Thursday, March 11, 2021

India in Revolt: For Permanent Revolution!


Farmers occupy the Red Fort in New Delhi

We are living in the global terminal crisis* of capitalism. The epoch of imperialism is one of wars revolutions and counter revolutions. India’s colonial history shapes the present crisis. It cannot escape the terminal crisis of global capitalism which punishes the working masses, peasant farmers and workers alike driving them into misery and death. India’s ‘backwardness’ in relation to its imperialist oppressors has created deep contradictions within society, solidifying caste and suppressing class relations by creating national divisions as imperialism pumps out its super profits.

Today these contradictions explode. The demands of imperialism to extract more surplus to overcome its terminal crisis make the lives of the working masses intolerable. Add the devastation of climate change and the pandemic, themselves symptoms of capitalism’s destruction of nature, and millions are being driven into revolt. The comprador BJP regime of Modi has exhausted the utility of bourgeois democracy and its Stalinist lackeys, diverting the masses and resorting to extreme chauvinism to divide the masses and suppress their resistance.

The farmers revolt brings the contradiction to a head. Either fascism will violently destroy resistance and reduce workers and farmers to slaves, or revolt widens to unite workers and farmers in the whole of South Asia, and deepens into a revolutionary movement that brings down the regime, smashes the state apparatus and imposes a Workers’ and Peasants’ government and a socialist plan. 

Farmers’ revolt opens road for revolution

The terminal crisis is that of falling profits that can no longer be restored because capitalism has reached its final limit. It cannot develop the forces of production without destroying nature. Yet capitalists cannot face this prospect and continue to demand the total destruction of nature. In India, centuries of colonial rule made use of peasant agriculture to feed the masses while plundering its natural wealth.

India’s national revolution to break free from imperialism was aborted. The national democratic revolution of 1948 was defeated by sectarian divisions stoked by British imperialism to maintain divisions in the working classes, preventing permanent revolution. India was broken up into rival semi-colonies. National independence was sold out by its comprador ruling classes, Hindu and Muslim, who took a share of the labour value pumped out of the economy.

This system of extraction entrenched caste and repressed class struggle to contain the masses’ resistance. Classes that emerged with capitalism were grafted onto the caste system of the pre-capitalist tributary mode of production. In particular, peasant farmers contributed to the plunder of India by feeding the workers who produced the surplus value for the imperialist exploiters.

The laws of uneven and combined development** that Trotsky elaborated for backward Russia, applies to all semi-colonies including India. Since the stunted national bourgeoisie is tied to imperialism, the democratic revolution cannot be completed except as part of a permanent revolution for socialism in which the revolutionary workers lead the other oppressed masses to insurrection.

To survive in a semi-colony in the epoch of 20th century imperialism, farmers have been forced to adopt the Green Revolution and employ new techniques that destroy the land, are toxic to handle, contaminate drinking water and put the farmer further into peonage debt to finance capital and Big Agra over the long run. But 21stst century capitalism in terminal crisis demands more.

Farmers face an end to state regulation of their production which provides some protection from global competition. Global finance capital demands ownership of the land to exhaust the last remaining fertility from the soil. This puts not only the future of the peasantry in question, but also that of all labouring masses, the working class itself, small traders and unemployed.

That is why the farmers’ revolt against this ‘existential crisis’ poses the question: can this revolt develop into the socialist revolution that alone can solve the crisis for the working masses and open the road to a new post-capitalist society that can restore the balance with nature, and avoid the catastrophic collapse of human civilisation?

Peasant-worker alliance

The first step along that road is the broadening and deepening of the peasant revolt into one that draws in the working class. Against the Stalinist slander that Trotsky “underestimated” the peasantry, he, like Lenin, saw its limited horizon of land ownership as a reactionary influence on the proletariat. The revolutionary proletariat must lead the peasants beyond the land question and subordinate it to the wider socialist plan. In the revolutionary struggle workers backed the landless peasants. They formed workers and peasants (and soldiers) soviets. The Bolshevik program adopted the left Social Revolutionaries demand for ‘land for the tillers’ against the landlords of the Tsarist Despotism.

Today in India this program can apply to the current situation as the demand to nationalise the land worked by the tillers (workers’ control). As part of the wider socialist program, land use would be socialised by the soviets uniting workers of both town and country.

To advance the farmers’ revolt land nationalisation is key. Their initial demands were to revoke the new legislation to end state regulation of agriculture which stabilised prices, and return to the status quo. Modi’s refusal to comply has radicalised the farmers and their determination to resist.

The response to this intransigence must be to demand the removal of the BJP and for a government that would nationalise the land. But no such government exists or could exist under Indian semi-colonial capitalism. The Congress Party and the various Stalinist parties in opposition have no stomach to go beyond their bourgeois reforms or their reactionary national roads to socialism. When it comes to the crunch, they are the left-wing boosters of the comprador bourgeoisie bought and paid, ultimately by imperialism. ***

Therefore, to succeed the farmers need to enlist the support of the working class to bring down Modi by means of strikes and occupations. These would culminate as an indefinite general strike that raises the question of which class shall rule. To build the indefinite general strike, workers organisations must prepare their independent dual power organs capable of opposing the state and quasi-state forces at Modi’s disposal. As a rule, imperialism in terminal crisis must abandon all democratic subterfuges, and resort to open reaction at home and internationally.

Fascism is at the top of Modi’s agenda as we have seen recently in his rallying of Hindu nationalism against Muslims. The imperialist powers that have a big stake in India, like the US and China, would intervene to smash any political general strike capable of bringing down Modi. There is also the danger that the US would use the defence of Modi to start a proxy war against China. Against these reactionary threats farmers and workers need their own self-defence militias based on workers’ and farmers’ soviets which debate, decide and organise the methods necessary to advance the struggle.

For International Permanent Revolution

Trotskyists participating in these soviets would follow the lead of the Bolsheviks in Russia. They would build a Bolshevik-type party based on Leninist democratic-centralism. They would fight for a Trotskyist Transitional Program that takes the immediate economic and democratic demands of today, such as the end to castes, equality for women,**** down with national chauvinism, jobs for all and a living wage, as necessary to deepen the class consciousness of both workers and peasants of the need for a political solution to the terminal crisis - a Workers and Peasants’ Government based on soviet rule backed by a popular militia.

Such a revolutionary government would apply the lessons of history and recognise that socialism cannot be built in one country. Against imperialist intervention it would appeal to the workers and peasants of the other South Asian semi-colonies to rise up against their comprador regimes, and the workers of the imperialist powers to defeat their own ruling classes. Against a US proxy war with China, socialists would fight a revolutionary war against the US without defending Chinese imperialism. As an isolated socialist regime emerging from a semi-colony, India today cannot realise socialism unless as part of an international union of socialist republics of South Asia, and ultimately a world union of socialist republics.

For a New World Party of Socialist Revolution!

* We understand Terminal Crisis to be the compounding of economic crash, climate change and pandemic. There are feedback loops among them, as the drive for profits to avoid or mitigate crashes exacerbates climate change which creates the conditions for pandemics. The pandemics then in turn compound the severity of the crash and accelerate the terminal crisis. It puts capitalism into the ICU without any PPE. Therefore, the program we need has to address all aspects of the crisis, their interactions, and their effects on the class struggle. In particular the impact they have upon the working class in its widest sense as the only class that can resolve the terminal crisis of rotten capitalism in the interests of workers and humanity as a whole. We cannot develop a scientific program for international revolution without such a theoretical starting point. 

** “The laws of history have nothing in common with a pedantic schematism. 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 History of the Russian Revolution.

***The various Stalinist parties in India (Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), Liberation (CPI [ML]), Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM), or the Socialist Unity Center of India (Communist) are acting together to limit the workers-farmers alliance to putting pressure on Modi to withdraw the attacks on workers and farmers. This perspective is reactionary – to complete the bourgeois democratic revolution but block permanent revolution. One method of containing the masses is holding regular 1 or 2 day ‘general strikes’ to pressure the government. What is needed is for the rank-and-file activist workers and farmers to demand an indefinite political general strike to break from the union bureaucracy and the pro-bourgeois Stalinists. 

****  Witness the campaign to free Nodeep Kaur, a 24 year old Dalit woman who was arrested, assaulted, raped and jailed for over a month on a charge of attempted murder for supporting the farmers' revolt and recruiting for the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathana (MAS) union. She is currently on bail awaiting facing new charges, but determined to return to supporting the farmers and the union. Her commitment is an inspiration for other women in India to take their place in the vanguard of the socialist revolution that will liberate women from their historical oppression. 

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