” ignore historical dynamics and operations of international finance capital behind backwardness of countries. Ignoring the material foundations including the class basis of injustice and oppression and simply reorienting to the “cultural logic” of capitalism, the “deconstruction” or neutralization of class politics unleashed by postmodern alternatives, in brief, aim at a depoliticizing and diverting of the working class away from anti-imperialist struggles. In fact, this “overemphasis” on culture, as the renowned Marxist scholar on culture Terry Eagleton has rightly put, arises from the “postmodern suspicions” on organized class politics. He said: “Culture is on any estimate important in a neocolonial world; but it is hardly what is finally decisive. It is not in the end questions of languages, skin colour or identity, but of commodity prices, raw materials, labour markets, military alliances and political forces, which shape the relations between rich and poor nations.”
Another variant of the postmodern development discourse is a critique of development itself as “Western” and a loss of faith in the paradigm of ‘development’ as such. Characterizing the entire categories associated with modernity such as enlightenment, ideals of secularism, and democracy as a “ baggage” and science as “reductionist”, the protagonists of this view call for a “de-development” or abandonment of development altogether. Instead of development’s alleged affinity or “nostalgia for the categories of modernity”, they suggest religion, ethnicity, caste and other pre-modern and pre-capitalist “identities” as the “preferred cohesion of the oppressed” against the injustices of the modern world. Some have even suggested an “alternative development paradigm based on indigenous systems”. A classic illustration today is the Hindu supremacist attempts in India to “rediscover” and counterpoise India’s cultural traditions and caste values as a superior alternative to modernity. At a global too, this postmodern romanticizing of the orient or “non-European cultures” in the guise of resisting Euro-centrism and glorification of past identities by “subaltern theorists” have given rise to several religious revivalist, chauvinistic, xenophobic and autarkic reactionary trends which, in the name of fighting the evils of capitalism, want to turn back the clock of history by counterpoising “internationalism” with “localism”.
Here it should unequivocally be stated that the problems of development including the crucial issue of sustainability that we discuss are related to modern era developments. Respect for past achievements is needed. But conceptualization of a sustainable, people-oriented development paradigm in terms of mystification of unverifiable age-old faith or divine truth is obviously in the interest of reactionary, vested interests. Noted scientist Dhirendra Sharma said: “It is a defeatist view to argue that ancient civilization was far superior, or that Indian culture offered better social order, or that our ancestors knew better water-management, or that the traditional agriculture was sustainable, or that the native people’s scientific knowledge was far more advanced than the modern Science and Technology. The view that women, black and the disadvantaged have equal rights in the civil society is admittedly the modern scientific principle which is not recognized in any Holy Book of the past.”(Cultural [Mis]use of Science)
THE imperialist crisis of the 1970s and the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the ICM, as already mentioned, among other things have also led to the emergence of Dependency Theory, a supposedly-Marxist interpretation of development and underdevelopment led by neo-Marxian scholars. At the academic level, it challenged and inflicted severe blows to the neoclassical and modernization theories formulated by imperialist think-tanks. However, rather than orienting the analysis of development in proper link with the Leninist class approach to finance capital and imperialism, the dependency theorists, especially Andre Gunder Frank, the most well known among them have rooted in the “thesis on secular deterioration in terms of trade” codified by the famous UN economists such as Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer associated with the Economic Commission for Latin America. As a body of social science theory predicated on the notion that resources flow from the “satellites” or “periphery” of poor and “underdeveloped states” to the “centre” or “metropolitan” wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former, the dependency theory, albeit with variations, visualize imperialist exploitation mainly at the realm of exchange relations between developed and developing countries. Some among them like Wallerstein have approached the issue of underdevelopment and imperialist exploitation from a “world system perspective”, conceptualizing imperialism as part of a general and gradual extension of capital investment from the “centre” of the industrial countries to the overseas “peripheries”, though authors like Amin in their later writings have tried for a “comprehensive” analysis rather than a purely economic perspective.
From a Marxist perspective, the progressive content of dependency theory lies in its vehement attack on the very foundations of the “modernization theory” of development proposed by imperialist think tanks, especially American social science research institutions. As already referred, the prognosis of the modernization theory among other things held that all societies progress through similar stages of development, that today’s ‘underdeveloped’ areas thus are in a similar situation to that of today’s developed areas of sometime in the past and that therefore the task in helping the underdeveloped areas out of poverty is to accelerate them along this supposed ‘common path of development’, by various means such as foreign capital investment, technology transfers, and closer integration into the world market. The central contention of dependency theory is diametrically opposed to this view and argues that the impoverishment and backwardness of poor countries are the direct outcome of their integration into the “world system.” According to most studies of the dependency school that have come out on countries of Latin America, accumulation in the imperialist countries is directly related to impoverishment and deprivation in the dependent countries. For instance, in the words of Frank, the representative of this School, “underdevelopment as we know it today, and economic development as well, are the simultaneous and related products of the development on a world-wide scale and over a history of more than four centuries at least of a single, integrated economic system: capitalism.” According to him, “underdevelopment is not due to the survival of archaic institutions and the existence of capital shortage in regions that have remained isolated from the stream of world history. On the contrary, underdevelopment was and still is generated by the very same historical process which also generated economic development: the development of capitalism itself.”
Regarding how exactly the accumulation process takes place in the “metropoles” at the cost of “satellites”, the dependency theorists have put forward the “mechanism of unequal exchange of equal values” between “metropoles and satellites”. According to Arrighi and Amin, “transfers of value”, from “underdeveloped” to the “developed” constitute the “essence of the problem of accumulation on a world scale.” This unequal exchange is mainly due to the unequal wage levels between metropoles and satellites. While high wage in developed countries overvalue their products, the low wage in underdeveloped countries undervalue their products, which through exchange lead to capital accumulation in the former and economic drain and “de-capitalization” of the latter. Most of the “satellites”, as the ECLA thesis has shown, being mono-production primary exporters, the prices of their products are also deteriorating in the long run. Thus, there is a constant drain of surplus from the satellites to the metropolitan centres leading to ‘accumulation and development’ of the developed countries and ‘development of underdevelopment’ of the under-developed areas. Of course, different writers of the dependency school have substantially enriched the discussion by elaborating their arguments. In relation to the unequal exchange, Amin, for example, is very critical of the export orientation of backward economies resulting in what he calls an “extraversion” or “disarticulation” in the economy. According to him, all economic activities including agriculture, industry, infrastructure and tertiary sectors are oriented towards the export sector. “It is the distortion toward export activities that constitutes the main reason” for the economic backwardness of poor countries. In sum, the economic surplus generated in backward countries, according to dependency theorists, is used for development in advanced countries.
The positive aspect of the dependency theory is its success in exposing the modernization theory which suggests that the only way of attaining development is through the means adopted by contemporary “developed countries”. However, the blaming of the “underdevelopment” of the neocolonial countries on their contact with Europe and America is not at all reasonable. At the same time, the attempts to incorporate dependency theory into the core of Marxists analysis are met with difficulties. It is too simplistic and one-sided in its emphasis. Its main thrust is on the “invisible” transfer of value from “periphery” to centre through trade, the logical anti-dote of which is “ bourgeois economic nationalism” or autarky rather than socialism. By placing ‘exchange’ on the highest pedestal, the whole system embracing exchange as well as production which are at the basis of backwardness is totally ignored. Secondly and more importantly, in the name of a “world system perspective” or “integrated world capitalist system” the dependency theorists have ignored the domestic class relations in development and underdevelopment as well as the differing relations that various sections of the bourgeoisie in ‘dependent’ countries have with imperialist finance capital. The stratification or differentiation in the ranks of the bourgeoisie which Lenin’s Colonial Thesis and later in the conceptualization on the People’s Democratic Revolution was quite irrelevant for dependency theorists for whom the bourgeoisie as a whole are integrated into the world capitalist system. In other words, the contradiction between comprador, bureaucratic land lord classes on the one hand and national bourgeoisie classes on the other, which is related to the strategy and tactics of anti-imperialist democratic revolution plays no role in the dependency approach. In this respect, dependency theorists are criticized for their over emphasis on “external determinism” and negation of internal dynamics of neocolonial countries.
However, the most important drawback of dependency theory is its antipathy towards the Leninist position on imperialism. The characteristic feature of imperialism, according to Lenin, is finance capital the export of which, replacing or relegating the export of goods to the background has resulted in a parasitic and most oppressive exploitation of the whole world by the most powerful capitalist states. Lenin’s characterization of imperialism as militaristic, parasitic, decadent and oppressive are all integrally linked with the subordination of every realm of social life to the diktats of finance capital. Lenin’s prediction that the front of capitalism will be pierced where the chain of imperialism is the weakest is also based on the analysis of the international operations of finance capital including his thesis on the uneven development of capitalism. To reiterate, the core of Lenin’s theory of imperialism which has contributed for the development and enrichment of Marxist analysis of capitalist development is the theorization on the evolution of finance capital as the most valid category as well as its inseparable link with the internationalization of capital. All these crucial issues are either insignificant or missing in the dependency theory. Further, a major part of Lenin’s polemics against Kautsky was mainly on account of the latter’s incorrect understanding of imperialism as a mere policy of capitalism. That is, in his approach to imperialism, rather than referring to the whole capitalist system, Kautsky was dealing with the international aspects of capitalism. His approach, as Lenin said, was a vulgar conceptualization of Marxist theory as it conceived imperialism in a narrow sense of economic relationship between capitalist and backward countries. On the other hand, Lenin, for whom imperialism is finance capital in search of profits in other capitalist countries and in colonies, was concerned with the whole process of capital accumulation on a global scale. Taking this polemics between Lenin and Kautsky into consideration, we are constrained to characterize the ’dependency theory’ as a postwar reincarnation of the Kautskian approach. The vulgar conceptualization of neocolonialism “as economic imperialism” also belongs to dependency theory, as it, on account of its Kautskian orientation could not comprehend the Leninist stress on the inter-dependence, interaction and inter penetration of the economic, political, military, and cultural aspects of imperialism. This may not be an exaggeration since in his later years Frank, the leading theoretician of the dependency school himself was in the company of Soviet revisionists, the true inheritors of Kautsky’s legacy. This ideological bankruptcy also prompted both Frank and Wallerstein to be admirers of NGOs and NSMs along with their postmodern non-class alternatives as codified in such initiatives as World Social Forum including similar de-ideologization and de-politicization on development at a global level.
Towards a People’s Development Paradigm
A BRIEF knowledge regarding the diverse trends and persuasions on development paradigm which have evolved over a long span of history having varying ideological-political dimensions as mentioned above will be helpful for evolving a Marxist class perspective on development according to concrete conditions today. Obviously, the concept of development cannot be discussed in the abstract and should be approached in a broad historical perspective tracing its origins at least from the advent of modernity to the present rather than in an ahistorical manner. The whole idea of development needs to be approached in the concrete historical, ideological, political, economic, cultural and ecological context. For instance, unlike in the past, today ecology has come to the centre-stage of development such that “a harmonious co-evolution of nature and society” has become the indispensable component of the struggle for building an egalitarian social order and the move towards socialism. The dominant reasoning including the “trickle down” approach that demands a catching up with the so-called developed countries at any cost upeld by adherents of both neo-liberalism and “mechanical materialism” is engaged in an outright denial of both people’s participation in development and environmental sustainability.
We cannot subscribe to the mechanical view that people wait until the development of the productive forces have finally created the conditions of a necessary passage to the long road to socialism. We cannot deny people—including the workers, peasants and all the toiling classes and oppressed peoples—the immediate and rightful benefits from each stage and at all levels of development. At the same time, we cannot go after “anti-development” and unscientific “small is beautiful” and “go back to nature” schools of thought and similar other formulations espoused by a whole set of NGOs and “de-development” proponents for whom development itself is an “unmitigated catastrophe”.
We are not living in the abstract or in a “shapeless world” as argued by postmodernism (which has become the ideology of neoliberalism today). In our attempt to evolve a class approach (i.e., from the standpoint of the vast majority of the exploited and the oppressed by capital) in transforming capitalist development into people’s development as integrally linked up with the transformation of bourgeois democracy into people’s democracy, the starting point should be the writings of Marxist teachers from Marx to Mao on the subject and the concrete historical experiences of erstwhile socialist countries which bear enduring prospects for the advancement towards socialism. Contrary to the mainstream/dominant capitalist development paradigm where ruthless plunder of people and nature (capital accumulation) was acknowledged as the driving force behind development, in spite of historical limitations, as we have noted in the foregoing analysis, people had been the prime mover and focus of development in socialist countries such as Soviet Union and China till their deviation from the class perspective to bureaucratization and ‘catching up with the West’.
In capitalism, democracy for the people is considered as a barrier for capital accumulation or development and therefore bourgeois ideologues advocate curtailment of democracy as a necessary sacrifice for development. The only aberration for this in the entire history capitalist development had been the less than half-a-century between the Depression of the 1930s and Stagflation of the 1970s when challenged by the advancement or the presence of socialism and radicalization of national liberation movements at a global level compelled imperialism to concede a “welfare state” and a façade of democracy consisting of certain democratic rights to the people.
On the other hand, class-based people’s participation or people’s democracy is indispensable for development in socialist transformation as revealed by the slogan ‘power to the Soviets and Communes’ put forward by Lenin and Mao. In the ultimate analysis, genuine people’s development is integrally linked up with people’s political power at all levels of government and democracy at all levels of decision-making as necessitated by the historical contexts, concrete social and cultural specificities and environmental conditions of nations.
It is also inseparable from the transformation to a higher, progressive mode of production in harmony with nature including appropriate changes in social, cultural and gender relations necessitating a paradigm shift in development itself. It is also absurd even to think on a “development consensus” where both the interests of corporate capitalists and that of the broad masses of working people are simultaneously resolved as one is the antithesis of the other.
Today, at a time when the rightwing forces are on the offensive and revolutionary dreams are on the defensive, the conceptualization of a class-based perspective on development together with its necessary ideological-political dimensions is of paramount importance as a strategic tool for organizing the broad masses working and oppressed people in anti-imperialist movements against the global operations of corporate capital. Unlike industrial capitalism of yesteryears, today when internationalization of finance capital has reached its farthest limits, in the prolonged and unchartered road to a people-oriented development, democracy and socialism, a reconfiguration and reorienting of the micro and macro, or local, national and international aspects of development from the class perspective are indispensable. That is, conceptualization of a people’s development paradigm should not obscure our grasping of the dynamics of class relations behind the plunder of people and nature by capital. At the same time, development should constantly nourish human beings in their natural conditions yielding greater democracy at all levels of decision-making. Such a development paradigm shall be ‘worthy of our human nature’ as Marx put it. It is just as what Einstein said more than six decades back:
“I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.” (Albert Einstein, Why Socialism?, 1949)
1. Marx, Capital, Vol. I, II and III
2. Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 25
3. Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Newspring Publication
4. Mao Zedong, Selected Works, Vol. V
5. Thomas P Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm 1870-1970, University of Chicago Press, 2004
6. UNDP, Human Development Report, 1994
7. Andre Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America, Monthly Review Press, Monthly Review Press, 1967
8. Emmanuel Arrighi, Unequal Exchange: A Study of the Imperialism of Trade, Brian Pearce, 1972
9. Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction, Blackwell, 1996
10. Susan George, A Fate Worse Than Debt, PIRG, 1990
11. Ananta K Giri, Global Transformations: Postmodernity and Beyond, Rawat Publication, 1998
12. Geoffrey Pilling, The Crisis of Keynesian Economics: A Marxist View, Croom Helm, 1986
13. WCED (The Brundtland Commission), Our Common Future, 1987
14. M Rustin, “The Politics of Post-Fordism: Or the Trouble with “New Times”, New Left Review, No. 175, 1989
15. P J James, Imperialism In the Neocolonial Phase, Massline Publication, 2015
20. http://www.academia.edu/ http://dictionary.reference.com/cite.html
An Appeal for Building Struggling Left and Democratic Platform as an Alternative to Ruling Class Alternatives at Central and State level.
With the advent to power of ultra rightist BJP government, it is like ‘from frying pan to fire’ for the vast majority of the people. Under intensifying corporate loot and saffronization drive of RSS Parivar, all their basic rights are snatched away more fiercely. Including the dalits, adivasis, women and minorities, all oppressed classes and sections are facing unprecedented pauperization and alienation. Even existing democratic rights, secular values, progressive aspects of foreign policy, the right to food, housing, healthcare, education and employment are taken away. Whatever plurality, humanist values, scientific temper existed has come under barbarous attacks of saffron brigades who are trying to impose their own moral, food, dress, culture and even work code on everybody. Beating back this reactionary offensive by the ultra rightist religious fundamentalist forces calls for broadest possible unity of the secular, democratic and left forces.
This unity is significant and urgently needed in the present grave international situation also. With the intensification of the cascading effects of the crisis confronting it in every field, starting with the crisis of the international finance capital system, the imperialist forces, especially US imperialism is acting like a mad bull, destroying all progressive values developed by humanity during the many centuries of renaissance movement, democratic revolutions and socialist advances. When the military adventures in the name of ‘war on terror’ miserably failed and as they are forced to withdraw armed forces from many of the aggressed countries, they are promoting religious fundamentalists of all hues paving the way for emergence of ISIS like outfits. While allthe basic contradictions at the international level including the inter imperialist contradictions are intensifying very fast, divisive tendencies are promoted by the imperialists and their lackeys based on religion, race, caste etc and using identity politics like post-modernist ideologies. The burden of their crisis is imposed over the oppressed nations and peoples. Instead of serving the national interests, the Modi government is intensifying the neo-colonial servitude and dividing the people at the behest of US imperialists. In this situation the struggling left and democratic forces have to strengthen their unity against these international and national level challenges.
Though Congress and the regional parties, many of whom leading governments in many states, are talking about the need to oppose the communal fascist acts of RSS outfits, they are not opposing the increasing corporate loot or are not ready to put an end to their own communal, caste based appeasement/vote bank politics. The dissensions within the AAP so soon after its landslide victory in Delhi elections show that without challenging the ruling class politics no alternative to Congress or BJP can be built up. As far as the CPI (M) led Left Front parties are concerned, though they talk about a broad left and democratic front, they have not abandoned their reformist line and are waiting for an opportunity to join hands with the regional parties or even with Congress.
What is required is a basically different, program- based alternative which is ready to fight the neo-liberal policies lock stock and barrel. It is with this perspective the four constituents of the Democratic People’s Forum, CPI(ML) Red Star, NSM (Gujarat), NDPI (Delhi) and Navjanavadi Lokmanch (Jharkhand) are proposing the formation of a platform of struggling left and democratic forces based on a common minimum program which can be arrived at through discussion based on the following points and any points suggested by other organizations, as an alternative against the ruling class alternatives at central and state level:
Proposed Common Minimum Program of DPF for discussion and finalization:
(1) Oppose imperialist globalization-liberalization-privatization and neo-liberal policies; Struggle against imperialist domination through IMF, World Bank, WTO and MNCs; Fight against corporatization of all fields; End corporate-mafia raj.
(2) Fight against the intensification of communalization by all shades of religious fundamentalist forces, especially the saffronization of all fields by the Hindutua forces with the blatant support of BJP government.
(3) Stop displacements for neo-liberal Projects; Struggle for scrapping Modi’s Land Acquisition Bill; Oppose corporatization of agriculture and Second Green Revolution; Implement progressive land reforms based on land to the tiller, promoting co-operative agriculture, providing assistance to the farmers for agricultural development; ensure rights of agricultural workers including dalits and adivasis ensuring their right over the land.
(4) Fight price-rise; Struggle for universal Public Distribution System; Fight for food security, housing, education, healthcare and employment for all; Fight for unemployment allowance to all unemployed.
(5) Fight corporatization of industry, services and infrastructure building; Struggle for socialization of all core sectors including energy, mining, steel, minerals etc; Fight contract and casual labour system, struggle for need based wages, job security and democratic rights of working class.
(6) Fight for democratizing society through Constitutional and democratic reforms including the right to recall elected representatives as well as government servants; Reform electoral laws introducing proportional representation; Prosecute all corrupt through special courts; Confiscate all black- money deposited in foreign banks and other hide-outs.
(7) Ensure Adivasis’ right over their land and natural resources; Implement autonomous councils based on Sixth Schedule in Adivasi areas; End caste-based and communal oppression, and attacks on women, dalits and oppressed classes and sections; Struggle for casteless and secular society.
(8) End all forms of gender discrimination; Ensure women’s equality in all fields.
(9) Scrap AFSPA, UAPA and all other black laws; Withdraw military from Jammu- Kashmir and Northeast; End state terror and achieve all round democratization of the administration and society.
(10) Settle all border disputes, a hangover from colonial days, through bilateral discussions; Withdraw military from borders and cut down military expenditure; Develop fraternal relations with neighbouring countries; Liberalize Visa rules to improve people to people relations.
(11) Abolish imperialist promoted ‘development’ policies which devastate nature, cause ‘climate change’, lead to ecological catastrophes and impoverish the people; Implement people oriented, sustainable and eco-friendly development paradigm.
This appeal is sent for your consideration and proposals
K.N.Ramachandran, Convener, DPF, and General Secretary of CPI(ML) Red Star