India: a catastrophe or a break with imperialism


Interview with GN Saibaba of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, India

India is at a turning point, says GN Saibaba, a representative of the Revolutionary Democratic Front. He stresses the deep poverty and terrible living conditions of ordinary Indians co-existing with the economical boom. Either India breaks with imperialism or sectarianism and Hindu right-wing nationalism will prevail, he warns. His is a message of hope, but also fearful warnings.

Poverty boom

The economy of India, when measured in USD exchange-rate terms, is the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of US $1.09 trillion (2007). It is the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity. India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world, with a GDP growth rate of 9.4% for the fiscal year 2006-2007.

- If these are indicators of growth, I'm afraid that these indicators could never speak about the real growth that is developing in India, says GN Saibaba, the deputy General Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF).

India's huge population results in a per capita income of $4,182 at PPP and $964 at nominal (2007 estimate). The World Bank classifies India as a low-income economy. Co-existing with the economical growth is widespread poverty. The population of the vast South-Asian country is among the worlds' poorest and most down-throdden. The UN Human development index ranks India as 126th.

An economy of impoverishment

- This poverty is a real indicator of how growth develops in India, says Saibaba. An even better indication is the fact that 150,000 farmers have committed suicide. Even in Sub-saharan Africa these kind of numbers don't exist. These are forced suicides, not voluntary!

Saibaba sees the Western picture of India as a state of economical and technological progress as a fiction. - The growth rate is illusive! It's mostly based on calculated and speculated capital, which is very fragile. One day the capital could be here and another day it will fly to another territory in the world. This growth rate is artificial and calculated.

Special Economical Death Zones

Currently the Indian government is designating and building more than 500 "Special Economical Zones" to stimulate further growth in the Indian export industry. The zones are put at the disposal of large multi-national companies and products will mainly be exported.

- These are fragile investments, one would never know if they would remain permanently. Any kind of turmoil could easily cause a shift, says Saibaba. Through the Revolutionary Democratic Front he's participating in Visthapan Virodi Jan Vikas Andolan, which is an umbrella organization consisting of more than one hundred local mass movements all over India.

To build the new zones local peasants are being bought out off or expelled from their land. Violence is often applied to expel those who are determined to stick on to the soil, like in Nandigram, close to the capital Kolkata of West Bengal, where the official Communist Party (Marxist) are heading the regional government. 150 were massacred and 2000 wounded when militias hired by the "communist" government were rushed in to clear the peasants out.

Many intellectuals and others concerned about the social and sometimes deadly consequences of the "economical wonder" are also connected with the movement.

Still a feudal economy

Traditionally the maoist analysis applied by the inspired Indian naxalite rebels has been to say that the Indian economy is a feudal economy. Yet this image is contrasted by a sharp growth in the economical standards of the bourgeoisie and the upper middle class.

But Saibaba denies that there's any development towards real capitalism in the country. - The capitalist entrepreneurs in India are dependent on imperialist capitalists, they are unable to take independent decisions. India is a traditional supplier of raw material. They export raw material cheaply and remain on the receiving end of the market for the finished goods, so in a double way you are helping the imperialist entrepreneurs.

The new economics also give little in terms of investment to the people. While money is tossed into building new universities and campuses, the beneficiaries are foreigners and the Indian diaspora, not the common man, in the view of Saibaba.

- They build some good educational institutions, but ordinary people don't have the opportunity to go. And though there are developments of science and economy, it's dependent on the Western powers. New campuses are being built financed by foreigners.

Several Sub-Saharan regions in India

- India is a very complex phenomenon says Saibaba. - There are several Nepals in India, there are several regions in India resembling Sub-Saharan conditions. In other words, India has multiple modes of production. So similarly you have a capitalist development, a feudal system, a slave system and a tribal systems. You have people still remaining in the hunting system, you have a feudalist system and also a capitalist system, dependent on monopoly capital from abroad.

Given these multiple modes of production, you can say that all modes of production from human history exist in India. The category called semi-feudal and semi-colonial have these multiple modes of economies existing together built within it. Another trait is subsistence economy, the majority produce just to survive.

A vicious trap

In present India 55% of the GDP is from the service sector, 19% of the GDP is from agriculture, 55% is employing only 0,5% of the work force. 19% of the GDP is giving employing 70% of the work force. Only 3% of the GDP is located in the manufactural sector.

- These numbers show clearly how the Indian economy is completely based on agriculture, says Saibaba. 55% of the GDP is from the service sector, but only sheltering 0,7%, while a vast majority is surviving on agriculture while their share of the GDP. This figure clearly shows how India is semi-colonial and semi-feudal and the weakness of the manufacturing sector is also clear from this picture.

- 77% of the Indian population live on 20 rupi a day (0,5 USD). The growth rate is only for the top ten percent and it doesn't effect the vast majority of the people. If you add together all the rich people in India, you'll get huge numbers, but they are just 13%. Numbers are huge because the population is huge.

- The vast majority of the indian population has no power, they have no purchasing power, if they had purchasing power, industry could grow. This is a vicious circle.

Change is possible

- The only way entrepreneurship could grow is if the people got purchasing power, says Saibaba.

- It's possible, if the ruling elite would like to change, but they don't have the will to do it. If agriculture is given importance, indigenous ways to develop agriculture is taken into consideration, land is distributed so that the population could move forward in agriculture, people would get purchasing power.

Those who depend on agriculture in today's India are mainly landless, 70% of the land is in the hands of 23% of the people, only 13% of the land is in the hands of the 70% of the population occupied in the agricultural sector.

- Huge amounts of land is left uncultivated in India. If this would have been distributed among the people there would be a real development boom. This population is skilled workers, they could improve the productivity, if land is given to them, apart from the land in the hand of the big owners. Huge amounts of land is left uncultivated.

Rise of hindutva fascism

While the picture of an economical boom is being contrasted by roaring poverty, another feature of modern Indian society is politics being played out in an increasingly sectarian pattern of bigotry.

- No single party can form a government of their own, explains Saibaba. The all-India parties lost their importance. Different layers of maldevelopment in different regions has created different politics. The situation now is much worse than at the time of liberation from the British in 1947.

In the end of the 80s the movement of hindutva nationalism, a right-wing movement based on a hinduist identity began to gain momentum and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of the wider right-wing nationalist movement, held government from 1996-2004. The BJP government in the Indian regional state Gujarat was criticized widely for its failure to prevent widespread violence against the minority Muslim community in the year 2002. Amnesty International's annual report on India in 2003 claimed the "Gujarat government did not actively fulfill its duty to provide appropriate relief and rehabilitation to the survivors". It also claimed that "the same police force that was accused of colluding with the attackers was put in charge of the investigations into the massacres, undermining the process of delivery of justice to the victims."

- Regionalism has grown together with hinduvatva fascism, because of the conflicting situation, Saibaba explains. - This is related to politics and economics. Politics because with 60 years of malgovernment, which has given a scope for the right-wing and regionalist forces to grow. Politics, because the revolutionary left is growing. The lumpenization of the economy is contributing to the growth of the right-wing in the urban cities, while the impoverishment of peasants is resulting in the growth of the left on the country side.

Together with the muslim minority

Together with the rise of hindutva nationalism, islamic movements are on the rise in India. The Revolutionary Democratic Front believes that this comes as a reaction the marginalization and insecurity muslims experience in modern India.

- They are pushed into a corner, says Saibaba. - Muslim fundamentalism is no doubt growing, but this islamization is because of severe acts by the majority. The revolutionary forces would like to win over the muslim population, while the hindu fundamentalists belong to the ruling classes.

Bigotry attacks on muslim minorities is common in many Indian states, while poverty remains high among ordinary muslims. - Small section of muslims are pushed towards fundamentalism, but security the main issue, Saibaba explains. - They could be attacked by hindutva forces anytime and are pushed into ghettos. Opportunities are not given to the muslims, because most of them are workers, most of them are hand skilled workers, poverty is very rampant.

The Revolutionary Democratic Front compares the rise of hindutva nationalism with the rise of islamist movements elsewhere. - The islamization of Pakistan would be similar to Hindutva in India, says Saibaba. - If I was in Pakistan, I wouldn't understand the fundamentalists as I do in India. The fundamentalist forces in Pakistan are much more reactionary and tied to the state, while muslims in India are only fundamentalist because there is a threat to security.

Today the Indian revolutionaries are seeking cooperation with all kinds of muslim organisations because they believe the muslim groups have to be looked upon as minority groups without equal rights.

- The question would not be whether they are fundamentalists or not, they are the allies of the people. As a minority section they are an ally of the revolutionary forces. So the revolutionary forces are in a process of aligning themselves with the religious people. The question of fundamentalism in India is the question of the hindutva forces. This doesn't mean that the rev forces ignore the fundamentalism of the muslims, the revolutionary forces take a different point than them. But to bring them out of fundamentalism you have to take the them out of the physical conditions that are making fundamentalism attractive to them. They should have their full religious rights.

Maoist surge

- The last two years you have seen in the central part the growth of the maoist movement, consolidated in CPI(M), it's an indication of two things. First, the revolutionary forces have come together and formed a unified party and secondly, the popularity of the communist ideology among the masses

Indian government officials say that for the first time in history "the single biggest threat internal security is the Naxalites". - This is an indicator of the phenomenal growth, a formidable challenge to the right-wing forces and imperialists, says Saibaba.

Saibaba does not see a contradiction between the different political and economical tendencies in the urban and rural areas.

- The strategy of the maoists is not only to capture the countryside, but to wage armed struggle to capture power finally at a country level. In fact those who have power in the vast rural areas ultimately will acquire power in Dehli. Neither BJP or Congress cannot win power based only on the urban centers, in terms of representation, only rural centers will matter. When the BJP comes to power it comes to power with a large number of regional parties, with the congress it's the same, but they have also a rural base.

Sometimes the sectarian forces, like in Ghujarat and Utar Pradesh, these are the states where the revolutionary forces have not grown, are using muslim-hindu tensions to create a vote bank.

The last moghul of Congress

Historically the Indian Congress Party founded by Mahatma Gandhi led the anti-colonization movement. Today, according to the Indian revolutionaries, they are the resembling their former oppressors.

- It's a traditional force, representing the feudal elements, says Saibaba. - But today there's little difference left between congress and BJP. Though the BJP is more dependent on the trading class while congress is more dependent on the rural, feudal class, but in terms of the nature of both parties, there's hardly any difference remaining. So congress congress could easily succumb to the BJP.

- It looks like their new leader, Rahul Gandhi, would be the last moghul of congress. The only difference is that the last moghul was an anti-imperialist who fought the british, while history repeats itself in a very sad way, in that this moghul is on the side on imperialism.

The official left is losing

The parliamentary left would be the biggest loser. The current government is dependent on the left. For the first time have the largest number of parliamentary seats in the history.

In the 2004 elections the official Indian left parties, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxists) gained a historical high number of MPs, by many seen as a reaction to the neoliberal policies of the BJP 1999-2004 government.

- Since Congress took power, they've been the biggest supporters of the same policies. It was a shock of the peoplel that the Communist Party (Marxists) is supporting US imperialism, like implementing the Special Economic Zones in West Bengal, where they are in government, and also in central government. They vote against pension schemes, people's livelihood, security, in support of the unhindered loot of the imperialists.

Because of this the revolutionaries in India believe the official, parliamentary left will lose ground. So it depends on the revolutionary forces, if they gain the ground lost by the parliamentary left. If they gain ground, it could be a revolutionary situation comparable to that of Nepal.

A dark or bright future

But the picutre isn't only bright. - There's a danger, if the rev forces don't gain space, that the most reactionary right-wing forces would be able to control the situation for a longer period. The in-between forces have no space now. You have to choose a side, if the right-wing forces gain more space, then the chaos of civil war will be much more serious, if the revolutionary forces gain ground, it'd be paving a way for better developments

- I can't confidently say that either side will gain grown, but there's a chance for the revolutionary forces. Of course, ultimately, the rev forces, but now, I don't know. With the class contradictions and the class struggle going on, either side could win, but ultimately the revolutionary forces.

Whatever way India turns, it'd have a large impact, the situation in India would have a great impact on the world situation.

Lars Akerhaug
December 2007