The contradictions piling up in Indian society - Editor’s Note to Asian Marxist Review, Autumn 2007

The editorial of the latest edition of the Asian Marxist Review is dedicated to the situation in India, where we have an economic boom benefiting only a minority and growing poverty at the other end of society. Sooner or later the situation will explode.

India is the largest "democracy" in the world. It now has more billionaires than any country in Asia. At the same time it has more poverty stricken people than any other land on the continent. In fact it has more poverty than anywhere else on this planet.

According to the latest official survey, 80% of the population lives on 15 rupees a day. The more its growth rate soars, the greater is the deterioration of the living conditions of about a billion Indians. The more India's economy surges, the more its shantytowns plunge into darkness.

An epidemic of peasant suicides is spreading across its fertile plains. The red corridor comprising Jharkhand, Andra and other states is in the throes of an armed revolt where the mighty Indian army faces a humiliating defeat.

From Kashmir to Assam the national question has become a festering wound. The Indian bourgeoisie has failed to forge a unified nation state, solve the agrarian question, build a viable infrastructure, create a genuine democracy, establish a secular society and uplift the vast majority of its population out of the abyss of endless misery.

Years ago John Galbraith had defined Indian politics as "The most organised chairs in the world," but now even this "organisation" is breaking down. Forty years of "Nehruvian Socialism" ‑ i.e. of the Keynesian school of capitalist economics - have failed to carry out the social and economic salvation of the masses. Twenty years of so-called "trickle down economy" have been a catastrophic for the Indian masses.

The reactionary rise of Hindu fundamentalism has been the ultimate result. The combination of religious bigotry with aggressive capitalist brutalisation was, however, rejected by the toiling masses in India. The Congress-led government was brought back into the power with the help of the left parties under the name of secularism.

In spite of this, the economic policies have been the same as the previous government, if not more intense. The capitulation to imperialism has been unprecedented. Congress is not alone in carrying through these disastrous IMF recipes. The Communist Parties and the other left parties are trying to run ahead of Congress and BJP in carrying out these devastating policies in the states where they are leading local government.

The greatest tragedy for the Indian left is that in its thinking, ideology and psychology it is shackled to Indian nationalism Historically, nationalism is the ideology and essence of the bourgeoisie. The Indian bourgeoisie gained independence not through struggle but through compromise.

The Indian bourgeois entered the arena of history belatedly. Under the crushing domination of imperialism and the world market it was incapable of carrying out its historical tasks. Partition that pierced the living body of a society with a five thousand years history of common culture and living was a bloody defeat for the proletariat of the subcontinent. The workers did struggle, and wanted to go further, but the struggle of the masses for liberation from the British Raj was squandered by the leadership of the Communist Party of India under the dictates of Stalinism.

The class basis of that anti-imperialist struggle was so ferocious that the serious analysts of the British ruling class could see where it could end up. The London Times editorial of 29th January, 1928, in spite of its hypocritically diplomatic tone, acknowledged this threat: "There is no real connection between these two unrests, labour and congress opposition," and then explained, "the attention which Lord Irwin (viceroy) gave to the labour problems".

The British imperialists and the Indian elite, both Hindu and Muslims, could not afford a united independent subcontinent, in the conditions of the roaring revolutionary storms that were sweeping across Asia. This struggle would not have stopped at the "stage" of national liberation but would have moved on to socio-economic emancipation through a socialist revolution. The rule of capital was threatened; hence the wound of partition was inflicted.

And sixty years after those tragic events the CP leaders are still trying to get from this bourgeoisie what it cannot give, i.e. the completion of the national democratic revolution. The Indian billionaires are investing much more abroad than at home. So much for their nationalism! Imperialist investment is capital rather than labour intensive ‑ a joyless, jobless investment with much greater extortion.

All of production is orientated towards a market of 15-20% of the population, of the Indian middle class. The rest of the population is excluded from this economic cycle. Indian nationalism has flickered and extinguished, while democracy is a cynical farce for the huge ocean of the deprived and impoverished. India will not become a mighty power on the basis of capitalism. It will further decay and whither and that is why this rotten system has to be over thrown.

There is enormous ferment amongst the ranks of the left parties. Their leaders insist on compromises and opportunist policies, and now all this is teetering on the brink. Sooner rather than later the seething anger amongst the workers and youth is bound to explode. If the ideas and methods of revolutionary Marxism gain strength, this upsurge from below can find a clear programme, strategy and methodology for socialist revolution. If it becomes a critical mass then there is no force on earth that could stop the surge of revolutionary socialism in India. A socialist victory would undo partition and create a Socialist Federation of South Asia and pave the way to a communist future and the emancipation of the human race.