The Struggle Continues for an India without Exploitation and Oppression
Seventy three years after the end of British colonial rule, political power remains concentrated in very few hands. “Development for All” remains an empty promise.
It is the wealth and private empires of the Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas and other monopoly houses which are growing by leaps and bounds. The Central Government’s target of making India a “five trillion dollar economy” by 2024 corresponds to the imperialist aim of the capitalist monopoly houses. It reflects their vision of an India which dominates its neighbours and allies with the most aggressive imperialist power, the USA, to fulfil its own imperialist aim.
Crores of people have been deprived of their means of livelihood this year. Workers are being forced to toil for longer hours at reduced wages. Privatisation is threatening to destroy more jobs. Increasing penetration of Indian and foreign monopoly companies is threatening to push peasants deeper into poverty and debt. Recent months have witnessed mass united protest actions by workers and peasants, demanding that the State must guarantee their right to livelihood. Masses of working men, women and student youth have been protesting against caste based oppression, persecution of religious minorities and arrests of protestors and rights activists on false charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
There is an acute contradiction between the exploiting minority and the exploited majority of people in our country. This clash is not new. Even during the struggle for freedom from British colonial rule, this contradiction existed within the Indian people and influenced the course of the struggle. It took the form of a conflict between the revolutionary trend and the compromising trend within the freedom struggle.
Those who rose up in revolt during the Ghadar of 1857 were inspired by the vision of an independent India where the masses of people would exercise decision-making power. They declared, “Hum hain iske maalik; Hindustan humaara!” [India belongs to us; We are her master!] Reflecting the aim and aspiration of the insurgent masses who placed him on the throne in Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar declared that after driving the British out, the people of Hindustan would decide what kind of political system they wish to have.
The ideas which found expression in 1857 posed a serious threat to the British colonialists. Even after the uprising was defeated, they continued to fear the spread of the idea of revolution among the Indian people. The uprising of the French working class which seized control of Paris in 1871 further enhanced this fear in the British bourgeoisie. They took numerous steps to prevent the possibility of another revolutionary uprising in India, including incitement of Hindu-Muslim conflicts and sponsoring the formation of the Congress Party in 1885. They supported the formation of such a party which would claim to represent all Indians, while being led by the wealthy classes of capitalists and landlords, and their English educated political representatives.
The British looked upon the Congress Party as a safety valve, to prevent the discontent of Indians from breaking out in another revolutionary uprising. In 1906, they also sponsored the formation of the Muslim League, as a rival to the Congress Party. They carried out various political reforms to accommodate propertied elite belonging to different religious and caste groups within the provincial assemblies and the colonial administrative apparatus.
While many people joined these parties for the sake of national independence, their leadership was in the hands of big capitalists and big landlords. These classes, which had accumulated their wealth by collaborating with the British rulers, pursued the aim of enhancing the space for their political representatives within the British colonial state. They hoped to ultimately take the place of the British bourgeoisie and become the principal beneficiaries of the system of loot and plunder.
The revolutionary vision put forward in 1857 was taken forward by numerous parties, starting with the Hindustan Ghadar Party formed in 1913. It mobilised workers, peasants and soldiers to fight for the aim of uprooting the colonial system and liberating our people from the multiple layers of oppression and exploitation. The Hindustan Republican Association, in its Manifesto published in January 1925, declared that the goal of an India without exploitation of any kind cannot be achieved through the laws and political process established by the British.
The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia inspired Indian revolutionaries and led to the formation of the Communist Party of India. Masses of workers and peasants rallied around this party, with the aim of overthrowing British rule and constructing a socialist India that would provide for all.
By the end of the Second World War, a revolutionary situation prevailed in British India. Masses of workers and peasants were agitating for an end to the colonial system. Peasants of Telengana were up in arms against the oppressive rule of the Nizam. Soldiers of the Indian Navy were revolting. In such conditions, the British rulers struck a backroom deal with the leadership of the Congress Party and Muslim League, to prevent the possibility of a revolution and retain India within the imperialist system.
British India was partitioned on a communal basis. Sovereignty over the partitioned territories was transferred by an Act of the British Parliament to the Constituent Assemblies of India and Pakistan, in the midst of communal violence and massive forced migration.
The Congress Party, representing the interests of the big industrial houses who were allied with the big landlords and royal families, took charge of the interim government in India and unleashed brutal repression against the workers and peasants. The Communist Party and its publications were banned. Thousands of its members were thrown into jail. The trade union movement was split by setting up the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) as a rival to the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). The central armed forces were deployed to crush the peasant uprising in Telengana.
In the midst of widespread repression of workers, peasants and youth, the unrepresentative Constituent Assembly, which had not been elected by the people as a whole, adopted the 1950 Constitution. Three-fourths of this document was copied word for word from the colonial Government of India Act of 1935.
The representatives of the Indian bourgeoisie formulated a Preamble to the Constitution to deceive the people that the independent Indian State was an instrument to serve all classes of society. They inserted whatever the people aspired for in this Preamble, to hide the fact that the operative articles of the Constitution were designed to concentrate power in their own hands.
The Constitution vests sovereignty not in the people but in the President, who is bound to follow the advice of the Cabinet formed by the party which commands a parliamentary majority. The power to make policy decisions is held exclusively by the Cabinet. The power to legislate is in the hands of the Parliament. The Constitution thereby ensures that the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is legitimised.
The armed forces, bureaucracy and other arms of the colonial state apparatus were retained to defend the rule of the bourgeoisie. The laws enacted by the British to criminalise opposition to their rule were all retained. British companies were permitted to continue and American companies were invited to form joint ventures with Indian capitalists. India has remained part of the British Commonwealth and the English language has retained its dominant position.
The capitalist class, headed by the monopoly houses, has used the political power it gained in 1947 to enormously expand its wealth. The wealthiest among them have joined the ranks of the richest of the world. Workers and peasants remain among the poorest in the world. They remain as powerless as they were under colonial rule.
Workers, peasants and other toiling people are continuing to struggle for their rights, against capitalist exploitation, imperialist plunder, communal persecution, caste and gender discrimination and oppression. For this struggle to be crowned with victory, it is necessary to end the rule of the bourgeoisie. The struggle must be waged with the aim of establishing a new State of workers’ and peasants’ rule. Only then can the economic system be reoriented to fulfil people’s needs. Only then can prosperity and protection be guaranteed for all.