Twenty nine year ago, on April 11, 1993, communists and other political activists, trade union activists, activists in the women’s movement, human rights activists, judges and lawyers, academics, writers and cultural activists came together at a meeting held in the Constitution Club, New Delhi, to establish the Preparatory Committee for Peoples Empowerment (CPE).
The destruction of Babri Masjid in December 1992 by the two main parties of the ruling class — the Congress and the BJP — followed by widespread communal violence organised by these parties throughout the country showed that the people had no power at all in the existing political system.
It was a time when the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the bi-polar division of the world had ushered in a new period. The imperialist bourgeoisie of the world had begun an all-sided offensive against all the achievements of the working class and peoples in the twentieth century.
It was a time when the ruling bourgeoisie of our country decided to jettison the old Nehruvian “socialistic pattern of society”, which had served it in the previous period, and began to pursue the course of globalization through liberalization and privatisation. The working class, peasants, women and youth were coming out onto the streets to oppose this anti-people and anti-national course. In these conditions, the ruling class resorted to the unleashing of mayhem and violence in order to push its agenda and drown the struggles of the people in blood.
On 22 February, 1993, a historic rally was organised at the Ferozshah Kotla ground, in defiance of the ban on rallies that had been imposed by the Central Government. The rally was organised jointly by Mazdoor Ekta Committee and various women’s organisations and human rights activists. The rally issued a farsighted appeal to all men and women of conscience. It called on them to come together to end the criminalization of politics and the marginalization of people from political power. Across the length and breadth of our country, men and women of conscience responded by signing the appeal.
The founding of the Preparatory CPE was a recognition of the fact that the political and economic crisis in which Indian society was engulfed in, could only be resolved by ending the marginalization of people from political power. The CPE initiated a wide ranging discussion on the problems in the present parliamentary system and its political process. The experience of the struggle against communal violence and in defence of human rights and democratic rights was summed up. These discussions led to the conclusion that the existing system of democracy and its political process are fundamentally flawed.
Critical analysis of the existing system led to the recognition that the Constitution of India vests sovereignty in a tiny clique — the Cabinet within the parliament, whose advice the President is duty bound to follow. The only role people have is to cast a vote once every few years to one or another candidate selected by rival parties of the ruling class. Electoral outcomes are determined by the bourgeoisie, through money, muscle, media power and outright rigging of elections. Once they have cast their vote, people have no further role at all. It is the agenda set by the bourgeoisie that is implemented by the party which is entrusted with running the government. To address these flaws, necessary changes must be carried out to bring people to the center of the decision-making process. The Constitution must vest sovereignty in the people.
Men and women from all walks of life took up the work of people’s empowerment as their own. The founding of Lok Raj Sangathan in January 1999 reflected the need to make the movement for people’s empowerment a mass movement encompassing the workers, peasants, women, youth and all those who are marginalized and disempowered within the present system — that is the overwhelming majority of people.
Developments over the past 29 years have only confirmed and reconfirmed the urgent necessity for taking the struggle for people’s empowerment forward.
The majority of people in our country are waging a valiant struggle for their rights. Workers are demanding security of livelihood and social security for all, and an immediate halt to the program of privatisation and liberalization. Kisans are demanding the establishment of a universal public procurement system for all agricultural produce, along with a Minimum Support Price that will be remunerative. People want that education, health care, electricity, public transport, be treated as public services, with the state duty bound to provide them for all.
The Kashmiris, Assamese, Manipuris, Nagas, and other nations and peoples constituting India yearn for a life of dignity, wherein their language, culture, and way of life are respected. They do not want to be forced to live under the jack boots of the armed forces.
Breaking old taboos and restrictions, women have been raising their voice against sexual harassment, discrimination and oppression. They are demanding their rights, as women and as human beings.
People want an end to discrimination and oppression on the basis of religion. They yearn for a state and system which will guarantee the right to conscience of all, and punish those who unleash communalism and communal violence. They want an end to the hated caste system which oppresses people and debases the human personality.
However, the reality is that in the existing system, people have no way to ensure that any of their problems can be solved.
All the problems confronting Indian society have their root in the rule of the bourgeoisie and exclusion of the exploited majority of people from power. The bourgeoisie, headed by the capitalist monopoly houses, controls the principal means of production. The state — the executive, the legislature, judiciary, the parliamentary parties of the bourgeoisie, and other institutions — all serve to ensure the rule of the bourgeoisie over the workers and peasants. Periodic elections serve to legitimize this rule.
The Indian bourgeoisie is pursuing the course of enriching itself at the fastest possible pace, in collusion and contention with the imperialist bourgeoisie of other countries. Towards this end, it is intensifying the exploitation of workers, robbery of peasants and plunder of the natural resources of the people. Communalism and communal violence, caste divisions and oppression, national oppression, and the oppression of women serve the bourgeoisie to intensify the all-sided exploitation and oppression of the people.
People are repeatedly told that the problems they are confronted with are stemming from the policies of the particular party in charge of the government, and they can bring about a change by electing another party to run the government. This is a big lie. It is the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, which determines the policies to be pursued. The party which is in charge of the government merely implements these policies.
The most important thing for workers and peasants to understand, is that the political system of multi-party representative democracy is the preferred way the bourgeoisie rules over workers and peasants, and legitimizes its rule. In the present system, the executive is not accountable to the elected legislature and those elected to parliament are not accountable to the electorate. People have no say in deciding on laws and policies. Candidates for election are selected by parties; people have no say in who can be a candidate and who cannot. The electorate does not have the right to recall those elected whose work is found unsatisfactory.
The bourgeoisie, through its money power, and by rigging using its control over the state machinery, determines the outcome of elections. It ensures that only a party which will loyally implement its agenda, is given charge of running the government.
If the economic system is to serve the masses of people, it is essential that the working people themselves make all the major decisions. What is needed is a state that would deprive the bourgeoisie of the exclusive decision making power it enjoys today, and guarantee that this power is vested in the people as a whole.
Therefore, alongside of fighting for economic demands, the working class must make it a central part of its agenda, the struggle to vest sovereignty in the hands of the people. Once people are sovereign, we can reorient the economy to fulfil the growing needs of the people, instead of fulfilling capitalist greed. We can safeguard the economic and political independence of the country by following the principle of self-reliance.
With the aim of ensuring prosperity and protection for all, workers and peasants of India must give rise to a new state structure based on a new Constitution. The executive power will be subordinate to the legislative power, which in turn will be under the control of the people. People as a whole, organised in their workplaces and residential areas, should have decision making power in their hands. When people elect their representatives, they will not surrender all their power, but only part with a portion of it, that too temporarily. People will retain the right to demand that elected representatives render accounts periodically, as well as the right to recall them at any time.
In the new political process, political parties must be barred from usurping the power to govern. They must instead work to raise the consciousness and level of mobilization of the people so that they are fully enabled to govern themselves.
The Indian Union must be reorganized as a voluntary union of consenting nations and peoples, each enjoying the right to self-determination including and up to separation.
All parties and organisations which are fighting in defence of people’s rights, against liberalisation and privatisation, against communalism and state terrorism, need to unite and take up the program of empowering the people. This is the key to the solution of all the problems plaguing our society.