Understanding 1947 ( Part 3 )
January 30, 2013 Leave a comment
We present here the concluding portion of our work on 1947.
c) How did the transfer of power affect the development of Capitalism in India and Pakistan ? Did they both subsequently fall to foreign imperialism ? If so why so, and If not why not ?
The transfer of power affected the development of capitalism in this region, in a profound way. As we have explained in the foregoing sections, the transfer of power through partition was deliberately planned by the British and the leading sections of the indian bourgeois to destroy the revolutionary potential of the Indian masses in struggle. It was also designed deliberately to give most of the assets of the Indian empire over to the Indian republic, likewise as a corollary of this transfer of power, it was ensured that the Indian Congress party would rule over the Indian republic. This constituted 75% of the total area of the Empire in India, and comprised practically all of the coastal regions and the whole of the peninsula ! India would inherit all the naval bases and the naval power which the British had invested in India, along with all the large scale manufacturing built by both the Indians and the British in the hinterlands in Eastern and Western India. Not to mention, the most agriculturally rich and mineral rich regions of South Asia. Indian capitalists also had greater capital in their hands than their counterparts in Pakistan, as well as experience in heavy manufacturing from the Tatas. This gave the Indian bourgeois enough power to secure the internal sphere for themselves to exploit with full vigor.
Pakistan would inherit a most constricted territory with a population surplus, and a land deficit, similar but far more crippling than India’s . Though inheriting agriculturally superior land in East Bengal and West Punjab, and even a significant coastal port in Karachi, it would have to build up on a disadvantage. Namely, that Pakistan would have more homes to heat with less reserves of energy. It’s only hope would be to keep East Bengal as steadfastly and brutally as it can, and annex resource rich Balochistan, thus opening up those areas for capitalist exploitation.
Since Pakistan’s bourgeois had less capital to begin with, they had to depend entirely on the forces of imperialism to help them survive against a much stronger India. Together with this, it would have to exploit the regions under its control more thoroughly, proletarianizing far more aggressively. This would mean that the Pakistani state unlike india, would have to assume a much more dictatorial form than India’s. No surprises then that Pakistan had underwent repeated cycles of military dictatorships, all of course with the blessings of US and UK imperialism. Even less surprising that each period of dictatorship saw ‘rapid growth’ under its auspices.
Given these unique advantages and disadvantages inherited by India and Pakistan respectively, the development of capitalism would naturally be affected considerably. Among other things, it meant that the Indian bourgeois would be more capable of securing its strategic needs. It would not depend as hopelessly on the classes of landlords and feudal chiefs as would be the case with Pakistan. In the latter’s case, the situation was only made worse with this class of people integrating itself with the armed forces. This allowed India to more thoroughly introduce capitalist land laws and fragment property holdings, and create a class of agrarian elite through the green revolution.
Alongside this, the old landed classes in India were given an opening for their bourgeoisification and conversion into a land owning bourgeoisie. This land owning bourgeoisie could then ascent socially and politically through the Congress party and retain power within the parliamentary framework. Statism in the commanding heights of the economy would be the outcome of the political supremacy of the land owning bourgeoisie, which would be achieved in alliance with the leading barons of Industrial capital, Aka Tatas and Birlas. Winning over the peasantry and to a lesser extent peasant-workers in the cities was a task best left to the landed bourgeois which could more readily win over the peasants owing to their proximity and familiarity with relations in the countryside, but they could only ‘win’ their support by appealing to the most reactionary tendencies of the peasantry.
With the strength that the landed classes of Pakistan had assumed, such a task became much much more difficult, in Pakistan and more particularly in Western Pakistan. The resistance they put up to even an inkling to democratic aspirations of the masses would assume the form of dictatorship. The situation was somewhat different in East Bengal ( renamed East Pakistan ) where zamindari had been abolished and some limited land reforms were brought about. Unlike West Pakistan where the secessionist movement was led by the leading landed classes, in East Pakistan, it was the peasants and petty bourgeois with democratic aspirations of creating their own capitalist state.
The raw material for a textile and jute industry too could be sourced from here, which spurred on some industrialization in West Pakistan, but with very little benefit for the East. In more than one way, East Bengal appeared more like the third estate of France which only grew in size and power. Right next door was a budding capitalist power in india which was both economically and militarily stronger than Pakistan. After a time, the emergent petty bourgeois and working class would become too strong for the ramshackle Pakistani bourgeois to contain, especially so because it was inherently weakened by virtue of the dynamics of the partition/transfer of power. With India’s assistance East Bengal seceded from Pakistan to become Bangladesh in 1971.
This was however, not an isolated development, and was a logical consequence of the decolonizing revolutions after the second world war. All across Africa, Asia and Latin America, a strong anti-imperialist current ran through, which overthrew one imperialist proxy regime and colonial regime after the other. This democratic revolutionary current of course unquestionably tended towards a socialist revolution in the oppressed countries, but lacked the strength to complete the revolution due primarily to counter-revolutionary leadership. Although in Vietnam, and Cuba it succeeded in the expropriation of capitalism these victories would be deformed and the states wouldn’t be built on a foundation of worker’s democracy but on bureaucratic centralism led by petty bourgeois Stalinist and pro-Stalinist leadership.
The deformities showed not only after the victories in these struggles, but even before that during their build up where the conciliatory and compromising nature of the counter-revolutionary leaderships had already begun to show. Bangladesh is only too perfect an example of this. The leaders of the Awami league were literally bought out with crates of gold ! It was such weakness which allowed reaction to triumph. At the other end of the world, in Latin America, we have a similar weakening dynamic with Allende in Chile, whose utopian beliefs in bourgeois parliamentary power structures led to his death and the death of the Chilean revolution. Likewise, an example more akin to the one at home in South Africa where the big capitalists of South Africa bribed the ANC into adopting a servile programme of accommodating apartheid era white capitalists, thus distorting the anti-apartheid revolution from the start. However, there is a world of a difference between a reactionary bourgeois who is bought out, and one which can buy out others. India from the very beginning showed traits of the latter whilst Pakistan’s showed traits of the former.
The ability of the Indian bourgeoisie to keep control of capital in India, to wipe out the remaining vestiges of would-be independent feudalism and competing political entities, to completely subordinate the land to its own laws and needs, to create a surplus-value producing proletariat by dispossessing the poor peasantry and wiping out millions of small proprietors, to control finance and trade – all these things go counter to any understanding of India as a dependent colonial or semi-colonial nation.
Nor is this power of Indian capital and its protective bourgeoisie merely an internal thing. Indian capital has made great conquests abroad, taking over illustrious foreign companies such as Land Rover and Jaguar and appropriating a great part of Britain’s steel production, for instance, and setting up countless joint ventures and subsidiaries. It also specializes in thinly veiled “independent non-Indian” companies abroad run by Indians who repatriate a good deal of capital even though they are formally neither Indian residents nor often even Indian citizens. These individuals act like a de facto chain of commerce for Indian capital in all countries they are situated in, but most importantly, they often repatriate a good amount of capital back home. Its impact on the ground in other countries is huge – it buys land for agricultural and other development in Africa, it is immensely influential in developing the infrastructure of Afghanistan and Iran, and it is competing vigorously with China to be the most important foreign presence in Burma. In the Middle East, Indian labour power forms a great part of the supply of variable capital.
The power of the Indian state to defend its own interests against foreign interference goes far beyond that of even such middle-ranking imperialist powers as Japan or Germany. Its military build-up includes all branches of modern warfare – land, air and sea – and nuclear weapons, in which area it is by no means totally subservient to US imperialist dictates, as is Pakistan, for instance. The Indian navy and air force are working towards controlling the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Indonesia, and has already taken over vital military functions in the Malacca Straits region. As a military power in the region, only the likes of the USA can hope to compete with India over the Indian ocean, neither France nor Australia have the mettle or weight to contend against a domineering India. Australia for one already considers India a ‘threat’ in it’s waters. Historically India moved like lightning to subjugate political anomalies like Hyderabad and Goa to its own central rule. It claimed the strategically key state of Kashmir and refuses to budge in its confrontation with Pakistan over this geographical, water and mineral rich region. It engaged in an ostentatious war of intent against China. It practically annexed East Pakistan in the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971. It has been the primary political power interfering in the development of Sri Lanka once this country tore itself away from British imperialist bondage.
It is able to keep Pakistan in a trembling state of defensive paralysis with its historical amputation of Bangladesh and its constant threats in Kashmir and along the shared border, along with the permanent thuggish mobilization of obscurantist Hindu reaction against Muslims using the pretext of terrorism. Not to mention its long-term strategic goal of controlling both Central and South Asia by way of winning major influence in eastern Iran (Indian Ocean harbours, and the secessionist Balochistan), by controlling infrastructure and much capital development in Afghanistan, and by way of its traditional north-south Asian strategic axis with Russia (against both China in eastern Asia and the US in southwestern Asia (the Middle East).
This past year has seen the president of the United States come to India virtually begging for assistance to help it out of its economic and strategic crises. “Please invest in the USA.. we depend on your companies to give us jobs…” The pathetic impression this visit made on Indians becomes clear the moment it is compared with the state visit of arch-rivals China, and Russia who came with concrete offerings of military and economic cooperation which far outpaced the US visit . The Chinese delegation dwarfed the American one by an order of magnitude.
The economic, political and military clout of India is indisputable. The consequences of this clout in terms of political understanding and how the working class needs to confront it are much less clear, because the paralysed state of revolutionary working class leadership, throughout the world but especially in India itself, has meant that no serious large-scale debate has taken place concerning this in the leading organs of revolutionary working class politics.
One of the first things we need to do is to take the bull by the horns and state clearly that India is too big for any other nation, however powerful it might be, to bully into submission. Neither the old Soviet Union, much less modern Russia, nor the old imperial colonizer Britain – chased out with its tail between its legs over six decades ago, nor any would-be rival from the “new” Europe such as Germany or France, or the EU itself, has a cat in hell’s chance of bossing India around. Which leaves the US, which at the moment cuts a pathetic figure compared with the airs of omnipotence it gave itself after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Coming to India with a begging bowl is just the most obvious expression of its loss of influence. India often goes along with US wishes – but not as a flunky or a slave, or even a poor relative. When India does what America wants, it is because their goals coincide. It can as easily be shown that the US is carrying out India’s strategic will as vice versa. The case of Afghanistan is the clearest example of this, where although India has extensive economic interests, it has refused to side with any US led military action despite US demands of the same. A contrast to this, is India’s stubborn refusal to tag along with US sanctions on Iran where the US and India remain at logger heads over Iran despite voting against Iran at the IAEA as a kind of ‘punishment’ for dealing with pakistan and siding with them on the question of India’s nuclear power ambitions. India is a master of diplomacy, highly skilled at masking its deeper purposes, and completely at home in playing off its rivals against one another. Its leaders carried out the most audacious act of strategic tightrope walking in postwar history when they manoeuvred their way into Independence, between pacifying the British and the working class. At one stroke they managed to neutralize both the Pakistani semi-feudal landowners and the revolutionary masses of Karachi and the Punjab, Bombay and Bengal by means of Partition.
Not only is India too big to be bullied, it is far too big and too populous to be invaded and occupied. No one has ever succeeded in invading or occupying much less populous states like Russia or even Sweden, so it should be clear that no state would even dream of launching such an offensive against India. Certainly not China. And the US has been unable to invade and occupy either Iraq or even Afghanistan on its own terms, so to attempt such subjugation of India would be criminal insanity.
And India is growing. Next to China, India has the most impressive economic record in the 21st century. And there are commentators who see India’s young demography as a warranty for India to outpace China in the near future as the Chinese population ages. It almost certainly won’t, since China’s non-capitalist economic foundations give it a long-term advantage in financing and planning large-scale infrastructural, industrial and scientific developments that India can only dream of. But it is almost as futile for foreign capital to attempt to subjugate the Indian economy as it is for foreign generals to try and break India’s strategic sovereignty. The realistic outlook for the next decade at least is for Indian capital to grow stronger and stronger and assert itself on all fronts. Domestically and in its immediate neighbourhood, around the Indian Rim (Africa, south-east Asia), which is becoming as realistic a concept as the Pacific Rim, and worldwide, in Europe, in east Asia, and in the Americas.
The economic fuel powering all this growth is just as significant – it is the creation within controlled Indian borders of a gigantic pool of free labour power due to the dispossession of small peasants and small rural proprietors. Wasted by debt, starved and humiliated, millions upon millions of peasants who could once subsist on their own land and labour are losing their land and livelihood, and being swept into the slums of Indian mega cities like Bombay. What is falsely and misleadingly known as “urbanization” is in fact the greatest process of proletarianization the world has ever witnessed – matched only by what is happening in China, although the social mechanism there isn’t exactly parallel. This means that Indian capital, protected by the powerful Indian state, is able to exploit new and untapped sources of capital, and keep foreign snouts out of its trough.
Taken together, these four factors:
· geographical size;
· economic growth; and
· a protected, untapped labour market
all mark out India as a state that can and will aspire to great power rank and privileges. The world market is glutted with imperialist capital and occupied to breaking point by rival powerful imperialist states, primarily the United States. But — and this is of immense significance for us in our attempts to try and understand the place of India, its bourgeoisie and its working class — although the world is completely dominated by imperialist capital, the domination of the world is in the hands of individual imperialist states, like the US, in continuous rivalry and continuously manoeuvring with and against one another to try to grow richer and more powerful at one another’s’ expense. This constant rivalry and manoeuvring inevitably means that certain states will rise and others fall, even though the system as such remains intact. Just as Germany and Japan rose before the second world war and fell after it, and the US rose in prominence as Britain and France declined, so today some great states are on the rise, while those we are accustomed to see in unchallenged glory, such as the US, are in decline. At the very least we can see three states challenging for recognition as great powers, for full imperialist status, so to say. Namely Russia, China (in its own way, with its own peculiarities) and India. A convenient term for these challengers, these rivals to traditional post-1945 imperialist great powers is sub-imperialism.
The emergence of Indian sub-imperialism on the world stage necessitates a re-interpretation of our understanding of imperialism. Most importantly, it necessitates a re-exploration of tactics and strategies for building a Bolshevik movement in such nations. Amongst the major peculiarities of such a transitional nation as a sub-imperialist one, is that this nation-state is in transition at a time when most if not all of the fundamental transition of imperialism is already complete. The qualitative changes of imperialism were in fact already completed in Lenin’s own time which established the new relations between imperialist and non-imperialist nations. The dynamics of these relations remain fundamentally the same even today. What remained undecided and remains till date undecided are the quantitative changes of imperialism, in short which countries would be imperialist and which would be dominated by imperialism.
However, there have been certain undeniable qualitative change in world social relations which in their conflict with old social norms venture beyond the bounds of capitalism. In particular after the decolonization revolutions across the world. China, Vietnam, Cuba and Korea are the most advanced of these revolutions. All of these revolutions however, ended being deformed in nature, either at the phase succeeding the expropriation of capitalism or before it’s complete expropriation. India is an example of the latter while China is an example of the former. Among the many consequences worldwide of these deformed revolution was the rapid rise of cooperative form of organization, welfarism and social liberation which are reflective of post capitalist socialist relations emerging within the womb of capitalism. What all of this shows is the fluidity and organic nature of social change throughout history and the fluidity of relations within imperialism. Lenin had only left an algebraic possibility when establishing the semi-colony as being reflective of the new nature of imperialist oppression as against classic colonialism. Thus, the ‘new imperialist’ nations of Germany, Japan and America emerged without having any substantial colonial holdings whilst the old imperialist powers of Britain and France were stagnating. A reality now being repeated with the slow stagnation of US imperialism and the decline of European imperialist powers, coupled by the rise of India and Russia.
What is markedly different in our period of imperialism however, is the existence of non-capitalist states as a direct threat to the very existence of the capitalist system. Imperialist states, albeit antagonistic to one other, have proven to huddle around when faced with a common threat of Socialism. What was striking fear in the Soviet Union, has now been replaced in the PRC. If India does not fight the established imperialists as aggressively, it is solely because it has partnered with it against China. It is notable to mention in this context, that while the USA still maneuvered it’s way into making deals with the PRC, India has consistently maintained hostility throughout it’s existence. As such, india represents the ideal counter-weight to China, not only because of it’s traditional rivalry with China, but also because being a sub-imperialist country, it holds promise for a ‘healthy’ development of capitalism, without having to depend on China’s non-capitalist base. In order to develop India as a viable counter-weight however, the established imperialists must concede some sphere to India, and pursue a diplomacy akin to Palmerston on Russia. In sub-imperialist nations, capitalism’s nascent nature makes it more dynamic and more real than in the advanced imperialist countries where capital has become by and large fictitious, where finance capital has completely dominated all other capitals. But the existence of the Indian capitalist class itself is dependent on managing concessions to the masses, and maintaining bourgeois democracy. This creates a very complex dialectic, of domination and concession.
Whilst on the one hand imperialism seeks to preserve social relations as they are, class struggle seeks to unsettle them. Between these two opposing realities emerges the dialectic of our times. The dialectic of revolution. Imperialism is capitalism at it’s ultimate stage and it is capitalism in transition to Socialism. For it to survive it must kill all progress which threaten it’s existence while preserving just about enough progressive energy to ensure the growth and development of the capitalist system.. which is dead. With capitalism’s own capabilities historically expended, what this means is that capitalism must concede some space to the development of the Socialist mode of production to survive. This is true of individual capitalist states as much as they are of the system as a whole. In the case of sub-imperialist india, this shows more starkly than elsewhere, where the bourgeoisie has managed to survive only by conceding to the working class and peasant allies, and in alliance with it’s Stalinist misleaders, be able to pacify and weaken them sufficiently. All the while, the Indian bourgeoisie has successfully used the class to secure it’s own strategic agenda where necessary, be it in nationalizing core sector or in ejecting foreign colonial presence in Goa. Playing off the USA against the USSR assured a good degree of autonomy for Indian capital against foreign imperialism. Democratic Reaction was the corner stone of this rule and has remained so till date.
What indian capital does in it’s own country, it practices in other countries. Beneath the veneer of ‘soft power’ and the appearance of the ‘white elephant’ is a poisonous admixture which ensures enslavement and genocide via slow poisoning. From time to time it is forced to reveal it’s military aggression, even there, the constrictions of world imperialism forces it to restrain it’s natural aggression.
What significance this has to class struggle in India, is necessary to understand. The main enemy of the Indian working class is the Indian bourgeoisie, the enemy at home ! The class enemy has enslaved and continues to enslave and exploit the Indian working class , peasantry and small proprietor in order to enslave the people of other countries economically and politically. The present limitations in the worker’s movement put in place by Stalinist and other counter-revolutionary misleaders must be fought against tooth and nail. The present Indian struggle is one which is fundamentally more advanced than the last, cannot be won with an outdated national-democratic programme which the Stalinists seek to put forward, and subject the Indian revolution to. The Indian workers are faced with the task not only of freeing themselves from the domination of the Indian bourgeoisie, but also fighting against them where they are oppressing the oppressed of other nations. This kind of struggle has no room for any kind of nationalism in it and becomes more undeniably internationalist in form as in essence and goes beyond the bounds of the earlier democratic revolution with national liberation at it’s core. Unfortunately, there is not one political organization which is willing to bite the bullet and prepare for such a fight. The task falls chiefly on the shoulders of revolutionary bolsheviks in India to build a party with a programme for revolution in India which can give the class a weapon to fight Indian sub-imperialism in India and the world.