Marx never made any abstract statement like “Revolution is Inevitable”; On the contrary, in the Communist Manifesto prepared for the Communist League and published in 1848, Marx and Engels categorically declares: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win”. So, when Kobad Ghandy‘s (KG) interview with Ms Jyothi Punwani published in the 28th March, Weekly Magazine of The Hindu, (given as separate article) appears with the title ‘We can no longer keep saying revolution is inevitable’ the reader will be confused, as it is the revisionists who teach revolution is inevitable and there can be peaceful transition to socialism. As far as we know, the party he was in, the CPI(ML) People’s War (PWG) in the beginning and CPI(Maoist) also do not say so. So, we can conclude that it is a headline given by the editors.
KG belongs to the generation of comrades who joined the Naxalite movement(as the CPI(ML) movement is popularly mentioned in the mainstream media) during the objectively potential, post-Emergency years. He left his studies in UK and returned to Mumbai, organized the Vidyarthi Pragati Sanghatan (VPS), the most active student organization of Mumbai at that time, formed Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) with Ad. P.A. Sebastian and other friends, and by 1979 joined the PWG. For 30 years he worked with PWG, and then CPI(Maoist) before he was arrested in 2009 from Delhi. During this period probably in 1991 when K.G. Sathyamurthi, who was secretary for many years was expelled for his stand on caste question, for some time he was also separated from PWG; but soon he re-joined it. After 10 years jail life, he came out on bail in 2019. His book: Fractured Freedom: A Jail Memoir, is just published. During his days in Tihar jail he had written few articles on various topics, critically reviewing his experience, which were published in the Mainstream weekly.
Though in 1979, when I had gone to Mumbai to organize the CRC, CPI(ML), I tried to meet him, as he had gone out for some meetings, I could not. Collecting his number from PA Sebastian, I called him and had a fairly long talk with him. From that as well as from the article he had written in People’s Power, an irregular Bulletin published by Prof. Dixit, on agrarian relations in India, it was clear that he had become firm advocate of the ideological-political-organizational line of PWG by that time. Later in early 1990s, when he was ‘semi-underground’ after his brief separation from PWG, and living at Nagpur I had a long discussion with him. Then also, apart from some differences on the organizational decisions of PWG, he strongly defended its line. So, his articles in Mainstream in which he had made critical assessment of many aspects of the PWG/Maoist line (of course not mentioning its name) was a surprise, Now, in this interview he has explained his thoughts on the PWG/Maoist movement more clearly. Many of these critics were raised much earlier by others including me, of course from different view-points. As I had met him after the three round of discussions with the PWG for merger had failed, the points of differences were explained to him, including our stand that both, the right deviation in Soviet Union as well as the left adventurist Lin line in China emerged from erroneous understanding of post-Second World War imperialism which had transformed its plunder of Asian-African-Latin American countries from colonial to neo-colonial forms, ie from direct control to control through finance capital, technology transfer, market and military deals; and this plunder reaching more aggressive forms, with earlier welfare state concepts and state intervention in production through public sector, changed to neoliberal corporate policies under the dictates of IMF-WB-WTO. When I argued that the problem with most of the CR forces is their refusal to recognize the vast changes taking place as a result at international and national developments, and to develop their program and path of revolution accordingly, though we had a healthy debate, he did not commit anything. Later I came to know that he re-joined the PWG. At that time I had pointed out to him that how can anyone justify in the name of advancing revolution incidents like Kakthiya Express burning, fate of a girl who went in search of the revolutionary party, punishments like cutting away hands or legs of suspected police informers etc. Com KG had agreed with me that such practices should be stopped. Viewed in this background, I am happy that at least now he has come out with a serious critic of the practice of CPI(Maoist) and the consequences of these, both political and theoretical.
What are his main criticisms?
- Socialism all over the world has given enormous economic benefits to the people. But communist systems too have suffered setbacks; their weaknesses need to be rectified;
- No one can be happy without the necessities of life. But to talk only about the economic aspect of change isn’t enough. After some time, power and ego start affecting people in the movement. But if you have a value system integrated into your goal, you can counter these influence
- People don’t change merely with a new ideology; their subconscious thinking inculcated in childhood continues to influence them. Socialism doesn’t automatically bring forth a ‘socialist person’. You have to struggle to become one.
- With caste superiority coming ‘naturally’ to Indians, this is all the more important. I also saw it in Jharkhand’s jails. When the Naxalite inmates belonging to the Marxist Coordination Committee heard I was being brought there, they came running. The media had projected me as a top Maoist leader, and they thought that, like other Naxal leaders they knew, I’d have pots of money. When they saw I didn’t, they slunk away, refusing to help. It was a don who helped me get warm clothes in the Jharkhand winter! Some of these Naxalites were part of the jail mafia, and ran most of the lucrative wards. Jharkhand has such a heroic history of resistance to the British, starting from the 18th century. What are the Naxalites doing to their tradition?
- Indian Marxists are terribly dogmatic. They are just not willing to discuss new concepts, nor are they willing to acknowledge that communism has suffered a severe setback worldwide. It should make them think. Economic and social conditions today are so atrocious, yet there is no alternative — unlike when we were young, when communism was the rage.
- But how we go about achieving it needs to be discussed. We can no longer keep saying, ‘Revolution is inevitable’. In Andhra/ Telangana’s jails I saw that despite 40 years of the revolutionary movement there, the younger generation knew nothing about it. But all that senior leftists say is: ‘Revolution has its ups and downs, but finally it will come,’ without any analysis.
- Can we still say ‘the working class is the vanguard’? Where is the working class in India? Since the 90s, there’s only contract labour and sub-contracted labour. The workers are not on the factory floor, they are fractured. I was shocked to learn in Jharkhand that even the Railways contracts out the smallest job — say, cleaning train toilets — to 10 different contractors. An inmate told me he earned ₹10,000 from his job as a driver, but ₹30,000 from illegally selling diesel. So this worker is basically self-employed. Would such workers have a proletarian mentality? Where is the relationship between the proletariat and the capitalist? The workers are highly oppressed, but they have been socially de-proletarianised
- Islamists only wanted to convert me, talking about jannatetc! Some of them even advocated bomb blasts in public places as the solution against injustice. Muslims who may die in such blasts would be collateral damage, they said. Identity politics leads to vote bank politics and makes it easier for Hindutva parties to get the sympathy of even ‘lower-caste’ Hindus, and to target Muslims and Dalits.
- I think they soon realised I couldn’t give them much information. They knew more than I did! Basically, they also knew that more than them
When Com.KG raises these criticisms, surprisingly what is absent is a self-critical approach. When he had returned to Mumbai with the decision to join the revolutionary movement,(a great decision which the students and youth) he was 26 years old, post-graduate intellectual and must have tried to read the Great Debate of CPC against CPSU, the writings of Edgar Snow, William Hinton like friends of Chinese Revolution, Mao’s 5th volume documents, some of the literature on Cultural Revolution (brought by KS from Hong Kong and later published as 6h to 10th volume of Mao’s works, the extensive writings on IMF and World Bank projects corporatizing agriculture in Latin American countries turning them to banana republics, Thatcherism which advocated substitution of Keynesian welfare state concepts with neoliberal policies hotly debated from early 1970s in UK, the debate then going on in the Economic and Political Weekly on mode of production in Indian agriculture etc similarly he must have heard about post-modernism and its product identity politics, the debate on the failures of socialism practiced in the socialist countries including Soviet Union etc He must have read at least seen some of the voluminous reports on what was happening in China during 1976-78 period, especially available in UK.
But, still in spite of all these how he could accept the PWG line which had refused to learn anything from them and write such an article like the one he wrote for Dixit’s publication trying to argue India was still semi-feudal in 1979? Similarly, after Naxalbari Uprising, under its influence many progressive intellectuals had come forward with many friendly critics of the movement, including books which deepened the ideological struggle against further degeneration of CPI and CPI(M) to social democracy. The Dalit Panthers had come forward by 1972 from Pune calling for taking up the study of Ambedkar’s books, and the need to start caste annihilation movement as part of class struggle.
What I want to point out is that the post Emergency years in India, as well as the 1970s as a whole internationally was a vibrant period with the Vietnam war of US/ the national liberation movement in Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea inspiring the struggling masses around the world. Almost all the questions now raised by KG now were raised then by many revolutionary streams, intellectuals of that time. The importance of analyzing the transformations taking place in forms of imperialist plunder after the War under IMF-World Bank- GATT agreements were also hotly debated topics then. Within our country, among the CR forces also such discussions were taking place. As a result of these many initiatives were also forthcoming. The first mistake committed by was that in spite of all these, he led the large number of students in VPS, many of whom were ready to become professional revolutionaries hastily to the fold of PWG. As a result, many left political work midway. Those who continued like KG became disillusioned.
The second criticism I raise against KG is that, even after so much damage is done by the Maoist line (which is nothing but Linbiaoism), in spite of raising serious criticism against it, he has not denounced it; showing that still he maintains loyalty to it. Like the petti-bourgeois intellectuals who openly or secretly support the Maoists and become directly or indirectly link with the front organisations floated by them, even after most of the Maoist movements not only in India, but in Nepal, Chile, Turkey and Philippines facing degeneration as in Nepal or disintegration in other places recognizing the consequences of the erroneous line followed by the Maoists, he is not ready to reject it, and look around and see many efforts made by the CRs like CPI(ML) Red Star to confront the issues raised by him.
As Mao has made it repeatedly clear the path of protracted people’s war pursued by the CPC was unique one developed to suit the China’s situation, which was a feudal, semi-feudal society, without any centralized government, where the communists to work within the Kuomintang army during Sun Yat Sen’s time, and after his death when the supremo Chiang started suppression of communists which reached its peak in 1927, compelling them to retreat to rural areas. But a sizable section of the army under Chu Te also joined the communists, turning the revolutionary movement in to a war between two armies! Today the concrete situation under the neoliberal/corporate offensive by the imperialists and their junior partners in power in the neo-colonially dependent countries have drastically changed. From the beginning of 1980s a number of mass uprisings, starting with anti-IMF revolts in Latin America, the Arab Spring when these mass uprisings uprooted decades-long dictatorships and oligarchies. This situation continues. Even the more than four months old siege of Delhi by tens of thousands of farmers also is part of these uprisings. If there are powerful, Bolshevik style communist parties existing in these countries they can come to their leaderships and capture power. Besides, as ecological destruction under the neoliberal loot of the nature has reached such a peak threatening an ecological catastrophe, causing the extinction of human species from the earth, the humanity is facing the challenge: either revolutionary overthrow of the imperialist system and reconstruction of the world with a much more advanced, nature friendly development perspective, or perish. In spite of such vast changes, the Maoists in Chhattisgarh organizing an attack on police and trying to continue its squad actions is only helping the corporate fascist Modi government to use them as pretexts to intensify attacks on the struggling farmers and other toiling sections. Even after grave mistakes committed like supporting an N T Rama Rao, or YSR in AP or Shibu oren in Jharkhand, or TMC in WB in 2011 after calling for ‘boycott of elections.
One important claim made by the intellectuals and NGOs supporting the Maoists is that they are preventing the corporate loot in the areas were they are present! But what is the truth? The maximum penetration of corporates took place in Jharkhand during 1990s and 2010s when the Maoists had maximum strength in the area. It is in Bastar’s Dantewada, where they have maximum presence, the ESSAR mining and exporting of the best iron ore from Balladilla is increasing every year. The practice of collecting huge amounts of levy from the forest contractors, corporates and construction companies, without any system of accountability have made the cadres and leaders corrupt as KG saw. With all respect to Anuradha whom I have meet three times at Nagpur and discussed about our practice of mass line, the Chhattisgarh adivasis developing better politics than those in Jharkhand who are led by MCC is one of the myths propagated by Arundhati Roy like authors in her “God of small things” line. Just providing uniform and gun training will not make any one self-confident. The real problem with the Maoists is that instead of pursiong the Marxist line of ‘people create history’, their line is ‘hero’s make history’ which keep followers politically backward even after 40 years of activities. At the same time, in Odisha alone from the Chika movement to Vedanta and POSCO there are many examples of militant mass movement driving away the corporates. In Chhattisgarh also through big mass movements Shivnath River’s privatization and the SEZ in Rajnathgaon were stopped. The ten nuclear power plants announced by UPA govt also did not come up because of stiff resistance by people. But the trigger happy Maoist leadership is not ready to ‘seek truth from facts’
Marxism teaches that we have to overthrow the capitalist system and advance to communism through a period of socialist transformation, during which the the hitherto ruling class ideas which are dominating the society should be thrown out and new shoots of socialist alternative models of development and democray should be developed. 150 years ago the communards of Paris were the first to practice it. This first proletarian state has given many lessons including the slogan “all power to the people”. After October Revolution, Lenin had given the call all power to the Soviets. Mao tried to take it one step forward through People’s Communes. Imperialists and their lackeys targeted them for attack, as they wanted to destroy such communist shoots to grow. So, Mao called for starting Cultural Revolution one step ahead of revolutionary movement. But for many culture meant just war songs presented by Gaddar or its imitations. There were no efforts to rectify the mistake done by the communist movement in 1930s when they refused to learn from Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and put caste annihilation as an important part of class struggle. They may kill one or two RSS men, but will never launch a campaign to teach the dangers RSS fascism going to brimg to them. They refuse to teach that while fighting majority fundamentalism, the struggle against minority fundamentalism should not be kept away, as both are dangerous, both collaborate to prevent revolutionary advances.
A more detailed response is necessary to expose the superficiality of the observations made by KG. One can try to do it after going through his book. The problem with such half-hearted exposures of an organization and its practice, which are continued in spite of colossal mistakes is that it will not help to resolve the problems confronted by the communist movement. Lenin was ruthless in his struggle against the then Mensheviks and Narodniks, as he was convinced that without it building of a Bolshevik party capable of making revolution is not possible. But many of our friends are reluctant to do so, as many among the right opportunists, the modern day Mensheviks are our old friends; similarly how can we attack the modern day Narodniks, as many of them sacrifice their lives, or are good boys known to them. Such subjective ideas go against the interest of revolution. If KG really want to help the rectification of present mistakes, to spread the vision of revolution with a revolutionary cultural perspective, he should tell his friends still in hide outs and forests to put an end to the anarchist line and practice, and come out openly among the people, make concrete analysis of present reality, and mobilise the masses for seeking truth based on facts. The present reality, the country’s capital under siege by hundreds of thousands of farmers with the support of tens of millions of the peasantry demand such transparent action.
We can no longer keep saying revolution is inevitable: Kobad Ghandy (Interview)
MARCH 27, 2021
UPDATED: MARCH 26, 2021 15:05 IST
The activist, whose book has just been released, criticises Indian Marxists for being terribly dogmatic, and says it’s the system that has failed, not the ideology
When he was arrested in 2009, headlines screamed ‘top Maoist nabbed’. Today, he’s juggling time between interviews and podcasts, after his book recounting his journey from London to Indian jails (Fractured Freedom: A Prison Memoir) has become a bestseller. In an interview, he talks about these experiences, the setbacks suffered by communism, and the need for socialists to build a system of values beyond economic issues.
So, are you a Naxalite?
What is a Naxalite? It’s a vague term. There are many parties and groups who are called Naxalite. Some participate in elections, others work underground. Among the protesting farmers’ groups too, a few are reported to be affiliated to Marxist-Leninist groups.
I am for radical change and a socialist economic system. Capitalism has not given anything to the masses, while socialism all over the world has given enormous economic benefits to the people. But communist systems too have suffered setbacks; their weaknesses need to be rectified.
In your book you write that ‘universal happiness’ must be the goal of any movement for change. What happened to the goal of reducing inequality?
Of course, no one can be happy without the necessities of life. But to talk only about the economic aspect of change isn’t enough. After some time, power and ego start affecting people in the movement. But if you have a value system integrated into your goal, you can counter these influences. For example, I find people praising Anuradha [his late wife, Anuradha Ghandy] for her organisational capacities, not her personal qualities of straightforwardness, honesty, etc. which were equally if not more valuable for a social activist and, in fact, for any human being.
It’s true Freud came after Marx, but still I feel Marxists have ignored the importance of psychology. Just mechanically saying ‘social being determines consciousness’ doesn’t take into account the reality that people don’t change merely with a new ideology; their subconscious thinking inculcated in childhood continues to influence them. Socialism doesn’t automatically bring forth a ‘socialist person’. You have to struggle to become one.
Have you seen this lack of a value system affect those in the struggle?
Yes, and my book talks about it. With caste superiority coming ‘naturally’ to Indians, this is all the more important. I also saw it in Jharkhand’s jails. When the Naxalite inmates belonging to the Marxist Coordination Committee heard I was being brought there, they came running. The media had projected me as a top Maoist leader, and they thought that, like other Naxal leaders they knew, I’d have pots of money. When they saw I didn’t, they slunk away, refusing to help. It was a don who helped me get warm clothes in the Jharkhand winter! Some of these Naxalites were part of the jail mafia, and ran most of the lucrative wards.
Jharkhand has such a heroic history of resistance to the British, starting from the 18th century. What are the Naxalites doing to their tradition? They seem totally different from the Bastar tribals who, I heard from Anuradha, have transformed themselves through the movement to become self-confident and creative, especially the women.
I wonder how your comrades will react to this!
Indian Marxists are terribly dogmatic. They are just not willing to discuss new concepts, nor are they willing to acknowledge that communism has suffered a severe setback worldwide. It should make them think. Economic and social conditions today are so atrocious, yet there is no alternative — unlike when we were young, when communism was the rage.
Has communism failed or the people who implemented it?
The system has failed, not the ideology. History shows us that the socialist system is the most viable for the oppressed masses, while the existing system is destroying the lives not only of the poorest but now also of the middle classes. And the environment too. Only the 3,500-odd billionaires of the world are thriving.
But how we go about achieving it needs to be discussed. We can no longer keep saying, ‘Revolution is inevitable’. In Andhra/ Telangana’s jails I saw that despite 40 years of the revolutionary movement there, the younger generation knew nothing about it. But all that senior leftists say is: ‘Revolution has its ups and downs, but finally it will come,’ without any analysis.
Can we still say ‘the working class is the vanguard’? Where is the working class in India? Since the 90s, there’s only contract labour and sub-contracted labour. The workers are not on the factory floor, they are fractured. I was shocked to learn in Jharkhand that even the Railways contracts out the smallest job — say, cleaning train toilets — to 10 different contractors. An inmate told me he earned ₹10,000 from his job as a driver, but ₹30,000 from illegally selling diesel. So this worker is basically self-employed. Would such workers have a proletarian mentality?
Where is the relationship between the proletariat and the capitalist? The workers are highly oppressed, but they have been socially de-proletarianised.
Your observations on Islamists may also make you unpopular among your comrades. Identity politics is the in thing now.
I’ve written what I saw. Afzal Guru introduced me to the progressive concepts of Islam, but the Islamists only wanted to convert me, talking about jannat etc! Some of them even advocated bomb blasts in public places as the solution against injustice. Muslims who may die in such blasts would be collateral damage, they said. Identity politics leads to vote bank politics and makes it easier for Hindutva parties to get the sympathy of even ‘lower-caste’ Hindus, and to target Muslims and Dalits.
You’ve described the Nirbhaya rapist as a “vile sort.” Can you elaborate?
He would lie at the drop of a hat. I never saw anyone as manipulative and hypocritical as him, with his pujas on the one hand and his vicious outbursts against Nirbhaya’s mother on the other. Whenever he heard about her interviews, he’d say she deserved to be raped.
Physically you were not touched by the police. What restrained them?
I think they soon realised I couldn’t give them much information. They knew more than I did! Basically, they also knew that more than them, jail life would break me. Most people end up disillusioned in jail. I also did break, now and then. It’s not just the indignity of jail life, it’s the legal system too. You don’t know when you will be free or in what condition. Fortunately, I could keep myself sane through yoga and exercise, reading and writing, and Mainstream Weekly published my articles. My first phase in Tihar was very tough. I was very lucky that Afzal befriended me and cushioned the impact. He was jovial, educated; we could discuss so many things.
Jyoti Punwani is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist.
Sudden escalation in the second wave of COVID-19 in India with over 3 lakh cases (315660 cases recorded in India at 11.15 pm on April 21, 2021 is the highest-ever single-day spike in coronavirus infections in the world. Till now, 300310 were the highest single-day infections reported in US on January 2, 2021) and more than 3000 deaths per day has again belied the neoliberal pundits’ prediction of an uptrend in its economic indicators. Ongoing nation-wide vaccination drive that is leaving people to the mercy of Indian and multinational pharma companies coupled with re-imposition of virus management measures such as containment zones, night curfews, reduction in working-time and reverse migration of workers and so on will further dampen economic activity in general. Though IMF and other international agencies had predicted an economic recovery with double-digit GDP growth rate in 2021, such a prospect seems to be very dim as of now. Even UNCTAD’s modest forecast that India is to recover at the rate of 3.9 percent in 2021 is also going to be wishful thinking in view of the critical situation in the country. According UNCTAD, rather than the stimulus packages aimed at easing supply-side constraints (meaning pro-corporate stimulus packages, a large increase in public spending for pandemic relief that is expected to boost the purchasing power of the people is the only route towards recovery.
Revealingly, as already discussed much, India’s economic collapse in 2020 has been historic since the accumulated income loss as measured in terms of GDP for the fiscal year 2020-21 relative to 2019-20 (pre- COVID period approximately) was 27.7 percent compared to around 4 percent for the global economy. On the other hand, UNCTAD forecasts a 4.7 percent GDP growth for world with a 4.5 percent growth for US and 8.1 percent for China (according to latest report, China has recorded 18.3 percent GDP growth during the first quarter of 2021), and an average 4.7 percent growth for the world economy in 2021. This growth “will still leave the global economy over $10 trillion short of where it could have been by the end of 2021 if it had stayed on the pre-pandemic trend.” However, in view of the second wave of the pandemic at a global level, on account of pro-corporate/neoliberal austerity steps and supply-side policies, even the moderate predictions of UNCTAD regarding an economic recovery are going to be too optimistic.
Of course, both international and Indian sources have already acknowledged Indian economy’s historic collapse, along with IMF’s own characterisation of the same as the “worst among G-20 countries” in 2020. Obviously, this has been due to the far-right, crony capitalist policies of Modi regime such as Demonetisation and GST coupled with the most stringent, most prolonged, ill-conceived, coercive and authoritarian lockdown superimposed by it on a population of 138 crore. That’s, the neoliberal fascist offensive by Modi regime that acted as economic holocausts has led the entire economy to a frozen state bringing all productive activities to a standstill as exemplified in a paralysis of the agricultural sector that provides sustenance to 50 percent of the people and destruction of the informal and traditional sectors which are the sole source of livelihood for 95 percent of the 52 crore workforce in India.
A corollary of this neo-fascist offensive has been the unprecedented concentration of the country’s wealth with Ambanis and Adanis through such measures as pro-corporate tax exemptions, neoliberal labour and environmental deregulations and the series of stimulus packages that directly channelled trillions worth of public money into corporate coffers. And, in consonance with the logic of neoliberal accumulation, this fabulous wealth appropriation by the billionaires, instead of contributing anything to the employment-oriented economy, went on ballooning the money-spinning speculative spheres, again leading to further appropriation of public assets by a handful of the corporate superrich. Modi’s megalomaniac’s approach to COVID, starting from such obscurantist practices as “switching off lights” and “banging vessels” and finally superimposing the most coercive and stringent lockdown at a stretch for two months in an unjustified and uncalled for manner had led India to the disastrous situation of the worst performing economy in the world during 2020.
In this context, when the COVID tsunami in the form a ‘second wave’ is ravaging India, its devastating impacts are on the top of the severe damage to the economy that has already been inflicted by Modi’s corporate-saffron fascist policies. For instance, joblessness which is highest in India’s recorded history, have already pushed tens of millions into absolute poverty. However, instead of a badly needed public spending program, Modi, at the behest of his corporate friends, has accelerated the privatisation-corporatisation agenda and all-round neoliberal policies with intensified vigour. Consequently, for instance, under the nationwide covid-vaccination drive, without even resorting to namesake public control, Modi has entrusted the vaccine production, its price determination and distribution solely to big pharma, both Indian and foreign, leading to a further amplification of all the pandemic-induced socio-economic vulnerabilities in the country. Following the announcement of his pro-corporate vaccine policy that is to take effect from May1, 2021, the Serum Institute, the producers of Covishield, that constitutes 90 percent of India’s vaccine supply as of now, has suddenlyrevised its price that was available at private hospitals at a price of Rs.250 to a whopping Rs.600 per dose. While it ensures super-profit for vaccine monopolies, as in the case of all far-right policies of Modi, it is intended to push large sections of poor out of the social safety net.
Coming to the economic scenario, while Modi regime is denying vast majority of Indians their basis sustenance, as reported by the Forbes 2021 list, the ranks of Indian dollar billionaires have swelled further from 102 to 140 in 12 months, their combined wealth doubling to $596 billion in just the past year, when the working and oppressed people of India were bearing the entire burden of the first wave of Covid. According to Forbes, these 140 billionaires now gobble up 22.7 percent of India’s GDP of $2.62 trillion. While the economy was contracted and vast majority of Indians were pushed down on the economic ladder, the combined wealth of the 140 billionaires has almost doubled to $ 596 billion (the combined wealth of the top two -- Ambani ($84.5 billion) and Adani ($50.5 billion) -- comes to $135billion) in the year 2020. Forbes also noted how, in spite of occasional ups-and-downs, the stock market scaled new heights during the same period leading to a gallop in wealth appropriation by the speculative superrich class. Thus, when the GDP contracted by more than one-fourth, the combined wealth of India’s crony capitalists went up by more than 90 percent! This situation, that’s characterised as “prosperity rules at the very top” while majority collapses continues unabated in 2021.
While India thus has the third highest number of billionaires in the world after the United States and China, India under Modi has totally abolished the wealth tax along with reduction of corporate tax from 30 percent 15 percent. A 10 percent wealth tax (as a pandemic tax) alone on the superrich would have yielded many lakh crore rupees to the public exchequer which we could have been used for running the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to provide sustenance to tens of millions of poorest Indians for many years. This tax money should have also been used for distributing food grains to the hundreds of millions of starving Indians including migrant workers from the buffer stocks which during the pandemic time in mid-2020 reached 104 million tons. In the same vein, this money would have been used for extending healthcare and education to the poor. On the contrary, the anti-people fascist character of the regime has become self-evident to the whole world, as India (having third position in the number of billionaires and second in food and agricultural production) ranked 131 in UN Human Development Index-much below ‘least developed’ sub-Saharan, Latin American and Asian countries.
Meanwhile, under the cover of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” which is another reincarnation of “Make in India”, many lakh crore worth of “stimulus packages” were being granted to the corporate thugs called “wealth creators”, along with outright sell-out of the entire key and strategic sectors including mining, transport, defence, banks and insurance, space exploration, power distribution, health research, and entire frontier technologies to foreign and Indian corporates. While even the US under Biden in the beginning of 2021 again announced a ‘rescue package’ worth $1.9 trillion (equivalent to almost 90 percent of Indian GDP) mainly as direct cash transfers to people, the paltry Rs. 2 lakh direct benefit transfer to the people (along with Rs. 27 lakh crore worth corporate ‘stimulus package’) carried out by Modi during 2020 amounts to just one percent of the country’s GDP. Its outcome has become clear. For, on account of demand-push initiatives, according to latest forecasts, unemployment in US is expected to fall from 8.1 percent in 2020 to 4.1percent in 2022 along with an economic recovery in 2021.
But under the corporate-fascist Modi regime that uses COVID as an opportunity to suck out whatever left in the arteries of common people for fattening corporate cronies, the economic contraction has become irreversible and is going to accelerate further. Obviously, in consonance with the character of neoliberal accumulation, the biggest-ever wealth transfer to the billionaire class is not used for employment-oriented production, but to horrific levels of speculation, plunder of nature and other money-spinning businesses. As we have previously analysed, Modi’s nexus with the speculative corporate oligarchs like Ambani and Adani has pushed India into a vicious corporatisation-speculation trap again leading to the explosive growth of the most corrupt and parasitic corporate class sucking out wealth from the real economy through manifold ways while remaining at the sphere of speculation.
At a time when even neoliberal centres have suggested a return to public-expenditures and demand-push policies for sustaining the economy, saffron-fascist regime is unwilling to deviate from its arch-reactionary character. Modi’s repeated corporate-stimulus packages is continuously pulling back the badly-needed investment in the productive spheres. The latest example of this is his COVID vaccine policy of unleashing big-pharma over the production, distribution and marketing of vaccines in the country. Even in this hour of crisis when India has become the epicentre of the second wave of COVID, Modi is reluctant to resort to a public financing of the vaccination project; instead he is keenly using the vaccination drive for unbridled profiteering by private pharmaceutical companies. Being a typical neo-fascist regime, Modi govt. is deploying all avenues at its disposal for the maximum wealth appropriation by corporate speculators at the shortest possible time. And this saffron fascist move against workers and all oppressed including dalits, adivasis, minorities, women and even children, and on political opponents and dissenters is quite unparalleled today. A broad antifascist front capable of defeating the saffron-fascist regime is the only political option to overcome this horrific situation.
One hundred and thirty sixth May Day is approaching. After relentless class war of the working class of the world for almost one and half century now they are facing ferocious attack of the exploiters in general, and trans and multinational companies along with their organs like IMF, WB, WTO in particular, around the world. Due to their long-drawn struggle against capitalist-imperialist exploitation the working class achieved many demands in the past like eight hours working day, right to pension, provident fund, health insurance, gratuity etc. and many other welfare services for them within the framework of the bourgeois society. However, when the class struggle faced disaster in many fronts, socialist movement became weak, the bloodsuckers have started to snatch all those hard-earned rights.
In India the struggle for eight hours working day was stronger since much before of the Chicago struggle. However, after the Chicago massacre the struggle began to spread throughout the country. The Tsunamy of the May Day struggle erupted with massive force. After 14 several rights of the workers were achieved and started to be implemented. However, with the weakening of the socialist movement in India also the allies of the corporate companies and imperialists started to snatch those rights especially with the advent of neo-liberalism. Even the formal right of eight hours work is being tried to snatch.
The present central government of India, the most prominent and overt champion of the reactionaries and representative of the most reactionary capital is openly advocating in favor of increasing the working hours. They changed the labor laws to abrogate the progressive content of the laws. The whole set of the labor laws are now changed into four labor codes to make the process of retrenchment, wage cut, informalisation of the work and the rights of trade unions convenient. The workers are trying to resist but so far have failed to yield enough success.
The Covid situation at present time is apparently helping the rulers. Taking the advantage of present situation they are imposing the burden of the crises of imperialism and capitalism. Another important reason behind their success is the dominance of reformist, individualist ideological influence among the workers and absence of an able and strong communist movement. However, we know that the course of history cannot be determined by the oppressors at the end. The people and the working masses are makers of the history.
In this connection we again like to state that the present Covid pandemic is showing the actual face of capitalism. In spite of huge scientific development in present era capitalism has failed to protect the human society and nature as well. Reckless loot of labor and nature has led them to jeopardize the human civilization. Therefore, the immediate task of the working class is not only to emancipate itself from the fetter of capitalism, but by doing this to protect the human civilization, too. In this May Day, though the mobilization will be effected due to the epidemic, all class conscious workers and people must raise their firm voice to overthrow the imperialist capitalist rule and march forward to establish socialism and communism for emancipation from wage slavery. Free the labor; protect the nature and human civilization. Fight for socialism. This should be the clarion call in this juncture.
India has become the epicentre of the second wave of COVID-19 with over 3.46 lakh fresh cases as of 11.15 pm on April 23, 2021 (the highest-ever single-day spike in coronavirus infections in the world) along with around 3000 deaths per day. Information on the appearance of mutant variations of Covid in Europe and Africa had been there in mid-2020, and its likely spread to Asian countries was already predicted. And when the second wave of Covid actually started in Europe towards the last quarter of 2020, all the governments there have taken precautions including closing down of borders. But Modi govt, as usual, took a criminal negligence to this information and no preparation was done to meet the impending challenge. Through obscurantist and megalomaniac practices such as ‘switching of lights’ and ‘banging vessels’ followed by the superimposition of the most stringent and most prolonged coercive lockdown in gross disregard of the livelihood and sustenance of hundreds of millions of poor people including migrant workers, and without doing anything towards strengthening the healthcare system, during the first phase of Covid itself, Modi regime has exposed its incapacity and inefficiency in dealing with the pandemic. At the same time, using Covid as a cover, neoliberal, corporate-saffron fascist policies are pursued with intensified vigour.
Today, the Covid surge in India comes at a time when countries like US are reportedly witnessing first signs of recovery from the year-long crisis. While re-imposition of virus management measures such as containment zones, night curfews, job-losses and reverse migration of workers and dampening impact on economic activity along with total failure of administration are there in the second wave too, what is striking now is the nation-wide vaccination drive that accompanies the Covid surge. India being a leading traditional vaccine producer, Modi using his atmanirbhar plank till now was claiming it as self-reliant in Covid vaccine too, and Modi has been encouraging vaccine and oxygen exports much larger than what was mandated by international commitments. Meanwhile, both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech were respectively giving Covishield and Covaxin at Rs.150 to the government which the latter was distributing free of cost through state governments and at Rs.250 (including Rs.100 as service charge /hospital user fee) through private hospitals. This remained the situation even as states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Kerala were struggling to get vaccine doses supposed to combat COVID-19, along with the shipping out of large stocks of vaccines to foreign destinations for attracting global focus on the image-conscious Modi. It was only when vaccine shortage became acute and public pressure mounted that Modi govt. came forward with a revised Covid Vaccine Policy on April 19.
The revised policy, in the guise liberalising the availability of vaccines, has completely overhauled the existing procurement of vaccines from the two private players, viz., Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. Henceforth (from May1 onward), their supply will be divided into two baskets: 50 per cent for the Centre, and 50 per cent for the open market through which state governments, private hospitals, and industries that have facilities to administer the vaccine, will be able to procure doses directly from manufacturers. Revealingly, after this strategy was announced by Modi, it was immediately followed by the Serum Institute of India (SII) on April 21 announcing the revised prices for its vaccine — Rs 400 per dose to state govts, and Rs 600 per dose to hospitals (Bharat Biotech and Dr Reddy’s which will distribute the Russian Sputnik V shot have not made an announcement so far). Adar Poonawalla CEO of SII has openly declared about his interest in supplying vaccine specifically to private hospitals rather than to state govts, since it is not mandatory to sell through them as per the new policy. Further, based on the new policy, foreign pharma giants will be free to directly sell their vaccines in the open market at prices decided by them!
Thus, in conformity with its far-right, pro-corporate orientation, by compelling the state governments and hospitals to procure vaccine at prices determined by corporate pharma companies, Modi regime has deregulated the Covid vaccine production, pricing marketing and distribution in India leading to the opening up of new avenues of black marketing, hoarding and exclusion of the vast majority poor and weaker sections from vaccination altogether. Its immediate outcome is a collapse of state finances too. Observers have already pointed out that with the possible entry of middlemen into the scene, the price of a dose of vaccine in the open market controlled by vaccine mafia may immediately go up to Rs.1000. Though there are a number of public sector vaccine companies which are capable of producing Covid vaccine, Modi has confined them to the production of traditional vaccines only in which corporate pharma companies have little interest. Along with the announcement of revised vaccine policy, Modi has offered an advance of Rs. 3000 crore to SII and Rs. 1500 crore to Bharat Biotech, which if allotted to well-established public sector vaccine companies like Haffkine, Central Research Institute, Pasture Institute, BCG Vaccine Laboratory, HBL Integrated Vaccine Complex , etc. would have yielded enough vaccines affordable to common people. But a regime bent on demolishing public sector cannot do that. Chapter XVI of the Indian Patents Act empowers the govt to intervene in emergency situations and revoke the patent right granted to a company if it is reluctant to make the invention available to the public at affordable prices. Obviously, a corporate-bootlicking regime cannot resort to such Compulsory Licensing provisions of the Indian Patents Act for bringing the private players under social control.
Ironically, in many developed capitalist countries including the US where healthcare is highly privatised, people are vaccinated for free and the regimes there are reluctant to deregulate the vaccine industry. In view of the second wave of Covid, many companies there have announced distribution of vaccine “on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.” On the other hand, with Modi’s deregulation of Covid vaccine business, the Indian private pharma giant SII is going to gobble up 2.5 to 3 times the profit since May 1. Thus, with its new Covid vaccine policy, Modi regime has unfolded itself as the most reactionary and anti-people one in the world. By allowing vaccine mafia to reap super-profits amid the pandemic that ravages the whole country and transforming it into a ‘hell’, Modi regime has become a ‘merchant of death’. In this context, we appeal to all to come forward upholding the universally accepted right to free vaccination as people’s fundamental right to live. The political task at this juncture is to build up a broad unity against this regime that has left people to the mercy of corporate vaccine mafia.
CPI (ML) Red Star
24th April 2021
As Polls Start in W. Bengal, BJP’s Campaign Turns Openly Anti-Muslim!
History will not pardon CPI(M) and Congress leaders if their splitting of anti-BJP votes and fielding IFS to divide Muslim votes lead to BJP’s victory!
The BJP’s candidate’s speeches in Nandigram – the epi-centre of the fight for the West Bengal assembly – has come to be centered around words like Bengal will be turned in to ‘Pakistan’, ‘begum’ and ‘Eid’ in what is turning out to be a campaign targeted at communal polarization. While speaking at a public meeting in Nandigram where Mamta is contesting, her opponent and former TMC man, Suvendu on March 29 said, “If begum comes back to power, the state will turn into a mini Pakistan.” ‘Begum’ refers to TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and appears to be a reference to her closeness to the Muslim electorate. BJP’s making all-out attacks on Muslims who constitute 30 % of the voters for polarizing the 70% ‘Hindus’ in its favor through rabid attacks on Muslims. Or, RSS/BJP has reduced all politics to Jai Sri Ram slogan, all campaign to spread hate against Muslims, threatening to throw two crores of them out. In such a situation, the No Vote to BJP, Defeat BJP campaign by the revolutionary left forces is absolutely correct.
But, the CPI(M) and Congress leaders, in spite of their very poor performance in 2019 Lok Sabha elections have joined with the IFS, an Islamic fundamentalist organization and have fielded candidates to all seats, even when the main fight is between BJP and TMC, and any division of votes will only help BJP to win and turn in to another Gujarat or UP. It will create havoc in the state.
Even in a seat like Bhangar, where the biggest struggle against TMC government took place which was supported by all non BJP, non-TMC parties, though com. Mirza Hussain, a leader of this movement is the CPI(ML) Red Star candidate, the only left candidate, CPI(M)- Congress alliance with the Islamic ISF has fielded a ISF leader who is trying to divide the Muslim votes through fundamentalist propaganda and supported by CPI(M) and Congress. This is a very negative, reactionary attitude. Like in all other states, in Bengal also, the revolutionary left forces have fielded only very few candidates where they have some mass base, and is actively waging an energetic campaign to defeat BJP.
We appeal to all left masses of Bengal to recognize the reactionary attitude of CPI(M) who as Dimitrov pointed out about the role of social democracy in last century, is serving as apologists of neo-fascism. Let us join hands to give a crushing blow to CPI(M)-Congress-ISF alliance and defeat BJP overwhelmingly in order to save Bengal from RSS’ Hindurashtra tyranny.
CPI (ML) Red Star
30th March 2021
Hallo old friend and comrade SRP, warm greetings.
For your information some points. Today Hindu carries an interview of your general secretary Yechury that cpim will have no truck with communal forces. In Kerala you say Muslim League is communal. But you have relationship with INL and SDPI. Though you may not accept understanding with RSS as it's leaders claim. In TN League is a prominent part of DMK led front. In Assam Congress led front in which you are also there, Muslim organisations have good presence. In Bengal you have alliance with newly formed Indian secular front which is outrightly communal. During Bhangar movement CPI-M top leaders also had supported it as it was the only struggle which challenged TMC. In last Lok Sabha elections we had supported your candidature Bikash Ranjan Bhatacharya for jadavpur seat as he had helped us with court cases. Only there, your candidate got deposit back. Then your Bengal leaders had openly said that in assembly election they will support Red Star candidate in Bhangar. But what you are doing now? Supporting the ISF candidate who is campaigning only communally against Red Star candidate. Don't you think that when you claim to profess big things, at least you should practice it also.