Fw: [FI-P] (sans sujet)

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Fri Oct 15 05:53:51 MDT 1999





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From: Sajaber at aol.com
To: FI-press-l at mail.comlink.apc.org; 100641.2324 at compuserve.com;
100666.1443 at compuserve.com
Subject: [FI-P] (sans sujet)
Date: Friday, 15 October 1999 16:47

India Shifts Decisively to the Right: Left Faces major Crisis
By Kunal Chattopadhyay
The elections of 1999 mark one more step in the sharp rightward shift in
Indian politics. As soon as results started pouring in, the stock market
firmed, and then crossed beyond the 5000 mark. The rupee, never a strong
currency and declining since the vote of no confidence against the Vajpayee

government, finally perked up against the dollar. Thus did Indian big
business greet the return of the BJP and its allies, this time with a
comfortable, though not huge majority. The internationalfinancial circles
also showed their approbation, with the Standard and Poor rating for India
climbing up a notch. The caretaker government of Vajpayee, assured of a
return, promptly moved in for the jugular. Prices of petrol and diesel were

raised drastically. Prime Minister Vajpayee warned that the nation would
have to brace for tough decisions. The fat cats of the nation however
remained unperturbed, showing they knew quite well on whom would fall the
burden of the tough decisions. Next on the anvil is the plan to ram through

parliament the bill to open the insurance sector to multinational private
insurance companies. Though insurance in India is nothing to write home
about, with a corrupt bureaucratic machinery and all sorts of fine-print
clauses, it is still possible for workers in the organised sectors to pay a

fairly small amount to get family coverage for amounts up to Rs. 1 lakh.
And
while the right wing and the ultra-left of the sort who believe that the
very struggle for reforms or partial goals is detrimental to the
revolutionary cause will unite in arguing that only small sectors of the
workers, supposedly the pampered sections, have such opportunities, the
truth is that all these are hard fought gains obtained since 1947. The
workers and employees in the nationalised insurance corporations have
decided to go in for a strike and other forms of  sustained agitation.
But such responses are fragmented, and often dispirited, because of the
collapse of the left in a number of ways.This is one of the most right-wing

parliaments ever to be elected in Indian history.The far right parties, the

major one being the BJP and the minor one the mainly Maharashtra-based Shiv

Sena, together have close to 190 seats. The National Democratic Alliance
headed by the BJP has altogether nearly 300 seats. The Indian National
congress, which is the historic party of the Indian bourgeoisie, has over
100. And this party has been, since the time of Rajiv Gandhi, been getting
rid of all “socialist” rhetoric, all populism. It was this party under
the
Prime Ministership of P.V.Narasimha Rao and during the period when Manmohan

Singh was the Finance Minister, that began the current project of inserting

the Indian economy in a “globalised”capitalism. For close to two
decades,
the two main left parties, the CPI and the CPI(M), had been trying to
stitch
together a third front, equidistant from the Saffron right and the
Congress,
and holding aloft the banner of left and democratic, or left and secular
unity. Twice this effort appeared to be on the verge of maturing, first
when
Viswanath Pratap Singh became Prime Minister in 1989, and next in 1996,
when
first H. D. Devegowda and later I.K.Gujral headed United Front ministries
including CPI leader Indrajit Gupta as Union Home Minister. But in fact,
both were unstable governments, riven apart internally as much as they were

put under pressure from outside. While the left parties extended a degree
of
respectability and democratic credentials, the main constituent of the
front, the Janata Party, was seen everywhere shifting to the right and
collapsing. The Janata Dal of 1989 has over the last decade split into
several fragments. The biggest ones are, excluding Mulayam Singh Yadav’s
Samajwadi Party, allied to the BJP.  Similarly, most of the regional
parties
who had supported the united front now support the BJP. They include the
Dravid Munnetra Kazhagham of Tamil Nadu, the Telugu Desam party of Andhra,
etc. By the end of the decade, this alliance had melted away.
Meanwhile, so dependent had the left become on these alliances that this
time, fighting after nearly a quarter of a century by themselves in a
number
of provinces, they had devastating results. The CPI(M), partly because of
grater opportunism and partly better skill in cobbling together some
alliance, managed a few seats here and there, outside its bailiwicks in
West
Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, ending with a tally of 32. The CPI got just
four, with three from West Bengal alone. The left front as a whole has 42
seats. Adding the one CPI(ML) Liberation seat, this gives 43 seats for the
left.
The weakened parliamentary situation of the left means it will be even less

able to act as a pole of attraction and thereby hold up rightward moving
legislation, especially economic legislation. Yet this hass been the
solerationale in the final days of the “left and emocratic” bloc
making. It
is now clear that Indian capital wants the silencing of Indian labour. An
indication of just hw far they are willing to go comes from BJP ruled
Gujarat. The Vadodara Kamdar Union, a chiefly Baroda based trade union
pursuing the goals of working class unity, class struggle and workers’
democracy, had begun making headway against bourgeois and reformist
dominated unions. It had spearheaded an imortant struggle to gain minimum
wages for workers in the chemical industry. The VKU had also been unusual
in
being a union which fought for peasants’ rights, which fought against the

eviction of people from the proposed Narmada dam area, and took up
environmental and gender issues.So when a conflict broke out in one plant,
not only did the owner declare a lock out, but the government machinery was

geared up to declare the subsequent strike illegal.The sustained offensive
for the last 10 months is evidence of solid union-busting intentions.
Another facet of the BJP’s extreme antidemocratic politics comes from the

case of Communalism combat. This journal took out a series of ads to expose

the BJP’s politics. One of these, on women, was co-signed by a number of
women’s groups, some of them being NGOs. The Home Ministry promptly
accused
them of violating Foreign Exchange related laws. The journal itself was
subjected to a vilification campaign and forced to shift from Mumbai to
Delhi.
The old strategy of the left now lies shattered. Meanwhile, the CPI(ML),
which overcorrected its previous antiparliamentarism to a line of putting
up
a huge number of candidates in order to prove that it was seeking to
replace
the CPI(M) as the centre of radical protests, did far less well than it had

expected. Both sides now need to seriously rethink political line and
tactics. Parliamentarism coupled with local actions will not halt the BJP.
The early pronouncmewnts of Vajpayee, of Finance Minster sinha, and of the
leading spokespersons of the Indian bourgeoisie, make it clear that tough,
and if necessary violent attcks on the working class are on the anvil.All
India resstance building calls for struggles over price rise, over social
security, over health and safety, over unemployment, and democratic rights.

The left has to accept that now, with every bourgeois party shifting
rightward, every alliance with them will mean, not merely calling a halt to

workers’ struggles as in the past, but actually helping them to stamp out

the struggles. The clearest result of what then happens comes from West
Bengal. There, the left has been in government for over two decades. It is
trying to behave responsibly, i.e., to stop “unnecessary” strikes, to
evict
hawkers from city roads, to beautify Calcutta  at the cost of the urban
poor, to call in the bosses, to offer them special incentives if they bring

in money. As a result, the bosses have been milking the factories dry.
Innumerable small, medium and big factories are locked out, the workers
retrenched, or their pay reduced or workload increased. Not surprisingly,
all but one of the industrial seats of West Bengal have been won by
bourgeois parties. Though the left has won 29 out of 42 seats, this is down

from 33 in 1998 and 37 in 1996. In addition, while it retained its share of

votes at around 47%, the total votes cast declined as many refused to vote.

Als, the penomenon known in India as tactical voting has begn to operate
against the left. This is a localised voter choice. Based on a strong
negative feeling about one party, voters decided to vote against it and in
fsvour of the candidate most likely to win. If that happens, if 51-52% of
the votes are mobilised, the left could end up losing an overwhelming
majority of its seats. If that happens, it will be because they thought
they
could take the workers for granted and woo the small, and medium
bourgeoisie
by beating up the workers. The lessons of Spain in the 1930s and Chile are
obviously sealed books for them. Yet if fascism is to be fought,
mobilisations have to be organised and battles have to be fought.The time
for that is running short

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