Palestine: Beyond Third Worldism

Pothik Ghosh

New Delhi’s support for, and solidarity, with the Palestinian liberation struggle stands all but abandoned. That the Indian foreign policy has shifted decisively away from Palestine towards the Yankee-Zionist-led imperialist axis to become its integral part is no longer even a badly concealed mystery. It is an indisputably evident fact that the Indian state and polity, propped up by the neoliberal social consensus in the country, wears on its sleeve with shameless élan. One of the key erstwhile drivers of the pro-Palestine global liberal consensus, New Delhi now blames the erosion of that consensus on the emergence of Hamas as the principal political agency of the Palestinian resistance, and its ‘radical Islamist’ character. That, in its reckoning, is completely indefensible at a time when the ‘terroristic depredations’ of ‘pan-Islamism’ have sought to put the very existence of secular modernity in jeopardy all across the world. Clearly, this liberal position, permeated and informed as it is by the current international climate of anti-Islamist (even anti-Islamic) opinion, finds nothing wrong in projecting the Palestinian national liberation struggle as a local manifestation of the so-called internationalist project of Pan-Islamist conservatism.

That New Delhi today is no longer merely a junior client in this imperialist hegemony of globalised neoliberal capital, but is one of its principal proponents is borne out by, among other things, the fact that Israel today is by all accounts the largest exporter of defence hardware to India. Some even claim, not at all without basis or reason, that New Delhi and Tel Aviv are equal partners in intelligence sharing and cooperation at the level of military software and strategy. Much of this Israeli assistance with regard to both military hardware and software is used and deployed by the Indian state to not only maintain and reinforce its politico-economic hegemony as an imperialist power in its south Asian backyard, but to also perpetuate and deepen its brutal military occupations in Kashmir and India’s north-east, but especially in Kashmir.

Such assistance from, and cooperation with, Israel, among other key constituents of the global capitalist chain of imperialism, has added to the overall coercive might of the Indian state. It banks on this coercive might to prop up the crisis-ridden capitalist hegemony it represents and incarnates in its specificity. It is on account of this increase in its coercive might that the Indian state has been able to simultaneously intensify its oppression of religious and cultural minorities (mainly Muslims), socio-economically marginal groups such as the lower castes, indigenous tribes inhabiting the jungles and the hilly tracts in its central, eastern and northeastern parts, and the new utterly precarious and casualised proletariat and sub-proletariat in revolt in the industrialised belts in the northern, western and southern parts of the country. Such intensification of oppression is integral to the process of keeping the structure of neoliberal capital – which is the structure of capital as its own crisis – firmly embedded in the Indian socio-economic formation.

However, what is now unambiguously visible as the turn away of Indian foreign policy from the Palestinian cause towards building and deepening a cosy partnership and alliance between New Delhi and Tel Aviv had already been foretold as a direction during what was then considered to be the glory days of Third Worldist solidarity with Palestine, under the aegis of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which India was a key protagonist. Palestine, together with the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, was the central concern for NAM as an alliance of decolonised nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America. But, as leftist historian Vijay Prashad tells us in his book, The Darker Nations: “By 1983 (the New Delhi NAM meet), it was de rigueur, almost depressingly predictable, to demand rights for the Palestinians and the South Africans. The genuflection toward the Palestinians and the South Africans came, however, without any word on the support given by the Atlantic powers (particularly the United States) for both the Likud regime in Israel and the Afrikaner apartheid state in South Africa.”

This was clearly on account of the internal contradictions that had developed, and were sharpening, within the NAM. Contradictions that were, to speak dialectically, both the cause and consequence of the shift in the balance of forces in the sphere of international relations that had been effected due to the consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in the then USSR, which had long ceased to be the ever-expanding boundary of revolutionary proletarian internationalism to become the leader of a power bloc that in the name of world revolution competed with the Atlantic powers for global politico-economic supremacy. In such circumstances, it mattered very little, especially from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, which of the two power blocs would be triumphant. For, regardless of who won the battle of global politico-economic dominance and supremacy, the hegemony of capital as the structure and logic of competition was bound to be reinforced and strengthened. In fact, if the stake willy-nilly was the reinforcement of the hegemony or structure of capital at the global level, it was more than likely that the less powerful among the two would be vanquished. And that, as we now know, is precisely what happened.

For now, let us attempt to grasp the shift in Indian foreign policy – from solidarity for the cause of Palestinian national self-determination towards political, economic and military partnership with Israel – in terms of the objective contradictions within NAM, and their progressive sharpening. Considering this foreign policy shift is a manifestation of India becoming an integral part of the global hegemony of neoliberal capital, it would not be inaccurate to insist that the contradictions within the Third Worldist solidarity of NAM, and their progressive sharpening, is constitutive of the global ascendancy of neoliberal capitalism. We will, therefore, examine here what those contradictions were and how they panned out, thereby rendering the shift in Indian foreign policy from Palestine to Israel and its Zionist ideology inevitable. In the same movement, we will also try to comprehend the new paradigm of globalised anti-capitalist politics and anti-imperialist solidarity that those contradictions and their sharpening posited, and which continues to be posited by the resultant global hegemony of neoliberal capitalism. In the process, we will hopefully be able to discern how the inevitability of the shift in Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian national liberation movement has, not least, been on account of the failure of all of us on the Indian left, across the board, to grasp, leverage and actualise that new paradigm of internationalised resistance and transformative politics.

NAM, albeit Mao’s China did not finally become its part, was, in a sense, an embodiment of Mao’s idea of Third Worldism. This Maoist idea of the Third World was, to begin with, a class-based conception of dual power in the realm of international relations by way of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” with the Second World of the USSR-led Warsaw Pact against the First World of the Atlantic powers. It, however, gradually degenerated into a more Fanonian formation of unity of struggles against the common enemy of First World imperialism. Such a model of unity of struggles against a common adversary suggested that imperialism was, in the main, domination of some nation-states by others and that it had nothing to do with the generalisation of the structure of capitalist social relations of competition and domination into a world-system.

Such an approach meant that imperialism, which is actually the generalisation of capital as a logic of competitive social relations into a world system, came to be seen as being equal to only its historical moment of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Such hypostasis and reduction of imperialism to colonial and neo-colonial occupation and domination meant that one ignored or failed to see how capital as the logic of competitive social relations and uneven development was, in an objective sense, as much internal to and embedded in the newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World as it was embodied by the more powerful nation-states of the Second and First Worlds. As a result, what was almost entirely missed was the fact that the quest for national sovereignty of those newly decolonised nation-states of the Third World against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the First and/or the Second Worlds (in their mutual competition for global politico-economic supremacy) was as much underpinned by the capitalist structural logic of competitive social relations and uneven development as the mutual competition of the First and Second Worlds that yielded the politics of neo-colonial occupation and/or domination. Consequently, Third World unity, epitomised, for instance, by the NAM, became an embodiment of the principle of unity of all the oppressed for struggle against common oppressors.

What such unity of struggles against imperialist oppression tended to paper over was how that Third Worldist unity itself was the structuring of an internally segmented totality that ran through not only across its various constituent nation-states but within each of those nation-states as well. Hence, Third World as an anti-imperialist solidarity itself became – on account of imperialism being grasped by it merely as colonial and neo-colonial domination – an expanded reproduction of capital as the structural logic of uneven development.

We would do well to understand here how the anti-imperialism of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, which articulated itself in terms of preservation and strengthening of economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the neo-colonial depredations of the First World Atlantic powers and the so-called social imperialism of the Second World, produced its own set of contradictions, ran into its limit and thereby undermined itself. If one were to encounter this paradigm of Third Worldist, anti-imperialist struggle and solidarity dialectically one would see how the failure of such politics – doubtless quite an effective and relevant form of anti-capitalism in its temporally determinate tactical specificity – to grasp its own limit eventually rendered it its very opposite. The NAM’s failure to wholeheartedly embrace Fidel Castro’s line of bolstering the solidaristic anti-imperialist politics of debt strike against the Atlantic powers at its 1983 New Delhi meet ensured that Castro’s Singaporean antagonist, Rajaratnam’s line of steering clear of both communism (read the USSR-led Second World) and capitalism (read the US-led Atlantic powers) would eventually seize the day.

But this eventual defeat of Castro’s line of globalised anti-capitalism as anti-imperialism by the Rajaratnam line of national sovereignty as an argument for capitalism was merely the effect of something deeper that had been happening in most of those decolonised Third World nation-states. National liberation is no more than an historically objective moment of anti-capitalist struggle tending towards internationalised proletarian revolution. The failure of such struggles to see their success as precisely the moment to move beyond themselves to refound their anti-capitalism in more evidently proletarian-internationalist terms transforms them into reproducers and perpetuators of precisely capital as the logic of competition and thus domination. That is exactly what happened with almost all the decolonised nations of the Third World. Their struggles against their respective First-World colonialist oppressors failed to transform those anti-colonial struggles as unity with the exploited and oppressed working masses of those colonising nations for newer levels of historically-specified struggles for the abolition of capital as the structural logic of competitive social relations in its various socio-historically concrete levels of expression. The consolidation of the counter-revolutionary turn in Soviet Union, which had set in due to the objective situation of retreat for the world revolution by the late 1920s itself, did not help matters.

This meant the consolidation of the leadership of those national-liberation struggles into a new ruling class that began intermediating between the leading powers of world capitalism and their own respective working populations. The result: a situation of unity in and for competition, the radical inverse of the Maoist revolutionary principle of “struggle in unity, unity in struggle” that had been the cornerstone of Third Worldism at its inception. This unity in and for competition meant that while national sovereignty was invoked by the ruling classes of the newly decolonised nation-states to compete against and bargain with the leading powers of the First and Second Worlds, they would come together in all sorts of permutations and combinations whenever this horizon of mutual competition was even potentially threatened with decimation by their respective working masses and oppressed peoples.

Nevertheless, a distinction must be made here. While the struggles against colonialism and/or neo-colonialism in countries such as Algeria, Vietnam, Cuba, Angola and so on preponderantly had a national-popular character, decolonisation in countries such as India, the so-called East Asian Tigers and some West Asian countries/Sheikhdoms had the character of passive revolutions that meant national independence was nothing more than transfer of power. The national-popular character of the anti-colonial struggles in question was on account of the leadership of those movements having arisen from the oppressed sections and working masses of those societies. This meant that even while those movements evidently failed, at a subjective level, to grasp themselves as a historically specific moment of globalised anti-capitalist struggle that tended towards proletarian internationalism, objectively they were more inclined to move in that direction as compared to countries such as India, Indonesia, Singapore and so on where the leadership of the anti-colonial movement was vested in a well-developed local bourgeoisie. That India’s Independence began, for instance, with its military occupation of Kashmir and its so-called north-eastern states serves to underscore the passive revolutionary character of its national independence. Also, the different trajectory of political-economic development that countries such as Cuba and Vietnam, on one hand, had initially taken with regard to that adopted by countries such as India and Singapore on the other, demonstrated this radical difference in the objective character of their anti-colonial movements.

However, the fact remains that eventually both sets of decolonised countries came to share, at an objective level, the same problem of their respective national liberation leaderships solidifying into ruling classes. The political-economic reasons that underpinned this phenomenon, which albeit proceeded at different rates in different countries depending on how passive revolutionary or national popular the character of their respective anti-colonial struggles had been, was what we have earlier indicated: the preservation and reinforcement of economic sovereignty of newly decolonised nation-states producing a situation that undermined precisely such sovereignty. Rajaratnam’s line at the 1983 NAM meet in New Delhi was nothing but a reflection of such a paradoxically changed situation. As Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations reveals, “The national interest invoked by Rajaratnam (against both the dominant power blocs) was actually the class interest of a section (of agrarian, industrial and financial bourgeoisie) created by import-substitution industrialization.”

Import-substitution industrialisation, which was politically enabled by the states of the newly decolonised nations of the Third World, was meant to protect and reinforce the economic sovereignty of those nation-states against the threat of neo-colonial domination posed by the nations of the First and Second Worlds, especially the First. What this really meant was import-substitution industrialisation served to strengthen the ‘local’ bourgeoisie, which was already well-developed much before decolonisation, and that was now rearing to fully and openly come into its own as an integral segment of the capitalist world-system by entering the global arena of completely liberalised free-market competition against the so-called traditional players of world capitalism. They now found the protection they had till then enjoyed, and which had enabled them to accumulate capital, as fetters that prevented them from entering the global arena of capitalist competition. For, without the freedom to enter that arena they realised they would not be able to invest the capital they had accumulated – precisely because of the domestic protection that had now turned into fetters – for even more intensified accumulation.

As a result, sovereignty of Third World nations became the sovereignty of its ‘local’ bourgeoisie marshalling their respective national status to make an impressive entry on the stage of international social relations of competition. In such circumstances, Third-World solidarity entailed the formation of a new power bloc of the newly emerged, postcolonial bourgeoisie against the power blocs of the traditional bourgeoisie of the First and Second Worlds within the global arena of capitalist competition and bargaining. The dismantling of the domestic regimes of economic protection that this new bloc of postcolonial bourgeoisie demanded in order to be able to compete in a globalised free market with the traditional players of world capitalism included easy access to loans from international financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank. The reforms that were required, amounted to easy access to such loans for this bloc of newly ascendant global bourgeoisie in return for anti-labour and anti-poor structural changes in the domestic economy that those international financial institutions demanded in order to ensure that their loans were protected through the bolstered capacity of their debtors for unbridled accumulation that such structural adjustment programs would facilitate. This clearly meant the death of economic sovereignty of Third World nations on account of conditions created precisely by the pursuit of such economic sovereignty.

In such self-contradictory circumstances, the national sovereignty the technocratic political executive of this postcolonial glocal bourgeoisie – irrespective of whichever political formation is in power – have touted and asserted is essentially the sovereignty of this class. National interest meant that the national was effectively a consensus to serve the interests of this class by way of enabling it to compete effectively and without any domestic or local hindrance in the global free market. In other words, patriotism is the consensus that enables this class at the level of their respective nation-states to organise production so as to be able to effectively compete at the global level, and thereby efficiently intensify accumulation. Given that such consensus now clearly amounts to the undermining of the traditional economic sovereignty enjoyed by the citizens of the Third World nation-states, nationalism and patriotism could only mean the defence and assertion of an abstract and idealised form of nationhood that was, therefore, bound to be thoroughly culturalist founded on such premises as nationalised and culturalised blood-and-soil type of fascistic ethnicity.

Such culturalised, mythicised and idealised conceptions of nationhood, nationalism and national sovereignty have meant uniting people on an abstract basis to serve the concrete material interests of their postcolonial glocal capital that in the national specification of its global operation symbolizes sovereignty. Such culturalised form of nationhood, and the attendant conception of cultural nationalism, has, not surprisingly, proved to be a double whammy for the oppressed and the exploited. On the one hand, it tends to be the mechanism for the enforcement of social corporatism that enables capital, either through sheer ideology or through ideologically legitimised coercion, to compel labour to collaborate with it to serve interests that seem ecumenical but are, in material terms, restrictively those of this postcolonial glocal capital. On the other, this has meant, tendentially speaking, an attempt to shatter the collectivity of the working class as a revolutionary force by serving to accentuate the identitarianised segmentations and divisions within it and, in the process, neutralise the challenge such revolutionary solidarity would have otherwise tended to pose to the intensified accumulation drive of global neoliberal capital embodied in that local moment by this postcolonial segment of global capital.

Clearly, the unwillingness and/or inability of national liberation struggles of the Third World to grasp themselves as determinate moments of proletarian internationalism has been both the cause and consequence of their quest for economic sovereignty collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions to intensify and expand the scope of capitalist accumulation and capitalist class power (the structural logic of competitive socialisation). Consequently, the politics of resistance unleashed by various oppressed religious, socio-cultural, socio-economic and nationality groups – for, instance Muslims, Dalits, indigenous tribes, various sections of the newly proletarianised precariat, Kashmiris, etc. – has been quite concerted. But unfortunately they have so far been in the idiom of sovereignty and thus competitive identity politics, and not in class terms that is their sedimental reality. Therefore, all these movements continue to be articulated by precisely that which they tend to fight against in its various local manifestations.

Meanwhile, the failure of the working-class left in India in all its multiple varieties and shades has been quite galling on that score. It has, notwithstanding some degrees of difference among its various tendencies, failed on the whole to enable those resistance movements from grasping the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in their respective specificities, and generalise that sedimental reality beyond their respective identitarian niches towards forging a larger revolutionary solidarity of unity in struggle and struggle in unity. Instead, the various tendencies of the Indian left seek, on one hand, to convince the movements of different oppressed groups to accept to fight their battles under the leadership of working class as a sociologically identified and closed group, as if class is an identity and not the principle that aligns the particular struggles of various oppressed groups into a movement to overcome, break with and destroy the hegemony of the identity principle that is the condition of possibility of oppression actualised in and by the different specificities of domination. In the process, the Indian Left tends to reinforce the structure and principle of identity that is the condition of possibility of oppression.

On the other hand, the so-called working-class left in India, irrespective of the differences in the respective programmatic positions of its various sects, posits more or less a common praxis of fighting the cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation of the right (the BJP and the Congress respectively) by seeking to revive the principle of economic sovereignty that informed and determined our Third Worldist conception of nationalism at the moment of India’s decolonisation. Little does it realise that it was precisely the success of such quest for economic sovereignty that led to its collapse, and the rise of both cultural nationalism and economic liberalisation. That the two are mutually constitutive is not something we on the left are able to clearly see because our paradigm still remains, not unlike the current movements of various oppressed groups, an identitarian one.

The so-called working-class left in India, with very few and minor exceptions, still thinks of its politics of struggle in terms of achieving ‘true’ national independence as opposed to the ‘false’ one we currently suffer. Clearly, its politics continues to be inscribed within and articulated by a national-liberationist paradigm of sovereignty. As a result, its politics remains an eclectic combination of two different struggles: one against cultural nationalism and another against economic liberalisation. Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations is an apposite case in point. Even as it describes quite accurately the crisis of the Third Worldist project of nationalism based on economic sovereignty, it is unable to see what the facts it has at its disposal so clearly say. It fails to dialectically grasp the shift of India and other similar ex-colonial nation-states towards neoliberalism – the mutual constitutivity of economic liberalisation and cultural nationalism – in terms of the inner contradictions of their quest for economic sovereignty. For Prashad, but not just the tendency of the Indian left he represents, the subversion of economic sovereignty remains merely a matter of conspiracy subjectively willed by the ruling classes of these ex-colonies and not something structural that was produced because of the national-liberationist, third worldist project of economic sovereignty as anti-imperialism running into its limit. As a result, such intellectuals and militants – and there are legions of them on the Indian working-class left in all its variety – totally miss the fact that the Third Worldist nationalist economic sovereignty is now an anachronism.

What, therefore, continues to elude them is the fact that the success of the project of economic sovereignty, from the standpoint of revolutionary anti-capitalism, lay not simply in what it was able to deliver to the working masses, but precisely in the new class contradictions it generated. For, it is precisely by recognising those historically new contradictions, but more importantly the new paradigm of transformative politics that such contradictions posit, that revolutionary anti-capitalism can advance beyond its determinate moment of national liberation and not be hypostatised or conflated with it. This new paradigm of revolutionary anti-capitalism – which was posited by the contradictions generated by the success of economic sovereignty, and which continues to be posited even today by neoliberalism that has been generated as a new conjuncture of global capital in and through the collapse of that project of Third Worldist economic sovereignty – is more evidently proletarian internationalist that clearly envisages the simultaneity of struggle and unity as its modality.

Unfortunately, we on the Indian left, by and large, still refuse to recognise that, fixated as our practice is on an identitarian, if not a national-liberationist, paradigm. As a consequence, we have miserably failed to intervene productively in the struggles of various oppressed groups by not revealing the sedimental class reality of their respective politics of resistance to them so that they can on their own generalise that sedimental reality beyond the particularity of the identitarian niches their respective struggles are caught in. On the contrary, the uncritical and misplaced politico-ideological support we often seek to them has only served to reinforce the capitalist paradigm of competitive identity politics. This has ensured that those particular struggles do not realise the generic potential immanent precisely in the specific conditions of their respective struggles to shift that capitalist paradigm.

The strengthening of this paradigm of sovereignty (read competitive identity politics) – which such repeatedly misplaced and/or unsuccessful interventions on our part has yielded – has ensured the oppressed and the subordinated always remain at the receiving end. For, if the paradigm of the politics of resistance of the oppressed continues to be that of competitive identity politics then they as the disempowered group vis-à-vis the powerful group of oppressors will always be at a disadvantage. As a result, they have, not in spite but precisely because of the modality of their otherwise objectively legitimate struggles, continued to fail in advancing their movements. Worse, the failure of the politics of resistance of the oppressed to break out of the paradigm of sovereignty has further led to their internal segmentation and division and has thus further deepened the project of passive revolution.

It would be germane to examine the shift in Indian foreign policy with regard to the Palestinian movement for national self-determination in terms of the politics of Muslims as the most significant oppressed minority group – both in the Indian mainland and as the majority religious group that constitutes the oppressed nationality of Kashmir. The politics of Muslims in India suffers most intensely from the affliction that bedevils, as we have seen, the politics of resistance of the oppressed in this part of the world. This affliction, it must be reiterated yet again, is the failure of such politics to actualise the reality of revolutionary class politics sedimented in the specificity of its politics of resistance and in the process break with the paradigm of competitive identity politics within which it is currently inscribed.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that objectively the struggle of Kashmiris, and the Muslims of the Indian mainland, regardless of the many divergences in their specific conditions of oppression and resistance, is a class struggle insofar as identity is segmentation of the working class and thus constitutive of hierarchised distribution of social and political power. And precisely for that reason such struggles of the Muslims in India – particularly its more militant and extra-parliamentary forms, and despite the religious, petty-bourgeois character of its politico-ideological leadership – posits a serious challenge to the Indian moment of imperialism as the capitalist world-system of mutually competing capitals united only by the larger systemic logic of competition and its preservation. In such a scenario, Indian foreign policy tilting more and more towards the Yankee-Zionist politico-military configuration can be made sense of as a bulwark against the revolutionary working-class potential of various Muslim struggles being unleashed to form larger national- and international-level solidarity networks against global capital and its reign of exploitation realised in and as differential temporalities of oppression. And right now the Indian state-formation, as an integral part of imperialism as the globalised network of many different kinds and forms of capitals that is capitalism as world-system, seeks to keep the working-class potential posited by various struggles of the oppressed in check by quelling those struggles in the name of quelling ‘Islamic jehad’, ‘political Islam’ and so on.

It, therefore, gravitates, at the level of foreign policy, towards the Atlantic powers, and particularly towards Israel in the particular context of Asia and Muslim politics as politics of the oppressed, in order to align itself better with the global capitalist project of fighting ‘pan-Islamism’. This, needless to say, aids and bolsters Israel’s Zionist project of occupation of Palestine as a local West Asian moment constitutive of the globalised conjuncture of neoliberal imperialism.

Such a radically new conjunctural context imposes on ongoing national liberation struggles, particularly the ones in Palestine and Kashmir, a radically new task. Which is to come to terms with the fact that while the discursive appearance of their respective (colonial) occupations remain similar to what they were in the beginning, the difference between then and now is in terms of the structural-functionality of such occupations. Those occupations, when they were established as constitutive spatio-temporal units of the previous conjuncture, were mainly about politico-military domination to ensure the maintenance and reinforcement of politico-economic hegemony in South Asia and the Perso-Arabic world by India and Israel respectively as the vanguard of American imperialistic machinations in the region. Today, that hegemony-bolstering function of occupations has, on account of changes in the structure of global capital, got coupled with the management of cheap labour reserves in the occupied areas in order to maintain labour and wage arbitrage of domestic labour markets of the occupying powers.

This change has been on account of the change in the modality of operation of nation-states as the basic units of international division of labour. The earlier conjuncture was characterised by the internationalisation of only the moment of circulation in the circuit of capital. This meant nation-states managed locally self-contained production and globalised circulation, consumption and exchange. The current conjuncture, on the other hand, is characterised by the internationalisation of the circuit of capital in its entirety. This means nation-states now manage the localised moments of a globally integrated value chain to maintain and reinforce labour and wage arbitrage in order to reinforce the value chain and keep it going.

In such a situation, it would not be misplaced or inaccurate to contend that the days of Third Worldist solidarity with the Palestinian cause, as far as an ex-colonial nation-state such as India is concerned, are well and truly over. The Palestinian resistance should have no illusions on that score. And the least that the left in India must do, if it has any desire to live up to its name, is to try its utmost to disabuse the Palestinian movement that any kind of concerted support is forthcoming from the Indian people as a nation united. For, the national consensus the Indian state seeks to reinforce, and which in turn informs its foreign policy establishment, is thoroughly neoliberal. That India, together with Israel, is firmly ensconced in globalised neoliberalism as one of its key proponents and purveyors is an unmistakable fact. Even more unmistakable is the changed national consensus that bolsters this global situation of the Indian nation-state and is, in turn, bolstered by it.

More pertinently, the left in India must work towards shattering precisely this national and nationalist consensus if it wants its solidarity with the Palestinian people to be effective. Unfortunately, its paradigmatic reliance on sovereignty continues to get in the way. It will have to abandon this paradigm. And it can make a beginning in that direction now, in the context of Palestine, by thinking of how it can constellate the movements of the exploited and dominated groups (in particular, national liberation struggles of oppressed nationalities such as the Kashmiris) on the Indian subcontinent and the Palestinian resistance in order to develop a new anti-capitalist internationalism for our times. Only such a manoeuvre would transform the internationalism of the Palestinian movement, which has become abstract due to the collapse of the Third Worldist project, into a new historically concrete reality, even as it sets free radical politics in this part of the world from the iron-cage of sovereignty and identity politics, enabling it to fully actualise its emancipatory potential.

Meeting on Working Class Politics (April 19-20, 2014), New Delhi

Communism is the position as the negation of the negation, and is hence the actual phase necessary for the next stage of historical development in the process of human emancipation and rehabilitation. Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but communism as such is not the goal of human development, the form of human society. Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)

Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence. Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845)

The doctrinaire and necessarily fantastic anticipations of the programme of action for a revolution of the future only divert us from the struggle of the present. Karl Marx, To Domela Nieuwenhuis (1881)

The question of working class strategy has generally been reduced to issues of consciousness raising and particular organisational manoeuvrings to homogenise and hegemonise the self-activities of the working class. In fact, in programmatic terms, it is nothing more than competitive sets of reactive tactics that always claim to respond to the onslaught of capital. So even the question of class as a subjective force becomes irrelevant, leave aside its revolutionary character, rather it is just an arena for competition among various ‘working class’ organisations to present themselves as the most and even sole authentic class representatives negotiating with capital. Ultimately, the most astute negotiator should win. But then successful negotiators must be those who are most comfortable in dealing with capital.

But history confirms that every time such expert leadership has proclaimed their mastery over the working class, the class itself in class struggle has moved ahead and the question of lag between the ‘spontaneous’ consciousness of the working class and repositories of “revolutionary wisdom” is time and again raised. In fact, both leaders and capital tend to compete and collaborate in competition to harness and ‘productively’ channelise the energy and creativity of the working class, to teach it to behave coherently – for capital this means a process of successful subsumption and for self-proclaimed leaders a successful organising under their leadership.

However, it is in the solidarian relationship that develops among workers during the course of togetherness in their everyday confrontations with capital and its agencies that we find a self-consolidation of class energy and creativity happening. This is what is called a political recomposition of the working class. It happens through a refusal to submit itself to the mechanics of the technical composition – how capital (re)organises and imposes work to keep on appropriating surplus value, to subsume evermore labour by technological innovations. But it is important to remember, “[i]t would be possible to write quite a history of the inventions, made since 1830, for the sole purpose of supplying capital with weapons against the revolts of the working-class.” (Marx) Hence, it is the assertion of the autonomy of labour (political composition) and capital’s evermore intensified campaign to subsume it that constitute class struggle. It is the working class that acts to which capital reacts.

When in our January meeting we discussed the introduction of electronics and micro-electronics in the production process, it was mainly to understand how today the terrain of class struggle itself has been transformed. If we do not take these changes into account, any talk of workers’ politics and its revolutionary transformative character will be a useless doctrinaire discussion on class strategy. We recognise that technological change is not a linear process, to which other social variables and components must adjust. Technology itself is contradictory – it is a class struggle. Marx noted a long time back that capital innovates evermore “automatic system”. It is exactly this automatic system that has continued being central to the struggle between capital and labour. Today this system has acquired a global dimension – not constituted by individual “self-acting mules” aided by separated individuals or groups of individual workers but via networked machines and workers toiling in diverse spacetimes.

The technical recomposition of the working class around new inventions/technologies poses a crisis for existing political forms in the working class movement. These forms either become outmoded or co-opted, or have to transform themselves to contribute in the emergence of a new political composition to reassert the autonomy of labour.

We met thrice in Sevagram to discuss the evolving character of class conflicts and workers’ self-activisms, how they reflect upon various congealed organisational forms and their claims to class radicalism and politics. Our next meeting is in Delhi, April 19-20 (2014). We propose the following broadly defined agenda to continue our discussion:

1. Changes that have occurred with the incomparable leap in productive forces associated with electronics. What is a radical transformation today?

2. Changes in the composition of the working class in these forty years.

3. Appropriate forms of organisations and modes of activities from local to global levels.

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The Manifesto of New Path

National Council, New Path: For some time now, some of us in a small collective, mostly from backgrounds in social movements and mass organisations, have been discussing how the work of people’s struggle and revolutionary transformation can be taken forward in the Indian context. Out of those discussions we have reached the decision to found a new organisation, tentatively called “New Path”, whose goal is to further the revolutionary process in India at its current stage. Below is our draft manifesto, which we are circulating for comments, criticism, suggestions and observations from comrades and friends. As the manifesto seeks to argue, New Path is not and does not aim to be a traditional revolutionary party. Rather, it is a political formation that seeks out opportunities, through struggle, to weaken bourgeois hegemony in this country. We are seeking to implement these ideas through a number of different programs as well as in our work in the various struggle groups that we are a part of. The manifesto is one of several documents that New Path has been working on developing; it aims to provide a synopsis of some of the key ideas that are important to our approach. We hope this will be of use and look forward to your responses. We can be contacted at nayarasta.india@gmail.com.

India today is a society scarred by immense poverty, terrible injustice and inhuman brutality. Crores of people cannot buy enough food to survive; there are more people living in hunger in India than in any other country in the world. Children are malnourished, people die like flies from disease, and real education and health care are out of the reach of millions. The majority of people struggle to survive, uncertain of making it from one day to the next. Yet, at the same time, a small minority of people has access to every luxury in the world and lives as if the poor do not exist. Any attempt to confront the horrific injustices that occur daily is repressed with inhuman violence. Every form of atrocity known to humanity has been carried out within this nation’s borders; the rape, torture, and slaughter of thousands is deemed part of normal life. A life of dignity is a dream for the vast majority of the people.

India is not alone in this. Across the world a handful of people reap all benefits, while the majority struggle against violence, poverty and oppression. In 2005, the top ten percent of people in the world consumed 60% of what the world produced and owned 85% of total wealth; the bottom 10% consumed 0.5%. In a thousand different forms, the majority is everywhere crushed by the small minority who control wealth and power. Women are beaten, tortured and treated as second class citizens. Oppressed castes and communities face terrible discrimination, deprived of their lands, their livelihoods, their rights, their freedoms and their dignity. Workers give their bodies and their souls for the profits of their employers. The aged are forced to work till their deaths while children are treated as objects to be brutalised and beaten into submission. The natural environment is being despoiled and destroyed at an ever accelerating rate. An environmental crisis is developing today that threatens the fate of humanity itself.

Those who benefit from this system proclaim that this is the way the world always has been and always will be. But no thinking person can accept that such an unjust order should be the fate of humanity, that most should suffer and die for the benefit of a few. Injustice is a creation of human will and human oppression. In every place where oppression takes place, there is resistance, anger and heroic courage in the fight for justice. The oppressors may rule this world but they do not do so unchallenged. What human beings can create, human beings can overthrow. We can build a new country and a new world, in which human dignity would be the centre of existence.

The Nature of This Society

Proposition 1: India and the world today are capitalist societies, in which production is done by nominally ‘free’ producers and workers for the primary purpose of exchanging the resulting commodities. In this world the dead hand of capital exploits the lives and bodies of the majority of people.

The ability to make things together – indeed, to produce and shape the world together – is the most fundamental feature of being a human being, the key point that marks our difference from other animals. No other animal has been able to transform the world through its collective action the way humanity has. We can no longer imagine living in a world that has not been shaped by the work of billions of people. For any group larger than a few people, the capacity of the group to work together provides the food they eat, the shelter they live in and the water they drink. Hence, if a society’s system of production is controlled in a way that oppresses people, that society will be oppressive. If it is controlled in a way that liberates people, then there is at least the possibility that that society will be truly free.

In today’s world the labour of the majority of people is not controlled by them, and they do not benefit from it. Instead a small minority takes most of the gains of the labour of others. Those who enjoy the benefits of this system do not do so because they work harder or more intelligently than others, but because they enjoy power over others’ labour. This power does not spring from force alone; it fundamentally comes from the economic system itself.

Today it is no longer possible for a person or a community to survive on what they have alone. The vast majority of their needs are met through purchase, by exchanging money with others for the goods they require for their own existence. To earn this money, a person has to produce something that they can sell. In turn, to produce things and sell them, people require the means to do so, such as factories, tools, transport or knowledge. These means of production are today owned by a small minority of people and are their property. In order to survive, then, people are left with only one thing to sell: their capacity to labour. Instead of working alone or together for their own benefit, they have to sell this capacity to work to someone else, who pays them directly or indirectly for working. Those who buy their labour power invest a certain amount of money – to purchase people’s labour power and the raw materials needed for production – and then sell the resulting products. Thus they invest money in order to get more money, but the revenue they “earn” is from the labour of their workers. The labour of workers and producers is not their own; the full gain of their work goes to someone else. Moreover, they have no choice in this matter. They may choose who to work for, but they cannot choose to not work for the benefit of someone else. If they do, they will not have enough money to survive.

While exploitation and oppression take many forms, in most parts of the world these basic realities now prevail. Society is built around buying and selling commodities for money, and a small minority of people control and extract the labour of the majority for their benefit. This group, the capitalists, possess capital, or money that is used to generate more money through the production process. Through their control over production, they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the current economic system.

For most of human history, this was not the case. The means of production, such as land and water, were used by everyone in common. People hunted, gathered plants, and (during a later period) worked the land together. The benefits were shared among the community. Such systems are still visible in a limited way in some adivasi societies. Over time, however, these systems changed. They were replaced by systems of classes, where some people gained from the labour of others. In most cases, people were subjected to coercion in order to work for the gain of others. Social custom, physical violence and religious tradition were used to lock people into their exploitation. The first group to be subjected to this oppression, in most societies, were women. In south Asia this was then extended through caste; in other parts of the world, slavery, serfdom, or other such forms were used.

These systems continued to evolve and change. In recent centuries they were in turn destroyed, or are being destroyed, in most of the world. They have been replaced in most cases by the capitalist system. In this system, on the surface, people are supposed to be free. People today, we are told, can leave their employers if they like; no one locks them into working for someone or forces them to work when they do not want to. But this is actually nonsense. In reality, some people continue to be oppressed by force; in India many continue to be crushed under caste, and women continue to be treated as subhuman. More fundamentally, whether people are oppressed by force or not, no one today is free from the need to work for the ultimate benefit of the capitalists (except the capitalists themselves and those they employ as their agents). As a result, despite the appearance of being free, human beings can still not be human. They must be servants, robots or slaves, even as they are fed the illusion that they are free.

Since they do not always use force, the capitalist exploiters today are not as obvious as they once were. Among themselves they fight and compete and try to pull each other down, each trying to get more profits than the other. They therefore appear very disunited. But the reality is that today’s exploiters neither always need to beat people, nor do they need to be from the same social group. Since survival will force the majority to work for them anyway, they can hide behind the illusion that they are merely ordinary people who were lucky or skilled enough to become rich. Those who can control the means of production can exploit others without even appearing to do so.

In a world where production is connected across countries and continents, the exploiter often does not even need to see the exploited. Capital today is truly global. Capitalists hold down wages and move across borders from country to country without any hesitation. A handful of giant companies control world trade in clothes, foodgrains and other key items. Very few of their workers know who their labour is benefiting, and the capitalists sitting in New York or Paris have no idea whose labour they are benefiting from. Capitalists dominate other entities and forces and bend them to the desires of capital. Similarly, in India, though the local mafia, landlord or upper caste person may appear to be the direct exploiters, society is structured such that the ultimate benefits flow to the owners and controllers of capital.

Proposition 2: Exploitation of people’s labour occurs through many forms, not only through direct wage labour of workers.

Indeed, today, those who do not even seem to be working for someone else are also often exploited by the same process. For example, a farmer with enough land to sell his or her produce, a chai-wallah or small hawker selling something on the road, and so on seem to be free of exploitation. But this is an illusion. Instead of taking their labour directly, the exploiters often take the labour of such people indirectly. Farmers are often in debt to the moneylender or the bank, seeds and fertilisers are increasingly controlled by cartels of big companies, and hence the price the farmer gets for selling produce is controlled by these other entities – who effectively live off extracting these farmers’ labour. Such persons seem more secure than the landless worker, but this is just a difference of degree; and their security is not enough to stop their exploitation. All such persons, as well as those who work for wages, who are forced to work as bonded labourers, etc. are part of different sections of the overall class of workers and producers.

This is of course not true of every farmer or shopkeeper. Those with control over a large amount of means of production become exploiters themselves, such as the tea estate owner or big capitalist farmer who cultivates his land for profit by hiring workers. There are also those with sufficient means of production to enjoy some degree of independence for some time, balancing between being exploited by capital and becoming exploiters themselves, but this is a precarious position that often does not last very long.

Further, there are others in society who may not exploit people directly, but whose duty is to operate, manage and control the system for exploitation. Managers, government officers and many others are paid a share of the surplus to ensure that the system continues to run. Some of them are exploited themselves – such as low level government servants – but they are made to work not in order to produce directly, but to maintain the system.

Finally, alongside exploitation through markets, wages and other means, there is another form of robbery – the use of force to simply grab for profit. This has increased in intensity with the recent rise to power of finance capital. It includes the grabbing of the land of the peasants and the poor; the eviction of urban slum dwellers; the takeover of minerals by force; and other attempts to accumulate capital by simply expropriating others.

Proposition 3: The commodification and expropriation of nature is also a fundamental part of capitalism today.

Under capitalism, the oppression of human beings is accompanied by the plunder of nature. When the driving force of society is the profit of a few, nature itself becomes a commodity to be bought and sold. Water, air, land and forests have no value to this system except as a means to earn money.

Besides the direct exploitation of these resources for money, the current system of capitalism, where large companies dominate (especially at the global level), directly encourages massive wastage and destruction in order to increase sales without lowering prices. Enormous amounts of money are spent to convince people to purchase products that they do not need, and that often perform the same or less functions than earlier products. Packaging and advertising are used to make functionally useless or even dangerous things seem appealing. While actually reducing people’s choices and control over their lives, capitalists create false and meaningless “choices” in order to encourage consumerism. The cost of goods rises to pay for all of this wastage, reducing the ability of workers and producers to purchase their requirements. These few large companies at the global level are able to keep prices for these goods high, since there is no competition. By keeping these prices high, they pass on the costs of their own wastage to the same workers and producers whom they are otherwise oppressing. Simultaneously, they shift their production to wherever it is cheapest to do so.

The result is massive pollution, water shortages, climate change, natural disasters and destruction of land and forests – even as the profits of the big capitalists rise enormously. This in turn has a terrible impact on workers and producers, who lose their health, livelihoods, families or lives. The whole basis of the existence of the human race is being swallowed by the greed of the exploiters.

These are the basic outlines of the system of production in the world today, where capital rules over human beings. Until this system is overthrown, humanity can never be free. The freedom of today is a cover for the crushing of the majority. But another world is possible, in which people collectively control their production together as free human beings, and use the benefits for all. Those who declare that such a world can never exist forget that exploitation and injustice are not laws of nature; both in history and today, we can see countless examples where people work together out of love, caring and a sense of common humanity. There was a time when this was true of all production. That time can come again, but now as a conscious new world in which all innovation, creativity and work will be at the service of expanding human freedom.

India Today

Proposition 4: Capitalism in India has devastated the lives of the majority of the people, and its brutality and exploitation are increasing. Divisions between urban and rural, between agriculture and industry, are decreasing in importance; instead an increasingly united ruling class exploits many disunited, dispersed and destitute producers.

The consequences of this kind of exploitation are particularly apparent in our society. No country in the world has more poor people, yet India also has some of the world’s richest people. The richer that the country grows, the more “economic growth” accelerates, the more that this inequality increases and the more that money, wealth, power and production are controlled by a small group of people. This has never been truer than after the 1991 “reforms”, which have empowered the finance capitalists – the banks, investment funds and speculators – at the cost of all of the rest of society.

More than 60% of this country’s people depend on agriculture for survival, but agriculture is now in a terrible crisis. Within agriculture, there is tremendous inequality in land ownership. There are crores of landless workers who have no land at all, along with as many small farmers who cannot live on the produce of the land that they have. Many of these have to work for wages in agriculture, construction or other kinds of work, sometimes by migrating over long distances. As men migrate and hunt for work, women have to run their households and often also take care of all agricultural work. Despite promise after promise, very little real land reform has been carried out since independence, and the number of those without land (or without enough to survive) goes up every year. In addition to this, both these groups and the middle and rich peasants, who own more land and who may not have to work for wages, today find themselves squeezed by other forces. These include the moneylenders, who have become more powerful as banks and government funding have decreased; the companies and big traders that control the trade in grain, vegetables and other crops, who pay farmers less while charging more from buyers, keeping the differences for themselves; and the government, which does not enforce its own laws on trading, and uses police force to grab land from forest dwellers, adivasis, the rural poor and those who are in the way of “development projects.” With the power of the private companies and financial investors increasing in India and around the world, prices go up and down as they decide, affecting both those selling produce and those purchasing it. Subjected to the increasing pressure of the market, farmers are using up water and destroying the soil with fertilisers, reducing the fertility of the land across India. The common lands that most rural people depend on for firewood, grazing and water are being taken over by private companies, big landowners and the government. For capitalists today, agriculture is no longer a key area for either production or profits. Instead, it is seen as a source of cheap labour, since workers with fields can be paid even less while depending on their fields to survive. Profits can be made by capitalists through controlling farmers with contract farming, moneylending and control over markets; in the process, much of the revenue and earnings of those in agriculture, even of large farmers, is extracted from them. Meanwhile, the farmer bears all the risk of failing crops and destroyed lands. As a result of all this, agriculture has been driven into such a terrible crisis that only the small minority of big capitalist farmers can survive; the majority of India’s people are thus seeing their basic livelihood and survival destroyed.

But it is not only those engaged in agriculture who are suffering. In the cities, the majority of people have no legal housing or shelter. Factory and industrial workers are hired on contracts, paid extremely low wages and thrown out of their work without warning. Export industries and other “new industries” exploit huge numbers of women because they are easier to repress and control in the factory. After agriculture, the largest group of workers in the country are those who work in construction, where they have no legal protection, work in extreme danger and live in illegal slums. Such workers and others who migrate into cities are treated like criminals and exploited brutally by the police, employers and other government agencies. Crores of women work as domestic workers, are paid very little and forced to face physical and sexual abuse by their employers.

Meanwhile, the ruling class across India is increasingly united. The big capitalist farmers, the senior government servants, and the big businessmen all have houses in the cities; they send their children to the same schools and try to get them into similar professions; and while the rural rich enter into construction and other non-agricultural activities, urban businessmen engage in contract farming and seek to expand into rural India. At the same time, the vast majority of millions of working people struggle to survive in both places, and many migrate between them. Many people do not occupy any fixed position. They may migrate to a city one year for survival, spend some other months as agricultural workers, and – for those who have land – spend the agricultural season trying to grow enough crops to survive.

Thus one key boundary in India – between urban and rural – is slowly breaking. Another such boundary, between Indian capitalists and those of other countries, has also greatly diminished. In the era of neoliberalism (“liberalisation”), finance capital has become truly global, backed by the power of the world’s most powerful states. These capitalists are those who control the supply of money itself, and include banks, mutual funds and other large private stock market investors. The largest Indian companies are so deeply connected to international finance, and so many international companies are now here, that the clear distinctions of earlier times are fading. Today’s imperialism is much more complex, with elements of the Indian ruling class joining the global ruling class in an alliance. Overall, rather than the earlier divisions, there is now a complex mix of exploiters, growing ever richer, more powerful and more unified, confronting a mass of exploited producers of many types.

Proposition 5: Relations of production and exploitation of producers in India are highly diverse. Under the overarching rubric of capitalism, exploiters in India use myriad methods to alienate the labour of producers. There is no sign of such diversity decreasing with the intensification of capitalist oppression.

The vast confusion and desperation of India is marked by another reality, in which too it reflects the world situation. The ruling class has always said that, with “development”, all in society will be treated as equal “citizens”. What they mean is that everyone will be a capitalist, an agent of capitalists, or a worker. In this view the distinctions of caste, religion, family and language would stop being important. For the capitalists and their supporters, this is considered a good thing, since it leads to greater “freedom.” Even some revolutionaries have said that this would be the trend in future; in their view, this will make it possible to finally overthrow capitalism, since the workers and the producers will see their exploitation more clearly and realise that they can unite.

But in practice this has not happened. There is no one way that people are exploited in India; there are hundreds. The form of the labour relation varies widely, and in many cases it extends to what are sometimes described as “feudal” methods. In some places, small farmers continue to be exploited by sharecropping when they rent land from landlords. In others, they pay cash rents, while in still other areas, they may be forced to give free labour to landlords. Often small farmers are exploited at one time through the market, when they sell their surplus produce from their land; at another time by their employer if they must work for wages; and in yet another way by traders and police when they are forced to migrate for finding an income. As a result, the nature of the immediate enemy also varies across the country. For adivasis in forest areas it is often the government that harasses and evicts them; for small peasants in Bihar it may be the landlord who extorts rent from them; for the farmer in Maharashtra it may be the trader and the moneylender; and for the urban construction worker it is often the big contractor. These differences have not decreased with time in India. Some differences have decreased, but others have increased. There is no overall trend towards people all being exploited in similar ways.

But even as these variations occur, it is equally clear that the overall benefits from society and the gains from the labour of the majority go to those who control capital. The system itself is clearly capitalist, but it does not need to bring all workers to the same position. The relationship between the exploiter and the exploited can take many different forms, even if the ultimate beneficiary is the same. Facing the capitalists is a vast and diverse class of workers and producers, most of whom do not even realise that they belong to the same class and that they are, ultimately, exploited for the benefit of the same people.

Proposition 6: Capitalism in India cannot be understood without also understanding caste, patriarchy and other non-class relations of oppression. These other systems are neither relics nor “outside” capitalism; they, along with capitalism, form an integral socioeconomic formation in India today. It is not possible to defeat capitalism without also fighting these relations of oppression. Equally, revolution against capitalism is the necessary though not sufficient condition for liberation from these systems as well.

Capitalist exploitation in India cannot be separated from several other kinds of exploitation. The most widespread of these are the caste system and the oppression of women, though there are other such systems of exploitation as well.

Caste as a system of exploitation is a central feature of Indian society. The rulers tell us that caste discrimination is disappearing in India today, but this is clearly not true. In many parts of the country, Dalits still cannot access water or temples used by upper castes; Dalits, adivasis and lower caste people are deprived of their land. They are humiliated in public and denied basic dignity; their children are marginalised in school or prevented from going to one. A person’s chance to get a job or enter a college is still heavily dependent on what caste they belong to. High castes continue to control the media, big business, the police, the Army and many government positions. Moreover, caste is also central to the way business and capitalism itself works, and caste is still central to the economy as a whole. Company owners and other exploiters rely on caste connections to get loans and to manipulate the political process and the government. Caste connections also help them to ensure that they act together to keep workers’ wages down, prices high and otherwise prevent competition with each other. Thus caste oppression and class exploitation are intertwined for the exploiters. At the same time, for the producers and workers, caste functions both ways. It serves to keep them divided and prevents them from uniting against exploiters. Even those who are otherwise exploited, but are from middle and high castes, try, often using violence, to protect the little power that they have against the lower castes. On the other hand, for many oppressed castes and Dalit communities, their caste or community is a major source of solidarity and unity. To imagine that these relations can be wiped out or are being “reduced” by capitalism is to ignore the manner in which Indian society actually works. The form of caste has certainly changed, but it is still a huge force for exploitation in India, and it will remain one in the future unless it is fought against.

The same is true of the oppression of women (or patriarchy). Women in India face several different kinds of oppression at the same time. They cannot move freely or speak freely. Their life is controlled by men from the moment they are born until the moment they die, starting with their fathers, followed by their husbands, and finally their sons or sons in law. Female fetuses are killed in their mother’s wombs before they are even born. Women face sexual violence and rapes, most of which are never punished, and at home they are routinely beaten by men. In the system of production, the burden of household work is fully put on them. They must run the house, raise their children and quite often work outside at the same time. Their work in the home, which is the basis for all of society to function, is never acknowledged and is treated as free both by the rulers and by the men of their household. Taking advantage of their oppression and the discrimination against them, employers pay them less for the same work; they are often given no rights in land, and what they have they are often forced to give up. As with caste, patriarchy is also closely integrated with production. More and more tasks are dumped on women in order to save money for the exploiters. Schools are not opened, medical care not provided, water not given, and fuel restricted, forcing women to cover for all these failures with their labour. Child care outside the family is unavailable except to the wealthy, forcing working women to bear double burdens. The lower wages paid to women permits employers to get more work out of them, and prevents both men and women from fighting for higher wages, since men who do so can often be replaced by women. As the oppression of the producers increases, women are forced to work more and more, and they are exploited more than the men of their class.

In the same manner, people in India are exploited based on ethnicity, religion, language, region, nationality and many other non-class factors. Oppression of minorities has increased greatly. The Indian state uses its military power to brutally crush any aspiration for national liberation and/or separate states, whether it be among the Kashmiris, the Nagas, or elsewhere, and in particular if they are led by democratic or progressive forces. With the passage of time such use of force has only increased and intensified. This paves the way for the emergence and strengthening of chauvinist or other authoritarian forces, who in turn are encouraged by local, national and regional ruling classes. As a result progressive and democratic movements are increasingly sidelined by the rise of militarism and mass violence, which then becomes the justification for more repression. The massacres, killings and torture are never reported by the mainstream media.

All of this shows that it is a lie to believe that India is moving toward a society where everyone will be equal and judged just on the basis of their work. If anything, the opposite is happening, and the gap is widening. As seen above, exploitation for non-class reasons continues on two levels. In all of these other systems of exploitation, as in patriarchy and caste, there is exploitation that is not directly related to one’s role in production. Even a wealthy woman, Dalit or Muslim does not have the same opportunities as an upper caste Hindu man with the same wealth. At the same time, these systems of oppression are directly linked to production and capitalism. Capitalists in India use the fact that they often speak the same language, belong to similar castes, are almost all men, and so on to also increase their unity and their power as exploiters of producers and workers. They use the social oppression of others to increase their exploitation of their labour; for instance, a Dalit woman or a Muslim woman is much easier to exploit for profit than a Brahmin man. At times, as in the Hindutva movement, they channel the anger and aspirations of producers into identities (such as being “Hindu”) that pose no threat to the real exploiters; instead, these identities offer the illusion of advancement and dignity to people, on the condition that they turn on others who are more oppressed than them.

All these systems are thus part of each other. At the root of this system, however, lies control over the means of production. Where caste, patriarchy, religious discrimination or other kinds of oppression have become a problem for capitalist exploitation, they have become weaker over time. Examples include caste restrictions on people performing some work; such restrictions may reduce availability of workers and competition among them, and hence they have eroded. Where these other systems have helped to shore up the power of those with capital, they have often become stronger. Indian capitalism cannot exist without caste, patriarchy and other non-class forms of oppression; it is built through them and with them. However, where they conflict with capital’s attempts to expropriate more from producers, they are weakened. The resulting system rules Indian society today.

Hence capitalism cannot be fought without fighting these other systems of oppression, for not only will injustice from those forms of oppression continue, they will strengthen capital. At the same time, the fight against these other forms of oppression will remain unsuccessful and incomplete unless it is also integrated with the struggle against capitalism. The leaders of oppressed sections that enter the ruling capitalist class almost always defend the interests of that class, even if it means exploiting their own community, religion, gender, etc. The overthrow of capitalism is necessary for real liberation from all of these forms of oppression, even as such liberation will also require dedicated struggle to eliminate each of them. Building the road to this is the task before revolutionaries in India today.

Power and Politics

People have fought against exploitation from the dawn of history. Whether it is Dalits fighting for their right to dignity, adivasis rising for their control over their forests, workers striking to demand justice, or women protesting against violence, the oppressed have never been silent and never will be.

However, the response of the oppressors has changed in some ways. Unlike their predecessors, today’s rulers do not necessarily say that such protests are wrong or unjustified. In fact, at times they accept that injustice is happening and people are exploited. But instead of denying injustice, today’s rulers deny the need for struggle; those who rise up are told there is no need to do so. After all, the exploiters say, there are courts, government officers, and the police, all running on the basis of the law. The law gives everyone an equal right to justice. If nothing else works one can try to use elections to change the government and change the law. Today’s Indian government is said to be a democracy that runs on the will of the people. The same things are said by governments around the world.

But this is clearly not true. Whatever happens with the law, the courts and the elections, the fundamental reality does not change. Those who work and produce continue to struggle. No election in India has ever made it possible for the majority of the people to control their own labour or to live a life of dignity. Instead the same system goes on.

This is not surprising, for there can be no real “rule of the people” as long as capitalism exists. In a capitalist society the system is driven by the needs of the capitalists, as they control the production process. Hence the desires of the majority can never be the real basis of decision making in a capitalist society. Therefore, the fight against capitalism is also the fight for real democracy.

Proposition 7: In response to the resistance of the oppressed, political power in capitalism has developed as a fusion of material, ideological and repressive power. It does not rely solely on fear, or on material dependence, or on cultural-ideological means alone; it is a complex, shifting mix of the three. This mix makes it impossible for people to imagine, believe in or build an alternative.

The combination of capitalist exploitation and limited democracy is made possible by a complex fusion of three basic systems. The first is the most obvious – the government breaks its own rules on “democracy” when it is threatened. Even as the rulers declare that everyone in India is free to protest, every person is aware that a mass struggle for justice in this country will be met with force. The limit is clear: do not come together in large numbers to demand your rights, and do not threaten the control of the capitalists over their production system, or the power of the government to enforce its decisions. When people actually do so, all law and justice are forgotten and the police use arrests, torture and guns to crush protests.

But what is equally clear is that this is not the entirety of the situation. The state does not always resort to force; in fact using force against people is the exception rather than the rule. It is not only force that makes it possible for capitalism to go on. The reality is that, even as the majority of people are oppressed, they do not protest. They do not struggle against this system. Instead, they knowingly or unknowingly give their consent to this society and this state.

This consent is the result of the other two systems of power. The second one is the promotion of ruling class ideas throughout society by the media, films, books, the schools and other institutions. Through these channels, everyone is told that this system is natural; histories, theories and analyses that go against this are not taught or propagated. Where they are mentioned, they are dismissed as impractical, idealistic or impossible. The constant refrain is that one has to be selfish, individualistic and exploitative, and that one has to accept exploitation at the hands of the capitalists.

But this too is not all, and the system does not only exist on the basis of lies. In reality, the ruling class does give in at some points, and shares a part of its profits and surplus. The most obvious form this “sharing” takes is government schemes like rations, government hospitals and government schools. While the government rarely tries to actually run these systems properly, it cannot shut them down completely; even though the businessmen and the international financiers howl that they are a waste of money. These and other public services are all signs of the struggle of the people, for they show the fear of the ruling class. Of course, even as they share this part of their surplus, the capitalists seek to regain some benefits from it, and indeed use it to boost their own markets. There is a constant tussle between the majority and the exploiters over such benefits.

Such “sharing” extends far beyond these obvious forms, though. Every institution of power in our society is marked by the constant attempt of the exploiters to safeguard and expand their power and the constant struggle of the oppressed to liberate themselves from it. Whether the idea of a “rule of law”, the system of courts, or the notion of equal citizenship promoted by the media, many systems seek to simultaneously legitimise the ruling class while conceding some dignity or benefit to the producers out of fear of their revolt. The one power that the ruling class will never concede, however, is the power of the producers to collectively control production.

All three of these systems – the repressive process, or the use of force; the ideological process, or the cultural battle over ideas; and the material process, or the sharing of material resources and surplus – function together to define the current system of power. They cannot be separated except in theory; they work as an integrated whole in reality. All of them contribute to the maintenance of the idea that the current system is good, fair, and just, and that nothing else is either desirable or possible. As a result of all this, the exploited cannot imagine another world; they cannot build another system that will give them greater security; and they cannot fight for it, because they are terrorised if they try to do so, and described as the enemies of society. Thus do the real anti-socials disguise their agenda as that of “development” and “welfare”, and maintain their hegemony over society.

This system is not fully stable, and it never can be. It is not the result of some perfect plan hatched by the ruling class. At all times the capitalists have to keep adjusting to new struggles and their demands, attempting to ensure that the lie at the heart of their “democracy” is not exposed. In response to every resistance, the rulers sometimes concede another material demand; sometimes respond with brute force; sometimes try to obfuscate and confuse the issue with new cultural responses. Most often all three are deployed. Each move by them produces its own new forms of struggle. This makes the system unstable, constantly changing and altering.

Proposition 8: A key function of the state is to help organise the rulers and exploiters and disorganise the producers and workers.

The limited democracy in India today is perhaps the most complex result of this struggle over power. Individual capitalists rarely desire to have even limited democracy for producers and workers; they would always prefer to run the government directly without “interference” and “unreasonable” demands by the oppressed. One can see this in the behaviour of sections of the financial press, which sigh about how democracy is interfering with the “economy” and the desire of the “investors.” Some capitalists even openly declare that a dictatorship would be better for the country.

However, the capitalists know they cannot bring about such a dictatorship, for they fear the consequences for their rule. Hence they permit some freedom of speech, assembly and action to all, since that will prevent an explosion. But at the same time, the system by which this freedom is permitted helps to actually disorganise producers and workers. The benefits and freedoms that are permitted out of fear are never given to the workers and producers as a collective or as a class, and are not given to them in a manner that would permit them to exercise any real control. The state and the system claim to treat every person as an individual, an isolated single person who receives benefits as a citizen. These “individuals” receive gifts from this system that claims to care for everyone. The reality of struggle is masked behind the talk of rights and law. Even where the individual is identified with a group – such as in the case of caste reservations, or BPL cards – the person is still treated as an eligible individual when receiving the benefit.

Moreover, unlike in earlier times, the modern state hides real power behind a labyrinth of institutions and appears to have no clear centre. There are courts, legislatures, local bodies, elections, committees, and many other institutions. On a constant basis, struggles against oppression are directed into one or the other of these institutions, even as the powerful use other institutions to maintain their control. As sections of workers or the oppressed gain power in elections, the ruling class moves to make elected bodies less powerful. Chance victories in courts are countered by changing laws or ignoring court orders. The ruling politicians may concede something to a struggle, only to have the government bureaucracy sabotage it.

Through this process the unity, struggle and consciousness of producers and workers is weakened. By treating them as “individuals” and fracturing their unity from the start, the state stops most resistance from forming; where movements do form, they are forced into endless battles with one section of the state after another, with each victory seeming to be undercut and undermined by some new attack. Thus they are isolated, coopted, divided or simply crushed.

Yet, at the same time, the same system has the opposite effect for the exploiters. Capitalism is not a planned machine; it is a spontaneous order in which there is constant turmoil. The ruling class under capitalism is a divided, chaotic entity with many fractions each seeking their own interests. It is not the case that all of these fractions share the same interests or are, indeed, aware of what their shared interests might be. Indeed, each has an immediate interest in pulling down the other. There are contradictions between the big finance capitalists and the small industrialists; between the capitalist farmers and the commercial companies that control trade; between some sections of capital from more powerful countries and some sections of Indian capitalists. Each one of these would benefit if it could make its rival weaker. These contradictions are not strong enough to threaten their unity in the face of an active movement of the producers and workers. When they see a real and immediate threat to their control over production, they will band together. But until then there is constant turmoil, competition and fighting within the exploiters as well.

However, the democratic system offers them ways to find common ground between their inconsistent interests. Through the free debate among political leaders, the struggle between political institutions, and the competitive elections, the system makes it possible for the exploiters to argue out their problems and differences and constantly seek to identify their interests as a class. The system permits the space for different ideologies to exist that offer different “solutions” to maintain the system; the conflict between these is sorted out in the political arena. This freedom is only partially extended to any ideology or political position that actually threatens the ruling class; these are marginalised, coopted, diluted, or simply crushed. Thus, even as different political parties clash, the shared understanding between them is simultaneously presented as the “national” interest. This interest is then upheld by every arm of the state and every political actor, defining and extending the unity of the exploiters. This unity, one must remember, is unstable. It always has to be made again and again.

We can see this dual function of the state in the way the interests of the warring classes are described. The interests of producers are described as those of private individuals, sectional interests and “citizens”; the interests of exploiters are described as the voice of all society. Thus this system turns the very demands of the producers against them; it organises the exploiters and disorganises the workers and the producers. This helps to maintain the balance of power in favour of the exploiters and to head off threats from the organisation and unity of the workers and producers. The very freedom and benefits that have been won from the rulers are used to prevent further victories.

The Path of Struggle

Proposition 9: The new society must be created by the collective action of the producers themselves.

The road to a society of free associated producers is a long one. Such a society can only be created by the producers themselves, not by replacing one set of rulers or leaders with another. The key issue is power – the power of producers to control their own production in a collective, democratic manner. Hence, no one can make a true revolution by acting on behalf of the producers and workers. For this reason, just taking over the formal state and its army will not in itself lead to justice, for the state is capitalist by its very character, not merely because it is being led by capitalists. Earlier experiments in revolutionary action – such as the Soviet Union and China – have demonstrated that seizure of the formal state is neither the beginning nor the end of revolution. Instead, the struggle goes on, and as in those cases, the new state can as easily become an enemy of human liberation rather than a revolutionary force. The revolution is a process, not a single event; it is a struggle towards collective control and human dignity. It must transform the entirety of society as well as the producers themselves.

Such a process would have several key characteristics. It has to be collective. It must be based on a spreading shattering of ruling class capitalist hegemony and its replacement with the hegemony of the producing class, where the producers establish that it is their interest that is the true interest of all of society. In the interim the revolutionary process has to focus on the demolition of ruling class power, including the state, but not only the formal state. Rather than seeking to replace ruling class control with working class control, it would seek to smash ruling class power and to build the collective power of the producers. It is only through such a process that social transformation can occur.

Proposition 10: The task of a revolutionary force in India today is not to seek to lead or to control the struggle. It is to work towards the weakening of ruling class hegemony and the sharpening of all struggles towards collective production.

Any revolutionary force must contend with these three features of Indian society at present: the diversity of the relations of exploitation; the integration of capitalist and other forms of oppression; and the existence of a capitalist limited democracy. All three of these make unity between the workers and producers both objectively and subjectively impossible, until they are confronted. Such unity cannot be brought about through the leadership of one organisation. Unity must be an organic process, and for this the producers must experience and perceive their common exploitation, while also respecting their mutual differences and their mutual autonomy.

The biggest obstacle to this true unity is the hegemony of the ruling class – its ability to make its own goals and interests seem to be those of all, while making all other demands seem to be that of one “section” or the other. The capacity of the system to continually disorganise, disunite and atomise producers and workers works to continually weaken and undercut efforts at unity. The existing differences are not merely continued, they are expanded and multiplied through the process of hegemony. Thus at present the Bihari peasant sees no common interest between him and the auto worker in Delhi, though both are exploited by the same capitalist companies; the construction worker does not regard the adivasi as his or her ally, though both are crushed by the same system. Their unity will come about only in the process of shattering the hegemony of the ruling class.

The task of a revolutionary force is therefore at this time to work towards weakening this hegemony and towards building the space for the revolutionary struggle. Each step in such a process must seek to create new contradictions which would drive the process forward. It is not sufficient to merely seek those demands that mobilise people and that will lead to greater support for the revolutionaries. Rather, at each stage the aim should be to build a mass democratic struggle in which, simultaneously, the possibilities of solidarity, unity and collectivity are expanded. In such a process the three legs of the rule of the ruling class – fear, production of disunity, and false ideas – are confronted together.

The contradictory nature of the existing system offers spaces for this process, but also limits what those spaces can achieve. Thus, every time people attempt to expand these spaces – to use gram sabhas as real spaces for control over natural resources; to build true production cooperatives; to build a union or occupy a factory – this triggers a direct confrontation with the state and ruling class power. The fight against this can then be used to build a new, wider solidarity and collectivity. Thus the demands and politics of such a struggle cannot be limited to seizing one or the other immediate benefit, though they must start from that, but must always imply, include and make possible a growing struggle towards control over production. At its most effective such a process will also expose contradictions within the ruling class and expand them. The rulers will seek to maintain the consent of the ruled, even as the basis for that consent is eroded by the struggle. In the process their own differences will become more difficult to resolve, even as unity becomes stronger among the oppressed.

The current era, in which finance capital dominates, is a particularly fertile one for struggle. Unlike industrial and other forms of capital, finance capitalists feed off the production that is already happening (through giving loans, trading in stocks, speculating on currencies, grabbing resources to sell them at a high price, and the like) rather than organising any production of their own. As a result, it is much harder for them to concede any demands or share any benefits with the producers, since any sharing leads to a direct reduction in their own profits. This makes finance capital far more short-sighted, brutal and politically repressive than other sections of capital. In such a context the hegemony of the ruling class is much harder to sustain. Every time a ruling political party or government tries to concede something to the producers, the finance capitalists raise howls of protest and try to destroy it. In the process they openly expose the fact that it is only through power over production that the oppressed can in fact win justice, since anything else will only be hijacked by the financiers. Thus they help to dig the grave of the very system that they so foolishly believe represents their triumph.

Such a situation will not continue indefinitely. But even if the ruling class returns to older forms of politics, or develops new ones that are more superficially democratic, we believe that it is through the steadily growing struggle for collective control over production that the way forward lies. Through such a struggle, the victories already won and the freedoms already gained can be built upon. The focus will be on the weak points of the exploiters. At each stage the struggle would aim to bring more power into collective control and the hands of the conscious producers, even as it confronts the brutality and lies of the ruling class. Over time, as the hegemony of the ruling class fractures, unity will come to develop organically among the producers. The limited democracy must be exposed for what it is and expanded into a real democracy; the crippled welfare system and benefits must be shown to be broken and expanded into a new system of collective provision; and most of all, the lie of capitalist production, the lie that society can only function for the profit of a few, must be smashed and replaced with the collective society, where production happens together for the dignity and welfare of all. Thus only will the liberation of each become the liberation of all.

New Path

New Path seeks to be a part of this process. The organisation’s work is to seek opportunities and spaces to build unity and to push for struggles against repression and all forms of exploitation, with the aim of building collective control over production. The organisation will be involved in its own process of mass struggle, and it will also engage and join with other struggles, in which the priority is to spread the idea of collective control and to sharpen struggles in that direction. It will always respect the democratic autonomy of those struggles.

Today, resistance by adivasis and forest dwellers against state and private land grabbing are creating possibilities of collective production and community control over forests. Militant strikes by workers in industrial belts make it possible to imagine occupation and takeover of factories. Small farmers’ struggles can lead to cooperative production. New Path will seek to build, ally with and participate in all such movements for liberation, and in particular in movements by toilers and workers to stake collective claim over productive natural resources, such as land, forest and water; movements to improve working conditions and to take control over the means of production; struggles for the liberation of adivasis, dalits, oppressed and subjugated communities and nationalities; movements to demand and obtain state intervention to reduce the power of finance capital, such as in agriculture; struggles against patriarchy and the oppression of women; struggles to defend the natural environment; struggles for public control and provision of education, health care and all basic services; movements for the protection of democratic and human rights; movements for creating democratic and political consciousness; cultural struggles for a culture of equality, freedom, dignity, reason and creativity; efforts to expand international solidarity among oppressed people and sections; and defence and expansion of experiences and experiments in cooperative and collective control. In each case New Path members will join in and work for the success of these struggles.

To reiterate, New Path does not seek to lead all struggles of the workers and producers; nor does it seek to be the vanguard of the revolution. It does not claim to be the bearer of the truth or of the sole true ideology. Not only does New Path not possess any such truth; there can in fact be no such thing in a divided class society. New understandings will constantly develop and change as the collective actions of the producers expands. Rather, the primary goal of New Path is always to contribute to the weakening of ruling class hegemony.

The manner in which this can be done will vary depending on the nature of the struggle as well as the political conjuncture. At each point New Path will seek to analyse the present situation and develop an analysis of the possible demands, actions and steps that can take the revolutionary movement forward. All instruments that can contribute to this, such as mass struggle, organising movements, and use of the electoral platform by friendly and allied organisations, will be used, while not falling into the illusion that any one such instrument is sufficient for the task. Elections will be seen as primarily a platform for public action and propaganda, and not as a means to power. New Path will not take up arms, as armed struggle within a functioning bourgeois democracy does not contribute to enhancing mass consciousness and weakening ruling class hegemony, which are the key tasks of the revolutionary movement; rather, it is a route to repression and isolation.

As a collective democratic organisation, New Path has no individual posts, only elected bodies subject to the right of recall by the Congress of its members. It seeks to operate through internal consensus and discussion, with majority voting being only a last resort in limited circumstances. New Path is not a federation or a coalition in itself, though it will seek to build such. Rather, it seeks to be an ideological focus, a disciplined hub of activists who – through discussion, work and struggle – share an understanding of the revolutionary process and seek to spread that understanding and that mode of work into every sector and struggle in society. In this way New Path will work for the struggle for a new world.

In memory of the martyrs of the struggles past, and in celebration of the victories to come, New Path stands with all those who fight for justice and dignity in the face of the oppressors, exploiters and plunderers who rule our planet today.

Historical Materialism, Delhi: Legal Marxism Redux

M.S. Khan and Madan Singh

The HM conference in New Delhi, India, is the arch-example of sanitising Marxism and academicising it. The purported promotion of the “new cultures of the left” is nothing but an attempt to sanitise Marxism of its dirty old history in India and elsewhere, and present it to the liberal conscience of western academic tourists in Marxism in the manner that suits their taste. Initially, it proposed to base itself on a virulently anti-communist group of postmodern journo-academics in India. The danger of de-legitimation (of course, who would like to lose their brand name and business) and to provide space to radical international tourists and NRIMs (Non-resident Indian Marxists) forced it to tone down such alignment. As a result, we have an eclectic assortment of non-serious social democrats, NGO-secular-civil liberty activists, poor academics and perpetually passive learners ready to line up to welcome international Historical Materialists.

The recent vocalisation of an open dissociation with the Socialist Workers Party of Britain by the organisers of HM, Delhi, further reveals their desperation to satisfy and bridge liberal consensuses of the West and India. And the last straw in this regard was the withdrawal of their invitation to Alex Callinicos, perhaps the only Trotskyist in whom genuine Marxist activists in India find some ‘cultural’ affinity. This was obviously done to appease the disgruntled pocos, who were lately alienated from the organising committee. As they are on the lookout to find opportunity to vent their frustration of not having been included in this gala event, this was done to preclude any disturbance from their side.

If Marxism or historical materialism is able today to find an important place in academia, it means two things – one, that the capitalist apparatuses have conceded to the pressures from below, and two, in this concession they have been able to sanitise it of its anti-systemic roots and have found tools that would help them in reproducing capitalist ideologies and social relations. The ideological Marxism that academia produces is a form of Marxism that is entrenched within the disciplinary divides that help capitalism to control and regulate knowledge production.

The endeavour the HM conference in Delhi signifies has nothing to do with revolutionary politics insofar as theory in revolutionary politics is about being implicated in thinking the strategic orientation of movements in their socio-historical concreteness. This is precisely the modality of operation of theory in revolutionary working-class politics. Even theory in its bare philosophical abstraction, when its practice is internal to such politics, is meant to be in a dialectical articulation with the concrete political methods (tactics if you will) of socio-historically determinate movements, and are thus meant to clarify the strategy of praxis in seeking to be reconstituted with programmatic accuracy in the concrete tactical specificities of those movements. All this, in order to actualise the generality of the principle of revolutionary-proletarian politics.

Practitioners of radical, actually revolutionary, theory should always remember that their kind of theory cannot be a discursive articulation of tactics or the epistemology that frames the programmatic articulation of such tactics. And yet, revolutionary theory is not outside methods whose open constellation is the enactment and expression of that theory. Clearly, only when theory grasps itself as being internal to its constitutive methods does it become revolutionary. Methods that actualise theory while simultaneously interrupting this actualisation, thereby clearing the way for its refoundation. And this exercise in its continuously unfolding entirety is praxis.

This dialectical continuity between theory and practice – or philosophy and epistemology, or strategy and tactics, or concept and subject – if and when it becomes uninterrupted (by sublating its various inevitable punctuations) in practical materiality amounts to the actuality of praxis or actuality of revolution/communism. “Communism as the real movement” (Marx and Engels in The German Ideology) or “revolution in permanence” (Marx in The Class Struggles in France). In Marxism, theory is not – like Kant’s “categorical imperative”– a norm for the governing of practice. Rather, it is, or should be at any rate, the herald of practice to come. One which will abolish theory by realising it and thereby become praxis, which is a higher and radically different ontological level of actuality, positivity and the concrete than the finite empiricism (and positivism) of mere practice.  This is what is often referred to as the “future-anteriority” of Marx’s historical-materialist approach to praxis.

That is, however, not to contend academically-turned Marxism has no analytical connect whatsoever with really-existing movements in their historical concreteness, and is consumed solely by the ethics of theory or, which is pretty much the same thing, conceptual abstractions pertaining only to the internal  architecture of discursive formations. Of course, that has, more or less, been the orientation, if not the methodological protocol, of Critical Theory founded almost as a disciplinary paradigm. Nevertheless, there is a sizeable and ever-growing section of critical theorists who are equally exercised by the question of historically concrete movements. But even for them such historically concrete social and political movements as objects of analysis are meant, at best, to be occasions of inquiring into and demonstrating how those movements constitute the determinate actualisation and thus the limit of proletarian revolutionary praxis. The next step of how that praxis, as an excess of such historical limits, can be reconstituted as a constellation of specific socio-historical subjects — which can be posed only in the shape and register of a concrete programme of action and guidelines for the enforcement of that programme – is clearly beyond the remit of their theoretical practice. And it’s precisely this academicised Marxist modality of reflection and analysis of movements that would arguably be on display at the various panels meant to discuss Kashmir, Nepal, the Maoist-led tribal movements in central and eastern India, the recent workers’ upsurge in the industrial belt of National Capital Region and the like at the Historical Materialism conference here. For, even the best and the most well-intentioned among the panelists — their numbers are few and far between — engage with their objects of analysis as no more than sympathetic ethnographers. Their outside support for such movements eventually shirks the ultimate responsibility of plunging into the practical materiality of movements. A move, which if made through the immersion of their analytical engagement with those movements into the practicality of the latter, would render their analyses and the approach that underpins them to become the sublated constitutivity of programmes of those movements in question. That would not only rid their theory of its academicism but also simultaneously enrich the movements in question with the spirit of revolutionary generalisation, thereby enabling the revolutionary praxis constitutive of those movements to tend towards overcoming the historical limits imposed on them. Limits that inevitably tend to hypostatise the movemental materiality of revolutionary praxis into overgeneralising sectarianism at the level of practice and pragmatic epistemological fetishism at the level of theory.

The remit of critical theory that prevents it from straying beyond its own prettified gardens into the dank and malodorous world of really-existing politics that lie beyond them is, needless to say, imposed on practitioners of such theory by the position that is constitutive of the way they envisage their theoretical practice as an untainted and untaintable outside to the historically concrete social and political movements. Such a conception of theoretical practice and its actual operation – which is constitutive of the academicisation of radical theory in general and Marxism in particular – stems from the purist and puritanical yearning of its practitioners to evade in advance the vagaries, exigencies, impurities, ugliness and errors, which engaging with such really existing movements by being integral to their respective agencies of practice inevitably brings. Clearly, they know, or care to know, nothing about the revolutionary virtue of risking all that taint by going through those vagaries, exigencies, impurities, ugliness and errors of practicality in order to extenuate them in practice. Nor do they remember, drunk as they are on their ephemeral status of being philosopher-kings, that the foundational logic of their academicised theoretical practice is precisely a restoration of the effete Young Hegelian legacy of “critical criticism” or “critical philosophy” that Marx systematically demolished to establish the rigorous scientificity of critique of political economy as practical critique.

However, to explain away academicisation of Marxist theory merely in terms of such motivations of a group or section of intellectuals would be sheer psychologism unbecoming of a complete and rigorous Marxist analysis of the same. We need to understand the structural condition of possibility – structural causality if you will – of such psychological motivations to turn Marxism from a revolutionary theory for revolutionary practice into an accommodated, and impotent ideology. To effectively combat such academicisation, of which HM, Delhi, not unlike Legal Marxism in late 19th century Russia, is a typical exemplar, we must recognise it for what it really is: a symptom of the conjunctural crisis of both Marxist theory and revolutionary working-class movements. This crisis, which is currently manifest as movements without theory and theory without movements, has arisen from the shifting of the conjunctural regime from that of embedded liberalism to that of neoliberalism. Due to this shift, the theoretical recognition of the revolutionary subject lags behind its recomposition, which has devastated the forms of organisation – both political and conceptual. In such circumstances, we are confronted with, to paraphrase Gramsci, a monstrosity: a conceptually elevated theory that has emerged, in lieu of the yet-to-be-born revolutionary subject, by making the cognitive abstraction of negativity and critique into an autonomous ground from where it preaches to the impotent revolutionary subject of the earlier conjuncture and berates it for its expected lapses as if that ground were a transhistorical tribune of revolutionary reason.

So, what we have today by way of Marxism as revolutionary praxis is not a dialectical unity but a duality of two mutually competing ideologies – pragmatism (of movements under the leadership of various shades and sects of the party-left) and subjective-idealism (that goes under the name of critical theory). In such a situation, we have the party-left tendencies rejecting the academicised style of theoretical practice of academic Marxists as a psychological impulse of some individual intellectuals and the groups they comprise while engaging with the theoretical products of those academic Marxists by seeking to instrumentalise them. The party-leftists believe this to be their critical stance vis-à-vis academicised radical theory. But this attitude, in reality, amounts to no more than the playing out of the objective logic of competition and split between the theoretical subjectivity of analysis and the practical objectivity of movement, one in which the domination of the latter by the former is implicitly an established fact. Something that has reinforced and reproduced the capitalist logic of social relations within the twinned-domain of Marxist theory and working-class movements, thereby significantly undermining the radical tenor and orientation of revolutionary proletarian praxis. This hierarchical split between theory and movements has also meant that such academicised Marxism is no longer a constitutive theoretical moment of revolutionary praxis but is a reified analytic that, therefore, is destined to do no more than engage in a competitive war of one-upmanship with other non-Marxist and even anti-Marxist radical-theoretical analytics. That is clearly revealed by the liberal eclecticism that has gone as much into the making of the organisational core of the Delhi edition of the Historical Materialism conference as the conference itself. And the unsavoury controversy that has dogged the organising of the conference, what with a few pocos and semi-pocos, who had initially been part of that eclectically composed core of conference organisers, reportedly walking out of it in a huff, and threatening to boycott and even disrupt the proceedings further substantiates our charge on that score. That a good number of such pocos, semi-pocos, and non- and anti-Marxists are still very much part of both the conference and its organisational core, even as some of their friends who have abandoned it are now attacking the conference from the outside, reveals that the logic of competitive one-upmanship constitutes a marketplace of ideas which commodified academic trends share with each other in order to be part of the process of outcompeting one another. In that sense, the eclectically organised core of the conference, the conference itself and its so-called detractors on the outside are one extended continuum of academic capitalism. So much so that it would not be inaccurate to title this soap opera of a conference the ‘Extended Family of Histo-Mat and its Inner Feuds’.

This competitive co-habitation of academicised Marxism with other non- and anti-Marxist academic trends under the aegis of Historical Materialism, Delhi, is a travesty of critical dialogue the former claims to be engaged in with the latter. The only stake such Marxism has in its engagement with those other theoretical tendencies (read analytics/ideologies) is accommodation in the marketplace of ideas in competitive co-existence with all other kinds of discursive commodities. Need we tell these Marxist industrialists and their non-Marxist academic compatriots that their unctuous and self-important claims of a holding ‘critical dialogue’ among themselves can delude none for long save such sell-outs and hustlers as themselves?  Critical dialogue, they ought to be reminded, is polemical communication, not competition. One that constitutes radical antagonism between the horizons of commodification and the politics of decommodification, effecting radical separation between them.

Nurses celebrate International Women’s Day

Today (9 March), large numbers of nurses from Delhi & NCR hospitals gathered under the banner of Nurses Welfare Association and Centre for Struggling Women (CSW) to celebrate International Women’s Day. The meeting was called to discuss problems such as lack of safety for women nurses, strenuous work schedules due to poor nurse to patient ratios, pay disparity between private hospital and government hospital nurses, etc. The nurses decided to use the historic occasion of International Women’s Day to come together, especially due to growing concerns regarding rising incidents of sexual violence on women in the city.

The meeting commenced with two prominent panelists, Dr Mary John (Professor of Economics, J.N.U.) and Dr Bijayalaxmi Nanda (Asst. Professor, Miranda House, D.U.), addressing issues like gender discrimination in workplaces. Other speakers like Mrs. Krishnakumar from the Nurses Welfare Association encouraged the nurses to voice their concerns about harassment and exploitation at workplaces. Maya John from the woman’s organization, Centre for Struggling Women, emphasized that for sexual violence and discrimination to come to an end it was necessary for greater numbers of women to enter public spaces, and hence, for greater employment generation. She argued that such enhanced participation of women in the workforce would effectively challenge existing discrimination in workplaces.

Maya speaking at Public Meeting of Nurses

Anxious about the daily risks they face while commuting to work as well as when at work in hospitals, women nurses discussed how existing laws regulating workplaces need to be re-assessed. Many of the nurses complained of harassment by patients’ visitors, as well as male hospital staffers. However, they felt that such sexual harassment was made worse by the fact that most of them were in highly exploitative work contracts. Many nurses, for example, expressed how growing contractualization of work was forcing them into more vulnerable conditions. They discussed how the lack of government hospitals was compelling most nurses to enter contract jobs in private hospitals/clinics where salaries were low and on an average ranged from just Rs. 5000-10000 rupees per month. Moreover, the simple fact that many private hospitals force their nursing staff to work extra shifts, do overtime, etc. and do not at the same time provide for something as basic as transportation to their women employees, is indicative of the conscious ways in which hospital managements’ are putting their women work force at continuous risk. Similarly, by not providing on-campus accommodation to their nursing staff, most hospitals were compelling nurses to commute unsafe distances after their evening shift.

Public Meeting of Nurses

Many nurses employed across Delhi-NCR hospitals also complained that hospital bouncers are often used to physically and verbally intimidate nurses who speak out about unsafe and exploitative work conditions. The nurses also highlighted how the local administration and local police stations have proved to be very lax in their response to complaints made by nurses about sexual harassment, stalking, and even complaints concerning the use of bouncers by hospital managements during nurses’ strikes.

In this light, the nurses discussed and passed a resolution/demand charter. This charter included demands like pressing the Government to constitute a wage board for the health sector, to create more government funded nursing colleges and government hospitals, and to properly regulate work conditions in hospitals, i.e. by conducting regular safety audits. According to the nurses, the safety audits would help regulate: (i) work hours/shifts given; (ii) whether a safe atmosphere exists in and around hospitals; (iii) whether the recent Supreme Court ruling against the bond system (i.e. surrender of original certificates to the hospital management for the period of contract) is being followed in all hospitals and nursing homes; (iv) whether written work contracts are being provided to all employees; etc. The nurses believe that it is through such regular safety audits that the Government can assess whether such essential work conditions exist in workplaces or not. Moreover, in the light of how unregulated private transportation is in the Delhi-NCR region, the nurses also resolved to petition the Government to make it mandatory for all hospitals to provide transportation to their staff. In addition to this, it was also felt that a better managed and more accountable public transport had to be introduced by the Government in order to replace various modes of unregulated private transport—a measure which will go a long way in ensuring safety of women commuters.

Lastly, the issue of regulating the functioning of police stations was also raised in the meeting. After many nurses recounted their experiences at local thanas where their complaints were not entertained, the gathering of nurses decided to press for some concrete action on this front. The nurses felt that lodging of FIRs and placing of police stations under CCTV surveillance in order to encourage prompt police action, has become a non-negotiable demand. The fact that many women, including those who face sexual harassment at home or in workplaces, are still afraid to file complaints with the Police, or, have been turned away by police stations, is a serious problem that the nurses will address collectively, and raise with the concerned authorities.

Maya John, Convener, Centre For Struggling Women, 
Contact: 9350272637, 9540716048, cswdelhi@gmail.com

RESOLUTIONS PASSED IN 09.03.2013 MEETING OF NURSES

We, members of the nursing community in India, solemnly resolve to press forward with the following common concerns and demands:

  1. Organize and mobilize other nursing and health personnel on the need for a wage board for health sector

  2. Expose institutions that are violating the recent Supreme Court ruling against the bond system

  3. Intensify the struggle for more public-funded nursing colleges

  4. Provision of compulsory transportation for all nursing and health personnel

  5. Provision of on-campus residential facility by hospitals

  6. Enhanced security provisions in and around hospitals so as to prevent assaults (including sexual assaults) on nursing staff

  7. Mandatory consultation with nursing representatives while formulating work-related provisions such as shift-timing, dress code, etc. This is essential so as to prevent practices like assigning night duty to a single female—a practice which often exposes the lone nurse to harassment by ward-boys, other male staff, etc.

  8. Provision of greater educational and job opportunities for women, especially in terms of starting more government hospitals

  9. Intensify the on-going struggle against contractualization of the nursing profession

  10. Parity in the salary-scales of nursing tutors and government college lecturers

  11. Complaints of sexual harassment, violence and intimidation of women should be filed immediately by the concerned police station. Non-filing of FIR and/or lack of prompt police action should result in severe action against concerned SHO as such behaviour amounts to dereliction of duty

  12. Conducting of regular safety audits of hospitals by the Government so as to assess whether necessary conditions of security are provided to hospital staff and whether nursing staff are not being exploited

  13. Parity in salaries of nurses working in private hospitals and those working in government hospitals

  14. Protection of labour rights and fundamental rights like freedom of speech and assembly, during agitations/strikes called by nursing staff. District officials and police authorities should take strict action against hospitals for using bouncers to intimidate nursing staff. The responsibility of any untoward incidents like assault on nurses in struggle lies with local/district authorities who should be made accountable

Nagpur: A Leaflet for the 20-21 February all India workers strike

Issued by a workers journal, Parivartan ki Disha, Nagpur
on Feb 12, 2013, Translated from Hindi

Make the nationwide general strike on 20, 21 February a success through your own initiatives!

Central Trade Unions have called for a countrywide general strike on 20-21 February. Workers from all central institutions and industries like Banking, Coal, Transportation, Postal, Shipping, Ordinance (Defense), Steel will observe this two-day all India level strike by organizing rallies against anti-worker policies of the government. Unions have demanded that the price-hikes should be controlled and concrete measures should be taken towards employment generation, contract workers should get wages and benefits equal to permanent workers, every citizen should get pension, and minimum wages should be at least Rs 10,000 per month. We support these demands of the unions and appeal to the workers and common masses to give the strike a massive support. However, we would like to underline the fact that there is an established opinion among union leaders and workers that a general strike of unionized workers in the organized sectors is enough to ensure a 100% success of the strike. But is this understanding correct? Without the participation of millions of unorganized workers (those who are not members of unions) in our struggle, in our movement and in our strikes, can our movement attain its aims and objectives? We the workers should give serious thoughts to this question.

The Call for a Strike and Today’s Situation

Last year on Feb 28 there was another one-day countrywide strike on the call of the unions. What did we achieve from that strike? There was a hope among union leadership that the strike would pressurize the government to agree to bring the unions to table to discuss their demands, but this hope proved to be false. Whether the government is that of UPA or of NDA, or of any party or alliance, Indian government itself is a big capitalist, an investor. Indian government is itself selling capital to foreign capitalists by taking it out from the public industries, for investing in other countries for more profit. In this situation, for unions to think that workers’ interests would be protected if their mother parties form or join the government is very distant from the reality. Today throughout the globe the slowdown of capitalist production and distribution has plunged the system into a deep crisis because of its own contradictions. The efforts of the G-8 and G-20 countries to come out of this crisis have taken the forms of new economic policies, new labour policies that establish contract system, outsourcing, foreign investment, divestment, privatisation, multinationalisation etc. Capitalist governments everywhere are indulging in deception, fraudulent practices and measures in order to provide oxygen to their respective economies. In this situation, to differentiate between the American and Indian governments and support the latter is purely a bourgeois point of view. In the same manner to differentiate between foreign capital and national capital and take the side of national capital against foreign capital is anti-working class since the colour& character  of both the foreign as well as national capital is same—to exploit workers in every possible way.  On the contrary, we must adopt a working class position and advance on the basis of a long-term working class understanding. Today to say that the working class should follow the ideals of Gandhi, Vivekananda or other saints (as some unions have said this in their leaflets) will amount to a gross neglect of the specificities of the changed reality. Could anyone have imagined 100 years back that India would attain such a high level of production, which it has attained through the capitalist mode of production?

The need for a new approach to the question of Struggle, Movement and Organisation

What did we achieve from the 28 Feb 2012 strike? If nothing, then why not? How are we being deprived of even the minimum that we had? Are the tactics that we are adopting to regain them correct? What are the new means that need to be invented to attain our objectives? There is a growing need to give priority to a discussion on these questions.

Today, union leaders are formulating our demands and calling for strikes. When we formulate our own demands in a collective manner and take our own measures to attain them, then whether the strikes will be for one or two days or indefinite will not be decided beforehand. Then our struggle and movement will not be limited to slogan shouting at factory gates or street-corners. Then our struggle would generate a massive workers unity, long-term movements and revolutionary organisations. The beginning to “Take your own initiatives – be organised – implement on your own” must be made at our own workplaces – we will have to start thinking of struggles and movements on the basis of our self-activities on the everyday questions.

False Unity, Real Unity

As long as we accept the present relationship between capital and labour, we will have to deal with the problems generated by their contradictions. More and more exploitation, attacks on workers to gain profits – all these are necessary for capital, they are its compulsions. Capitalist production process has itself arrived at its final stage. Worldwide depression, inflation, unemployment, outsourcing, contractualisation, increase in the amount of work, increase in the working hours, shutdown of the newer companies before they could attain their maximum capacity are all symptoms of a moribund capitalism. In order to save ourselves from destructive wars, to save environment, humanity and all other species it has become extremely necessary to remove this inhuman capitalist production system by establishing a collective production-distribution system or socialism that is based on associative collectivity of workers-producers – their control and management.  Present organisations and unions are associated with political parties who are entrenched within the capitalist parliamentary system. These organisations and unions do talk about workers but they are ever ready to establish secured positions for the leaders in the present society and within their own organisations – they reproduce the distance between leaders and general workers. The unity among today’s unions and organisations are enforced from above, and thus are unstable and illusory. On the other hand, struggles and movements initiated by workers themselves would generate workers organisations (factory committees, workers councils etc) promoting a true unity with a commitment towards revolutionary transformation. A strong, long-term unity is possible only on the initiatives of the workers themselves.

The need for a struggle based on the unity between permanent and temporary workers

The capitalist class in India has achieved two goals in the general interest of capital by implementing the new economic policy. By employing cheap contractual labour in place of permanent workers, they have, on the one hand, subsidised the production cost, and on the other, they have intensified intra-class competition and discrimination on the basis of permanent and temporary categories. Permanent workers look down upon temporary contract workers instead of recognising them as equals, thus fragmenting the workers unity. Hence, in order to intensify the struggle against their exploitation and oppression by capital through their own initiatives, establishment of a unity between permanent and temporary workers is extremely necessary. In this regard, permanent workers will have to take the initiative. In 2011-12, workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar led a heroic struggle on the basis of such unity between permanent and temporary workers and despite an intensive crackdown by the management, government and police on the workers after the July 18 incident the struggle is still on – on the basis of this unity.

Learning from the struggle of Maruti Suzuki workers, during the upcoming Feb 20-21 strike, let us build workers committees uniting workers across all segmentations and divisions – permanent-temporary, men-women etc. Let us build our struggle on our own initiatives on the principle of “Do not demand, but implement’, and continue it even after the strike! Only then we will be able to pressure the government and the capitalist class to concede. Only by a continuous struggle based on our own initiatives beyond any ritualistic confines can we make this two-day strike successful.

Video: National Protest Day in Support of Maruti Suzuki Workers (Delhi), Feb 5

Maruti Struggle: National Protest Day (February 5)

As you are well aware, we workers in Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Manesar, Gurgaon are waging a struggle against the exploitation and injustice heaped on us by the company management, state administration and the government. Our only crime has been that we have dared to raise our voice for the demand of formation of Union and against the illegal practice of contract workers system.

Since 18th July 2012, after the unfortunate incident in the factory premises as part of a management-woven conspiracy, we workers have been continually facing the brunt of repression. The company-management has at once terminated the jobs of over 1500 contract workers along with 546 permanent workers. They have, with the help of the state administration, heaped fabricated cases ranging from arson to murder on 211 of our fellow workers, while 149 workers, including our entire Union leadership, continue to languish in Jail for the last 6 months. Keeping aside all legality, workers and our families have continuously faced brute police atrocities.

We have chosen the path of struggle against this repression and injustice. In the past 6 months, even when faced with various state administrative blockades and repression, our spirits are unfazed and our movement is raging on. One of the reasons that we are able to sustain this struggle is also the solidarity and support that we have continued to receive from various workers organisations-trade unions and pro-people forces. But to take the struggle forward, we require more support and solidarity from your side.

In this stage of the struggle, we have decided that on 5th February 2013, Tuesday, there be a all-India day of solidarity action, demonstrations in our support and on that day itself, a memorandum also be sent addressed to Chief Minister of Haryana. We not only hope but trust that we will get your full solidarity once again. Against the nexus of company-management and state power, the protest of our pro-justice and class unity shall reach the deaf ears of those in power.

With revolutionary greetings,
Imaan Khan, Ramnivas, Omprakash, Mahaveer, Yogesh, Katar Singh, Rajpal
Provisional working Committee
Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

For the memorandum on 5th February 2013:
Address/Ph. No./Fax No. of Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Chief Minister, Haryana
Office: Room No. 45, 4th floor, Civil Sectt., Chandigarh, Haryana.
Ph No. 0172-2749396/2749409 (O); 2749394/2749395 (R)
Fax: 2740596; EPBAX Ext. 2401, 2402
Residence: Kothi No. 1, Sector 3, Chandigarh

MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION: Condemn state repression on Justice Rally

Friends,

We from the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) and our families continue to face not only an exploitative company management but also continous state repression since we started our agitation demanding justice and legitimate rights of workers.

This morning, Imaan Khan, one of the members of the Provisional Working Committee, MSWU, was picked up by the Haryana police while a Press Conference was underway, from outside the union office of Sarva Karmachari Sangh in Civil Lines, Gurgaon near Puspanjali Hospital.

This press conference and other such programs are being organized as part of the week-long ‘JUSTICE RALLY’ through the villages and cities across Haryana from 21st January 2012 to culminate in a Dharna in Rohtak on 27th January.

Also today morning, one of the teams of the state-wide jattha which started from Rewari yesterday and were starting from Dharuhera today, was also harassed, intimidated and finally forcibly picked up by the police from Bilaspur- all 20 workers’ cycles were dumped into police vehicles and dropped off to a village in Jhajjhar. When the workers valiantly resisted these repressive tactics by laying on the ground and holding on to each each, the police used force to remove us and gave threat of arrests and torture if we enter Gurgaon.

Before this, on 22nd and 23rd January, police tried raiding our Union Office and threatened workers and their families of further arrests and torture if we dare to continue with our agitation. Besides our 149 fellow workers who continue to languish in jail for the last seven months, non-bailable arrest warrants against 66 more workers have been slapped on whom police repression is continuous. 546 permanent and 1800 contract workers have been terminated from our jobs.

We strongly condemn this continuous use of brute police force on workers and our families and anti-worker stance of our elected representatives, which is showing how nakedly the state is working to maintain the injustice and exploitation by the management of Maruti Suzuki company. It is our democratic right to protest, and we demand the immediate release of Imaan Khan, MSWU Provisional Working Committee member, and stop to further harassment by the police on our justice rally for Rohtak 27th January.

Ramnivas, Omprakash, Mahavir, Yogesh, Katar Singh, Rajpal

on behalf of Provisional Working Committee

MARUTI SUZUKI WORKERS UNION

Global protests against Vedanta (January 11): A Report

People across the globe have registered their protests against Vedanta once again. On January 11, parallel demonstrations took place in Orissa, London and New York where activists in hundreds raised slogans and upheld placards to denounce the corporate annexations of  indigenous peoples’ lands.

From Niyamgiri hills, more than 500 people turned up at a rally which covered about two kilometers in the Bhawanipatna town. Resistance movements in Lanjigarh have also inspired tribal representatives of Karlapat region whose mountains are now being targeted by the mining companies. In this rally, several people who were cheated of their lands narrated the atrocities and tortures they faced from Vedanta highhandedness in Lanjigarh. They also gave an account of how the company goons and the local police routinely harass the women in the afflicted areas.

Orissa

In solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Orissa, a loud group of protesters from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups mobbed the company’s Mayfair headquarters in London the same day. Holding a banner that read “FCA: de-list Vedanta”, the demonstrators called for the Financial Conduct Authority to remove Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.

London

Likewise, in New York City, protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters to highlight the company’s human rights crimes, displaying placards that read: “Our Mountain! Our Rights! Vedanta: Give Up!” and “Dongria Kond’s Niyamgiri: Hands Off!”

New York

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India has deferred its final verdict on Vedanta’s planned mega-mine until 21st January. If permission to mine is denied Vedanta is likely to close its Lanjigarh refinery due to lack of bauxite costing them billions. On Sunday the Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh plans to visit the threatened mountain to visit the Dongria Kond.

Various grassroots groups including Phulbari Solidarity Group, Japan Against Nuclear, Tamil Solidarity and London Mining Network, along with Foil Vedanta gathered at Vedanta’s London headquarters to add their voice to recent pressure for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations. They shouted ‘Vedanta out of London’ and blew horns and whistles. Several parliamentarians and the former CBI Director Richard LambertLondon have highlighted how Vedanta’s listing is used for legal immunity to hide their corporate crimes.

At the Supreme Court in Delhi today lawyers for Vedanta dwelled on the ongoing demonstrations in London, asking why people are protesting there, and claiming that India is suffering because of this. Judges noted that this is not relevant to the case and pointed out that people have a right to protest. Foil Vedanta’s spokesperson reacted:

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability. We will continue to draw attention to their corporate crimes here in London”.

Activists at the rally in Bhawanipatna chanted “Vedanta go back: water, land and forest ours. We are Supreme people of the supreme court” while dalit leader Surendra Nag spoke about the loss of land and livelihood for local people, some of whom have ended up as beggars. One man spoke of how his whole family had been tortured by company goons and they had lost 6 acres of land to the company without compensation.

The project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments. The Delhi High Court is also currently investigating the large donations from Vedanta to India’s two main political parties which could be deemed illegal as Vedanta is a foreign (British) company.

A cover story in major Indian glossy Open Magazine in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Orissa state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through. Meanwhile Vedanta’s chairman and 56.7% owner Anil Agarwal has launched a rare PR crusade claiming that Vedanta ‘have not cut one tree’ and respects and preserves the rights of the protesting indigenous tribe living on the threatened mountain. He sets out his extractive philosophy for India – suggesting that exploration should be drastically increased and regulation decreased to provide for the domestic market for metals and oil.

If Vedanta loses the case to allow state owned company Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the mountain on their behalf they may have to close the dependent Lanjigarh refinery costing them billions. Under enormous pressure from Vedanta the Orissa government has suggested alternative bauxite supplies from a deposit located in a major wildlife sanctuary and tribal area at Karlapat arousing anger and opposition from grassroots groups.

The court’s decision rests on whether the Green Bench of India’s Supreme Court rules the rights of forest dwellers to be ‘inalienable or compensatory’. In view of this, India’s Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the Environment Minister to ensure the rights of forest dwellers is protected in the spirit of the Forest Dwellers Act.

Speaking about the verdict, Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states: “We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.”

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says:

“Vedanta is not the only mining company that should be de-listed for their corporate crimes. Infamous London listed offenders Lonmin in South Africa, Monterrico in Peru, GCM in Phulbari and Bumi in Indonesia should also be investigated for extensive human rights atrocities.”