Elections to the legislative assemblies of five states – Assam, Bengal, Tamilnadu, Puducherry and Kerala – are being held in April-May of this year. These elections are taking place against the background of surging prices of food and other essential commodities, which have made life ever more difficult for the working people and put basic necessities more and more out of their reach. The exposure of scam after scam involving big politicians, officials and various capitalists have shown that a small handful of exploiters are pocketing tens of thousands of crores of rupees that belong to the public, while the masses of people are finding it harder to make ends meet.
In the states going to the polls, political parties in power and in the opposition are vying with each other to make promises to the people to provide food at low prices, jobs, houses and even laptops if they are voted to power. No meaningful discussion is taking place on why those in power have not fulfilled the needs of the people all these years. No discussion is taking place on any of the real demands of the people, and how these can be achieved.
This is the real face of Indian elections. They are organised periodically to legitimise the power arrangement that is already in place, while pretending to give people the right to set the agenda and ‘mandate’ of those in power. The big capitalists in power use elections to change their management team, so as to continue with the system of exploitation and plunder. That is why, despite India having an almost unparalleled record of holding regular elections, at the Centre and in most of the states, the masses of voters are among the poorest and most deprived in the world. If indeed the elections were instruments of people’s power, as it is made out, is it believable that the majority of people in such a huge and rich country would vote to keep themselves in poverty and backwardness for generation after generation?
In India, power is exercised by political parties which have been created and maintained by the capitalist class to defend and promote its interests. Under this system, elections serve not to empower the people but the exact opposite – to keep them out of power while creating the illusion that they have the government of their choice. Through the elections it is made out that the people have chosen who they want in power, although the entire system ensures that only a party that is a faithful defender of the capitalist class can come to power and remain in power. Elections also serve as a convenient safety-valve, by allowing the ruling class to remove a party that has become particularly disliked and discredited in the eyes of the people and to replace it with another party that will continue to defend its interests.
Elections in this capitalist democracy serve to ‘peacefully’ sort out contradictions within the ruling capitalist class. Such a system, as can be seen in the experience of India over the last few decades, can accommodate the interests of rival sections of capitalists, of new and emerging regional bourgeois groups. The toiling majority of workers and peasants, however, are excluded from power altogether.
The mere fact that the working people have the right to cast their vote does not ensure that working people have any real role in deciding how they will be governed. Whom the working people can vote for, and how the candidates are selected; how the electoral constituencies are configured and how electoral lists are drawn up; under what rules parties are given official recognition and privileges, and what are the rules that govern campaigning; how counting of votes takes place; how governments are formed after the elections are over; how policies are decided and implemented – on all these issues, the toiling masses have absolutely no say. When working people have no say in these vital matters, it cannot be said that they are sovereign just because they have the right to vote. Elections do not lead to any change in the class that wields political power under the present system, i.e., the capitalist class.
All across the country, working people are increasingly recognising their lack of power under the existing system and demanding real power in various ways. We see this in the daily struggles of the working people against the anti-people policies of those who have been voted to power. We see this when masses of people in a particular area refuse to let politicians and officials enter their areas or demand answers from the elected representatives for their crimes. We see this during elections also when more and more conscious and thinking people reject the domination of the big political parties and try to field their own candidates chosen from amongst their midst. Working people are increasingly seeing that the present political process helps to strengthen the hands of the ruling capitalist class and marginalizes the masses of people. An alternative political process that will actually empower the working masses and disempower the capitalist exploiters is being actively debated on in many popular forums.
The CGPI utilises the opportunity and platform provided by elections to expose the policies and programs of the state and ruling class, and to promote widespread discussion on the demands and concerns of the working class and people. We clarify to the masses of working people the need for a fundamentally new political system and process that can actually empower the working masses and ensure their prosperity and security.
The Communist Ghadar Party of India fights for the most modern definition of democracy and the political process, to develop mechanisms through which the toiling masses can rule themselves. With the aim of establishing proletarian democracy in place of the existing bourgeois democracy, CGPI is championing the movement for people’s empowerment.