Keynote Speech delivered by Comrade Lal singh, General Secretary, Communist Ghadar Party of India at the Conference on "Indian State and Revolution". Nov.2002
This keynote speech, entitled "Crisis of capitalism and the dangerous course of the Indian State points to the urgency for communists to prepare for the proletarian revolution!", was delivered by Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary, Communist Ghadar Party of India, on behalf of its Central Committee at a conference of Indian communists in November 2002. The conference, convened to discuss issues concerning the Indian State and Revolution, was organised by Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors. Its principal aim was to theoretically and ideologically arm the writers, readers and distributors of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar and People’s Voice.
Activists of the communist movement, belonging to many different parties and groups, participated in the 3-day deliberations that followed the keynote speech. At the end of the conference, the participants resolved to continue and deepen the discussion of theoretical and ideological questions within the communist movement, while uniting firmly to deal with the immediate problem of the political unity of the working class. They resolved to step up the struggle against the harmful trend within the communist movement, of lining up the workers and peasants behind the "lesser evil" within the bourgeoisie and in defence of the "secular foundations" of the Indian State.
The edited version of the keynote speech is being released for discussion among all Indian communists. The Central Committee of the Communist Ghadar Party of India calls on all its members and supporters to study and discuss the ideas, arguments and conclusions presented in this publication.
Crisis of capitalism and the dangerous course of the Indian State points to the urgency for communists to prepare for the proletarian revolution!
I am greatly honoured to be addressing this gathering of Indian communist revolutionaries today. You have come from all over the country and from abroad. You have come because you are moved by the conviction that India cannot be saved unless the door to progress is opened through the revolution. It is the longing for a thoroughgoing revolution as the only way to solve the problems plaguing India, which has brought us all together today.
We have assembled here at a time when the rulers of India are taking the country on an extremely dangerous course. The times are calling on us Indian communists to rise to the occasion, and provide unified revolutionary leadership to the working class. I applaud all of you who have come forward to take up the task facing the communist movement at this critical time.
You are the living embodiment of the party line among the masses — the agitators, propagandists and organisers of the working class and all the oppressed on the road of the proletarian revolution. You are the carriers of revolutionary ideology in the working class movement. You are the readers, writers and disseminators of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar and People’s Voice, the organ of uniting and organising the advanced elements of the working class into units of the vanguard party. By discussing and settling some of the most important questions concerning the Indian State and the Revolution, we must sharpen our brains and consolidate our unity of thought and action. It is this that will provide us with the courage of conviction and the strength of science, which are vital ingredients necessary to be effective in leading the class struggle. I would like to congratulate Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors, the organisers of this Conference, for this very timely initiative.
The world is facing a grave situation. The capitalist system is in deep crisis and war clouds are darkening the sky. In these circumstances, the Indian ruling class is on a reckless adventurist course, coordinating its activities with those of US imperialism and other imperialist powers. It is pursuing its ambitions of emerging as one of the big imperial powers of the world. The participation of the Indian bourgeoisie and its State in the imperialist plots and machinations to redivide the world has made the situation in South Asia especially dangerous.
India can come out of the crisis, the dangers can be averted, and the situation can be saved, if and only if the Indian working class comes forward to lead the struggle of all the oppressed. The times are crying out and demanding that we Indian communists come forward to provide leadership to the working class to fight the all round anti-social offensive. We must lead the working class to rally all the exploited and oppressed around an immediate program for lifting society out of this crisis. We must lead them on the road of the revolution and socialism.
In order to carry out this immediate task, it is essential for the communist movement to purge itself completely of the trends that seek to liquidate the proletarian revolution by compromising with capitalism and the existing Indian State of the bourgeoisie. Only by purging itself of all forms of conciliation with bourgeois ideology can the communist movement emerge as a united force at the head of the working class, uniting all the exploited and oppressed around it. The time has come to expose and defeat those in the movement who are lining up the workers and peasants behind some so-called progressive section of the bourgeoisie, by prettifying capitalism, the bourgeoisie and the Indian State.
Capitalism on the world scale is experiencing the further deepening of the economic crisis, with global production almost stagnant due to widespread recession and with corporate profits declining steeply in the most advanced countries of the world. Industrial capacity lies unutilised and unemployment is widespread and rising in the advanced capitalist economies. The stock markets have crashed in 2002 to a degree that has not been witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s, which eventually led to such conditions that gave rise to fascism and drove imperialism to launch the Second World War in 1939.
Reported corporate profits in the United States have fallen from US$ 88 billion in 2000 to US$ 35 billion in 2001. Commerzbank, the third largest bank in Germany, is reported to have lost a quarter of its value in just one week in early October. Savings of millions of workers and middle class families have been wiped out at one stroke. The bourgeois economists are predicting worse things to come, such as a full-fledged banking crisis.
It is obvious that the decline in profits has occurred independent of the will of the capitalists as a class. In spite of all the efforts of the imperialist powers and monopoly capitalists to ensure the maximum rate of profit for themselves, they are unable to escape the consequence of the inexorable law discovered by Karl Marx over 150 years ago, namely, the tendency for the average rate of capitalist profit to fall. Every upward swing in the capitalist business cycle is less pronounced and more uncertain than before. Every crash is more severe and devastating than before.
The effects of the world-wide capitalist crisis can be seen in India in the slow down of industrial growth over the past two years and the resulting increase in unemployment, closures and insecurity of livelihood for the toiling masses. As a direct consequence of India joining the World Trade Organisation, and the opening up of all the domestic markets to imported goods, extreme insecurity and widespread ruin among the peasantry and other small-scale producers is the order of the day. The crisis has been further aggravated by the widespread drought and calamity conditions in many regions of the country, leading to a further decline in rural income. Even as the granaries of the Central Government are overflowing with wheat and rice, suicides and starvation deaths are bring reported from rural India.
The moves towards privatisation of hitherto state owned companies through ‘strategic sales’ are leading to the further concentration of productive assets in the hands of the Indian monopoly houses and the multinational companies, at one pole, and growing unemployment and insecurity among workers at the other pole. The bourgeoisie is stepping up its attacks on the rights of labour, justifying it in the name of enhancing the global competitiveness of Indian capital.
On the global scale, the greed of the capitalist monopolies for the maximum rate of profit, in conditions when the average rate of profit is falling, is driving the imperialist states to step up their rivalry with each other over the control of the sources of raw materials, of markets and territories. This is the root cause of the wars that have been waged and those that are being planned for the re-division of the world among the most rapacious powers. The world is witnessing all-out efforts by US imperialism to launch another aggressive war against Iraq, or against North Korea or some other country, as the next round in its ‘war against terrorism’. What is being revealed is that imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, needs wars for territorial conquests and re-division of the world, in order to prolong its life.
The Indian State is emerging as the reactionary gendarme of imperialism in South Asia, a warmongering and nuclear power that is increasingly hated and feared by the peoples in all the neighbouring countries. Indo-US military and intelligence collaboration is growing, alongside contradictions between the two states on specific questions. The Indian State is at the same time engaged in deals with the European Union, Russia, Iran, Iraq and other states in Asia. The Indian big bourgeoisie, the most influential and leading section of the class, is eager to play an active role in the US-led ‘war against terrorism’, in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the suppression of the struggle of the people in Nepal. These are all signs of the dangerous course on which India is headed today.
The working class and peoples are increasingly coming out on the streets protesting against the capitalist-imperialist offensive that goes by the name of globalisation through privatisation and liberalisation. In all the capitalist states of the world, including the most democratic of them, elected governments are passing legislation to completely negate the rights of the working class and people. In order to divert and suppress the rising opposition and resistance to the capitalist offensive, imperialism and world reaction are resorting to the most diabolical, medieval and barbaric methods. Brute force is being unleashed against individuals and parties on the basis of their ideology; their religious faith, race or ethnic origin. Racism and racist attacks are on the rise in the most ‘civilised’ societies. Entire nations and peoples are branded as ‘rogues’ and that is used as the justification for launching cruise missiles against them.
The US and other imperialists are further perfecting the methods of Hitler and Mussolini today. The repetition of lies and slanders has been raised to the highest level through the imperialist media and the multiple channels of misinformation. Every just struggle in the world is being portrayed in racist and communal colours. The drive of US imperialism to dominate Asia and the whole world is being portrayed as a war against terrorism and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’.
In India too, the ruling bourgeoisie is resorting to communal violence, state terrorism, chauvinist and communal propaganda and warmongering against Pakistan, in order to divert and suppress the growing resistance to the so-called second generation reforms. Just like the colonial rulers branded our glorious patriots and martyrs as terrorists, to justify sentencing them to death by hanging, the present day rulers of India are branding those who demand and fight for their rights as terrorists. They are also branding them as ‘fundamentalists’, as ‘backward’, as ‘extremists’ and ‘secessionists’.
In the service of the imperialist pursuit of the Indian big bourgeoisie, the Indian State is being further fascised in every respect. Arbitrary suppression of all forms of political dissent — ban and arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), of any organisation and individual the ruling circles choose to target — has become the order of the day in this ‘largest democracy in the world’. State-organised communal violence, assassinations of political personalities, bomb blasts and other means of spreading terror among the people have become permanent features of the method of governance in India.
The most criminal and fascist deeds of the imperialists and bourgeois states are being justified and covered up under the pretext that a state is civilised and democratic as long as it organises ’free and fair elections’. Such elections have been nothing but the means for the bourgeoisie to sort out its internal contradictions and to bring its agents to positions of power. However, the political crisis is so acute and the contradictions are so sharp that the ruling classes are unable to resolve them through such elections, which are invariably throwing up unstable coalitions, as seen in Uttar Pradesh and in Kashmir.
The recent elections in Pakistan, and in Jammu and Kashmir, have not brought to an end the tension and the danger of war in this region. They have not contributed to the solution of the problem of Kashmir either. Nor have they ended the communal and chauvinist propaganda of the official circles of India and Pakistan against each other. Although troops are being withdrawn from the Indo-Pak border once again, this is only a temporary tactic within the strategy being followed by US imperialism, in which the states of India and Pakistan are deeply entrenched.
All over the world, bourgeois states and multi-party democracies are facing an acute credibility crisis, as the facts are revealing more and more clearly that they are nothing but arrangements and organs for imposing the dictate of an exploiting minority over the whole of society. The rights of the vast majority of people are under vicious attack. The facts are revealing that the agenda of imperialism is to impose fascism and launch reactionary wars for the re-division and conquest of the world.
As resistance and opposition to ’free market reforms’ have grown, the imperialists and the bourgeoisie have responded with the claim that what was needed was to add a ’human face’ to the reform program. As and when this tactic gets exposed and discredited, the same forces turn around and blame the ’human face’ for all the economic ills and call for its dismantling in the name of liberalisation. Capitalist reforms and multi-party democracy, with or without a ‘human face’, are being exposed as nothing but the offensive of big monopoly capital, its drive to run roughshod over the rest of society and impose its rule through the ballot and the bullet.
The post-cold war period, which was ushered in by the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, began with loud clamour about economic growth, peace and democracy. All the European powers, plus the US and Canada, declared that ‘free market reforms’ and multi-party representative democracy were mandatory for all countries and peoples to adopt and follow. They trumpeted this as a return to the ‘liberal era’. Declaring that ‘red is dead’, they claimed that the competitive forces of capitalism will lift society out of the crisis and open the path for progress. Over a decade after these bombastic claims, the true face of world capitalism stands nakedly revealed today. Capitalism stands exposed as the force behind fascism at home
and aggression and reactionary wars abroad. It is the force behind communalism, racism, terrorism and the entire anti-social offensive against the livelihood and rights of the peoples.
Marxism-Leninism teaches us that imperialism means wars of conquest and re-division of the world. US imperialism is pursuing a hegemonic strategy for the conquest of Asia, within which it engages in open aggression, hidden deals as well as ‘peace-making’ and ‘peace-keeping’ activities to pave the way for its domination. The states of India and Pakistan are participating in the imperialist game of collaboration and contention over territories and spheres of influence. They are arming and re-arming themselves, not for peace or purely defensive purposes, but for waging wars of aggression and participating in the imperialist contention. It is therefore necessary to be vigilant and not entertain any illusion that war clouds have disappeared from the sky over South Asia.
Marxism-Leninism also teaches us that when both liberalism and social-democracy fail to stabilise the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie, it resorts to fascism — to open and unbridled violence and reaction to impose its dictate. It resorts to all the most barbaric means including racism, communalism and state terrorism to suppress its opponents, as is being witnessed all over the world, including in the US, Britain, Canada and India.
On August 15, 2002, the fifty-fifth anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Vajpayee called on the people of India to defend the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State and practice ‘tolerance’ in spite of all ‘provocations’. In other words, the Prime Minister was insinuating that the victims of the communal massacre in Gujarat in February 2002 are themselves to blame for having allegedly organised provocations and for having been provoked. He was lauding the Indian State for practicing tolerance and defending genuine secularism. He was trying to turn the truth on its head. However, more recently, on October 25, Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that what happened in Gujarat shall not happen again, indirectly admitting that it is the ruling class, through its state, which is the organiser of the provocations and communal slaughter of innocent people in Gujarat.
Atal Behari Vajpayee is not the first Prime Minister to preach tolerance and harmony after the rulers have been exposed for their communal crimes. Nor is he the first to promise that ‘it shall not happen again’. Jawaharlal Nehru preached tolerance and harmony after the bloody partition was organised by the British colonialists and the ‘brown sahibs’ collaborated in that criminal act. Nehru also promised that it shall not happen again. Indira Gandhi added the word ‘secular’ in the preamble to the Indian Constitution after having declared a National Emergency and thrown all her main opponents into jail. Indira Gandhi’s regime launched its armed assault on the Golden Temple at Amritsar in the name of Operation Bluestar, as part of its communal persecution of Sikhs. Rajiv Gandhi amended the laws to require all political parties to pledge that they would defend the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State. He did this after he and his Congress Party had supervised the gruesome holocaust targeted at people of the Sikh faith in November 1984, and after they had swept the polls with the slogan ‘Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan!’ In December 1992, the Narasimha Rao government and the main opposition party, BJP, colluded in the demolition of the Babri masjid and organising large-scale communal massacres.
If the entire experience of the Indian working class and people over the past 55 years is examined truthfully, what is clear is that secularism and communalism are two faces of the strategy of ‘divide and rule’. It is also clear that the Congress Party and the BJP are the two arms of this strategy of the Indian bourgeoisie to divide and rule over the people.
The BJP and the Congress Party are the two main parties in India that are financed and backed by the big bourgeoisie and by the biggest imperialists of the world. They are both competing to become the greatest champion of ‘free market reforms’ and of the imperialist ambitions of the Indian bourgeoisie. They both use communalism and communal violence to expand their vote banks. They both use state terrorism to drown in blood the struggles of the oppressed masses. And they both use the platform of secularism and preach that only the Indian State can maintain ‘communal harmony’, as Prime Minister Vajpayee did on August 15th this year.
The BJP criticises the Congress Party for ‘appeasing the minorities’ in the name of secularism. The Congress Party criticises the BJP for violating the principles of secularism and damaging the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State. When in power, both of them have engaged in communalising and criminalising the state apparatus, the police and paramilitary forces. They have commanded these forces to organise communal violence, as in November 1984, in December 1992–January 1993, in March 2002 and numerous other times. They have both preached ‘tolerance’ and ‘communal harmony’ after every episode of gruesome killings.
All the available facts show that communalism and communal violence are part and parcel of the anti-social offensive of the Indian bourgeoisie, and that the Indian State, its constitution, its political process of multi-party representative democracy, its bureaucracy, army and police are thoroughly communal. However, there is a major contingent in the Indian communist movement that is preventing the workers and peasants from drawing this conclusion.
After every incident of brutal slaughter of the people on a communal basis, there are some in the communist movement who preach that the problem lies only in this or that party but not in the Indian State. According to the champions of this line, there is nothing wrong with the Indian State, with the capitalist system that it defends and the ballot and bullet method that it deploys. At the present time, the only thing wrong that they find is that ‘communal-fascist’ parties, that is the BJP and its allies, are running the Central Government. Such communists go so far as to call on the workers and peasants to defend the existing Indian State from these so-called ‘communal-fascist’ forces.
They argue that the Congress Party is the ‘lesser evil’ as compared to the BJP. The solution they propose is to replace the ‘communal-fascist’ BJP-led front with a secular Congress-led front or some other anti-BJP front. However, the life experience of the Indian working class and people since 1947 shows precisely that no change of faces or parties in power has put an end to the problem of communal violence or to caste discrimination and other forms of oppression and debasement of the human personality.
Those who advocate choosing the lesser evil contribute to the imposition of bourgeois consciousness on the workers and peasants, the consciousness that they are unfit to rule themselves. There is no reason at all that the workers and peasants of India should confine their aim to choosing between different evils. Why should we, the Indian working class, not organise to put an end to the rule of this evil class, the bourgeoisie? Why should we not organise to establish our own rule, the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants, through the proletarian revolution? This is the key question facing the working class movement today.
The Second Congress of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, held in October 1998, assessed that the conditions in India and on the world scale point to great storms ahead. Leninism teaches us that this is the epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. The retreat of the revolution is only a temporary phenomenon, because history is in our favour, in favour of the working class and the revolution. We can already see the sharpening of all the major contradictions on the world scale, indicating that another storm is indeed in the making. However, Leninism also teaches us that a storm, however revolutionary, may or may not lead to the victory of revolution. That depends on the subjective factor, that is the degree of consciousness and organisation of the working class and its vanguard party.
In India, tens of thousands of workers are waking up to the fact that the right to vote has been of no use to them as far as their struggle against capitalism and capitalist reform is concerned. Workers’ unions have united to a remarkable degree, cutting across party affiliations, around the banner of opposition to privatisation and in defence of the rights of labour. Masses of peasants and farmers’ associations are organising actions in opposition to the penetration of foreign capital and the WTO regimen. The experience of the broad masses of people with all the 3 major parliamentary coalitions in power in this period — the BJP front, the Congress front and the Third Front — has revealed that behind these fronts stand the same class interest and the same program of enriching the big bourgeoisie.
Following the gruesome communal massacre organised by the ruling circles in Gujarat, people from all walks of life can see that the Indian State, far from providing protection, is itself posing the biggest danger to the lives of the people and to the security of the social environment. Far from guaranteeing rights, the Indian State stands revealed as the violator of rights and protector of the criminals and assassins.
The Indian working class is fighting and seeking unity with all the fighting forces. Its consciousness is rising as a result of life experience itself, but it is being prevented from drawing the pertinent conclusions and organising to fight for its own class aims. It is being prevented from emerging as an independent political force, by those in the communist movement who are advocating that ‘secularism versus communalism’ is the immediate struggle to be waged, and calling for the defence of the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State.
If the foundations of the Indian State are not communal, then why does communal violence take place again and again? It can only be because the people of India are communal and backward. Thus, the assertion that the Indian State is secular and anti-communal actually leads inevitably to the conclusion that the problem lies with the people being backward and divided on the basis of their religious faith. It follows then that it is up to the Indian State to maintain ‘peace’ and ‘communal harmony’. Thus, those in the communist movement who are calling for the defence of the secular foundations of the Indian State are repeating the lie that was promoted by the colonial enslavers of India and by the traitorous Indian bourgeoisie!
The divisions and weaknesses of the working class movement in India is a factor that increases the danger of further fascisation and reactionary war in this region. It is therefore essential that Indian communists dispel the confusion created about secularism and communalism, their real source and origin. Defeating the influence of the line of secularism versus communalism is necessary to open the path for the Indian working class to play its revolutionary role at this time.
Secularisation refers to the progressive elimination of religious authority from social and political affairs. The struggle against religious authority, backward customs and the domination of the rigid Brahmanical caste system has a long history in Indian society, including the experience of the Bhakti and Sufi movements. Even though the ideas they propounded had a religious shell, the essence of such movements was the struggle for the affirmation of the individual’s right to conscience, independent of the authority of Brahmanism or Mullahism or any kind of religious orthodoxy.
At an early stage in the development of society, Indian political theory had posited that the authority of the State was based on its duty of providing sukh (prosperity) and raksha (protection) to all members of society. Once the caste system was institutionalised and became the basis for preserving class distinctions in society, the very definition of sukh and raksha was transformed. Sukh for a man born in a low caste family merely meant the opportunity to perform his caste duty. As long as he could serve persons of the higher caste he was deemed to be happy. Preservation of this caste order of society became the principal duty of the State. In effect, society became divided into those who enjoyed all the rights and those who had only duties but no rights. It is against such an order, which negated the rights of human beings, including the right of every individual to his or her conscience, that the Bhaktas and the Sufis arose.
The struggle for the secularisation of society in the 18th and early 19th century Europe was led by the bourgeoisie, which was a progressive class at that time, fighting against feudal absolutism and religious authority. The progressive forces of that time fought for the elimination of the authority and influence of religion and the Church from the affairs of State, demanding that reason and science be the basis for laying down the law in society. It was a reflection in the ideological sphere of the social revolution against feudal absolutism. As Marx and Engels have explained, "...the French Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, in particular French materialism, was not only a struggle against the existing political institutions and the existing religion and theology; it was just as much an open struggle against the metaphysics of the seventeenth century, and against all metaphysics" (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘The Holy Family’, in On Religion [Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955], pp.59-60)
However, the bourgeoisie did not remain progressive for very long even in Europe, not to speak of the colonies. After the crises of overproduction that struck capitalism starting from 1825, the bourgeoisie transformed the progressive ideas that emerged from the secularisation movement into the philosophy of secularism. This philosophy of secularism went hand in hand with liberalism in politics and Protestantism in religion. With the development of capitalism to its highest stage of imperialism at the end of the 19th century, the bourgeoisie began to proclaim that religion was a state duty.
Speaking about the English bourgeois, as early as in the 17th century when a compromise was struck in England between the merchant and manufacturing interests and the great landowning families, Frederick Engels wrote: "He was himself religious; his religion had supplied the standard under which he had fought the king and the lords; he was not long in discovering the opportunities this same religion offered him for working upon the minds of his natural inferiors, and making them submissive to the behests of the masters it had pleased God to place over them. In short, the English bourgeoisie now had to take a part in keeping down the ‘lower orders’, the great producing mass of the nation, and one of the means employed for that purpose was the influence of religion" (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Selected Works, In one volume, Progress Publishers, Moscow, p.386).
The British colonialists established their rule over India on the basis of snuffing out everything progressive and allying with the most backward forces in society, blocking the path to any enlightenment. The Gentoo Code institutionalised the hated caste order and the most backward customs against which the people had fought. Among other things, this Gentoo Code stipulated that "it is proper for a woman, after her husband’s death, to burn herself in the fire with his corpse; every woman who thus burns herself shall remain in paradise with her husband for three crore and fifty lakh years by destiny". All this was done in the name of ‘tolerating’ the ‘native customs’.
The First War of Indian Independence in 1857 brought forth the best traditions of the peoples of this subcontinent. People from all over India, from all religious backgrounds, joined hands and fought with one aim, to win complete freedom and independence from colonial rule. It was a mass revolt that shook the very foundations of British rule in India.
Following the suppression of the peoples’ revolt through brute force and superior military arsenal, the British colonial bourgeoisie went about systematically to institutionalise communal division and communal violence as the foundation for stabilising its rule over India. The colonial state provided protection and backing to communalists of different varieties, who spewed their venom and spread hatred against this or that religion. The police forces of the colonial state played a direct role in spreading rumours and organising communal violence. And at the same time, the impression was created that the colonial state is needed to maintain communal harmony and defend secularism in India. This was the multi-pronged method of the British colonialists to subjugate and enslave the peoples of India.
British colonialism concocted the view that there were no nations and nationalities in India, but only religious communities. The people of India were arbitrarily divided into a ‘Hindu majority’ and many religious minorities including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others. They were portrayed as backward people who were at each other’s throats. It was alleged that the only way the ‘natives’ could live in peace was if English educated liberal men rule over them, to maintain communal harmony and preach tolerance. In short, it was the white man’s ‘burden’ to maintain ‘order’ in backward and communally divided India. With this aim and agenda, the British colonialists used secularism to organise communal violence and enslave the peoples of this subcontinent.
The colonialists laid the foundations of the Indian State, which foundations were kept intact by the Indian bourgeoisie when it came to power in 1947. These foundations are communal in nature, starting with the very definition of the Indian polity as being made up of majority and minority religious communities. The Constituent Assembly, which adopted the 1950 Constitution of the Indian Republic, was itself elected on the basis of communal constituencies, under British colonial supervision.
The major parties of the Indian bourgeoisie, such as the BJP and the Congress Party, continue to follow the colonial methods and the colonial outlook. They deploy the same or similar methods of using communalism and secularism to divide the people. It is understandable that the BJP and the Congress Party are following in the footsteps of the British colonialists. It is understandable because the Indian bourgeoisie is a traitorous class, which grew up and came to power by collaborating with the colonisers, and has preserved and defended the colonial legacy since then. What is not understandable and not at all acceptable is that some who call themselves communists and Marxists, who wave the red flag and wear a hammer and sickle on their chests, should also be following the agenda set by the British colonial bourgeoisie!
The followers of the philosophy of secularism are deviating from the outlook of dialectical materialism. They are promoting the idealist belief that science and reason are adequate to eliminate religion from the lives of men and women. However, the science of Marxism has proved that a social revolution is necessary to eliminate religion. Only the proletarian revolution can put an end to the social conditions of oppression that perpetuate belief in religion and the ‘other world’. Thus, the followers of present day secularism are completely departing from Marxism and denying the necessity for the revolution.
Lenin emphasised that "…under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealist fashion, as an ‘intellectual’ question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression of the working masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon mankind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the proletariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of capitalism. Unity in this really revolutionary struggle of the oppressed class for the creation of a paradise on earth is more important to us than unity of proletarian opinion on paradise in heaven" (V.I. Lenin, ‘Socialism and Religion’, Works, Vol. 10 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), pp. 83-85).
Those who are presenting secularism versus communalism as the main and most immediate struggle for the workers and peasants of India are committing precisely this error, against which Comrade Lenin warned the communists. They are blocking the road to political unity of the working class by posing the religious question as an ‘intellectual’ question unconnected with the class struggle.
The erroneous notion that the Indian State has ‘secular foundations’ acts as a roadblock to the struggle of the working class and oppressed masses to end communalism and all forms of medievalism, including the caste system, through the revolution against capitalism and everything backward in Indian society. It fosters the illusion that we can rely on the present day Indian State for achieving these objectives.
By towing the imperialist bourgeois line of secularism versus communalism, the class conciliators in the communist movement are spreading demoralisation among the fighting forces. They are asking the working class and people to look inwards into themselves to find the cause for communal tension, instead of focusing their attention against the ruling bourgeois class and its principal organ, the Indian State.
The struggle against communalism and communal violence in India today is an integral part of the struggle of the working class and toiling peasantry against capitalism and the bourgeoisie, for deep-going social transformation. The duty of communists is to make the working class and people conscious of this fact, including the fact that it is the ruling bourgeoisie that is using communalism and communal violence to divert and drown in blood the struggles of the working class and all the oppressed. Those who are calling on the workers and peasants to defend the secular foundations of the Indian State are acting in the opposite direction; that is, they are preventing the working class from identifying the real source of communalism and communal violence.
By waging the struggle against communalism as a separate struggle, unconnected with the struggle for liberation from exploitation and oppression, the advocates of a ‘secular front’ are acting as an impediment to the proletarian class struggle. They are serving the interests of the bourgeoisie, to subordinate the mass opposition to communalism and communal violence to the agenda of replacing the BJP by the Congress Party in power, so as to continue with the same system and program. They are serving the strategy of imperialism and the Indian bourgeoisie to divert the working class movement.
The Indian State is an organ of the rule of the bourgeois class. It is a complex set of institutions to suppress the working class and other toiling masses, to deprive them of political power. It is an organ for facilitating the development of capitalism and the imperialist plunder of the land and labour of India, while perpetuating the remnants of communal, patriarchal and feudal relations, including the most medieval and backward forms of oppression. It is the principal instrument for preserving the communal and caste based divisions in Indian society.
The British colonialists established the basic foundations of this centralised state power in India, in pursuit of their self-serving agenda of conquest and plunder. The Indian bourgeoisie, led by the big capitalist houses of the likes of Tata and Birla, and the zamindars and other privileged landlords that were created by the colonialists, inherited this state in 1947. These traitorous sections of society preserved the basic foundation of the colonial state, and on top of this basic foundation, established a political process of representative democracy, in the image of the English Westminster model. The European bourgeois theory and values of ‘peace, order and good government’ became the cornerstone of democracy in independent India. With the 1950 Constitution, the Indian bourgeoisie extended the franchise to include all adult men and women. At the same time, the bourgeoisie retained the division of the polity into caste and religious communities.
The political process of representative democracy, based on an outdated political theory imported from Europe, is designed to keep the toiling masses of India firmly out of power, while enabling different sections of the bourgeoisie to share power among themselves. This political process was established in order to legitimise the arbitrary rule of an exploiting minority over the whole of Indian society, and to enable different sections of exploiters to settle their internal disputes over how much of the booty should go into whose pocket.
The results of the past 55 years since formal independence show that both in the period of the Nehruvian ‘socialistic pattern of society’, and in the present period of globalisation through privatisation and liberalisation, it is precisely the bourgeoisie that has benefited from the Indian State, its policies and five-year plans. The state has intervened in the interest of expanding the space for the development of capitalism in industry, agriculture and services. Within the bourgeois class, the big monopoly capitalists have preserved and further enhanced their influence and dominant position, alongside the growing domination of the global multinationals and imperialist financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
During the first three decades after independence, the Indian bourgeoisie used the Indian State to build up the necessary infrastructure for modern industry and a modern army. It erected high tariff barriers to protect various sectors of the Indian market for its own domination. It stepped up the taxation of the entire people and their robbery through inflation; it also borrowed heavily from the domestic banks and imperialist agencies such as the World Bank, to finance the investments involved in building up the ‘commanding heights of the economy’ in the state sector. Nationalisation of Indian banks facilitated the expansion of rural banking, through which the savings of the entire population were centralised and handed over as concentrated finance capital into the hands of the monopoly houses headed by the Tatas and Birlas.
The people were made to pay through their noses, in the interests of the bourgeoisie and its ambition of emerging as a major industrial and military power in the region. This was presented to the people as a ‘socialistic pattern of society’. With the monopolies dominating the state, the expansion of the state sector did not curb the degree of concentration of economic power, as was claimed. On the contrary, state monopoly enabled the big bourgeoisie to become bigger and concentrate economic and political power further in its hands.
The development of capitalism has given rise to regional bourgeois groups all over the country, and at the same time increased the domination of the market and the stranglehold over the economy by Indian and international finance capital. It has led to increasing imperialist penetration, including the dangerous inroads that multinational companies are making into agro-business and the market for agricultural inputs and outputs. The Indian State defends and facilitates this joint plunder by Indian and foreign capital, which has been going on in more indirect forms in the past and more openly today after India has joined the World Trade Organisation and embraced the prescriptions of privatisation and liberalisation.
Manipulating the widespread discontent of the working people with the failure of the ‘socialistic pattern of society’ to provide security of livelihood, the bourgeoisie has been promoting ‘free market reforms’ as the solution to the problems, since the mid-eighties and especially since 1991. They have been claiming that such reforms will curb monopoly power and promote competition in the economy.
Over ten years of experience with the liberalisation and privatisation policies has exposed their real aim of benefiting none other than the capitalist monopolies and the financial oligarchy. After fattening themselves for four decades by expanding state investments and by protecting sectors of the Indian market for their own domination, the monopoly capitalists now want to fatten themselves even more by intensifying the degree of joint exploitation and plunder of the land and labour of India. They have opened up the home market to foreign companies in return for new openings in foreign markets for Indian capital. They have opened the door to foreign banks and mutual funds, in pursuit of cheaper sources of capital to finance the investments needed to modernise the infrastructure. They are taking over productive assets from the state at throwaway prices, shifting the liabilities onto the backs of the people. They are stepping up the robbery of the working people by collecting more taxes and also making them pay monopoly prices for public goods and services including water, electric power, education and health care.
The economic crisis of capitalism, and the insatiable greed of monopoly capital for the maximum rate of profit under all circumstances, is leading to widespread insecurity in Indian society. Millions of peasants and other rural poor are being driven to starvation and suicide. Insecurity is mounting not only for the toiling masses but also for sections of the propertied classes. No longer can the system accommodate all those sections of propertied interests that used to be accommodated before. Thus, the power sharing arrangement of the bourgeoisie is facing a severe crisis at the present time.
The political crisis finds its reflection in governmental crises and the rise and fall of different coalition governments in quick succession. The immediate political aim of the bourgeoisie is to stabilise its rule and come out of the crisis with its profits intact. For this self-serving aim, it is ready to resort to any means, however criminal and cruel, including communal and fascist violence and inter-imperialist war. The conditions are crying out for the revolution to end the threat of war and fascism.
The political crisis of bourgeois rule offers the working class an opportunity to open the path for the proletarian revolution. Revolution is the only way to resolve the present all-sided crisis of Indian society in favour of the working people. It is the necessary condition for liberating the millions of hard working peasants of India from a bleak future of growing exploitation, poverty and misery. It is the only way to save India and all of South Asia from the danger of disastrous imperialist wars and foreign domination. It is the only way to end the national oppression of the Kashmiris, Nagas, Manipuris and other peoples. It is the only way to put an end to communalism and communal violence and end the oppression of women and dalits, once and for all.
The science of Marxism teaches us that democracy is a class question. When capitalism was in its ascendancy, the bourgeoisie was a progressive class, fighting for the right of every member of society to own and accumulate private property, for the abolition of restrictions on the sale of land and for the abolition of privileges based on one’s birth. The struggle for the establishment of free competition, based on private property rights, was a struggle for opening the path to social progress at that time. It was a struggle that the bourgeoisie waged out of necessity, in order to develop large-scale industry.
The bourgeois democratic revolutions in Europe declared that henceforth the members of society would be unequal only in terms of the amount of capital they own. This struggle for bourgeois democracy led to capital becoming the decisive power and the bourgeoisie becoming the leading class in society. The bourgeoisie proclaimed its political supremacy by establishing a representative system based on bourgeois equality before the law and the recognition of free competition.
Today, when capitalism has developed to its highest stage of monopoly capitalism, of imperialism, the bourgeoisie has become a thoroughly reactionary and anti-democratic force, seeking domination and control in every sphere of life. The right to accumulate private property has become the biggest fetter to the further development of society and the affirmation of the rights of human beings and their collectives at the present time, including the rights of workers and peasants, as well as nations and nationalities. Hence bourgeois democracy is no longer a progressive or democratic force. It is a roadblock to social progress.
The latest official Census in India, carried out in 2001, shows that the working class, those who own no property except their labour power, make up more than half of the Indian population. The working class is the most numerous class in Indian society, followed by the peasants. Together, these two main toiling classes make up over 90% of the population. It is the striving of this toiling majority for the actualisation of their rights, which constitutes the principal content of the struggle for democracy in India at this time.
Only the working class can and must champion the struggle for completing the democratic transformation of society at this stage, for its complete liberation from all forms of medievalism and debasement of the human personality. The proletariat will open the door to social progress on the basis of fighting for a new society that is based on social property.
In a society that is based on the supremacy of private property over all those who work, it is inevitable that the propertied classes will suppress the rights of the toilers. A socialist society, on the other hand, is based on social property and the supremacy of human labour over all material things. Only such a system can affirm and extend the rights of all human beings at the present stage of society.
The Great October Socialist Revolution opened the path for the actualisation of the individual and collective rights of the working people within modern society. In the first phase of socialism, a broad democracy was established that affirmed and guaranteed the rights of all the toilers, including the right to work and live in human conditions. The people of every nation within the Soviet Union enjoyed the right to carry out official state business in their own language, as well as the right to secede from the Soviet Union at any time. Rights of citizens were recognised strictly on a class basis. The propertied classes that had hitherto monopolised all rights were disenfranchised.
Once the economic base of socialism had been laid, once capitalism and the exploiting classes had been eliminated from Soviet society, the problem of further extending the definition and affirmation of rights posed itself. It became necessary to transcend the class conception of rights and enshrine the principle of human rights as belonging to every member of society by virtue of being human. The 1936 Constitution laid the basis for such a development. But it remained a dead letter as the Khrushchevites changed the course of events in the Soviet Union, including the class nature of the Communist Party and the Soviet state.
Today, in this post-October Revolution period, when the rights of the people are under severe attack, what should be the response of the communists? Communists have to capture the most advanced positions on the question of democracy and the definition of rights. We have to argue from the standpoint of the highest level that society has reached so far in terms of the recognition and affirmation of rights. We have to argue that anything less than the 1936 Soviet Constitution is not acceptable. The highest level to which rights have been recognised thus far is the minimum acceptable, from which we want to advance further.
The 1950 Constitution of India vests sovereignty, or supreme power, legally in the hands of the President, who is bound to act according to the advice of a Council of Ministers or Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister. Thus, the basic structure is designed to concentrate decision making power in the hands of a ruling clique, headed by the Prime Minister, nominated by the ruling party or coalition of parties of the bourgeoisie.
In place of the supremacy of the Executive, the working class must fight to establish a new structure of political power, based on the principles of democratic centralism. The executive power must be subordinate to the legislative power, which in turn must be subordinate to the entire electorate.
The bourgeoisie, both the ruling coalition and the parliamentary opposition, claim that the system of Indian democracy and its political process must be reformed, but strictly within the existing framework and without upsetting the ‘basic structure’ of the 1950 Constitution of India. In other words, their agenda is to prolong the life of the existing state and political process that are designed to exclude the workers and peasants from power.
The workers and peasants have nothing to gain by prolonging the life of the existing state and its political process of representative democracy. The solution to their problems requires a thoroughgoing transformation of the state and political process, from the foundations to all aspects. The colonial and communal foundations must be replaced with a modern foundation that is laid by the workers, peasants, women and youth, the productive and progressive forces of present-day Indian society. With this aim of the proletarian revolution, the immediate task is to build a coalition of political and social forces, without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie, around the program for the democratic renewal of India.
The leaders of the BJP, who claim to be the inheritors of Indian thought material from ancient times, assert that Indian values dictate only duties for the broad masses of people towards their country. According to this logic, all struggles of the workers and peasants to affirm their rights are against ‘Indian values’, besides being ‘illegal’ under the numerous draconian laws that the Indian State has in its books. On the other hand, neither the BJP nor the Congress Party has any problem in accepting the supremacy of the ‘right’ to accumulate capital by exploiting the labour of others. They have no problem in accepting the Eurocentric values that accompany privatisation and liberalisation. They have no qualms in trampling underfoot the historically evolved Indian values, such as the principle that no money must be charged for providing education and health.
According to Indian philosophy or darshan shastra, the conception of a right was integral to the performance of duty. One could not exist without the other. At the same time, neither rights nor duties could be thought of without the existence of society within the universe. Thus, rights and duties are not just rights and duties of an individual, but the rights and duties of an individual within society.
The word praja, by definition, means that which gives birth to the raja. This is consistent with the ideas on political theory contained in the Rg Veda and Yajur Veda. According to these early Vedic texts it was the Sabha, or general assembly of the people, that determined who should be the raja, who in turn had no right or duty except to satisfy the needs of the people. Should he fail in his duty, he forfeited the right to rule.
With the consolidation of class divisions in society, the right of the people to select who should rule was completely negated. The right of the people to get rid of a king who does not or is unable to protect them was retained from the earlier period, so that the ruling class could rally the people and use force to overthrow a king whenever that became necessary. However, while the people had the right to do away with such a ruler, they did not have the right to select who should be the new ruler, which was supposed to be appointed by the deity and pre-ordained from birth.
The British colonialists fostered the notion that the people in the Indian sub-continent cannot administer themselves and that they need a power, a ‘trustee’, to stand over them and look after their welfare. They also popularised the notion that all Indians are merely spiritual and that the Vedas and other ancient materials were merely religious texts. They presented their ‘charter to govern’ India as a product of their moral superiority and as the ‘white man’s burden’. They suppressed the ideas that had emerged with the Bhakti movement. The Bhaktas, who represented the producing classes of that time, raised the banner of rights, of adhikar and haq, not on the basis of private property but on the basis of the very conditions of their being. They raised the banner of the right to conscience. As Kabir said, "Soora So Pahchaniye Jo Larde Din Ke Het, Purja Purja Ho Mare Par Kabhun Na Chhorde Khet" (One must stand up for one’s conviction even if one is cut into pieces by the authority)
Bahadur Shah Zafar, one of the leaders of the First War of Independence in 1857, proclaimed that once the British were defeated, it would be the people of India who would be sovereign and it is they who would determine who should be ruler. The colonialists imprisoned and killed him for having dared to express such a thought.
The history of Indian society reveals a long struggle between conflicting conceptions of rights and duties and as to where sovereignty is vested. Those who want to open the path to the progress of society today have to bring from this past what is purest, the idea that it is the people who are sovereign and that all political institutions are subordinate to them. They have to contest and defeat those who want to draw from the past what is most backward so as to block the road to progress.
The centuries-long struggle, which people have waged against their internal and external enemies, has created a powerful striving among the Indian workers and peasants for the revolution, for inquilab. Indian communists of today must base themselves on this revolutionary Indian tradition, not on the imported and outdated ideology of secularism or the notion that some section of the bourgeoisie can lead the struggle for democracy in India today, based on outdated European bourgeois theories of good governance.
Marx and Engels critically examined and evaluated German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism, before they wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party. Indian communists have to critically examine the philosophy, economic and political theories that have emerged, not only in Europe and elsewhere but also in this subcontinent, from ancient times to the present, so as to lay down the modern Indian definition of democracy and develop the Indian theory of revolution.
The most fundamental conclusion that Comrade Lenin drew in the beginning of the 20th century is that capitalism has reached its highest stage of imperialism and that imperialism is the eve of the proletarian revolution. We are still living in the epoch of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. The proletarian revolution is the logical and natural outcome of the contradictions that are tearing modern society apart. It is the act of resolving these contradictions and giving birth to a new system of society, its next and higher stage.
The tragedy is that those who have assumed leading positions in the Indian communist movement have acted as roadblocks to the working class becoming armed with the theory of revolution. If revolution is to succeed in India, if Indian society is to be saved from further and bigger disasters that the bourgeoisie is bound to create, then the Indian communist movement must make a clean break with the past.
What is that past with which Indian communists must make a clean break? It is the path of tailing behind the bourgeoisie and the Congress Party. It is the theory and practice of looking for ‘progressive’ sections within the Indian bourgeoisie and converting the working class movement into a tail of this or that section of the bourgeoisie. It is the path of wanting to reform capitalism instead of digging its grave. It is the path of compromising with national oppression by the Indian State in the name of defending ‘national unity and territorial integrity’. It is the line of seeking to ‘perfect’ and ‘purify’ the Indian State, instead of working for its destruction and replacement by a new state of the workers and peasants. It is the tendency of tailing behind European bourgeois theories and neglecting the task of developing the Indian theory of revolution.
The act of defining and establishing the new State that would ensure prosperity (sukh) and protection (raksha) for all the working people and prohibit exploitation of one person by another, is the essential political task of the Indian Revolution. The act of establishing and consolidating such a State, beginning with the adoption of a new Constitution that defines the rights and duties of the State and of all members of society, must be the act of the revolutionary masses of workers, peasants, women and youth, led by the working class. The task of the communists is to provide leadership to the working class so that it can carry out this historic act.
When we Indian communists work out our response to the current crisis of the Indian State and the offensive of the bourgeoisie, we must do so while keeping in mind the strategic aim of the revolution and socialism. Tactics must be developed that will exploit the present crisis of bourgeois rule to prepare the conditions for the revolution.
The task of Indian communists today is to forge the fighting unity of the working class against the program of the bourgeoisie and around its own alternative program, so that the class can emerge as an independent force in Indian politics. The aim of the immediate program of the working class is to halt the capitalist offensive and reorient the economy to ensure prosperity and protection for all. It is to renew and reconstitute the polity to vest sovereignty in the hands of the masses of people. It is to re-establish India’s international relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and uncompromising opposition to imperialism.
To forge the unity of the working class around its own independent program, it is necessary for communists to go wherever the workers are in struggle, and arm them with revolutionary ideology and politics. It is necessary to break the wall that has been created between the trade union movement and communist politics. In the name of keeping political parties out of trade union meetings, the workers are deprived of political discussion and debate; they are then asked to vote for the Congress Party or some ‘secular front’ at the time of elections. This is the way that the most organised sections of the working class are being chained to bourgeois politics and converted into vote banks for this or that party or coalition. To break this chain is one of the most important and urgent tasks facing Indian communists today.
Clarity about the strategic aim and immediate program on the political front and exposure of all illusions about the Indian State are necessary conditions for the working class to march in unison on the road of revolution. In order to establish the fighting unity of the working class around its independent program, there is need to wage theoretical, ideological and polemical struggle against the class conciliators. This struggle will pave the way for the restoration of unity of Indian communists in one party.
The acute crisis of capitalism and the fascist and imperialist drive of the Indian bourgeoisie and its state are creating widespread insecurity among the workers and peasants, including the rich peasants, as well as among various sections of the propertied classes. The working class must use this opportunity to forge a broad political front against the anti-social offensive of the bourgeoisie. The working class must forge an alliance with the peasantry, with the oppressed nationalities, tribal peoples, oppressed castes, minorities, the women and the youth – around the program for the democratic renewal of India.
The Kanpur Communist Conference of December 2000 advanced the slogan, "One working class! One program! One Communist Party!" An essential condition for realising this aim of restoring the unity of the class and its vanguard party is for all revolutionary communists to wage an open and uncompromising struggle against the roadblocks within the movement.
Revolutionary communists cannot and must not keep quiet when grave damage is being done to the cause of the revolution. We cannot and must not be silent spectators when some who call themselves communists are coming to the rescue of the capitalist system and the bourgeois state, lining up behind one’s ‘own’ bourgeoisie and its imperialist ambitions. We must speak our minds, frankly and boldly, loud and clear and in front of all the communists and activists in the working class movement. Revolution and the ultimate aim of communism are not the preserve of some pundits or self-styled netas of the movement. Revolution is the birthright of the workers, peasants, women and youth of India. Communists must inspire and organise the toiling and oppressed masses to fight for the affirmation of this birthright.
In conclusion, let me once again congratulate Lok Awaz Publishers and Distributors for this very timely initiative in the form of this Conference on the Indian State and the Revolution. It is the most important subject for Indian communists to study and master at this time, so as to be armed to lead the class struggle and prepare the conditions for the victory of revolution in India and on the world scale.
Looking at all of you today, faces brimming with enthusiasm and excitement, it gives me great confidence that the day is not far off when the Indian working class will emerge on the political scene as an irresistible force, with one fighting program and one vanguard Communist Party at its head, attracting all the oppressed around it. No force on this earth will then be able to halt the forward march of this invincible force. The fall of the Indian bourgeoisie and the victory of the Indian revolution are both inevitable. The working masses have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a whole wide world to win.
Down with imperialism, fascism and reactionary war in the name of fighting terrorism!
Down with communalism and secularism
of the Indian State!
Long live the memory and revolutionary traditions
of our martyrs!
Only Communism can save India!