The Modi Government introduced three farm ordinances in June 2020 and these farm ordinances have now been passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in September 2020 amid much ruckus (This article was written when the ordinances had not received President’s assent, however, now they have and thus have been made into laws- Author). All of a sudden every bourgeois political party has stood in support with the farmers. Even some witless “Marxists” lost all bearings and jumped onto the stage of the rich farmers and Kulaks and started doing impromptu striptease! Harsimrat Kaur, M.P. from Shiromani Akali Dal, who happened to be a minister in the cabinet also, resigned from her post and her party threatened about “rethinking” on their alliance with the BJP. Parliamentary leftists not to be left behind also joined the choir of the rich peasantry and Kulaks-farmers as clappers in the chorus assembled to safeguard remunerative prices i.e. the Minimum Support Price (M.S.P.) regime. Some so-called “Marxists”, but nationalists in reality, too, arrived with their tambour of “federalism” to drum the beats of the chorus. In a nutshell, things broke into full-blown pandemonium.
And in that ensuing bedlam, those issues were lost or pushed to the backseat around which the working class and poor peasants should have rallied to protest against these ordinances/legislations. Most of the political forces were overwhelmed with grief at the end of the system of remunerative prices, i.e., M.S.P. and were seen “beating their chests”. Certain so-called “Marxists” were found mourning, agonized as they were by the attacks of the Modi Government on the federal structure of India, and “national oppression” (??!!) by dint of these ordinances; whereas some others were found weeping over the end of farm produce procurement and distribution system, i.e., the government markets (mandis). But the real questions were absent. In the present article, we will deliberate in detail on who will benefit by these farm ordinances, who will suffer due to this, what is the class character of the present farmers’ movement and can the working class oppose the anti-worker and anti-poor provisions of these ordinances from the same platform as that of the rural bourgeoisie, i.e., rich peasantry and Kulaks-farmers?
First of all, let us go through the main provisions of these three ordinances.
- The three farm ordinances: What do they actually mean?
The most important provision in these ordinances is that the government has cleared the path for liberalization in the sector of purchase and trade of farm produce. This is the focal point of the first ordinance that is called ‘Farm Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance’. Now any private buyer can purchase the farm produce directly from the farmers, which earlier could only be done through the A.P.M.C. (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) Mandis on the M.S.P. fixed by the government. This means that the government has loosened control and regulation on the prices of farm produce and this has been left to the natural motion of the open market.
The rich farmers and Kulaks are afraid that because of this the prices fixed by the government will not be assured to them and corporate buyers will be directly purchasing the farm produce at low prices. It may well happen that these corporate buyers will pay higher prices in the beginning but when their monopoly is established over a certain period of time, they may cut down the prices. The government has not formally disbanded the system of government mandis and M.S.P., but it is an obvious outcome that in a period of time these mandis would be no longer there or if they survive at all, they would not have much relevance. The reason being that in trade outside these mandis, no taxes or duties will be imposed on farmers and traders. As a result, the price system of M.S.P., too, will effectively cease to exist, even if it is not ended formally.
That is why the question of Minimum Support Price (M.S.P.) is the central question in present farmers’ movement, and this is the most important issue for this movement or one may rather say that it is the only issue. In this first ordinance itself, there are provisions to keep every purchase outside the mandis to be free from all kinds of duties and taxes and a mechanism of dispute resolution has been introduced, which is also being opposed by farmer organizations. However, this, too, is linked primarily with the demand to ensure the M.S.P.
The basic and main objection raised by the current movement which is going on mainly in Haryana and Punjab and to some extent in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is regarding the provisions of the first ordinance, which ends the monopoly of A.P.M.C. Mandis on the trade of farm produce. This also renders the system of M.S.P. to be ineffective. The impact of this movement is negligible or absent in other states. Leaders from farmers’ organizations in Maharashtra like Shetkari Sangathana’s Anil Dhanwat and Swabhimani Paksh’s Raju Shetty have gone on to welcome these ordinances. More than 70 per cent of the government procurement is done from Haryana and Punjab. In the year 2019-20 itself paddy and wheat crops worth 80,294 crore rupees were purchased at M.S.P.
The second concern which has arisen due to the first ordinance is that of the commission agents (arhtiyas). There are more than 28,000 commission agents in Punjab itself. They receive a commission of 2.5 per cent on M.S.P. These commission agents earned more than Rs. 2,000 crores in Punjab and Haryana during the last year. Very often rich farmers and Kulaks take on the role of commission agents and intermediary traders; they also take on the role of usurers and moneylenders, and purchase farm produce from the lower middle and poor peasants at prices much lower than the M.S.P. and earn profit by selling these products at remunerative prices and also through commissions.
Other than this, state governments also get revenue from the taxes imposed on the sale in the A.P.M.C. mandis, for example in Punjab, it is 6% on paddy and wheat, 4% on basmati rice, and 2% on corn and maize. Last year, the Punjab Government received revenue between Rs. 3,500 crores to Rs. 3,600 crores through it. The farmers’ organizations have said that if state governments do not receive this revenue then they would not be able to improve the infrastructural framework in the rural areas and it will make selling and transportation of the farm produce more difficult for the farmers. But according to leaders of the farmer organizations of Maharashtra like Shetty and Dhanawat, not much of this revenue was invested on the rural infrastructural framework and also if no such revenue is generated, the private investors will invest to make the trading system streamlined for the farm produce as they also need it.
Secondly, all the farmers’ organizations are not objecting to the abolition of the monopoly of the A.P.M.C. mandis for what these are, rather they are only protesting against it because it assured M.S.P. That is why Viju Krishnan of All India Kisan Sabha has said clearly that if the government makes M.S.P. the legal right of the farmers so that it becomes imperative for any private buyer to buy at M.S.P. then they have no problem with the abolishment of the monopoly of the A.P.M.C. mandis.
The Second ordinance is called ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance’. According to which farmers are now not obligated to sell their produce through licensed traders in the A.P.M.C. and with it the farmers are free to enter into direct contracts with any company, sponsor, middlemen for the production of any produce; they do not need to go through the licensed commission agents or traders. According to this, there would be a contract prior to the production on the basis of quantity, quality, variety and prices of the produce, between the farmer and any private sponsor, company, etc. The maximum duration of these contracts will be of 5 years, for those produce where the time period of such production is less than five years. The maximum limit imposed on stocking of essential commodities also has been removed; this means that there will be no restriction on hoarding of essential commodities, which in time may increase the prices of farm produce like onion, potato etc.
However, with the beginning of contract farming, in itself, there will not be any special disadvantage to the common working masses. The small and middle peasantry was the victim of contract farming earlier too. The only difference was that until now they were getting robbed by rich farmers and commission agents only, and now the road has been cleared for big monopoly capital also. The result varies from country to country and region to region. In West Bengal, farmers have been getting 5 rupees extra on every kilogram after making a deal for contract farming of potatoes with PepsiCo. However, the model of contract farming introduced in Andhra Pradesh during Chandrababu Naidu’s regime, resulting in a loss for the rich and middle peasantry. The poor and lower-middle peasantry was being exploited by rich and upper-middle peasantry before as well through contract farming and other methods. Now they will be looted by big capital. Hence, the primary change due to this second ordinance centred on contract farming will be only that the monopoly of the rich peasantry, upper-middle peasantry and commission agents in robbing the broad cross-section of poor and lower-middle peasant population will end and with the large scale entry of corporate capital in the farming sector, it will become difficult for the rich peasantry, Kulaks and farmers to compete.
The third ordinance changes the Essential Commodities Act and offers leverage in hoarding and black marketing because it puts an end to stocking limit of essential commodities except in a war-like emergency situation. This third ordinance straight away goes against the interests of the working masses. This is the ordinance which directly affects the common toiling masses and it harms their class interests and it is absolutely essential that it should be opposed. But you will find that the current farmers’ movement continuing under the leadership of the political organizations of the rich peasantry and Kulaks-farmers is not saying much on this third ordinance.
These ordinances are also related to the demand for the restoration of the proper functioning of the Public Distribution System (PDS). The central government has been trying since long to escape liability of public distribution system completely and is advocating the imposition of this responsibility solely on the state governments. Obviously, this proposal means dismantling of the public distribution system completely, which will end food security for the broad cross-section of working masses. That is why one of the demands of the entire working class, semi-proletariat, as well as poor and lower-middle peasantry, must be to ensure the proper implementation of the public distribution system.
To sum it up, the reasons, because of which the current farmers’ agitation is opposing these farm ordinances, are fundamentally and primarily centred on the question of remunerative prices, i.e., M.S.P. Its main concern is that the remunerative price system, that is to say, the Minimum Support Price regime will be over with the introduction of these ordinances. Hence, the most important question mainly for rural, but also for the urban working class and semi-proletariat as well as for the poor peasantry and rural semi proletariat is what should be their view and attitude on M.S.P. Facts uncover the truth and therefore we will first have a look at some facts so that the beneficiary class of the M.S.P. is identified correctly.
- The remunerative price system or M.S.P. regime: whose benefit, whose loss?
We have drawn attention towards this reality in ‘Mazdoor Bigul’ several times earlier too and certain observers other than us also have acknowledged that the system of M.S.P. only benefits 4 to 6 per cent rich peasantry and Kulaks. Let’s have a look at some numbers in order to understand it statistically. Here, we will first concentrate only on the peasantry and not farm labour.
According to the National Sample Survey report of 2013, one-third of the total farmers in India own less than 0.4 hectares of land. Only one-sixth part of their income, i.e., 16 per cent, comes from farming and the rest of it comes from wage labour. The other one-third of the total farmers has land holdings between 0.4 hectares to 1 hectare. Farming constitutes 40% of their total income and the rest 60% primarily comes from wage labour. Taking in account these two sections together, they compose more than 70 per cent of the farming population.
This section of peasantry does not get M.S.P. at all. Why do they not get it, we will discuss later. The second most important point is that these peasants are primarily the buyers and not sellers of farm produce. As a result, they do not benefit but suffer due to rise in M.S.P. The reason is that the prices of the farm produce always increase with the increase in M.S.P. and with it increases the prices of industrial products which need farm produce as input for production.
According to statistics, the total expenditure of these 70 per cent peasantry on their consumption is greater than their income. Consequently, they depend on loans to fulfill their need for working capital. These loans are not provided to them by the banks or other financial institutions since banks and other financial institutions are beyond their reach. Then who provides them with loans? This loan is provided to them by rich farmers, Kulaks and commission agents. More often than not, these rich farmers are themselves the traders and commission agents for farm produce as well as the blood-sucking moneylenders for the poor peasants. Because these 70% extremely poor peasants are crushed under debts and face chronic indebtedness, the rich farmers, Kulaks and commission agents force them to sell their produce at prices much lower than the M.S.P. and market price. Other than this, the poor and lower-middle peasantry do not have direct access to the markets because they lack the facility of transportation and capital and are, as such, dependent on the rich farmers, Kulaks, usurers and commission agents, i.e., on the rural bourgeoisie, even for the trade of their produce. This produce is then sold by rich farmers, Kulaks and commission agents at M.S.P. and at the same time the commission agents also earn commission on the remunerative price.
About 92% of the total farmers in the country have land holdings of less than 2 hectares. That means the poor and extremely poor and peripheral peasants if taken together, form 92% of the total farming population. These peasants do not get any benefit from M.S.P. and suffer losses or at the best, a very small topmost fraction of this population gets some kind of nominal benefit. These farmers are primarily buyers of farm produce, food grains in the main, and not the sellers. They get nothing from remunerative prices or any increase in it but on the contrary, suffer losses.
But then who benefits from the M.S.P.? Let us have a look at some facts regarding this too.
Only 4.1% of farmers of the total farming population of the country own 4 hectares of land or more. Three-fourth of their income comes from farming. Rest of it, too, comes from commissions and moneylending; a very small part of their income comes from wage labour. This means that their household economy depends upon income from farming. But do not forget that these are generally those farmers who can do farming only by exploiting wage labour. Neither they nor their families work on the fields. In reality, in most of the cases, they do not toil on their farms themselves and the productive labour is completely performed by wage labour of agricultural workers and poor peasants. This is the class which pays no tax, gets all benefits from loan write-off schemes and is the beneficiary of the remunerative price system or M.S.P. regime. To call them “food-providers” is a vulgar joke. If these rich farmers and Kulaks are food-providers, then Reliance can be termed as gas-provider, Liberty as shoe-provider, and Titan as watch-provider. This is the same argument given by Narendra Modi that it is the capitalist class which creates wealth. But in reality, the farm workers and poor peasants are the food-providers of the country and the class of rich farmers and Kulaks is the parasitic class which appropriates the labour-power of the working masses.
According to the report by Shanta Kumar Committee, only 5.8% of the total farmer population is able to sell their produce at remunerative prices or M.S.P. and even they can sell only 14% to 35% of their total produce at remunerative prices. The reason is that it is only the rich farmers and Kulaks who are able to reap total benefit from remunerative price system, not the upper-middle and middle peasantry.
Now we must look closely that what is the effect of the hike in M.S.P. on the working masses.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) report was published by Sajjad Chenoy, Pankaj Kumar and Prachi Mishra in 2016. This report discusses the remunerative price system and farm produce prices in detail. According to it, the rural and urban working-class along with poor peasants suffer the most from the remunerative price system and rise in remunerative prices of farm produce. The reason being that when remunerative prices increase then food grain prices also increase and prices of industrial products which use farm produce as input in production also increase. Obviously, these industrial products largely include those products which are purchased by a broad cross-section of working masses. Consequently, on one hand, the food grain prices rise and on the other hand the non–agricultural products purchased by the working class and working masses also get expensive.
The demand for food grains is flexible only upto a limit and it is relatively more rigid. That is why despite the rising prices, the demand for food grains does not drop below a certain point. However, there is more flexibility in the demand for other goods and consequently, their demand falls. As a result, the part of expenditure on food grains by the families of workers and common working masses can be said to be reduced in itself but it increases in comparison to the spending on other goods and services. In simpler words, on one hand, the common working population consumes less food than earlier and its food security diminishes, however, on the other hand, it spends comparatively larger than earlier fraction of its income on food and as a result reduces the consumption of other goods and services, because of which the domestic demand for these goods and services also drops.
Resultantly, owing to the contraction in domestic demand, the capitalist economy which is already reeling under crisis due to declining rate of profit gets pulled deeper into the abyss; however, it must be borne in mind that the inability of the produced goods to be sold (the crisis of realization) is not itself the reason for the crisis, nonetheless it aggravates the already existing crisis of decline in the average rate of profit. Nevertheless, it is the working class which pays the price for this too, because the rate of investment falls due to this crisis and the working class has to face retrenchments, layoffs, lockdowns and consequently unemployment and reduced average wages.
- The Contradiction between Industrial Bourgeoisie and Agrarian Bourgeoisie and the Position of the Working Class
The increase in prices of food grains and those industrial products which are dependent on agricultural products for their production is a bad omen even for the industrial bourgeoisie. On the one hand, it exerts upward pressure on average wage and on the other hand, it brings about decrease in the gross demand of the industrial goods, which are bought by the working class and common working masses, that is to say, all kinds of non-durable consumer goods.
This does not augur well for the industrial capitalist class, too, because, on the one hand, the demand for non-durable goods produced by it decreases as compared to earlier and gives rise to the problem of realization (i.e., the ability to sell its goods) and on the other hand, there is a pressure to increase the average wage of the industrial working class. Certainly, the decrease in the demand of the non-agricultural goods and services purchased by the working class does not, in itself, cause the capitalist crisis (because the root of the capitalist crisis is the crisis of fall in the average rate of profit which manifests itself in the reduced mutual purchase among the bourgeoisie, the major part of it is in the sale-purchase of means of production), but it intensifies the capitalist crisis. However, increase in average wage decreases the average rate of profit even more so, because if the share of wages in the net produced value increases then it results in relative decline in the share of profit. On one hand, owing to the increase in the organic composition of capital and on the other hand, because of the constant pressure to increase average wage, the capitalist crisis arises and furthermore owing to the crisis of realization which occurs due to fall in the demand of industrial goods purchased by the workers, this crisis is intensified.
Despite the pressure to increase the average wage, the industrial bourgeoisie makes every possible effort to stall the increase in the average wage of the working class, the consequences of which the latter has to bear. However, if the prices of food grains and agricultural products keep on increasing and which in turn fuels the prices of those industrial goods (which are purchased by the workers) which use agricultural products as raw material for their production, then the capitalist class is compelled to increase the wages after a certain limit because, under such circumstances, the working class is unable to reproduce its labour-power in workable condition. Moreover, it foments discontent in society and can lead to an explosive situation. This social crisis can transform into political crisis if certain other prerequisites are fulfilled. Hence in such conditions too, the capitalist class has to increase the wages.
The Corn Laws dispute in England arose in the 19th century because of this very reason. The capitalist class of England was unable to import cheap corn due to the Corn Laws. The rural bourgeoisie of England wanted to maintain the system of those taxes and tariffs, at any cost, which was imposed on the imported corn because only this way they could compete in the market with the imported corn. As a result, the prices of corn were higher in England and corn was the staple food grain which was consumed by the English working class. Because of the expensive corn, there was always pressure to increase wages. Ultimately, owing to the increasing political clout of the industrial bourgeoisie, the bourgeois state of England discontinued these Corn Laws. As a result, the industrial bourgeoisie benefitted; however, the competition became tougher for the rural capitalist class, and with the passage of time it was compelled to further introduce mechanization and with it the development of the productive forces. Certainly, a section of the peasant population was proletarianized and differentiation, too, increased amongst the peasantry. These were historically progressive changes and Marx and Engels considered those wailing over this to be petty-bourgeois filth of the most hideous category. Because of the reduced pressure to increase the average wages, it was possible for the capitalist class to increase its rate of profit.
That is why, in general, the industrial and financial bourgeoisie do not see the increase in the prices of food grains to be in its interest, but rather in decreasing and regulating the prices. Along with this, it also wants to keep the prices of other agricultural products to be as minimum as possible, which are used as raw materials during production in various industries. Today if the financial and industrial capitalist class is targeting the system of remunerative prices (M.S.P.) and wants to give the market forces a free hand in the trade of agricultural products and wants to end the state regulation and protection, then the contradiction between the agrarian capitalist class and industrial capitalist class along with financial capitalist class is acting behind it, but this is not an antagonistic contradiction. This contradiction can intensify at times, but it cannot become an antagonistic contradiction in a sense like the antagonistic contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
History is witness to the fact that due to the liberalization introduced by the industrial and financial capitalist class in the production and trade of agricultural goods, that is, by leaving the farm sector completely at the mercy of market forces, the monopolization increases and big corporate capital, as well as a section of rich farmers along with the Kulaks, benefits from it. Certainly, it also results in the ruination of a small section of the rich and upper-middle peasantry or their demotion to an inferior status in the socio-economic hierarchy. But for the poor peasantry and agricultural workers, the system prior to liberalization, too, is not particularly beneficial. The main effect due to liberalization of this kind is that the class that exploits and robs them changes. The loot continues afterwards as well and cannot be ended within the capitalist system. This class was being looted and destroyed in the system of production and trade of farm produce by the rich peasants and Kulaks earlier, and its destiny remains to be looted and destroyed after the big corporate capital enters the arena.
That is why the issue of maintaining the system of remunerative prices or to increase it or to continue the system of A.P.M.C. markets as it is or not is the dispute between rural agricultural capitalist class and monopoly capitalist class. The rural farm worker, rural non-agricultural worker, poor and middle peasants, urban industrial and non-industrial proletariat does not need to support the rich farmer and Kulaks or industrial capitalist class.
On the contrary, the so-called Marxists (but Nationalists and Narodniks in reality) who are turning the poor peasants and proletariat into hanger-ons of the rich farmers and Kulaks, are harming the whole working class and communist movement. The proletariat must particularly oppose the third ordinance among the three farm bills, that is the ordinance regarding essential commodities and it makes no sense to jump on the platform of rich farmers and Kulaks for this. To go behind any one of these (that is either rich farmer-Kulaks or monopoly capitalist class) means to forgo the political independence of the proletariat, which means as much harm to the poor peasants as this class is now primarily dependent on wage labour, and not farming.
Today, owing to the lack of proper political consciousness, if the poor and lower-middle peasantry is becoming part of the crowd rallied behind the rich farmers and Kulaks in their movement, then it does not mean that this current farmers’ movement is either advocating or representing their class interests.
Before going ahead with this topic, it will be relevant to talk about one more aspect. Whenever there is a movement of Kulaks and farmers, a section of the urban middle class becomes emotional about it. It demands that people should continue getting food grains at low prices and the rich farmers should continue getting remunerative prices, and the government should subsidize to achieve both. This proposal is utopian due to two reasons. Firstly, this is not possible due to the contradiction between the agrarian capitalist class and the financial-industrial capitalist class. Even the rich farmers and Kulaks understand the impracticality of such a proposal. Secondly, the intellectuals of the urban middle class fail to understand that the subsidy they are demanding in order to increase the remunerative prices and also to keep on providing affordable meal is not possible. Where will this subsidy come from? Clearly, the government will give out the subsidy from its treasury or revenue. The main source of the revenue is indirect taxes. These indirect taxes are given mainly and primarily by the toiling masses. If subsidy like this is to be provided, then ultimately its price will be paid by the toiling masses through indirect taxes and inflation. Because of these two reasons the proposal put forward by the urban middle class is utopian and impractical and cannot be implemented.
- Why all of sudden the rich peasants, farmers and Kulaks have become advocates of “workers-farmers unity”?
First of all, peasantry, particularly in a capitalist society, is not a homogeneous or monolithic class. At first, we must ask which section of peasantry are we talking about? Are we talking about those 86% poor and marginal peasants who own less than one and a quarter hectares of land and whose livelihood depends primarily on wage labour, or are we talking about those farmers who own more than 4 hectares of land and are the beneficiaries of remunerative price system (M.S.P.) and enjoy significant political clout and dominance?
How did this dominance start? It would be useful to have a look at it. After the so-called Green Revolution in the 1960s, a considerable size of the class of rich peasantry and Kulak-farmers came into existence. This also included rich tenant farmers. After this class came into existence during the 1970s, their political representation also started to increase in bourgeois politics. Their pressure regarding their demands started to increase gradually. In this period rich farmer leaders like Charan Singh and Devi Lal were representing the class interests of rich peasants and Kulaks-farmers and their presence was felt on the national political scene.
Till the beginning of 1980s, the government policies were more focused on creating an infrastructural framework by promoting public investment in agriculture. The main emphasis was on improving the irrigation and other agricultural infrastructural framework through public investment. In reality, the path of Indian capitalist development included an emphasis on creating the infrastructure for the capitalist class through government investment, till the beginning of 1980s. Now, when the private capitalist class was able to stand on its feet in the industrial sector and an infrastructural framework was put in place, the capitalist state gradually started the process of liberalization of the economy. This process happened slightly differently in agriculture, but the basic logic was the same.
After the Green Revolution, a class of rich peasants and Kulak-farmers of considerable size came into existence, and afterwards, the central emphasis of government policies shifted from promoting public investment in infrastructure to assuring remunerative prices. By the end of the decade of 1980, almost 70 per cent of agricultural purchase was being done from Haryana and Punjab. Because of this policy shift, the public investment in the agricultural infrastructure started to decrease and the emphasis shifted to the system of remunerative prices. At that time capital accumulation in the agricultural sector was the need of Indian capitalist class and this system was a necessity for that. When this policy shift took place, it had the most negative impact on the poor peasants and lower-middle peasantry who were dependent on monsoon for irrigation. Rich farmers and Kulaks were not dependent on monsoon to that extent and they could rely upon the exploitation of groundwater. Electricity at subsidized prices made all of this easier for the rich farmers and Kulaks. Capitalist development in agriculture and capital accumulation and the expansion of agrarian capitalist class were the needs of Indian capitalism and the covenant between the agrarian capitalist class and the industrial-financial capitalist class was the manifestation of this need.
But today the needs of the monopoly capitalist class of India have changed. In the age of global crisis, a new period of crisis in Indian agriculture has also begun. Even in this period of crisis, the 4 per cent upper section of the whole farming population has not suffered much, rather it has profited in many aspects. Until now they have been successful in assuring capital accumulation due to the remunerative price system. During this whole period of crisis, that is to say, from 2004 to 2016, the purchase of power tillers by Indian rich farmers and Kulaks has increased three times and in the case of tractors, it has increased by two and half times. In other words, the capital accumulation by the Indian rural capitalist class is experiencing steady healthy growth and their rate and ability to invest in agriculture has increased in totality. Then who are those farmers that are committing suicide due to agrarian crisis? These are mainly poor and agricultural workers who cultivate the land on rent and semi–proletariat, who are always under the pressure of heavy debts.
Today when the rich farmers and kulak class is being deprived of remunerative prices and government market system, suddenly it has become a proponent of “worker-farmer unity”. Let us see, in the present and earlier also how this rich farmer and Kulak class has been treating the farmworkers and poor peasants.
Recently, when lockdown began, the number of migrant farm workers reduced significantly. Because of which the supply of labour-power by agricultural workers also reduced to a great extent. Due to this, naturally, wages started increasing. In this situation, the rich farmers, upper-middle peasants and Kulaks of many villages in Punjab and Haryana actually fixed the ceiling for the maximum wages by voting in their panchayats, khaps and meetings. None of the farmers was allowed to offer wages more than this fixed-wage nor were the workers allowed to work in other villages. Anyone doing so was to be boycotted! That means the agricultural workers were compelled to work on the wages fixed by rich farmers. These rich farmers and kulak organization did not remember the slogan of “workers-farmers” unity at that time.
Rich farmers and Kulaks have always opposed the demand by farm workers to fix minimum wages and other workers’ rights. Labour rights are, to a minimum, a kind of formal safeguard given by the state in the capitalist system; similar, in that sense, to the remunerative price system provided to the rich farmers and Kulaks, though these are two entirely different kinds of protections. Rich farmers and Kulaks demand safety measures from the state for themselves but if poor peasants and farm workers demand safety measures for themselves in the form of labour rights, then they oppose it. Will the farmer organizations leading the current farmers’ movement accept the demand that every farm worker should be granted weekly leave, eight hour working day, minimum wage, overtime payment at the double rate? Will they include these demands along with demands of the movement and will they give it a priority? No!
Then if the slogan of “workers-farmers unity” is being raised from the platforms of rich farmers and Kulaks, what does it mean? Absolutely nothing! This is only to rally poor peasants and farm workers against their own class interest in support of the demands of rich farmers and Kulaks. This is also well known that wealthy farmers and Kulaks themselves seldom go to rallies and demonstrations in this current movement, however, they do make arrangements to send the poor, the lower-middle peasants and farmworkers. That is to say, even in the movement for their (rich farmers-Kulaks) demands, the poor peasants, lower-middle peasants and farm workers are left to face the repression of lathi-charge and arrests.
On the one hand, because of their dependence on rich farmers, usurers and commission agents in the countryside and on the other, owing to the lack of independent class consciousness and class organization, the rural proletariat and semi-proletariat and poor and lower-middle peasants become part of the movement of the rich farmers and Kulaks, raising demands which go against their own class interests. Some also carry the misconception that if there is an increase in remunerative prices, then they will get a better price for their produce or the wages would be improved, but experience tells that such a ‘trickle-down’ never exists. This is nothing but a Kulak version of Neo-Liberal ‘trickle-down’ theory.
Hence, it is needed to separate these poor and lower-middle peasants and farm workers from the political leadership and influence of organizations of wealthy farmers and Kulaks. They must be made conscious of their class interests and the formation of their separate class organizations is one of the most fundamental necessities of the tasks of revolutionary organizing in the countryside. Their principal demand is related to employment and they should fight for employment guarantee. Moreover, the farm workers must struggle for their rights of minimum wages, weekly offs, eight-hour working day, payment according to double rate, ESI-PF etc. These constitute the immediate demands of the rural poor at present.
Neither the slogan of safeguarding small peasantry can be given (it eventually sucks their blood and gives them nothing, just keeps on taking away); this will be a reactionary romanticist slogan. As Lenin said, communists should tell the truth to the poor peasants and not make them accustomed to living in the illusion. No matter what, there is no future to small scale farming in the capitalist system. Let us see the truth through some figures.
There was an increase of 35% in the number of farmworkers in India from 2001 to 2011. This increase was mainly due to the destruction of poor and lower-middle peasants due to constant indebtedness. The suicide rate is also highest amongst these poor peasants. There was a decrease of 90 lakhs in farmer population between 2001 and 2011. Definitely, this has increased in the later period because the agrarian crisis has intensified. In 2011, 26.3 crore people were employed in agriculture, where more than half of them were farm workers. Farmer population reduced to 11.8 crores from 12.7 crores during this very decade. Even in this farmer population, about 90 per cent were marginal, small and extremely small peasants, whose livelihood was not primarily based on farming, but wage labour.
That means the population of middle, upper-middle and rich farmers and Kulaks is barely 1 to 1.5 crores and this is the same population which, as landowners, usurers, capitalist farmers, traders and commission agents, exploits and oppresses farm workers and always tries its best to maintain wages and working conditions as worse as possible. And now when corporate capital is entering agriculture and the rural capitalist class is afraid of being destroyed by the competition, it has opted to put forward the rhetoric of “workers-farmers unity”. This must be answered by the proletariat and poor peasants by saying that the struggle for remunerative prices is no way in their interest and their principal demand is for employment guarantee, labour rights for farm workers and complete freedom from debts of rich farmers, traders and commission agents.
- What goes against workers and working masses in the provisions of the three farm ordinances?
The provision from these three ordinances, which specifically goes against the interest of workers, is the change in the Essential Commodities Act. This will increase the ability of the mercantile capitalist class and the agent middle-men class to hoard, black market and artificially increase the prices of essential goods. Along with the mercantile capitalist class, the rich peasants and Kulaks, too, will be able to induce a situation of artificial scarcity and by raising the prices this way, they can earn huge profits.
This third ordinance directly goes against the working class and common working masses and they should target their protests against this ordinance. Also, the toiling masses must also oppose the ploy by the central government to end the public distribution system by thrusting it on the state governments.
Some people claim that if the trade in A.P.M.C. markets is stopped then the workers employed in them will lose their jobs. It could happen temporarily, but if there is no trade in the A.P.M.C. markets then it does not mean that there will be no trade in crops and other farm produce. This trade will continue and the need of workers will also continue. The only difference will be that this workforce will not be working under the contractors and commission agents of A.P.M.C. markets, but the procurement system of big corporates.
Will the opportunities of employment decrease with the entry of big capital? It depends on many factors. Because generally, with the entry of big capital, the organic composition of capital increases and employment per unit decreases, hence there could be a decrease in employment momentarily. However, with the expansion in trade and production, it can increase too. It is meaningless to oppose this only on the ground that with the entry of big capital, the relatively small capital will be defeated in the competition. Secondly, any outcome other than this cannot be expected within this capitalist system and to instill hope in people for it is a plain reactionary and romanticist position.
The funny thing is that those who have developed stomach ache in the fear that workers engaged in A.P.M.C. markets will lose jobs owing to these markets becoming irrelevant, are dancing to the tunes of the rich farmers and Kulaks on their stage; whereas these rich farmers and Kulaks are not making much noise about saving these mandis, rather they are saying that if trade is allowed outside these markets, then farmers should be given legal right of the remunerative price so that any purchaser who buys farm produce anywhere has to purchase at the remunerative price only. That means these rich farmers and Kulaks are not at all concerned about the jobs of the workers working in the A.P.M.C. markets. There only concern is to save the system of remunerative price, that is to say, MSP.
We must demand employment guarantee and regularization of jobs for these workers as well. Saving the A.P.M.C. markets and remunerative prices per se is not a task in itself for us. We will ask the government for employment guarantee for these workers as well, and not saving the system of the remunerative price for the rich farmers and Kulaks, a demand that definitely goes against the workers. And if the rich farmers, Kulaks, usurers, and commission agents talk about saving the A.P.M.C. markets, then we should put forth as a precondition for supporting this demand, that the job of all the workers engaged in these markets be regularized, they must be given all their labour rights, such as 8-hour workday, minimum wages, etc. Obviously, these commission agents, middlemen, usurers (who are often the rich farmers and Kulaks themselves) are not discussing these demands of the workers.
This raises the question whether we would be able to make any meaningful opposition to those provisions of the three ordinances which goes against the broad cross-section of the common working masses, from the platform of the movement of rich farmers and Kulaks,?
- Is it possible to oppose, from the platform of the movement of the rich farmers and Kulaks the anti-people provisions of the farm ordinances?
The straight answer is: No! To even harbour any such notion will be the pinnacle of stupidity! In a movement which is centered around the issue of maintaining the system of remunerative prices, which is completely under the control of the political leadership of the rich farmers and Kulaks with essentially no space or scope of deviating from the cardinal demand, you will have no chance to say anything against that real demand nor (if you manage to utter a few words) would your voice be heard by anyone in the clamour of ‘save remunerative prices!’.
Secondly, even if the proletarian forces share these platforms, they would have to speak against the demand of remunerative price which is just not possible. If a proletarian organization goes to such a forum and says nothing on the reactionary character of the demand of remunerative price, then it will be an example of the lowest level of opportunism and Right-wing deviation. It will be a sort of crass populism which entices the theoretically weak and opportunist communists to jump into the bandwagon of any crowd in sight.
Markedly, communist revolutionaries who consider India a capitalist country in the stage of socialist revolution should, by all means, oppose tail-ending such platforms. Even for those communist revolutionaries who consider it to be the stage of new democratic revolution, sharing such a platform is devoid of any meaning. But it is totally senseless for those who believe it to be the stage of socialist revolution.
In reality, you will find that these rich farmers and Kulaks are neither making any separate demand for saving A.P.M.C. mandis nor raising any strong voice for ending regulations on stocking of essential commodities. Their concern and hence the demand for continuing A.P.M.C. mandis goes as far as it ensures the remunerative price, but if the government brings in today legislation for the remunerative price they are more eager to forfeit the demand of saving the A.P.M.C. mandis, as Viju Krishnan of the All India Kisan Sabha had made it explicitly clear! That is to say, if any private purchaser anywhere is ready to purchase the farm produce at least on the remunerative price, then to hell with A.P.M.C. mandis! At the same time, the rich farmers and Kulaks are not stressing on the change in the law concerning Essential Commodities as they have nothing to lose from it, rather there is every chance of them gaining something out of it.
No proletarian force can make an effective and meaningful opposition against the provisions that affect the common working population nor can they free the poor peasants and the lower-middle peasantry and the farm workers from the hold of the political leadership of the rich farmers and Kulaks from the platform which is echoing only the voice and demands of the rich farmers and Kulaks, which is totally under their control, and where the crowd is composed of them and of those tail-ending them only. One, who is using these pretexts, to obsequiously bow before the rich farmers and Kulaks on their platforms, does not only suffer from the opportunism, populism and Right-wing deviation of the lowest kind, but is actually committing another terrible crime as well.
The crime is that such so-called “Marxists” (Nationalists and Nardoniks in reality) are making the poor peasantry and the working class kowtow the line of the rural and agrarian bourgeoisie and turning them into mere tail-enders. You can find few such illiterate “Marxists”, clad in farmers’ attire, reaching out to the protests of the rich farmers and Kulaks, occupied in ingratiating themselves to the political leadership of the latter. It is a pity that these illiterate “Marxists” earlier considered it totally incorrect to share such platforms and be tail-enders of the rich farmers and Kulaks. However, recently they have fallen prey to Bundist Nationalism and also to Trotskyism. Because of their escapism from debates as well as their political-ideological weakness, these Trot-Bundists are in the process of gradually transitioning to populism and Narodism, the pace of which is at an accelerating by the day. There is a straight royal highway that takes Bundist Nationalism to Narodism and Peasantism. If these unread “Marxists” and Trot-Bundists are progressing towards populism, peasantism and Narodism, then there is nothing surprising in it. Every deviation has its own independent motion and once initiated, it inexorably takes the traveller independent of his/her will to his/her political nirvana. There is no way that these deviations can be rectified surreptitiously and by patchworks. It is a dire necessity of the day that such forces ought to be unmasked because they are destroying the political independence of the proletarian class movement and are making it kow-tow the politics of the class enemies. The revolutionary politics of the working-class can advance only by defeating and crushing such pernicious political lines and it is also one of the main tasks today to present a ruthless criticism of these lines and to expose them within the revolutionary camp and before the working class and the poor peasantry.
Today these Trot-Bundist forces find themselves in a disgraceful quagmire. They are not in a position now to unequivocally support MSP because for the last fifteen years they have been loud in their opposition against remunerative prices in Punjab and now if they support it, they will be thoroughly ridiculed. However, at the same time, they cannot speak against the reactionary character of the demand of remunerative price from the platform of the rich farmers and Kulaks, because then the rural bourgeoisie of their own nation (which occupies the place of small or middle bourgeoisie among the ranks of the entire capitalist class and are “oppressed” in the eyes of these Trot-Bundists!) will pick and throw them down the platform unceremoniously after giving a taste of thorough care and hospitability!
Therefore, they have devised an ingenuous way of gaining a spot on the platform of the rich farmers and Kulaks in their role as tail-enders. They have transformed the whole issue of farm ordinances into one of attack on the federal rights of the states. That is to say, while opposing these three farm ordinances, they are speaking more on the attacks on federalism. It is now time to look into what should be the position of the proletariat on federalism and the federal rights of the states.
- Can the working class and its vanguard give unconditional and absolute support to the federal rights of the states?
To this question, too, the straight answer is: No!! The working class does not and cannot give unconditional support to federalism and federal rights of the states. Any absolute support to federalism and federal rights of the states under capitalism is the demand of regional bourgeoisie and not the proletariat.
The proletariat, under the capitalist system, demands in an absolute sense, centralism which is democratic and not dictatorial. If there exists no such centralism which is democratic in the true sense, i.e. under which each and every state has right to decide upon issues which are of entirely local significance, even then the proletariat does not demand federalism, but fights to make the centralism more democratic. The demand for federalism in itself under the capitalist system, builds walls within the proletariat, stalls the development of capitalism in general and represents the interests of the reactionary regional capitalist class. This is the correct position of the proletariat, established by Lenin, on federalism. Even after the socialist system comes in force federalism does not become a positive proposal of the proletariat, rather it is an intermediate step taken during a transitional stage on the condition that the constituent nations are not ready for a union, and even in the scenario that this federal element persists during socialism, its character is entirely different from the reactionary federalism under capitalism which ensures the autonomy of the regional bourgeoisie, and under socialism it becomes more and more democratic centralist in character, as it indeed happened in the Soviet Union.
To sum up, the proletariat does not trouble itself for a federal structure under the capitalist system, nor does it unconditionally oppose the infringement of the federal rights of the states on different issues. So today, what should be the revolutionary position of the working class regarding the federal rights, under the capitalist system?
We should oppose the violations of the federal rights of the states only when such violations harm the class interests of the working class and semi-proletariat. Even under such circumstances, the point of departure of our opposition is not to protect federalism but rather to safeguard the interests of the proletariat and semi-proletariat. And in such a situation also, we do not play second fiddle to the rabble raised by the regional middle and small bourgeoisie over their federal rights being snatched away from them as today we find some Trot-Bundist, Nationalist and the identitarian so-called “Marxists” in Punjab engaged in doing. We take an affirmative stand while talking of the attacks on the interests of the working class and the semi-proletariat, and for that, we need not take cover under the umbrella of the bourgeois slogan mongering on federalism.
In summary, the violation of federal rights of the states and federalism per se is not an absolute question for us, rather we holds this question subordinate to the interests of the working class and the proletariat. Suppose some state government frames a law, on an issue which comes under the state list, against the interests of the workers and toiling masses at large and the central government, owing to mutual contradictions of the bourgeoisie, annuls it, then would we, the proletarian revolutionaries, oppose it? Let us take an example to understand it, so that it may remove the cover off from the eyes of these Nationalist Trot-Bundists; though it would be akin to asking for the pie in the sky since we have seen the unparalleled and unprecedented stupidity of the Trot-Bundist leadership on several issues by now. However, let us now pay attention to the following specific example, which we may hope would clarify the class position of the proletariat on the question of federalism and federal rights of the states to a good extent.
The fascist chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, has recently formed a force named “Uttar Pradesh Special Security Force”. This force has overriding powers to arrest anyone merely on the grounds of suspicion, thereafter keep the person in custody without the need of presenting him/her before the courts for six-months, carry search operations, and so on. In other words, Yogi Adityanath has created a force like Hitler’s infamous Gestapo, because he is aware that the frustration and restiveness among the workers and the youth have reached a peak, and lest some political leadership reaches out to them, or comes into being out of the unfolding situation, such a law is needed to kill the leadership before it is born. Such laws have been framed by other states too earlier, for example, MCOCA in Maharashtra. In Punjab itself, different state governments have framed such black laws at different points in time. Each and every state enjoys powers to frame such draconian and repressive laws. Now let us suppose that at a particular conjecture, the central government annuls such a law, either because it has political contradiction with the ruling party of the concerned state, or due to some mutual contradiction within the bourgeoisie. In such a case, what should be the stand of the proletarian forces? Should we protest against the violation of federal rights of the states? Obviously not! Precisely because here the law made by the state government goes against the class interests of broad cross-section of the working masses. To put it succinctly, the federal rights of states are not sacred to us and we do not need to take to the streets whenever they are violated. Each individual issue has to be weighed upon and to be seen considering what lies in the interest of the proletariat and semi proletariat including the whole working masses at large and how a given measure affects it. Raising an upoar indiscriminately, whenever the federal rights of the states are violated, is not a communist standpoint, rather it is petty-bourgeois populist and national chauvinist position which serves the interests of the regional bourgeoisie and not the proletariat.
In passing, let us tell these witless Trot–Bundists, who are making deranged clamour over the federal rights of the states, that it was the state government of Bihar which in the year 2006 repealed the A.P.M.C. Act in the state. Similarly, the Maharashtra government introduced exactly those changes to its A.P.M.C. Act in 2018, which the Modi government has now made with its first farm ordinance. Now if the infatuation of these unlettered “Marxists” with federalism is thoroughly consistent, then they should welcome these steps taken by the state governments because everything should be good in the name federal rights and federalism! This is the problem with these illiterate “Marxists” who blinded by their nationalism and identitarianism have forgotten even the basic class-analysis, however, it must be added as a caveat that they were never quite adept at it anyways. Time and again they are found ensnared in the contradictoriness of their ill-arguments just like the mischievous stupid cat, which gets entangled in the ball of wool, and then shamelessly engage in altering their earlier stands.
Therefore, what is really to be understood is that the proletariat does not spontaneously join the rabble on federal rights of the states, but it decides upon each individual issue from the perspective of its own class interests. Even in the cases of infringement of the federal rights of the states that adversely affects the proletariat as well, we do not oppose it by standing on the ground of absolute support for federalism, but positively demand democracy standing on the ground of safeguarding the proletarian and semi-proletarian class interests and oppose the violations of democratic and civil rights.
Our Trot-Bundists are unable to understand a thing as plain as this. Now, since political and ideological bankruptcy has made their position precarious, they are compelled to follow the Narodnik congregation in Punjab, forfeiting their own program and strategic position. However, while doing so, they can neither support the remunerative price in the present farmers’ movement nor they can oppose it. If they support it they would become an object of ridicule within the movement in Punjab, and if they oppose it, they may receive another kind of hospitality, forget finding a place on the stage of the rich farmers and Kulaks movement! But now they also need the support of these platforms and it has become imperative for these Trot-Bundists to hang on and tail-end these forums. So, they have come up with a quixotic way of finding a place on these platforms: oppose these farm ordinances in the name of protecting the federal rights of the states, keeping mum on the issue of remunerative prices and, somehow secure a place at some corner of these platforms!
These Trot-Bundists have come up with another ridiculous argument. Since they were to anyway practice tailism of the rich farmers and Kulaks, they had to have a justification for their opportunism. For this, they gave a marvelous logic, so brilliant that it could blind our eyes! They said that they would go to the forum of the Bharatiya Kisan Union and liberate the poor peasants and the agricultural proletariat from the clutches of the political leadership of the rich farmers and Kulaks, and will tell them that their class-interests do not converge with those of the rich farmers and the Kulaks, and they should not side with the rich farmers and Kulaks in the struggle for remunerative prices! Amazing! What a confounding way of an argument! It is as good as going to a demonstration of the Karsevaks and claiming to have convinced them not to erect the temple!
So you are claiming to preach, while sitting right in the laps of the rich farmers and Kulaks, in the midst of the demonstrations of joint front of various factions of the Bharatiya Kisan Union that leads these rich farmers and Kulaks, the poor peasants and farm workers that their interest lies opposite to the rich farmers and Kulaks?! What a joke! Reality is that you pandered to the slogan of federalism of the regional bourgeoisie at that forum and did not tell the poor and lower-middle peasants in explicit and unequivocal terms about the reactionary character of the demand of remunerative price, that this demand goes against the ninety percent of the peasantry, that this demand goes against the entire working class, that it goes against the whole common working population, and it is in its essence a demand of the rural bourgeoisie. The role that our Trot-Bundist got in the film that was being shown from the stage of the rich farmers, was nothing but of those who are seen momentarily behind the crowd singing paeans of federalism!
This is nothing but a disgraceful display of rank opportunism, populism and Right-wing deviation by these Trot-Bundist nationalists which would spread confusion among the working class and the class of the poor peasants, will drive them to kow-tow and tail-end the line of the rich peasants and Kulaks, and will prevent them from getting organized into an independent political force. In this way, this trend is causing great harm to the movement in Punjab today, because at least formally those following this trend still swear in the name of socialist revolution, albeit in a truly Trotskyite fashion since according to them Punjab is an oppressed nation and directly at the stage of socialist revolution! You can find the full critique of this whole position at the following link: http://ahwanmag.com/archives/7567.
In the same endeavour, the Trot-Bundist nationalists have shared another joke. In their opinion, the slogan of “One nation, One market” of the Modi government is actually a conspiracy of crushing all the nations and building a unified Hindu nation! Very few things in the world can transcend this stupid assertion, which, by the way, too, have also been uttered by our same nationalists. Actually, nothing of Marxism is left in the brains of these Trot-Bundists, and what remains is just petty-bourgeois nationalism, and so all kinds of oppression or repression or exploitation appear to them as national oppression and violation of federalism. Their condition is really pitiable!
Firstly, the agenda of a unified market for agrarian produce has been a vintage agenda of the Indian capitalist class, and the Congress governments had also raised this issue a number of times. Secondly, even if a communist inadvertently falls into the pit of the theoretical principle of federalism as espoused by the regional bourgeoisie, he/she does not support economic disintegration and dissolution under any one state because such disintegration goes against the interests of the proletariat also. It is altogether a different matter that the unification of the market of agrarian produce is taking place today under the policies of Neo-Liberal Globalization, and not under any national anti-imperialist programme. However, this does not mean that the communists should raise a slogan of “One country, many markets” for agricultural produce! This is a slogan that goes against the working class because if there are impediments and imperfections present in the market that obstruct the free flow of capital, then they would also obstruct the development of capitalism, engender unequal growth and also impede the flow of labour and is reactionary in this sense. In other words, even such a flimsy ludicrous argument cannot be used to stage a proletarian protest against these ordinances. Besides, such arguments only show that these Trot-Bundists do not know even the ‘ABC’ of Marxism. To know more about their “understanding” of the fundamental principles of Marxism you may visit the following links:
Summing up, to take a position of safeguarding the federal rights of the states in opposing these agriculture ordinances, or to stage a petty-bourgeois protest against a unified market, is a Narodnik, nationalist, and opportunist view, not a proletarian view.
Another argument associated with this subject that our Trot-Bundists are presenting is that of turning the issue of these ordinances into question of national oppression! Nothing can be more ridiculous! They think that through these ordinances the autonomy of nations is being snatched away and that Lenin advocated the autonomy of nations living under one state and that it is meaningless to talk about the right to self-determination of nations unless we stand for such autonomy! This entire line of thought is dangerously nationalist and it has got nothing to do with Leninist understanding on this question. If Punjab is an oppressed nation, then the Leninist programme on this question is not a program for autonomy, but for creating a separate nation-state. Despite considering Punjab an oppressed nation, these Trot-Bundists are merely prattling on autonomy and federal rights, which leads them straight down to the ditch of Austro-Marxism and Bundism, into which they have already fallen. However, their gravest crime is that they are trying to impose a reformist line of action vis-à-vis national question on Lenin. If our Trot-Bundists consider Punjab an oppressed nation, and these ordinances as the weapon of national oppression, and also claim themselves to be followers of Lenin, then they should directly raise the demand of referendum on the question of whether Punjab is to secede or not, and not restrict it to the demand for federal rights and autonomy within the dominion of this very state. But they are so miserable that they cannot even muster the courage to raise this demand, and conspiratorially as well as clandestinely they have reduced the right of self-determination into the right to federalism and autonomy. All their grandiloquence and rhetoric is stooping to the level of dishonesty now.
On purely local issues, the programme of autonomy of nations is implemented only when several nations by their mutual consent decide to remain under one state. But even in such a situation, Lenin proscribes federalism in strictest terms and advocates a structure of democratic centralism. However, in the opinion of these Trot-Bundists, all the nations in India are oppressed today, and these are all being oppressed by a big bourgeoisie that has no national identity or character (whether uni-national or multi-national identity!). In such a scenario, these oppressed nations cannot be considered to be living under the rule of Indian state of their own volition or free will, and precisely because of this reason can they be called oppressed nations. But if they have been forcibly brought within political boundaries of the Indian state against their will, then the Leninist programme for them is not raising the demand of autonomy and federalism, which is unpardonable reformism according to Lenin on the national question but raising the demand for the right to secession.
Now, our Trot-Bundists do not have the courage to raise the demand for the right to secede! But at the same time they have to prove national oppression at any cost and in all matters! On top of it, they can neither oppose remunerative price or MSP (because then they will certainly receive a tight slap from their own national agrarian bourgeoisie) and neither support it (because then they would become the object of ridicule in the movement in Punjab)! So, Lo and behold! Our Trot-Bundists stuck deep in the quicksand of this irredeemable contradiction have found a unique way of rescuing themselves by calling the farm ordinances themselves national repression! However, when you perform such intricate theoretical acrobatics, you get yourself entangled in paradoxes all the more in quite some absurd and bizarre ways. The sad part is that in this process, these Trot-Bundists heap excesses on Marxism-Leninism, and spread wrong facts and ideas regarding this. But our Trot–Bundists have made distorting Marxism-Leninism their principal vocation these days.
Attention must be drawn to the fact that the non-agrarian bourgeoisie of Punjab itself is not in unison in its protests against these bills and neither the agrarian bourgeoisie of all nations are opposing it. On the contrary, the large financial-industrial bourgeoisie from amongst the bourgeoisie of all the non-oppressed nations, that is to say, all those nations whose bourgeoisie have their share in the Indian state, are unanimously in support of these ordinances, since these ordinances serve their interests. Moreover, the agrarian bourgeoisie of several nations themselves is not in unison in their opposition to these ordinances. As a matter of fact, most of the main organizations of rich farmers and Kulaks of Maharashtra have welcomed these ordinances. In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, too, the opposition to these ordinances has not been able to garner wide appeal amongst the agrarian bourgeoisie themselves. In the same way, the bourgeoisie of several other nations had already disbanded the A.P.M.C. system earlier or rendered it ineffective. This, they had done by making use of their autonomy, so these nationalists should have welcomed it! Think over it. Had the Punjab government itself disbanded the assured remunerative price system (MSP regime) and the A.P.M.C. system or rendered it ineffective in Punjab, just like the bourgeoisie of some other nations (e.g. the bourgeoisie of Maharashtra) had done, would it have been considered a case of national oppression? But in one instance they call it national oppression while keeping silent in another instance. If it is a matter of national oppression, then these Trot-Bundists will have to admit that only Punjab is subjected to it, since Haryana is not a different nation in itself! If their claims and arguments are taken to their logical culmination then heaps of ridiculous conclusions appear in front of you!
It has become obvious from the position assumed by the Trot–Bundists that they have totally departed from Marxism and they have absolutely nothing to do with class analysis any more. In short, no amount of theoretical somersaults can turn these three farm ordinances into an issue of national oppression. Any such exercise will end up being nothing but a hideous joke. However, our Trot-Bundists have, not only in this particular instance, but otherwise, too, on all other matters transformed themselves into an ugly joke.
Anyways, let us proceed.
One question still confuses some comrades who otherwise understand all these arguments. They do understand that the present movement is a movement of the rich farmers and Kulaks, that their demands will, in no way, benefit the proletariat, and they are reactionary in their class-character, but they are weighing the situation from the perspective of whether temporarily the movement of the rich farmers and Kulaks can be our tactical ally against the fascist Modi Government? It would be sufficiantly relevant here to ponder over this confusion because it may lead to many wrong conclusions.
- Is it possible to form an immediate temporary tactical anti-fascist front with this movement of rich farmers and Kulaks?
The straight-forward answer is: No! Why? There cannot be even a temporary tactical front against fascism with the movements whose demands go directly against the proletariat and the common working masses. Generally speaking, when there is a mutual contradiction between two factions of the ruling class, then the proletariat, as a way of tactics, can form a tactical front with another block of the ruling class against the common enemy, only when the demands of that block do not go directly against the proletariat, and such a scenario occurs only by way of exception.
In the present scenario, this is not the case. The demands of the rich farmers and Kulaks, not only go against the proletariat and common working masses, but directly and actively strike at the interests of the proletariat and common poor peasantry.
Besides this, we have seen specifically during the last one decade the potentiality and credibility of this class against fascism. In the era of Neoliberalism, after the disintegration and exit of the classical kulak politics, the vacant space created has been filled quickly by the fascist politics of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP and other kinds of Right-wing and religious fundamentalist politics. This phenomenon can be seen in Western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in particular. It is not the in the nature of this class to be an ally of anti-fascist front, rather, on the contrary, it has the potentiality of becoming the social base of fascism, and in specific situations in North India, it has indeed become part of the base. Temporarily it may have some contradiction with the fascist government over some economic issue or over some specific demand, a contradiction which can also get sharpened and quite intense at times. But this class is, principally and fundamentally, void of anti-fascist potentiality, and when opportunity knocks it can be seen standing with the fascist or with another kind of religious fundamentalist and Right-wing politics, and this has been the case in the recent times.
Moreover, this class has proved itself to be the main oppressor and exploiter of the Dalit agricultural workers’ population in the countryside. In fact, this class of rich peasants and Kulaks has proved to be the main oppressor and exploiter of the entire agricultural workers’ population. The reason is clear. This agrarian capitalist class depends mainly on the exploitation of the labour-power of this very agricultural working class population for their surplus extraction and profit. In this scenario, it so happens quite often that the principal exploiting class also uses the socially vulnerable condition of the already-exploited working masses so that they can be socially oppressed and repressed as well because this social oppression and repression render the exploited classes economically even more insecure. Only some time ago, when there was a scarcity of migrant workers in Punjab and Haryana, the outrageous treatment that these rich farmers and Kulaks have meted out to the Dalit landless workers is hidden from none.
Apart from this, in the recent past, everyone has seen how the roots of religious fundamentalist Right-wing politics and communal fascist politics have been deepening among these rich farmers and Kulaks. It is the economic position of this class that makes it a favourable ground for political reaction.
If this class has taken to the streets against the government on the fundamental issue of remunerative prices or MSP, which it has been doing earlier as well, then the progressive forces need not get too optimistic about it. As always, some kind of new compromise formula, some new pact or deal that gives an upper hand to big monopoly capital will eventually be arrived at between these two factions of the ruling class, and this movement is not going towards any revolutionary upsurge! Actually, this hope among the hopefuls has been born out of hopelessness.
It is not without reason that leaders of various parties, trashy bourgeois singers, myriad “artists” outsmarting one another in terms of obscenity, who are, in fact, cultural symbols of the economic strength and clout of the Kulaks and rich farmers and often can be seen presenting this very “thunderous blare of socio-economic might” through their songs, have jumped in support of these rich farmers and Kulaks. A few idiotic unread “Marxists” are proclaiming that these singers-artists are appropriating this movement, whereas in reality, it is the natural class character of this movement which is attracting them, and they have not come to take over the movement, rather they are drawn towards it by virtue of their natural class position.
It is the defeatism of the progressive forces which is forcing them to offer such ridiculous arguments like forming a tactical anti-fascist united front with the rich farmers and Kulaks. The revolutionary forces would only decapacitate themselves by building such a united front (although it is extremely difficult for such front to emerge) with this movement. To sum up, the impractical and utopian notion of building an anti-fascist joint front with this movement of the Kulaks and rich farmers cultivated by the progressive circles out of its sense of defeat is a harmful one and would obstruct us in enhancing and fortifying our forces, and developing an independent political position. Moreover, behind the proposal of such an alliance, there stands an impoverished version of the model of anti-fascist “popular front”, which, especially in present times, would not only prove ineffective but plain harmful, in terms of both anti-fascist strategy and tactics. The resurgence of fascism in India, particularly in the last four decades, has demonstrated that in the present era, no bourgeois force (even if they are the political parties and organizations representing the Kulak-rich farmer class) can take up the mantle of resistance against fascist upsurge and only the communist revolutionary forces can fulfill this task, and, therefore, today only the line of an anti-fascist front of the working class can be victorious. We cannot deliberate more on this point here, and we have dealt with it separately in detail elsewhere. (http://www.mazdoorbigul.net/archives/7743).
What are the main conclusions of this whole discussion?
The first and foremost conclusion is definitely that the ending of regulation on stocking and trade of essential commodities goes against the broad cross-section of the working masses because these will boost the hoarding, black marketeering and market prices of these essential commodities. The benefit would go to the traders and middlemen who in the matter of marketing of farm produce happen to be the rich farmers and Kulaks themselves. This is the reason that the rich farmers and Kulaks do not have much objection against this provision and we can see them occasionally paying only lip service as a form of the protest or keeping completely mum.
The second conclusion is that for these rich farmers and Kulaks, saving the A.P.M.C. mandis in itself is not much of an issue, and if the government makes remunerative price or MSP their legal statutory right, they are fully ready to dump the A.P.M.C. markets into the garbage-bins.
The third conclusion is that if the monopoly of the A.P.M.C. markets over the marketing of farm produces in some states ends, even then an infrastructural system will definitely evolve because ending the monopoly of A.P.M.C. markets does not imply the end of marketing of farm produce. This is of course highly probable that as it becomes more capital intensive it may lead to retrenchments, in that scenario, expanded reproduction and consequently expanded trade and marketing may come to a standstill. It is not certainly going to happen but as the crisis deepens this could be a consequence.
The fourth conclusion is that the communists cannot oppose mechanization and capital intensification of various sectors on the plea that they would lead to reduced employment per unit. This would be akin to adopting a romanticist, reactionary Proudhonist or Sismondist position. Historically, the evolution of large-scale production and distribution system, their becoming more and more capital-intensive is considered to be a progressive step.
Fifthly, for all the workers working in the A.P.M.C. markets the basic and main difference is that the exploiters of their labour power will change. Rural capitalist class, i.e., the rich farmers, Kulaks, traders, usurers and commission agents will be replaced by big corporate capital as exploiters of their labour-power. As such in itself the proletariat working in these markets would neither be particularly harmed nor be particularly benefitted. Most of these workers have already been working as contract or casual daily wagers at wages much below the minimum wage. In Punjab, there are two to three lakh workers working in these markets. They get a job only for five to six months a year in these markets. Often there is a sizeable population of landless agricultural workers also among them. They are thoroughly exploited by the rich farmers and commission agents and are given no labour rights. As such, there is only a little chance that their condition would worsen with the entry of corporate capital in this sector because not much scope is left for any further deterioration.
The sixth point is that as far as all the demands for ensuring remunerative prices or MSP are concerned, it is nothing but an exercise of the corporate bourgeoisie to enlarge their share in net surplus appropriation vis-à-vis the agrarian bourgeoisie and to mitigate the pressure of the rising average wage on the total economy. In other words, these demands represent the contradiction between the two factions of the capitalist class, that is the big bourgeoisie (which includes the big monopoly capitalist class of Punjab and Haryana too) and the rural agrarian bourgeoisie, that is to say, the class of rich farmers and Kulaks, who comprise only 3% to 4% of the overall farmer population. As such why should the proletariat be the palanquin bearer of the rich farmer and Kulak class, by adopting the position of safeguarding their interests? Whether you go to the platforms of these rich farmers and Kulaks using federalism as an excuse to oppose the farm ordinances or go to the platforms of these rich farmers and Kulaks making employment of workers in the A.P.M.C. markets an excuse, or go to these forums by making the fake claims, to the extent of sounding ridiculous, of liberating (!!!) the poor peasants and landless workers from the hold of the political leadership of the rich farmers and Kulaks, in fact, you will be only supporting the reactionary demand of the rich farmers and Kulaks for the remunerative price or MSP by going to their platforms, irrespective of whether you evade this by positively not uttering even a single word supporting their cause. It is rank opportunism and treachery with the working class and nothing else.
Seventhly, the political propaganda for building independent political class consciousness and organization among the poor peasants and landless agricultural workers cannot be organized aboard the platform of rich farmers and Kulaks. For this, we will have to run a sustained campaign in the villages and build separate political platforms. It is altogether a different question who can undertake this or is able to undertake it. As far as the question of line of action is concerned, this can be the only correct line of action. As we have said earlier, you cannot go to the assembly of Karsevaks to debate against the building of the temple, this is simply not possible. He who makes such claim is only an opportunist, populist and coward and is not able to hide his escapism.
Eighthly, what is the principal question confronting the poor peasantry and the farm workers? They have two foremost issues: the first is the right to employment guarantee, and the second is the fight for securing all the labour rights for the agricultural workers. This is because for more than three-fourth of peasants only 10 to 40% of their total earning comes from agriculture, and the remaining from wage labour. Secondly, they can earn this 16 to 40% by letting themselves to be overexploited since they are simply unable to sell their produce directly to the government markets, are crushed under the burden of debt, and are compelled to sell their produce at price far below the remunerative price to the rich farmers, Kulaks, usurers and commission agents (and most of the time it is the same person for them). Hence they have nothing to do with the fight for remunerative price or cost price. At the core of their fight lies the right to guarantee of employment as well as of all the labour rights as a worker, and freedom from debts at exceptionally high rates of interest from the usurers, rich farmers, Kulaks and commission agents. When the rich farmers and Kulaks ask for a waiver of loans from the government (which gets granted in many cases), do they waive off unjust debts of landless workers and poor peasants who cultivate the land on lease, or do they reduce or waive off the capitalist rent to be realized from them? Never!
Ninthly, as far as middle–middle or lower-middle peasantry, who seldom or on a very small scale exploit wage-labour, is concerned, they, too, are unable to get any substantial benefit out of remunerative prices. Amongst them, too, the lower-middle peasantry rarely exploits wage labour, and farming is principally done with their own and family’s labour. This class also remains under debt pressure, and the greater part of it keeps on joining the ranks of the proletariat. If we talk about middle-middle peasantry, hardly 14 to 15% of their produce gets sold at a remunerative price, in case it can get sold at all. However, this is also the reason why they nurture the illusion that they will benefit if the remunerative price is raised. The truth is that in most of the cases this population is, in the main, the net buyer of farm produce and not the net seller. If a hike in the remunerative price or MSP causes no harm to them, it does not bring any benefit either. The proletarian forces should go consistently amongst them with the propaganda that their interests are not linked with those of the rich farmers and Kulaks, but with the proletariat. In the year 2011, 50% of the peasantry was looking for the first opportunity to leave cultivation and was even ready to sell their lands to pay a bribe for government jobs. Amongst these, besides the poor and marginal peasantry, was a sizeable portion of those coming from the ranks of middle-middle or lower-middle peasantry. This shows only that the right to employment is now becoming their foremost demand, and they remain attached to their farming only until they find no other alternative in sight. 95% of the one crore farmers who joined the rank of workers after they were ruined during the last decade, belonged to the poor, marginal and lower-middle peasantry only. The size of land holdings of many from the middle peasantry has shrunk, and they have now joined the ranks of lower-middle or poor peasants.
Tenthly, summing up, majority of the poor, lower-middle and middle peasantry is destined to be ruined under the capitalist system. To give these classes any assurance or promise to save small-scale petty production as well as this entire class is nothing but an act of treachery and betrayal against them and making them tail-end the rich farmers and Kulaks politically. So what should we do amongst them? As Lenin said: we should tell the truth! Telling truth is revolutionary. We should tell them about this inevitable destiny that awaits them in this capitalist society, make them conscious about their main and foremost demand that is the right of employment, and profess that their future lies in the system of socialist farming, that is to say, cooperative, collective or state farming. Only such a system will give them permanent redemption from poverty, starvation, insecurity and uncertainties. Our long term aim is certainly the socialist revolution. In the short term, the fight for the right to employment, the fight for labour rights for farm workers, and freedom from all debts can be our only struggle. Only such a program will take forward the class struggle in the countryside, and will organize the rural proletariat and semi-proletariat class into an independent political force and prepare them for socialist revolution.
The eleventh point is that it is this revolutionary propaganda only that can liberate the poor, lower-middle and mid-middle peasantry from the sway of the political leadership of the rich farmers and Kulaks. The vast majority of the class of poor peasants, a large section of the lower-middle peasants, and relatively a smaller section of the middle-middle peasants can be won over. This is because the destiny of these classes in capitalist system is slightly different from one-another. The poor peasantry, principally and fundamentally, already starts joining the ranks of proletariat; only an extremely small portion of the lower-middle peasantry can join the ranks of middle peasantry in exceptional situations, the second portion transforms into poor peasantry and the largest portion joins the rank of the proletariat; a small section of the middle-middle peasantry joins the ranks of upper-middle and rich peasants, a large section joins the ranks of poor and lower-middle peasantry, and rest of it is proletarianized. Owing to the differential effects of the capitalist economy on these classes, their response and reaction to revolutionary political propaganda and socialism are bound to be somewhat different. However, taken as a class, they are, in the main and fundamentally, the ally classes of socialist revolution, and they have nothing in common with the class of rich farmers and Kulaks.
But this revolutionary propaganda cannot organised in the rally of the Bharatiya Kisan Union demanding to safeguard the remunerative prices and MSP regime! Anyone who even makes such a proposal is either a fool of the highest order, or an extremely cunning opportunist trying to dupe you, and in this process is trying to cover up his/her own opportunism, populism, transition towards Narodnism and Right-wing deviation, engaging in worthless rhetorics and misleading and betraying the proletariat.
The revolutionary forces can organize such a revolutionary propaganda among the rural poor independently and autonomously only. For this, they have to organize the landless workers and poor peasantry, build their unions, organize them into MNREGA unions and other kinds of mass organizations on the issue of the right to employment, and make them conscious towards their class interests through these organizations and forums, make them stand together with the proletariat and convince them on the socialist programme.
This write up does not present our overall comprehensive position on Marxism and the peasant question in India today, and we will be writing positively as well as in more detail on this subject in future. For now, our objective was only to throw light on the present farm ordinances, the ongoing movement of the rich farmers and Kulaks and the working class perspective on these in their specific context. We have commented, in this process, only as much as we could say in general about the peasant question and agrarian question. Subsequently, we will write in detail on capitalist rent in Indian agriculture, on the question of land reforms, on the question of the character of tenancy relations and on the subject of the political class interests of present day’s rural poor, i.e., the workers and the poor and lower-middle peasantry.