on the National Situation and our Tasks
1. India is passing through turbulent times. On the one hand we have a growing crisis of the neo-liberal policy regime and a desperate corporate/state offensive to transfer the burden of the crisis on the people; on the other hand we are witnessing massive outbursts of people’s anger. Whether we look at struggles against corporate land-grab, against corruption, against sexual violence or for workers’ rights, we can see an encouraging upswing in popular assertion. The historic upsurge of the youth in Delhi against the December 16 incident of gang-rape has triggered a countrywide awakening among women and in the society at large for women’s rights. We also witnessed a powerful assertion of the working class in an unprecedented two-day all-India strike on February 20-21. In spite of the economic hardship and repressive offensive of the state, the present juncture is pregnant with great possibilities for the democratic movement of the Indian people.
2. Two decades of uninterrupted pursuit of the economic policy regime of reckless liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation have pushed India into a deep economic crisis. All these years the ruling classes sought to justify the policies by pointing to the increased rate of economic growth, but now the growth balloon has also been deflated with the growth rate hitting the lowest point in a decade. Agriculture and manufacturing sectors are in deep stagnation, and the much celebrated service sector has also begun to slow down.
3. Taking a cue from the US and other crisis-hit countries, the Indian ruling classes have also adopted the two-pronged approach of bailing out the crisis-hit corporations while inflicting greater hardship on the common people in the name of maintaining austerity and checking fiscal deficit. Two decades ago, Manmohan Singh had introduced the neo-liberal policies in the name of rescuing the Indian economy. Now when the policy trajectory has led India to a deeper morass, Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister is trying to use the crisis as an opportunity for imposing the neo-liberal agenda of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation still more recklessly.
4. Instead of reducing India’s dependence on foreign capital and erecting safeguards to protect Indian economy from the aggression of global finance, the UPA government is desperately opening up every sphere of the economy to increasingly unrestricted operations of foreign capital. Defying widespread opposition, the government has decided to allow FDI in multi-brand retail sector and pension fund. In the 2012-13 budget, India had for the first time talked of introducing provisions (General Anti-Avoidance Rules) to plug the loopholes whereby foreign investors operating from tax havens like Mauritius and Cayman Islands lawfully avoid paying any tax. But the government soon deferred it, first for one year and then for three years. And now this year’s budget has virtually been dedicated to foreign investors with the Finance Minister saying the country has no choice but to invite foreign investment.
5. The phenomenon of state-sponsored subsidisation of the corporate sector has been going on in multiple forms in India. Exemptions handed out to the corporate sector in annual budgets gives us one straightforward indication and the amount works out to more than Rs 5 trillion in the last eight budgets. It is also well known that the corporate sector is the biggest recipient and defaulter of loans extended by Indian public sector banks – and despite the global financial crisis banks are loaning out huge amounts to their corporate clients, the total volume of highly risky corporate debt running into Rs. 3.6 trillion.
6. Most of the recent mega scams like 2G, Coalgate, K-G Basin scam (the gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin were discovered by the ONGC and then handed over to the Reliance Industries) etc. furnish examples of huge losses inflicted on the national exchequer in corporate interest. State patronage of the corporate sector or collusion and complicity in corporate plunder also takes the form of blatant pro-corporate legislation like the SEZ Act 2005 or the Land Acquisition Bill that has been approved by the UPA cabinet or systematic subversion of existing laws and parliamentary procedures to promote the PPP model.
7. The phenomenal growth of corruption in recent years can only be understood as an organic feature or upshot of the growing state-corporate nexus. Mega scams unearthed by the CAG clearly show that corruption is essentially an expression of corporate subsidy or corporate plunder. And corporate plunder is as much an act of defrauding the national exchequer as of looting the resources of the country and robbing the people of their rights. While the ruling classes and their ideologues seek to camouflage and legitimise this plunder in the guise of development, Marxist scholars and people’s movements across the world rightly identify it as accumulation by dispossession, over and above the normal process of capitalist exploitation, whereby enormous amounts of wealth are amassed in a few hands by dispossessing and depriving vast sections of the population.
8. Price-rise, which along with corruption has emerged as the other most burning issue, is also a direct outcome of the government’s economic policies. Prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas have been deregulated and now the latest rail budget has also proposed to deregulate passenger fare in the railways by linking it to variable fuel prices. Coupled with increasing commercialisation of basic services like education, healthcare and other civic amenities, the rise in prices of all basic goods and services constantly reduces the purchasing power of the working people, pushing more and more people deeper into poverty and even starvation. Instead of taking urgent measures to check prices and providing some cushion to the poor with effective subsidies, the government has responded by fudging figures and ridiculously lowering the poverty line itself and now it proposes to further reduce subsidies and reach it to fewer beneficiaries through direct cash transfer methods while leaving the vast majority of the working people at the mercy of the market.
9. The corporate-market onslaught is accompanied by a relentless truncating of the democratic space. Just as corporate plunder is sought to be camouflaged as development, the systematic assault on democracy is sought to be legitimised in the name of national security. The Indian state’s current doctrine of national security is nothing but an Indian extension of the American doctrine of global hegemony disguised as ‘national security’ and anti-Islamism camouflaged as the ‘war on terror’. It internalises the American prejudices and priorities, combining them with India’s own traditional contention with Pakistan and China, the habit of running Kashmir and the Northeast at gun-point and the assessment of the Maoists as the biggest threat to internal security. This has now become a self-perpetuating cycle with terrorism and state terrorism reinforcing each other.
10. The doctrine of ‘strong state’ – a euphemism for making India virtually a police state with increasing involvement of the Army in civilian governance – is shared by almost all major parties of the ruling classes, particularly by the Congress and the BJP among national parties and the Shiv Sena among regional parties. Even as the government had to withdraw the draconian POTA in the face of growing resistance, democracy continues to be systematically trampled under draconian legislations like the AFSPA, UAPA and the sedition law left behind by the British colonialists. Every suggestion to repeal or even amend AFSPA has been rejected by the government on the plea that the armed forces do not favour it, and the armed forces say they cannot possibly contain civilian disturbance without the special powers of immunity granted under AFSPA. The UAPA provides the legal weaponry for Operation Green Hunt and similar repressive campaigns, enabling governments to detain without trial while the sedition law (section 124A of IPC) continues to incriminate dissent and kill freedom of expression. In the wake of the recent Hyderabad blasts, the UPA government is again trying to push the idea of setting up a National Counter Terrorism Centre on the lines of the NCTC in US. Armed with the arbitrary provisions of UAPA, such an agency will give extraordinary powers to the IB, and by implication also to its American counterpart, FBI, to arrest and harass anybody without any transparency or accountability. Defence of democracy in India today demands above all an urgent repeal of all such draconian laws and increasingly extra-judicial repressive measures.
11. Faced with growing popular opposition, the scam-tainted and thoroughly discredited UPA government is trying to manage its crisis by appeasing the BJP, the most glaring example being the hanging of Afzal Guru carried out most secretively without even informing his family and without giving him the due opportunity to question the rejection of the mercy petition. In the context of Kashmir, this unjust hanging, carried out two days before the 29th anniversary of the execution of Kashmiri leader Maqbool Bhat, has immeasurably deepened the sense of alienation of the Kashmiri people. In the overall context of Indian politics, this act of appeasement can only be likened to the Congress capitulation to the BJP’s Ayodhya campaign which had led the Sangh Parivar to get away with the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
12. Defying a concerted campaign by the Congress and the BJP and the dominant media to whip up a celebratory frenzy over the hanging of Afzal Guru, the revolutionary democratic opinion in the country has courageously exposed the ominous political implication of the execution. We must stand by the aggrieved people of Kashmir at this hour of anger and pain and support their fight for democracy and justice and for withdrawal of AFSPA. The incident has also rightly strengthened the demand for India to abolish the death penalty or at least honour the UN resolution to uphold a moratorium on death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition.
13. With the ruling classes pushing the country into an all-encompassing crisis and declaring a veritable war on the livelihood and rights of the common people, the people everywhere are up in arms against the governments and their policies. Presiding over the most scam-tainted government ever in Indian history, the Congress has steadily lost ground. The BJP too has been exposed to be equally corrupt and consequently the loss faced by the Congress has not exactly translated into gains for the BJP. Yet, in states where there is no major presence of any third force and electoral politics revolves primarily around the Congress and the BJP, either the BJP has continued to retain power (as most notably in Gujarat) or the Congress has staged a comeback in spite of its otherwise shrinking profile (as witnessed in recent elections in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh).
14. Karnataka is one state where the BJP and the Congress gained simultaneously in the last Assembly election by squeezing out the third party, the JD(S). In 2004, the BJP had already emerged as the single largest party and four years later, Karnataka became the first state in south India to have a BJP-led government. But the BJP rule has become notorious for massive land and mining scams and the rise of the mining mafia and attacks on women and religious minorities, Christians in particular. Indicted by the Karnataka Lokayukta on corruption charges, BJP strongman Yeddyurappa had to resign in 2011 and after repeated revolts in the party eventually he had to quit the BJP and form his own party. It now remains to be seen where the BJP stands after Yeddyurappa’s exit from the party. In many ways, Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh has emerged as the mirror image of BJP-ruled Karnataka. The Congress still runs the government on paper, but the breakaway YSR Congress seems to have emerged as the real Congress while Congress is trying unsuccessfully to make up for the loss by acquiring the erstwhile Praja Rajyam Party led by film star Chiranjeevi and exploring the possibility of striking another merger and acquisition deal with the Telanagna Rashtra Samiti.
15. Karnataka apart, the other state where the BJP has managed to increase its strength and acquire greater prominence in recent years is Bihar. In fact, between November 2005 and November 2010, the BJP almost succeeded in doubling its tally in Bihar Assembly, raising it from 55 to 91, just 24 short of its partner JD(U). If the RJD misrule in Bihar gave the BJP its first big break in Bihar, catapulting it to power, it is the alliance with Nitish Kumar which has really helped the BJP to expand and consolidate its influence in Bihar in a big way. Nitish Kumar has been trying to keep up his secular image by drawing a line of demarcation with Narendra Modi, but within Bihar the BJP enjoys a free hand to play its communal card. The BJP has also been emboldened by the Nitish regime’s complete surrender to the feudal lobby in Bihar as evidenced by the dumping of the Bandyopadhyay Commission’s report on land reforms the first opportunity and the continuing appeasement of the Ranveer Sena. By contrast, conditions are tougher for the BJP in its traditional stronghold of Jharkhand where the party has to face stiff competition from the breakaway Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and other regional forces.
16. Regional parties constitute a growing phenomenon in Indian politics. While some of these parties are rooted in powerful regional or social identities, or in long-standing struggles for statehood or greater autonomy, many have emerged in recent years as a result of fragmentation of the Congress and the BJP or the erstwhile Janata Dal. The proliferation and consolidation of regional parties in last two decades must be seen largely as a political fall-out of the policy regime of liberalisation and privatisation and the rise of powerful regional economic interests as big corporate houses and global capital try to acquire strong footholds in resource-rich regions. While regional parties offer stiff competition to the Congress and the BJP in the states, in all-India politics they usually play second fiddle in lieu of the regional advantages they can secure through a hard bargain with the Centre. The UPA government employs a carrot and stick strategy to deal with powerful regional parties, making full use of central agencies like the CBI and the financial power of the centre vis-a-vis the states. On the issue of FDI in retail we once again saw parties like the SP and BSP bail out the UPA government while NDA constituents like the JD(U) and Shiv Sena too voted for the Congress nominee at the time of the Presidential elections.
17. The Left bloc led by the CPI(M) has faced a major debacle in its strongest bastion of West Bengal. Even though the CPI(M) by and large retains its strength in its other two strongholds of Kerala and Tripura – the party lost narrowly in Kerala while retaining power for the fifth consecutive term in Tripura – the party’s decline in West Bengal has considerably weakened its national profile and the strength of the CPI(M) and its allies has dropped drastically from the highest ever tally of sixty-plus in 2001 to its lowest ever strength of 24. Like the proverbial ostrich, the CPI(M) however refuses to admit, let alone address, the real reason behind its debacle in West Bengal. While everybody familiar with the political reality in West Bengal attributes it to the CPI(M)’s attempt to embrace and enforce the neo-liberal agenda in West Bengal and its growing arrogance of power, the CPI(M) sees it primarily as a fall-out of political realignment following its belated withdrawal of support to the UPA government in the wake of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Even though the CPI(M) has been forced to return to an oppositional role, nationally and most crucially in West Bengal, the party remains soft on the Congress and it broke ranks with its long-standing allies like the CPI and RSP to vote for the Congress nominee in the Presidential election.
18. The CPI(M)’s emphatic defeat in West Bengal has emboldened bourgeois ideologues and the corporate media to step up their anti-Left campaign. But within the Left camp it has also encouraged considerable debate and rethinking even though the CPI(M) officially refuses to introspect and draw any lessons. While countering the anti-Left campaign and the physical violence and state repression being unleashed on Left activists and leaders in West Bengal under TMC rule we must also simultaneously sharpen the struggle against the opportunist line of the CPI(M). Two recent incidents outside West Bengal – the killing of former CPI(M) activist and leader of Revolutionary Marxist Party Comrade TP Chandrasekharan in Kerala and the support extended to Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential election – have also contributed to the sharpening of the struggle against the CPI(M) leadership’s opportunism. Incidentally, West Bengal has also exposed the political bankruptcy of the Maoists who allowed themselves to be used by the TMC in its bid for power only to be taken for a cruel ride. Before coming to power Mamata Banerjee had demanded judicial inquiry into the killing of Maoist leader Azad in Andhra Pradesh and promised to release political prisoners, but now her government has killed Maoist leader Kishenji in a similar fashion and refused to release any of the 500-odd political prisoners languishing in jails. Sharp struggle against opportunism and bold resistance to the increasingly authoritarian character emerging from behind the ruling TMC’s populist mask holds the key to the revival of the Left movement in West Bengal.
19. With the Lok Sabha election getting closer, we are witnessing a growing clamour within the BJP to project Narendra Modi as the next Prime Ministerial candidate. Modi is also the hot favourite of corporate circles who are hoping for a replication of the Gujarat model of unrestricted corporate freedom on an all-India scale. The Congress on the other hand hopes to benefit from a grand anti-Modi polarisation, waiting for a rift within the NDA over the issue of projection of Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate as well as for a possible return of the estranged allies of the first phase of the UPA government.
20. While opposing the pro-Modi campaign with all our might, we must clearly understand that Modi today is an icon of not just aggressive communalism but of unbridled corporate rule in a police state. In fact, communalism itself has acquired a new dimension in the wake of the US-led anti-Islam campaign. The sense of insecurity that never really ceased to haunt Muslims in India, and got seriously aggravated since the late 1980s when the Sangh Parivar launched its aggressive campaign of communal mobilisation in the name of Ram Janambhoomi, has now been reinforced by a relentless state-sponsored campaign of a veritable anti-Muslim witch-hunt. Gujarat under Modi’s leadership has not only witnessed the horrific genocide of 2002 but also a spate of staged encounter killings in the name of combating terrorism. More than ever before it is now crucial to understand that the battle for secularism can only be waged as an inseparable part of the larger battle for democracy.
21. Once we recognise that Modi today derives his power not just from the communal politics of the Sangh Parivar but from the corporate world hungering for unrestricted power and plunder, it follows that the battle against the Modi model cannot proceed merely on communal versus secular lines; rather it must draw its strength from the anti-corporate resistance of the working people and from the whole gamut of struggles for democracy. Struggles against communal terror, corporate capital and state repression and criminalisation of Muslims as part of the imperialist war on terror, which are all inextricably linked in Modi’s brand of politics must all be combined to effectively combat the Modi model. Only a heightened assertion of the people and a powerful intervention of the Left and other democratic forces can save the country from the danger of an outright corporate-fascist takeover.
22. The central political task of resisting the corporate-fascist offensive and opposing the Congress and the BJP must be combined with the state-specific political targets and priorities depending on the diverse political situations and conditions obtaining in different states. Majority of the state governments are being run either by the BJP/NDA or Congress/UPA – the two coalitions that remain our main targets nationally. Most state governments run by parties not directly associated with these two coalitions – for example, the TMC in West Bengal, BJD in Odisha, SP in UP or AIADMK in Tamil Nadu – have an equally bad anti-people anti-democratic track record and we must oppose them vigorously.
23. To strengthen mass and class struggles against anti-people pro-corporate pro-imperialist policies and resist social oppression, state repression and communal and feudal/patriarchal forces, it is imperative to promote unity in action with other fighting forces. The formation of the All India Left Coordination has marked an important step forward in this context. The AILC has brought together several Left organisations, including organisations coming out of the CPI(M) following programmatic and tactical debates, on the basis of a shared agenda and common political approach and tactical understanding. While strengthening AILC we must continue to reach out to other Left forces and explore possibilities of political cooperation and united struggle. With the CPI(M) pushed into an oppositional role in West Bengal and also in national politics, the prospect of issue-based broader Left unity has improved objectively. But the CPI(M)’s renewed tactical proximity to the Congress, particularly in the wake of the recent Congress-TMC split-up, and the CPI(M)/CPI record of privileging unity with bourgeois parties over Left unity remain major hindrances.
24. While almost all bourgeois parties and their governments exhibit a veritable policy consensus, it is encouraging to see popular protests gather momentum on a whole range of issues. Some recent agitations, like the resistance against land acquisition for POSCO in Odisha, protests against Jaitapur and Kudankulam nuclear plants, against Paramakudi police firing in Tamil Nadu which killed 7 dalit labourers and the acquittal of the perpetrators of Bathani Tola massacre in Bihar and struggles of Maruti workers in Gurgaon have stirred the democratic opinion across the country. Organising and strengthening such struggles by all means is a task of crucial importance at the present juncture.
25. Unresolved statehood demands too continue to give rise to powerful popular agitations. The struggle for Telangana has witnessed massive participation of students and youths. Faced with a popular upsurge the UPA government had promised to accept the demand only to go back on the commitment. The report submitted by the five-member Justice Srikrishna committee on the Telangana statehood issue has also kept all options open. Two other statehood demands have been lying unresolved for years in the hills of West Bengal and Assam. The tripartite accord replacing the erstwhile Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council by the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration has failed to satisfy the Gorkha people and the demand for a Gorkhaland state to resolve the identity crisis of the Gorkha people remains very much alive. We support the CPRM, which broke away from the CPI(M) in the 1990s over the issue of Gorkhaland and is now a constituent of the AILC, in its attempts to keep the red flag flying in the Darjeeling hills in the midst of the movement for a separate Gorkhaland state.
26. The hill districts of Assam – Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, now renamed as Dima Hasao – have also been home to a protracted people’s movement demanding the creation of an Autonomous State as promised under Article 244 A of the Constitution of India. With successive governments refusing to heed the voice of the democratic movement, the peaceful movement gave way to armed insurgency and the demand for a separate state under Article 3 gained in strength. The government has responded by signing separate tripartite accords with two rival factions of DHD in Dima Hasao and with UPDS in Karbi Anglong. These accords have however proved to be utterly inadequate and deceptive and the situation on the ground has not improved at all. The aspirations for democracy and development of the people remain unfulfilled and the movement continues for an Autonomous State or a separate Hill State. The CPI(ML) is ready to cooperate with other forces of the statehood or autonomy movement in the interest of harmony and democracy in the region and rights and welfare of the people.
27. Statehood demands in Vidarbha and Bundelkhand also have a long history and considerable popular support. While rejecting the thesis of small states invoked usually in the name of better governance, we support the cause of federal restructuring including formation of new states to fulfil longstanding popular demands. The formation of a second states reorganisation commission can be the best way of resolving these demands in a time-bound and holistic manner. We also call for special urgent measures to address the issue of growing regional disparity and promote employment-generating agricultural and industrial development in backward states and regions.
28. With corruption crossing all limits, the slogan of a corruption-free order has emerged as a popular battle-cry. The agitation for a Jan Lokpal under the leadership of Anna Hazare acquired widespread support in 2011. The movement eventually branched in two different directions with a section of Team Anna forming a new party called Aam Aadmi Party under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal and targeting the crony capitalism being patronised by the Congress and the BJP. This also marks a departure from the established pattern of NGO politics which has remained non-party and stayed away from participating in elections. But both Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal treat corruption primarily as a governance issue and fail to address the policies that have been promoting corruption and corporate plunder. By contrast, we have advanced the call for reversal of pro-corporate policies, protection of agricultural, forest and coastal land, and the rights of gram sabhas, confiscation of black money and illicit wealth and nationalisation of mineral resources as the central plank for the anti-corruption movement. Also, we insist on treating the anti-corruption campaign as an integral part of the larger democratic movement.
29. Our Party has been playing an energetic role and taking sustained and multi-dimensional initiatives to advance the developing mass movements on different fronts and issues. The mass organisations led by our comrades have been in the forefront of several major struggles. The lone Party MLA in Jharkhand has been commendably using the Assembly and allied platforms to raise the voice of the people and assist a whole range of struggles of the adivasis and other working people. In Bihar we suffered major reverses in the 2010 elections, but undeterred by the electoral reverses, the Party has expanded its political role and initiatives, and has emerged as a dynamic and consistent opposition to the feudal-communal regime of Nitish Kumar.
30. The web of corruption ensnaring the corporate-state nexus has seriously dented the legitimacy of the system. The judiciary has stepped up its role to rescue the system and various reforms are being mooted to save the system from lapsing into deeper crisis. In the name of economic reforms the ruling classes have pushed the country into corporate plunder and deep economic crisis, now in the name of political reforms they are desperate to curtail people’s rights and restrict popular participation. If the ruling classes are allowed to have their way, India will become a victim of corporate-fascist takeover. On the contrary, if we can grasp the depth of the disillusionment that has set in, and seize every opportunity to channelize the people’s anger in a progressive direction, the present juncture may well yield major victories in the battle for justice, democracy and social transformation. The Ninth Congress of the Party must resolve to make the most of the evolving situation and move ahead in bold steps.