Updates from CPI (ML) Red Star
The Polit Bureau of the Party met on 7-8 May and analyzed the national situation, It noted that during two years of its rule, Modi government has intensified the corporate raj and saffronization. Under these policies the vast masses, specially the dalits, adivasis, women and other oppressed classes and sections have impoverished further. The PB meeting called for intensification of the resistance struggles in all fields and necessary action focusing on following urgent questions:a. Intensifying draught situation all over the country.
Reports from different states show that the draught conditions are becoming increasingly serious. Not only agriculture and livelihood of the people are severely affected, even drinking water is becoming scarce. The neoliberal development policies have aggravated this situation. A campaign should be organized wherever our party committees are functioning against the neoliberal polices which devastate people’s life, and for immediate relief to affected people.b. Oppose action against JNU student union leaders and in support of their indefinite huger strike.
The JNUSU leaders persecuted by JNU administration are continuing their indefinite hunger strike for revocation of the ponishments imposed on them. The PB meting has appealed to all student and youth organizations and progressive forces to extend support to the striking student leaders. It appeals for organizing solidarity campaigns wherever possible.c. Significance of the spontaneous strike of Bangalore garments workers.
The more than half million garment workers in Bangalore city created history on 18-19 April by coming out on the streets in a spontaneous strike and paralyzing the city demanding the reversal of the orders of Modi government on PF rules. The strike not only forced the Modi government to reverse its orders, but to highlight their living condition, earning paltry Rs. 6000 to 6500 per month for more than 10 hours of hard work. The PB meeting congratulated the garment workers for their significant struggle.d. Justice to Jisha, the murdered dalit girl of Perumbavur, Kerala.
Jisha, a dalit girl, a student of Ernakulam Law College, was brutally assaulted and killed in her hut at Perumbavur, Kerala. Since she was staying with her mother in a small hut near a canal, the police and administration did not bother to give any serious attention to this rape and murder case. They and the corporate media gave importance to the investigation only when through new social media people got organized and started protesting. While CPI(ML) Red Star activists joined the protest march to police station on 9th , it fully supported the hartal call given by the dalit organizations on 10th May. The PB meeting condemned the atrocious attitude by the police of the UDF government towards the murder of Jisha and has called for stringent action against the perpetrators of this crime.e. Hands off Nepal.
If last year for months the Indo-Nepal relations had faced severe crisis, with the Indian government blocking the movement of all essential commodities to this land locked Himalayan country, once again Modi government is interfering in the internal affairs of Nepal de-stabilizing consecutive governments there. The PB meeting severely condemns this big-brotherly and expansionist attitude of the Modi government towards Nepal, and calls on all party committees to organize campaigns against it.f. World Peasants’ Conference, Kathmandu:
The PB meeting called on all Party committees to help the AIKKS committees to actively participate in the World Peasants’ Conference held at Kathmandu on 3rd, 4th and 5th June to exchange the agricultural situation in different countries, to analyze the consequences of the neoliberal-corporatization policies in the agricultural sector and the agrarian program to combat this.
Fifty Years After Naxalbari Uprising
The Central Committee of the CPI (ML) Red Star has called for observing the fifty years after the Naxalbari Uprising of May 1967 for an year from 25th May 2016 to 25th May 2017, organizing various programs to evaluate the significance of this historic event, its consequences, the reasons for the setbacks it suffered and the efforts taken up by the communist revolutionaries to carry forward its message by reorganizing the party as a powerful vanguard of the Indian proletariat according to present conditions. This uprising took place when the rightist Congress had started degenerating after two decades of all round domination, when instead of preparing themselves for replacing it, the CPI and CPI (M) leaderships were degenerating to right opportunist positions, and as a result of the struggle waged by the communist revolutionaries against this deviation.
Today when the rightist Congress is irreparably weakening and is replaced by ultra rightist BJP rule at centre, and when the balance of force of the various ruling class parties and regional parties are undergoing vast changes, the CPI and CPI(M) leaderships have further degenerated to social democratic positions and along with the anarchist Maoist trend are creating obstacles for uniting all genuine communist revolutionary forces in to a powerful communist party. It is by continuously struggling against these deviations and by developing class struggle against the ruling system, we have succeeded to develop the program and path of revolution according to present conditions, to build the party at all India level surrounded by class/ mass organizations and various people’s movements and to organize the Ninth and Tenth Party Congresses successfully.
But compared to the great task of building the party in a vast country like India, what is already achieved is only a small beginning. At international and national level we have great tasks ahead. The latest student movement against the Brahminical onslaughts of the Modi government, the two days of revolt by hundreds of thousands of working class in Bangalore etc shows that once again possibilities for mighty people’s movements are emerging. It is the task of the communist revolutionaries to intensify their struggle against all alien trends and to prepare themselves for giving leadership to coming people’s upsurges. In this context evaluating the experience of Naxalbari Uprising and later developments as initiated in the articles published in this issue of Red Star, and rebuilding the party is a great task before us. We appeal to all communist forces and friends to actively participate in this discussion by sending their critic of the articles published and by sending their own contributions. Let us strive to utilize the campaign during this period to overcome our weaknesses and to strengthen the party and the movement internationally and within the country. n
Naxalbari Uprising: Its Lessons
We are on the threshold of half a century after the Naxalbari Uprising of May 1967. It was a historic movement which shook the Indian society at a critical stage in the history of the country. After two decades of Congress rule following the transfer of power in 1947, the country was facing severe socio-economic crisis. Vast majority of the masses disillusioned by the Congress rule at centre and in all the states had started waging numerous militant struggles. This alienation of the masses was reflected in the serious reverses suffered by the Congress in the 1967 general elections. Though it could get a slim majority in the Lok Sabha, it lost power in many states from north to south.
The CPI(M) led coalition governments also came to power in West Bengal and Kerala. But in such an objectively favorable situation instead of evaluating the changes that were taking place in the country and rising up to the demands of the situation, these CPI(M) led governments refused to take up any radical policies to ameliorate the miseries of the masses or to implement the land reforms based on “land to the tiller” slogan it had promised. Under parliamentary illusions they were afraid of going beyond the ruling class policies. They were afraid to utilize the parliamentary struggle to advance the class struggle, putting forward a ‘People’s alternative’ against the big capitalist-big landlord rule which was compromising with imperialist interests. As a result discontentment was growing against the reformist positions of the leaderships of CPI and CPI (M) among the left masses, among the workers and the peasantry, among the oppressed sections and classes. As a result, the elation created by the formation of these governments started fading.
Meanwhile the struggle waged by the communist revolutionaries against the revisionist line of the CPI and the neo-revisionist line of the CPI (M) leaderships, who were leading the communist movement to become apologists of the ruling class policies, was intensifying. An overview of the history of the communist movement in the country shows that right from its inception, whether during the period of independence struggle or after the transfer of power to the native ruling classes, the party committees and hundreds of thousands of its members all over the country were leading numerous people’s struggles sacrificing everything. But the leadership repeatedly failed to make concrete analysis of the Indian situation and to lead the revolutionary movement forward to capture the political power under the leadership of the toiling masses by developing the Program and Path of revolution. Though the Program and Tactical Line adopted in 1951 provided a generally correct orientation, the leadership soon abandoned it. As the revisionist forces usurped power and started transforming Soviet Union to capitalist path, the leadership of CPI mechanically followed this line of “peaceful transition” and resorted to capitulation to ruling class politics then led by Congress.
By 1963 the CPC under the leadership of Mao Tsetung had opposed the Soviet revisionist line. Analyzing the concrete situation it had put forward the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement (ICM). But by this time India’s border war with China had taken place and the ruling class and the central government led by the Congress egged on by the US and other imperialist forces were exploiting the differences within the international communist movement and within the CPI. Questions like the approach to be taken towards the Soviet revisionist line, on the border war, on how to resolve the differences through a healthy inner party struggle etc were sharpening the struggle against the CPI leadership, these conflicts within the CPI intensified and 32 CC members walked out its National Council meeting and formed the CPI (M) in 1964.
Struggle against Centrist Line of CPI (M) Leadership
But the split did not address the fundamental questions faced by the Communist movement, In the Seventh Party Congress convened soon at Kolkata the CPI (M) leadership refused to take a stand on the Great Debate taking place in the ICM or on the cardinal questions of the People’s Democratic Revolution. The CPI (M) leadership was taking a ‘centrist’ line, which was basically not different from the CPI line.
The formation of CPI (M) had created immense enthusiasm among the Party rank and file as well as among the left masses. In states like West Bengal, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, where Party had good mass base, vast majority of the cadres and members of the class and mass organizations rallied with the CPI (M). There were immense expectations about the Party giving leadership for unleashing the militant struggles against the reactionary policies pursued by the central and the state governments. Many militant struggles took place in many areas. By 1965-66 militant food riots broke out in W. Bengal, Bihar, parts of U.P and other places including capture of godowns and distribution of the captured food grains among the people. In some areas struggle for land also broke out. As the Party cadres played a major role in these struggles, expectation about launching countrywide revolutionary struggles was mounting.
At this time the central government once again arrested a large number of Party leaders and cadres in the name of supporting the China’s line on the border war. It was a conspiracy to suppress the Party and the militant struggles led by it. The challenge before the Party leadership was whether to surrender before the pressure tactics of the government and vested interests or stand up against them in a revolutionary manner. But the government had done its home work well. While arresting most of the leaders, it had left EMS and Jyoti Basu free. That they were taking a reformist line was well known. The alternate document they had put forward in the 7th Congress had almost reflected the CPI line. During the 1967 general elections the reformist tactics of forming alliances with reactionary and communal parties to somehow win the elections followed by EMS in the elections to Kerala assembly in 1965 was continued at all India level.
Following the elections, forming electoral fronts with communal and reactionary parties it came to power in Bengal and Kerala. These CPI (M) led governments in Bengal and Kerala were not ready to go beyond the boundaries of bourgeois parliamentary system. Though the All India Kisan Sabha in its 1966 Conference, had called for implementation of land to the tiller slogan if the Party came to power, once the ministry took over even the general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, Harekrishna Konar, who became the revenue minister in W. Bengal, refused to talk about it. It was clear that the Party leadership was pursuing the same line like the CPI, degenerating to revisionist positions.
Towards Naxalbari Uprising
Through a series of articles, which later became famous as the ‘Eight Documents’, Charu Majumdar had already called for fighting against the neo revisionist line of the leadership and to intensify the agrarian struggles. He had also called for upholding the contributions of Mao Tsetung, Mao Tsetung Thought (MTT), in order to carry forward the Democratic Revolution in the country. In the first document, Our Tasks in the Present Situation written in January, 1965, he stated that the Indian government had become the chief political partner of US imperialism in its expansionist policies for imposing its world hegemony. Condemning the arrests of large number of the Party cadres calling them China liners, he called for spreading the message of agrarian revolution and to build the Party in a revolutionary manner. In the second document, Make the People’s Democratic Revolution Successful by Fighting against Revisionism, he emphasized the importance of Telengana-Tebhaga movements and the need to intensify the struggle against the revisionist line These documents as well as many more such important contributions by leading comrades from Bengal, AP and elsewhere tried to provide the orientation for the Communist Revolutionaries in the CPI (M) to take to the path of revolution, rebelling against the neo revisionist line of the leadership.
When the state government in which CPI (M) was the leading force refused to confiscate the surplus land and land illegally occupied by the tea plantations and jotdars, and to distribute them among the landless and poor peasants, the CRs led the masses in North Bengal for seizure of land and to distribute them. Tens of thousands of landless and poor peasants were mobilized for it under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha. It was a powerful mass upsurge. The CPI (M) led government used its police forces along with the central forces sent by Indira Gandhi government to suppress the Naxalbari Uprising killing 11 comrades on 25th May, 1967. This Uprising and the martyrdom of these comrades was a turning point for the communist movement in India.
The state terror was continued to suppress the activities of the CRs. As the CRs were still in the CPI (M), disciplinary actions were started to expel them also. Meanwhile the Party leadership was continuing to move ahead along the path of parliamentary cretinism both in Bengal and Kerala. In 1968 it convened the Burdwan Plenum to discuss a draft document on international developments, which took a ‘centrist’ attitude towards the Great Debate going on in the ICM, basically upholding the Soviet line. Like the rightists earlier, it resorted to autocratic methods to manipulate a majority for the draft. It refused to recognize the transformation of Soviet Union from a socialist country to a bureaucratic dictatorship, a social imperialist super power contending and colluding with US imperialism for world hegemony. In this situation, the inner party struggle turned in to struggle between two lines, between the proletarian and bourgeois lines. There was no other alternative before the CRs, but to walk out of the CPI (M) for reorganizing the Party on revolutionary lines.
But, though they had almost complete unity among themselves regarding the stand to be taken towards the ideological political struggle taking place within the ICM, on the question of arriving at the theoretical and programmatic positions regarding the People’s Democratic Revolution in India and on reorganizing the Party serious differences emerged among the CRs. The historic significance of the Naxalbari Uprising was that the CRs leading it had categorically declared that the struggle for the capture of land and its distribution cannot be successfully carried forward without linking it with the struggle for capture of political power. Following the suppression of the uprising, in order to carry forward the struggle Naxalbari o Krishak Sahayak Samithi was formed. A call to form such committees at other places was also given. Following this, uniting the CRs at all India level, the All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries in CPI(M) was formed. After the coming out of the CPI(M), its name was changed to All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR). It gave the call for organizing Naxalbari type struggles all over the country.
But by this time at the peak of the Cultural Revolution in China, the left adventurist line had come to dominance in the CPC. In the absence of any international platform to exchange opinions and to evolve a revolutionary line based on the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963, the CRs in India like their counterparts all over the world were upholding Mao as the authority on all ideological political questions in opposition to the Soviet revisionists and their followers, the revisionist CPI and the neo revisionist CPI (M) leaderships. If the CPI and CPI (M) leaderships mechanically followed the Soviet revisionist line, the CRs followed whatever was coming from China mechanically, as the teachings of Chairman Mao. They failed to recognize that what was advocated in “Long Live the Victory of People’s War” by Lin Biao published in 1966 and the Political Organizational Report to the Ninth Congress of the CPC held in 1969, theorizing the birth of a ‘new era’, an era of total collapse of imperialism and world- wide victory of socialism, with Mao Tsetung Thought as the Marxism-Leninism of the new era, calling for an adventurist putschist line, had very little in common with the teachings of Mao as explained in the five volumes of his published writings. Without taking pains to make a concrete analysis of the vast changes taking place very fast in the Indian situation under the penetration of imperialist capital and market forces, India was analyzed as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country like the pre- revolutionary China, and the strategic line was put forward as the ‘protracted people’s war’. In this situation, the upholding of Mao and Chinese path went to the extent of raising the slogan: ‘China’s Chairman is our Chairman and China’s path is our path’, as the Party line. Pursuing this path, armed struggle was declared as the only form of struggle to be pursued. Soon, in order to start armed struggle the ‘line of annihilation of class enemies’ was put forward. Mechanically copying what was done in China in those years of Cultural Revolution, in the name of heralding new culture, the line of ‘idol breaking’ and such other acts were pursued. In short, in the name of fighting revisionism, ‘Charu Majumdar’s revolutionary line’ went to the other extreme, to the path of left adventurism.
The reality during those years was that, in spite of many differences on the various aspects of the tactical line, the MTT was upheld mechanically by all the CRs. Similarly all of them upheld the characterization of India as semi-colonial and semi-feudal, stage of revolution as that of NDR, and the strategic line as protracted people’s war. No serious theoretical struggle was waged against this line even by those who were bitter critics of Charu Majumdar. Their attacks on his line were more personal and rhetorical than theoretical. They themselves were influenced by sectarian positions to a great extent. Though they had opposed the formation of CPI (ML) in 1969, those who opposed it had no other concrete proposal to put forward. The fact was that practically no one opposed this sectarian and adventurist line put forward by the CPI(ML) leadership theoretically as it would have led to opposing the erroneous line which was coming from China, which all of them were upholding dogmatically as the centre of world revolution.
One serious problem confronted by the CRs at that time was that the revisionist camp, the imperialists and their lackeys were also attacking the Chinese line as sectarian and adventurist. In such a situation how could they raise even the mildest of criticisms against it? And there was no revolutionary international centre which could objectively analyze the world situation and put forward a General Line for the ICM in continuation to the Comintern positions and the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM put forward by the CPC in 1963. Besides, the newly emerging CR groups and Marxist Leninist Parties and groups lacked necessary theoretical understanding or practical experience to make a concrete evaluation of then international situation and to develop the Marxist-Leninist understanding under their own initiative. So, the only alternative available was to copy what was coming out from China as Mao’s teachings and mechanically apply them. This is what was done not only by CPI (ML) led by Charu Majumdar, but also by almost all the revolutionary organizations which emerged during that period in India as well as abroad.
First (Eighth) Congress of the CPI(ML)
The First, that is, the Eighth Congress of the Party was organized at Kolkata in May, 1970, at a time when the Party was facing brutal suppression at all levels, in all areas where it existed and was trying to launch counter attacks on the feudal lords and the state forces. As the Party Congress was convened in extremely difficult conditions, only the leading comrades participated in it.
In the Party Program adopted by the Congress, it was stated: “The great October Revolution brought the ideology of Marxism- Leninism to our country and the Communist Party of India was born. However, despite tremendous opportunities the leadership of the working class could not be established over the national liberation struggle as the leadership of the Party refused to fight Gandhism and the Gandhian leadership and take to the path of revolution. The leadership refused to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of Indian revolution. It refused to integrate the Party with the heroic masses, chiefly the revolutionary peasantry and to forge the revolutionary united front. It refused to learn from the great liberation struggle of the Chinese people led by the CPC and Chairman Mao Tsetung and take to the path of armed struggle…”
Its explanation of the 1947 transfer of power and later developments was:”The country was partitioned amidst communal carnage and the Congress leadership representing the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlords, was installed in power while the British imperialists stepped in to the background. The sham independence declared in 1947 was nothing but a replacement of the colonial and semi-feudal set up with a semi-colonial and semi-feudal one.
“During these years of sham independence the big comprador bureaucrat-bourgeoisie and big landlord ruling classes have been serving their imperialist masters quite faithfully. These lackeys of imperialism, while serving the old British imperialist exploitation, have also brought US imperialist and Soviet social imperialist exploiters to fleece our country. They have mortgaged our country to the imperialist powers”
Analyzing the main contradictions in the country it stated that “the contradiction between landlords and the peasantry, i.e., the contradiction between feudalism and the broad masses of Indian people is the principal contradiction in the present phase. The solution of this contradiction will lead to the resolution of all contradictions.”
It explained the basic task of the Indian revolution as overthrowing the rule of feudalism, comprador bureaucratic capitalism, imperialism and social imperialism. This determines the stage of revolution in the country which is democratic, the essence of which is agrarian revolution. Though it was explained that India has turned in to a neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism in the Program, this point was not subjected for further analysis.
It stressed that ‘as comrade Lin Piao had pointed out, “guerilla warfare is the only way to mobilize and apply the entire strength of the people against the enemy”. In his speech introducing the Political-Organizational Report, Charu Majumdar said: build up the party and get it entrenched among the landless and poor peasants. The building up of the party means the development of armed struggle. And without armed class struggle party cannot be developed and cannot entrench itself among the masses.”
The Party Congress upholding the continuation of the revolutionary history of the Indian Communist movement from its beginning in the 1920s, emphasized that India is in the stage of New (People’s) Democratic Revolution and that the revolution can be carried forward only by integrating the Marxist-Leninist teachings to the concrete conditions of India. It gave a good beginning to fight against the revisionist line. At the same time, though momentous developments had taken place from the time of the 1964 Seventh Party Congress at both international and national levels, and though it was necessary to draw a line of demarcation from the positions taken on these questions by the CPI (M) leadership, the 1970 Congress documents failed to take up this task. The positive aspect of the 1951 documents, as already pointed out, was that they had rejected the pursuing of either Russian Path or Chinese Path and emphasized on developing an Indian Path for advancing the People’s Democratic Revolution in the country.
But, the 1970 Congress called for pursuing the Chinese Path without making any efforts to evaluate the Indian situation. Though it was stated that India had become the neo colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, these neo- colonial and semi- colonial formulations were used synonymously. In spite of the attempts made by the CPC to explain the replacement of colonialism by neo- colonialism by the imperialist camp led by the US imperialists in the post Second World War period in the documents it had put forward during the Great Debate, there was no effort to take up this question forward. As a result, in spite of defining India as a neo-colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism, the Program eventually called India a semi- colonial and semi- feudal country. Instead of criticizing the left adventurist actions taking place in China in the name of advancing the Cultural Revolution contrary to its spirit, the Party Congress documents upheld them in a mechanical manner.
As far as the practice of Indian revolution was concerned, the Congress documents called for a mechanical application of the experience of Chinese revolution in its totality refusing to take in to consideration the vast differences in the concrete conditions of India from the conditions of pre revolutionary China. They went to the extent of reducing the protracted people’s war, advocated by Lin Biao as panacea for all the Asian, African and Latin American countries, to ‘the line of annihilation of the class enemies’. Though the importance of Party building was mentioned, it was also linked to the development of armed struggle one-sidedly. The question of building the class and mass organizations was not even mentioned as by that time the concept that they are highways to revisionism had gained dominance. The concept of mass line was not even discussed. In short, the Party Congress documents advocated a left adventurist line, based on an erroneous evaluation of the concrete conditions in the country, in the name of fighting against the revisionist betrayal of the movement, in the name of speedy completion of the democratic revolution.
The Party Congress failed to evaluate the significance of the setbacks already suffered by the movement in Srikakulam and in many other areas and minimized their magnitude. Instead it called for persisting with the left adventurist line. It soon led to intensification of the setbacks after the Congress. By 1971 the first split in the Party took place when a number of CC members went out and formed a parallel centre. In most of the areas, under severe repression, the movement could not go forward. In the article written by Charu Majumdar in the last issue of Liberation, the then central organ of the Party, “People’s interest is Party’s interest”, there was an attempt to initiate a process of self criticism and rectification. But before it could be carried forward he was arrested. He died on 28th July, 1972 under police custody. Soon the disintegration of the Party and the movement as a whole which was already started reached a peak. Not only the CPI(ML) but the CR movement as a whole splintered to number of groups. As the top leadership was almost wiped out by the enemy, this disintegration affected the party at every level, in all areas.
Evaluation of the Naxalbari Uprising
The most important positive contribution of the Naxalbari Uprising and the efforts of the CR forces to reorganize the communist party was that it saved the revolutionary movement from the path of liquidation pursued by the CPI and CPI (M) which took the path of degenerating to parliamentary cretinism. Like most of the parties formed during the period of Comintern, they also embraced the Soviet revisionist line of liquidating the path of class struggle and revolution under the banner of ‘peaceful transition to socialism’. In practice they became social democratic parties, socialist in words but bourgeois democrats in action. It was the struggle against them by the CRs and the Naxalbari Uprising which brought revolution back to the agenda of the communist movement.
The impact created by the struggle of the CR forces and Naxalbari Uprising was immense. Thousands of young activists inspired by the Naxalbari Uprising went to the countryside and worked among the dalits and adivasis. It created immense enthusiasm among these most backward sections. One of the reasons for the rise of Dalit Panther movement and militant Ambedkarist movements later was the inspiration created by these activities. Naxalbari Uprising inspired tens of thousands of youth and students from different parts of the country to revolt against the reactionary ruling system, embracing the path of revolution. They were prepared for the great sacrifices it called for.
Though the Cultural Revolution in China had deviated to sectarian path very soon, the Naxalbari Uprising and the reports of the Cultural Revolution from China contributed much in giving a new life to the people’s cultural movement in the country with new forms and content. It inspired the intellectual sections immensely provoking new studies and evaluations of Indian reality including the evaluation of the history of the communist movement in the country, and the protracted discussion on the changes in the mode of production taking place. It also evoked discussions on the question of proletarian internationalism.
At the same time, if the CPI, CPI (M) parties more or less mechanically embraced the Soviet revisionist line which was very fast degenerating the Soviet Union to capitalist path, soon after the Naxalbari Uprising the CRs whether they were in the camp of Charu Majumdar or against his line, mechanically adopted the slogan “Chinese Path is Our path”. Based on this, blindly copying the pre-revolutionary Chinese line, all of them analyzed India as a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country with path of revolution as protracted people’s war. All of them were not bothering to see the vast changes taking place in the country under the implementation of the land reforms from above based on the ceiling laws and through Green Revolution like imperialist promoted policies.
Though the CR forces waged a bitter ideological struggle against CPI and CPI (M) for mechanically following the Soviet revisionist line without any analysis, they themselves did the same mistake by mechanically copying what was coming out through the Peking Radio and Chinese publications without any critical approach. They did not try to question why the CPC which had put forward the Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM did not try to convene a conference of the forces opposed to the Soviet revisionist line in continuation to the 1960 Conference of the communist parties and fulfill its responsibility to proletarian internationalism at such a critical juncture. Even when comrades Kanu Sanyal and later Souren Bose who went to China and met CPC leaders were told not to copy the Chinese path and to develop the program and path of Indian revolution according to conditions here, there were no attempts to rectify the copying of the Chinese line.
The erroneous approach during the tumultuous 1967-72 period was multifarious. In studying the transformation of the imperialist plunder after the Second World War from colonial to neocolonial forms, in evaluating the capitalist restoration in Soviet Union and its consequences, in evaluating the impact of both these on the developments at international and national level, in developing the program and path of revolution based on mass line, in developing class struggle in a comprehensive, all embracing form, in developing the approach towards the agrarian revolution in the new situation, in utilizing all forms of struggle, including parliamentary struggle in a country like India where the parliamentary system was well entrenched for many decades, as part of class struggle, in building the party on Bolshevik style surrounded by class/mass organizations and on other questions concerning the mobilization and politicization of the whole movement etc there were serious mistakes and deviations. Without giving attention to rectify these mistakes and overcome these deviations, the entire attention was concentrated on developing armed struggle by all sections without giving emphasis to build a vanguard party of the proletariat capable of leading revolution in such a vast and complex country like India.
In such a situation what happened was inevitable. The whole movement got disintegrated and split in to numerous groups. Any successful reorganization of the Party called for finding answers to the numerous questions that led to the disintegration. Like the right deviation of the CPI-CPI(M) forces, the left deviation of CPI(ML) and other CR forces became obstacles for building a revolutionary alternative utilizing the political space created by the weakening of the Congress at all India level.
Re-organizing CPI (ML) Upholding the Spirit of Naxalbari Uprising
It is a fact that in spite of excellent objective situation and in spite of many struggles and valiant sacrifices, the Communist movement has failed to advance along the path of People’s Democratic Revolution. Both right and left deviations adversely affect it. Again and again, the failure to make concrete evaluation of the unfolding situation at international and national levels and to develop the Marxist-Leninist theory and practice accordingly created road blocks. By 1974-75 the sharpening of the contradictions between the ruling system and the people reached a high pitch, giving rise to many people’s upsurges in different regions. The contradictions among the ruling classes and monopoly groups reflecting the intensifying contradiction between the US led imperialist forces and the Soviet social imperialists also sharpened. These led to the declaration of internal emergency. But the ML forces could not play any significant role, though once again they came under severe suppression leading to many more sacrifices. The Soviet social imperialists, and the CPI toeing their line, supported the declaration of emergency by Indira Gandhi government, while CPI (M) did not dare to resist the emergency in the name of protecting the party organization!
For almost last five decades the left movement in general and the CPI (ML) groups in particular had to face innumerable challenges. The objective situation has undergone many changes. All the major contradictions at the international and national levels have sharpened and undergone many changes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, replacing the UPA government led by rightist Congress, the ultra rightist BJP led NDA government has come to power, intensifying corporate raj and communalization and threatening fascist challenge in all fields. These changes have thrown up new challenges before the left movement as a whole and before the CPI (ML) groups.
The degeneration of socialist China to the capitalist path, and the class collaborationist “Three World Theory” put forward by the end of 1970s by the capitalist roaders about future course of the ICM created more confusion and called for serious introspections in the Communist movement. Why did all former socialist countries degenerated from the socialist path had to be answered to the people. The failure of the communist movement in recognizing the transformation of the colonial forms of exploitation pursued by the imperialist system to neocolonial forms during the post-SWW decades and in developing its strategy and tactics accordingly caused severe havocs to the movement. So the study of imperialism to neocolonial phase called for immediate attention.
A significant development linked to the neocolonial changes was the outbreak of new type of ‘farmers’ struggles’ in different parts of the country by end of 1970s and early 80s. How to evaluate these struggles led by the agricultural bourgeois – rich peasant classes? How to evaluate the ‘land reforms from above’ including the land ceiling acts implemented by the various state governments helping the ‘Green Revolution’ and development of capitalist class relations in the country side? Can they be seen within the purview of the semi-feudal evaluation of Indian society? Can Indian state be evaluated as semi-colonial as the pre-revolutionary Chinese state?
With all former socialist countries degenerating from the socialist path to bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorships, the communist parties had to find answers about what sort of development paradigm they have to put forward taking lessons from the former socialist countries and how to fight against the emergence of bureaucratic tendencies within the party, the state and the army including the forms of democratic institutions to be developed so as achieve people’s power at all levels. In the context of neoliberal development policies pursued by the imperialist powers and by the countries under neocolonial domination which are devastating the nature increasing the danger of ecological catastrophe and pauperization of the masses, this question has great relevance today.
Presently when the imperialist system which is in deep crisis is utilizing religious fundamentalist, caste, racism like forces to divide and politically and culturally maim the people, and when the growing communal fascist threat and caste based atrocities have become a real danger in India, the question of developing struggle against all these forces, to develop secular, caste annihilation movements have become all the more important. When the communist movement has suffered severe set backs during the last five-six decades the Marxist-Leninist forces can reorganize the party and move forward only by trying to find answers to these questions and developing a countrywide people’s alternative to the ruling system. Could the left in general and those who uphold the Naxalbari Uprising address these issues positively? What steps they could take during last decades to confront these challenges and what is their condition today?
During these decades, the CPI and the CPI (M) have further degenerated to social democratic positions. The Left Front (LF) led by them in W. Bengal and Tripura and the Left and Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala were, in the main, implementing the ruling class policies including the neo liberal policies. In pursuing communal and caste appeasement policies also they are not far behind the ruling class parties who profess secularism. They have abandoned all Marxist- Leninist positions in practice. Their internal conflicts have become more serious after the reverses in 2011 W. Bengal elections and following the serious debacle in the 16th LS elections. In the 2016 elections to the state assemblies of W. Bengal, Kerala and TN they have further widened their electoral alliances and adjustments with more rightist forces for survival, reflecting their further degeneration. Instead of working for a people’s alternative against the BJP government guided by the RSS parivar, they have made electoral adjustments with Congress in W, Bengal, with communal and reactionary groups in Kerala and chauvinists and advocates of identity politics in TN.
The internal conflicts and splits in the CPI and CPI (M) like parties during these decades were not taking place based on the ideological problems faced by the international and Indian communist movement. Many of those leading these splits were not basically opposed to the revisionist positions pursued by them for decades. As a result, most of the groups formed after these splits made alliances with Congress like ruling class parties or have perished. Besides, a number of individuals and sections after leaving CPI and CPI (M) also joined Congress like parties. These developments reveal the extent of ideological degeneration to alien positions prevalent among them.
Among the parties or groups formed following the disintegrations of the ‘Naxalite’ movement in early 1970s, a number of them like CPI (ML) Liberation have become part of the alliance forged by CPI (M). The CPI (Maoist) formed in 2004 is pursuing anarchist policies. Most of the other still surviving organizations profess the ‘Chinese Line’, though they do not practice any form of ‘people’s war’. Refusal to address the cardinal issues confronting the ML movement as pointed out above, they are stagnant or disintegrating.
It is in this context the theoretical, political and organizational developments made by the CPI (ML) Red Star as reflected in its 9th and 10th Congresses trying to address most of the basic issues pointed out above should be seen. The theoretical offensive it has launched on the basic challenges faced by the communist movement today, its role in the founding and activities of the ICOR, the Program and Path of Revolution it has put forward, its development in to an all India party, its approach to and building of class/mass organizations and various mass movements, its role in putting forward a people’s alternative and forming the Democratic People’s Forum based on a Common Minimum Program, its experience in waging the parliamentary struggles continuously fighting against parliamentary cretinist tendencies, and the various campaigns and struggles it is leading has contributed towards uniting the CR forces, winning over cadres from the new generation and advancing the task of building an all India party surrounded by class/mass organizations and mass movements. While considering the vastness of India and the magnitude of the problems the communist movement in India is facing, it is still not a significant advance. But the brave initiative it is taking in all fields and the achievements it has so far made, on the whole, provide a positive orientation and practice.
While the whole party organization is mobilized for observing the 50th anniversary of the Naxalbari Uprising for a year from this 25th May, these positive achievements provide new confidence to carry forward activities in all fields including the party building fighting against all alien tendencies, developing the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism according to present conditions and advancing towards the completion of the PDR as a step towards the socialist revolution. Let us mobilize all our strength and take up the observation of the 50th Year of Naxalbari Uprising with this spirit. n
Question of Concrete Analysis While Observing 50th Anniversary of Naxalbari Uprising
The Naxalbari Peasant Uprising in May 1967 which led to the formation of CPI (ML) on April 22, 1969 and the consequent adoption of Party Program in the Congress held in 1970 has been acknowledged as a watershed in the entire history of Indian communist movement. It brought about a rupture with the revisionist line pursued by the CPI (M) that had abandoned not only the very concept but also of the tremendous significance of agrarian revolution in a country like India. With its overwhelming appeal among the oppressed, the dispossessed, the underprivileged, the poor and the downtrodden segments all over the country, the Naxalbari struggle also succeeded in sensitizing and attracting vast sections of students and youth to the revolutionary movement. The historic relevance of Naxalbari is not in relation to the extent of physical occupation of land by the revolutionary peasants, but in terms of the expectations it generated for the revolutionary reorganization of the communist movement in India.
As is obvious, the Naxalbari struggle was not an overnight development, but had been the outcome of several objective developments. As a manifestation of the crisis confronting the ruling system in general and agricultural sector in particular, land struggles and food riots had started in different parts of India from the mid-sixties onward. Not only in Bengal but in Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh, led by communist cadres, go-downs were captured and food was distributed among the poor. Though the CPI had abandoned revolutionary agrarian program based on land to the tiller in the 1950s, the formation of CPI (M) in 1964 had created enthusiasm among the communist revolutionary sections. However, the centrist line of the CPI (M) leadership as exemplified in the documents of the Seventh Congress utterly failed to pursue a revolutionary line based on an objective analysis of the Indian situation. It was then that the communist revolutionaries in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and elsewhere started a fierce ideological struggle within CPI (M). The well-known Eight Documents by Comrade Charu Mazumdar during the period 1965-67 proposing agrarian revolution as the basis for capturing state power were written as part of this ideological struggle.
Concrete Indian Situation since the Sixties
However, the conceptualization on agrarian revolution by Comrade Charu Mazumdar and other leaders was based on the assumption that India was still a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country like pre-revolutionary China. Therefore, the strategic line for India’s liberation was put as ‘protracted people’s war’ pursued in China under the leadership of Mao Tsetung during the thirties and forties. Consequently, armed struggle was proposed as the only form of struggle which must invariably be begun by annihilating class enemies in the countryside. What happened was the mechanical copying of this so called Chinese line without analyzing the concrete class situation in India in the 1960s leading to left adventurism and disintegration of the movement since the seventies. It failed to make a concrete evaluation of the fundamental transformation that was taking place in Indian agriculture around this time.
For, during the postwar neocolonial order led by US imperialism, especially from the sixties onward, the transformations in Indian agriculture including land relations had been far-reaching. The most enduring among them was the Green Revolution initiated by international finance capital led by US imperialism, the supreme arbiter of neocolonialism. As a result, fundamental changes occurred by which finance capital, utilizing new agricultural technologies and market mechanism, penetrated in to agriculture at a rapid pace. The conceptualization and implementation of green revolution were under the auspices of a whole set of neo-colonial institutions and agencies primarily originating from USA. In a general sense, green revolution meant the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to farmers. As characterized by US imperialist ideologues who coined the term ‘green revolution’, it was aimed at thwarting the danger of a ‘red revolution’ in neocolonial countries. Instead of the decadent feudal forces that were reluctant to experiment with the new agricultural technologies, through Green revolution, imperialism took particular attention to nurture and build up an agricultural bourgeois class as a social base and a firm ally of state power in its neocolonial plunder. The adoption of new agricultural technology also necessitated substantial investments which were beyond the reach of vast majority of small and marginal peasants. As such, at the instance of World Bank, Ford-Rockefeller philanthropies and other funding agencies, the central and state governments in India resorted to a series of super-imposed land legislations that brought about changes in feudal land relations not based on the principle of ‘land to the tiller’ but with the purpose of creating a bourgeois landlord class who can imbibe both the ideology and technology of green revolution. Following green revolution, the entire input-output market for agriculture began to be monopolized by MNCs and agri-business companies.
More specifically, Green Revolution has been a smart neocolonial move on the part of finance capital, especially US finance capital to penetrate the agriculture sector in neocolonial countries like India by making effective use of the technological breakthroughs in the field. Changes in land relations were of paramount importance for the success of green revolution. For instance, the panel of thirteen American agronomists who were sent to India as part of the World Bank–USAID–Ford-Rockefeller initiative unequivocally suggested the implementation of Green Revolution solely based on a new class of elite capitalist farmers operating on commercial lines. The abolition of feudal relations in land while paving the way for concentration of land in the new agricultural bourgeoisie and rural elite would free the vast majority of poor tenants and marginal peasants from land itself to be available as landless agricultural workers for work in big farms and land holdings.
Thus backed by the administrative and institutional support of the comprador Indian state, many erstwhile feudal lords themselves transformed into ‘kulaks’ by evicting tenants as they found it profitable to cultivate themselves by adopting new technologies and receiving liberal credit from official sources. Corporate sections who hitherto were keeping aloof from agriculture started acquiring big farms for commercial agriculture. Thus the advent of green revolution and the concomitant capitalist relations in agriculture led to a further concentration of land in the agricultural bourgeoisie-rich peasant classes on the one hand, and growing landlessness among the vast majority of peasantry, the tillers of the soil on the other.
With the adoption of green revolution as the agricultural modernization strategy, the neocolonial states all over the world rejected even their populist mask of rural emancipation based on the peasantry. Abolition of intermediaries including feudal relations was a camouflage for the concentration of land among new landlord classes integrated with finance capital and global market on the one hand, and the growth in the number of landless, poor peasants and agricultural workers on an unprecedented scale, on the other. The new agricultural bourgeoisie and the big farming enterprises that evolved in neocolonial countries as ‘junior partners’ of agribusiness MNCs were perfectly in tune with the imperialist control over market for agricultural inputs and outputs and was an inalienable component of the global expansion of finance capital in the post World War II period. Neo-colonial governments were asked to prop up big and very big farmers and agri-businesses through appropriate land legislations and through various price support, subsidy and credit programs on the pattern of imperialist countries.
In course of time, this super-imposed green revolution thus led to a transformation in production relations and substantial increase in output oriented to the market, even as per capita availability of food to the common people went on declining. The agricultural sector also became an important consumer of industrial goods and agricultural inputs produced by multi-national agro-industrial corporations. But unlike normal capitalist development, this imperialist sponsored, super-imposed program on the whole remained retarded and distorted as the green revolution-induced growth was quite uneven at the all India level.
However, as already noted, it transformed the old semi-feudal, pre-capitalist production relations to a significant extent. That is, in contradistinction to the colonial phase, in the neocolonial phase imperialism is no longer trying to protect the old agrarian structure. As a result, feudalism is no longer the social base of imperialism. Though the agrarian relations have not undergone any revolutionary change, agriculture is transformed and modernized in conformity with the neocolonial interests of finance capital. As such, in the emerging production relations in the agrarian sector, land is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the new landlord class and the real tillers of soil are still without land. All these developments are to be seen in the overall context of the significant transformation that have taken place in the world situation after World War II with colonialism replaced by neocolonialism by the imperialist powers led by US imperialism, to facilitate imperialist plunder according to concrete conditions.
For example, an objective evaluation of the land reform legislations including the abolition of zamindari system brought about by the Indian state during the fifties and sixties will make this point amply clear. According to data available, 57 percent of the country was directly under the zamindari system at the time of power transfer. Because of people’s fury and resentment against the zamindars and the inhuman feudal and exploitative practices pursued by them, it was easy for most of the state governments to pass zamindari abolition acts before the end of the first five year plan. Thus official documents claimed the abolition of ‘intermediaries’ in 173 million acres of land and the establishment of 20 million tenants into direct relationship with the state by mid-1950s.
But zamindari abolition was an eye-wash and the ultimate outcome of the legal enactments was a change in the nomenclature of the zamindars who could easily change their garb and continue with their hold over land unabated. There were several loopholes at the level of legislation itself which allowed the zamindars to keep vast tracts of land for ‘personal cultivation’ not only in his name but also in the name of family members, relatives and even benamies and continue with the eviction of peasants, the real tillers of the soil.
Zamindari abolition acts enabled the parasitic sections including zamindars to shed their role as intermediaries/middlemen between the peasants and the State and become land owners with permanent and inheritable rights in land. In the post land reform period, the erstwhile zamindars intensified evictions of peasants and concentrated more lands with them and began to carry on cultivation with hired agricultural labourers. And even the land reform initiated by the CPI led government in Kerala since 1957, which was acclaimed as the most progressive of the legislations among the various Indian states, refused to adhere to the principle of ‘land to the tiller’.
On account of the mechanical approach to caste (which is pursued by both revisionists and anarchists) that led to the glossing over of the inseparable link between land relations and caste, this CPI-led land legislation also excluded the dalits, the real tillers of the soil from the ownership of agricultural land altogether. At the all India level, wherever the land reforms were implemented, not only the landlords were fully compensated but their power base in the rural areas also was kept unaffected thereby making it easy for them to recapture the land in the coming days.
Observing the developments then taking place in Indian agriculture FICCI, the organization of the comprador bourgeoisie in India noted in 1964: “In this context, it was a heartening feature that in certain areas a new type of dynamic, progressive farmer had emerged as the main spearhead of improvements in agriculture. This farmer who constituted a new rural elite should be given every protection and encouragement so that his potentialities were fully utilized in the national interest. This would only be possible when the climate of uncertainty and sense of insecurity was removed from the minds of those who were striving to introduce new technology and better skills in the agricultural sector.” Opposing any form of land ceiling, the statement continued: “In place of the present policy of imposing ceiling on agricultural holdings thus depriving agriculture of the advantages of economies of scale, it would be desirable on experimental scale in the first instance to permit joint stock companies to undertake production of food grains and commercial crops.”
Question of Approach
Thus, while the emergence of capitalist land relations including the advent of an agricultural bourgeoisie as the leading ruling class in Indian agriculture was an accomplished fact in the sixties itself, it seems rather odd that this fundamental and far reaching transformation could not catch the attention of those who drafted the CPI (ML) program in the 1970. Even the then CPC which was unequivocal in pinpointing the American neo-colonial domination over India as well as the comprador character of the Indian ruling classes had not gone into this crucial issue. For instance it said: “True, the United States has not formally set up an “East India Company” in India. Nevertheless, in the past twenty years, the United States’ control and exploitation of India has been on a scale comparable to that of the British, which has a history of colonialism in India of three hundred years. The massive infiltration of US monopoly capital into India has enabled it to grab fabulous profits while the thousands of so called American “experts” and “advisers” who have wormed their way into the economic, political, military and cultural spheres have stepped up their control and enslavement of the country. India’s natural resources have been sucked out by the United States in large quantities. India has become a market for the flooding of American goods. Through the dumping of “surplus” farm produce alone, the United States controls one half of India’s currency as well as its finance and banking. The United States has also been steadily deepening the agricultural crises in India and aggravating its starvation for years on end. Each year millions of working people die of starvation in India. Isn’t this a fact of the bloody and ruthless exploitation of the Indian people?” While this comment has a general mention on the agrarian crisis, it has not taken any serious note of the super-imposed specific changes, especially large scale finance capital-induced transformations that were taking place in Indian agriculture at that time. Nor the Kisan Sabha Resolution that preceded the Naxalbari uprising while discussing at length on feudal oppression and comprador nature of the rulers has given the required attention to this emerging trends in agriculture.
As such, evaluation of Indian agrarian structure as basically semi-feudal in disregard of the emerging concrete reality compelled the leaders of Naxalbari movement to direct the fighting consciousness of the peasantry solely against feudalism which, though existed unevenly in different regions of the country, has been a declining trend in general. Based on this, India’s liberation was to be achieved along the Chinese path of ‘protracted people’s war’ for which cadres were to be recruited and trained in a secret party. Ironically, the disagreement of comrades like Kanu Sanyal with Comrade Charu Mazumdar was not on this crucial issue of concrete analysis and characterization of Indian society, but on technical issues. For instance, in his Report on the Terai Peasants’ Movement, Kanu Sanyal has identified ‘excessive reliance on the spontaneity of the masses and taking them as armed forces’ as the main reason for the setback of the Naxalbari movement. Among the other reasons were the inclusion of some vagabonds and making them leaders of the movement, failure to establish a powerful mass base, lack of proper plan for the redistribution of grabbed land led to conflicts among the peasants, etc. Underrating of the strength of the State machinery was the major military weakness, according to the Terai Report.
Along with this specific question of characterizing agrarian relations, the other was regarding the appropriateness of the usage ‘semi-colonial’ in the 1970 Program. It was during the Great Debate that the CPC under the leadership of Mao Zedong correctly put neocolonialism as a historical category for understanding the strategy and tactics of imperialism in the post World War II period, firmly upholding Leninist position on imperialism. No doubt, the 1970 Program did characterize India “as a neo-colony of US imperialism and Soviet social imperialism.” However, simultaneously it had also used the ahistorical interpretation of Indian society as semi-colonial. Obviously, the fault was due to the incorrect understanding on neocolonialism. In spite of the correct formulation on neo-colonialism in 1963, the CPC, which then was at the leadership of the International Communist Movement did nothing to further develop the concept as Lenin did in concretely evaluating imperialism in his time.
With the ascendancy of the left sectarian and anarchist trends led by Lin Biao in the Cultural Revolution, which later dominated in the Ninth Congress of CPC in 1969 that put forward a new era concept of “total collapse of imperialism and worldwide victory of socialism” instead of the Leninist evaluation of the era as that of “imperialism and proletarian revolution”, any further study on the neocolonial phase of imperialism was unnecessary as it was conceived to be in its “death-bed”. Thus, while Khrushchevian revisionism theorized on the weakening of imperialism with its prognosis on the “disappearance of colonialism” from rightist position, ‘Lin Biaoism’(so-called Maoism today) did the same from the position of left sectarianism.
The consequent inability to develop the understanding on neo-colonialism led several Marxist-Leninist parties to simultaneously or synonymously use the terms ‘neocolonial’, ‘semi-colonial’ and ‘dependent’ without seriously evaluating them. The eclecticism of mixing up both neocolonial and semi-colonial in the 1970 Program was a reflection of this mistake. From the 1980s onward, even while speaking about neocolonial plunder, many organizations began to distance themselves from the neocolonial formulation altogether and started using only the term semi-colonial in their documents. The case of several ML organizations and acclaimed inheritors of Naxalbari in India was also the same.
The crucial issue here pertains to the appropriateness of using the term semi-colonial to refer to the qualitative transformations that have taken place in the post World War II period. From the Leninist perspective, the continued use of the term ‘semi-colonial’ during the postwar period as a framework to understand imperialist domination is a historical anachronism. For Lenin, ‘semi-colonial states’ were the “transitional forms” or “middle stage” in the process of colonization. While different regions of semi-colonial countries were occupied by various imperialist powers, mainly the feudal land lord classes ruled the remaining regions. China was a classic case. Semi-colonial countries remained as such, so long as conflicting interests and disagreement regarding division of spoils among competing imperialist powers prevailed.
But the trend under colonialism, according to Lenin, was full colonization of these semi-colonial countries. He said: “It is natural that the struggle for these semi independent countries should have become particularly bitter in the epoch of finance capital, when the rest of the world has already been divided up.”
Thus it is clear that ‘semi-colonial’ is a conceptualization used by Lenin to denote the ‘transitional stage’ under colonization. That is, from a Marxist perspective, semi-colonies together with colonies were specific historical categories applicable to the colonial phase of imperialism. Therefore, the continued use of the term semi-colonial, a category specifically used by Lenin to explain the trend under colonization, will obliterate the qualitative differences between colonial and neocolonial phases of imperialism. Repetition of such an old formulation in an abstract and mechanical way and fitting the changed realities within that framework will not be helpful for resolving the new contradictions. In other words, mere emulation of China and using the semi-colonial framework to develop the program of Indian revolution cannot throw light on the all-round and intensifying hegemony of finance capital over the country after power transfer. Of course, this approach again is related to the refusal or the failure to grasp postwar neocolonialism — persistent and historically structured concentration of the power of finance capital in its diverse, mutually interpenetrating economic, political, military and cultural forms—according to concrete conditions.
The green revolution acting as a conduit for the penetration of imperialist capital in Indian agriculture and transforming it as an appendage of agribusiness MNCs together with the strengthening of land concentration in new landlord classes and accentuation of landlessness of the peasantry are all accomplished facts today. It has led to the complete loss of Indian peasants’ self-reliance on domestic seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, transfer of the Indian gene pool of food crops to the seed banks controlled by MNCs, and above all the irreversible soil degradation and natural resource depletion having long lasting ecological problems. However, today under neo-liberalism in the twenty-first century, the so called second green revolution in continuation of the first has added a new dimension to India’s agrarian crisis. With the inclusion of agriculture along with intellectual property rights into the WTO regime, led by agri-business MNCs who have completely monopolized the agriculture technologies, India is now witnessing an unprecedented corporatization of agriculture. Along with the ongoing corporate land grab in the name of various neocolonial projects such as SEZs, tourism zones, townships, etc., agri-business companies in the name of corporate agriculture are also concentrating vast land areas leading to further landlessness and destitution of the peasantry. Even existing land ceiling acts are repealed to facilitate this corporatization resulting in large scale displacement of the peasantry. Corporate and contract farming of export-oriented cash crops are replacing vast areas of foods crop agriculture in different parts of the country. Along with the worsening land question, corporate control over agricultural inputs and output markets through various price and Exim (Export-Import) policies of the comprador regime is also mounting. WTO dictated agricultural policies including anti-peasant credit and price policies coupled with the curtailment of state support programs like subsidies and public procurements have led to mass suicides of peasants throughout the country.
On account of the new developments in agriculture and the economy in general, the marginal and poor peasants who cannot maintain their meager holdings are compelled to sell them off to corporate farms, rural elite and the rich and are migrating to the urban slums to join the ranks of unorganized and ‘informal’ workers, the fastest growing segment of world proletariat today. Homelessness, joblessness and mushrooming of slums have become the hallmark of so called development today. As a result of the massive displacement of the peasantry and extreme pauperization of the country-side, currently India is facing one of the fastest growing internal migrations ever recorded in history. For instance, in the tiny state of Kerala constituting just one percent of India’s land area and having a population of just above 3 crores, the number of migrant workers has already crossed 40 lakhs, 45 percent of which is from West Bengal alone. As a manifestation of this inter-state and rural-urban migration, India’s urban population, for the first time in a century, has grown more than its rural population during the past decade, and this trend is an ever-intensifying one.
The upshot of the argument is that the evaluation of Indian society as ‘semi-feudal and semi-colonial’ was not in conformity with the concrete realities. Even now, those adherents of semi-feudal line dreaming of developing guerrilla warfare, red base areas and liberated areas, no doubt, are miserably failing to comprehend these emerging concrete trends in the neoliberal-neocolonial order.
As the comprador Indian state through a series of corporate-led infrastructure build-up and trickle down projects like employment guarantee schemes and microfinance programs coupled with World Bank sponsored empowerment projects is forcibly integrating the entire agrarian-rural sector with corporate finance capital on the one hand, and through heinous military moves breaches erstwhile inaccessible areas and encircles the Maoists on the other, the latter’s activities are increasingly confining to thin strips in the hinterland. Rather than pursuing reductionist approaches as that of evaluating the setbacks in terms of tactical failures, the need of the hour is a politicization of the masses, democratization of the society and building up of revolutionary people’s movement led by a Party capable of concretely analyzing the present situation and fully comprehending the contemporary laws of motion of finance capital in its diverse manifestations.
While observing the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari uprising, no doubt, it is pertinent to reiterate the revolutionary enthusiasm it created among the masses by resolutely combating revisionism and rightist opportunism which were well entrenched in the communist movement in India. However, the sectarian trend that dominated it by failing to pursue the Marxist method of concrete analysis of the concrete situation also has inflicted much damage and severe setbacks to the cause of revolution.
In this context, the issue is not that of situating the failures in the role of individuals but to have a scientific approach capable of advancing the revolutionary movement forward. Here it would be in order to quote from the Resolution on Launching Theoretical Offensive for Communist Resurgence adopted in the Tenth Congress of CPI (ML) Red Star :
“12. We must take up a clear, unsparing and scientific analysis of our past! Without this we cannot make a correct objective analysis of the present. This will mean asking a lot of uncomfortable questions and shedding some of our dearly held conceptions. This is necessary even to begin a theoretical offensive. Even during such an offensive we may, many times, come to the conclusion that many of the positions put forward by us in the past were wrong. We must be able to boldly put forward a clear and pointed self-criticism including how and why we went wrong. This requires that we must build up an atmosphere of trust, openness and frankness within the party. We must not be scared of analyzing the situation of ours and of others around us and must go, in practice, to wherever such an analysis takes us.” n
Long Live Great Naxalbari
Pradip Singh Thakur
This year May 25 will see the 50th anniversary of the historic Naxalbari peasant uprising. In these 50 years several important events have occurred in our country as well as in other countries. But even today agriculture and the peasant question retain the same importance as it did 50 years ago. Even today the stage of revolution in India is democratic.
In these 50 years significant changes have taken place in the agricultural sector in India. These changes have been especially hastened in the present phase of neo-liberal economy that commenced in 1991. The Path of Indian Revolution document of our Party states: “That is why, in spite of fast and deep capitalist inroads in agriculture, the stage of revolution is still democratic, not socialist.”
There is an opinion within our movement, which, pointing to the changes that have taken place in Indian agriculture in the last 60 years and the speed and extent of the development of capitalism in Indian agriculture, asserts that the stage of Indian revolution has changed – it has crossed the democratic stage and gone over to the socialist stage of revolution.
In order to understand this problem correctly, Lenin’s teaching will be of some help to us.
Till the February Revolution of 1917, the stage of revolution in Russia had been identified as democratic. It had been stated: “Ever since they founded their Party, the Russian Social Democrats have maintained the following three propositions. First, the agrarian revolution will necessarily be a part of the democratic revolution in Russia. The content of this revolution will be the liberation of the countryside from the relations of semi-feudal bondage. Second, in its social and economic aspect, the impending agrarian revolution will be a bourgeois-democratic revolution, it will not weaken but stimulate the development of capitalism and capitalist class contradictions. Third, the Social Democrats have every reason to support this revolution most resolutely, setting themselves immediate tasks, but not tying their hands by assuming commitments and by no means refusing to support even a ‘general redistribution’.”(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Pg 170)
The above three propositions had been put forward by the Russian Social Democrats ever since their inception, even when “… it is the capitalist mode of production(italics Lenin’s) that became established in Russia in the second half of the 19th century, and is absolutely predominant(emphasis ours) in the 20th century.”(Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Pg 232)
Thus it is clear that Lenin’s aforementioned teaching will definitely be of help to those who attempt to determine the stage of revolution only by the mode of production which is predominant.
The historic Naxalbari peasant struggle was organized, first of all, challenging the reformist line that was being practiced in the Indian Communist movement and particularly in peasant struggles, under the leadership of CPI-CPI(M), in the period following the historic Telangana armed peasant struggle. Secondly, another significance of the historic Naxalbari peasant struggle was that it once again emphatically brought forward the path of agrarian revolution in solving the problems of peasants and agriculture in India.
Naxalbari brought forward, with tremendous importance, the truth that “Agrarian revolution means wiping out landlordism, including still surviving remnants of feudal and pre-capitalist land relations and making revolutionary changes in the land relations based on the ‘land to the to the tiller’ slogan…” (Path of Indian Revolution, Pg 33-34)
The great Naxalbari peasant struggle and the other peasant struggles it triggered like Mushahari in Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, Debra-Gopiballavpur in Bengal, Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh and others rejected the reformist trend within the Communist movement, brought to the fore the revolutionary trend and through its implementation shook the foundations of feudalism and semi-feudalism. In reality, the peasants of India wanted what the peasants of Russia had wanted 61 years ago in 1906.”In other words, the peasants are virtually demanding an agrarian revolution and not agrarian reform.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 10, Pg 410)
Some have tried to maintain that the great Naxalbari peasant struggle was the outcome of the Eight Documents of Comrade Charu Mazumdar. But those who wish to arrive at the truth on the basis of facts will admit that from 1951 to 1966peasant struggles occurred continuously in Naxalbari and its adjacent areas under the leadership of the Communist Party of India – struggles on the burning issues of the peasants. These struggles were conducted by uniting the peasants, by organising them in mass organisations and by ceaseless armed resistance to the attacks of jotedars-zamindars and the police. The historic Siliguri Sub-Division Conference of the Krishak Sabha of May 7, 1967, came in continuation tothis 16 years of unremitting peasant struggle.This historic Conference called for: i) establishment of the authority of the peasant committees in all matters of the village, ii) getting organized and armed in order to crush the resistance of jotedars and rural reactionaries and iii) smashing the jotedars’ monopoly of ownership of the land and redistribution of the land anew through the peasant committees.
The historic Naxalbari peasant uprising was organized through the implementation of this call. We have already mentioned the Eight Documents. The first of these – titled Our Tasks in the Present Situation – was written on January 28, 1965. So if the Eight Documents are regarded as the initiator and originator of Naxalbari, then that would mean rejection of the incessant peasant struggle of 1951 to 1965.Of course, that is not to say that Comrade Charu Mazumdar had no role, or a negative role, in the great Naxalbari peasant struggle. Such an opinion also surfaced in later years. All this is nothing but an attempt to cut the foot to fit the shoe.
The great Naxalbari peasant struggle, in practice, drew a determining line of demarcation between Marxism and revisionism, between revolution and counter-revolution and between the revolutionary path of peasant struggle and the reformist path of peasant struggle. Naxalbari rebelled against the neo-revisionism of the CPIM leadership and hastened the process of the creation of a true Communist Party in India. Naxalbari helped to question the various ideas and analyses that had prevailed over the past many years. In reality, after the great Naxalbari peasant struggle, nothing remained the same as before.
Above all, the attempts by revisionists, neo-revisionists and reformists to depict the Naxalbari peasant struggle as just another peasant struggle, the nefarious attempts by the CPIM leadership to malign this struggle as ‘adventurist’, cannot diminish the revolutionary significance of this struggle. We can also get an idea of the revolutionary significance of this struggle from the reaction of the ruling class.
The impact and repercussions of Naxalbari and the subsequent peasant struggles it inspired were so immense that on September 26, 1970, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi told chief ministers at a conference on land reforms: “These are not matters of any textbook socialism or theoretical egalitarianism. They are inescapable compulsions of nations’ political and economic life which no government, whatever its complexion, can ignore, much less thwart. Land reform is the most crucial test which our political system must pass in order to survive. It is also our essential pre-requisite for self-sufficiency in food-grains.
“There is nothing radical or revolutionary in land reforms. I am sure those present know about what has happened in Mexico. Modern Japan’s industrial progress and stability is based on land reforms. The land reforms in Iran were initiated by the Shah himself and created the conditions for Iran’s further progress. Land reforms were essential ingredients of growth in modern industrial Europe. Only the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Tsarist Empire thwarted land reforms. And they both collapsed.”
There are several factual errors in the above statement of Smt. Gandhi. It is not true that Tsarist Russia ‘thwarted’ land reforms. The Stolypin agrarian reforms were adopted in Russia in 1906, about which Lenin wrote in his article The Last Valve, “The ‘new lease of life’ given by Stolypin to the old order and old feudal agriculture lies in the fact that another valve was opened, the last that could still be opened without expropriating all the landed estates.” Thus, a programme of land reforms was indeed adopted in Russia but that could not save the Tsarist Empire from collapse.
Similarly, what Smt. Gandhi said about Japan is also not correct. Land reforms in Japan were implemented under definite circumstances. The State played an important role in this and the land reforms played an important role in helping small peasants to access land, means of production, loans, irrigation, technology and also receive a good price for the crops. This in turn played an important role in the industrial development of that country.
Despite such factual inconsistencies, the aforementioned statement by our erstwhile Prime Minister makes it clear that Naxalbari and the subsequent movements that shook the foundations of feudalism gave the ruling class sleepless nights. As a result, in order to deal with the movement the Indira Gandhi government adopted the ‘carrot and stick’ policy (as described by Lenin) – brutal repression on the one hand, and reforms on the other. This is what Indira Gandhi had suggested at the aforementioned conference of the chief ministers.
However, it is the bitter reality that the Indian political system survived, proving Smt. Gandhi’s apprehensions wrong, despite very little being done in the field of land reforms. The Mahalanobis Committee established in 1969 was asked to gauge how much vest land could be acquired if the ceiling on land was fixed at 20 acres per family. The Committee replied that in that case the amount of vest land would be 6 crore 30 lakh acres, which would be 17.3 per cent of the total cultivable land (40 crore acres).
47 years have passed after that. The shockwaves generated by the Naxalbari struggle led the ruling class to fix the land ceiling at less than 20 acres per family. But till date, the amount of vest land distributed throughout the country is less than even 2 per cent of the total cultivable land. On the other hand, concentration of land in the hands of a tiny few and landlessness or near landlessness of a huge section of the rural population is still the reality today.
In rural India, 10.04 per cent of families have no land, not even land for a home. Landless and near landless families make up 40.3 per cent of the rural population (they are owners of only 0.48 per cent of the total land). On the other hand, 9.4 per cent own 56.60 per cent of land. This reality emphatically puts forward the real necessity of the agrarian revolution, of the realization of the demand of land to the peasants. This reality makes inevitable the revolutionisation of land ownership and agrarian relations through agrarian revolution.
But will the revolution stop at distribution of land among landless and poor peasants, or will it go forward to the next stage – the socialist stage?
According to Leninism, “Social-Democracy as the party of the international proletariat, the party which has set itself worldwide socialist aims, cannot, of course, identify itself with any epoch of any bourgeois revolution, nor can it tie its destiny to this or that outcome of this or that bourgeois revolution. Whatever the outcome, we must remain an independent, purely proletarian Party, which steadfastly leads the working masses to their great socialist goals. We cannot, therefore, undertake to guarantee that any of the gains of the bourgeois revolution will be permanent, because impermanence and inherent contradictions are immanent features of all (Lenin’s italics)the gains of the bourgeois revolution as such.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 13, Pg 426, Emphasis: ours)
Thus the harvest of the democratic revolution, the agrarian revolution in India – land to the peasants – will not stop there. Nor will it be made permanent. Rather it will surge forward with mutual cooperation, joint cooperatives and subsequently to an even greater stage – in the direction of socialism.
In lieu of a conclusion
The brutal repression of the ruling class and the ‘left’ line of Comrade Charu Mazumdar within our movement dealt a severe blow to Indian revolution. Our Party became fragmented. In the period that followed, unity did not take the place of disunity, cooperation and solidarity did not take the place of division and distrust, theoretical discipline did not take the place of theoretical disorder.
Hence, at a time when we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of Naxalbari, when we are attempting to re-emphasise the significance of Naxalbari, there remain persons and organisations who have declared the demise of our movement. Here it will be quite relevant to remember the words of the great Lenin: “Yes, Marx and Engels made many and frequent mistakes in determining the proximity of revolution, in their hopes in the victory of revolution (e.g. in 1848 in Germany), in their faith in the imminence of a German ‘republic’… They were mistaken in 1871 when they were engaged in ‘raising revolt in Southern France, for which they… sacrificed and risked all that was humanly possible… But such errors – the errors of the giants of revolutionary thought, who sought to raise and did raise, the proletariat of the whole world above the level of petty, commonplace and trivial tasks – are a thousand times more noble and magnificent and historically more valuable and true than the trite wisdom of official liberalism, which lauds, shouts, appeals and holds forth about … the futility of the revolutionary struggles and the charms of counter-revolutionary ‘constitutional’ fantasies…” (Volume 12, Pg 377-78)
Many errors also occurred in the course of the great Naxalbari peasant struggle. But the aim was the upliftment of the consciousness of the workers, peasants and other masses, their revolutionisation, which historically was of great value and truth. And the neo-revisionist CPIM of that time, by stamping the Naxalbari peasant struggle as ‘adventurist’ was swept away by the illusion of counter-revolutionary ‘constitutional’ fantasy. The same holds true even today. That is why, the relevance of Naxalbari is alive and active even today. n
8th All India Conference of TUCI Successfully Held in RaichurThe 8th All-India Conference of the Trade Union Centre of India (TUCI) was held in Raichur, Karnataka on March 20-22. The conference started on 20th March with a militant rally in which thousands of workers from Bellary District Mining Workers’ Union, Krantikari Kamagar Union and workers from many other unions and delegates from 12 states participated. This rally went through almost all parts of Raichur city. This was followed by a public meeting presided by Com Bharat Bhushan. TUCI General Secretary Comrade Sanjay Singhvi, Secretary Com. Amrish Patel, President of Karnataka TUCI Com. R Manasaya and other leaders of TUCI addressed the meeting. Observers from Mazdoor Kranti Parishad, Shramik Ekta Sangharsh, NTUI and IFTU were present and also delivered their speeches in the public meeting.
The delegate session continued over the next two days with vigorous debates and discussions. Around 200 delegates participated in the delegate session from 12 states. Two papers were presented for the discussion. One was the General Secretary’s report regarding the political situation and organizational situation since the last conference. The second was the Unity Resolution on the question of unity of the struggling unions which can build a strong trade union centre at the all-India level, capable of organizing nationwide working class struggle. Vigorous discussions took place. The observers from other organisations also participated in the discussion, particularly on the unity resolution. Finally, the General Secretary’s Report and the Unity Resolution – the two documents discussed in the conference – were unanimously passed.
The conference ended on the evening of 22nd March with the election of a new 21-member Central Committee and 51-member National Council. Com Sanjay Singhvi was re-elected as the General Secretary of TUCI. Previously Comrade Mukul Sinha was president of TUCI. After his death the post of the president was vacant. In this conference Com Amrish Patel was elected as President. Coms. Bharat Bhushan and R. Mansaiyya were elected as Vice-Presidents, Coms. Alik Chakraborty and Arvind Nair as Secretaries and Comrade Govinda Poojary as Treasurer.
In the present situation where the working class is actually in a precarious condition, when all the rights are being snatched, this conference can spread a ray of hope to the workers, particularly in Karnataka. The militant rally of the workers has generated the concept of unity across the factories in the various parts of Karnataka. Now we are seeing the heroic battle of the women workers of the garment factories against the arbitrary decision regarding PF. This is proving that in Karnataka a heretofore nascent trend of workers’ movement is surfacing and intensifying. The rally of Raichur was also a signal that workers of Karnataka are arising. In this context the conference of TUCI has played a significant role. Another perspective is in this conference a possibility of the unity among the struggling trade unions has increased. All the participants, particularly those who are not practically a frontal organization of a party, were inclined towards unity to build a revolutionary trade union centre. The resolution on unity may play a crucial role towards this unity. In this context the 8th All India Conference of TUCI has been very significant. n
TUCI's May Day Call: Fight For a Better Life, Fight For a Better Future!
As the 1st of May nears once again, we once again have a chance to analyse the year that has passed and what we plan for the next year. This year saw a very deep crisis hit industry all over the world. Prices of oil, steel and copper have fallen steeply all over the world. Real wages are still stagnant at near about the level of the early 70s. In fact the pressure on wages has increased and new methods are being devised all over the world – like the introduction of a new type of contract labour system under the name of “apprenticeship” – to push the workers wages down.
At the same time, the past year has also seen a great tumult among the working class. Massive demonstrations in Paris against the new reforms in the labour laws. The massive movements in Greece against the earlier regime and the “austerity” imposed by the EU had a great contribution by the workers. Similar massive struggles of workers have taken place in Asia (like among the garment workers of Bangladesh, against labour law reforms in Cambodia, etc), in Africa (like the struggles of the mining workers in South Africa) and other continents. However, all statistics show that the number of strikes is drastically coming down all over the world. This shows that though the workers are being squeezed in different ways and though the workers are willing to fight, the present TU leadership is not willing to take up this struggle in an effective manner.
We can see the same trend in India. Though the Modi Government had, at first, tried to amend the labour laws from the centre, so as to significantly reduce the already paltry protections given to workers in India, this was opposed by many trade union centres including the BJP’s own BMS. A massive strike was held on 2nd September, which the BMS betrayed at the last minute, upon assurances given by the Government. However, many of the worst changes are being put into place by BJP Government’s in various states. In Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Harayana, the Government has put into place a number of changes in the labour laws. Earlier the number of workers required to call a manufacturing unit a factory was 10 (with the use of power) or 20 (without the use of power). Amendments have been put into place to enable the State Governments to increase such limits to 20 and 40. Thousands of factories will no more come within the purview of the Factories Act. The punishments to be given to employers for violations of the Factories have themselves been watered down. Now, for many offences, the employers will only have to pay a fine and will not face a jail term. The Industrial Disputes Act is also being amended in some states. Earlier, where the permission of the Government was required for closing an undertaking employing over 100 workers or for retrenching a worker in such an establishment, now the threshold is to be raised to 300 workers. This will mean that lakhs of workers in those states will lose this protection. The centre itself has also amended the Apprenticeship Act to make apprenticeship a new type of slave labour where the workers will have no rights and will be paid only a fraction of the wages paid to the regular workers under the plea that they are “learning”. They will remain learners for years together. Similar laws in other countries like UK and Canada have proved to be nothing but providing for a new type of contract labour.
Though a united strike was organised on 2nd September, which was quite a success, and though a day of protest was held on 10th March, which was quite muted, there has not been the sustained and definitive movement which the situation requires. On the one hand the Government is trying to unleash a frontal attack on the workers, by trying to remove the very protections and rights that they had won by struggles over a 150 years. The Governments boast that it is the only country with such a high rate of growth of GDP is only built upon the increasing burden cast upon the working class.
On the other hand, there is a boost to all sorts of religious and casteist divisive forces so as to try and divide the working class. The Dalits and the minorities are also being attacked both physically and by making all sorts of false assertions about them.
In this situation, there is a dire need to bring together all the forces which are willing to fight genuinely for the working class; which are willing to fight not only for wages and conditions of service but also against the policies of the Government both on the economic and the cultural front.
One more question. Who will decide the parameters of this fight? For too long have the workers suffered the consequences of a leadership which compromised in an unprincipled way with the Government and Industrialists. What is needed today is to put the workers themselves in command. What is needed therefore is a democratic and transparent procedure within the union which will allow the workers to truly express their aspirations.
This then was the call given by the 8th All India Conference of the TUCI which was just recently concluded in Raichur, Karnataka. We want to unite all the workers and their unions and organisations which will genuinely fight, not only for wages but against the neo-liberal and communal policies of this government. At the same time the forces uniting must be democratic and transparent in their functioning so as to really create a workers organisation capable of preparing the working class to lead all the struggling classes towards victory. This is the call that we reiterate this Mayday to all the workers. Unite we must and unite, we will!!
Workers of the World Unite!!
Fight for a Better Life, Fight for a Better Future!
Oppose the Neo-Liberal and Communal Policies of the Government!
Oppose All Attempts to Snatch Away the Rights and Protections Won by 150 Years of Struggle!
Build a Democratic Trade Union Movement With all Power to the Workers! n
22nd April, CPI(ML) Formation Day Observed
It was on 22nd April, the Lenin’s Day, in 1969, the CPI(ML)was formed following the Naxalbari Uprising and the bitter ideological struggle against the revisionist line of CPI and CPI(M) leaderships who were engaged in liquidating the communist movement in the country by surrendering to right opportunist line and practice. After 47 years both have degenerated to ruling class positions in practice. For parliamentary survival they are in alliance even with Congress and other ruling class/reformist parties. Fighting against these revisionist and reformist deviations of the former communist forces as well as against the anarchist Maoist trend, the communist revolutionary forces are engaged in uncompromising class struggle in all fields, fighting against the reactionary ruling system and corporate-communal rule of BJP today. Following the call of the CC of the CPI(ML) Red Star party committees and party supporters joined hands to observe the 47th anniversary of party formation at number of places. n
Kakrapur Nuclear Plant Shut Down
March 11th was the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan. On this day, the second generation unit of the Heavy Water Reactor at Kakrapur, near Surat in South Gujarat developed a rupture in the coolant system and it is indefinitely closed down. The first of the two generators of 250 mw each was commissioned in 1993 and the second generator in 1995. Already the second generator was closed down for repairs last year. With the first one also shut down the power generation from this plant is stopped. As leakage of heavy water is reported, in spite of denial from the authorities, it is evident that radioactive leakage is taking place which is concealed in the name of ‘national interest’.
Far more than two weeks, in spite of the best available experts in the country were working they have not succeeded to stop the nuclear radiation. It poses a challenge before the nuclear establishment whether the 17 heavy Water plants in India can be allowed to continue. However hard the nuclear establishment and Modi’s PMO try to cover up this grave development, the shut down may lead to severe consequences. As there is an undeclared censorship gagging all media,, the Kakrapar crisis should be taken to people through new Social Media and other means. Resistance to the continuation of existing plants and aginst construction of new plants should be intensified. n
Inida's Silicon Valley Erupts in Revolt
The Dalits and other oppressed classes and sections united by a common economic plight, without any concrete effort at mobilization, paralysed a city, portrayed as India’s Silicon Valley, its IT powerhouse. What happened in Bengaluru has a lesson for every Indian city. There is a giant underbelly of disparity and discontent that exists and it can erupt, suddenly. It can challenge the myths of economic progress and images that governments have cautiously projected before the world. Images laced in terms like ‘investor confidence’ and ‘ease of doing business’.
The protest by garment workers erupted crippling normal life in Bengaluru for two days. It started at one factory, where photocopies of a newspaper report stating that workers cannot withdraw employer’s contribution to their provident fund (PF) till 58 years of age were circulated. A rage erupted, and workers, predominantly women, took to the roads in what was described by the police force as a “flash strike” on 18th April. Word spread like wildfire to other garment factories in the area: there are about 8-10 in the cluster. In under an hour, workers from all the factories poured out, paralysing Hosur Road, the arterial highway that leads to Electronics City, which houses campuses of several IT majors and is the showcase for a new India or ‘surging economy’.
The next day garment factory workers in several other parts of the city, again where factories exist in clusters, came out to the streets. Corporate offices and police stations were attacked, buses set on fire and roads blocked for hours. It was a sudden burst of pent-up anger, triggered by the new PF ‘reform’. As these factories exist in clusters workers in garment manufacturing units could mobilise themselves instantly. There are an estimated 5,00,000 people working in garment factories in the city, around 85 per cent of women and for them, usually with salaries of around Rs. 6,500 a month. For them an estimated hundred rupees they save as PF is the only social security. The PF law was just a trigger and the garment industry is just one small section. As the new economy is built and showcased, there is little forward movement in ensuring social security for the millions in the lower-to-middle income groups. For these workers quality health care and education remain a pipe dream, and survival in a ‘booming economy’ is a daily battle. Unionisation is restricted in garment units and hence workers have little or no grievance- redressal mechanism or collective bargaining.
Against this backdrop, amendments to labour laws proposed for enactment increase work hours for workers and arguably shifts the balance in favour of factory owners. When savings like PF, which for decades the working class in India has taken as the ultimate security, can become inaccessible at a time of need, it shakes the workers’ faith completely. It’s just not anger but desperation to save the little they have. The garment workers have proved that there is a vast, angry India outside swanky offices. And their protest is a strong message to the government and the ‘booming economy’ not to tamper with the little they have.
Red salute to the garment workers of Bengaluru and the warning they have conveyed through their militant struggle – the warning that the working class is rising up and the corporates and their lackeys can no more rest in the complacence of there being no opposition to their steamrolling over workers’ rights. n
49 Years of Naxalbari Movement. ·
25th May : Naxalbari Day. 49th anniversary of Naxalbari Uprising remembered all over the country. CPI (ML) Red Star organized Naxalbari Uprising remembrance on 25th May 2016 at Naxalbari (West Bengal), Rajim (Chattisgargh), Chikkamanglore & Raichur (Karnataka), Thrissur (Kerala) etc. Party General Secretary Com KN Ramachanran and PB Member & WB State Secretary Com Prathap Singh Thakur attended program at Naxalbari, P B Member Com P J James and Kerala State Secretary Com M K Dasan attended program at Thrissur, P B Member Com R Manasayya and Karnataka State Secretary Com B Rudrayya attened at Chikkamanglore and Raichur respectively. CPI (ML) Red Star will hold year long programs of "50 Years of Naxalbari' from 25th May 2016 to 25th May 2017.
Second Anniversary of Modi Government.
On 28th May Modi government celebrated its second anniversary spending thousamds od crores of rupees all over the country. NJP [resident Amit Shaw is claiming that it was a descisive government which implemented 70% of its promises already. But what is the reality> Every where people are making fun of Modi’s talk about Acha Din Ayega.IWhat else they can do when his promises about bringing back the black money hoarded in foreign hide outs is proved hollow? Prices of all essential commodities have sky rocketed following increasing corporatization of the trade. Unemployment and under employment have reached unprecedented levels, with even millions of engineering, business graduates swelling their ranks. While the neoliberal development polices are devastating the nature and all states faced unprecedented draughts this year, it has intensified the pauperization of the masses. There is growing disenchantment among the workers which=se basic rights are snatched away under contract system. In more states peasants are committing suicide. Along with these, imposition of Brahminical values leading to savarna fascist policies are distorting history, creating intolerance and dividing people based on communal- caste lines. So, inspite of Geobelsian efforts to sell the glories of Modi government, its to year record is only alienating the masses from it. It is the task of the left and democratic forces to launch resistance against these policies of Modi government as called by the CPI (ML) Red Star.
- 1. The Significance of Observing the Centenary of October Revolution.
- The Communist forces the world over are observing the centenary of the October Revolution for a year starting from the 7th November, 2016 to 7th November next year for carrying forward the world proletarian socialist revolution by drawing lessons from it. The international Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR) has also called for observing it internationally. These programs are being organized when the International Communist Movement (ICM) is passing through a critical period. It is generally accepted among the Marxist-Leninist forces that the communist movement started facing these severe challenges and setbacks from the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in 1956 when it embraced revisionist positions abandoning the socialist path utilizing subjective attacks on Stalin as a pretext. When the ICM and the Communist movement in different countries started confronting this crisis, the imperialist camp and its lackeys further intensified the counter revolutionary offensive against the revolutionary movement as a whole, which they had started from the time when the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848 as the platform of the Communist League. Marx and Engels had written in its beginning:“A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of Communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered in to a holy alliance to exorcise this specter”. When the ICM was facing crises and setbacks, especially after the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991, these forces of the old world joined hands to ‘exorcise’ the Communist movement for ever in a more frenzied form, by screaming “end of history” and “socialism is dead”.
- But with the beginning of this millennium, the situation has started changing though slowly. As imperialism in its neo colonial phase, and its lackeys have launched neo liberal policies to perpetuate their hegemony and plunder the world people and the natural resources in new, more barbarous forms, the major contradictions at international level became more intensified and numerous people’s movements started coming up against them in large number of countries. In short, once again the objective situation is becoming increasingly favorable for a new offensive by the revolutionary forces. This is the time when throwing away despondency, the communist forces have to start moving forward once again. The centenary celebrations of the October Revolution provide an excellent opportunity for taking stock of the past experiences and to prepare themselves to move forward throwing away old garbage and daring to seize the new opportunities. The Communist movement can take significant steps forward only by recognizing the setbacks suffered, finding the reasons for them, making concrete analysis of the present situation, and by developing its theoretical orientation and practice according to present realities, taking lessons from the positive and negative aspects of the past experiences.
- It is in this context the importance of the Resolution on Launching Theoretical Offensive for Communist Resurgence adopted by the Tenth Congress of the CPI (ML) Red Star in 2015 should be viewed. It says: “What does such an offensive entail? (a) we have to undertake a thorough study and analysis to identify the causes of the collapse of the erstwhile socialist countries, especially Soviet Union and China; (b) we have to launch a vigorous ideological campaign to establish across society the superiority of communism over the present ruling system as well as against various alien tends; (c) we have to develop Marxism- Leninism on the basis of a concrete analysis of the concrete situation….” In the concluding paragraph it states: “…We must boldly seize the real questions before the people in today’s situation and must scientifically search out the solutions. We must unsparingly lay bare our own history, the history of the communists in India and all over the world…” It is based on this orientation we are trying to analyze the experience of the October Revolution and of the socialist construction in Soviet Union.
- Nobody can obliterate the fact that it was the degeneration of the CPSU to capitalist path that led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union later. It was followed by the deviation of other socialist countries including China also to capitalist path. The Communist Parties of erstwhile socialist countries and the parties formed during the Comintern period in other countries degenerated to social democratic path or disintegrated. Though Marxist-Leninist parties or groups were formed in a large number of countries during the 1960s in the course of the struggle against Soviet revisionism, they soon came under left deviation and faced disintegration to numerous groups. While many of them have deviated to rightist positions, some are still persisting in the anarchist path. Not daring to confront the new realities and to develop their program and path accordingly, most of the other groups are facing liquidation. These developments have enormously helped the imperialist forces and their lackeys to launch an anti-communist offensive confusing large sections of people. This is a fact to be recognized and have to overcome.
- 5. While going through the history of the October Revolution in Tsarist Russia it can be seen that it was an arduous task to establish the revolutionary line there. While trying to do this, Lenin attacked the revisionists for completely neglecting the importance of ideological struggle. Exposing the counter-revolutionary character of this outlook, he said:”Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea should be insisted upon too strongly at a time like this when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity…At this point, we wish to state only that the role of the vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory” (What is to be done?)
- While analyzing the theoretical struggle led by Lenin to establish the line and practice of October Revolution, first of all it should be recognized that this first successful revolution by the working class to capture political power and to establish a socialist state making a rupture from the imperialist camp itself took place at the culmination of the theoretical and practical struggles taking place in Europe and North America against the capitalist system from the time of its emergence. As the class struggle intensified between the working class and all oppressed sections on the one hand and the capitalist system on the other, utopian and anarchist tendencies had emerged weakening the efforts to develop the theory and practice of revolution in the new situation. It was in the course of this struggle Marxism emerged and the Communist Manifesto was put forward providing the basic orientation of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and to lead world proletarian socialist revolution forward. Following it a series of proletarian struggles broke out in West European countries, especially in the advanced capitalist countries, challenging the capitalist system. These reached a peak with the working class in Paris capturing power and establishing the Paris Commune in 1871.
- Before that the French Revolution had established the ideological motifs of the modern capitalist societies through its famous slogan: “liberty, equality, fraternity” and laid the foundation for secularism and democracy based on universal suffrage. Advancing from them, the Paris Commune provided a path forward through its revolutionary practice. Evaluating the lessons of the Paris Commune, Marx wrote:“The direct antithesis to the empire was the Commune. The cry of the “social republic” with which the February Revolution was ushered in by the Paris proletariat did but express a vague aspiration after a republic that was not only to supersede the monarchical form of class rule, but class rule itself. The Commune was the positive form of that republic”. Though the Commune was soon suppressed brutally by the combined forces of the capitalist states, it had given a new fillip to the working class movement.
- At the same time the capitalist system itself was undergoing vast changes with the emergence and domination of finance capital transforming capitalism to its monopolistic era, to the era of imperialism. The imperialist powers soon succeeded in dividing the world among them territorially under colonial system, subjecting the colonies, semi-colonies and dependent countries to various forms of ruthless exploitation. While this colonial loot helped them to tide over the cycle of crises the capitalist system was facing and to weaken the class struggle in their own countries by bribing a section of the proletarian leaders, the labor aristocracy, at the same time it led to intensification of the inter-imperialist contradictions for re-division of the world. It was soon creating the possibilities for the outbreak of the First World War (FWW).
- When the Second International (SI), which was formed reorganizing the First International after the experience of the Paris Commune, discussed these new developments, there were different interpretations of them among the social democratic parties who were its constituents. Many of them including the leaders of the German party which was playing a leading role in it refused to see the transformation of capitalist system to its moribund form, imperialism, as a more reactionary one. Still in the Basle Congress they had agreed that if the FWW breaks out, instead of supporting the imperialist bourgeoisie of their own countries they should try to turn the World War in to a civil war led by the proletariat to capture political power. But as the War broke out in 1914, most of them including the leaders of the German party went against it. Preaching theories like ultra imperialism they joined the war efforts of the ruling classes of their own countries. This degeneration of the theoretical and practical positions of these parties led to the liquidation of the SI in effect. These parties degenerated to reformist positions. Social democracy itself became a pronoun for renegacy. Many sections of the RSDLP of Tsarist Russia also had degenerated to this reformist position abandoning the path of class struggle.
- It was in this critical phase Lenin put forward a scientific analysis of the imperialist system in his famous work, Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, as a more barbarous stage of capitalist system and pointed out that the centre of revolution has shifted from the developed capitalist countries to the ‘weak links of imperialist system’ including Russia and to the countries under colonial domination. Defeating the reformist and anarchist positions, he made a concrete analysis of the conditions in the Tsarist Russia explaining the imminent possibility of proletarian revolution in the country. Based on this understanding he developed its theoretical basis, program and path, and successfully led October Revolution to victory in 1917, leading to the founding of the first proletarian state, Soviet Union, uniting all nationalities, which were subjugated under Tsarist Russia, based on the right of self-determination including the right to secede. Consistently teaching the Bolsheviks, or the majority in the RSDLP, to turn the imperialist WW in to a civil war uniting the working class, the peasantry and the army men who were returning from the war fronts, uniting all sections of the Bolsheviks under a common banner in spite of differences on tactical line, Lenin led the revolution to victory. The workers’ state withdrew from the WW and proceeded to build a socialist society. These were momentous developments, breaking Soviet Union away from the imperialist world system.
- Soon after the founding of Soviet Union, frightened by it the warring imperialist forces ended the War. They entered in to a truce and united to launch a ferocious attack on the proletarian state, imposing total economic sanctions against it. They supported the counter revolutionaries in the country to sabotage it from within also. Mobilizing the working class and all revolutionary masses, the Bolsheviks succeeded in defeating these all round attacks and to launch the socialist construction. Upholding the spirit of proletarian internationalism, the international communist movement was reorganized by replacing the liquidated SI with the Third International or Communist International (CI) which was popularly known as Comintern. Under the leadership of Lenin it put forward the strategic line of the world proletarian socialist revolution which included the two streams of revolution: the people’s democratic revolution in the countries under colonial domination and socialist revolution in the imperialist countries. The salvos of October Revolution thus created conditions for the formation of Communist parties in large number of countries, very soon challenging the imperialist system and its lackeys everywhere. These were historic developments.
- The newly born socialist state confiscated the properties of the capitalist and landlord classes, brought the industries under the leadership of workers’ soviets, implemented revolutionary land reforms based on the principle of ‘land to the tillers’ and took up the challenge of socialist construction mobilizing the masses in spite of the economic blockade of the imperialist forces and the backwardness of the economy of the pre-revolutionary Russia. It was a great task, which very soon advanced towards fulfilling the basic requirements including food, clothing, housing, healthcare, education and employment for all. Along with this, significant victories were achieved in carrying forward the task of modernizing and developing the industry and agriculture, transforming SU in to a modern nation. As a result, by 1930s when the whole imperialist camp was facing Great Depression and severe economic and political crisis, it did not affect the planned economy of the SU. While these great achievements were being realized through socialist construction, the Comintern extended full support to the national liberation movements in the Asian, African, Latin American countries.
- When the Second World War (SWW) broke out, once again for the re-division of the world among the imperialist forces, evaluating it as an inter imperialist war, the SU kept away from it. But when the German Nazi forces attacked SU, the Soviet people succeeded in waging a historic resistance struggle and in defeating the fascist forces decisively. All these achievements inspired the world people, and the post SWW years show the emergence of a powerful socialist camp with national liberation movements developing in all the continents. By 1950s the world situation had turned so revolutionary that it looked like the socialist forces may overtake and defeat the imperialist forces once for all. These were momentous contributions of the October Revolution and the ICM should uphold these achievements and take lessons from these while observing the centenary of this great revolution.
- But while upholding all these great contributions of the October Revolution which led to the spread of Marxism all over the world, the proletarian revolutions reverberating in all the continents leading to one third of the world population living in socialist countries, national liberation movements emerging and strengthening in a number of countries and powerful communist parties leading in a large number of countries like Indonesia, India etc by the beginning of 1950s, today the situation is drastically different. The capitalist roaders who had started gaining strength in SU and other former socialist countries, later led to their disintegration or degeneration to capitalist path. The national liberation movements went astray and almost all the countries formerly under colonial domination are reduced to neo-colonially dependent countries. Under the influence of right or left deviations including the formerly strong communist parties, the communist parties in almost all countries have disintegrated and divided in to many groups with no country having a powerful communist party strong enough to lead the present people’s upsurges with revolutionary orientation. Alien thoughts and reactionary, communal, caste, racist ideologies spread from imperialist headquarters and by reactionary think-tanks have become so powerful that the Communist ideology is under severe attack with many more counter-revolutionary deviations emerging from within the existing communist organizations themselves. So when we are celebrating the centenary of the October Revolution it is necessary to evaluate the history of the ICM with the perspective of finding out the reasons for the severe setbacks suffered by the once powerful movement. Such an evaluation should not to influenced by subjectivism or taken up to find fault with any individual, but to overcome them and to help the development of the Marxist theory and practice according to present conditions.
- How to evaluate Soviet Developments: The October Revolution had frightened the imperialist powers so much that as already pointed out they hastened to arrive at a temporary truce and pooled their forces for a military encirclement and aggression against the nascent state. In this they could involve the defeated enemy class forces inside Russia also. As the revolutionary Soviet forces succeeded in defeating this attack, the imperialist camp imposed economic blockade to suffocate and destroy the socialist state. The formation of the Comintern was seen as a further threat and vehemently attacked by the imperialists. If this was the situation from 1919 onwards, the first half of the 1920s, especially the years after Lenin’s illness, saw a further intensification of these attacks. So, the challenge before the post- Lenin leadership was how to face this economic and military encirclement along with the ideological political attack by the enemy camp and to carry forward the revolutionary offensive initiated by Lenin.
- In spite of the great contributions of the Soviet experience as pointed out above, the severe setbacks suffered by the socialist experience in Soviet Union openly from the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU, set backs suffered by the ICM and by the anti-imperialist movement as a whole call for an evaluation of the pursuit of socialist construction, the approach towards the ICM and world revolution, and the waging of the ideological struggle both inside the Soviet Union and at international level. A serious discussion on the development paradigm pursued in the erstwhile socialist countries and whether they were basically different from the imperialist development perspective also needs scrutiny. The experience of the erstwhile socialist countries show that attempts to compete for surpassing the economic targets of the imperialist countries were increasingly visible among them. Similarly the question of developing the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat to reflect a more advanced form than the bourgeois democracy practiced in the capitalist countries was also a great challenge before these former socialist countries. How far it could be achieved and did the weakness in this field also led to the setbacks also call for a serious evaluation. This analysis also should extend to how much emphasis was given to super structural changes in the SU compared to the changes being made in the economic base. Already all these questions are taken up repeatedly, especially after the disintegration of the SU by many forces. More in depth studies are required so that they can help the future activities of the communist parties.
- An evaluation of the Soviet experience shows that during the post- Lenin years the importance of the Soviets started to dwindle or they were not approached in the way Lenin did. As the Five Year Plans and collectivization of agriculture started, instead of experimenting how they can be carried forward through the Soviets, the influence of centralization increased in the name of improving efficiency, rather than increasing people’s participation. The Five Year Plan targets started getting decided with a view to overtake production figures of imperialist countries. Various studies have pointed out that probably the Stakhnovite movement of 1935 was almost the last effort to unleash people’s initiative in socialist construction. As the threat of fascist attack increased, and later when the attack did take place, in spite of calling for people’s initiative, the one sided emphasis on centralization went on increasing. Naturally, these developments led to bureaucratic tendencies gaining strength in all fields and the Soviets started disappearing in practice. Of course the loss of large number of experienced comrades, first during the resistance to imperialist aggression during 1919 to 1922 and later during the anti-fascist war, also should be taken in to consideration while evaluating the capitalist tendencies which were sneaking in at various levels.
- From the lessons of Paris Commune Marx had pointed out that the process of developing democracy after the capture of political power by the proletariat and other oppressed classes cannot be seen in abstract. It is integrally linked to destroying the “the standing army and the police.” and the bureaucratic structure of the state and creating basically new ones in their place.. As the Commune did not last long it could not give any lessons on organizing production under it. But, in his studies about capital and how the capitalist system works, Marx had pointed out that the proletarians have to overthrow everything the bourgeoisie consider sacrosanct and to create new models in all fields. The Commune initiated this process. That is why he upheld it as the fore runner for the future. For him the proletarians after seizing power have to build revolutionary alternatives to what the capitalist system has created. That is why Lenin, based on the lessons of the Commune, proceeded to develop the Soviets, which had emerged in the course of revolutionary struggles in Russia, as the new form of the state. To ensure class line the proletarian state had to develop the trade unions according to new conditions and ensuring their role as a class in running the state. When the Soviets started increasingly disappearing in the name of various practical problems which were continuously coming up, as the role of the organised working class and other sections of the masses in running the state and wielding power went on decreasing, in spite of all socialist assertions the role of the bureaucratic sections in all fields went on increasing.
- Evaluating the post-SWW world situation in the Problems of Socialism in the SU which was published in 1952 it is stated: the disintegration of the single, all embracing world market must be regarded as the most important economic sequel of the SWW and of its economic consequences…..the sphere of exploitation of the world’s resources by the major capitalist countries will not expand, but contract; that their opportunities for sale in the world will deteriorate, and that their industries will be operating more and more below capacity. That, in fact, is what is meant by the deepening of the general crisis of the world capitalist system”. Yes, it was a fact that a number of countries had broken away from the imperialist system and to that extent the imperialist control on their market had weakened or lost. But the imperialists were quick to make urgent moves including the adoption of the GATT agreement besides formation of the IMF and World Bank so that the damage done by the advance of the socialist camp could be restricted. Similarly through the neo colonial policies the imperialist camp very soon recuperated the losses to a great extent. It is the failure to make correct study of the post-War imperialist moves that led to such evaluations which did lot of damage to the development of the Communist movement challenging the neo-colonial offensive by the US led imperialist camp.
- Again, it stated: “some comrades hold that, owing to the development of new international conditions since the SWW, wars between capitalist countries have ceased to be inevitable”. Stalin went onto explain why wars are inevitable so long as the imperialist system exists. While this assertion is in general correct, the transformation of the colonial policies to neo colonization had led to inter imperialist contradictions taking newer forms. The imperialists had abandoned by and large the territorial division of the world among themselves. In this situation, the possibilityfor inter-imperialist wars like the first and second world wars had receded. It is once again the failure to recognize these changes in the imperialist policies which led to mechanical interpretations of the new world situation.
- In A Critique of Soviet Economy, Mao wrote: On the question of heavy industry, light industry and agriculture, the SU did not lay enough emphasis on the latter two and had losses as a result. In addition they did not do a good job of combining the immediate and the long term interests of the people. In the main they walked on one leg…Only technology was emphasized. Nothing but technology, no technical cadre, no politics, no masses. This too is walking on one leg…It mentions economics only, not politics. “It from first to last says nothing about the superstructure. It is not concerned with the people, it considers things, not people. Does the kind of supply system for consumer goods help spur economic development or not? It should have touched on this at the least. Is it better to have commodity production or is it better not to? Every one has to study this”. While dealing with the crucial question of developments in the economic base and superstructure on the one hand, and between the economic problems of Soviet Union and the attempts by the imperialist camp led by US imperialism to transform the imperialist plunder from colonial to neo colonial forms on the other are not dealt with. Or as the Soviets writings during the post-war years reveal, even while the imperialist system led by US imperialism was moving ahead fast with the transformation of its colonial forms of plunder to neocolonial forms, there was almost a total lack of understanding about it within the Soviet leadership. As a result the study of the economic problems of the Soviet Union were dealt in isolation, without taking in to consideration the momentous developments taking place around the world. Later in the article Ten major Relationships, also, while dealing with the problems faced by the socialist transition in China, Mao had pointed out the one sided emphasis given to industry in general and heavy industry in particular in the SU as one of its weaknesses. That in spite of these observations in China also these obstacles could not be overcome call for the importance that has to be given to such questions in the course of developing a socialist alternative to the capitalist system.
- 22. Proletarian internationalism: Lenin waged uncompromising struggle against the mechanical understanding put forward by Trotsky through his concept of ‘permanent revolution’ that without revolutions taking place at global level or in a number of imperialist countries it is futile and erroneous to go for socialist construction in a backward country like Soviet Union. Rejecting this view, Lenin, while emphasizing the primary importance to be given for world revolution, called for pursuing socialist construction in Soviet Union as a part of it. For him SU was only a base area for world revolution. Primary importance was given to waging uncompromising struggle for advancing world revolution. The fundamental task was to advance world revolution without which the survival of these socialist countries itself was impossible. It calls for serious evaluation whether after Lenin the priorities had started changing or not. Whether the importance to be given to interests of the world revolution was increasingly minimized and importance of socialist construction in SU was increasing given priority call for serious evaluation. In1938 in the 18th Congress of the CPSU, it was announced that the Soviet society no longer contained antagonistic hostile classes and that the exploiting classes have been eliminated. All those who raised different views were treated as enemies of socialism. The trials against them went on reducing the democratic space within the Party and the society as a whole. It led to growth of bureaucratic tendencies on the one hand and to lack of discussion on the theoretical questions to be taken up and debated on cardinal questions like the way the imperialist camp was moving and how the ICM should face the challenge including the problems of socialist construction in SU on the other.
- Lenin envisaged Comintern as an international organization with the national parties as its contingents with a clear perspective of intensifying efforts for world revolution. As the international character of production was increasing under imperialist system, Lenin saw the international character of revolution also correspondingly increasing. But later whether the significance of Comintern as the cause of world revolution went on diminishing, whether many of the directives given by Comintern went against the concrete reality and interests of revolution in other countries etc call for serious discussion. Whether such directives led to conflicts of interests or to some parties taking erroneous positions with regard to the revolutionary struggle in their own countries calls for study. Because of the immense prestige the SU and CPSU had among other parties no open criticism took place at that time. Later it led to the erroneous conclusion by many parties that any international organization shall be like Comintern! As a result, even the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943 even without convening a meeting of its Executive Committee did not create any adverse reaction. Besides these developments have led to large number of existing organizations which call themselves as communist taking the stand that any effort to rebuild the Communist International will be harmful!
- 24. Failure to recognize the neo colonial offensive of imperialist camp: In continuation to the Atlantic Charter put forward in 1941, in 1944, the US imperialism which was coming to the leadership of the post-War imperialist camp had convened the Bretten Woods Conference of imperialist powers and think tanks. It put forward the Bretten Woods Agreement that launched the neo colonial tools like the IMF, World Bank and the United Nations Organization (UN). The nuking of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, formation of military alliances including NATO, imposing Zionist Israel over the Palestine land as the US out post in West Asia, the aggression against Korea, world wide attacks against national liberation movements and along with these the launching of so-called welfare state concepts based on Keynesian economic policies etc were part of this neo colonial offensive. The ICM failed to recognize the seriousness of this US led offensive by the imperialist powers. The international situation was evaluated in such a way that the imperialist camp was weakening and that was why it was engaged in war mongering. According to this evaluation, building peace movement against US war efforts was given top priority, instead of taking initiative to organize a revolutionary front against these US led imperialist moves.
- As a result of these weaknesses, the SU became member of World Bank and UN. It recognized Israel. Even when it was not allowed to become member of the IMF, it could not understand how the imperialist camp was plotting to pursue its hegemonic ambitions in the post SWW conditions. The extension of the War time understanding with the imperialists to basically different post War situation led to harmful results. Such moves led to many of the West and South European parties first getting frustrated in their revolutionary efforts and then getting illusions about working with the rightist and social democratic parties, ultimately degenerating to revisionist positions.
- The so-called ‘de colonization’ which meant transfer of power to the comprador classes in the colonial countries was part of the global neo colonial offensive to confront the challenge posed by the powerful socialist camp. The neo colonial offensive they launched was more pernicious and sinister than their colonial policies. The aggressive nature of the imperialist camp had only increased with their neo colonial offensive. At a time, when the US led forces were employing economic, technological, political and military offensive to confuse, ideologically disarm and militarily destroy the national liberation movements led by the Communist Parties or anti-imperialist nationalist forces, the pacifist approach taken by the ICM, in spite of the big leaps it could make by this time, ideologically and politically weakened the movement.
- The basic reason for all these weaknesses was that the socialist forces could not develop the study of imperialism by Lenin made in 1910s according to the concrete conditions emerging during the post-SWW years. As a result, it could not put forward a theoretical analysis of the changes taking place in the strategy and tactics of the imperialist system using neo colonial methods, and could not develop its own strategy and tactics to confront it. It was in such a situation, the Soviet leadership failed to wage an in depth ideological struggle against the reformist positions advocated and pursued under the leadership of Tito in Yugoslavia which had degenerated to capitalist path almost openly. Even when the imperialists had succeeded in weaning away one of the countries were the people’s power was established, the Socialist camp could do nothing more than expelling it from the newly formed Cominform. What happened in the case of Yugoslavian leadership was a forerunner of what happened later in the SU and the other East European countries. The bureaucratic forces with capitalist orientation had already started dominating the party, the army and the state apparatus at all levels. They were waiting for Stalin’s death to peacefully usurp power and speed up the transformation of SU in to a bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorship.
- The documents from the former Soviet archives that have come out after the disintegration of SU prove that by the early 1950s the bureaucratic forces had become so powerful that they isolated Stalin in his last days and soon after his death physically eliminated or removed from positions of power all those who were advocating the socialist path. After consolidating their position under the leadership of Krushchov, in the 20th Congress of the CPSU they violently attacked Stalin and came out with the revisionist positions that as “radical changes” had taken place after October Revolution Lenin’s teachings have become invalid and “peaceful transition’ to socialism is possible. This stand was further developed as “peaceful co-existence with and peaceful competition with imperialism, and peaceful transition to socialism” as the General Line of the ICM. Though it was strongly attacked by the CPC and a number of communist parties in the 1957 and 1960 international meetings of the communist parties, in its 22nd Congress in 1961 the capitalist roaders took more steps towards the transition of Soviet Union in to a social imperialist country (socialism in words by imperialism in action) and attacked the CPC like parties who did not follow their line viciously. While vast majority of the communist parties mechanically followed the Soviet revisionist line, the CPC, PLA of Albania like parties opposed it and the Great Debate followed in which the Marxist Leninists led by the CPC openly rejected the Soviet revisionist line. As pointed out by the CPC, instead of exposing and fighting against the neo-colonization speeded up by the US led imperialist camp, Soviets and the parties following them soon became apologists of neo-colonialism. As Krushchov was replaced by Brezhnov in 1964, the transition to social imperialism was speeded up, SU transformed from apologists of neocolonialism to executioners of neocolonial policies, colluding and contending with US imperialism for world hegemony. The Soviet state was transformed in to bureaucratic state capitalist dictatorship.
- As the contention with US led imperialist camp intensified, though it could expand its neocolonial hold in many countries, the Soviet economy was facing increasing crisis. In the 1980s the sending of the military to Afghanistan and open fight with the Islamic jihadists fully supported by the US started draining the economy very fast, intensifying its crisis. With Gorbachov taking over in 1987, though the military was withdrawn from Afghanistan and the Glassnost-Perestroika line was put forward in the name of ‘opening up the economy and society’, the crisis only deepened further. In 1991 with the backing of US led imperialist powers Yeltsin could organize a coup, take over power, disintegrate SU and transform Russia in to an open capitalist power. The ICM has to take immense lessons from this counter revolution which was started in Yugoslavia in 1948 and repeated in the East European countries and later in China.
- As SU and its contributions for socialist transformation against the capitalist system had inspired two generations all over the world, its disintegration and collapse, with the statues of Lenin getting pulled don by hooligans in Moscow streets created tremendous frustration among the masses. Imperilist camp did everything possible to intensify this frustration through wild propaganda about ‘end of history’ and ‘end of socialism’. This situation would not have become so serious if the Marxist-Leninist camp could wage an intensive ideological struggle against the degeneration taking place in SU and East European countries at least from the time of the 20th Congress of the CPSU in a more decisive and dialectical form.
- But most of the communist parties formed during the Comintern period and which had great influence in many countries mechanically followed the Soviet revisionist line till its disintegration in 1991. Their remnants in different countries are still not prepared to rectify these mistakes. As far as the Trotskyist Fourth Internationalists were concerned, instead of putting forward any critical analysis of the degeneration taking place in SU they were continuing their mad attacks on Stalin whom they targeted as the main enemy. On the other hand, the so-called Stalinist school diametrically opposed to Trotsky mechanically asserted that everything was perfect till Stalin was alive and they even attacked Mao for his critical evaluation of some aspects of the socialist construction during Stalin’s period. But they had no explanations for the setbacks and had nothing to contribute towards the future program and path of revolution. Various trends emerging mainly in Europe like the Euro-Communist school or post- modernist schools also only added to the confusion.
- Contrary to all these and struggling against them, the most developed position was taken by the CPC led by Mao who waged a Great Debate against Soviet revisionism and in continuation to the stand it had taken in the 1957 and 1960 international conferences of the communist parties put forward A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the ICM in 1963. It inspired the Marxist-Leninist forces who had started waging a theoretical struggle against the Soviet revisionist line in different countries. While a strong section in the CPC was trying to emulate the Soviet revisionist path, it waged uncompromisingly struggle against it and succeeded to remove these capitalist roaders from positions of power and to launch the proletarian cultural revolution as a form of class struggle within the socialist countries. But as left sectarian line got strengthened in the CPC by the time of its Ninth Congress in 1969, which soon opened the way for the emergence of a centrist line eventually leading to the domination of the capitalist roaders, this significant ideological political offensive also got weakened and disintegrated. The Marxist-Leninist parties and groups emerging in large number of countries fighting against Soviet revisionism and upholding the General Line document of the CPC also faced disintegration as they mechanically followed whatever was coming from the CPC as correct without trying to develop their own program and path based on the analysis of the newly emerging international and national situation. Amidst all these, in spite of the severe setbacks and disintegration suffered by the communist revolutionary forces who tried to pursue the line “China’s Path is Our Path” by early 1970s, the Maoists are still pursuing this line in more anarchist form contributing to the division and confusion among the communist forces in their own way. The emergence, development and disintegration of all these various schools and deviations from the camp of the communists were immensely utilized by the imperialists and their lackeys to intensify the attacks on the communist movement.
- It is a fact that the setbacks suffered by the ICM during the last six decades compared to the great heights it had reached by 1950s have created extensive frustration and deviations among the communist forces and the masses of the people, especially the youth and students, the new generation. It is also a fact that in spite of recognizing this, most of the schools and tendencies including the various sections from the social democrats on one extreme to the anarchists on the other extreme are engaged in eulogizing their own deviations from the Marxist teachings and are in a self-satisfied delusion. These forces still refuse to recognize that during these decades the imperialist system has transformed its colonial forms of plunder and oppression to neo-colonial forms; it is imposing its hegemony in more sinister forms through finance capital which has become increasingly speculative, market forces, technological advances, armed interventions and hegemony of reactionary culture. They also refuse to recognize that it is the failure to analyze these changes and to develop the program and path of revolution according to the changed times that had led to the severe repeated setbacks suffered by the communist movement,
- While observing the centenary of the October Revolution it is the task of the Marxist-Leninist forces to evaluate the basic reasons for this great setback and to develop the revolutionary theory and practice taking lessons from this objective evaluation and according to the changes that have taken place in the concrete situation from the time Lenin put forward his study on Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, The Central Committee of CPI(ML) Red Star has called for observing the centenary of October Revolution starting from the this year’s October Revolution Day on the basis of the efforts it has made from 1970s to make concrete analysis of the changes that have taken place during the post-SWW decades and to develop the theory and practice of the communist movement accordingly. Let us make these centenary programs as steps to further deepen and develop these efforts.
- 3. Mythologizing the Past: A Strategy to Make the People Uncritical.
Ever since the publication of James Mill’s History of British India (1817) the communal periodisation into the ancient Hindu period, the medieval Muslim period and modern British period, has been prevailing so entrenched in the country’s historiography in spite of the secular historians questioning it. RSS historians blindly depended on Mill’s communal historiography but by dismissing his rational approach towards myths, which was central to the colonial consciousness of the past. Having neither the craft nor methodology for reconstructing the history based on facts, they had no alternative to glorifying the past as golden on the basis of mythical accounts and factoids. RSS historians have been systematically trying to make people believe Veda-s, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Purana-s as historical accounts by accusing the academic version of history, allegedly based on the prejudiced notions of European historiography, Euro-centrism, British colonialism, English education, and Marxism. They strongly believe that the culture, religiosity, spiritual achievements and the rich intellectual heritage of traditional India were destroyed by the Mohammedan invaders and subsequently misconceived, misrepresented, disfigured and debunked by the Westerners and the Western educated Indians. The paper seeks to briefly examine the ways and purposes of mythologizing the country’s past.
Mythologized history combined with the anti-Muslim attitude and upper caste prejudices constitute the ideology of the characteristically aggrandising Hindu nationalism. The Brahmin and other landed upper castes believe that their status and power had suffered under the Muslim rulers who plundered temples, killed the Hindu kings, led their queens to the pyre and destroyed the glorious Hindu civilisation of great sages. This ideology, nurtured by them as the basis of Hindu nationalism, had come up steadily as ‘backdoor nationalism’ from the days of the Freedom Struggle to the present (Bipan Chandra, 2008). Since majority of the educated upper caste Hindus of postcolonial India were influenced by the Nehruvian, socialist, secular, rationalist, inclusive nationalism of modernity, there were lesser opportunities for the orthodox and casteist communal Hindu groups to carry forward their ideological agenda beyond a point.
Nevertheless, these groups, relatively insignificant, sustained themselves through distorted history, religious intolerance and communal riots. They acquired greater following and state power under the aegis of the political economy of the onset of capitalist globalisation in the late 1980s when the IMF, World Bank and WTO had begun to impose neo-liberalism heavily. Subsequently the entailing widespread corruption and the nasty tradeoff in the regional party-politics, which grew rampant under the Congress gave the Hindu communalists a chance again to wield state power towards the end of 1990s. Now the Hindutva groups are again in power ending the grossly corrupt crony capitalist reign of the Congress, and many of the new generation upper caste youth with communal and caste sentiments kindled under grievances against the national policy of educational and employment reservations for the subaltern castes and women, are dallying with temptations around the power. Whenever, the Hindu communal groups wielded the state power, communalisation of history by the RSS had become a national programme of top priority.
Hindu communalists who include several scientists, technologists, Sanskrit scholars, archaeologists, historians and others even today sincerely believe in the glorious past of India distinct for the rare systems of knowledge generated and spiritually endowed by great sages of supernatural or extra sensory powers. The rare legacy of this glorious Hindu civilisation is firmly believed to have been singled down to destruction by the Mohammedan invasion earlier and to vitiation of its cultural heritage by the British conquest and Christianisation later. In recent times several non-resident Indian academics moved by factoids have taken on mythologizing the country’s past as part of their de-colonisation enterprise. Many rich immigrants with lot of finance capital are running huge research projects for retrieving Hindu Civilization out of the Mohammedan ruination and the colonial vitiation.
There are two types, the old and new, among the Hindutva enthusiasts. Arguments of the old Hindu communalists are widely known for their straightforward antagonism towards the Mohammedans. Different from the orthodox scholars of bizarre notions about the country’s past Hindu culture, the neo-Hindutva type are modern and hence pseudo-scientific in their explanations of the bizarre. They argue that the non-Western cultures, particularly the south Asian, which differ from the characterisation prevalent in the West whose cultural identity is founded on the Christian religion, necessitate an analysis of the ‘how’ of the construction of religions and cultural differences in India. They feel the need for a thorough re-doing of the intellectual and social history of South Asia, in order to demonstrate as to how it was shaped without having a hegemonic explanatory account of the Cosmos decisive, becomes obligatory. This is indeed a good idea, but why are they not doing it? Ultimately both the types serve the same purpose of communalisation of the people by mythologizing and mystifying their past.
The Neo-Hindutva scholars do not have the linguistic competency to do their project, for most of them are academics not initiated in Sanskrit or historiography. Many are technologists and industrialists. They debunk history and historians’ craft as what the colonised uncritically accepted from the West and passed on to their progenies who could only perpetuate Eurocentrism. According to the neo-Hindutva enthusiasts what Indians need is their cultural past that Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Purāṇa-s contain, i.e., the past ‘as existed or exists in reality for the natives of India’ (S.N. Balagangadhara, 2005 & 2012). The institutions like the varṇa, jāti, sati, and stridhana are allegedly constructs by historians of Western consciousness, who distort the Hindu past as the way Western people experienced Indian culture, which they argue, speaks ‘more about the Western civilisation than the native Indian civilisation.’ The neo-Hindutva enthusiasts say that the true history of India is what the epics and Purana-s contain, access to which is being denied to the people due to the European and Marxist misrepresentations of the country’s sacred texts like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata besides the traditional chronicles like the Purāṇa-s. Alas ! It appears that jāti, sati and all kinds of other institutions of Hinduism, exposed by historians and social scientists atrocious, are in his presumption integral to intrinsic human values of Indian culture (R.Gurukkal, 2014). Compared to the ways and means of the orthodox scholars who had believed in what they preached, the strategies of neo-Hindutva scholars are pretentiously academic and sophisticated in their mythologizing of the Indian past. They hardly believe in what they seek to academically argue out. Not trained in historiography and least acquainted with the traditional texts unlike the orthodox scholars, ultimately they go by mythological accounts and factoids, but very cleverly.
Unable to take up the real academic challenge behind their grand project, the neo-Hindutva scholars end up with argumentation without any substance. They should have acquired scholarship to comprehend the contextual relationship between the past texts and the nature of their historical, cultural consciousness. A detailed treatment of the embedded tradition represented by the fragmentary narratives from the Vedas, the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyana is necessary, for which they have no technical competence. It requires analysis of the emerging past consciousness as exemplified by genealogies in the making of a historical tradition in the Purana-s. Then one has to ascertain the historical sense in the texts, alternative histories as exemplified by the Buddhist tradition and the externalization of the historical tradition as exemplified by biographies like the Harshacarita and the Rāmacarita. Uninitiated in historical methodology and unable to access the original texts, they escape from substantiating the thesis through a demonstration of how ancient Indian intellectual formation and cultural context are distinct.
Romila Thapar is the only scholar who has done a deeper analysis of all this, but the neo-Hindutva academics have not cared for reading her study of the historical consciousness and its expressions reflected in the texts of early northern India (R.Thapar, 2013). Instead they seem to recommend the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata and Purāṇa-s as true history, despite their being composed over a long period of time by multiple authors. They do not know that there are multiple versions of Rāmāyaṇa belonging to disparate periods. There is the Buddhist version called Daśaratha Jātaka and the Jain version called Paumachariyam. These versions contradict the Valmiki version of Rāmāyaṇa. Which version is to be treated as genuine history? Similarly Mahābhārata took several centuries to evolve itself into its present state. Its earliest form was Jaya consisting of some twelve thousand couplets. The next form namely, Vijaya was an expanded version. Then it became Bhārata and finally Mahābhārata. Which form is to be considered the true version of history – a part or the whole?
How do we determine the date of events in the multiple forms ? Purāṇa-s are many and of widely separated periods between second century and eighteenth century. There are a few Purāṇa-s belonging even to recent times. How do we decide the date and sequence of events in these multiple Purāṇa-s? Which of the Purāṇa-s is to be treated as history? These are not problems for the Hindutva enthusiasts, for they do not know such details of these texts that they equate to history. If a knowledgeable historian points out such problems and speak about the plurality of textual versions and their widely separated periods the Hindutva scholars would accuse the person of being Western or Marxist. That the Buddhist Daśaratha Jātaka and the Jain Paumachariyam contradict the Valmiki Rāmāyaṇa or that certain parts of the Mahābhārata seen in Jātaka-s contradict with the Brahmanical version, is not just a Western misinterpretation or Marxist erasing of continuity and originality of India’s past (R.Thapar, 2013). So do the contradictions appearing in the inscriptional texts. Similarly the fact that we cannot pinpoint any one of the Purāṇa-s as authentic is not the fallout of the Leftist conspiracy. Accessing of history beyond such texts through inter-textual analysis is a universally accepted procedure in the case of literary sources. It is evident from the efforts even by Sanskrit scholars and text based historians to support mythologizing history that they are ignorant of the scientific techniques of analysing texts. Least bothered about the text in terms of its variants, they do not require methods to confirm the historicity, and imply that both historicity and history are irrelevant to them. Hardly do they seem to feel the need to think about the audience, the purpose and the patronage of the text in the past at the different stages of its composition.
Instead of methodologically updating themselves, the neo-Hindutva scholars re-assert the need for retrieving the Indians from their colonial consciousness by decolonising them with postcolonial theoretical insights. Their concern is more about rejuvenating postcolonial ways of representing the West rather than how one could evolve an alternative understanding of the East. How a comparative science of cultures can be conceived of has been their main question because for them a culture is the way a particular social group generates a process of learning to learn (meta- learning). They maintain that meta-learning dominates and crystallize to structure its way of going about understanding the world (R.Gurukkal, 2014). By way of self-justification for being evasive about the task all by themselves, they say that their allocated job (providential ?) is only preparing the ground for building up a huge mansion of alternative social sciences, which is not a job, that a few books or one generation of scholars can accomplish. Their project of mobilising a big team across continents and organizing a big consortium of European and Indian Universities for re-thinking Asian culture is part of this groundwork. Nonetheless, shouldn’t their disciples be shown a sample output of the so called radical mode of re-thinking that they have been preaching?
There is nothing strikingly fresh about the decolonising perspective with which the neoHindutva academics are obsessed. Like colonisation, decolonisation also came from the West. Michel Foucault tried to do its archaeology and genealogy of the knowledge production and its organisation and classification, which was the major source for Edward Said’s discursive processes of how the West went to terms with the East by constituting the latter its opposite. Dismissing such studies replete with jargons, the neo-Hindutva academics express the central problems of modern India studies and potential direction for the socialscientific study of the Indian culture, their central concern. Debunking history and social sciences as mere theological reflection, what is this social scientific study that they propose? They are entrapped in Hussurlian double bind with an antithesis of the West formulated in European positivist ideography, just as post-structuralists sought the language of structuralism to capsize it. On the one side stressing the need for an alternative understanding of the Western culture and blaming it a reflection of Protestant theology, yearning for a social scientific study on the other, is a trap. It is a pity that the radical decolonising agents have not only to try and construct knowledge against the West in the western positivist empirical methodology and articulate it in the knowledge-language of the West but also as construed by the West. This would mean that colonial consciousness is the political unconscious of their writings. Why blame other Indians allegedly promoting the same old colonial ideas and lacking original framework, when the neo-Hindutva scholars themselves have no framework of comprehension other than the colonial. They say exactly as the coloniser accused long ago that the ‘native Indian’ knows no Indian view of India. What is this so called Indian view of India ? That is what the neo-Hindutva scholars see articulated in the epics and Purāṇa-s. They think that these texts help us formulate alternative definitions of culture, colonialism, secularism, and orientalism.
There is a striking self-contradiction in the arguments of neo-Hindutva scholars. They argue that their mythologizing of India’s past is scientific. In fact, according to them it is science itself. Interestingly, the main defect of the Western way of understanding the world, according to the neo-Hindutva philosopher is that it is unscientific! (S.N. Balagangadhara, 2012). Is not Newton’s Principia scientific? Though it was called Natural Philosophy during his times, we know that in 19th century when the term science began to be applied exclusively to the type of knowledge that Principia embodied.
The neo-Hindutva philosopher would call it unscientific because of a reflection of the Christian theology in it. Least reflexive about the historical constitution of science, the philosopher goes self-contradictory in his celebration and promotion of pseudo-science as science. The neo-Hindutva philosopher is a victim of internalising the Western cognitive mode, logical structure, constitutional texture and communicative strategy of knowledge in science final. Not only the West and the colonised, but all including himself (now in the state of ‘enlightenment’) are subsumed by it.1 How this Hindutva mission to make the ‘alternative science of culture’ scientific goes well with the equation of Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata to history or celebrating of jāti (not caste), sati and all kinds of other institutions of Hinduism as integral to intrinsic human values of Indian culture, is the problem. This is a self-contradictory position of equating science with epics. Is this way the colonised getting out of the historically given influence of colonial consciousness? Several historians and social scientists, allegedly of ‘colonial consciousness,’ are at least aware of the epistemic injustice involved in the imposition of science as the only universally valid truth. This would mean that it was the so called ‘colonial consciousness’ that empowered them to discover the imperialist substratum of science.
The neo-Hindutva philosopher should try and understand how historians of India have sought to wrench themselves away from the shackles of colonial historiography. They know that the current definition of what constitutes history is based on European understanding of its own past, which has been considerably enlarged in recent times, with the enlightenment emphasizing the notion of progress, and Marx and Weber seeking fundamental laws governing historical forms. Although not altogether free of Western presumptions, Indian historiography had a course of development through Nationalist reactions against the imperial views. Indian historians of modern times have shown a sense of history in conformity with how history is defined in modern times. In the sense that the history of every age has been representation of contemporary consciousness, they had asked much before this neoHindutva philosopher’s articulation of the thesis of ‘colonial consciousness,’ as to how come that the colonial European sense of history, which was contemporary consciousness too, could set the universal normative (R.Gurukkal, 2014). Are we justified in judging the historicity of early writing in the light of the criteria of what we define as history, which are impermanent too ? Just because the various texts of the past do not match the contemporary genre called history, can we, succumbing to the Western prejudice, continue to deny the existence of past consciousness, with the implicit presumption that there is no historical sense other than the contemporary sense of history ? Since historical consciousness has been taking different forms from time to time how could any particular form be superior? Could we insist that the status of history in a past text to be what one would construe today? 1 [On 7 July 2014, he declared himself ‘enlightened,’ a clear indication of the creation of a charismatic aura for constituting his following with the status of a cult.]
The neo-Hindutva philosophers should study forms, features, structure, constitution and dynamic of traditional Indian knowledge in the perspective of historical epistemology. It, then would really enlighten them about the fact that ‘every society sees its past in a particular way, which it may refer to as history or not, but which is relevant to understanding that society’(R.Thapar, 2013). There is no epistemological discontinuity between the Indian and the Western in several fields of knowledge like astronomy, mathematics and linguistics. Epistemological principles such as rationality, objectivity, verifiability, proof and notion of truth in the enterprise of knowledge production made no difference between the East and West. Epistemological properties like premises, inferential logic, nature of evidence, and concept of truth about traditional Indian knowledge, with a view to understanding the historical trajectory of the advancement of knowledge, the historical development of knowledge in traditional India, in terms of epistemic concepts like objectivity, rationality, methodology, and fundamental concepts that organize knowledge systems of different historical periods. It was hard work, sustained engagement, genuine curiosity and critical inquiry as in the case of the intellectual anywhere in the world, which enabled early Indian scholars to generate deeper knowledge. Why mystify them as sages of supernatural powers and extrasensory perception when some of them at least make their methodology explicit?
Several Hindutva archaeologists and historians tacitly over-defensive of the BJP rule criticise the rational historians and social scientists engaged in resisting the move towards mythologizing and mystifying the country’s unpleasant social truth about the past as well as the present. They are branded as Leftists and Marxists hypocritically claiming scientific outlook and moral high ground to cry-wolf the issue of spreading false consciousness among people through distorted history. The Hindutva lobby accuse them of dominating historical bodies like the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Indian History Congress etc., turning them into arenas of political and financial manipulation, imposing the blinkered view of history on the discipline, deliberately sidelining, discriminating, ostracizing and depriving the critics of professional opportunities since the 1970s (R.Gurukkal, 2016). One would immediately feel like asking what prevented them from rectifying all this when they were in power during 1998-2004. Anyway, such trifling remarks in frustration deserve no reply, but those with academic criticisms, ostensible though, have to be answered, for they try and debunk critical scholarship in historiography.
One thing that the assailants make clear through accusations is their hostility to the Leftists in general and Marxists in particular. But they seem to be failing to identify their enemies, for they think any historian critical of the BJP Government could be either a Marxist or a Leftist. It appears from the allegations that any historian of rational approach distinguishing history from myths and factoids is their enemy too. Their main irritant to them in rational historiography is its critical explanatory method free of narrow sentiments and pride. A widely accepted fact that distinguishes rational history from the sentimental is its intellectual depth and theoretical preoccupation. A fact of wide acceptance about history is its inseparability from theory that enables a historian to make the invisible, visible and the inaudible, audible. Theory is indispensable for a historian to sensibly piece together, manage the bewilderingly complex old time data and draw critical insights into them. It is widely known that historical materialism is the only comprehensive theory available for interpreting the past social processes, relations and structures. How can historians afford to be abstaining from theory and remaining ignorant of historical materialism? Nevertheless, for both communalists and liberalists who are largely idealists of low level analytical sensibility, Marxism is a blinkered view, biased and reductionist. Accusing the other of bias is largely due to the ignorance about the biased self. Reductionism is not the theory’s problem but that of the approach, for in serious Marxist historiography one sees interpretations, strikingly differing from one another. Where is the question of blinkered view in a framework of comprehension that allows hypothetico-deductive investigation? What the Hindutva historians’ prejudice denotes is distaste for theory, the secret of sustained obsolescence from which their ignorant criticisms emanate.
Their academic criticisms against the ‘Left’ historians are in the form of allegations such as the reductionist approach to history, erasure of India’s knowledge systems, denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, refusal to acknowledge the well-documented the brutality of many Muslim rulers, neglect of tribal histories, biased use of sources, neglect of scientific data from palaeo-environmental to genetic studies, absence of professional ethics, pernicious imposition of legislated history, and promotion of contempt for cultural heritage. The allegation that the Marxist historiography is tainted by ‘a reductionist approach viewing the evolution of Indian society almost entirely through the prism of the caste system, emphasizing its mechanisms of exclusion while neglecting those of integration without which Indian society would have disintegrated long ago,’ exposes ignorance about Marx’s theory of social change, in which ‘class’ has precedence over ‘caste.’ Marxist historiography stresses on the function of caste as part of the fetters of productive relations, and systematically unveils the secret of integration. It does not neglect at all the role that caste played in enduring the contradictory structure of the Indian society by containing class struggle. It is surprising that they take pride about caste without which the Indian society ‘would have disintegrated long ago’ (R.Gurukkal, 2016)
Who has erased India’s knowledge systems – those Leftists/Marxists who tried to show that serious knowledge systems of traditional India had adhered to epistemic principles such as rationality, objectivity, verifiability, and notion of truth in their production or those philologists who tried to mystify the origins of knowledge system by assigning them to extrasensory abilities and super-natural powers of sages ? It is in the writings of the former, not exhaustively though, that we see critical inquiries unravelling the logical procedures behind the knowledge systems of early India (D. Chattopadhyaya, 1977, 1986, 1991, 1996). What the accusers consider as erasure is the academic exercise in humanising the past knowledge systems by looking for the epistemic universals behind their production and on the basis of which characterising some of them axiomatic and some others scientific due to insistence of proof.
The allegation of the Leftist ‘denial of the continuityThe allegation of the Leftist ‘denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh culture, ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists’ is based on methodological ignorance. What they mean by ‘continuity and originality’ has to be examined against the source texts concerned and the methodological devices for using them for historical understanding. It is in total ignorance of all this they accuse the Leftists of the denial of the continuity and originality of India’s Hindu-BuddhistJain-Sikh culture, and ignoring the work of generations of Indian and Western Indologists.’ Allegations about the biased use of sources and promotion of contempt for cultural heritage actually stem from this basic methodological obsolescence. In fact, who stops them from historicising the Hindu identity, rationality, progressiveness and legitimacy scientifically? Instead of making an idealistic call from the pulpit for ‘an unbiased and rigorous new historiography of India,’ why are they not going ahead with their long-cherished project of re-writing India’s past. Why cry about the Leftists’ neglect of advanced Indological researches in the last few decades, rather than taking on them all by themselves? If the socalled archaeologists have developed alternative perspectives after considerable research, the scholarly world would have accepted them. Why blame the Leftists to have sidelined them rather than looking into what failed them in securing scholarly recognition?
The Marxist and Leftist historians are alleged to have refused to accept the welldocumented brutality of many Muslim rulers, empirical studies exposing their wartime plunders and religious attacks. Indeed such predatory campaigns were brutal and the historians, who sought to expose the hollowness of communal interpretations, had to be in a historiographical struggle for the cause of secularism. This was not to hush up the events of brutality but to unveil the actual historical context for checking the historiographically contingent communalism that unleashes acts of vengeance upon the present day population that has nothing to do with the past events. The neo-Hindutva historians accuse the Marxist historians to have neglected the tribal history. We owe the relative neglect of tribal histories to various factors including the lack of data and promotion of methodological sophistication for writing the history of the people without history (B. Misztal, 2003; E.Wolf, 2010). I do not think that the Leftists can be singled down as responsible for it in any way, for the major part of the work already done goes not to the credit of Hindutva scholars (K.S. Singh, 1985; B.B. Chaudhurri & A. Bandopadhyay, 2004; and Sanal Mohan, 2015). Anyhow, has anyone among the accusers studied ‘India’s tribal communities and their rich belief systems and heritage? Who has studied the tribal cultures to enable the sweeping generalization that they have many things in common with the Hindu religion? Let us not talk about the neglect of scientific data, since the serious readership know how regional archaeo-metallurgical studies are labeled as Indian with nothing Indian about. It is explicit why the casteist and communal historians are interested in genetic studies today.
All that is discussed so far, which underscores methodological preoccupation, exposes the Hindutva historians’ total lack of professional ethics. It is largely due to their ignorance in social scientific methodology that they tend to denigrate those who use it for writing early Indian history, because it questions the Hindu communal distortion. They seem to be unaware of the process of the existing knowledge undergoing improvement or even replacement by new knowledge that is increasingly analytical, self-reflexive and critical. In fact, a high degree of reflexivity is inevitable for those indulging in the study of early Indian history. It is essential for them to be preoccupied in methodology, without which their knowledge base goes obsolete and criticisms become exhibits of ignorance.
Purpose of Mythologising
The primary goal of mythologizing the past is the cultural preparation the people into an uncritical public. People exposed to rational knowledge are normally inspired by the deeper dimension of it that has a radical critical stance based on the fire of social justice. Ethical postulates are integral to deeper knowledge that is inherently subversive and critical, for it unveils the hidden unjust practices in human affairs and social processes (B. Latour and C. Poter, 2004; P. Freire, 2005). In the process of acquisition of rational knowledge one experiences this subversive dynamic and develops critical consciousness. Critical consciousness, the most vital attribute of quality learning, may vary between the liberal pragmatic and the radical critical theoretical type (M. Horton, 2003, S.D. Brookfield, 2005). Of all critical stances, critical theory based criticism ranks foremost, for it is raised right against the dominant socio-economic and politico-cultural power that the state embodies. People with this radical level of critical consciousness are emboldened to speak truth to power.
Our education is divested of its critical quality by historically contingent social structural devices which thinkers have theorised differently. What the dominant economy (Technocapitalism popularly called knowledge economy) needs is a well disciplined, workaholic and apolitical youth trained in various skills. Whatever education that produces this robotic youth is quality education or innovative education to it. As a result, critical consciousness is almost alien to our pedagogy at all levels. One is supposed to be acquiring critical consciousness in the process of higher education; but it hardly happens today. Even the critical attitude of a liberal pragmatic kind, which spontaneously comes up in any educated citizen of democratic values, passions and ethical postulates, is uncommon today.
In the capitalist world the critical dimension of knowledge is not easily available to all because of its being incessantly diffused and strategically distracted. Knowledge production is an alienated and highly encumbered activity, inevitably under the systemic control of capitalism. There is a strong, built-in system for depoliticizing the students through the process of acquisition of knowledge. Spread of the myth that knowledge is invariably neutral is the basic strategy. Delinking of knowledge with social reality is another strategy. Yet another strategy is the conversion of knowledge itself as part of the rhetoric and ideology of capitalism. They draw blank about the social use or consequences of it. They become neutral, self-centred, apolitical and least perturbed by social consequences if any. Subsequently they constitute the larger public of conformity, totally bereft of critical thinking.
Karl Marx called the process as ideological control of the emerging critical impulses. Michel Foucault named the phenomenon as discursive control and Pierre Bourdieu identified it as habitus. In neo-Marxist social theory this process is known as autopoiesis (N. Luhmann, 1990; I. Livingston, 2006). It operates in myriads of ways through the entire people, relations, institutions, practices, ideas and spaces. Knowledge is a very crucial object of autopoietic control and hence its production as well as transmission would not escape the influence of autopoiesis. Naturally education, one of the most powerful social institutions, is inevitably a major channel of operation for autopoietic power. Its main function is containment of antithetical elements in the capitalist socio-economic system involving dehumanising processes and relations, which could otherwise cause upsurges. Autopoietic strategies of containment would act as a safety valve averting systemic overturns.
Nevertheless, it is a significant need of capitalism to transform the general public without any exposure to higher education into an apolitical and uncritical mass. It is mainly for this purpose that the corporate houses make an alliance with the Hindu communalists aspiring to be de facto actors in the aggrandising national state power. The Hindutva middleclass lobby is desirous of a fascist state for aggressively accomplishing a Hindu nation of communal exclusiveness and casteist orthodoxy. Techno-capitalist corporate houses want a crony capitalist state for juridico-political protection and financial patronage through diversion of public revenue as well as natural resources for expanding their enterprises. This alliance between the state and its middleclass actors is a natural development in advanced capitalism.
A state sponsored mythologizing and communalising of the country’s history by debunking rational, secular historiography has to be viewed against the background of the alliance between the Hindutva aspirants of de facto state power and corporate capitalists. Both the groups at the outset need to turn the general public into an uncritical mass. Substitution of rational history with mythological accounts can prevent the rise of critical consciousness in the people. Mythical accounts of the past can trigger antiquarian interests and develop blind sentiments and devotion to the idea of Hindu nationalism. Mythology is enough for them for it keeps people emotionally encumbered. Explanatory historical accounts providing insights into the problems of the present empowering the poor people are not only the unwanted but also the impermissible for them. While the mythologised past full of semidivine heroes excites people’s pride, the rational historical accounts educate them about the past misery due to relations of exploitation, institutions of oppression and structures of domination. One engenders a politically disengaging uncritical mass of people, while the other promotes the formation of a political people craving for emancipation.
Both the Hindu as well as Muslim communalists are ideologically in the same track of ungrounded history, for distorted history is the only ideological means of self justification for them (Bipan Chandra, 2008). Their mutual exclusionism is based on the single question, who should rule India. Communalists of all types distort and glorify an imagined past and disregard the people’s everyday life of the present. It is the veneration of the nation as an abstract semi-divine notion rather than the realisation of a concrete territorial nation inclusiveness assured of the citizens’ peaceful co-existence and collective welfare, which matters to the Hindutva ideologues. It turns the people susceptible to deadly sentiments of caste and religion, and degenerates nationalism into false consciousness. An immediate manifestation of it is social intolerance of the de facto type, the clearest symptom of advanced fascist cultural preparation. This is how the inevitable ontological convergence of communal essentialism and revivalism on the politics of fascism happens (P. Bourdieu, 1991).
Impairment of democracy, the inevitable consequence of capitalist development, has been progressing in the country for the last two decades, and slowly turning the democratic state into functional autocracy as a system of the corporates driven bureaucracy–political heads combine. The process is accelerated under Techno-capitalism run by corporate houses, heavily dependent on the transaction of new knowledge in science and technology, for enhanced accumulation through trading in intellectual property rights and patents (A. Feenberg, 1991; M. Perelmal, 2004). It has given rise to ‘corporatocracy,’ a new type of governance that enmeshes and destroys democracy (L. Suarez-Villa, 2012). In India corporates have succeeded in intensifying their state control under the dominance of the BJP that mobilises people’s acceptance of functional autocracy through the rhetoric of national development and communal cultural preparations by penetrating into all bodies of educational policy-making in general and historical research in particular.
Attempts at a slow process of legislating fascism have been set in during the previous government under the mask of neo-liberal structural adjustments. Bringing the whole higher education under a single regulator by replacing democratic bodies was tried througthe NHE&R Bill (2011) first and now through NHA Bill 2015. The high level environment committee headed by TSR Subrahmanian, a retired bureaucrat gave its Report (2014) recommending the scrapping of all Pollution Control Acts, Wildlife and Forest Conservation Acts for making diversion of land and natural resources for corporate industrial establishments. Fortunately both the houses of the Parliament disallowed the Bill. Now the same Bill is back again as ESA Amendments Notification (2015). TSR Subrahmanian is heading the drafting committee of the New Education Policy 2016 with three other retired bureaucrats and one name-sake academic. These Bills designed by bureaucrats under the direction of corporates, repeatedly pushed forward to the houses of the Parliament indicate sustained moves towards legislating functional autocracy. They are symptomatic of the measured death of democracy.
The Hindutva academicians’ specific interest in the policy making institutions of educational and cultural affairs is making the agenda explicit. Pick the children for ideological social preparation aiming the making of the youth into an assortment of uncritical and apathetic individuals is the strategy. This explains why the Hindutva lobby is eager to quell the dissent of even the liberal pragmatic kind through repressive measures like branding the dissidents as terrorists and traitors. There are attempts at erasing the cultural signatures of other religions through certain apparently legitimate substitutes as exemplified by the case of the governmental imposition of the observance of ‘the good governance day’ on the Christmas Day. Asking through Government Orders the Navodaya Vidyalayas, Schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Central Universities, Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management to the celebration the birth anniversaries of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya is an example of disguised communalisation. Bringing in changes in the schemes and contents of education for nurturing communal divisiveness and hatred among the people of one religion against the other has been in progress. Mythologising the public consciousness will go on in various ways and means under unstinted state support, because it is a crucial need of the political economy to silence the oppressed and exploited.
- 1. Balagangadhara, S.N. The Heathen in His Blindness: Asia, the West, and the Dynamic of Religion (Revised edition, New Delhi, Manohar, 2005
- 2. Balagangadhara, S.N. Reconceptualising India Studies, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012.
- 3. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991, pp. 3-4
- 4. Chandra, Bipan. Communalism in Modern India, Har Anand Publishers, Delhi, 2008.
- 5. Chattopadhyaya, D. History of Science and Technology in Ancient India, Vol.1: The Beginnings (1986) Calcutta: Firma KLM; Vol.2. Formation of the Theoretical Fundamentals of Natural Science 1991, Vol.3. Astronomy, Science and Society, 1996
- 6. Chattopadhyaya, D. Science and Society in Ancient India, K.P. Bagchi and Company, Calcutta, 1977.
- 7. Chaudhuri, B.B. & A. Bandopadhyay, (eds.) Tribes, Forest and Social formation in Indian History. Manohar, New Delhi, 2004.
- 8. Feenberg, A., Critical Theory of Technology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1991
- 9. Graff, R.G., Reiskin E.D., White, A.L., Bidwell, K., Snapshots of Environmental Cost Accounting: A Report. US EPA Environmental Accounting Project, New York, 1998
10. Gurukkal, R. “A Blindness about India,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. XLIX No.49, December 6, 2014, pp.12-15
- 4. Caste and Class: Achilles’ Heel of the Indian Revolution.
“…turn in any direction you like, caste is the monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform, you cannot have economic reform, unless you kill this monster.”
– B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste
“To be radical is to grasp things by the root.”
No two words in modern history might have had as menacing a consequence to the future of a country as caste and class. They have not only divided the working class movements into two camps, viz., movements believing in class struggle and movements believing in anti-caste struggle, but each backed by the ideological obsession of their protagonists and their historical trajectories pushed them onto the path of divergence and in course weakened both of them to the extent that today they find themselves struggling for relevance. Castes have been the life-world of people in the Indian subcontinent for more than two millennia and largely acknowledged to be the unique feature of its majority of people called Hindus although they never remained confined to them and infected the other religious communities that came into being since medieval times. It did face threats from counter-ideological streams such as shramans (later best represented by Buddhism) and political threats by the outsider invaders coming in from north but managed to outlast all of them. Contrary to a commonplace notion, Buddhism despite its ideological hegemony over the subcontinent for about a millennium could not disturb this life-world. Most of the outside invaders either left or settled mixing up with the local population leaving this life-world undisturbed in its essence. The medieval period saw emergence of Islamic society in India presenting an alternate civilizational prospect to the lower castes and it posed a significant threat to this life-world to the extent a large section of them escaped the thralldom of Brahmanism and embraced Islam. However, even this threat remained short-lived and soon even this new society got infected with caste virus. The new religion of Sikhism ostensibly professing equality of all humans by assimilating noble precepts of both Hinduism and Islam, also could not guard off the caste virus from infecting its society. Later, when Christianity came in, similarly attracting the lower castes in huge numbers as Islam did, the minority of upper castes who embraced it, castized it. Castes thus remained a pervasive reality of the India since antiquity to this day.
The life-world implied all its inhabitants internalized its principles and ethos. The people behaved as they were expected to by the caste code. It was only during the colonial rule that anti-caste consciousness germinated in the lower castes. The opportunities for economic progress, the new institutional mode of governance and the advent of capitalism under its shelter, catalysed it. Barring stray pockets in the world that reflected caste-like characteristics and African continent which had dominance of tribalism, classes characterized rest of the world. They came into prominence, however, with the spread of capitalism, which in its idealized form, divided the society into two interdependent but antagonistic classes, viz., proletariat and bourgeoisie. They particularly assumed prominence with the theories of Marxism that saw struggles between these two classes reaching their zenith where they would usher into a revolutionary change to socialism and thence, communism.
In this note I intend discussing the meaning of caste and class to elucidate the mistake committed by both the movements, dalit as well as communist, in dealing with them. While presenting my analysis of the situation of these movements, I try to sketch out a strategy for them to converge over a reasonable timeframe.
Definitional Aspects: Varna and Jati
Simply put, caste is a defining feature of the Indian society. Etymologically, the English word “caste” derives from the Spanish and Portuguese casta, with its roots in Latin castus. It meant “race, lineage, or breed”. When the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498 and encountered thousands of in-marrying hereditary Indian social groups they called them “castas”, which became “castes” in English in 1613. The Indian name for castes is Jati or Jat. While the Europeans did not know anything like jati, their conception of caste subsumed racial connotations and tended to confuse with the varna division of the society, which still prevails significantly among the western scholars.
There is much confusion even in the scholarly literature between jati, and varna [They are used interchangeably by most scholars. For instance, Stuart Corbridge, John Harriss, Craig Jeffrey, India Today: Economy, Politics and Society, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2013; Also see Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Varna Vyavastha: Governance through Caste System, Rawat Publications, New Delhi, p. 183; Binod, C.Agrawal, Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Complex Societies, Ethnographic & Folk Culture Society, Lucknow, 1982, p.44; N. K., Dutt, Origin and Growth of Castes in India, Vol. I, The Book Co. Ltd., Calcutta, 1931, p. 4.], which together constitute basis for the caste system. It is largely agreed that varnas were brought into India by the conquering tribes of Aryas during the dark period of history. If the lineage of Aryans is traced to the Iranian society, Avesta mentions only three classes of people based on economic functions in society [See, Mukhtar Ahmed, Ancient Pakistan: An Archaeological History, Vol. V, Foursome Group, Reidsville, 2014, p.149.] sans hierarchy, evolved into four (Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra) varna System (Chaturvarna) by the end of Rigvedic period with a notion of hierarchy and then led to designate the excluded ones as the avarnas (non-varna) or pancham (fifth) varna,.Thus, varnas were finite and with definitive hierarchy. Castes (jatis), in contrast, are countless and (because of it) with fluid notion of hierarchy. [The rough estimate of castes runs into thousands but no one for sure can vouch for those numbers. Louis Dumont deals with this question but leaves it unanswered because of its infeasibility. See Louis Dumont, Homo Hierrachicus, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970, p. 33]. Varna is the vedic classification of the four ranked occupational order, whereas caste refers to ranked hereditary, endogamous and occupational groups separated from each other by the ideas of purity and pollution. Classically, varnas defined the borders of Hinduism, whereas jatis were local within the borders of ethnolinguistic regions. The varnas may be taken as theoretical, a framework, whereas castes (jatis) are real and concrete. Besides, Brahman and the shudra within the original chaturvarna and avarna dalits in its extended form, which bracket overall Hindu social order, all other varnas are rarely found everywhere, but castes are found all over. As a result, the mapping of castes with intermediate varnas remains hazy and not accepted by many castes. Many castes reject legitimacy of the varna hierarchy and/or the places assigned to them by others. In the Brahmanical strongholds of south India itself the intermediate varnas hardly exist. Where they exist, they do so with local variations. Even historically, the village roost was not necessarily ruled by any Brahman caste; when it was, one could find wealth and power rather than its ritual status being instrumental in its placement. Many Brahmans did not enjoy any such reputation. Second, even their explanation for the advent of varnashram dharma also is unconvincing as it does not explain why it only survived in India and not elsewhere.
Historicity of Castes
The discourse on caste customarily starts curiously with the origin of caste, as though castes were the same as they originated. Many scholars have proffered theories of the origin of castes which in sum are no better than a blind man’s description of an elephant. Whether they are plausible or not, from the perspective of their annihilation, they do not serve any purpose. One of the motivations behind knowing the origin of caste is to possibly strike at its root in order to eradicate it. Probably Dr Ambedkar adopts it when in Annihilation of Caste; he attributes its origin to the Dharmashastras of Hinduism and therefore infers that unless they were dynamited, the caste system would not be annihilated.
The theories of the origin of castes may be broadly classified into as many as ten classes based on their thrust: (i) traditional or Indological theory, (ii) racial theory, (iii) political theory, (iv) religious theory, (v) occupational theory, (vi) racial/functional theory, (vii) guild theory, (viii) mana theory, and (ix) evolution or multi-factor theory. According to the traditional or Indological theory, the caste system is of divine origin. It is based on the allegorical explanation in Purushsukta in Rig Veda for the origin of four varnas being parts of the cosmic being purusha or the supreme creator (God)., Castes were born later as a result of different types of marriages between varnas in ancient India. Although of little intellectual value, it underlies the popular belief in castes. The Racial Theory propounded by Sir Herbert Risely held that caste system was due to racial differences between migrant Aryas and Anaryas (native people). G. S. Ghurye (1932) appear to support this theory. The political theory held that caste system was the result of political conspiracy of the Brahmans to secure control over the functions of the society. This theory was originally propounded by a French scholar Abbe Dubais and found tacit support in many scholars like Denzil Ibbetson and also S.G. Ghurye. The religious theory was advocated by Hocart and Senart. Hocart postulated that castes were a hierarchy of ritual offices centered on a king (or a local lord) having as their purpose the performance of the royal ritual for the benefit of the entire community. The king, as the representative of the god and religion, allotted positions to different functional groups. Senart tried to explain the caste system on the basis of prohibitions regarding sacramental food. Occupational/Functional theory, originally propounded by Nesfield, held that occupation were the main base of the caste system. The notion of hierarchy of castes stemmed basically from the superiority or inferiority of occupations. The Racial/ Functional theory put forth by Slater combines both the racial and functional origins, postulating that the caste system was created to safeguard the professional and occupational secrets of different races. The Aryan invasions intensified and developed the existing structure making occupations hereditary and marriages only within the same occupation groups, sanctified later by ritual practices and religious ceremonies. The Guild theory put forth by Denzil Ibbeston, holds that castes are the modified forms of guilds and the caste system was the product of three forces, (i) tribes, (ii) guilds, and (iii) religion. The guilds evolved into castes imitating the endogamy of the prestigious class of priests. The mana theory based on the views of J.H. Hutton accords the caste system pre-Aryan origin and suggests that the primitive belief in ‘mana’ among tribes accounted for the origin of the caste system. Mana was associated with magical and harmful powers and hence the ancient tribes evolved elaborate taboos or restrictions to protect themselves from other tribes’ mana. Lastly, the Evolutionary or Multifactor theory propounded by sociologists held that a complex phenomenon of the caste system could not be explained by a single factor and rather was a result of many factors such as beliefs in racial superiority, geographical isolation. metaphysical concepts, belief in mana, desire to maintain racial purity of blood and manipulation by Brahmans.
As could be seen, none of these theories, save for the last one, which does not claim a specific factor and hence is flexible enough to accommodate any of the above or entirely new one within its fold, are explaining the origin of the caste system. They rather explain the varna system and take for granted that caste system is born out of the varna system.
Ambedkar on Caste
In relation to castes, Babasaheb Ambedkar assumes extraordinary importance because of his life-long struggle, both in the realm of theory as well as practice. His seminal paper, Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development, which Ambedkar presented as a student, at an Anthropology Seminar taught by Dr. A. A. Goldenweizer in Columbia University on 9 May 1916, dealt with some of these views and also those of Dr. Ketkar and dismissed them as Petitio Principii of formal logic.. It was here that he observed, “A caste is an enclosed class”.
He disagreed with Senart that the “idea of pollution” was a peculiarity of caste as it was “a particular case of the general belief in purity”. As per him, the idea of pollution could be ignored without affecting the working of castes. It was attached to the institution of caste only because of the priestly caste which enjoyed the highest rank. To Nesfield’s theory highlighting absence of messing with outside the caste, Ambedkar would say that it was mistaking the effect for the cause. Caste being a self-enclosed unit, it naturally limits social intercourse, including messing. He did not find Risley’s views deserving even a comment. He rather included Ketkar who had defined caste in its relation to a system of castes, and had focused his attention only on those characteristics which were absolutely necessary for the existence of a caste within a system. Ambedkar however, critiqued Ketkar for taking “prohibition of intermarriage and membership by autogeny” as the two characteristics of caste and argued that they were but two aspects of one and the same thing. If intermarriage is prohibited, the membership of those born within the group also shall be automatically limited.
Ambedkar argues that the Hindu society like other societies was essentially a class system, in which individuals, when qualified, could change their class. However, at some time in history, the priestly class socially detached itself from the rest of the people and through a closed-door policy became a caste by itself. The other varnas, which were subject to the law of social division of labour, developed sub-division with social mobility of the class system. However, as he argued, they too lost the open-door character of the class system and have become self-enclosed units called castes. He explained their becoming castes saying “Some closed the door: Others found it closed against them.” He proffered a psychological explanation for the former saying that since the Brahmans or priestly class, occupied the highest position in the social hierarchy of the Hindu society, the other classes simply imitated them by adopting endogamy. Over the years, endogamy became a fashion since it originated from the priestly class, who were venerated and idolized in the scriptures. Endogamy was thus practiced by all the classes, which ultimately resulted into the rigid formation of castes. The custom of endogamy superimposed on exogamy, which prevailed in all ancient tribes, became the creation of castes. He points out that without the practice of endogamy, the caste system cannot survive. Along with endogamy, Brahmans followed the custom of sati and enforced widowhood which later spread to other castes. The mainstream sociology never acknowledged this analysis of Ambedkar, although it predated the thesis by G. S. Ghurye, celebrated as the first sociological treatise on caste by a decade and anticipated many of the ideas of the later scholars.
Ambedkar developed his theory of untouchability on the basis of ‘broken men’ (broken from their tribes during the tribal wars), who, since they were Buddhists, and did not respect Brahmans were made untouchables. He wrote, “...the Broken Men were Buddhists. As such they did not revere the Brahmins, did not employ them as their priests and regarded them as impure. The Brahmin on the other hand disliked the Broken Men because they were Buddhists and preached against them contempt and hatred with the result that the Broken Men came to be regarded as Untouchables”. They were made untouchables because they continued eating beef when the Gupta Kings made cow killing a criminal offence and beef eating a sin in the 4th century AD. This theorization that attributed untouchability to the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism helped him to endow the dalits with Buddhist past.
Ambedkar’s theorization of untouchability is as problematic as his analysis of castes was insightful. It is pivoted on ‘broken men’ being Buddhist, which, as candidly admitted by Ambedkar does not have any evidential support. He just concludes it saying “No evidence is ... necessary when the majority of Hindus were Buddhists. We may take it that they were.”
While the ideological contrivance surely plays a role in sustaining a social order, it cannot create it. The fact that varna-like systems of stratification existed in most ancient societies and they were not ordained by any religious ideology, purely ideological explanation for the origin of the caste system becomes problematic. Social systems come into being because the material conditions demand them. The ideological superstructure develops later to preserve them. A section of society that benefits from the system develops vested interests and wants to preserve it through an ideological apparatus. The pervasiveness of the caste system over the vast subcontinental space and its becoming a ‘life-world’ of people is surely attributable to the spread of ideology but the origin of the caste system needs to be searched elsewhere.
The material factors that gave rise to the caste system can perhaps be located in the uniquely rich natural endowment of the Indian subcontinent for the biotic mode of production extant in ancient times. In terms of plentiful flat, fertile land; rivers and water bodies; abundant and all time sunshine, and congenial climate, Indian subcontinent may scarcely have parallel on the planet in its richness for agriculture. These factors might be seen to be the key to unfathom the mystery of the unique system of stratification in the form of the caste system. When nomadic tribes began settling for agriculture, they necessarily underwent change in their social structure everywhere confirming to their material conditions. For instance, the places where lands were hostile and not so fertile; water sources were scanty and seasons were erratic; and sunshine had a narrow window of a few months, as for instance in England, it gave rise to a system of serfdom. In order to cultivate vast tracts of lands within a small time-window necessitated huge army of serfs to work and a lord to control them. In contrast, Indian tribes did not have to undergo such a structural transformation and had settled down with their tribal identities intact. These tribal identities were rather castes, albeit sans hierarchy or any stigma.
The notion of hierarchy and stigma (purity and pollution) were rather superimposed by the post-Rigvedic varna system. Thus, contrary to the proposition of the traditional ideological theory, it is not the varnas that came first and they evolved into castes, but quite the opposite. The castes in the form of tribal identities with some amount of magico-religious development, natural to agricultural communities, already existed in India, which were later overlain by the varna system brought in by the vanquishing Aryan tribes. With the growth of surplus production, it needed an intricate ideological contrivance, appealable to agricultural society as it purported to solve their myriad knowledge problems about natural events on which agriculture depended. The priestly class of Brahmans assumed the role of a mediator between people and gods, and slowly became ‘gods on earth’ themselves to establish their hegemony. They propounded a theory of karma to justify the present order and fortify their own supremacist position. While it made people to accept their caste statuses as their destinies according to their past karma, it also motivated them to adhere to the caste dharma in order to be born into better caste in the next birth. Besides this self propellant, there was a cobweb of rules as in Manusmriti that prescribed their behavior and punishments for any deviation from the prescribed code. This entire superstructure would stabilize making castes as the life-world of people.
It may be noted that the Manusmriti-like rules with harsh punishments provided for violation of caste code must have occasioned clearly to thwart the tendencies towards violation of the caste code. One may attribute it to the ideological influence of Buddhism when it began spreading among masses. In order to fortify the brahmanic structure of the society, such regidfied code might have been occasioned. But during the period of Buddhist hegemony, there appears no evidence that Buddhism actively engaged to fight the caste division in the society. It may be that while people followed Buddhism, the life-world of caste also survived. Buddhism, after it got royal support, lost its missionary zeal and became vihar centric engaged in production of intricate philosophies. People did adore Buddhism and its monks but the practice of castes also continued as a cultural drag. If the Buddhist tenets had crystallized into the cultural practice of people, it would be difficult to imagine complete erasure of it all over the subcontinent.
There were many upheavals in Indian history but this life-world adjusted itself to any disturbance. After the resurgence of Brahmanism under the leadership of Shankara in eighth century, it got strengthened further. It received numerous jolts during the medieval times through the stabilization of Muslim rule, emergence of Bhakti movement, emergence of Sikhism, etc., all of them ideologically oriented against castes, but it managed to adjust itself to the emerging circumstances.
Catalytic Role of the Colonial Rule
However, it received its severest jolt during the colonial period. The advent of western liberal institutions of governance, English education and capitalist enterprises proved hugely beneficial to the lower classes. Many of them ran after the opportunities created in new urban centers and made significant economic progress. Even before these changes began to befall, the advent of Britishers opened up opportunities for the lower castes to get into their employ and later into army. The latter proved especially significant because it not only gave them an opportunity to wield weapons, which were forbidden to them, but also win wars. It proved great moral booster in decimating the self image of inferiority solidified through centuries’ Brahmanic culture and realizing their martial prowess. The compulsory education in military service further reinforced it. All these changes created a class of relatively educated and economically well off Dalits, who became the harbinger of the Dalit movement. The work of Christian missionaries among them pushed the upper castes into taking up reforms in the Hindu society. The colonial rule variously impacted various sections of the Indian society including their life-world of castes.
From the dawn of the twentieth century, in process of responding to the various mass agitations (militant youth uprising in Bengal in response of partition and other parts), the British strategized to devolve power to Indian elites, albeit along the communal lines, so as to keep it in their control. The communal basis of sharing political power between two major divisions, Hindus and Muslims represented by the Congress and the Muslim League respectively, inevitably brought the question of where dalits and tribals belonged. On the eve of the Morley-Minto reforms in 1909 the Muslim League objected to the Congress’ taking them for granted as Hindus. It seeded the political space for the dalits in future to claim their separate identity and use it to bargain for their rights. The descent of Ambedkar, endowed with high academic accomplishments, as the dalit leader greatly accelerated this process. His main contributions have been in catapulting the caste question into the political arena, winning the dalits certain special rights such as reservations, theorizations of their struggles, and providing vision of emancipation.
The most significant measure that is entirely attributable to him is the scheme of reservations. Ambedkar won the dalits reservations with separate electorates in the Round Table Confernces during 1931-32 in contention with Gandhi. He was, however, blackmailed into giving up separate electorates by Gandhi with his fast unto death. The Poona Pact that symbolized the new agreement contained the principles of preferential recruitment of dalits in public services and other necessary things from the viewpoint of their uptliftment. In course, reservations in political representation, educational institutions and in public services (in 1943 when Ambedkar was a member in the Viceroy’s Executive Council) were established. The main justification of this ‘affirmative action’ was the exclusion suffered by the dalits in the Hindu society. They were accepted by the colonial rulers as an exceptional policy in favour of the exceptional people and were also largely reconciled by the populace. The significant development that happened for instituting these policies was the creation of a schedule that included all the untouchable people, imparting them a new administrative/political identity as scheduled castes. There was no back reference to the Hindu religious texts or customs necessary in future, thereby rendering the castes as such redundant.
When the reins of power came into the hands of the native upper caste-class elites, then represented by the Congress Party, they resorted to their Brahmanic cunning lain over the learning from colonial masters. The constituent assembly set up in accordance with the cabinet mission plan with the representatives elected by the provisional assemblies formed through the elections in July-August 1946 had to deal with the aspirations of masses, built up by the Congress during the freedom struggle. Way back in in 1928, under the Nehru committee, the Congress had resolved to undo untouchability. Later, in 1936, the Congress had decided to have a socialist system inspired by the constitution of Soviet Russia. Behind this mass façade, the Congress at its core remained the representative of the interests of the incipient bourgeoisie like Kuomintang in China during the same period. After gaining power, while it tried to keep up this façade, in reality it began surreptitiously but systematically pushing for the development in the interests of the capitalists as could be seen from its clandestine adoption of Bombay Plan (An investment plan prepared by the eight big capitalists during January 1944 for a period of 15 years in the post-colonial India, with the objective of doubling the GDP and trebling the per capita income) while rejecting it in public. In the context of castes, the constituent assembly took a decision to outlaw untouchability with much fanfare and amidst the slogan ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai’. It was indeed a victory to strategist Gandhi as he best represented all the upper caste reformers who wanted to abolish untouchability but variously defended castes. Untouchability, however, was a mere aspect of caste; it could not go away if the castes existed. There was a clear opportunity for the new ruling classes to outlaw caste itself. With castes gone, untouchability would automatically vanish. As could be experienced, nothing happened with the untouchability law as survey after surveys, right from the 1950s to just the present day (NCAER report) reveal.
Castes were not abolished ostensibly for giving reservations to the dalits. While theoretically, it may be conceded that the constituent assembly could do away reservations for the dalits that came through colonial times, none little versed with politics would dare say so. The constituent assembly expectedly adopted the 1936 schedule and continued with the reservations to the dalits but not without a mischief. It created another schedule for the tribals and extended the ditto provisions to them as were given to the scheduled castes. In doing this, it skillfully projected reservations as the only measure of social justice. Notwithstanding the fact that the tribals also were excluded like dalits, albeit not stigmatized socially, and therefore deserved reservations like dalits, the natural solution could have been to expand the existing schedule to include the tribals. By so doing the stigma associated with the schedule for the Dalits could have been diluted as the tribals did not have castes. It would have greatly aided the objective of eradicating untouchability if it honestly meant it. But it was not to be. There were many other problems too in creating this schedule. Foremost, there was no indisputable criterion like untouchability to identify tribals. Many a well-off caste managed to get them included into the schedule and deprived the real tribals of its intended benefits. It is an empirical fact that the entire benefit of the ‘scheduled tribes’ is bagged by these fake ‘tribes’ keeping the real tribals high and dry to take up guns. The ruling classes haven’t even stopped at that. They would create a vague provision that the state would identify the ‘backward classes’ (read castes) so as to extend similar provisions in future. They were to seed the reservations for the so called Backward classes but in reality was meant to construct a can of caste-worms the lid of which could be opened at an opportune time in future. As we see, the Prime Minister, V.P. Singh opened the lid in 1990 and unleashed the caste worms all over, castizing the country as never before.
The entire schema about castes being kept alive comes out clear when we see similar scheming around religion, the other weapon to divide people. The constitution scrupulously avoided the term secular that could create a separating wall between religion and politics with an alibi to have space for the state to carry out religion-related reforms. The only reform, seen with hindsight, that one could imagine was in the form of passing the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 in the wake of the burning of Roop Kanwar on her husband’s pyre. It is important to understand these matters to uncover the real strategies of the rulers in devising multiple layers of fortifications over castes.
Notwithstanding huge scholarly interest in caste in recent years, there is huge intellectual inertia in understanding them. Castes today are not the classical castes representing graded inequality. Actually, castes today are reduced to their primordial kink in continuum: dalit versus non-dalits. With the advent of capitalism the ritual aspects of castes have been fast weakening in direct proportion to the degree of interface the castes had with the capitalist system. The traditional ritual differences would come in the way of building supply chain relationships, thereby tending to increase transaction costs. Moreover, the rational base of capitalism also acted against the ritualistic systems. Therefore, the castes in urban areas that entered the sphere of capitalist relations began gradually dropping the ritualistic aspects of castes. It happened with the dwija castes. There is no necessity in caste context that all people belonging to a caste or caste group have such an interface. It may typically happen to a few families but the entire caste would emulate them as the leading elements of caste. When during the first decades of independence, the ruling classes carried out Land Reforms and brought in the capitalist strategy of Green Revolutions, in the name of giving land to the tillers and boosting agricultural productivity, respectively, but in reality to create a class of rich farmers in rural India that would stay as an ally of the center, the phenomenon extended to the shudra castes.
With the capitalist relations entering the country side, the bandwagon of the shudra castes also got hitched to the dwija castes. As for the dalits, these developments proved utterly detrimental. The traditional jajmani relations of interdependence collapsed under the onslaught of capitalist relations, reducing the dalits to be the rural proletariat, utterly dependent on the farm wages by the rich farmers. The latter wielding the baton of Brahmanism from the erstwhile upper caste landlords, who fled to the greener pastures in the urban areas, proved far more atrocious than the ones before because of the backing of overwhelming numbers of their castemen and their lack of cultural sophistication. The conflict over farm wages between the dalit labourers and the shudra farmers began to manifest through the familiar faultlines of castes creating a new genre of caste atrocities. Kilvenmeni, a village in old Tanjavur district classically inaugurated this new phenomenon. On 25 December 1968, the landlords along with their army attacked the agitating dalits and burnt 44 of them (mainly their women and children) alive. The saga of these atrocities continues unabated and unacknowledged by our bankrupt scholarship as characterizing changes in castes!
On the one hand, the majority of dalits in rural area (they are predominantly a rural people) suffered dual prospect of marginalization and repression by the new ‘Barhmans’ and on the other, they were seen as the undeserving beneficiaries of the state largesse. Their cultural awakening due largely to the Ambedkarite movement reinforced this perception. There is a widespread grudge against dalits in rural population. The politicians keep on announcing a plethora of schemes and keeping the fire alive. These schemes, if at all, benefit a typical minority of better off dalits but are propagandized in the name of entire people. As a matter of fact, reservations, as they have been formulated, benefitted only the relatively better-off dalits and thereafter kept on benefitting only them, increasingly excluding the needy ones. They have rather acted against the interests of majority of dalits. If one took an objective stock of this policy, the people it benefitted in terms of economic uplift may be less than 10 percent. However, the brunt of reservations is borne by the rest 90 percent of dalits in rural areas who can never dream of availing them. As I explained the mechanism of caste atrocities in my books , Khairlanji and Persistence of Castes, the pervasive grudge against dalits acts as fuel, which with the presence of systemic impunity (oxygen) can easily precipitate into a gory caste atrocity with a minor spark (source of ignition) explained with an analogy if fire triangle.
Dalits today are the sole prop of castes which cannot be afforded by the ruling classes to die. They may allow a section of them to be capitalist (as they indeed are promoting so called Dalit Capitalism) so as to neutralize potential resistance of dalits to their social Darwinist neoliberal policies but will not permit the same logic of capitalist relations to permeate the dalit masses. This feat is achieved through the instrument of reservations that preserves their dalithood. Interestingly, the bunch that flaunts their ‘coming of age’ as job givers and not job seekers also are sustained by reservations. The state that never listened to even the agonizing cries of dalit masses has picked up whispers of this bunch and promptly reserved a 4 percent of the SME quota for them. Tomorrow, the cost of this development also shall be borne by ordinary dalit masses.
Reservations as the Bane
Reservations have been used dexterously by the ruling classes in decimating dalit, which was a quasi class category Ambedkar conceived. Reservations as stated before benefitted a relatively tiny section of better-off dalits, who invariably belong to the most populous dalit castes anywhere. There is a material reason for it. The most populous dalit castes, because of their ‘excess' population could not be absorbed within a village system with any specific caste vocation. As a result, they have reflected most enterprising tendency in grabbing opportunities in history. As they did not have any stake in the village system, they were the first ones to go out. It follows that they were the ones who came to constitute the dalit movement. By the same logic, they grabbed better share of reservation when they came in. Over the years, this was gradually grudged by the other castes among dalits which could not stand in competition with them. The politicians rushed to cash in on this grudge. They could easily incite the next populous dalit castes to demand their due share of reservation as per their population. As a matter of fact (as I showed in many of my analyses) even among the most populous dalit castes, all people have not benefitted equally. When caste is taken as a unit, the most populous caste appears to have grabbed most of the reservation. In terms of family, (which I had proposed to be a viable unit as it is family—an immediate family—that really benefits if a member gets reservation benefits) my hunch is that the situation across the castes may be the same. But reservation has never been subject to amy such objective analysis. Today, this categorization demand, which had started in Andhra Pradesh in 1995 by the Madigas there (through their Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti) has spread all other states, making Ambedkar’s dalits as the most casteist community.
Reservations have distorted the entire politics in the country. They have been taken for granted as benefit by dalits, who never counted costs paid for it. Indeed, dalits have paid huge costs – psychological costs of killing one’s self esteem right in the childhood, living with social stigma for the entire life; depoliticization of the advanced elements of dalits (as they land up in the public services where politics is banned), questionably benefiting a few but definitely costing the majority, incurring the grudge of the entire society, and distortion and marginalization of the fundamental obligation of the state in terms of providing basic inputs like health care, education, jobs, land, etc. to the population, to recount the broad ones. Reservation-like policy could only be valid if the state has fulfilled its minimal obligations towards all. There have been numerous such deficiencies with reservation policy as it is designed and operated. I have been writing about them over many years (you may refer “On Reservations” in Mainstream, easily accessible on the net) but without much reception.
The concept of reservation was a product of representation strategy of Ambedkar. He thought that if dalit representatives reach legislative bodies, they would take care of political interests of dalit masses. Likewise, he expected dalits, endowed with higher education, to occupy important positions in bureaucracy to create a protective cover over the dalit masses from the bureaucratic bias and possibly help them. He experienced the folly of this strategy in his own life time insofar as he could never win an election in independence India. He painfully realized that the political reservations had turned out to be more beneficial to the ruling classes than to the dalits. It only produced the ‘stooges’ to use Kanshiram’s language. It is a proof enough that the political reservations which were meant only for initial ten years get automatically renewed before their expiry, without anybody especially asking for them. Ambedkar had similar experience even with reservations in public employment. He found that the beneficiaries of them were engrossed with their own promotion and betterment of their families. It was this realization that he vented off in a public meeting in Agra in 1953 saying that the educated people had cheated him.
While reservations are grudged by the non-dalit masses, this grudge is accentuated by treating them as holy cow by politicians. As far as they could be attributed to Ambedkar, with his iconization and glorification, as it has been happening in recent years, they killed many birds with a single stone. They wooed dalits by titillating their identitarian pride and correspondingly intensifed the grudge in non-dalit population. This may be roughly correlated with the increasing atrocity numbers. Politicians of all hues, including the parliamentary left (they essentially follow the same grammar as any ruling class party for winning the electoral race in the first-past-the-post type of elections) and even the revolutionary left. The latter is certainly surprising and one would wish to imagine that it is just because of the understanding deficit on their part. But unfortunately one cannot ignore the aspect of wooing dalits even among them. More unfortunate in their case is the ideological laziness that accepts any reservation as progressive and pro-poor. As reservations have become a ‘holy cow’ for politicians, for dalits, they are an irrational emotional issue. For instance, I have been telling them that the public employment had reached its peak in 1997 and since then it has been consistently declining declining. Over the first decade (i.e. up to 2007), there was a decline of over 1.7 million jobs over a base of 19.7 million. It clearly indicates that reservations in net terms had come to an end right in 1997 itself. Paradoxically, only after this decline set in, the clamour for reservations virtually by all castes, has reached its zenith. Dalits, anyway, would not like to listen to it as many of them engaged in pseudo-activism would find themselves jobless.
It is therefore that once I said that the day dalits come out and declare that they do not want reservation, that day will be the beginning of the Indian revolution.
Class Analysis and Castes
The ‘class-caste’ duality came into being with the communists coming on to the scene. They typically belonged to upper caste educated middle class youth dreaming of a revolution in India inspired by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917. They were fed on the secondary sources of literature which was smuggled into the country. As such there was neither an adequate understanding of the philosophical framework of Marxism, much less the nuanced understanding of its formulations. What guided their actions was the youthful romanticism about revolution. They jumped on to organize the workers in the urban industrial centers with stereotypical understanding that they were the proletariat who had nothing to lose but their chains. The environmental problem of castes that excluded almost half the population did not bother them. They convinced themselves that it was a superstructural matter drawing support from a metaphorical dictum of Marx, blissfully ignorant about the follow up on it that made both Marx and Engels to regret it. The dictum informed them that once the material (read economic) structure is revolutionized, the superstructure would ‘automatically’ confirm to it. Truly speaking it reflected a Brahmanic attitude of taking the word as sacred, a ved vakya syndrome. The words that reached them, they followed literally. The Brahmanic inertia in realizing the misery of the lower castes also played a role. And Brahmanic arrogance about their own ‘knowledge and wisdom’ added fuel to fire. The birth of idiocy was thus nevitable.
While castes are not a class they were not entirely different either. Ambedkar’s understanding that they were the enclosed classes was far superior compared to theirs. The simple thing to understand was that if castes were the life-word of people, how they could be excluded in the possible class analysis. It was gravest error to think that they were mere religious-cultural matter that belonged to superstructure. Unfortunately, even Ambedkar in his enthusiasm to prove them wrong came to support them when he argued in his celebrated text of Annihilation of Caste that religious revolutions always preceded political revolutions. Even when they (communists) confronted castes in practice, they shied away from correcting themselves and preferred to keep away from the monster. The case in point is the Girni Kamgar Union under their leadership (SA Dange, one of the stalwarts of communist movement was the secretary of the union) which did not take any note of exclusion of the dalit workers from the better paying jobs in weaving section of the mill and the blatant practice of untouchability in keeping separate pitchers for drinking water for dalits. Even when Ambedkar challenged them over the issue, it was not corrected. The communists, informed by their understanding that the caste issue was a superstructural matter, not only kept themselves away but also ridiculed Ambedkar for belabouring a non-issue. The other factor beneath their behavior was the fear of displeasing the non-dalit workers who were in larger number, reflecting the embryonic attitude that would that would dominate their politics when they entered parliamentary system..
What could have been done?
Class is a pivotal category in Marxism but Marx or Engels did not give its precise definition as for many such terms in their writings. The basic theme was that there could not be possible definition of such categories or constructs lest they should be inapplicable to some other social systems that they were not familiar with. It is not to say that they left any ambiguity about what they meant. In various historical contexts they discussed classes which make it clear that classes were to be conceived in concrete social conditions obtaining in a space and time. Marxist-Leninists hold that a person’s social class is determined not by the amount of his wealth, but by the source of his income as determined by his relation to labour and to the means of production. Lenin, who had to translate Marxism into practice to bring about revolution in Russia necessarily had to define class as follows:
“Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and their mode of acquiring it”. (Vladimir I. Lenin: 'A Great Beginning: Heroism of the Workers in the Rear: 'Communist Subbotniks' in: Collected Works, Volume 29; Moscow; 1965; p. 421).
To Marxist-Leninists, therefore, the class to which a person belongs is determined by objective reality, not by someone’s opinion. What was the objective reality of India then? If one goes by the above definition, one would necessarily come closer to consider castes themselves as classes. Are dalits, for instance, not differing from non-dalits ‘by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by law—law of Manu (?)) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and their mode of acquiring it’? This perhaps is the sense in which Ambedkar said that the castes were the enclosed classes. But there is obvious difficulty in considering dalits as class because the law which made them different from non-dalits also could apply to the castes within them. While class potentially brings people together, caste tends to divide them by seeking hierarchy. Therefore they do not become a class. Moreover, the classes are to be conceived in relation to the dominant mode of production wherein the caste would lose their salience. Therefore, class analysis in the caste society should necessarily subsume castes. For example, proletariat would include most of the shudras and dalits but they would not be automatically a class until the caste contradiction between them is not eradicated. Therefore, the process of class consolidation should embed the anti-caste struggles. If this had been done in the 1920s, the need for the separate dalit movement itself could have been eliminated. It would have given real fillip to the anti-caste struggle accomplishing the annihilation of caste. It may sound exaggeration today, but this approach would have made Indian revolution a reality much before China.
What Can Be Done Now?
As discussed, both movements—dalit as well as communist—have their share of wrongs committed during the last centuries. The wrongs by the communists, however, certainly outweigh those of the dalits. Dalit movement confronted a unique issue and was juggling with theorizing and strategizing its struggle. It was thus an original exercise in which errors were natural. But the communists had a grand theory of Marxism to guide and the task was just to apply it in the concrete condition of Indian society. The errors therefore were expected to be minimal. But looking back, they were not even errors; they were blunders. The blunder related to ignoring the almost one-fifth of the population that could be the organic proletariat. The dictum of the dalit movement (given by Ambedkar) was not incorrect when he said that whatever path one traversed in India, one necessarily crossed the path of castes. The communists of all hues today have reluctantly come to terms that castes are a part of structure as well as superstructure, and hence deserved attention of the revolutionists; they just reflect a tailist tendency. Why can’t they discard the useless metaphor of structure-superstructure that has done more harm than good to the communist movement right since its birth?
Dalit movement, today equally dilapidated, failed to provide any solution to dalits. Contrary to the slogan of ‘annihilation of caste’ the dalits are out to strengthen castes and have already descended to the sub-caste levels. Ambedkar’s vision of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity is in shatters today. The political democracy that he imagined was established by the constitution itself is in question. It is only a notion of ‘one man, one vote, one value’ that is not even valid in rituals of elections. The economic and social democracies have been the chimera. He had famously warned that if they were not achieved soonest, the victims would blast off the structure of political democracy. Even this warning of him failed to materialize. Indian democracy neither flourished nor perished and has only limped along with its burden of contradictions. Ambedkar’s other solution such as conversion to Buddhism also yielded questionable result. The greatest contra-evidence is that castes are kicking as never before, untouchability is intact, and the condition of dalits, measured in terms of relative distance between them and others, is perhaps worse than when they kicked off the dalit movement. Then they had a hope, today they do not have any.
In such a hopeless situation, how does one look at castes? There should be no doubt that without annihilation of castes, there is no radical future for India. It should also be clear that annihilation of castes is impossible to accomplish only by dalits hampering upon castes. Unless masses of broad people realize the fact that their radical emancipation is not possible without eradication of castes, it would stay as distant goal. Annihilation of castes in this sense is an integral part of the Indian revolution. Those who tend to consider and contrast caste against class must understand that caste is a poisonous category unlike any other. Its fundamental property is seeking hierarchy. Therefore, it knows only to split; split ad infinitum like amoeba. It is incapable of uniting. It should therefore be clear that no radical movement can be articulated on the basis of castes. Even for annihilation of castes, class is inevitable. The caste question is an integral part of the class question and they cannot and should not be spoken in dual terms.
Necessarily, it demands coming together of the communist and dalit movements. In the current situation it may sound like a wishful thinking. But unfortunately there is no option than working for it. Since, the communists had blundered more; they must take an initiative in this regard. Apart from their failure to understand and analyse Indian society, the Brahmanical arrogance and superiority complex of the early communists had played a big role in alienating the dalit movement. The divide between them has gone deep enough and there developed vested interests in deepening it further (many educated Dalits vehemently treating communists as enemy number one), there are even opportunities emerging out of the intensifying crisis of living. The prerequisite in availing of these opportunities however is reestablishing dialogue with the dalit movement. This may only be done if the communists honestly admit their mistakes demonstrate their new understanding of the caste situation. While this may be necessary for moving closer to the dalits, it is in no way sufficient to get them into struggle.
The communists need to discard their dogma and rethink their theories and practice in light of the fast changing world. While the core of their theory still holds good, many a derivatives need critical examination. All this need to lead to a viable strategy in face of fascized and militarized states. Unless they convince dalits or for that matter any people that they can win them a better world, their project may be a non-starter.
5. GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL CRISES: SUSTAINABILTY & EQUITY ISSUES
- Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha / India-Climate-Justice.
Human beings, or rather, their dominant economic-industrial systems have started to change the earth in major ways, leading many observers and thinkers to accept that we are into the new age of “Anthropocene” – a new chapter in the ongoing “Holocene”, or a time when human society is the most dominant influence on what happens on the earth’s surface and even in the water of the Oceans. Over the last four and half decades, the world community of nations were forced to repeatedly take stock of the deteriorating state of the Earth’s natural systems, often called the eco-system(s). Starting from the 1972 Stockholm conference, this ‘environmental’ concern has taken on some importance even as a global political action agenda, from being a “mere environmental issue”. Twenty years later, one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders on issues related to progress of the human race without endangering its future survival (and that of the rest the so called first Earth Summit, was held in 1992, and the increasingly critical nature of the multiple degradations were recognized. This recognition gave rise to a slew of “global compacts”, mainly the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The Earth Summit was also soon after the global capitalist euphoria of the successful dismantling of the Soviet Union, or as claimed – realization of ‘the end of history’. After another decade, the world again gathered at Johannesburg in 2002, to take stock of how far we have travelled on that road, but the assessment was rather disappointing. The Johannesburg summit came at a time when even the ‘practitioners of the alternative’ succumbed to the ‘shock & awe’ of the western capitalist juggernaut. From now on, no more social-cultural experiments or alternatives need be attempted by humanity ! From now on, the western model of privatized, corporatized ‘liberal democracy’ will deliver all the results, for everyone ! Another decade was about to pass, but the 1992 Earth Summit’s reasonably worked out Agenda 21, even the half-hearted Millennium Development Goals – all seemed to be getting lost in the din of unbridled market capitalism and the panacea offered by liberalization-privatization-globalization.
The human-planet has changed considerably since that first Earth Summit in 1992, and in not so hidden corners of the world – distress and anger at the killing exploitations and mind boggling disparities have grown to become a perceived threat the established world order. It was not only the “environment” that was gasping for breath. The economically and socially poorer sections of humanity also were getting the hard end of the stick in ever increasing manner. The gains of improved labour conditions in industries were being neutralized – often reversed – by increasingly exploitative “out-sourcing” accompanied by informalization of labour, and by the law-bending increase of “special Economic Zones” in many developing countries. The world has changed somewhat again, and in not so hidden corners of the world – distress and anger at the killing-exploitations and mind boggling disparities have grown to become a perceived threat to the established world order. After the 2007-08 economic meltdown, millions of people even in the developed world are now questioning many of these magic mantras. The unquestioning acceptance of the private corporations, and their intentions and abilities to deliver capitalistic growth oriented ‘development’, is no longer wide-spread. No one could possibly have foreseen the spread of the Occupy movement in the heartland of capitalism, though the real picture & driving force of the so-called ‘Arab spring’ is not yet clear. The shining attraction of the Euro-zone has faded considerably. And the accelerated exploitation and marginalization of large sections of humanity – the indigenous, the disadvantaged women & children, the poor of the world, has given birth to innumerable resistance movements across the world, to some extent obliterating the North-South divide for the short-charged people. Unlike at any point of time in the past, the survival of deprived people is seen by the global society, as intricately connected to the survival of the earth’s eco-systems. This has also brought into focus the age-old understanding in indigenous societies – that of Rights & Needs of Mother Earth, into global recognition.
As the world accepts today, the capacities of the vital systems of the earth are now critically endangered by human production-consumption-waste generation activities in this endless-growth oriented consumerist world. The water cycle in many parts of the world are stressed to provide sufficient fresh water as we are consuming and polluting at a rate much higher than the natural regeneration rate, the carbon cycle is unable to absorb even 40% of all anthropogenic (human origin) carbon dioxide emissions to keep the climate stable, the rate of extinction of biological species has gone up nearly 100 times the natural background species extinction rate – threatening global biodiversity which is vital for our survival. The phosphorus and Nitrogen cycles are near breaking points. That most vital life-nurturer - the Oceans are getting dangerously acidic and polluted….. The Nine Planetary boundaries (figure below) are at different stages of disintegration, all because the high consumption human societies won’t limit either their resource consumption or the resulting pollution of air, water and soil. Only in the case of Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, we seem to have taken strong enough action (through the implementation of the Montreal Protocol, by phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances) to stop the degradation and start the slow process of recovery of the life-shielding ‘ozone layer’.
F1 :Planetary boundaries being pushed to the limits – Stockholm Resilience Centre.
The composite index of Ecological Footprint (originating from the work of William Rees and his research student Mathis Wackernagel, in 1990-1994) – meaning how much area on the earth, land wilderness and ocean - we as human society need to provide for all our current ‘resource’ consumption and to recycle all our wastes, has been calculated to be over 1.7 times the entire area of the Earth, including Oceans (calculated by The Global Footprint Network)! That means, we are consuming not only more than what the entire earth generates every year, but also eating up those ecological support systems which functions as these regenerators, roughly like spending from the bank fixed deposits rather than from the interest (only in this case, the ‘bank’ is mother earth, and many of us will die if her life-support erodes significantly). There was a study done last year (2015) which showed that by August 2014, we humans had consumed the entire primary provisions and regeneration done by the entire earth for the full year of 2014, and for the rest of the four months – the Earth was being literally eaten away by us. This scale of consumption and waste generation by only one species, us the Homo sapiens, is clearly not sustainable by any means. And there are numerous other life forms (over 1.9 million other known species, and possibly another 6-8 million still unknown) that also depend and have a right to these resources generated by mother Earth, and are now greatly stressed as a result of our overconsumption and waste-borne pollution.
Water :Even amongst the human species, there are hugely discriminatory deprivations and stresses. We all agree that fresh water is one of the most essential life support need, and yet – well over 300 crore people (out of the 720 crore global population) are water stressed for a fair part of the year. Recent research shows that over 50 crore people live in areas where the annual renewable water availability is less than half the water they consume. The figure below (from greenfieldgeography.wikispaces.com)clearly shows that a large part of the world’s people live in either water stressed or water scarce areas, and most of these are in the poorer ‘southern’ countries. And even where there water is available, many poorer people are/ will be facing water stress because of commodification and privatization of water and their inability to pay the ‘price’ that the market demands (economic scarcity).
F2 : Well over three-fourths of world population will be water stressed by 2025.
Clean Air : None of us can live without enough oxygen-rich clean air, yet the global industrial production system is dumping so much toxic pollutants in our common atmosphere that an estimated 55 lakh people died of air pollution in 2013 (Global Burden of Diseases study), and about 10 times that number suffering health problems due to polluted air.
F 3 : Air pollution impacts a huge no of people
Food is the most vital energy source for all life, and yet, nearly 100 crore people in the world sleep hungry every night, slowly wasting away their capacities to work, to create a better world. These include many small farmers who produce the food in the first place ! Right levels of nutrition during childhood is a key for human development, and yet nearly 45% of Indian children under the age of six are malnourished, a percentage figure higher than desperately poor sub-Saharan Africa !The map below (from risk analysis firm Maplecroft) shows again that it is mostly people in the poorer countries who face the highest food security risks.
F 4 : People of poorer countries faces by far the highest food security risks.
Unsustainable and Unequal Ecological Footprint : In trying to analyse the root causes of these massive problems creating an unsustainable world, many western scholars and institutions, even many in the developing world – have pointed to the rising population as a primary driver. While there is a relation between more people and more demands of resources and more waste generation, it is not a linear relation, and population (no of people) is not the primary contributor to this unsustainable consumption and pollution, it is the Lifestyle consumption of the rich which is to blame. Take Ecological Footprint (EFP) as the all encompassing index – the 31 crore Americans (310 million US residents) have a collective EFP of about 254 crore Global Hectares (GHa - the standard measure of EFP), while the 127 crore Indians together had an EFP of about 125 crore global hectares, or half of a country with one-fourth the people ! In other words, an average American consumes vital resources, pollutes and destroys nature roughly at the rate of eight (8) times an average Indian. While an average American had 8 GHa of EFP, the equitable global availability was about 1.8 GHa per person. Clearly it is not the ‘blame-it-for-everything’ population, but consumptive lifestyle of the rich that is at fault. Even in a ‘clean country’ like Canada, the average resident has an EFP seven times of an average Indian.
Land :Talking about land, land based agriculture is still the mainstay of a majority of rural people in poorer countries, with the world rural population still at 46%, and south-Asia having 67% of its people living in villages. For about 65% of south-Asian people, farming is the primary livelihood source, but the availability of arable land (in hectares per person) has gone down sharply over the last 55 years, and is projected to decrease even further (graph below from FAO 2009)– showing their increasing marginalization compared to better off urban people. This become more acute when we consider that in the richer OECD countries, less than 20% of the population lives in villages, with less than half that depending on agriculture for livelihoods. This decline is not only for a population increase, but also because of large scale farm land grab in the name of mining, industrialisation, dams, urbanization etc. Even in India, agricultural income has sharply declined from over 25% of national GDP in early 1990s to about 14% now, while the number of people dependent on agricultural livelihoods is about 56%.
F 5 : Agricultural land availability sharply declines in per person term.
If we think of water, while an average American consumes over 1620 cubic meters of this life giving ‘resource’, countries like Syria, Sudan, Somalia and several others in Africa faces huge conflicts largely due to lack of water, at less than 600-800 Cubic meters per person per year (the UN defines water scarcity at below 1000 CuM/yr per capita). Again it is not the population figure, but the lifestyle consumption which is driving the water unsustainability. Since 1950, the world population doubled, but the water use more than tripled, largely due to lifestyle consumption.
Energy : If we look at the primary driver of world economy and the largest source of world pollution, energy – and look at the past century (1901-2000), the population increased by a little less than four (4) times, while the energy consumption increased by over 22 times (with its attendant pollution) ! Energy extraction, conversion, transmission and use have a dual impact – it is both an essential enabler for basic human development – putting the deprived at a disadvantage, while having large adverse impacts on both ecology and society. As the figure below shows, the hugely skewed energy consumption figures in favour of the rich countries is putting the poorer communities to face both sharp ends of this sword – deprivation and pollution.
F6 :Per person energy consumption/availability between countries vary over 50 times !
Life-style :If we consider life-style food consumption patterns, the large meat consumption of US and Latin American (also African) people (in per capita per year basis), at 70-90 Kgs, cause a huge strain on water resources on countries rearing those meat-providing animals, as one-Kilogram of chicken needs over 3500 Kgs of water in comparison to about 1000 Kgs for one Kg of wheat, and roughly 500-700 Kg water for one Kg of vegetable. For Beef, the requirement is anywhere between 11000 to 13000 Kgs per Kg of meat ! And with increasing wealth, meat consumption is increasing in countries like India too. Lifestyles again to blame.and if we are at all serious about sustaining the earth’s life support systems for our future generations, we must drastically reduce the global consumption and waste generation, with a measure of equitable access to earth’s resources ensured.
Livelihoods :This high-consumption, earth-destroying lifestyles are also causing another huge unsustainability, that of destroying low-impact, sustainable livelihoods that a majority of developing country people practiced for decades and centuries. About 56% of India’s 127 crore people are still dependent on farming livelihoods, with about 60% of these based on rain-fed agriculture. More frequent climate change induced stresses (increasing because of consumption led greenhouse gas emissions) and global-warming driven hydro-meteorological disasters (like increasingly frequent droughts and floods) are causing huge losses to many of these farmers, often leading to large scale farmer suicides. There are about 1.1 crore coastal fisher people in India, with a reasonably well off and least-polluting economic activity, which also provides a large source of protein to many. The ever-increasing demand/ consumption for/of electricity is leading to large no of coastal coal power plants being established in India, and their massive toxic discharges have turned many fish-rich coastal belts into low-life watery deserts, rendering once thriving livelihoods of these fisher people into highly uncertain income generating option. Another classic example of how high consumption lifestyles are destroying thriving, sustainable livelihoods.
Climate Change &Disasters : This is an overarching issue, with its impacts felt in many areas of human enterprise. There are two kinds of major direct impacts of the global-warming driven climate change –a) extreme events like tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall events, massive droughts, polar ice-shelf breakups, heavy flooding etc, and b) slow onset events like loss of crop production due to higher prevailing temperature, reduction of water resources as less precipitation becomes common, forests becoming less productive due to temperature-humidity regime, increase of pests etc. The first category has received some media and public attention due to the immediately visible sufferings of large number of people, but the second category of impacts might be more damaging in the long run.
There is third category on adverse impacts, indirect ones – that of the damages caused by the false solutions to tackle climate change floated by global businesses and often supported by governments. The massive displacements and loss of farm lands, forests, homes etc. due to dams have recently been justified by claiming that hydro-electricity is a “low-carbon clean energy”, which is not true. Nuclear power is being pushed again with the same logic of “low-carbon energy”. Indigenous and traditional forest dwellers rights are being encroached upon /curtailed in the name of protecting and enhancing forests as carbon sinks. Millions of hectares of forests – where many communities were living for generations, have been cleared for commercial plantations to produce ethanol and bio-diesel, as “green-fuels”.
Climate Change is such a large and interconnected area, that it will need a separate paper just to introduce all the essential elements, so that will have to wait for another occasion (interested readers can also refer to several books written or majorly contributed to by this author, including the – “Climate Change and India : Political Economy and Impacts”, published by Daanish Books with Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung). Here let me conclude by just giving an idea of how severe the problem of climate induced disasters are becoming. In the early seventies, roughly 1400 people in every 100,000 used to get affected by climate extreme events each year, By the year 2011, that figure has risen to around 3600, or an increase to over 250%. Not all “natural” disasters are climate change driven (like earthquakes are not), but a look at the graph from UN International Strategy for Disaster reduction (F7 below) clearly shows that the largest numbers and the fastest rising types of disasters are those that are called Hydro-Meteorological, and these are climate driven, like big floods and strong storms, with extreme temperature events (severe heat waves – like large parts of India is facing now in April 2016)) also showing significant rising trend.
F7 : Number of Climate Change driven hydro-meteorological disasters rising fast.
A study by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) released in Oct.2012, has reached this conclusion – “Over the past two years, 700 natural disasters were registered worldwide affecting more than 450 million (45 crore) people. Damages have risen from an estimated $20 billion (Rs.124000 crore) on average per year in the 1990s to about $100 billion (Rs.660000 crore – this is an amount roughly equalling 70% of the entire revenue collection by the Govt of India in 2013) per year during 2000–10. This upward trend is expected to continue as a result of the rising concentration of people living in areas more exposed to natural disasters, and climate change.”
Sustainable Developmentdebates : a very brief introduction : It is now crystal clear that if we are at all serious about sustaining the earth’s life support systems for our future generations, we must drastically reduce the global consumption and waste generation, with a measure of equitable access to earth’s resources ensured – not only amongst this single dominant species and in this generation, but ensuring inter-generational and inter-species equity. Facing and recognizing these massive degradations of the earth’s ecosystems and in the lives of its less advantaged people, the world community of governments were forced to look into the questions of sustainability and equity, and took some steps.
The global debate about sustainable development is many decades old but got into the political centre-stage only with the 1972 Stockholm conference on Environment and Development. The landmark report – “the Limits to Growth”, released in 1972 by the global think-tank ‘The Club of Rome’, raised important issues about the blind pursuit of economic growth and its effects on the sustainability of the earth’s life-support system itself. The debate progressed and became better defined through the establishment by the UN of the World Commission on Environment & Development in 1983, the publication in 1987 of the ‘Brundtland Report’ (‘Report of the World Commission on Environment andDevelopment: Our Common Future’) and then the paradigm-defining 1992 Earth Summit in Rio-de-janeiro, where the ‘Agenda 21’ was adopted, focussing on preserving the environment while pursuing development. The Brundtland Report simply defines sustainable development as the capacity to fulfil today’s needs without damaging the capacity of the earth to serve the needs of future generations. This is just a macro expansion, without examining the intricacies and complexities of the earth’s ecosystems, but points to a desirable direction of “development”.
In the year 2000, the UN adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals, of which only Goal-7 (‘Ensure Environmental Sustainability’) talks explicitly about ecological sustainabilityvis-à-vis ‘development’, that too in somewhat vague terms. One important contribution of some of these global exercises is the firm inclusion of the concept that without a universally inclusive access-to-resources approach, recognizing the hugely increasing inequities and trying to address these, there can be no sustainable development.Another realization - that highly degraded natural ecosystems - with specially climate change are leading to increasing damages due to rapidly rising disasters, compounded by the rise of vulnerable places and vulnerable populations - forced the adoption of a disaster reduction framework, called the Hyogo Frameworkfor Action (HFA) in the year 2005.It is very sad that the shoddy implementation of all of these failed to either reduce the vulnerabilities or the damages, leading to both the environment getting more stressed and the lower half of global poor getting worse off.
Two decades after the first Earth Summit, in the Rio+20 second Earth Summit in 2012, facing increasing impacts of global ecological destruction and increasingly damaging climate change, the UN members realized that there can be no development without ensuring all round health of the earth’s eco-systems, and finalized the globally accepted (by the member governments of the UN) report titled “The Future We Want”. Here it was explicitly recognized that the prevailing (primarily economic) development goals should and could be tailored to an environmentally and socially sustainable development pathway. This is reflected in the key statement in the ‘The Future We Want’ document – “We recognize that the development of goals could also be useful for pursuing focused and coherent action on sustainable development”.Finally on the 25thof September 2015 – 43 years after the Stockholm conference that started the global debate - the United Nations General Assembly adopted the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its final document titled – “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Unfortunately (but perhaps as expected) for the world’s poor and the marginalized, the designs of these are centred on the same capitalistic, extractive, exploitative production oriented economic growth.
The adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN was preceded by the adoption, in March 2015, of another important element of sustainable development - a new global disaster reduction frame work, called the Sendai Framework, with the knowledge that without a strong Disaster Risk and Loss Reduction mechanism, many of the economic development gains are being destroyed by increasing disasters. The third major component for moving towards a sustainable development paradigm, a global treaty on limiting damaging global warming and climate change, was reached in December 2015, though with very serious questions about its adequacy or actionable elements, and is already being rejected by progressive sections of humanity. So, the challenge remains almost undiminished, and an informed, shared & connected global people’s action seems to be the only solution.
----------- Soumya Dutta :firstname.lastname@example.org
Results of assembly elections.
The two month long campaign for the elections to the five state assemblies, as we had pointed out repeatedly, was reduced to an absurd drama confined to allegations and counter allegations by the main contestants, the ruling class/regional/communal/ caste/ reformist parties. All of them colluded magnificently to keep central issues like price rise, unemployment, growing corruption in all fields, ecological destruction causing present unprecedented draught etc out of the election propaganda. While the BJP effectively used its Hindutua card for communal polarization of the voters, all others used communal/caste appeasement. Money and liquor power were lavishly used by all main players. To cap it all, in Bengal the CPI(M) went for an absolutely opportunist adjustment with the discredited Congress which destroyed the enthusiasm of its own cadres while benefitted the Congress to retain its hold.
The outcome of the elections show that the Congress by losing its two governments in Assam and Kerala has further weakened. It is now almost incapable to regain its long term status of the principal ruling class party, The BJP has replaced it now as the main ruling class party . The regional parties TMC and AIADMK could retain power in the absence of any other force to come forward as an effective alternative. In Kerala the incumbency factor against the unprecedentedly corrupt and anti-people Congress government and the secular polarization against the Hindutua card played by the BJP helped the KDF led by CPI(M) to handsomely win with a big majority. But by aligning with Congress in Bengal and not campaigning against the neoliberal policies which are devastating the people the CPI (M) and its front has further degenerated to opportunist positions and lost heavily in Bengal.
At this critical juncture, in order to fight the saffronization intensified by the RSS parivarusing the state power and the neoliberal policies on which all ruling parties at centre as well as in the states are united, the only possible alternative is the platform of the struggling left and democratic forces based on a common minimum program. It was based on this perspective they had contested the elections in Bengal, TN and Kerala. Let us strengthen this alternative in the coming days with more determination and vigour.