A SEMINAR on “Secularism : Present Challenges” was held under Asgar Ali Engineer Memorial lecture, organized by Vimarsh at Raipur on 11th August 2018 on the occasion of the martyrdom day of Shaheed Khudiram Bose. Well known thinker, litterateur, convener of CSSS Mumbai and editor of Indian Journal of Secularism Irfan Engineer gave the key note address.
Sanjay Gope, a 13-year-old boy from Bango village near Jadugora town in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, can not move or speak because he has been suffering from muscular dystrophy – a group of disorders that involves a progressive loss of muscle mass and consequent loss of strength – for the past nine years. At least one person of his family has to be with him all the time to look after him. He cannot be left unattended.
Eighteen-year-old Parvati Gope from the same village is suffering from lumbar scoliosis – a C-shpaed curve formation of her vertebral column. Rakesh Gope, a 13-year-old school-going boy, is also suffering from muscular dystrophy. Although he is active and walks with arched feet and soles, he is unable to speak normally. A three-year-old child Kartik Gope has been having seizures since birth and is developing muscular dystrophy too. These examples are not enough; there are hundreds of such cases of congenital illness and other birth defects in addition to high incidence of infertility, miscarriages and pre-mature deliveries.
Now, a pertinent question arises here: why are such large number of health hazards being reported from this remote and overlooked corner of the country? While India is dreaming to become energy efficient by 2032 by generating 63 Gigawatts of nuclear power, it is taking a major toll on human lives in a small township of Jharkhand. Jadugora has the deposits of world’s best quality uranium ore, magnesium diuranate. It is because of the rich deposits of the region, India is capitalising its nuclear dreams. The whole belt of the reactors is affecting the Adivasis (indigenous people) disproportionately in and around the uranium mining operational area.
“The tribals of Jadugora are being exposed to radioactivity directly and indirectly. Miners working in the mine areas inhale the dust and radon gas. Besides, the uranium ore are transported in uncovered trucks through roads that are full of bumps. This cause the debris to fall off on the sides of the road. Radiation are also caused by dumping of mine’s tailings in uncovered ponds,” said Ankush Vengurlekar, a photojournalist who has documented people’s suffering because of the “unsafe” mining. Locals say villages lying close to the tailing ponds are the worst affected. During the dry season, dust from the tailings blows through these villages. During the monsoon rains, radioactive waste spills into the surrounding creeks and rivers, causing further internal radiation as villagers use the contaminated water for washing and drinking and also use the nearby ponds for fishing.
“Children living near the mines are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions. Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations,” said a local from Jadugora. According to a study by Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), 68.33 per cent people are dying before the age of 62. The local river Subarnarekha that is flowing across the place is highly contaminated with uranium. The people living here are suffering from tortuous health problems.
Nuclear waste that is found in tons in the ponds of Jadugora is reportedly contaminating the entire place and is now creeping through soil into vegetation.
Professor Dipak Ghosh, a physicist and dean of the Faculty of Science at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, had collected samples from the river and also from adjacent wells a few years ago for research, and the result was alarming. The water was contaminated with radioactive alpha particles that cannot be absorbed through the skin or clothes, but if ingested, cause 1,000 times more damage than other types of radiation. In some places, the levels were 160 percent higher than the safe limits set by the World Health Organisation.
Another study conducted by Dr. Hiroaki Koide of the Research Reactor Institute, Kyoto University, Japan, uncovered hard evidence of the toxic footprint cast by the country’s nuclear mining and fuel fabrication program. He said the contamination from a uranium mine has spread in Jadugora. “The gamma dose in the air exceeds 1 mSv/y in the villages and reaches 10mSv/y around the tailing ponds. The circumference of tailing ponds is polluted with uranium. The strength of the pollution is of 10 to 100 times is high in comparison with the place without contamination. Tailing pond has contamination of Cesium. This fact shows that radioactivity was brought from another polluted source which was not uranium mine. Especially Dungridih that is in contact with the tailing pond has high contamination. There is a shade of uranium contamination also in a same village, as high contamination has been measured at Tilaitand or other village. This cause is because tailings were used for the building materials. There are places where uranium concentration is high in the road or the riverside, and it is thought that tailings are used for construction material. At the Rakha Mine station, the soil is polluted by only uranium. Its concentration is remarkably high. This shows that the uranium obtained by smelting fell and extended contamination. Not only K-40 or thorium but uranium concentration is high in Ranchi,” suggest his findings.
Denials by the Government and the Company
A comprehensive new energy plan approved by the government in October 2015 declared that nuclear power is “safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country”.
Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the state-owned miner, too has denied all claims that the mining is affecting the small town and the communities living around it the uranium mines. Founded in 1967, the UCIL is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Department of Atomic Energy for uranium mining and processing. The centrally owned miner is responsible for the mining and milling of uranium ore in India.
Standing beside the then United States President Barack Obama at a Paris conference on global warming on November 30, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “...India is a very nature-loving country and we are setting out, as always, to protect nature in the world while producing energy.” There is hardly any safety standard the company is abiding by to handle radioactive materials.
Deprived of Land First, and Now Health
The tribals of Jadugora were first deprived of their land, and now their health is being destroyed by making them labourers of a huge government enterprise. Moreover, they are subjected to the exposure to radioactivity in their everyday life. Anti-radiation movement activist Arjun Samat opened Pandora’s box when asked about the labourers working in the mines and their issues. The UCIL employs contractual labourers to mine the highly sensitive ore of uranium and they are not provided any safety gear reportedly. Mining is done by the contractual labourers at the remuneration of Rs 300 per day. They are not given any medical or health benefits, no protective suits or safety gear. Many lives have been lost so far in accidents but ironically, the affected were not given any compensation,” he told Newsclick.
“We had several rounds of talks with the company officials to try and pursue them for conducting medical tests for the contractual staff. The UCIL finally agreed to make medical tests compulsory for all daily wage workers. But they want it to be done by the workers themselves and the company will not bear the expenses because it is not mentioned in their work contract. The mandatory test costs around Rs 3,500 per person, which is equal to about 10 days wage for the labourers.”
“Without a medical certificate, the workers are not allowed to work. If the medical certificate mentions some ailment that is most probably caused by exposure to radiation or fine particulate matter, the contractor asks the person to leave,” he added.
Ankush alleges that the residue – once the ores are extracted in Hyderabad – is transported back to Jadugora for dumping into the ponds. The radioactive residue is stored in the open, he claims, posing health and environmental hazards. The tailing pond overflowed in 2008 because of heavy rains and the contaminated water entering the neighbouring farms, not only destroying all the crops that year, but also killing animals. These ponds have polluted the ground water, says Arjun, because of which people living in the nearby villages have been asked not to use ground water. “They take water from multiple water points installed by the company. During summers, the slurry dries up and gets carried by the wind all around the pond to neighbouring villages polluting air and soil,” he added. These tribals lose their lands for mining then get employed as contractual labour, and some even lose their life. “Why are they the only ones making all the sacrifices?” asks Ankush.
This uncritical acceptance of the label of “nationalist” – which the Sangh parivar has conveniently ascribed to themselves – reflects a poor knowledge of history among many senior journalists. This is being used as an asset by the Hindutva coalition in their attempts to shrug off the burden of historical shame they ought to bear for having betrayed the national struggle for independence. This acceptance of their self-proclamation is being used by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to reinvent themselves, falsely, as hyper-patriots who have put the interests of the nation before all other concerns. The link between nationalism and the struggle for national liberation is inextricable in India. Recounting the role played by the RSS when India was struggling to break free from colonialism can test the credentials of the self-appointed nationalists.
RSS in the Dandi March
On March 18, 1999, the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, issued a postage stamp commemorating K.B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, as a great freedom fighter before an audience that consisted mostly of Sangh cadres. This move, Shamsul Islam wrote, was an attempt “to pass off a pre-independence political trend represented by the RSS as a legacy of the anti-colonial struggle whereas in reality the RSS was never part of the anti-imperialist struggle. On the contrary, since its inception in 1925, the RSS only tried to disrupt the great anti-imperialist struggle of the Indian people against the British colonial rulers.”
Hedgewar, the freedom fighter, was a pre-RSS Congressman, arrested and sentenced for a year’s imprisonment for his role in the Khilafat movement (1919-1924) – and that was his last participation in the freedom struggle. Soon after his release, Hedgewar, inspired by Savarkar’s idea of Hindutva, founded the RSS in September 1925. And this organisation, throughout the rest of its life under the British Raj, remained subservient to the colonising power and opposed the mass movements for India’s freedom in every phase of the struggle.
According to Hedgewar’s biography published by the RSS, when Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, he ”sent information everywhere that the Sangh will not participate in the Satyagraha. However those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited. This meant that any responsible worker of the Sangh could not participate in the Satyagraha”. There was, however, no lack of enthusiasm among the cadres to participate in these momentous events. However this enthusiasm was actively discouraged by Hedgewar. M.S. Golwalkar, who succeeded Hedgewar, documented an incident which is insightful about the role of RSS leadership :
"...there was the movement in 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). This delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and Sangh should not lag behind. At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said: ‘Definitely go. But who will take care of your family then?’ That gentleman replied: ‘I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to the requirements’.
Then Doctorji told him: ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for the Sangh for two years’. After returning home that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.” However, Hedgewar himself participated in an individual capacity and went to prison. Although, this time, not with the motives of a freedom fighter. He went to prison, according to his RSS-published biography, with “the confidence that with a freedom-loving, self-sacrificing and reputed group of people inside with him there, he would discuss the Sangh with them and win them over for its work”
Alarmed by the motivation of both Hindu and Muslim sectarian groups to use Congress cadres for their own disruptive purposes, the All India Congress Committee passed a resolution in 1934 which prohibited members of the Congress party from becoming members of the RSS, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim league.
By the end of the decade in December 1940, when Gandhi had launched the satyagraha for Quit India, a note from the home department of the colonial government reveals that RSS leaders met the secretary of the home department and “promised the secretary to encourage members of the Sangh to join the civic guards in greater numbers,”. The civic guards was set up by the imperial government as one of the “special measures for internal security.”
RSS and Its Opposition to Quit India Movement
A year-and-a-half after the Quit India movement was launched, the Bombay government of the British Raj noted in a memo, with considerable satisfaction, that “the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942.” However, as in the previous case of the Dandi March, the cadres of the RSS were frustrated by their leaders who were holding them back from participating in the movement. “In 1942 also”, Golwalkar himself pointed out, “there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many.... Sangh is an organisation of inactive persons, their talks are useless, not only outsiders but also many of our volunteers did talk like this. They were greatly disgusted too.”
But the RSS leadership had a curious reason for not participating in the struggle for independence. In a speech given on June 1942 – months before an unnecessary, British-made famine was to kill at least three million Indians in Bengal – Golwalkar said that the “Sangh does not want to blame anybody else for the present degraded state of the society. When the people start blaming others, then there is basically weakness in them. It is futile to blame the strong for the injustice done to the weak...Sangh does not want to waste its invaluable time in abusing or criticising others. If we know that large fish eat the smaller ones, it is outright madness to blame the big fish. Law of nature whether good or bad is true all the time. This rule does not change by terming it unjust.”
Even in March 1947, when the decision was already made by the British to finally quit India following the naval mutiny of the previous year, Golwalkar persisted in his criticism of those RSS cadres who wanted to participate in India’s struggle for independence. Addressing the annual day function of RSS he narrated the following incident:
“Once a respectable senior gentleman came to our shakha (the drill). He had brought a new message for the volunteers of the RSS. When given an opportunity to address the volunteers of the shakha, he spoke in a very impressive tone, ‘Now do only one work. Catch hold of the British, bash them and throw them out. Whatever happens we will see later on’. He said this much and sat down. Behind this ideology is a feeling of anger and sorrow towards state power and reactionary tendency based on hatred. The evil with today’s political sentimentalism is that its basis is reaction, sorrow and anger, and opposition to the victors forgetting friendliness.”
In an editorial published in the RSS mouthpiece, the Organiser, on the eve of India’s independence, the Sangh opposed the tricolour flag, declaring that “it never be respected and owned by the Hindus”. “The word three”, the editorial went on explain, “is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
A few months after independence, Nathuram Godse – who was a member of both the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS – shot Gandhi three times at point-blank range on January 30, 1948. Historian A.G. Noorani, quoting from the records of Pyarelal Nayyar, personal secretary to Gandhi at the time, wrote: “Members of the RSS at some places had been instructed beforehand to tune in to their radio sets on the fateful Friday for the ‘good news’. “After the news, sweets were distributed in RSS circles at several places”, according to a letter received by Sardar Patel from a young man, “who according to his own statement was gulled into joining the RSS... but was later disillusioned”
A few days later, the RSS leaders were arrested and the organisation was banned. In a communique by the government dated February 4, the government explained: “..to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the nation.. the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.. [I]n several parts of the country, individual members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect fire arms....the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself. In these circumstances it is the bounden duty of the government to take effective measures to curb this re-appearance of violence in a virulent form and as a first step to this end, they have decided to declare the Sangh as an unlawful association.”
Sardar Vallabhbai Patel, whom the RSS claim as their own today, wrote to Golwalkar in September that year, explaining his reasons for banning the RSS. Speeches of the RSS, he said, “were full communal poison.. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the government to take action against the RSS.”
In another letter dated July 18, 1948, Patel said to Hindu Mahasabha leader, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee,”..our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies (RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha), particularly the former (the RSS), an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible.” However, Godse claimed in the court that he had quit the RSS before assassinating Gandhi, and so did the RSS. This claim, however, could not be verified because “no records of the proceedings.. no membership registers are maintained” by the RSS, as pointed out by Rajendra Prasad in a letter to Patel. Under the circumstances, no evidence could be found to prove that Godse was a continuing member of the RSS.
Nonetheless, Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram who was also arrested as a co-conspirator and sentenced to imprisonment, said in an interview with Frontline magazine, 30 years after his release from prison, that Nathuram had never quit the RSS and had lied in the courts. “All the brothers”, he said, “were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.” This claim is also corroborated by another member of Godse’s family in a recent interview with the Economic Times.
In the same interview with Frontline, Gopal Godse went on to accuse L.K. Advani of “cowardice” for disowning Nathuram. “You can say that RSS did not pass a resolution, saying, ‘go and assassinate Gandhi’. But you do not disown him.” he complained.
But long before Gopal Godse chose to testify that Nathuram had remained a member of RSS at the time of Gandhi’s murder, the government, unable to provide any evidence, lifted the ban on the organisation in July 1949, after the RSS, arm-twisted by Sardar Patel, wrote for itself a constitution in which it was made clear that the RSS will be ”wedded to purely cultural work” and will have no politics of their own.
Four months later, after the drafting committee had completed the process of drafting the constitution, the RSS raised an objection in an article in the Organiser, published on November 30, 1949: “But in our constitution, there is no mention of that unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat... To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.”
Here perhaps the RSS was offering an insight into its – or at least that of its leaders’ – reactionary mindset by regarding as superior to our constitution the Manusmriti – a legal code according to which, “[t]he service of Brahmanas alone is declared an excellent occupation for a Shudra; for whatever else besides this he may perform will bear him no fruit”; an oppressive regime which prohibited a Sudra from earning wealth “even though he be able; for a Sudra who has acquired wealth, gives pain to Brahmanas”. The campaign of the RSS to implement the Manusmriti instead of the constitution continued well into the following year, even after the the constitution was officially adopted by the country. In an editorial titled ‘Manu Rules Our Hearts‘, the RSS asserted in a tone of defiance:
”Even though Dr Ambedkar is reported to have recently stated in Bombay that the days of Manu have ended it is nevertheless a fact that the daily lives of Hindus are even at present day affected by the principles and injunctions contained in the Manusmriti and other Smritis. Even an unorthodox Hindu feels himself bound at least in some matters by the rules contained in the Smritis and he feels powerless to give up altogether his adherence to them.”
But Now They are Patriots
So in conclusion, I ask, what would be a reasonable word to describe a cult which went down on its knees before the colonial government and opposed the mass struggle to create an independent nation; a cult which opposed the national flag and the country’s constitution, and whose “men expressed joy and distributed sweets after” the assassination of a person regarded by the masses as the father of our nation? Are they to be branded as traitors? No. In our times when history is becoming increasingly irrelevant for political discourse, they are the “Nationalists”. And everyone else is anti-national.
[Pavan Kulkarni is a freelance journalist. This article was first published on April 17, 2017 and is being republished on August 15, 2018]
According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the World Bank exerts a certain hold over India. In the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to £90 billion in loans, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange. The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of powerful corporations. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.
Quoted in The Guardian, one of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says: “The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.” The drive is to entrench industrial farming, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work given that India is heading (or has already reached) ‘jobless growth’. Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly turning into a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides, dirt and dust.
The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a deliberate strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms and to get most farmers out of farming. As Felix Creutig suggests, the aim is to replace current structures with a system of industrial (GM) agriculture suited to the needs of Western agri-business, food processing and retail concerns.
Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic liberalisation. The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.
For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.
Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (Sept 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs). On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.
Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian govt provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture and food security by $3 billion.
According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.
How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to. The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world, farmers still face massive financial distress. Given that jobs are being destroyed, relatively few are being created and that as a measure of development GDP growth is unsustainable and has actually come at the expense of deliberately impoverished farmers in India (low food prices), what we are hearing is mere rhetoric to try to convince the public that an increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a relative few corporations – via deregulations, privatisations and lower labour and environmental protection standards – constitutes progress.
We can already see the outcome of these policies across the world: the increasing power of unaccountable financial institutions, record profits and massive increases in wealth for elite interests and, for the rest, disempowerment, mass surveillance, austerity, job losses, the erosion of rights, weak unions, cuts to public services, environmental degradation, spiraling national debt and opaque, corrupt trade deals, such as TTIP, CETA, RCEP (affecting India) and TPA.
Making India ‘Business Friendly’
PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.
When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.
In the realm of agriculture, the World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds. Rather than work to eradicate corruption, improve poor management, build storage facilities and deal with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.
According to the neoliberal ideologues, foreign investment is good for jobs and good for business. But just how many actually get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?
The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In ‘The Globalization of Poverty’, he says that economies are:
“opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished.” (p.16)
If people are inclined to think farmers would be better off as foreign firms enter the supply chain, we need only look at the plight of farmers in India who were tied into contracts with Pepsico. Farmers were pushed into debt, reliance on one company and were paid a pittance
India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food and agriculture sector. With regard to what this could mean for India, we only have to look at how the industrialised US system of food and agriculture relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed farmers’ livelihoods. The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies (whose business model in the US is based on overproduction and dependent on taxpayer subsidies) rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.
The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.
The alternative would be to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals and to implement a shift to sustainable, localised agriculture which grows a diverse range of crops and offers a healthy diet to the public.
Instead, we see the push for bogus ‘solutions’ like GMOs and an adherence to neoliberal ideology that ultimately privileges profit and control of the food supply by powerful private interests, which have no concern whatsoever for the health of the public.Taxpayer-subsidised agriculture in the US ultimately promotes obesity and disease by supporting the health damaging practices of the food industry. Is this what Indians want to see happen in India to their food and health?
Unfortunately, the process is already well on track as ‘Western diseases’ take hold in the country’s urban centres. For instance, there are massive spikes in the rates of obesity and diabetes. Although around 40 per cent of the nation’s under-5s are underweight, the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world; at the same time, the country is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.
Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. He adds that 60% of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture but less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture: when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.
Support given to agriculture is portrayed as a drain on the economy and is reduced and farmers suffer yet it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year. On the other hand, corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it.
The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.
So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?
Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neo-liberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven neoliberal globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates have too often been able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.
Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. As a result, genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced, and we have bad food and diets, degraded soils, water pollution and scarcity and spiralling rates of poor health.
Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’, soil, water, food, diets and health but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.
Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities which have spiraled since India adopted neoliberal policies), Washington regards ‘development’ as a way to further US interests globally.
As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.orgunder the title ‘Think Tank Times’): “American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.”
Of course, many others such as Walden Bello, Raj Patel and Eric Holtz-Gimenez have written on how a geopolitical ‘stuffed and starved’ strategy has fuelled this process over the decades.
Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe Joined at the Hip
In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated that brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.
But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter to written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.
Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.
Save went on to not that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.
According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.
One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).
While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.
Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.
Salinization aside, looking at the issue of soil more generally, Stuart Newton, a researcher and botanist living in India, says that India must restore and nurture its depleted, abused soils and not harm them any further with chemical overload. Through his analyses of Indian soils, he has offered detailed insights into their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the Green Revolution. In turn, these depleted soils in the long-term cannot help but lead to mass malnourishment. This is quite revealing given that proponents of the Green Revolution claim it helped reduced malnutrition.
Various high-level official reports, not least the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge and Science for Development Report, state that smallholder, traditional farming can deliver food security in low-income countries through sustainable agroecological systems. Moreover, given India’s huge range of biodiversity (India is one of Nikolai Vavilov’s strategically globally important centres of plant diversity) that has been developed over millennia to cope with diverse soil and climate conditions, the country should on its own be more than capable of addressing challenges that lie ahead due to climate change.
Instead, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seed to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s 2017 paper in the Journal of Peasant Studies, ‘The ox fall down: path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture’).
Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.
In terms of managing water resources, regenerating soils, and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh is now making a concerted effort to roll-out zero budget agroecological agriculture across the state. However, in the absence of this elsewhere across India, agroecological approaches will be marginalised.
India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices (underpinned by geopolitical and commercial interests: World Bank loans; export-oriented monocropping, commodity crop trade and dependency on the US dollar; seed sovereignty issues and costly proprietary inputs, etc) has placed enormous strain on water resources.
From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.
This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:
“... our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.” – Jason Hickel, writing in The Guardian (July 2016).
Politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this model and the system of agriculture it is tied to, but it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’.
[Colin Todhunter is an independent writer, July 9, 2018, www.countercurents.org.]
How Much Investment? How Many Employed?
When a company sets off a factory, the investments on possession of the land, building up the factory, installation of machines etc are its one-time investment. With it, after the factory starts running, the expenditure on raw materials and the wage/salary of the workers and staffs gets added, which continues cyclically. In addition to such running expenditure, a fraction of the one-time investment (it is calculated by several factors), added with the profit assumed as per the average rate of profit (observed from the general trend in the market) are summed up to determine the total price of produced commodities for a production season (e.g. annual). Based on this total price, the price of each commodity is calculated. However, each and every commodity cannot get vended. Therefore, subtraction of the net income from the net price of the commodities traded in a year (i.e. the ‘turnover’ of the company) is a measure of the effective investment of the corresponding year/season. If we carry out a comparative analysis of such a component of the net investment, i.e. its annual effective component, with the total employment, what will we observe?
Calculated from Data Sourced: Forbes 2015
Let us analyze the data (source: Forbes 2015) seeded in the graphical representation stated above. Here, we have mentioned the calculations related to top 500 companies (based on their market values) from each of the US, UK, Europe, Japan, and BRICS+ (i.e. BRICS and other developing countries). We have classified the companies based on the amount of their annual effective investments (million dollar) in the groups of less than 2,000 m$, 2,000-10,000 m$, 10,000-1,000,000 m$ and more than1,000,000 m$.
The data shows the following: Firstly, the largest companies (top 500) of both the developed and developing capitalist countries have failed to recruit at least 6 people on an average per million dollar annual effective investment (the actual investment is much higher) [ i.e. 10 people per 10 crore rupees investment in Indian currency only; while if we consider a monthly wage/salary of Rs. 20,000 for 10 people, it amounts to an annual expenditure of less than 25 lakh rupees, which is not even 1/40th part of the total investment]; secondly, higher the amount of investment, lower is the employment per investment (from 6 people/m$ for <2,000 m$ to about <1 or 2 people/m$ for >1,000,000 m$ investment); and thirdly, these features are characteristic to not only the developed capitalist economies like US, UK, Japan or the Europe, but also of the developing nations like Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and others. Therefore, such features are common, not only in facts but also in figures, in all parts of the current neoliberal world indicating what indeed the globalization means. Thus, isn’t the emphasis on more and more investment for the purpose of employment or creating job a capitalist superstition?
Whose Interest the Large Investments Serve?
The following data represent the average rate of profit appropriated by the non-financial private companies (NFPC) of our country in the recent years.
The data shows that those companies, which have a turnover of near about 1000 crore rupees or more, are able to maintain their appropriated rate of profit near or above the average rate and the profit rate declines below the average proportionately with lower turnover and subsequent low investment. For example, in 2009-2010, the companies with a turnover of more than 1000 crore rupees had a profit rate 1% higher than the average whereas those with a turnover less than 25 crore rupees had an appropriated profit rate 1/3rd of the average value. Therefore, larger the investment, larger is the profit rate appropriated; however, the employment per unit investment, as shown earlier, is proportionately low. Still is it necessary to justify, which class, the slogans of “Investment” and “More and more investment”, are in favour of?
Data source: RBI
Who Are the Wxploited Ones Through Generation of Such Profit?
Today, it is not at all unfamiliar that the entire profit is generated through the exploitation of the workers; i.e. through the denial of actual value of labour in the name of providing wages to the workers. Thus, the unpaid labour (in terms of wage) of the workers produces the profit of the proprietor. Then, do the workers of a given industry only by themselves create the entire profit of the industry through their unpaid labour? In that case, the question arises whether the larger profits of higher investments come entirely from the unpaid labour of their significantly smaller numbers of workers! For example, does the profit of an owner of an aeroplane company come entirely from the unpaid excess labour of the pretty well paid pilots and air hostesses? Or, does the profit of the oil refinery companies exclusively come from the unpaid price of the value created by their few number of workers? Such explanations seem to be unrealistic to the common people but the so-called ‘Marxist Economists’ (in reality, belonging to the school of bourgeois economy) try to justify them by introducing the concept of ‘productivity’; they say, that, owing to advanced technology, the workers generate a value much higher than their high level of wages by working for the same period of time due to higher ‘productivity’; thus, such large profit is created as a whole. In that case, what can we observe about the price generated by an employee per hour if the similar types of industries, with practically no variations in their ‘productivity’, are compared? For example, Indian Oil and ONGC, both are nationalized mineral oil and natural gas producing companies of the country with almost equal number of employees. The labour price (wage/salary + profit) per employee is Rs. 2,500 per hour in case of the former company whereas for the latter, it is nearly Rs. 5,500 (Source: www.moneycontrol.com).
Similarly, the first ten pharmaceutical companies of the US, which also come under the first hundred companies of the country, have a profit per employee per hour varying from less than Rs. 1,000 (Abbott Laboratories) to more than Rs. 12,000 (Gilead Sciences). If we look at Japan as well, it is observed that the profit per employee per hour for automobile companies varies from less than Rs. 50 (Sumitomo) to more than Rs. 1,000 (Fuji). Thus, wide range of variations in profit are observed among companies without much differences in their technology and where the workers do the same type of work and get similar wages on an average (which is normal since similar order of salary is paid for similar type of work). Therefore, in such cases, evidently the profit is not generated solely from the unpaid labour of their own workers. But someone or the other must have been deprived to be paid; otherwise the balance sheet remains incomplete. ‘Output’ cannot exceed the ‘input’. Then who generates this profit?
In this age of mature capitalism, the great discovery by Marx, which is exiled by the bourgeoisie panegyrists through the weapon of ignorance in their urbanized theories, can only give an answer such question. Citing the differences between ‘exchange value’ and ‘price’, Marx stated:
“The whole difficulty arises from the fact that commodities are not exchanged simply as commodities, but as products of capitals, which claim participation in the total amount of surplus-value, proportional to their magnitude, or equal if they are of equal magnitude”.
Thus, in the entire capitalist society, the portion of price generated through unpaid labour of all the workers (in the present society, they may be workers of the industrial sector, landless farmers, self-employed labourers or crop producing peasants) gets distributed among the proprietors based on their proportion of investments, where the basis of price determination depends on the sole view: “More the investment, more is the profit”. Doesn’t the table of profit rates appropriated by the different companies, as shown above, reveal the same truth? As a result, some owners siphon out more profit than that generated as surplus from the unpaid labour of their own workers, some can expropriate lesser; however, such profits are generated only from the unpaid labour as a whole. In case of factory workers or landless farmers, it appears from their ‘wage-system’ and in case of self-employed workers or poor peasants, it is originated from the ‘price-system’.
Large capital exploits the working people by denying them their due labour value through four ways: firstly, by expropriating ‘profit’ from its labourers together with siphoning ‘excess profit’ from the total labour employed in the entire society including self-employed and small peasants thereby creating huge poverty in the society; secondly, by reducing job availability and thereby creating huge unemployment (along with a corresponding expansion of informal sector) in proportion to its volume, (just in exact opposite manner to those who campaign in favour of large investments for employment); thirdly, through extracting capital from small industries thereby pushing millions and millions of workers towards the curse of ‘lock outs’; and lastly, within the sphere of capitalism itself, through exile of the peasants from their lands and through the loots of natural resources as its capitalist assets in order to get profit out of it. This is how they set up their entire empire.
[This article was first published in Bengali on 8th March, 2015 in the 9th issue of ‘Jabardakhal’. Reproduced from The Wire]
PRESENTLY the situation in India has changed drastically. The decades long rightist Congress led government is replaced by the ultra-rightist BJP-led Government. The Modi government for the last four years is intensifying the Corporate- Saffron Fascist rule at maddening pace. But that is not the phenomenon only in India. The world today presents a mixed picture. On the one hand, in many Latin American countries the progressive forces are being voted to power. On the other hand, in several countries across the globe, including the US, the Ultra-Rights are being returned to power with a vengeance. People’s opposition to these rightist regimes and policies is reflected in their gravitation towards sundry alternatives like the Aam Aadmi Party in India or the Greens, NGOs, etc. in other countries, in the absence of powerful radical alternatives to replace the reactionary ruling system which is speeding up imposition of the neo-liberal policies.
The situation in around 1950s was exactly the opposite. The upsurge of the international communist movement was so powerful that half of the land of the world and a third of the population were living in socialist countries. Powerful national liberation movements were challenging the vestiges of colonial domination. Strong communist parties were leading the movements of the working class and oppressed peoples in a number of countries. Since then, however, there has been a decline. It was usual for us, earlier, to blame Khruschevite revisionism for this decline. However, even the Chinese Party, even though it led the opposition to Khruschevite revisionism, itself fell prey to left deviation and, subsequently, revisionism. Many of the Marxist-Leninist parties which emerged in a large number of countries all over the world finally accepted that both the USSR and China were not socialist any more but had degenerated as imperialist countries, colluding and contending for power with US and other imperialists. However, many of these Marxist-Leninist parties have simply vanished without a trace, while many have degenerated all over the world either into becoming neo-revisionists or left adventurists. The problem with the international and national communist movement therefore is clearly not only the problem of Khruschevite revisionism or neo-revisionism or the left sectarianism that the Chinese leadership succumbed to. The solutions must be sought even deeper than this. In 2004, fighting against a section within the party which wanted to go closer to the CPI(M), the then CPI(ML) Red Flag had reached a conclusion that it was necessary to unite all sections of the ML forces who were opposed to both right revisionism and left sectarianism. It undertook an experiment in this regard by forging a unity “with differences”. It was guided by the understanding that the Communist party must have a mechanism for solving all problems of programme, strategy and tactics on the basis of a democratic procedure, once the basic ideas of class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat and democratic centralism are accepted. That our understanding and faith was misplaced is a testament of history. The section with whom the unity was forged based on the agreement that through a Conference the majority line shall be evolved and will be accepted by all as the general line for practice, rejected it, making this experiment a failure. There were gains from this experience, may not be so much in terms of membership and spread, but in terms of learning the problems that the movement faced. In the subsequent All India Special Conferences in Bhopal in 2009 and in the Ninth Party Congress held at Bhubaneswar in 2011 we have succeeded to address many questions related to problems faced by the communist movement and put forward some new developments of thought. In continuation to the studies initiated in the First All India Conference in 1982, we were able to put forward our understanding of the neo-colonial phase of imperialist domination as distinguished from the colonial phase. We accepted that there has been a growth of capitalistic type of relations in the agricultural sector while remnants of feudal relations still existed. We accepted the reality that new classes were developing in the rural areas. We were able to clearly show that Mao himself said that the foot must not be cut to fit the shoe, but rather the path of revolution in each country must follow the concrete conditions of that country. We were able to openly and without hesitation or apology reject the path of protracted people’s war for India. We have put forward the necessity to link the struggle for protection of nature and for the annihilation of the caste system with the class struggle. With this new understanding also came glimpses of what was the problem with the communist movement in the world. It was no coincidence that the decline of the International Communist Movement had started taking place since around 1950s, the same time as imperialism had changed from the colonial phase to the neo-colonial phase of plunder. When Marx was writing about capital, it was the stage of free competition and he naturally could not foresee that capitalism would develop into a new phase – imperialism. Around the turn of the 20th century, when capitalism was developing into imperialism and free competition was giving way to monopoly, Lenin laid bare the machinations of the new capitalist cartels and exposed that imperialism was nothing but a higher stage of capitalism. In continuation to this the basic contradictions of this era were then put forward by the Communist International as: (1) between imperialism and the oppressed nations and peoples of the world; (2) between capital and labour; (3) between socialism and imperialism; and (4) among the various imperialist countries. It was Lenin who extended the theory of the workers in the imperialist countries uniting to liberate themselves from their wage-slavery to the peoples of the exploited countries liberating themselves from imperialism. It was the Bolshevik party under the leadership of Lenin which put forward the thesis of turning the world war into civil war in Russia and of the essential link between the movement of the workers for socialism in the imperialist countries and the movement of the peoples of the oppressed nations for national liberation. It was on the basis of this understanding that the original slogan of the Communist Manifesto, ‘Workers of the World Unite’, was subsequently developed to ‘Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World, Unite!’ We may well criticize this understanding of the world, in retrospect, as being inadequate. It did not say anything about the environment and ‘sustainable development’. It did not put forward a new paradigm of ‘development’. It did not give a clear enough understanding of the problem of women’s liberation. It did not even have a whiff of the need for fighting against caste, colour, ‘race’, etc. However, such a judgment would clearly smack of idealism. We would be trying to judge the leaderships and movements of those times on the anvil of today’s social structure and understanding. Based on this General Line of the Communist International, the international communist movement grew from strength to strength till the 1950s. The main thrust behind this growth was the basic line laid down by the understanding of imperialism put forward by Lenin. No doubt, this understanding had to be developed – and it was developed to a very great extent. This understanding was also able to grip the masses and become a social force. Even, till after 1950s, when many countries of the world had come under neo-colonial domination, even the ruling classes in the countries under neo-colonial domination had agreed, at least in words, that colonialism and neo-colonialism must be opposed. The writings of Nkrumah on neo-colonialism, the acceptance of the Bandung Declaration and the starting of the Non-Aligned Movement were all testaments to this felt need. All these developments were taking place when there was a profound change in the situation in the world around 1950s. Bretton Woods Conference had given rise to a new economic system of which the WB and the IMF were the pillars. There was a massive proliferation of MNCs. ‘Green revolutions’ started taking place in many countries all over the world. Connected to this was the political system put in place. Not only the formation of the United Nations Organization as a world body, but also the acceptance of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 which then became the basis for most of the Constitutions written during that period (though each Constitution did have its own particularities). New blocs were formed like SEATO, CENTO, NATO, Warsaw Bloc, etc. Soon discussions started on the GATT and finally in 1995 the WTO was formed. On the philosophical front, post modernism took on an ever growing role and became the theoretical backbone for the proliferation of reactionary schools of thought and became the basis of formations like NGOs. The International Communist Movement responded to these changes in two ways. Firstly, under Khruschev, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union took the line that with the disappearance of colonies, imperialism itself had become weak and that there was now no more need of revolutionary change. The Socialist camp and the imperialist camp would now peacefully coexist, compete peacefully on the market and finally, seeing the innate superiority of the socialist system, the newly independent colonies would peacefully transform themselves to socialism. The Chinese Communist Party opposed this analysis and put forward that the disappearance of colonies did not herald the disappearance of imperialism. They put forward that the old colonial system had given way to a new neo-colonial system, which, they emphasized, was more pernicious than the earlier colonial system. However, beyond this short analysis made in Apologists of neo-colonialism, the CPC did not take this further forward. The General Line document put forward by the CPC during the Great Debate in 1963 made an attempt to put forward a strategy for the communist movement in the new situation. Though it was not developed further, its contents are relevant in today’s communist movement too. This clearly outlines the need for a theoretical offensive. At the international level the CPI(ML) Red Star is one of the few parties which are now willing to see the real concrete situation. We are willing to make a self-criticism of our past and are also willing to make an attempt to rectify these mistakes. We are therefore in a stronger and more advantageous situation for undertaking such a theoretical offensive. What does such an offensive entail? (a) We have to undertake a thorough study and analysis to identify the causes of the collapse of the erstwhile socialist countries, especially Soviet Union and China; (b) We have to launch a vigorous ideological struggle to establish across society the superiority of communism over the present ruling system as well as over various alien trends; (c) We have to develop Marxism-Leninism on the basis of a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. We have already made certain theoretical gains. We have a deeper understanding today of the neo-colonial system. We have found that in India and in many other countries under neo-colonial domination, there has been an ever more capitalistic system being introduced in agriculture. We have understood the importance of the environmental question and given it the importance it deserves. Many more questions still face us, such as further studies on the nature of imperialism today, the meaning of a new paradigm of development and the building of socialism with greater democracy. We have to face such questions fearlessly and study them. We must take up a clear, unsparing and scientific analysis of our past! Without this we cannot make a correct objective analysis of the present. This will mean asking a lot of uncomfortable questions and shedding some of our dearly held conceptions. This is necessary even to begin a theoretical offensive. Even during such an offensive we may, many times, come to the conclusion that many of the positions put forward by us in the past were wrong. We must be able to boldly put forward a clear and pointed self-criticism including how and why we went wrong. This requires that we must build up an atmosphere of trust, openness and frankness within the party. We must not be scared of analyzing the situation of ours and of others around us and must go, in practice, to wherever such an analysis takes us. We must develop a system of propagating our ideas to the masses. To do that requires not only a good development of our publications but also a more systematic use of the social media. We have to develop such a style of writing which will help the people to clearly understand what we stand for in the concrete situation of today. A party does not consist of a few thinkers and a mass of doers. Today there is a great gap in the consciousness of a few leading cadres and of the rest of the cadres in the party. A systematic method of developing the party study schools etc. must be undertaken to build up the party as a whole. Even with party study schools, etc. we will not be able to propagate the ideas for a theoretical offensive on our own. We have to take the help of mass organizations like cultural organizations, anti-caste organizations, trade unions, peasants’ organizations, etc. for this purpose. We must involve all such organizations into the debate on the real questions which the people are facing today and must use their resources to propagate radical solutions for such questions.
16 The task before us is to take up the building of the communist movement in India and to play an active role in doing so in the rest of the world. A major part of this task is to take such a theoretical offensive as we have outlined above. We must boldly seize the real questions of the people in today’s situation and must scientifically search out the solutions. We must unsparingly lay bare our own history, the history of the communists in India and all over the world. We must make a base for combining with all sections of the people who are fighting against the injustice caused by the present imperialist-capitalist system – whether in intensifying human exploitation, in all forms of environmental damage, gender injustice, caste and racial injustice, persecution of minorities, etc. We must fervently organize the workers and peasants to face the new situation. Students, youth etc. must be rallied on the basis of the new understanding. It is precisely if we develop the correct theory, that we will not have to go behind the workers, peasants, youth, women, etc. – they will be drawn forward to the correct theory. This true measure of the theoretical offensive has to be grasped and carried forward
With this comprehensive understanding, we have to urgently engage in uniting the Marxist-Leninist forces and build up a powerful Party, strengthening class/mass organizations and peoples movements and developing class struggle. Together with this, using all available means we should go for a resolute ideological-political campaign against imperialism and the ruling system, against corporate-saffron fascism, on the ideological-political questions facing the communist movement today and on the need of developing Marxism-Leninism according to the concrete conditions
of our country. In this background, the revolutionary movement should actively strive for discussions with all revolutionary, left and democratic forces along with other struggling forces for a national coordination seeking the possibility of drafting a common manifesto to resist and defeat the corporate-communal fascist threat. To facilitate this, all sections of the Party should take up the task of building up struggle-based Mass Political Platforms as per the objective situation prevailing at the state level and inspire and enthuse the struggling masses so that these efforts can develop to a Political Alternative at the national level by the time of the 2019 General Election and beyond. In the coming days, this political line of our Party resisting corporate saffron fascist forces from the perspective of independent left assertion based on a people’s alternative will strengthen Marxist-Leninist forces on the one hand, and impart a powerful boost for all the anti-fascist progressive, democratic and secular forces engaged in the challenging task of defeating the Modi regime on the other with the perspective of advancing towards people’s democracy and socialism.
Firstly, labour productivity varies from unit to unit, and from sector to sector. Productivity would only become equalised given the theoretical hypothesis of an economy constituted by production units which were all equipped with the most efficient means (and thus a state of competition would no longer continue between them!). The most developed capitalist countries approach this model, while the underdeveloped formations diverge from it in an extreme way. This is why the distribution of value added per job from one sector to another is grouped relatively closely around its average in the OECD countries, but is very unevenly spread in the Third World countries . The fact that a comparison gives results of this kind proves, in our opinion, that the law of value operates at the level of the world capitalist system, rather than at the level of its national components . Secondly, the differential in salaries and payment for work in the Third World, however small, is never as reduced as it would be if it were determined solely by the social costs of training. The spread here results from the strategy of those in power and of capital, from its history and from those political requirements compatible with the exercise of power by the hegemonic social bloc at the system’s core. Thirdly, the distribution of industrial, commercial, real estate, agricultural, financial and other property is itself the outcome of the history of the social formation and of local capitalist development. If one admits that there exists no ‘ideal model’ of capitalism, but only its concrete historical forms, there is no reason why this important element in determining the structure of the distribution of income should operate in the same way everywhere. Whatever the causes, it is possible to compare the current empirical distributions in the world. It is striking to see that the spread of Lorenz curves is by no means accidental. As a matter of fact, the curves of all the OECD developed capitalist countries are grouped in a tight bunch. In contrast, income distribution in all the contemporary Third World countries is considerably more unequal. Two clear medians placed within each of the two groupings correspond with the following values :
25 per cent of the population disposes of 10 per cent of total income in the core, and 5 per cent in the periphery;
50 per cent of the population disposes of 25 per cent of income in the core, and 10 per cent in the periphery;
75 per cent of the population disposes of 50 per cent of income in the core and 33 per cent in the periphery.
The bunching of Lorenz curves for the developed countries implies that Western societies have obviously similar income distribution characteristics. The position of different countries within the core grouping of Lorenz curves also implies that the improvement in income distribution is linked to the existence of powerful social democratic forces, but that the real extent of this improvement is very limited. The most advanced social-democratic countries, in Northern Europe, are situated close to the minimum inequality curve; the most liberal (the USA) and the least developed (Mediterranean Europe) are close to the maximum inequality curve. The spread of curves for the Third World may seem disconcerting at first sight. There is no visible correlation between the degree of inequality on the one hand, and the ranking of these countries in terms of factors such as per capita GDP, the degree of urbanisation, the level of industrialisation, and so on. But, as we will show later, a more attentive examination can provide a basis for an interpretation of this spread of results.
We can now proceed to the more interesting questions in the following section: i) is it possible to move from the crude empirical level to a higher plane, to explain the essential reasons for the relative positions of different countries?; and ii) is there a direction to the movement observed (towards more or less equality) and how is it to be accounted for? We will not go back over the details of the theoretical reconstruction of these curves, which have been expounded elsewhere . We will only set out the broad outlines here. Regarding the distribution of income in the capitalist core, three successive theoretical hypotheses suffice to account for the median of the tight grouping of Lorenz curves representing the OECD countries.
First hypothesis: if the social formation were reduced to a pure capitalist mode of production, the structure of income distribution would be determined by the rate of extraction of surplus value. If it were the case that the entire population were proletarianised and all proletarians were to sell their labour power at the same price, which is the value of labour power, and if we retain the complementary assumption that the number of capitalists was negligible, the model of income distribution could be shown by a straight line whose slope would be determined by the rate of extraction of surplus value within a social formation.
Second hypothesis: we suppose that the prices paid to the labour force are distributed unequally around its average value, so that the ratio between the quartiles was 1 to 4. Third hypothesis: we introduce within this scheme the existence of a certain number .of small and medium-size firms and various activities (similar to those of the liberal professions), the salaried population comprising 80 per cent of the total population, and we suppose that individual revenues of members of these social groups are situated in the middle and high-income brackets within the total distribution. In this way, a curve is finally obtained which is very close to one representing the empirical reality of the contemporary developed capitalist world. With regard to the peripheral capitalist societies, we have proceeded in two steps. In the first instance, we looked at the case of a rural, ‘pre-capitalist’ society in which 90 per cent of the population, also predominantly rural, is subject to exploitation of an ‘egalitarian’ kind by a state-class of rentiers who receive a tribute equal to half the total agricultural output. At the same time, the peasant communities have relatively little internal differentiation, but benefit to different extents from favourable natural conditions, resulting in per capita outputs ranging from 1 for the poorest quartile to 2 for the richest. Next, one supposes that an agrarian society originally of this type is integrated into the global capitalist development of a ‘semi-colony’. A small class of latifundists (Landlords) and rich peasant landowners (10 per cent of the rural population) appropriates tribute in the form of land rent. With demographic pressures acting over a period of fifty to a hundred years, and in the absence of industrial outlets, a third of the population falls into absolute poverty. This third of the rural population (landless peasants and minifundists) disposes of an income barely equal to that of the lowest quarter of the peasant farmers. Agrarian reforms have eventually taken place in most regions of this type. If one excludes the socialist countries (China, North Korea, Vietnam), these reforms, more or less radical in nature, have redistributed land in favour of the middle strata, to the detriment of the richest latifundists, without altering the fate of the poorest half of the peasantry. In the end, the curve which best fits these hypotheses in fact corresponds with a median representing real situations existing in Southern and Southeast Asia, as well as in the Arab world today. It is interesting to see that this structure, associated in the current phase of capitalist development with the hegemony of the local bourgeoisie (agrarian reforms and industrialisation), can be explained by four essential factors: i) the prior history of a rural class society which only allows the peasantry to keep roughly half its output;
ii) the private appropriation of surplus in the form of land rent by latifundists and, following agrarian reform, by rich peasants;
iii) a ‘natural’ inequality in the productivity of agricultural land ranging from 1 to 2;
iv) an increase in rural population density and the formation of a reserve of surplus labour consisting about a third of the rural workforce.
The ‘model’ in question also corresponds, it seems, with the situation in Latin America, at least in the case of the bigger countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. It fits less well the situation in certain Central American regions, of which Nicaragua under Somoza or Guatemala are prime examples. In contrast, the ‘model’ is certainly different in Sub-Saharan Africa where the prior experience of local class societies is weaker, the availability of land greater, and so on. In these areas the distribution of income is no doubt less unequal, although precise information is unobtainable. Nevertheless, even here the trend is towards the appearance of greater differentiations, as all the empirical studies have shown. In our second step, we introduce the concept of the urban economy into our model. In this instance we find a capitalist sector (which employs at most half of the urban working population), for which the conclusions reached above remain valid, given the following assumptions: i) a higher rate of surplus value resulting in a wage-profits ratio of 40:60 instead of 60:40; and ii) a steeper wage scale (1 to 6 instead of 1 to 4). Moreover, the ‘informal’ sector, which manages somehow to employ half the urban working population, earns incomes of roughly the same size as those of the poorest quartile of the capitalist sector. In order to combine both curves, rural and urban, two principal factors must be kept in mind: i) the proportion of rural to urban population, which differs from one country to another; and ii) the large gap between net per capita output in rural and urban areas, when this output is measured in current prices and income, as it is in current statistics. This gap is always roughly about 1 to 3, that is, per capita output is three times greater in the urban economy than in the rural. The end result obtained, i.e. the curve constructed by combining the simpler elements, is an interesting one. The resulting curve is, as we have already seen, a median of the actual income distributions that occur in the contemporary Third World. The question arises as to whether this situation is ‘transitory’ or not, i.e. whether the corresponding income distribution and that described are evolving towards the model outlined above. In other words, is there a ‘tendential law’ of the movement of income distribution, in conjunction with the movement of capital? On this difficult topic, the following three types of response can be identified: i) That there is no tendential law governing this movement. In other words, income distribution is only the empirical outcome of diverse economic and social factors whose movements, convergent or divergent, have their own autonomy. This proposition may be restated in ‘Marxist’ terms by noting that income distribution depends on class struggles in all their complexity, both national (such as bourgeois-peasant alliance, social-democracy) and international (imperialism and the position occupied within the international division of labour, and so on). The capitalist system is capable of adapting itself to all these different situations. ii) That there is a tendential law working to bring about a progressive reduction of inequalities. The situation in the periphery today is simply one of an unfinished transition towards capitalist development. iii) That there is a tendential law of progressive pauperisation and growing inequality. It remains to be seen why pauperisation should take place, and by means of which preponderant force (one that cannot be countered by opposing forces?), and on what scale the process occurs (at the level of each capitalist state, of all the developed countries, of all the underdeveloped countries, or throughout the worldwide core-periphery system?). The Marxist thesis of progressive pauperisation is an abstract formulation of a concrete issue: does capitalist expansion eventually benefit the majority of people in terms of relative standards of living, or, on the contrary, does it tend to polarise society? The actual history of accumulation in the developed centres of capitalism is fairly well known. Disregarding local variants, a plausible generalisation could be constructed on the following lines. The peasant revolutions, which often introduced the capitalist era in these centres, reduced the degree of inequality in the countryside, at least when they adopted a radical form. This reduction of inequality took place at the expense of the feudal aristocracy, but at the same time led to the impoverishment of a minority of poorer peasants who were expelled to the cities. The working-class wage was fixed from the outset at a low level determined by the income of these poorer peasants. It tended to increase after stagnating for a period at this level (or even diminishing), when the expulsion of landless peasants from the countryside finally slowed down. From this point onwards (about 1860?) workers’ wages and the real incomes of the ‘middle’ strata of the peasantry tended to increase together, in conjunction with a rise in productivity. There was even a tendency for a rough parity to be established between the average wage of workers and peasant incomes, although this tendency is not observable at each stage of accumulation (it depended on the structure of alliances between the hegemonic classes). In the stage of late capitalism, there is perhaps a ‘social-democratic’ tendency towards the reduction of inequalities. But this operates in conjunction with imperialism: a favourable position within the international division of labour favours social redistribution. But it would be wrong to generalise here, as comparable cases of evolution, for example Sweden and the USA, diverge in this respect. It is necessary to move beyond an examination of the capitalist core considered on its own, and take into account the evolution of the world system as a whole. Our thesis here is that the stability of income distribution in the core during the present presupposes rather than excludes a far more unequal distribution of income in the periphery. The realisation of value at the scale of the system as a whole requires this complementary opposition of structures. One is’ thus led to an unavoidable question: what is the overall tendency of the changes in income distribution within the periphery? Although precise information in this domain is fragmentary, it seems that the most pronounced trend has been towards the worsening of inequalities, certainly during the last hundred years (1880-1980). A thesis often advanced to explain this fact is that inequality in these regions is the price of accumulation, and once the first phase of the latter is completed (with the reduction of the labour reserve provided by the peasantry), the system will tend to reduce this inequality. This thesis has renewed its appeal among a wide variety of circles, from the traditional Right to certain Anglo-Saxon Marxists. The work of the late Bill Warren and various critiques which have been directed at our own stance are situated on this terrain . This thesis appears to us to replace the concrete analysis of the worldwide expansion of capitalism, which diversifies while at the same time unifying, with the abstract vision of a capitalism reduced to its tendency towards unification. The argument to which the supporters of this thesis turn as a last resort is that the worsening of inequalities is only ‘provisional’. This abuse of the argument concerning time removes any political significance from the thesis in question. To say that capitalism aggravates the situation for a century or two, but that it will improve matters thereafter is not an answer to the problems of our society, but a way of sweeping them under the carpet. This line of reasoning suffers in general from an almost complete lack of any political analysis concerning the diversification of capitalist formations, and a consequent refusal to make any qualitative distinction between core and peripheral formations.
Without going into the details of this debate, let us say that our thesis here is that even the most radical bourgeois national projects in the Third World are probably destined to failure and will in the end submit to the demands of transnationalisation. As a corollary to this thesis regarding the transformation of the peripheral bourgeoisie into a comprador class, we believe that there is no discernible tendency towards diminishing inequality in income distribution in the Third World. If any movement can be observed, it is rather in the opposite direction: towards growing inequality. The idea of progress by stages which could be repeated after a given time-lag is obviously a powerful concept in its simplicity, but one which is obviously false. However, the belief that developed countries provide the model for the future development of the underdeveloped countries remains firmly entrenched, despite its refutation by four centuries of capitalist development, and particularly by the experience of the last hundred years. According to the logic of the ‘stagist’ perspective described above, the issue of inequalities in the distribution of income is seen merely as a question of relative quantity, without any qualitative significance. But it is not just a matter of greater inequality: inequality itself determines the creation and development of a productive system in the periphery, which is qualitatively different from that which exists in the capitalist core. If in fact the various resources (unskilled and skilled labour, capital) are allocated to the types of final consumption (of the different strata of population according to their income) which directly or indirectly command them, one finds:
that in the core the various resources are allocated to the consumption of each stratum in proportions similar to the share of each of these stratum in consumption. For example, if necessary consumption (meaning necessary for the reproduction of labour power) represents 50 per cent of total consumption and surplus consumption 50 per cent, the shares of capital and of labour power with different skills (low, medium, high) allocated to necessary and surplus consumption respectively are 50 per cent-50 per cent for each category of resource (capital, unskilled workforce, skilled workforce).
that in the periphery, on the other hand, the scarcer resources are allocated to the consumption of the wealthier strata in greater proportions than their share of total consumption. This ‘distortion’in favour of the upper strata within income distribution is all the stronger when distribution is more unequal. For example, according to our calculations concerning the employment of medium and highly skilled labour (with secondary, technical or higher education) in the Arab world, surplus consumption constitutes 50 per cent of total consumption, but absorbs 75 per cent of these scarce resources (as against 50 per cent in France). In addition, one observes a tendency both for a deepening of inequalities in income distribution in the Arab world (before and after 1974) and for a worsening of this distortion in the employment of scarce resources. It is also noticeable that inequalities are more marked in the Arab world (where per capita GDP is higher than in other regions of the Third World, such as Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa) and that the distortion in the use of resources is at the same time more pronounced . The productive apparatus of the peripheral countries is thus not a mere copy of that of the core at an earlier stage of evolution. It differs qualitatively, and therein resides the very purpose of the international division of labour. These differences explain why, when in the core the Lorenz curve is stable (or is even moving towards less inequality), in the periphery it is shifting in the opposite direction, towards even greater inequality. The distortion in income distribution is a condition of expanded reproduction, of accumulation on a world scale.
On this point, Marx’s thesis concerning progressive pauperisation is perfectly visible on a world scale. If income distribution tends to be more and more unequal in the periphery, which constitutes the majority of the world system’s population, and is stable in the core, then at the global level it is moving towards greater inequality. The very fact that pauperisation manifests itself at the world level but not at the core is surely proof of the fact that the law of value acts at the global level, rather than at the level of individual capitalist formation. Marginalisation and impoverishment in the periphery, however, operate not only by means of an increase in the rate of extraction of surplus value, but also through the indirect extraction of surplus labour in non-capitalist forms, both traditional and newly-invented.
Amin’s stature as a ‘Marxist scholar’ among academic economists has been unparalleled. Though at the ideological-theoretical level, Amin belongs to the “dependency” and “world system perspective” school that mainly centred around the ‘unequal exchange equal values’ relegating the inseparable link between the process of imperialist value extraction and consequent super-exploitation and internationalization of finance capital to background, in his analysis, Amin is ahead of the other members of the school in emphasizing the role internal dynamics and respective social formations of dependent countries. And he has been a staunch critic of the post-modernists who disregarded the primacy of the differences in economic hierarchy or material bases among countries.
Related to this, Amin vehemently opposed Huntington’s prognosis on the ‘clash of civilizations’ which cunningly substitutes the conflict of cultures and camouflages the conflict between imperialism and its “dependencies”. In this context, Amin had been ahead of all others in criticizing the role of ‘political Islam’ in obscuring the fundamental class dichotomy and inequality between the oppressed peoples of the world and imperialist ruling system.
As an instance, Amin minced no words in highlighting the reactionary essence of the Muslim Brotherhood including their indoctrination methods which resolutely supported the Egyptian parliament for enacting conservative, anti-women and reactionary laws that enhanced the powers of property owners to the detriment of the oppressed and the peasantry. In this regard, he questioned the credibility of Muslim regimes like Saudi Arabia which totally lacked an anti-imperialist perspective.
Despite its anti-American rhetoric, according to Amin, political Islam aligns itself with imperialism denying the working class and the oppressed effective and fruitful anti-imperialist weapons. At the same time, he was very much cautious against the Islamophobia so cunningly cherished by US imperialism branding the Muslims as terrorists.
Amin’s intellectual influence on a whole set of political leaders was tremendous. In spite of being the leading academics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, unlike his contemporaries, a major part of Amin’s career starting from his association with the French Communist Party has been with well-known African political leaders of his time.
For instance, he associated with Egypt’s Nasser through his involvement in Nasser’s Institute for Economic Management (1957-1960), worked as an adviser in the Ministry of Planning (1960-1963) in Bamako (Mali) and was consultant to Guinea and Ghana. From this experience, he found that monopoly capitalism or imperialism was the stumbling block in the development of African countries. His association with Tanzanian anti-colonial activist Julius Nyerere and pan-Africanist Kwamah Nkrumah of Ghana were exemplary. The latter owed much to Amin in writing his famous book “Neocolonialism: the Last Stage of Capitalism”. For almost four decades Amin led the Third World Forum based in Dakar (Senegal).
Accumulation on a World Scale (1970), Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formation of Peripheral Countries (1979), Delinking: Towards a Polycentric World (1985), Empire of Chaos (1992), Capitalism in the Age of Globalization (1997), The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism (2013) are some of the leading works of Amin. In Capitalism in the Age of Globalization, in particular Amin explained how contemporary imperialism maintains its hold over the world through monopoly control over technology, access to natural resources, finance, the global media, and the means of mass destruction. All the works of Amin are in-depth critiques of imperialism. He has been a constant source of reference for students of Marxist political economy and an inexorable source of inspiration for those who fight against imperialism.
Till his last breath, he sided with the oppressed peoples of the world and remained as a staunch upholder of class struggle which according to him accomplishes “either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”.