MILLIONS of agitating farmers have laid an unprecedented siege on Indian capital, New Delhi demanding unconditional repeal of the three pro-corporate farm laws – the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. They have even demanded a special session of the Indian parliament to accomplish this without delay. In spite of the government’s willingness to bring about certain amendments such as ensuring of safeguards against land alienation via contract farming, strengthening state-run mandi system, allowing grievance redress in civil courts, etc., in the absence of a legal guarantee on the part of the Modi regime for strengthening the mandis and minimum support price (MSP) system and safeguards against the entry of corporate agribusiness, the peasants are determined to carry forward their struggle without any let up. Of course, Modi government’s intention to bring out a new set of farm laws was mentioned by Nirmala Sitharaman in May 2020 while proposing the third tranche of the Rs. 20 lakh crore pro-corporate “fiscal stimulus” package of “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. It was in continuation of this that on June 5th 2020 the government issued Ordinances opening up India’s agricultural sector to global corporates and their Indian cronies like Ambani and Adani. And using COVID as a cover, without pursuing any of the established parliamentary procedures, the hurriedly convened parliament meeting in September converted the three Ordinances in to Acts.
Among these draconian laws, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, aims at establishing free trade or barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of the agricultural markets or mandis under the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) established by state governments. That is, under the Act, freedom is given to farmers to sell outside the mandi area. The government claims that such free movement will allow the farmers to link themselves with the vast Indian and global markets and get a better price for their produce from markets outside the mandi area. However, it would be practically impossible for the marginal and small peasants with per capita land ownership of less than 2 hectares comprising more than 86.2 per cent of Indian peasantry to take their farm produce to different states and markets even at higher prices, as they are devoid of any transport facilities and already being tied up with local money lenders. In such a situation, elimination of mandis in the guise of liberating peasants from “mandi middlemen” is nothing but leaving the local agricultural markets to be pried open by corporate businesses and black marketers. After all, as everybody knows, the mandi system operates only in a few states and majority of the farmers are at the mercy of private traders. However, in spite of many drawbacks, it is the system of APMCs and mandis that have enabled the farmers of Punjab and other states to maintain a minimum standard of living as they are getting stable income through MSPs. What is required is to strengthen the regulatory mechanism rather than demolishing it.
The second, viz., the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 claims that it will “empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters etc., on a level playing field without any fear of exploitation. It will transfer the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the sponsor and also enable the farmer to access modern technology and better inputs. It will reduce cost of marketing and improve income of farmers.” The obvious agenda behind this claim is to open up the avenues for contract farming and speed up the corporate take-over of the entire agriculture including corporatisation of land itself. The farmers, on the other hand, will not be able to bargain or compete with the big corporates and eventually turn into their slaves. According to this Act, the farmers are forbidden to seek justice through civil courts from violations of agreement by corporate agribusiness. Instead of involving the judicial system for rectifying legal violations by big companies, the Modi government has entrusted the task with joint secretaries and district magistrates, which is nothing but an ingenious move towards corporate-bureaucrat nexus. Leaving dispute settlement to bureaucracy, in effect, is a violation of the legal system and rule of law itself.
And the third Law, viz., the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, removes food grains and other essentials of life from the list of Essential Commodities altogether. Abolition of state control over Essential Commodities by this obnoxious law is eulogised by Modi regime as “the freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector. It will help drive up investment in cold storages and modernisation of food supply chain.” This Act throws open unfettered freedom for the big corporate houses to hoard and stock food grains leading to artificial shortage and accumulation of speculative profit. This amendment to the Essential Commodities Act will also allow speculative hoarding and future trading of food grains by Ambani and Adani-like speculators. It is not against the farming community alone. Together with government withdrawal from food procurement (FCI warehouses are already taken over by Ambanis and Adanis), even the namesake public distribution system in the country will become meaningless through the first two laws. Abolition of Essential Commodities Act will allow corporate retailers through their nation-wide network of retail outlets to wipe out the 50 million small and petty retailers and kirana shops upon which roughly 200 million people of India depend for their sustenance.
As a facilitator of the most corrupt corporate-crony capital in India, and perfectly in tune with logic of corporate capital, the far-right Modi regime has superimposed the farm laws in a fascistic manner without adhering to the usual parliamentary debates and procedures, or even subjecting them to the standing committees and consultative mechanisms of parliament. No consultation was there with political parties or farmers’ organisations and even the State governments were completely sidelined and their opinion was not sought despite agriculture being in the State list as per the Constitution. As many constitutional experts have pointed out, the farm laws are “unconstitutional” and “illegal”. Demolition of mandis and APMCs till controlled by State governments is tantamount to taking over State’s federal powers. Though in a different form, the same methodology was pursued in superimposing the GST, the biggest neoliberal tax reform that took away the States’ federal right of resource mobilization after entrustingcountry’s economy with corporate big businesses who control the unified pan-Indian market for goods and services.
Today Bihar is a typical example to grasp about the consequences of abolishing APMCs and unleashing private corporate sector on trade in agriculture. It was in 2006 that the Nitish Kumar government repealed the APMC Act in 2006. The declared objective of APMC abolition in Bihar was to ensure better prices for farmers in the state and attract larger sums of private investment in developing state-wide agricultural infrastructure such as cold storages, warehouses, etc. However, contrary to expectations, deregulation led to an increase in storage costs in warehouses owned and operated by private traders, and the prices received by farmers also went down substantially. Often, farmers on account of immediate cash needs were compelled to sell much of their paddy, wheat, maize, mustard and even banana at throwaway prices to private traders, while farmers have completely lost whatever little control they had in the marketing boards of erstwhile APMCs. Earlier, while marketing committees in APMCs could monitor trade, tax collection for government, etc. Though PACS (Primary Agriculture Credit Society) were there for procuring food grains at MSP, the government did not maintain them with adequate support. Money lenders and middlemen could easily take advantage of the situation and often bought crops at prices that was even below 25 percent of prevailing MSP. To be precise, abolition of APMCs has brought back the system of money lending and usurer financing in Bihar agriculture in more intensified manner.
In this context, Modi regime’s superimposition of privatization-corporatisation on agriculture in the guise of farmers’ freedom is in contravention of the perspective upheld by all those who are concerned with the sustenance of Indian farming community. For, the National Commission on Agriculture had in 1976 in its Report suggested that every Indian farmer should have access to a mandi controlled by the respective Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee. It found that only 29 percent of paddy and 44 percent of wheat produced in the country was sold in mandis established by State governments and hence asked the central government to take appropriate steps to increase the number of mandis from 4145 (in 1976, the year in which the Report was prepared) to at least 41000 so as to reduce the average area served by a mandi to 80 sq. km. But India had only 6630 mandis spread across 18 states in 2019 with an average area served of 463 sq. km. In fact, even government circles in 2017 were of the view that India should have at least 10130 mandis. Moreover, though government website claims the prevalence of MSP system for 27 items including 7 cereals, 5 pulses and 8 oil seeds, in practice, only a few items like paddy, wheat, sugarcane, etc. that too only in a few States come under this procurement. Moreover, experience has brought out many loopholes of the existing mandi system since in many cases, payment of MSP for notified commodities even inside designated mandis is not mandatory.
On the other hand, with its far-right economic orientation, since its ascendance in mid-2014, the Modi government has been keen to open up India’s vast agriculture sector to corporate capital. For instance, in November 2019, the Union Finance Minister without any qualm stated that the APMC system has “served its purpose” and the State governments should “reject” and “dismantle” mandis. In continuation of this, when COVID-19 came, taking it as an opportunity, the NITI Aayog had recommended to the government that the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act be kept in suspended animation in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. And as noted earlier, Finance Minister’s announcement for corporatizing agriculture as part of ‘Atmanirbhar’ was in continuation of this. The NITI Aayog had suggested its implementation across states even through the ordinance route “to ease pressure on farmers” and ensure smooth supply of farming goods.
It is in tune with this proposal that, the June ordinances came and Modistarted, including in his ‘Manki Bat’, regularly speaking about liberating farmers from the clutches of mandis and APMCs that deny them the higher prices prevailing outside regulated markets. Therefore, whatever be the Modi government’s assurances on support price and mandis, they are only for hoodwinking the farmers. And the agitating peasants are able to realise the essence of his hollow promises (Modi’s promise in 2014 was of doubling farmers income within 5 years; instead what happened was its halving, whereas the wealth of Ambanis and Adanis, Modi’s closest Gujarati friends and the biggest Indian corporates quadrupled during 2014-19), as the stage is already set for unbridled penetration of global and Indian corporate agri-businesses as well as retail giants into all aspects of agriculture including control over land and input-output markets, encompassing production, processing, storage and trade. Once mandis and MSP are demolished, Ambanis and Adanis, for whom Modi had already leased out FCI infrastructures including land and go-downs in many parts of the country, will be in complete control of everything connected with food grains market. Private trains owned by retail giants including Ambanis and Adanis hence forth will carry food grains and essential agricultural items directly procured from farms controlled by them to be hoarded in their go-downs in strategic locations to be sold at inflated prices through commodity markets and retail outlets under their firm control. It is this political understanding on the corporate undertones behind Modi’s Farm laws that prompts the agitating peasants to target the business establishments of Ambani and Adani. Coupled with corporatisation of farming and repeal of 1955 Essential Commodities Act, the unleashing of corporate forces over everything connected with agriculture envisage the death knell for farmers, retail traders, working class and all toiling masses in the country.
The three farm laws—superimposing corporate raj or corporate take-over of the entire Indian agriculture and abolishing even namesake guarantee of minimum prices to farmers, facilitating hoarding and black marketing and speculation/ futures trade in agricultural commodities, laying red carpet for uncontrolled entry of corporate agribusiness to farm sector, eventually leading to corporate land acquisition and hitherto unknown levels of displacement of the peasantry from agriculture—have now become the biggest offensives against Indian people by Modi govt. If the farm laws are not resisted and defeated, there is the likelihood of Modi once again bringing back the notorious Land Acquisition legislation that was abandoned in 2015 in view of people’s resistance. The outcome of all these will be an uninterrupted mass exodus of the displaced millions from the countryside to be deployed at the cheapest wage in informal/unorganised sectors subcontracted by corporate financiers and speculators in urban and semi-urban centres.
Of course, the international dimensions of Modi’s targeting of agriculture are also important. In continuation of the market access provisions and global integration of agricultural markets as per the provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture at WTO, which was further revised in 2015, member countries are bound to remove all barriers to free trade in agriculture. And together with the latest Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of WTO, World Bank and IMF at the behest of agribusiness MNCs have been pressurising Modi for an aggressive rolling back of all kinds of public intervention in agricultural market including MSP schemes. The US Department of Agriculture is reported to have expressed its happiness over Modi’s Farm Laws as they envisage new opportunities for American agribusiness corporations. While the percent of population depending on agriculture in developed countries where agriculture has already been corporatized now hovers around 2 percent, in India it is still around 50 percent. According to the advice of far- right neoliberal centres, Modi regime is engaged in removing this ‘anomaly’ by forcible transformation of subsistence agriculture to corporate farming.
On the other hand, imperialist powers such as US and EU have their country-specific rules and regulations to protect their agriculture and have even succeeded to incorporate specific clauses to that effect in WTO provisions. However, instead of wholeheartedly uniting with other dependent countries to overcome the unequal set of rules at WTO that favour the big powers, Modi government is faithfully pursuing WTO diktats undermining India’s food security on the one hand, and destitution and displacement of 56. 7 percent of India’s total workforce and 86.08 percent of small and marginal peasants (based on 10th Agriculture Census, 2015-16) who own only 47 percent of the total crop area, on the other. Thus Modi’s farm laws are an ingenious move to superimpose agricultural corporatisation leading to not only pauperisation of the entire peasantry but also the displacement of millions and millions of pauperised peasants from even their small landholdings. That’s, unprecedented displacement of rural people from agriculture, their mass exodus from country-side to urban centres and swelling in the ranks of the informal working class are imminent. Over the past two decades, on account of the crisis in agriculture- due to lack of adequate output prices, crop failure, rising input costs, debt, etc.- more than 330000 peasants had to commit suicide. While the situation under Modi, on account of anti-peasant policies, has worsened further (A source from Oxford University’s South Asia Area Studies puts the number of India’s peasant suicides at 10281 in 2019 alone), the National Crime Records Bureau has stopped releasing data on peasant suicides.
To be precise, the ongoing historic struggle by Indian farmers is not for their sustenance alone; it is for the very survival of the broad masses, for their badly needed food security. By eliminating Mandis and APMCs which are characterised as middlemen by Modi regime, the agenda is to abolish food grain procurement altogether and hand over the existing FCI infrastructure (food is rotting in FCI go downs even as people are starving to death) to corporate retail giants like Ambanis and Adanis who have already started storing food grains in warehouses owned by FCI and leased out to them, as already noted. For instance, today the turnover of Ambani, India’s biggest corporate company, from agricultural trade alone(including commodity futures trade, a euphemism for hoarding and speculation) alone is estimated at Rs. 1.6 lakh crore (which is around 25 percent of Ambani’s current wealth accumulation which also is one component in the sudden shoot up in his wealth during COVID-19 pandemic). At present Ambani’s Reliance Fresh has 625 outlets that sells more than 180000 ton vegetables in a year. Ambani’s Jio Mart has already brought 12 crore farmers, 6 crore small industries and 3 crore traders in its pan-Indian network.
Coming to the case of Adani, who had only 44 projects across India in 2013, increased them to 99 by 2018. Since 2015, like Ambani, Adani also has made huge investments in agricultural processing and now owns 40 units with a processing capacity of 16000 tons per day. Adani Agro Logistics Ltd (AALL) has evolved as the key infrastructure builder for FCI leading to its probable take-over by the former. Along this, futures trade and consequent hoarding in essential agricultural items have been introduced by the regime, even otherwise. If not resisted and defeated, the full-fledged corporatisation of agriculture will form the basis of corporate-saffron fascism leading unmanageable havoc in India.
And, as elsewhere, this no holds barred agricultural corporatisation envisaged is integrally linked up with Modi’s “digital India” or digitisation prognosis that is transforming India into a dumping ground for US digital giants like Facebook and Google through the digital platform offered by Ambani. The entire marketing arrangements under the proposed agricultural regime led by corporate agribusiness will be through digital payments or cashless transactions. Many digital and fintech tools such as Aadhaar, payment apps, debit-credit cards, and digital platforms such as Jio (as junior partner of Facebook), etc. will become mandatory for peasants to enter in to virtual transactions with agribusiness giants (Modi is systematically moving ahead with his effort to wipe out public sector bank branches from the countryside.
During 2014-19 the number of public sector banks has been reduced from 27 to 12 and is to be further pruned to a maximum of 4 as envisaged by the neoliberal banking reforms and green signal for corporate-led private banks is already issued).As in the case of GST, for the smooth functioning of the proposed agricultural corporatisation, the Central government is facilitating a pan-Indian national electronic trade regime with the State governments having little say in it. And the existing mandi system and traditional procurements under State administration, even if allowed to continue, will be wiped out or become insignificant as the digitised “free trade area” facilitated by the Central regime advances further.
To sum up, therefore, the Indian farmers’ agitation is not confined to agriculture alone, it is a political struggle having far-reaching ramifications. It is against corporate fascism as well as against the logic of most corrupt speculative finance capital underlying it. The peasants of India who personally know the exploitative character of corporate-agribusiness better than others have unequivocally rejected Modi’ Farm Laws. They are capable enough to foresee the trap behind them and can comprehend the true essence of the so called virtues of technocratic governance proposed by Modi and his corporate-bureaucratic advisers.
Therefore, it is the solemn duty of the Indian working class and all oppressed to unite and march ahead with the struggling peasants who are repeatedly demanding a full revocation and not an of the anti-peasant legislations.
WE are bidding farewell to 2020, and heralding the New Year at a very critical time. During 2020 at international level many people’s movements were taking place against the intensifying economic crisis, together the advent of neo-fascist governments in a number of countries. Then the Covid19 pandemic paralysed the world and the economic crisis became more serious. As the whole burden of all these were thrown over to the backs of the toiling and oppressed masses, they were further impoverished. Along with this they are more dis-empowered through draconian laws imposed using the Covid as a cover. In the process of suppressing people’s upsurges, to serve the neoliberal/corporate forces, in more countries neo-fascist rulers have come to power. Though the defeat of Trump in the US elections was a welcome development, in other countries the situation is becoming more challenging for the people.
So, even in providing the newly developed vaccines to all people, when the number of Covid patients is increasing every day, there is no transparency. The reactionary governments are creating a situation when the corporate forces, who develop these vaccines, can reap fabulous fortune at the cost of people. In this situation, as the ICOR has called, the progressive forces should come forward to strengthen the International Anti-Imperialist, Anti- Fascist United Front, demand that all the vaccines developed in various countries should be provided free to all the people, without allowing the corporates to loot the people. Similarly, as the Covid 19 virus is undergoing mutation and new, more dangerous viruses are surfacing creating more havoc as is happening in Britain now, the governments should be asked to take responsibility to ease the burden on the masses of people, to provide free treatment and economic assistance to them and more efficient methods for providing vaccines to all people very fast. But as many of the neo-fascists in power like Bolsenaro in Brazil are intensifying their anti-people policies rejecting these demands, worldwide revolts against imperialist forces and their junior partners for socialism is the need of the time.
2020 started amidst in a militant atmosphere in India when masses of the people were heroically fighting against the Citizenship Amendment Act imposed by Modi rule as part of its efforts to whip up Islamophobia. When the first case of Covid was detected in India, for almost two months, like other neo-fascists in power in a number of countries did, Modi govt neglected it, without taking any steps to prevent its spreading. At the same time it was used to cover up the already visible economic crisis and joblessness, and to suppress the Anti-CAA/NPR movement. Then, by abruptly announcing a lockdown, millions of workers were made jobless and shelterless, throwing them to great difficulties. Still Modi govt did not come to their rescue. Along with serious lapses in organizing the medical sector for facing the pandemic, no packages to help the affected people were provided, but all incentives were given to the corporates and the elites. Though the testing was limited to just 5% of the people, already more than 1 crore of people are affected. The economy which faced a severe contraction is now facing acute downfall.
In spite of it, Modi went for throwing out all the existing labour laws and replacing it with 4 labour codes to attract investors. Three Farm Acts were imposed through an ordinance and later bulldozed through the parliament for corporatization of agriculture, the National Education Policy 2020 was introduced for corporatization and saffronization of education along with other anti-people steps to take neoliberal/corporate policies to their peak. It was an arrogant fascist challenge against people, using the pandemic as a cover. But, exposing all misinformation campaign of Modi, the farmers’ struggle that started in Punjab as soon as the ordinance was issued, has taken an all India form with almost half million farmers marching and occupying the main roads leading to Delhi as they were prevented from entering the capital. While the neo-fascist Modi rule refuse to accept the demand of the farmers to repeal the 3 farm acts, more and more farmers are marching to besiege the capital indefinitely.
All revolutionary left forces including CPI(ML) Red Star and the working class, all oppressed classes and sections, along with all anti- BJP political and social forces are actively extending solidarity and supporting this movement spearheaded by the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha of more than 500 farmers’ organizations. Though the Modi-Shah team is engaged in viciously vilifying and dividing this movement, it is getting increasingly strengthened putting forward its anti-imperialist, patriotic demand to repeal corporatization of agriculture. Similar to the Anti-CAA, NPR movement, in all states centres are coming up in support of this farmers’ Gherao of the national capital. It is a great beginning for 2021, pregnant with great possibilities!
(Editorial, Red Star Monthly – January 2021)
Under the initiative of All India Kisan (farmer/peasant) Sangharsh (struggle) Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) which coordinates more than 500 farmers’ organizations from all states of India, the famers in India are waging a relentless struggle against the three black Acts enacted by the RSS/BJP government bulldozing them through both houses of parliament, especially through the upper house, the Rajya Sabha where a vote was not allowed even when these bills had no majority support. These three Acts are: 1). Farmers'Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020. 2). Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. 3.) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The farmers and all progressive agricultural experts like P. Sainath were repeatedly explaining, and the farmers from their experience have learned that these Acts will put an end to government procurement of agricultural products, with frequently reviewed Minimum Support Price (MSP) through Agricultural produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMCs) and will throw them to the mercy of the giant corporates. When farmers are committing suicides in big numbers in most of the states due to economic crisis already, this corporatization, they fear, shall lead to their total ruin.
In India there is a regulatory system for food distribution that has been built up since the 60s. It consists of many Government regulated market yards (APMCs) all over the country. Farmers can take their produce to such market yards to avoid being cheated by the traders. The produce is weighed and sold at a price which is fixed by open auction. Further, the Government had set up the PDS (public distribution system) which provides ration to all citizens. For this the Government had to set a MSP (minimum support price) for each product – rice, wheat, dals, etc – every year. The Government had to set up a procurement machinery. The FCI (Food Corporation of India) was set up which stores crores or tonnes of grains. Also corporations like the Warehousing corporation etc.
This was still felt to be insufficient both for the farmers and the consumers. For the farmers many commissions were set up. The Swaminathan Commission has suggested that the MSP should be fixed such that the farmer will get 50% profit over the cost of production. In fact the manifesto of the BJP in the last election had promised to implement this. For the consumers, after much struggle, under orders from the Supreme Court the Government of India has enacted, in September 2013 (effective July 2013), the National Food Security Act which promises to provide subsidized foodgrains to two thirds of the population of India. All this was also not really sufficient. Farmers in our country are still among the poorest and people are still dying of hunger.
There has always been pressure from imperialist countries, through the WTO and other organisations, on our Govt. to dismantle this system. They wanted that food should be subject to an “open” market like any other commodity. In reality they know that food is the final captive market – human beings cannot live without food – and therefore they want to control this market.
The Modi Government has enacted laws which threaten even the meagre regulatory system. Big multinational food conglomerates are to be allowed to enter the market. The rules of the APMC will now be restricted to the premises within the four walls of the market yard. Outside the market yard the big corporations will be free to enforce their own writ. The effect on the farmers will be devastating. It is not only their produce that will be looted but the big corporates will enslave them by telling them what they should grow, what seed they should use, what fertiliser, etc. These laws were made unconstitutionally by Parliament though “agriculture” is a state subject
This will not only affect farmers (and of course the agricultural workers who are dependent on them) but also workers and the common persons. With the dismantling of APMCs and large corporations like Fci, millions of jobs will be lost. With the removal of price controls food inflation which is already very high will shoot through the roof. And the effect is not only economic. With big corporations controlling our economy the very democratic fabric of our country will be affected. For example, when large Government corporations are closed and private players move in thousands of reserved jobs will be lost. In short, these bills, like the labour codes, threaten the very independence and sovreignty of India – they threaten to obliterate the poor and weak sections of society and remove the very last vestige of democratic society that may exist.
When the Congress-led UPA government had initiaited this move under pressure from the corporate forces, the farmers all over the country had started agitating and the UPA govt was forced to stop the move. The corporate like Ambani and Adani within the country, and MNCs heavily funded BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Modi govt came to power. But, as it had no majority in the upper house, its implementation was delayed. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, these three Acts were first issued as an Ordinance, without bothering for consulting the farmers’ organizations or opposition parties. Against this, the farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, where the farming is done in developed form and where they are best organized, had started protesting through various forms. Recently this same government has passed four labour codes which basically introduce "hire and fire" and remove many of the protections given to workers. Most trade unions (incuding those associated with the BJP and its partners) have been agitating against these. These were the cause of the major strike on 26th November.
On the same day in September that Parliament passed these labour codes, the three acts against farmers were also passed. Notably, the opposition had declared a boycott of parliament on that day and had called for a day of protest. All opposition parliament members were outside taking part in the protests. At such a time, these acts were pushed through both houses of parliament and made into laws.
Soon after this the AIKSCC which was formed against the Ordinance, launched state level campaigns and then various struggles while asking the central government to revoke them. At this time, the BJP government gave another blow to the farmers abolishing the subsidy they were getting for the electricity, and introduces the Electricity Bill 2020 which stipulates that the farmers also should give the pwer charges equal to industrialists. So, the agitation against the 3 Farm Acts and the Electricity Bill 2020 soon spread all over the country, and in Punjab and Haryana took massive forms. As the central government has enacted these laws in the field of agriculture, which is a state subject according to Constitution, the state governments led by opposition parties announced that they will not implement it. Still the fascist BJP government was not prepared to re-consider them. So, the AIKSC decided to give a Delhi Chalo call all organizations to send members to Delhi on 26-27 November.
Following all India campaign and public announcements when the farmers’ started marching to Delhi on 25th November, especially hundreds of thousands of them including very large number of women farmers from Punjab, who had already paralyzed the railway services through the state, at the behest of central government the BJP led Haryana govt put strong barricades, dug out the roads, and as the marchers were still moving ahead breaking all obstacles, they were water cannoned, lathi charged and hundreds of tear-gas shells were fired at them. Still, overcoming all these the farmers started reaching the borders of Delhi, the national capital. When they were asked to move to a ground near a Gurudwara (Sikh shrine), recognizing the trap to make it as an open jail, they refuswd. The very large number of farmers have come with their tractors and trailors with food for six months and cloths and bed to brave the very cold climate. This march by the farmers’ organizations and the general strike of tens of millions of workers on 26th November demanding the repeal of the four labour codes were a big challenge to the RSS/BJP forces.
Though three rounds of discussions took place with the government delegation, as the government is not ready to accept the four core demands, the AIKSC called for a Bharat Bandh on 8th December. All opposition parties, and revolutionary left organizations including CPI(ML) Red Star, along with a large number of class/mass organizations supported this call while large number of workers, students, youth, women and oppressed sections participated making it a great success. Roads into Delhi were blocked upto 3 pm and farmers and workers and youth held demonstrations in various parts of India. Angered by it, the home minister Amit Shah met the leaders of AIKSCC in the night and told them that only amendments shall be accepted, the anti-farmer Acts will not be repealed and Electricity Bill will not be withdrawn. Responding to this arrogant approach, the AIKSCC has called for intensifying the struggle making the protest programs countrywide, boycott all Jio, Reliance and Adani products including Sim cards, to block other roads to Delhi and close down all toll gates. It has become something like a do or die struggle, and in coming days various steps shall be taken to compel the government to accept the farmers’ demands. What is happening is a mass upsurge of the farmers against the corporatization of agriculture to serve the crony capitalists like Ambani and Adani using Manuvadi Hiindutva as an ideological cover. The farmers have decided to go forward with the struggle prepared to face all consequences. From 14th December the BJP offices will be gheraoed by the farmers. This is an all-out move to intensify the movement.
The farmers’ march to Delhi started from Punjab, Haryana was attacked so fiercely, as another enemy force by RSS/BJP and their Central and Haryana state governments that the farmers’ had to fight for advancing every inch forward. Still they reached Delhi’s border on 27th and started the Delhi Gherao program. Today, on the 16th day of the struggle, they have rejected the Modi government’s offer to make some cosmic amendments to the 3 black acts for total corporatization of the agricultural sector. They have called for intensifying the struggle and a country level protest day on 14th December. This upsurge of the farmers of India against the corporatization shows that trying to overcome all efforts of RSS to maim and disarm the people through Manuvadi Hindutva Brahmanical offensive, more than 500 farmers’ organizations under All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) are creating history, reflecting the vast changes that have taken place internationally and in our country, along with the struggling masses of Latin America, Africa and Asia, they have come out on the streets, waging street battles with the state forces, and showing the way forward.
Now it is the task of the working class organizations who have already organized a successful general strike demanding repeal of the four labour codes to come out with a campaign to achieve this goal as well as in solidarity with the farmers’ struggle. Similarly, as seen on 8th Bharat Bandh, the students, youth, women and oppressed peoples are also coming forward to support the struggle. The revolutionary left forces should strive hard to mobilize all these forces to consolidate the struggle. Let us dare to put in to practice the path of mass upsurge more powerfully.
Today Indian economy is confronting the worst contraction on record. Officially also, it is acknowledged as historic down-turn in 70 years. It is a fact that COVID-19 came when imperialism has been still reeling under the impact and repercussions of the 2008 global crisis. Now the pandemic has driven the world economy to a state of crumbling, the dimensions of which are surpassing that of the Great Depression of 1929-33.For instance, based on October 2020 database, IMF estimates a 4.4% contraction in world output in 2020. Except China which is expected to mark a growth rate of 1.9%, all leading countries will contract or represent minus growth- US(-4.3%), Japan(-5.3%), Euro Area(-8.3%) and UK(-9.8%). On the other hand, while the average growth rate of the so called “developing countries” is predicted to contract by -3%, that of India will be a staggering -10.3%.
According to Swiss bank UBS, by the dawn of 2020 itself, half of world’s net wealth belonged to the top 1% of the superrich; and top 10% of the population held 85% of total global wealth. Conversely, 90% of the people have only 15% of world’s wealth (and top 30% holding 97% of the total wealth). During the pandemic, world’s billionaires whose number rose from 2158 in 2017 to 2189 by mid-2020 increased their wealth by 27.5% during April-July 2020, to a record high of $10.2 trillion.
Its global consequences as manifested in surging poverty and unemployment are horrific. While IMF predicts a fall of an additional 90 million people in to extreme deprivation in 2020, ILO calculates an unemployment/underemployment of up to 2 billion people (58% of the world’s total labour force of 3.46 billion in 2019) in 2020 itself. According to the World Food Program, on an average, around 9 million people are dying annually from famine and hunger-related causes. Now, on account of the pandemic, this figure may skyrocket as there will now be 1.5 to 2.0 billion famine-vulnerable people, many of whom may die.
Indian Economy Facing The Worst-Ever Contraction
However, the present collapse of the Indian economy, as noted in the beginning, is quite unparalleled and the worst on record. Both International agencies and official Indian sources have acknowledged this. In continuation of a 24% contraction or negative growth for the first quarter of 2020, the IMF, in its latest World Economic Outlook, predicts a 10.3% contraction for the entire financial year ending March 2021, revising its earlier prediction of a 4.5% decline. This additional 5.8 percentage-point downgrade of Indian GDP is the worst in the world. Strikingly, IMF’s outlook for India is worse than RBI’s prediction of a 9.5% decline in GDP in the current fiscal year. A comparison of the sector-wise official statistics pertaining to the first quarter of the previous year (2019-20) with that of the current year, gives a more concrete picture. For instance, except agriculture, forestry and fishing (that shows a growth of 3.4% in the first quarter of 2020-21 compared to 3.0% growth in 2019-20), all other sectors are steadily contracting. Thus, 2020-21 quarter one contraction for mining and quarrying was -23.3% (4.7% in 2019-20), for manufacturing, it was -39.3% (3% in 2019-20), electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services -7% (8.8% in 2019-20), -50.3% (5.2% in 2019-20), trade, hotels, transport, communication, broadcasting services -47% (3.5% in 2019-20), financial, real estate and professional services -5.3% (6.0% in 2019-20), and public administration, defence and other services -10.3% (7.7% in 2019-20).
As such, according to independent analysts, the crisis is more deep-rooted and worse outcomes are in store. For instance, India’s former Chief Economic Advisor and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have predicted the economy to shrink by around 12% in the current year. According to Arun Kumar, another well-known economist, India’s GDP decline in the current year will be around 50% and not 24% as officially claimed. This is because of the devastation of India’s unorganised/informal sector that provides 94% of total employment and yields 45% of total output produced in the country. Contradicting CMIE data, Arun Kumar also puts the actual unemployment figure at 20 crore. According to him, unless appropriately managed through policy interventions, the official optimistic projections for 2021 will remain as wishful thinking.
The massive decline of around 24% in India’s GDP, as officially estimated, in 2020 April-June quarter makes the size of GDP almost the same in size as that in the same quarter in 2015. Hence it can be said that the GDP level has leaped back by 5-6 years, more or less equal to the same level when Modi came to power. As a result, the past half-a-decade under Modinomics may be characterised as lost years for India. A comparison between Bangladesh, India’s neighbour would be more illuminating in this regard. According to IMF data, on an average, India’s per capita GDP has been 24 percent higher than that of Bangladesh during the last 5 years. But by mid-2020, India’s per capita GDP in nominal US dollar terms was $1876.53 (Rs. 1.25 lakh approximately) compared to $1887.97 for Bangladesh.
Consequently, in the 2020 Global Hunger Index prepared jointly by World Hunger Aid and Concern Worldwide, India’s rank slipped to 94 (among 107 countries) from 55 (among 76) in 2014. Most of the South Asian countries — Sri Lanka (64), Nepal (73), Bangladesh (75), Myanmar (78) and Pakistan (88) — are better off than India in this regard. As its manifestation, with 17.5% of world population, India is home to 22% of world’s most poor and hungry people. As a direct outcome of this destitution, with 37.4% of the underweight children, India has the distinction of having number one position in the world in this regard too. In the same vein, in the case of other indices such as Inequality Index (where India’s position is 129 among 157 countries), Happiness Index (144 among 156), Environment Performance Index (167 among 180), and so on, India’s deterioration continues unabated. With 18 million slaves (out of 46 million worldwide) almost entirely from the lowest rung of the caste system, India under Modi regime occupies number one position in Global Slavery Index too.
At the same time, amidst a 24% GDP contraction during the first quarter of 2020-21, as estimated by Forbes, within one year Ambani has his wealth increased by 73% from$3730 crore to $8870 crore, that of Adani by 61% reaching $2520 crore, and in that order for many billionaires such that the total wealth of the first 10 Indian billionaires rose to $51750 crore (approximately Rs. 38 lakh crore) during the same period. In general, as Oxfam has estimated, today around three-fourth of the additional income or wealth generated in India is gobbled up by the upper 1% of the super-rich (close to 60 percent of the country’s total wealth is in the hands of upper 10 percent of the population). If we exclude the 75% of the income appropriated by the upper 1%, then the per capita income of the 99% will be a paltry portion of the officially estimated Rs. 1.25 lakh. And if we exclude the organised sector and take the unorganised and informal sectors where 95% of the Indian workforce are depending for their sustenance (for which no detailed official data is there), then the situation will be too gruesome. It may be more horrific than what Arjun Sengupta, the then Planning Commission member had estimated a decade back—that 83% of Indians subsist on just Rs. 20 a day!
Analysis Of The Situation
The cause for this situation is now generally attributed to India’s lockdown which is acknowledged as the most coercive, the most stringent and most prolonged in the world, on account of its deadly restrictions on social and economic life. For instance, a study on the government responses to COVID-19 by the Oxford University, after comparing the pandemic-induced lockdowns that put the economy in a frozen state on account of disruptions in both movement of the people and supply chains in various countries, has attributed the highest “Stringency Index” of 100 to Modi government followed by Italy (with a Stringency Index of 95.2), Spain (90.5), Germany (81), US (66.76) and Japan (45). Revealingly, while all other countries resorted to lockdowns when the number of infections reached around 100000, the strictest lockdown in India was superimposed when the total infections were just around 5000 in the third week of March 2020. While putting the entire economy in a frozen state leading to a devastation especially of the informal sectors that provide sustenance for vast majority of the toiling masses, in the absence of any worthwhile intervention for containing the pandemic, the lockdown that lasted for almost 2 months utterly failed to get the pandemic under control, with the number of corona-virus cases crossing 7.6 million (by the beginning of the 3rd week of October, while these lines are written), second only to the US.
COVID-19, The Immediate Cause Only
The government and corporate media in India now firmly claim that the economic collapse with all its manifestations is caused by the corona virus pandemic. This is also endorsed by IMF when its chief economist Gita Gopinath referred to the “great lockdown” of India. But this forms only a partial explanation and not in accord with concrete facts. On the other hand, a closer analysis reveals that the elements of the present crisis and the consequent irreversible economic downturn got a new turn since the advent of Modi in 2014. In fact, COVID-19 is only the spark and not the root cause triggering the present crisis.
That is, while the post-meltdown crisis has been a continuing process at the global level, India’s economic collapse under Modi regime, though connected with many external factors, is to be understood as different in many respects. For, as highlighted by several international and Indian studies including that done by the Economic Research Department of SBI , the Indian economy was ‘relatively immune’ from the global meltdown of 2008 and the country’s GDP had been growing at 7-8 % on an average up to 2014-15. This also prompted neoliberal centres to characterise India as “the best-performing economy” in the world during the years immediately following 2008 meltdown.
Thus, in retrospect, it can be seen that the ongoing economic collapse of India has been inseparably linked up with the complete transformation of the Indian state as a “facilitator” of corporatisation and the consequent far-right shift in economic policies under Modi regime. For instance, without any qualm, immediately after coming to power, the first step that Modi did was the abolition of the more than six-and-a-half decade-old Planning Commission, the last remnant of state-led development, and its replacement by a corporate-bureaucratic think-tank called NITI Aayog and entrusting the task of policymaking with it without even consulting the parliament. To transform the State as corporate-investor-friendly, and to rapidly improve India’s indices pertaining to “ease of doing business” and “global competitiveness” as laid down by Bretton Woods twin (and, of course, fully in tandem with the far-right economic philosophy of RSS that guides the Modi regime), what followed was a pan-Indian extension of the ultra-rightist Gujarat model that uninterruptedly flourished under Modi’s chief ministership. Mimicking China’s export-led growth, the flagship “Make in India” initiative was announced in September 2014 with the declared aim of transforming India into world’s manufacturing hub, creation of an additional 100 million jobs in the manufacturing sector and raising the proportion of manufacturing from 16 percent to 25 percent of GDP by 2022. However, what happened is the opposite and today this proportion has further fallen down to around 13 percent. The foreign capital that rushed in taking advantage of liberal tax, labour and environmental regulations under the cover of “Make in India” mainly went into money-spinning speculative activities, as capital that flowed in was least interested in employment-oriented production. Consequently, “Make in India” transformed India into a dustbin corporate-speculative capital on the one hand, and a dumping ground for capital and consumer goods from imperialist sources ranging from US to China.
Modi’s 2016 Demonetisation superimposed on the people in the guise of a surgical strike against black money was an ingenious move to whiten the black money with the most corrupt corporate black money holders on the one hand, and suck out whatever left in the arteries of common people by denying them cash which is the life-blood of the informal sectors and essential for people’s daily transactions, leading to a further concentration of wealth with the corporate-financial elite closely connected with the ruling regime. In the process, the whole economy remained in a paralysed state. This was followed by GST that deprived the states of their Federal right of resource mobilisation and shifted the tax burden on the shoulders of common people and on the unorganised sectors.
Though Modi came to power in 2014 claiming to generate an additional 2 crore jobs every year, according to independent estimates, by the beginning of 2020, i.e., on the eve of the pandemic, the country had lost around 14 crore jobs since 2014. And India today experiences the worst unemployment in recorded history. Almost 50 percent of the people is still clinging to agriculture for their sustenance though the contribution of agriculture to GDP is only around 15 percent as of now. Modi’s input-output pricing policies pertaining to agriculture and its forcible integration with world market coupled corporatisation policies have pauperised the peasantry. Over the years, corporatisation of agriculture had displaced large sections from agriculture altogether.
Though concentration of income and wealth under Modi is of unprecedented proportions, only 1.5 crore Indians are effective direct tax payers (including corporate and personal income taxes) and in spite of extreme concentration of wealth and inequality, Indian corporate tax rate at 15 percent is the lowest in the world. The direct tax-GDP ratio in India is stagnating at around 5.5 percent which also is the lowest in the world. If the upper 10 percent of the wealthy sections are brought under the tax net, together with 30 percent corporate tax prevailing when Modi came to power (during the 1970s, the highest rate was up to 90 percent), the direct tax-GDP ratio could have easily been raised to 20 percent.
To compensate for this biggest loss in direct tax revenue arising from tax rate reduction, along with the increase in indirect tax burden on the people through GST, Modi has been resorting to the biggest-ever loot of the broad masses by sky-rocketing prices of petroleum products (mainly through raising taxes and cesses on petrol, diesel, cooking gas, etc.), and by this alone during 2014-20 the regime has amassed an additional amount worth Rs. 17.5 lakh crore compared to the UPA regime. Ironically, the average world crude oil price (India imports around 80 percent of its crude oil requirements) during the entire Modi regime has been around one-third of what it was during the previous UPA rule, and following declining global demand in the context of COVID-19, global price is now hovering around one-fourth of what it had been a decade ago. Meanwhile, declining government revenue from direct and indirect taxes(the latter mainly on account of loss in people’s purchasing power) coupled with corruption (though Modi came to power on an anti-corruption plank and with the promise of bringing back Indian black money from foreign tax havens and putting Rs. 15 lakh in to the account of each Indian citizen, under him India became a “flourishing example of crony capitalism” and the most corrupt country in Asia) and loss to exchequer in manifold ways, etc., are resulting in an unprecedented growth in India’s debt-GDP ratio to around 85 percent during the Modi period. To cap it all, an unprecedented loot of public wealth through disinvestment of PSUs and plunder of public sector banks through the creation of NPAs by corporates are flourishing without any let up.
The anti-people nature of this government is self-evident in its reluctance to distribute at least a portion of the huge stock of food grains among the starving millions including the migrant workers who were condemned to bear the brunt of the coercive lockdown. In spite of Modi regime’s anti-farmer policies including the latest pro-corporate central agricultural legislations, India is ranked second in food and agricultural production. As such, the total food grains stock (rice plus wheat) with FCI has topped 100 million tons by mid-2020. On account of grave storage challenges, millions of tons of this grain stock are prone to decay, and the government could have effectively and quickly liquidate the heavy burden of storage by immediately distributing this among the needy, vulnerable and destitute sections through a free-grain scheme. But true to its fascist character, except certain window-dressing (eg, the announcement to distribute 5 kg wheat/rice for 3 months among the poor as part of Aatmanirbhar), the government least interested to distribute the food grains among the tens of millions of poor including the migrant workers.
To be precise, prior to COVID-19, the neoliberal-corporatisation policies pursued by Modi government have been driving the country to an economic contraction of unprecedented proportions. Now the pandemic is again used as an opportunity by the corporate-saffron fascist regime for stimulating the corporates by its far-right agenda more aggressively. For instance, the recently announced so called “Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” is another cover for an unprecedented “stimulus package” for those whom Modi regime characterises as “wealth creators” (a synonym for most corrupt corporate looters). Aatmanirbhar Bharat is a vulgar imitation of the earlier prognosis of “Make in India” (of late, “Make in India” is replaced by the new catchword “Assemble in India for the World” in accordance with the “Global Value Chains” hypothesis recently put forward by World Bank)and what envisaged now is the outright sell-out of remaining 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. No doubt, such “supply-side” interventions belong to the same genre of pro-corporate stimulus packages pursued elsewhere by neoliberal centres. Revealingly, out of the Rs. 21 lakh crore Aatmanirbhar package, what addressed to the vast majority of toiling and oppressed masses is only around Rs.2 lakh core or just one percent of the country’s GDP, the remaining straightway going to corporate coffers.
On Understanding the Present Economic Collapse
Obviously, for fascists, crises are new opportunities, and the corporate-saffron fascist Modi regime is no exception to this rule. Using COVID-19 as a cover, Modi.2 is now engaged in an aggressive wealth transfer to corporate looters on the one hand, and imposition of heavy burdens on the backs of common people on the other. Of course, as can be seen, there has been a constant economic downturn under Modi-1 and Modi-2, and the GDP contraction cannot be only due to the pandemic or the severest lockdown. Ironically, as we pointed out earlier, corporate wealth accumulation is flourishing without any let up even as the economy and all its components are going down—private consumption expenditure contracted-26.7%, exports-20%, construction-50%, investment and services (including trade, hotels, communication, transport and broadcast)-47% respectively and so on in the context of the pandemic. In the ultimate analysis, all these variables could be seen directly and indirectly linked up with gross value addition, production, employment and earnings ofthe people. Therefore, it is important to understand this irreversible declining trend under Modi regime with respect to the logic of corporatisation (“wealth creation” as the govt. officially puts it) vigorously pursued by it.
From its very inception, Modi government’s concentrated effort has been to create an ‘investor-friendly” atmosphere for the corporate speculators. In the guise of unleashing the “animal spirit” of the most corrupt corporate giants, unprecedented tax give-aways and exemptions along with steep reduction in corporate tax rates have become regular feature of all budgets and extra-budgetary measures since 2014. Now at 15 percent, Indian corporate tax rate is the lowest in the world. Corporate companies are exempted from paying Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT), audit exemption for adapting to cashless transactions up to Rs. 5 crore, amendment in Indian Company’s Act for abolishing penal steps against those violating it including non-adherence to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and so on. Even profit-making PSUs are disinvested at throwaway prices to be gobbled up big corporate companies. Leading corporates were allowed to build-up huge non-performing assets (NPAs) with public sector banks that pushed the banking system to crisis. Elimination of all restrictions to the free entry and exit of foreign corporate capital and similar other steps were also initiated in a systematic manner.
But this unparalleled wealth transfer to corporates in the guise of boosting production and employment has, instead of positively contributing anything to employment-oriented production, rather led to horrific proportion of wealth accumulation by both foreign and domestic corporate giants who diverted a major component of this wealth to terribly destructive speculation and money-spinning activities. Even banks, financial institutions and mutual funds have become reluctant to deploy the immense funds at their disposal for productive investment. Still under the so called ‘expert’ advice from neoliberal centres, red carpet has been continuously laid down for attracting foreign capital. And the economic situation which was bad in the pre-Covid situation has become worse, or as is conceived by many, the economy which was already in the ICU is now put on the ventilator. Thus, Modi government’s wholehearted embrace of the logic of corporate capital-i.e., if left free capital today invariably goes to the most profitable avenues- has pushed Indian economy in to a vicious corporatisation-stagnation trap. Its ultimate outcome is 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.
Lenin in his theory of imperialism had already explained much on the character of fictitious or speculative capital –an aspect briefly noted by Marx too in Capital. Today under neoliberal imperialism, speculative capital that develops exclusively in the financial sphere by sucking out value from the real economy without any real link with material production has become the dominant form of capital. And this is the essence of economic contraction and crisis today. India today is in the firm grip of a vicious circle—i.e., lack of investment in employment-oriented productive investment leads to lack of jobs resulting in lack of income and purchasing power for the masses, which in turn leads to lack of demand for goods and services and market contraction that lead to lower or lack of profit from the productive sphere which again pulls back investment in spite of repeated corporate “stimulus packages” by the government. As this vicious circle of contraction/stagnation strengthens, Modi government which rolls itself back from all investments, in tune with neoliberal diktats, is coercively superimposing heavier and heavier burdens on the shoulders of the people. All avenues at the disposal of corporate-saffron fascism are deployed not only against workers and all oppressed including dalits, adivasis, minorities, women and even children, but also on political opponents and dissenters. Obviously, there is no shortcut, and the only option is a political alternative capable of resisting and defeating this horrific situation.
On Immediate Options and Political Alternative
Obviously, from the perspective of Marxist political economy, the alternative to this corporate-fascist offensive is to break the logic of neo-liberalism itself, which calls for an appropriate broad-based, nationwide people’s movement led by revolutionary forces capable of imparting death blows to corporate capital. The immediate requirements or slogans for initiating such a process are there in the Draft of the Common Minimum program for building the Anti-Fascist Front already proposed by CPI (ML) Red Star (see, “ Appeal to All Revolutionary Left Organisations”, Red Star, August 2020). The specific economic demands (items 3-8) mentioned in it, for instance, if urgently implemented, will ensure more purchasing power in people’s hands and will provide a boost to productive economic activities. Though reactionary sections of corporate capital may still keep aloof from investment, it will definitely prompt sustainable agriculture, encourage medium and small industries to actively come forward to boost production and employment, which can break the vicious circle of economic stagnation.
Together with this “demand push” (as against “supply side”) initiatives, demands for reintroducing progressive corporate taxation, wealth and inheritance tax, abolition of regressive indirect taxation including the neoliberal GST that puts disproportionate burden on the people, introduction of redistributive wage and universal social and security and gender-specific policies, ensuring quality public services including water, health and education, total elimination of burden of unpaid work especially by women, guaranteeing elder care as well as child care, ensuring minimum wage sufficient enough for adequate standard of living, regulating ratios between lowest and highest wages and earnings, price support programs for peasants, reasonable restrictions on financial dealings and ban on speculation, capital flight, illicit financial flows, etc., anti-monopoly and anti-corruption policies, strengthening public sector and reversal of disinvestment and denationalisation policies and so on can appropriately be incorporated in to the minimum program. This shall form the stepping stone towards a sustainable political-economic alternative capable of resisting and overcoming the hegemony of corporate capital.
(Party School Paper for 2020)
The centenary day of the first meeting of the communists from India is 17th October, 2020, which was convened at Tashkent based on the call of the First or Foundation Congress of the Communist International (Comintern), which is generally considered the beginning of the Communist movement in India. On 17th October, 2019, we had started the campaign to observe the centenary, taking the message of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and our decisions to confront and overcome the present challenges faced by the communist movement in our country and all over the world. But, meanwhile the humanity had to confront the still continuing worldwide crisis caused by Covid19 pandemic. It has its serious impact in India. So, this campaign could not be carried forward as we planned. The Central Committee of the CPI(ML) Red Star had called on all party committees to observe the conclusion of this campaign on 17-18 October in all states with webinars in different languages, hall meetings wherever possible, postering, distribution of handbills and social media campaign from 11th to 18thOctober. Some of the state committees are organizing programs till 7th November, the 103rd anniversary of the October Revolution explaining the importance of both.
We are of the view that unlike the parliamentary left, CPI and CPI(M), we should avoid a controversy whether the beginning was in 1920 or ‘25? As everybody accept, the first meeting was held at Tashkent which helped to initiate the efforts to build party inside the country and the first Conference of the Communist movement in India at Kanpur in 1925 paving the way for formal beginning of the party with the formation of the CPI. In the same year the RSS was also formed. So, during the discussions and evaluation of the experience of the Communist movement during this period, naturally the challenge posed by the RSS neo-fascism which is ruling the country through Modi led BJP also came up repeatedly. For us this should be a time for serious introspection for the Communists.
If the RSS has developed as such a mighty parivar with many millions of members, starting its work from Bal Gokul and ABVP to dozens of organizations, including the biggest trade union centre BMS, infiltrating every sectors of state machinery, armed forces, judiciary, and every Constitutional institutions, running the country in most ruthless Manuvadi, Brahmanical, neo-fascist way, where are the Communists? What led to the severe setbacks suffered by the Communists and their splintering, ideologically, politically and organizationally, in spite of the valiant struggles waged, the sacrifice of vast number of comrades etc. It calls for serious self-critical examination. But, see what is happening in Bihar elections? The BJP alliance is mainly challenged by the opposition Grand Alliance led by RJD-Congress. It is joined by the parliamentary left including the CPI(ML) Liberation. The six party front of BSP, Owaisi’s AIMIM, etc is in effect serving as a B-team of BJP.
Even though there is no dispute on the question that the opposition alliance is qualitatively not different, in this situation, if the BJP and its allies are to be defeated there is no other option but to support it, while the revolutionary left coming together in a coordination with a Common Program and campaigning against the fascist forces calling for a revolutionary alternative, fielding candidates jointly only in seats where they have some mass base. Though all the CR organizations were approached by the RLC with this proposal, they declined. While those taking Maoist positions are still pursuing their anarchist line, without recognizing the gravity of the RSS neo-fascist onslaught and the necessity to weaken Modi government by all means including by the correct utilization of parliamentary elections, they are approaching the elections in an aimless and sectarian manner fielding few candidates for self-satisfaction.
In the present critical condition, this opportunity of observing the centenary of the Communist movement in India, should be utilized to find out the reasons for degeneration to these sectarian positions within our country and internationally. Communists should continue efforts to find answers for it. The Communists who are still want to pursue the revolutionary path should dare to make a concrete analysis of the present situation, analysis of the transformation gone through from the post-Second World War years by the capitalist imperialist system including the changes it has made in its strategy and tactics, the transformation in the mode of production and ruling class policies in our country under the impact of these international changes.
From the time the Comintern called for uniting all anti-imperialist forces including the movements led by the big bourgeois class, it had stated that Communists should always pursue the path of independent communist assertion, build the party, class/mass organizations and the class struggle led by them, and be prepared to take the leadership of the revolutionary transformation of the society. Though the CPC under Mao’s leadership became a torch-bearer in applying this line correctly all other parties including the Communists in India failed in this repeatedly.
But in India, in spite of the numerous struggles it waged building up the party at all India level, during the colonial days, though imperialism versus masses of the people, it never tried to come to the leadership of the movement for national liberation and democratic revolution, it failed to understand the importance of the caste annihilation to achieve the unity with the most down trodden forces, to analyse the national question in India and unite the people of all nationalities around the demand for a genuinely federal India, defeating British efforts to communally divide the country using RSS and Muslim League, and to correctly pursue the international tasks during the Second World War while not compromising in the anti-colonial struggle within the country. As a result, during the period of independence struggle, in spite of many opportunities it failed to assert the communist line, or, the leadership followed a class collaborationist line, away from reality
During the post 1947 period following the left deviation and years of uncertainty, though a correct line calling for utilizing all forms of struggle including the ongoing armed agrarian movement of Telengana to complete the PDR was adopted in 1951, when confronted with the challenge of how to use the first general election came up without surrendering the Telengana struggle, the leadership once again surrendered to rightist positions. As the post-Stalin leadership in Soviet Union committed serious mistakes in evaluating the transformation of colonial forms of plunder to neo-colonial forms under US imperialist leadership following SWW, and degenerated to revisionist positions, the CPI leadership also went along with it. Though the inner party struggle continued and the first split happened in 1964 leading to formation of CPI(M), contrary to its claims it took a neo-revisionist stand soon. It became clear when making opportunist understanding with various forces including split away sections from Congress and Muslim League, the CPI(M) and CPI contested elections in 1967 and came to power in West Bengal and Kerala. So, the Communist Revolutionaries (CRs) within CPI(M) raised the banner of land to the tiller, which led to the Naxalbari Uprising and formation of CPI(ML) in 1969, a sharp break from the revisionist path.
But again a serious mistake took place in analyzing the Indian situation and developing the party line. Under the influence of Lin Biaoist sectarian line it opted for the China’s path, analyzing India as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country with people’s war as path. So it abandoned the formation of class/mass organizations, called for boycott of election as a strategic slogan, and armed struggle as the only form of struggle, to be initiated with the annihilation of class enemies. It was a left adventurist line pursued hastily without going for building a rudimentary form of party organization, mobilizing the millions who had supported the Naxalbari Uprising. Following brutal suppression by the state forces, the movement started splitting fast and by 1972 it was splintered into many groups. Though all these groups did not make any change in the semi-colonial, semi-feudal, people’s war line, soon one section continued to persist in te left adventurist line, another section had started veering to rightist positions. All came under severe stress and strain during the tumultuous 1970s, including arrests, martyrdom and suppression during the emergency rule. After revocation of the emergency and defeat of Congress, a more rightist Janata Party, came to power.
One benefit of this change was the release of almost all the CR forces and supporters from jail, including all top leaders. By this time the International Communist movement, the imperialist policies and the situation in the country also had undergone vast changes. Contrary to the expectations of the ML forces, after Mao’s death the capitalist roaders usurped power through a coup, and took China also to an imperialist path. Based on erroneous analysis of Mao’s contributions, the Albanian Party took opportunist positions. As all the former socialist countries degenerated from revolutionary path at various levels, the imperialists and their lackeys intensified anti-communist tirades. Following severe crisis in the 1970s, the US led imperialist camp went for neoliberal policies, cutting down all welfare measures and state intervention in the field of production. While on the one hand the globalization-liberalisation-privatisation created many illusions among the middle classes, it intensified the plunder of the working class and the oppressed people. Finance capital, and corporatization entered all fields, integrating the economies of the whole world, with WTO speeding up market dominance. Internationally itself, the CPI, CPI(M) like social democratic parties started advocating ‘there is no alternative’ to neo-liberal policies, and their executioners wherever they came to power.
The impact of these vast changes raised many important questions before the CRs. How to analyse the changes in China, Albania and all other former socialist countries? Whether the Communists should go for international unity, to form at least a platform at international level? What should be the approach to neoliberal policies and their impact in Indian agriculture and other spheres? What should be the approach to the newly emerging movement of middle and rich farmers for MSP and subsidies, who were by and large against the demands of poor and landless peasants, the agricultural workers for minimum wages and better living conditions? What shall be the nature of agrarian revolution in the new situation? As only feudal remnants are left, how to link the completion of the remaining anti-imperialist tasks of the democratic stage with the socialist stage of revolution? Or, have we reached the stage of socialist revolution? What should be the approach to the caste system which has become more divisive? Can we support the minority fundamentalism as in Khalistan movement against increasing threat of majority fundamentalism? Or should we take genuine secular stand opposing both? How to unite the CR forces and build a powerful Bolshevik style communist party capable of leading Indian revolution forward? How to approach the intensifying ecological destruction threatening ecological catastrophe, and even extinction of human species from earth? These and similar questions like national question, gender equality etc demanded answers from the CRs.
But almost all CR groups refused to answer any or most of these questions, and were ready to reject the semi-colonial, semi-feudal, people’s war frame, though most of them took mass line.. Three of them who rejected mass line later polarized as CPI(Maoist) pursued the armed struggle alone line. In spite of losing many of their past strong holds it pursues the same in more sectarian forms. On the other hand with CPI(ML) Liberation in the forefront a powerful section of these groups, including micro-split away groups and individuals have shifted to CPI(M) led Left Front. There are a number of groups in the middle, still sticking to the old frame and not ready to address these questions. It is by pursuing a ‘unity and struggle’ with all these sections, while striving to find answers to all above questions, the CPI(ML) Red star stream has developed with the merger of different CR organizations, groups and individuals continuously to its present position, ideologically, politically, organizationally. Internationally its intervention has helped the development of ICOR as a growing platform of the CR forces also. During the various webinars, discussions and articles by the leading comrades various aspect of this struggle by Red Star both in the spheres of theory and practice were explained during the concluding programs concerning the century of the communist movement in India. At two levels it is continuing this struggle: one an ideological struggle against the right deviation, which is the main danger in the communist movement; two, a campaign against Manuvadi Hindutva, the theoretical base of RSS neo-fascism. The Party expects these ideological offensives, along with the developing practical struggles in the various fields shall lead to a polarization of all CR forces as well as the vanguard elements from the present generation leading to the building of a powerful communist party capable of leading the revolution to victory overcoming all obstacles.
Long Live Indian Revolution!
Intensify Campaign Against Manuvadi Hindutva, the Theoretical Base of RSS Neo-Fascism!
Intensify Struggle to Throw Out RSS
Neo-Fascism! Advance to People’s Democracy and Socialism