"Neoliberal" Leninism in India and its Class Character


Pratyush Chandra
RADICAL NOTES

“Criticism – the most keen, ruthless and uncompromising criticism – should be directed, not against parliamentarianism or parliamentary activities, but against those leaders who are unable – and still more against those who are unwilling – to utilise parliamentary elections and the parliamentary rostrum in a revolutionary and communist manner. Only such criticism-combined, of course, with the dismissal of incapable leaders and their replacement by capable ones-will constitute useful and fruitful revolutionary work that will simultaneously train the “leaders” to be worthy of the working class and of all working people, and train the masses to be able properly to understand the political situation and the often very complicated and intricate tasks that spring from that situation.”
(V.I. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, Chapter 7)

1. Lenin and the CPIM’s Leninism

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM)-led Left Front government in its endeavour to industrialise West Bengal, admittedly within the larger neoliberal framework of the Indian state’s economic policies, is ready to scuttle every act of popular vigilance in the manner which Lenin would have called “bureaucratic harassment” of workers-peasants’ self-organisation. India’s official left position on neoliberal industrialisation and its potentiality to generate employment is very akin to what Lenin characterised “Narodism melted into Liberalism”, as the official left “gloss[es] over [the] contradictions [of industrialisation] and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(1)

In fact, the mass organisations of the official left in West Bengal have for a long time been the main bulwarks of the state government to pre-empt any systematic upsurge of the workers and peasants. They have become increasingly what can be called the ideological state apparatuses to drug the masses and keep them in line. And in this, Leninism has been reduced to an ideology, an apologia for the Left Front’s convergence with other mainstream forces on the neoliberal path, giving its “steps backwards” a scriptural validity and promoting an image that in fact this is the path towards revolution – all in the name of consolidation and creating objective conditions for revolution. For justifying their compromises locally in West Bengal, CPIM leaders have found handy innumerable quotations from Lenin, and sometimes from Marx too. Contradictory principles and doctrines can easily be derived from their statements, if read as scriptures and taken out of contexts. Hence, as a popular saying in India confirms, baabaa vaakyam pramaanam, which loosely means, you can prove anything on the basis of scriptures.

Of course, this can be a variety of Leninism, as there are varieties mushrooming like religious sects, but such was not Lenin. Lenin himself never treated Marx’s writings as scriptural for justifying his every tactical move. Furthermore, especially after the defeat of other European revolutions, on many occasions he was ready to acknowledge Russia’s “steps backwards”, even during the formulation and implementation of the New Economic Policy. His defence of the independence of working class organisation and power beyond state formation in his attack on Trotsky’s advocacy of the regimentation of trade unions was especially for countering the counter-revolutionary potential in the Russian state’s “steps backwards” by ever-stronger working class vigilance. Lenin had the guts to say, “We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state measures and our agreeing or “coalescing” with our trade unions.”(2; emphasis mine)

Such was Lenin even as the leader of the Soviet State, unlike the CPIM-led Left Front’s leadership, which seeks to stabilise its rule in a tiny part of India, where, it admits, its government can have no sovereignty.

The CPIM’s energetic peasant leader Benoy Konar (who rails against Naxal conspiracy in every disturbance in West Bengal), a major stalwart in the present debate on repression and agitation in the state, says, “West Bengal is a federal state in a capitalist feudal country. What its government has done is just a miniscule step compared to what Lenin was forced to do, even after the revolution. If this is what upsets these “true” Marxists so much, we request them to stop living in their imaginations and step into the real world.”(3) This logic is very instructive, indeed. It is precisely the case – Lenin could afford to do what he was forced to do because the revolution had taken place. Also, the “steps backwards” were essentially for the sustainability of the state, without changing its basic character – workers-peasants state, taking the risk of further bureaucratisation and distortion, which he thought the independent assertion of the working class would weed out eventually. If Konar and his gurus are forcing themselves to do the same in a “capitalist feudal country”, then it is for whose sustainability – of the “capitalist feudal” state?

2. CPIM and its Self-Criticisms

Throughout its thirty years of continuous rule, the West Bengal government’s main concern has been to stabilise its local rule within the parameters set by India’s state formation, and the hegemonic political economic set-up in the country. It boasts of its successes, but at what cost? The exigencies of the parliamentarist integration reinforced the accommodation and consolidation of a “supra-class” ideology within the communist political habits imbibed during its appendage to the nationalist movement, throughout India in general, and West Bengal in particular. This explains a less radical approach towards land reforms in the region.(4) The CPI-CPIM’s role became limited to controlling and policing the radicalisation of its own mass base, as in the 1960s-70s, especially with regard to the Naxal movement. It is interesting to note today how every attempt to form an organisation of the rural proletarians and small peasantry, independent of the rich and middle peasant (who benefited from the movements on tenancy rights and against the Bargadari system) dominated Kisan Sabhas, is systematically repressed by Bengal’s state machinery and party.

When the CPIM capitulated to electoral politics resorting to tactical measures and strategic sloganeering, because of the so-called popular mandate in its parliamentarist pursuit, militancy became a thing to be repeated only in speeches and slogans as its practice can alienate few votes, precious votes. This is not to say that it was only a subjective transition or a matter of conscious choice, rather, it represented the latent politics of the party leadership’s class character. In fact, the only thing lacking was a conscious and consistent opposition within, despite the fact that the party was aware of this from the very beginning. In one of its early documents, it noted:

“The struggle against revisionism inside the Indian Communist movement will neither be fruitful nor effective unless the alien class orientation and work among the peasantry are completely discarded. No doubt, this is not an easy task, since it is deep-rooted and long-accumulated and also because the bulk of our leading kisan activists come from rich and middle peasant origin, rather than from agricultural labourers and poor peasants. Their class origin, social links and the long training given to them give a reformist ideological-political orientation which is alien to proletarian class point and prevent them from actively working among the agricultural labourers, poor and middle peasants with the zeal and crusading spirit demanded of Communists. Hence the need and urgency to rectify and remould the entire outlook and work of our Party in the kisan movement.”(5)

To this P. Sundarayya adds in 1973 (when he was the party’s general secretary), “the same old reformist deviation is still persisting in our understanding and practice”, which frequently leads to “the repudiation of the Party Programme formulations.” (6)

This was all before the concern for stabilising its rule and building social corporatism – “peace”, “harmony”, etc., in West Bengal became the party’s prime agenda. Today, the state government’s industrialisation and urbanisation policies express the needs of the neo-rich gentry, a considerable section of which is the class of absentee landowners, dominating the bureaucratic apparatuses and service sector, who legitimately want a share in India’s corporate development. When the Kolkata session of the All India Kisan Council held on January 5-6, 2007 asks “the state government to forge ahead on the path of industrialisation based on the success of land reforms and impressive agricultural growth” (7), it is simply expressing the interests of all those who have benefited the most from the success of limited agrarian reforms.

The party is aware that if they alienate these class forces, it will not be possible to remain in power in “a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature” and which reproduces their ideological hegemony through various identitarian and legal relations influencing the voting pattern of the electorate. As the present party general secretary Prakash Karat, notes:

“It was clear then as now that the policies implemented by Left-led governments would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources. This is the reality of a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature. This understanding was further clarified when Left-led governments began to rule in the three states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura for longer periods of time. Within all the constraints and limitations of office, these governments have to take steps to fulfil their commitments to the people and offer relief to the working people. While there are urgent issues before Left-led governments, including those of protecting livelihoods in agriculture, creating jobs by means of industrial development, and improving the quality of people’s lives, alternative policies in certain spheres can be implemented only within the constraints imposed by the system.”(8)

If this is not the Third Way, the there-is-no-alternative (TINA) syndrome, then one wonders what it can be. Zizek defines the Third Way as “simply global capitalism with a human face, that is, an attempt to minimize the human costs of the global capitalist machinery, whose functioning is left undisturbed.”(9) It is an old disease that inflicts all social democratic parties, once they start talking about consolidation within the bourgeois framework. Compare:

“Let no one misunderstand us”; we don’t want “to relinquish our party and our programme but in our opinion we shall have enough to do for years to come if we concentrate our whole strength, our entire energies, on the attainment of certain immediate objectives which must in any case be won before there can be any thought of realising more ambitious aspirations.”

To this Marx and Engels answered back in 1879:

“The programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period. They accept it – not for themselves in their own lifetime but posthumously, as an heirloom for their children and their children’s children. Meanwhile they devote their “whole strength and energies” to all sorts of trifles, tinkering away at the capitalist social order so that at least something should appear to be done without at the same time alarming the bourgeoisie.”(10; emphasis original)

This is the state of a self-acclaimed “revolutionary” party caught up in an existential struggle – “tinkering away at the capitalist social order”! Why not, “the journey towards socialism would begin only after the accomplishment of the task of the bourgeoisie democratic revolution. If the bourgeois did not join the democratic revolution, it would be easier for the working class to establish its leadership in it which would help in the next stage of socialist revolution.”(11) So friends, nothing to worry about, on behalf of the working class, the CPIM is actually taking a time out for accomplishing the ‘democratic revolutionary’ tasks. If the working classes – rural and urban – are being forced to shut up, it is all for ensuring their leadership! So, “the programme is not to be relinquished, but merely postponed – for some unspecified period…”

The CPI(M)’s capitulation to an alien class-ideological orientation is stark in its continuous effort to de-radicalise the left trade union politics. Parallel to Sundarayya’s self-criticism, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya too has been time and again indulging in his own variety of self-criticism. His statements are very straight-forward, as he seldom minces words in his pandering to corporate interests. In one of his interviews to The Hindu (November 16, 2005), he says: “We did commit certain wrong things in the past. There were investors really afraid of trade unions here. But things have changed… I am in constant touch with our senior trade union leaders and keep telling them that it is now a different situation. …I tell [trade union leaders] they must behave. If you do not behave companies will close, you will lose your jobs.”(12)

The combination of subjective and objective factors determines the tenor of the official left politics everywhere in India today. So the repression of strikers at the Kanoria jute mill in 1993-94 and Singur/Nandigram incidents are not something unexpected. They are expressions of the Left Front’s stable rule in West Bengal for thirty years. These are the imperatives rising from the limitations, about which the Front and CPIM never tire to talk, and in which their existential politics is embedded. They do so, as there-is-no-alternative.

3. No “Doublespeak”, but the “Narodnik-like Bourgeois” speaks

Unsurprisingly, the CPIM’s present general secretary Prakash Karat whom some of us used to admire for his strong positions uncomfortable for the parliamentarian lobbies within the party has come out strongly in defence of the same parliamentarianism. His general secretaryship demands that. In India, the days are gone when within these communist parties, a general secretary used to be the voice of a particular programmatic tendency. The designation has been increasingly reduced to a ‘post’ in the permanent hierarchy, where the post-holder like a civil servant voices whichever tendency dominates in the party.

Prakash Karat accuses the ‘left opposition’ to the Left Front’s industrialisation policies of Narodism, which too is not very surprising. It is one of our standard abuses, along with ‘infantile disorder’, ‘revisionism’, etc… However, Karat in his defence really means it, when he says: “The CPIM will continue to refute the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry”, as he appends this with a note on the Narodniks.(13)

It seems Karat is ignorant – either he feigns it, or it is real – about Lenin’s analysis of Narodism. Lenin’s criticism of the Narodnik revolutionaries was mainly centred on their faulty understanding of Russian reality; unlike the Narodniks he saw a slow, but definite evolution of capitalism and capitalist market. He stressed strategising on the basis of this new reality. On the other hand, the Narodniks saw capitalism still simply as a possibility, and thus like true petty bourgeois revolutionaries dreamt of evading the ruthlessness of capitalist accumulation, while often lauding bourgeois freedom and democracy. Lenin in his diatribes obviously underlined the utopianism of this programme, but only on the basis of a critique of the political economy of capitalism in Russia. His fundamental stress was to describe the processes of capitalist accumulation, the ruthlessness of which was compounded by its impurity, its ‘incompleteness’. Definitely, an important component of Lenin’s programme was embedding the democratic struggle against feudal remnants in the unfolding of the socialist revolution:

“Thus the red banner of the class-conscious workers means, first, that we support with all our might the peasants’ struggle for full freedom and all the land; secondly, it means that we do not stop at this, but go on further. We are waging, besides the struggle for freedom and land, a fight for socialism. The fight for socialism is a fight against the rule of capital. It is being carried on first and foremost by the wage-workers, who are directly and wholly dependent on capital. As for the small farmers, some of them own capital themselves, and often themselves exploit workers. Hence not all small peasants join the ranks of fighters for socialism; only those do so who resolutely and consciously side with the workers against capital, with public property against private property.”(14; emphasis mine)

Lenin’s analysis of capitalism in agriculture showed a growing peasant differentiation. This led him to stress on the heterogeneity of proletarian attitude towards diverse peasant classes. He criticised the populism of the Narodniks and also the liberals who put forward a homogenised notion of “narod” (people). The same notion is found in the Indian official left’s attitude towards the peasantry and its assessment of the land reform efforts in the left-ruled states. When it calls upon consolidating the gains from land reforms achieved in a “capitalist feudal” society and pursuing industrialisation on their basis, it consistently evades the question of peasant differentiation. Such evasion is a reflection of the consolidation, within the left leadership, of the hegemonic interests that necessarily rose after the limited land reforms measures. As Sundarayya indicated, this lobby had already congealed within the CPIM and been affecting its work in the rural areas, much before it enjoyed the cosiness of the state power. Its consistent success in undermining the rise of the rural proletarians and their organisation in West Bengal is indicative of the strength of this lobby. When Benoy Konar and the All India Kisan Sabha speak for industrialisation based on the gains in agriculture, they speak on the behalf of the rising kulaks and upper middle class in West Bengal who would like to invest and profit on the peripheries and as local agencies of the neoliberal industrialisation – in real estate, in outsourcing and other businesses which are concomitant appendages to the neoliberal expansion.

While differentiating the agrarian programme of the Social Democrats (when the revolutionary Marxists still identified themselves with this name) from that of the liberals, Lenin criticised the latter’s “distraught Narodism” – “Narodism melting into Liberalism”, which represented the Narodnik-like bourgeoisie, and explained:

“Firstly, the Social-Democrats want to effect the abolition of the remnants of feudalism (which both programmes directly advance as the aim) by revolutionary means and with revolutionary determination, the liberals – by reformist means and half-heartedly. Secondly, the Social-Democrats stress that the system to be purged of the remnants of feudalism is a bourgeois system; they already now, in advance, expose all its contradictions, and strive immediately to extend and render more conscious the class struggle that is inherent in this new system and is already coming to the surface. The liberals ignore the bourgeois character of the system purged of feudalism, gloss over its contradictions and try to damp down the class struggle inherent in it.”(15; emphasis mine)

Here Lenin clearly states that “distraught Narodism” lies, firstly, in its reformist means, and secondly, in not recognising that the system is already a bourgeois system, hence the basic struggle is against the rule of capital. As Lenin indicated and as it is clear in the case of the CPIM in West Bengal, the ideology of “distraught Narodism” is an ideology of the class of Narodnik-like local bourgeoisie, which is necessarily Janus-headed. On the one hand, it feels insecure before its established competitors and their ‘bigness’, thus consistently calls upon the state to protect its interests. On the other, it is mortified when it feels the presence of its impoverished twin – the growing number of proletarians – as a result of capitalism in agriculture and also due to neoliberal “primitive accumulation”. Most dangerous is the faithlessness and weariness that this class of rural and urban proletarians displays towards the neoliberal euphoria – since it has already experienced more than 150 years of ups and downs of capitalist industrialisation, and its increasingly moribund nature. The Bengali political elites’ “doublespeak” vocalised by the CPIM is actually the reflection of the “Narodnik-like” character of the local bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, torn between the ecstatic possibility of their neoliberal integration, on the one hand, and the rising competition and class struggle, on the other. However, the ideology of homogeneous Bengali interests, along with the “communist” organisations and pretensions come handy in controlling these volatile segments, at least temporarily. It is interesting to note, how the CPIM leadership evades recognising the class character of “land reforms”, “impressive agricultural growth” and industrialisation as far as possible in its discourse, while overstressing their virtues. It is similar to the discursive habits of the Russian liberals – “distraught Narodniks”, which Lenin thus noted, while criticising “Mr L.”:

“Depicting the beneficent effect of the French Revolution on the French peasantry, Mr. L. speaks glowingly of the disappearance of famines and the improvement and progress of agriculture; but about the fact that this was bourgeois progress, based on the formation of a “stable” class of agricultural wage-labourers and on chronic pauperism of the mass of the lower strata of the peasantry, this Narodnik-like bourgeois, of course, says never a word.”(16)

4. Conclusion

When enthusiasm for neoliberal industrialisation is not well received, as a last resort in defence of the neoliberal policies in West Bengal, ‘vanguards’ like Prakash Karat and his associates have a ready apologia that “in a constitutional set-up that is not federal in nature”, the left government policies “would always be circumscribed by the fact that State power vests with the centre while state governments have very limited powers and resources.” (It does not matter that the CPIM’s other leader, Benoy Konar, talks of the same constraints by admitting West Bengal as “a federal state in a capitalist feudal country.”)

It is tempting to interpret this demand for more federalism in India as representative of “the demand made in certain circles that local self-governing institutions should also be given the autonomy to borrow and to negotiate investment projects with capitalists, including multinational banks and corporations”, as Prabhat Patnaik, a foremost Indian political economist, known for his allegiance to the CPIM and who has been lately appointed as Kerala’s State Planning Board Vice-Chairman, puts it. He continues, “this will further increase the mismatch in bargaining strength between the capitalists and the state organ engaged in negotiating with them, and will further intensify the competitive struggle among the aspirants for investment… This can have only one possible result which is to raise the scale of social ‘bribes’ for capitalists’ investment. This increase in the scale of social “bribes” is an important feature of neo-liberalism.”(17)

Particularly relevant in this regard are the CPIM leadership’s and the West Bengal government’s statements on Singur, in which they consistently fetishise the Left Front’s ability to win away the Tata project from a poorer state of Uttarakhand – an example of its competency in ‘social bribery’! Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya again and again with all his frankness defended his Singur sale to Tata – “We showed them various sites, but they settled for Singur. We could not say no to such a project, otherwise it would have gone to Uttarakhand.”(18)

This is symptomatic of the extent to which the official Indian left has re-trained itself in the competitive culture of neoliberal industrialisation. Of course, it does not have any parliamentary stake in Uttarakhand. Or does the party leadership want to entice the Uttarakhand people to choose CPIM, for its efficiency in negotiating or ‘bribing’ for neoliberal projects? It is obvious that in order to remain the sole contender of the nationalising and globalising interests of the West Bengal hegemonic classes, the CPIM leadership has been giving vent to Bengali parochialism of the local “Narodnik-like bourgeoisie”.

Notes:

(1) V.I. Lenin, The Narodnik-Like Bourgeoisie and Distraught Narodism, 1903.

(2) V.I. Lenin, The Trade Unions. The Present Situation and Trotsky’s Mistakes, 1920.

(3) Benoy Konar, Left Front Govt And Bengal’s Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, October 08, 2006.

(4) See Dipankar Basu, Political Economy of ‘Middleness’: Behind Violence in Rural Bengal, Economic & Political Weekly, April 21, 2001.

(5) P Sundarayya, Central Committee Resolution on Certain Agrarian Issues and An Explanatory Note, CPIM Publications, 1973.

(6) Ibid.

(7) All India Kisan Council, Resolution: Unite To Fight And Defeat All Moves To Stop The Industrialisation Of West Bengal, People’s Democracy, January 14 2007.

(8) Prakash Karat, “Double-Speak” Charge: Maligning The CPI(M), People’s Democracy, January 28 2007.

(9) Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute, Verso, 2000, p.63.

(10) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Circular Letter to August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Wilhelm Bracke and Others, 1879.

(11) Benoy Konar, West Bengal: Rationale For Industrialisation, People’s Democracy, November 06, 2005.

(12) The Hindu November 16, 2005.

(13) See (8)

(14) V.I. Lenin, The Proletariat and the Peasantry, 1905.

(15) See (1)

(16) Ibid.

(17) Prabhat Patnaik, An Aspect of Neoliberalism, People’s Democracy, December 24, 2006.

(18) Frontline, Jan. 27-Feb. 09, 2007.

The Lost Left


The Times of India (December 28, 2006)
Considerably modified version of the article can be found in RADICAL NOTES & ZNET

The events in Singur are signs of a crisis borne out of a disjuncture between the Left Front’s pragmatic policies and the legacy of the movement and class interests that empowered it.For a long time, the open eruption of this crisis was evaded by the West Bengal government’s success in convincing its mass base of its ability to manoeuvre state apparatuses for small, yet continuous, gains. It justified all its limitations and inefficacy by condemning the faulty Centre-state relationship and a larger conspiracy to destabilise limited reformist gains, for instance, those from reforms in the Bargadari system.

The allegation of conspiracy seemed tangible only to the extent that parliamentary politics drives every opposition party to encash the difficulties incumbent governments face — by peddling popular grievances for electoral gain. For illustration, one needs to just review the history of the exit-entry of governments and their economic policies over the past 20 years. There were economic grievances that contributed to the Opposition’s success in destabilising governments and forming alternative ones, yet there was a remarkable continuity in economic and financial policies. Because of the Indian state’s ability to contain popular opposition within the precincts of electoral democracy — the ritual of elections — it could evade any fundamental political economic crisis and did not have to deter from its neo-liberal commitments.

Once the Left in West Bengal chose to play by the rules of parliamentary democracy, it faced the constant threat of defeat in electoral competition. The internalisation of the need to evade this threat transformed its character, thus leading it to aspire beyond being a class party of workers and peasants. It had to become an all people’s party — a party that could negotiate between diverse, dynamic and antagonistic interests.

A cosmetic radicalism though is advantageous in the states where it is the incumbent power. It can mobilise its traditional class base, by playing on victimhood, and rituals of national strikes. Alongside, it has been increasingly using the threat of capital flight to justify its concurrence with the national economic policies. Behind these usual mechanics of stabilising its position in the representative democratic set-up resides an essential dilemma for the official Left.

The historical legacy of the peasants and workers’ movements has been both a boon and a bane. This has gravely severed its ability to use traditional means of state coercion for containing its mass base, forcing an informal accommodation or para-legalisation of the Left’s traditional mass organisations — their transformation into ideological state apparatuses. Herein lies the danger.

Once these organisations are identified with officialdom, the grass roots are alienated and the scope for their independent assertion amplifies. In the history of Bengal’s Left, this has happened many times — the most formidable one was the Naxalbari movement. Singur is the latest case.

One must question the motives of mainstream non-Left political parties like the Congress and Trinamul, which represent the interests of the landed gentry that use ‘kishans’ — hired labours and bargadars — for cultivation. This class, who the West Bengal government claims have consented to land alienation in Singur, join such movements essentially to obtain various kinds of concessions — a higher price for giving up land to the state and perhaps also for increasing the price for future real estate speculation around the upcoming industrial belt.

But there is a larger section of the landless peasantry and those frequenting nearby towns for work; for them, the struggles like that of Singur are existential ones. They do not possess any faith in neo-liberal industrialisation based on flexible, informal and mechanised labour processes. Recently, in many parts of the country, these sections of rural poor have been the object and subject of radical mobilisations.

It is the fear of their politicisation in the wake of its drive for competitive industrialisation, which is the real worry for the accommodated Left in West Bengal, especially CPM, which has traditionally resisted the mobilisation of the landless in the state, even by its own outfit.

Protest Letter against the West Bengal Government action in Singur


FORUM OF INQUILABI LEFTISTS (FOIL)

To: Members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

December 6, 2006

Dear Comrades,

We, members of the Forum of Inquilabi Leftists, a broad network of US based South Asian Leftist scholars and activists write this to register our protest at the manner in which the CPI(M) led Left Front Government of West Bengal dealt with the land acquisition process in Singur for the Tata automobile plant.

The protests by the oustees of Singur whether by landowners or by the thousands of landless poor drawing sustenance from the local economies are emblematic of a new political force that is arising in both rural and urban areas of India. The challenge of this force cannot be met with by brutal repression. By resorting to such highhandedness, the Government of West Bengal leaves the CPI(M) with little credibility while protesting similar actions by other state governments in India.

We acknowledge the incontrovertible fact of opportunist politics by centrist and rightist political parties in Singur. But opportunist politics arise in the first place because there are opportunities to exploit. Those opportunities in the case of Singur, we believe, were created by the Government of West Bengal by prioritizing private investments with little promise of equity over large local economies that sustain numerous social groups that are marginal to the formal economy.

That such an approach has been adopted by the only leftist political party in India to hold elected state power is disappointing at the very least. It makes us wonder whether: the leadership of the CPI(M) in its capitalist-parliamentarist pursuit has dangerously internalised the dominant class/caste structures of the Indian society at the expense of unwavering loyalty of the poor peasantry and the working class that handed the control of the state machinery to CPI(M) in West Bengal.

As a group of people committed to the advancement of socialist democracy, we urge you to:

1) Immediately take steps to encourage democratic political activity in Singur, especially the five affected villages by:

a) dropping charges against the protesters and releasing them from custody

b) lifting Section 144 of the CrPC and withdrawing police camps, and

c) desisting from imposing formal and informal barriers to people visiting Singur.

2) Initiate a process to rethink your strategy for economic development in the context of globalization by keeping in mind the dangers of largescale dispossession of people everywhere. Such a rethinking is the imperative for a party like the CPI(M) especially because outside of Bengal – where the party is not in power, the CPI(M) has a responsibility to oppose similar projects.

In short, we are writing this to you to remind you of a historic responsibility that any leftist party has to confront. It cannot be sidestepped through circulating platitudes about the ‘reality of globalization’ as the spokespersons of the CPI(M) have been wont to in the wake of the incidents at Singur.

In solidarity,

Forum of Inquilabi Leftists (FOIL)

[signed on behalf of FOIL by:]

Anantakrishna Maringanti, Anivar Aravind, Anu Mandavalli, Ashish Chaddha, Ashwini Rao, Aurnab Ghose, Biju Mathew, Girish Agarwal, Kaushik Ghosh, Nandita Ghosh, Partho Ray, Pinaki, Pratyush Chandra, Raja Swamy, Ra Ravishankar, Ravindran Sriramachandran, Satish Kolluri, Sayan Bhattacharyya, Shalini Gera, Shourin Roy, Sushovan Dhar, I.K. Shukla, Sukla Sen, C.K. Vishwanath

Indian Fascists find Bush their "National"


A Comment

The chamaleon character of Indian fascism does not allow us to rely on its views except on its consistent barbaric Hinduism. However, it is sometimes worthwhile going through the weekly magazine, ORGANISER, of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s mother fascist organization, to understand how and why it reacts to certain issues in certain manners. One such interesting piece is the edit on the US-India nuclear deal published in this weekly dated July 09, 2006.

When one starts reading this edit, it seems to be a standard write up from an organisation in opposition jealously opposing the achievements of the party in power. It talks about anonymous skeptics saying, “that there are many hidden clauses perhaps in the deal”, and finds ruling government’s unilateralism “as most worrying”. It goes to the extent of accusing the government of destroying “the hard work of Indian scientists with a deal that permits outside interference that emasculates its nuclear options in military and civil sectors. This deal has made India perpetually dependent on the US on nuclear energy. The deal has put restrictions on India’s capacity to have a minimum nuclear deterrent capability.” All these are standard salvos targeted against the deal by both left and right.

Definitely, unilateralism as such is not a problem for the RSS. Unilateralism was far graver when the RSS’ political wing – the BJP led government tested nuclear bombs at Pokhran in 1998, and made the parties then in opposition, which included the Congress that leads the ruling coalition presently, desperate for credits for at least the researches that made India nuclear-capable. Undeniably, what is happening between India and the US today, including the deal, has a strong foundation in the past, especially the Vajpayee Government. Hence, it is natural for the BJP and RSS to accuse the UPA government for attempting to take all the credits for the deal. So the edit asserts, “[T]he NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee proudly declared India a nuclear power in 1998. That is a process which has culminated in the present deal.”

The edit makes it a point to differentiate the RSS-BJP’s criticism from the Communist opposition to the deal. And in this zeal it clarifies that it does not have anything to say against the deal.

This feeble attack on the deal is surpassed by the tremendous appreciation expressed for it after the two introductory paragraphs. Whatever lacuna it finds with regard to minimum deterrence etc “can be taken care of if the Indian government insists, when the US legislation that seeks to exempt India from the 1954 Atomic Energy Act is taken up in the full floor of the House of Representatives this month end”. On the whole, the “deal has presented India with a new opportunity. The other option was to continue with its nuclear isolation, and perpetually be in competition with Pakistan”.

Typically, the edit finds pride in Bush supposedly taking the deal “as his most important foreign policy success”. And “skeptical Democrats …don’t want to be seen as voting against India”, that is why they are supporting the deal. What a revelation or pity! The American politicians nowadays go in such deals not for their strategic significance, but more because they are afraid of being seen opposing it. Then, definitely, “it only proves India’s growing clout as a world power. This should make India proud.” And all those who are opposing the deal must be part of the “pro-Pakistan lobby” or “inspired by the Islamabad-Beijing nexus”

But most revealing is the final ecstatic couplet – “American companies and the NRIs [Non-Resident Indians] lobbied hard with hostile Congressmen to make the deal possible. The bottom line is enlightened national interest.” What does one make out of this separately paragraphed final in the cacophonous arrangements of arguments in the edit? When the domestic opposition is “pro-Pakistani”, American companies have “enlightened national [Indian=Aryan] interest” in mind! Certainly, the CEOs of American companies must have found that they are from some lost tribe of Aryans; only then they could find “enlightened national interests” in making the deal possible.

The Historic Agreement in Nepal and the Immediate Challenge


Pratyush Chandra

Nepal continues to create history. Within a few weeks from now there will be an interim government with the Maoists’ participation to pre-empt any further betrayal to the basic immediate demands of the Nepali people for a constituent assembly and for exercising their right to decide the fate of the moribund monarchy and its institutional shields. Definitely, the political developments in Nepal after the April mobilization have approximated to what the parliamentary parties agreed upon in their understanding with the Maoists.

But as Reuters put (June 19), “The pace of change has been as breathtaking as the Himalayan scenery…This week Nepalis are asking themselves if it is all too good to be true”. Given the tremendous hostility that the global and regional hegemonies display, to the degree that they still label the Maoists terrorists, and opportunism of the parliamentary leadership, which was till recently struggling within itself to gain royal proximity and to become trusted agency for the external powers’ interests, has the situation really arrived for the revolutionaries to put their trust in the vestiges of the ancien régime? However, it is the level of popular vigilance and radicalism that have affected even the grassroots of the parliamentary parties, complementing the revolutionaries’ faith in the Nepali downtrodden, that makes them confident to take such unprecedented risk.

Popular Vigilance

After the restoration of their parliamentary privileges, the Nepali democrats have re-baptized the established institutions with new names and cut the wings of the royalty. Of course, all these do help in building the atmosphere amenable for taking the first step towards the resolution of the “Nepali crisis”, which is the formation of the Constituent Assembly as the body that will have the capacity to establish the basic rules, norms and ‘institutions’ necessary for, what Chairman Prachanda calls, “political competition”.

The local elites and their global sponsors had thought that the April radicalism on the urban streets of Nepal would die down after the restoration of the old parliament. But they were time and again rebuffed when the vigilant Nepali people took to the streets to check and decry every compromise and regression in the air. The Maoist rejection of the April compromise did not allow this radicalism to sleep. Deuba, Koirala and others known for their moderate royalism and elitist anti-Maoist stance in the past are constantly watched, and any statement and action from them that reek of the design to give space to decadent institutions and their representatives are duly criticized by spontaneous showdowns on the streets.

Not a single day has passed since the April agitation without meetings and gatherings where diverse sections of the Nepali people discussed the future regime and contents of the future constitution. Various sections of the marginalized majority of the Nepali society have been coming and demonstrating in Kathmandu for ensuring their representation and the inclusion of their demands and rights in the future political system. This remarkable spirit of self-determination rejects any compromise that is short of what the Nepali people have promised themselves. It is this spirit that destroyed the “Royal Regression” and continues to eliminate any possibility of the Parliamentary Regression, of making the old parliament an end in itself. And the June 16 agreement between the Maoists and the government is the definite result of this Popular defiance.

The Elitist Game Plan

But the Nepali crisis was never just related to the accommodation of the Maoists and establishing institutions for such accommodation. It is most importantly linked with the political economic empowerment of the Nepali downtrodden. Until and unless the radical needs of the Nepali laboring classes – workers and peasantry – that have found expression in the Maoist movement are not dealt with, the crisis is not going to be resolved. And here lies the tension that is clearly visible in the political developments in Nepal.

Just before the recent June agreement the Prime Minister arrived from a very “successful” trip to India. And as expected the parameter of this success in Nepal is how much monetary aid the leader is able to raise. And India as the new recruit in the Imperial Project struggling to obtain a definite share in the continuous re-division of the world has recently been too ready to fulfill such requests. Hence, the success was unprecedented.

In return, Finance Minister Ram S. Mahat sold the newfound peace and sovereignty, for which the Nepali people have been fighting, to “captains of Indian industry” at a function organized by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII): “This is a new era after the establishment of the people’s sovereignty in Nepal. Peace has now been restored after the end of a decade long conflict that had held back the country’s socio-economic advancement… It is in this context that our attention is now focused on increased investment, public and private, domestic and foreign.” An Indian newspaper, The Hindu (June 10) reports, “Referring to the fact that India faced higher labour and operating costs of production, Mr. Mahat said cheap and abundant labour, educated technical workforce and other less expensive inputs provide investors incentives for producing intermediate products for Indian companies in Nepal.”

This economic hyper-activism just before the installation of the interim government is meant to pre-empt any future attempt to radically transform the economic path that the Nepali state and ruling classes have pursued for the last five decades – of economic clientilism and dependency. It seeks to depoliticize the arena of economic policy by overburdening the future political regime with all sorts of economic arrangements that would maintain status quo in the basic political economic structure. The Koirala government has effectively utilized its time to ensure that the basic economic framework is in place which would be difficult to change drastically under any future political transformation. Only after this did it become comfortable with the idea of the dissolution of the parliament and the formation of the interim government with the Maoists.

All this is very aptly complemented by the recent attempt to reduce the “Nepali crisis” and the Democracy Movement to the question of the position of the Nepali royalty and the accommodation of the Maoist “rebels” in the mainstream political system. Clearly, the most formidable way to dilute any radical resolution of this crisis is to simply ignore what it is all about. The recent political discourse of “People’s Movement” and “People’s Power” which sought to de-“classify” the movement, ignore its class constituents and their diverse aspirations, homogenize it under an amorphous category of the “people” was the first attempt in this regard. Moderate royalists, corporate media (foreign and national) and foreign funded NGOs and “civil society” groups led this santization campaign. Foreign interests too found this discourse worthwhile, as it minimizes the damage, by eliminating the clarity of the demands. It effectively evades the Maoist element and puts the Nepali movement in line with the “color revolutions” of Eastern Europe, coloring the corrupt elements of the old regime to provide a “stable”, yet “experienced”, leadership to the new.

Obviously on every front, the Nepali ruling classes are trying hard to de-link the question of democracy from the issue of building the essential institutions for fulfilling the popular needs, giving “land to the tillers”, political and economic self-determination of the diverse downtrodden sections of the Nepali society. They seek to sweep aside the whole question of endogenous development – of accounting the endogenous resources, putting them under democratic control for fulfilling the popular needs.

The Revolutionary Resolution

On the other hand, the popular classes of Nepal – Nepali workers and peasantry – were for the first time mobilized independently during the People’s War, undiluted by the opportunism of the disgruntled sections of the landlord-merchant-moneylending classes and the clientele petty bourgeoisie nurtured as local “nodes” for implementing the social agenda of imperialism. It was in the Maoist movement that for the first time the Nepali landless and near landless, involved in circular national and international migration to meet their ends, found an organized political expression. The rural roots of the Nepali laboring classes even in the secondary and tertiary sectors allowed the popular democratic aspirations unleashed by the Maoist movement to integrate virtually the whole Nepali society behind the New Democracy Movement, despite the claims by other political forces to have achieved democracy in 1990.

Obviously, Prachanda’s concept of “political competition”, which the Maoists in Nepal have developed in one or the other way right from the time they put forward their 40-point demand in 1996, has to be interpreted in this background. They seek an open competition between the “democracy from above” that the 1990 arrangement established and the aspirations for the “democracy from below” that they have inculcated in the daily lives and struggles of the Nepali downtrodden. In standard terms, at the level of economic policy, it is a competition between the growth-oriented and need-oriented frameworks. With the June 16 agreement, the possibility of such competition as the new level of class struggle has become almost certain. But it will be interesting to see how the revolutionaries in the interim government, when established, are able to undo what the Nepali ruling classes have already achieved to make this competition inherently lopsided in their own favor by imposing the basic framework for pre-empting any conclusive assault from below.

(Modified version of the article written for ML International Newsletter (July-August))

Indian Politics in the context of the Iranian Crisis


Pratyush Chandra

The postponement of the decision to refer Iran to the UN Security Council has given the Indian rulers temporary relief. A few days back, India’s Foreign Secretary denied giving away any inkling about India’s stand if voting on Iran issue took place on November 24. (1) But did he or his superiors themselves have any hint of what they were going to do?

1 India and the Iranian crisis

Ever since India joined the Western powers led by the US in backing an IAEA resolution calling on the agency to consider reporting Iran to the UN Security Council if it does not meet its nuclear obligations, the Indian government has been going out of its way to explain its vote being in accordance with not only national but also Iranian interests. Its leftist allies are doing everything to make it apologetic for what it did on September 24, and to ensure that they do not repeat it again whether on November 24 or after. When the rightist opposition was in government it did not miss any opportunity to run behind the US wagging its tail. In fact, the consistency that we see today in the Indo-US relationship and its general acceptability are their gift to Manmohan Singh. However, the parliamentary logic forces even this spineless opposition to talk about non-alignment and anti-“imperialism” in its efforts to mobilise the alienated forces under its fold, and regain its spirit after last year’s electoral shock.

The government had always expected some international political development to take place that would help it avoid the voting. Increasing its pain was the Iranian endeavour to mix up the issue with the pipeline deal, which is still halfway. During the project’s Joint Working Group’s meeting in Tehran, Iran’s Deputy Petroleum Minister for International Affairs M H Nejad Hosseinian told the Indian delegation on October 24 “Iran expects that the esteemed government of India would compensate the past default by supporting Iran in the next meeting of the IAEA board of governors in November.” (2) Petroleum Secretary “had then replied that Iran’s demand was political in nature and it was difficult for him to comment on a political issue.” (3) Since then the desperate Indian government has been trying hard to convince Iran of its neoliberal lessons on the depoliticisation of economy learnt under the guidance of an Economist who happens to be the present Prime Minister, too, “to keep nuclear politics out of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and consider the latter as a purely commercial deal.” (4)

Finally, the US agreed to the Russian proposal allowing Iran to refine uranium at a key nuclear facility as long as more advanced work on the material was completed in Russia. Iran too promised to consider it. It is a face saving exercise for every party in the discussion. The Bush administration recognises “that its Iran policy, both tactically and strategically, was failing to resolve” the crisis and that it has been unable to persuade other Western powers, not even its otherwise faithful allies to refer the case to the Security Council. (5) Any unilateralism in these circumstances will be dangerous for the US. Militarily irresolute EU powers too wanted a resolution that did not force them to take a stand. However, the only negative aspect of such resolution for the US and other Western interests seems to be the strategic boost to Russia and China that this resolution entails – their ability to negotiate.

A similar face saving exercise was on in India – the possible resolution of the nuclear crisis or even delay in any decision in the IAEA in sight was a great respite. The international political exercise apparently seemed to second the government’s main argument in its efforts to convince its partners and others that what it did on September 24 was in national interest and in the interest of Iran too – giving time to Iran and others for negotiations. On the other hand, the official Left which has been trying hard to balance between saving its own independent political image and its desperate need to keep rightists out of power by supporting the government too will be able to continue balancing them consistently for some more time. When everything seemed safe, the government informed the Left what everybody already knew by then:

“At the eighth meeting of the United Progressive Alliance and the Left parties here, two days ahead of the crucial IAEA meeting in Vienna, the Government apprised the Left leaders of the progress made. The indication is that there is a possibility that there will be no voting and till now there has been no draft resolution suggesting that the matter be taken to the United Nations Security Council.”

As expected the government sought to convince its critiques that the postponement was the success of the diplomatic efforts to which it became a party by voting affirmatively on September 24. Finance Minister told the media, “The Government informed the Left parties of the progress made through diplomatic efforts. It was noted that the Government’s intention was to ensure that the matter remains within the jurisdiction of the IAEA”. (6)

2 Neo-liberal consensus and the foreign ministry

Ambiguity and opportunism have always constituted the bedrock of Indian foreign policy. Even during the Cold War, India’s choice for “non-alignment” was opportunistic rather than a matter of principle. Non-alignment allowed it a space to manoeuvre and bargain in the bipolar atmosphere. On the one hand, the already established strong capitalist interests in the country motivated the Indian state to establish channels that could facilitate their integration in the world market dominated by the West under the US. But, on the other hand, the lateness of capitalism in India kept it devoid of a systematic infrastructure for domestic capitalist expansion on the basis of which its capitalist interests could integrate and compete in the world market. The required support for this could come only from the Soviet camp, which envisaged a similar model for “national capitalist development” in third world countries. This dualism on the part of the Indian State made it opportunistic par excellence.

This opportunism has acquired new dimension in the post-Cold War liberalisation phase. The uneasiness that India feels today when it has to take a clear stand on international issues derives from the multi-layered, often contradictory, nature of its integration in international political economy. Its apparent opportunism is starkly reflected throughout its international dealings. Ever since it did nuclear tests in 1998, India seems to be caught in a schizophrenic existence, unceasingly oscillating between over-confidence and desperation. Events in the year 2005 evidence this eccentricity at least twice, earlier on the issue of Nepal and now on Iran.

Political analysts generally take this political behaviour at their face value. They fail to grasp the underlying stress and strain. Since Rajiv Gandhi’s open avowal to ‘neo-liberalise” the Indian economy with his New Economic Policy, there have been opportunities to test the words and deeds of almost all the major political fronts in the country. Since Rajiv Gandhi’s defeat in 1989, we have seen 8 Prime Ministers taking over (if we include the 13 days rule by Vajpayee in 1996). All these leaders despite their diverse political and ideological allegiances have been consistently wed to the basics of neo-liberalism. Finance Ministry has been remarkably consistent in its attitude throughout the two decades since 1985. Ideologies and ‘politics” have served to divert their social fallouts rather than to guide the overall policy designs.

The interior or home ministry along with the external affairs or foreign ministry takes on the tasks of making the ground fertile for the practice of neoliberalism. The Home Ministry has always been important for smoothening the track for capital accumulation by securing property relations and bringing material and “cultural” commons into the fold of these relations. However, less recognised is the fact that since the neo-liberalist economic policy is fundamentally designed to facilitate the entry and exit of capital and to administer the process of international capitalist integration, the External Affairs or Foreign Ministry eventually becomes the most active in this phase. Synchronising the global market dynamics and political reality is the major task undertaken through this ministerial coordination. The motivational glue is provided by keywords like pragmatism and the trans-political (de-politicised) notion of national interest. This pragmatism is nothing but a sanctified discourse to justify the “realpolitick” of making best of opportunities, or opportunism.

3. The crisis of mainstream left nationalism in India

The so-called experts on international relations and security issues have divided India’s international activism in two phases – the idealist phase and pragmatist phase, Rajiv Gandhi’s reign being generally considered the turning point. Despite being superficial and meaningless, this division sufficiently indicates at its purpose, which is simply to disparage the principle of non-alignment as utopian and to justify the pro-US tilt. Similarly these self-acclaimed ‘security intellectuals’ have redefined the all-accommodative notion of “national interest” in “Social Darwinian” terms. They have succeeded sufficiently in derailing the task of a serious inspection of the real context in which the Indian foreign policy is taking shape, of understanding it in terms of the continuity and change in Indian capitalist development.

Even the Left in India has been mesmerised by this ‘realpolitick’ definition of national interests, not trying to reinterpret them in terms of class and class interests. Eventually they too become prisoners of the supra-class nationalist ideology. This has been starkly evident in the ongoing debate on India’s “interest” in the Iranian nuclear crisis. The Leftists tried to assess India’s “national interest” in terms of ‘national’ material gains, the same basis on which the ruling elites are grounding their defence. Asking for an independent foreign policy in general, on this particular issue Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said, “If the Centre decides to vote against Iran, it should be viewed seriously as the focus should be on Indian interests, without succumbing to outside pressures”. And, hence, “India, which imports 70 percent of its oil, should maintain good relations with Iran and be alert of the designs of the ‘imperialists’”.(7) So the “focuses” are national sovereignty, “national interests” and pragmatism. Does any mainstream political formation differ on the primacy of these “focuses”? Does the Indian state deny them? In fact, by retelling all the known facts leading to India’s September 24 vote, the Indian government has been repeatedly showing that whatever it did was its own sovereign decision. Further, on the question of national material interests too, Indian policies pro-US tilt can be explained on the basis of India’s dependence on the Western (especially the US’) market and investment.

The mainstream presentation of ‘national interest” allows the hegemonic political economic interests to homogenise the ‘nation’ behind their designs. In a class divided and stratified society any such homogenisation ultimately harnesses the ‘people’ for the royal ride of the state and the ruling classes in pursuit of a “national” political economic expansion. Instead of recognising and sharpening the class conflict underlying the neo-liberal polity, while fighting its ideological transcendence in the discourse of nation and “national interests”, the Indian Left in its eagerness to become part of the ‘national mainstream’ is helping in conserving the national pomposity that characterises the Indian foreign policy, which politically sustains the Indian capital’s global pursuit. It seeks a nationalist compromise that can synchronise its “interests” with the State’s “national interests”. In the event of this uncritical acceptance of the political philosophy that underlies the Indian state policies, even anti-Americanism in the Indian leftist discourse is well utilised in supplying versatility and strength to the Indian state’s manoeuvrings and bargaining.

Notes

(1) Stand at Vienna will be in national interest, says Saran, The Hindu, November 17, 2005

(2) Iran’s armtwisting begins: fix Vienna mistake or else, The Indian Express, November 13, 2005

(3) Delhi will tell Iran: Keep N-politics out of pipeline, The Indian Express, November 16, 2005

(4) Ibid

(5) US backs Russian Plan to resolve Iran Crisis, The Washington Post, November 19, 2005

(6) Left apprised of stand on Iran issue, The Hindu, November 22, 2005

(7) PTI, India must have independent foreign policy: Karat, posted on November 20, 2005

Defining "National Interests" in Indian Foreign Policy


Pratyush Chandra

There has been a tremendous growth in politico-intellectual interest in interpreting Indian foreign policy. On the one hand, journals and newspapers are overflowing with analyses of India’s international activism, and on the other, we find a rise in institutions or ‘think-tanks’ specializing in it, both within India and abroad. However, it can be effectively contended that there is rarely any novelty in the approaches taken by these intellectuals, institutions and politicians on the issue. Most of them are restricted to producing permutation and combination of preconceived and ill-defined notions of “national interests”, “security interests”, “terrorism”, “pre-emptive measures” etc. Even progressive and ‘counter-hegemonic’ discourses are unable to go beyond conceiving the Indian policies as those of a ‘comprador’ third world ruling class, submitting to external pressures. This leads to analyses limiting themselves to mere tautological descriptions of the policies, different only in tone and of course in humanist tenor, but rarely disputing on the basic foundations of policy-making, that inform even the rightist jingoism and centrist pragmatism.

1. Indian “National Interests” – the Left-Right-Center Combined

The domestic opposition to Indian rulers’ intervention in international politics today is broadly confined on the following lines:
(1) They are compromising on the “national interests”,
(2) They are coming under the “American pressure”,
(3) As the consequence of (1) and (2), they are betraying their erstwhile “Non-Aligned Movement” (NAM) comrades.

Such tenor of opposition itself provides the Indian state a viable framework to rationalize its position. It can restrict itself to demonstrating how “national interests” are being served and sovereignty is not compromised, that it is taking its own decision and is being treated as an equal partner in the international strategic forums; further, that it is “leading” its erstwhile NAM comrades by actively representing them and supporting their political and economic sovereignty. This is effortless defense since there exists no need to defend the basic premises of the Indian foreign policy. There is unanimity across-the-board over the sanctity of “national interests”, sovereignty, the principle of “not coming under any external pressure” and India as a leader of the “third world” or “NAM” countries. The opposition counts on the evidences on which these sanctified principles are being violated, while the government in power provides counter-evidence on the same lines.

Recent debates “on the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), the July 18 Agreement with the United States, the September vote in the IAEA and the recent deliberations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)” are typically confined to this mode of discourse – whether led by the leftists, rightists or centrists.

Seemingly, there is no disagreement on India’s right to be a “Nuclear Weapon State” while remaining “committed to the goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons”. Not long ago, when with the rightist Vajpayee government’s nuclear tests in 1998, political forces of all hues and colors not only refrained from criticizing the act, but on the contrary they fought to take the credit for promoting researches which led to India’s nuclear capability. Nobody apparently denies the ideal “that the best and most effective nuclear non-proliferation measure would be a credible and time-bound commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons from existing arsenals, including India’s own nuclear weapons” and that we should “have no desire to perpetuate the division between nuclear-haves and have-nots”. However still, the left, right and center all are guilty of aspiring to see India as “a permanent member of the Security Council”. They all want India to demonstrate “a growing capability to shoulder regional and global responsibilities”, and “focus … increasingly on trans-national issues that today constitute the priority challenges – whether it is terrorism or proliferation, pandemics or disaster relief”. Further, “we cannot sit out the debates on the big issues of our times. Our interests demand a vigorous and articulate diplomatic effort that explains our positions and advances our interests.”

The quotes above are taken from a single lecture by the Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on “Nuclear Non-Proliferation and International Security” (1), wherein, despite its usual diplomatic nature, he eloquently presents the unanimous aspirations of the Indian political elites. Everybody (left, right and center) will agree with him that India’s approach to nuclear non-proliferation [or on everything] should be “a consistent one, a principled one and one grounded as much in our national security interests as in our commitment to a rule-based international system.”

While defending the recent decisions by the Indian government and its agreements with the US, he says,

“There is a continuity and consistency in our approach that may sometimes be masked by the particularities of a specific decision…. What appears to some observers as inordinate external influence over our decision-making in sensitive areas is, in fact, rooted in our own well-considered and independent judgment of where our best interests lie. This is in keeping with our tradition of non-alignment… We must adjust to change, change inherent in our emergence as a Nuclear Weapon State, change inherent in the sustained dynamism and technological sophistication of the Indian economy, and, as a consequence, change in global expectations of India as an increasingly influential actor on the international stage.”(2)

As a bureaucrat who is supposed to be “above politics”, Shyam Saran is not wary of making it a point to stress on the continuity and consistency in the policies of the Indian state, always reminding of the consonance of the present left-supported ‘centrist’ government’s policies with those of the erstwhile rightist Vajpayee government. In his defense of the Indian vote on the IAEA resolution on Iran, he stressed in his press briefings:

“I do not think that you should interpret India’s position as being aligned on the Left or on the Right or aligned with this group of countries or that group of countries. I think India has all along taken decisions on issues of concern to itself on the basis of its own assessment, and on the basis of its own national interest. So, the question of this representing a shift in India’s policy does not arise.”(3)

And he is obviously not wrong. All depends on how you define the “national interests”. And on their definition there is hardly any difference between various parties involved in the debate. One side says the government serves them, other side denies it; but nobody seeks to describe what those interests are and which sections of the society determine them.

2. “Uses of Domestic Dissent”

This fact of unanimity makes all mainstream approaches on the Indian foreign policy merely repetitive. They rarely question the basic foundation of the policy decisions. One says “compromises”, other notes “cooperation”; one notes “subjugation”, other says “equal partnership” etc. But this discursive exercise has a definite ideological role. Howsoever, this exercise seems futile, it significantly emasculates any decisive domestic opposition to the Indian state as they combine in unity on making it evermore “stronger” in the name of challenging ‘external pressure’, giving ‘international leadership’, and serving ‘national interests’ etc. It is this unanimous ‘nationalist’ tone in the Indian politics that has left the Indian hegemonic [militarist] exercises complementing and supporting the expansion of ‘national capitalist’ interests internationally unchecked.

The Indian interventions in the politics and economy of its neighboring countries and elsewhere are universally termed self-conceited and ‘big-brotherly’, but not imperialist. Hence what is seen as required is simply correcting this ‘aberration’, making the Indian policy towards these small and weak neighboring countries more ‘responsible’. The preconceived notion of a ‘third-world’ country imposed on the late capitalist countries does not allow the analysts to perceive their leadership as serving ‘national’ political economic interests by maneuvering internationally.

Further, any gesture of confrontation with the First World is termed ‘anti-imperialist’. This ‘anti-imperialism’ stresses the importance of the reconstruction of a ‘non-aligned movement’ and ‘south-south’ cooperation. But it does not take into account the material basis of a state-to-state cooperation between the “third world” countries. It does not consider the contradiction inherent in the ‘nationalist anti-imperialism’ in countries like India. At the juncture when India owns 35 percent of the FDI in Nepal, when it is the biggest investor in Sri Lanka since 2002 and has Bhutan and Maldives as perfect clienteles, do we expect India to lead another NAM? And if it does, what will be its role? Will it not be similar to that of Germany’s in EU, howsoever subservient to the US or any other global hegemonic power? Backwardness or lopsidedness of the Indian capitalism and society does not stop it from becoming expansionist and imperialist.

The indigenous corporate capitalist interests (immaterial of the adjectives we might choose to characterize them) today frame the agenda for the Indian state in the international scenario, whether pro-US or otherwise. These interests are formidably conscious and mature, as can be seen from the way the Indian state and capital combines their various strategies – a militarist combination with the US-Israel nexus, supposedly “progressive” alliance with various “third world” powers in WTO, independent oil dealings with varied forces, investments in oil fields, offer of lines of credit to developing countries in Africa and Tsunami affected countries, pipeline diplomacy and readiness to militarily-politically support all these. We cannot simply isolate one aspect of the Indian capitalist interests and generalize it to grasp their hydra-like nature. Competition and collaboration are inherent in the capitalist political economy. Will it not be just and appropriate to use this same principle to assess the “Indian designs”? Or else, we will only support them asking the Indian state to be “stronger” and will convert the opposing voices to mere instrument in its international bargaining. (4)

References:

(1) Lecture on “Nuclear Non-Proliferation and International Security” by Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, October 24, 2005, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
(2) Ibid.
(3) “Press Briefing by the Foreign Secretary on the events in UN and IAEA”, September 26, 2005, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
(4) In fact in a recent article by Harish Khare such use of dissent has been proudly advocated. See Harish Khare, “Uses of Domestic Dissent in Foreign Policy”, The Hindu, October 26, 2005.

For a different interpretation of Shyam Saran’s lecture, see Siddhartha Varadarajan’s India submits to the Bush doctrine?

India’s “Persian Puzzle” – A Possible Solution


Pratyush Chandra

[The recent Indian vote on the IAEA resolution is being generally interpreted as a sign of the Indian state’s subservience to the US. However, the reality belies this simplistic analysis. At the risk of being labelled economic determinist, this article brings out some facts that indicate towards the growing expansionist interest of the Indian capital. It is this expansionism that drives the Indian state to defy its ‘non-alignment’ past and design its own game-plan, which at least for now coheres with the US global strategies.]

India has finally voted in favor of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution on Iran. Everybody was speculating that at last an issue has come up that will break the pace and uniformity of the growing Indo-US relations. But India has made its choice clear in the world market of strategies and alignments. There are various lines of explanation that dominate the discussion on the rationale of India’s choice on the issue. The most prevalent one is of course based on the belief that the “third world” states are congenitally incapable of taking such decisions except under the pressure from the West. This view generally presumes these states to be ‘soft’ and their ‘national’ hegemonic interests to be weak, which can easily be swayed by the external pressures. Further, any gesture of confrontation between these states and the Western states especially the US is generally taken as potentially anti-imperialist. However, this view cannot explain the Indian case as it does not capture the basic political economic processes that are increasingly integrating the Indian hegemonic interests within the global strategic alignments and realignments.

The Official Justification

Even before voting for the resolution, the Indian government had been categorically stressing that there was “no difference in objectives between India and the United States vis-à-vis Iran even if the two sides differ on tactics”.(1) Further, even when India stressed on “diplomatic consultations to evolve an international consensus on how to deal with Teheran’s decision to continue its uranium enrichment programme”, it never wanted “another nuclear weapon state in its neighbourhood”.(2) Under these circumstances India’s vote must not be taken as a surprise.

The Indian foreign ministry is not wrong when it says that India’s vote on the resolution was actually in line with whatever had already been happening. This continuity is what constitutes the “evolutionary” foreign policy of India, as envisaged by its present Foreign Minister. The Indian leadership has consistently expressed all its international dealings in terms of “national interests”, “security interests”, etc. Once again, with regard to its vote on the IAEA resolution, the justification given by the Indian state is based on an ideological depoliticization of the so-called “national interests”. In the words of the Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran:

“I do not think that you should interpret India’s position as being aligned on the Left or on the Right or aligned with this group of countries or that group of countries. I think India has all along taken decisions on issues of concern to itself on the basis of its own assessment, and on the basis of its own national interest. So, the question of this representing a shift in India’s policy does not arise.” (3)

However, it all depends on the way you define the “national interest” which under neoliberalism (the professed ideology of the Indian state at least since 1991) means nothing but what provides leverage to the Indian businessmen and their businesses.

The Context

While analyzing India’s strategic maneuverings internationally, the analysts very rarely note their economic dimensions. It is scarcely admitted that India’s relationship with other developing countries after 1991 has been increasingly based on the export of capital and the Indian investment abroad. And in most of the cases, such economic relationship has been simultaneously equipped with militaristic aid to those states. India has been offering credit lines to many Afro-Asian countries that they can utilize for infrastructure building and other business purposes with a condition that they will employ Indian companies. India’s ‘non-aligned’ past has allowed it to have a major share in the capitalist subordination of the backward economies in Africa and Asia. In fact, the rhetoric of non-alignment (“South-South cooperation”) plays an efficient ideological role in rationalizing the expansionist drive of the Indian capital. Recently after India refused the foreign aid for its own Tsunami victims, the Indian External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, while offering Indonesians “concessional credit for reconstructing roads, buildings, harbours, ten units of fully equipped hospitals”, rattled proudly that “they were lumping us with the others but now we are seen separate offering our help and assistance”. (4)

Definitely, since 1991 India has been consistently endeavoring to be recognized as a faithful ally of the US. Its nuclear graduation and global politico-economic interests have shown the US leadership that it is a force to be reckoned with, and its subordination provides one of the most reliable allies to oversee the Indian Ocean and meet up with China. In recent years the growing energy needs of the Indian capital has forced the Indian State to invest in the oilfields abroad – India has operating assets in Sudan, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Myanmar, Libya, Syria, Sakhalin Islands, etc. It has been acquiring competitive amounts of shares in foreign oil companies. All these make India a player in the global oil politics too both as an investor and a consumer.

The Indo-US relationship is thriving in this context, and has a clear-cut ‘material’ semantics. India requires not having a confrontation with the “global police” state when its capital is struggling to stabilize its share in the global pool of surplus value, of which a major portion comes from the American market and the Indian investment in the US. Further, by providing dual citizenship to the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) recently, the Indian state has further increased its own responsibility of protecting NRI capital in exchange of ‘rent’ and the assurance of repatriation of profit.

In this scenario, apparently one may interpret the Indian vote on the IAEA resolution as an appeasement of the US-led ‘coalition’. But here too there is a vital interest of the Indian capital that is playing an important role. The recent pipline diplomacy between Iran, India and Pakistan is quite well known. It is impossible to interpret the Indian vote, which is unequivocally affirmative (not even abstention!) on a resolution that is meant to isolate Iran, without connecting it to the facts of the Indian ‘oil politics’ in general and its pipeline diplomacy with Iran in particular.

The Nature of India’s Oil Interests and the Global Coalition

Recently, while rationalizing the Indian nuclearization, the Indian Defense Minister noted:

“India is a heavily energy deficient country. Of all the variables that could hinder India’s economic progress, energy scarcity and dependence are probably the most serious. Seventy percent of our crude oil is imported. Per capita energy consumption presently is only 1/5th of the world average. Considering a high growth rate of around 8 percent of GDP per year in the coming years, growth of oil demand is projected to be 6 percent per annum. If so, dependence on oil imports could rise from 70 percent to 80 (percent), to 85 percent over the next two decades. It is therefore imperative for us to look for cost-effective and long-term alternatives to meet our energy requirements. Indian oil companies are currently actively involved in a search for energy in the form of oil and gas fields, pipelines, LNG, and other new and non-conventional sources. But most hydrocarbon resources underline our dependence on limited reserves and others for this critical requirement. They also carry scope for avoidable strategic energy rivalries.” (5)

The clue to India’s alignment with the US hegemony in the Middle East lies here. Its energy deficiency, yet the desire and ability to proactively make up for it, makes the Indian rulers a player in the Middle East conflicts. Major, yet low productive oil producing industrialized countries, including the United States (6) and oil deficient industrialized economies can influence the global oil price only by appeasing or isolating OPEC countries. Since a major determinant of the oil price today is the differential oil rent appropriated by the highly productive oil economies like those of the Middle East, “cost effective” energy appropriation requires reducing this rent. The bully tactics (“either with us or against us”) of the US and other Western powers in the Middle East has been mainly geared towards this purpose.

The increasing Indian investment in the oilfields abroad was definitely triggered by the need to satisfy the domestic energy requirements, but ultimately as it happens with all capitalist ventures, these investments eventually develop their own logic of earning profit. With increasing divestment in the state owned oil companies of India and intrusion of private capital, this becomes furthermore true. Hence, the need to minimize the differential oil rent, which the oil companies have to pay to the oil producing countries, becomes an important aspect of India’s international political intervention, too. So this unity of ‘economic’ interest serves as the background for the increasing Indian intervention in the Gulf politics and that too in consonance with the US hegemony and other non-OPEC powers. India’s readiness to refuel the American warships during the First Gulf War and later during the Afghan War all point out that there exists an Indian consciousness of possible material gains from its subservience to the US led coalition. However, because of a formidable domestic anti-imperialist opposition, until now the capitalist preference in India could not come out as openly as it has in the vote on the IAEA resolution.

It is worthwhile to note that that a major hitch in the Indo-Iranian negotiations on the proposed pipeline was also related to pricing. “India has taken the position that any price above the US$3 per million British thermal units (BTUs) currently being paid by its power and fertilizer sectors for gas on the international market is unacceptable. Iran, in contrast, appears to be seeking more than US$4 per million BTUs, a rate that will only go higher if Pakistani transit fees are added.” (7) This might have been one of the major reasons in persuading the Indian state to go with the scheme of the West, since the isolation of the Iranian regime and its consequent desperation to earn revenues in the midst of enveloping sanctions can make the Iranians more compliant to the Indian demands and increase the weight on the side of the Indians in the negotiations for the pipeline.

References

(1) The Times of India, September 16, 2005
(2) The Hindu, September 21, 2005
(3) “Press Briefing by the Foreign Secretary on the events in UN and IAEA”, September 26, 2005
(4) Indian Express, January 8, 2005
(5) Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Talk on “India’s Strategic Perspective”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, June 27, 2005
(6) Cyrus Bina, “The Economics of the Oil Crisis: Theories of Oil Crisis, Oil Rent & Internationalization of Capital in the Oil Industry”, Merlin Press, London, 1985.
(7) A.J. Tellis, “India As a New Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC, 2005

Advani’s Jinnah Drama


Advani’s Jinnah Drama – An exercise in Goebbelsian parliamentarism

Advani’s recent visit to Pakistan was quite meaningful. Perhaps the most apparent reason was to assuage his aggressive communalist image, which is seen as a hindrance in posing him as a ‘national’ leader of a ‘secular’ India. Vajpayee’s image of a moderate rightist made him more acceptable, despite Advani’s unique popularity among the ranks and files of all the rightist forces in the country, due to the latter’s leadership in the movement that led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque and communal riots across the country (although he denies his own participation in the actual demolition). If we understand this purpose, the total game plan behind the just finished Jinnah ‘controversy’ seems deliberate and well designed. It shows the strength of the fascist forces in India and their ability to manipulate opinions and coordinate their own organs skilfully. How does it matter, at least, to BJP, VHP and RSS whether Jinnah was secular or not? Taking into consideration their perception regarding the state and the role of religion in defining it, it is highly suspicious that they are reacting against Jinnah being called secular. They could have made it an occasion to tell people that Pakistan is the result of what they call ‘pseudo-secularism’, as they are always ready to reinterpret their leaders’ meaningless utterances. But they did not choose to do that, or rather they wanted to take time in doing so. It was only after the drama that BJP started convincing its bewildered cadres that Advani was actually suggesting that despite Jinnah’s secular speech at the time of independence, he created a theocratic state. However, the collaboration between the different organs of the ten-headed (dashanan) RSS was perfect as always, and it corroborates the Italian anti-fascist leader Togliatti’s characterisation of fascism as a chameleon –
1. Advani calls Jinnah secular,
2. VHP’s Togadia croaks immediately in his regular spirit of mindless denunciations,
3. RSS too does some chastising,
4. Advani is defiant; he resigns and calls for an open debate,
5. BJP is in temporary crisis,
6. “Secular” toadies in NDA, like Nitish Kumar, come in support of Advani, and threatens to pull out of the coalition,
7. Vajpayee and the BJP leadership soothe Advani and,
8. Advani withdraws his resignation.

Logical Conclusion: Within a few days of drama, Advani has become fit for leading a ‘secular’ India. Togadia’s abuses, RSS’ chastising and Nitish’s mediation all are necessary for such qualifications.

Bush’s Re-Election and the ‘Indian Dream’


Pratyush Chandra

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.

References:

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/