The ongoing farmers’ agitation on a singular demand for the repeal of the recently enacted three laws for agricultural reforms by the Centre is inching towards a final showdown. Though with the open entry of Haryana’s kulak-dominated Khap Panchayat, forcing even MLAs to withdraw support for the Khattar Government, it now clearly looks like an intra-class showdown. The negotiation between Punjab farmers leaders and Modi Government represented by three central ministers held last day on 1st December has come a cropper. The Government’s proposal to form a Committee comprising of farmers’ and government representatives along with experts on agriculture to look into and discuss these laws was turned down saying time for such a committee has passed. The farmers leaders said that the Government must stop giving presentation on the laws and instead withdraw them, otherwise they would intensify their struggle. Subsequently, the farmers have reiterated their announcement to peacefully lay siege to all the entry points of Delhi for umpteen days if necessary. As the reports came last day, entry points at 4 places, 2 from Haryana and 2 from UP have been blocked. The Delhi-Jaipur Highway is also expected to be blocked soon by the farmers of Rajasthan who are expected to come to join the protest in large numbers. The agitation is slowly picking up in almost all states now and the farmers have seen arriving from all over the country to reinforce the strength of movement to block Delhi from all sides. Armed forces have also been deployed and sent to take positions on all important routes and places. Farmers and armed forces are face to face. The fact that the Jawans are mostly the sons of farmers must be causing nostalgic feelings to pour in plenty on both sides of the barricades.
The farmers’ mood no doubt seems upbeat and unrelenting. This has naturally become the cause of concern for the State and the ruling party, but Modi Government is also not ready to backtrack on the Agricultural Reforms Acts which are draconian from the point of view of the farmers. Modi Government, given its characteristic nature of a fascist government, is never at ease when it comes to reversing its decision or steps already taken as it makes a dent in the image of a strong and a never wrong government. They have seldom heeded to demands of any agitation during their six years rule. This is not surprising given the very ‘politics of image’ that a fascist leader or fascist government pursues. On the other hand, farmers’ mood looks like they are ready to even die for their demands and will in no way go away empty handed.
What is the secret of this kind of determination? Economic conditions of those participating in the agitation are different, from poor peasant to big farmers and kulaks. This is easily discernible by even a cursory glance that shows that some ‘common cause’ has ‘united’ them all in this movement. What could it be? Whereas the poorer and less incentivised sections feel threatened of their very existence by these acts, the big farmers and kulaks strongly feel that the giant shares of the profit they previously accrued from capitalist farming i.e. through capitalist exploitation of the rural poor will be grabbed by the corporates once these laws become fully operative on the ground in due course of time. The determination seems to have stemmed from this.
Before the farmers became ready for the aforementioned negotiation in Vigyan Bhavan, they had turned down the Amit Shah’s conditional offer of negotiations. The condition was that the agitation must be first shifted to Nirankari Ground at Burari (outer Delhi). The farmers weren’t ready, and rightly so, to house themselves in the Burari ground and vacate the Delhi entry points. If they had shifted, the required pressure couldn’t have been built to even bring the unamenable Modi government to terms for a respectable beginning of a valued negotiation. They rightly understood that the Home Minister Mr. Shah wanted to get the movement fizzled out on its own. It showed that the farmers have arrived in Delhi with a mood to up the ante if Modi government chooses to ignore them and have made up their mind for this from the beginning itself.
Next, according to some newspaper reports, seeing the mood and the preparedness of the protesting farmers, earlier the Modi government bent somewhat more to extend unconditional offer for negotiation. This was again going to be proved just like a gimmick for it wasn’t a written one. The Modi Government continued to disrespect the agitators who could, they thought, be treated as beggars and taken for granted as if they would run to the negotiation table on the basis of just a verbal offer. It was a good move to turn down even this offer which wasn’t a respectable one. Only such a strong rebuffing posture could have brought Modi Government to its knees. This again shows that farmers are expressing not only their revolting mood, but also the required skill and intelligence, enough to meet the power of cunning of the shrewdest ever Government of India that knows no respect for the struggle common masses. They seem to be determined to inflict defeat to the corporates.
It is also a good counter move to announce at this stage that if the government does want to talk, let the government repeal the three laws and do it in written, they would without any delay return from where ever they are.
So, it is clear that the big farmers lobbies have turned the table on the Government, as usual. No government has ever shown courage to directly oppose their demand. ‘It is now time for the Prime Minister to listen to the Mann Ki Baat of the farmers or pay a heavy price.’ This message is being clearly served to brow beat Modi Government. However, they must not forget the difference of this present government from the previous ones. It is truly not so easy to be tamed. It knows how to rope in the masses in a very highly unstable and volatile communal atmosphere by rousing in them fake nationalist feeling using any unfortunate terror incident that keeps occurring on the borders or in any part of the country from time to time.
It is also true that, as the farmers say, their demand for the repeal of the Centre’s three agricultural reform laws are non-negotiable. It is true that the government have weighed all options and is trying to sort out ways so that the farmers movement doesn’t harm Modi’s image of a strong nationalist leader much. Senior Ministers and Cabinet officials, and also a number of unofficial contacts between the government and the farmers’ union leaders have been seen busy holding meetings on Monday with visible uneasiness showing on their faces.
But to expect, as some can be seen doing, that the victory of this movement will automatically put brakes on the fascist agenda or the onward victorious march of the fascist takeover of India will be a highly oversimplified expectation, whereas to believe that it will be able to reverse the victories of the fascists and defeat them will be amounting to foolishness. It must not be overlooked that this movement is still being fought in a friendly arena, as a struggle for dominance of one ruling class over the other. Just imagine, what this Modi government’s attitude would have been, if the working class had gheraoed Delhi in the same manner as the farmers are doing!
Many can also be seen harbouring this notion that workers must also immediately resort to this type of movement. The working class laying siege to Delhi cannot be the same as rural folk led by big farmers lobbies laying siege to Delhi in such a strong manner. For farmers, it is like a day-to-day, routine affair as it cannot go beyond victory on some economic issues that may be conceded by the government if vote politics doesn’t allow an adamant posture or the stability of a reactionary mass base is threatened. It will in no way threaten the rule of the bourgeoise, no matter who wins in this battle. This is precisely the reason of the ‘soft’ handling of the issue by Modi government.However, for the working class, laying such a siege will be an entirely different thing as it can go beyond victories on economic issues and the bourgeois rule may come under threat. It will definitely lead, due to its very class nature, to a very serious class conflict even before reaching this stage that may turn out to be the final stage signifying either a working class triumph over the bourgeoisie or vice-versa which may be followed by very unfortunate situations like those faced by the Communards of Paris. Let us stop talking such far-fetched notions for now when even the most preliminary intervention of the working class is still to take a start for its own economic cause.
Nevertheless, it can be averred that the situation of the movement so far obtained indicates a drift towards a potentially serious standoff that may turn ugly if not handled properly by the Modi government. It however seems unlikely at this stage in spite of provocations by the ruling party spokes persons who are very often attributing the movement to anti-national forces like Khalistanis. Tomorrow they can attribute it to Pakistan’s ISI or Chinese intelligence that has become the method of handling of this Modi government. BJP’s top brass will speak in a little soft language, while the whole army of its RSS led trolls will let loose abuses of all sorts on the movements and also on those who come in their support. Those who are helping the agitators with food and shelter or are providing medical help are being already targeted. Modi supporter Media is making all out attempts to tarnish this movement by using any small undesirable thing that may happen in such a big movement.
In spite of all these, unless some revolutionary classes such as the one as the working class which is today the most wretched, most exploited and the most oppressed class, are not involved at another corner of this stalemate, a final show down of a grave nature, at least from the Government side is unlikely. Even the farmers lobbies also see no benefit in this as of now. They will also not allow among themselves any extreme revolutionary voice to be heard, rather take all steps to keep away such things even with using force from entering this tangle.
In this intra-class turmoil and tussle, farmers led by big farmers have so far shown that they have come of age in understanding how sinister tactics are used and traps are laid in the name of Government offering for talks. They are till now very straight forward and open in their talk since the very beginning. The pressure of the mass of enraged farmers seems palpable. We have seen they have sent those leaders empty handed and even scolded them when tried to persuade the farmers to agree to go to the Burari ground. Amit Shah wanted to endlessly engage the agitators in fruitless negotiations and leave them at their mercy at the Burari ground as remaining housed in it for even six months would not have bothered anyone, particularly when the agitators have to live at their own expense. This would have soon led to frustration, fatigue, failure and ultimately would have dissipated their energy. Seeing no tangible gain coming on their way, nor finding any ways to intensify the movement in the closed boundary of the stadium, the movement would have certainly easily fizzled out. To deny going to the Burari ground was indeed a smart move. Everyone must learn from this as to what does it look like using courage with intelligence and skill. They are also very smartly using the word peacefully when they say that they are determined to peacefully go to any extent to intensify the agitation.
On the other hand, the Centre has been exposed of its unwillingness to hold talks. It’s craftiness also stand exposed to the whole world. Behind the screen of loftily soft-spoken words and so far only willy-nilly approach to negotiations, so far water cannon, mild to severe lathicharge, deployment of gun-toting armed forces, putting barricades, tear gas shells, registering FIRs, forced blockade by even digging the highways etc. have been the chief means of dealing with the farmers movement used by the Modi Government. Heavy deployment and use of force is still going on at one or the other place. Haryana’s Khattar-led BJP Government did everything possible to stop the farmers of Punjab from marching to Delhi. The extraordinary determination and courage shown by the farmers could not be damped even then. When they were allowed to enter Delhi, they were allowed with restrictions, only to be confined in an isolated ground. It must be noted here that this, too, came only when the farmers could not be stopped and tamed by repressive measures. Only after this, Amit Shah was forced to publicly announce Modi government’s intention to hold unconditional talks.
Now, when the first round of talk has failed to fetch any result and subsequently when the farmers have vowed yet again to intensify their stir, what will the Modi government do? Will the Government give orders to gun-toting armed personnel to swoop down upon them and even fire on the agitators to lift the siege? If not, will the Government accept the farmers’ demand to repeal the aforementioned agricultural reform acts? There are certainly no concrete answers to any of these at the present stage. All options are in fluid state. Take any of them and consider them one by one, all seem unlikely, though nothing is impossible, not even the possibility of letting loose extreme repression on the farmers, seeing the standoff. Modi government before opting to choose any of the options will certainly weigh and judge the overall situation and the mood of the people.
In this fluid condition, the working class, other toiling sections and other sections of people at large irrespective of their livelihood professions must issue an urgent warning, from where ever they are or from whatever platforms they have, to Modi government to desist itself from using force or extreme force. All round pressure must be built to send the government on the negotiating table with open mind and honest heart.
Secondly, working class and its organisations must also make hasty preparations to come out in the open with its own demands and slogans as well as its own declaration and orientation on farmers issues and effectively intervene in its own independent capacity, if the battle lines are further drawn, more sharply.
Thirdly, in no case must the working class keep itself shut inside, while outside the country is witnessing an unprecedented situation resulting from the bitter-cum-friendly tussles (that may however snowball into an intense intra-class conflict and may spill over to other arena to engage and involve other classes) going on between the financial and industrial monopolists having a complete control on the government on the one hand and farmers and kulak lobbies on the other brandishing the banner of rural poor. The other space, which may eventually become the front space if favourable things happen, must be occupied by the working class and uniting with the toiling and oppressed peasantry it must stamp its own imprint on the movement.
Fourthly, working class needs to inform and awaken their poor rural brethren – poor and small peasants and other exploited sections – that their lot can’t improve unless and until the yoke of capitalism is overthrown, a historical mission which the big farmers lobbies leading this agitation will never support and cherish so long as they as a class remain as expropriators and appropriators, so long as they are materially enabled to hanker after profit and exploitation of labour and suppress and loot those with small fortunes. Agriculture based on profit motive i.e. capitalist farming will always bring miseries and sorrow and always lead to expropriation for those peasants with lesser capital resources. Such peasants constitute the huge majority of the rural population. Extensive data corroborates this. Under capitalism there can be no such development that will be development for all. Development for all can only be possible under socialisation.
Rural poor brethren! there is not much difference between yesterday and today or tomorrow for you, the majority of the rural folk – small and lower middle-class peasant – who own not much capital. Remember, you will be exploited in future almost in the same way as you are being exploited today. Under capitalism, you have no future. Only forms of loot may change. MSP or no MSP, there is no escape from miseries for you. However, it is true that for the Kulak and big farmers lobbies, it makes a lot of difference. They accrue profit with the help of MSP as well as from open market sales taking advantage of opportunity marked by higher prices of the agricultural produce in the world.
Agriculture on capitalist line is based on price signal of the agricultural produce and for small and medium farmers it is a trap. The lure of high prices takes them to the vagaries and irrationality of capitalist farming. To board on the swings of prices controlled by international oligarchy of finance capital is to agree to death warrant. We already know how many lakhs of marginal and poor farmers have been led to suicides due to this chimera of getting rich like kulaks and big farmers in pursuit high prices that seldom come to be realised by the marginal and poor farmers.
The big farmers never ever think about the empty bellies of those rural poor whose very existence of life is threatened by higher prices of the grains. With the entry of the corporates in agriculture, this situation will further worsen, there is no doubt about that. But the big farmers are restless not because of this. They will let poor die of starvation due to higher prices if their giant share of profit is ascertained and ensured. They are restless because their giant share of profit are threatened and will not remain the same as yesterday’s if corporates are given free entry. Due to over production of grains and other agricultural produce, for the majority of kulaks and big farmers, profit is already threatened as a result of price crash and it will get even much more threatened tomorrow, if corporates take over the agriculture. This is destined by the unamenable laws of growth of capital i.e. the laws of development operating under capitalism. Where private property reigns supreme, who else than the biggest capitalist will take the giant share of profit. If they do not want corporates to hold sway, they must do away with capitalism, the rule of the bourgeoisie itself. Will they?
They may believe that the government, if forced by their mass movement, peaceful or otherwise, will save them from the corporates or grant them at least considerable concessions, but they forget that once corporate and the monopolists established their economic and political hold on the economic and political system, as they have done by installing Narendra Modi led government in the centre, its regressive impact will progressively lead to elimination of smaller player of capital that the rural capitalist are. They must accept this or speak boldly and openly against capitalism. Will they?
They previously thought, they are the only sharks in the pond and they will forever be in the same situation to engulf and swallow the poor small fishes alone. How much they feel contented with this dispensation! Isn’t it? Now, when bigger sharks (like Adani and Ambani) have arrived in the same pond, which till yesterday solely belonged to them as their exclusive hunting ground which they enjoyed with content, they say they have declared a ‘war’ against the government which is allowing these bigger sharks to enter the pond and leave them at their mercy. This is exactly what they are afraid of. But for this, they will have to continue their ‘war’ to its logical end, against the very foundations of such loot i.e. capitalism. Will they?
Will the rural sharks (big farmers) ever desire to leave the pond, so long as they are capable of eating the small and medium fishes? No. Surely not. This provides them blood supply i.e. the profit. They can eat small fishes only there. As a class of expropriators of the rural poor and the appropriators of surplus value created by the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians, they are very much part of the loot going on in the pond.
However restless they may be, yet they won’t cease to love and cherish capitalism under which those who are stronger expropriate those who are weaker, under which, in spite of all the talk of equality and fraternity, final victories are attained by using brute force. They will keep fighting the capitalist monopolists with the weapons of the same capitalism using only which the monopolists have expropriated the smaller and petty capitalists. They will try to compete with them using vote bank power, their last weapon, to get the government buckled which is however not possible beyond a point.
The system of MSP is more detrimental to industrialist monopolists and corporate interests than to any other. So long as this system of MSP remains, the corporate monopolists cannot take full control over the rural economy. The historical inner movement of a capitalist country like India is towards further expansion of capitalist relations, towards corporatization with all its attendant consequences. If they want to stop this half way, it is not possible. For this, they will have to overthrow the rule of capital and come under the umbrella of the working class which represents their interests, too, but not those of the present i.e. those of hucksters that they today are. The working class represents their future interests i.e. those interests that will constitute their being once they are also expropriated and we know they will be. Will they join the working class keeping eyes on their future interests?
Such is the nature of essence of things involved in this farmers’ and peasants’ struggle.
It is the duty of the working class to ally with and make a common cause with those rural poor who are exploited and being expropriated on the daily basis by the big farmers and kulaks as well as the bourgeoisie, and fight together a battle for survival in unity. The proletariat can only sympathise with those big farmers who previously thought they will never be challenged in capitalism. It is for the first time that they are face to face with a formidable opponent in the form of monopolist bourgeoisie who want to grab the giant share of profit accrued from capitalist farming, which was once their exclusive arena.
It will take much time before the majority of the big farmers will also get ruined by monopolists so that they opt to leave and destroy the pond where sharks live and thrive upon small fishes. They may themselves become fishes, the fodder of the big sharks. But it is for future course of development to decide when it will exactly happen. As of now, at the present juncture, the biggest question is however this; Will the vast rural poor leave the pond? If yes, when? Certainly, without the ideological as well as political intervention of the proletariat, it will not happen.
It is true that they will, one day or the other. They should immediately leave and destroy this pond, empty its water in which rural sharks eat them freely and now, together with them, Adanis and Ambanis will swallow them. Let us create a new pond altogether. The working class must help them in this and lead them. This new pond will be a new society, a new economic system and a new state built by all who are exploited, oppressed and deprived under the leadership of the proletariat. This will be socialism where the dictatorship will be applied on the exploiters and oppressors, the sharks, while those living on their own labour will enjoy complete freedom from exploitation of any kind. It is sure that the fascists will not have the last laugh.
Let the working class and the vast masses of rural poor brethren together declare war on Monopolists to get rid of capitalist-fascist exploitation once and for ever. Let us fight for a revolutionary government of all those who could be united to overthrow the capitalist-fascist state.
[Originally published as Editorial in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 8 / December 2020)]