CPI(M)'s Smokescreen of the 'Compulsions' of Capitalism
On the occasion of the foundation day celebrations of Ganashakti, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya took the opportunity to air his favourite maxims about there being no alternative to capitalism in the present phase. In this context he defended his Government's policies of land-acquisition for industry, saying that the existing land-use patterns could not be the 'end of history' as imagined by the Opposition. Such statements are hardly new: Buddhadeb is fond of making identical statements every now and then, and the media is fond of contrasting this refreshingly 'reformed' Marxism with the views of so-called party 'hardliners' of the older generation. But this time what's new is that Buddha's views have received the blessings of CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu and explicit theoretical legitimisation by none less than the party General Secretary Prakash Karat. Jyoti babu, speaking to the press, said that socialism was the party's long-term agenda but capitalism was the compulsion for the present. Predictably, Buddha's and Basu's statements were greeted gleefully and gloatingly by the corporate media. Hardly surprisingly, the media and ruling class parties BJP and Congress, intent on dismissing socialism as a utopian pipe dream, interpreted CPI(M) leaders' statements on the compulsions of capitalism as a moral victory for their own ideology and a shot in the arm for corporate globalisation.
Then came Kerala CM VS Achutanandan's declaration (a transparent salvo against a rival faction in Kerala) that socialism was inevitable and attainable and "Those who support the ideology of capitalism will have to surely repent." At this point Prakash Karat stepped in with a clarification, in the form of a lecture of sorts on the CPI(M)'s programmatic understanding of socialism, capitalism, democratic revolution, and the role of communist state governments in a federal set-up.
Karat said that for BJP and Congress, "socialism is a smokescreen for promoting the interests of big capitalists and foreign capital". Granted. But is CPI(M)'s talk of the capitalist character of democratic revolution any less of a smokescreen for promoting the interests of the Tatas and Salems? What Buddha, Basu and Karat are aiming to do is to equate the task of democratic revolution with the West Bengal Government's industrial policy and with corporate land grab, in a mockery of Marxist theory.
Let's examine some of these propositions more closely. What are these statements really saying, beyond the banal assertion that it is impossible for state governments to usher in socialism in Bengal, Kerala or Tripura?
Buddhadeb had remarked that inviting corporate investment and MNCs is inevitable for industrial development in Bengal; since "We have to accept capitalism; where is State capital? This is being realistic in a situation where there is no alternative." Can Karat clarify for us: is Buddhadeb endorsing Congress' claim that State capital investment by the Nehruvian regime offered some sort of socialist alternative?! In an earlier statement, soon after his re-election as Chief Minister, Buddhadeb had said, "Without capitalism, you cannot bring socialism in a feudal society." Buddhadeb is saying that 'there is no alternative' but to embrace the policies of imperialist globalisation - but he is dressing up this surrender as a heroic revolutionary act of ushering in capitalism which will sweep away feudal remnants!
When Buddhadeb asserts that existing land-use patterns cannot be the 'end of history'; what he is saying is that land reforms and Operation Barga cannot be the end of CPI(M)'s history in Bengal - now the inexorable forward march of history must inevitably bring SEZs, forced land grab, reversal of land ceiling laws and dispossession and bullets for sharecroppers who stand in the way of this march of history.
Karat's clarification highlighted some key points of the CPI(M) party programme; let us examine them. First is the assertion that Left state governments "cannot build socialism but undertake alternative policies within the capitalist system." But exactly what alternative path or policy is the West Bengal Government offering? Far from an alternative, we have the Marxist CM peddling the 'TINA' logic in so many words.
Karat explains that state governments have "limited powers within the Constitution", so in a situation where the "Centre imposes neo-liberal policies", Left state governments have to undertake industrialisation and economic development "while protecting interests of workers and the poor." Unfortunately for Karat's argument, there is nothing but seamless unity between CPI(M)-ruled state governments and the UPA Govt, with CPI(M) being a key ally of the UPA Govt at the Centre. Far from struggling to pursue alternative policies in the teeth of a hostile Centre, or being compelled to adopt neo-liberal policies imposed by the Centre, we have Buddha's Bengal boasting to the corporates that it pioneered the SEZ policy - passing the WB SEZ Act in 2003 long before the Central SEZ Act 2005 was passed!
Now the CPI(M) no longer promises that its state governments will provide "relief" for the poor - just that it will "protect the interests of workers and the poor". But what's the fate of even this minimal promise? We find the CPI(M) Govt pampering the corporates, pouring out sops for the Tatas, branding the poor peasants who resist land grab as 'enemies of development' and brandishing batons and bullets against them. Even on the score of implementation of bourgeois reform measures like NREGS, W Bengal has one of the most dismal track records in the whole country, providing a token two days of employment instead of the promised 100 days in the whole year! Buddhadeb's remarks on capitalism are part of a package where he routinely advises restraint on part of trade unions and regrets trade union militancy as a 'mistake'.
Can we accept Buddhadeb's proposition that the "interests of the working class and the poor" in times of democratic revolution coincide with that of the Tatas and other corporates? For revolutionary communists, it is not enough to say that democratic revolution has a capitalist character; Lenin had distinguished between the bourgeois path and the peasant path to capitalist development. In contrast to the social democratic Mensheviks who advised the working class to take a back-seat and leave the driving seat to the bourgeoisie, Lenin insisted on worker-peasant leadership in the democratic revolution. He identified the peasantry as the progressive section of the bourgeoisie and natural ally of the working class against big capital. Thus, in the very struggle for democratic revolution, Lenin stressed the need to nurture the seeds of socialist revolution by maintaining the independence and class leadership of the proletariat.
What is furthering the struggle for democratic revolution; the struggle to throw off the feudal stranglehold and resist imperialism - the peasantry on the warpath against SEZs and land grab, or the capitalism led by Tatas and Salems? The CPI(M) is free to claim its sops to corporates and suppression of workers' and peasants' militancy as its contribution to the democratic revolution; but it failed to fool the sharecroppers of Singur and its own mass base among Nandigram's peasantry, and it cannot fool the Left ranks and the working people of this country.
One Year of the UPA Showpiece NREGS: CAG's Damning Draft Report
Below is an abridged version of a news report (Indian Express, January 6):
Building a " Republic of Work ," that's how the UPA government's latest advertisement showcases its most ambitious Rs 12,000-crore flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Under this, households in 200 of the poorest districts in the country are promised, by law, to a maximum of 100 days employment at wages not below Rs 60 per day. The first official reality check for the UPA has come in: barely 3.2 per cent of the registered households could avail of 100 days of employment in one year — between February 2006 and March 2007. And the average employment provided under the scheme was just 18 days.
This startling revelation comes after a six-month performance audit conducted in the field under the aegis of the Comptroller & Auditor General of the NREGS in 513 Gram Panchayats spread across 68 randomly selected districts from 26 states.
Its 91-page draft report highlights a slew of instances from all states of alleged corruption, inefficiency, diversion and misutilisation of funds and unreliable figures.
The Centre has sent this draft audit report — prepared by the Office of the Principal Director of Audit, Economic and Services Ministries — to the states for feedback which will be factored in the final report.
Even in the districts audited in Left-ruled Kerala, West Bengal , and Tripura, the average mandays generated during the year was eight days, two days, and five days respectively. In other words, as against the government's intention to provide an average income of about Rs 8000 per annum, rural households, on an average, received less than Rs 1500 a year. That the mess cuts across parties and states is evident in the audit report. Consider:
• In West Bengal, Rs 38.49 lakh cost was incurred for 20 works that don't exist.
• In Tamil Nadu, unemployment allowances were not paid in any of the villages on the ground that such contingency did not arise
• In Manipur, a total of 843 works were executed on the basis of "inflated estimates," resulting in avoidable expenditure of Rs 2.57 crore.
• In Jharkhand, ruled by a Congress-backed government, in violation of NREG rules, on the recommendation of six MLAs, 71 projects for Rs 5.14 crore were taken up (between March 2006 and May 2007) although none was approved by the Gram Sabhas nor in the annual plans. In 10 districts of the state, 6.10 lakh applicants were reported to have been provided employment against 0.70 lakh households.
• In Bihar, Rs 2.77 crore was paid during 2006-07 to unregistered labourers
• In Madhya Pradesh, 214 minors were employed for 462 days and paid wages of Rs 14.63 lakh
• In Orissa, Rs 11,521 was disbursed to seven deceased beneficiaries showing engagement even after their death. Rs 44,852 was paid to daughters of labourers living outside the district.
The audit has identified the key reasons behind the mismanagement: deficient financial management and tracking system, "inadequate" and "delayed" planning of the works, absence of authenticated books for records (a problem found in as many as 14 states), workers being paid wages lower than the minimum wage rate (11 states). Lack of "adequate administrative and technical manpower" at the local level is also marked as one of the main deficiencies affecting the implementation of the programme.
Lieutenant Governor of Delhi forced to beat retreat on mandatory I-Cards
In one way or another, working poor and migrant labourers in the capital, as well as people from religious and ethnic minorities, are at the mercy of constant police harassment, and feel insecure and threatened. Way back in the 90s, the BJP Government in Delhi proposed a scheme of mandatory ID cards in the capital city. In 1998, Advani as Home Minister had proposed an I-card for every Indian citizen, in the name of weeding out 'illegal immigrants'; and the MNIC project initiated by the NDA government in November 2003 was a move to out this into effect. And of course, in May last year, Shiela Dikshit had caused an uproar when she said that migrants from Bihar and UP were a burden on the resources of the capital city.
The latest move was the announcement by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Tejendra Khanna, that in order to intensify the security drive against terror threats before Republic Day, all residents of Delhi must acquire a photo ID card by January 15. He promised that 'action would be taken' against those who had no such ID, but was vague about what would be the nature of the action. Interestingly, this move has been taken by a Congress Government in Delhi at the same time that the Shiv Sena is demanding a similar move in Mumbai.
It is quite clear that the real intent of photo ID cards is never to tame terrorism, but to intimidate vulnerable sections of the population with the threat of being branded 'Bangladeshis', 'outsiders', 'suspects', in order to target and harass them. This xenophobic proposal is naturally a much-loved one of the BJP, which responded to the LG's proposal only by saying that it was welcome but 'impractical' given the short deadline.
The CPI(ML)'s Delhi State Committee issued a strongly worded statement demanding withdrawal of the ID-card order, saying that such moves were an "indication of the draconian nature of the state apparatus, whereby the onus is always on common people to prove themselves guilty while always being presumed guilty."
In the face of the public outcry against the LG's announcement, the CM Shiela Dikshit made a mockery of the Congress Government by claiming that she learnt of the move through the press! After an all-round uproar of protest the LG was forced to backtrack, saying that ID cards were not mandatory after all.
The ID card move might have backfired and therefore been withdrawn; but the fact is that the harassment faced at the hands of the police by the labouring poor, migrants and people from Kashmir and the North East is a constant feature in Delhi .
Workers' Meeting in Coimbatore
CPI(ML) organized a hall meeting in Coimbatore on 'Indian Revolution: Path Ahead' on January 6. The meeting was organized by the party members among the Pricol workers. They visited various big industries in Coimbatore , sporting red T-shirts with the CPI(ML) logo, distributing pamphlets and collecting funds for the meeting. Over 300 workers participated in this meeting. 37 Pricol workers took party membership at the end of the meeting.
Party SCMs Comrades N K Natarajan, Chandramohan, Govindaraj and Coimbatore party organizer Comrade Damodaran addressed the gathering. Comrade S Kumaraswamy, PBM, called upon workers to carry forward the message of CPI(ML)'s 8th Congress for Left Resurgence and People's Resistance, by seizing the red flag from the CPI(M) and leading the people's resistance. He exhorted the workers to take the initiatives in Pricol forward to reach other sections of Coimbatore , culminating in the Party's District Conference by the end of this year.
AIKSS Dharna at UP Vidhan Sabha
The UP unit of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti held a dharna at the UP Assembly on January 7 in which thousands of peasants participated. The protesting peasants demanded declaration of MSP of Rs.150 per quintal for sugarcane; complete payment of all the dues with interest to sugarcane farmers by the sugar mill owners; waiving of all debts of small and medium peasants and a stop to the auction of their lands, as a measure to prevent farmers' suicides in Lakhimpur Kheri and all over the state; scrapping of the anti-peasant 'Ganga Expressway' Project; provision of fertiliser, seeds and electricity to farmers; and inclusion of all the poor in the BPL lists and provision of red cards. The dharna also demanded meeting of the demands of the IFFCO workers and an end to the repression on their struggle.
Convenor of UP KSS Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha presided over the dharna, which was conducted by Afroz Alam and addressed by CPI(ML) CCM Krishna Adhikari, Terai Kisan Sabha Convenor Allauddin Shastri, Purvanchal Kisan Sabha leader Jayprakash Narain, Co-Convenor of UP KSS Rohtas Rajput, AICCTU National Secretary Dinkar Kapoor, as well as peasant leaders from various districts all over UP. Peasants from Pilibhit, Kheri, Muradabad, Bijnaur, Badayun, Gonda, Sitapur, Ambedkarnagar, and other districts participated in the dharna.
The protestors highlighted the fact that in six months of Mayawati's rule, over 100 peasants have committed suicide, while the unpaid dues of sugar mill owners towards sugarcane farmers amounts to several thousand crores of rupees. The AIKSS announced that 15 January (Mayawati's birthday and the also the day when she plans to lay the foundation-stone of the Ganga Expressway Project at Noida and Ballia) will be observed as 'Kisan Virodhi Divas' (Black Day for the Peasantry).
Meanwhile, AICCTU Secretary and the student-youth leaders arrested during the IFFCO struggle were released on January 3 following massive protests, but severe police repression on the movement continues.
Halla Bol Rally on January 4 Against Fake Encounter Killing in Jharkhand
Sohrabuddin-style killings and fake encounters of adivasis are not confined to Modi's Gujarat and BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, but takes place in UPA-ruled Jharkhand too. A massive Halla Bol demonstration in which a thousand people participated was held at the Lohardaga District Collectorate on January 4, in protest against the killing of two aged adivasis in a fake encounter by the police in October 2007, and the awards given to the killer police officials by the Chief Minister. The protestors demanded the arrest and prosecution of the guilty police officials on murder charges, as well as compensation for the victims' families. The protest resulted in a three-hour gherao of the Collector, and the gherao was lifted only when the Collector promised action against the guilty police officials.
On 28 October, the Lohardaga SP had claimed that it shot dead dreaded Maoists Helen Gudia and Joseph Topno at Bijubathan village. But villagers testified to the fact that Helen Gudia was a 60-year-old TB patient who found it difficult even to walk, while Joseph Topno was a 55-year-old carpenter. Neither of them had any criminal record. Both were shot at close quarters and there was evidence to show that the encounter was staged, and the relatives of the victims accompanied by hundreds of villagers lodged an FIR the very next day. Since then, the CPI(ML) took the matter to the NHRC, apprised the Chief Minister of the matter and demanded action, distributed an open letter to the Chief Minister and held a series of protests on the issue. In spite of this, the CM awarded the guilty police officials on 15 November.
The CPI(ML) will continue to intensify the campaign for justice against the fake encounter.