Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Elections: Elections in this system serve to maintain the rule of capitalist monopoly houses

State assembly elections have been held recently in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. In both these states, the BJP and the Congress Party were promoted on TV and other news media as the two main contenders. All other parties and candidates were given little or no space in the daily news coverage.

In Gujarat, the BJP has been in charge for the past 22 years. In Himachal, the Congress and BJP have been alternately running the government, changing places once in five years, with the Congress in charge since 2012.

No matter what posture they strike when they are in the opposition, when in command the Congress and BJP have both implemented the program of the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and other capitalist monopoly houses. At the central and state levels, both parties have pushed the program of capitalist globalization at the expense of the toiling and oppressed people.

In both these states, the majority of workers, peasants, unemployed youth and their parents are angry that their conditions are going from bad to worse. At the other pole, there are capitalist monopoly houses and foreign investors who are happy with the huge profits they have reaped from the rape and plunder of the land and labour of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

In Gujarat, the BJP was faced with widespread discontent among workers, peasants, small traders and shopkeepers with the rising insecurity of livelihood and the colossal destruction caused by the Note Ban and the GST. In such conditions, the BJP decided to concentrate on the communal and chauvinist card. The main focus of Narendra Modi’s speeches during the election campaign was boasting about the “surgical strike” against Pakistan and calling the Congress Party anti-national. This was accompanied by the communal propaganda relating to Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi at the all-India level, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the 15th century monument.

The Congress Party, having been in the opposition within the Gujarat assembly for a long time, presented itself as the champion of the distressed farmers, traders and unemployed youth in that state. It marketed dreams and spread illusions among the people that this party of the big capitalists will allegedly look after everyone’s interest better than the BJP.

In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP presented itself as a party concerned about development, improving job prospects and rooting out corruption. It blamed the Congress Party for all the problems facing the people.

No matter what posture they strike when they are in the opposition, when in command the Congress and BJP have both implemented the program of the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and other capitalist monopoly houses. At the central and state levels, both parties have pushed the program of capitalist globalization at the expense of the toiling and oppressed people.

The Congress unleashed the first wave of so-called economic reforms under the banner of globalization and liberalization in 1991. The BJP championed the second generation of policy reforms starting in 1999, under the banner of privatization and further liberalization, to advance the global expansionist aims of the monopoly houses.

Historical facts also prove that both the Congress and BJP are guilty of inciting communal disputes and mobilizing votes on the basis of religion and caste. They both collaborated in the demolition of Babri Masjid 25 years ago.

It makes no real difference if the Congress is replaced by BJP or if BJP is replaced by the Congress, at the centre or in a state. When one of them is discredited, the capitalist class organises for its replacement by the other. When both are discredited the capitalist class has relied on a coalition of regional parties to manage the central Government, as it happened during 1996-99.

When elections result in a change of party at the helm, it does not lead to a change in the orientation of the economy. There is no change in the class character of political power. One party of the bourgeoisie replaces another while legislative and policy measures continue to be geared to fulfil the greed of capitalist monopoly houses.

Class character of political power

The capitalist class propagates the myth that the people as a whole are ruling India. Our children are taught that it is the people who elect governments of their choice and allegedly set the agenda for Indian society. The political power of the Government of India is presented as if it represents all Indians. The party in charge is presented as if it is all-powerful.

Marxist theory has established, and the historical experience of all nations of the world has together confirmed, that in a class divided society, the State is an organ of dictatorship by one class over another. As a general rule, it is the organ of the economically most dominant class which, by wielding the State, becomes politically dominant and imposes its will on society.

In Indian society, the State is an organ of dictatorship by the capitalist class, headed by about 150 monopoly houses which have concentrated lakhs of crores of rupees of capital in their hands. The working class, peasants and other small-scale producers and shopkeepers, who together make up the vast majority of the population, have no role in how the country is ruled.

In the period of British colonial rule, there was no mystery as to who wielded political power. Prior to 1857, everybody knew that the East India Company wielded political power on behalf of the Queen of England. With the suppression of the Ghadar of 1857 and the proclamation of Queen Victoria in 1858, political power began to be exercised directly by the British Government and the Governor-General it appointed for colonial India.

In 1947, the British ruling class transferred political power into the hands of those classes within India that it trusted, namely, the big capitalists and big landlords who had benefited from the colonial system of plunder.

The role of the people in the existing system is generally limited to casting a vote for one among candidates selected by capitalist parties. Once they cast their vote, the people have no role whatsoever. No matter how loudly they protest on the streets, the government does not fulfil their demands.

The extension of the franchise, the right to vote, to the entire adult population in India, did not alter the basic character of the political process or of the state power. The basic character of this state power is that it is an instrument of an exploiting minority to rule over the toiling majority of people.

In the first few decades after 1947, the capitalist business houses, allied with the big landlords, relied on the Congress Party to deceive, divert, divide and rule over all other sections of our society. Since the decade of the 1980s, the big bourgeoisie has groomed the BJP as the party that allegedly champions the interests of the “Hindu majority”. The Congress has been promoted as the “secular alternative”, contending and colluding with the BJP in dividing the people along communal and caste lines, while pursuing the same course of globalization through privatization and liberalization.

The existing system of democracy is in essence the dictatorship of the most powerful sections of the capitalist class, consisting of those who own the means of social production as their private property and command the labour of others. It is this minority class, which is headed by about 150 monopoly houses at this time, which commands all the state institutions, including the bureaucracy, armed forces, judiciary and jails. The exploiting minority rules through the medium of political parties, which take turns to manage the executive power. Periodic elections are used by the capitalist class to sort out its internal contradictions and line up the exploited masses along the lines of its own internal rivalry.

The key element in the theory underlying the State which the British colonial rulers built is that the people of India are unfit to rule themselves. Following from this premise, ruling India was declared to be the “white man’s burden”. This notion remains intact in independent India, with political power being considered the exclusive domain of a privileged elite.

The British colonialists first established a colonial army and then in the latter half of the 19th century, they built a centralized colonial bureaucracy, “Rule of Law” and enforcing mechanisms. Then in the 20th century they developed a political process of representation, in which the Congress Party and Muslim League could compete to get their candidates elected into provincial assemblies, which were subordinate to the Governor-General who reported to London.

The foundation of the existing State lies in the monopoly of armed might wielded by the exploiting minority in power. Upon this foundation exist organs of administration and justice. Political parties of the bourgeois class, elected legislative assemblies and the entire political process serve to foster the illusion that everyone is allegedly being represented.

Political process of representative democracy

The official view propagated in the media and in school text books is that India is a democracy in which the people, as a whole, elect the government of their choice. The people of India are supposed to be expressing their will and giving a “mandate” to the winning party. In reality, it is the big capitalists who are using elections to choose which of their parties must be entrusted with the task of implementing their anti-people program. It is their mandate, their program, which gets implemented on the ground.

Workers, peasants and other toiling people have practically no role in selecting the candidates for election. It is political parties and their respective leadership which select the candidates.

The role of the people in the existing system is generally limited to casting a vote for one among candidates selected by capitalist parties. Once they cast their vote, the people have no role whatsoever. No matter how loudly they protest on the streets, the government does not fulfil their demands.

Once elections are over, the party which wields executive power is not answerable to the elected legislative body for any policy decision. The members of parliament or of a state legislative assembly are not answerable to those who elected them.

More and more sections of the people are demanding that their rights and interests should be protected by the political power. They are demanding equality, progress and emancipation, economic, social and cultural. They are demanding secure livelihood as a matter of human right. They are demanding that the State must fulfil its duty of ensuring prosperity and protection for all members of society. This is a reflection of the deep striving and desire among the workers, peasants and other toiling people to wield political power in their hands.

In theory, the existing system permits workers and peasants to form their own political parties and try to contest elections. In practice, the contest is extremely uneven due to the domination of big money power and the extremely unequal space provided in the media in favour of the principal parties of the big bourgeoisie. Only those parties which are trusted and financed by corporate houses get promoted in all major TV channels.

If, by chance, a political party of the working class manages to win majority support in some state assembly, the Constitution gives the central Government the power to dismiss that government and impose President’s Rule. This is what happened in 1959 with the first elected communist government in Kerala.

Parties of the working class are permitted to run governments only as long as they implement the program of the monopoly capitalists. Once a party of the working class falls in line with that program, it is bound to get discredited among the broad masses of people, as it happened in West Bengal.

Revolutionary theory and tactics

A communist party fights for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is the rule by the toiling majority of people, led by the modern working class. For a communist party to accept the existing parliamentary democracy and become part of it means that it has lost its class character as the vanguard of the proletariat.

Elections are one of the arenas of class struggle against the bourgeoisie. Communists must enter this arena with the aim of empowering the people.

A communist party has to educate the proletariat and people about the nature of political power and about the changes needed for the toiling majority of people to exercise power. It cannot and must not look at the growing united struggles of the exploited masses as “extra-parliamentary” struggles, to be used for achieving parliamentary goals. A communist party’s duty is to arm the working class and other oppressed people with a clear political goal and revolutionary program, and lead them in the struggle to capture political power in their hands

A key element in Indian revolutionary theory, which was born in the cauldron of the anti-colonial struggle, was that sovereignty must be vested in the people rising in revolt against social and national oppression. This was expressed in the popular slogan of the revolutionaries of 1857: Hum hain iske maalik! Hindostan humara! (India belongs to us! We are her master!)

The theory of establishing a new Indian State that would protect the rights of all inhabitants of this subcontinent was developed further by the Hindustan Ghadar Party and other revolutionary organisations during the anti-colonial struggle.

The present situation demands that we Indian communists must modernize and develop the theory whose roots emerged in the conditions of 1857, so as to illuminate the path for the affirmation of the people’s sovereignty in the conditions of today.

The times are calling for a system which recognizes that all individuals have inalienable rights which originate from the fact that they are human beings, born to society. Society has an obligation towards all its members, to guarantee the protection of their rights. The conditions are demanding the renewal of democracy by vesting sovereignty in the people and the renewal of the economy by reorienting production towards fulfilling human needs instead of fulfilling capitalist greed.

Communist participation in electoral campaigns must be aimed at exposing the existing system as the dictatorship of an exploiting super-rich minority. We must argue and agitate for a fundamental transformation of the political system and State so as to vest sovereignty in the people. We must agitate for changes in the political process in a direction that will empower the people.

Candidates for people’s representatives must be selected by the people themselves, and not by any political party. If the program of any party coincides with the interests of the majority of people, then the members of that party are likely to be selected as candidates by the people. The crucial issue is that the right to select candidates should vest with the electors, and not with any political party.

The people, organised in their various collectives, such as unions and associations at workplaces and college campuses, committees in villages and urban residential localities, should select candidates whom they regard as most able to represent their interests. Candidates nominated by political parties, and especially those of the “recognised” parties, must be stripped of the privileges they currently enjoy. They must be forced to submit to the same process of people’s selection to which all nominated candidates have to submit. The State must fund the selection and election process. All other financing must be banned.

Elected representatives must have a clearly defined mandate which they cannot overstep. Anything outside their mandate must be referred back to the people who have elected them. Those elected must be accountable for all their actions and the people should have the right to recall any of them. People should have the right to initiate legislation and policy measures in their interests, which today is the exclusive privilege of the representatives alone.

Conclusion

The necessity for vesting sovereignty in the people is a burning problem of the times. The capitalist class in power wants to divert the people from this question. Parties of this class work overtime to divide the people on sectarian lines and divert them from the class struggle. Communists must lead the working class and people to defeat the evil game plan of the ruling class by taking up for solution the problem of vesting sovereignty in the people.

Bibliography (Suggested Reading)

  1. “A non-partisan movement for the renewal of the political process is the necessity of the time”, speech by Comrade Lal Singh at the Convention of the Preparatory Committee for People’s Empowerment, June 1993.
  2. “What kind of Party?”, Communist Ghadar Party of India, New Delhi, April 1994.
  3. “Crisis of Values: For a Modern Indian Political Theory”, Keynote Speech of Comrade Hardial Bains to the International Seminar on Communism and the Requirements of Modern Democracy, October 1994.
  4. Report adopted by the Second Congress of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, called Preparing for the Coming Storms – Challenge facing Indian Communists, March 1999.
  5. Report to the Fifth Congress of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, October 2017.
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Assembly Elections    Gujarat    Himachal Pradesh    Dec 16-31 2017    Voice of the Party    Political Process     Rights     2017   

PARTY DOCUMENTS

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This document, What Kind of Party?, was presented by
Comrade Lal Singh on behalf of the Central Committee
of the Communist Ghadar Party of India to the Second
National Consultative Conference held December 29-30, 1993.

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Click to Download PDFInterview with Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of Communist Ghadar Party of India

by Comrade Chandra Bhan, Editor of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar

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100 years ago Ghadar Party was formed by Indians in the US.It was historic milestone in our anti-colonial struggle.

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