India: Where is it going?

We publish a comment by a Pakistani Marxist on the situation in India today. He outlines the appalling levels of poverty, highlighting that this is getting worse, not better, as the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider. The answer is to be found in the unity of workers across the whole of the South Asian subcontinent in the struggle for a socialist federation.

History never repeats itself in exactly the same manner. Whenever it does repeat, it always does so on a higher plane. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, they have been manufacturing a new history, fabricating it on a colossal scale. The media and the dominant intelligentsia wish to impose on the psychology of the masses the idea that this system is the final destiny of humankind, or as Francis Fukuyama put it, this is the "end of history". This idea has been propagated by the bourgeois means of communication and a so-called "public opinion" has been created around it by the ruling elites.

Indian social conditions and the myth of “Progress”

Views about the progress of India range from the pollyannaish "India Shining" to the messianically-distorted view of India's Maoists who continue to see India as a "semi-feudal, semi-colonial" nation. The past neo-liberal policies of the Congress-led UPA alliance have only benefitted the upper classes of Indian society.

The widening gap between rich and poor is growing at an alarming high rate. The 'State of World Population 2008' report, prepared by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), shows that India lags behind its neighbours also in terms of life expectancy. Indian males have a life expectancy of 63.3 years and women of 66.6 years. More than half of India’s women are classed as anaemic, which means that capitalism is daily damaging their very bodies.

As India “progresses”, more people fall into vicious circle of poverty. 230 million people are undernourished and 40 per cent of children under three years of age are underweight. The slums are increasing at a drastic rate on outskirts of Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities otherwise considered as “modern”.

For the past four decades, the child male to female sex ratio statistics in the 0-6 age group reveals a continuous decline. The census figures illustrate that it is in some of the richer states of the country where the problem is most acute and these states include the Punjab which had only 798 girls (per 1,000 boys), Haryana 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883 girls per 1,000 boys in the 2001 Census. Similarly according to a United Nations survey conducted in 2007, an estimated 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India.

There is always money to be made out of poverty; and the capitalists are so cruel that they are now selling poverty in order to maximize their profits. Recently, the Oscar winner movie “Slumdog Millionaire” broke box-office records by propagating the slum poverty and projecting it to world. It was a farce with the suffering, pain and miseries of the poor on display.

The promises of the ruling politicians and their policies have brought nothing but increasing despair among the poor and more people are falling into the death trap of poverty. Now about 78 % of the population spends less than Rs. 20 a day, while the wage rate of workers in the organized industrial sector is among the lowest in the world.

There was a projection of high growth rate of the Indian economy in the past, but 40 percent of its people continue to merely subsist on less than a dollar a day and children are denied basic education. The number of Indians with a higher education is a mere seven percent. But this only one side of the picture: now a large part of the rich in the world are from India. People like Laxmi Mittal, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, etc., are from India. Mukesh Ambai who lost $28.2 billion gambling on the Stock Exchange is still India’s richest person with $20.8 billion.

Now that economic turmoil has hit the world, the rich continue to enjoy a life of luxury while the masses suffer even more. The bailouts at the expense of public money are being carried out to maintain the status quo of the rich and protecting them from falling into the mass of poor. From the owners of multinational companies to bureaucrats, they are all enjoying the luxuries during the downturn at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

And as the suffering of the masses gets worse, the luxuries of the rich are ever growing. Recently, an airship “Air Force One”, worth Rs 2450 million, was purchased and included in the Indian Air Force. Yes, there is money for such luxuries, bailouts and the buying of weapons, but there is no money for the ordinary public.

For the 2009-10 fiscal budget India's defence expenditure increased by 10 %, which adds up to Rs.1,056 billion ($26.5 billion) for buying military hardware in order to kill people. Also Rs.33 billion have been allocated to the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in order to find new ways of spreading destruction and killing people. However, for the Social Services, such as Health, Education and the broadcasting services, only Rs. 302730 Millions have been allocated.

The agrarian question has not yet been solved and farmers continue to commit suicide and woman sell their bodies, children and even parts of their bodies, just to be able to eat bread & butter twice a day. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 16,632 farmers, including 2,369 women, killed themselves in the year2007, constituting 14.4% of the total number of suicides in the country. That means an average of 46 farmers commit suicide every day in India and if we take data for the past decade, the farmer suicides in the country since 1997 now total 182,936. This is what we find in the annual report of the NCRB, although the actual figures may be even higher.

A country rich in natural resources, skilled manpower and with huge potential for growth is condemned by this horny capitalism to be a failed society, a failed state. It is a tragedy created by the system, which has one motive, to increase their rate of profits at the cost of human life.

India, the world’s largest food grain producer, also has the world’s largest hungry population -- over 200 million. It ranks a poor 66th among 88 developing and transitional countries according to the 2008 Global Hunger Index (GHI-2008) report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Recently, in some parts of India people faced drought-like conditions on the basis that there were no food grains available for them. Three crore [30 million] tonnes of food grains lie in the godowns [Indian warehouses] but the suppliers are not releasing enough onto the market in order to maintain a profitable price. They have created an artificial shortage so that supply is reduced and thus prices go up.

Uneven and combined development

The current crisis of India is also rooted in the peculiar development of its capitalism. The dream of capitalism on a classical basis in India is still a dream. But now this dream is more painful for the masses because they are now suffering even more. Capitalism has failed to fulfil any of its historical duties, such as solving the national question, the separation of religion from state, etc. Hence, what we see is that the two different “phases” are combined into one.

Throughout its history, capitalism has absorbed one country after another into its orbit; and in doing so it increased their dependence upon one another. But during this process of interdependence it does not mean that they have followed the same paths; in each part of world the evolution of capitalism has separate characteristics. In this process they drew countries closer together economically and yet with profound differences among them. Their national development in many respects did not proceed along parallel lines, but at angles to each other, and sometimes even at right angles.

Historically, the Indian bourgeoisie came late into the world capitalism. The period after the Second World War was one when capitalism had already entered its highest stage of “Imperialism”. Hence, the development of Indian capitalism came about under the law of “uneven and combined development”. The law of uneven and combined development asserts that once the world market has swallowed up all countries in the world, these come under the direct domination of finance capital.

Thus, now the world has already been divided into major imperialist blocks, and it is impossible for any backward nation to follow the “evolutionary” path. Once imperialism has been shaped, the wealth and power of the great powers is maintained only by the continued exploitation and misery of the former colonies. The dominance of international financial capital has added fuel to the strength of the monopolies of developed nation. And in their search for sources of cheap labour and raw materials, the imperialist powers distort and stunt the development of culture in the former colonies. The misery of these backward nations is on the other hand a source of advancement for the developed nations.

In India we see the same phenomenon. Indian capitalism is so weak that it has to rely on the financial capital of imperialism. And now that finance capital has penetrated even more into the backward nations, the Indian bourgeois are the slaves of imperialism and thus they cannot wage any independent anti-imperialist struggle.

In Trotsky's words:

“Unevenness, the most general law of the historic process, reveals itself most sharply and complexly in the destiny of the backward countries. Under the whip of external necessity their backward culture is compelled to make leaps. From the universal law of unevenness thus derives another law which, for the lack of a better name, we may call the law of combined development – by which we mean a drawing together of the different stages of the journey, a combining of the separate steps, an amalgam of archaic with more contemporary forms. Without this law, to be taken of course, in its whole material content, it is impossible to understand the history of Russia, and indeed of any country of the second, third or tenth cultural class.” (Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, volume 1, chapter I, Peculiarities of Russia’s Development.)

Crisis of Leadership

In India all the parties ‑ with different labels of left, right, nationalist or centrist ‑ have the same economic programme. Their programme is based on the idea of building a strong national state through foreign direct investment. The Indian market, as a source of cheap labour and favourable conditions for the capitalists, has attracted the multinationals who seek a greater degree of exploitation and thus greater profits.

Now, however, we see that capitalism is a “failed system” for the whole of humankind, as it has entered into a blind alley. It cannot deliver anything other than destruction, pain and misery to the billions of ordinary people worldwide.

Unfortunately, even the Communist Parties have adopted an outlook based on the idea that the market dominates. Photo by souravdas on flickr.Unfortunately, even the Communist Parties have adopted an outlook based on the idea that the market dominates. Photo by souravdas on flickr. Unfortunately, even the Communist Parties have adopted an outlook based on the idea that the market dominates. They in fact abandoned the genuine ideas of Marxism long ago, preferring to adopt the “two-stage” policy. This outdated theory, which was pursued by the Russian bureaucracy in order to save its own privileges, led to the defeat of many revolutions around the world. The bureaucracy choked the essence of what is a revolutionary organization, and at the same time wasted the revolutionary potential of workers, leading to many bloody defeats. These bloody defeats of the workers’ movements ushered in counter-revolutionary movements from that of Hitler to that of Suharto. Generations have had to pay for the crimes of the Stalinist leaders.

In the recent elections in India we saw how the communist parties paid for their past policies. They have attempted to carry out policies within the confines of capitalism. This means they have not been able to carry out policies in the interests of the workers and peasants. The Indian bourgeois media presented the election results as representing a move away from the left. In reality, the reason for their defeat is to be found in the fact that the leaders of the communist parties did not present a programme in any way fundamentally different from that of Congress. Indeed, the only real difference was on the labels. But this should not surprise us, as under the capitalism there is no real freedom, no genuine democracy and no welfare for the overwhelming majority of the people. As Lenin in his speech to the First Congress of the Communist International put it, “The workers know perfectly well, too, that even in the most democratic bourgeois republic 'freedom of assembly' is a hollow phrase, for the rich have the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and enough leisure to assemble at meetings, which are protected by the bourgeois machine of power. The rural and urban workers and the small peasants – the overwhelming majority of the population – are denied all these things. As long as that state of affairs prevails, 'equality', i.e., 'pure democracy', is a fraud.” (Theses on bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat, 4 March 1919)

What Next?

In the recent past, the boom benefited only a small minority. Now, when we are in recession and facing economical turmoil, the rich continue to enjoy the luxuries of life while the poor have to labour to guarantee the rich their luxuries. The coming period will be characterised by dramatic and sudden turns.

Marx once remarked “Revolutions are the locomotives of history”, and the present conditions in India are preparing the revolution of the future. Sooner or later Congress will stand exposed in the eyes of the masses and more avenues will open for the Marxists of India. Trotsky is now being read in India and people are looking for a solution. The penetration of Trotskyist ideas in Indian society is a symptom that the people and even genuine rank and file workers in the Communist parties are looking for a way out. They have experienced the Communist parties in government, and from this they are beginning to draw conclusions. They seek a way out on the left and that can only be found in the ideas of Trotsky. However, as internationalists we understand that the destiny of the Indian proletariat is inextricably tied up with that of the proletariat in the neighbouring countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The whole South Asian subcontinent is burning and from Islamabad to Dhaka, Calcutta to Katmandu, everywhere frustration and anger are palpable. The only way forward in such conditions is the Socialist Revolution! Only through such a revolution can the scourge of poverty be removed. The wealth is there, but it is in the wrong hands. Forward to a Socialist Federation of South Asia!