Growing Trend of Farmers Quitting Agriculture?

 

Agriculture, especially food production, is facing a structural crisis globally. World food demand is growing in absolute terms.  For instance, world's population is increasing rapidly at a rate of 1.05% per year, i.e., 81 million people per year reaching up to 9.7 billion by 2050, as noted by World Bank (according to UN population projection, it could reach only 9.15 billion by 2050). Hence, taking the insufficient availability food at present into consideration, a minimum 70 percent increase in global food production (along with its doubling in poor countries) within 30 years is required to meet the emerging demand. However, as of now, almost one-third of the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, which is more than enough to feed world’s 690 million (8.9 percent of world population) most poor and starving people, while nutritious and healthy diets are still unaffordable to more than 3 billion people.

 

While farming and food demand are growing in general, world is also confronting an existential question as to who (and how) will produce the food for people’s sustenance. For, according to global and country-specific studies, large number of farmers are quitting agriculture even as the new generation is increasingly becoming disinterested in farming. Or, as the elder generation is to retire from cultivation, it is not being replaced by the next generation, and the stark reality at a global level is that even rural youth is reluctant to resort to farming as a profession. Even where agriculture is the dominant means of livelihood, for majority of the youth there, it is only a default source of livelihood simply by inheritance. Consequently, agricultural population across the world is ageing without an adequate replacement by the next generation. For instance, in Japan, within a decade, around 40 percent of farmers will quit agriculture without being replaced, and the average age of farmers there is 67 now; in Europe it is 65 and 58 in US. In view of this grave situation, imperialist governments like Japan have reportedly embarked on a massive plan including the provision of a series of material incentives to encourage people below 45 years of age to remain in farming or become farmers.

 

India is widely held as an agricultural country as almost half of the population is still depending on agriculture and allied activities. The average age of operational land landholders in the country is around 55. Though majority of India’s youth have rural/agricultural background and still live in rural areas, they also, in accordance with the general global trend, are not interested to pursue agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. At the same time, based on available data, rural India is also becoming less and less ‘agrarian’ in terms of income. For instance, while around three-fourths of rural households’ income came from farm sources in 1970, today, after half-a century, it is much below one-third, and major part of rural earnings now comes from non-farm sources. And the average income of a farmer is estimated at around one-fifth of that with people having non-farm sources of livelihood. Obviously, today agriculture’s share in India’s GDP is reaching around 15 percent (compared to an average 4 percent in western imperialist countries) compared to 43 percent in 1970.  In US and EU, on an average, only less than 2 percent of the population works in agriculture, On the other hand, with around 50 percent of the population still clinging on to agriculture, the dependency load on agriculture is probably the heaviest for India. However, India is no exception to the general trend towards large number of people leaving agriculture. According the last Census (2011), with the dawn of the 21st century, the number of Indian farmers giving up agriculture has been 2000 per day, in addition to tens of thousands of peasants forced to end their life every year.  

 

Corporatisation as the Neoliberal Panacea

 

Taking note of this emerging trend of large number of farmers leaving agriculture, corporate think-tanks and neoliberal ruling classes along with agencies like World Bank and WTO have proposed replacement of peasant/farmer farming with corporate farming as an alternative. In the process, capitalist farmers who may withstand in agriculture will be transformed as junior partners of agribusiness MNCs. The idea is to convert agriculture as a multi-million profit-oriented business and to replace the entire conventional farming with high tech agriculture ranging from “smart farms” to “digital food activism” involving investors and high-tech youths. Up-scaling conventional farming to digital platforms, extending digital solutions to farming practices and use of specific crop models, collection and exchange of farm data that cover a host of multidimensional tasks such as prediction on crop health, soil quality and water availability, provision of aerial imaging data on weather conditions even using drones, information on market linkages, and online/digital trading, banking and financial services and so on, which are frequently lauded by neo-colonial-neoliberal institutions such as World Bank and WTO, are the striking features of emerging corporate agriculture. “Agri startups” with cross-border links akin to that in industrial/service sectors have also started on a flourishing basis.

 

For instance, a 2019 report by the Delhi-based Maple Capital Advisors has estimated an investment worth $244.59 million in agri startups oriented towards smart-farm based premium quality fresh fruits and vegetables through efficient marketing and supply-chain management. These emerging but fast-growing initiatives are inalienable subsets of the multi-billion dollar empire of agricultural-corporatisation led by agri-business MNCs that embrace everything from farming to retail trade through specialised corporate structures controlling input factors like seeds, irrigation, chemical fertilisers and electricity cost, management of output and product pricing complex networks of both offline and online trading. Of course, this macro aspect connected with agricultural corporatisation as embodied in global agricultural policies, the manner in which corporate boardrooms are dictating policies, how corporate lobbyists work in government institutions and influence policies and direct agricultural research, etc., being widely discussed issues, are not taken up for discussion here. Obviously, corporate control over agricultural means of production (including land through contract farming) and chains of marketing and trade and tariff policies are already known to all concerned people.

 

This multi-dimensional high-tech, corporate-financed farming has already proved to be highly profitable and lucrative for investors. In the liberalised input-output market, it became easy for agribusiness giants to impose high input prices on farmers on the one hand, and to pressurise farmers to accept low prices for their products on the other. While corporate MNCs make super-profits from rising food prices, the farmers bearing all risks associated with cultivation are denied even reasonable prices, forcing many of them to ‘get out’ of agriculture at the earliest, while the poor are either being unable to buy adequate food or forced to set apart the whole of their earnings to purchase food. Meanwhile, the corporate agenda is to bring the entire agriculture under its firm grip as its appendage through such methods as ‘contract farming’ and finish off farmers as an independent category or class. As is obvious, and as already discussed, the three black Farm Laws promulgated in India are envisaged to fully accomplish this corporate task.

 

Indian Reality

 

 

The concrete Indian situation needs to be evaluated amidst the emerging general global trend of replacing peasant agriculture by high-tech corporate farming. Though the general trend towards large number of farmers quitting agriculture is visible in India too, for the vast majority of Indian peasants, together with its role as the sole source of livelihood, on account of historical, social and cultural factors, agriculture is a way of life too. The most decisive role of agriculture in India’s sustenance has been brought to the fore during the pandemic. While all other sectors of the economy collapsed on account of the utter mismanagement of the ruling regime, agriculture with a ‘positive growth rate’ remained as the only saviour of the country and the last resort for the millions of migrant workers, amidst many adversities most important of which are the anti-farmer policies of Modi government. However, the social devastation and economic distress of the rural India including peasants that lay behind this positive macro-level agricultural data still remain unreported by official statistics. Despite being stamped as unproductive and inefficient by neoliberal ideologues, Indian peasants are still in a life-and-death struggle to cling to land even in the midst of superimposed neoliberal- corporatisation policies that have undercut the economic viability and sustainability of peasant farming. In this context, it would be in order to reiterate certain crucial issues relevant to peasant farming today with specific relevance to India which are applicable to other non-western societies too.

 

  1. Large scale shift of people from the primary (agricultural) sector to secondary sector composed of industry and to tertiary sector (even bypassing the secondary sector) or service sector is part of the mainstream conceptualisation on capitalist development that evolved mainly in the west. For instance, while the percent of population in western imperialist countries on average vary within 1-2 percent, in imperialist China, the economy of which is world’s largest in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, 35 percent of the population is still depending on agriculture. Hence the theory of an absolute ‘sectoral transition of population’ from agriculture to industry and then to services, and the consequent prediction on the demise of peasant farming as an indicator of economic advancement is a western notion having little relevance to non-western societies such as India.

 

  1. Another crucial question is linked with the much trumpeted efficiency and productivity of big farms. The criteria based on which productivity is measured with respect to mono-crop/ single crop farming as practiced in corporate agriculture are inapplicable to multi-crop, inter-crop or mixture-crop cultivation pursued by traditional farmers. Small and middle peasants unlike corporate farming follow an integrated system of farming with crop rotation, often combining cropping with livestock breeding, all of which serve replenishment of soil fertility, better quality air and water and overall maintenance of the eco-system.  Hence, from the perspective of eco-friendly farming that makes efficient use of soil, inputs, and above all labour, peasant farming should be considered as more productive, and the quantified definition of efficiency and productivity as usually applied to mono-crop agriculture becomes totally irrelevant here.

 

  1. Thus, if we take all the various factors, both tangible and intangible, that involve in agricultural production, then the ‘total factor productivity’ in small farms could be seen as larger than the corporate-controlled mono-crop farms where everything is mechanised. Labelling of small peasant-farms as inefficient/unproductive and as obstacle to development has no scientific basis. On the other hand, for sustaining the livelihood of large sections of the population as well as for the production of staple food crops and for serving community food needs, peasant farming plays a central role in Afro-Asian-Latin American countries. One of the immediate consequences of the penetration of corporate capital into agriculture at a global has been the sky-rocketing prices of food. Hence, prediction on the imminent demise of small and family farms in dependent countries is part of a propaganda blitzkrieg intended to lay red carpet for the corporate penetration into their agriculture.

 

  1. According to recent farm studies by well-meaning scholars, small/ family farms are the safest route for sustainable agriculture avoiding loss of biodiversity. Equally important is its importance in respect of broad-based economic development and community empowerment that are well-nigh impossible in the case of corporate-style agriculture. The common/public gain from peasant farming in terms social and institutional factors are not generally discussed in mainstream development discourse. For instance, an immediate outcome of corporate onslaught on agriculture is the growth of absentee land ownership, loss of employment for rural population, the draining off of income and wealth to urban centres, neglect of rural towns, wiping out of local trading shops, and all civic amenities such as rural roads, water supply, etc., leading to large-scale migration to urban centres, growth of slums and consequent social tensions.
  2. The ultimate of outcome these and other trends will be horrific concentration of land and rural assets in the hands of a few corporate agribusiness companies and their local junior partners. It will result in hitherto unknown levels of pauperisation of the peasantry, rapid rise in the number of unorganised/informal workers and slave labour and above all an unprecedented growth in unemployment and underemployment throughout the country.

 

The Political task

 

The historic farmers’ struggle in India against the three Farm Laws becomes significant in this context. While an all-out offensive to repeal these pro-corporate laws is the immediate need of the hour, in view of the emerging agricultural trends and consequent strengthening of both market and political power of corporates with far reaching consequences, progressive-democratic forces should go beyond that and should have an objective evaluation of the emerging scenario based on which a pro-active political approach against agricultural corporatisation should be put forward. That’s there are so many covert moves for surrendering agriculture to agribusiness which is the dominant trend today. What requires is a comprehensive initiative for sustaining peasant farming, focussing on the most challenging task of production of adequate food, protection of environment and ensuring quality of people’s lives.

 

To be precise, moving away from text-book oriented formulations and stereo-typed perspectives on agriculture on the one hand, and avoiding both establishmentarian and sectarian solutions on the other, the task is to develop a political alternative based on a comprehensive evaluation of the corporate threats that are multifarious and complex that cannot be resolved at the individual-farmer level. The core of such a people’s alternative is public/community intervention resolutely isolating the pro-corporate sections who are the logical enemies of a pro-people, pro-nature and sustainable agriculture. Instead, a scientific approach to peasant farming, focussing on the most challenging task of production of adequate food, protection of environment and ensuring of quality of people’s lives is to be evolved as part of a program of democratisation of the society. Discarding the mainstream model of development, a program of generating adequate employment in agriculture and allied sectors, including ‘professionalisation’ of agriculture for attracting youth, is to be put forward

 

Essential component of such a public intervention is removing the reactionary pro-corporate sections from land-ownership and assign it to landless peasant farmers whose principal means of livelihood is agriculture, along with the use of such land as ‘model farms’ under state supervision according to the concrete situation. Appropriate credit facilities and required input-output marketing linkages so as to eliminate exploitative are also required. In the present context where corporate-market forces are dominant, instead of leaving everything to individual farmers, they may be organised under cooperatives/peasant committees backed by the technical and financial support from the state which should also ensure adequate and appropriate agricultural-scientific research. Along with this urgent political intervention should be initiated to thwart superimposition of all World Bank and WTO dictated neoliberal agricultural policies that out-rightly serves corporate-agribusiness MNCs.

 

In brief, taking in to account these and related fast-moving developments in agriculture (of course, intertwined with other sectors), it is necessary to appropriately update and refresh the agrarian program.

May 26: Observe May 26 as Black Day, against the corporate fascist Modi government, declaring solidarity with the struggle of the farmers to oppose corporatization of agriculture, and with the people who are facing increasing agony under a government which do not bother to help them in this critical period, but use this also for increasing monopolization, making the divide between the rich and poor widest ever.

On this occasion joining with like minded forces organize all forms of protest possible according to present difficult pandemic conditions. At state level webinars can be organized to plan for advancing the movement against corporate fascist Modi in coming days.

As the Farmers’ Struggle to Repeal the 3 Farm Acts for Corporatization of Agriculture Gets Increasing support through Maha Panchayats, Modi Government Hatches More Conspiracies and Uses Fascist Terror to Oppose it!

Even after completing four months, the farmer’ siege of Delhi by the farmers’ movement is continuing more vigorously than ever. During this period the corporate fascist government of RSS/BJP led by Modi-Shah has used every weapon in their anvil to divide, defame and suppress it. It used Supreme Court also to intervene and weaken it. It used the isolated incidents during the massive rally of lakhs of farmers and lakh tractors on 26th January to unleash violence and to throw away the struggling farmers from around Delhi. But, when the farmers retaliated by expanding the scope of the movement by organizing Maha Panchayats all over the country, trying to  involve all the farmers and other struggling sections of the people in the country in the movement, people effectively boycotting the BJP leaders in Punjab and Haryana, Modi found the second wave of the pandemic, forcible collection for Ram temple and raising Jai Sri Ram as the war  cry of the RSS parivar are not sufficient to divert attention from his war of attrition with the farmers. So, he has decided to move out of Delhi, engaging fully in the campaign for the elections to the five state assemblies, especially in W. Bengal, to divert attention of the people. He is not leaving any stone unturned to win the elections especially in Bengal and to use it as a trump card to unleash another round of fascist terror to weaken and suppress the farmers’ movement. This is a great challenge, and the AIKSCC and SKM have decided to meet the challenge. They have given the slogan: No Vote to BJP and appealing to defeat it in all the states. This slogan which was already raised and popularized by the revolutionary left and struggling forces in these states got a further boost with the farmers’ leaders going to all the states and calling for the people to defeat BJP and its allies as a sign of solidarity with the farmers’ movement.

The RSS/BJP led Modi government is in desperate situation. It does not mean that it will lay down its arms and surrender. History teaches that the fascists shall try all heinous means to prolong their rule till they are hanged by the people or forced to shoot themselves. But in the present Indian situation, the Manuvadi Brahmanical fascist forces are still having the upper hand ideologically, culturally and politically within the ruling system. They have penetrated all sectors of administration through the domination of the Brahmanical upper caste sections who control more than 75% of the top layers of all departments, police, judiciary, armed forces. Their domination is more in the corporate sector and media. All institutions where the progressive elements had a say are entirely saffronized. All central agencies like CBI, ED, NIA etc are under RSS control and are used to win over, to terrorize and silent the opposition, or to throw them in to jail. Besides, as the RSS chief often boasts, RSS is not only working through the BJP, it has penetrated almost all the mainstream parties and even the leaders of the minority religions, the Savarna sections as I now happening in Kerala. It was easy for RSS to create this situation as not only Congress or other ruling class/regional parties, even the parliamentary left, all of whom pursuing soft Hindutva for vote bank politics, have never launched any campaign against RSS and its ideology; on the other hand all of them still pursue an appeasement policy towards RSS. So, the evolutionary left and struggling forces while mobilizing their full force to strengthen the farmers’ movement and for its victory, have to intensify the campaign and politicization against the RSS ideology and practice, the main prop of neoliberal corporate politics wielding political power in our country.

In the present situation, not only to mobilize the masses more widely and to make the farmers’ struggle victorious, besides helping to initiate movements of the working class and other sections to beat back attacks on them, the most important task is to build the broadest possible anti-fascist united platform of all forces opposed to BJP and its allies. At the same time, the revolutionary left and struggling forces have to wage an uncompromising campaign against the RSS ideology and practice, while putting forward an alternative program and line of action, to polarize the revolutionary forces. With this clear perspective let us rally as many forces as possible and spread the movement at all India level so that conditions can be created for the victory of the farmers’ movement against corporatization of agriculture.

The farmers’ movement for the repeal of the three farm laws which affect them closely but have been rammed through without consulting them, has now entered its second month. It is of historic significance. It is not just about minimum support prices but also about the survival of the entire system of public procurement and distribution of foodgrains. Without ensuring the economic viability of foodgrains production in North India  the grain basket of the country no continuity can be ensured for the public procurement and distribution system, which, despite its drawbacks, continues to provide a modicum of food security to vast numbers of our population.

Recreation of Colonial Times

Northern industrial countries, namely the United States, Canada and the European Union (EU), cannot produce the tropical and sub­tropical crops in high demand by their own consumers while they have mountains of surplus grain and dairy products, the only goods their single ­crop lands are capable of producing for climatic reasons. They must find export markets for these. For over two decades, they have put relentless pressure on developing countries to give up their own public procurement systems, insisting that they should buy their food grains from advanced countries, while diverting their food­crop­producing land to contract farming of export crops that these industrial countries want but cannot themselves produce.

In short, they want a recreation of the economic scenario of the colonial period. Dozens of developing countries, ranging from the Philippines in the mid­-1990s to Botswana (Africa) a decade later, succumbed to this pressure. They paid the price when with rapid diversion of grain to ethanol production in the U.S. and the EU, world grain prices trebled in a matter of months from end­2007. Thirty seven newly import dependent countries saw food riots, with urban populations being pushed into greater poverty.  Food security for the developing world is far too important a matter to be left to the global market, but the relentless attack on their public stocking of grain for ensuring food security continues. India had barely managed to pull back from the brink a decade ago: procurement prices were raised substantially after virtually stagnating during the six years preceding the 2008 price­spike and grain output in Punjab grew again from near­stagnant levels as economic viability improved. But absorption of foodgrains did not improve as much owing to continued exclusion of many of the actually poor from ‘Below Poverty Line’ ration cards, while unemployment caused by the 2016 demonetisation followed by the 2020 pandemic has reduced aggregate demand by now to a historic low.

A Case of Unfair Trade

Our farmers have been exposed for no rhyme or reason to unfair trade, and to the volatility of global prices that has plunged them into unrepayable debt and distress — in one village in Punjab, there were as many as 59 widows of farmers forced into suicide. Trade with the North is unfair, because the  advanced countries in the mid­1990s, converted their own price support measures to massive subsidies given as direct cash transfers to their own farmers, transfers that in a blatantly self-serving manner they wrote into the Agreement on Agriculture as ‘not subject to reduction commitments’.

India along with other developing countries signed the  Agreement with very little idea of the implications of the small print. For the U.S., the direct cash transfers it gives to its 2.02 million farmers, amounting to a huge half or more of its annual farm output value, uses up only 1% of its budget. For India, over 50% of the entire central government annual Budget would be required to give even a quarter of annual farm output value to our 120 million farmers, which is an economic impossibility and an administrative nightmare.

It’s About a Reasonable Price

The farmers have made it amply clear that they do not want petty cash handouts; all they want is a reasonable price for the vital crops they produce for the nation, so that they can cover costs and live at a modest  standard. In Indian circumstances, the price support system is in fact the only feasible one. While depletion of groundwater in Punjab is a real problem, the solution lies in introducing improved agronomic practices such as the System of Rice Intensification which economises water, not in reducing rice production. One does not cut off  one’s head because of a headache. It is precisely the support prices for crops that had been deliberately put by advanced countries under completely arbitrary and absurd computation rules in the Agreement on Agriculture.

The U.S. complained against India to the World Trade Organization in May 2018 that since the ‘reference price’ for calculating support was the 1986­88 average world price of a crop which they converted to rupees at the then prevailing ¹ 12.5 per dollar exchange rate, India’s support price per quintal for rice and wheat in 2013-14 should have been at the most 235 and 354, respectively! The actual support prices were 1,348 and 1,386, and the difference, over 1,000 per quintal, was then multiplied by the entire 2013­14 output of rice and wheat, and came to 77% and 67% of their output values (https://bit.ly/3mROANe). 

This, the U.S. claimed, was support provided in gross violation of the permitted 10%!  Two months ago the U.S. sent fresh questions to India. Every kind of dishonest and absurd rule had been put into the Agreement on Agriculture to short­change gullible developing countries. Our farmers are among the lowest cost producers in the world, and the support prices in 2013-14 at the prevailing exchange rate of ¹ 60.5 per dollar were well below global prices, which mean that actual support was negative.

Right Assessment

Current compression of global demand means that wheat and riceprices are at historic lows, advanced country farm subsidies are at historic highs and their desperation to dump their grain on our markets has intensified. While our protesting farmers have correctly identified domestic firms as potential beneficiaries of the new marketing laws that they oppose, foreign agribusiness corporations are as great a danger.

Farmers have already experienced contract farming with foreign agribusinesses in Punjab and Haryana. They say clearly that they do not wish to deal with powerful, faceless private corporations that renege on price and quantity contracts when it suits them. Despite all its inefficiency and payment delays, they prefer to sell to government agents at the stipulated minimum support prices. They are absolutely correct in thinking that deregulation of markets as mandated by the new laws, and the entry of business firms, which will be not only Indian but also foreign mean a severe undermining of the entire system of public procurement and minimum support prices.

The ‘Green Energy’ Push

There are many Indian intellectuals who argue that importing subsidized grain from the North will benefit poor consumers here. They forget that there is an increasingly powerful opinion advocating ‘green energy’ in advanced countries, pushing for even greater conversion of grain to ethanol; hence initial low­priced grain imports, if permitted today, will not only destroy our farmers but will soon give way to a scenario of price spikes and to urban distress as experienced earlier by developing countries forced into import dependence. Anyone with a concern for our own hard­ working farmers and poverty-stricken consumers must support the farmers’ demands against the machinations of both local and global business elites.

This note is written on the eve of the historic tractor rally going to take place at the national capital, Delhi, as part of the assertion of people’s right to get the laws adopted by the party in power, if it goes against their basic interests.  The Delhi police had barricaded Delhi heavily to prevent the farmers who were marching to the capital to participate in the Delhi Chalo call of the AIKSCC from entering the city. So, after reaching the borders they blocked all the six National Highways and went on strengthening the siege as even after rounds after rounds of discussions the Modi government refused to repeal the three Farm Acts.

As the farmers declared to organize the tractor rally to express their determination to get the Acts repealed, on the appeal of the Delhi police, the Supreme Court gave it the right to take decision on giving permission for it. Even when thousands of tractors started marching to Delhi from different states, till 23rd January afternoon police refused permission. Following this, when the Samyukta Sangharsh Morcha announced its decision to hold the rally even without permission, the police was forced to change its stand.  It has now decided to remove the barricades and allow the tractor rally through the city streets. Probably, this is the first time after coming to power six years ago, Modi rule is compelled to change its decision. As the struggle is going to be intensified following the rally, and powerful solidarity actions by the fraternal organizations are  increasing, the Modi rule will be compelled to repeal the 3 Farm Acts also sooner or later.

By successfully leading the struggle to stop corporatization of the agricultural sector through these Acts, the farmers as well as their supporters all over the country are greatly enthused. It is going to lead to more mobilization of the toiling masses for the victory of this struggle. Besides, all over the country the left masses along with the oppressed classes and sections have joined their movements in ever larger numbers, to resist and defeat the neo-liberal, corporatization moves by the neo-fascist forces. As a result, the objective conditions for developing the revolutionary advances as well as for preparing the subjective forces capable  of taking this task forward have also become more favorable.

I

Presently, the Modi rule, guided by the neo-fascist RSS and representing the most reactionary section of the ruling class, serving as junior partner of imperialism, mainly US imperialism, is engaged In wiping out all parliamentary opposition for establishing a stable Hindutva vote-bank through its hate-politics and using the state machinery, judiciary and media in all of which the RSS has penetrated effectively. Grossly violating the Constitutional provisions, it has brought Ram temple and Jai Sri Ram as its manifesto and slogan. In continuation to lynching in the name of alleged beef eating to cow slaughter the hate politics and Islamophobia is intensified through campaign against the so-called Love Jihad.

At the same time, using saffronization intensified at maddening pace, and now Covid-19 as covers, a series of economic measures are taken starting with de-monetization, GST, liberalization-privatization of all remaining public sector units including Railways, etc, to reduction of all labor laws to 4 Labor Codes, imposition of the New Education Policy-2020 and the bull-dozing of the 3 Farm Acts are speeded up for the corporatization of all fields, taking the neoliberal raj to its zenith.

In its bid to weaken and terrorize the parliamentary opposition, it has succeeded to poach Congress MLAs in MP and replaced the Congress government in the state by its own govt, is engaged in de-stabilizing the Congress govt. in Rajasthan, managed to win a majority in recent Bihar elections, is engaged in bulldozing to power somehow or other in W. Bengal in the coming elections and using forceful collection of funds in the name of construction of Ram temple terrorizing the Muslim minority and al opposition led state governments. In this, it is utilizing all the central agencies including the CBI, NIA, ED, IB etc and the Constitutional institutions like the Supreme Court, Election Commission etc. As happened during the discussion on the 3 Farm Bills in the Rajya Sabha, even the parliament is reduced to serve its whims violating the well established procedures. The J&K is reduced to a colony under military boots. An atmosphere of terror and overwhelming domination of the RSS is created giving its parivar right to dominate everywhere and in everything and everyone opposed to it as anti-national. An impression was being created that RSS and its Modi rule have become omnipotent.  The Godi media through lies and slanders is creating the impression that the Hindurashtra has come in to existence.

Following BJP led NDA’s big victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections riding on the saffron wave and chauvinist fervor created based on the Pulwama incident, in which 43 para-military forces were killed, and the Balakot surgical strike master-minded by the central agencies, horrifying details of whose planning and execution are slowly coming out now, the Modi-Shah team further intensified the fascist offensive. Article 370 ws struck down, J&K was reduced to 2 UTs, and even the whole leadership of opposition parties there were detained,  terrorizing the people there. The Constitutional amendment to the Citizenship Law was passed, with the threat of preparing a new NPR, threatening millions from Muslim minority with the danger of losing the citizenship.

Though against this a powerful mass upsurge took place spear-headed by the Shahin Bagh movement, the outbreak of the Covid19 helped Modi to suppress it. The RSS openly provoked the communal rots in Northeast of Delhi, destroying the life and properties of Muslims terrorizing them. RSS parivar got further boost as the Supreme Court allotted the land where Babri Masjid stood for Ram temple construction, Modi  launching the construction violating all secular principles, and BJP using Jai Sri Ramas its main election slogan. It is an all out offensive by the neo-fascist RSS forces.

II

In this situation, it is a welcome development that the parliamentary opposition has come out against the Modi government. But they have proved themselves incapable for organizing meaningful resistance against the corporate this fascist offensive of Modi government.  Similarly, even after the privatization of all core sectors including the Navratnas, and severe attacks on the rights of the working class, except for occasional one day strikes in protest, the central trade unions have not launched any serious movement against these onslaughts on the working class and the people by the fascist forces in the interest of the corporate forces. Similarly, the parliamentary left, which was already decimated in W. Bengal and Tripura, is almost paralyzed in many states or uncertain to use al forms of struggle against RSS/BJP, primarily targeting it. Many of the Communist revolutionary forces who are sticking to their old concepts in spite of vast changes in the society, are left clueless, have become inactive or have gone behind the parliamentary left. In this grave situation, the question of resisting and beating back the RSS led offensive through Modi govt had become the most serious challenge before the revolutionary forces and the masses of the people.

III

It was in such an almost desperate situation, following the Delhi Chalo on 27th November call by the AIKSCC, the farmers started marching to Delhi, especially from Punjab, where they were protesting against the Ordinance issued in June for corporatization of agriculture using various forms of struggle including the railway bundh. As the Haryana police dug up the NHs and raised barricades on the roads from Punjab and Rahasthan, it looked like the farmers will not be able to advance towards Delhi. But, from 26th November, when the farmers threw away the barricades, overcame the lathi charge, water cannons and tear gas shells and reached the Delhi borders at Singhu and Tikri on 27th, the situation started changing.

As the Delhi police had raised very strong barricades and deployed large forces of police, CRP, BSF, Rapid Action Forces and Commandos on all border points, the famers’ organizations decided to start siege of the capital city by mobilizing more forces. Soon the farmers from UP, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and all over the country started reaching the borders, and siege of Delhi from Gazipur Chilla and Palvel on UP border, and Shajahanpur on Rajasthan-Delhi road also started. Though 11 rounds of discussions took place between Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (KSM) and representatives of the government, they have failed as Modi govt is not prepared to accept the farmers’ demand for repeal of the 3 Farm Acts. So, the KSM is organizing a massive tractor rally in the city on 26th January as announced earlier and going to continue the siege till its demands are accepted.

In order to weaken and disintegrate the struggle the Modi govt as well as the BJP led state governments have resorted to all heinous moves, with the RSS parivar and ministers indulging in vicious propaganda, including dubbing the movement as led by Khalistanis, funded by China and Pakistan, tukda-tukda gang and even anti-national, when tens of thousands of ex-servicemen from Punjab and Haryana are also active in it. The PM, Modi, and top BJP leaders are repeatedly asserting that these farm laws shall benefit the farmers, consciously concealing the fact that they will not only harm the interests of the farmers immensely, but also destroy the food security and devastate the Public Distribution System. So, it is not only a struggle of the farmers, but of all toiling and oppressed masses.

Contrary to Godi media propaganda, the farmers’ movement has spread to all regions and more sections of people are coming forward in solidarity. Though the central trade unions could not mobilize the workers in large numbers in support of the struggle, all of them and other TU centers like TUCI, mass organizations of students, youth, women etc also have come forward to support the struggle. Though Modi tried to involve the Supreme Court to confuse the KSM leaders, he has failed. The only result was that the SC and the CJI got more exposed. As the movement is completing two months, already more than 150 comrades have become martyrs in the cold weather of Delhi. In spite of it, the farmers and their supporters are in fighting spirit. As thousands of tractors have started marching to Delhi from all states, the Delhi police came under great pressure and it has now permitted the tractor rally inside Delhi.  As the farmers’ organizations have declared unanimously if is a victory for the farmers. As the historic movement is spreading to all corners of the country challenging the Modi government, it is coming under great pressure. Giving permission for the tractor rally is a reflection of this. The farmers’ organizations have declared that they will not lift the siege of Delhi until the 3 Farm Acts are repealed.

Without any doubt, it is the most powerful people’s upsurge in the history of our country:  it challenges the neoliberal policies dictated by the IMF-World Bank-WTO trio to serve the interest of the imperialist powers. So, it is an anti-imperialist struggle, in essence. It is a positive thing that almost all the political parties, mass organizations and people’s movements, except those of the RSS parivar have come out in some form or other in support of the struggle. If the Anti-CAA/NPR movement had attracted large sections of people last year, the farmers’ struggle and the solidarity movement in support of it is many times more powerful and broad-based. It has exposed the advocates of pessimism who come out with many theories why such a broad based movements and revolutionary changes  cannot take place in India, including many from the parliamentary left. On the contrary, the ongoing farmers’ upsurge shows that India is no exception; in this phase of neoliberal/corporate offensive of the global imperialist system, similar to the numerous people’s upsurges taking place against the ruling forces in both neo-colonially dependent and imperialist countries, there are increasing possibilities for the anti- CAA, anti-farm Acts like upsurges taking place repeatedly in India also. Experience during last 2-3 decades show that in the absence of a powerful revolutionary communist party to guide it to higher phases and even up to seizure of political power with a clear vision of people’s democracy and socialist transformation, either they are led to reformist channels, or their development on the revolutionary path suppressed.

IV

A study of the political forces who are supporting this historic farmers’ movement will explain this question clearly.  The activities of the Congress party, which introduced the neoliberal regime in India, carried forward the reforms linked with it and even tried to go for corporatization of agriculture in 2013, are only limited to getting back to power defeating BJP which is speeding up the reforms in fascistic ways and pursuing the hard Hindutva path of Hindurashtra. If it comes back to power along with its old UPA allies, it will go back to its former rightist path with the soft Hindutva line.  The other regional or caste-based political parties, which are basically part of the ruling class spectrum, but support the farmers’ struggle and oppose the BJP, wherever they are in power, are pursuing the neoliberal policies in one form or other.

The parliamentary left, the CPI(M) led Left Front or LDF parties, are also doing the same as can be seen in Kerala. What about the organizations to the left of CPI(M)? Among them, all those who still consider Indian society as semi-feudal, in spite of the fast development of capitalist relations in the agricultural sector under land reforms from above, introduction of finance capital, new technology and market forces (Green Revolution), they do not organize the small, middle or big land owning sections of farmers where they have influence, because it goes against their theoretical positions. But, in Punjab and nearby areas they are working with one or another faction of BKU, focusing all their activities in the struggle for MSP and against corporatization of agriculture!

This is the same case with those who call themselves Maoists, though they do not accept anything less than armed squad actions in the forest regions for liberation of semi-colonial, semi-feudal India! At the same time those groups who consider India as a capitalist country in the stage of socialist revolution, while some of them oppose the farmers’ struggle as a reactionary struggle led by the rich farmer class, others support it, in spite of their theory that only the working class is capable of leading any anti-capitalist movement!

In such an extremely complex situation, when the countrywide upsurge created by the farmers’ movement, two important questions calls clear-cut explanations: what should be the approach of the Communist Partyto the agrarian question in India and to the intensifying farmers’ movement? What should be the role of the Communist Party in present situation in developing the anti-fascist movement, and at the same time building the party pursuing the path of independent communist assertion while participating actively in different forms of united fronts?

V

To address the first question, we have to start with a historical analysis of th revolutionary line of the communist movement. As Lenin explained in “Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism”, by the end of 19th century, capitalism was transformed to monopoly capitalism, i.e., imperialism. By that time, the imperialist forces had divided the Asian, African, Latin American countries among themselves. Among them, including India, largest number of these countries had become colonies of one imperialist country or other, In China and few other countries imperialist forces were contending for hegemony and were in semi-colonial stage, and the Latin American countries were dependent countries under US imperialist domination.

While US introduced capitalist transformation in the dependent countries, in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the imperialists used the pre-capitalist, feudal and semi-feudal relations/forces as their social base for domination. It was by analyzing this international situation, the Comintern in 1921 document called for socialist revolution in the imperialist countries, and anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution in the countries under various phases of colonization as democratic revolution, both together constituting the World Proletarian Socialist Revolution.

But, during the Second World War, the hitherto dominant imperialist power, Britain, became weaker, and US came to the leadership of the imperialist camp. In 1943 it convened the Brettenwood Conference and initiated the IMF, World Bank and GATT agreements to guide the post-war re-organization of the relations with the countries under colonization, introducing de-colonization by transfer of power to its junior partners in these countries, introducing the neo-colonial phase of imperialist domination. Under this, direct rule by imperialist powers was replaced by indirect control through increasing penetration of finance capital, technology, and market forces, along with military alliances. As part of this, the land reforms from above was advised, along with land ceiling laws and introduction of capitalist transformation of production relations in the agricultural sector.

In India, it was Punjab where irrigation was available with the completion of Bhakra Nangal project and the implementation of land ceiling laws took place was selected for the beginning of the Green Revolution by the end of 1950s. Soon using new hybrid seeds developed by the Indian and imperialist research institutes, chemicals and fertilizers, cultivation of wheat, rice and other food grains was started.  Soon came up the question of marketing the outputs for which large inputs were used with the help of loans from money lenders and banks. These were new questions for which new answers were required.

 When the CPI and CPI(M)embraced Soviet revisionist path and degenerated to parliamentary path, the Kisan organizations led by them  abandoned the agrarian revolution based on revolutionary land reforms. When the GR areas were expanding fast, as they failed to recognize the changes taking place in the agrarian sector, they could not address the demands of the lower middle, middle and rich farmers who were adopting the GR mode for Minimum Support Prices for agricultural products and subsidy for inputs. Though the CPI(ML) and other streams of CRs after Naxalbari uprising adopted the line of agrarian revolution and initiated land struggles in some areas, their analysis of India as semi-feudal, failed them also to recognize the changes in the mode of production taking place in Punjab and expanding to nearby areas. So, they also could not address the problems of the new classes of lower middle, middle and rich peasants.

After the parliamentary left, when the revolutionary left also failed to recognize the transformation of imperialist plunder from colonial to neocolonial phase, and the fast changes taking place in the agriculture with the entry of finance capital, new technology and market forces, many new groups emerged addressing these issues. With the merger of eleven of these groups in Chandigarh n 1972, the Punjab Khetibari Zemindari Union was formed, which was later called Punjab Khetibari Union (PKU).In 1978, following the launching of the struggle for MSP and increase of subsidies, the PKU was transformed into the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) as a national forum for farmers with association to the Bharatiya Lok Dal of the Janata Party (Secular).

In 12 December 1980, an “All-India Kisan Sammelan” was organised which saw the unification of the Kisan Sangarsh Samiti (Haryana), Raytu Sangha (Karnataka) and Vyavasayigal Sangham (Tamil Nadu) under the ambit of the BKU. In 1982, the union faced a split under the designation of BKU (N) led by Narayanasamy Naidu and BKU (M) led by Bhupendra Singh Mann. It was however reunited by the intervention of SharadAnantrao Joshi under a federal structure with autonomous state units. Following the massive Delhi march, it was again re-organised in 17 October 1986 by Mahendra Singh Tikait with its headquarters in Sisauli in western Uttar Pradesh as a non-partisan organisation contrary to its previous association with the former Prime Minister, Charan Singh.

BKU continued without getting affiliated with any political parties. Later its federated units in all states faced many splits and some of them became inactive. In every state, especially in Punjab where it is the strongest aced faced the maximum splits, with all of them continuing as BKU groups. But in spite of all these splits, in Punjab and Haryana especially, all these groups fought for the Minimum Support Price for the agricultural products and succeeded to achieve the Agricultural Products Marketing Committees and numerous Mandis (markets) under it, ensuring the procurement of the 12 items at MSP and fast payment to the farmers. In spite of corruption and bureaucratic delays, it has ensured a better security for the farmers in Punjab and Haryana, with 50-55 % of them lower middle farmers owning less than 5 acres, 25-30 % of them middle owning 5 to 10 acres, and about 15 % of rich farmers owning more than 10 acres. It is because the three farm laws bull dozed by Modi rule will destroy the decades of security provided by the hard earned system, leading to their devastation under corporatization, that they are in the forefront of this do or die struggle.

The interesting feature is that whatever may be their organization’s ideological, political line about the changes taking place in the agriculture sector, not only the CPI, CPI(M), the RMPI, MCPI(U) like CPI(M) dissident groups, as well as most of the CPI(ML) or CR groups ranging from Liberation to ‘Maoists’ are active within some of the BKU groups or their peasant organizations are working with these BKU groups. At the same time, almost all of them have in the main abandoned the agrarian revolution addressing the problems of the landless and poor peasants and the agricultural workers. At Singhu and Tikri borders where almost all the farmers from Punjab and Haryana are camping, along with the BKU groups we can see the peasant organizations of all left parties/organizations, and left leaders who are active in most of the BKU groups, some of them in their leaderships. But at the same time, their units in other states keep away from the same task, fervently sticking to their semi-feudal analysis. One can only hope that the ongoing historic farmers’ struggle will compel them to abandon dogmatic approaches and force these organizations to make concrete analysis of the present situation and seek from truth.

Presently, the transformation in to capitalist mode of production is the dominant trend in the agriculture field and the question of marketing is the concern of the farmers who own even small holdings. So, the struggle to repeal the 3 Farm Laws imposed by the Modi government has become the concern of all cultivators. The Communist movement should recognize this reality and peasant organization focusing on it should be developed in all states make the members conscious about the negative aspects of corporatization.

Along with this, the organization of the agricultural workers and poor peasants should be developed with a program of revolutionary land reforms providing land to the tillers, developing co-operatives for development of agriculture in this land, better wages and continuity of work for the MNREGA workers, housing, healthcare, education like facilities etc. Organizations in these two fields should work together to develop the powerful peasant movement as part of the program for completing the tasks of the democratic revolution, immediately overcoming present ideological, political weaknesses.

VI

The second task is to build th broadest possible anti-fascist united front to end the RSS led Modi rule as early as possible, and at the same time build the Communist movement always pursuing the path of independent communist assertion. This can be explained as follows:

Firstly, it has to be recognized that advent of neo-fascist RSS to power through the Modi government and its saffronization of all walks of life at maddening pace, while surrendering the country to neoliberal/corporate loot is the main danger confronting the people. So, we should work for the broadest understanding among all forces opposed to RSS/BJP to defeat it in all fields including parliamentary struggle. Any weakness in this approach will pave the way for further strengthening of the fascist forces, and should be exposed and defeated.

While doing so, it is imperative that the path of independent assertion of the revolutionary line should be pursued, without harming the united front. For example, in an election, while trying to unite all forces to vote out BJP, the party or the revolutionary left alliance led by it should put forward its Manifesto and campaign for it along with fielding its own candidates where it has sufficient strength among the masses. It amounts to building a Mass Political Platform to defeat the fascists.

Secondly, based on a Common Program evolved through mutual discussions according to concrete conditions, putting forward the vision of democratization of the society and an alternate path of development opposed to neoliberal paradigm, the left and democratic forces, oppressed classes and sections and people’s movements in the fields of ecological protection, secular-socio-cultural- fields and progressive intellectuals should be united to develop all forms of struggle including parliamentary struggle as part of the class struggle.

Thirdly, based on a self-critical analysis of the experience of hitherto communist movement and analysis of present situation, the theoretical offensive should be carried forward struggling against all alien trends for uniting all communist revolutionary forces and to develop mass fronts of youth and students and to recruit large number of cadres from them as part of building a powerful communist party capable of leading every people’s movement to higher phases and to mobilize the masses for a countrywide upsurge to seize political power. In the excellent objective situation and enthusiasm created by the ongoing historic farmers’ struggle let us carry forward the theoretical struggle and practical work in all fields with the outlook discussed above.

Post Script

What happened on 26th January, the Republic Day proved our worst fears correct. As was apprehended, following the drama of 11 round of discussions, the intervention of Supreme Court, the last minute permission from Delhi Police to hold the Tractor Rally through agreed routes, Amit Shah and Delhi police worked with RSS goons to infiltrate the border areas where farmers were camping, especially at Gazhipur on UP border with a blue-print to create disturbances, with Delhi Police violating the agreement to open the barricaded road in the morning, erecting more barricades along the agreed routes or strengthening the existing barricades, thus provoking the farmers who were forced to stay for 61 days in bitter cold, with 155 of their comrades becoming martyrs, indulging in brutal attacks on selected spots provoking the farmers further, leading to the disturbances that happened on that day, with one farmer driving tractor killed and hundreds of farmers injured.

 Right from 26th morning, the Godi media worked hard to spread false news to create confusion to create the image that the farmers are responsible for all disturbances, while it is thee Modi—Shah government and RSS-  Police nexus as happened in Northeast Delhi pogrom, tis time ona mega scale. Soon the Godi media stepped in demanding action and now the movement is under fierce attack. All it leaders are booked, hundreds of farmers are arrested, and a vicious slander campaign using lies are resorted to. It is a grave situation.

But the AIKSCC and KSM are standing united and called for observing as a day of fast in protest, while postponing the parliament march. They have called for continuing the struggle mobilizing more forces. This is a critical time. This is the time for the Party along with all left forces and struggling sections to stand with the farmer movement. Let us try hrd to strengthen the movement at this critical juncture!

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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.