Understanding 1947 part 2

b)Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? In that context was the independence struggle ‘peaceful’?


This could well be the most superfluous and most peripheral of all the questions surrounding 1947. And yet it is one of the most aggressively expressed of all. Human history in general is full of dramatic violence, political history in particular. When conflicts involve relations of power and wealth (ie who produces what and for who?) between people, struggle is never peaceful. When those fighting over the power and wealth are whole countries or whole social classes, wars break out. Here there is no question of peace in any regard. To understand conflicts about power and wealth we need to know the forces involved in the war and the methods used.


‘Peaceful’ methods relate to ‘violent’ methods in the same way as sparring in the boxing ring relates to throwing and landing punches. The aim is always to reduce an opponent to submission, and no one is under any illusions about this – in the boxing ring. In politics, however, lying about methods is part of the war, and if submission can be exacted by blackmail or threats without direct violence, and this approach can be successfully passed off as agreement and cooperation, the winners find themselves in a stronger position. “My peaceful negotiation — your violent aggression” has always been a hit number in media supporting any combatant. And such distortions are the stock in trade of diplomacy and domestic wheeling and dealing.


And in the case of India the violence and the propaganda have been proportionate to the size of the power and wealth at stake. The wealth produced by hundreds of millions of people is vast, as is the power it can fuel. Continental, in fact. No wonder European powers fought bitterly to control it and legitimize their seizure of it. And once England had seized it, no wonder it fought just as bitterly to keep it in its grasp. And lied as blatantly about the purpose and character of its rule. And no wonder the class interests that came to lead the revolt against the British made sure that the same lies were perpetuated during and after the colonial conflict. Only instead of God and the Queen, the lies were erected around Gandhi and Nehru. Instead of British financial and industrial capital, Indian landed capital came to hold the fort and repelled all competitors, only letting Indian industry and finance in on the game as they grew stronger. The hundreds of millions of Indians working daily to produce the wealth and thus the power of India were locked outside the fort, subject to harsh military control and forced to hand over their work to their rulers with nothing to show for it except a loin-cloth and an overcrowded village hut. The propaganda of the winning side, the Congress, showed Gandhi in the loin-cloth and hut. In reality Gandhi’s side was sitting in a golden banqueting hall stuffing itself with delicacies and surrounding itself with luxury.


So, ‘peace’ has little to do with the content of any struggle, let alone a revolutionary one involving historical socio-economic transformation. And it follows from this that simply being violent has nothing to do with revolution or social change. However, people with a clear understanding of history and politics are far less inclined to use passive conciliatory tactics (lyingly labelled ‘peaceful’ by ruling class propaganda) in the field of struggle. Revolutionaries use appropriate methods of struggle in exactly the same sober, considered way the leaders and general staffs of the forces opposed to them do, given that the foremost objective of a revolutionary is the destruction of the existing outworn mode of production (imperialist capitalism) and initiating the transformation to the mode of production that will supersede it (socialism). This is achieved by the conquest of state power, overthrowing the political leadership of the ruling classes and replacing it with the political rule of the revolutionary classes. Doing this is clearly impossible without the exertion of force by the revolutionary class against the ruling class. At least as crucial, if not even more important than the actual application of violence, is the permanent mobilization of class forces with the declared aim of taking power. In other words, the demonstrated capacity of the working class and the peasantry to back up its demands with action. The question of violence is reduced to one of empirical observation once force erupts in the case of violent aggression or repression by the ruling class, using its jealously guarded monopoly of military violence, which in turn gives rise to actions of defence and counter-attack by the oppressed class and its allies.


Now that we have a clearer view of the character of the change brought about by Independence and the character of revolutionary change as such, we can more fully understand the nature of the struggle for Indian independence and see how far the ‘peaceful’ epithet of the independence struggle is justified. In other words, we are in a position to see through the smoke screens and mystifications of the Gandhi myth.



The historical background


Contrary to the propaganda promoted by the Indian state, the independence struggle was neither peaceful nor gradual, and it was most definitely not isolated from world events. It was a long-lasting process, beginning in many ways with the sepoy rebellion of 1857. Marx noted that in the hundred years of the rule of the East India company, India was opened up to the full force of world capitalism. A brutal and far reaching process of primitive capitalist accumulation took place which resulted in the wholesale economic destruction of India’s pre-capitalist industries. The destruction of Bengal’s textile industry is just one example. Though there was an undisputed drainage of wealth from India to Britain, this period also saw the beginnings of a capitalist class and capitalist society in India, as well as the stirrings of a consciousness which was decidedly post feudal. The destruction of India’s indigenous economy and the aggressive imposition of an unequal and exploitative capitalist rule created the conditions for the rebellion of 1857, which was far more than just a ‘sepoy mutiny’.


Every stage of the mutiny was violent. British families were attacked, British soldiers were killed. Political and administrative representatives of the British were targeted and the economic interests of the East India Company were in jeopardy. Britain clearly risked losing its holdings in India, and would certainly have done so if it wasn’t for certain fatal weaknesses in the rebellion of 1857. Chief of these was the reactionary leadership given by the remnants of India’s pre-capitalist political elite, the rajahs of the vassal princely states of India and the last emperor of the decrepit Mughal empire, also a vassal of the English. The underdeveloped consciousness of the sepoys themselves gave free rein to the reactionary leadership which completely failed to harness or develop the budding revolutionary process in 1857. Religion was a culprit in this, too, of course, as it reinforced the reactionary feudal leadership emerging from the disenfranchised section of the pre-capitalist elite. Many have naturally but quite mistakenly equated the movement with its leadership, a malaise all too common in modern Indian thought that leads to entirely erroneous conclusions as to its character.


The late 19th century context


The aftermath of the rebellion saw the strengthening of British rule over the subcontinent and the emergence of a stronger Indian capitalist class from the merchants and early industrialists. In particular, the textile and ship-building industries saw dramatic growth driven by a slew of infrastructural investments made by the British to secure British dominance in the subcontinent. The rebellion also gave rise to a new enlightened political movement led by an emerging Indian intelligentsia influenced strongly by developments in Europe and America. A major trend which developed almost instantly after 1857 was social reform. Here too bourgeois liberal European and American ideas found popularity as they gave the pioneers of social reform a theoretical base from which to attack the pre-capitalist social evils prevalent in India.


The main goals were to break the stranglehold of the priestly castes on social thought in India and to destroy caste-based divisions, but modernization of education and women’s liberation were important as well. This social reform movement was not violent in any way but it did inspire armed insurgent movements later. The indigo rebellion provides another interesting example of political movements around this period. A political link developed between the rising urban bourgeoisie in Calcutta and the mobilizations of the peasantry in Bengal against the economic depradations of the indigo cultivators which led to the success of the rebellion. The rebellion was violent and took place just two years after the 1857 mutiny.


While bourgeois liberalism gave the theoretical tools, French anarchism influenced methods of protest and agitation, particularly among the more radical bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leadership. Anarchism’s influence was most overt in the methods of mobilization and terrorism used by the Bengali nationalists before and during the Swadeshi movement. The tradition of bomb-making for instance was copied from the French anarchists. Elsewhere, Vasudev Balwant Phadke adopted armed tactics to oppose British imperialism, though his ideology was rooted in Maharashtra. What was common to these trends of ‘revolutionary violence’ in both Bengal and Maharashtra, was the agenda of national liberation from the yoke of the British and the need for social change with the abolition of casteism as a major bourgeois-democratic goal. These trends show that with the development of capitalist rule over India, the ideas of capitalist Europe penetrated the intelligentsia of India, and none of these ideas had non-violence as a core principle. This access of terrorist violence was of course only a reaction to the structural and political violence inflicted by the British Imperialists on the people of the subcontinent.


Besides these radical and ‘violent’ sections of the bourgeoisie, there was a conciliatory tendency as well. They were not necessarily pacifist per se, but believed in taking a pacifist approach towards the British. This took the form of the tactics of prayer and petition which were the hallmark of the moderates of the Congress party (led by founding Brahmin members like Surendranath Bannerjee and Mahadeo Govinda Ranade). This section of the bourgeoisie did not believe in conflict with the British imperialists, seeking only to increase their stake as loyal subordinates of the empire in India. There were ample rewards for such ‘loyalty’ in the form of political favours (like knighthood) and commercial opportunities(e.g. support to the Tatas). The new Indian bourgeoisie was being crafted from among these lick-spittle servants of the Raj, and from them the future rulers of the Indian republic would spring.


The conflict between radicals and moderates over the methods and aims of the independence struggle existed from the start of the Congress party, but each leap in mobilization saw the fissure deepen. Interestingly, it only grew deeper with the strengthening of the workers movement across the world and reached a peak with the emergence of the communist movement in Europe and Asia. As a result the radical section became even more radicalized and increasingly so with the absorption of radicalized petty bourgeois elements into the Congress party. The bourgeoisie was faced with the constant challenge of winning over the classes of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie to its programme, which forced it to keep up with the times. What was common however, between both the radical and moderate sections of the Congress party and within the larger spectrum of Indian bourgeois politics, was the resort to methods of petition and propaganda, the question of violence or non-violence was considered immaterial question in this regard. The radicals held more consistently to the bourgeois-democratic agenda than the moderates, but neither embraced complete independence as a goal till they were given the proverbial kick up the backside by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh.


The early 20th century context


No representatives of the Indian bourgeoisie, whether ‘revolutionary’ or mainstream, had succeeded in reaching beyond their immediate class and caste boundaries to win over the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. At the same time, the British too were beginning to realize that the political movement created by a tiny ‘enlightened’ middle class wasn’t much use as a safety valve for the larger populace. With the threat of world revolution radiating from the Soviet Union, it became vital for the British to utilize the Congress party to absorb discontent on a massive scale. And lo! We witness the rise of Gandhi and his grand entry into Indian politics as a leader of the Congress Party. It is no coincidence that Gandhi and his ‘non-violence’ based mass mobilizations came on the scene at the same time that the Indian Communist party was founded in the Soviet Union. The emergence of Gandhi was a crowning achievement of the politics of the moderates, namely conciliation with British imperialism, their surface hostility to civil disobedience notwithstanding.


Gandhi was able to pacify the populace to some extent, and more importantly he was able to neutralize the ‘troublesome’ middle class intelligentsia who advocated tactics of individual terrorism and insurgency. Nevertheless, even Gandhi’s allegedly ‘peaceful’ mass methods exploded into violence as in the Chauri Chaura incident during his non-cooperation movement. But not even within his own movement could Gandhi fully douse the raging fire of revolution in the hearts of the Indian poor. In the 1930s there was a second round of armed insurgency against British rule, including the Chittagong uprising (modelled on the Irish Easter uprising of 1916 ). A significantly new characteristic of the uprising was its leadership and ideology. The movement was inspired by socialist ideals and followed left-wing leadership. It failed, however, due to the absence of mass mobilization. Tactics of individual terror and isolated insurgency have time and again led to failure in Indian history.


The failure to develop a strong armed movement against British rule, and the conciliatory attitude of the new moderates of the Congress led left petty-bourgeois radicals like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to break new ground in Indian politics and build an army of liberation beyond the reach of the British imperialists, despite their roots in the Congress movement. Inspiration from the massive revolutionary anti-imperialist mobilization in China and the anti-capitalist, anti-landlord socio-economic model of the Soviet Union influenced the development of the Indian National Army (INA) movement under Subhash Chandra Bose. He was made to pay dearly for his radical views, however, which tended naturally towards socialist revolution in India and Asia, first by expulsion from the Congress party, and ultimately by betrayal at the hands of the Congress leaders Nehru, Gandhi and Patel.


The emergence of the Indian working class


The emergent communist movement in India was far from the work of Stalinists alone, and by 1935 a combative Bolshevik-Leninist current emerged as well, following the development of the international Left Opposition and the collapse of the Third International. Of course, the Indian bourgeoisie was also responsible for this new movement, as it had almost exhausted its progressive capabilities, and as it grew stronger and more dominant it became less and less interested in or capable of satisfying the overarching needs of the Indian populace. Keeping pace with the rise of the bourgeoisie was the emergence of a strong and organized proletariat in India. The social impact of this change was profound. For the first time in Indian history, there was active intervention by the working class in the political affairs of modern India, which had hitherto been dominated by the big bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois middle classes. Since the former were more and more thoroughly integrated with British finance capital and the latter were too fragmented and historically hamstrung, they could not lead the peasantry towards consummating the bourgeois revolution. And so, by the logic of history, the tasks of this democratic revolution fell chiefly on the shoulders of the proletariat to fulfil as part of its socialist revolution. The permanent revolution in India was thus being fostered by its own imperialist enemies and their national agents. And as a concrete expression of this the BLPI was formed.


At the same time, the petty bourgeoisie grew more radicalized. Having experimented with liberalism and nationalism, this constricted section of Indian society (which became even worse off after the great depression of the 1930s) turned hard to the left and adopted socialist ideas. This was accompanied by a split between the progressive left-wing petty-bourgeoisie and the reactionary right-wing petty bourgeoisie who sought to create a violent ultra-right movement in India along the lines of Italian fascism. Surya Sen, the leader of the Chittagong uprising of 1930, and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose represented the progressive wing of the petty-bourgeoisie in India, while Golwalkar and Jinnah represented petty-bourgeois reaction.


The Quit India movement mobilized the most progressive sections of the petty-bourgeoisie against Britain at a time of world war, and shook the balance of power in the subcontinent. It saw the overthrow of British rule in parts of the country and imposed self-rule. Satara and Tamluk jatiyo sarkars are the most notable examples of parallel governments which threw off the British yoke. The uprising was in every way violent and the British response to it was completely ruthless. The open and violent character of the uprising, however, was ignited by the arrest of the main leadership of the Congress party including Gandhi, removing the only effective safety valve for swelling popular rage. At around the same time, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose formed his Indian National Army with soldiers who defected from the British Indian army and plantation workers in south-east Asia who volunteered for the INA. This force of workers and peasants marched to the Indian frontier through Burma, assisted by the Japanese Imperial army and navy. Strategic imperatives forced Britain to crush the uprising and resurrect the Congress party and Gandhi, as this was the only way it could reinforce its decaying rule over India, in which the genocidal Bengal famine was symptomatic. But the flame of 1942 refused to die, and a much more powerful movement would emerge immediately after the war in the naval mutiny and uprising of 1946.


These revolutionary developments in India, however, jeopardized the existence of the Indian bourgeoisie as a class. Since India was a ‘significant’ colony of the empire, i.e. because the mother country was so desperately dependent on it, it was to some extent in a position to stake its own claim within the framework of British imperialism, and the Indian bourgeoisie sought to take the fullest advantage of this. As such India acted more like a sub-metropolis than a pure colony in its relations with British capital, especially when it was used to enslave other colonies of the empire as a colonial gendarme. The Indian bourgeoisie and in particular the big bourgeoisie was ready to content itself with becoming a major if still subordinate partner in British imperialism, in this the Indian bourgeoisie found itself allied yet antagonistic to the British bourgeois. But such a plan would fail completely if the revolutionary forces in India fought for and achieved their historically just objectives of national, social and economic revolution. The events of 1942 and its later consequences taught the British the importance of the Indian bourgeoisie in ruling India, not just as a colony or dominion, but as a capitalist state as such. They became bitterly aware that to preserve at least a semblance of British presence in South Asia they would be compelled to make massive concessions to this class.


By 1946, the conflicts between a dirigiste big bourgeoisie hungry for state power and control, and the radical forces of Marxist revolutionaries, and left petty-bourgeois radicals like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose came out into the open. The naval mutiny and its attendant rural uprisings and general strike revealed very clearly where the ‘non-violent’ conciliatory bourgeois forces led by Gandhi and Nehru stood in relation to the Indian revolution. They hated it. They fully supported and actively connived with the British to destroy the uprising, persuading the mutineers of the Royal Indian Navy to lay down their arms before the British troops only to be massacred by their cannons.


But crushing the mutiny itself would not be enough. Having seen the power of the class in action, the Indian bourgeoisie and its British benefactors were constrained to hatch a much more violent and much more devastating plan to enable a continued imperialist presence in South Asia and ensure that the bourgeoisie would remain in power in a capitalist state. The Indian bourgeoisie had by now ambitions which went beyond cutting a niche for itself within the framework of the British empire, it demanded a sphere of its own. For its part the British promised the big Indian bourgeoisie the lion’s share of its empire in India, while placating the smaller Muslim section of the Indian bourgeoisie with a quarter of whatever remained. Partition was supported by the British and Indian bourgeoisies to cripple and break the revolutionary potential of the entire subcontinental working class and peasantry. This was necessary for the Indian bourgeoisie to come to power and stay there unchallenged in South Asia. Additionally, derailing the Indian revolution helped guarantee and prolong the deformity of the Chinese revolution and preserved South Asia as a counter-revolutionary bulwark against an Asian continent undergoing revolutionary transformations from Russia to Indo-China.


Conclusions :


Thus the Indian bourgeoisie came to power on the blood-soaked backs of the working class and peasantry. This gory rise to power could only be passed off most shamefully as being ‘peaceful’ because arms were turned inward among the ranks of the oppressed rather than out against the oppressors. The uprising of 1946 was echoed by the partition riots of the same year. Unsurprisingly, Congress party workers were enthusiastic participants in the bloodshed which took place in that year. The leaders of the Muslim League were more than eager to become a junior partner in this plot to destroy the Indian revolution, since they would get its own country to rule and could thus aspire to sovereign power like their bigger counterparts in the Congress party.


Upon usurping power in this way, the Indian bourgeoisie led by the Congress party did their utmost to steal all the credit for the entire freedom movement. In this way they canonized ‘non-violence’ as the weapon which supposedly brought down the British empire from Palestine to Malacca. Nothing could be further from the truth!


‘Non-violence’ in Indian history is just a tool in the hands of the British Imperialists to pacify the Indian masses and control them, from the earliest moderates right down to the conciliators under Gandhi and Nehru.


Our conclusion is that the independence movement as a whole was not peaceful, and nor were the culminating events of 1946-47 in any way peaceful !


It is true that the violence which erupted during the partition was not aimed against the British, but against the working class and peasantry, with the undeclared aim of destroying the Indian revolution. But this only masks the question of power, and leaves unanswered the critical question of who came to power and how. In 1947, the Indian bourgeoisie in collaboration with British Imperialism, broke the backs of the Indian workers and peasants, and usurped power from their erstwhile British masters. This was done after using the force of the peasantry as a battering ram against the British to demand concessions for themselves. In this the Indian bourgeois found itself antagonistic but still allied with the indian people. The British were sufficiently weakened to concede a huge portion of their empire in India to the rising Indian bourgeoisie and its preferred political representatives in the Congress party. But not before handing over a sizeable portion of the subcontinent to the smaller Muslim League bourgeoisie.


Later on the Indian peasantry and workers won some concessions, but the tasks of the social revolution in India were thrown back by decades as the bourgeoisie consolidated its rule with the connivance of British and world imperialism. India under the Congress, would later on emerge in its own right as a powerful imperialist force in Asia and more recently in Africa, and continue and extend the role it mastered in 1947 as a major agent of democratic reaction on the world stage. The BJP, an offshoot of the Congress, brought no change but merely continued this reactionary agenda in the 5 years that it was in power. 


Understanding 1947 (part 1)

The formation of India and Pakistan in 1947 is a crucial question for the Indian left. Few historical questions are as pertinent, and at the same time few are as divisive. The formation of the Indian republic raises a number of questions which concern the very foundations of capitalism in India and in that context turn a searchlight on the true historical character of the transfer of power which took place on the 15th of August 1947.

Some questions central to our understanding of the events preceding and taking place at the point of the transfer of power on 15th of August 1947 are :

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?
b) Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? And was the independence struggle as a whole ‘peaceful’?
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? If not why not?

I will tackle these questions in sequence.

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?

Let us first understand what we mean by ‘revolution’. Real socio-economic revolutions that change the face of history only take place when an old worldwide mode of production has outlived itself. That is to say a mode of production affecting human society as a whole – like slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. When the foundations of such a system become wholly rotten, and when the precursors of a new mode of production are emerging ever stronger, revolutions break out that sweep away the ruins of the old system and usher in new societies based on the new forces of production and new relations between the people working with them.

Revolutions are an outburst of social energy channelling the creative forces of the new system to break the chains of the old mode of production, like slavery or serfdom. They are opposed in a life-and-death struggle by the decaying, destructive forces of the old system which seek to prolong its life. In short, a true social-historical revolution can only be an epoch-making change in economy and society bringing with it the change of one mode of production into another. A deep historical revolution of this kind is not simply a regime change from one kind of government to another be it democratic or dictatorial. Even the bloodiest rebellions or coups d’état fall short of this historical significance if they produce no change in the underlying mode of production. Fascist regimes still operate on a bourgeois capitalist economic basis, so Nazi Germany was no revolutionary creation. A true revolution is a process which overthrows the economic and political dominance of the old ruling class and replaces it with the rule of the formerly oppressed class – as happened when the slave-owning rulers of the ancient Roman Empire were ousted during the rise of feudal Europe, and the feudal rulers of old Europe were thrown aside in bourgeois revolutions such as those in England in 1649 and France in 1789.

For instance, in bourgeois revolutions, the ruling class of feudal lords were overthrown by the political mobilization of the oppressed proto-bourgeois serfs and traders. In their place the bourgeois class seized power and wielded it through its political representatives, be it the New Model Army in England or the Jacobins in France. These revolutions were the midwives of history and opened the way for the capitalist transformation of European society. Frequently however, the aftershocks of these world-shaking revolutionary events only involved the transfer of power from one group of special interests to another in the new ruling class. This is most certainly evident if we compare the so-called Glorious Revolution of England in 1688 to Cromwell’s revolution some decades earlier. The Stuart monarchy restored by parliament in 1660 was turfed out unceremoniously for wanting its pre-Cromwellian power back, and was replaced by a new, tame bourgeois monarchy imported from Holland.

As the revolutionary Soviet economist Eugene Preobrazhensky wrote in The New Economics in 1926, the bourgeoisie did not come to be the ruling class without first creating the economic pre-conditions for its power. For centuries, the bourgeoisie were city traders and bankers subordinate to the feudal elite, but over time they grew stronger and began to undermine the economic independence of the aristocrats, who were ultimately unable to prevent the bourgeoisie from directly claiming power. Parliament was its preferred mechanism for rule in place of aristocratic or absolute despotism. This gradual piecemeal trajectory of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power influenced the character of its revolutions, which were essentially national and became more and more cowardly with time – looking over their shoulders in fear at their ostensible allies in the working class and poor peasantry. There were clear limits to the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they were prepared to introduce, and compromise with the defeated aristocracy to hold down the workers and poor people of town and country became the norm. Thus we see even today that the UK which was the first country to undergo a bourgeois revolution continues to harbour a monarchy which is a relic of its pre-capitalist past and constantly reminds us of the limits of capitalism’s ability to effect profound social transformations.

The socialist revolution presents a striking contrast to the bourgeois revolutions of old. Where the bourgeois revolutions open the way for the transformation of society along capitalist lines, the socialist revolution opens the way for the transformation of society towards the communist mode of production, in which those who work and produce the wealth also own the means of producing it, and associate freely and equally to plan and distribute this production. The two kinds of revolution are similar in that a socialist revolution the current ruling class i.e the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, is overthrown by the oppressed class in capitalist society, i.e the proletariat.

The economic basis for the existence and organization of the proletariat is not created by the proletariat but by its class enemy, the bourgeoisie. Large scale mass production and monopoly capital lays the foundation for the unification and political organization of the proletariat on a national and international scale, as well as for a future socialist economy. What the proletariat does create of its own, is its own independent political organs and the organs of power with which to overthrow the bourgeois in power. Imperialism is clinging on to outworn and unmanageable social relations in an age of transition to socialism, making the imperialist epoch a period of crisis, war and revolution. The global contradiction of the instruments of socialism existing, yet not being in the hands of working people in power, gives the socialist revolution an unprecedented social explosivity and the economic stakes involved are unparalleled, and makes the political tasks of the proletariat that much more complex. All this gives our revolution a much clearer political and social character than the bourgeois revolutions preceding it. There can be no compromise between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie like there was a compromise between the monarchy and the republican bourgeoisie in England.

In the 20th century however, we have witnessed a peculiar development brought about by the historic twist of a bourgeoisie incapable of consummating the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which carried out the bourgeois-democratic transformation of Russian society in its march to complete the socialist transformation. While we insist that this is the case, we must be very clear that much of the bourgeois-democratic transformation involved in this process was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

Since the emergence of imperialism in the late 1800s, however, we have witnessed a twist in this historical development of the forces of social production. Conditions in the world economy have contrasted so starkly with conditions in individual countries that bourgeoisies in backward countries have not been able to bring about a bourgeois-democratic transformation of their society at the national level. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which implemented historically necessary bourgeois-democratic reforms in Russian society as an integral part of its drive to carry out the socialist transformation. The extremely contradictory character of this process means that although this conclusion is inescapable if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Soviet Union, it is far from self-evident, and we must be very clear that much of the progressive bourgeois-democratic content of the transformation of society was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

The problem of understanding the challenges posed to the working class and its peasant allies by the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to bring about necessary democratic change was resolved by Leon Trotsky when he formulated the theory of Permanent Revolution in 1936. The theory makes it clear that the economic and political domination of the world by imperialism means that the bourgeoisie has lost its revolutionary potential and will never again be capable of leading let alone consummating a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

The implications of this conclusion are huge. It means that fundamental political, economic and social change will never ever be achieved by any political force under the leadership of a bourgeois political formation. Any working class party claiming otherwise is deceiving the class and leading it to inevitable failure, as did Stalinist Communist parties backing the leadership of bourgeois forces in Popular Fronts. This was demonstrated to catastrophic effect in China in the 1920s, where the Chinese CP supported the leadership of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the similarly suicidal policies of the Communist party in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Since the second world war there has been almost universal left-wing backing for bourgeois or petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist liberation struggles, and in complete accordance with the theory of Permanent Revolution the vast majority of these movements have led to little more than career opportunities for these leaderships coupled with continued poverty and oppression for the working class and peasant masses. The degeneration of these non-proletarian leaderships and their opportunist and superficial socialist masks has been sometimes slow and gradual, but always complete and counter-revolutionary. Two powerful examples of disastrous betrayals lauded as successes by left-wing forces refusing to accept the perspective of the Permanent Revolution are Nicaragua and most particularly South Africa. Just how criminally betrayed the working masses in South Africa have been by the bourgeois leadership of the ANC, including the fake saint Nelson Mandela, was illustrated just last month on 16 August 2012 by the Marikana massacre. Over 34 demonstrating miners were shot dead in cold blood, most of them in the back. This slaughter continues the tradition of bloody class repression in South Africa, and is the black bourgeoisie’s own Sharpeville massacre.

In the light of these developments, the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution clearly fall upon the working class and its peasant allies, who are compelled to embrace the bourgeois revolution as part of the socialist revolution. The two historical transformations thus move together in sync rather than as two distinct processes. At the same time, however, the specific tasks of the combined revolution in each country vary widely since the social and economic preconditions are different from context to context.

In the context of pre-independent India i.e the time of the Empire of India, the over arching
objective of the Indian struggle was to achieve independence from British rule. Along with this, the prime social objective would have to be the abolition of monarchism in the princely states and a radical redistribution of land under the slogan of land to the tiller. Furthermore, a bourgeois-democratic revolution would aim to abolish all social impediments to capitalist accumulation and development, such as caste divisions and landlordism. So the question of whether 1947 constituted a revolutionary transformation of Indian society basically boils down to the question of whether these necessary aims of the bourgeois revolution were achieved.

The transfer of power from the British Monarchy to the Indian parliament began on 15 August when the rule of the monarch ended and India came under the leadership of the governor general. This was accompanied by the partition of the Indian sub-continent between the Indian republic and the republic of Pakistan. Alongside these two large divisions there existed a series of princely states with six of the largest states asserting their independence from both Pakistan and India. These six states were Balochistan, Kashmir, Tripura, Junagadh, Travancore and Hyderabad. Four of these six states were annexed to India, while Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan and Kashmir is still being contested.

Abolition of Monarchy and self-rule

The transfer of power mandated that the princely states had the choice of either acceding to India or Pakistan — asserting their independence was not an alternative. The formal completion of the transfer of power occurred on 26 January 1950 with the abolition of the post of governor general and with it the complete withdrawal of the rule of the British Monarchy. In parallel with this development was the absorption of approximately 500 princely states into the Indian republic along with the abolition of their respective monarchies. In compensation for abdicating their powers to India however, they were granted privy purses. The princely states which sought to make a stand against either India or Pakistan were crushed, and Hyderabad, Kashmir and Balochistan were made an example of what would happen to monarchs trying to stake their independence. The privy purse concessions were eventually abolished by Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

Abolition of landlordism and land reform

The social changes effected after 1947 included the complete abolition of absentee landlordism and of zamindari in India, along with a distorted and incoherent effort at land reform. Although they were incoherent and distorted, however, the land reforms did pave the way for the penetration of bourgeois land laws into the countryside and the large-scale destruction of petty production there. In this way they initiated the present proletarianization-led development of Indian capitalism, in which tens of millions of small independent farmers are driven into debt and destitution, lose their property (i.e. become proletarianized, owning nothing but their power of labour), and are forced to migrate into the slums of the bloated cities and join the reserve army of the unemployed. This process is universally but falsely referred to as ‘urbanization’, a term that completely conceals the historical class dynamics of what is taking place.

Economic independence

Later on, the nationalization of leading banks under the pretext of ‘social control’ and the ‘Indianization’ of foreign owned companies ensured the security of nascent Indian capital against the forces of foreign capital and gave local capital a dominant role within the territories of the Indian republic. All of these changes took place in the first 3 decades after 1947 and under the political leadership of the Congress party which was the preferred political choice for the Indian bourgeoisie.

Given these changes, it seems that the Indian bourgeoisie through its foremost political representative the Indian Congress party was able to achieve most of its natural bourgeois goals. But such a view only scratches the surface of things without regard to the forces working under the surface.

Beneath the surface

Apologists of the Indian bourgeoisie argue for the ‘strength’ and ‘civility’ of these ‘gradual and peaceful’ changes, and put India on a pedestal as an inspiring example for other countries. Equally superficial apologists on the left try to use India’s historical successes, such as the successful eviction of the British and the social and political transformations that secured some basic bourgeois-democratic needs, to debunk the theory of Permanent Revolution. These views are not only unhistorical, but are outright reactionary and a million miles from the struggles of the oppressed masses, the working class and the poor peasantry against capitalism and imperialism.

All the progressive social transformations which have taken place in India from 1900 to the present have been achieved by the force of class struggle both within India and outside it. The Congress party for its part, was not formed with the aim of liberating India from colonial bondage but simply to act as a steam valve and mediator between the struggling Indian masses and the British imperialists. Up to the first world war their methods never moved beyond prayer and petition against the British. Only later do we see an economically burgeoning Indian bourgeoisie becoming bold enough to demand Tanganyika in East Africa as an exclusive colony under its administration. Along with this, we see the emergence of an organized proletariat in India along with large scale mass production, and the social impact of the Russian revolution which brought about profound changes in land relations and provided the inspiration for democratic struggles world wide.

The rising tide of class struggle forced the Indian Congress party to take a much more radical stance against the British, kicked forward by the actions of revolutionary communists like Bhagat Singh. The radicalization of peasant struggles and the emergence of a strong working class movement saw the growth of the Indian Communist party (CPI) and later on the emergence of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) which peaked in 1946. All of this compelled the British safety valve which was the Congress party to orient itself much more towards the masses so that the Indian bourgeoisie and its British patrons would not be harmed in their propertied interests. Simultaneously however, the strengthening Indian bourgeoisie also demanded their pound of flesh from the British. The British were willing to grant any concession to the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representative the Congress party because of its formidable ability to pacify the Indian working class and peasantry. For its own part the Congress party, which cared chiefly for landed interests in India, didn’t hesitate to hijack the power of the peasant and proletarian struggles emerging in India to pressurize the British. The unsurpassed pacifier Gandhi was the supreme manifestation of this parasitical politics (as the other saintly Congress hero, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, has been in our own period).

Despite their best efforts the Congress party could not hold back the rising tide of class struggle which at its core demanded the immediate and realization of the overarching objectives of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, namely:

1)national liberation from colonial rule,
2)comprehensive land reform,
3)the eradication of landlordism, and
4)the abolition of the princely states and their monarchies.

Three major upsurges helped pave the way for the accomplishment of these goals between 1940 and 1947. The first of these was the Quit India movement which mobilized the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie primarily in Northern and Eastern India, in which large tracts of land were forcibly appropriated by the landless and poor farmers from the clutches of the rural elite. Following this was the formation of the Indian National Army by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the student led mobilizations in Bengal, which attacked the militarist foundations of the British empire. Finally, the peak of class struggle saw the naval uprising in 1946 in all major ports of the Indian empire, with a mass mobilization of workers, students and peasants across the sub-continent.

By this time, the British had lost the loyalty of the Congress party and the Indian bourgeoisie it represented, which had grown bold enough to go on its own. The Congress party for its part was on the verge of losing the support it among the peasants and students that Gandhi and his protege Nehru had so painstakingly built up. Although practically all bourgeois political formations in India sided with the British against the mutiny, it was only the Congress party actively colluded with the British in crushing the uprising in Bombay. Of course this ‘service’ would not come free.

The Congress however, were more afraid of a prospect which worried the British imperialists as much as it did them. What if the Indian masses were to rise up and expropriate the capitalist system itself? What if a socialist revolution accompanied the inevitable democratic revolution? The entire Asian continent would become non-capitalist if expropriations in China were followed by the once-Imperial Indian subcontinent.

The theory of Permanent Revolution has been confirmed time and again when bourgeois democratic revolutions have gone hand in hand with the socialist revolution in the absence of a revolutionary bourgeoisie. However, in the post world war period we have witnessed the peculiar development of deformed and deflected revolutions. This in itself is not beyond the understanding of revolutionary Marxism. Lenin in Two tactics of Social Democracy had foreseen the possibility of such a deformed revolution occurring in Russia, should the forces of the revolutionary working class and peasantry be inadequate to secure a complete victory over capitalism. In context of the permanent revolution this would imply that a Socialist revolution though initiated in the mould of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, would be halted midway by a compromise with reactionary elements in society preventing its further transition from the democratic to the Socialist level. Either that or, a healthy socialist revolution would be deformed by absence of worker’s democracy and the whole revolutionary process would become subjected to the rigid control of a counter-revolutionary bureaucratic clique ruling from the top.

Thus, depending on the objective situation a Socialist revolution may take place and yet be deformed. The result of such a deformed revolution would be a compromise with reactionary elements which would leave important democratic needs of the bourgeois revolution unsatisfied. However, even a deformed revolution would achieve some progressive goals and blunt the edge of the socialist revolution. A similar kind of situation holds in China, where a successful yet deformed socialist revolution leaves many of the fundamental needs of the socialist revolution unsatisfied, but still presents a formidable obstacle to the full counter-revolutionary world programme of imperialism.

In India’s case, the indigenous bourgeoisie was faced with a working class on the cusp of a revolutionary mobilization and its erstwhile British Imperialist protectors in retreat, and had to compromise with reaction to both stifle the revolution and ensure the very survival of India as a capitalist state. Likewise, the forces of British imperialism felt directly threatened by the rising tide of revolution across Asia and were ready to defend the social system of capitalism in the world’s largest continent at any price. Having lost their political hold over India, the British were forced to salvage whatever they could to preserve the remnants of an imperialist economic presence in the continent. So the two leading forces of reaction, the British and the Congress, schemed with minor bourgeois leaders like Jinnah of the Muslim League to bring about a partition of the sub-continent. This would constituted a deep enough compromise with the objective of complete anti-colonial emancipation to destroy the revolutionary process unfolding in the sub-continent and in Asia and to preserve their respective positions. This despicably divisive compromise created the republic of India and the republic of Pakistan at an untold cost in human suffering and backwardness for more than half a century to come. And into the bargain they blessed 500 or so princely states and their rotten monarchies, like so many pieces of dung scattered over the marble floor of a shopping mall.

The Indian bourgeoisie was more adept at securing its interests than its less capable counterparts in the chopped up political botchery of Pakistan. Following the withdrawal of British rule, most of the princely states were absorbed into the Indian republic and their monarchies abolished. This was because the Indian bourgeoisie was feeling the strength of the masses and felt compelled to make a series of concessions to the working class and peasantry in the form of industrial welfare, the nationalization of core industries, and the abolition of landlordism and of the monarchies in the princely states.

However, the core demands of a democratic revolution either remained untouched or were implemented in a deformed manner. Thus, land reforms were implemented but in a zigzag and piecemeal way leaving most of the peasant population destitute and pauperized while encouraging the fragmentation of land holding, a development which created one of the principal sources of primitive capitalist accumulation in the Indian republic. At the same time, independent India gave rise to a new land-owning bourgeoisie who made the most of the penetration of capitalist land laws into the countryside to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor peasantry. For the same reason, caste divisions were allowed to persist, notwithstanding their formal abolition in the Constitution. Thus, the Indian bourgeoisie left pre-capitalist fetters in place where they served its political goal of keeping power, while it removed them where it felt they hobbled its own freedom of movement. As was the case with the annexation of Goa.

To sum up, we must emphasize very strongly once more that the social and political strength which enabled the Indian bourgeoisie to complete certain elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution was not its own. The strength surging through modern India does not belong to the bourgeoisie, which falsely lays claim to it, but to the bourgeoisie’s bitterest enemy the working class and its ally the poor peasantry.

In Pakistan, deliberately truncated at birth, some partial concessions were made to the peasantry in East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan after 1947) in the form of the abolition of Zamindari. Bourgeois-democratic reform stopped here, however. A powerful and influential semi-feudal elite was alarmed at the rapid progress India made in abolishing feudal relics, and huddled around the military institution in that country. The anachronistic and medieval leadership of the country found shelter under the auspices of a rising US imperialism, just like Saudi Arabia, and joined CENTCOM after the Kashmir war. This empowered the pre-capitalist elite and stunted the development of the capitalists of Pakistan as they took over less capital from the British than their Indian counterparts, and were correspondingly less powerful. After partition most of the industrialized and resource-rich provinces lay in India as did most of Britain’s military industries and Imperial infrastructure. India inherited naval power, which Pakistan did not have. All of these factors worked to cripple Pakistan, whose semi-feudal elite were horrified by the class struggle taking place worldwide and did whatever they could get away with to remain in power. The Pakistani bourgeoisie tagged along as willing running dogs to this militarist class of rulers, while acting as a safety valve to vent out peasant and petty bourgeois frustration from time to time. India simply exacerbated Pakistan’s hopeless situation and sped its absorption into British and American imperialism. This is still the case today. The mechanism of Partition continues to operate, with all its devastating consequences for the working people of the subcontinent.

It is now clear what the dynamics of 1947 truly were. The revolutionary process in India was born and grew not because of the bourgeoisie but in spite of it. The bourgeoisie was forced to take up a radical position and come closer to the line of revolution simply to save its own skin. This was an act of betrayal in which they had the fullest connivance of British imperialism acting behind the scenes to destroy the Indian revolution, and in a larger context to stop the Asian revolution from reaching India. The Indian bourgeoisie usurped power from the poor peasants and workers it pretended to represent, and has since then been wielding power with their manufactured consent. But to manufacture and keep this consent they had to make concessions. These led to some of the major changes demanded by the bourgeois revolution, but also prevented a complete combined revolution. At the same time a huge portion of the Indian subcontinent in Pakistan was thrown open to foreign imperialism and left perennially hostage to semi-feudal relics from the past. In other words, Indian independence in 1947 appears in many ways to be a deformed Socialist revolution, stunted at the democratic level. It has allowed the Indian bourgeoisie to become obscenely rich, and to bask in wealth and power nationally and internationally, while the masses of South Asia who create all its wealth languish in desperate poverty and crushing backwardness.

Presidential elections 2012

The spotlight in the last few months have been on the presidential polls of 2012. After facing a full year of turmoil and trouble, the press are portraying the presidential elections as a kind of acid test to show its political strength. Indeed this election has less to do with the office of the president *( An office which is legally bound to be apolitical and neutral to the political forces in power ), and everything to do with the political competition between ruling and opposition parties.

The months of uncertainty before the candidature of Pranab Mukherji *( the former finance minister and the ‘trouble shooter’ for the Congress ) saw most parties putting up their preferred political candidates, each with its own political consideration in mind. The schism between Congress and its allies, and likewise that of the BJP and its allies, only became sharper when the Congress in a political masterstroke chose Pranab Mukherji as its presidential candidate. The aftermath is for all to see, the opposition became divided as its own allies went with the Congress’ party’s choice of president, and the TMC in Bengal was left isolated and powerless in influencing the elections.

The president’s office is touted as being higher in stature and respect than that of the lower house, and as such his role is to sit as a neutral head of state, divorced from any political imperative. This stature is partly reflected in the nature of elections which take place through a secret ballot, thus divorcing it from the direct purview of a popular mandate, ensuring the president’s detachment from the lower house and its politics. All of this also creates an office which isn’t accountable to the people, and is perennially at the mercy of whoever is strong enough to dominate the lower house of parliament. He who controls the cabinet controls the president. Accordingly, the office of the president becomes reduced to an extension of power in the lower house. This dynamic has only been more fully revealed in these elections.

The Congress intends to use this election simply to consolidate its position in both houses of parliament, upper and lower. Having one of its own as the president would give it far greater power than would be the case if a neutral “person of standing” be chosen as the president *( as mandated by the constitution ). The opposition and other regional parties for their part are simply using the election as an opportunity to further their agenda, and gain greater say within the Congress led alliance by adding pressure upon it. The BJP led alliance only wants to undercut the Congress in this race to the highest office of the parliament.

But as things stand, their alliance is both dysfunctional and fragmented, breaking down as a result of the Congress’ choice of president. What these farcical elections show if anything, is the degradation of the high stature of parliament, ripping the mask of neutrality from itself, and the supremacy of the power of political parties and social forces. In this power game, the worst mistake for the political party of the working class would be, is to take sides between any of the candidates. The CPIM has done precisely that, and quite quixotically, fallen into the bourgeois’ trap. Naturally, its ranks have revolted leading to the dissolution of the SFI in JawaharLal Nehru University in Delhi.

Prelude to 2014 ?

The elections are without a doubt a prelude to 2014’s general elections. The power of the Congress would be immeasurably emboldened by a victory in the presidential elections, and would give it the boldness with which to push through many pro-capitalist reforms in parliament. Having isolated its troublesome petty bourgeois rivals and placated others *( like the Socialist party from U.P ) into an alliance, it has now gotten the necessary support to push forward more open market policies which would otherwise not been possible due to opposition from these regional parties.

The main objective of this presidential election is now clear. It was a calculated move to divide and weaken opposition to itself and strengthen its own position in parliament. A realignment is being undertaken now which would give it relative weight in a post 2014 scenario. The position and power of the president would most likely increase if there is no clear popular mandate, and a minority government would have to form. Neither the Congress led alliance nor the BJP led alliance seems poised to form government. In such a situation the Congress would be preparing for a hung parliament, president’s rule, and the complex scenario of a minority government. It’s critical in this period to consolidate the upper house of parliament and the office of the president with their own men.

What significance does the election really hold ?

The elections have revealed in full force, the farce of bourgeois legalism and the unmasked the truth of supposed halo of righteousness surrounding the bourgeois democratic system. Apart from the obvious unmasking of the farcical nature of bourgeoise parliamentary politics, the presidential elections have another significance.

The working class are not interested in the useless infighting between the bourgeoisie. But what significance the elections really do hold, is for preparing for a future of struggle. The worst nightmare for the Indian working class would be an empowered and capable Congress which can freely steam roll its way through with its pro-capitalist policies. That possibility would be much stronger now, if its able to win the presidential elections. We must prepare for the next 2 years when we will face increased attacks upon the working class and peasants. A vicious unleashing of expansionist capitalism aiming to deprive the masses of india, would be awaiting. The presidential elections in essence would become a bugle to unleash Indian capitalism’s Hounds of war.

Our stand on the anti-corruption movement

One of the defining mass mobilizations in this year has been centered around the democratic struggle against corruption. The present struggle is bereft of any coherent political leadership of a single party and is dominated by and large by sections of the urban petty bourgeois and students and youth. The movement attacks one of the pillars of exploitation for the Indian bourgeois and its political representatives especially its most preferred political organization the Congress party. In so far that it attacks one of the foundations of the Indian Capitalist system, this democratic struggle assumes an anti-capitalist character. The New Wave in its programmatic document, the Bolshevik Leninist Manifesto for India have analyzed the phenomena of corruption in India and how to tackle it.

The causes of corruption in India: 

The unique development of Indian capitalism eventually revealed more dictatorial traits too. A country’s development into a monopolist imperialist nation distorts any functional democratic structures. The rise of bureaucratism and one party rule are examples of this distortion. With its inborn aristocratic-landlord flavour and the lack of real capitalist clout, the Congress has spearheaded the vicious economic plunder of national assets. Early on, this took the form of institutionalized corruption.

Faced with the threat of the working class on one side and imperialism on the other the bourgeoisie has had to resort to more and more repressive mechanisms. But repression is expensive and counter-productive and corruption is a drain. The permanence and acceleration of both these phenomena in our period is an indication of how sick imperialist capitalism is. The bourgeoisie is constantly undermining its own rule.

We demand full transparency and public accountability at all levels! 

Corruption and nepotism has become a way of life for the Indian bourgeois. It is but one of the myriad ways in which Indian Capitalism, ‘vampire like, sucks the life essence’ from every Indian. This is even more so with the main party of Indian capitalism, the Congress Party in power. The Party which is the carrier of the most reactionary interests of the Indian bourgeoisie is also the main carrier of the corruption and the innovator of institutionalized corruption. The existing legal and political framework does not allow for full transparency or public accountability. Under various administrative covers as well as secrecy laws, the vice of corruption is hidden and condoned by the bourgeois state. We demand an end to all such impediments which prevent a fully transparent system in India and demand a vertical system of public accountability from the lowest levels of the government bureaucracy to the highest echelons of power. None must be outside of the purview of public accountability. The instruments through which this will be ensured are the right of access to information and recall elections demanding for the expulsion of all ministers found guilty of corruption. Of these the right of access to information has already been granted, but is itself limited by the wall of secrecy laws. The right to recall is yet to be achieved. It is only when both these weapons are used together and with secrecy laws being abolished, will corruption be effectively countered!

But the bourgeois will never concede to a regime of transparency and accountability least of all in India ! The arrest of Anna Hazare and the government’s attempted crackdown of the movement has revealed in full the shameful bonapartist tendencies which are present in the Congress Party government.  This struggle and all future struggles of a national magnitude are most likely to flare up into open conflicts with the government resorting more and more to repression.

Full freedom to organize and agitate!

India’s rise towards imperialism has rendered the bourgeois state more and more undemocratic in nature. A consequence of this has been the narrowing scope to organize and agitate. The bourgeoisie in India which has been walking a tight rope for much of its existence is now being forced to defend its profits more and more by resorting to direct means of oppression. Unfavorable laws which curtail freedom to organize and agitate by the working class and their class allies, give the armed forces the state a free hand to curb the struggles of the oppressed by brute force. It is not uncommon to witness wanton police firing when faced with militant and fighting crowds of the poor. Mass arrests are even more commonplace. The law provides only partial freedom for organization and agitation and in course of time by numerous ‘legal’ methods even these partial freedoms have been attacked and are being reduced to a trifle. This new reality in India calls for a sustained agitation for the recognition of the right of working men to organize and agitate without any fetters.

Nationalization of all wealth owned by Indians abroad!

Recent revelations have shown vast amounts of wealth held by Indians in foreign countries. Some of these are “legitimate” whilst most others are not. There is presently over $1.5 trillion worth of Indian money deposited in Swiss bank accounts. This huge amount is nearly equal to the annual GDP of the Indian economy and is over 6 times larger than India’s entire external debt! With such a huge capital in the hands of the thieving Indian bourgeoisie, it is imperative that each penny of this ill gotten wealth be nationalized and brought under the direct control of the state. As part and parcel of this, we demand that all external transactions between Indian individuals and corporations be brought under public scrutiny and have complete transparency in all trans-national transactions.

BSNL Strike December 2010

Statement of support for BSNL workers strike:

From the 1st of December this year, the workers of BSNL , India’s largest telecommunications provider, and one of the largest public sector companies in India, are on strike. The strike is against the divestment of state assets and the massive attacks on the working conditions and welfare of the workers in BSNL. The Rights of workers and living conditions achieved in India result from years of struggle against the capitalist system. The government attacks target all the victories won by the class in constant militant struggle. The Indian government’s economic, social and political offensive against millions of workers is ruthless and massive, but the struggle of the BSNL workers will be a watershed. We give our unconditional support to the strike called by the BSNL workers and employees under the banner of the JAC.

The demands raised in struggle are the following :

The abolition of the Pitroda Commission Recommendations :

The Pitroda commission is recommending huge lay offs and retrenchments under the guise of a retirement scheme for employees as well as a massive sell-off. These plans are part of a coordinated long term drive to break the militancy of the working class in BSNL and to hand over one of the leading state sector companies to India’s conglomerate owning families. The consequences of this would be devastating . Thus far, such a move has been pioneered by the congress government at the centre who are by a million strings attached to precisely these families.

Stop discriminating against BSNL!  :

Time and again the ruling government in power and particularly the Congress government has treated the BSNL in a discriminating manner. It has been held back from access to some of the best technologies in the market as well as having to pass through unwarranted bureaucratic hurdles to keep up competing with other private firms currently dominating the telecom market. Such discrimination has no justification and must be immediately halted.

A review of existing employment policies :

The present existing wage schemes for workers do not include pension benefits which have been halted since 2007. Also a review is needed on the pay scale and an overall increase of wages must be put into effect. Furthermore, the complications arising out of the absorbsions of employees of the ITS need urgent resolving. We demand that proper steps be taken to resolve this most urgent issue.

Whilst the aforementioned demands broadly describe the approach of the struggle as it stands we believe the following demands should be raised to take the struggle for the BSNL forward

1) Accountability and direct workers participation in all decision making process of the company :

State control over industry is meaningless if it is subjected to the whims of pro-capitalist bureaucrats who are more than willing to sell off public wealth at throw away prices. To ensure that the gains arising out of state ownership benefit the people, the workers who are the life and blood of the corporation must have a decisive say in running the company.

2) Guaranteed employment and good wages for all employees! :

We demand that adequate employment guarantee be granted to all employees working in BSNL which include a pension scheme for all new entrants in work. As well as increases in wage pay for both permanent and contractualized workforce. We also demand that contractualized workers be treated at par with permanent workers in BSNL without any loss of pay to permanent work force.

3) Make BSNL a model company for the country :

BSNL is one of the foremost public sector companies in India. To serve the interests of all people in the nation this essential industry must be given all necessary technical, political and legal assistance to become a model of efficient and democratized planning and development. It must be seen as an inspirational model of class infrastructural development for the prosperity of all citizens.

We call for national level solidarity of all state sector employees to come forth in defense of their rights and for the defense of public assets and state corporations in the greater welfare of the people.

The demands needed to save BSNL aren’t limited only to BSNL or to any single corporation for that matter. They are in essence part of a much broader struggle. To make the struggle for BSNL a true success we must mobilize behind these demands to a higher level of militant struggle culminating ultimately in a nationwide general strike in solidarity with all BSNL workers.

For a United Struggle !

United we rise divided we fall. For the struggle in the BSNL to succeed we need to make sure that the struggle remains a solidly unified one. For this we propose a network of nationally coordinated network of strike committees.