Parliament is a tool of monopoly capitalist rule!
Fight with the aim of establishing workers’ and peasants’ rule!
Call of the Central Committee, Communist Ghadar Party of India, 13th Dec, 2012
As we prepare to step up our united opposition to the economic offensive of the Manmohan Singh government, we need to pay serious attention to the developments in Parliament and draw the appropriate political lessons.
The policy decision to permit majority foreign ownership in multi-brand retail trade is in the interest of big Indian corporate houses and foreign retail chains. Global retail giants like Wal-Mart and Carrefour are eager to penetrate the Indian market at a time when consumer spending is shrinking or stagnant in North America and Europe. Indian corporate houses that have entered retail business are eager to partner with them.
The BJP-led NDA government proposed this policy change about 10 years ago. It did not go ahead with it at that time, in view of the widespread opposition of regional parties in power, including some of its own allies. The Congress Party also joined the opposition at that time.
The Indian corporate houses, headed by the Tatas, Reliance, Birlas, Bharti were also interested in keeping out FDI from multi-brand retail 10 years ago. They wanted to first establish their own foothold in this lucrative business. After trying to expand on their own, and together gaining a market share of only 5% after a decade, they are now ready and eager to partner with the global giants to accelerate their expansion process. The UPA government is singing the tune that this is the solution to the problem of high food prices and the large amount of wastage in perishable food items.
The opposition to this policy decision comes both from the workers, peasants and small shopkeepers, as well as from various sections of capitalist wholesale merchants and large-scale traders who currently dominate the trade in both agricultural and industrial consumer goods.
In 2011, the UPA government promised to build a consensus within Parliament on this issue. However, at the insistence of the Indian and foreign capitalist monopolies, including US government pressure on behalf of Wal-Mart, the Manmohan Singh Cabinet went ahead with the policy decision in September 2012. At the same time, in order to accommodate the regional bourgeois groups, the State governments have been allowed to decide when to implement it in their respective jurisdictions.
The BJP, which is not fundamentally opposed to FDI in retail trade, decided to ride on the wave of opposition, in order to weaken and discredit its arch rival, the Congress Party. It insisted on a debate and vote in Parliament, and moved a resolution to reverse the Cabinet decision.
The regional parties of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and other states are opposed to FDI in retail trade to the extent that the respective regional bourgeois groups feel threatened by the entry of Wal-Mart and other global giants. Most of these parties are acting on behalf of those who dominate sales in the regional market at present, and want to protect their turf from the corporate monopolies.
Workers and peasants are not benefiting from the existing organisation and orientation of trade, nor will we benefit from the entry of FDI in multi-brand retail. Workers pay exorbitant prices for fruits and vegetables, of which less than 15% accrues to the peasant producers, while the rest goes to cover the wastage and to fill the pockets of capitalist merchants and several layers of middlemen.
The system of trade in our country needs to be modernised and managed on a larger scale, with cold storage facilities that would cut down the enormous wastage of perishable food items. The economists of the big bourgeoisie are promoting a big lie in claiming that the best or only way to modernise trade is by handing it over to private profit maximising corporations. This will only replace many private middlemen with a few giant corporate middlemen, with enormous power to squeeze the workers and peasants dry.
The real solution and best alternative is to socialise not only the scale of operations but also the ownership and control over trade. This means to establish a universal modern public procurement and distribution system. This is one of the demands that the organisations of workers and peasants have been raising persistently in recent years. The Central Government is moving in the opposite direction – of privatisation and corporate monopoly over trade.
A universal modern PDS requires public monopoly over procurement at the wholesale level. Distribution to the final consumers could be through a variety of public and private retail outlets. Public monopoly over wholesale trade will ensure that all retail outlets will have to rely on this single source for their supplies.
All parties and organisations of the workers, peasants and other middle strata of society must unite to demand and fight for immediate nationalisation of wholesale trade, as the necessary condition for a universal and modern PDS, subject to worker-peasant supervision and control.
Peasant committees and cooperatives should supervise the fair procurement of farm produce. People’s committees in the towns must supervise the fair price shops where the final products are sold. This is the alternative to permitting private monopolies to exercise control over trade and distribution of commodities.
The bourgeois class, headed by the monopoly houses, is on an aggressive course at this time. Foreign monopolies are being invited to invest in our country, to intensify the joint plunder of our land and labour, at the same time as Indian monopolies are exporting their capital abroad. Policies are being reformed to suit this imperialist drive.
The ruling Congress Party managed to win the vote in both houses of Parliament, even though the majority of speakers in the debate opposed the Cabinet decision and wanted it to be reversed. The ruling party could use its control over central financial resources and the Central Bureau of Investigation, using a carrot and stick approach to win the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The result of the voting was decided in backroom deals. It has ended up strengthening the hands of the UPA Government, headed by Manmohan Singh, which is now preparing to further escalate the attacks on our livelihood and rights, for the benefit of the native and foreign monopoly capitalists.
The Bill to open up pension funds to private corporate and foreign ownership is the most immediate impending attack on workers’ rights. It will make the value of post-retirement benefits subject to “market risk”. It is a law to permit the capitalist class to rob our hard-earned savings, to convert them into a cheap source of finance for the corporate houses.
To prepare the conditions for attacking the working class in the name of pension reform, the UPA Government is first introducing a Bill for reservation in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The aim is to divide the working class and divert the attention of people using caste differences and rivalries, while at the same time rewarding the BSP for having supported the Congress Party in the vote in Parliament.
What do all these facts show? They show that parliamentary democracy is in reality the dictatorship of the bourgeois class, headed by the monopoly houses.
The monopoly capitalists regularly finance the major political parties and their electoral campaigns, and ensure that only one among the parties that represent their interest will be entrusted with the supreme executive power, i.e., the central Cabinet.
Capitalists and landed interests in various regions form their own parties and vie for influence and power in the state governments. The party in control of the central Cabinet wields various weapons, financial, intelligence and armed force, to deal with the parties in charge of state governments and bring them in line.
The party heading the Cabinet rules by issuing one decree after another. The Constitution empowers the Cabinet to take any policy decision it likes, as long as it enjoys majority support in Parliament. It is not required to seek the approval of Parliament, except when there is a change in laws involved. Debate and voting on a policy decision takes place rarely, only when there is deep division within Parliament and the ruling camp is compelled to agree to a debate in order to save its face, as it happened this time.
This system of parliamentary democracy is an arrangement for imposing the will of an exploiting minority on the toiling majority, and for sorting out the contradictions among the exploiters. The workers and peasants who together make up over 90% of the population are not represented. Our interests are not defended. They are allowed to be attacked.
Dr. Manmohan Singh and other economists trained in the Anglo-American ways of thinking talk as if the economy is dependent on how much the biggest capitalists of the world decide to invest in our country. They talk as if it is the capitalist class which is providing livelihood to the working class and other toiling people. The truth is exactly the opposite. It is the workers, peasants and artisans who produce the wealth of our society, while the capitalists are parasites who are living off our labour. They pocket the surplus value we toilers create.
Hence, when we demand a steady increase in the living standards of every worker and peasant family, with full protection from shocks and crises, we are only claiming that which is our due as the creators of social wealth. We are demanding what is rightfully ours, and is perfectly possible to achieve provided the toiling majority of people decide, instead of all decision-making power being concentrated in the bourgeoisie and its trusted parties.
The bourgeois economists declare that there is no alternative except to reform the economy to benefit the biggest monopolies in the market. Politicians of the working class must boldly argue that there IS an alternative to “market oriented reform” of the economy.
The alternative is to reorient the economy to provide for the rising material and cultural needs of the population. The surplus produced by the collective labour of the working people will then be invested in improving their wellbeing and raising their productive capacity.
Investing in the people and in the natural environment, rather than exploiting and plundering them, will become the motivation and driving force of the economy. The available labour force will be fully employed for this purpose. There will be no unemployment or inflation, no possibility of any recession, any crisis of over-production or under-consumption.
The key to open the path for reorienting the economy is for the working people who create wealth to become the masters of society. This calls for a radical change in the system of democracy and the political process.
We need a new State based on a new Constitution that recognizes the people as the decision-makers; and which guarantees the rights of workers, of peasants, equal political rights of all adult citizens, rights of nations, nationalities and peoples, and the rights of all human beings.
In the existing political process, people are made to choose between candidates whose selection is without their approval. The demand of the toiling majority of people today is that they must have a say in decisions that affect their lives. We are not satisfied with merely a vote to choose among candidates imposed from above by parties of big money and privilege.
We must demand and fight for laws and mechanisms to ensure that every worker and peasant can exercise the right to elect and be elected, which means that each one of us must have a say in the selection of candidates. All workers’ unions and other people’s organisations must be able to put forward candidates, and all candidates must be subject to a common selection process by the voters in each constituency.
Organised in their places of work and residence, the working people must enjoy the right to select, approve and reject candidates for election. We must all have the right to recall those we elected at any time, and to initiate new laws and propose policy decisions. In order to exercise these rights, we need to have elected Committees in every constituency, made up of citizens who are respected and trusted by the majority of people in the constituency.
An important lesson from historical experience is that the line of defending the secularist Congress Party from the fundamentalist and communalist BJP is a diversion from political unity against the offensive of the big bourgeoisie.
Both the Congress Party and BJP are committed to implement the same program of policy reforms to benefit the monopoly corporate houses. The secularism of the Congress Party and the communalism of the BJP are two sides of the preferred method of divide and rule being practised today. Both these parties have contended and colluded in unleashing communal violence and in preventing the guilty from being punished.
All communists need to unite on the basis of making a clean break with the path of conciliating with the bourgeois agenda in the name of defending secularism.
The regional bourgeois parties are unreliable and inconsistent in their opposition to the agenda of the big bourgeoisie. This was shown by the performance of the Third Front government that lasted for a few years between 1996 and 1999. It was once again revealed by the recent debate and voting in Parliament.
The overall conclusion is that communists and all activists of the working class must deploy their energies to strengthen the unity of the working class and its alliance with the peasants and other toiling and oppresses masses of people. The task is not to build a secular front or a so-called Third Front. The regional bourgeois parties can be temporary allies in our struggle, but they cannot be our leaders.
There are only two possible kinds of fronts or political alliances. Either it is a front for preserving the existing bourgeois rule or it is a front to establish workers’ and peasants’ rule. Communists are duty bound to build the latter kind of front, led by the working class.
We have taken one key step by uniting in action, cutting across differences in trade union affiliations, in defence of our rights and legitimate claims, and in opposition to the capitalist offensive.
We have to consolidate and build on this unity on the basis of the principle that an attack on one is an attack on all! We need to champion the rights of our peasant brothers, who are being robbed and ruined by the capitalist offensive.
We must create forums for workers to discuss politics. We must build workers’ unity committees in factories and industrial areas, cutting across different production units and sectors and rising above petty party rivalries.
We must agitate for social control over trade and other measures towards the reorientation of the economy. We must agitate for constitutional guarantees for the inviolable rights of all wage-workers, and all those who till the land. We must agitate for radical reforms in the political process to break the stranglehold of the big bourgeois parties, headed by the Congress Party and BJP.
We must be vigilant about those parties and union leaders who are out to manipulate our struggle in the narrow pursuit of parliamentary gains for one or another party.
An important step in building a united working class opposition is to field worker candidates in elections, supported by all working class parties and trade union federations.
Let all communists and activists of the working class, all leaders of workers’ unions, unite and strive for the victory of one single list of candidates of the united working class opposition!
Let us unite firmly around our own independent program!
Down with capitalist democracy!
Fight with the aim of establishing workers’ and peasants’ rule!