For several months, copies of what have come to be known as the Radia tapes have been circulating in the print and electronic media. A great deal of noise is being made by various capitalists and parties that represent them in Parliament about the allotment of 2G Spectrum by the Telecom Ministry, and other lucrative contracts having been distributed on the basis of deals between individual ministers and monopoly capitalists.
On one side, the opposition parties including the BJP and the CPI(Marxist), are harping on the fact that the central government headed by Manmohan Singh is corrupt. On the other side, the ruling party and the head of the Tata group, one of the largest Indian capitalist monopoly house, are blaming the BJP for having initiated the telecom scam when it was in power during 1999-2004. Inter-capitalist contradictions have become acute, as a result of which various facts that are usually hidden are getting exposed.
Neira Radia is a professional lobbyist. This is a sophisticated name for a modern day capitalist dalal. Acting as an agent and a go-between, an influence peddler on behalf of one or more monopoly capitalist houses, has become a ‘profession’. There are several such lobbyists who work for the Tatas, Ambanis, Mittals, Birlas and other corporate houses, to offer bribes in cash or in kind to selected ministers and senior officials, to see that public decisions are taken in favour of the private interests they represent.
The Radia tapes refer to the record of telephone conversations, tapped by various state agencies, between Neira Radia, who represents several major corporate houses, with her pay masters as well as with ministers and politicians of different parties. A small portion of these tapes and their transcripts became available to the media some time ago. Some of this has come into the public domain now.
Overall, the expressions of shock about corrupt dealings between capitalist monopolies and parties in power, and proclamations of innocence by capitalist barons, seek to create the impression that the revelations of the Radia tapes are an aberration, an exception, and not the general rule. However, the reality is that this is the way the existing system functions all the time. Exchange of bribes and favours between ruling politicians and monopoly capitalists is the general rule, and not an exception. Capitalists cultivate connections with politicians and officials. They give them suitcases full of cash in exchange for various favours. Ministers and senior officials use their positions to accumulate private wealth and capital and become capitalists themselves.
One important truth revealed by the Radia tapes is that capitalist monopoly houses not only influence the complexion of the alliance of parties that forms the government in New Delhi, but even influence decisions such as the choice of individual for holding a particular portfolio. The tapes reveal that the Tatas were paying Radia to influence the decision as to which DMK leader should become the Telecom Minister in the second UPA regime.
The multi-party representative democracy that exists in our country is promoted as being rule of, by and for the people. However, the majority of people have a marginal role in the political process, only on voting day. It is a small minority of super-rich and powerful monopoly capitalists who determine the party or alliance that will form the government. They play a direct role in selecting the particular individuals to handle particular ministerial portfolios. The capitalists reward the politicians, who return the favours when they occupy the seats of power. Hence, it is a regular part of the existing state monopoly capitalist system that lucrative contracts, licenses and permits are handed out by ministers and officials to favoured corporate houses. The monopoly capitalists also reward politicians of the “opposition parties”, who do their bidding in various ways. Elections only serve to legitimise the dictate of the exploiting minority.
The Radia tapes give us a glimpse of how public policy is formulated. The investigating agencies have been forced to admit while summarising the discussions recorded on the tapes that the policies of various government departments – telecom, petroleum and gas, defence, airlines etc — are being discussed and fine tuned by the monopoly capitalists through their dalals to specifically give them an advantage over their rivals. The appointment of every director, every secretary in the higher echelons of power is occasion for this or that capitalist group to advance its interests over its rivals. What is passed off as grand policy in “national interest” is in fact a policy dictated by the greed of the monopoly capitalists.
The tapes show that the biggest capitalist houses were working with the Left Front Government of West Bengal and the CPIM in much the same manner as with the Congress, BJP and other parties and governments run by them. According to the taped conversations, a meeting was being arranged involving the CPI(M) General Secretary Karat, to make a deal for the Mukesh Ambani group to take over Haldia Chemicals, a state owned company in West Bengal. This is an example of how public policy is actually formulated in our country. The greed of big capitalists and politicians in power actually determines whether a particular state owned company should be privatized, and then policy and guidelines get formulated or amended to make it happen.
According to the propaganda of the capitalist class, the “free market” reforms of the past two decades are supposed to have done away with the corrupt old ways of the “license permit raj”. The so-called reform process initiated by the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh in 1991 is supposed to have brought about good governance, transparency and accountability. The revelations of the Radia tapes expose the hollowness of these claims.
Capitalism at its present stage of development is characterised by monopoly, by domination, parasitism and corruption from top to bottom. It is a system in which there is not and can never be a level playing field or ‘free competition’. Markets as well as the state institutions are dominated by capitalist monopolies. The so-called market reforms only serve to open up space for monopoly capitalists, for some to push out others, always leading to higher and higher degrees of concentration of capital and power.
Both in the days of the Nehruvian ‘socialistic pattern of society’, and in the period of liberalization and privatization more recently, the system that has developed in our country was and is state monopoly capitalism. It is a system in which capitalist monopolies control the central state, which intervenes in the interests of the monopolies. Over time, the degree of monopoly has increased, leading to a massive increase in the stakes involved in every deal. New capitalist groups have emerged and grown, some old ones displaced. The nexus between politicians and big capitalists has only become more overbearing than before.
The propaganda of the capitalist class is aimed at creating the impression that the existing political system can be cleaned up and made corruption free through reforms or minor corrections. In reality, only a revolution led by the working class can put an end to the corrupt and parasitic rule of an exploiting minority, by replacing capitalist democracy with proletarian democracy, the rule of the toiling majority led by the modern working class.
In order for the working class to wage the battle for democracy, communists need to work in unison to provide leadership to their class. Enormous damage has been caused, and continues to be caused, by those parties and leaders who call themselves communist but have become part of the system of capitalist democracy.
Why is it, that in spite of repeated scams and exposures of the nexus between monopoly capitalist groups and the so-called elected representatives, the belief is still widely prevalent that people in our country elect the government of their choice?
The answer lies in the role played by those who flaunt the label of communism while teaching workers and peasants to place their faith in capitalist democracy and its political process. Such parties join the chorus of the bourgeois opposition that one particular government is corrupt, but not the entire system and political process. They blame a particular party or coalition, without directing the fire at the ruling class and its state as a whole. Such a position is not Marxist. It is not communist. It is a form of capitalist illusion-mongering, that things can get better if a less corrupt party or coalition takes charge. This line does great harm to the consciousness of workers and peasants.
The capitalist class and its ideologues want to keep people enslaved to an illusion – that people are getting the government they deserve. Those who swear by communism while defending multi-party representative democracy are not serving the working class and the revolutionary cause. They are serving to keep workers and peasants enslaved to the rule of the capitalist class. The example of CPI(Marxist) shows that any party that merges with the present political system and process will soon become indistinguishable from bourgeois parties except in name.
The duty of communists is to expose the truth to the workers, peasants and the intelligentsia in our country – the truth about the economic and political system that exists, and what needs to be done for the toiling majority to gain and exercise political power.
The truth is that capitalist democracy will only become more and more corrupt and unbearably oppressive over time. This will end only when the working class allies with the peasantry and breaks with the past, to usher in a modern democracy. That modern democracy will be the rule of the toiling majority led by the working class, where no public servant will dare to use his or her position to distribute favours to private parties.
What the Radia tapes have exposed, above all, is the necessity to make a clean break with capitalist democracy and all illusions about it.