Matters from CPI (ML) Red Star (September 2015)
Unite against Corporate Raj, Communalization and Corruption, Struggle for People’s Alternative!
The washing out of the whole monsoon session of parliament reflects the deep convulsions and contradictions in the bourgeois parliamentary political scene. The pompous declarations from the Red Fort on 15th August by Prime Minister Modi have only further deepened these conflicts among the ruling class parties. They reveal that in spite of all shouting and counter shouting none of them is ready to reject the neo-liberal policies which have led to the present crisis in all fields and to propose an alternative. Their acrimonies, however antagonistic they may appear, are only about who shall dominate or share power in the existing ruling system. None of them calls for a system change and hitherto experience proves that whichever of these parties or combinations of thereof lead the different governments at the centre or in the states, the condition of the masses will go from bad to worse.
It is in this situation that the Party has called on all state committees to organize a vigorous campaign from 9th September and observe 1st October as All India Protest Day with the central slogan: Unite against Corporate Raj, Communalization and Corruption, Struggle for People’s Alternative. At a time when the Modi government and all state governments in line with the central policies are intensifying attacks on the people and, in a sense, competing with each other to open the ground for increasing corporate domination through PPP like policies and indulging in more heinous forms of corruption, the Party state committees should explain the burning issues in different states through a vigorous campaign and by organizing a big mobilizations on 1st October.
State level charter of demands addressed to state governor should be submitted at state headquarters and district headquarters. The whole emphasis should be given on people’s issues and how any basic solution is possible only by transcending the limits of the present bourgeois parliamentary bureaucratic system to the struggle for a revolutionary alternative with a people’s democratic and development perspective
(Editorial, Red Star Monthly, October 2015 Issue)
On Mao's Contributions
September 9, 2015, marks the 39th death anniversary of Comrade Mao Tsetung. During these years after Mao momentous changes have taken place in China and all over the world. The degeneration of socialist China to a country under capitalist order, turning into an imperialist power, along with the earlier degeneration and disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, led to severe setbacks to the socialist forces as a whole. It emboldened the US-led imperialist forces, who were confronting a new round of crisis by the 1970s, to launch imperialist globalization and neo-liberal policies around the world. It intensified the barbaric onslaught of imperialist plunder and military adventures to unprecedented levels, intensifying the contradiction between the imperialist system and world people to a new peak. Communist movements in socialist countries as well as in capitalist and neo-colonially dependent countries suffered severe setbacks and the imperialist forces got a lease of life in spite of repeated and escalating crises they faced. It created a situation when Communist forces are evaluating the past experiences and searching for new breakthroughs, for a new wave of revolutionary upsurge. Such a situation calls for developing the Marxist theory according to the present situation and applying it in the concrete revolutionary practice of each country. The contributions of Mao, Mao Thought, should be evaluated in this historic context.
The greatest contribution of Mao is that he made deep, scientific analysis of the feudal, semi-colonial China where all imperialist forces were trying to gain a foothold, but were restricted to holding only enclaves in the coastal region till the Japanese made big inroads in the Northeast region; applied Marxist-Leninist teachings and the Comintern decisions according to these conditions; built up a Bolshevik style party fighting against both right opportunist and left adventurist deviations, and organized the masses for the successful completion of the People’s Democratic Revolution. The four volumes of his published works give a vivid picture of this theoretical, political and organizational offensive leading to the formation of the People’s Republic of China on 1st October, 1949.
The second phase of his great contribution was focused on completing the tasks of the democratic revolution and advancing China on the path of socialist revolution, socialist transformation. He had to face severe challenge from the capitalist roaders who wanted to limit the democratic revolution to the frame of a bourgeois revolution, who opposed his campaign for building People’s Communes, for self-reliant development paradigm and for socialist rectification in the party and among the people. The capitalist roaders with their theory of productive forces, the theory of whether the cat is black or white it should catch the mice, had become well-entrenched in the party, army and administration by the time of the 8th Congress of the CPC in 1956, by which time the Krshchovite revisionists had already usurped power in the Soviet Union. As Mao explained, it was proved that class struggle shall become more fierce after the political power is seized by proletariat led forces. The Cultural Revolution had to be launched calling on the people to get mobilized and to bombard bourgeois headquarters, continuing class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat against the capitalist roaders. This offensive succeeded in removing the leading capitalist roaders like Liu Shaochi and Deng Tsiaoping at least from the seats of power for the time being.
Mao had pointed out on every available occasion that the pre-revolutionary Chinese situation and the path of revolution followed there were unique and the experience of the Chinese revolution should not be mechanically copied anywhere else. But what happened was the reverse. When the fierce struggle against the capitalist roaders were going on, under the guise of fighting it a left adventurist line led by Lin Biao emerged during the Cultural Revolution. As explained in his book: Long Live the Victory of People’s War, which came out in 1966, Lin reversed Mao’s teachings on all fundamental questions and advocated “Chinese Path” as the panacea for the communist parties in Asian, African and Latin American countries. The positions it put forward included the concept of a New Era under which Mao’s Thought was explained as the Marxism-Leninism of this new era. In the Quotations from Mao published during these days the slogan “political power grows out of the barrel of the gun” was one-sidedly glorified, rejecting the importance of mass line. It led to left adventurist deviations in all the Marxist-Leninist parties and groups emerging at that time fighting against Soviet revisionist positions, as they were copying whatever was coming from China as gospels contrary to Mao’s teachings. It led to their weakening and disintegration very fast. This adventurist line dominated the 9th Congress of the CPC held in 1969. Internationally during the post-Mao years, it led to the emergence of the concept of Maoism which caused great damage to the reorganization of the communist movement nationally and internationally based on Bolshevik lines, applying Marxism-Leninism according to emerging concrete conditions.
The emergence of this left adventurist line under the guise of struggling against the .capitalist roaders and its sudden debacle by the 1970s, helped the rightists to return to positions of power after the 10th Congress of the CPC in 1973, which had failed to settle the basic problems of ideological struggle against the capitalist roaders as well as against the left adventurist line. As a result, the capitalist roaders as well as the centrists could continue to wage heinous attacks against the socialist roaders, dubbing them as Lin Biaoists. The post- 10th Congress years were once again a period of intense ideological political struggle during which the capitalist roaders well entrenched in the army and administration and important positions in the party tried to throw out the socialist roaders using all pernicious means. In this condition of ideological confusion, the Chinese government established relations with the US imperialists based on the concept of Theory of Three Worlds which was gaining dominance within the capitalist roaders that the Soviet social imperialism is a more dangerous enemy than US imperialism, even when the latter was intensifying its attacks on the Vietnamese people. The teachings of The Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963 were being replaced with the concept of this class collaborationist theory. Against these rightist offensives, the revolutionary forces were getting mobilized as in Shanghai Commune and elsewhere. This struggle reached the peak in the beginning of 1976 when utilizing the confusion created with the death of Chou Enlai like leaders, the capitalist roaders tried to usurp power and annihilate the revolutionary stream led by Mao through a counter-revolutionary coup.
In spite of ill health, Mao led from the forefront in this last struggle of his life and Deng like leading capitalist roaders were removed from positions of power once again. A call for arming the people and forming people’s militia was issued. But this struggle could not be carried forward as Mao’s illness increased and he died on 9th September. Within a week Mao’s followers who had majority in the standing committee of the PB were arrested, almost a repetition of what happened after the death of Stalin in 1953, dubbing them the Gang of Four and its followers. People’s resistance was barbarously suppressed utilizing the army as in the case of massacres against Shanghai Commune. Using the centrist Hua Kuofeng the capitalist roaders manoeuvred to usurp power and launched the capitalist offensive with the policy of Four Modernizations declared in 1978. Soon Deng returned to absolute power and transformed China into a capitalist power, vehemently starting to uproot all the manifestations of socialist transformation. China was turned into a state capitalist bureaucratic power.
It is the revolutionary task of the Marxist-Leninist forces to uphold the heroic struggle waged by the CPC under the leadership of Mao to lead the PDR to victory and to lead such a backward country through the path of socialist transformation. At the same time these setbacks suffered in China call for serious evaluation, though they do not in any way diminish the relevance of Mao’s contributions. Though the capitalist roaders are well entrenched in power in China today, when the new wave of revolution erupts around the world, it is bound to arouse the people of China also towards throwing out the present ruling class there. All over the world, in spite of the confusion created by the right reformists and advocates of Maoism, the Marxist-Leninist forces upholding Mao’s contributions, who are applying the Marxist theory including it in the concrete conditions of their own countries, are making slow, but definite advances. In this turning period, uncompromisingly struggling against all alien, right opportunist positions and sectarian, anarchist positions, let us struggle for communist upsurge firmly upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought.
(Article published in Red Star Monthly, September 2015)
Towards Understanding Crony Capitalism
Paper presented to the Seminar on Crony Capitalism organized by ArivuSudar Naduvam in ICSA Seminar Hall, Egmore, Chennai on June 20, 2015
In political economy, though the term crony capitalism has been in frequent use ever since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the phenomenon is yet to be classified as a Marxist class category in tandem with such conceptualizations as industrial or finance capitalism. However, it is easy to identify the phenomenon as inseparably linked up with the current corporatization or financialisation process flourishing under neoliberal accumulation. Of course, the roots of financial cronyism lay deep in the “parasitism” and “social decay” inherent in the transformation of capital itself as unravelled by Lenin a century back. Obviously, imperialism, the driving force of which is finance capital, is an immense accumulation of money and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a financial oligarchy. This arises from the extraordinary growth of the financial elite in close nexus with the bourgeois state as a parasitic class, a social stratum of speculators who take no part in any kind of productive economic activities but whose profession is outright speculation or ‘coupon clipping’ as Lenin said. From a Marxist perspective, therefore, capitalist cronyism is the inevitable outcome of the long drawn out transformation of industrial or ‘pure capitalism’ into finance or ‘corporate capitalism’.
The bourgeois state which played the role, as Engels said, of a “night watchman” during laissez-faire/free enterprise/industrial capitalism began to merge with the parasitic financial oligarchy paving the way for the emergence of state monopoly capitalism under imperialism. This unholy nexus with the state and speculative financial aristocracy has become indispensable for the enrichment of the wealthy elites and financial cronies on the one hand, and suppression of the working class and oppressed masses at home and establishment of colonies and spheres of influence abroad on the other. Under the internationalization of highly speculative finance capital in the post-war neo-colonial phase, and especially under neo-liberalism, settlements and deals done by the monopoly capitalist state with corporate CEOs are done outside the much trumpeted parliamentary democratic process. The so called GDP growth or “economic success”, according to imperialist think tanks and corporate cronies, depends everywhere on the corporate-politician-bureaucratic nexus, outside the façade of parliamentary democracy. The most recent example of the embodiment of crony capitalism has been the advent of WTO itself which is identified as the neo-liberal and neo-colonial pillar of imperialism where decisions pertaining to the interests of finance capital are taken in closed multinational corporate boardrooms and rubber-stamped on world people. Political corruption, swindles, money laundering, extortion and unprecedented accumulation of black money in offshore tax havens have become inalienable components of crony capitalism or corporatocracy today. In several countries, crony capitalism has led to an extreme concentration of economic and political power in a small interlocking group (such as the Ambanis and Adanis in India) prompting political analysts to characterize the situation as plutocracy (rule by wealth) or kleptocracy (rule by theft).
History of Capitalist Cronyism
‘Crony capitalism’ thus defined as the reactionary essence of speculative and parasitic finance capital is not an overnight development. It is to be situated in the whole course of transformation in the character of capital together with the terribly destructive levels of decay and degeneration finance capital has assumed since its ascendancy in the late 19th century. While analyzing the laws of motion of capital, though Marx had identified the emergence of “fictitious capital” led by what he termed “a new aristocracy of finance” engaged in “a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporate juggling, stock jobbing and stock speculation” and who are dealing in “money that is thrown into circulation as capital without any material basis in commodities or productive activity”, it was not yet the principal aspect of capitalism and formed only a subset of the main form of capital, that is industrial capital. However, it was during the process of transition from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism that the notorious “robber barons” of the old colonial era were reincarnated as “financial lobbyists” who began to direct not only the economic but even the military and foreign policies in several imperialist countries. The strengthening of financial speculation and ever-growing profits of speculative financiers relative to those engaged in production also led to chronic and irreversible crises under imperialism.
It was this hegemony of financial aristocracy and the fever of speculation that culminated in the Great Economic Depression of the 1930s originating as the panic known as Wall Street Crash of October 1929 and spreading as the Great Economic Depression to the whole world except socialist Soviet Union which was outside the orbit of finance capital. In a nutshell, it was the rigging of the entire financial system in favour of the financial oligarchs as revealed later from the disclosures of massive swindles and scandalous self-dealing and abuse of power on Wall Street, the nerve-centre of American finance, by speculators that led to the financial crash and then the Depression. As the Depression that shook the very foundation of the imperialist system eroded the credibility of financial oligarchy/aristocracy, especially in the context of the ideological-political advancement of the Left and surge in national liberation movements, Keynes, the well-known bourgeois economist and strong defender of capitalism even argued for “euthanasia” for speculative capital. Stringent actions including punishment to bankers guilty of financial fraud and cronyism were also initiated under the New Deal programme of Roosevelt based on Keynesian prescriptions. The Glass-Steagall Act that put limits on speculation by separating commercial banking from speculation was also passed.
In brief, among other things, one of the “favourable conditions” that facilitated capitalism’s “golden age” including the ascendancy of the so called “welfare state” at a global level during the quarter century following the Second World War had been Keynesian state regulation imposed on capitalist cronyism. But these “favourable conditions” of the immediate post-war neo-colonial period, most important being Keynesian state programming and regulation on finance capital necessitated by the political and ideological offensive on the part of the International Left were “external” to the inherent normal logic of imperialism which are speculation, parasitism, stagnation and decay. In fact, the phenomenon of “crisis-free capitalism” of the 1950s and 1960s had been an aberration. The imperialist crisis that began in the 1930s in the form of Depression, though kept in abeyance for a brief period, on account of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, bounced back with intensified vigour in the 1970s in the form of global stagflation — stagnation coupled with inflation — leading to the collapse of all Keynesian illusions.
Strengthening Crony Capitalism under Neo-liberalism
The unprecedented crisis of the Seventies, in the context of the global setbacks suffered by the International Communist Movement on account of both rightist and leftist deviations, prompted imperialism to unleash the dictatorship of finance capital in an intensified manner through a fundamental restructuring of the international economy by resorting to a change in the mode of accumulation through neoliberalism or monetarism. The speculative essence and cronyism associated with finance capital that became clear in the Crash of 1929 and Depression of the 1930s but camouflaged by Keynesian regulatory framework until the 1970s got unfolded through Thatcherism and Reaganomics and began to spread to neocolonial countries through imperialist globalization since the 1980s. Immense money capital accumulated by MNCs and global financial corporations including the huge volume of Eurodollars and petrodollars accumulated in world money circulation channels in the context of stagnating and less profitable productive spheres had to be deployed in the most profitable money spinning financial speculation. For instance, the Glass-Steagall Act that was promulgated in 1933 to control speculation under Roosevelt’s presidency was repealed in 1980 by Reagan as a green signal for unhindered global speculation. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Union in the late Eighties coupled with capitalist restoration in China and the eventual integration of all erstwhile socialist countries with imperialism was very much conducive for the internationalization of finance capital, the European Union also removed controls on international capital movements. A multi-dimensional network of financial institutions and services and bewildering array of financial assets and processes such as swaps, futures and options were built up. During the Keynesian period, while financial expansion moved more or less in tandem with production and employment, under neo-liberalism there emerged a clear dichotomy between the real and the financial and expansion of the latter started gearing itself for self-expansion through unhindered speculation.
Today the real economy is reduced to, what Keynes himself said in the 1930s, “a bubble on a whirlpool of speculation” and the so-called development itself has become the “by-product of the activities of a casino.” Quite revealingly, after an overview of the post-Keynesian international economy, Peter Drucker, an economist, commented in 1990 itself: “Ninety per cent or more of the transnational economy’s financial transactions do not serve what economists would consider an economic function. They serve purely financial transactions.” For instance, by the turn of the 21st century, the GDP of US, the leading imperialist power, was just around one per cent of the total financial turnover in that country. No doubt, crony capitalism today, therefore, is integrally linked up with the shift in the capital accumulation process and explosive growth in financial parasitism under neo-liberalism. Unfettered capital movements and internationalization of finance and the consequent boom in currency and stock markets coupled with real estate, land grab and commodity speculation have led to the ballooning of the speculative bubble.
At the time of 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Western media were propagating the myth that crony capitalism has been a specifically Asian, ‘underdeveloped’ ‘Third World’ phenomenon. However, the 2007-2008 American sub-prime crisis and the subsequent European sovereign debt crisis that triggered the ongoing irreversible global meltdown exploded this myth. The so called “quantitative easing” programme that pumped trillions worth of paper money into the coffers of corporate speculators the world over during the post-meltdown period in the name of stimulating the very same financial thugs who were responsible for the crises, also reflected worst forms of financial parasitism. Pumping money into the financial system has not boosted the real economy through expanded investment, employment generation and increased production, but led only to increased speculation everywhere. The whole world is experiencing a persistent fall in productive investment, deindustrialization and what is called “secular stagnation”, even as the corporate financial oligarchy and their cronies everywhere are highlighting sky-rocketing financial indices as true indicators of capitalist vitality. Interestingly, even neo-colonial financial institutions such as IMF and their counterparts in countries under neo-colonial domination such as the Reserve Bank of India in their recent reports and analyses have been compelled to acknowledge how crony capitalism acts as a lag on the much trumpeted GDP growth.
Among other things, the emerging trends associated with crony capitalism, which is a synonym for contemporary corporatization, are manifold:
- Today the world has become far more unequal than any other period in history. Earnings of workers and common people in the form of wages, salaries and other welfare receipts have abysmally gone down while returns to corporate capital from stocks, bonds, real estate, land and natural resource grab and from newer and newer avenues of speculation and money spinning businesses have sky-rocketed. This has led to a terribly destructive concentration of income and wealth with the corporate-financial elite. For instance, today the US, whose real economy is shrinking at a level comparable with that of the Depression years has become far more unequal than any other period in history, as the top 10 per cent there receives more than 50 per cent of the national income and owns three-fourths of the national wealth. During 2008-14, while the GDP of US grew by 13 per cent, corporate profits rose by 300 per cent, such that wages, the major form of earnings for a vast majority of Americans, declined from 45 per cent of GDP to 42 per cent during the same period. In a similar vein, the first Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in India since 1934 recently released by the Union finance ministry depicts widespread prevalence of extreme multi-dimensional poverty among vast majority of Indians amidst corporate talks of India joining the world’s rich men’s club under the Modi regime.
- Second is the paradoxical global situation of the coexistence of deepest economic stagnation with highest levels of corporate profits. Thus crony capitalism has altered the traditional economic understanding that stagnation logically leads to fall in profits. Rather, in the present neoliberal phase of corporate accumulation, amidst such negative trends as de-industrialization, de-peasantization, casualization of workforce, growing unemployment and underemployment, etc., which have totally pauperized the toiling people, the number of world’s billionaires and their wealth are growing at an alarming rate. Apart from indulging in money-spinning speculation, the soaring profits are attributable to the unleashing of a social counter-revolution on world people in the form of continued expenditure-reduction, falling real wages, automation and extraction of greater surplus value from workers and toiling people and, in the process, appropriating ever-greater proportion of the national product by corporate capitalists. While the wave of speculation and gambling push up corporate profits and stock values to new heights, the same phenomenon was accompanied by an enormous decline in social conditions and retrogression in the living standards of the vast majority of the world population. This has led to the biggest-ever economic and wealth disparities ever recorded in world history.
- Another feature of financial parasitism or ‘crony capitalism’ engulfing the whole world at maddening pace has been the unbridled growth of corruption and unprecedented accumulation of unaccounted or black money in offshore tax havens by the ultra-wealthy from around the globe. For instance, the ‘hidden wealth’ held in ‘secret’ offshore accounts by tax-evaders reached $32 trillion in April 2013, which is nearly triple the figure of $11.5 trillion in 2005, reiterating the direct correlation between corporatization and corrupt deals engineered by crony capitalists.
- Ecological catastrophe and gruesome cultural degradation of hitherto unknown levels are concomitants of financial cronyism. Under neo-liberalism, land grab and plunder of nature have become major sources of wealth accumulation by corporate financiers while the process of commodification of culture has reached unimaginable levels.
- The devastating impacts of crony capitalism on the most vulnerable sections of society such as children, women and other oppressed sections such as dalits, adivasis, and minorities have become manifold. Unemployment and pauperization have left many families unable to provide the care, protection and opportunities to which children are entitled. According to ILO’s latest World Protection Report 2014-15, at a global level, 18000 children below the age of five are dying per day due to lack of food. The study that examined primary health care, maternal and child protection, condition of the workers and old age people in 200 countries found an average 37 per cent reduction in the availability of these services in the year 2013 compared with 2012. In the year 2013, only 25 per cent of the world’s women workers got maternity benefits and the US, still the leading imperialist power, is among the group of countries that deny even the minimum maternity benefits and minimum wages to women workers.
- In India, which has been in the vicious grip of a cronyism-induced stagnation-financialization trap and falling growth rate that has almost halved now from the 10.26 per cent achieved in 2010, the wealth of the leading 100 billionaires here has gone up from $259 billion to $ 346 billion within the past one year alone. A corollary of the extreme concentration of wealth with the corporate financial elite has been India topping the worldwide list for black money with around $ 2 trillion, more than the country’s GDP, being stashed abroad illegally. The very same class of corporate elites is further enriched with fabulous tax exemptions in every budget which amounted to an estimated Rs 36.5 trillion (more than $ 600 billion at the current exchange rate) during 2005-2014. The ultra-rightwing shift in economic policies in India with the ascendancy of Modi regime has further intensified this trend. The pro-US, Hindu supremacist comprador Indian ruling classes led by Modi under the camouflage of saffronization is transforming India as a cheap labour “manufacturing hub” through the attractive formulation “Make in India.” A whole set of measures aimed at improving “ease of doing business” such as aggressive liberalization in labour and environmental laws and imposition of black laws for the unhindered plunder of workers and nature and the removal of barriers to the free entry and exit of MNCs including the offer of even extra-territoriality to them are already announced. Modinomics, with its ultra-rightist economic orientation despite its nationalistic pretensions, is bound to lead the ruling regime to hitherto unknown levels of compradorisation and cronyism.
To conclude, crony capitalism is inseparably linked up with the laws of motion of finance capital which has been reproducing and piling up its inherent contradictions on an unprecedented scale in the neo-colonial-neoliberal phase. The developments since the collapse of international Keynesianism in the 1970s and the subsequent launching of neo-liberalism have imparted an irreversible dimension to financial cronyism. The parasitism and decay associated with finance capital that could be camouflaged under welfare Keynesianism have come out in the open under neo-liberalism with intensified notoriety. In the mad rush for ensuring fabulous profits for finance capital, the neoliberal state itself is encouraging financial swindle, extortion, corruption and corporate criminality. The integration of erstwhile socialist countries, as already noted, with the imperialist market opened up new global avenues of parasitism and decay for finance capital. And the comprador state in neo-colonial countries has become a ‘facilitator’ for the rapacious grabbing of the country’s wealth and scarce resources by finance capital. Public funds mobilized through taxation and borrowing are driven to speculation in equity, currency, real estate and ‘forward’/’futures’ markets monopolized by financial giants, where fraud, artificial fixing of asset prices, market distortions, account manipulations, underhand deals, commissions, kickbacks, bribes, transfer pricing, false documentation, other tricks of trade and transfer of funds to Swiss banks and similar other safe tax havens across the world are justified for the sake of shoring up corporate profits within the shortest possible time. Interpenetration of finance capital into the various organs of the state and close integration between the two are indispensable in this scenario. Even the various institutions of parliamentary democracy right from judiciary, executive and legislature at the top to local governments at the bottom are becoming corrupt and rotten to the core under the influence of crony capitalism. The emergence of micro-finance led by NGOs under neo-liberalism has been an ingenious device by crony capitalism to integrate the local and grassroots with the financial stream, thereby permeating corruption even to the village level. No doubt, cronyism has become an integral factor in neoliberal accumulation. Though apologists and reformists of the ruling system suggest neo-Keynesian solutions to overcome the present crisis arising from crony capitalism, space for manoeuvre is fast depleting. The crisis is systemic and irresolvable within the capitalist-imperialist system. Though the capitalist-imperialist system having gone beyond its limits is in exhaustion, as Lenin pointed out, there is no final crisis for capitalism and until being thrown away, the capitalists can always find a way out of even the deepest crisis. Only a revolutionary political intervention based on a concrete analysis of the concrete situation can break this vicious circle and put forward a genuine people’s alternative.
- Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III
- V I Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
- J M Keynes, The General Theory of Employment,Interest and Money, 1936
- Geoffrey Pilling, The Crisis of Keynesian Economics, 1986
- Peter Drucker, The New Realities, 1990
- Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 2014
- IMF, World Economic Outlook, 2014
- ILO, World Protection Report, 2014-15
- P J James, Imperialism in the Neo-colonial Phase
(Article published in Red Star Monthly, September 2015)
One Strike, Fifteen Crore Workers, Nine Assurances and One Betrayal
The strike of 2nd September was clearly successful. About 15 crore (150 million) workers are said to have gone on strike. This is out of a total workforce in India of around 46-47 crores, which includes all workers like agricultural labourers and workers in the informal and unorganised sectors. In fact, it is estimated that about 93-94% of the workers in India are in the informal or unorganised sectors. This means that the bulk of those on strike came from the unorganised sector. This is even more evident from the fact that many of the organised sectors include essential services like railways (1.3 million workers) were not on strike.
It was heartening to note that many unions affiliated to TUCI and to its fraternal unions like AICCTU, IFTU and NTUI played a leading role in the strike, especially in states like Gujarat, Goa and union territories like Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
Normal life in many places was disrupted. Banking came to a standstill all over the country. Taxis and auto-rickshaws were on strike in most parts of the country. But all this was not without some prefatory drama. After consultations with some Central TUs on 19th, 26th, 27th and 28th of August, the Labour Ministry issued two press notes. These were in the context of the twelve point charter of demands for the strike (see the September issue of Red Star). The first was issued on 27th August and talked of the assurances that had been given by the Government. The relevant portion of the press note of 27th August reads as follows:
“In view of the suggestions given by Central Trade Unions in the meetings held on 19th July, 26th August and 27 August, 2015, the Government assured the following :
- Appropriate legislation for making formula based minimum wages mandatory and applicable to all employees across the country.
- For the purposes of bonus the wage eligibility limit and calculation ceiling would be appropriately revised. Earlier in 2006-07 the calculation ceiling was decided at Rs 3500/- and eligibility limit was wage of Rs 10,000/- per month which is proposed to be revised to Rs 7,000 and Rs 21,000 respectively.
- The Government is expanding the coverage of social security and working out ways to include construction workers, Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers and Midday Meal workers.
- Regarding contract workers the Government assured that they will be guaranteed minimum wages. Moreover, the Government is working out ways so that workers of industries will get sector specific minimum wages.
- Government has already enhanced minimum pension for EPFO members and every pensioner gets minimum pension of Rs. 1000/- per month perpetually.
- Labour laws reforms will be based on tripartite consultations as already stated by the Prime Minister. The States are also being advised to follow the tripartite process.
- For strict adherence to labour law enforcement, advisory has been issued to the State/UT Governments and strict monitoring has been initiated by Central Government.
- For employment generation Mudra Yojana, Make in India, Skill India and National Career Service Portal initiatives have been taken.
- Abolition of interviews for all primary jobs which do not require any special knowledge/expertise, is being done for transparency and expediting the process of recruitment.
- Inflation is lowest in the last many years excepting two items, onion and pulses. Government is taking necessary steps to contain the higher prices of these two commodities also.
It was further clarified that there is no ban on filling up of vacancies in Government jobs and all concerned Departments are taking necessary action to fillup these vacancies. It was further assured that the Government is committed to job security, wages security and social security to the workers. The issue of equal wages for equal work for contract workers is an issue requiring wider consultations and a committee will be constituted, if required.”
This was widely publicised by the press as the Government having conceded 7 out of the 12 demands made by the unions. Though this is clearly not true, this statement started the rumblings in the TU camp with the BMS (the central TU associated with the RSS which is also, in a sense, the parent body of the BJP) saying that the Government ought to be given further time in view of these assurances. Most of the other TU leaders were clear that these were clearly not meaningful assurances but mere acceptances “in principle” which meant nothing concrete.
This was followed by a letter from Bandaru Dattatreya while publishing which he stated that the Government was “working positively” on 9 of the 12 demands of the TUs. The text of this letter is given below. Certain emphasis has been provided (in bold letters) to focus on how the assurances are not at all meaningful. Below each point is a comment (in italics):
This is with reference to my letter and appeal to you for reconsidering your call for strike on 2nd of September 2015 in the light of demands raised by the Central Trade Unions. While requesting you to reconsider your decision, I would like to bring the following to your consideration.
The Charter of Demands given by you has been on high priority for me. I had held meeting with you on 19th Nov, 2014 to discuss the issues concerning the Charter of Demands. Thereafter, another meeting was held on 15th May, 2015 where Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Hon’ble MoS (IC) for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon’ble MoS (IC) for Power also participated. The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), constituted by Hon’ble Prime Minister, held its first meeting with you on 19th July, 2015.
The second meeting of IMC to discuss the various issues relating to the Charter of Demands with Central Trade Unions was held for two days on 26th& 27th August, 2015.
In view of the suggestions given by you in the meetings held by Inter-Ministerial Committee, the Government assured the following:
1. Government is seriously considering amendments to the Minimum Wages Act to give minimum wages to all workers. As per the proposed amendment, the Central Government will prescribe National Minimum Wage for three different categories of States. It would be mandatory for the States to fix their minimum wage not below the National Minimum Wage so prescribed by the Central Government. If the minimum wage already notified by a State is higher than the National Minimum Wage prescribed by the Central Government, the higher notified minimum wage shall prevail.
(It has never been demanded to have different minimum wages for different categories of states. What these categories will depend on is not defined)
While prescribing the National Minimum Wage the norms given by ILC and Supreme Court judgement will be taken into consideration. At present the National Floor Level Minimum Wage is Rs 160 per day but with the implementation of the said norms the minimum wage would be not less than Rs 273 per day.
(The demand was that the norms decided by the 16 ILC, in 1958, and refined by the Supreme Court, must be followed – not ‘taken into consideration’. By those norms, the minimum wage would not be less than around Rs 700 per day. The demand was for minimum wage of Rs 15000 per month which works out to Rs. 500 per day approx.)
2. For the purpose of bonus, the wage eligibility limit and calculation ceiling would be appropriately revised. It is proposed to revise the wage eligibility limit from Rs 10,000 to Rs 21,000 and calculation ceiling from Rs 3500 to Rs 7,000 or the minimum wage notified by the appropriate Government for that category of employment, whichever is higher. With the proposed revision of the minimum wages, the average calculation ceiling would be about Rs 10,000.
(Essentially this means that the wage ceiling for getting bonus, even if all proposals are implemented, would be the minimum wage! Bonus was brought about as a method of profit-sharing. The wage limit fixed in 1965 was Rs 750. Corrected for inflation that would itself translate to more than Rs. 20000 even today).
3. The Government has taken many steps for the social security of all the workers, especially unorganized workers. The Government is working out ways to include construction workers, rickshaw pullers, auto rickshaw drivers and volunteers of different schemes like Anganwadi Centres, Midday Meal Centres etc. For organized workers also many initiatives have been taken like Universal Account Number (UAN) for portability of account for EPFO members and Second Generation Health Reform Initiatives by ESIC.
(The demand is clearly being side stepped. The demand is for universal social security for all sections of the working class including the workers in the unorganised sector and even the unemployed. The so-called reforms in social security were one of the highlights of Modi’s speech in this year’s ILC and were already commented upon in the August issue of Red Star. They are merely an eye-wash).
4. Regarding contract workers, a comprehensive review of the existing Act is being considered. The main features of the proposed revised Act would be deployment of contract labour through registered staffing agencies to be encouraged to ensure social security coverage and same working condition for contract workers as that of the regular workers. The issue of same wages to contract workers as that of regular workers for same nature of work requires wider consultation and a committee will be constituted for this purpose, if required.
(The demand is for a total abolition of contract labour in permanent nature of jobs. Further, it is already enacted in the Contract Labour Act, 1971 and the rules under it that contract workers must get the same wages as regular workers for the same nature of work! There is no need of any consultation – wider or otherwise, on this issue!)
5. Government has already enhanced minimum pension for EPFO members and every pensioner gets minimum pension of Rs 1,000 per month perpetually.
(This is a pittance. The demand was also for a very conservative Rs. 3000 per month).
6. Labour Law reforms will be based on tripartite consultations as already stated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. The States are also being advised to follow the tripartite process. I have held many tripartite consultation meetings with you on proposed labour law amendments. In future also, the tripartite consultation will be held for any proposed change in the labour laws.
(The fact is that tripartite consultation has become an empty drama since many years. Objections are invited but not given any heed to. The recent changes made in labour laws in BJP ruled states like Rajasthan, MP, Harayana, etc. show this clearly).
7. For strict adherence to Labour Law enforcement, advisory has been issued to the States and strict monitoring has been initiated by the Central Government. I have written a D.O. letter dated 25.05.2015 to Chief Ministers of all the States for strict enforcement of Labour Laws. Secretary (L&E) has also written D.O. letters dated 27.05.2015 and 26.08.2015 to Chief Secretaries of all the States in this regard. A circular for strict enforcement of labour laws was also issued by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) on 26/08/2015.
(On the contrary, the stated aim of this Government and of the earlier UPA Governments is to end “Inspector Raj”. Under this pretext, inspection of records is itself being curtailed. Self-certification by the employer is being allowed increasingly. Laws are being enacted to relieve employers from the need to maintain records. Mere letters setting forth pious platitudes about enforcement of labour laws will not help at all.)
8. For employment generation, the Government has taken many initiatives like Make in India, Skill India, Mudra Yojana and National Career Service Portal etc.
(The fact is that unemployment is growing. Further, schemes like allowing free exploitation of workers under the name of “earn and learn” is the real intent behind many of such schemes. This is not really tackling unemployment but only reducing the quality of employment).
9. Abolition of interviews for all recruitments at relatively junior level jobs which do not require any special knowledge/expertise is being done for transparency and expediting the process of recruitment.
(It is well known that such interviews are merely used to pick and choose among candidates. All interviews upto class I must immediately be done away with.)
10. Inflation is lowest in last many years except for two items, onions and pulses. Government is taking necessary steps to contain the prices of these two commodities also.
(Inflation is only low because of a global deflationary crisis in the world economy led by low oil prices. What is amazing is that even in this situation, food inflation is so high! This is clearly due to hoarding).
11. The Hon’ble Finance Minister in his concluding remarks has very clearly said that the new Government has charted out a very pragmatic economic agenda for the benefit of everyone, especially those who are poor and disadvantaged section of the society. However, this agenda needs your support and will appreciate if we can get your valuable inputs on this. He has also assured that for this a continuous dialogue will be maintained with the labour unions.
(This is mere platitude.)
12. He also mentioned that as far as the FDI in Railways is concerned, it is necessary because Railways require huge investment for upgrading the .infrastructure. This is possible only with the help of private sector and hence FDI is being allowed in railways and the FDI will be only in infrastructure and will not be allowed in the operation of Railways.
(At the time of the Bombay Plan it was stated by the capitalists that railways must stay in the public sector due to the huge investment involved. Now they must be opened to the private sector for the same reason?!)
13. As far as FDI in Defence is concerned, the Finance Minister has explained that India is the largest importer of military hardware in the world and this means a large amount of funds is being paid in foreign exchange to outsiders including private organizations. On the other side when we produce military hardware within the country, we not only save in terms of foreign exchange but also create many jobs within the country. Hence it is very important that we take advantage of FDI in defence to achieve three objectives of (i) saving foreign exchange, (ii) creation of jobs and (iii) more importantly to ensure that we are not dependent on outsiders for the security of the nation.
(So now instead of buying defence goods from abroad, we will allow them to produce defence goods here – the classic change from export of goods to export of capital – one of the defining factors of imperialism. Much more so in the realm of defence.)
Finally, as the Hon’ble Prime Minister has already stated, the journey of labour reforms will not be meaningful until we have dialogue and consultation with the labour and labour unions. I assure that we will have consultations with labour unions and give due weightage to the views of labour unions in all such initiatives including the initiatives of other Departments which may affect the labour.
With warm regards,…”
This letter became the basis for the BMS finally pulling out of the strike on 28th August. However, this pull-out had only a minimal effect on the strike. Many BMS unions joined the strike in spite of the call by their leadership. For instance, the Khamgaon factory of Unilever has a union affiliated to the BMS. However, the factory followed the call of the Unilever Federation which is affiliated to TUCI and observed the strike. The BMS leadership was severely criticised at the gate meeting held in that factory on that day.
This does, however, bring into stark relief the need for a united front of the various unions who will struggle against the anti-worker policies of this Government in general and of a united organisation on the basis of uncompromising struggle against imperialism and globalisation in particular. The CTUs have done a disservice to the working class by not involving genuine struggling organisations in their consultations. We can only hope that this massive show of unity by the working class of India is not allowed to dissipate by inaction but becomes the starting point of a sustained movement against the anti-worker policies of the
(Article published in Red Star Monthly, October 2015)
Red Salute to the Working Class for the Success of 2nd September Strike
Revolutionary greetings to the working class for the great success of the all India general strike of September 2!
The working class in India has shown its militant strength on 2nd September, paralyzing the industrial and service sectors and making the all-India hartal a historic success. The impact of the campaign organized by the trade union centres united in the sponsoring committee as well as all other trade union centres and independent unions was so powerful that even though the BMS withdrew from the strike at the last moment, in a number of states the state level or local level BMS units also joined the hartal. While tens of millions of workers both in the organized and unorganized sectors made the general strike a great success, trade union activists and activists of different political parties and other class/mass organizations rallied in thousands in support of the general strike.
About 15 crore workers all over the country participated in the strike. Normal life in states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Karnataka and West Bengal came to a halt. Greater Noida industrial area was shut down. The banking sector collapsed throughout the country. Near total participation of coal workers in the strike has been reported. Huge participation of transport workers, especially taxi and auto drivers, was noted. Particularly remarkable was the participation of the workers from the service sector industries like IT. This feature must indeed have sounded the alarm bells for the government. There was significant participation of shopping mall workers too.
The 12-point charter of demands around which the strike was centred, undoubtedly touched several key issues of the working people. The questions of minimum wages, inflation, FDI, etc., are extremely relevant. However, the central issue was the proposed changes in the existing labour laws. Although the existing labour laws are far from being comprehensive and of much real benefit to workers, the strike made it evident that the working class is not prepared to cede a further inch.
CPI(ML) Red Star congratulates the working class for the great success of the general strike and appeals to them to keep up this militant unity for advancing the struggle in the coming days to beat back the neo-liberal attacks on their basic democratic, trade union and labour rights. At the same time, the limits of these one day general strikes, repeated yearly or bi-yearly, which are reduced to tokenism should be properly evaluated. The central trade union centers in the sponsoring committee, especially the BMS, INTUC, CITU, AITUC and HMS have proved at central, state and local level that they are not ready to take these token strikes to long term struggles to challenge the neo-liberal regime and corporate raj. Besides, the leadership of these TU centers and others has degenerated to a great extent to reformism, labor aristocracy, economism and legalism. It is futile to expect them to overcome these serious shortcomings and to transform themselves to politicized militant leaderships capable of leading the working class to challenge the rule of capital.
The ruling system and corporate media tried to ignore this massive strike from the beginning. When the strike succeeded in paralyzing many states fully and creating an impact at the all-India level, the media in general wept oceans of tears for the Rs 25,000 crore loss suffered as a result of the strike, omitting to point out that this 25,000 crore would have filled the coffers of the corporate while aggravating the misery of the toiling people. Most ruling class parties also took an antagonistic approach to this working class struggle. Thus apart from the emerging expression of working class unity the general strike revealed how the corporate raj imposed by the central and state governments is intensifying its attack on the working class and their struggles. In spite of these ruling class attacks, the significance of the 2nd September general strike is that unlike the defensive stand taken in previous struggles, this time the working class strike took an offensive stand with militant campaigns preceding and on the day of the strike. This positive turn in the general strike should be correctly evaluated and the left and democratic forces should intensify their efforts to strengthen the militant unity and struggles of the hundreds of millions of the working class in coming days
(Editorial, Red Star Monthly, October 2015)
Global Refugee Problem as Part of the Deeper Crisis of Imperialism
The flood of refugees on a scale not seen since the time of World War II has created an international social calamity whose epicentre lies on the European borders now. Hundreds of thousands of migrants are pouring into Europe from war-ravaged West Asia and North Africa encompassing a vast geopolitical area spanning Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and so on. While humanity has declared its solidarity and support for the refugees, all the imperialist governments of Europe are displaying their despicable indifference and inhumanity towards them. Millions of people have been shaken by the horrific images of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean including the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, lying face-down in the sand, who along with hundreds of thousands of others had come from war-torn Kobane. Ironically, the Canadian government had ignored a request made in June 2015 by Alan Kurdi’s aunt, who lives in British Columbia, to grant Alan’s family asylum.
Reports of refugees suffocated after being stuffed into overheated vans and trucks by traffickers and scenes of exhausted families with small children confronting barbed-wire fences, and people being herded into detention camps where they are held for days without adequate food or sanitation, are pouring in. Police forces (and in some places neo-Nazi forces too) in several places are attacking defenceless asylum seekers with batons, stun grenades and tear gas. While keeping a pro-refugee posture in words to hoodwink the masses, European Union governments are treating refugees with repression, throwing up fences, setting up concentration camps and deploying riot police, especially in EU borders.
While the reactionary European regimes and corporate media are seeking the support of rightwing forces and the political elite to stir up hostility against the refugees, a powerful wave of solidarity and support for refugees arriving in various European centres, especially Germany and Austria,is really heart warming. Solidarity committees have sprung up in several European towns to collect clothing, food, medicine, toiletries, toys and other items for the refugees. Doctors and nurses have offered free medical examinations and care based on coordination via Facebook and other social media. An Internet platform has also been floated to offer accommodation for refugees. As Hungarian riot police chase the poor refugees crossing into Hungary, tens of thousands of them who reach Munich are welcomed by people’s solidarity committees providing all basic amenities including food, shelter, clothing and even translation assistance. Amidst the malicious anti-refugee campaign from the ruling elite, wholehearted support to refugees and willingness to declare solidarity with them by the common people is outpouring.
The corporate media had eulogized the opening of the Hungarian border in the late 1980s that marked the collapse of East European regimes and the dissolution of Soviet Union leading to their eventual integration with the imperialist market. But two-and-a-half decades later, the same bourgeois media are beaming pictures of heavily armed Hungarian police erecting and guarding barbed wire fences against refugees trying to cross the border. Followed by Hungary, Croatia has also closed its borders at the behest of German imperialists. Even internal EU borders abolished by the 1995 Schenzen Agreement are being reinstated in Germany, Austria and other Eurozone countries to ward off massive inflows of refugees. Pan-European capitalists who are resorting to desperate measures to insulate their borders from inflow of refugees are themselves responsible for this situation.
That is, until recently, the EU imperialists in unholy alliance with US imperialism were under the illusion that they could carry on military interventions and systematic destruction of West Asia and North Africa, completely insulating Europe from its repercussion effect. However, they have now started to pay for their sins, though in a different form, as hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria with the support of world public opinion are forcing their way into European interiors. Along with military aggression, hitherto unknown levels of people’s displacement from their habitats on account of corporate land grab in Africa and imposition of neoliberal policies including austerity measures everywhere including East Europe have made life impossible for the vast majority. Crimes committed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and adjacent countries alone have displaced more than half-a-million children who are also part of the mass exodus of refugees from North Africa moving towards Europe in search of livelihood and sustenance.
The unprecedented migration of refugees to Europe and the resurrection of borders across European countries in contradistinction to the basic covenant of EU, whose formation itself has been based on abolition of national borders facilitating free flow of labour, are not isolated issues but form an integral component of the deepening crisis of corporate capitalism today. The refugee problem is threatening the very existence of EU which has been beset with mounting social and political tensions since the advent of neo-liberalism, the essence of which has been a social counter-revolution against the working class. The working class of Europe has already started rising up against the ruling classes as manifested in the political developments in Greece, Spain , Portugal, etc., followed by the resounding victory of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of British Labour Party.
Pan European corporate capitalists are now trying to divert people’s attention from the inherent contradictions of EU to the refugee problem which itself is a product of EU’s imperialist foreign policy in West Asia and Africa. However, refugees can be their immediate targets only. In the coming days, the ruling classes will have to direct their riot police against the working class of Europe itself. Moreover, the massive influx of refugees has once again brought racism and religious bigotry along with neo-Nazism to the surface in many countries. For instance, reports of many East European countries showing discrimination against Muslim refugees are also coming. And the possibility of the refugee problem creating renewed religious and racial divisions within Europe cannot be ruled out.
Of course, the underlying principle behind the formation of the European Union in the last century was the establishment of necessary political, economic and social institutions to keep off such conflicts and divisions. But as recent developments prove, the logic of imperialism both within EU and outside has exacerbated them.
(Article published in Red Star Monthly, October 2015)
Hundred Years - Relatively Long!
This year marks 100 years of the theory of relativity – the General Theory of Relativity. Einstein had already put forward the Special Theory of Relativity about 10 years earlier. The Special Theory of Relativity was only a particular instance of Relativity. It postulated that the speed of light remains the same irrespective of the frame of reference (following from the Michelson-Morley experiments). This by itself showed that what appears to be happening at the same time may not be happening at the same time if the observors and the incidents are moving relative to one another. One may say I saw a star explode on the same night that I bought my mobile phone. The fact is that the star may have exploded millions of years ago and, being millions of light years away, may have been observed only on the same night as the other incident.
It is the theory of relativity which has taken science out of the realm of the absolute, in a sense. Newtonian mechanics dealt with the absolute and immutable laws of nature. They were themselves great breakthroughs from the former understanding which depended only on the “will of God”. The scientists of the rennaisance broke through this hold of religion over science and postulated scientific laws which allowed them to predict the behaviour of objects in the real world. This was the collective wisdom of science till the late 19th century – that there are fixed and immutable laws of nature which will be valid for all time and at all places – like Newtons laws of motion, Copernicus’ laws of planetary motion, Galileo’s law of gravitation, Boyle’s law of the compression of gases.
It was towards the end of the 19th century that rigorous physical experiments began to throw up many unexpected results. Max Planck found that light radiation from a red-hot or white-hot source was not continuous across the visible spectrum but was emitted only at specific points of the spectrum. This led eventually to the development of quantum mechanics. In other words, light, which till now was treated as a “wave” was found to have qualities like a particle. In fact, in 1905 Einstein wrote an article in which he put forward that light actually travelled as small “packets” of energy (the embryo of the quantum theory). Also towards the end of the 19th century Maxwell had put forward his theory of electro-magnetic waves and had put forward a set of equations which had shown that electro-magnetic waves travelled through what was then called the “aether” at the speed of 186300 miles per second. Michelson had found that the speed of light is the same, experimentally, and this had reinforced that light is an electro-magnetic wave. Towards the turn of the 20th century, the Michelson-Morley experiment was performed to measure the speed of the “aether wind”. The real surprise was that this aether was not moving in any direction! This ultimately led to the discarding of the theory of the “aether” and the acceptance that the speed of light through a vacuum will remain the same irrespectice of the frame of reference of the observor.
Ultimately these experiments on light questioned the very nature of observation. Science consists of obversation. If the process of observation is not understood, the very basis of science was questionable. When we observe anything it is nothing but the light rays from that incident reaching us. This is where relativity comes in. All observation will depend on the relative motion of the observor and the observed phenomenon. In other words, all truth is only relatively (or dialectically) true! Of course, we are here simplifying the whole paradigm to its mere essentials but it is this that would be the basis of relativity in science – that there is no truth outside of time and space. This is but another way of putting the principle – everything in the world changes, and the only constant is change itself – which is the basis of dialectical materialism.
What is also undeniable is that after that halcyon period of the early 20th Century, there has been no real advance in pure science. Though thousands of particles have been discovered, galaxies explored, probes landed on the Moon, Mars and Pluto and though Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking and others have delved further into the realms of science, there has been no real insight into the fundamental nature of matter so as to change the concepts provided in the first three decades of the 20th century. This coincides with Capitalism changing from a growing force to its becoming a moribund decaying system.
There are many Marxists who are critical of Einstein’s theories. Some refer to the Einstein-Bohr debates and say that Einstein’s theories lead to a deterministic view. Some criticise the theories of “black holes” and the “big bang” which lead to a concept of a “beginning” to the universe. However, Marxists have to accept science. Einsteins theories, as also black holes, can no longer be disbelieved. No doubt with the strengthening of the socialist movement and the rise of Socialism there will be further developments in science and even the Theory of Relativity may be proved to be inadequate just as Newton’s laws of motion were. We cannot, with Stephen Hawking subscribe to the idea of “the end of Physics”. We will not take up that debate here but leave it for a better time. Be that as it may, it is not coincidental that Einstein was a contributor to the first issue of Monthly Review in 1949 with his article “Why Socalism”.
(Article published in Red Star Monthly, October 2015)
Women at Work: Glimpses from Chhattisgarh and India
Amidst burgeoning crimes against women, a piece of news that hit the headlines last month is of a Chhattisgarh school book teaching students for years that one of the causes behind rising unemployment among men is the rising employment of women.
In a chapter in a Class X Social Science textbook, published by the Chhattisgarh Board of Secondary Education, it is explained that the percentage of unemployment after independence has increased as women in all sectors have started working! The other causes listed for increased proportion of unemployment among men include are slow industrialisation, faulty education system, population increase and uneducated and unskilled labour.
This chapter, which blames women going out to work for unemployment, has been there in the textbooks since 2008.Presumably, since the last seven years Chhattisgarh school students have been taught this priceless piece of knowledge; teachers have quizzed them on it; they have answered examinations based on this knowledge and are now out in the world armed with the understanding that in order to fight the plague of unemployment, the government must first send the women back to their homes.
It is reflective of the abysmal levels of awareness and gender-sensitivity in society that for seven long years, this chapter with its retrograde instructions failed to attract any attention. It was only after Soumya Garg, a woman teacher in Jashpur district, sent a letter to the Chhattisgarh Women’s Commission contending that the chapter was discriminatory and violated the rights of women, that the matter came to the fore. As progressive people all over the country erupted in outrage, School Education Minister Kedar Kashyap responded by claiming: “The chapter (which contains controversial representation of women) will be withdrawn from the textbooks. I have issued directives in this regard to take immediate action.” He also added that the chapter would not be taught in the current academic session and it would be removed from the next year. The Minister also stated that an investigation would be conducted to identify those responsible for the inclusion of the said contents in the book, which would be followed by appropriate action against the guilty. He further assured that the School Education Department would form a committee to evaluate contents of all textbooks of higher classes, that is the 10th,11th and 12th standards.
The Chhattisgarh state education department might have gone into a rapid damage-control mode to counter negative publicity, but that does not take away from the fact that the Indian state still largely acts on the premise that a woman’s place is the home. Chhattisgarh educationists might have made a slip in actually writing in a textbook that working women are one of the main reasons for unemployment – thereby expressing their felt discomfort about the very phenomenon of women going out to work – but the fact is that the Indian state and society all the time discourage women from going out to work by relentlessly carrying on insidious campaigns that reinforce patriarchal ideology and female submission. That alone explains the appalling female work participation ratio in our country.
Far from working women causing unemployment among males, according to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends 2013 report, India’s labour force participation rate for women fell from just over 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 29 per cent in 2009-10. Out of 131 countries with available data, India ranks 11th from the bottom in female labour force participation.”Despite very rapid economic growth in India in recent years, we’re observing declining female labour force participation rates across all age groups, across all education levels, and in both urban and rural areas,” said ILO economist Steven Kapsos during a presentation of the report in India. Although between the years 1994 and 2010, female employment in India grew by 9 million, the ILO estimated that it could have increased by almost double that figure if women had equal access to employment in the same industries and occupations as their male counterparts.
A new study by McKinsey Global Institute (The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth) published more recently shows that women make up only 24 per cent of India’s labour force compared to 40 per cent on average worldwide. On the other hand, the gender chore gap, or the difference between the amount of time women and men spend on housework and unpaid care giving, is widest in India, the McKinsey report found. Indian men spend an average of 53 minutes a day on unpaid work in the home, compared with Indian women spending 249 minutes on such tasks. This is one of the major barriers that stop women from going out to work. Thus, if truth be told, it is not working women who cause unemployment among males, but rather males shunning their share of household work who obstruct women from seeking employment outside the home. In fact, both the Mckinsey report as well as an Asian Development Bank report titled Enabling Women, Energizing Asia released last month found that it men were to take a more equitable role in household tasks, women would have more freedom to take on paid work and greater financial independence.
Would our textbooks ever teach this? Would our textbooks ever lament over the declining female labour force participation rate?
(Comment published in Red Star Monthly, October 2015)
People’s Call against Nuclear Power
The meeting of the All India People’s Initiative against Nuclear Power (AIPIANP) was held on 23rd August at Bhopal. Dr Anil Sadgopal and comrades Soumya Dutta, K.N. Ramachandran, Rajendra Singh and Subhash of Fatehabad Anti-Nuclear Forum, Rajkumar of Chutka (MP) Anti-Nuclear Forum, Arun Velaskar, convener, Konkan Bachao Samiti and Vijay (Bhopal) and other coordination committee members participated. After evaluating the struggles going on against all proposed nuclear plants in different states and reports on the Modi government’s moves to speed up construction of the proposed nuclear plants and intensify nuclear armament, the meeting made a number of decisions and updated the Bhopal Call, People’s Call against Nuclear Power, adopted by the AIPIANP Convention at Bhopal on 1st December, 2013.
- Cancellation of all proposed nuclear plants;
- Cancellation of all bi-lateral nuclear agreements that Indian government has signed with the nuclear MNCs and with the imperialist countries;
- De-commissioning of all existing nuclear plants under a time-bound process;
- Cancellation of all clearances given to proposed nuclear power plants by state governments; the government should take full responsibility for removing all nuclear radiation and nuclear waste in the existing plants;
- Time-bound decommissioning of all existing and cancellation of all proposed Uranium mines; Scrap all agreements signed with Uranium supplier countries;
- Abolition of all nuclear arms globally and for universal total nuclear disarmament;
- Redistribution of the huge resources wasted on the nuclear program, for securing the basic necessities of the people – clean & sufficient water, land, education, health care etc.;
- Bring all matters relating to nuclear energy and weapons under Constitutional and legal frame work including the Right to Information(RTI);
- No public funds including funds from public financial institutions should be used for nuclear plants and weaponization;
- 10. Develop alternative renewable energy sources with equitable and affordable energy access for all, and evolve alternative development paradigm in a socialist framework, including people-oriented and earth-saving energy policy.
(published in Red Star Monthly, September 2015)
Quit India campaign and Anti-Imperialist Day successfully organized
With the slogan: Kick Out IMF-World Bank-WTO and MNCs, the Quit India Day campaign was organized at a number of places. At Delhi and other places party and class/ mass organization comrades joined the AIFRTE in the campaign against surrendering the education sector to foreign corporate through signing of the WTO-GATS agreement, further intensifying its commercialization. The campaign was organized with the slogans: Fight WTO! Save Education! Stop Committing Higher Education to WTO!
August 15 was observed as a Day against Corporate raj and Corruption with various programmes at a number of centres, preceded by vigorous campaigns against ever increasing corruption, Land Acquisition bill etc.
Condemn the Killing of Kannada Scholar MM Kalburgi, Unite against Casteism and Communalism
After Bangladesh, which is yet to recover from the effects of the ghastly murders of four secular bloggers by religious fundamentalists this year, it is Karnataka’s turn to bleed at the hands of right wing criminals.
Kannada scholar Dr Malleshappa M Kalburgi was shot dead by two unidentified men on August 30 at his home in Dharwad district of Karnataka. Kalburgi, the former Vice-Chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, was shot at his residence at 8:40am. He was rushed to the District Civil Hospital, where he succumbed to the bullet wounds. The attackers knocked on the door and when it was opened, they shot Kalburgi on the forehead and chest at a close range while he was speaking over the mobile phone. His daughter Rupadarshi stated that when she came out hearing the gunshot, she found him lying in a pool of blood.
The police are still ‘looking into’ the role of Hindutva terror outfits in the incident as several local saffron fronts had reportedly threatened Kalburgi over his remarks on idol worship. The only arrests made so far have been for provocative and communal remarks made by Hinutva goons on social media condoning and hailing Kalburgi’s murder. Not a single killer has yet been booked.
Kalburgi, winner of the National Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for Marga 4, a collection of a hundred of his research articles, was a close friend of Jnanpith award-winning litterateur, the late UR Ananthamurthy, who was a staunch opposer of BJP’s right-wing politics. In August 2014, when Ananthamurthy died, alleged members of the BJP and the right-wing Hindu Jagarana Vedike were booked by the police for bursting crackers to mark his death.
A controversy broke out in the early 80s over Kalburgi’s book, Marga-One. Religious zealots belonging to the powerful Lingayat community came down heavily on Kalburgi and he was forced to recant the allegedly derogatory references to the founder of Veerashaiva, the liberal Shaivism followed by Lingayats, Basavesh-wara, his wife and sister. The denouncements grew louder among the community and he was summoned to a math in Hubli and forced to ‘recant’ a life’s work. Yet the controversy continued, with the fundamentalists demanding that the book be proscribed. A frustrated Kalaburgi had declared later that he would never again pursue any research on Lingayat literature and Basava philosophy. Last year, Kalburgi's comments at a public programme raised the hackles of the saffron brigade. Kalburgi had referred to remarks made by the late U R Ananthamurthy about idol worship in a collection of essays called Bettale Puje Yake Kudadhu (roughly translated as Why nude worship is not acceptable). He also publicly hailed the fact that U R Ananthamurthy had once urinated on the idols of Hindu gods to prove that they were not powerful.
Kalburgi is a martyr in the lineage of Dr Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in the grim fight against obscurantism and fundamentalism. We can pay our homage to Kalburgi only by carrying forward his struggle to victory.
Controlling Thought and Food Habits
The coming to power of the Modi government at the centre has given license to the RSS Parivar outfits to indulge in acts of intolerance in all fields of social life in. In Maharashtra the BJP-led government announced a ban on the storing, selling and eating of beef a few months ago. It increased the problems for a large section of society, abattoir owners and workers, those consuming beef and those selling beef. Then came the order that any criticism of this ban by government servants will be treated as sedition. This is an attempt to put a total cap on the basic democratic rights, on freedom of expression and on the right to dissent. The state also witnessed the murder of a rationalist thinker and leader, Comrade Govind Pansare, for promoting scientific temper. In neighbouring Karnataka the ex-Vice Chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi, MM Kalburgi was shot to death in his own house. Then came the decision of the Mira Bhaynder Municipal Corporation to ban non-vegetarian food, except fish and eggs, during Paryushan, a Jain festival, for eight days. This ban was put for four days in Mumbai area under Mumbai Corporation. Earlier during Paryushan the ban was for one day in the 1960s, two days in the 1990s, now it is four days in Mumbai and eight days in Mira Road-Bhayander area. Interestingly, fishes and eggs, which Jains traditionally don’t consume, have been spared from the wrath of the zealots who think imposing your sentiments is part of one’s religion. Will there be such a demand for prohibiting garlic and root vegetable, which are also prohibited by Jain practices, next? The country has become victim of food fundamentalism of the dominant forces. This stifling attitude is a retrograde step, putting chains on democratic freedoms. This is a regressive march which calls for stiff resistance from all secular forces.
Nepal Gets a New Constitution
After seven tumultuous years following the overthrow of the more than two century old monarchy which led to elections to elect a Constituent Assembly and many governments failing to fulfill the task of finalizing a Constitution, at last on 20th September the president of Nepal has promulgated the new Constitution amidst support from overwhelming majority of the CA and people. The Constitution creates seven states in a secular, federal system.
At the same time it has been opposed by the religious fundamentalists who want to make Nepal a Hindu state and by the Madhes and Tharu sections in the Terai region bordering India, who demand recognition of more rights and representation in the Constitution.
Nepal is a small country of 29 million people sandwiched between its two bigger neighbours, China and India. While China has warmly welcomed the Constitution, India has expressed unhappiness that it does not fulfill the aspirations of the Terai people. This has further embittered the relation between the two which is already not satisfactory due to the big-brotherly attitude of the consecutive Indian governments which the Nepalese people see as an expansionist policy. When the consecutive governments in India were/are not ready to accept the question of Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed one in spite of the people’s struggles there, and when it is not ready to allow the Pak delegates to interact with the forces who want right of self-determination, it was/is blatantly interfering in all internal affairs of Nepal including interacting with the representatives of Madhes and Tharu people. This happened during the process of Constitution making also which has further embittered the relation between the two. It is the right of the sovereign people of Nepal to elect their representatives, to decide what ruling system they should have, to frame the Constitution and wage struggles for making any changes in it. The Indian government has violated this principle of peaceful co-existence between neighbouring countries.
The CPI(ML) Red Star extends full support to the people of Nepal on the occasion of the promulgation of their Constitution and hope that the revolutionary forces shall continue their struggles for people’s democracy. It opposes the interference of the Indian government in the internal affairs of Nepal. It is the right of Nepalese people including the people of Terai region to struggle for any changes in the Constitution promulgated on 20th September. We extend revolutionary greetings to the people of Nepal in this important phase in their struggle.
K.N. Ramachandran, General Secretary,
CPI(ML) Red Star.
India’s Big Brotherly Overtures Rightly Rejected by Nepal
The Indian government is grappling with rising discontent among its own people. It response, it has taken to fast curtailing democratic rights, retaining the barbarous army for decades in the so-called ‘disturbed’ states of Kashmir, Manipur, etc. and using the police and administration to crack down on protests and agitations elsewhere in the country. It has consistently failed to solve burning problems like poverty and unemployment. But all this has not deterred it from meddling in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries in a show of expansionist might. The latest example is its interference in Nepal, which has met with strong condemnation by the Nepali people, media and leaders.
First of all, just before the new Nepali Constitution was promulgated, Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar rushed to Nepal to meet with various stakeholders, ranging from President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, to the heads of various political parties, and urged the Nepal government to delay the adoption of the Constitution until discussions have been held to bring all points of view to the table. Secondly, our Ministry of External Affairs showered ‘advice’ on Nepal in a statement, which said: “We are concerned that the situation in several parts of the country bordering India continues to be violent. Our Ambassador in Kathmandu has spoken to the Prime Minister of Nepal in this regard. We urge that issues on which there are differences should be resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalized in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance. This would lay the foundation of harmony, progress and development in Nepal.”
It is a wonder that India does not bother to resolve the Kashmir question ‘through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation’, preferring instead to throttle all voices of dissent. But what takes the cake is the fact that New Delhi has identified seven amendments Kathmandu ‘should’ make to its Constitution, and has conveyed these through official channels. Expectedly, Nepal has not taken this outrageous high handedness lying down. Nepali media have advised India to keep its nose out of Nepal’s affairs. The deputy to the Nepali ambassador in India Krishna Prasad Dhakal, has retorted, “Nepal’s Constitution is better than the Indian Constitution since it takes care of minorities as well as women.” Former Nepali prime minister and senior leader of ruling CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal also has rightly slammed India for “immature and irresponsible” reaction after the promulgation of the new Constitution, saying that no country should try to make Nepal its puppet and urging neighbours not to meddle in the domestic affairs of the country and hurt the dignity of the people.
(RED STAR ONLINE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER FROM CPI (ML) RED STAR)