[The CPI(ML) held its Central Party School on 28-30 November, 2001 in the newly inaugurated Nagbhushan Bhavan in Bhuvaneshwar, Orissa. A report by Kavita Krishnan.]
Four topics were taken up for study and discussion at the Central Party School. Comrade Shankar presented a paper on Caste, Class and the Dalit Question, Comrade Arindam Sen on Communal Fascism, Comrade Sivaraman on Agrarian Question Revisited and Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya on Globalisation and Imperialism. Altogether there were 151 participants in the school. Members of the editorial boards of central and state organs, one-fourth of the members of all state committees and an equal number from outside the state committees were taken as students for the school. For the convenience of students, the school was divided into 3 groups based on students’ language preference: English, Hindi and Bengali, and discussions were conducted separately for all the three groups. As a result the discussion and debates could be deeper and more lively.
The paper on Agrarian Question Revisited had two parts: the Present Agrarian Crisis and the Agricultural Labour Question. The paper began with an overview of the agrarian crisis in India. Identifying the crisis as a crisis of capitalist transition in Indian agriculture, this overview discussed Punjab as an example of extreme crisis in a highly developed region which was the showpiece of the green revolution, and UP and Bihar as instances of the other extreme of the crisis in extremely backward regions. Another significant dimension of the agrarian crisis which was discussed was the underlying crisis in class relations, especially the crisis of peasant farming and the intensification of the contradictions among the ruling classes. The paper also discussed how some of the solutions to the crisis being currently offered by the establishment (for example, NIRD) involve measures like relaxation of land ceiling and contract or corporate farming. Such solutions vindicate the Marxist-Leninist position that any agricultural crisis ultimately gets resolved by big capitalist farmers eliminating smaller ones and increasing investment to be competitive in the market. The class dimension of the crisis, therefore, involves an alliance of multinational capital and kulaks, pitted against an alliance of rural proletariat and middle peasantry.
The main focus of the paper was on the dynamics of agricultural labour struggles and related theoretical issues. The paper discussed agricultural labour struggles which had marked the breaking up of unfree labour relations and their transformation into free casual labour. The paper also looked at the subsequent failure of social democratic forces (in particular the CPI(M)) to advance these struggles further and launch wage struggles of free laborers, due to their policy of class collaboration with kulaks, advocacy of “broad peasant unity”, and reluctance to organize agricultural labour as an independent political force. The paper then looked at the new forms of struggles, in particular the 1997 experience of Kerala, which significantly showed how agricultural labourers utilized chinks in the social democratic armour to revive their direct class struggle of high militancy after being forced to lie dormant for years. The paper also discussed the phenomena of sharecropping and tenancy as disguised forms of labour exploitation, as well as the role of the state and the reformist framework relating to the agricultural labour question.
Comrade Shankar’s paper on Caste, Class and Dalit Question traced the shift of the Dalit discourse from anti-Brahminism to the dalitbahujan variety, and the major theoretical trends of the latter discourse which challenge Marxist propositions. The paper analysed the phenomenon of the BSP, and the class basis which fuelled its rise. The paper also looked at contemporary strands of the Dalit movement, the politics of reservations, and the question of land in relation to Dalits.
Comrade Arindam’s paper focused on understanding the life process of communal fascism in India. The paper emphasized three basic ingredients of communal fascism in India:
1) The first is nationalism, which fascism appropriates in order to mobilize mass frenzy. Just as fascism in Italy and Germany used bourgeois nationalist chauvinism, in India, a distorted anti-minority, pro-imperialist nationalism is the mainstay of fascism. The paper pointed out how the bogey of “national unity and integrity”, raised and fanned up by various parties including the Congress and the CPI-CPI(M), infected the psyche of Indians with communalism and jingoism. The BJP-RSS then exploited this “communal commonsense” in its favour.
2) The second was the economic crisis which necessitated a major reorganization of the economy. For this, the bourgeoisie required an extremely hard, autocratic regime, which could however create consent for itself by a suitable ideological cover. It was this ideological cover which made the Sangh Parivar and the BJP the natural choice the ruling classes in this phase. In this sense, the politics of communal fascism is a concentrated expression of LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation).
3) Communal fascism has deep linkages with imperialism – linkages which in this phase have been raised to the level of a strategic partnership, not only between the dependent Indian ruling classes and the US, but also between the US and a “Hindu India” which can provide a counter to the Islamic world and China.
Comrade Dipankar’s paper on globalisation and imperialism analysed the present round of globalisation. It noted that capitalism has an inherent tendency to go global, but this tendency is much more pronounced in this phase. The most prominent feature of this phase is the overwhelming dominance of speculative finance. While the ongoing globalisation has a largely post-colonial context, it is accompanied by a constant mockery of this formal independence and national sovereignty.
The paper discussed the recurring crises and synchronized recession which have gripped the world economy, especially the finance sector. It addresses the question of what continues to sustain the globalisation drive in the face of such severe crisis. The paper suggests that gloablisation is eventually sustained by power, especially by the military might of the US. The paper refers to the claim of pro-globalisation commentators that “the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist”, to make this point.
The paper goes on to address the question of weather the major contradiction of this era is in fact between global economy and nation-states, and whether, therefore, the resolution lies in a global society and global governance. The paper discusses theorists like Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri [authors of The Empire] who declare that imperialism has been replaced by a decentralized global Empire, whose rule is timeless and eternal. Its alternative, they claim, can lie only in a counter-Empire created by the forces of “the multitude” – which they locate in the ongoing wave of anti-globalisation protests.
The paper discusses the rumoured “retreat of nation-states” – a notion which is undermined by the fact that most MNCs are, overwhelmingly, “nationally embedded”, and that nation-states, far from succumbing helplessly to globalisation, actively adopt policies and intervene to facilitate globalisation. The paper remarks that in the backdrop of the domination of speculative finance and insulation of economy from politics, anti-globalisation protests are serving to repoliticise the issues relating to economy. The paper takes a bird’s eye view of the trends in the anti-globalisation movement internationally as well as on the national terrain, concluding on the note that we need a strong grounding in Marxist-Leninist fundamentals to grasp and analyse the intricate workings of globalisation today.
All the papers evoked lively discussions, heated debates, and, most of all, fresh suggestions and information in all the groups. The major questions or debates were summarized in the final plenary session of the school by the four teachers. In his concluding address, Comrade Dipankar responded to the issues which had emerged in the course of the school.
On the question of caste and class, Comrade Dipankar pointed out that the tendency to assume that we need to “add” caste to our concept of class, in fact represents a narrow and a non-Marxist understanding of class. Class is a universal and fundamental category, and bourgeoisie and proletariat are international classes. However, one may, in the different phases or paths of capitalist development, often encounter identities like caste etc., on the way to the mature evolution of bourgeoisie and proletariat. He quoted the Marxist slogan of “workers and oppressed people of the world unite” to point out that fighting oppression is naturally allied to class struggle. He further illustrated this with the experience of the CPI(ML) movement in Bihar, which though never set out to organize dalits against brahminism, naturally raised questions of social dignity, along with those of land and wages, as an organic part of the task of organizing landless labourers and agrarian poor.
Comrade Dipankar also pointed out that caste identities are now emerging in new ways, where caste relations are not only vertical and oppressive, but also sometimes horizontally structured. Caste has now emerged as an aspiration, a basis for assertion, with the claim of historically deprived castes to accumulation and appropriation in a stagnant economy. Whole castes cannot be categorized as democratic or otherwise. Instead, communists must welcome all measures (for example, reservations like Mandal) which evoke such aspirations, and must then sharpen the differentiations within castes by championing and democratizing the aspirations of the deprived classes within castes.
Responding to debates about whether communists should mobilize dalits on a caste banner, Comrade Dipankar said it was an open question, however reminding that communists must always emphasise the question of class differentiation within castes.
On the topic of agrarian labourers, Comrade Dipankar responded to the questions raised by several comrades regarding the land question and land-related struggles of agrarian labourers. He pointed out that Lenin defined labour as “doubly free” – i.e. free to work for anyone, and also free from the means of production. Hence, an agrarian labourer who is tied to a small piece of land is actually, in a sense, unfree. Of course, where there is significant land hunger, land seizure and struggles for land will continue to be a major issue which we must champion – but we must remember that agrarian labour must eventually outgrow such micro struggles, while, in a macro sense, the question of land (e.g. abolition of big landownership and land nationalization) will remain the key question of agrarian revolution.
Comrade Dipankar made several observations relating to communal fascism. He remarked that the classic Comintern definition of fascism as the “open terroristic dictatorship of capital” is actually a definition of the fascist state, and we tend to forget that a fascist coup has a complex history, a complex life-process. So the question of “whether RSS was fascist to begin with, or at what point it turned fascist” is actually baseless. Fascists may occupy a fringe for years, but may, through a specific process, or at a conducive juncture, become a huge wave – so the RSS, fascist in inception, ideology, purpose and organization, rose to power through a process. He reminded that fascism is not only an idea, but also a movement which aims at mass mobilization.
He also commented that fascism might be very flexible in the routes or forms it takes. In India, the fascist regime may not necessarily take the form of a Hindu theocratic state headed by sadhus or an Ayatollah-like Advani. It may well choose to maintain the tactical façade of a secular democracy, while effectively, practically enforcing Hindutva. He also stressed that a liberal Hindu path alone cannot counter communal fascism – a core of solid democratic resistance is required to do so.
Comrade Dipankar addressed several of the questions related to globalisation – including the seeming paradox of the dominance of speculative finance over production, coexisting with the phenomenon of overproduction. He also discussed the ‘open question’ of how a nation-state can tackle the menace of speculation.
The School ended on the note of determined resolution to continue the process of Marxist study at local levels. Spurred on by references to the paucity of documentation and analyses of the agrarian situation in UP and Bihar, several comrades offered to systematically study specific areas of our struggle. A beginning had already been made by AIPWA comrades who had studied the struggles of women agricultural labourers in Bihar. It was also suggested that earlier studies, like the 1933 work on agrarian labour by Sahajanand Saraswati, be re-read and discussed. On the whole, the School spurred the energies of the students to develop the Party’s skills in Marxist analysis of contemporary phenomena and issues, and fresh theoretical inputs and insights.
Finally, the School saluted the Herculean efforts of the Orissa comrades, especially the students and youth, as well as the team of translators, who had worked day and night to make the School a success.