India needs a modern democratic state
Statement of the Central Committee of Communist Ghadar Party of India, 22nd January, 2013
For the past 63 years, we have been told that we have a modern democratic system with a wonderful Constitution. Masses of people are contesting this myth today.
How can the Indian state be considered a modern democracy when one half of the population, the women, are treated as the property of others, as sex objects and easy targets for physical attacks?
This is the legitimate question that has come to the fore on the 63rd anniversary of this Republic. It is the question that has been raised loudly by those who have been protesting the brutal gang-rape and armed assault on a moving bus in Delhi of a young woman student and male companion on 16th December, leading to the death of the former.
While women are contributing increasingly to the social process of production and to political and cultural affairs, the environment is hostile to their participation as equal members of society. Girl children face discrimination at home and in society. They are weighed down by the remnants of old outmoded ideas and practices, which treat sons as assets and daughters as liabilities. Students and working women lack safe and secure mode of transport. Women are being assaulted and raped on a daily basis. Rape is used by the armed forces to put down entire communities. It is routinely committed in police stations and jails. The criminals invariably go unpunished while the victims are forced to live in shame for having been raped!
The leading representatives of this Republic do not uphold the rights of women as a matter of principle. Obscurantist and male chauvinist views are aired freely, and the dominant trend is to blame women for attracting attention and inviting attacks on themselves.
Various government representatives talk at length about the need to change the mind set of men but they have no answer to the problem that it is the authority that is failing in its duty.
There is no guarantee of even the most basic security for the citizens at large. At the other pole, hordes of armed men provide various categories of special security to a select few, the so-called Very Important Persons or VIPs.
The political elite have no satisfactory answers to the people on the streets, except to unleash brute force to silence them. Whether it is women demanding their right to be treated as human beings, or it is workers and peasants claiming their due, the State treats it as a “law and order problem” and responds with violence and terror.
What kind of democratic Republic is this which is at war against the majority of its own citizens? It is also preparing for engaging in wars against the people of other countries, with typical jingoist propaganda against Pakistan.
Fighter jets, tanks and the latest weaponry are being displayed on Raj Path to show the might of this Republic on its 63rd anniversary. However, the broad masses of people have no cause to rejoice. What use is the military might of a raja if the praja do not feel safe or protected?
New versus Old
The glaring contradiction between the voices being raised on Raj Path and on the jan path, between those in Parliament and those on Parliament street, reflects the inevitable clash between the forces of the Old and the forces of the New. The old order is crumbling. A new order is struggling to be born. Those who benefit from the old order are using their power to prolong its life, to postpone its end for as long as possible.
The exploiting classes, headed by the capitalist monopolies, want to preserve the colonial system of enslavement and plunder, along with privilege distribution and disregard for universal rights. The masses of exploited workers and peasants, oppressed women, youth and progressive intelligentsia want to end the legacy of the colonial past. We want to liberate our society from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
This is not a Modern Democracy
A modern democracy must guarantee equality of rights for all its citizens without exception, irrespective of caste, religion, nationality, gender or any other consideration. The reality in our country is that there is one rule of law for the toiling majority of people and an entirely different deal for members of the ruling class. A privileged few enjoy unlimited freedom and rights, while the vast majority only have duties and no guaranteed rights.
Criminals are protected in this Republic while those who fight against injustice get arrested as suspected terrorists, extremists, secessionists or fundamentalists. Various laws exist on paper allegedly for the protection of all citizens, but the justice system is designed to indefinitely delay all cases except when the political executive intervenes, or a big enough bribe is offered to the judges.
It is reminiscent of the colonial British Raj, which defended the unlimited rights of a few white men to enslave our people and plunder our wealth. The skin colour of the rulers has changed but not the nature of rule.
In a modern democracy, power must flow from the people. Indian democracy, as it has been constituted and perfected over the past 63 years, is a system in which decision-making power is concentrated in very few privileged hands and completely alienated from the vast majority of people.
In 1947 political power was transferred from the British Crown to an interim Cabinet within an interim Parliament, and ceremonially to the President who is bound to abide by the advice of Cabinet. A constitution was drafted and adopted in 1950 by an unrepresentative body of men, to legitimise this system based on retaining the colonial foundations of power.
Political power in this Republic flows from the Union downwards, with a share of power enjoyed by the state Cabinets within legislative assemblies. The people are excluded from the decision-making process. Their role is limited to casting their vote once in a few years, to choose among candidates in whose selection they have no say. Elections are occasions for parties of vested interests to engage in every kind of corrupt and criminal activity.
While universal adult franchise was a necessary step, it is by no means sufficient for a modern democracy. Equality of political rights requires people to have a role in setting the agenda for society, and not merely in choosing which among rival narrow-minded parties of the exploiting classes would implement an already pre-set agenda.
Capitalist monopolies finance political parties and even have a say in the allocation of ministerial portfolios. An exploiting minority decides the course of society in its narrow self-interest. The vast majority are deprived of the most basic rights. The political process reduces them to vote banks.
According the Constitution adopted 63 years ago, “we, the people”, are supposed to have given ourselves this Republic. The reality, however, is that the majority of people feel completely alienated from this Republic. It does not serve us but treats us like dirt. We did not create this state nor do we benefit from it. We only suffer its consequences.
Perpetuation of the caste hierarchy
The most glaring evidence that the Indian Republic is not a modern democracy is the persistence and prevalence of the old and outdated caste hierarchy and various forms of caste based discrimination and oppression. The caste identity is perpetuated and manipulated by political parties which cultivate vote banks on the basis of caste.
The polity itself has been divided by the institution of caste-based reservation of electoral constituencies. While it is supposed to benefit the victims of the caste system, caste-based reservation in elected legislative bodies and in the bureaucracy has only created privileged strata of persons with a stake in preserving caste divisions. Caste-based division of the polity violates the principle that every adult citizen in every constituency must have the right to elect and be elected.
Criminalised parties as gatekeepers
The institution of a political party has historically been associated with the democratisation of social relations, transcending blood lines. A political party is considered a modern institution precisely because it enables people to rise above family ties and associate with one another as members of a broad class of people with a common aim.
It is clear that the most prominent parties in parliament are not modern. They are not really political in the modern sense. They organise on the basis of family ties as well as manipulate caste and religious identities for electoral gains. They engage in large-scale deception and crimes to grab and retain the seats of power, in utter disregard for the general interest of society. They pursue the narrow interests of the capitalist class and its imperialist aim. They act as gatekeepers to keep the broad masses of people out of the portals of power, like in the days of colonial rule when Indians and dogs were not allowed into the English clubs.
Denial of Right to Conscience
The Constitution adopted 63 years ago proclaims India to be a secular Republic, but every citizen is not guaranteed the right to his or her own belief. People get persecuted and even killed for belonging to a particular religious faith. People get arrested for their ideological beliefs. They are charged with sedition for expressing views not to the liking of those in power.
Laws regarding marriage, adoption and other family matters are not uniform for all, but differentiated on the basis of religious identity. Different laws apply depending on whether one is a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. An atheist, one who does not believe in any God, is not recognised by this so-called secular Republic; there is no such category in the official Census.
Communal violence gets repeatedly unleashed by those who wield political power. The victims are forced to live in terror and the guilty get rewarded with ministerial portfolios. Leading organisers of mass murder have become Chief Ministers and even occupied the post of Prime Minister in our country!
Denial of National Rights
Nations and peoples who have inhabited this land for thousands of years are not even recognised by the Constitution of the Republic of India. The central Cabinet makes policies to enable big capitalist corporations to plunder at will the natural resources belonging to the various nations, nationalities and peoples.
Those who demand and fight for their national rights are deemed to be threatening the “unity and territorial integrity of India”. They are subjected to Army rule and treated like outlaws in their own land. The central armed forces shoot anyone on suspicion in such “disturbed areas”, backed by the colonial-fascist Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
Power to exploit and plunder
This Republic preserves and defends an economic system in which our most precious human productive assets are being ruined. One section of the labour force is intensely exploited while another section is partly or fully idle for lack of employment. Complete lack of job security is the lot of the recent generations of young workers. Even the basic right of workers to form unions is flagrantly violated in the name of creating a favourable investment climate for capitalist corporations.
Those who till the land and feed the population are deprived of any modicum of security of livelihood. They are at the mercy of capitalist corporations as well as the old traditional monopolists in the market, in addition to being vulnerable to drought and floods. Even possession of the land they till is not secure in their hands, as both central and state governments are acting in the interests of corporate land grabbers.
While enabling foreign and Indian monopolies to invest in large-scale capitalist production using wage-labour, the State also defends and preserves various remnants of feudal and patriarchal relations, including bonded labour and other forms of servitude to big landlord and rural money lending families. Caste hierarchy persists and the low status of dalits is used to super-exploit them.
The capitalist monopolies use their control over this Republic to extract tribute from the whole of society. Capitalists of different regions and caste groups form political parties and compete for space in the state legislative bodies, for a share of the wealth accumulated through the exploitation of labour, robbery of peasants and tribal peoples, and the plunder of natural resources. The bureaucracy at all levels is managed by officials trained in the British colonial traditions of administering a colonized people. Capitalists cultivate connections with the ministers and senior officials. They give them suitcases full of cash in exchange for various favours. The officials and ministers use their positions to accumulate private wealth and capital.
This backward neo-colonial Republic is being wielded by the monopoly bourgeoisie to pursue its imperialist aim of ensuring a place for India in the league of biggest imperialist powers of the world. This course spells disaster for the vast majority of people, for the future of our civilisation and for peace in this region.
In sum, what exists today is a state that preserves the legacy of colonial suppression and plunder of all the nations, nationalities and peoples who inhabit this land. While claiming to be modern, it is a state that perpetuates the remnants of old outdated relations including the oppression of persons on the basis of caste, gender and religious belief. In class terms, it is a state that serves the richest and most powerful section of the capitalist class, the monopoly corporate big wigs who collectively call themselves India Incorporated.
Necessity for revolutionary change
It is clear that the majority of our people want our society to change, and are willing to fight for it. What kind of change? That is the key question.
Mere quantitative changes, like more police, more laws and more judges, will not address the root of the problem. We need a qualitative change in the nature of the State and political process.
The neo-colonial and archaic bourgeois Republic needs to be replaced with a modern democratic state, a union of workers’ and peasants’ republics.
We need a State that would enable us – the workers, peasants, women and youth of all nations, nationalities and peoples of this land, to take control of our lives rather than be victims of an anachronistic system of democracy geared to enrich a super-rich minority. The State must enable the working people to control the enormous natural and human resources and prevent them from being plundered by Indian and foreign capitalists. Such a State would ensure that the social surplus produced by the toiling masses is deployed to make each of us prosper, year after year.
A State that is committed to provide prosperity and protection for all the toiling people and their families must, of necessity, be capable of taking over the property of any private entities that block the way. A workers’ and peasants’ state would immediately halt the drain of the state treasury to fulfil the greed of monopoly corporations, big banks and arms merchants. It will reorient public expenditure towards complete fulfilment of vital social needs, including housing, good quality education and health care for all. It would immediately socialise the procurement and distribution of essential articles of consumption, preventing private profiteering in the sphere of trade.
We need a State that will be an instrument to rid our society of all forms of old oppressive relations -- all remnants of feudalism, the caste hierarchy and the entire legacy of colonialism, including capitalist exploitation and imperialist plunder. It must recognize and protect the rights of every human being, and of every adult citizen, irrespective of caste, gender, religious belief or any other consideration. It must mete out exemplary punishment to anyone who dares to violate them under any pretext.
A portion of the social surplus produced by the collective labour of the working people must be deployed to fulfil the claims of those disadvantaged physically or by a history of discrimination and oppression based on caste, gender, nationality or religious belief. Through such additional effort, the State must ensure that all sections of society are able to participate as equals in the polity, without any need for reserved quotas.
We need a new Union that is voluntary and not imposed and maintained by force. We need a new constitution that guarantees the right of every nation, nationality and tribal people to self-determination. Such a reconstituted voluntary union would be a bulwark against imperialism and work for peace in South Asia and the world.
Political power must flow from the people, organised in constituency committees, to their elected delegates in every national republic, and from those to the Union. Every national republic must only have those powers delegated to it by the people of that republic, organised in their constituency committees. The union must only have those powers that all the constituents willingly delegate to it. All residual powers must remain with the people, exercised through their constituency committees. The people must enjoy the right to select candidates for election, to hold those elected to account and recall them at any time, and the right to initiate legislation.
Every union of workers or peasants, and every organisation of women or youth, must be able to nominate candidates for election, thereby ending the domination of political parties over candidate selection. Instead of people placing parties in power, only such political parties must be permitted that work to keep the people in power.
It is we – the workers, peasants, women and youth of all the nations, nationalities and tribal peoples in our country – who have the interest and the capacity to establish such a modern democratic state and political process. We must unite and organise to become a mighty revolutionary force that will lay down the new law of the land and enforce it.
The insecurity of women has raised the need for people’s committees to provide ourselves with protection. Such committees are in fact needed for fulfilling a number of vital needs of the people. They are needed as instruments for the people to become the decision-makers, so that the toiling majority can set the agenda for society.
The immediate struggle in defence of our rights is part and parcel of the strategic struggle for revolutionary change. The committees we build in every mohalla, campus, industrial area, village or groups of villages, are the building blocks of that State which we want to bring into being.
Let us redouble our efforts to build our own organs of power, in every locality where the toiling masses of people live and work!
On the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the neo-colonial and outdated bourgeois republic, let us all pledge to join hands and work for the Navnirman of India, to create a voluntary union of workers’ and peasants’ republics!