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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 27, New Delhi, June 19, 2021

People of Bengal redefine the Marxist ideology and practice | Arun Srivastava

Friday 18 June 2021


by Arun Srivastava

Usually, the left forces represent the aspirations of peasants and agricultural labourers and act as the vanguards of the agrarian movements. But in the existing political-economic scenario the left parties, their trade unions and Kisan Sabhas have simply been providing outside support to the farmers protesting since November 26 against the three farm laws under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morcha.

No doubt the 10 central trade unions have been supporting the farmers’ agitation from the beginning it is only after the Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee agreeing to spearhead the pan Indian farmers’ movement and in her pursuit trying to bring the non-BJP chief ministers across the country on a common platform that the ten central trade unions would hold demonstrations on June 26 in support of the farmers’ agitation.

They would also hold sit-in protests at Raj Bhavans and in front of offices of district collectors across the country demanding repeal of the new farm laws. While this would provide huge moral and physical support to the agitation this will bring the left parties closer to the farmers. This would help broaden the base of the movement and present it as a pan Indian movement in the true sense.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha will show black flags during their June 26 protest and send memorandums to President Ram Nath Kovind. The farmers will also organise dharnas at governor houses across the country on June 26 to mark the completion of seven months of their agitation against the three new Central agri-marketing laws. Inderjit Singh of SKM said that the day will be observed as “Kheti Bachao, Loktantra Bachao Diwas (save farming, save democracy day)”.

The working class today has no work and no income. They are struggling to buy food and essential commodities. The pandemic has relegated the workers to the level of daily agricultural labourer surviving on the wages earned from MNREGA. But the Modi government is not at all concerned of the huge manpower loss and collapse of the skilled labour force.

The trade unions, the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the CPM-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the CPI-backed All India Trade Union Congress, also demanded the repeal of the four labour laws brought by the Narendra Modi government. It is encouraging to listen to the CITU general secretary, A R Sindhu; “The labour laws brought by the central government are equally dangerous like the farm laws. The labour laws do not protect the workers but serve the interest of the rich corporates”.

Mamata’s most important move would be to turn Bengal into a “model state” by bringing in a law that guaranteed farmers a minimum support price in keeping with the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation to buy crops at a rate one-and-a-half times the cost of production. Her move might look quite ambitious, but it has a major pragmatic side too.

Though backroom discussions were on their way for quite some time, with the poll strategist Prashant Kishor set to play a major role, it was on June 9, 2021 top farmer leaders including Rakesh Tikait succeeded in their mission to get a positive response from Mamata for giving a political face to the agitation. Mamata was bestowed with this grace once she punched Modi out of the ring and made people realise that rightist forces are fascist and anti-people. Paradoxically rightist forces getting some amount of recognition and political acceptability goes to the leftist icons who some 30 years back did not visualise it as a fascist force.

Meanwhile, moves are afoot to hold the conference of all the non-BJP chief ministers at the earliest and issue a joint statement in favour of the farmers’ movement to pressurise Modi to withdraw the anti-farmer laws. Mamata promised to the farmer leaders; The Centre’s indifference towards our farmer brethren is to be blamed for this situation. Farmers’ rights cannot be compromised in any way and we will together fight every battle to uproot the BJP along with its insensitive, miscalculated policies. I will definitely speak to the chief ministers who are my friends”.

She also made an important statement: “In a federal structure, there should be a union of states so that if the Centre harasses a particular state, the other states can jointly fight it”. According to state government data, Bengal has 71.23 lakh farmer families, of whom 96 per cent are small and marginal cultivators. For the survival of the peasantry, it is imperative for the Bengal government to provide them with an adequate price and infrastructure support like cold chains, a marketing network and robust Kisan Mandis (farmers’ markets).

From agriculture to industry, employment generation to Covid-19 management, the RSS and BJP have completely destroyed the country which has become weak and is suffering. The economy is a disaster. The nation now faces twin disasters, natural and political.

Significantly keeping her promise made during the Assembly elections, Mamata Banerjee on June 17, 2021 increased the allowance for the Krishak Bandhu scheme for farmers from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. Farmers of the state will get this amount in their accounts every six months. The work of handing over the money to the farmers in the districts will start on Thursday [June 17, 2021]. Farm labourers who used to get a minimum of Rs 2,000 per year as allowance will now get a minimum of Rs. 4,000. Not only farmers but at least 82 lakh farm labourers and sharecroppers will benefit from this project. Earlier, farmers had to show land documents to come under the state’s farmer scheme. "There is no need to show land documents now," Mamata said on June 17, 2021. You just have to submit an affidavit."

Meanwhile making a major tactical shift from its earlier stand the Left Front today threw its weight behind the Mamata Government. While slamming the Modi government and Governor Jagdeep Dhankar the Left Front chairman Biman Bose decried the moves of the Modi government and announced that 16 Left parties would protest Modi government’s actions.

He said: “The Centre-state relationship has become important for us. The way the Centre is intervening in affairs of the state and the state government isn’t right. This includes the role of the governor…What he is doing isn’t right either”. Bose referred to Dhankhar meeting 50 BJP MLAs on Monday and said a governor had never held a meeting with the representatives of a particular political party on the portico of the Raj Bhavan. The governor is identifying himself as a BJP man.

Bose also took seriously the attempt of the Modi government to muzzle the voice of the state’s finance minister Amit Mitra at a crucial meeting of the GST council, which discussed the contentious issue of slashing tax on Covid-19 related products. He said the Front would raise the issue of waiving GST on Covid-19 related products and reiterated that Mitra had correctly placed the matter at the GST council meeting.

During the seven years of Modi rule, this is for the first time the Left parties have come out openly against Modi and his government. During the seven months of the farmers’ movement though the left forces and political parties extended their support to the farmers’ agitation. it was not more than tokenism. The fact is they did not actively involve in the agitation. Some leftist peasant organisations had taken out rallies in Mumbai and in southern states, but it was confined only up to giving moral support. The spirit which was visible in 2018 when the farmers from southern states had marched to Delhi and organised sit-in demonstration was missing this time.

This had even raised questions; why are the left parties and forces unwilling to actively participate in the farmers’ agitation; or, whether the element of north and south divide has been working at some level. It is a known fact that the leftist polemics does not accept the farmers as peasants. It is sad that they are still adhering to the old political line that farmers’ are the exploiters of peasants. They conveniently forget that during the last 30 years the political economy of the country has undergone a radical change and the old primordial relations have turned obsolete. With the emergence of the new rural middle class, the parameters and definition of the farmers and farming have changed. A huge number of peasants have been elevated to the rank of the new rural middle class.

An insight into the agitation would reveal that poor peasants and agricultural labours have also joined the farmers and have been articulating their demands. With the sustained decline in the agrarian GDP and investment in agricultural activities, these sections have been forced to tag their future with the farmers. No one should nurse the wrong notion that the entire labour force has been sustaining its existence on NREGA. The programme which was in 2015 vilified by Narendra Modi as the symbol of economic bankruptcy of the Manmohan Singh government has turned out the best mechanism for the bureaucrats and BJP workers and leaders to indulge in the loot of public money. The situation has come to such a stage that only one-fourth of the labourers get the benefit of the NREGA. Rest others have to look towards the farmers and peasants for their survival.

They not only failed the farmers, their role in fighting for the crores of migrant labourers who were fleeing the cities and metros after the imposition of the lockout has been most deplorable. Instead of fighting for their rehabilitation and forcing the state governments of Bihar, UP, Odisha to take care of them, these leftist forces left them to fend for themselves. While around 1000 labourers lost their lives on their way to their villages and native places, these leaders were busy analysing the situation from the Marxist perspective in their party publications, purely a petit bourgeoise exercise.

Nearly 500 farmers sitting on satyagraha on the borders of Delhi have lost their lives, but these leaders did not visit the satyagraha site to condole or pay their respect. Certainly, those who lost their lives on borders were not capitalist or rich farmers or junkers. Even if one subscribes to the Leftist polemics that the farmers are junkers, it did not turn them into pariah. They are human beings and every person believing in Marxism cannot abdicate his moral responsibility of standing by them. The attitude of the Marxists during the pandemic has really been bizarre. At some level, it reflected their ideological and political bankruptcy.

The fact cannot be denied that these farmers have been fighting against the rightist and fascist forces. But the leftist averseness reinforces the belief that the leftist leadership does not treat the RSS and BJP as fascist forces. AS during Dr Manmohan Singh’s government once again they have extended moral support to the rightist and fascist forces. They cannot refute the allegation that they were primarily responsible for smearing the image of Dr Singh which was later used ruthlessly by the Saffron Parivar.

These forces have been crying hoarse and blaming Narendra Modi for dismantling the democratic and constitutional institutions. But have refrained from coming to the streets to protest. The leftists often use two words; subjective and objective. In the case of Bengal, no one is sure how they would prefer to evaluate the political situation prevailing at that time.

Nevertheless, their approach to the election makes one recollect the famous suggestion of Stalin to the group of Indian communist leaders who had visited his house, that the party must evolve its strategy in conformity to the existing situation. Indeed the Marxist leaders subscribed to his suggestion and declared TMC as the communal and anti-people party. Only the CPI(ML), a Naxalite outfit had opposed it. The results of the elections made it abundantly clear their disconnect with the people of Bengal. The people gave their verdict that BJP was the rightist and fascist party. The rural poor and the urban people defeated the Marxist party and its ideology.

The proposed modifications in the farmers’ movement will certainly refurbish and galvanise federal politics. It would also return some of the glory which has been systematically and in a planned manner by the RSS and BJP government.

Little doubt coming together of the non-BJP states will throw a new leadership which would take head-on the RSS-BJP rule headed by Modi, but this would also add to the strength of the autonomy of the states. An impression is being created by the Sangh activists that regional parties cannot challenge the political hegemony of the Modi government. It obviously implies that only a national party can challenge the BJP. In this case, it is Congress. But as it is already in a chaotic and shattered condition it cannot perform this task.

Arguably they may appear to be right. But a nation, especially a country like India, cannot accept this outrageous argument. A group of Hindu fundamentalists cannot thrust their diktat on 137 crore of the people of the country. It is really a paradox that a group of 5 lakh people and a political party, the BJP, which could only get 37 per cent of the peoples’ mandate was hankering to shape the destiny of the entire country.

If the Congress leaders have ceased their moral power to fight against the fundamentalist and fascist power it does not mean that the entire people of the country have also surrendered their will and have agreed to live the life of a serf and subservient. In fact, the results of the recent assembly elections to four states are the clear manifestation of the people’s determination to live a decent life.

The victory of the TMC in Bengal is more remarkable. Probably the TMC would not have received a two-thirds majority if the Modi-Shah combination aided by the RSS has refrained from perpetrating this nature of torture and repression and trying to vilify the Bengali culture. The vilification onslaught of the RSS-BJP made conscious the people of Bengal of the imminent threat the state was likely to face if the BJP came to power. The same thing happened in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

This should serve as the eye-opener for the Sangh. The people of the three states raised their protest under the leadership of the regional parties. Recent assembly elections threw up three strong state governments that can alter Centre-state relations. Once the identity of civilisation comes under the attack of the communal and fascist forces the people automatically react and resist. They can wait for some time but not for an indefinite period. Even when they prefer to silence they face an existential crisis. Obviously, it is better to protest and die than to tolerate passive repression and torture. The existence of the people gets threatened when the national leadership emerges as larger-than-life and start eclipsing the federal practices and character.

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