Lessons of the National Emergency (1975 – 1977)

Statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, 11th July 2018

The 25th of June marked the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of “National Emergency”. The then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed declared the Emergency under Article 352 of the Constitution of India citing threat from internal disturbances. It bestowed upon then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi the authority to rule by decree. Civil liberties, including the right to free speech and assembly, were suspended. Workers strikes were banned and trade union activists were jailed. Press censorship was imposed. In the name of cleaning cities, the slums in big cities were bull dozed. Millions of workers, peasants and youth were forcibly sterilised in the name of population control. Political opponents were jailed. The constitution was amended to extend the life of parliament and postpone elections. The Emergency lasted till 21st March 1977.

The Emergency showed that the system of multi-party representative democracy is a façade to hide the brutal dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, headed by the capitalist monopoly houses, who control and dominate the Indian State. The Constitution of this State legitimises the power of the capitalist monopoly houses to clamp down on people’s rights in the name of safeguarding national security, if and when they feel threatened by growing mass opposition to their dictate. This power is exercised through Article 352 of the Constitution which permits the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister to advise the President to declare a National Emergency and do away with the right to strike, right to free speech and assembly and other democratic rights and civil liberties.

The Emergency exposed the fact that sovereignty is vested in the Parliament, and further concentrated in the Council of Ministers, also called the Cabinet. The capitalist monopolies exercise political power through the Cabinet. The people have no power to do anything about the negation of their rights. The people of India are not sovereign.

The declaration of National Emergency took place at a time when there was widespread discontent and unrest among the toiling and oppressed majority of people. Workers, peasants and many oppressed nations, nationalities and peoples were resisting the exploitation and plunder of their land and labour. The largest ever strike in the Indian Railways took place in 1974. Peasant agitations were rocking Uttar Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and other states. Student protests had broken out in Gujarat, Bihar and other places. The masses of people were no longer willing to accept their conditions of super-exploitation, unemployment and poverty.

While the Indian Republic claimed to be promoting the creation of a “socialistic pattern of society”, capitalism was growing both in the cities and in the countryside. The development of capitalism was producing wealth for a tiny minority while worsening the conditions of the toiling majority of people.

The expansion of capitalism into the countryside had led to the growth of regional bourgeois interests which hungered for a share of public resources and power at the state level. There was growing tension between such centrifugal forces and the centralized control exercised by the capitalist monopoly houses. This tension was being further aggravated by the rivalry between the two superpowers, the US imperialists and the Soviet social-imperialists, over the Indian subcontinent.

Following the signing of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation in 1971, the Indian State went to war with Pakistan, leading to the division of that country and the creation of Bangladesh. The Congress government of Indira Gandhi stepped up repressive measures against the workers, peasants and all its opponents. Brutal suppression of workers’ strikes and mass movements were sought to be justified in the name of defending national interests and the “socialistic pattern of society” from the threat posed by “right reaction”. The Anglo-American imperialists began to actively support a “pro-democracy” and “anti-corruption” movement so as to bring down the Indira Gandhi government and strengthen US influence over India. Several political forces came together under the leadership of Jaiprakash Narain, calling for a “total revolution”.

Finding it difficult to rule in the old way, the big bourgeoisie imposed the "National Emergency". The main aim of this action was to criminalize and crush all forms of dissent so as to stabilize its rule.

The challenge facing the communist movement was to lead the workers, peasants, and all the exploited and oppressed in the struggle against the big bourgeoisie to end its exploitative and oppressive rule. The task was to unite the broad masses around the political aim of establishing a new state on the basis of a new constitution which would vest sovereignty in the people, guarantee human and democratic rights, and ensure prosperity and protection to all.

The communist movement failed to do so. It was divided into numerous parties and groups, reflecting both immaturity in the sphere of theory and ideology, and submission to bourgeois ideology.

Dominant sections of the communist movement were creating illusions about the capitalist State and parliamentary democracy. One section openly justified the declaration of Emergency by the Congress Party in the name of threat of right reaction backed by the US. Another section conciliated with the movement for "total revolution" led by the opposition parties. Instead of mobilising the working class around its own independent program, the major sections of communists contributed to dividing the class and lining it up behind different parties of the ruling capitalist class.

The imposition of Emergency helped the bourgeoisie to temporarily stabilise its rule. At the same time, the opposition from all sections of people to the wholesale suspension of civil liberties began to mount. In such conditions, the big bourgeoisie organised to end the state of Emergency and hold elections to parliament in March 1977. The discredited Congress Party was replaced by the Janata Party coalition. This was propagated as "restoration of democracy".

The workers and peasants continued with their struggle against exploitation. In response, the Janata Party government unleashed the State machinery to savagely attack the struggles of workers and peasants. It soon got discredited in the eyes of the people.

The capitalist monopoly houses organised the return of the Congress Party in 1980 to take charge of the Central Government, under the signboard of defending national unity and territorial integrity. Communal and sectarian divisions were imposed on the struggles of the people of Assam and Punjab. Terrorist acts were organised by the central intelligence agencies for which this or that section of the people was blamed. State terrorism was unleashed in Punjab, Manipur and Kashmir.

The Constitution has all along, continued to serve the capitalist monopoly houses to impose their dictate and trample on the rights of workers, peasants and all the oppressed. Article 352 remains in place, with just some minor modifications enacted in 1978. The term “internal disturbance” was replaced by “armed rebellion” in the reasons that the Cabinet can cite for declaring an Emergency. A clause was added to specify that the Cabinet decision must be conveyed to the President in writing. Besides Article 352 there are other emergency provisions as well in the Constitution.

Not only do these Emergency provisions remain intact, but Parliament has enacted new laws and amended existing laws, to permit widespread violation of human rights and democratic rights. In addition to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Essential Services Maintenance Act and other fascist laws, TADA, POTA and amendments in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act have served the ruling class to legalise arbitrary arrests and justify encounter killings and other forms of blatant violation of rights.

Starting in the middle of the 1980s and more openly since the 1990s, capitalist monopoly houses have been implementing the program of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation. This is a program aimed at further accelerating the concentration of wealth in the hands of the monopolies, through more intense and thorough exploitation of the working class and robbery of peasants. It facilitates the imperialist aim of the Indian monopoly houses to join the club of the most dominant powers of the world. This anti-worker, anti-peasant, anti-national and anti-social economic program has been accompanied by increasing resort to criminal methods of rule, including State-organised communal violence, covert individual terrorism and open State terrorism by these monopoly houses.

The capitalist monopoly houses are imposing their will through the ballot and the bullet. Growing resort to communal violence and other forms of state terrorism is taking place alongside periodic elections. The mechanism of periodic elections is used by the monopoly capitalists to bring about a change in the management team whenever required. Brute force is used by successive governments to suppress all opposition to the dictate of the monopoly houses.

The BJP is spearheading the anti-social offensive of the capitalist monopoly houses at the present time. Anyone who opposes it is deemed to be “anti-national”. The Congress Party and others of the parliamentary opposition are giving the call to defend the Constitution and save parliamentary democracy from the threat posed by the BJP and RSS. Both BJP and Congress Party are playing complementary roles, to divert and divide the people and keep them chained to the illusion that the existing system of parliamentary democracy and the existing Constitution can defend their interests.

The existing system of democracy is nothing but a brutal dictatorship of the capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses, who care only about their private profits and not about any national interest. The existing Constitution legalizes the dictatorship of this class. It does not guarantee people’s rights and does not vest sovereignty in our hands. It is in fact this very Constitution which made it possible for Emergency to be declared in 1975 and for State terrorism including State organised communal violence to be the preferred method of rule.

The existing system of democracy which marginalises people from power and deprives them of their rights, needs to be replaced by a superior system. We need a Constitution and State which guarantee human and democratic rights and which has a political process which vests sovereignty in the people.

For people to be sovereign, the right of every citizen to elect and be elected must be realised in practice. Organisations of the people, at their places of work and residence, must be empowered to nominate and select candidates from among their peers. Political parties must function as instruments to ensure that the people are the rulers, and not rule in the name of the people. People must enjoy the right to initiate legislation, to ensure accountability of elected representatives and the right to recall unsuitable representatives at any time. All residual powers, including the power to change or rewrite the Constitution, must be in the hands of the people.

The existing Parliament must be replaced by an elected and accountable decision-making body which is also responsible for ensuring implementation of its decisions. The executive must be accountable to the elected legislative body, and those elected must be accountable to the electorate.

With political power in their hands, the toiling majority of people can reorient the economy to provide secure livelihood and prosperity for all. From being capital-centred, or geared to maximise capitalist profits, the orientation of the economy and government policy must become human-centred. The entire process of social production and exchange must be geared to maximise the degree of fulfilment of the rising material and cultural needs of the entire population. The economic and political independence of the country must be safeguarded by following the principle of self-reliance and building friendly relations and anti-imperialist unity with other countries. This is the program of Navnirman of the state and the political process and the human centred reorientation of the economy.

The immediate need is to build and strengthen a united front of workers, peasants and all the oppressed around this program of Navnirman. Let us unite to fight for that new India in which the workers, peasants, women and youth of all nationalities will together be the maalik, and in which prosperity and protection would be guaranteed for all!

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Jul 16-31 2018    Statements    Rights     2018   

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