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IW 02

Asia-Middle East

The experience of the new "progressive" government of India

 

During the last years, India has been held up as an example of economic and social development. The government was held by a majority center-right coalition constituted around the Indian People's Party (BJP), a historical formation that links Indian fundamentalism and fascism. That is why it was used by English imperialism against the national movement in the '30 and '40. This fact caused the Indian-fascists to be sidelined from political life for many decades. But the progressive failure of the policy of the national bourgeoisie and of the historic party of neocolonial independence, the Congress Party, with its consequent crisis and divisions, has allowed the strengthening of this reactionary formation during the last two decades to the point of becoming, in electoral terms, the leading Indian party dragging along with it, minor center -right forces and "regional" or ethnic based parties in alliance with it. The BJP propaganda has combined the most racist action against the Islamic population of India, with real pogroms that have caused thousands of victims, as well as a populist demagogy directed to the poor population, mostly that belonging to the "superior" casts according to the reactionary criteria of the Indian religion. Together with a nationalist "suranchére".
In terms of operational reality, the center-right government coalition, and the BJP within it (wearing the mask of "moderation"), developed a neo-liberal policy of privatizations and an increasing openness to foreign capital. Beyond the evolution of the economic indicators, there have been the popular masses that paid the costs of such a policy. This has led, to the surprise of many international analysts and observers, to a drift of votes to the left, which has again given the relative majority to the Congress Party that has regained the government after eight years, leading a center-left coalition that enjoys the external support of both important "communists" parties: the Indian Communist Party and the Communist Party (Marxist).
Some reformist forces of Stalinist origin in several countries around the world, refer to the Indian experience by trying to present it as an "alternative" to the policy of government coalition opened up by the bourgeois parties. Actually, the Indian experience shows the truly bourgeois, anti-worker and anti-popular nature of any class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, whether it carried on as an open coalition, formally "partial" (external support) or covertly (left government). Besides, it confirms again the reactionary nature of Stalinism in the past, as well as that of its present-day debris.

Are the Indian CP's an alternative?

The division of the Stalinist movement into two Communist parties derives from the 1964 split in the Indian Communist Party. The origin of this split arises from the border conflict between India and China at the beginning of the 60's. Facing that conflict, the majority of the Party took the position of supporting the bourgeoisie under the indication of the USSR bureaucracy, which was, by then, in the process of breaking with China. An important minority of the party, related to China, opposed the open chauvinism of the majority and broke with them, constituting the Communist Party (Marxist). The relationship with the Chinese PC's bureaucracy ended quickly, when during the "Cultural Revolution", it chose to back minority sectors that maintained the perspective of a peasant based guerrilla war, and that were expelled in 1968. Since then, the PC(M) has been a Stalinist party, independent of the different dominant bureaucracies. Although it arose as a result of being expelled, thanks to its less opportunistic positions, the PC(M) could count from the beginning on popular and electoral support slightly superior to that of the ICP (both together sum, on average, less than 10%).

Despite the "progressive" character of the PC(M) rupture, its strategy never transcended Stalinist reformism and, what is more, it drifted more and more to the right over time. To show the nature of the policy of both Stalinists parties, it is enough to remember that in the 60's, while the IPC participated organically in the government majority, commanded by the Congress Party, the PC(M) gave a sort of "external support" to that government.

The arena where both PCs of India have shown their reformism more clearly, is in the government of the states (provinces). Stalinist Indian "communism" has traditionally had a very heterogeneous force, concentrated principally in the states of Kerala, in the southeast, and in Western Bengal (whose capital is Calcutta), in the northeast. There has been a direct CP government (Kerala) since the end of the 50's , and since the end of the 60's, although with some interruptions, both states have been led by left-wing coalitions dominated by both "communist" parties (there is an equilibrium in Kerala between the two, though with a majority force of the IPC since the 70's; whereas in Bengal the PC(M) dominates). The relevance of a government role in one of the states of the Indian Union stands out, taking into account the fully federal character of this nation, which makes state legislation fundamental.

The most important example is Bengal, a state that has about 55 million inhabitants. In 1967 the elections were won by the United Front, a left-wing coalition whose principal force was the PC(M), and which included the IPC and several minor organizations. After an interval provoked by an electoral defeat in 1972, the left went back into power by the end of the 70's as the Left Front, which has ruled Bengal ever since. The balance is clear after several decades of the most left-winged of both state governments headed by the Indian PC's.

In the field of social relationships, and with respect to the industrial sector, the Bengalese government has limited itself to a limited support (laws and finance) for "national capital". There has not been any substantial change regarding the rights and conditions of the working class.

The PC(M) has not put itsself into the field of agrarian reform, nor has it considered a radical bourgeois reform, as was the purpose of Allende in Chile with the agreement of Christian Democracy, that considered the expropriation -with compensation- of all landed property of over 100 hectares (whereas peasant organizations claimed the expropriation of all land larger than 30 ha).

In Bengal, the path of bourgeois moderate reform had been traced by the Congress Party in the 50's: progressive land acquisition over a long period. It resulted in present-day semi-feudal social relationships that subsist in almost half the tillable land, along with large landed estates (latifundium), savage agricultural workers exploitation through intermediaries, and blurred structures of land tenures (partnership; sharecropping), that despite a wide movement of sharecroppers, the PC(M) has stopped short of modifying so as not to become "isolated from the middle classes" (¡sic!).

The negative evolution of the expropriations process is also significant . Whereas 44 percent of the expropriated land was acquired during the five years of the United Front government between 1967-1972, and 26 percent during the fifteen preceding years, under the Congress Party government, in the last twenty years that value corresponds to 12 percent of the total (the rest was expropriated by governments of different political origins). Without state financing, with the burden of debts and in the hands of profiteers -many of whom are former owners that have recycled themselves thanks to the compensations obtained -, the Bengalese peasant, even those of the expropriated lands, still live in misery. Even greater is the misery of the semi-proletarian of the large poor neighborhoods of Calcutta and the rest of the cities, as everybody knows. A few "selective" subsidies, instead of a general work and reparations policy, have not at all modified the situation. Whereas, capitalists -whether "nationals" or not-, large estates owners and profiteers, are still living under welfare. The enormous social and wealth differences that mark the Indian reality, are also valid for Bengal.

This is the real balance of the policy of the Indian communists, including those of the PC(M) left.

The new government's external support .

As it has already said, the elections of past March expelled from the government the right-wing coalition headed by the BJP. Its neo-liberal policies, above and beyond the myths about the "Indian miracle", pushed the popular masses to vote for the Congress Party and for both communist parties. In this way, the possibility of a "progressive" coalition government has been created -that, as we have pointed out, is not a novelty- without the "primitive capitalist" Indian social structure registering any significant change. Probably, the IPC would have wished to join the government, but the PC(M) position has brought both parties to a policy of external support.

Initially, the reaction of international finance capital was one of worried surprise, which led the Mumbay stock market to fall; but complete calm soon returned (with the consequent stock market rise). The case of Sonia Gandhi (the failed assuming of the post of prime minister by the Congress Party leader) is part of this picture. Actually, even if the main reason was not to give the BJP excuses regarding the Ghandi's foreign origin (Italian), another element was to offer full guaranties to the financial markets about the stability and "competence" of the new government troop.

In fact, the new Indian prime minister is Manmohan Singh, and the minister of finance is Palaniappann Chidambaram. They are both known as the "fathers of Indian liberalization", because of the neo-liberal policy and openness to international finance capital they followed as ministers of finance during the Congress Party governments of 1991 to 1996. A dreamer could have thought that the fact that the BJP had been defeated precisely for having followed a neo-liberal policy, would moderate both leaders of the new government. Obviously, it was not the case. Chindambaram, immediately manifested that his goal is "to create a favorable environment for investments in India". In consequence, they are passing laws that modify the legal limits for foreign investments (from 49 to 74 percent in the case of telecommunications, from 40 to 49 percent in civil aviation, from 26 to 49 percent in insurances).

It could have been naively expected, after the belligerent BJP demagogy, that at least with respect to war, the triumph of the party of Mahatma Gandhi, supported by the communists, would allow a partial revision of this tendency. The truth is that the new budget contemplates an increase in military expenses of 17,29 percent.

Indian Stalinist communists of all kinds are putting up with -according to the newspapers, and in the eyes of a disoriented rank-and-file -- all that, perhaps paving the way for an ulterior retaliation of the right-wing in the next elections, as voluntary partners of an anti-popular policy and a reactionary taking of turns.

Hence, everything shows that the "external support" alternative to a bourgeois government, instead of entering it openly, does not constitute more than a form of class collaboration, and that only total independence and an opposition policy, always maintained by Marxism, is able to defend working class interests, and the socialist perspective. If it were necessary, even the Indian experience would be useful in confirming this.

 

FRANCO GRISOLÍA