ML INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER JAN-FEB 2005
Interesting reactions over the US elections came from two sections of the Indian society – those vocalised by different associations of the Indian capitalist class, and those coming from the right reactionary forces of the country. More interesting is their open concurrence not only with regard to their assessment of the economic impact of Bush’s victory, but also with regard to their politico-militarist tenor. In my opinion this concurrence speaks a lot about the character of the so-called “national” bourgeoisie and their immediate interests.
Generally, it is assumed that the Indian ruling interests in the foreign political developments are rent-oriented, i.e., gathering favours for offering Indian markets. This judgement is too simplistic and does not match up to the complexity of capitalist international relations. Further, it fails to grasp the nature of capitalist development in India. Marxists enriched the concept of “imperialism” in the second decade of the 20th century to grasp this very complexity of relationships in capitalism. They saw in imperialism a “dense and widespread network of relationships and connections” causing “the propertied classes to go over entirely to the side of imperialism”. (Lenin: 133) They recognised the crisscross nature of international associations and treaties between “national” ruling classes. With the later development of “shareholder” capitalism and MNCs/TNCs, inter-national relationships have become more complicated, which cannot be explained by strict geographical conceptualisation of core/periphery divide. The Indian ruling interests have to be explained as embedded in the global logic of capitalist accumulation, their aim, like their competitors’, being to siphon away as much profit from the global pool of surplus value as they can, by collaborative or aggressive tactics.
This complex relationship between the Indian capitalist class, their political representatives and global politico-economic developments is evident in reactions to Bush’s victory. Strategic and militaristic concerns are predominant in them. They perceive Bush’s victory as an opportunity to ensure the implementation of “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership” (NSSP) with India, which was elaborated in his first tenure. NSSP outlined collaborations in high technology, civil and nuclear space programs and trade. Bush’s commitment to the partnership was taken to be evident in the setting up of the U.S. India High Technology Cooperation Group, U.S. India Cyber Security Forum and the Joint Working Group on Terrorism.
The Indian political and economic elites rely strictly on the “strategic calculus” that would garner Bush’s attractions for India. Since the collapse of Soviet Union, the Indian ruling class has been trying hard to sell themselves as a regional force that can act as a reliable watchdog for global imperialism. The decision to refuel the Anglo-American warplanes in 1991 during Chandrashekhar’s regime, India’s desperate graduation as a nuclear power and bargaining favours on its basis, and sycophant persuasion to get employment during the Afghan War – all amount to the same goal of selling themselves as a power to be reckoned with for any strategic building up in Asia. And they feel now the time has come to realise the “Indian Dream”.
Just after the elections the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) hoped for President Bush’s visit to India early in his second term to provide a new thrust to U.S.-India relations. Rumsfield has already arrived to pave the way for the mission. The CII finds, “Bilateral defense relations are at record highs with the two countries organizing joint military exercises and patrols and are now looking at cooperating in newer areas such as missile defense”, and “a second term now provides an opportunity to build on these initiatives.” The CII being a prime association of the Indian corporates finds the economic gains packaged in this aggressive military relation that puts the government-to-government agreement for cooperation in place. The Indian bourgeoisie seem to agree with the pop-intellectual of American imperialism, Thomas Friedman (1999) that “the hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnel-Douglas, the designer of the F-15”, and that the hidden fist that keeps Silicon Valleys and their technologies safe is the army, navy and air-force. I think he forgot to add private armies and “Ku Klux Klan” rioters, who do what “legal” forces can’t do. Further, with the Indian stakes in McDonalds, why will not F-15s be refuelled in India?
A representative of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Prasanta Biswal, voiced a similar hope and found that “the republican administration has been pro-India with people like the under secretary of Commerce, Ken Juster, and former ambassador to India Robert Blackwill. We just hope that the initiatives that have been taken will be carried forward and at the same time, they will take newer initiatives.”
A presentiment, definitely, existed that the Democrats would have faced difficulty in avoiding the nationalist pressure of the biggest labour union in the US, the AFL-CIO, which has been the most formidable support base for the Democratic Party. This could have resulted into the curtailment on outsourcing etc., which is an important source of tapping on low wage zones for global profit making which then is shared by the MNCs in the first world and their collaborators in the Third World. In India especially in the IT industry there was an uneasiness and apprehension. The Hindu (Nov 5, 2004) reported, “The re-election of George Bush as President of the U.S. has ended the brief period of uncertainty for the Indian IT industry. Mr. Bush’s rival John Kerry’s protectionist promises that included ending the outflow of call centre and software development business from the U.S. to other countries had made the Indian industry, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this relocation, apprehensive.”
However this fear was false because, on the one hand, any “mature” democracy and its parties are fully trained to dupe such support base while still maintaining it. On the other hand, both Republicans and Democrats have always been involved in propaganda competition on who fulfils the “American Dream”, hence both play on chauvinism to hoodwink the American masses, while remaining consistently married to the expansionist drive of the capitalist class. Even the “democratic” Clinton sagely commends the “conservatives” for drawing “lines that should not be crossed”. (Walsh, 2004)
In fact, the chauvinist tenor of the American Dream and American values herds together the masses behind expansionism as supposed “resolution” to their plight. It is true, the organised labour everywhere has been on defensive in the phase of globalisation, when capital flight works as the regimenting factor. In the face of non-availability of any immediate revolutionary option in the society, they revert to the ideology of desperation, of introversion, to slogans like “buy American, be American”. On the one hand, this forces them to convince the capitalists of their commitment to the industrial “peace”, to make “national” industries competitive in the global market! On the other hand, it consolidates the domestic market for the “national” bourgeoisie of the US. Hence, the “labour support” nowhere binds the hands of the US state or any capitalist state to do what it is meant to do as the governing body of the ruling class.
Particularly interesting is the response of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS); though one never knows which part of its sounding zone will be claimed official – fascism is always cacophonous. A few months ago RSS Chief Sudarshan “discovered” about the US funded programme to christianise India completely by 2010 or so, and propounded the US to be India’s worst enemy. But now in the columns of RSS’ mouthpiece, Organiser (Nov 21, 2004), one finds Bush as the emancipator of the world from “oriental Talibanism and occidental anarchy” and by re-electing him the Americans have salvaged their civil society. In this column entitled “America, America … says the PM, Comrades want him to shut up” (a usual and unimpressive stuff of anti-communism), Rajendra Prabhu finds “the relationship between India and the United States has been transformed from the cold war suspicion to strategic partnership where the two have deepening mutual interests”. He praises Bush for bringing democracy and freedom to Afghanis and Iraqis. “Today our companies, our government, our experts are building roads, hospitals and schools in that country.” Afghan war was in “our national interest” (one of the Bushisms).
Prabhu, further, notes, “the Presidential election campaign in the US has thrown up the deep divide within that country over Bush’s action and strategy in Iraq.” But then “it was Iraq action that sent the shivers in Pakistan also that the American President could act if the Musharraf regime refused to tango with it in suppressing the Islamic fundamentalists”, thus the US action once again fulfilled “our national interest”.
In a sycophantic tone, peculiar to the “liberal” section of RSS, he lauds Bush’s messianic goals. “From Indonesia to Egypt, the historic Muslim Crescent did get a message in various intensities that the days of oppressive regimes are numbered. Regimes have changed no doubt through elections in Indonesia and Malaysia, and stirrings of a more liberal approach are buffeting the royal regimes and semi-autocracies. If finally an elected government takes office in Baghdad, the President would be vindicated. It looks doubtful at present given the rising level of violence. It looked impossible in Afghanistan also even six months back. But it has happened.” The cowboy spirit of Bush makes possible all Missions Impossible.
Finally, Prabhu concludes – “In this US election, besides Iraq and terrorism, the most divisive issue was the destruction of family values through such aberrations as gay marriages, legalization of lesbianism and such social viruses. For years it seemed the New England liberal establishment and California’s aberrant communities would hijack core values of the country. But suddenly the silent majority gave up its silence and spoke through the ballot to restore the social balance. American ultra liberals may be in mourning. And the Islamic fundamentalists are angry. Civil society needs to be saved both from oriental Talibanism and occidental anarchy. At least that is what the Americans accomplished in this election.”
Both the Indian capitalist class and the rightist forces find strategic and militaristic collaboration between India and the US as crucial for the Indian “national interests”. The only difference is that the latter provides the former with a voice that can draw the general masses behind these national interests with the help of the homogenising effect of aggressive chauvinism. It allows the ruling class interest to become a national interest. Sudarshan’s rabid anti-Christian rhetoric ghettoising masses on communal lines uniquely combines with the “secular” urge of profit-making that can be fulfilled only by joining forces with the US imperialism.
Sections of the Indian capitalists suffered a heavy shock a few months ago to see Vajpayee government voted out of power. It was the government that represented their interests while perfectly taming the masses with its rightist rhetoric. It is not that they were averse to the Congress, which has been their representative for the longest period of time. But the Congress could not sustain itself as such because of its inability to combine various sectional interests within the rural/urban ruling classes while simultaneously regimenting the general masses. In the neo-liberal phase of global capitalism it could not provide a stable government with an aggressive tenor required to support the domestic capital to collaborate and compete in the post-Cold War globalising market. After numerous ups and downs, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) graduated as that political power. But its defeat and moreover the parliamentary left’s position in a crucial role of stabilising the new government made the capitalists desperate.
Now, the new Congress government has the dual task of competing with the rightist political gymnastics and moderating the damage on the state’s legitimacy by the earlier government by its naïve open communal preferences. Further, it has to continue with the act of settling in the evolving global polity. The biggest contribution of the earlier rightist regime was its determination to fashion its international surroundings in favour of the corporatist interests in the country. Its tactics ranged from the hype of nuclear blasts to the laughable sycophant persuasion of the Anglo-American masters to get employment in the Afghan war. The Indian oil interests and other corporates had their heyday during Vajpayee government. It was the first consistently “outward”- oriented (even if not expansionist in the normal sense of the word) regime, concentrating on building a place in the global polity as a junior partner in global imperialism. As a result, Manmohan’s government has the major task of internal re-legitimisation of the Indian state with a furtherance of the basic orientation of the earlier government, i.e., its economic and foreign policies. In fact, the left support gives his government the essential political legitimacy to pursue these tasks. The parliamentary left was quite easily tamed by the manipulated stock exchange turbulences just after the general elections. It is being time and again forced to reassure the “business” community of its moderated nature. Even when it says that its support must not be taken for granted, it is extremely afraid of the immediate fallout of any hard-line on its part. This situation has become another self-justification for not waging “class struggle” leading to their further reduction as a distinct force of the working class. This tamed radical has become the biggest asset of the capitalist state, which was struggling for its legitimacy right from the initial days of liberalisation in the country.
Frankly as regards to the American policies it hardly mattered who won the election – Bush or Kerry. But for the Indian politics Bush’s victory is significant in the sense, that it allows the rightist forces to once again pose themselves as the smarter representative of the capitalist class attuned to the global needs, which is evident in their respective reactions to Bush’s victory. Further, it pressurises Manmohan to be on the “right” track even with a left support, as he has already demonstrated recently. His initial efforts to start a dialogue with nationalist and left extremists were perhaps laudable, but he has not shown any sign of doing away with Vajpayee government’s belligerent rhetoric and apparatus to wage its own regional “war against terrorism” that includes fighting the left insurgency in Nepal. Bush’s re-election is definitely a gift to the Indian capitalist class and the rightist forces in India, as it would continue to build an atmosphere of aggressive globalism. And they have aptly interpreted the result of the American elections – a victory for militarism and rightism.
Dutt, Rimin (2004) “Indian business groups welcome Bush’s re-election”, IndUS Business Journal Online Nov 15, http://www.indusbusinessjournal.com
Friedman, Thomas (1999) “What the World Needs Now”, New York Times, March 28
Lenin, V.I. (2000) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Left Word Books, New Delhi
Prabhu, Rajendra (2004) “America, America … says the PM Comrades want him to shut up”, Organiser Nov 21, http://www.organiser.org
Special Correspondent (2004) “IT Sector greets Bush’s Re-elections”, The Hindu Nov 05, http://www.hindu.com/2004/11/05/stories/2004110503541500.htm
Walsh, David (2004) “Opening of Bill Clinton’s library: a sordid gathering of the “fat cats””, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) Nov 20, http://www.wsws.org/