|Workers at Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India’s (HMSI) Tapukara plant in Alwar, Rajasthan, went on a strike bringing production to a complete standstill.|
India is undergoing a crisis of semi-colonial oppression facing the deepening world crisis of imperialism. Today this is evident in the student struggles at JNU; the Honda strike and the ongoing war in Kashmir. But what is the history behind this crisis? India is economically backward as it became capitalist belatedly and continues to be a semi-colony. ‘Independence’ from Britain was a fraud, based as it was on a reactionary settlement that broke up the sub-continent and created hostile client regimes based on casteism and communalism, trapping the sub-continental working class behind colonial borders. Imperialist Britain left this legacy of ‘divide and rule’ as time bombs that would blow up as crises forced the capitalist contradictions to break the surface.
Reactionary Hindutva and Caste System
The big time bombs are the reactionary nationalist regimes founded on religion and caste which each ruling class uses to legitimate its rule. In India, the ancient Hindu caste system, a hangover from pre-capitalist tributary society, was used to maintain class rule. In Pakistan appeals to the authority of Islam also a living relic of a pre-capitalist society was used for the same purpose. Such communal ‘bombs’ created by the departing colonial power drove East and West Pakistan to war and created the war in Kashmir as a running sore.
But while pre-capitalist Hindutva and radical Islam are the main ruling class ideologies contested in these bloody wars, they face opposition by bourgeois ideology that opposes these reactionary ideologies as ‘fascist’ aberrations which must be defeated and replaced by the completed bourgeois national democratic revolution. The main proponents of ‘bourgeois democracy’ today are not the bourgeoisie but the petty bourgeoisie led by the Stalinist and Maoist currents in the sub-continent.
So when radical secular youth are attacked by Hindutva such as at JNU, the Stalinist/Maoists delude the youth into believing that Hindutva as an ancient cultural hangover can be replaced by completing the bourgeois national revolution. To them, this requires a minimum/maximum program to fight for bourgeois demands such as national independence, land reform, labour reform, electoral reform, the abolition of the caste system, nationalisation of large foreign and national firms, etc, (as minimum demands) to prepare the conditions for socialism in the future (maximum demand).
For example, for the Stalinists India’s occupation of Kashmir is defending the unity and integrity of capitalist India, while the Maoists/Naxalites advocate secession to create an independent capitalist Kashmir. And when Honda workers strike against the bosses to defend their jobs and conditions both Stalinists and Maoists mobilise their supporters to fight for fair wages based on fair bourgeois labor laws. For both Stalinists and Maoists the realisation of such a bourgeois democratic revolution creates the pre-conditions for future socialism.
The problem with this Stalinist/Maoist ‘two stage’ theory is that in the epoch of imperialism, monopoly state capital relies upon an increasingly authoritarian nation state to regulate and repress the working class and the poor peasantry. The national bourgeoisie, in turn, is clearly subservient to the various imperialist powers that are major investors in the economy. In order to extract their super profits, imperialist powers use their client states to suppress all such demands for democratic rights and freedoms making bourgeois parliaments incapable of implementing minimal demands.
Nationalism is Counter-revolutionary
Tying the hands of workers who are fighting for basic democratic and economic demands to the machinery of the capitalist nation state is in essence counter-revolutionary. Historically, concessions won from the national bourgeoisie as a result of mass mobilisations are granted only until the movement is contained or suppressed and such concessions can be conveniently withdrawn. That is why to sow illusions that the nation state can make even minimal political and economic concessions in the epoch of imperialism when periodic crises of capital can only be resolved by the defeat of all working class resistance, dooms that class to defeat.
To understand this, we need only look at the struggles in the sub-continent, betrayed by the false notion of the two-stage bourgeois revolution as advocated by the Stalinists and Maoists, which led to crushing defeats of revolutionary armed struggles. The clearest example of such a defeat as the result of the betrayal of the rank and file membership at the hands of the Stalinist and Maoist leaders is Nepal where the Prachanda regime helped the bourgeoisie to suppress the revolution. Only where workers rapidly overcome those illusions and resort to independent and armed organisations of proletarian revolution can there be any prospect of the winning of bourgeois democratic right as part of a victorious socialist revolution.
Trotsky and Permanent Revolution
Against the Stalinist/Maoist minimum/maximum stageist sellout to the bourgeoisie, there is the Bolshevik program kept alive by Trotsky in the Transitional Program of 1938. The Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI) program for the Indian sub-continent was based on that program. Capitalist semi-colonies like India must fight to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution as part of the Permanent Revolution. Imperialism and their reactionary national bourgeois clients are counter-revolutionary enemies of workers’ democracy. The nations of the sub-continent must be re-united but as a Federation of Socialist Republics.
This cannot happen unless the workers and poor peasants of the sub-continent are united behind an internationalist party with a revolutionary transitional program that fights to turn the incomplete national revolution into the Permanent Revolution.
So what must be done in the Student movement? The Hindutva can be defeated only if the students reject the Stalinist line of a bureaucratic bloc with the non-existent ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie or the Maoist petty bourgeois substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. Students can only defend their basic rights by building a class alliance with industrial workers and poor farmers across all castes, genders and national/ethnic identities.
The example of the Honda strike proves that the industrial proletariat is ready and willing to fight. What it needs is the unity and leadership to break from the Stalinist/Maoist labor bureaucracy which serves the interests of the bourgeois state. Students must take up the fight of industrial workers and build strikes and occupations as the basis of workers councils and militias capable of bringing a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government to power.
Students must take up the fight for self-determination for all the sub-continental nations and peoples by means of permanent revolution. Self-Determination in Kashmir and in all the other nations or regions like Nepal and the Punjab oppressed by India can be realised only under a socialist federation where all nations and peoples are free of oppression with a right to secede.
For an internationalist revolutionary workers party!
For a Federation of Socialist Republics of South Asia!