“Development for all”, the slogan with which the BJP headed by Narendra Modi took charge in 2014, has remained an empty promise. It is a cruel joke for crores of toiling people in the villages, towns and metro cities. It is as bad as the old empty slogans of the Congress Party such as “garibi hatao!” (Wipe out poverty!).
It is an undeniable fact that the economic system is not satisfying the claims of the working people who together produce all the wealth of our country. Economic growth is satisfying only the greed of a capitalist minority, headed by the Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas and other monopoly houses.
Workers employed in mining, manufacturing, construction, energy, transport, communication, hotels, education, health and other services together produce the major part of the annual addition to India’s wealth, also called the value added or Net Domestic Product. They get less than half of what they contribute to society. They produce over 70% of the value added but get paid less than 35%.
More than 60% of the Indian population depends on agriculture and related activities. However, peasants and agricultural workers receive less than 15% of the total value added as their net incomes. Other small-scale producers and shopkeepers receive about 10% of the value added.
As much as 40%-45% of the value added is pocketed by those who own capital and earn profit and interest incomes. They claim their share not on the basis of any effort they put in, but on the basis of their ownership of the means of production and exchange. The Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas and other monopoly houses, who head the capitalist class, are rapidly growing richer and increasing their domination in all spheres. The majority of people are being exploited and robbed to the maximum extent possible so as to fulfil the greed of monopoly capitalists.
For the vast majority of workers, wage increases are too little and too late in relation to the rapidly rising cost of living. Working hours are getting longer, leaving too little time to spend with their families. Job security is becoming rare, with increasing use of temporary and fixed-term contracts.
The vast majority of peasants and other small-scale producers are not receiving the value of their products. They are being robbed in the market by private traders and capitalist companies, Indian and foreign.
Those who produce India’s wealth are fighting for their legitimate share of the social product. Crores of workers and peasants have been participating in mass protest actions, demanding that their legitimate claims be met.
Peasants are demanding State support for provision of irrigation, seeds and other inputs at affordable prices. They are demanding guaranteed remunerative prices and timely payment for their produce, in addition to waiver of past farm loans. They have demanded a special session of Parliament to address the crisis of agriculture.
While agreeing only to the waiver of some farm loans or offering some meagre income transfer to peasants, governments at the centre and the states are refusing to address the source of the problem. In the name of leaving everything to the “market forces”, even the limited system of state procurement of wheat and rice has been systematically cut back. Peasants have been left to the mercy of private companies and commercial banks, which rob the fruits of their toil and also threaten to grab their land.
Peasants and agricultural labourers have also had to suffer the devastating effects of the Note Ban of November 2016, which suddenly deprived them of their cash and robbed them of their livelihood. Since 2017, peasants have to pay GST on fertilisers, pesticides and other manufactured inputs. While capitalist companies get back the GST they pay in the form of input tax credit, peasants and other small producers do not get back any of the GST they pay because they cannot afford to register and file monthly tax returns.
Small-scale producers in urban areas have also suffered as a result of the Note Ban and GST. Capitalist companies are growing more and more dominant in almost all sectors of the economy, including even retail trade, pushing lakhs of small-scale producers and shopkeepers out of business. Economic growth is producing wealth at one pole and widespread poverty at the other pole.
The profit and interest incomes of the capitalist class are not deployed towards fulfilling the needs of our people. Monopoly capitalists invest only when and where they see prospects for maximum profits. They divert huge amounts of their capital towards speculation and towards investments in foreign countries, while a large part of the human productive forces within the country remain unemployed.
The Prime Minister and others boast that the most precious asset of India is her youthful work force. However, this precious asset is not being productively employed. The youth of our country are being devastated and destroyed under monopoly capitalist rule. They are being driven into drugs and into all kinds of criminal activities, including those organised by political parties of the capitalist class.
Since the 1990s, politicians of ruling parties have been singing the tune that excessive state regulation was the main constraint to India’s development in the past. “Leave everything to the market forces”, they said. If Indian capitalists expand their wealth as rapidly as possible, something will trickle down to the toiling masses, they claimed. Those slogans and claims stand widely discredited today.
The program of globalisation, through liberalisation and privatisation, has revealed itself to be a program to satisfy the greed of monopoly capitalists, at the expense of the claims of the rest of society. It is a program of withdrawal of the State from its obligations to the people.
Every year, the State extracts more and more out of the meagre incomes of workers, peasants and other working people in the form of direct and indirect taxes. It extends numerous tax exemptions to capitalist companies. When it comes to government expenditure, first priority is given to those programs and projects which are most beneficial to the biggest capitalist corporations, Indian and foreign. There is no money left to ensure the provision of essential services to the working people; no money to improve government schools or public health centres, or to ensure secure homes and safe drinking water for all.
The economy keeps falling into crisis because the working people are too poor to purchase what capitalists want to sell. Adequate employment is not being generated because the social surplus is cornered by a wealthy minority which invests only where maximum profits can be made.
The capital-centred orientation of government policy can be seen in the way so-called economic experts talk about any public program towards fulfilling people’s needs. They talk as if all such programs are a wasteful drain on the resources of the country. Whether it is a question of strengthening the public distribution system or public procurement to guarantee remunerative prices to peasants, they call it a “subsidy”. On the other hand, spending public money to waive loans of big capitalist defaulters, in the name of “bank recapitalisation”, is considered to be essential for the nation!
The reality is the opposite of what the capitalist class propagates. Spending public funds to ensure that everyone is provided with adequate food, education, health care and other essential needs is not a waste. It is the most essential investment because people are the most precious productive resource of the country. What is blocking the path to such essential investment is the greed of monopoly capitalists, their exorbitant claims on the social product and on public funds.
The problem lies in the rule of the capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses. It lies in the State being an instrument to defend a system of social production geared to fulfil the private greed of a tiny minority. To ensure that the claims of all members of society are satisfied, the rule of this greedy exploitative class needs to be replaced by the rule of workers, peasants and all those who work with their hands and their brains.
While production is highly socialised, ownership and control of the means of production and exchange is highly privatised and concentrated in extremely few hands. This contradiction can and must be resolved. The only way to resolve it is to bring ownership and control into the hands of the working class, allied with peasants, other toilers and progressive intellectuals. From being oriented to maximise capitalist profits, the economy has to be reoriented to satisfy human needs. Investing in the people must become the top most priority.
If all Indian people are to have a secure roof over their heads, a great deal of house construction needs to take place. It will require a huge increase in the production of steel, cement, bricks and other building materials. Meeting that requirement would generate lakhs of additional jobs in such industrial sectors. If good quality education is to be provided for all, lakhs of additional teachers have to be hired. Similar is the case of producing and providing adequate food, clothing, health care, water supply and sanitation for all. Reorienting social production towards fulfilling human needs would generate crores of additional jobs in many sectors.
To carry out this reorientation, it is necessary for workers, peasants and all other toiling people to unite and take political power into their hands.
The power to decide how the social surplus is deployed, how the people are taxed and how public funds are spent, must be taken out of the hands of the big capitalists and their trusted parties. The power to decide must be brought into the hands of those who work and produce the material blessings.
With power in their hands, working people can do away with “monopoly right”. They can deprive monopoly capitalists of their exorbitant claims. They can guarantee the protection of human rights and satisfaction of the claims of those who work on the fruits of their toil.
Under workers’ and peasants’ rule, vital sectors of the economy will be immediately brought under social ownership and control, including steel, energy, finance, large-scale domestic and foreign trade. The big private companies operating in these spheres will be immediately nationalised. Tax exemptions and other concessions to capitalist companies will be ended. The tax burden on the working people will be drastically reduced. A universal law on minimum wages will be immediately enacted and all employers who violate workers’ rights will be strictly punished.
Under workers’ and peasants’ rule, highest priority in the government budget would be accorded to irrigation and other needs of peasants, and to ensure procurement of their produce at remunerative prices. Adequate funds would be committed to ensure good quality education, health care, water supply and sanitation for all. Adequate funds would be allocated for developing a universal modern public distribution system that ensures availability of essential consumption goods at affordable prices for all. All forms of unproductive drain of public resources would be immediately halted, such as paying interest at commercial rates to banks and selling public assets to private companies.
In sum, there is only one solution to the problems plaguing the Indian economy. The solution is for workers, peasants and all other working people to unite and organise to become the masters of India. They can then reorient the economy and state policy to fulfil human needs, instead of fulfilling monopoly capitalist greed.