world social forum, Mumbai: No workers’ alternative in Indian election

"Many multinational corporations feel their mouths water at the mention of the opening up of the Indian economy. India offers a good ground for plunder. Even if only 10 per cent of the population of 1.06 billion have 5,000 rupees to spend, that offers a big market." (1 euro=56 rupees).

India is called the next "miracle economy" by the capitalist press globally. It is assumed that India, in conjunction with China, will deliver the next boom in the world economy. This, and the recent ’peace talks’ with Pakistan, is the reason behind the ruling BJP’s announcement of an early general election in India this spring. Jagadish G Chandra, from the New Socialist Alternative (cwi India) analysed the political situation in a speech at a meeting at the World Social Forum in Mumbai on Tuesday. cwi online.

No workers’ alternative in Indian election

"Like China, India will apparently offer an endless supply of cheap labour, including child labour. Both the ruling BJP, under Vajpayee, and the Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, believe that India can be ranked amongst the developed countries by the year 2020. They base themselves on the prospect of maintaining a strong foreign exchange reserve, on having ‘stable’ inflation at 5 to 6 per cent and economic growth at 7 to 8 per cent.

"For workers and ordinary people, however, this boom is passing them by. At this WSF there are hundreds of facts given about the problems of the poor in India. Half of the children in the country are malnourished, jus to given one fact. We have water shortages, diseases spreading etc. Per capita annual income is $435, compared to the $725 per capita needed to be counted as a developed country. $725 dollar is 35,000 rupees, but in the poorest state of India, Bihar, GDP per capita is just 7,500 rupees. Millions live on less than a dollar a day.

"The national government as well as the state governments use a lot of circus tricks to move people above the poverty line. One ’magic’ solution has been to declare that families with more than 5,000 rupees (less than 100 euro) to be above the poverty line. Under the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank, millions have been forced outside the food rationing system. This is irrespective of whether they live in West Bengal, which has a ’Communist’ government or in any other state. The governments of all India’s states are like pet dogs for imperialism.

"From the ‘60s to the ‘80s, the Indian economy was a regional manufacturing giant. Today, it is a "shop-window" economy, selling goods produced in other countries. All brands are available. The profits from sales, however, go back to the imperialist countries where the multinationals are based. The Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) claim that India should use its IT economy and knowledge. But only two or three Indian companies are listed on the NASDAQ (IT) stock exchange. The Indian IT workers are skilled but in general just cheap labour. Their wages are just 10% of Western wages. Others say that the ‘Call Centre Economy’ will take India forward. I have a nephew

working in a call centre. He has, for the last six months, not seen the light

of day because he works continuous night shifts!

"The IT boom and the 8% growth of the economy does not have any effect on the majority of the population of this country. The biggest industry in India is the Bollywood film industry. We also have a booming TV industry, mass producing soap operas. Their message is that the economy is going forward and that we are all going forward. This can be compared to the seventies when the struggle for food, clothes and shelter featured frequently in Indian films. Today no films are connected with reality.

"Congress ruled this country for 50 years after independence, except for 18 months, and served the interests of the capitalists. The BJP was the party waiting in the wings to take power, fed by the policies of Congress. The BJP used slogans to the left of Congress for land reform and for the Indian economy to ‘serve the interests of the Indian people’. They hid one word in this phrase. They should have said ’Indian rich people’.

“Today the BJP is in no way different from the Congress in its economic policies, serving the interests of the Indian capitalists as it does. The policies of privatisation and neo-liberalism are conducted by the BJP nationally and by Congress in the states of Karnataka and Delhi. The BJP shows different faces to different audiences. It is a Hindu communalist party, even using fascist methods as in Gujarat and Punjab.

“Workers are opposed to the communalism of the BJP. The BJP has now declared that elections are brought forward to take place in two to four months’ time. The Communist parties – CPI and CPI(M) – are now campaigning for a ’secular front’ with the Congress against the BJP. It is the favourite Stalinist theory of alliances with the ’progressive bourgeoisie’. They say: ’We know that the economic policies of Congress are bad, but at least they are secular’.

"The CPI and the CPI(M) are responsible for letting the BJP come to power in the first place. It could have been prevented during the period of the government of VP Singh in the 90s, which included BJP-ministers. This government was supported by the two CPs. This gave legitimacy to the BJP. The VP Singh government introduced a ban on recruitment of state employees. State jobs in railways, the post office etc. was up until then the main avenue for employment. VP Singh, who in the ‘80s was finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government, left Congress, and was from then on seen by the Communist Parties as the saviour of secular forces in India.

"Only a few days ago, the DMK party from Tamil Nadhu broke with the BJP. The

DMK was welcomed by the CPI(M) leader, Har Kish Singh, as ‘a new progressive

Force’. Multinational corporations think that CPI(M)-governed West Bengal is a safe haven. The Communist state government has introduced strike free zones in Calcutta and other cities. These Communist Parties have shown that they can never be reformed.

"So what is the way forward? Last year on 21 May, 50 million Indian workers went on strike against neo-liberalism, privatisation and WTO policies. One Trade Union leader in Calcutta commented: ‘In recent years we have played no real role. We were just facilitators passing on management decisions to the workforce’. This section of union activists and the resentment welling up within the unions will lead the way forward towards a workers’ alternative. New Socialist Alternative calls for a mass workers’ party to be created, based on the fighting trade unions and poor landless peasants. In the coming elections we will tell workers the truth: There is no workers’ alternative and the elections will solve nothing.”

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January 2004