According to latest reports from the LAC in Ladakh region, the standoff between Indian and Chinese forces continuing for almost five months at many points have reached an explosive situation, with firing having taken place at one of these points after 45 years. Slowly and in a planned way the RSS line on Tibet raised by it from the very beginning, supporting the US line, has started coming to the forefront as reflected in the way the cremation of an Indian soldier of Tibetan lineage was organized with provocative speeches attended by Ram Madhav, RSS/BJP spokesperson. Trump would like to keep the tension on India-China border at flash point and raise the Tibetan question as a campaign issue in his presidential race. The Modi govt also wishes to prolong the standoff so that people’s attention can be diverted from crucial issues like galloping Covid19 cases, joblessness, high price rise of essential commodities and unprecedented economic retardation leading to starvation condition for tens of millions.
The Modi govt's belligerence has been compounded by unwarranted, provocative statements made by Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, a known RSS affiliate, who also dragged Pakistan into the question in order to provide a further fillip to national chauvinism. Tellingly, Rawat's comments were made at an interactive session at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, where he insisted that India's policy of engagement, if not backed by credible military power and regional influence, would imply acknowledging China's pre-eminence in the region. He also commented on "China's economic assistance to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and continued military and diplomatic support to Pakistan."
China, which has controlled Covid19 infection and is regaining economic growth, on the other hand, will wish to stop any form of US-backed incursion into Tibet by Indian forces at any cost. China would also not be averse to seeing the Indian economy face increasing crisis as more and more funds are pumped into the war budget.
As both sides accuse each other and maintain large forces on both sides, it creates conditions for a confrontation with severe consequences. The danger is real, as the RSS Parivar as well as mainstream media along with Sanghis on social media are propagating war mongering and jingoism! Almost similar war mongering is spread by the Chinese side also. In this situation a flare-up can take place at any time. The situation becomes more dangerous as the Congress as well as other main opposition parties are also joining the war mongering campaign to show that they are not behind RSS Parivar in national chauvinism and warmongering.
CPI(ML) Red Star has repeatedly demanded that the border disputes which are leftovers of the colonial period should be resolved through bi-lateral discussions, and India should not go for border war, which will be extremely harmful to the people. We appeal to all democratic forces to rise to the occasion and campaign against war-mongering and jingoism, with the demand that all border conflicts in general and the Indo-China conflict in particular be solved through political dialogue. Negotiations may be taken up at the highest levels, so that the tension is diffused immediately. Subsequently, fresh round of discussions may be started to settle the dispute in a good-neighbourly manner.
CPI(ML) Red Star declares that if, instead of taking such a stand, the Modi government, provoked by the RSS and US imperialism, goes ahead to another border conflict, we shall swim against the tide of war mongering and chauvinism. We firmly declare "No to war" and " No war-mongering" and for a peaceful settlement of border dispute through bilateral political and diplomatic channels. We shall launch a nationwide mighty movement for food, employment and democracy, and shall actively strive to mobilize the people against any bloody, disastrous war to settle border disputes.
Forty years have passed since the fascist coup of September 12, 1980. The analysis of the defeat of the revolutionary movement and the correct determination of the shortcomings of the fight against the fascist coup of September 12, provide us with important knowledge for the fight against the fascist palace coup of Erdogan. By September 12, 1980, Turkey had, in Gramsci‘s words, reached the height of an “organic crisis”, while the various sections of the ruling class were uniting under a single rule to avert the deadly threat of revolution. In those years clashes raged between state and people and between the bourgeoisie and the working class. In fact, in the 70s, a new revolutionary movement took shape with a massive attraction, based on the enormous legacy of the revolutionary breakthrough of 1971, and especially after the amnesty of 1974. Literally “spontaneously” thousands of students and workers flowed into the ranks of the emerging revolutionary and reformist organizations, whereupon civil-fascist attacks and anti-fascist resistance escalated. The confrontation between fascism and anti-fascism had reached the level of a violent polarization of society. Not only did a revolutionary situation develop, but also a civil war of low-intensity. The regime was unable to overcome this dilemma because the Turkish bourgeois state system, based on the political rule of the generals and the high state bureaucracy behind the scenes, could not possibly produce a solution with its existing structure and instruments. The bourgeois parliament and its governments slipped from one crisis to the other. The Turkish economy was in an overproduction crisis with structural features. The ideological hegemony of the rulers was in the process of dissolution and the dominance of US imperialism in the region was shaken by international developments. These circumstances ushered in one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the Turkish Republic, in which the fascist state succeeded to inflict a defeat on the revolutionary movement with grave consequences.
A historical comparison between the fascist military coup 1980 and the fascist palace coup today The military coup of September 12, 1980, explained the purpose of the coup at a rally in Konya: “If we hadn't come, they would have come.” TÜSIAD, the association of the collaborative monopoly bourgeoisie, explained the class character of the fascist putsch directly with the words: “So far the workers have laughed, but from now on we will laugh.” Of course, the revolutionary forces had a premonition. Since 1978 almost all revolutionary organizations and political publications had written about an impending fascist coup. But there was no strong preparation of the revolutionary organizations for what was on the way. Despite all the willingness to fight, militancy and the strong mass movement of the 1970s, no successful resistance was prepared. If we leave aside the ideologically very valuable resistance and the revolutionary insistence of individual revolutionary militants and a few limited revolutionary organizations, a “defeat without fight” ensued. The consequence of this was not only that the revolutionary boom has dissolved. Ideological and political devastation, affecting the entire future of the revolutionary movement, strained the following periods of struggle and shaped all subsequent generations. Despite all the similarities between the military coup of September 12, 1980 and the palace coup under Erdogan, there are significant differences: For over five years the vanguard of the revolution in Turkey and Kurdistan has been resisting the severe attacks of the AKP dictatorship. Even if this reality is viewed in isolation from all subjective and objective developments, it has enormous value, because while the fascist palace coup aimed to neutralize the revolutionary movement with shock blows and achieve victory in a short time, the revolutionary forces were able to build a long-term resistance line. Although a long period of five years has passed, the fascist palace coup still failed to achieve its strategic goals, which consist of the liquidation of the revolutionary vanguard and social movements. In general, the longer the struggle against fascism lasts, the lower become the political possibilities of counterrevolution. Fascist coups that do not achieve an early victory, lose a lot of strength over time. Revolutionary forces, on the other hand, who demonstrate their determination and invincibility at this time, can transform the resistance tendencies of the people into a real force. In the terminology of guerrilla warfare, the “prolonged war” will wear down and weaken the fascists, but gradually increase the anti-fascist forces.
The united revolutionary forces struggle today under conditions with many revolutionary possibilities, which subjectively concern the revolutionary vanguard and are objectively based on political developments. The strategic and tactical advantages of the fight against the coup today compared to the days of September 12, 1980 can be explained under the following points: - The fascist military coup of September 12, 1980 succeeded in neutralizing a revolutionary moment, whereby it also eliminated a large part of the revolutionary organizations and abolished the organizational integrity, functioning and working conditions of the remaining structures. In addition, the September 12 coup succeeded to achieve economic, political and social stability on behalf of the ruling class. In the broadest sense, the dynamic of the crisis that sparked a revolutionary situation was largely eliminated by the coup. Today the fascist palace coup failed in all of the above-mentioned issues. Although some revolutionary forces suffered a considerable loss of strength, the revolutionary resistance line could not be liquidated. Turkey is currently in its worst political, economic and social crisis. Even if the palace coup slows down the course of the collapse of the Turkish bourgeois state, which is in a structural crisis, it cannot create a medium-term solution. The situation is still such that the rulers can no longer rule as before and the oppressed no longer want to be live in the same way. Leading revolutionary organizations that want to convert this revolutionary situation into revolutions are ready. This is one of the main reasons the fascist palace coup is doomed to defeat. - The attitude of the revolutionary democratic masses is different today than in the period after September 12, 1980, when an atmosphere of fear was created. Even if there has been a significant decline in the mass movement in 18 the last 5 years, and the numerous massacres, waves of arrests and repression have had a gruelling effect, the most advanced sections of the mass movement persist in fighting. Some social movements, especially the democratic women‘s movement, are clear indicators of this. The links between the mass movement and revolutionary organizations could not be severed either. So the masses do not turn their backs on the revolutionary organizations and in almost all existing social movements the revolutionary vanguard plays a decisive role. The broadest masses, however, in spite of their silence still show the tendency to reject the fascist palace coup.
From September 12, 1980 until today, the level of development of the Turkish-Kurdish revolution has changed considerably. While the revolution in Turkey suffered a defeat on September 12, 1980, the revolution in Kurdistan was preparing for a major advance. Today the Kurdish pillar of our united revolution has triumphed in Rojava, awakened a social dynamic in Northern Kurdistan and created an important balance against the state. While the September 12 coup ended a phase of revolutionary upswing, the attempted coup by the Fascist palace today must defeat a revolution that has started and is making significant progress. -Despite its mass strength, strong cadre reserves and militancy, the revolutionary movement before September 12 was programmatically far from a power perspective. This lack of power perspective has had a direct impact on the choice of means and forms of struggle. The anti-fascist armed struggle of the era before September 12 could not reach the level of a political-military line aimed at power. This is the main reason why, after the coup, the possibilities of creating resistance positions with a political-military character were not seized upon.
Today there is a revolutionary vanguard that organizes revolutionary violence in a way that is aimed at the overthrow of the fascist chief regime and the victory of the revolution. Although the desired level has not yet been reached, today's political-military struggle indicates under a strategic point of view towards a different situation than before. -The most basic need of the fight against fascism are front organizations with a united character. However, it was impossible to build a united revolutionary leadership either before or after the fascist military coup of September 12, and 19 even successful alliances of action were scarce. The FKBDC (United Resistance Front against Fascism), which was founded to take up a political-military struggle against the fascist coup of September 12, 1980, remained on paper and disbanded due to the liquidational attitude of some structures. Although the revolutionary street movement continued in the early days of the military dictatorship and even some armed reprisals followed, a significant part of the old revolutionary organizations turned to liquidationism and orientated themselves on a reformist course within the ruling order.
Today, in contrast to September 12, there are united revolutionary organizations both on the practically legitimate fighting front and on the political-military front. There is uninterrupted resistance on both fronts. In particular, the increasing impact of violent revolutionary actions brought the fight against the fascist palace coup to a new level. This level is developing towards a political centre and becomes a barricade against the ideological dissolution of September 12, which included the goodbye to arms idea. - Prisons play a big role. The coup of September 12 had not only established its rule in the streets, but also conquered the prisons. The revolutionary forces, which the coup could not overcome in the dungeons, offered legendary resistance and developed into a real revolutionary armed force after the prison. However, if you look at the whole picture, the prisons at that time fulfilled the function of integrating the revolutionary movement into the ruling order. The prison policy of the fascist palace coup today is also in line with September 12. In this context there are tens of thousands of revolutionary, patriotic and anti-fascist prisoners. However, the prisoners did not submit to the fascist palace coup. In addition to strong ideological moral values, in some cases resistance in prisons also played a leading role for the political struggle. In view of the fascist coup of September 12, this is a great achievement. In the face of September 12, the revolutionary movement not only suffered organizational defeat, but also fell apart. So much so that over time it lost its ideological hegemony over the laboring people and could not prevent the erosion of revolutionary values. In the quarters, schools and villages under revolutionary hegemony, no armed mass resistance and no barricade fights against the military-fascist regime began
Although hundreds of armed revolutionaries marched from the Black Sea region to the Tarsus Mountains, no guerrilla warfare based on the unity of country and city began. In the months after September 12, when the revolutionary energy of countless militants and their belief in defeating the coup were still alive, no popular resistance was organized. The unused objective possibilities of organizing an anti-fascist resistance of the people against the regime of September 12 make it necessary to analyze the revolutionary mentality of the years before September 12. Especially because in the same objective conditions, the Kurdish freedom movement succeeded in preparing major advances. In summary, all parts of the revolutionary movement were shaped by revolutionary spontanism, which led to strategic myopia and tactical incompetence. The lack of a power perspective manifested itself in the uncertainty in the question how the widespread and effectively waged political struggle against civil fascists could leap straight to the level of a revolutionary war against the state apparatus. For example, the enormous potential of the Kurdish national revolutionary dynamic has not been realized.
The importance of the conflict between Alevis and Sunnis for the revolutionary strategy was not recognized. While the dynamism of the development of the revolutionary movement began to wane since the May 1, 1977 massacre, the need for a revitalized political struggle was not understood. In fact, there was neither a political nor a military strategy. The assassination of the most talented and strong-willed leaders of the revolutionary advance of 1971 prevented the birth and maturation of a practical revolutionary headquarters. Informal and mostly statuteless organizational structures mirrored the revolutionary spontaneity. The “movement or party” debate reflects the theorization of the superficial nature of the organization's spontaneous nature. The weakness of organizational strategies was demonstrated by the fatal blows to major revolutionary organizations only within a few months of September 12. Overall, the defeat after the coup on September 12, 1980 is a school of struggle. Revolutionary cadres of the 1970s transferred the positive characteristics of their generation, the lively appropriation of revolutionary values, devotion and spirit of sacrifice, to the new revolutionary generations, creating generations of victories. The coup experience also provides essential general information. Fascist coups are trying to crush the revolutionary struggle with the help of military and sheer violence. The fascist military coup of September 12 was successful in this way, and the fascist palace coup today aims to succeed in a similar way.
Although the characteristics of both coups are different, that reality remains unchanged. Using the example of Turkey and Kurdistan, we can see that under the current conditions the chances of success for the fight against the coup without a political-military fight are slim. Important achievements of the social movement also run the risk of disappearing if the political-military front is unsuccessful. If a coup means violence, then a line of struggle that does not speak of violence and is not properly organized and has no chance of success. The fascist palace today lacks opportunities to completely ban democratic rights and freedoms, which makes the practically legitimate front of battle an important field of battle, in contrast to the days of September 12. Any movement that legitimately, militantly and consistently pushes the boundaries of the fascist palace coup transforms the tendency of the masses to resist into political force and results in progressive forces being won over to the revolutionary ranks. The most important thing today is the continuity of resistance on every front. Every spark can trigger a revolutionary wildfire, our resistance creates sparks.
The spread of Corona Virus in India has been on the upswing despite the measures undertaken by the state. In most parts of India the suffering has been immense. The central Government took up the issue of Covid 19, with great amount of delay. From early February WHO started warning the Governments all around about the impending dangers of the pandemic. That time Indian Government was busy in organizing ‘Namaste Trump’ and the ruling party at Centre was busy with the operation Kamal to overthrow the Congress Government in MP. As The Janata Curfew was declared on 22nnd March and total lockdown on 24th March, the issue started being taken up seriously. To shirk the responsibility of the state, it found a very convenient target. The Tabligi Jamaat’s (TJ) seminar (13-15 March) in Markaz Nijamuddin was blamed for the spread of Corona by the Government and then by the media. Definitely some lapses must have occurred in organizing of the seminar at this time, and a large assembly taking place during a pandemic is inexcusable at one level.
At the same time thousands of people had come to India for the event ‘Namaste Trump’. Nearly two lakh people were exposed to this event. The Temples and Mutt congregations were going on. The TJ people had come to India with due permissions and screenings at airports. Despite all this the move to blame them for spreading Corona just exemplified the mind set and political manoeuvre of the Government. Demonising Tablighis was to target the whole Muslim Community of country.
The Godi (Lap) Media (or Communal media) went hysteric in proclaiming that Tablighis were deliberately spreading the disease as per the plan. This is their ‘Corona Jihad’ and they are preparing ‘Corona Bomb’ in Markaz, which is at stone’s throw from the police station of the area! The reach of this section of media is astounding. It got picked up and ‘Muslims are deliberately spreading the disease’ became part of the ‘common social understanding’. The impact on the social life was instant. Muslim truck drivers at places had to run away to escape the mobs. The Muslim vegetable vendors were beaten up at places and not permitted in many housing colonies.
After some of these Tablighis were quarantined and admitted to hospitals, it was a heyday for the fake news makers. What started doing rounds was that these Tablighis are making obscene gestures to nurses, are spitting, and are moving in the wards without clothes. All this gave grist to the mill of Islamophobia, already peaking in India. Police promptly went into action and cases were launched against the Tablighis who had come from abroad. The cases filed were under various clauses related to violation of VISA rules, spreading the epidemic, and also preaching Islam.
In couple of judgments on the issue, the role of media and police has come from scathing criticism. The blatant falsehood of FIR’s and the propaganda of section of Media stand exposed. In its judgement the Aurangabad bench of Bombay High court, the observation of the court are remarkably reflecting of the state of affairs of the attitude of police and media towards Muslims. The High Court clearly stated that the action against Tablighis is an attempt to find the scapegoat for the Covid 19. It observes, “, “A political Government tries to find the scapegoat when there is pandemic or calamity and the circumstances show that there is probability that these foreigners were chosen to make them scapegoats. The aforesaid circumstances and the latest figures of infection in India show that such action against present petitioners should not have been taken.” And further critiquing the media, the Court observes, “There was big propaganda in print media and electronic media against the foreigners who had come to Markaz Delhi and an attempt was made to create a picture that these foreigners were responsible for spreading covid-19 virus in India. There was virtually persecution against these foreigners.”
The judgment should go down as a case study of the attitude of state (police) and media towards its religious minorities in the country as those Muslims who came from aboard for seminars or touring the country were harassed to no end. The Court states, “This action indirectly gave warning to Indian Muslims that action in any form and for anything can be taken against Muslims. It was indicated that even for keeping contact with Muslims of other countries, action will be taken against them. Thus, there is smell of malice to the action taken against these foreigners and Muslim for their alleged activities. The circumstances like malice are important consideration when relief is claimed of quashing of F.I.R. and the case itself.”
Incidentally as Covid 19 shows us that those who matter and those who spread information are totally biased and look for scapegoats among Muslims, it also shows that there are some who are treated as Holy Cows. In the recent Delhi violence most of those who have been targeted are those who were active in protests against Government in anti CAA-NRC agitations. Those who gave provocative speeches, Desh Ke Gaddaron ko, (Anurag Thakur), There are rapist amongst those participating in the protests (Parvesh Varma) and ‘We will dislodge them physically (Kapil Mishra), are very much moving around while those who talked of peaceful protests are under the scanner.
Similar attitude was also observed in the series of bomb blasts, which shook the country between 2006-2008. Just one example will suffice, in the aftermath of Makkah Masjid blast (Hyderabad) scores of Muslim youth were arrested right away. They were released again by Court for the lack of any credible evidence. In Malegaon blast case ditto, one of the accused in the blast Pragya Thakur is on bail and has become the law maker. In practice what is ruling is the biased attitude, targeting some for their religion and exonerating others, again for their belonging to a particular religion!
(On August 31, a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra approved the decision by electricity regulators to grant Adani Power “compensatory tariffs” amounting to Rs 8,000 crore for electricity generated at its power plant in Rajasthan. The verdict, just before Justice Mishra’s retirement on September 2, is the seventh judgment since the beginning of 2019 in which benches headed by him have ruled in favour of Adani group of companies.)
Bengaluru/Gurugram: On August 31, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Kumar Mishra, that included Justices Vineet Saran and M R Shah, ruled in favour of a company in the Adani group in a dispute with public sector power distribution companies in Rajasthan. The verdict, issued three days before Justice Mishra retired from the court on September 2, has granted Adani Power Rajasthan Limited (APRL) – which owns a 1,320 megawatt capacity thermal power station in Kawai, Baran district – “compensatory tariffs” worth over Rs 5,000 crore and penalties and interest payments of nearly Rs 3,000 crore.
This “price” of Rs 8,000 crore will be borne by electricity consumers in the cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer. This is the seventh verdict in favour of Adani group companies issued by benches headed by Justice Mishra since the beginning of 2019.
The verdict was on petitions by power distribution companies (discoms) of the three cities, and a separate petition by the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF), a representative body of employees of public sector power companies, against a September 2019 verdict of the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL). Agreeing with the APTEL’s contention that APRL had suffered on account of a “change in law” for which it was owed compensation, the Supreme Court bench rejected the arguments made in appeal by the discoms and AIPEF.
The court held that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the government of Rajasthan providing an “assurance” that it would “facilitate” allocation of coal mined domestically as fuel supply for Adani’s power plant in Kawai, constituted the basis for power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed by the Adani group company with the Rajasthan discoms in 2010. This was despite those PPAs having been signed on the basis of APRL bidding successfully in a competitive auction, which it qualified to participate in on the basis of a coal supply agreement (CSA) it signed with its sister company, Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL), for coal imported from Indonesia.
Subsequently, the failure of the power plant to secure a coal allocation from the government constituted a “change in law,” the court held. This, coupled with the fact that in 2011 the price of coal imported from Indonesia had risen significantly above the levels agreed upon in the CSA that qualified APRL to participate in the auction, entitled the company to “compensatory tariffs,” the Supreme Court ruled.
Domestic or Imported Coal?
The case before the apex court depended on answers to two important questions.
In 2009, the Rajasthan discoms conducted an auction in which private power producers were invited to participate and present bids to win the right to sell electricity to the state. In order to qualify to participate in the auction, the private power generation companies needed to have in place CSAs – either a domestic coal linkage that would supply enough coal for the entire lifetime of the PPAs or a CSA for imported coal that would supply at least half of the fuel requirement for the first five years of the PPAs.
At the time the auction was announced, with requests for proposals being circulated, in February 2009, the Adani group company was in the process of setting up its power plant at Kawai, but did not have any CSA. While in a MoU signed by the government of Rajasthan with AEL in March 2008, the government had assured its support to the project in facilitating it to obtain a domestic coal linkage, this did not constitute a concrete agreement that would qualify it to participate in the auction.
While preparing its bid, in June 2009, APRL wrote to the Rajasthan government seeking its support under the terms of the MoU for securing a coal linkage, requesting either the allocation of excess coal from existing coal mines owned by the state government, including the Parsa East Kente Basan mine in Chhattisgarh, which another Adani group company was contracted to mine, or to support its application for allotment of a captive coal block to the Union government.
However, without a CSA guaranteeing its coal supply, APRL would not qualify to bid in the auction. Hence, in June 2009, it executed a CSA with group company, AEL, for supply of coal imported from Indonesia for the Kawai project. In addition, APRL also applied for a long-term coal linkage contract to the Union Ministry of Coal in July 2009. With this CSA for imported coal in place, APRL submitted its bid in the auction, attaching the agreement to its bid.
It was because of this agreement that APRL’s bid was considered in the first place during the auction. Having qualified, the Rajasthan government sought a clarification from APRL regarding the evaluation of its bid. APRL clarified that it intended to “use domestic coal as well as imported coal.” Pointing to the CSA, it said: “A duly executed Fuel Supply Agreement for more than 50% of the coal requirement for a period of 5 years has been submitted along with this bid.”
The company added: “…we have also submitted with the bid a MoU executed between the GoR (government of Rajasthan) and AEL wherein...the state has assured in making its efforts to facilitate in getting coal linkage/block or coal from any other source for the power project.”
Hence, APRL stated that “we (will) meet the fuel requirement on the basis of imported coal tie-up,” adding: “… we are sure to get domestic fuel tie-up with the support of the GoR. In view of this we submit that our bid should be evaluated on the basis of Domestic Coal tie-up. We undertake that payment considering domestic coal escalations will be acceptable to us during the term of the PPA (power purchase agreement).”
However, once its bid qualified and was evaluated by the discoms, APRL cancelled its CSA with AEL on June 10, 2009. The agreement had been used only to qualify for the auction.
APRL’s bid was the lowest and it won a contract to supply electricity to the state discoms from its 1,320 megawatt (MW) capacity Kawai power project. A letter of intent (LoI) was issued to APRL by the discoms on December 17, 2009, which stated the following: “Your offer to provide 1,200 MW power at the rates mentioned at Annexure-1 and escalations thereof on domestic coal is based on your commitment that the above rates would be applicable even in case of coal requirement being met by you by way of back up arrangement with imported coal.”
This meant that even if APRL were to use imported coal under its CSA with AEL, the tariff would be calculated based on the prices of domestic coal. This LoI was “unconditionally accepted” by APRL.
Terms of Power Purchase Agreement
However, the PPA that was signed the following month, on January 28, 2010, did not reflect the same terms. While it noted that the fuel supply arrangement for the PPA was based on the supply of domestic coal with a fallback support arrangement of imported coal for five years, it dropped the language clarifying that the tariff would be calculated against domestic coal prices, irrespective of the source of the coal – imported or domestic.
Given this sequence of facts, the first question before the Supreme Court was whether the bid was based on domestic coal or imported coal. The APTEL and the Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission (RERC) that had ruled on the dispute before it, had both held that the bid was indeed based on domestic coal.
While the discoms, represented by senior advocate C Aryama Sundaram argued that though the bid was evaluated based on a domestic coal linkage, no such linkage was actually in place, and it was the CSA for imported coal that was a fallback option for supplying 50% of the coal required by the power plant for the first five years that qualified APRL’s bid. In fact, the CSA had been for 61% of the coal requirement. Accordingly, the discoms argued that if any compensation has to be claimed, it could only arise on the remaining 39% of the domestic coal that APRL had said it would use for the project during the first five years, if this was the subject of a change in law.
Senior advocate and Congress party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Adani group company, meanwhile, argued that the CSA was only a qualifying document, and had no bearing on the tariff which was determined entirely against domestic coal. The entire bid was premised and accepted on domestic coal, and hence was affected by a “change in law” when the government failed to provide the promised coal linkage, and therefore APRL was entitled to compensation, he argued.
The Arun Mishra-led bench came down on the side of the Adani group company, ruling that the bid was based entirely on domestic coal.
Padamjit Singh, the convenor of the AIPEF, in an interview to Newsclick said this was the result of a “self-goal” by the Rajasthan discoms: “The Rajasthan discoms took the precaution to put a condition in the LoI that regardless of whether Adani Power were to use foreign or domestic coal it will be paid power tariffs determined according to domestic coal prices. This is recorded in the Supreme Court order as well. But the problem arose because this condition was not put in the PPA.”
Singh asked that “if Adani Power was awarded the contract under a certain understanding, why was that condition not put in the PPA, when it was such a critically important condition?” He said this condition was the basis on which the PPA was awarded.
“Adani had accepted the LoI unconditionally, so there would have been no way to challenge it if the discoms had put it in the PPA and the matter would have rested right there,” the AIPEF convenor pointed out, adding: “This was where the Rajasthan discoms lost the game. It was a self-goal. It was a huge blunder, or perhaps the discom officials were arm-twisted. There is no reasonable explanation.”
Libbying by Rajasthan Governement
The second significant issue before the Supreme Court was whether, having assured APRL in its MoU with the Rajasthan government that it would facilitate it to acquire a coal linkage, did APRL face a “change in law” when it failed to do so until 2018? Under the terms of the PPA, “change in law” is one of the conditions that enables either party to seek a tariff revision.
This question too, ultimately was decided by a “self-goal” by the Rajasthan discoms.
In August 2007, a LoI was issued by the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Udpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL) in favour of AEL to develop the Parsa East and Kente Basan (PEKB) coal block located in northern Chhattisgarh. The LoI stipulated that the coal could be utilised at the discretion of the Rajasthan government for new upcoming thermal power projects.
In March 2008, a MoU was signed between the Rajasthan government and AEL for the latter to set up a coal-based thermal power generation project in Kawai that also stipulated that the state government assured its support to the project in ensuring allotment of a coal linkage. Between May and June 2008, AEL wrote to the Rajasthan government six times, requesting that it consider allotment of coal from the PEKB coal mine, which was already being developed. With no such allotment forthcoming, at the end of August 2008, AEL requested the state government to apply to the Ministry of Coal for a coal block to be allocated to the Kawai project for the development of a captive coal mine.
In July 2009, when it was preparing to file its bid in the auction for the right to sell power to the discoms, AEL applied for a coal linkage to the government. It did so under the terms of the National Coal Distribution Policy of 2007, under which projects approved by a Standing Linkage Committee of the government would receive 100% of its coal from the public sector Coal India Limited (CIL).
By the beginning of 2010, APRL had PPAs in place with the Rajasthan discoms, but no coal linkage yet. At this stage, APRL once again wrote to the Rajasthan government seeking allocation of a captive coal block for its Kawai project. It further requested the state government to execute a fuel supply agreement between RRVUNL (which had discretionary authority over the use of coal from the PEKB coal mine) and itself. Starting in January 2011, the Rajasthan government lobbied the Union government to seek the allocation of a coal block for the Kawai power project.
In a previous article for NewsClick, the authors of this article have described this process in detail:
The Rajasthan government wrote to the Ministry of Coal in January 2011 requesting it to allocate coal blocks identified by the government in Chhattisgarh to meet the coal requirements for various power projects in the state, including the one at Kawai. Receiving no response for over a year, in February 2012, the state government wrote to the Central government again, this time to both the Ministry of Coal and Ministry of Power, requesting that the Kawai project be considered at par with other power projects in the Central government’s 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), despite the project being part of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
In response, the Ministry of Power responded that the project was part of the Twelfth Plan and would be considered for implementation in due course. Meanwhile, the ministry suggested that the government of Rajasthan examine the possibility of increasing the mining capacity in coal blocks already allocated to it in Chhattisgarh and allocate coal for the Kawai project from these blocks.
At the same time, in February 2012, the Standing Linkage Committee decided that no new fuel supply agreements (FSAs) would be signed by CIL owing to a shortage of coal.
The Rajasthan government wrote back in November 2012 that there was not enough surplus coal in its allocated coal blocks allegedly without attempting to revise the quantity of coal it was recovering from those mines. In effect, the Rajasthan government, after having committed itself to securing domestic coal for the Kawai project, and after being asked by both APRL and the Central government to supply coal from its own coal mines in Chhattisgarh, was refusing to do so.
Thereafter, the Rajasthan government escalated its lobbying in New Delhi. On November 26, 2012, a letter was sent by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to the Ministries of Coal and Power requesting ad hoc allocations of coal, as the Kawai power plant was due to commence operations. The Rajasthan government wrote another letter to the Planning Commission in January 2013. In December 2012, the Kawai power plant started operating on imported Indonesian coal on a “test” basis, and was synchronised with the state’s power grid in August 2013.
In February 2013, APRL wrote to the discoms stating that the Rajasthan government’s persistent attempts to secure a domestic coal linkage had failed and that since the plant was running on Indonesian coal, the prices of which had surged following the implementation of a new law by the Indonesian government, it would require a revision of tariff to compensate the private company for its higher costs due to use of imported coal.
With no domestic coal linkage in place, in April 2013, with the scheduled supply of power due to begin, APRL approached RERC with a petition seeking a hike in electricity tariff over what had been fixed, based on its bid in the competitive auction in 2010.
After this, in May 2013 the government decided to change the National Coal Distribution Policy (NCDP), that was notified in July 2013. In this amended policy, CIL would supply a portion of the fuel requirements of power plants which were yet to secure coal linkages, and supply the remainder by importing coal, which the power generators could also import for themselves.
Change in Lasw?
The question before the court was, whether this inability of APRL to secure a domestic coal linkage constituted a change in law. But reviewing the arguments and counter arguments would be futile because, in an affidavit submitted to the RERC by the discoms, months before the Ashok Gehlot led Congress government in Rajasthan demitted office in December 2013, the discoms admitted that it did agree that a change in law had indeed taken place!
“This was a suicidal admission,” said Singh. “This was quoted everywhere – from the RERC to the APTEL to the Supreme Court as well – and it has been exploited to the hilt.”
He added: “There was a swing of opinion or attitude somewhere mid-way in the case. It was like a friendly match and the government in Rajasthan appeared to be inclined to favour Adani Power and did not take a hard line against giving them any kind of concession. But somehow later on, they seem to have woken up and decided to contest it tooth and nail. But that changeover came too late. And by then they had already scored a number of self-goals.”
(Mis-)Using Energy Watchdog Judgment
With the admission by the discoms, the judgment draws on the so-called “Energy Watchdog” judgment of the Supreme Court of April 2017. In that case, also a demand for compensatory tariffs by an Adani-owned power plant – its Mundra power plant which supplies power to Gujarat, and several other states – the Supreme Court had ruled that it was entitled to limited compensation on account of change in law, because it already had a CSA in place with CIL, which was modified by the amended NCDP of 2013.
However, in the same judgment issued by a bench comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman and Pinaki Chandra Ghosh, the Supreme Court had also elucidated a fundamental principle: “The price payable for the supply of coal is entirely for the person who sets up the power plant to bear...it is clear that an unexpected rise in the price of coal will not absolve the generating companies from performing their part of the contract for the very good reason that when they submitted their bids, this was a risk they knowingly took...the risk of supplying electricity at the tariff indicated was upon the generating company.”
The present judgment draws from the Energy Watchdog judgment in its understanding of change in law, while appearing to ignore the above principle. Despite not having been a CSA in place, the verdict by the Justice Arun Mishra-led bench held that the MoU between the Government of Rajasthan and APRL was sufficient to fulfil the basis for holding that APRL had suffered a change in law.
Over Invoicing of Coal?
A Third Issue, that had been raised by the AIPEF, was that of allegations of over-invoicing of coal imported from Indonesia, that have been raised against 40 Indian companies including companies in the Adani group by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the investigation arm of India’s customs authorities under the Ministry of Finance.
The DRI has alleged that companies in the Adani group, among other private and public sector companies, had artificially inflated the prices of imported coal by manipulating invoices and valuations. Additionally, it had alleged, the illicit gains thus made were being parked in offshore tax haven jurisdictions.
Specifically with regard to its investigations into the Adani group, the DRI is in a legal battle at the Supreme Court over Adani’s attempts to block its investigation. In 2018, the DRI had sent Letters Rogatory to Singapore, Hong Kong, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates seeking the support of the courts in those countries to obtain banking and other documents it required for its investigation into the Adani group’s import of coal from Indonesia. The Adani group sought to quash these letters rogatory, first in the courts in Singapore, and having failed there, at the Bombay High Court. The Bombay High Court had in 2019 ruled in Adani’s favour and quashed the letters rogatory, which the DRI is currently appealing before the Supreme Court. In January of this year, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court’s order as it heard the case.
The Justice Arun Mishra-led bench refused to entertain the issue. Noting that the AIPEF’s counsel, Prashant Bhushan, had sought to bring the matter to the court’s attention, the verdict reads “we are of the opinion that until and unless there is a finding recorded by the competent court as to invoicing, the submission cannot be accepted.”
Impact of Judgement
The one count on which the Supreme Court’s verdict has given a minor relief to the discoms is on the interest rate payable on the compensatory tariffs due, calculated back to the beginning of the supply of electricity from the plant in 2013. While the Adani group company had sought an interest rate of 2% more than the SABR interest rate (Stochastic Alpha Beta Rho, a measure used in banking and finance), the Supreme Court’s verdict has capped it at 9%.
AIPEF’s Singh explained what this meant in quantitative terms: “As a result of this judgment, the discoms will face an immediate financial burden. The original claim which was allowed by the APTEL – 50% of which was paid after an interim order – was around Rs 5,130 crore. On that, Adani Power Rajasthan has claimed interest of around Rs 3,000 crore. The Supreme Court's judgment has not modified the original claim at all, but has said that the interest rate can be slightly reduced. So the interest would be marginally reduced. In the judgment, it has been said it should not exceed 9% while Adani had sought an interest rate 2% higher than the SABR rate. In total, the amount would still approach Rs 8,000 crore.”
This article is a revised and extended version of a talk presented on July 12, 2020, to the concluding session (of the Main Forum) of the Seventh South-South Forum on Sustainability: Climate Change, Global Crises, and Community Regeneration. The Conference/Webinar was organized by Lau Kin Chi and Sit Tsui through Lingnan University in Hong Kong. Reproduced from the Monthly Review September issue, 2020 as a study material –Editorial Board
Any Serious Treatment of the renewal of socialism today must begin with capitalism’s creative destruction of the bases of all social existence. Since the late 1980s, the world has been engulfed in an epoch of catastrophe capitalism, defined as the accumulation of imminent catastrophe on every side due to the unintended consequences of “the juggernaut of capital.” Catastrophe capitalism in this sense is manifested today in the convergence of (1) the planetary ecological crisis, (2) the global epidemiological crisis, and (3) the unending world economic crisis. Added to this are the main features of today’s “empire of chaos,” including the extreme system of imperialist exploitation unleashed by global commodity chains; the demise of the relatively stable liberal-democratic state with the rise of neo-liberalism and neo-fascism; and the emergence of a new age of global hegemonic instability accompanied by increased dangers of unlimited war.
The climate crisis represents what the world scientific consensus refers to as a “no analogue” situation, such that if net carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion do not reach zero in the next few decades, it will threaten the very existence of industrial civilization and ultimately human survival. Nevertheless, the existential crisis is not limited to climate change, but extends to the crossing of other planetary boundaries that together define the global ecological rift in the Earth System as a safe place for humanity. These include: (1) ocean acidification; (2) species extinction (and loss of genetic diversity); (3) destruction of forest ecosystems; (4) loss of fresh water; (5) disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; (6) the rapid spread of toxic agents (including radio-nuclides); and (7) the uncontrolled proliferation of genetically modified organisms.
This rupturing of planetary boundaries is intrinsic to the system of capital accumulation that recognizes no insurmountable barriers to its unlimited, exponential quantitative advance. Hence, there is no exit from the current capitalist destruction of the overall social and natural conditions of existence that does not require exiting capitalism itself. What is essential is the creation of what István Mészáros in Beyond Capital called a new system of “social metabolic reproduction.” This points to socialism as the heir apparent to capitalism in the twenty-first century, but conceived in ways that critically challenge the theory and practice of socialism as it existed in the twentieth century.
The Polarization of the Class System
In the United States, key sectors of monopoly-finance capital have now succeeded in mobilizing elements of the primarily white lower-middle class in the form of a nationalist, racist, misogynist ideology. The result is a nascent neo-fascist political-class formation, capitalizing on the long history of structural racism arising out of the legacies of slavery, settler colonialism, and global militarism/imperialism. This burgeoning neo-fascism’s relation to the already existing neoliberal political formation is that of “enemy brothers” characterized by a fierce jockeying for power coupled with a common repression of the working class. It is these conditions that have formed the basis of the rise of the New York real-estate mogul and billionaire Donald Trump as the leader of the so-called radical right, leading to the imposition of right-wing policies and a new authoritarian capitalist regime. Even if the neoliberal faction of the ruling class wins out in the coming presidential election, ousting Trump and replacing him with Joe Biden, a neoliberal-neofascist alliance, reflecting the internal necessity of the capitalist class, will likely continue to form the basis of state power under monopoly-finance capital.
Appearing simultaneously with this new reactionary political formation in the United States is a resurgent movement for socialism, based in the working-class majority and dissident intellectuals. The demise of U.S. hegemony within the world economy, accelerated by the globalization of production, has undermined the former, imperial-based labour aristocracy among certain privileged sections of the working class, leading to a resurgence of socialism. Confronted with what Michael D. Yates has called “the Great Inequality,” the mass of the population in the United States, particularly youth, are faced with rapidly diminishing prospects, finding themselves in a state of uncertainty and often despair, marked by a dramatic increase in “deaths of despair.” They are increasingly alienated from a capitalist system that offers them no hope and are attracted to socialism as the only genuine alternative. Although the U.S. situation is unique, similar objective forces propelling a resurgence of socialist movements are occurring elsewhere in the system, primarily in the Global South, in an era of continuing economic stagnation, financialization, and universal ecological decline.
But if socialism is seemingly on the rise again in the context of the structural crisis of capital and increased class polarization, the question is: What kind of socialism? In what ways does socialism for the twenty-first century differ from socialism of the twentieth century? Much of what is being referred to as socialism in the United States and elsewhere is of the social-democratic variety, seeking an alliance with left-liberals and thus the existing order, in a vain attempt to make capitalism work better through the promotion of social regulation and social welfare in direct opposition to neo-liberalism, but at a time when neo-liberalism is itself giving way to neofascism. Such movements are bound to fail at the outset in the present historical context, inevitably betraying the hopes that they unleashed, since focused on mere electoral democracy. Fortunately, we are also seeing the growth today of a genuine socialism, evident in extra-electoral struggle, heightened mass action, and the call to go beyond the parameters of the present system so as to reconstitute society as whole.
The general unrest latent at the base of U.S. society was manifested in the uprisings in late May and June of this year, which took the form, practically unheard of in U.S. history since the U.S. Civil War, of massive solidarity protests with millions of people in the streets, and with the white working class, and white youth in particular, crossing the colour line en masse in response to the police lynching of George Floyd for no other crime than being a Black man. This event, coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic depression, led to the June days of rage in the United States.
But while the movement toward socialism, now taking hold even in the United States at the “barbaric heart” of the system, is gaining ground as a result of objective forces, it lacks an adequate subjective basis. A major obstacle in formulating strategic goals of socialism in the world today has to do with twentieth-century socialism’s abandonment of its own ideals as originally articulated in Karl Marx’s vision of communism. To understand this problem, it is necessary to go beyond recent left attempts to address the meaning of communism on a philosophical basis, a question that has led in the last decade to abstract treatments of The Communist Idea, The Communist Hypothesis, and The Communist Horizon by Alain Badiou and others. Rather, a more concrete historically based starting point is necessary, focusing directly on the two-phase theory of socialist/communist development that emerged out of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme and V.I. Lenin’s The State and Revolution. Paul M. Sweezy’s article “Communism as an Ideal,” published more than half a century ago in Monthly Review in October 1963, is now a classic text in this regard.
Marx’s Communism as the Socialist Ideal
In The Critique of the Gotha Programme—written in opposition to the economistic and labourist notions of the branch of German Social Democracy influenced by Ferdinand Lassalle—Marx designated two historical “phases” in the struggle to create a society of associated producers. The first phase was initiated by the “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat,” reflecting the class-war experience of the Paris Commune and representing a period of workers’ democracy, but one that still carried the “defects” of capitalist class society. In this initial phase, not only would a break with capitalist private property take place, but also a break with the capitalist state as the political command structure of capitalism. As a measure of the limited nature of socialist transition in this stage, production and distribution would inevitably take the form of to each according to one’s labour, perpetuating conditions of inequality even while creating the conditions for their transcendence. In contrast, in the later phase, the principle governing society would shift to from each according to one’s ability, to each according to one’s need and the elimination of the wage system. Likewise, while the initial phase of socialism/communism would require the formation of a new political command structure in the revolutionary period, the goal in the higher phase was the withering away of the state as a separate apparatus standing above and in antagonistic relation to society, to be replaced with a form of political organization that Frederick Engels referred to as “community,” associated with a communally based form of production.
In the later, higher phase of the transition of socialism/communism, not only would property be collectively owned and controlled, but the constitutive cells of society would be reconstituted on a communal basis and production would be in the hands of the associated producers. In these conditions, Marx stated, “labour” will have become not a mere “means of life” but “itself…the prime necessity of life.” Production would be directed at use values rather than exchange values, in line with a society in which “the free development of each” would be “the condition for the free development of all.” The abolition of capitalist class society and the creation of a society of associated producers would lead to the end of class exploitation, along with the elimination of the divisions between mental and manual labour and between town and country. The monogamous, patriarchal family based on the domestic enslavement of women would also be surmounted. Fundamental to Marx’s picture of the higher phase of the society of associated producers was a new social metabolism of humanity and the earth. In his most general statement on the material conditions governing the new society, he wrote: “Freedom, in this sphere [the realm of natural necessity], can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism of nature in a rational way… accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy” in the process of promoting conditions of sustainable human development.
Writing in The State and Revolution and elsewhere, Lenin deftly captured Marx’s arguments on the lower and higher phases, depicting these as the first and second phases of communism. Lenin went on to emphasize what he called “the scientific distinction between socialism and communism,” whereby “what is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the ‘first,’ or lower phase of communist society,” whereas the term communism, meaning “complete communism,” was most appropriately used for the higher phase.23 Although Lenin closely aligned this distinction with Marx’s analysis, in later official Marxism this came to be rigidified in terms of two entirely separate stages, with the so-called communist stage so removed from the stage of socialism that it became utopianized, no longer seen as part of a continuous or ongoing struggle. Based on a wooden conception of the socialist stage and the intermediary principle of distribution to each according to one’s labour, Joseph Stalin carried out an ideological war against the ideal of real equality, which he characterized as a “reactionary, petty-bourgeois absurdity worthy of a primitive sect of ascetics but not of a socialist society organized on Marxist lines.” This same stance was to persist in the Soviet Union in one way or another all the way to Mikhail Gorbachev.
Hence, as explained by Michael Lebowitz in The Socialist Imperative, “rather than a continuous struggle to go beyond what Marx called the ‘defects’ inherited from capitalist society, the standard interpretation” of Marxism in the half-century from the late 1930s to the late ’80s “introduced a division of post-capitalist society into two distinct ‘stages,’” determined economistically by the level of development of the productive forces. Fundamental changes in social relations emphasized by Marx as the very essence of the socialist path were abandoned in the process of living with and adapting to the defects carried over from capitalist society. Instead, Marx had insisted on a project aimed at building the community of associated producers “from the outset” as part of an ongoing, if necessarily uneven, process of socialist construction.
This abandonment of the socialist ideal associated with Marx’s higher phase of communism was wrapped up in a complex way with changing material (and class) conditions and eventually the demise of Soviet-type societies, which tended to stagnate once they ceased to be revolutionary and even resurrected class forms, heralding their eventual collapse as the new class or nomenklatura abandoned the system. As Sweezy argued in 1971, “state ownership and planning are not enough to define a viable socialism, one immune to the threat of retrogression and capable of moving forward on the second leg of the movement to communism.” Something more was needed: the continuous struggle to create a society of equals.
For Marx, the movement toward a society of associated producers was the very essence of the socialist path embedded in “communist consciousness.” Yet, once socialism came to be defined in more restrictive, economistic terms, particularly in the Soviet Union from the late 1930s onward, in which substantial inequality was defended, post-revolutionary society lost the vital connection to the dual struggle for freedom and necessity, and hence became disconnected from the long-term goals of socialism from which it had formerly derived its meaning and coherence.
Based on this experience, it is evident that the only way to build socialism in the twenty-first century is to embrace precisely those aspects of the socialist/ communist ideal that allow a theory and practice radical enough to address the urgent needs of the present, while also not losing sight of the needs of the future. If the planetary ecological crisis has taught us anything, it is that what is required is a new social metabolism with the earth, a society of ecological sustainability and substantive equality. This can be seen in the extraordinary achievements of Cuban ecology, as recently shown by Mauricio Betancourt in “The Effect of Cuban Agro-ecology in Mitigating the Metabolic Rift” in Global Environmental Change. This conforms to what Georg Lukács called the necessary “double transformation” of human social relations and the human relations to nature. Such an emancipatory project must necessarily pass through various revolutionary phases, which cannot be predicted in advance. Yet, to be successful, a revolution must seek to make itself irreversible through the promotion of an organic system directed at genuine human needs, rooted in substantive equality and the rational regulation of the human social metabolism with nature.
Freedom as Necessity
Building on G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy, Engels famously argued in Anti-Dühring that real freedom was grounded in the recognition of necessity. Revolutionary change was the point at which freedom and necessity met in concrete praxis. Although there was such a thing as blind necessity beyond human knowledge, once objective forces were grasped, necessity was no longer blind, but rather offered new paths for human action and freedom. Necessity and freedom fed on each other, requiring new periods of social change and historical transcendence. In illustrating this materialist dialectical principle, Lenin acutely observed, “we do not know the necessity of nature in the phenomena of the weather. But while we do not know this necessity, we do know that it exists.” We know the human relation to the weather and nature in general inevitably varies with the changing productive relations governing our actions.
Today, the knowledge of anthropogenic climate crisis and of extreme weather events is removing human beings from the realm of blind necessity and demanding that the world’s population engage in the ultimate struggle for freedom and survival against catastrophe capitalism. As Marx stated in the context of the severe metabolic rift imposed on Ireland as a result of British colonialism in the nineteenth century, the ecological crisis presents itself as a case of “ruin or revolution.” In the Anthropocene, the ecological rift resulting from the expansion of the capitalist economy now exists on a scale rivalling the biogeochemical cycles of the planet. However, knowledge of these objective developments also allows us to conceive the necessary revolution in the social metabolic reproduction of humanity and the earth. Viewed in this context, Marx’s crucial conception of a “community of associated producers” is not to be viewed as simply a far-off utopian conception or abstract ideal but as the very essence of the necessary human defense in the present and future, representing the insistent demand for a sustainable relation to the earth.
But where is the agent of revolutionary change? The answer is that we are seeing the emergence of the material preconditions of what can be called a global environmental proletariat. Engels’s Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1845, was a description and analysis of working-class conditions in Manchester, shortly after the so-called Plug Plot Riots and at the height of radical Chartism. Engels depicted the working-class environment not simply in terms of factory conditions, but much more in terms of urban developments, housing, water supply, sanitation, food and nutrition, and child development. The focus was on the general epidemiological environment enforced by capitalism (what Engels called “social murder” and what Norman Bethune later called “the second sickness”) associated with widespread morbidity and mortality, particularly due to contagious disease. Marx, under the direct influence of Engels and as a result of his own social epidemiological studies twenty years later while writing Capital, was to see the metabolic rift as arising not only in relation to the degradation of the soil, but equally, as he put it, in terms of “periodical epidemics” induced by society itself.
What this tells us—and we could find many other illustrations, from the Russian and Chinese Revolutions to struggles in the Global South today—is that class struggle and revolutionary moments are the product of a coalescence of objective necessity and a demand for freedom emanating from material conditions that are not simply economic but also environmental in the broadest sense. Revolutionary situations are thus most likely to come about when a combination of economic and ecological conditions make social transformations necessary, and where social forces and relations are developed enough to make such changes possible. In this respect, looked at from a global standpoint today, the issue of the environmental proletariat overlaps with and is indistinguishable from the question of the ecological peasantry and the struggles of the Indigenous. Likewise, the struggle for environmental justice that now animates the environmental movement globally is in essence a working-class and peoples’ struggle.
The environmental proletariat in this sense can be seen as emerging as a force all over the world, as evident in the present period of ecological-epidemiological struggle in relation to COVID-19. Yet, the main locus of revolutionary ecological action in the immediate future remains the Global South, faced with the harsh reality of “imperialism in the Anthropocene.” As Samir Amin observed in Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx’s Law of Value, the triad of the United States, Europe, and Japan is already using the planet’s bio-capacity at four times the world average, pointing toward ecological oblivion. This unsustainable level of consumption of resources in the Global North is only possible because a good proportion of the bio-capacity of society in the South is taken up by and to the advantage of these centres [in the triad]. In other words, the current expansion of capitalism is destroying the planet and humanity. The expansion’s logical conclusion is either the actual genocide of the peoples of the South—as “overpopulation”—or, at the least, their confinement to ever-increasing poverty. An eco-fascist strand of thought is being developed which gives legitimacy to this kind of “final solution” to the problem.
New System of Social Metabolic Reproduction
A Revolutionary process of socialist construction aimed at building a new system of social reproduction in conformity with the demands of necessity and freedom cannot occur without an overall “orienting principle” and “measure of achievement” as part of a long-term strategy. It is here, following Mészáros, that the notion of substantive equality or a society of equals, also entailing substantive democracy, comes into play in today’s struggles. Such an approach not only stands opposed to capital at its barbaric heart but also opposes any ultimately futile endeavour to stop halfway in the transition to socialism. Immanuel Kant spelled out the dominant liberal view shortly after the French Revolution when he stated that “the general equality of men as subjects in a state coexists quite readily with the greatest inequality in degrees of the possessions men have.… Hence, the general equality of men coexists with great inequality of specific rights of which there may be many.” In this way, equality came to be merely formal, existing merely “on paper” as Engels pointed out, not only with respect to the labour contract between capitalist and worker but also in relation to the marriage contract between men and women. Such a society establishes, as Marx demonstrated, a “right of inequality, in its content, like every right.” The idea of substantive equality, consistent with Marx’s notion of communism, challenges all of this. It demands a change in the constitutive cells of society, which can no longer consist of possessive individualists, or individual capitals, reinforced by a hierarchical state, but must be based on the associated producers and a communal state. Genuine planning and genuine democracy can only start through the constitution of power from the bottom of society. It is only in this way that revolutions become irreversible.
It was the explicit recognition of the challenge and burden of twenty-first-century socialism in these terms that represented the extraordinary threat to the prevailing order constituted by the Venezuelan Revolution led by Hugo Chávez. The Bolivarian Republic challenged capitalism from within through the creation of communal power and popular protagonism, generating a notion of revolution as the creation of an organic society, or a new social metabolic order. Chávez, building on the analyses of Marx and Mészáros, mediated by Lebowitz, introduced the notion of “the elementary triangle of socialism,” or (1) social ownership, (2) social production organized by workers, and (3) satisfaction of communal needs. Underlying this was a struggle for substantive equality, abolishing the inequalities of the colour line and the gender line, the imperial line, and other lines of oppression, as the essential basis for eliminating the society of unequals.
In “Communism as an Ideal,” Sweezy emphasized the new forms of labour that would necessarily come into being in a society that used abundant human productivity more rationally. Many categories of work, he indicated, would “be eliminated altogether (e.g. coalmining and domestic service), and insofar as possible all jobs must become interesting and creative as only a few are today.” The reduction of the enormous waste and destruction inherent in capitalist production and consumption would open up space for the employment of disposable time in more creative ways.
In a society of equals—one in which everyone stands in the same relation to the means of production and has the same obligation to work and serve the common welfare—all “needs” that emphasize the superiority of the few and involve the subservience of the many will simply disappear and will be replaced by the needs of liberated human beings living together in mutual respect and cooperation.… Society and the human beings who compose it constitute a dialectical whole: neither can change without changing the other. And communism as an ideal comprises a new society and a new human being.
More than simply an ideal, such an organizing principle in which substantive equality and substantive democracy are foremost in the conception of socialism/communism is essential not only to create a socialist path to a better future but as a necessary defense of the global population confronted with the question of survival. Dystopian books and novels notwithstanding, it is impossible to imagine the level of environmental catastrophe that will face the world’s peoples, especially those at the bottom of the imperialist hierarchy, if capitalism’s creative destruction of the metabolism of humanity and the earth is not stopped mid–century.
According to a 2020 article on “The Future of the Human Climate Niche” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, based on existing trends, 3.5 billion people are projected to be living in unliveable heat outside the human climate niche by 2070, under conditions comparable to those of the Sahara desert. Even such projections fail to capture the enormous level of destruction that will fall on the majority of humanity under capitalist business as usual. The only answer is to leave the burning house and to build another now.
The International of Workers and Peoples
Although untold numbers of people are engaged in innumerable struggles against the capitalist juggernaut in their specific localities all around the world, struggles for substantive equality, including battles over race, gender, and class, depend on the fight against imperialism at the global level. Hence, there is a need for a new global organization of workers based on the model of Marx’s First International. Such an International for the twenty-first century cannot simply consist of a group of elite intellectuals from the North engaged in World Social Forum-like discussion activities or in the promotion of social-democratic regulatory reforms as in the so-called Socialist and Progressive Internationals. Rather, it needs to be constituted as a workers-based and peoples-based organization, rooted from the beginning in a strong South-South alliance so as to place the struggle against imperialism at the centre of the socialist revolt against capitalism, as contemplated by figures such as Chávez and Amin.
In 2011, just prior to his final illness, Chávez was preparing, following his next election, to launch what was to be called the New International (pointedly not a Fifth International) focusing on a South-South alliance and giving a global significance to socialism in the twenty-first century. This would have extended the Bolivarian Alliance for Peoples of Our America to a global level. This, however, never saw the light of day due to Chávez’s rapid decline and untimely death.
Meanwhile, a separate conception grew out of the efforts of Amin, working with the World Forum for Alternatives. Amin had long contemplated a Fifth International, an idea he was still presenting as late as May 2018. But in July 2018, only a month before his death, this had been transformed into what he called an Internationale of Workers and Peoples, explicitly recognizing that a pure worker-based International that did not take into account the situation of peoples was inadequate in confronting imperialism. This, he stated, would be an organization, not just a movement. It would be aimed at the alliance of all working peoples of the world and not only those qualified as representatives of the proletariat…including all wage earners of the services, peasants, farmers, and the peoples oppressed by modern capitalism. The construction must also be based on the recognition and respect of diversity, whether of parties, trade unions, or other popular organizations of struggle, guaranteeing their real independence.… In the absence of [such revolutionary] progress the world would continue to be ruled by chaos, barbarian practices, and the destruction of the earth
The creation of a New International cannot of course occur in a vacuum but needs to be articulated within and as a product of the building of unified mass organizations expanding at the grassroots level in conjunction with revolutionary movements and de-linkings from the capitalist system all over the world. It could not occur, in Amin’s view, without new initiatives from the Global South to create broad alliances, as in the initial organized struggles associated with the Third World movement launched at the Bandung Conference in 1955, and the struggle for a New International Economic Order.52 These three elements—grassroots movements, delinking, and cross-country/cross-continent alliances—are all crucial in his conception of the anti-imperialist struggle. Today this needs to be united with the global ecological movement.
Such a universal struggle against capitalism and imperialism, Amin insisted, must be characterized by audacity and more audacity, breaking with the coordinates of the system at every point, and finding its ideal path in the principle of from each according to one’s ability, to each according to one’s need, as the very definition of human community. Today we live in a time of the perfect coincidence of the struggles for freedom and necessity, leading to a renewed struggle for freedom as necessity. The choice before us is unavoidable: ruin or revolution.
Sometime in 2011, the Congress-led UPA saw the Indian middle class turn on it. That year, anti-corruption protests in Delhi drew significant middle-class support, prompted by wall-to-wall media coverage. At around the same time, courts and the bureaucracy started to attack the Union government on charges of corruption, citing two cases of massive, alleged scams – corruption in the allocation of telecom spectrum as well as coal blocks (even though neither eventually resulted in any United Progressive Alliance politicians being convicted). The Indian middle class is tiny – but as this episode shows, it can also have influence far beyond its numbers. So what is this influential demographic thinking about the current Union government?
Economically, India’s growth is worse off that it has even been during its seven decades as an independent country. For the first quarter of 2020-2021, the Indian gross domestic product contracted by a never-before-seen nearly 24%. And even that might be an understatement, with the shrinkage in the informal sector not being properly measured. Former chief statistician of India, Pronab Sen projects that economic shrinkage could go up to 35%. For the past two decades, India appeared on the top of global GDP growth rankings – but not anymore. The middle class were one of the primary beneficiaries of economic growth that came after the elaborate system of Central government-controls on private industry or Licence Raj was dismantled in 1991. In fact, right till 2019, middle-class Indians (along with the rich) reported high rates of income growth.
The end of this run, then, will come as a shock to the Indian middle class. In fact, research by think tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy shows that middle-class jobs have taken the biggest hit due to India’s draconian Covid-19 shutdown. From April to July, as many as 18.9 million salaried jobs were lost. Moreover, this pain is expected to last for some time. “While salaried jobs are not lost easily, once lost they are also far more difficult to retrieve,” explained CMIE. “Therefore, their ballooning numbers are a source of worry.”
Unsurprisingly, for the first time in six years, the Modi government is seeing small indications that the middle class could be unhappy. The past month has seen hectic online protest against the delay of the results of the Staff Selection Commission examination (for lower-grade Union government jobs) as well as a delay in conducting an exam for the Railway Recruitment Board’s Non-Technical Popular Categories. In one dramatic instance, Varun Awasthi, an educator with edutech form Unacademy, while speaking about the delayed exams, even warned that students would “pick up AK-47s instead of pens”. Similar anger was seen against the Modi government for refusing to postpone undergraduate engineering and medical entrance examinations during the pandemic, with students launching a successful campaign to click the “dislike” button on Prime Minister Modi’s weekly radio broadcasts.
Maybe sensing some signs of disquiet, earlier during his Independence Day speech, Modi had made sure to single out the middle class and emphasise what his government had done for them. However, any predictions that we will see a repeat of 2011 might be jumping the gun. For one, most of the Indian middle class loves Modi and more broadly the BJP. As many as 38% of the middle class and 44% of the upper middle class voted BJP in 2019, by far the most popular party in that category. To cut this another way: since the BJP appeals only to Hindus amongst the middle class – an astounding 61% of Hindu upper-caste voters picked the BJP in 2019 – with the caste group’s allegiance to the saffron party forming India’s most stable vote bank. Given the close relationship between caste and class in India, the vast majority of the Hindu middle class would be upper caste.
This sort of stable relationship points to a deep ideological commitment to the BJP – rather than a transactional once that would be quickly shaken up by the economic crash. To add to this is the fact that no other party at the moment appeals to middle-class sensibilities. As a result, reporting by scroll.in has shown that the middle class is hurting economically – but would stop short of blaming Modi for the crisis. In some cases, in fact, Modi is even praised by the very same people suffering as a result of his government’s policies.