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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 2, January 24, 2009

National and Global Actions: Essential for Inclusive Growth

Monday 26 January 2009, by Chaturanan Mishra

The present economic crisis is global and has been caused by implementation of free trade as prescribed by the ‘Washington Consensus’. The worst victim of this crisis is the working class. Nevertheless the working class is not out on the streets. International trade unions like the ICFTU, WCL and WFTU are silent except issuing same statements. They have the capacity to intervene but do not use it. One does not know why this is so. In peacetime they exchange delegations, announce unity in action and so on, but when the time comes they don’t intervene. The big national TU of China, which is supposed to be revolutionary, is also silent. The developed trade unions of Europe like those of France, Germany and Italy, several of which are dominated by Communists, are also silent. The tragedy is that China claiming to be socialist is also a victim of this crisis unlike the Soviet Union which was unaffected by the last worst crisis in the West in 1929-30. In India the INTUC and HMS are affiliated to the ICFTU and they should ask that international organisation to intervene with concrete slogans. The AITUC and CITU can also ask the WFTU to intervene even though its capacity to intervne is less than that of the ICFTU. Even bourgeois economists of world fame are saying that capitalism cannot work the old way. The British PM has given up Thatcherism and reverted to old socialist actions starting with some form of nationalisation. Even the government in the USA had to take over same private banks. Renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz has aptly said that all have become Keynsian now but their heart has not undergone any change. Every government is giving enormous sums of money amounting to hundreds of billions to capitalist firms to help them revive. This is people’s money being siphoned off to assist those who created the crisis. And there is no protest.

As has been suggested by world experts, to come out of this crisis some international rules are to be framed to ensure that the crisis is not repeated; the exchange rate needs to be fixed; subsidies by governments to distort trade must be stopped; the rules of the World Bank, WTO and IMF should be changed and developing countries given a bigger say in these institutions; the tax system of the developed countries should be such that the developing countries are able to export more; the profits of transnational companies must be taxed. The purchasing power of the people in both the developed and developing countries must be increased so that full scale production starts everywhere. Helping corporates with billions will not help solve the crisis. Many such things are to be done but there is no international movement to carry out such tasks. Even the World Social Forum is silent.

EVEN after one hundred and fifty years since Karl Marx’s demise nowhere in the world has the working class sufficiently matured politically to run the state and establish socialism. In this crisis a new slogan—-‘inclusive growth’—has been raised. It means growth taking place in such a way that even the poorest get shelter, employment, education, healthcare, maternity benefits, social security (like old age pension) etc. The farmers, especially the small farmers, must get every facility for scientific cultivation to raise the productivity of their land. That will provide them the requisite purchasing power to purchase the products from factories. In India if housing for all is taken up earnestly the crisis in the cement industry will ease. If poor people are able to avail purchasing power, the crisis in textiles due to the fall in exports to the USA will ease. Likewise the whole world will benefit with the creation of a huge market. The slogan of inclusive growth is being backed by the middle class and many top economists all over the world. This is in the United Nations’ plan as well. The ILO stands for decent work for all. If the international trade unions, Communists, Socialists and NGOs like the World Social Forum launch a sustained movement for inclusive growth with a concrete programme it can be achieved during this crisis. The transnationals and the corporate sector are highly isolated today. This is the time to achieve this project. The poor people across the globe can be rallied behind it.

On the national plane the government in India, like those of the USA and the European countries, is extending immense help to the corporates which created the crisis with the same measures like easing the liquidity and making credit plentiful and cheap for them. Lowering the interst rate also helps the corporate sector most and will go a long way in only increasing their profits. The government is concerned with the stock market alone and not the people. Even the small employers are not being helped. Out of 58 millioin tiny non-farm enterprises 54 millioin with less than Rs 5 lakh investment each will get only 2.2 per cent of the bank credit extended in the country; and the rest upto Rs 25 lakh investment will get a mere four per cent of the credit. Thus handloom, handicrafts, coir, leather, food processing etc. will continue to suffer. On the other hand if this section is helped the deficiency in exports can be absorbed domestically.

Bharat Nirman has a major potential for employment in rural infrastructure, roads, irrigation, rural electrification etc. but even with sanctioned budget funds the work achieved is less than 50 per cent. Supply of electricity covers only 10 per cent of those below the poverty line (BPL). The NREGA has a big potentiality for emplolyment but here too the implementation is nowhere near what had been proposed. Better implementation could have been possible if the political parties, particularly of the Left, had taken it up seriously at the national level with thorough groundwork going far beyond the realm of lectures and slogans.

In order to change the policies of the government in India and to make our growth genuinely ‘inclusive’ united actions of the central trade unions beginning with the merger of the Left trade unions (on the lines of the AITUC-HMS merger as was mooted sometime back) become imperative. Left leaders in the past used to rouse the masses and organise local struggles. Now the situation warrants State level and national level actions. The present-day leaders fail to organise mass struggles. Even when thousands of farmers commit suicides they don’t move. See how the Gujjars came out for reservation on caste lines. I am not pointing to the violence and destruction of government property which were condemnable; I am referring to the gathering of millions from one corner to another for their cause. Rightists in J&K proper led such massive actions defying curfews. Nandigram and Singur too witnessed massive mass mobilisations. Such mass actions for inclusive growth should be organised by the progressive forces. Inclusive growth is an achievable demand. And the economic crisis we are currently facing makes it all the more achievable. The need is to bring the mass of people on the streets. The rest will follow. If carried out properly the objective of inclusive growth could become the transition to socialism in a democratic system.

The author, who was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98), functioned as the AITUC President for several years.

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