By Umar Khalid
All historical struggles, whether they occur in the political, religious, philosophical or some other ideological domain, are in fact only the more or less clear expression of the struggles of social classes. – Engels
When two events occur in the same space and time, more often than not, there is a correlation between the two. On the one hand the Indian Army, paramilitary and police forces — acting so plainly and clearly on behalf of the Indian ruling classes and multinational corporations—which continue to mount a war on the people of central and eastern India in order to facilitate a naked appropriation of the region’s resources is given marching orders to fight the most dispossessed yet resilient masses. Then there are 80% of the country’s population forced to eke out a living on a mere Rs.20 per day and over half of the children suffer from the permanent malnourishment because of the genocidal famine conditions their families have been placed under; land acquisition of a mammoth scale affects millions of people whose sole means of livelihood is being alienated from them; thousands of small peasants are forced to find ‘escape’ from an endemic agrarian crisis by committing suicide; over 2700 bodies of Kashmiris murdered by the Indian army once again reveals a Kashmir under occupation by India and the crushing of its struggle for national liberation—to name but a few instances revealing the brutal and systemic exploitation, oppression and occupation. And people are waging resilient struggles in many parts of the country against the ruling classes. On the other hand a base, distasteful drama is unfolding in front of us—the drama of an ‘anti-corruption drive’, which is supposed to serve India a ‘second independence’. Needless to say, although this latter ‘struggle’ seldom refers to the first set of struggles, events and phenomena, there is so simple a connection between the two that the silence over the relation between the two sets is nothing but deliberate.
The ‘Second freedom struggle’: An attempt of the ruling classes to consolidate themselves. The Indian ruling classes today face an immense crisis, and are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the mask of ‘world’s largest democracy’. Given the onslaught on the people and their livelihood—through the acquisition of resources such as land, forests and other means of livelihood; the steep price rise of basic commodities; the privatisation of health, transport, water, electricity and education — the state faces the resistance of militant peoples’ movements. And everywhere, the state is responding to this discontent and resistance with brute force. In addition to this central crisis, the ruling classes were reeling under the exposure of a series of scams such as 2G, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing, etc. involving unimaginable amounts of money. It is precisely these circumstances that have given rise to an ‘anti-corruption drive’ led by the so-called civil society and made it possible for the corporate media to project a reactionary like Anna Hazare as a hero in the eyes of the urban middle classes. Sweeping under the carpet more urgent structural issues affecting the vast majority of people and their very survival, ‘Team Anna’ has projected corruption as the central issue plaguing Indian society. The anti-corruption drive and the Jan Lokpal have been likewise offered as the solution to all the problems. By seeking a solution within the existing system and by demanding a more coercive institution within it to check ‘corruption’, the Anna Hazare-led mobilisation has appeared in the political scene as a much-needed respite to the crisis-ridden ruling classes. This ‘second freedom struggle’ led by ‘Team Anna’ is nothing but the mobilisation of a section of the ruling classes aiming to rid themselves of the deep contradictions and the crises that threaten them to sweep off their feet. Through a draconian bill (government’s Lokpal bill and the ‘Jan’ Lokpal bill are the two sides of the same coin), the ruling classes are aiming for further centralisation of authority. No legislation can provide an answer to the deep-seated exploitative structures of the society and the social relations which are the root cause of so-called corruption.
Corruption: A Mere Symptom of Structural Exploitation and Oppression. Through its exclusive focus on corruption, Team Anna in effect blinds us to the system where wealth created by peasants and workers is appropriated by the ruling classes. No doubt, a bribe running into crores is mind-boggling. Yet, we are asked to ignore a simple fact—the amount of wealth appropriated by the corporations in the first place, which enables them to provide bribes of such an amount. Corruption itself is not a new phenomenon in India; it has been endemic to the exploitative and oppressive semi-feudal semi-colonial system which concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few. But just as imperialist globalization has heightened the exploitation of the masses, resulted in the intensified feudal appropriation of the rural labouring people, massive corporate loot of resources, the selling of the country’s land and other natural resources at ridiculously low prices to corporate houses already reaping benefits in the form of tax holidays, the scale and intensity of corruption has also increased in proportion. A disease cannot be cured by suppressing its symptoms; rather, the symptom subsides only when the disease is cured. Similarly, corruption will only disappear with the revolutionary transformation of society.
A Special Drama, its Sponsorship and Mobilisation: Corporate Funding and RSS Backing of the Anti-Corruption Drive. That the anti-corruption drive is a diversionary tactic of the ruling classes is clear not only from its programme and its goals, but also from its funding. It was clear from its very inception that this drama is funded by the corporations and business houses –Ambanis, Tatas, Jindals to real-estate developers – that are involved in the most massive of scams. It is now also public knowledge that among the list of sponsors funding the key figures of this drama are the likes of Lehman Brothers and Ford Foundation. Hazare claims to have the full support of army and the police: the two most corrupt institutions of the country. Moreover, the chief engineer of this Gandhian and so-called non-violent mobilisation is the fascist RSS. The same fascist force that killed thousands of Muslims in the Gujarat pogrom, massacred Christians in Kandhamal, and organised the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid, Malegoan and Ajmer Sharif blasts is now mobilising for this ‘peaceful’ second freedom struggle. As usual, the rhetoric of nation and nationalism is deployed to serve the interests of the ruling classes. The imagery, the slogans, the objectives of the movement are all brazenly replete with right-wing ideology which are proudly casteist and communal. The lead actors of this drama have notorious histories of being anti-reservation and pro-sangh parivar. The corporate media is therefore comfortable in exalting this movement with its ceaseless hyperbole. They have projected this movement as ‘unprecedented mass movement’. Last time it was the anti-reservation reactionary movement which had caught its attention. When huge masses had hit the streets of Kashmir demanding azadi, or in Lalgarh, Odisha, Chhatisgrah against corporate loot, the media remained silent.
AISA-CPI(ML) Liberation: The cheerleaders of ‘Team Anna’. As far as AISA-Liberation is concerned, history is repeating itself, but this time as a farce. AISA was formed in the context of the anti-Mandal agitation—not as a progressive force in support of reservations, but using all the tricks in the book to oppose the Mandal recommendations through a sleight of hand. Liberation’s Vinod Mishra, who opened up the portal through which the party forever exited its role as a communist vanguard, and instead became a trickster serving the ruling classes, went to extent of stating at the juncture of AISA’s unholy birth that ‘just as we do not approve of those politicians who want to take revenge on the present-day progeny of Babar, we also reject those theoreticians who would punish the present-day offsprings of Manu for the crimes of their ancestors’. This is evidence not only of the party’s characteristic double-speak, but is also blatantly right-wing — in short, Muslims are being called ‘Babar ke aulad’; reservations are seen as crimes against ‘upper’-castes; and the caste system itself is projected as a crime that occurred only in the past. Thus, while AISA in fact rode on the crest of the anti-Mandal mobilisation to consolidate itself in campus-spaces in pockets of north India, it is trying desperately to repeat its ‘success’ formula — this time, by wedding itself to this RSS engineered and corporate funded anti-corruption drive of ‘Team Anna’. Indeed, they cry foul of the ‘undemocratic’ Annas for not allowing them enough space to participate! Although in JNU they have maintained a crafty silence on Anna Hazare till now, the degeneration of AISA became blatant when on 16th August, they joined hands with ABVP in Delhi University’s north campus in a ‘spontaneous protest’ against Anna Hazare’s detention, shouting together ‘patriotic’ slogans like ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’!. When they filled the walls of DU with anti-corruption slogans, these were all appropriated by ABVP by a simple brushstroke — in each case, by simply replacing AISA’s insignia with its own. The justification put forward by Liberation/AISA and some ‘enlightened’ intellectuals for joining the cacophony of ‘I am Anna’ is to save it from RSS and to replace ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ with ‘Inquilab Zindabad’! Social-democrats of Germany with their ambivalent policy towards the Nazis in 1920s and early 1930s ultimately prepared the grounds for the rise of Hitler and the crushing of the German communists. The convergence of the communal-fascists and the ‘Marxist-Leninists’/civil-society/NGOs therefore speak volumes not only of AISA /Liberation’s political bankruptcy, but is also a wake-up call for the progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces to prepare for a new phase of battle.
Hazare is a convenient blindfold for the middle classes. Many of the people who are out on the streets now, genuinely want an end to the brazen corruption and the scams. But Hazare and his team have been entrusted not to raise the real questions but to shroud the real struggles. The end to corruption can only take place when the current economic policies are repealed, when the MoUs signed with various corporate giants are scrapped. And the Indian state, a loyal lapdog of imperialism will never change its policies on its own. To end corruption, the corrupt system needs to be overhauled. And that is what the revolutionary armed movement which is spreading like prairie fire across the country is fighting for. It is the resilient struggle of the revolutionary masses and not the corporate-funded, RSS-backed and media-hyped theatrics that will resolve the burning problems afflicting the people of this country.
DSU’s pamphlet for the meeting on the same issue!