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2007/11/26

LEFT AND INDUSTRIALISATION : CONFUSION AND OBSESSION

by Sunil
Lately, there appears to be some rift within CPM between left intellectuals and active politicians over the developments in West Bengal. During an interview with a T.V. Channel, West Bengal Chief Minister said, “Left economists are academic and not in touch with reality ........... I have read what Prabhat Patnaik has written. I don’t agree with what Patnaik has said”. (Times of India, July 1, 2007).

Prabhat Patnaik, a professor of Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, has long been associate of CPM and regarded as an important ideologue of the party. He is also the Vice-Chairman of the Kerala State Planning Board since Left Democratic Front come into power there. He is also the editor of the left side academic journal ‘Social Scientists’. As a JNU Professor, he has taught many CPM stalwarts such as Sitraram Yechury.

Bhattacharya’s diatribe is not limited to Patnaik alone, but also targets his wife Utsa Patnaik and Jayati Ghosh. They are also Professors of Economics in JNU. Why is Buddhadev angry with them?

The left intellectuals associated with the Communist Parties are in dilemma today. They know that the Left Front government in West Bengal is moving in a wrong direction. But they do not want to criticize it openly. Except Sumit Sarkar, all of them remained silent, when the local people struggled against Tata project in Singur. When Nandigram came up, many left intellectuals issued a joint statement which termed the developments unanticipated, unjustified and unfortunate, but did not comment on the West Bengal government or its policy of industrialisation.

But things did not stop here. The violence, conflict and repression continued in Nandigram and Singur. The debate on industrialization, displacement, SEZ and globalidation was intensified and sharpened by these developments. An honest intellectual cannot remain silent in such times. Finally, Prabhat Patnaik broke the silence. He wrote an article “In the Aftermath of ‘Nandigram’ in a prestigious journal ‘Economic and Political Weekly’ (March 341- April 6, 2006). He did not criticize the West Bengal government directly, but for the first time he took a clear position on Nandigram and corporate industrialization. He should be congratulated for his courage. His write-up is also a clear departure from the rubbish that Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat and their likes have been writing in defence of the West Bengal government.

He wrote another article in Hindu (June 26, 2007) lauding one year of the LDF government in Kerala. He said that Kerala has shown that an alternative is possible to the neo-liberal policies being pushed by the centre. His praise for Kerala government may be disputed, but perhaps this was also a clear and an indirect way to criticize LF government of West Bengal. Perhaps such articles have angered the West Bengal CPM.

But the contradictions and confusions are also apparent in what Patnaik has written. His EPW article is analysed here.

Patnaik is perfectly correct in claiming that tragedies like Nandigram are inherent in the operation of a neoliberal policy regime. The type of corporate industrialization possible in such a regime is necessarily anti-people. Patnaik refutes very well the employment argument for ‘industrialisation’. The direct and indirect employment creating capacity of the grande industry sector is negligible. Such an industrialization, in the context of present day capitalism, cannot take surplus labour out of agriculture into grande industry, as is being argued by its votaries.
Patnaik also accepts that the problem is not confined to corporate industry alone; it afflicts the entire spectrum of grande industry, for even in China, recent phenomenal growth rate in industrial output has hardly increased industrial employment. He also notes adverse long term fall-outs on employment of shift from traditional to grande industry and technological progress. He also acknowledges destructive effects on surrounding population, including peasantry.
Having said so, and recognizing the problems associated with industrialization based on grande industry, he clarifies that this does not mean that “industrialization’ should not occur. His reason for this is that grande industry provides as a whole, range of use-values which are part and parcel of everyday life for everyone. It is rather a perplexing turn and a weak argument. He seems to become suddenly conscious lest he be branded as an anti-industrialisation, anti-modernisation person or a ‘Luddite’.

What is Patnaik’s alternative then? Industrialisation should be brought under the aegis of the public sector or through the co-operatives of peasants whose lands are acquired, so that costs to the people could be minimized or avoided. He also gives the example of Soviet Union, where the grande industry came up within the context of a planned economy, and not a market-driven economy. They controlled the rate of technological- cum- structural change, and hence could successfully shift workers out of agriculture into grande industry.

But, Prabhat Patnaik and all the leftist intellectuals cannot afford to ignore two other important fall-outs of modern industrialization based on large scale industries and modern technology. One, Such an industrialization requires capital investment on a huge scale. This capital necessarily created by exploitation and destruction of agriculture and traditional industries plus colonial and neo-colonial exploitation. Simple exploitation of workers in factories is not sufficient for accumulation of capital on such a large scale. In other words, creation and exploitation if internal colonies and external colonies (or neo-colonies) is inherent and is a necessary condition of such industrialization, whether brought in a capitalist system or a soviet type system. Two, It is also becoming more and more clear that the requirement of natural resources for this kind of industrialization is enormous, which is creating new crises. Dispossession of local communities from their land, forest, water, fish etc., displacement and destruction on a large scale are also inherent in it. This has become a rule, rather than an exception. Therefore it is hard to avoid or reduce much of the destructive impact of such an indutrialisation even in a planned economy like Soviet Union.

Prabhat Patnaik draws our attention to the situation of ‘primitive accumulation of capital’ occurring in today’s India. Corporate industry uses its monopoly positions to demand concessions from the state exchequer to impose ‘conditionalities’ on the state government to the detriment of people, and to engage in land speculation. He calls it ‘accumulation through encroachment’. Marx used the term ‘primitive accumulation of capital’ to describe the process of displacement and dispossessions of peasants in 17th century England for the sake of industrial interests. But, if we look at the history of non-European world of last three centuries, is it not clear that ‘primitive accumulation of capital’ has always been occurring in some part of the world throughout this period, though it may not be visible in Europe in later period? In that sense, it is not exactly ‘primitive’; it is a continuous, ongoing and fundamental mechanism of industrial capitalism. It is a process to extract and capture the natural resources by dispossessing the people at the world level. This mechanism is based on force, many times brute force and barbarism, and it is not a market mechanism. The development of industrial capitalism is necessarily based on it. This facts is many times obscured by too much concentration in Marxist circles on capital labour conflict within a factory or a single economy.

When Prabhat Patnaik presents Soviet industrialization as a model, he owes an explanation as to why it failed? Why did Soviet Union and the communist bloc disintegrate? What were their internal contradiction ? Is it not true that, in order to bring same kind of industrialization as it occurred in capitalist Europe, Soviet Union also developed internal colonies, exploited the agriculture, dispossessed the peasants, increased regional disparities and developed a semi- colonial relationship with east European countries and Asian territories? Again, the problem is the modern industrialization based on grande industry perse. In this sense, there is indeed a conflict between this kind of industrialization and the peasantry, between it and people, between it and real socialism. The corporate nature of industrialization does matter, but only marginally. We need to look for an alternative to this kind of industrailisation.

“Sometimes, there seems to be a deep- rooted belief in superiority and inevitability of the modern industrialization in Marxist circles, which is quite similar to liberal capital circle. Because of this, they cannot think beyond it. They cannot think of alternative to it, in spite of its destruction and undesirable fall-outs becoming to abandon the path of socialism and embrace full- fledged capitalist globalization. The source of this belief is perhaps their attachment to the modern life style. It is reflected when Prabhat Patnaik argues that we cannot sacrifice the use- values created by grande industry, and they have become part and parcel of our everyday life. In the context of present controversies, it will mean that cars to be manufactured at Singur are a must, whether produced by Tata or by public sector. But it is the increasing needs of modern luxurious life which is causing irreparable destruction of lives of people dependent on these resources. It is causing global warming and creating unforeseen and unprecedented global-environmental crises. These are well-known and well-accepted facts now, but it seems that Marxist intellectuals have not integrated them into their thinking and analysis.

It is this attachment to, and an obsession with, modern life style and blind faith in modern industrialization, which take us to a path leading to Singur and Nandigram. If the model of development is the same, and ‘industrialisation’ has to be done in any case, Tata and Salem group naturally turn into friends and allies. Then many more Singures and Nandigrams will take place. Like China, West Bengal may remain a left or a communist –ruled territory in name, but a naked play of forces of corporate capitalism will go on. If the ‘left’ has to avoid this fate, its intellectuals will have to come out of this confusion. They will have to rethink and reshape their ideas and policies in the light of the new experiences today. It may be too late tomorrow.
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The author is the acting President of the Samajwadi Jana Parishad.

2 comments:

  1. POLITICAL RESOLUTION
    The meeting of the National Executive of Samajavadi Janaparishad
    February 29- March 2- 2008 , Nagpur.

    The announcement of loan waiver for farmers by Government of India in the Budget 2008-09 will neither end the crisis of Indian farmers nor will living a major relief to them. The reasons are the following –.

    1. The major portion of the loans to the aggrieved farmers are from private money lenders & businessmen, where coercions are compelling the farmers to suicide. In the last 15 years due to the policies of globalization, there has been a steep decline in bank loans to farmers who are now compelled to go in the clutches of private lenders.
    2. The loan of farmer with holdings of less than 5 acres have been waived that too pending loans, while the crisis has fallen on all farmers of under developed and unirrigated regions where the condition of even these farmers with larger landholdings are mush worse.
    3. In the policy the 25% of loan of farmers with holdings larger than 5 acres will be waived only if they deposit the remaining 75% at one go. The crisis ridden farmers will not have so much ready cash to take advantage of the waiver facility.
    4. With the announcement of this partial package, the government has not done any effort to remove the basic causes due to which farmers get entrapped in loans. The real reason is that farming is loss making and the losses are steeply increasing with the coming of policies of liberalization and globalization. The inputs of agriculture have become dearer while the prices have not increased in that ratio. The government is advancing these policies rather than reversing or changing them. The suicides of farmers have not abated inspite of the visit of Prime Minister Vidarbha in July 2005 and his announcements. Two decades back the farmers loan waives by Janata Dal Government did not arrest the crisis of farmers and ultimately reached the point of suicide. The loan waver in this budget will repeat the same. In fact the budget will benefit the banks more than the farmers, since the government treasury will refund their loans. The government has to answer the big question why it did not do anything for four years and why it has awakened for giving relief in the election year?.

    The higher fund allocated in the budget for irrigation will be spent mainly on large & medium irrigation projects. How beneficial these large projects will be is doubtful. The data from agriculture ministry show that in the last 10 years the irrigated areas have reduced inspite of huge expenditure or large & medium irrigation schemes. Similarly the 20% increases in the allocation for education will be funding 6000 new model schools, 20 new Navoday Vidyalayas, Central Universities, new IITs and Central Schools etc. The discrimination and inequality in education is growing rapidly and the aims of providing good education to all children is becoming more unattainable. Inspite of the highly orchestrated Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the country is very far from this goal. This can be attained only by a common school system for all children of the country.

    The growth rate of agriculture sector is law and, is decreasing further due to the wrong policies of the government inspite of the high national growth rate. This means that the share of agriculture and villages is decreasing in the National Income. On one hand the farmer is in trouble and on the other the food prices are going up and the country has to make large imports of food grains. The budget is silent on price rise and no reliefs have been offered. Instead of increasing the scope and strengthening PDS., its scope is shrinking. Large number of poor people have been removed from BPL lists.

    5. The union govt. appointed Arjun Sengupta committee itself has brought to light that 83 crore people are living on less than Rs. 20/- per day. It is a slap on the claims of developments by the government. The present policies of the government. should be seriously reviewed and critically appraised in the light of this report which is not visible either in this report or elsewhere.

    There is a deliberate attempt to destroy even the profitable public sector companies known as Navaratna not to speak the loss making ones. Outsourcing is increasing in these companies and number of regular employees are being reduced. The labourers of the contractors often don’t get even minimum wage and don’t get good working condition and other securities. Thus the prosperity of the corporate India is being built on the foundation of exploitation of labour.

    Employment opportunities are decreasing rapidly. Neither the government. nor the budget shows any concern for removing the very high unemployment in the country. The budget given no hope to toiling women and dalitadivasis. On the other hand the government has made its priorities obvious by decreasing taxes on cars, vehicles, motor bikes and fridge, Airconditions etc. The tax relief offered to private hospitals and hotels for 5 years is a similar decision. The govt. is reducing the facilities for health, education employment etc. of common people and is concentrating all the facilities for small number of rich people. On the other hand India tops the list in world in matter development indicator of malnutrition, IMR (Infant Mortality Rate), women’s health etc. India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world. The recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS) brings the seriousness to light. The number of anemic women has gone up from 52 to 57%. 79% of children are anoemic. This is Indian reality amidst the celebration of India’s development and progress.

    This is more or less the truth of Rail budget too. Allthough Sri. Lalu Yadav has been applauded for no increase in fares for the consecutive 5 years, he has secretly taken out cash from the pockets in the name of Takkal, Super Fast charges, reservation fee etc. He has played a cruel joke with poor people by introduced fully AC. trains with names of Garib Rath. The 3rd division was removed from trains to reduce discrimination amongst Indian people, but now there are a dozen categories again. This country does not need AC train – it is a vulgar display of luxury. The crowding in trains will reduce by removing these higher classes and running ordinary coaches in trains. The retrenchment, privatization, promotion of expensive hotels in railways are all anti people steps. On many stations small food stalls have been closed and expensive food plazas opened.

    The defects of capitalist and jobless industrialization and development are becoming obvious. Displacement of people is increasing due to SEZ, mines and heavy industries; people are being dispossessed of forests, water and land. New zamindaris of millionaires are being established. Government is preparing to amend the land acquisition act to provide land to companies. No peoples’ hearings, discussions and debates have not been initiated on the proposed new rehabilitation policy. Only a handfull of people and region will benefit from this development based on exports, SEZ and corporations. The rest large part of the country will get only poverty, farmines, unemployment, displacements and backwardness. Both foreign and internal colonialism are increasing.

    This wrong development policies are giving rise to new tensions, strife, extremism and terrorism, which are being exploited by opportunist and communal forces. The violence and hate perpetrated by the M.N.S. of Raj Thakre on north Indians in Mumbai and some other places of Maharashtra is an opportunism of this type. It is regretful that the Congress- NCP Govenment of Maharashtra ha also shown political opportunism and promoted it rather that stop with force right in the beginning.

    Janaparishad believes that all the people of India have a right to travel and work in any part of the country and it is the bounden duty of the state governments to protect them. The party calls upon all the people of the country not to get trapped in these mischievous machinations and together strive for a new development policy and order of equity where every citizen will get employment and decent life. It is the main aim of any development policy. So that such employments are mostly available in their own areas and large migrations are not needed. Samajawadi Janaparishad welcomes the call by the Uleman conference of Deoband condemning and rejecting violence and terrorism of all forms.

    6. Janaparishad expresses its grief on the death of Smt. Benazir Bhutta the popular democratic leader of our neighbouring country. The same time it express pleasure on the victory of democratic parties and defeat of the pro-Musharraf party in their election. One notable feature of this general election is the victory of National Awami Party in the North-West provinces who have defeated communal forces in that area, this party was founded by the great gandhian leader and freedom fighter Khan Abdul Gafferkhan, the frontier Gandhi. The party supports the genuine demands of Madheshi population in Terai area of Nepal. Samajawadi Janaparishad also demands the release of Aung San Soo ki and restoration of democracy in Myanmar.

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  2. RESOLUTION ON POLICE REPRESSION OF PEOPLE’S STRUGGLES IN THE NAME OF CAMPAIGN AGAINST MAOISTS.

    Based on draconian MAHARASHTRA ORGANISED CRIMES PREVENTION Act of Mahartashtra, Several States have passed repressive acts to repress the legitimate people’s movements. Restrictions are put on the activities of the organizations engaged on people’s struggles all over India in the name of campaign against Maoists, Police is harassing activists who have deep faith in values like peaceful change, Non-violence and belonging to Gandhi, Ambedkar, Socialist and other traditions. It is learnt that names of people like Dr. Baba Adhav, Medha Patkar, Suresh Khairnar, Nagesh Chaudhary are included in the list of Maoists- Nexalites by police authorities.

    Dr. Vinayek Sen, PresidentChathisgarh State, PUCL is in jail for past more than one & half year for his alleged pro-maoist activities and Supreme Court has also rejected his bail application. Dr. Sen is known throughout the Country as an activist serving the adivasis of Chathisgarh by way of providing Health Services. He has been falsely implicated. Shamim & Anurag Modi, leaders of Samajawadi Jana Parishad are organizing the Dalits and Adivasis in Harda, Betul and Khandva districts of M.P. are also implicated under false charges of Decoity, attempt to murder etc. and given externment notices.

    With the acceptance of Globalisation, its Neo-liberal policies and programmes under the dictates of WTO and World Bank, Indian State is aggressively encroaching upon the land, water, forest affecting the means of lifelihood of millions of Dalits, Adivasis and farmers and displacing them on a large scale, to benefit industrialists and multi-nationals. Nandigram, Orissa, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa are the examples where people are facing terror unleashed by the State especially under the guise of campaign against Maoists.

    People are resisting the neo-liberal policies and programmes by organizing themselves in various parts of the country in a peaceful, non-violent and democratic manner. However, there is a paradigm shift in the attitude of the state with regard to people’s struggles in recent years. Instead of addressing the issues raised by people’s movements and establishing a dialogue, state is mercilessly suppressing these movements and struggles. In the process, they are cruelly depriving people their civil, human, fundamental constitutional rights, under the draconian Acts.

    Samajawadi Jana Parishad, hereby resolves that all such draconian Acts be abrogated, suppression of human rights of people be immediately discontinued, dialogue with the people be established and condemns the repressive acts, measures undertaken by the state, and further appeals to the people to strengthen the struggle against Neo-liberal Policies of the state in a peaceful &+ non violent manner.

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