The peasant movement against the Modi’s pro-corporate agriculture reforms laws has been going on unabated for more than a month now, undaunted by more than three dozen of sacrifices of precious peasants’ lives, young and old both, on account of severe cold. As these lines are being penned, the patience of the agitators shows no sign of yielding and desperation is yet quite far from setting in. Nevertheless, the peasant leaders have sought to intensify their struggle by taking a bold and confrontationist line against the most unfaithful Modi regime people have so far seen. They have announced a series of steps for intensifying the movement between January 6 and January 26 in the new year if the government denies to accept their main demands in the next round of negotiation to be held on January 4, 2021. As a conclusion of these steps, they have again declared to enter into the Delhi city on 26th January, the Republic Day and stage Kisan Gantantra Parade with their tractors decorated with tri-colour.
On the other hand, more peasants from across all over the country are pouring in and joining the ranks of those holding positions at Delhi borders in spite of biting cold waves. Young and teenage people i.e. the sons and daughters of peasants from neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana have also joined their guardians and vowed to play the role of front runners in the next round of struggle which will surely see its further intensification. Sympathy of the countrymen of all walks is all along with them and increasing making it one of the most popular and spontaneous movement that many of us won’t have seen. This inspires all of us to salute their unflinching courage of sacrifice that has brought new awakening not only in the peasant masses but in the whole country against the corporates led by its puppet, the Modi government. Let us all greet and welcome this new awakening with warmth. We eagerly wait for and take a pledge to work towards their turning into a revolutionary consciousness against the very foundation of the reactionary rule of Capital that has ‘bestowed’ ruin after ruin upon the peasantry in return of their services they have provided to it till yesterday by being its main prop and bulwark in the rural India.
This movement marks the onset of a new phase of peasant uprising in India, the uprising that will be directed against corporate capitalists and big agri-business companies in the main. Irrespective of defeat and victory of this movement, the restlessness on the part of the peasantry is not going to subside and such uprising will keep happening if the capitalist system remains. This shows the proletarian revolution in India, if it at all arrives in near future, will arrive riding the peasant revolution. These vast peasant masses lie between the proletariat and the capitalists. The proletarian Revolution cannot succeed if the old relations of this vast peasant masses with capitalism doesn’t completely rupture and come in alliance with the working class. The present movement provides that ground for the much-needed alliance of working class and peasantry.
The whole of North India is reeling under icy cold waves. However, the peasants are braving them with the help of the heat that the stir continues to produce. The peasants’ do or die approach has shaken the Modi regime from within, which however still looks unbending, at least outwardly. Not to mention, it has filled with vigour, stirred and rejuvenated the democratic and progressive conscience of the whole country. But it has also brought in the open the long standing ideological and political disputes and differences pertaining to the role of the proletariat and its vanguard vis-à-vis this peasant movement, with some even opposing and ridiculing the peasant movement, while the rest just trails behind it in the name of supporting this, abandoning the leadership role and position of the proletariat.
What exactly is the significance of this peasant movement and what are those things belonging to the kernel of this movement that help us foresee, constitute and determine our attitude and line of action with regard to the revolutionary role of the working class in the present peasant movement? This question has divided the whole revolutionary working-class movement which unfortunately stands nowhere or hardly matches or measures up with respect to its new tasks confronting it right now in the form of its revolutionary role vis-à-vis this peasant movement.
There is no doubt that the present movement is a historic act of the peasant masses of India led by Punjab farmers in the main against the neo-liberal policies of the Indian State that has remained captive since the turn of the century of the anti-farmers recommendation of the WTO, an imperialist led organisation, and also against the overall consequences of the contradictory capitalist development of Indian agriculture that has ruined the poor and middle peasants in its wake since long, just after its beginning. Its significance lies mainly in its under current effect that goes against the rule of capital or corporate capital. The rule of corporate capital is nothing but a stage in the development of capital. The change in the outward appearance of the movement as well as its inner content that is so strongly visible in this movement can be attributed to this. If it further intensifies, it is bound to take the anti-capitalist road as the ruin of the peasantry as a whole is the historical mission of capital in agriculture. This movement has so far shown that against the corporate the peasantry as whole acts in unison, like a single class and the contradictions and antagonism that exist between different classes and strata of the peasants are muted for the time being. This has happened elsewhere and may happen in India too. This is not at all surprising.
What do we see in this movement? Or, what does this movement reflect in the anger and frustration of the peasant masses? It precisely reflects the ill-effects of the contradictory motion of capital in agriculture due to which the vast poor peasant masses have been displaced and expropriated in the course of three decades of capitalist development of Indian agriculture. Now when the corporate capital is poised to enter into it in a big way commencing in near future the beginning of corporate agriculture, even the rich peasants are threatened of its existence as the MSP and Mandis are on the verge of being done away with. Whereas the poor peasant masses correctly feel that with the entry of the corporate capital in agriculture they will be forcibly thrown out of agriculture, the rich peasants feel that the same fate awaits them too in just a little distant future. And this is true. The villages and the whole rural India will be delivered to the big corporates in no time if the three laws are allowed to be implemented. This has correctly embroiled the whole rural India presently led by Punjab farmers. This scenario promises a series of peasant revolutions and uprisings in near future, even before the proletariat of the country readies itself to ride on its crest. Even if the State heed for the time being to the peasants’ demands for repeal of the new agriculture reforms laws, it will make not much difference as the capitalist state will remain and it will bring the same laws in operation in other forms at a later date. Seeing this, one is forced to say that the proletarian forces must do all that is necessary to be a match to the revolutionary peasants as there is no hope of their (peasants’) ultimate success against the rule of capital or corporate capital without proletarian revolutionary movement growing side by side. Rather, the proletarian revolutionary movement will have to advance more rapidly so that it grows to become its front part riding its zenith. So, if the present peasant movement fails to march forward from here on revolutionary lines against capital and corporate or is defeated and crushed by state even after its having taken extraordinary strides, it is only the proletarian forces to be blamed.
Just a few words on the ‘controversial’ MSP. It was given by the state and now is on the verge of being taken away by the same bourgeois state. Hence let it be told straight away that opposition to MSP per se is not revolutionary. Secondly, it is true that benefit of MSP goes to a very limited number of peasants, the rich peasants in the main, as the poor peasants don’t have much of marketable surplus produce. Even if they have, they don’t afford transportation expenditure needed to bring the produce from faraway places to the APMC mandis. But even then, the vast peasant masses have shown attraction towards it, why? Because, as small producers, the peasants, even the poorest among them, will always get lured by higher price assurances. Under capitalism, there can be no other way, no other answer to this unless a proletarian ideological-political intervention is made in the form of a proletarian revolution that promises them more viable or better alternatives, those other than bourgeois ones. This same small producers’ (general) tendency can be attributed to the peasants’ extraordinary attraction for higher prices of their produce in the open market. That’s why peasants’ choice of crop is more or less based on price signals coming from abroad. But this movement shows that both these tendencies, tendencies to get higher and higher government price assurances and the allurement of higher and higher prices in the open market, have faded and given way to one common demand of the whole peasantry – legalised or statutory MSP – even though the three laws assure the peasants extended MSP as well as complete liberty of opportunities of higher prices in the alternative open market for their produce in collusion with corporates. The government seem to give a hint like this that trading and cultivating with corporates will fetch huge profit for peasants of all categories, the most to the poor ones, if the PM speech is to be believed! But the peasants have understood the whole game plan of the PM and this is very important to take note of. They have come of age and now very well understand that by assuring high prices in open market through corporate buyers is a hoax that they have realised with their own experience. They have also understood that a simple assurance of extended or enhanced MSP is of no use if the produce of the peasants isn’t sold due to reasons that can be explained only on the basis of the fact that no capitalist government or state can ever buy all the marketable produce of peasants’ production for a capitalist government doesn’t have the responsibility of feeding all, even if it promises to do so according to the preamble of the constitution.
So, this movement reflects a different mood and aspirations of the peasants who are fed up with running after the government assurances of extended or higher MSP as well as the allurement of even higher prices in the open market. While running after this or that type of assurances, they have been ruined and crushed under the heavy burden of debt. Legal and statutory MSP only reflects the limit of their faith in the capitalist way of benefiting from agriculture, even though they may not understand it. By demanding a statutory status for MSP for all peasants they are actually demanding in essence a curb on the general (contradictory) movement of capital that bring fortunes for some and bring miseries for most of them. In essence they imagine a State that must buy all of their produce on assured minimum prices to save them from the contradictory movement of capital and the volatility of the prices that brings to them their ultimate ruin. The agriculture itself is also destroyed by irrationality of crop pattern and use of chemical in pursuit of high profit, all the result of such volatility in prices controlled and regulated by monopolists of the world upon whom peasants of all categories have no control. They have now felt that on the basis of their small-scale production they cannot survive in the competition for profit in front of large-scale capitalist productions led by corporates.
They however don’t know that there can be no such capitalist state that would save them from such vagaries of capitalist farming. There cannot be any capitalist state that would buy all the peasants produce. Only a proletarian state can do this. So, the peasant movement has brought to the fore the need of the proletarian state in its own wake, unknowingly. It is now the turn of the proletarian forces to come out in the open and say to the peasants that a proletarian revolution resulting in the formation of workers-toilers (peasants) state only will and can fulfil their demand. This brings the point where the peasant revolution merges with the proletarian revolution as the vast peasant masses who have already been utterly ruined by contradictory development of capitalist farming will happily accept this call of the proletariat. However, whether they will also believe this i.e. whether the peasants will believe this would at all happen is a big question as the proletarian forces are quite weak and don’t in any way match in strength to the present peasant movement. But even then, the proletariat must state its historical mission straight away and boldly say to the peasants that their future lies in the formation of the proletarian state only, that would solve all the problems of the peasantry, even though it may not be visible as such at the moment. Otherwise, the peasant will be forcibly expropriated and thrown out of agriculture by big capital, no matter how strongly and sacrificially they oppose the three laws. But one thing we must remember that this can be done only by supporting the peasant movement as the main aim of this movement is to keep corporate away from agriculture so that peasants are not ousted from it and peasants remain as peasants and are not converted into workers or proletariat forcibly by the corporates.
The demand of statutory status for MSP has become a portent weapon in this fight, as legalising the MSP also means compulsory buying of all the peasants’ produce at MSP and this makes the corporate entry meaningless in the final analysis. MSP is more detrimental to corporate than to anyone else. Without dismantling MSP, government Mandis or procurement and also PDS, the aim of corporate control of agriculture as well as of villages will not take place. The entry of corporate agri-business companies in contract farming becomes aimless if the old system remains in their places. What is important here to see is that even rich peasants have started feeling the future reactionary impact of the corporate entry and this has brought even them on their heels. They were already facing crunch in terms of lack of opportunity for higher prices in the open market. Now they can see that the new pro-corporate laws will bring those ill effects that will have impact on their existence, too. This has completed the circle and the whole of the rural population are now up in arms against the corporate entry. They have successfully raised the bogey of legalised MSP against the corporate drawing the whole peasantry in the movement. The poor peasants, who are already ruined and feel threatened due to corporate entry, now also see some benefit coming in their way if the MSP happens to become legalised(!), though we know nothing precious is going to happen unless capitalist farming itself is reversed, which will be a possibility only when the rule of capital is overthrown. Again, it is here that the aim of this peasant movement merges with the proletarian movement. It shows that the peasants have a great role to play in the anti-capitalist revolution. It is here that confirms that the proletarian revolution in India shall arrive riding the waves of peasant revolution.
The capitalist state will not stop here at the three laws that guarantee freest but disguised entry to corporates in agriculture. This will bring new laws particularly aimed at ‘freeing up the land’ for the corporate farming. Thus, the land ownership act and land lease acts have surely come under threat.
This movement also exposes the hollowness of the peasants’ faith that they can enrich themselves following capitalist path. Thus, this movement on the whole has taken on its target capitalism, though indirectly. It is another matter that the weakness of the working class is putting obstacles in the path of developing this movement along this line. But, nevertheless, it is sowing seeds of revolutionary consciousness among the peasants against capital. Many of them have realised now that the three laws are but in continuation of the contradictory development of capitalist development. The three laws show that capitalist farming has reached a new stage where even rich peasants are not going to be spared. They will also be subjected to expropriation and ruin.
Today there is a possibility that the peasant movement can transcend the limited scope of the demand of MSP and can be conducted as a struggle against the irrationality of capitalist farming and capitalism as a whole which is at the root of the ruin and distress of the vast peasant masses. If the proletariat can help the peasant take this path, the power of this movement will become unsurmountable and will definitely lead to final victory.
The possibility of expropriation of richer sections of the peasants proves that the laws of capitalist development through concentration and centralisation goes unabated in which capital centralises in fewer and fewer hands. This works as a tendency throughout its journey till it leads to the negation of the whole capitalist system itself i.e. till it gets converted into its opposite, the socialism. The delay in this will bring untold miseries to the intermediary classes as it completes its historical journey devastating them one by one and bringing in its wake great social upheavals including revolutions. Though peasant movement is unmindful of these laws and their result, still it is spontaneously inching towards a revolution against the present bourgeois order.
At this juncture, the proletariat needs to say to the peasants: These laws can be reversed only when the rule of capital is overthrown which will lead to social ownership of all social wealth under the proletarian leadership and in control of the state of the toilers and workers. The moment it comes under social ownership the character of it being capital ceases i.e. its contradictory movement ceases. It will bring no more miseries as it did when it was driven as capital by its owners i.e. the capitalists. With this, its constant pursuit for profit and more capital as the only aim of the production will also cease. Then the purpose of social production will be continuous development of direct producers like workers and peasants. With this all the problems that the real farmers face today will automatically vanish in no time. Peasant will work collectively in a highly mechanised modern collective farms for their own development as well as for the development of all of their fellow peasants and workers without resorting to any exploitation of farm labourers. The proletarian state will give all the necessary input materials (except labour) free of cost and the peasants will produce for the whole of society which the state will purchase at appropriate prices that guarantees the upward development of peasants and even that of their next generations. Education and health services will be provided free of cost by the proletarian state. The women will be at their will to take part in social production as their all-round burden, from rearing children to kitchen drudgery, will be borne by the state as the representative of the society. The disease of over production will end as the production will be carried out on a planned basis for continuously providing all the necessary material means of better living for all – old, children, sick and even those who cannot work due to some illness or disease. The vast amount of capital that has become the enemy of mankind under capitalism will be made to serve the mankind once capitalism is done away with. This will also lead to judicious use of Nature without bringing metabolic rift with it which has been the case with capitalism in power that knows only profit and resorts to destruction of Nature for profit. The soil destruction of the peasants’ land is the best example. Its fertility has eroded beyond repair due to irrational and excessive use of chemicals for taking more and more production from the soil with the sole aim of profit. However, it is a truth that even after pursuing such a self-destructive path, the majority of men, women and children and other poor people go hungry and half-fed, while grains rot in the godowns. This is how over production is artificially made to occur by keeping the large populace hungry and underfed, of course under capitalism.
But for this, the peasants have to be told, while supporting their movement for survival, that the rule of capital has to be finished once and for ever if they want lasting solution of their problems attached with their survival, existence and development. The mere change in government will not rescue them. The fight must go on till the end, till the main reasons of ruin i.e. the very foundation of class rule is overturned. Now when the peasants are themselves worried that if the present state of affair and conditions continue, their fate won’t change, then the proletarian forces must take the charge of further educating them by way of intervening directly in the movement, helping them by all means and engaging with them on how their life would change for a better one. This has to be intertwined with supporting their movement. They must be told that under capitalism direct producers, whoever they are, have no future. They are always and everywhere sacrificed at the altar of capital. So, the movement must continue till the end, must not limit to the opposition of neo-liberal policies as these policies are nothing but the natural outcome of the capitalist development itself. Their roots are in capitalist mode of production.
The proletariat of India and its vanguard forces thus must come forward to help this movement cover the whole distance from here to the last pole that marks the end of the rule of capital beyond that. They must share each other’s strength so that they together march forward and defeat their common enemy, the capitalist class, whose one most advanced and powerful section are the corporates whom the peasants are opposing now. This is capitalism which gives birth to corporates and keep reproducing them unless capitalism is smashed to the finish.
On Dialectical Contradiction Between External And Internal
Some are distracted by the contradictions that exists in the movement between its external form and the kernel. We say that this is natural as this movement is a movement of those peasant who are owners as well as workers. For an owner peasant this is natural that MSP becomes their main demand and this puts/brings them in alliance with the upper middle and rich peasants that belong to rural bourgeoisie. Given them being a class of small producers they cannot behave in any otherwise or different manner.
The main thing to notice in this movement is that here their demand of legalised or statutory MSP is driven by a completely different material context i.e. the context that says that the old price assurances, given by the capitalist state and the one that comes from the open market of their produce, both have fallen flat, become useless, time and again proven hollow and the peasants don’t believe them now on the basis of their own experience of more than three decades of capitalist farming in general and of the last decade in particular. Such experiences have gradually made them aware about the character of the present state which has now brought new agriculture laws that will further worsen their already depleted economic situation on the basis of new hollow assurances or promises of higher prices based on corporate led agriculture via contract farming and freedom of corporate purchase of the peasants produce. The peasants have correctly disapproved and opposed them on the basis of their own experience.
Naturally if the present movement further intensifies, given the revolutionary kernel of this movement, only working class will come to support the peasants till the end. The bourgeois and revisionist parties which till now are ostensibly with the peasants, will run away and desert them. We must patiently allow this to happen naturally in due course of time in the wake of the natural growth or intensification of the movement from stage to stage till the time when it will carry the spill over to the proletariat/the working class that must not hesitate to support and lead it in the most urgent manner at a time when the peasants need them and their support the most. This will be the time when the kernel will naturally and finally prevail over the external cover and emerge to the top with proletarian vigour i.e. the movement will take the anti-capitalist character. This is exactly what one may call a rough blue print of how the proletarian revolutionary intervention, that may result in its own arrival riding the peasant revolution, must be thought of and planned.
Thus, at the moment the main thing for the working class and its vanguard is to know in all its details how to move forward in a revolutionary manner with regard to this peasant movement. It is not a simple case of support or oppose. It is a dual task i.e. poised to be handled quite dialectically. On the one hand, we need to support it in a way that strengthens the kernel so that it becomes stronger and continuously pushes up, while on the other hand we need to expose the hollowness and even the reactionary character of its outer shell so that it gives way for the emergence of the inner kernel to the top. The proletarian method of support must be such that it is able to facilitate the conditions when the kernel of the movement breaks up the outer external cover. The real condition for this is however the onward incessant march of the movement without succumbing to different pressure tactics and intrigues of the State and the government. The real proletarian forces, those worth their name, however must understand from the day one the one most important thing i.e. they must not act as beggars and tailenders before this movement or in front of the peasants. This is the worst thing that they should do. They must act as the future ruling class and leader and liberator (not in the mechanical sense) of the whole society and the mankind. This must be, of course, the departure point for them (and us) so far as their intervention in the peasant movement is concerned. Only then they can ride this movement and steer clear of any misdirection and deviation. Let us also not fail to see to it that the present peasant movement is not crushed isolated from the working class. This will be an unpardonable mistake on the part of the working class. Working class must be readied for a joint effort to desist the state from using force. Come, let us make the new year, 2021, the year of achieving the focal point where peasant revolution and the proletarian revolution meet each other in all their uniqueness. That will really be a splendid thing. It will then bring the revolutionary transformation of the society quite near, at an easily reachable distance i.e. at our arms’ length, which otherwise looks so far away.
Long live the peasant uprising!
Down with the Corporates!
Down with Capitalism!
[Originally published as Editorial in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 9 / January 2021)]