CPI(ML) Red Star Statement on Covid-19
When PM Modi has told the people in his brief address that his government has done everything possible to confront the pandemic and there is nothing more to be done now except waiting for the Vaccine to come, there are many serious questions we have to ask him. The Covid-19 was declared a pandemic on 12th March by the WHO. Before that the first case was detected in India on 30th January. Nothing was done to check the international passengers at airports, to test and quarantine them, So, during this period 15 lakh passengers reached India without checking.
On 24th March, just after closing down all means of transport, without announcing plans for preparing the people to face the pandemic, abruptly the Lockdown was announced, with Modi claiming that in three weeks’ time it will be contained. Now after many Lockdowns, followed by continuing series of Unlocking lasting over 7 months, the number of Covid19 patients has increased from 500 to nearly 79 lakhs and the number of dead is already 1,18,000. Nobody believes these numbers, including the WHO. Since the state governments are asked by the centre to cut down the testing, the actual figures Covid19 patients in India, already in second position, may have crossed the figures of US, 88 lakhs, the first in the list long back. Except calling upon everyone to use masks, clean the hands and keep physical distancing everywhere, the only thing the Prime Minister and his Home Minister are doing nothing except repeating let us wait for the vaccine. And in the Bihar elections, the BJP has made free supply of vaccine as one of its election promise, clearing the message it is going to be charged!
Meanwhile what is happening in the country? Nobody knows the actual number of patients died of Covid19, as well as through other diseases and accidents, during the exodus from cities following 24th March Lockdown, due to starvation and malnutrition. As almost 30 crores contract/casual workers were thrown out of jobs, and most of them are not yet rehabilitated, the number of jobless people has sky-rocketed. Meanwhile even all existing workers’ rights are also cut, economy has further contracted, opened units are also cutting down number of workers, and as a result they are impoverished further.
The Modi govt. has refused to ask the managements to pay wages for the lockdown period or provide allowances to the unemployed, free rations, free testing and treatment to all, while announcing a series of assistances to the corporates. Even the medical staffs are not paid wages regularly, forcing them to strike at many places. As the number of tests are drastically cut, and in the festivals and political rallies as in present Bihar elections all restrictions are violated, the number may jump up in the cases at any time creating catastrophic conditions. Already there are reports from Europe, Africa and Latin America about a second wave of increase in the number of Covid19 patients. In this situation, once again the CPI(ML) Red Star is putting forward the following urgent demands:
- Remove restrictions on tests, provide free tests for 3 or 4 times more, hospitalize those affected and make quarantine compulsory. It will help to locate the patients and prevent uncontrolled spreading. Continue necessary restrictions on festivals, meetings, and providing safety kits to all those who need it. Provide unemployment allowances to all jobless, free family ration and free treatment for all.
- BJP is the ruling party at the centre. In Bihar it has announced that it will provide free vaccines to all in Bihar if it is voted back to power. Other parties are also announcing such promises in different states. The vaccine should not become an issue in Election Manifesto of any party. The central and state governments should ensure that the vaccine is made available free of charge to all citizens.
- Contrary to Modi’s claims, the testing, treatment and quarantine is not provided free of charge in many states. As a result, more and more people have to depend upon private hospitals. From the beginning it was demanded that the private hospitals should be brought under the control of the government. Now many reports are coming out from practically all states that they are fleecing the patients enormously and some of them are even running ‘organ trade’. The central and state governments should be asked to bring them under control, and a campaign should be launched, especially focusing on those running mafias for organ trade etc. for bringing them under government control till the Covid19 subsides. Take stringent action against private hospitals who used Covi19 pandemic to loot patients and indulged in unlawful activities. Organize agitations against corrupt hospitals to compel government to take action.
- On the question of unlocking of transport sectors there should be a uniform policy. Now airways, taxis, buses, metros and even some special trains and in Mumbai some of the local trains have started operating. But from some states not even essential long distance trains are not started. In the special trains tickets are very costly. At the same time Railways privatization process is taking place fast. A policy should be worked out according to concrete conditions in each state to run essential trains which is the only long distance transport available for the common people taking necessary precautions based on discussions with people’s representatives.
Polit Bureau, CPI(ML) Red Star
Take the Message of Leaders of Renaissance Movement to the People!
Expose and Defeat Manuvadi Hindutva, Theoretical Base of RSS Neo-Fascism!
Indian society is in an unprecedented crisis. The RSS using Manuvadi Hindutva based caste system and patriarchy is carrying forward the neo-liberal, corporate policies at maddening speed, opening the Indian economy and all other fields to IMF-World Bank-WTO trio and other imperialist agencies through Modi government. Whole burden of the crisis caused by these neo-liberal/corporate policies, presently further aggravated by the outbreak of Covid19 pandemic, is thrown on the back of the working class and oppressed peoples by the imperialists and their junior partners. It has already made tens of millions of people jobless and impoverished around the world. They have started expressing their dissent in various forms. To crush these resistances at any cost and to prevent the toilers and oppressed trying to assert their rights, the most reactionary sections of the finance capital system are resorting to neo-fascist aggressive measures in ever larger number of countries, through the RSS like forces around the world. They use all hues of divisive ideas and forces to destroy, disintegrate, or weaken the people’s revolutionary unity. India is a very good example for this.
When we discuss about the Varna system and Manusmriti imposed by the Aryas for subjugating the people who were already settled here, who had developed the Harappan and Tamil civilizations and the agriculture, the Brahmanical forces always try to challenge it by raising many cock and bull stories, and claim that they were also the original inhabitants of India. But, according to latest scientific studies, there were no original inhabitants anywhere, except in the African region where the homo sapiens emerged as a part of the process of evolution taking place in the nature. So, in a way all the humans in India had migrated at different times to this sub-continent during tens of thousands of years. They had settled here and around ten thousand years ago started getting settled in to agricultural societies as in Harappa and Tamil regions of South India. Contrary to the claims of the RSS historians, the Aryan migration to India took place between 2000 BCE to 1500 BCE. It was in the second phase of Vedic period, that is from around 1000 BCE the Varna system was evolved in its full form. This system was developed based on distribution of works and right to properties with the Brahmins on the top. To get acceptance to it among the humans it was claimed that God created this Varna System with the all sections of the humans divided in to Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. Gita is quoted as its authority. A vast multitude of people who were outside this Varna system, or living outside the area where the Aryas had already reached are referred to as Ati-Sudras, or assimilated in to different categories according to the concrete conditions and the interests of the dominant Brahmin and Kshatriya sections. The Manusmriti which codified the rules about the Varna system was drafted around 100 BCE and 2nd century AD. The migration of Aryas, Vedic period, Varna system, all happened after the weakening of the Harappa settlements. And the Lokayat and Charvaka philosophies had developed in the struggle against the very philosophy of Varna system. Following Gautham Buddha’s teachings around 600 to 500 BCE, a powerful movement against the Varna system developed. Buddhist philosophy, not only went to China and Sri Lanka, it spread very fast all over Indian sub-continent. Monasteries were established in large numbers. It is pointed out by the historians that even in Kerala, there were dozens of monasteries. In spite of Buddhism got promoted by many kings against Buddh’s wishes, and started getting diluted to present forms, the Buddha’s teachings, together with Lokayat and Charvak philosophies resisted the Brahmanical domination. During this period though there were invasions by Alexander and later Hoons, they could not sustain them.
This picture changed in the 8th century AD with the aggressive Adi Sankara campaign to uproot all non-Brrahmanical streams by force, in a most barbaric way. In this the Brahmanical forces used the oppressed sections who were influenced the superstitions, beliefs and customs spread by them also The heinous ways used by the Sankara led Brahmanical forces to drive out the Bhikkus and destroy their monasteries are still re-enacted every year in the Kodungallur temple in Trichur district of Kerala. As the resistance was powerful from the Bhikkus and their supporters here, from faraway places oppressed sections were brought, giving liquor and permission to loot, for murderously attacking the Bhikkus and to drive them out singing most vulgar songs! Including Swami Vivekananda, even all so-called Hindu religious reformers from among the Brahmanical forces, nobody has condemned this massacre of Bhikkus, destruction of thousands of monasteries including those at Puri, Ayodhya and Sabarimala, burning down of libraries and knowledge centers opposed to Manusmriti. From that time the Manuvadi Brahmanical forces launched the dark age of caste system based on Varna, which divided the people and imposed inhuman laws in the name of God. Even compared to the dark age imposed in Europe by the Catholic Church, it was more barbarous and against all humane values. It drastically divided and weakened the Indian society so much that all the forces who tried to enter India after Sankar’s Brahmanical offensive, could conquer it and rule over it for a millennia and much more.
So, whatever happened in the sub-continent, the disintegration, the criminalization and the weakening of Indian society, the Hindutva forces who imposed their cultural and political hegemony over the people of the sub-continent are entirely responsible. The Brahmanical forces had established their cultural hegemony through a plethora of rules and regulations, customs, festivals etc. In such a situation, the only way out for the Sudras, Ati-Sudrans and the Vanavasis (as they called the tribal people) was to convert to other religions. But, as all those religions also got infected by the caste system, liberation from Manuvad eluded them there also.
Manusmriti and the Varna/caste system imposed by the Brahmanical forces on Indian society are most authoritarian (as it was dictated that it was God’s own creation and imposed brutally), discriminatory, inhuman and totally undemocratic, even compared to any other religious, racist, gender laws imposed anywhere in the world. Its tentacles were very powerful. Even when the early phase of renaissance movements against it came up starting with the Basava movement in Karnataka in the 12th century AD, followed by the various streams of Bhakti movements, soon after the death of their leaders, their ideas were disarmed, made harmless and easily assimilated to the Manuvadi system, at the same time elevating their protagonists also as new incarnations of God. As a result of severe weakening of the Indian society under the extremely divisive caste system, when the Manuvadi kings lost the political power, and new political centres like Sultanate and Mugal rule emerged centrally or regionally. Still the Brahmanical forces could continue their hegemony by compromising with the new rulers and becoming the main advisers and administrators serving them. It was so more so under British period. The Brahmanical forces have repeatedly proved themselves capable of penetrating and utilizing every ruling system even when many changes were taking place in the society and its relations of production in such a way that the Manuvadi control over the toilers, oppressed and women could be kept secure, in the main.
Though the Savarnas, the Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vysia section, still constitute only 7-8 % of the population of even present India, they are still ‘controlling’ the so-called 80-85 % of the dalits and Adivasis, and OBCs through a cleverly built web of socio-cultural hegemony. They started with creating a hierarchy of Gods, unlike other religions, and have manufactured numerous myths through the so-called Vedic literature. During the last two millennia, using the Manusmriti, the Brahmanical forces have institutionalized women’s status as slaves of males, and dalits as born to serve the upper castes, without any right to property, because they are sinners during last janma, so should suffer all miseries without complaint in this janma to get the right to become a Savarna in next birth! To suit these dictates, even the pre-Arya myths, or the myths which came up during the resistance in the beginning, popular among the people were/are destroyed systematically, and the indigenous people’s festivals are replaced by Brahmanical festivals, made extremely popular using mainstream media and state support. For example, if the myths about Banasur, or Mahishasur, or Maha Bali or numerous others who were/still are popular among the people and festivals were celebrated around them, soon these festivals were turned in to their opposites, and replaced by those festivals which were so far confined to Savarnas, glorifying theirGods/Godesses who killed them through deceit. Now using the political power wielded by the RSS through neo fascist Modi rule these things are done directly.
After the British colonial rulers introduced English education for creating an administrative system with English knowing Indians, as a by-product the scientific temper developed from the time of Industrial revolution, and the bourgeois democratic values based on Liberty, Equality, Fraternity like slogans made popular by the French revolution, a new wave of renaissance movements came up with new vigour. Though the British administration in India were dominated by the Brahmin forces, a section of English knowing intellectuals made renaissance effort as in Bengal by Rajaram Mohan Roy and Iswarchandra Vidya sagar for example. They took the help of British government to introduce laws for some of the social reforms made against untouchability and superstitions, for abolition of child marriage and Sati, to allow women’s education and widow marriage etc. These were big achievements considering the extent of backwardness of the Hindu society maintained under Brahmanical domination. But the socio-cultural influence of Brahmanical-Manuvadi forces is still so powerful that some of these are still not fully implemented. Still in Puri like temples, the priests continue untouchability towards even Indian president Kovind. Another stream of renaissance movement was started by the radicals among the Brahmins to end many Manuvadi customs which led to heinous and criminal enslaving and oppression of Brahmin and other upper caste women, to popularize modern education among the Brahmins etc.
But the radical, main stream of the modern age renaissance movement was launched and led by a new generation leaders like Ayyankali, Narayana Guru, Sahodaran Ayyappan in Kerala, Periyar in TN, Phule, Savitri and Ambedkar in Maharshtra, and many others from other regions. Sighting the deplorable conditions of the dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and women under Manuvadi Brahmanical domination, they started fighting for the right to use the public roads, to end untouchability, to get the right for temple entry, the right to education for all, to get the right to use the water from public wells and tanks, and for the right own land and houses anywhere etc. The renaissance movements in different states helped enormously to educate and to mobilize the dalit masses including women and to encourage many militant struggles to challenge the Brahmanical Manuvadi domination. In Kerala, the struggle for basic democratic rights for dalits, and the slogan of Narayana Guru, One Caste, One Religion, One God for all humans, led even to Sahodaran Ayyappan’s call: No Caste, no Religion, No God. In TN the movement led by Periyar also took very radical positions challenging the Brahmanical forces. In Maharashtra the movement led by Phule and Savitri which took up women’s right to education and dalit’s democratic rights, further developed to the movement led by Dr. Ambedkar calling for caste annihilation, and nationalization of land and industries under the banner of ILP which had a red flag. These movements created a situation when all the progressive political forces in the country were forced to recognize the caste question’s significance in mobilizing the oppressed classes and sections also for the independence movement. At the same time, the Brahmanical Manuvadi forces alarmed by these developments frantically sought ways to defeat this progressive democratic movements and to re-impose the domination of their reactionary hegemony over the society.
Right from the early days of East India Company, British colonialists were encouraged to start their empire building process seeing the possibility of using the deep communal and caste divide in the sub-continent. They started hatching their own plans to use the religious and caste contradictions in India to defeat these divisions as they used the dalit-Maratha divide to win the Bhima-Koregaon war. Similarly, the communal divide was used to defeat the challenge posed by Tippu Sultan in the south. After what happened in the 1857 First War for Independence it was clear that if the Hindus and Muslims unite and take the oppressed people also along with them, the colonialists can be easily thrown out. So, they intensified efforts to use the communal and caste divisions for pursuing their “divide and rule” policy more vehemently. They helped to start the Benares Hindu University by Madan Mohan Malavia, a rabid Brahmanical leader. At the same time they helped the founding of Aligarh Muslim University. When Muslim League was formed and later called for Pakistan as Jinnah found Muslim interests will not be secure in a Hindu dominated India, British promoted it.
On the other hand, when the Congress leader Bal Gangadhar Thilak took the stand of politicizing Hindu religion for mobilizing Hindu masses for independence and transformed Ganesh festival observed only in the Brahmin houses in to a symbol of Hindu resurgence, British were very happy, and made moves to make the political Hinduism and political Islam fight each other to serve their purpose of prolonging colonial rule. Though, after Gandhi returned to India and took over the leadership of Congress, and united the different factions, to make Congress a struggling organization, along with this he also take a soft Hindutva stand. British gave more attention to the Savarkar led Hindu Mahasabha like forces. When based on the concept of political Hinduism, i.e. Hindutva of Savarkar, and inspired by the movements of Mussolini and Hitler, RSS was formed in 1925, the British authorities helped it to strengthen. RSS, calling itself a cultural organization, kept away from the anti-British movement. Its documents show that it is spreading the Hindutva culture based on Manusmriti and to transform India in to a Hindurashtra. It was totally against the renaissance movement and the challenge posed by it to the Manuvadi Hindutva.
But the Congress did not wage any struggle against the Hindutva of RSS, on the contrary continued to pursue the soft Hindutva line to serve its electoral plans from 1935. Though Gandhi started a movement against untouchability and suppression of dalits, called them “harijans”, he was supporting the varna/caste system. The Congress Socialist Party, then working inside Congress, also took a reformist position towards it. As far as the leaders of the undivided CPI were concerned, though they opposed untouchability and suppression of dalits, they refused to unite with Ambedkar to launch joint struggles of the textile workers, were not prepared to take the stand taken by the renaissance movement for caste annihilation. They were afraid such a step will weaken their support base among the upper castes. Besides, there was a mechanical understanding that all these reactionary systems and socio-cultural problems including caste annihilation and women’s liberation shall be resolved once the revolution takes place in the country. As a result, when the renaissance movements called on the upper caste activists to start abandoning the caste based, religion linked titles, caste linked sacred threat like things etc even the leaders of the CPI opposed it as a mechanical demand as, according to most of them, revolution shall resolve the program. They also pointed out that wherever the anti-feudal struggles are taking place as in the Telengana agrarian movement, the dalit and Adivasi masses are the main force and Communists are leading them. As a result, in a country like India where the unique caste system has powerful influence, the relation between class and caste in India where the dalits, Adivasis and the most backward among the OBCs are workers in the urban areas and agricultural workers or a section among the poor peasants in the rural areas, to win over these masses, who are looked down, and are tortured under the Manuvadi system, if the Communists had taken a more positive approach to the annihilation of the caste system called by Ambedkar and other renaissance leaders, Indian history would have been different. But, still among the broad left spectrum ranging from right opportunist CPI, CPIM like forces, the parliamentary left, most of the CR forces, to the left adventurist stream, while all are opposed to the suppression against dalits, Adivasis and especially against their women in hundreds of Hathras like gruesome incidents, they refuse to go beyond, to take caste annihilation as a part of their program, thereby refusing to recognize the dialectical relation of class struggle with caste struggle.
Today the situation is more critical. The RSS neo-fascism led forces are in power. RSS has penetrated to all state apparatus and even the Constitutional institutions. Though RSS/BJP do not formally claim, under the Modi government all over India, especially in UP like states where Yogi is chief minister, the Manusmriti is in action, with the Savarna elites who still constitute vast majority among the upper echleons of power and wealth, they in practice behave as if India has already become a Hindurashtra. As told in Manusmriti they consider women as unworthy of equality and liberation; dalits have no right to study and come near the corridors of power. RSS and its Manuvadi Hindutva ideology is putting Modi like neo-fascists in power to protect the ruling system controlled by the most reactionary section of the capitalist system. So, not only in Hathras in UP, but everywhere, though they may not tell openly in some places, the Savarnas think they have the right on not only over the wealth of the nation, but also on the women of the un-Aryas. It is a barbarous situation.
Meanwhile, in more advanced forms than during the colonial days, in these neo-colonial days, when neo-liberal/corporate forces are in total control all over the world more or less, the imperialist think-tanks have developed new theories, not only to intensify their plunder, but to keep them also with the ruling powers! See how it is functioning. They promoted the post-modernist ideas when it came up in the 1960s, and so also the identity politics when it started emerging in the 1970s. Numerous NGOs were promoted all over the world to campaign that, we have reached the end of history, the period of socialism is over, as the society is divided in to religions, castes, numerous sub-castes, various tribes etc; each section should get organized and work for their identity and share in the existing ruling system; there is nothing like system change.
Dr. Ambedkar defined the reservation in the field of education and administration as a small democratic right to help the socially and culturally down trodden sections at least to reach near the corridors of education and power. At the same time, he called to struggle for annihilation of caste and for nationalization of all land and industries as part of emancipation of the dalits. But, the Neo-Ambedkarites, whether they are functioning like NGOs, or political parties like BSP, Republican party factions, LGP, they mainly work for preserving the caste system so that the reservation will be available continuously, and instead of working for social revolution, they strive for sharing power with the ruling system, even with the Maunuvadi Hindutva RSS neo-fascists! If BJP found publication of Mondal Commisssion Report by VP Singh government and the social engineering emerged based on relations between caste based parties, a move against them and opposed them, today it is in the forefront to organize even micro groups of people belonging to sub-castes and include them in its vote bank under the banner of caste harmony. The opposition to Manuvadi Hindutva is turned to its opposite! The ruling class parties are competing with each other in playing this game among all sections of oppressed people including women.
Almost the same has happened to many of the other renaissance leaders’ movement also. In TN, after Annadurai left Dravida Kazhakam founded and led by Pariyar, with his friends and formed DMK, and it and the ADMK splitted from it have become the mainstay of ruling class system in the state serving the neo-liberal/corporate forces. Many other Dravidian groups separated from the DK also have become part of the ruling system. In Karnataka, Basavanna was taken over by the very caste forces he fought against and deified. In Kerala, for those who follow identity politics have reduced Ayyankali to an icon. Narayana Guru is worshipped as a God by the vested interests bargaining for share of power with all ruling class parties, many times hobnobbing with the RSS. So, during the last century, especially after the Second World War, when US led imperialist system transformed its colonial forms of exploitation to neo-colonial forms, and along with UN and a plethora of organizations under it, and IMF-World Bank were formed, and unleashed a new wave of reactionary campaign targeting the communist movement as well as other progressive movements, all of them have suffered severe setbacks. Under neo-liberal/corporate offensive this degeneration is reaching its peak.
It is in this situation sections of the Communist Revolutionaries, and those dalit, Adivasi and other oppressed people’s organizations who uphold the social revolutionary teachings of the renaissance movements and other likeminded forces from various other streams are once again trying to develop the caste annihilation movement as a broad struggling platform, as part of the all embracing and comprehensive class struggle, with a better understanding of class-caste relation. One of the fundamental components of the success of Indian people’s struggle to overthrow the RSS neo-fascist, neo-liberal/corporate rule led by Modi, and to advance towards people’s democracy and socialism, is making this initiative broader and stronger day by day to ensure the unity of the toiling classes with the oppressed people.
(Editorial of November 2020 issue of Caste Annihilation)
Regional Comprehensive Economic Participation (RCEP), world’s largest Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ever,comprising 10 ASEAN countries and other 5 big players, namely, China, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand formally came into existence Bangkok on November 15, 2020. It accounts for about one-third of world population, 30 percent of global GDP and 28 percent of world trade among them. The scope of further strengthening of regional value chains among RCEP members is comparatively large since 44 percent of their total trade is already intra-RCEP.
Till its disengagement from RCEP negotiations by the dawn of 2020 mainly on account of China factor,amidst widespread protests across India from farmers, lakhs of medium, small and petty producers and millions of informal workers, the Indian government was having an active role in RCEP negotiations and since his ascendance in 2014, Modi has his personal attention in the past 6 years of long drawn out intense bi-partisan talks with ASEAN, the precursor of RCEP. In fact, India’s signing of the final agreement was almost certain even during the 2019India visit of Chinese president Xi leading a 90-member delegation including Chinese foreign minister. Though the content of Modi-Xi talk was almost covered up and doled out to media as “informal talks”, external affairs ministry had characterised the interaction between two heads of states as “productive”, “pleasant conversation over a long dinner”, etc. Obviously, being the biggest economic power (on PPP basis)but still second to US in military prowess, and as the leading partner in RCEP, the fact that China would be the biggest gainer from this FTA was already recognised. Therefore, Xi’s arrival at Mamalapuram, near Chennai at that time was also interpreted as a tactical move to pressurise his Indian counterpart to bow to Chinese diktats, in continuation of the success on the part of US led Western imperialist bloc in using the Kashmir issue as a tool for blackmailing the Indian regime to pry open more avenues of plunder in India.
Modi was actively participating in the 6 years of long drawn out intense bi-partisan talks with in the grouping composed of 10 ASEAN, the precursor of RCEP. However, in the context of the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent Sinophobic propaganda by US and the eruption of Sino-Indian border dispute in March, the Modi regime took a somersault and retracted from all further discussions pertaining to RCEP.
Of course, regional FTAs (such as ASEAN, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, EFTA, half-baked and aborted SAFTA, etc.) are to be evaluated as complimentary to neoliberal globalisation. Both WTO and the Bretton Woods institutions, the pillars of imperialist plunder today are propagating regional trade agreements among countries as effective tools towards global integration of distinct economies into bigger markets for capital flows as well as trade in consumer items with tariff and non-tariff barriers. According to WTO provisions regional trade agreements are “gateway” to internationalisation or globalisation of market and investment. RCEP encompassing South and East Asian countries is also in accordance with this neoliberal dictum. Generally, on account of closeness and proximity, RCEP-like FTAs will lead to full market access within the free trade area as far as members are concerned, and consequently will be more threatening, than even WTO, to those members who are lack comparative cost advantage.
Now Modi’s retraction from RCEP has given rise to many arguments for and against it. The main argument by those who criticise Modi regime for not joining RCEP is in terms of the usual logic always upheld by “free traders”. According to the standard liberal economic theory, free trade among countries increases the economic size of the free trade area as a whole, as it allows goods and services to be produced more efficiently and at the least cost. Free trade encourages productivity as production will move to those locations where natural resources, infrastructure, or skills and expertise are best suited to production. Greater competition and less red tape within the FTA will make goods and services available consumers at lower prices and ultimately, will result in increased GDP growth for the members of the FTA. So neoliberal experts and free trade theorists always argue in favour of a free trade area.
However, experience has been on the contrary. Traditional agriculture and informal/unorganised industries which cannot withstand competition from cheap products within the FTA will collapse altogether leading to unemployment and pauperisation of the broad masses of population. Cut throat competition will lead to a massive deindustrialisation wiping out the domestic industrial base in economically backward members of the FTA. It will prohibit governments in backward economies to protect domestic agriculture or industries with adequate price support programs. For instance, take the case of the 25 provisions finally adopted by the RCEP. These terms were in fact dictated by the two leading members, viz., China and Japan, of the union. The immediate effect of RCEP on India, which today faces the biggest-ever economic collapse on record, would be an immediate transformation of India as dumping ground for the almost all agricultural and industrial products from China and Japan which enjoy a clear-cut technological superiority over India.
In fact, as part of India’s erstwhile agreement with the ASEAN, cheap agricultural products have already been entering India with devastating impact on its farm sector. Now the RCEP which is an expanded version of ASEAN, on account of their higher productivity and comparative cost advantage will enable China and Japan also to dump their cheap industrial and agricultural goods in India.
Meanwhile, a section of the Indian ruling classes and their economic experts have interpreted Modi’s disengagement from RCEP as a historic blunder, as it has lost a golden opportunity of economic integration especially with the less developed ASEAN countries. According to them, the economic disadvantage arising from Chinese and Japanese goods flooding Indian market would have more than compensated by India’s growing market access to developing economies of the 10 ASEAN members of RCEP. They also argue that RCEP will result in enhanced technology transfer and inflows of FDI into India. According to them, turning away from RCEP, a grouping which is also in conformity with Article 24 of WTO, is autarchic, protectionist and isolationist and will make India uncompetitive and inefficient, thereby making India unable to reap the fruits of economic integration among countries.
Now let us examine these arguments in relation to concrete facts. Free trade arrangements are not new for India. Except China, India already has some form of bilateral free trade agreements with all constituents of RCEP such as ASEAN, Japan and South Korea, while discussions for free trade deals with New Zealand and Australia are in the final stage. While all such trade agreements have led to surge in India’s imports from these countries, there has been no perceptible growth in Indian exports to them, leading to a steady growth intrade deficit with them. Over the past years organisations of both farmers and medium and small scale industries as well as petty producers have been strongly opposing India aligning with ASEAN; but the Modi regime was not even willing to hear their genuine concerns. And, if India becomes a constituent of RCEP, then in view of the existing trend, its outcome will be a further intensification of this negative trend and further worsening of the country’s historic economic collapse. Obviously, it will be due to the superior position of China in RCEP. For instance, in spite of India having no free trade agreement with China, the latter has been India’s biggest trading partner. From a meagre $1.8 billion worth of trade in 2000, the trade volume between the two rose to almost $90 billion in 2018. In this, since India’s exports to China are worth only $14 billion, the deficit in India’s trade balance with China was $76 billion. According to preliminary estimates, in the event of India becoming a member of RCEP which shall inevitably be led by China, the former will be duty-bound to eliminate tariffs on around 80 percent of the imported Chinese goods either fully or partially, resulting in unforeseen consequences for the economy. That is, India’s adverse trade balance and harmful impact on its agricultural and industrial production arising from its erstwhile pact with ASEAN (for instance, India’s trade deficit with ASEAN was $24 billion in 2018, in spite of Modi regime’s aggressive export-push approach under the cover of self-reliant postures such as ‘Make in India’ and the latest ‘Atmanirbhar’) are bound to accentuate further in the event of India joining RCEP.
Obviously, the real reason behind Modi regime’s abrupt turning away from RCEP at the last moment, is geopolitical and not economic. On account of its extreme servility to imperialist capital and in the course of fulfilling the commitments to neoliberal market obligations, the Modi government has shown little consideration to the sustenance of millions of domestic produce or their genuine sentiments. In accordance with that, till last year, Modi was systematically propping up India’s close trade integration with China in continuation of what he did during his long tenure as chief minister of Gujarat. And in spite of the much trumpeted ‘Make in India’, it was under Modi that Indian market became flooded with cheap Chinese goods. For, during the first four years of Modi rule, bilateral trade between China and India rose by around 25 percent from almost $65 billion in mid-2014 to $ 90 billion in mid-2018, with trade balance highly unfavourable to India, as already noted. As a matter of fact, Modi’s participation in RCEP talks in which China has the key role till the end of 2019 was inseparable from India’s growing bilateral trade with China. Therefore, any reversal in this adverse trend in India’s trade with China would at least have a cushioning effect on India’s trade deficit and on the domestic economy. To that extent, India’s move away from RCEP is to be welcomed.
On the other hand, Modi’s sudden disengagement from the mega trade deal RCEP was not motivated by any economic consideration, and not at all based on the obvious economic logic behind it, but is purely dictated by geopolitical factors. For, unable to economically compete with China which already had acquired the technological capability to challenge the US, the latter, with its protectionist approach under Trump and with whom India has a strategic military cooperation, was compelling Modi regime to withdraw from the RCEP from the very beginning. Together with this sharpening inter-imperialist contradiction between US and China, it was the eruption of the border dispute with China that compelled Modi to have a U-turn on RCEP along with the imposition of many rounds of tariff and non-tariff barriers and other import controls on many Chinese products. Now this is done under the cover of ‘Atmanirbhar” in the place of the worn out ‘Make in India’ which had already ended up as ‘made in China’.
However, turning away from the China-led RCEP,in tune with RSS’ time-tested, historical allegiance to US imperialism, along with strengthening India’s position as a strategic junior partner of US in latter’s geo-political contradictions with China and by signing many military-to-military partnerships with Washington, Modi is laying red carpet for US finance capital’s biggest-ever plunder of India by resorting to a series of ‘investor-friendly’ measures such as aggressive liberalisation of labour, tax and environmental laws along with many digital deregulations as required by US MNCs. Now the outcome is like that of ‘jumping from the frying pan to the burning fire’, as involvement in a US-led military and economic arrangement is more vicious in degree compared with the RCEP grouping, which too led by another imperialist power.
Today, when world market is dwindling and negative growth trends are a ubiquitous phenomenon, India with its continental size and with a population of 137 crore richly endowed with immense natural and human resources, there is vast scope for pursuing an independent, self-reliant and self-expanding path of development pursuing friendly relations with other countries and peoples. What requires is an immediate overhauling of the existing foreign market-oriented neoliberal, pro-corporate model and the adoption of a pro-people, pro-nature, domestic-market oriented development strategy ensuring livelihood and sustenance of the vast majority of working and oppressed masses.
Comrades and friends,
When the mighty farmers’ movement has reached the 10th day, it is getting strengthened day by day with more and more farmers and working masses who support them are reaching Delhi from all parts of the country to strengthen it. But, instead of accepting their just demands, the Modi government is engaged in weakening the movement by proposing the dilution of their demands. As we all know, after issuing the three black bills for total corporatization of agriculture as an ordinance, they were bull-dozed through the parliament, getting approval in the Rajya Sabha in most undemocratic manner. Throughout this whole process, no effort was made to seek opinion of the farmers’ associations, after the bill was moved no steps were taken to seek discussion by sending it to a select committee. So, when confronted with such a mighty resistance from the farming community as a whole, if the Modi government is proposing amendments to these three acts, without withdrawing the core issue-the corporatization of agriculture-, is a clever move to weaken and destroy the demands for withdrawal of the three acts along with the Electricity Bill 2020.
In this situation the AIKSCC has only one option before it: intensify the ongoing movement to higher levels to compel the Modi government to withdraw these acts. It is in this situation the call for observing Bharat Bandh on 8th December is given; side by side all roads to Delhi shall be blocked on that day.
CPI(ML) Red Star fully support this demand and all party state committees to come out with their full strength to mobilize all those forces who can be mobilized, form People for Farmers’ Movement like platforms uniting all the forces who supported the Anti-CAA,NPR movement, to chalk out concrete programs according to conditions in each state, and make the Bharat Bandh a great success.
Get prepared for a protracted people’s movement to defeat all heinous moves of RSS neo-fascists through Modi government to weaken the farmers’ movement! Give it a crushing blow to these forces of reaction by making the farmers’ achieve its goals! Strive hard to make the Bharat Bandh a great success, and strengthen the solidarity movement by launching a struggle platform like People for Farmers’ Movement!
CPI(ML) Red Star.
5th December 2020