Statement of the Central Committee of Communist Ghadar Party of India, 5 June 2017
June 25 marks the 42nd anniversary of the proclamation of “National Emergency” by the then President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352(1) of the Constitution. It was proclaimed on the advice of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi claiming that the government had information that "there is an imminent danger to the security of India, being threatened by internal disturbances". This state of “National Emergency” lasted for over 20 months before it was lifted and elections were held for parliament.
During the Emergency, democratic rights and civil liberties were completely suspended. Press censorship was imposed banning any article critical of the government, its policies, and the declaration of the Emergency. Protests and rallies by workers, peasants, youth and students were banned. All strikes were declared illegal. Student organisations were suppressed on campuses. Thousands of people were jailed under the fascist “Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA)” for fighting for their rights and opposing attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties. Communists were arrested, tortured and murdered by the Indian State. Leaders of parliamentary opposition parties were picked up from their homes and locked up in jails. The state governments of Gujarat and Tamilnadu run by opposition parties were dismissed. In sum, the voices of dissent were brutally suppressed.
A 20 point program unveiled by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi demagogically promised crackdown on hoarders and black marketeers, implementation of land reforms, and other “pro poor” measures. The lie was propagated that the Emergency was declared for the welfare of the toiling masses and all those who opposed it were “anti-national”. Behind this propaganda, a fascist attack was launched on the working class and toiling masses. Rail workers who had played a leading role in the historic railway strike of 1974 were accused of plotting to create internal disturbances and thrown into prison. In the name of population control, the government carried out a barbaric campaign of forced sterilization in cities and villages. The urban and rural poor were picked up from their homes and streets, and taken to sterilization camps where they were forcibly sterilized. In the name of cleaning up the cities, slums were razed and slum dwellers forcibly evicted from their homes.
In sum, a massive onslaught on the rights and liberties of the toiling people was carried out under the slogan of dealing with “imminent danger to the security of India from internal disturbances”.
The declaration of “National Emergency” just before midnight of June 25, 1975, revealed at one stroke, that Indian democracy was just a cloak covering the brutal fascist dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie over the vast masses of people. Neither the Parliament, nor even the full cabinet was involved in taking that decision. They merely rubber stamped the decision later on. What came out in naked relief was both the extreme arbitrariness of political power, and where it actually vests under the so called democratic constitution of the Indian Republic.
The proclamation of “National Emergency” was a declaration of war by the biggest monopolies controlling the Indian State against the workers and peasants and revolutionary intelligentsia. It was at the same time a declaration to their rivals within the camp of the exploiters that they too would be crushed if they dared to challenge the monopoly houses for leadership position.
The ideologues of the bourgeoisie try to make out that the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi had imposed the “National Emergency” merely to safeguard her individual position. They do so to cover up the fact that bourgeoisie headed by the biggest monopolies controls the Indian State and every party that forms a government necessarily implements its agenda. They deliberately hide the fact that the “National Emergency” was proclaimed at the behest of the biggest monopolies to stabilize and safeguard their rule.
Background to the imposition of “National Emergency”
The years preceding the declaration of “National Emergency” were characterized by an all-sided crisis. Workers and peasants, youth and students, were rebelling against their intolerable conditions and coming out onto the streets in powerful struggles in defence of their rights. Militant struggles of the poor and landless peasantry were erupting in many regions of the country. The slogan of “Garibi Hatao” was no longer able to fool the people. The historic railway strike of 1974 and mass protests by students and youth showed that people were no longer willing to accept their conditions.
The ruling class of big capitalists and big landlords were riven by sharpening contradictions within their ranks. The drive of the big capitalists to expand capitalism into the countryside, through bank nationalization and partial land reforms faced opposition from sections of the landed interests. Privy Purses (payments to erstwhile rulers of princely states who joined the Indian Union) were abolished in 1971 by a Constitutional Amendment. Within the camp of the exploiters, the drive of the biggest monopolies to establish their unrivalled leadership was facing opposition.
The contention between the US and the Soviet Union over the Indian subcontinent had also intensified. Following the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty between India and the Soviet Union and the 1971 war against Pakistan, which led to the formation of Bangladesh, the Soviet social imperialists had strengthened their position within the Indian state and in the region. In this situation, the US tried to manipulate the mass discontent of the toiling masses, as well as utilize the contradictions within the Indian ruling class to establish its own domination over India. Mass protests organized under the banner of “total revolution” demanded the overthrow of the government of Mrs. Gandhi. These protests had the covert backing of US imperialism.
The big monopoly houses imposed “National Emergency” to resolve the all-sided crisis in their own interests. They unleashed brutal terror to crush the striving of the toiling masses for revolution and put down their rivals within the camp of the exploiters.
The declaration of “National Emergency” awakened wide sections of workers, peasants, youth and students to the reality that the so called democratic rights and civil liberties that the Constitution is supposed to guarantee could be taken away at a moment’s notice. People have no rights. The Constitution gives the executive headed by the President the power to deprive people of all rights.
The harsh reality was exposed that “We, the people” are not sovereign. The power to take major decisions that affect our lives and the fate and future of our country does not vest in the people. It vests in the executive. Political power vests in the hands of the Prime Minister at the head of the Council of Ministers formed by the party that gets a majority in the Lok Sabha. The President acts on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The executive has unrestricted powers to unleash the repressive apparatus of the state against all those who question the government. While the executive claims to derive its power from parliament, it is not accountable to parliament. It can enact laws bypassing the parliament through ordinances and later get parliament to rubber stamp them. Parliament is not accountable to the people.
The eyes of vast masses of our people were opened to the reality that lies behind the charade of democracy. At one stroke, the system of multi-party representative democracy – of elections in which rival parties competed, the party that got the majority of seats in parliament formed the government, claiming to have the “people’s mandate” – was exposed. The reality was that the biggest monopolies exercised their dictatorship over the whole of society through their control over the state and a tiny minority wielded political power on its behalf. Periodic elections, and the formation of elected governments were merely to give legitimacy to this dictatorship over the masses of people.
The communist movement was presented with the opportunity of thoroughly exposing the system of democracy in the eyes of the people and uniting and organising the working class and people around the alternative. The challenge before the communists was to organize and lead the working class and toiling masses in the struggle to vest sovereignty in the people by replacing the brutal dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with a new political power of the workers and peasants.
The fraud of “restoration of democracy”
In March 1977, the “National Emergency” was lifted. General Elections were held and a new government was formed by a coalition of non-Congress parties. The propagandists of the ruling class declared that “democracy had been restored”. The lifting of the “National Emergency” showed that the biggest monopolies felt confident that they could once again use the tried and tested method of multi-party representative democracy with periodic elections, to settle the contradictions within the ranks of the exploiters and at the same time fool the toiling masses.
The “restoration of democracy” was a monstrous fraud on the workers, peasants and broad masses of our people. No changes in the Constitution and the political system and process were carried out that would ensure that sovereignty vests in the people. The power of the Indian state to deprive the people of their rights and unleash fascist repression, remained unchanged. In sum, the transformations needed to ensure the empowerment of the people and guarantee their rights were blocked. The people remained deprived of sovereignty. The Indian State remained a brutal dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, headed by the biggest monopolies, over the people.
The division in the communist movement, and the divergent stands of dominant sections of the communist movement facilitated this.
One section of the communist movement advanced the line that the Indian ruling class was divided into a “progressive section” which was pro-Soviet Union and a “reactionary section” which was aligned with US imperialism. Indira Gandhi and her Congress Party were identified as the “progressive section” which was allegedly taking India along the path of “non-capitalist development”. In the name of fighting “right reaction” backed by US imperialism, this section of communists supported the “National Emergency”. Another section of communists promoted the “restoration of democracy” as a victory for the people. Instead of utilizing the crisis of the ruling class to fight for proletarian democracy, the working class got lined up behind different warring sections of the bourgeoisie.
The entire experience of our people over the past 40 years since the “restoration of democracy” has been that of systematic violation of the rights of all sections of the toiling and oppressed people. The big bourgeoisie launched the anti-worker, anti-peasant, anti-social and anti-national program of globalization through liberalization and privatization. This was in line with the course pursued by the imperialist bourgeoisie of the US, Britain and other countries. The opposition of the workers, peasants and oppressed people to this course has been systematically attacked by communalizing the polity and painting all those opposed to this course as “anti-national” and enemies of “national unity and territorial integrity”. State terrorism including state organized communal massacres has become the preferred response of the ruling class to the struggle of our people for their rights.
Forty years after the end of the “National Emergency” it is clear that fooling by the ballot and ruling by the bullet is the method of rule perfected by the biggest monopolies to keep the working class and people subjugated. Elections are routinely held to sort out contradictions within the ranks of the exploiters, and to provide legitimacy to the fascist and terrorist rule of the monopolies. One party replaces another, only to carry out the same agenda set by the ruling class. The political system and process ensures that the broad masses of workers and peasants remain disempowered.
At the present time, the working class and toiling masses of our country are facing an all-out offensive by the big bourgeoisie. This offensive is being carried out by an elected government which claims to have the mandate of the people to attack the people and their rights. The resistance struggle of the working class, peasantry, tribal people, women, youth and students is mounting.
Within these conditions, the ruling class is trying to divide the working class and toiling masses along the lines of inter capitalist rivalry. This is reflected in the political arena in the rivalry between the BJP and the Congress Party. The BJP is trying to line up the people behind the agenda of the biggest monopolies under the slogan of defending “national unity and territorial integrity” which is allegedly being threatened by “anti-national forces”. The Congress Party is trying to line up the people behind the agenda of the biggest monopolies under the slogan of defending the “secular foundations” of the Indian state, which is allegedly being threatened by the BJP. The working class and toiling masses are being called upon to unite with the Congress Party in the name of the “lesser evil” to allegedly defend the Indian Constitution from the threat of “right wing communal forces”.
All communists must expose the diabolical aim of the ruling class to divide and line up the working class and people behind the agenda of the bourgeoisie. To succumb to this pressure means to betray the working class and toiling masses.
It is precisely under the slogans of “threat to national unity” and fighting the “communal forces” that the most horrific crimes have been committed against our people, both during the “National Emergency” and since then.
The lesson of the declaration of the “National Emergency” 42 years ago, the “restoration of democracy” 40 years ago, and the subsequent period is that communists must not create illusions about the Indian democracy and about the Constitution it is based upon. People cannot ensure their rights by lining up behind one or the other political party or coalition of the ruling class, in the name of it being the “lesser evil”.
The escalated communal and fascist offensive is being carried out at the behest of the biggest monopolies controlling the Indian state. Therefore, the task facing the working class and toiling masses is not replacing one party in power with another, but the replacing of the existing state, which is the instrument of the rule of the biggest monopolies over the broad masses of people, with a new state which would be the instrument of rule of the workers and peasants. This new state must be based on a constitution that vests sovereignty in the people and has a political system and process that ensures the same. It must reorient the economy to ensure prosperity and protection to all. It must guarantee human, democratic and national rights to all. Let us prepare the conditions for establishing such a new state and system that will open the path to progress for our people.