Science, Society and Philosophy in India

EMS Namboodiripad

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to associate myself with a programme arranged in memory of the late Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya:

Debirprasad was a pioneer- I would rather put it, the pioneer-in the application of Marxist theory to the problems of Indian philosophy. He had before him another pioneer of Marxist theory in India, D D Kosambi. Kosambi and Chattopadhyaya together made a big change in theoretical thinking. This was followed by a host of historians like Romila Thapar, R S Sharma and several others.

I am not a specialist in any of these disciplines. I am a political activist. But being a political activist of the Indian working class, I had to acquaint myself with all the disciplines-philosophy, Political Economy, History, Political Science, Aesthetics, etc. I have learnt a lot from my dabbing into the academic subjects and it is from this point of view that I have to offer a few remarks.

I would not confine myself to the subject which has been thrown open to discussion in this seminar, philosophy and Science in India. My rather would be Science, Society and Philosophy in India from ancient days to July 10th, 1994.

This is the scope of my talk. Why? As I told you. I am not an academic scholar but a  political activist. I believe in the Marxist proposition that, while philosophers through the ages have interpreted the universe in various ways, the point is to change it.

Marx was a towering intellectual who made big contributions to the Science of human progress, but he was also a practical revolutionary activist. He through his theoretical writings tried to understand the world, through his practical activities, he was trying to change the world.

I do not claim that quality of Marx in relation to theoretical writings. My understanding of theory is secondhanded. I have not made any original study. On questions of Indian Philosophy, I have learnt from Kosambi, Debiprasad, etc. on Indian history, I have learnt from Marxist Scholars beginning with Kosambi, Romila Thapar, R S Sharma and others. On political Economy, I have learnt from a host of Indian Marxist scholars.

But I have learnt mostly from my practice and this practice raises before me, and should raise before you, the question of what is the present and future of India?

I would not go today into current political but I would certainly raise the question which Pandit Nehru raised once: “Whither India?’ where is India going?

He raised that question in the early 30’s. I am repeating the question in 1994. raising that question now, I see before me several perspectives of which one is what is called the revivalist.

Revivalism means India of the Upanishads, India of the Vedas, that is the real India. After that, it is said, came Islamic India, Christian (British) India and Marxist India. All these are alien theories. Only the Hindu way of life is Indian.

This is a theory which dies not stand at the level of theory alone but is applied in practice. Practice which was seen earlier in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and recently in the demolition of Babri Masjid, in the threatened demolition of the mosques in Mathura and Varanasi and the mosques in 3000 other places. This according to me is anti-Indian. Those who propound this theory claim that they are propounding Indian theory. My contention is that this is an anti-Indian theory. Why?

India has a composite society, composite culture. This land being inhabited by a host of religious communities, castes in Hindu society, tribes, linguistic, cultural groups etc, it is a land of unity in diversity. Now to raise one of these factors to the pedestal and say that this is India, is according to me anti-Indian. This is the conclusion that I have arrived at after 60 years of active political life as a left politician and its is from this point of mine that I look at problems of Indian philosophy.

When I do that, I repeat the question raised by Debiprasad, did India have a tradition of materialism in ancient days? Until Debiprasad wrote his famous book Lakayata, the impression prevailing among us, created by foreign scholars and Indian scholars as well, was that, while Europe always has been materialistic, India has ever been idealist. This theory was demolished by that single work of Debiprasad’s Lokayata.

When I read that book nearly 40 years ago, a light was thrown into my thinking. India too had a materialist past. Like Greece, Rome and other European civilisations, Indian Society too in ancient days witnessed the struggles between idealism and materialism. This is substantiated not only by Lakayata but by a number of other works by Debiprasad. What is living and what is Dead in Indian philosophy is an expanded and updated edition of Lokayata, going into details on materialism in ancient India and its class roots.

Where does materialism arise from/where does idealism arise from? Where does the struggle between them go on? Why was materialism defeated in ancient and medieval India? One has to trace all this to class struggle.

Debiprasad points out that materialism was created by the working people who were working on nature and therefore had intimate understanding of the various phenomena of nature. So their world outlook is materialistic.

On the other hand, there is a small minority which, in ancient Greece were the slave-owners, but in India it is called the Dwijas. The Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas are the Dwijas. They are the exploiting classes. They have no living connection with the phenomena of nature. So their world outlook is speculative. It is out of this that philosophical idealism arose.

As for the common people, not only the people who work with their hands but also with their intellect, they are intimately connected with nature, therefore, they developed materialism. And the two come to conflict with each other.

Just as the owners and slaves came in confrontation with each other in ancient Greece and Rome, so did the Dwijas and Shudras in India. Among the Dwijas themselves, in the beginning it was the Kshatriyas who dominated, then it was the Brahmana. In any case there is this Dwija domination over society.


And it is due to this Dwija domination that materialism was defeated and idealism flourished that materialism was defeated and idealism flourished in India. It was thanks to this dwija domination, or rather resistance to it, that materialism arose. This in a detailed manner is explained by Debiprasad in his two major works Lokayata and What is living and what is dead in Indian Philosophy and further elaborated in a number of other works, like Science and Society in ancient India.

So the struggle between materialism and idealism existed in ancient India as much as in ancient Greece. But the course of history was different in the two countries. In Greece the struggle between the two classes, the struggle between the two ideologies, ended in the revolutionary replacement of the old slave society by feudal society and this feudal society in its turn was replaced by capitalist society. In other words, the revolt of the slaves against the owners, followed by the anti-feudal revolts, were the characteristic features of Europe.

In Indian on the other hand, these revolts or revolutions did not take place. But, in the very first struggle between the owning classes and the working classes, between the Dwija and Shudras, the latter were defeated. The working people were defeated by the exploiting classes. With the defeat of the working people and the victory of the owning classes, whatever existed of materialism was also defeated. Idealism became dominate. What is the evidence?

There is no evidence of actual armed clashed between the owning and the working classes and the defeat of the latter. But there is evidence of ideological conflict between the two classes and that evidence is the India-wide spread of Budhism and Jainism. Budhism and Jainism were manifestations of the revolt of the Shudras against the domination of the Dwijas. For a time Budhism appeared to be prevailing over Brahminism. But, it was defeated. Budhism, which spread to several other countries like China, and other countries was defeated in the land of its birth.

Because the owning classes, the Dwijas, were in control of what Debiprasad called the Lordly power and holy power, i.e. the Kshatrias and the Brahmins who together were able, at the ideological level, to demolish Budhism and other forms of materialism. It is not only Budhism and Jainism but Samkhya, Charvaka, all these were the philosophies and ideologies of materialism, the philosophies and ideologies of the working classes. They were defeated, annihilated and even the works of materialism are not available now.

As a matter of fact, if you want today to have any inkling of the Charvaka and other systems of materialist philosophy, you can get it only through the works of their opponents. Sankara, for instance, quote a number of passages from the Lakayata and other works of the materialists. For what? For demolishing them. What is called Purvapaksha. He quoted extensively from the writings of the materialists, but these writings themselves are not available. Extracts of what he considered necessary are quoted and then demolished. Purvapaksha is followed by Sidhantha Paksha. Purvapaksha is first given and then demolished. That demolition is called Sidhantha Paksha. Purvapaksha is given only to assert the Sidhanthapaksha. In this form, many of the writings of the Lokayatas, the Charvakas and other materialists are available now.

Probably, Budhist classics are available in other countries. I am told that, in Tibet, there is a big collection of Budhist writings. Nobody has been able to make a study of them. It is in any case a fact that not only at the level of theory but at the level of social practice, Budhism was a major movement. It spread throughout the country. But it was defeated in ideological battle by a host of idealist philosophers among whom the most towering individual was Sankara. With Sankara’s demolition of Budhism, the materialism that existed in Ancient Indian came to an end.


As the historian of ancient Indian science P C Ray, put it, Sankara’s victory over budhism was the beginning of intellectual stagnation in the country. Till then, there was vigorous struggle between materialism and idealism which ended in the victory of idealism over Budhism. This demolition of materialism meant an end to all original thinking, end to the battle of ideas. That was why, from around 8-9the century A D Indian Society, Indian science, Indian Arts, Indian Literature—all these started stagnating.

Take the case of literature. Instead of the old brilliant works of Kalidasa and other men of classical literature in Sanskrit, literature became so formalised that there is not life in it. The defeat of budhism at the hands of idealism perfected in Sankara’s philosophy thus meant that the intellectual life of the country became stagnant.

The consequences of this stagnation of the intellectual life of the society, which arose from the victory of idealism over materialism, was that group rivalries among the people, among the ruling classes, became increasingly strong. And, as Marx put it in his well-known articles on India, everybody was against everybody else and in came the Briton.” As Marx pointed out, the intellectual stagnation in society, leading to socio-political disintegration of the country, led to the coming of the foreign ruler.

But, the foreign rule has two sides. As Marx put it, it had two roles to perform. One was destructive, destroying the old, destroying the caste society destroying of caste society. That they did to a large extent. They however had before them a constructive role as well, i.e., building a new society. That role they did not play. That is why Marx said, that the tragedy of Indian people is that they lost their old world without getting a new one.

But, although we did not get a new world, Marx himself says the seeds of the new world were being sown. These are the modern democratic movement, the freedom movement, and then out of the freedom movement arose a new philosophy, a lot of political activisation. Rammohan Roy in Bengal, Phule, in Maharashtra Sree Narayan Guru in Kerala and lot of others became the new intellectuals, who threw new ideas amongst the people.

It is out of this that an Indian political economy arose. As early as in the 1860s, a group of intellectuals arose, Dada Bhai Nauoroji,Ranade and so on. They were the pioneers of political economy for India. They were also the pioneers of the modern democratic political movement. These are the manifestations of the development of what Marx considered the seeds of the new society being sown on Indian soil after the British domination became a reality. It is because of this that the modern movement arose.

Out of this, new socio-economic and political philosophers came into being. Gopal Krisna Gokhale, Tilak, Gandhi etc. They were the originators of the new philosophy, a carrying forward of the ancient Indian philosophy to modern times. There was, for instance, the towering intellectual vivekananda, who though a Swami Formally, was  a political revolutionary. He said that the ages of the Brahmin, the Kshatriya and the Vaishya are over. Now the age of the Shudras is opening. The age of Shudras means, in modern Marxian language, proletarian rule. I do not know, whether the Swami himself was conscious of that but he could see that something new is coming. That new is the coming up of Shudras. This was the outlook with which Phule, Sree Narayana Guru developed their militant socio-cultural movement. They however had no living contact with the political freedom movement. Tilak and Gandhi together, of course along with several others, developed the new philosophy, which gives expression to the peoples’ aspirations for the creation of new society. The aspiration of the Daridra Narayan.

By the early 1920s’ the Indian people had become a political force. The new society however had been developing even before that when Lok Manya Tilak was arrested and the Bombay working class went on a political general strike. An incident which was hailed by Lenin as the coming of age of the working class, a new India. The earlier movement had other classes, other sections of the people in the freedom movement but the general strike of the Bombay working class in protest against the arrest of Lok Manya Tilak brought the Indian working class into the freedom battle.

That however was confined to one city, Bombay, at the time, it was confined to one issue-the arrest and incarceration of Lok Manya Tilak. But a decade later, the working class in India had brought into existence its first All-India organisation. All India Trade Union congress and together with it, Communist groups in several parts of the country. Dange in Bombay, Muzaffar Ahmad in Calcutta, Singaravelu Chettiyar in Madras, these were the pioneers of communism in India. The communist groups organised by these pioneers together with the formation of All-India Trade Union Congress, showed that the working class had come on its own. Of course as part of the freedom movement, but independent of the middle class, the working class, though still under the bourgeois leadership, thus came as a class in itself and for itself.

From this time onwards, a new philosophy started developing. A new philosophy in developing which the predecessors of my generation played a big role for a decade, after which we joined them. And I am proud to declare that, during the last sixty years, my generation added not only to the Practise but also to the theory of Marxist philosophy, political Economy, Sociology political science Aesthetic etc. this is putting into practice of the Marxist concept of changing the world along with understanding it. This is how we can develop.

So I would look society, science and philosophy in India as a continuity. The continuity often breaks, but there is a continuity. That continuity is that the Indian People are coming up on their own. That is why I said we have to come to 1994 and have a perspective of the 21st century.

In this we see that the India people have developed in an all-sided manner. They have developed their own philosophy. That philosophy is not Hindu philosophy, it includes Hindu philosophy nut it includes Muslims philosophy, it includes Christian philosophy, it includes finally Marxian philosophy. All these are parts of the Indian philosophy. This is the view we have been propagating against the view of the Hindutva fraternity, according to which it is only Hindu philosophy, Vedic philosophy, that is Indian. Now they have started Vedic mathematics also. Everything is sought to be taken back to Vedic times.

We certainly respect Vedic times, we are proud of our past Vedic culture. But we are also conscious of the fact that Vedic culture had serious limitations. That was why India which was equal to or even ahead of Europe in ancient times lags behind in modern times.

One of the limitations of Vedic culture I can give from my own personal experience. I had to spend six years of my boyhood in learning Rigveda. Learning in fact is not the proper word for it. I did not understand what it means. I was made to repeat word by word. That is why I said repeatedly that those six years when I was made to repeat the mantras of Rigveda by heart, were six wasted years in my life. These are parts of the Vedic tradition which have to be broken.

Rigveda is of course a part of the treasury of our cultural heritage. I am only sorry that I was not taught, when learning it by heart, what Rigveda means, what it conveyed? Only recently a friend of mine brought out an eight-volume work of annotations in Malayalam of Rigveda, so these treasures, we cherish as part of our culture. But part of our culture is also the fact that Vedic texts have been made into a dogma. Vedic texts are not used to enlighten the minds of the people but to enslave them. This tradition has to be broken. When this tradition is broken, we will have to develop the Marxist philosophy, new political economy and so on.

This is the message that Debi Prasad conveys in his works. that is why his works are treasures not only for the Marxists, but for all those who are interested in the study of our culture. So it is a pleasure and privilege for me to associate myself with this seminar. I have tried to profit from the study of his works and I have tried to use them as he himself used them in his life time-to change the Indian Society, to fight all that is reactionary, all that is outdated in the so-called Hindutva culture. This is the substance of what I have to convey to you.



First Published: The Marxist,  Vol. XII, No. 1, Issue: Jan – March 1995

Lessons of the Defeated Revolutions

At the time Marx set foot on English soil (August 26, 1849) London, with a population of more than two millions, was the world’s largest city and the capital of a developed capitalist country, the “workshop” of the world. In the spring of 1848, the European revolution had also knocked on England’s door, when the Chartist movement called mass demonstrations for extension of basic democratic rights. But the movement suffered such a heavy defeat that its revolutionary force was extinguished for a long time.

Unlike the openly repressive Prussian regime, England was a parliamentary democracy with bourgeois rights and liberties. The Prussian Government often resorted to direct suppression of the revolutionary movement. In England, on the other hand, there was economic repression-people not to the liking of the ruling class were “separated” from sources of subsistence. Observing the operation of this powerful and elaborate machinery of suppression, Marx saw how superior it was to the antiquated monarchical organization of the Prussian state.

From the beginning of his émigré life in England Marx experienced first-hand the way the mechanism of bourgeois “democracy” worked. The doors of university chairs, publishing houses and editorial offices of newspapers and journals were all closed to him.


After the defeat of the European revolution, England, and especially London, became the centre for political emigrants, alongside Switzerland and the United States of America. At the same time as Marx, or a little later, the most active members of the Communist League also arrived. The London branch of the League became a gathering place for members of the German League who had emigrated. The legally operating Communist Workers’ Educational Association also awoke to new activity.

Marx saw himself confronted by a multitude of tasks. He, along with others, set up a new central bureau of the League. Its immediate task was support for the political refugees from Germany. Marx proposed to a general meeting of the Workers’ Educational Association that a committee be set up to help in this work. The meeting agreed and elected Marx as the Chairman of the committee. A number of members of the committee were also in dire straits, but they decided not to accept anything for them-selves from the solidarity fund. For Marx that was a self-evident expression of Communist morality. He himself struggled with the bitterest poverty during these months.

Marx at the same time as shielding the worker-refugees from hunger, exerted himself to bring the proletarian revolutionaries in exile together again, to strengthen the central bureau of the Communist League and the Communist Workers’ Educational Association and to re-establish connections with the League members who had remained in Germany. This was important, since the spokesmen of the petty-bourgeoie democrats among the emigrants were attempting to unite all the German refugees under their leadership and to get the workers to give up their independent class organizations.


In order to prevent this, Marx redoubled his efforts to reorganize the Communist League quickly and to explain to the worker-refugees the class tasks that confronted them. Like all the other League members, he, too, at that time still expected that the German revolution would break out again in the near future. In that event the working class would have to have a party that operated independently and that would prevent the majority of the proletariat from merely following in the rear of the petty bourgeoisie.

At the beginning of 1850, Marx began to invite the most active members of the League to his home in order to discuss theoretical questions with them. At about the same time, he gave a series of lectures on economic themes and the Communist Manifesto to the Communist Workers’ Educational Association, then made up mostly of German worker-refugees. Wilhelm Liebknecht, a young student refugee who had fought the counter-revolution in Baden with arms in hand and then fled to London via Switzerland, and who was soon to become a loyal pupil friend and comrade-in-arms of Marx and Engels, explained Marx’s method in the following words:

“He introduced a proposition as concisely as possible, and then explained it at greater length, always exerting the greatest care to avoid expressions that the workers could not understand. Then he asked for questions. If there were none, he proceeded to examine his hearers, and he did it with such pedagogical skill that no loophole, no misunderstanding escaped him.”


Marx devoted special attention in the first months of his London exile to the founding of a new Press organ. It was his aim to explain in it what lessons had emerged from the revolution for the future struggle, for the strategy and tactics of the proletariat. Such a journal was vital for the political orientation of the proletarian revolutionaries scattered all over the world; but bringing it into being was most difficult, especially in terms of the money required for its publication.

It was planned to bring it out under the now famous name, Neue Rheiniche Zeitung not as a daily newspaper, how ever, but as a periodical, a political-economic review. It was to be the organ of the Communist League and be distributed not only through bookshops but by League members as well, and in this manner to be drawn directly into the propaganda activities of the League.

After endless preparations, the first issue of Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Politisch—Okonomische Revue appeared in Hamburg early in March 1850 in 2500 copies. The second issue followed in the same month. Four other numbers appeared during the same year.
The most important and most comprehensive articles came from Marx and Engels. It was in the review that Marx published his “Class Struggles in France 1848-50”, and Engels his “The German Movement for a Reich Constitution” and “The Peasant War in Germany.” However with the decline of the revolution the circulation of the journal met with great difficulties, book-dealers, for instance, refused to have anything to do with a revolutionary publication.

Marx held the view that even the most bitter setbacks, even the bloodiest defeats, have a positive side if the people learn from them. The immediate tasks of the Communist League, he believed were to study and generalize the lessons of the revolution, and to help the working masses understand the experiences of the two revolutionary years. He threw himself into this work along with Engels. At the end of March they laid the conclusions to which they had come before the League’s central bureau. The bureau approved the document, the “Address of the Central Bureau to the League of March 1850” and authorised one of its most responsible members, Heinrich Bauer, to go to Germany and transmit it to the Communists working there in illegality.

Marx and Engels could, with justifiable pride, say at the outset of the Address that in the revolutionary years, the League had proved itself in two ways: “….first, in that its members energetically took part in the movement in all places, that in the Press, on the barricades and on the battlefields, they stood in the front ranks of the only decidedly revolutionary class, the proletariat. The League further proved itself in that its conception of the movement…turned out to be the only correct one.” Thus, scientific Communism stood its first test, and this fact was of great importance for the ideological education of workers and for the further development of the Marxist theory.


But the revolution had not fulfilled its mission. Germany had been neither unified nor transformed into a democratic State. The responsibility for this defeat, Marx and Engels declared, lay with big bourgeoisie. Instead of leading the popular masses to the overthrow of feudal rule, it had aligned itself with the counter-revolution against its natural allies, the workers and peasants, only to have the rudder of State torn from its own hands in the end.

In a new revolution, this role would be taken over by the petty bourgeoisie, Marx and Engels wrote. They showed how petty bourgeoisie both during the revolution and in the emigration, had tried to make the proletariat into “an appendage of official bourgeois democracy.” Marx and his comrades vigorously repudiated the political amalgamation of the workers  with the petty bourgeoisie. They declared that the league must work with all its strength “to set up the independent secret and public organisaton of the workers’ party, alongside the official democrats, and to make every local League organization into the centre and heart of workers’ associations, in which the standpoint and the interests of the proletariat are discussed, independently of bourgeois influences.”

With this clear orientation, the fight was again unequivocally taken up against all the opportunist attempt to surrender the working class to the ruling classes.


From the letters coming in to the central bureau and from Heinrich Bauer, who had returned  to Germany, Marx found that the League organizations in Germany had consolidated themselves again Local organizations had been set up once more in a number of large cities. Especially significant was the fact that individual groups and individuals had succeeded in establishing their influence over the many still existing associations of workers, gymnasts, peasants and day-workers.

In June, on the basis of these developments, together with Engels put another Address to the League before the Central Bureau. It called upon the Communists of Germany to pay the closest attention to the legal organizations of the workers and peasants. Marx saw in this the logical continuation of the tactics pursued by him and his co-workers during the revolution of 1848-49, the further development of their battle for a national revolutionary workers’ party.

In the March Address, Marx explained and deepened his earlier view that the working class, in a future revolution, would have to transform the bourgeois –democratic revolution, step by step, into a proletarian-Socialist revolution. The petty bourgeoisie would do everything to leave the bourgeois system and the wage-slavery of the workers untouched. But it would be in the interests of the proletariat “to make the revolution permanent till all the smaller or larger owning classes, with more or less wealth, have been driven from power, and the State power is conquered by the proletariat.”

For that, however, the proletariat must arm itself and create its own organs of power, that is, revolutionary workers’ Governments; if necessary, alongside the bourgeois Government. That was the appeal Marx and Engels directed to the workers. Many decades later, in the preparation and carrying through of the Great October Socialist Revolution, this concept of the growth of the democratic revolution into the Socialist revolution, further developed by Lenin in terms of conditions in the 20th century, was to play a decisive role. But in the 19th century, this task was not yet on the agenda.

Bhagat Singh A Shared Revolutionary Legacy Between India and Pakistan

Irfan Habib

It was indeed heartening to know that Pakistan called Bhagat Singh a shared hero of both the countries. Zahid Saeed, the Chief Secretary of Punjab government proclaimed that ‘Bhagat Singh was the Independence movement hero of both India and Pakistan. The people of the country have the right to know about his (Singh) and his comrades’ great struggle to get freedom from the British Raj.’[1] I am not surprised by the decision as I have personally experienced the love and veneration for Bhagat Singh and his ideals during my few visits to Lahore. However, it may be one of the rare acknowledgements from a high government official of Pakistan. Let us talk about his vision, which makes him acceptable to both the countries simultaneously, a vision which he envisaged for an independent India and which remains relevant for both the countries even now. It was not a narrow jingoistic vision but an internationalist one, where Bhagat Singh spoke for the oppressed and colonized societies beyond South Asia.

Bhagat Singh is valorized for his martyrdom, and rightly so, but in the ensuing enthusiasm most of us forget, or consciously ignore his contributions as an intellectual and a thinker. He not only sacrificed his life, like many did before him and also after him, but he also had an idea of independent India. During the past few years, it has almost become a routine to appropriate Bhagat Singh as a nationalist icon, while not much is talked about his nationalist vision.

Bhagat Singh is probably the only one from amongst our freedom struggle heroes, who can be celebrated by both-India and Pakistan. It is possible because he stood for a non-sectarian and egalitarian world. He never espoused any divisive idea in his short life. And it is possible to make sense of his politics because he left behind a substantial written legacy to engage with. It is rare to find a young man in his early twenties conceiving an idea of universal brotherhood and articulating it in a detailed article. May be he was the only one among our freedom struggle heroes who had this vision.

Bhagat Singh was not just a patriot, with a passionate commitment to his nation, he was a visionary, with a pluralist and egalitarian perception of independent India.He visualized an India where 98 percent will rule instead of elite 2 percent.[2] His azaadi was not limited to the leaving of the British, instead he desired azaadi from poverty, azaadi from untouchability, azaadi from communal strife and azaadi from any other discrimination/exploitation. Just twenty days before his martyrdom on 3 March 1931 Bhagat Singh sent out an explicit message to the youth saying:

. . . the struggle in India would continue so long as a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in alliance, or even purely Indians.

Bhagat Singh was committed to Inquilab or revolution but it was not merely a political revolution he aimed at. He wanted a social revolution to break the age old discriminatory practices.This Inquilab Zindabad was not merely an emotional war cry for the revolutionaries but had a lofty ideal which was explained by the HSRA thus:

The Revolution will ring the death knell of capitalism and class distinction and privileges . . . It will give birth to a new state – a new social order.[3]

Bhagat Singh was even more definitive in his statement in the court on June 6, 1929. He said: Revolution is not a culture of bomb and pistol. Our meaning of revolution is to change the present conditions, which are based on manifest injustice.[4]

Bhagat Singh agrees with a quote he cites in his prison diary, which says a radical revolution is not utopian, ‘What is utopian is the idea of a partial, an exclusively political revolution, which would leave the pillars of the house standing.’[5] The HSRA aimed at such a revolution which would usher in a new era, demolishing the existing socio-economic and political structure of the Indian society. Their revolution was not for anarchy or lawlessness but for social justice.

However, most of the eulogies have ignored this radical social programme of Bhagat Singh and his comrades, projecting them merely as passionate anti-colonialists and nationalists, which is not inaccurate, but incomplete. Bhagat Singh went to the gallows as a nationalist is not something exclusive to him alone, two others were hanged with him and many more were hanged before him as nationalists. He is different because he left behind an intellectual legacy, a huge collection of political and social writings on burning issues of even contemporary importance like caste, communalism, language, and politics. In his short life, Bhagat Singh had grown as an intellectual about whom his close comrade Jaidev Kapoor said that he regarded Karl Marx and Lenin as his political gurus and guides. He had unshakable faith in socialism.[6]

Bhagat Singh not only set high standards as a great martyr, he also left behind a rich legacy as a journalist who worked for Kirti, Arjun and Pratap, well known papers of their times. We know a little about his vocation as a scribe and the issues he dealt with in his articles. These focused on the various aspects of the nationalist struggle, combating communalism, untouchability, students and politics, world brotherhood etc.

Bhagat Singh did not merely wish to free India from colonial bondage but dreamt of independent India, which would be egalitarian and secular. This was reflected in his revolutionary activities as well as in his commitment as a sensitive journalist. I will refer briefly to both his vocations and intellectual commitments. We also need to know that Bhagat Singh was a voracious reader, who devoured anything new which was published on poverty, religion, society and global struggles against imperialism. He seriously debated and discussed what he read and also wrote extensively on issues of caste, communalism and conditions of the working class and peasantry.

The profundity of his ideas on some of the above mentioned issues is visible in his regular columns in Kirti, Pratap and other papers. In an article on ‘Religion and our freedom struggle’ published in Kirti in May 1928, Bhagat Singh grappled with the role of religion in politics, an issue that haunts us even today. He talked of Tolstoy’s division of religion into three parts: essentials of religion, philosophy of religion and rituals of religion. He concluded that if religion means blind faith by mixing rituals with philosophy then it should be blown away immediately but if we can combine essentials with some philosophy then religion may be a meaningful idea. He felt that ritualism of religions had divided us into touchables and untouchables and these narrow and divisive religions cannot bring about actual unity among people. For us freedom should not mean mere end of British colonialism, our complete freedom implies living together happily without caste and religious barriers.Bhagat Singh needs to be invoked even today to bring about changes he yearned for. Expressing his anguish in the second article, he held some of the political leaders and the press responsible for inciting communalism. He believed that ‘there were a few sincere leaders, but their voice is easily swept away by the rising wave of communalism. In terms of political leadership, India had gone totally bankrupt’.

Bhagat Singh felt that journalism used to be a noble profession, which had now fallen from grace. Now they give bold and sensational headlines to incite people to kill each other in the name of religion. There were riots at several places simply because the local press behaved irresponsibly and indulged in rabble-rousing through their articles. Not much seems to have changed since Bhagat Singh wrote these lines. He categorically spelt out the duties of journalists and then also accused them of dereliction of this duty.  He wrote that:

the real duty of the newspapers is to educate, to cleanse the minds of people, to save them from narrow sectarian divisiveness, and to eradicate communal feelings to promote the idea of common nationalism. Instead, their main objective seems to be spreading ignorance, preaching and propagating sectarianism and chauvinism, communalizing people’s minds leading to the destruction of our composite culture and shared heritage.

In the June 1928 issue of the Kirti, Bhagat Singh wrote two articles titled Achoot ka Sawaal (On Untouchability) and Sampradayik Dangeaurunka Ilaj (Communal riots and their solutions). What Bhagat Singh wrote in 1928   looks relevant even today, which unfortunately proves how precious little has been done to resolve these questions. In the first piece, Bhagat Singh starts by saying that:

our country is unique where six crore citizens are called untouchables and their mere touch defiles the upper castes. Gods get enraged if they enter the temples. It is shameful that such things are being practised in the twentieth century. We claim to be a spiritual country but hesitate to accept equality of all human beings while materialist Europe is talking of revolution since centuries. They had proclaimed equality during the American and French revolutions. However, we are still debating whether the untouchable is entitled for the sacred thread or can he read the Vedas or not. We are chagrined about discrimination against Indians in foreign lands, and whine that the English do not give us equal rights in India.

Given our conduct, Bhagat Singh wondered, do we really have any right to complain about such matters?

He also seriously engaged with the possible solutions to this malaise. The first decision for all of us should be:

that we start believing that we all are born equal and our vocation, as well, need not divide us. If someone is born in a sweeper’s family that does not mean that he/she has to continue in the family profession cleaning shit all his life, with no right to participate in any developmental work.

For him, this discrimination was directly responsible for conversions, which was a burning issue even in the 1920s. Despite his anti-colonialist fervour, he did not just condemn the missionaries nor did he instigate Hindus to kill and burn all those who had accepted the new faith. He wrote self-critically:

If you treat them worse than animals then they will surely join other religions where they will get more rights and will be treated like human beings. In this situation it will be futile to accuse Christianity and Islam of harming Hinduism.

Bhagat Singh was convinced that ‘no one would be forced or tempted to change faith if the age old inequalities are removed and we sincerely start believing that we are all equal and none is different either due to birth or vocation’.

Bhagat Singh institutionalised his thinking, when he founded the Naujawan Bharat Sabha in 1926 in Lahore, which was also a public platform for the otherwise secret group of revolutionaries. He saw to it that the Sabha remains above petty religious politics of the times. It is all the more important because the 1920s saw the emergence of the RSS, which exacerbated the intense communal polarisation. But here was a group of young men who were thinking differently. They asked the member before enrolment ‘to sign a pledge that he would place the interests of his country above those of his community’. Even Lala Lajpat Rai, the eminent pillar of extremist nationalism in India could not escape from the scathing criticism of the Sabha when he joined hands with the Hindu Mahasabha leaders. Rai was dubbed as a traitor by Kedar Nath Sehgal in a pamphlet ‘An Appeal to Young Punjab’ while Lajpat Rai responded by calling Bhagat Singh a Russian agent who wanted to make him into a Lenin.

Bhagat Singh and his Sabha regarded communal amity as central to their political agenda but like the Congress, it did not believe either in the appeasement of all religions or in raising such slogans as Allah o Akbar, Sat Sri Akal and Bande Mataram to prove their secularism. On the contrary, they raised just two slogans, Inquilab Zindabad and Hindustan Zindabad, hailing the revolution and the country. Bhagat Singh questioned the policy of encouraging competing communalisms, which ultimately led to the partition of the country in 1947. He stands out in bold relief as a modern national leader and thinker emphasizing the separation of religion from politics and state as true secularism.

Bhagat Singh matured as a political thinker while in prison during the two years he spent there before he was hanged on 23 March, 1931. His prison diary clearly reveals the trajectory of his political evolution. It brings into light his reading habits and the wide range of the selection of authors including Marx, Engels, Bertrand Russell, T. Paine, Upton Sinclair, V. I. Lenin, William Wordsworth, Tennyson, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Bukharin, Trotsky, among others. One of the most profound articles by him called ‘Why I am an Atheist’ was written while he was in jail. The article was tinged with a strong rebuttal of blind faith and a zealous defence of reason. Before dealing with his own views about religion, Bhagat Singh first deals with the religiosity of his predecessors. He points out that in the absence of a scientific understanding of their own political activity; they needed irrational religious beliefs and mysticism to sustain them spiritually, to fight against personal temptation, to overcome depression, to be able to sacrifice their physical comforts, and even life. For this a person requires deep sources of inspiration. This requirement was, in the case of early revolutionaries, met by mysticism and religion.[7]

He made clear that the revolutionaries now need no religious inspiration as they have an advanced revolutionary ideology, based on reason instead of blind faith. About God, Bhagat Singh writes:

He (God) was to serve as a father, mother, sister and brother, friend and helper . . . so that when man be in great distress having been betrayed and deserted by all friends, he may find consolation in the idea that an ever true friend was still there to help him, to support him and that He was Almighty and could do anything. Really that was useful to a society in the primitive age. The idea of God is helpful to man in distress.[8]

Bhagat Singh was convinced that religion is a tool in the hands of exploiters who keep the masses in constant fear of God for their own interests.[9] The revolutionaries of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) realized that all moral ideals and religions were useless for an empty stomach and for him only food was God. He aptly quoted Horace Greeley in his prison diary saying ‘Morality and religion are but words to him who fishes in gutters for the means of sustaining life, and crouches behind barrels in the street for shelter from the cutting blasts of a winter night.’[10]

This scientific approach of the HSRA leaders matured with the passage of time. The majority of them came close to the ideals of socialism or even communism, which believed in mass action instead of individual acts of terrorism.

We should remember Bhagat Singh with pride and reflect on the alternative framework of governance he had in mind where social and economic justice – and not terrorism or violence – would be supreme. Many of us may not find his commitment to socialism very attractive in the changing era of globalization, yet his concern for the socio-economically deprived sections still commands attention. Moreover, his passionate desire to rise above narrow caste and religious considerations was never as crucial as it is today.

Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary legacy needs to be remembered in these rancorous times, both in India and Pakistan. He fought most of his battles, intellectual as well as otherwise, in Lahore, till he was hanged on the outskirts of the city. Singh’s intellectual inheritance is our collective memory and should not be divided by political borders.

[1]       Indian Express, March 27, 2018.

[2]       Cited in S. Irfan Habib, To Make the Deaf Hear, 2007, New Delhi.

[3]       The Philosophy of the Bomb.

[4]       Suresh, Krantikari Bhagat Singh, Delhi, 1971, pp. 91-92.

[5]       Quoted in the Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh, LeftWord Books, 2007.

[6]       Jaidev Kapoor, ‘Amar Balidani Bhagwati Bhai’, in Himanshu Joshi, ed, Utsarg, Lucknow, 1980, p. 65.

[7]       The People, Lahore, September 27, 1931.

[8]       Bhagat Singh, ‘Why I am an atheist’.

[9]       Interview with Manmathnath Gupta, close associate of Bhagat Singh, who died few years ago.

[10]      The Jail Notebook of Bhagat Singh.

Marxist, XXXIII, 4, October-December 2017

Political and social impact of the crisis of neo-liberalism

Prakash Karat

When one looks at the international situation, there seems to be a confusing picture of volatility, new contradictions and conflicts, emergence of new political forces and “strong men” in governments and visible signs of the adverse impact of climate change, resulting in a spate of natural calamities.

The recent years saw the emergence of a “maverick” billionaire, Donald Trump as President of the United States; the decision of Britain to exit the European Union; the rise of inter-imperialist contradictions and the growing contradiction between Russia and the West; the rise of extreme right wing forces in Europe and the rightwing counter-offensive in Latin America. The period has also seen the rise of China as a economic and political power whose growing influence is felt in world affairs.

How do we analyse these developments? Is there any pattern or these are unconnected developments? It is not possible to understand these current international developments unless they are set in the background of the crisis of neo-liberalism.  The crisis of neo-liberalism which dramatically manifested itself in the global financial crisis of 2007-08 and the continuing failure even after a decade to come out of this crisis is resulting in the economic, political and social outcomes of the present day.

The Political Resolution of the CPI(M)’s  22nd Congress has pinpointed  this aspect: “This crisis of neo-liberalism has created new contradictions leading to ruptures, conflicts amongst imperialist countries such as Brexit. Emergence of new political forces and the rising tensions are the order of the day.” Nearly four decades of imperialist globalization which is actually the imperialism of finance capital and the neo-liberal order are the root cause for the economic difficulties, financial crises and the unprecedented inequalities in the advanced capitalist countries and the developing countries.

Trump’s policies

The United States of America which is the strongest capitalist power in the world has also suffered due to this crisis of neo-liberalism. Finance capital has relocated many of the industries from America to the developing countries; this resulted in loss of jobs and social status for the working class. The imperialist finance system relies on the dollar as the reserve currency and the hegemony of the dollar has ensured that capital from all around the world flows into the United States. Thus, while the Wall Street financiers and the multinational companies are able to make huge profits, the real wages and jobs of the working people have steadily declined.

The election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States in November 2016 was the protest vote by large sections of the working people against the effects of neo-liberalism and finance driven globalization. Trump also promised to make America great again and bring the industries back to the United States got support from these sections.

The paradox however, is that an ultra right-wing figure was elected as the President by those who were badly affected by the ravages of finance capitalism.

Donald Trump in his efforts to put “America First” has gone against many of the cherished policies of finance capitalism. He is against many of the multi- lateral trade agreements; he wants a protectionist policy for American industry and goods; he demands that NATO allies of the United States increase their defense spending and rely less on the United States military budget.

Trump in order to protect the American economy has announced increased tariffs for a whole range of goods from China, the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. This in turn has led these countries to impose retaliatory tariffs. Trump has recently imposed tariffs worth $200 billion dollars on goods imported from China. China’s retaliated with similar tariff increases. This will lead to a trade war developing. The net result will be that American exports of goods will be affected and thus jobs too.

Trump is trying to solve the crisis within the neo-liberal frame work without affecting its main feature which is the global mobility of finance. It is the nature of finance capital which has led to the neo-liberal crisis , so Trump is bound to fail as  he will not tackle the root cause.

Overall, with the rising international oil prices and huge debts accumulated by governments and banks, there is another financial meltdown looming.

Growing inter-imperialist contradictions 

Moreover, Trump’s policies are going to stimulate inter-imperialist contradictions. Germany, France and Britain, the three key European allies of the United States have opposed some of Trump’s policies. This is not confined to economic policies alone but in the political sphere too. For instance, the US decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Agreement with Iran was opposed by these three allies who continue to maintain that the agreement with Iran is still valid. Similarly, the European Union has opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Treaty.

The US contradiction with Russia has also sharpened, though Trump wishes to have better relations with President Putin and Russia. The entire ruling establishment in the United States is for confronting Russia. More sanctions have been imposed on Russia under the Trump Presidency.

The new conflicts engendered in the imperialist bloc under the neo-liberal crisis were also manifested by Brexit. The second largest economy in the European Union, Britain, voted to leave the Union. This decision of the referendum came against the wishes of finance capital. But, the same revolt against neo-liberalism and imperialist globalization by the British working people, led to this dramatic result. Britain has suffered de-industrialization and massive loss of jobs in industry in the past three decades. It has also hollowed out towns and communities in the traditional industrial areas.

The current period is marked by a spate of natural disasters. Floods, forest fires, unseasonal rains, high summer temperatures, earthquakes and other natural calamities are occurring in various parts of the planet. All these are dire warnings of the havoc that climate change will come. Here too, the discard between the US and its Western allies and the rest of the world is going to sharpen inter-imperial contradictions and the contradiction between the advanced countries and the developing world. Predatory neo-liberal capitalism is the perpetuation of this problem and cannot provide any solution to this serious threat to the future of the planet.

Rightward shift

The European Union has policies designed to favour trans-national companies and the neo-liberal frame work. The bulk of the British working class felt that exit from European Union was the only way to escape from the dire situation.When Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019 it will set in motion a new chain of events in Europe which cannot be fully foreseen now.

The havoc caused by neo-liberalism in Europe with de-industrialisation, unemployment and rising inequalities has led to growing discontent and bitterness among people.  In this period migrant labour flowed into Europe with the ruling classes eager to exploit cheap labour. This discontent and anger of the working people have been utilized by extreme right wing and neo-fascist forces. The rise of the National Front in France, the Alternative in Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Golden Dawn in Greece and the Northern League in Italy are part of this process. These forces have raised fears about the immigrant influx and thrive as anti-foreigner sentiments and Islamophobia.

When a deep crisis affects the capitalist system, it does not automatically lead to the rise of the Left and the working class movement. History has shown how fascist and extreme rightwing forces arose out of the chronic capitalist crisis such as the Great Depression of 1929-33. The crisis of neo-liberalism in the last one decade has seen the rise of the extreme right and neo-fascist forces. This is not confined to Europe alone.

There has been a rightward shift globally in this period. In Latin America where the Left had made advances for one and half decades between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, a counter offensive of the right has unfolded. The centre-left or social democratic governments of Brazil and Argentina have been replaced by rightwing ones, in the case of Brazil through a soft coup. Venezuela is being targeted for destabilization. The rightwing forces in South America are being supported by the United States.

However, the struggle against this right-wing offensive is also being organized. While there have been setbacks in some countries, Mexico has recently elected a Left oriented president. In Venezuela the Chavistas and the Left wing forces have fought back various attempts to topple the Maduro government.

New opportunities for Left

However, the present crisis and the rise of the rightwing forces also presents opportunities for the Left.

One of the reasons for the rightwing advance in Europe has been their taking over the space vacated by the traditional social democratic parties which had influence over the working class. Since the 90s, the social democratic parties which ruled in various European countries like the Labour Party in Britain, the Socialist Party in France, the German Social Democratic Party and the Spanish and Greek socialist parties had surrendered before the power of finance capital and embraced neo-liberalism. The social democratic parties have lost ground rapidly in recent years. The Communist parties in most of these countries are weak. When the backlash against neo-liberalism and globalization developed, it was the extreme rightwing forces which led the opposition and attracted support.

There is a lesson to be drawn from these developments. Where the Left was able to take a firm stand against neo-liberalism and did not compromise the interests of the working class, they were able to gather the discontent and advance. A striking illustration is the Labour Party in Britain. Here under a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party adopted a broadly Left manifesto for the parliament elections in June 2017. They were supported by the mass movements against privatization and imperialist wars. The Labour Party got 40 per cent of the vote and prevented the Conservatives from getting a majority. It is significant that young people below 25 years voted in large numbers for Labour.

In France, during the presidential elections, the Left bloc with its candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon got nearly 20 per cent of the vote in the first round. New radical platforms emerged in the name of Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, though in the latter after forming the government Syriza compromised with the EU on accepting austerity measures. In Portugal and Greece, the Communist parties there have been able to hold on to their mass base because of their consistent opposition to neo-liberal policies and the European Union’s straightjacket.

These signs of resistance and assertion by the Left in Europe show the way forward towards fighting the offensive of finance capital and neo-liberalism.

It will be a mistake to however see the United States as a weakened force due to the neo-liberal crisis. The United States is still the leader of the imperialist bloc because of its key role in the finance capitalist system and the hegemony of the dollar. Militarily, the US is by far the strongest power in the world. The entire imperialist system is dependent on the strength and the leading role of the United States.

Challenge posed by China 

The only visible challenge rising against this imperialist power is that of China. The growing assertion and role of China on a global scale is seen by the United States as a strategic threat. China has actively intervened and participated in various multilateral forums which can counter the dominance of the US imperialist system. The strategic alliance between China and Russia has deepened. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which now includes India and Pakistan as full members is becoming a significant regional formation. Ventures like the Brics Bank, Asian Infrastructure Development Bank; the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) now encompasses 72 countries in three continents. 

All these developments have strengthened the trend of multipolarity. The more the United States takes a protectionist route, new alliances and forums will emerge to counter American unilateralism.

The United States has been developing its geo-political strategy to counter China during the last two decades. From the pivot to Asia under the Obama presidency, the creation of the Indo-Pacific command and the growing strategic military ties between US and India – all are part of this effort to counter the “threat” posed by China to US supremacy. 

Struggle against right wing offensive in India 

In India too the rightward shift resulted in the Modi government coming into office in 2014. A variant of the same rightwing politics around the globe has been witnessed-aggressive pursuit of neo-liberalism, belligerent Hindutva nationalism and subservience to US imperialist interests. Such a rightward shift has targeted the Left and is one of the major reasons for the setbacks suffered by the Left in the recent years.

Hence our strategy and tactics to counter the Hindutva rightwing forces must draw lessons from the worldwide experience. The 22nd Congress of the Party has worked out a political-tactical line keeping all these factors in mind.




The Background

Very few people realize that land productivity in a tropical country like India is far higher than in advanced countries of Europe and North America that are mainly located in the cold temperate zone. Over a given production period say one year at least two and up to three separate crops can be produced in India (also in S. E. Asia, over most of China and in tropical regions of Africa and S. America) compared to only one crop producible over the entire year in the cold lands of advanced countries.

While larger tropical developing countries in Asia can and do produce in their winter season every crop that advanced countries grow in their single summer growing season, additionally the former produce a very large range of typically tropical crops in their monsoon season that are demanded by advanced countries but can never be produced by them at all owing to their climatic constraint. This simple but very important material reality has been deliberately and consistently obscured for centuries by the fallacious economic theories emanating from universities in the North, to the extent that even progressive developing country scholars are totally taken in and never factor this reality into their discussions of international trade and imperialism.

The most important fallacious theory is David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage that explicitly assumed, taking two countries and two goods, that both countries could produce both goods and specialization and trade led to mutual advantage. (His implicit assumption was that all countries could produce all goods). Ricardo’s material fallacy was to make an incorrect statement of fact since both countries could not produce both goods. Cost could not even be defined for tropical goods, whose output in Europe is always zero, and therefore the inference he drew was incorrect— specialization and trade did not lead necessarily to ‘mutual benefit’.

 The real reason for the historic and unprecedented drive by a handful of maritime European countries to travel halfway around the globe to subjugate peoples of tropical lands was their desire to access primary goods they could never themselves produce. They could not obtain these goods through normal trade in the large volumes they desired because the populations of these highly bio-diverse countries produced everything they needed and simply had no demand for the products of relatively poorly endowed temperate lands.

The solution of the foreigners from Europe was to acquire by force of arms, political control that gave them the sovereign right of collecting taxes, and in India the British used this right to convert a third or more of net tax revenues into exported goods by ‘paying’ the producers of these goods out of their own taxes. This abnormal use of tax revenues meant the producers were not actually paid though they appeared to be paid. Thus, surplus budgets (collecting much more in taxes than was spent domestically) were operated that had a severe income-deflating effect, reducing the population’s consumption of basic necessities especially foodgrains thereby releasing the land and other resources for diversion to export crops.

The cropping pattern was made to change through such mechanisms of demand management resulting in a declining nutritional standard for the population. Further, we know that discriminatory policies of keeping colonial markets open to imports of their manufactures while protecting their own markets further intensified unemployment, pressure on land and loss of purchasing power.

There are two important points to note: first, while tropical and sub tropical lands as in India are more productive, these lands are limited as to physical extent. Without adequate investment to raise land productivity further, both satisfying the insatiable demands of Europe and North America, and at the same time maintaining the domestic supply of food grains was not possible in the past and is not possible now under neo-liberal policies of cutting back public development expenditures. In history, Europeans invested little in raising yields in their colonies and did not care that, as a result their own rising demands for the products of these lands were met only at the expense of drastically reduced consumption of the local masses. An inverse relation always resulted between primary sector exports and domestic availability for the local population.

Today there is no longer direct control by imperialists over the revenues of developing countries. But the neo-liberal dogmas of finance capital that are implemented by pliant governments in developing countries under pressure from advanced countries and global financial institutions, produce the same economic outcomes. They ensure mass income-deflation via reduction of development spending especially on agriculture and promote once again free trade namely primary exports without regard to the impact on domestic availability. Productivity cannot rise to the extent required when governments mindlessly cut back on outlays on irrigation, crop research and extension services as advised by global financial interests. We see an agrarian crisis not only in India but other developing countries too and as primary exports, grow domestic foodgrains availability declines once more.

While output and availability of foodgrains per head in India rose during four decades of protection under the Nehruvian dirigiste regime, it has declined fast during the last quarter century of neo-liberal reduction in public investment and removal of protection, so that by 2011 India has sunk to a lower level of annual grain consumption per head for all uses (176 kg) than even the least developed countries (212 kg) and substantially lower than Africa (225kg). China’s grain availability per capita, always higher than India’s, also declined sharply as a big shift of cropped area to raw cotton took place as part of its textile export drive – a fact not generally known outside that country but now admitted by some Chinese scholars: in short China has not been exempt from the operation of the inverse relation.

Second, the industrially advanced countries have raised their own crop yields through technical change, but no amount of capitalist investment can alter the fact that they have a permanently rigid output pattern. They can only raise the yield of the small number of crops they can actually produce but cannot ever diversify their output, and this means that the permanent mismatch continues between their limited production possibilities and the demand pattern of their rich populations that have become habituated to consuming a huge range of primary goods they cannot ever produce.

This is what makes agriculture quite different from any other branch of production, namely import substitution is not possible in advanced countries as regards tropical crops— and even the crops these countries can grow in summer— are not producible in winter and have to be imported. In fact, the mismatch has intensified since with cheapening of air-freighting their demand has grown greatly for new items like fresh produce in winter resulting in an intensive drive to access the superior productive capacity of our lands by their agri-business corporations. Raw materials import is not as important as earlier but the demand of rich populations for variety in imported foodstuffs has increased fast. On the other hand, North America and Europe have had for decades a permanent over-production of grain and dairy products relative to domestic absorption and are constantly seeking markets for their mountains of surplus produce.

It is in the economic interest of advanced countries to promote an international division of labour under which bio-diverse developing countries give up their food security concerns and buy foodgrains from the advanced countries, thus releasing their land and resources to specialize in export crops for filling their supermarket shelves with produce that advanced countries cannot grow themselves at all or not in volumes sufficient to meet their own demand.  Systems of public procurement, stocking and distribution of foodgrains were set up by most developing countries after independence from colonial rule, to ensure a modicum of food security for their poor populations including protection from the wild price fluctuations that mark global markets. These systems are seen by advanced countries as a barrier to their aim of accessing developing country markets to dispose of their grain surpluses and have therefore come under continuous attack from the WTO, directly from individual advanced countries and from international financial institutions.

Under unremitting pressure many dozens of developing countries did in fact give up public procurement and stocking of food grains ranging from Philippines in 1994 to Botswana a decade later. They paid the price of becoming import dependent as advanced countries in Europe and in particular the USA diverted larger and larger volumes of grain to ethanol production in the years following the second Gulf war, causing an unprecedented spike in global grain price from end 2007 onwards. The newly food import dependent low income countries saw  increasing hunger and poverty – food riots took place in as many as 37 countries. In India too, the public procurement and distribution system while not entirely abolished, had been run down considerably and was revived only from 2008 with the global grain price shock.

Intensive Drive to Acquire Grain Markets in Developing Countries

The drive of industrial countries to penetrate new markets for their grain became particularly intense from the 1990s because they lost large export markets following the economic collapse of the former Soviet Union and sharp decline in its population’s consumption level from 1990 to 1996. The inclusion of agriculture for the first time in international trade negotiations in the Uruguay Round and the formulation of the iniquitous Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) to which India is signatory, its implementation from 1994 after the formation of the World Trade Organization, were all part of this advanced country drive to acquire external markets and force a pattern of international specialization beneficial for themselves.

In recent years developing countries have been battling to assert their food security concerns in international fora, where advanced countries have attacked their public grain stocking systems and the meager subsidies these entail, citing specific provisions of the WTO’S Agreement on Agriculture. Very recently in May 2018 the USA had the temerity to directly target India by complaining to the WTO that India gives market price support for rice and wheat amounting to 70 to 80 percent of the value of rice production and over 60 percent of the value of wheat production, violating the de minimis rule that such support cannot exceed 10 percent of output value. We will take up the basis of their calculation of these absurd figures in the following sections as it is instructive, it provides an object lesson in the illogic and hypocrisy indulged in by the world capitalist leader in pursuit of its aims.

It is important to realize that the AoA was from the very beginning formulated by advanced countries based on intellectually dishonest premises, with the sole aim of achieving their objectives, ignoring the real cost to much poorer developing countries, even while presenting a spurious and misleading façade of taking account of their problems. The term dishonest is used advisedly and the reasons are spelled out below. When developing country officials including in India signed into the AoA neither they nor the economists called upon to advise them, had much information or technical expertise on the actual operation of volatile global markets and the actual high level of subsidies to agriculture paid out in advanced countries. Lacking knowledge of colonial free trade, unfortunately they were also clueless regarding the likely adverse impact on food security in their own countries.

We will take up briefly only two main aspects of the way the provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture were deliberately formulated to the sole benefit of advanced countries. The first is that mere lip service was paid to free trade and the necessity of reducing subsidies and barriers to trade in agriculture: while in reality advanced countries continued to operate the most highly subsidized state managed agricultural system in the world.

The countries of the industrial North ensured that they could continue to subsidize their own crops heavily by simply defining direct cash transfers to farmers under many different heads, as ‘non trade-distorting’ and outside reduction commitments, so that they could increase such transfers at will. On the other hand market price support such as the system of Minimum Support Prices operated in India and other developing countries and the meager subsidies this entailed, were defined by them as ‘trade distorting’ and subject to reduction. Needless to say, these definitions are completely arbitrary and self serving.

It was easy for industrial countries to shift their agricultural subsidies entirely towards many different heads of cash transfers because agriculture accounts for less than 5 percent of their work force and contribute less than 4 percent of GDP. The relevant ratios are even lower for the USA in particular. It is financially and administratively perfectly feasible for the US to pay out, as it does, to its few million farmers very large cash transfers that have amounted in many years, up to 50 percent of the entire value of total agricultural output, for transfers of this order are less than 2 percent of its GDP and less than 8 percent of its annual budget.

Not surprisingly, the US claimed to have met its subsidy reduction requirement within 2 years of the formation of WTO, for on paper it hardly had anything to reduce, having shifted its mountainous subsidies to the many categories it had already taken pains to define as non-reducible. In a paper published in 1997 articulating the threat free trade posed to India’s food security, I had pointed out using OECD sources that there were as many as 46 separate heads under which the US paid agricultural subsidies and crop-specific price support was very minor, so that while US total agricultural subsidies in 1994 were $96 billion only $19 billion came under reduction commitment by one fifth under the AoA rules, hardly $4 billion needed to be lopped off.  The US and other industrial countries after such token reduction retained a dominant position in global markets.

For poor developing countries that are by definition agriculture-predominant, the matter is entirely different for they cannot implement any meaningful level of cash transfers to farmers. With agriculture employing anything from one third to two thirds of the workforce and contributing substantially to GDP, it is neither financially nor administratively feasible to operate a system of direct transfers. In India for example, there are 100 million farming households of which only the top 5 percent is well to do.

Even though the neo- liberal attack on agriculture has reduced this sector’s contribution to GDP to 16 percent today compared to 33 percent twenty five years ago, subsidizing agriculture to the same extent – half of output value of agriculture – as the US has done in many years would mean spending 8 percent of GDP, namely 80 percent of the entire central government annual budget, on agricultural subsidy alone and this is clearly impossible. Even a small order of cash transfer say 2 percent of GDP would pose intractable problems of high distribution cost and equity given that 100 million peasant families are involved. The European countries and Japan operate even higher subsidies than the US as proportion of their agricultural output value, all self-servingly put under the ‘non-trade distorting’ category.

Unlike popular perception promoted by advanced countries themselves, their production is highly inefficient and unit cost of production for all major crops is much higher than in developing countries. Their high unit cost arises from the intensive use of fossil fuels both directly and for producing inputs. Without the support of massive subsidies as cash transfers, their farmers would be completely out-competed on the global market by developing country producers. Nor can it be argued that their subsidies are to supplement incomes because Northern farmers need to be maintained at a higher standard of life for parity with their fellow citizens, compared to the lower standard prevalent in poor countries.

This argument will not wash, for cost of production analyses have shown that for many crops including grain, in many years in the US, value added is negative namely not even their material cost plus depreciation of machinery etc. is covered by the prevalent global price leave alone covering wages to labour or giving a net income to the farmer.

The Fixed External Reference Price adversely affects only Developing Countries

The second element of dishonesty, related to the first, in the Agreement on Agriculture is the laying down of a rigid, fixed external price reference period, 1986-88 such that prices prevalent then are to be used for calculating the present extent of support a country provides to its agriculture and hence the extent of reduction required under the rules.

At the time the AoA came into effect the external reference period crop prices were 6 years in the past but by now these prices are over 30 years in the past and input costs have risen at least ten-fold yet the prices of that distant period are being applied without any adjustment for rise in costs. The difference between these three-decade old reference prices and current- necessarily much higher MSP, multiplied by output ‘eligible for support’, is fallaciously said to be the extent of price support. The additional important and outrageous bit of trickery by the US is to take the entire annual output of wheat and rice, not the amounts actually procured, as eligible output – as though India could ever wish to or actually procure its entire gross cereal output amounting to over 253 million tons ignoring the farmers’ own consumption, seed and livestock feed requirements.

As a preliminary example, let us consider the US’s figures using this absurd method of calculating India’s market price support for wheat. In its recent complaint to WTO against India saying it provides massive price support for grains, we can see from their calculation  that have been reproduced in Table 1, that the 2013-14 MSP of wheat inclusive of bonus paid by some states (namely Rs.1386 per quintal average) is being compared with Rs.354, the rupee value of the 1986-88 average external reference price of wheat per quintal in dollars, converted at the exchange rate prevailing at that time (the official exchange rate averaged Rs.12.5 per dollar) . The difference between Rs.1386 in 2013-14 and Rs. 354 in 1986-88 amounting to a huge Rs. 1032 per quintal is stated as the excess price per quintal being paid to Indian wheat farmers in 2013-14! It is as though the cost of production and exchange rates have remained static for 27 years.

In reality the MSP inclusive of bonus, Rs.1386 in 2013-14 was far too low to cover realistic costs and give a return to the farmer, witness deep farmer distress and agitations for better assured prices that continue to date.  The actual global wheat price in 2013-14 was $32 per quintal or Rs.1936 at the actual exchange rate of Rs.60.5 per dollar (five times the 1986-88 rates), so if anything India’s internal price was Rs. 550 per quintal lower than this current external price namely price support was negative when calculated on a sensible basis.  And that is precisely what India’s correct calculation shows, negative price support in most years (see Table 3). Similar calculation by India for Rice gives a level of positive support that is well below the 10 percent upper limit.

The advanced countries however ignore the patent illogic of taking a three decade old ‘external reference price’ converted to local currencies at a three decade old exchange rate to calculate present levels of support. Representations by developing countries go unheeded that indexation is necessary given the rise in production costs plus depreciation of their currencies relative to the US dollar over the last three decades.

Two questions may arise – First, since advanced countries too have seen rise in unit production costs over the last three decades, is it not to their disadvantage too, to insist on such a distant reference price. Second, why are advanced countries so implacably fixated on the particular dates 1986 to 1988 as the ‘external reference period’. The answer to the first question we know already – the US and other industrial countries are unaffected by a distant reference year for calculating market price support, because they have negligible or no such support to calculate, having already shifted their massive and rising subsidies to the many dozens of heads of cash transfers, that they have arbitrarily called non trade-distorting, have written into the AoA as non-reducible and put in the so called ‘green box’ and ‘blue box’. Needless to say, a subsidy remains a subsidy regardless of the name or colour attributed to it.

The answer to the second question emerges from  Table 2 taken from the useful 1994 book edited by Ingersen et al, that shows the astronomical rise in advanced country subsidies between 1980 and 1986 when global grain prices were falling, by around a quarter to a third for wheat and maize, and by half for rice. We need not go into the reasons for the fall but confine ourselves to noting that every industrial country made it an excuse for raising their agricultural subsidies to a much greater extent than the price fall justified.

Thus 10 states of the European Commission raised their production subsidy equivalents (PSEs) from a quarter of the value of agricultural production in 1980 to 66 percent by 1986. Canada raised the corresponding ratio from 15 to 54 percent, and the USA raised it to the largest extent, from 9 percent to 45 percent, while Japan with the heaviest initial subsidies at 77 percent raised it to equal the entire value of its output, to 99 percent. Since the value of production also rose in almost every country, the absolute level of subsidies rose even faster than the rise in the proportions.

It is now clear why the late 1980s were insisted on as the reference period by advanced countries, since having already reached a peak of subsidy payments they could then claim to reduce their subsidies while actually retaining high effective support levels. The advanced countries conveyed not a genuine, but only an apparent spirit of accommodation in being willing to reduce what they had pre-defined as trade-distorting subsidies by 20 percent compared to a lower extent, 13 percent reduction mandated for developing countries.

Having raised its total subsidies by over 500 percent over the six years ending in 1986, for the US a mere 20 percent reduction meant nothing – further, this reduction ratio was applicable to only a small part of its total support to farmers as we have seen already.

Table 1  The United States’ calculation of India’s allegedly high 2013-14 market price support to Rice and Wheat taking 1984-86 reference prices and exchange rate, applied to 2013-14 total production
Table 1:

Source: WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION, Committee on Agriculture. Dated 9 May 2018:  Certain Measures of India Providing Market Price Support to Rice and Wheat: COMMUNICATION FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 18.7 OF THE AGREEMENT ON AGRICULTURE

The US officials submitting the above calculation for rice evidently could not multiply one number by another for they gave some wrong figures for individual states in column 5, not consistent with their figures in cols.3 and 4. The corrected figures are given above. However since the errors were small relative to total output their estimated percentage of market price support for rice, 77 percent, remains virtually unchanged at 76.9 percent.

Table 2   Producer Subsidy Equivalents as Percentage of

Agricultural Output Value in High Income Countries

Producer Subsidy Equivalents as Percentage of Agricultural
Output Value in High Income Countries
Year United European  Canada Australia  Japan
States Commission
(10 states)
1980 9 25 15 5 71
1981 12 30 16 8 65
1982 14 42 20 15 77
1983 34 26 19 8 79
1984 21 24 25 9 81
1985 26 44 39 13 86
1986 45 66 54 19 93
Source: Ingersen,Rayner and Hine, 1994
Agriculture in the Uruguay Round

Table 3   Comparison of Indian and US Estimates of Market Support

By India to Rice and Wheat

Market Support for Rice and Wheat as Percent

of Value of Production
2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
INDIA       %      %      %      %
RICE 7.22 7.44 7.68 5.45
WHEAT -0.73 0.48 -2.5 -3.53
USA       %       %       %       %
RICE 74 80.1 84.2 76.9
WHEAT 60.1 60.9 68.5 65.3

Source: As Table1.

The Untenable US claim on large market price support by India 

According to the calculations submitted in its complaint by the US to the WTO,  that take four years starting 2010-11 and ending 2013-14, India’s market price support for Rice has ranged between 74 to 84 percent of the value of production and for Wheat it has ranged from 60 to 69 percent of the value of production. According to the Indian government’s own calculation, its market price support for Rice ranged from 5.5 to 7.7 percent of the value of production while for wheat it ranged from negative values for three out of the four years and positive value only for one year at 0.48 percent of the value of production. The contrast between the two sets of estimates could not be sharper (see Table 3).

In Table 1 we have given the detailed data from the US submission only for the last of the four years, 2013-14 in order to illustrate the logically untenable method it has employed to reach its grossly inflated estimates. One important element of the US’s spurious calculation has been discussed already, namely taking the dollar price of the relevant crop that prevailed  more than a quarter century ago in 1986-88 and converting it to the local currency equivalent similarly applying the exchange rate then prevalent (col.1), then comparing and deducting this value from the current 2013-14 MSP  (col.2) where the latter is necessarily a multiple of this value, since it reflects though inadequately the over 10 fold rise in  production costs that has taken place over this long period. Further the rupee had depreciated against the dollar from Rs.12.5 to Rs.60.5 over this period.

  The resulting figures the US present from its illogical exercise are in col.3 of Table 1. Note that India’s actual MSP for wheat, not shown in their table, was Rs.175 per quintal or half the external reference price during 1986-88 and for most years afterwards so that support to wheat was negative, a situation that continues up to 2014 (see Table 3). Essentially the US exercise is one located in cloud cuckoo land for it assumes no change in the unit cost of production and no change in exchange rates over the long period of the late 1980s to 2014.

The second important element of the spurious calculation by the US is to take the entire gross output as ‘output eligible for subsidy’ and multiply the figures of col. 3 by this entire output amounting to 160 million ton for Rice and 95.5 million ton for wheat to reach the final figures of  price support in col.5. The actual procurement in India however was less than one quarter of the tonnage applied by the US. Further, historically even before MSPs and public procurement ever started the marketed proportion of grain output was estimated at 35 percent since farmers retained some part of their own output for seed, for their own consumption, for feeding livestock, and paying out meals and kind wages to hired labour. Developing country agriculture is carried out by peasants and tribal farmers, not by giant enterprises that produce grain on an industrial basis as in the US and Europe to sell all of it.

The US is disturbed by the fact that India has been exporting grain in quite large volumes in recent years. But they ignore the fact that their own relentless pressure on the Indian government exercised also through international financial institutions, to reduce public development expenditures to reach low fiscal deficit targets, has necessarily led to mass income deflation and rise in unemployment. Aggregate market demand has been squeezed owing to such fiscal contraction, to the extent that per head grain absorption by the Indian population has declined substantially. India’s grain exports are coming out of more and more hungry stomachs, they are not a genuine surplus after satisfying minimum nutritional needs. Both per capita calorie intake and per capita protein intake has been falling as documented repeatedly in the National Sample Survey Reports.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization data on annual supply and utilization of crops in every country is available for decades and the latest year is 2011 for which the data have been compiled. As regards cereals, the US absorbed 1,033 kg per capita (over one metric ton) annually, of which over 550 kg. per capita was in the form of food – directly consumed, converted to livestock products by being used as feed, and processed; the balance after provision of seed, being converted to ethanol. By contrast in India the per capita absorption of cereals for all uses, was only 176 kg.,  the lowest in the world (lower than the Least Developed Countries that posted 212 kg.) and less than one-third of the per head intake  of cereals directly and indirectly as food by the US citizen. The US consumption per capita of animal products is forty times the corresponding Indian figure.

It is all the more shocking that the US, the country that has the most gargantuan appetite in the world should be targeting India’s public grain procurement system designed to provide basic food security to its seriously underfed population. If the WTO does give credence to the USA’s dishonest calculations and claims, and rules against India, it should serve as a signal for India to quit the WTO for good.  In any case the rationale for the very existence of the WTO has diminished greatly with the unilateral protectionism that the US has initiated during the last year.

New Constitution for Cuba

New Constitution for Cuba:

The Draft Constitution of Cuba, as approved by its National Assembly is now placed before the people for discussion and seeking their opinions. For this purpose, between August 13 and November 15, more than 135,000 meetings to be held in workplaces, schools, community centers, and abroad – which will be conducted by 7,600 two-person teams (15,000 citizens trained to lead the forums and register suggestions) throughout the country, are planned. Over one million copies of the draft Constitution were printed and distributed to the people to enable their participation in discussions.

As part of the preparations, a two-day national seminar on the Constitutional reform consultation process was held, in which more than 280 provincial representatives of the Party, the Young Communists League, mass organizations, the Union of Jurists, political leaders of the Ministries of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Interior, as well as the commission charged with Implementation and Development of Policy Guidelines, the National Electoral Commission, the Center for Socio-political Studies, and the Ministry of Foreign Relations, participated.

This entire proposal to Draft a new constitution, is the result of an effort begun by a Work Group created by the Political Bureau of the PCC, on May 13, 2013 and led by First Secretary of the Party, Raúl Castro Ruz and is based on the relevant Legislative Foundations approved by it on June 29, 2014.

Explaining the necessity for a new Constitution, Raúl Castro, stated that it is needed for “….leaving behind the obstacles of the old mentality and forging a vision of the present and future of the homeland, with transformative intentionality and much political sensitivity, without abandoning for an instant, the legacy of Martí or the Marxist-Leninist doctrine that constitute the principal ideological foundation of our revolutionary process”.

The obligatory references in the preparation of the Draft Constitution were identified as:

  • – The political thought of the historic leader of the Revolution, compañero Fidel Castro Ruz
  • – Speeches and directives by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz
  • – The Conceptualization of Cuba’s Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development
  • – The National Plan for Economic and Social Development through 2030: Vision of the Nation, Axes, and Strategic Sectors
  • – The Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution
  • – The Party Work Objectives, approved by the First Party Congress

Apart from these, several constitutions were also consulted: “first from Latin American countries, among them Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, which represent the most advanced constitutional works in the region, as well as other constitutional models like those of Vietnam and China, nations which are constructing socialist societies with their own characteristics, as well as constitutional texts from other countries”.

Explaining the preparatory process, Council of State Secretary Homero Acosta stated: “In particular, this work required study of our constitutional history, especially the Constitution of 1940, the Fundamental Law of 1959, and the current Constitution of the Republic. This past June 2, in an extraordinary session, the National Assembly of People’s Power established a Commission charged with preparing a first draft proposal of the Constitution of the Republic. The Commission has worked intensely throughout this period, taking as a reference the studies done previously, and after a broad debate has produced the text presented here. July 2 and 3, of this year, the proposed first draft of the Constitution was presented by the Commission to the 7th Plenum of the Party Central Committee”. This draft was later placed for discussion in the National Assembly of Deputies, who have debated and accepted the draft for further discussions among the people of the country. Extracts from the Draft Constitution that is put before people for discussion:

Principal Elements That Distinguish The Draft

“The text includes a preamble, 224 articles (87 more than the current Constitution), divided into 11 titles, 24 chapters, and 16 sections. Eleven articles in the current Constitution are maintained, 113 are modified, and 13 eliminated. The proposal is distinguished by its coherent, systematic structure, achieving a logical rearrangement of the content and avoiding the dispersion of elements. The language used is consistent with terminology that should characterize a constitutional text and fits our economic, political, and social reality. The wording of content in general terms provides for greater flexibility, durability, security, and applicability of the Constitution.

“The Draft reaffirms the socialist character of our political, economic, and social system, as well as the leading role of the Communist Party of Cuba. The economic system that is reflected in the Draft maintains as essential principles the socialist ownership of the fundamental means of production by the entire people, and planning, to which is added, the recognition of the role of the market and new forms of non-state property, including private property. In a singular fashion, the inclusion of a wide range of rights stands out, in line with international instruments related to this issue which Cuba has signed.

Of special note are those related to the right to a defense, due process, and popular participation, while economic and social rights are re-formulated.

The right to equality’s content is further developed, incorporating, among other elements, the prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity, ethnic origin, and disability.

The possibility is established for persons to appeal to the courts to demand restitution of their rights or compensation for the damages or losses caused by any action or omission on the part of bodies, directors, officials, or employees of the state, in the improper exercise of their functions.

With respect to marriage, modified is the current concept that this is an agreement “between a man and a woman,” now defined as one “between two persons.”

Referring to state bodies, an adequate balance between these is maintained, and added are the figures of President of the Republic, as head of state, and Prime Minister in charge of the Republic’s government. Both are required to be deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power.

The Council of State maintains its character as the permanent body of the National Assembly of People’s Power, with greater interaction with the Assembly stipulated, among other aspects, since the President, Vice President, and Secretary of the two bodies will be the same individuals.

An important novelty in terms of state bodies is the establishment of a National Electoral Council, a permanent institution devoted to this area, while the inclusion of the Comptroller General’s Office in the Constitution has been achieved.

In terms of local bodies, Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power are eliminated, and established is a provincial government composed of a governor and a council at this level.

Municipalities acquire a greater role on the basis of recognition of their autonomy, which they exercise in accordance with national interests.

The Municipal Administrative Council is reaffirmed as the body that directs municipal administration, under the leadership of a superintendent, a term proposed to replace those of “president” and “chief” currently used.

In terms of the electoral system, the right to vote for all Cubans who have reached 16 years of age was maintained, with the exceptions established by law.

Defense and national security appear as a title, in which the mission of the National Defense Council is defined, with the authority to carry out tasks in peacetime, the formal recognition of a “disaster situation,” and other situations of an exceptional nature.

Regarding mechanisms for constitutional reform, unlike current stipulations, those who are authorized to do so are identified, as are inalterable clauses.

Special, transitional, and final procedures are stipulated on the effect date of principal questions in the proposal, as well as the period within which complementary regulations are to be established, or current ones modified.

Political Foundations

The wording of the title is new, differentiating political foundations from those of an economic nature.

The definition of the Cuban state as a socialist state of law is intended to reaffirm the principle of constitutional supremacy and the rule of law, and to reinforce socialist institutionality.

The Communist Party of Cuba maintains its role as the leading force in society and the state, while its democratic character and permanent relationship with the people are emphasized. It is specified that the state recognizes and protects the functioning of associations established in accordance with the law.

Current stipulations regarding relations between the state and the church are maintained in their essence.

In terms of constitutional supremacy, established is the duty to abide by the Constitution, and that all dispositions and actions of state institutions, directors, functionaries, and employees must conform to what is stipulated, in accordance with the previous assertion regarding a socialist state of law.

The proposal includes the obligation of state institutions, their leaders, functionaries, and employees to respect and serve the people, maintaining close ties with the population and submitting to their control, via the means established in the Constitution and laws.

Regarding the essential responsibilities of the state, new items include:

  • – Strengthen national unity;
  • – Preserve national security;
  • – Promote sustainable development that assures individual and collective prosperity, and work to reach greater levels of equity and social justice, as well as preserve and expand achievements of the Revolution;
  • – Consolidate the ideology and ethics intrinsic to our socialist society;
  • – Protect the nation’s natural, historical, and cultural patrimony;

The principles of foreign policy were reaffirmed and others were incorporated, among these: the promotion of respect for international law and multi-polarity among states; condemnation of imperialism, fascism, colonialism or neo-colonialism in any of its manifestations; defense and protection of human rights and the repudiation of any manifestation of racism or discrimination; promotion of disarmament and the rejection of the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons, mass extermination, and others with similar effects that violate international humanitarian law; repudiation and condemnation of all forms of terrorism, in particular state terrorism; and protection and conservation of the environment and the struggle against climate change.

Economic Foundations

Established as basic principles of the economic model, are the socialist ownership by all the people of the fundamental means of production and the planned direction of the economy, currently cited in the constitutional text, to which is added the recognition of different forms of property, in accordance with the Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development and the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution. As a novel element, the market is taken into consideration and regulated, within the framework of economic planning, under the principle of avoiding the inequalities it generates and protecting the interests of our society. By defining the different types of property that can coexist in the economy (socialist of all the people; cooperative; mixed; that of political, mass and social organizations; private; and personal) it is recognized that there may be others, and that the state will promote those of a more social nature. In accordance with the Conceptualization of the Cuban Social and Economic Development Model and the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, the concentration of property by non-state subjects is proscribed, as a foundation of the Cuban socialist system, and is established as a constitutional precept. Obligatory expropriation is maintained, although only for authorized reasons of public utility or social interest, and with due compensation and guarantees stipulated.

Regarding the socialist property of all the people, the essential assets included are listed, and their inalienable and un-encumberable nature established. The existence of others of this nature is recognized, and defined is the legal regimen for the transfer of property and other rights.

The statement that enterprises only respond to obligations with their financial resources is eliminated. Maintained is the premise that the state is not responsible for obligations assumed by enterprises, while enterprises are not responsible for those of the state.

While diverse forms of property within the economy are recognized, state enterprises are defined as the principal actors, and their autonomy is established as essential to their functioning.

Reaffirmed is the concept that the state directs, regulates, and supervises economic activity, and that planning is the central element in the system guiding economic and social development, with the purpose of facilitating economic activity, reconciling national, provincial, and citizens’ interests.

In line with documents from the Seventh Party Congress, it is emphasized that the participation of workers in the direction, regulation, and supervision of economic activity.

It is recognized that the state guarantees foreign investment and ensures respect for the nation’s sovereignty and the rational use of resources.

Regarding private ownership of land, a special regimen is maintained, stipulating that the sale or transfer of land is only permitted within the limits of the law, and without infringing on the state’s preferential right to purchase it at a fair price.

Maintained are prohibitions on the renting, parceling, mortgaging of land, or any other act that implies alien or concession of land to private parties.


The fundamental change is that our non-recognition of dual citizenship is modified, and established instead is the principle of “effective citizenship”, which means that “Cuban citizens, within the national territory, are governed as such and cannot make use of a foreign citizenship.”

Rights, Responsibilities, & Guarantees

In the drafting of this title, rights and responsibilities currently dispersed throughout the Constitution have been grouped together, and others are added to strengthen the regimen of guarantees for citizens and the duty of the state to protect these rights.

The new wording reflects rights recognized in different human rights conventions and protocols which we have signed, given the principles of our political system and without limiting our ability to protect ourselves from counterrevolutionary actions.

It is established that the rights of individuals are only limited by the rights of others, collective security, and precepts set in the country’s legal order.

In terms of public health, the proposal reaffirms this as a right of all persons and that the state guarantees access, free of charge, to treatment, protection and recovery of one’s health, and leaves to the law the specific services to be provided.

Regarding education, this is established as free of charge from pre-school through the undergraduate university level, and defined as secular and a right of all persons, as well as the responsibility of the state, society, and families.

Several new rights are noteworthy, basically in the area of justice and due process, such as habeas corpus (to prevent arbitrary detentions); protection for individuals arrested or imprisoned; the right of citizens to be informed of personal data in public archives and registers; and the reincorporation into society of imprisoned individuals upon their release, etc.

Also included is the right to participate in the nation’s cultural and artistic life.

Established is the right of persons to be compensated for their work based on its quantity, complexity, quality, and results obtained.

The right to receive quality goods and services is incorporated, as well as the right to information about these, and to be attended in an appropriate manner.

Lastly, the civic and political rights and duties of citizens are cited, establishing mechanisms to appeal to the courts of justice to safeguard one’s rights.

Principles Of Educational, Cultural & Scientific Policies

Given their importance, maintained are the principles that guide educational, cultural and scientific policy, emphasizing the significance of ethical, civic, and revolutionary values for new generations, as well as the protection the state provides to our cultural identity, patrimony, and the nation’s artistic and historic wealth.

State Structure

This section governs issues related to higher bodies and other institutions of the state, as well as a number of questions regarding these.

Chapter I:

Organization and functioning of state bodies. Reaffirms the current principles of socialist democracy which guide the selection of members of state bodies and the activities they carry out.

Chapter II:

National Assembly of People’s Power and Council of State. The National Assembly retains its status as the supreme body of the state and the only one with constitutional and legislative power in the country. Its leadership remains the responsibility of a President, Vice President and a Secretary, and maintains, generally speaking, the same authorities recognized in the current Constitution, and introduces a few new ones, including: Interpret the Constitution; giving the constitutional text greater durability and scope without the need to resort to reform processes to resolve given situations that may arise; Establish or remove taxes; an authority that given its importance should be the purview of this body, as in other countries; Approve territorial plans for administrative hierarchies, special regulatory systems for municipalities or other demarcations and districts. The election and designation of the fundamental positions of the state and the government continues as a responsibility of the National Assembly. Added in the proposal are the election of the President and Vice President of the Republic, members of the National Electoral Council, as well as the appointment of a Prime Minister and Provincial Governors, among others. With the proposed concept of the Council of State, under the same leadership as the National Assembly of People’s Power, the goal is to achieve a more effective link between the two bodies and to facilitate continuity in the exercise of their authorities. It is specified that the Council of State will be composed of the President, Vice President and Secretary of the National Assembly of People’s Power, which is empowered to select the rest of the members that comprise it. In search of an adequate balance in the conducting of supervision and a more effective counterweight in the state’s higher bodies, it is established that members of the Council of State may not hold positions on the Council of Ministers or at the leadership level in judicial, electoral, or state control bodies.

The Council of State’s current authorities remain essentially the same, and others have been conferred.

The document indicates that decree-laws enacted and agreements reached by the Council of State are subject to ratification by the National Assembly of People’s Power, in its next session.

Chapter III:

President and Vice President of the Republic. The President of the Republic is the head of state, elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power from among its deputies, for a period of five years.

This person may hold the position for two consecutive terms, following which he or she may not serve in this role again.

The President of the Republic must obtain the favourable vote of the absolute majority of deputies, and requirements to assume this responsibility include having reached 35 years of age, to be in full possession of civil and political rights, to be a Cuban citizen by birth, and not hold any other citizenship.

Additionally, it is stipulated that an individual may have reached no more than 60 years of age prior to a first term as President.

The Vice President of the Republic is elected in the same manner and for the same term as the President, and substitutes the President in the event of his or her absence, illness, or death. If this office is vacated, the National Assembly of People’s Power elects a substitute. In the event of the definitive absence of both the President and the Vice President of the Republic, the National Assembly elects substitutes, and in the interim before this election is held, the President of the National Assembly assumes the office of President of the Republic temporarily.

Chapter IV:

Government of the Republic. The Council of Ministers maintains its status as the highest executive and administrative body, constituting the Government of the Republic. It will include a Prime Minister, who leads the Council, deputy prime ministers, ministers, a secretary, and other members determined by law. Between meetings, the Council’s Executive Committee may make decisions on issues within the authority of the Council of Ministers.

The Council of Ministers’ authorities, as is the case with bodies previously mentioned, remain essentially the same.

The new Constitution establishes that the Prime Minister is designated by the National Assembly of People’s Power, at the proposal of the President of the Republic, for a period of five years, and with the favourable vote of the absolute majority of the deputies.

Chapter V:

Laws. Added to those who currently have legislative initiative are the President of the Republic; the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic; and the National Electoral Council, in areas of their authority. This title also governs issues related to the effect date and publication of legal norms.

Chapter VI:

Courts of Justice. The new wording reinforces the operational independence of courts and judges in their work to impart justice. Maintained is the requirement that the Supreme People’s Court renders an account of its work to the National Assembly of People’s Power, in the established manner and frequency. It is maintained that magistrates and lay judges of the Supreme People’s Court are elected by the National Assembly of People’s Power or the Council of State. The law regarding the election of other judges is left to the law.

Chapter VII:

Attorney General of the Republic Office. One of the most significant changes concerns the fundamental mission of the Attorney General’s Office, which prioritizes “the management of criminal investigations and taking public criminal action on behalf of the State,” without ignoring its role in ensuring compliance with the Constitution, laws, and other legal provisions.

Also specified as a novel element is that the Attorney General is directly subordinate to the President of the Republic.

Chapter VIII:

Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic. The main mission of this office is that of superior evaluation of administrative management, and ensuring the correct, transparent administration of public funds. The Office of the Comptroller General is also subordinated to the President of the Republic.

Territorial Organization Of The State

Maintained are current regulations on the country’s political-administrative divisions, and added is the possibility of approving subordinate administrative regimes and special regulatory systems for municipalities or other territorial demarcations, as well as administrative districts. The Municipality is defined as the primary, fundamental political unit of national organization, and its autonomy is recognized, which includes the election of its own authorities, the ability to make decisions regarding the use of resources, and the exercise of its competencies in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

Local Bodies Of People’s Power

The main modification is the elimination of Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power and the establishment of a provincial government consisting of a Governor and a Council.

The provincial government has as its fundamental mission working to promote the economic and social development of its territory, serving as coordinator between the central government and municipalities, which involves the direction, supervision, orientation, and a contribution to reconciling the interests of the province and its municipalities, along with exercising the authorities it is granted in the Constitution and by law.

The Provincial Council is defined as a collegial, deliberative body, presided by the Governor, with presidents of Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power as members, plus the superintendents of Municipal Administrative Councils, and others as determined by law.

The Governor is the highest executive administrative leader of the province, named by the National Assembly of People’s Power, for a five year term, in accordance with principles established by the Council of Ministers, to organize and direct the provincial administration which has its own administrative structure.

The proposal includes the figure of a Deputy Governor, designated by the Council of Ministers, for the same term as the provincial governor.

It is proposed that elections for Municipal Assemblies take place every five years.

Likewise stated is that Municipal Assemblies have the responsibility of guaranteeing the right to petition and to participate of citizens in the locality.

Regarding Municipal Administrative Councils, the proposal specifies that its members are designated by the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power to which it is subordinated. It is collegial in nature and is charged with directing the administration at this level. Noteworthy is the new figure of Superintendent, who is responsible for leading the Council.

Electoral System

Voting is defined as a right and responsibility of all citizens, and reaffirms its nature as free, equal, direct, and secret. Eligibility is maintained at 16 years of age.

The National Electoral Council is established as the permanent state body charged with the fundamental mission of organizing, directing, and supervising elections, popular consultations, plebiscites, and referendums that may be convoked, as well as resolving any complaints in this arena.

The National Electoral Council will have autonomy and only respond to the National Assembly of People’s Power. Once an electoral process is concluded, the Council reports the results to the nation.

National Defense & Security

The National Defense Council is defined as the highest state body charged with the fundamental mission of organizing, directing, and preparing – in peacetime – the country’s defense, and added is the responsibility to ensure adherence to approved laws related to the defense and security of the nation, which implies the authority to maintain its activity at all times.

During exceptional and disaster situations, this Council directs the country and assumes the authorities that are conferred on state and government bodies, with the exception of the National Assembly’s constituent authority.

This body will be headed by the President of the Republic, who will in turn designate a vice president and other members as determined by law.

This title also establishes that the state’s armed forces are the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the armed formations of the Ministry of the Interior, which, in order to fulfill their duties, have the participation of military and civilian personnel.

Constitutional Reform

Reiterated is the stipulation that the Constitution can only be reformed by the National Assembly of People’s Power via approval expressed in a roll call vote, by a two thirds majority of its member deputies.

Those with the authority to initiate a proposal for constitutional reform are designated as: the President of the Republic; the Council of State; the Council of Ministers; National Assembly deputies, via a proposal signed by no less than two thirds of its members; and citizens by way of a petition directed to the National Assembly of People’s Power, signed before the National Electoral Council by at least 50,000 eligible voters.

When the proposed reform refers to the membership or authorities of the National Assembly of People’s Power or the Council of State; to the authorities or term in office of the President of the Republic; or rights, duties, and guarantees established in the Constitution, additionally required is approval by the majority of the nation’s eligible voters in a referendum called for this purpose.

Maintained in the text is the stipulation that the irrevocability of the country’s socialism and our political, social, and economic system is not subject to reform, and neither is the prohibition on negotiating under force, threat, or coercion on the part of a foreign power.

Intellectual Property, Knowledge, Capital and Labour

Dinesh Abrol

Intellectual property (IP) is a term that denotes several distinct bodies of law related to the protection of private ownership of knowledge and information[i]. It includes the laws of protection of patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets, database rights, protection for semiconductor topographies, plant breeders’ rights, protection for indications of geographic origins and rights in performances. In this body of law, many important legal benefits accrue to the owners of intellectual property. The owners of intellectual property can deny others the use of knowledge and information for a given period provided by statues. The owners can charge rent for use, receive compensation for loss and demand payment for transfer of knowledge.

IP laws have been strengthened over the period. Contemporary laws favour a stronger system of intellectual property that provides for a system of wider set of constraints on use and a broader exclusion of access to others. It covers now all types of knowledge-working, scientific, technological, cultural and so on. Intellectual property monopolies are uniformly of longer durations. A stronger intellectual property system has been provided a global reach through the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement. The law of patents provides a uniform period of monopoly for twenty years. The law of copyrights gives a monopoly of fifty years or more.

A stronger IP system under enforcement through the TRIPs Agreement implies extending the term of protection, expanding the scope of protectable subject matter, increased penalties for violation, facilitating enforcement and expediting litigation. The purpose is to strengthen enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements through specialized commercial courts. Intellectual property rights are formidable legal barriers to competition.

Several justifications are provided for the need for intellectual property. Advocates argue that incentive is needed to encourage further effort; inventors deserve property in the fruits of their labour and intellectual property is important to ensure both natural right and efficiency. But for Marxists, there is nothing ‘natural’ about property. Property formation is an ideological and material process and there is always an attempt to obscure the political acts that produce property norms and property regimes. The power relations that organize property form(s) of public, private and commons in knowledge production are hidden in the legal details, which Capital accesses from the nation state (s) through the efforts of lawyers and lobbyists.

More recently the capitalist character of the contemporary narrative is under use for the justification of intellectual property. These claims include the benefits of introduction of markets into knowledge production; efficient use of knowledge and information requires private property in knowledge; markets in knowledge and information ensure more and better innovation; little stimulus would exist for innovation without intellectual property; innovators must be incentivized and rewarded to commercialize knowledge; innovators require private monopolies to obtain the return on investment; progress in science and technology depends on the existence of markets in knowledge supported by stronger IP.

Capital provides these justifications to accelerate the pace and intensity of capital accumulation through the creation of private ownership of knowledge and innovation. Capital is able to impose scarcity in relation to possible use of knowledge even when there is no actual scarcity of knowledge resources. In the recent times, the globalized system of enforcement of laws of intellectual property is on the rise and is structured through the power of monopoly, finance and informational capital across the nations. Presently the benefit of strengthening of IPRs is mostly accruing to the fractions of monopoly, finance and informational capital originating from United States, Europe and Japan. (May and Sell 2006).

Thus, for Marxists there lies hidden the story of commodification of knowledge and information in the intellectual property laws.[ii] Historically the production of knowledge has not taken place in the market, but rather in guilds, universities, religious bodies and state institutions. The production of knowledge was rewarded through patronage, prestige, prizes, or income tied to rank or status rather than to economic performance. In Medieval world, knowledge was often interpreted as a gift from God, and for this reason ideas were seen as inappropriate objects of property. This changed through the rise of capitalism and possessive individualism. Patents and other forms of intellectual property rights are seen as legal devices in the service of the process of commodification of knowledge. In the case of knowledge, royalties that can be defined as the market price for the right to use patented knowledge. Universities can sell and license their patents to corporations and establish external sources of revenue in the form of royalty payments.

Knowledge as commodity can exist and acquire different commodity forms, Jessop (2007: 122-125) has argued that knowledge can circulate in various ways. Knowledge can circulate as intellectual commons. In this case knowledge has a non-commodity status especially if it is produced and distributed through non-market mechanism (e.g. patronage). Knowledge is a fictitious commodity when it is enclosed through non-market mechanisms and circulate as private property within the market. Knowledge becomes a quasi-commodity when knowledge production (intellectual labour) is formally subsumed under capitalist control and competition. Knowledge becomes a real capitalist commodity when the real subsumption of intellectual labour takes place, i.e. when knowledge is subsumed under capitalist labour process. Knowledge may also become a form of fictitious or fictive capital when revenue streams to knowledge producers (e.g. universities) are guaranteed by intellectual property rights.

Marx, himself, foresaw under capitalism the advancement of enclosure of knowledge accelerating through the processes of primitive accumulation of capital as well as dynamic of capital accumulation. Knowledge can circulate in various ways within and between social systems. Ample evidence exists of how through the processes of primitive accumulation of capital and dynamic of capital accumulation, commodification of knowledge proceeded first in a slow and gradual way, and then rapidly under 20th Century capitalism. Personal and technological forms of surveillance in the production process are necessary elements of the capitalist economy (Fuchs, 2012: 14). Commodification of knowledge is a process that is contributing to the increased surveillance of academic labour since this process is able to enhance corporations’ accumulation of capital in knowledge capitalism. Commodification of knowledge and related integration between universities and market forces requires the direct as well as ideological control of employee behaviour within higher education institutions. Academic labour is increasingly getting subjected to the discipline and logic of accumulation in which monopoly, finance and informational capital are important actors.

Evidence also exists of how even under capitalism progress in science and technology could occur without the creation of private property in knowledge and information. There exist mechanisms of government patronage, prizes and procurement to continue with the progress in production of knowledge (Mazzucato, 2014). Societies need not depend upon the introduction of markets in knowledge production. The markets for knowledge have been organized and provided social legitimacy in the capitalist society through the narrative that ‘knowledge produced for sale’ is efficient. The truth is that the fiction of ‘knowledge has to be produced as commodity’ allows the monopoly capital to gain a foothold in knowledge production and distribution process.

This article discusses how intellectual property laws have been constructed to legally achieve private appropriation (misappropriation) of the collectively produced knowledge. The analysis brings out how the co-evolving processes have been advancing the real subsumption of mental and manual labour to capital in the field of knowledge production and creating the dynamics of generation and dissipation of rents. The article also brings out the self-defeating character of the commodification process even from capital’s own perspective. Commodification and accumulation are co-evolving which pose contradictions for capital through the process of commodification of nature or other aspects of social existence which results in social inequality and polarization within and across nations. This also shows how the history of shift from international to global governance of intellectual property protection in favour of stronger intellectual property is not without contestation. It suggests that the hope for the construction of a system of knowledge production without property is still alive.

Intellectual property, labour and capital

To contemporary minds, the notion that an employer (often a corporation) owns or controls various types of intellectual property of its employees is a legal reality. Fisk (2009) demonstrates how this modern legal reality of employer ownership of intellectual property is a relatively recent development. The legal doctrine that came to privilege employer ownership of intellectual property remains contested. Fisk reasons that modern intellectual property has also been a creature of employment law and practice. The term “intellectual property” was first used in a published judicial opinion in 1845 in the United States. The process of this shift was slow and gradual and extended from the late 19th to late 20th century. Corporate ownership of workplace knowledge came into existence as employment shifted from being a relationship where legal obligations were determined primarily by status to being one where legal obligation (s) are determined by contract.

In an earlier article, Fisk (2003) shows that this development evolved in contradiction to earlier decisions or industrial practice that knowledge of most ordinary manufacturing processes came to be owned as the intellectual property of the employer[iii]. She observes that courts routinely held that an inventor was presumed to own his invention, regardless of his status as an employee roughly between 1840 and 1880. Fisk’s work on copyright law points out that the privileged employee authors created copyrighted works throughout much of the 19th century. Earlier contributions of Fisk (1998) develop a similar theme and look at the question of who owns patented invention created by an employee. Earlier the employers approached the problem of ownership of knowledge as the problem of property, normally concluding that inventive individuals owned the fruits of their labour.

In the US, during the nineteenth century, the legal device that accomplished the ends of the employers was the implied contract. Implied contracts permitted courts to reallocate economically valuable information in ways that seemed to them fair and efficient. By the early 20th century, the employers started patenting inventions by employees “hired to invent” even without any formal assignment from the employee. They could enforce a “shop right”, a non-exclusive, non-transferable right to use invention by employees not hired to invent; demand invention assignments by independent contractors that effectively left them unable to work or consult elsewhere in their area of expertise; protect “trade secrets” that earlier generations had not recognized, such as ideas, general knowledge unreduced to written formula, and negative knowledge (that is what does not work); and enforce all these rights through negative injunctions forbidding former employees from taking specific jobs.

Benjamin and Weinstein (2009) also describe developments of the post-Second World War period briefly. Into the 1990s there has greatly expanded the scope of justifications of IP by employers’ in order to restrict employee mobility or an employee’s claim over inventions. For example, while courts retained the traditional formula under which “reasonable” covenants by employees not to compete would be enforced. The category of reasonable covenants expanded. In particular, negotiated covenants for “unreasonable” duration or geographic scope were increasingly rewritten by courts into reasonable form, and then enforced against the employee. A Uniform Trade Secrets Act came into existence in America. The other important act came to be introduced in 1980 in America in the form of Bayh-Dole Act that encouraged universities to claim as their own intellectual property the intellectual creations of university faculty (the Indian version of Bayh-Dole Act was sought to be introduced by the National Knowledge Commission[iv]; fortunately, there was enough resistance within the scientific community at that time, and the government failed then to impose it on the Indian university system).

A 1996 federal criminal statue, the Economic Espionage Act made most ordinary misappropriation of trade secrets into a criminal offence. The result of these and other developments is to make litigation a threat almost anytime an employee valued by employer attempts to leave for a competitor. Piracy is a term that has long been linked to claims of unauthorized uses of intellectual property. Drahos and Braithwaite(2002) show the significance of the rhetoric of piracy in political discourse concerning the development of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement. Prior to the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) nations had no general duty to protect or enforce intellectual property rights within their borders.

Globalization of intellectual property

The increasingly global reach of intellectual property law and the neo-liberal assumptions embedded in it raise many important issues that need to be analysed. The first issue is the skewed distributive effects of the TRIPs Agreement on ‘have’ and ‘have not’ nations. The TRIPs Agreement permits intellectual property exporting nations to erode their rights extraterritorially. The Agreement erodes historic notions of territoriality and sovereignty, and disadvantages those developing nations which have very little proprietorship in knowledge resources and few resources to pay for essential intellectual property-protected goods.

The increasing global reach of intellectual property laws requires greater engagement with the challenge of formulation of strategies to protect a public domain that cannot be fully owned as intellectual property. The inequalities relating to the exploitation of intellectual property as a form of bio-colonialism or bio-piracy allow the developed nations to remove natural resources and discoveries out of developing nations as raw materials that can be manipulated and transformed into intellectual property with no recognition or economic benefit (See Keith Aoki, 1998).

Drahos and Braithwaite (2002) point out how the redistribution of intellectual property rights involves a transfer of knowledge assets from the intellectual commons into private interests, like media conglomerates and integrated life sciences corporations, rather than individual scientists and authors. The effect of this is to raise levels of private monopolistic power to dangerous global heights, at a time when states, which have been weakened by the forces of globalization, have a lesser capacity to protect their citizens from the consequences of the exercise of such power.

Consequences for formal and real subsumption of intellectual labour

These concerns are closely connected to the issue of the changing balance between protecting knowledge, innovation and creativity as private property versus disseminating it widely in for public use. The tension between these two can be captured in the concept of the ‘public domain, or sometimes, the ‘intellectual commons’ or ‘knowledge commons, which denotes areas of social life where public access is privileged over intellectual property rights. Because the expanded global reach of intellectual property protection threatens access to knowledge commons, free speech and democratic participation the process of intellectual labour is being made to appear as capital’s own process, and the capitalist is being designated as the “legitimate” owner of knowledge and information. As the owner of means of production used within the production of knowledge and purchaser of the labour power, capital is effectively becoming the manager of the processes of knowledge production.

‘Capital’ for Marxists refers to a social relation, namely that of waged labour employed in the production of commodities to be sold for a profit. With the ever-increasing penetration of the capital relation into knowledge production, intellectual property is actually creating a social possibility space for capital’s expansion. Intellectual property has a central role in the neoliberal project. A capitalist economy must expand continually if it is not to collapse, a consequence of the dynamics of self-interested investment upon which it depends. The dynamics of a capitalist economy and the production of profit are now far more dependent upon the spread and intensity of capital in the field of production of knowledge.

Today, IP is an important instrument of primitive accumulation in the hands of capital as it has allowed formal and real subsumption of all types of knowledge production throughout the world. Capital is excluding and displacing its costs to spaces such as the universities of both North and South. In the field of knowledge production, the process of formal subsumption of intellectual labour to capital includes the establishment of the wage labour relation. Universities are a terrain of contested development. In the publicly funded higher education institutions, academics are beginning to oppose the introduction of principles of new public management-intellectual technology of primitive accumulation. Academics are opposing the introduction of stronger intellectual property rights.

In the field of knowledge production, historically speaking, status competition and prestige distribution set limits and determined the value and price of labour. At the moment the meeting point is occurring within the well institutionalized habits and rules governing the pre-capitalist life of knowledge production. The process of formal and real subsumption of intellectual labour under capital is not yet complete. Capitalist domination of the sector of knowledge production requires the universities and publicly funded research institutions to introduce the latest versions of intellectual property. Recent developments suggest that status, competition and prestige do not pose intrinsic limits for capital. Success is possible because all or most scientific and technological research requires funding; it matters how it is funded and on what terms and conditions. The terms and conditions will have impact on the nature of the research itself (Szadowski, 2017).

Strategies for the control of research done by intellectual labour

It is possible to distinguish the practice of funding into five or six strategies which enable those paying for research to use and control the work of intellectual labour in the relevant sites of knowledge production. These strategies include 1.propertization (to maximize their control over every aspect of research and their rights over its utilization), 2. purchase (research commissioned by government agencies or private sector under project contracts), 3. prescription (the concentration and steering of research through the designation of centres of excellence, which, once established may enjoy a significant measure of independence), 4. persuasion and sponsorship (the identification of challenges and the encouragement of scientists and technologists to put forward proposals for research relating to the challenge), 5. pluralism (responsiveness to researcher demand) and 6. patronage (research was funded through patronage provided earlier by aristocrats, later by governments and now by new philanthropy represented in the funding of Gates Foundation, George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, the Reliance, the Tatas, the Aziz Premji Foundation, etc.).

The story of patronage has come to a full circle. There is very little space for curiosity-oriented research in the philanthropy-based funding of higher education institutions. The research funding of new philanthropies is devoted to creating a human face for capital. Funders use the contract system to purchase the labour power of researchers or knowledge production bringing the idea of commodification into the process of research. This means knowledge is a commodity that can be bought and sold or otherwise disposed of as the purchaser wishes. For example, the University of California(UC) attracts funding for biotechnology research by boasting that “UC means business” (Bridges, 2017).

However, it is also a fact that a system of hierarchy develops as soon as research is valued on the basis of its potential to create wealth. Funding is growing for research in the fields of biosciences, material sciences, information and communications technologies, and the funding for humanities and social sciences is suffering. All over the world there are consequences of the treatment of research as a commodity (as if it was equivalent to buying and using coal). Damage is visible in the field of research. Public engagement with science and technology, regulation of risk, research on relation of capital with labour, education research, economy related institution building and policymaking for science and technology have already experienced an immense damage.

Intellectual property, neo-liberalism and financialization

In the recent times, priority has been given by the monopoly, finance and informational capital to the expansion of capitalist relations of production in those societies that are yet not fully integrated into the global capitalist market. It has also focused on those fields of knowledge and material production, (such as biosciences and bio-economy and information sciences and information economy), that are yet to be successfully commodified and globalized. In the field of knowledge production, the process of primitive accumulation includes the private appropriation of resources previously held in common so that these can be exploited for profit, a process called ‘primitive accumulation’. Through the introduction of IP, capitalist relations of production have spread extensively to societies as yet not fully integrated into the global capitalist market, as per globalization. The intensity of the capital relation in societies whose economic relations were already dominated by capital could also expand and deepen through further subsuming social practices. These practices aim for the construction of a globalized, neoliberal knowledge-based economy (KBE) based on intellectual property.

The growing breadth and depth of phenomena of formal, real and ideal subsumption of intellectual labour to capital is visible at the level of the impacts on investments in knowledge production in the KBE. With the maturity of existing technologically advanced industries, capital has been in search of new investment possibilities. As revealed by the contemporaneous progress of science and technology, new technologies afford manipulation of material reality in novel ways in order to create profitable commodities and thus open up an entirely new sphere of social reality into which capital can expand. The two novel technologies of greatest significance in the neoliberal age have clearly been information and communication technologies (ICTs) and biotechnology. ICTs are obviously related to a knowledge economy, allowing for the significant growth of labour that is dependent on information manipulation and technical knowledge, as well as facilitating global production networks and ‘flexible’ production processes. Biotech has yet to penetrate the economy to the same extent, but it is also implicated because it is exceptional in the level of scientific sophistication, it presupposes as a factor directly involved in the innovation of new products.

There is the expansion of capital relations not only into production of knowledge for industry and agriculture but also into the ‘culture industries’, with oligopolies controlling all major cultural outputs. The intensification of capital in these societies thus had to extend into spheres of social life, held in common to date, even more removed from the daily material reproduction of society. Expansion into the relations of production of knowledge has obvious complementarities with other tendencies of the growth of the economy. The connection between neo-liberalism and the KBE, however, goes beyond this. Neo-liberalism as an ideology also has particular conceptual resonance with the drive to privatize and marketize the creation of scientific knowledge (Mirowski 2011). Neo-liberalism has been centrally concerned with the marketization of the production of knowledge on a global (or ‘universal’) scale. However, private property rights must first be instituted in that resource – that is, IPRs for markets of knowledge- in order to make the functioning of capitalist commodity markets possible.

Capital, biotechnologies and intellectual property

Much evidence shows that biotechnologies emerged without patents in the 1980s in the USA.  Progress occurred on the basis of funding received from the government and the scientists working on the generic knowledge of recombinant DNA techniques and hybridomas were not interested in patenting knowledge. More specifically the patent regimes for the life sciences can be traced to the ruling of the USA Supreme Court in the early eighties that established that DNA could be a ‘technical subject’. The important consequence of this decision was that legally speaking certain types of DNA were designated as the ‘composition of matter’ and ‘product of ingenuity’ rather than a manifestation of nature. The practice of presenting an invention based on DNA that it is basically or sufficiently chemical to be considered as patentable was put in place. The fragmented notion of life at a molecular level is knowable in an informational paradigm that is accessible for exploitation and capitalization was institutionalised through intellectual property.  A world-wide harmonization and strengthening of IPRs through the norms and standards created in the USA has been enforced now through the powerful machinery of the WTO (Preamble, Article 7). There is a compulsory extension of patentability to all micro-organisms and all ‘non-biological and micro-biological processes’ ‘for the production of plants or animals’ (Article 27(3)). The latter includes all genetically modified plants and animals.

Biotech is an exception in the direct involvement of basic science in commercial applications. For patenting to be possible in biotech, two particular changes in US law were necessary. Biological materials were not patentable, given restrictions on patenting scientific discovery rather than invention. Given the location of this biotechnological research in university departments, private appropriation of the results of publicly funded basic science research was a problem. It was with neo-liberalism in place the US universities found themselves compelled to compete increasingly for external dollars that were tied to market-related research. Not themselves being businesses, the US universities developed interest in patent reforms as trade secrets were unavailable to them.

In 1980 the Bayh-Dole Act (allowing patenting) was passed in America on the basis of the primary argument that biotech applications under development in the US universities need to be commercialised. University patenting has grown since 1980, with particularly striking growth in the life sciences. Patents granted to universities more than doubled in 1979–84 and again in 1984–9 and 1989–97 and these have been disproportionately concentrated in biological classes represented in 49.5 per cent of all university patents in the early 2000s. At Columbia and Stanford universities, both major protagonists and beneficiaries of the changes, by 1995 biomedical patents accounted for more than 80 per cent of their substantial licensing revenues. In short, therefore, the privatization through strong patents of such biological research suddenly became an acceptable change, if not an urgent priority, at exactly the time of the neoliberal counterrevolution (Tyfield, 2010).

The structural demands of global capitalist political economy – with the US at its centre—needed neo-liberalism, financialization and TRIPs Agreement for advancing the processes of subsumption of knowledge production fields to capital. Financialization after 1980 gave political power to finance capital and its favoured investments, the most important being biotech, to amend economic regulation to its advantage. Through the TRIPs agreement these trends converged in the ‘globalized construction of knowledge scarcity’. The TRIPs Agreement is one of the founding treaties of the WTO, following the post-war General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It establishes for the first time globally harmonized minimum standards for IPRs.

The TRIPs Agreement allows capital to impose patents on medicines necessary for treatment of diseases such as AIDS or tuberculosis affecting large sections of the developing world thus inflating the costs of these drugs beyond the financial means of most patients. By extending the IPR norms into the products of nature and biodiversity in which most developing countries are rich, ‘bio-prospecting’ (or ‘bio-piracy’, depending upon your perspective) have been encouraged. Bio-prospecting is a process facilitated by genetic engineering techniques, which allows even insignificant genetic modification of plants to be patented.

The economic case for TRIPs is strikingly absent. First, as regards its effects on economic growth, there is almost unanimity in the economic literature that TRIPs Agreement shifts the balance of economic gains significantly in favour of developed economies, particularly the United States, and away from developing countries (at least in the ‘short term’), thus exacerbating global inequalities in economic development. Even within the developed economies, including the US, the case for TRIPs was both spectacularly weak and dependent upon forging from scratch a conceptual connection between IPRs, free global trade and progress in science and technology.

Analysis reveals the centrality of TRIPs to neo-liberalism and the structural enablement upon which the signing of TRIPs depended. Life sciences are crucial players in the development of neo-liberalism as a concrete political project. But it was with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, American power grew yet further (its triumph greeted by now famously premature declarations of the ‘end of history’). And it was under these circumstances that India’s and other developing countries’ resistance to TRIPs was squashed in 1989.

In short, TRIPs Agreement has almost nothing to do with innovation (which is itself usually uncritically valued positively) and its implementation simply cannot be understood if it is treated as such. In fact, strong patents undermine the development of innovation capacity in most developing countries and, indeed, even in the United States itself. Rather, TRIPs Agreement is becoming a legislative measure to enforce the primitive accumulation of knowledge production on a global scale. This opens the economic case for TRIPs to the objection that IPRs are a relatively unimportant mechanism for the translation of scientific research into innovation in the vast majority of industries. But the scientific results presented an economic opportunity and were quickly latched upon as the obvious ‘next step’ by financiers. Patents, and patent reform, were seen to be crucial for this fledgling industry.

The recent history of the political efforts to create a globalized, neoliberal knowledge-based economy does not conclude, unfortunately, with the signing of TRIPs in 1994. This has been something of a surprise to many of the developing countries who finally submitted to signing TRIPs, for while they viewed it as the uppermost limit of their efforts to harmonize global IPRs, those behind the agreement saw it instead as merely the first step. The TRIPs Agreement sets minimum IP standards, leaving open to the discretion of national governments the actual form of many intellectual property laws, and includes a number of provisions that provide limited flexibility for developing countries. For instance, compulsory licensing of drugs for national health emergencies is permitted, which the governments in power in India have failed to use so far because of the fear of adverse impact on foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the country. Almost as soon as TRIPs was signed, moves also started for a new round of negotiations both to strengthen IPRs and to remove the flexibilities of the TRIPs agreement; so-called ‘TRIPs-plus’ provisions.

Propertization of intangibles, datafication and informational capital

Mariana Mazzucato (2014) brings out that the public agencies of the United States were responsible for making risky investments behind the Internet and in funding most of the crucial elements behind the ‘stars’ of the information revolution, companies such as Google and Apple. And how each of the technologies that make the iPhone so ‘smart’ can be traced back to State investments, from the Internet itself, to the touch-screen display, to the new voice-activated SIRI personal assistant[1]. Her account of the investment in the Internet provides evidence for the complex set of actions that make such wide-ranging innovations happen.

She highlights the importance of mission-oriented funding and procurement; of the bringing together of multiple agencies; and of the creation of incentives for multiple sectors and multiple financing tools deployed to make it happen. Successful efforts do not stop at basic and applied research but carry out the work of achieving commercialization. Companies like Apple, Compaq, Intel and many others received early stage financing through government funding programmes like the Small Business Innovation Research. The infrastructure of the ICT revolution, laying the basis for the Internet, was lavishly funded by the State from its beginning stages until it was installed and fully functional and could be turned over for commercial use.

Mariana Mazzucato argues that no private investors or market forces could have done that job on their own and highlights the crucial role of the German, Danish and other governments to develop and diffuse clean energy technologies. Her key point is that in the case of most of the radical new technologies in different sectors-from the Internet, biotech, clean energy to pharmaceuticals, we can trace the funding of a courageous, risk taking State.

In the case of informational capital, presently the appropriation strategies of platforms under development by Google, Amazon, Facebook and others are three namely-the propertization of intangible resources, the concurrent dematerialization and datafication of the basic factors of industrial production and the embedding of patterns of exchange, that are legally protected in the interest of expansion of informational capital. The role of law is foundational and needs to be explored in terms of the political economy of platform capitalism. Although intellectual property doctrines suggest that data and algorithms-the building blocks of information economy, cannot themselves be the subjects of property rights, but property formalism notwithstanding, data and algorithms are the subjects of active appropriation strategies.

An important by-product of the access for data arrangements is a de-facto if not de-jure change in the legal status of data as proprietary informational property. Platform providers have worked to define both collected data and algorithms as zones of exclusivity. Platforms use contracts to facilitate and protect their own legibility function, extract transparency from users but have been shielding basic operational knowledge from third party vendors, users and advertisers alike. The particular form of the access for data contract-a boilerplate terms-of-use agreement not open to negotiation. Boilerplate agreements are contractual in form but mandatory in operation. The terms-of-use agreements step in where the map of formal entitlements ends, providing a vehicle for leveraging trade secrecy entitlements into de facto property arrangements.

Facebook’s dealings have shown that the enclosure carries over into platform enterprises’ dealings with application developers. Application developers receive access to carefully curated datasets, data structures and programming interfaces. Google’s vaunted commitments to open data and open code do not extend to algorithms or to the data it collects about its users. Google imposes other restrictive conditions on developers offering Android devices or Android-compatible applications. When access to a platform requires technical interoperability with apps for desktop and mobile operating systems, patents and copyrights can supply important points of leverage against unauthorized access by third-party vendors and future competitors.

Data extracted from individuals plays an important role as raw material in the political economy of informational capitalism. Platforms in particular have structured their broad presumptive consent and have configured the artefacts that make use enrolment seamless and near-automatic. Personal information harvested within networked information environments allow them to create the backdrop for new algorithmic techniques of knowledge production that operate as sites of legal privilege. The data are both raw and cultivated, both real and artificial. Platforms as information refineries refine and massage consumer personal data to produce virtual representations that work to make human behaviours and preferences calculable, predictable and profitable, and businesses of all sorts can use the information for surplus extraction.

Google’s chief economist has explained that at any given time Google and competing search engines are running millions of experiments on their users, designed to determine how users respond to information so that search results get optimized. In 2014, a paper co-authored by a Facebook data scientist described a massive experiment in which Facebook varied items in users’ news feeds and then used automated discourse analysis tools on those users’ own subsequent posts to gauge the effects of the news feeds on their emotional states. Major copyright industries and software producing firms have also worked to alter the legal status of networked information services in ways that would require them to prevent flows of unauthorized content or face potentially ruinous liability (Cohen, 2017).

Dynamics of generation and dissipation of rents

Intellectual property creates boundaries of private ownership over knowledge and information that are in tension with principles of public access. The tension and boundaries of private ownership has played out in different ways over time. Today capital accumulation depends far more than ever before on the contribution of “knowledge rents” derived from the ownership of intellectual property. The World Investment Report shows that international royalty and licensing fee receipts of MNCs rose from 29 billion dollars in 1990 to 328 billion dollars by 2016 which outpaced the growth in sales and exports of MNC’s affiliates and their growth in incomes from FDI outflows (UNCTAD. 2017). This also explains the role of “intangible assets”.  According to UNCTAD estimates, intangible assets (brand value and other intellectual property) estimates account for around one third of the market capitalization of the world’s top 100 MNCs on average. Intangible assets of technology MNCs account for around half of their market capitalization. They allow multinational corporations to reap super profits for extended periods of time.

In today’s global economy, the world’s top 10 corporations have a combined revenue of more than the 180 poorest countries combined. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 10 percent of the world’s publicly listed companies generate 80 percent of all profits. A high degree of capital concentration can be seen in virtually all strategic industries today. Six multinational corporations-BASF, Bayer, Dow, Du Pont, Monsanto and Syngenta-control 75 percent of the global agrochemical market; 63 percent of the global seed market, and more than 75 percent of all private sector research in seeds and agrochemicals. By controlling the key inputs and related technologies for their production, a handful of MNCs now control the global food system. Likewise, the health of the world’s population is in the hands of 10 pharmaceutical companies. The biggest 10 MNCs in the Automotive sector control the production of motor vehicles and parts. The top 15 companies control nearly half of all global revenues in transportation, courier and postal services. In the fastest growing sector of the global information and communication technology-based production, just six or seven technology firms-Apple, Samsung, Hon Hai Precision, Amazon, HP, Microsoft and Google-control the    business.

Monopoly capitalists do everything possible within and outside law to keep their monopoly over intellectual property. Although statutorily the typical patent is valid for 20 years, but in the pharmaceutical sector the time period of patent monopoly is on average over 27 years or more in the United States. In the smart-phone industry alone, a Stanford University study tells us that as much as $ 20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in 2010-11. Apple and Samsung spent more on IPR litigation and buying up patents in 2012 than either did on R&D for their commercial products. More money is spent on preventing the dissemination of new technology or their further development. Many of these patented technologies under commercialization are based on public research. Indeed, none of the intellectual property would even be possible without public spending on basic education; without knowledge and information freely shared by people with one another; and without the knowledge and culture handed down from generation.

Contradictions of intellectual property

Intellectual property also poses contradictions for capital itself. While each capitalist wish to pay nothing for its knowledge input but wishes to charge for its intellectual output. This contradiction is reflected in the conflict engendered in the processes of intellectual property litigation. Microsoft’s use of hacker communities to beta test its commercial software and contradiction with firms that sell value-added services for Linux, an open source software (OSS) are also examples of this contradiction.

An important consequence of the strengthening of intellectual property rights of the capital is the problem of social inequality and polarization within and across nations. There is the problem of growing economic differentiation between knowledge workers, the creative workers, or information workers and other workers who are deskilled through smart machines and expert systems.

The degree of concentration of capital today is not readily revealed by examining the size of firms or even their inter-locking ownership. The global reach and economic power exercised by today’s monopoly capitalist firms is also understated by figures on FDI, export and market shares attributed to MNCs in relevant markets. This is because under neoliberal globalization, MNCs control and coordinate not only of their subsidiaries and affiliates abroad but also of nominally independent partner firms scattered in locations throughout the world. While the term ‘global value chains’ tends to give an impression that value is created at each location as per the capabilities and contribution and that the distribution of value captured by the lead terms (the MNCs) is rightfully the highest, it needs to be pointed out that MNCs rely on their monopoly control over technology via control over intellectual property to add the greatest value.

All the issues raised pertain to the process of primitive accumulation and of normal dynamic of capital accumulation set globally in motion by the imposition of TRIPs Agreement on all the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO). There was much resistance to the acceptance of TRIPs Agreement in India. The CPI (M) provided the leadership to the organization of this resistance in India. However, there are many new areas of resistance for Marxists to take forward in the near future.

Resistance for counter-hegemonic influence in knowledge production

Legal and surveillance studies scholars have pointed out that surrendering control of the information environment to opaque, immanent entities and processes amounts to surrendering control over self-development and self-government. The impact on markets is equally profound. The legal-institutional context of the intellectual property formation has been able to alienate the labour from their own product as a resource. The networks of secrecy and boiler-plate tight agreements that constitute markets for information and knowledge are acts of enclosure. They represent strategies of (mis) appropriation of valuable resources from the intellectual commons. Appropriation strategies based on contractually mandated secrecy are acts that alter the legal status of collected information. This misappropriation or enclosure is a way of underscoring the power of capital in the field of knowledge production.  Unemployment, reserve army of labour, surplus population, are the flip side of the misappropriation or enclosure of knowledge commons.

While academics do not usually sell journal articles, books, or book chapters in markets for money, they sell some forms of knowledge commodities such as consultancy and advice in (quasi) markets. Today the commodification of knowledge in the field of higher education presents the distinctive features of the second enclosure movement wherein all kinds of scientific activities and their results are interpreted and assessed more on the basis of economic criteria. It is clear that knowledge can get commodified, but it should not be commodified is also very clear.  Research should be conducted in a systematic and disciplined way with care and thoroughness and respect for legitimate principles, with an imperative to see and to speak truth. These principles and purposes become distorted if the seeing and speaking of truth becomes subordinate to other considerations. In the field of knowledge production, no place should exist for considerations like protecting the reputation of the political authority, promoting the vested interest of the capitalist and shielding the wrong doing from the criticism of the people. This drift, be epistemic or political, needs correction.

Knowledge is a public good not only in terms of the economic benefit but also in terms of the moral sense. Scientific knowledge is not only a public good, which has the characteristics of non-rivalrous and non-exclusionary nature, but it is also an inexhaustible resource. Scientific knowledge can be put to infinite uses. Generic knowledge, be scientific or technological knowledge, is not an asset that has limited specific use but it is an asset with the characteristics of fungibility. Generic artefacts of knowledge have the potential of multiple meanings. New meanings of generic knowledge are possible. Science is the activity of manipulating nature with the use of conceptual machines, the study of technology and machinery can reveal facts of science just as the study of commodity reveals the nature of value and abstract labour.

Capital is trying to separate head and hand. Intellectual property widens the separation of head and hand.  Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations. The dynamics of rent generation in global value chains lays bare this separation. Today, trans-national capital originating from the United States, Europe and Japan controls intellectual property and uses it for surplus extraction from all over the world.

Science and technology give capital a power of expansion which is independent of the given magnitude of the capital actually functioning. There is a clear parallel between scientific abstractions, concepts and conceptual systems on the one side and value as the manifestation of abstract labour on the other. Intellectual property system is imposing on science the rule of capital. Science is the cognition of necessity. For Marxists, socialism is recognition of necessity. Knowledge is liberation.

Capital envisages for knowledge commons a role in the process of capital accumulation. Socialism envisages knowledge commons for transformation. Science is for transformation. Science is not for domination. Capital is trying to dominate humanity as well as nature. Monopoly over knowledge is threat to democracy, public interest and progress-scientific, technological and economic. Even under capitalism intellectual property monopolies are undermining social and scientific progress.

For Marxists, class struggle starts with the resistance against immediate threats arising out of strengthening of the property form and imposing the value form of knowledge production for market-based exchange. Struggles being undertaken to save and protect the space for social, scientific and technological progress need to be given importance. Production of knowledge for use towards the advancement of public interest, social progress and democracy is the integral goal of socialism.

When science is in the process of being subsumed to capital the challenge of protection of public interest in science requires struggle against the regressive trend of strengthening of intellectual property. For the achievement of counter-hegemony for social transformation Marxists must actively contribute to the struggle for transformative science which promotes the value form in which reflexivity, broadening of space for socially responsible innovations, participation, self-organization and public scrutiny and change in class correlation to alter the balance in favour of public interest, social progress and democracy are equally well counted.


  • Bridges David. (2017). “On the commodification of educational research”, in Annual Conference of Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, Oxford, UK. pp.1-18.
  • Cohen Julie E. (2017). “Law for the Platform Economy”, 51 U.C. Davis L. Rev. pp. 1363-204
  • Coriat, Benjamin and Oliver Weinstein. (2009). ‘Intellectual Property Right Regimes, Firms, and the Commodification of Knowledge.’ 5(3) Comparative Research in Law and Political Economy, Research Paper17/2009, Osogoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto.
  • David Tyfield (2010), “Neoliberalism, Intellectual Property and the Global”, Knowledge EconomyThe Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order? 2010, Zed Books Ltd, 7 Cynthia Street, London N1 9JF, UK andRoom 400, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA, pp. 60-76
  • Drahos Peter and Braithwaite, John (2002), Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy? New York: The New Press.
  • Fisk, Catherine L (1998), ‘Removing the “Fuel of Interest” from the Fire of Genius”: Law and the Employer-Inventor, 1830-1930’, University of Chicago Law Review, 65, pp. 1127-98.
  • Fisk, Catherine L (2003), ‘Authors at Work: The Origins of the Work -For-Hire Doctrine’, Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, 15, pp.1-70.
  • Fisk, Catherine L (2009), Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual property, 1880-1930, University of North Carolina Press, 2009, 360 pp.
  • Jessop B (2007), ‘Knowledge as a fictitious commodity: insights and limits of a Polanyian perspective, Bugra A and Agartan (eds.) Reading Karl Polyani for the Twentieth Century: Market Economy as a Political Project, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 115-133.
  • Keith Aoki (1998), ‘Neocolonialism, Anticommons Property, and Biopiracy in the (Not-so-Brave) New World Order of International Intellectual Property Protection’ in Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, Symposium: Sovereignty and the Globalization of Intellectual Property (Fall 1998), pp. 11-58.
  • Mariana Mazzucato. (2014), The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, Anthem Press, UK.
  • May, Christopher and Sell, Susan K. (2006), Intellectual property Rights: A Critical History, Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.
  • Mirowski, P. (2011), ScienceMart, Cambridge MA: Harvard University
  • Szadkowski,Krystian(2017), The University of the Common: Beyond the Contradictions of Higher Education Subsumed Under Capital: accessed on

UNCTAD. (2017). World Investment Report, UNCTAD, Geneva

[1]Siri personal assistant for iOS may not have been the first personal assistant, but it sure paved the way for modern speech-based assistants. This intelligent mobile assistant aims to make easy tasks even simpler – all done through voice command. Siri is capable of sending messages, placing calls, checking the calendar, and a whole lot more. The Siri personal assistant has so many functions, and a lot of it tends to get overlooked by users. Despite the beauty in its simplicity, there’s more to Siri than meets the eye.

[i] Ambiguity in the definitions of ‘knowledge’ and ‘information’ may cause misunderstanding if the meanings of these terms are not distinguished. The term ‘knowledge’ implies the satisfaction of three conditions: a belief, a truth and a justification condition. Information understood ‘as data transmitted from a sender to a receiver’ does not have to satisfy these three conditions. Thus, information refers to such objects as databases (lists and statistics) and downloadable files (e.g. songs in mp3 format). Information can be treated as a sub-category of knowledge. Both information and knowledge can be commodified. It can be added that objects such as ‘datasets’, have to be activated and used by those who are able, partly due to their knowledge, to interpret and process. When understood this way, knowledge refers to something people possess, i.e. a cognitive capacity, and information refers to something passive that needs to be interpreted by those who have a cognitive capacity. However, it would not be incorrect to suggest that information matters. Cognitive capacity involves access to information.

[ii] In Marxian terms, knowledge becomes a commodity only under certain relations, i.e. what counts as a commodity is socially determined. Commodification of knowledge in itself is a complex process. The capitalist commodification process consists of the following elements: privatization (exclusive right to control an object), alienability (an object can be detached from its seller), individuation (separating an object from its context via legal/material boundaries), abstraction (assimilation of a specificity of an object to a broader type), valuation (monetization), displacement (concealing involved social relations). Under capitalism the labour process is subjected to competition that implies that there is pressure to reduce the time during which commodities are produced and how long it takes to realize the surplus value that commodities imply; commodities’ market-mediated monetary value for the seller gains more importance in relation to commodities’ use value than their material and/or symbolic usefulness to the purchaser. In a capitalist market economy only, those commodities are produced for markets that have exchange value.

[iii]Fisk (2009) tells us the details of how workplace knowledge change from something did so unknowable that the Du Ponts in 1808 had no legal basis to stop employees and their knowledge from walking out the door, to a taken-for-granted corporate asset, routinely protected by legally enforceable contracts by 1930. Part of the answer is the steady expansion of intellectual property itself, particularly in the coverage of copyright and trade secrets. The domain of workplace knowledge expanded. Fisk notes the contributing factors for this joint development: the ideology of free labour and its interaction with corporate power, changing understanding of the middle classes, the transcendence of contract discourse, and the development of a consumer society. Fisk places much emphasis on the growth of corporations and the rapid spread of office and factory work with an accompanying systematization of knowledge and bureaucratic employment practices. Together with the triumph of contract over status to define employer employee relations, the new workplace supported the commodification of creative labour and the transformation of the creative entrepreneur of the 1830s into the corporate man in grey flannel suit of the 1930s.

[iv]National Knowledge Commission, was an Indian think-tank charged with considering possible policies that might sharpen India’s comparative advantage in the knowledge-intensive service sectors. It was constituted on 13 June 2005, by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. In particular, the Commission was to advise the Prime Minister’s Office on policy related to education, research institutes and reforms needed to make India competitive in the knowledge economy. The Commission was to recommend reform of the education sector, research labs, and intellectual property legislation; as well as consider whether the Government could itself upgrade its use of the latest techniques to make its workings more transparent. The NKC website was launched in February 2006.

As of July, 2014, the National Knowledge Commission is defunct as the incoming Modi government, elected in the summer of 2014, discontinued it. [1]

The Concept of Primitive Accumulation of Capital

Prabhat Patnaik

Having analyzed the anatomy of the capitalist mode of production, Marx had turned his attention towards the end of Capital Volume I to the question of how this mode of production had at all come into being. And here he had introduced his concept of ‘primitive accumulation of capital’.

He had advanced this concept no doubt in response to Adam Smith’s corresponding concept of ‘previous accumulation’, and in direct opposition to it. While Smith had attributed ‘previous accumulation of stock’, which enabled those with such stock to employ labour, and hence allowed specialization in production, i.e. made division of labour possible, to the thriftiness and frugality of some producers relative to others, Marx saw the genesis of capitalism in a forcible separation of pre-capitalist producers from their means of production.

Capitalism, he had already shown, was characterized by two different kinds of commodity-owners ‘coming face-to-face and into contact’, namely those who owned the means of production and subsistence, and those who owned only their labour-power. This labour-power had to be free in a double sense: first, it had to be free of any direct access to means of production, for otherwise it would not be sold as labour-power; and, second, it had to be free to be bought and sold, i.e. had to be completely at the disposal of its owner, the labourer, unlike in the case of slavery where the labourer was owned by the slave-owner.

In Marx’s own writings however there is the suggestion of an alternative genesis of capitalism, which Maurice Dobb[1] had used in the debate with Paul Sweezy and others on the transition from feudalism to capitalism; and this consisted in the process of differentiation within the ranks of pre-capitalist petty producers under the impact of commodity production.

Drawing attention to the long period that had elapsed between the introduction of money rent in medieval England, which had liberated petty producers from the need to give the surplus to the landlords in the form of labour services or of physical product, and the emergence of capitalism, Dobb had suggested a process of growth of capitalism from within the pre-capitalist sector itself. In this he had taken a cue from certain remarks of Marx. The mechanism he had suggested was through a differentiation among the petty producers themselves, a process of what may be called ‘capitalism from below’.

Not surprisingly, primitive accumulation of capital did not play any significant role in Dobb’s analysis, which shared, notwithstanding its very different theoretical perspective, one thing in common with Adam Smith’s vision, namely a gradual transition to capitalism spread over a long period.

Without entering into that debate here, I would simply like to underscore that ‘primitive accumulation’ must be distinguished from the differentiation that may occur among petty producers through their being drawn into commodity production. Even commodity production, I should emphasize, does not refer here to mere production for the market or for exchange; it refers here, as in Marx’s analysis in general, to a state of affairs where the commodity produced, while being both a use-value and an exchange value for the buyer, constitutes only an exchange value for the seller[2]. It is only such production for the market, which is impersonal and typically associated with long-distance trade, that can qualify as commodity production and can give rise to the tendency towards differentiation that is generally associated with it. But this tendency towards differentiation is not primitive accumulation, which necessarily refers to a squeezing of the pre-capitalist sector by external intervention, either by the capitalist sector directly or by the State acting in the interests of capitalists and proto-capitalists.

The term ‘forcible’ used above in describing the modus operandi of the separation of producers from their means of production, refers therefore not so much to the use of violent methods per se, as to two other features: one, the agency through whose intervention this separation is effected is external to the sector itself; and two, the process itself is involuntary as far as petty producers are concerned. ‘Forcible’ here in short is synonymous with a combination of involuntary and non-spontaneous; and by ‘non-spontaneous’ I mean not arising from the immanent tendencies of the petty production sector itself.

One can draw the following simple and stark picture of primitive accumulation to fix one’s ideas. To start with, we have petty producers using their own means of production to produce goods for a market. Some external agents simply grab these means of production, use the petty producers as labourers, and produce the same goods for the same market by setting themselves up as capitalists.

In fact however the process is obviously more complex, and its different moments are non-synchronous, i.e. occur at different times. But its essence lies in the compression of pre-capitalist production through external intervention.

This intervention can be through the taking over by capitalists of the markets of pre-capitalist producers, which is what Rosa Luxemburg had highlighted, and which is what, for instance, the take-over of retail trade by Walmart that displaces petty traders, a burning issue at present, entails. It can be through the sheer expropriation of the means of production, especially land. (Cases where land is ‘purchased’ for a pittance fall into this category). Or it can be through a forced reduction, via State taxation or the use of monopoly or monopsony power from outside, of the incomes of the petty producers.

These instances however still do not capture the complexity of the process. An implicit assumption underlying many of these instances is that the petty producers, prior to primitive accumulation, ‘own’ their means of production. Not only is this not generally true, but, what is more, ‘ownership’ as a single integral right does not even exist in pre-capitalist societies.

This last point is often not appreciated, and it explains the confusion that has often marked the descriptions of the pre-colonial Indian society, with some authors even suggesting that the king was the owner of all the land because of the substantial amount of land revenue that accrued to him. The point however is that the modern, capitalist, conception of ownership simply did not exist earlier. There was a multiplicity of rights to the produce, usually customarily defined and usually arranged in a hierarchical order, of which a subset consisted of the rights to the surplus.

These various rights to the total produce also constituted ipso facto rights to the assets used in production, and in particular land. The right to a share in the produce in pre-capitalist societies, entailed in other words a derived or indirect right to the means of production, which of course was not a legal but a customary right.

What primitive accumulation in its classic form does to such a society is three things: one, it takes away all rights from the producers, which therefore sets them ‘free’ to sell their labour-power; two, it concentrates all rights to the means of production in the form of a single ownership right; and three, it gives this ownership right a legal, as distinct from a customary, character, which defends it from arbitrary interference even from kings and nobles.

Of course, in societies like India colonial rule had already introduced legal ownership rights, together with contractual relations, which the ‘owners’ entered into with the producers, who were not necessarily converted into free wage labourers. While some of these contractual relations did have a legal basis, others did not, such as for instance the so-called ‘tenancy-at-will’. Colonialism in short, while formally introducing legal rights, produced in reality an amalgam of legally-enforceable rights and customary rights.

When a peasant who had a legal right to land lost it to say a money-lender, but continued to cultivate the same piece of land as a tenant-at-will for the same money-lender now turned landlord, then what he suffered was a loss of right. Likewise when a tenant-at-will was evicted and became a labourer what he suffered was a loss of right.

Such a loss of right usually entailed a loss of income as well, but this need not always be the case; and what is more there could be a loss of income, such as through the colonial taxation system, without there being any loss of right. We should therefore distinguish between the two, namely a loss of right and a loss of income, and modify accordingly the definition of primitive accumulation that we had given above, in the following manner: primitive accumulation refers to a process of compression of the petty production sector through an involuntary loss by the petty producers of their incomes or of the rights to their means of production that is brought about by the intervention of an agency external to this sector itself.


There are several basic misconceptions that have been associated with the concept of primitive accumulation of capital. Let me discuss some of these. The first misconception is to confine it to the pre-history of capitalism. Marx, though he discussed primitive accumulation only in the context of capitalism’s coming into being, suggests in several of his writings that the process continues throughout the life of capitalism.

The most significant of these is his February 19, 1881, letter to N.F. Danielson the Narodnik economist, wherein he talks about the ‘drain’ of resources from India:

What the English take from them annually in the form of rent, dividends for railways useless to the Hindus; pensions for military and civil service men, for Afghanistan and other wars, etc., etc. – what they take from them without any equivalent and quite apart from what they appropriate to themselves annually within India, speaking only of the value of the commodities the Indians have gratuitously and annually to send over to England – it amounts to more than the total sum of income of the sixty millions of agricultural and industrial labourers of India! This is a bleeding process, with a vengeance!

Now, there can scarcely be any doubt that this extraction constituted primitive accumulation of capital; nor can anyone claim that this amount, even from the point of view of Britain, was so inconsequential as to be ignored. It follows therefore that the fact of primitive accumulation occurring throughout the life of capitalism and playing a significant role in its dynamics, was recognized by Marx himself, though not in Capital.

It was of course foregrounded in the theory of Rosa Luxemburg who saw the process of accumulation itself as an interaction not between the two ‘departments’ of Volume II of Capital but between the capitalist and the pre-capitalist sectors, a process that simultaneously released labour-power and means of production for the capitalist sector.

One need not go on labouring the point. In fact, to see primitive accumulation as being confined to the pre-history of capitalism, and to believe that, once capitalism has come into existence, all subsequent accumulation occurs in accordance with the model presented in Volume II of Capital, is to deny any role to colonialism in the life of capitalism, which flies in the face of facts. Primitive accumulation in short characterizes capitalism throughout its life.

The second misconception is the belief that the displaced petty producers who constitute the ‘free’ sellers of labour-power, are all, barring a small number belonging to the ‘reserve army of labour’, absorbed into the active army of labour employed by capital, i.e. that primitive accumulation constitutes merely a gigantic redeployment of workers from their old employment as petty producers to their new employment as workers in capitalist enterprises. The corollary drawn from this is that the pains of displacement which the ousted petty producers bear are only transitional. And since they are caused as part of a historical process of carrying forward the development of the productive forces, primitive accumulation then becomes a phenomenon that is on the whole deserving of support for being ‘progressive’.

The colonial experience itself, however, should destroy any such belief. The primitive accumulation inflicted on the colonies of conquest (I reserve the term ‘colonies’ only for them and not for the colonies of settlement like Canada, Australia and the U.S.), displaced large masses of petty producers who were neither absorbed into any capitalist enterprise, since very little such enterprise developed in these colonies, nor allowed to migrate to the metropolitan centres of capitalism in Europe. They remained therefore as a vast pauperized mass. In fact the roots of modern mass poverty in the world lie in this phenomenon (Raychaudhury 1985).

Even as far as the displaced petty producers in Europe are concerned, they escaped such a fate not because they were absorbed in large measure into capitalist enterprises, but because they emigrated to the temperate regions of white settlement like the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to which the tropical workers were strictly prevented from migrating (U. Patnaik 2012). In their new habitat the emigres drove the local population off the land and set themselves up as farmers, which gave them a reasonable standard of living and which even pushed up the ‘reservation wage’ within Europe itself.

The export of capital from Europe, that was complementary to this emigration of labour, and was financed by the ‘drain’ of surplus from the tropical colonies (mentioned earlier), saw a massive diffusion of capitalism from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ world which underlay the long boom of the long nineteenth century (Bagchi 1972). Thus the point is that the belief that those displaced by primitive accumulation necessarily get absorbed (barring a small reserve army) as workers in the capitalist sector is erroneous.

The third misconception is that the process of primitive accumulation of capital cannot affect the landless labourers, since they are landless anyway. Landless labourers too, however, not just in pre-capitalist economies but also in colonial economies, usually enjoy certain customary ‘rights’, not in any exalted sense of the term but in their abject condition. In pre-capitalist economies they are tied to land in various ways, through explicit or implicit serfdom. In colonial conditions, even when there is no such tying, the absence of any employment opportunities outside the village, ties them implicitly to land and they accept onerous conditions to act as attached labourers to the households of landlords. Even when there is no ‘attachment’ in the formal sense, they nonetheless get a certain amount of employment on the landlord’s land as a matter of custom. All this assures them of a certain amount of produce which can be considered their implicit customary ‘right’ (and an implicit obligation on the part of the landlord). Becoming ‘free’ wage labourers entails an end of this implicit ‘right’ and constitutes a condition for capitalism. Primitive accumulation refers to the creation of this condition and hence affects landless labourers as well.

It was mentioned above that a commodity is defined to be  a pure exchange value for the seller, and hence entails an impersonal relationship between the buyer and the seller. This holds for the commodity labour-power as well. Hence landless labourers do not per se constitute ‘free’ sellers of the labour-power as a commodity. The process of transforming them from mere landless labourers trapped within an agrarian economy into ‘free’ sellers of labour-power is also to be counted as primitive accumulation, which is why such primitive accumulation usually manifests itself in terms of a migration to cities in search of jobs. When such jobs do not exist, as suggested above, they simply join a vast pauperized urban mass, an underclass of casual workers, intermittent workers, and lumpen-proletariat.

And what is more, this swelling army also undermines in practice these days the very distinction between the active and the reserve army of labour, since employment rationing increasingly takes the form of everyone being unemployed for a part of the time, rather than some being fully employed and others fully unemployed. Casualization in short becomes the norm rather than a marginal phenomenon.

The assumption underlying the misconception that landless labourers cannot be affected by primitive accumulation, namely that they do not have any rights whatsoever, has so thoroughly gripped people’s minds that it has even informed the manner in which compensation is given for land taken over for industrial and infrastructure projects in India. Compensation is typically given to the legal owner of the land in accordance with its market value, which corresponds to the capitalized value of the annual flow of the surplus, in the form of rent, obtained from its use. This means that neither the tenants nor the agricultural labourers are considered eligible for compensation, while in fact both groups enjoy certain explicit or implicit ‘rights’ to the produce from the land. The loss of such ‘rights’ must be compensated, not just out of sympathy or fairness (important though these considerations are) but if a process of primitive accumulation of capital is to be avoided.

But, far from giving compensation in this manner for land acquired for such projects, we find in the period of neo-liberalism a virulent unleashing of primitive accumulation of capital, which affects not just the tenants and agricultural labourers, but even large segments of the land-owning peasantry. In fact there is an unleashing of what I have elsewhere called ‘accumulation through encroachment’, a broader term covering not just primitive accumulation of capital as defined above, but also the privatization ‘for a song’ of public sector assets (P. Patnaik 2011). But let me confine myself below to primitive accumulation alone.


The post-second world period was one in which capitalism was confronted with an unprecedented challenge to its very existence. It met this challenge by making a number of strategic adjustments, which included Keynesian demand management under the aegis of social democracy in the advanced capitalist world, and a carrying out of political decolonization in its colonies of conquest. The post-colonial governments in these  countries ushered in dirigiste regimes.

The process of primitive accumulation by metropolitan capital against the pre-capitalist producers, located mainly in the third world, was consequently restrained in this period. Likewise, even primitive accumulation carried out by capital within the third world itself against its own pre-capitalist sector was restrained by these post-colonial regimes, which tended to protect and promote peasant agriculture and other forms of petty production, in keeping with the promises which had been made by the anti-colonial struggle.

This is not to say that all sections of the peasantry were equal beneficiaries of these measures of the post-colonial regimes, or that primitive accumulation stopped altogether in these economies. Primitive accumulation occurred within this sector, with landlords evicting tenants to carry out junker-style capitalist farming, and the major beneficiaries of supportive measures of the State were the rich peasants together with such landlords. The post-colonial regimes in short were interested in ushering in capitalism in the countryside through a combination of peasant and landlord capitalism, but they did restrain the encroachment upon peasant agriculture of capital from outside, whether from the metropolis or from the domestic economy.

This restraint has now gone. The neo-liberal regime, which has replaced the dirigiste regimes both in the advanced and the underdeveloped economies, has reintroduced everywhere the ‘spontaneity’ of the system, and, with it, the tendency on its part to inflict primitive accumulation upon third world petty producers.

There are several ways in which this is achieved. The most important is through the withdrawal of all protection provided to petty production under the earlier dirigiste regime. In the name of free trade, this sector, and above all peasant agriculture, is now exposed to world market fluctuations, from which it had been sheltered earlier, which bring ruin to large sections of the peasantry. In the name of bringing about fiscal rectification, input subsidies to this sector, including cheap credit, are withdrawn. International agri-business and domestic big capitalists are allowed direct access to the peasants, unlike earlier, and because of their superior strength, they are able to squeeze the peasantry. In short the barriers against capital’s enforcing primitive accumulation are removed.

The second way in which primitive accumulation is carried out is in the name of ‘development’ itself, where peasant lands are taken over for a ‘song’ for industrial and infrastructural projects, all of which also have a real estate component. Not only is the peasantry that legally owned this land squeezed in the process, but also the entire group of tenants and agricultural labourers whose rights on the land are not even recognized when such take-over of peasant land occurs. It is not surprising that peasant resistance against such projects which are promoted by the neo-liberal State in the interests of big capital, both domestic and foreign, and which claim to be ushering in ‘development’, has been a major phenomenon of the contemporary third world.

The third way of primitive accumulation is increasing the tax-burden on petty production. This is not always done in a blatant manner, as an explicit attack on petty production. It occurs in different guises, in the name, for instance, of introducing ‘uniformity’. Take the case of the uniform Goods and Services Tax, which enjoys the support of the Bretton Woods Institutions. Under this tax, all product are equally taxed, which entails bringing the products of the petty producers under the tax net that had not covered them earlier, on a par with the products of big capitalists. This so-called uniformity in short entails an act of discrimination against the petty production sector, compared to the original situation under dirigisme. It has, needless to say, the effect of squeezing this sector.

Since the GST in India, like the act of ‘demonetization’ of currency notes earlier, appears to have a recessionary effect on the economy as a whole, including even on the capitalist sector, the question may be raised: why should we see it as a measure of primitive accumulation when it hurts all sectors?

This brings us to an important distinction. We have defined primitive accumulation as a compression of the petty production sector carried out by an external agency; but two cases have to be distinguished in this context. When this external agency happens to be capital from outside, the act of primitive accumulation is ipso facto a gain for capital. But when this external agency happens to be the neo-liberal State, even though the State would be carrying out such primitive accumulation in the interests of capital, the gains of capital may not be immediate and may accrue only over time. In fact the short-run compression of the petty production sector may have complementary recessionary effects upon the capitalist sector as well. It is only when the latter recovers over time from such recessionary consequences while the former cannot, because of its inability to withstand shocks, that the latter actually encroaches upon the former, by taking over the space earlier occupied by it.

The fourth mechanism of primitive accumulation is through the privatization of essential services like education and health that the neo-liberal regime effects, which raises the prices of these services. Since the new service providers belong to the capitalist sector, such a rise in price is analytically analogous to a rise in what Kalecki (1971) had called the ‘degree of monopoly’, which clearly has the effect of compressing the real income of the petty production sector and of the workers of the capitalist sector itself. It could, as in the case just discussed above, have a recessionary effect on some segments of the capitalist sector itself, but the very fact of privatization after all enlarges this sector, so that there is no reason to expect any net shrinking of its overall size. On the other hand, over time the capitalist sector also moves into the space vacated by the shrinkage of the petty production sector so that its overall size expands at the expensed of the latter.

To sum up then, the restoration of the ‘spontaneity’ of capitalism under the neo-liberal regime in contrast to its dirigiste predecessor, with the State once again acting to reinforce the spontaneous tendencies of the system rather than in a manner that restrains such tendencies, re-unleashes a process of primitive accumulation with a vengeance. On top of whatever primitive accumulation was occurring under dirigisme we now  have a massive superimposition of an additional phenomenon of primitive accumulation through the encroachment of the capitalist sector upon the domain of petty production. This however raises a crucial issue of praxis to which we now turn.


The process of primitive accumulation in the third world as we have seen earlier only increases impoverishment. Where such accumulation squeezes the incomes or rights of petty producers and they linger on in their traditional habitats, their impoverishment is obvious. Where they migrate to the towns and cities in quest of employment, given the fact that the capitalist sector does not generate adequate employment even to employ the natural growth of the work-force, let alone the migrants from the countryside, there is similar impoverishment. What is more, such impoverishment now also encompasses even the already employed workers. This is because their bargaining strength declines owing to the swelling of the relative size of the reserve army of labour.

The issue of praxis that arises in this context therefore is the following: should the progressive forces oppose the primitive accumulation of capital occurring under neo-liberalism in the third world because it accentuates poverty? Or should they eschew opposition to it on the grounds that it is a necessary part of the process of development of the material productive forces, and of the transformation of society in a ‘modern’ direction?

This is an unprecedented dilemma, since, as already discussed, it never arose in the context of the advanced countries where emigration possibilities existed; and it did not even arise in the context of the third world countries, post-decolonization, as the dirigiste regimes there acted generally to restrain primitive accumulation in its classic form. And the inability to confront this dilemma has been an important factor in the decline of the Left in the third world under neo-liberalism, when one would have expected the very opposite to be happening.

The choice that is posed in this manner however is based on a mistaken analysis, which believes that the European experience can be generalized, i.e. that the pain caused by primitive accumulation is everywhere of only a transitional nature, as it was in Europe.

This analysis in short attributes to the functioning of capitalism as a mode of production, something which was historically specific only to the European case. It believes that the functioning of capitalism is such that it necessarily absorbs (other than a small reserve army) the petty producers displaced through primitive accumulation. This however is erroneous, as we have seen earlier.

And since it is erroneous, the direction of praxis should be very clear, namely to oppose primitive accumulation of capital which hurts not just the peasants and the petty producers, but the workers as well through the enlargement of labour reserves that reduces their bargaining strength. It must be towards building up a worker-peasant alliance to transcend neo-liberal capitalism which has only brought greater absolute impoverishment to the working people, even where it has caused supposedly high GDP growth.


  • Bagchi A,K, (1972) ‘Some International Foundations of Capitalist Growth and Underdevelopment’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.7, Issues 31-32-33, August 5.
  • Dobb M.H. (1967) Papers on Capitalism, development and Planning, Routledge, London.
  • Kalecki M. (1971) Selected Essays on the Dynamics of the Capitalist Economy 1933-1971, CUP, Cambridge.
  • Patnaik P. (2011) ‘The Economics of the New Phase of Imperialism’ in Re-Envisioning Socialism, Tulika, Delhi.
  • Patnaik P. (2015) ‘Defining the Concept of Commodity Production’ in Studies in People’s History, Vol 2, Issue 1, May.
  • Patnaik U. (2012) ‘Capitalism and the Production of Poverty’ (T.G.Narayanan Memorial Lecture), Social Scientist, Jan-Feb.
  • Raychaudhury T. (1985) ‘Historical Roots of Mass Poverty in South Asia’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XX, No.18, May 4.
  • [1]       For a summary of his position see Dobb (1967).
  • [2]       I have discussed this issue in greater detail in P. Patnaik (2015).

Marxism, Nationalism and Identity Politics

Some Notes from Contemporary History

Archana Prasad

I am privileged to be taking part in a lecture series that commemorates the birth centenary of Eric J. Hobsbawm, one of the best known historians of capitalism of the twentieth century.[1] It is also befitting that the Kerala Sahitya Academy and Janaavikashkara have made the commemoration of the life and work of Hobsbawm a mass event, because Hobsbawm was not merely an ivory tower historian; but a people’s historian who advocated and fought for the rights of the working classes throughout the world. Through his economic and political histories, Hobsbawm explored the changes within states, imperialism and movements in the contemporary times. In this lecture, I use the theoretical tools promoted by the works of contemporary Marxists like Hobsbawm to analyse how the contemporary crisis has created the space for diverse forms of social unrest and protest which have taken the form of sub-nationalism and non-class identity politics. Many of these movements have come up in response to majoritarian nationalism that has sought to hegemonise social groups and politically isolate the minorities. Further, its support to corporate capital through neoliberal policies has led to the widening of inequalities that have resulted in a multitude of protests many of which are culturally particularistic in their character. These developments show that culture is political, in that it is located within and expressed through the mobilisation of specific classes. This lecture explores interface between class, nationalism and identity politics in the context of contemporary Marxist understanding of political culture and its relationship with capitalism.


The political expressions of culture are intimately related to the social structures within a given society. Marxist theorists like Antonio Gramsci, Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson explained the relationship between changes within capitalism and the cultural expressions used by political movements. For example in his work on ‘nations’, Hobsbawm especially pointed out how the nature of culture and politics had altered after the October Revolution of 1917 and therefore the cultural expressions of political ambitions could not be considered, merely a bourgeois enterprise.[2] Of course, such a perspective was grounded in and expanded on earlier perspectives which identified political culture as a contested terrain within the framework of class struggle. In his theory of hegemony and counter-hegemony, Gramsci had already problematised the relationship between culture, power and class.[3] Seen in this light, Anderson and Hobsbawm argued that different classes would have different ideas of nationhood and will thus espouse different political cultures.[4] This argument was embellished with instances where the October Revolution had stopped the expansion of Western capitalism and Russia had supported several anti-imperialist struggles on the basis of the position that all nations had the ‘right to self determination’ or the political separation of nations from imperialist countries. They endorsed the Leninist stance that the support to national liberation struggles of weak and oppressed countries was an essential element of the weakening of the united international capital and increasing its contradiction with the international working class.

Such an understanding of nationalism divided capitalism into two phases and explicated these historical phases by identifying Russian Revolution as a watershed in the history of nations. In doing so, these perspectives recognised that ‘nations and nationalism’ were historically evolved political phenomena and not historically stagnant cultural entities with ancient origins. It went beyond the Leninist perspective and opened and provided conceptual tools to understand how different classes may express different ideas of the nation. While the dominant idea of nationhood may become synonymous with the country, oppressed sections may have their own ways of expressing their version of understanding the concept of the nation. Many a times such a cultural expression took the shape of protests, that have a potentially counter hegemonic character but do not necessarily aspire for nationhood. These have come to be termed as ‘identity movements’ which too have a diverse character depending on their own social basis. In this sense neither ‘nationalism’ nor ‘identity politics’ is homogeneous or inherently a conspiracy of the ruling class.[5] In the post-October Revolution era, both have the potential to be used for partial struggles by the working classes, in order to prepare the ground for the final confrontation with the bourgeoisie. Thus theoretically speaking, there is a possibility for us to consider the counter hegemonic potential of both sub-nationalism as well as community based politics. However this potential can only be realised within the reality of the larger working class unity as expressed in Stalin’s famous work ‘Marxism and the Nationality Question’. Within this framework, the ultimate resolution to the nationalities question lay in the transformation of working class consciousness, a work that was to be performed by the Soviets and the leadership of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union.[6]

Such a post October Revolution understanding of political culture questions the contemporary ruling class interpretation of nationalism and identity politics. It also questions the understanding that all ideas of nation and identity are products of a hegemonic bourgeoisie enterprise and leaves the door open for the understanding of political consciousness in more complex ways. Both nationalism and identity should not be mistaken for a social or cultural consciousness, but rather the expression of a developing political consciousness whose limits, and cultural forms are determined by the class that constructs the communitarian boundaries for its own ends. Hence, the degree of class consciousness within the toiling masses of particular social groups determines the character of political expressions of nationhood and identities. This has been aptly expressed in the nationalities policy of the Soviet Union at the time of its formation. In this understanding ideas of nationhood and identity are not structured by an understanding that such forms of expression depend on some pre-existing cultural community. Rather the construction of community boundaries is itself a function of class relations within the community. If this is the case, then the social basis of the so called identity or nationhood, (both of which are in fact .different levels of expression of political consciousness), becomes crucial in determining the partial rules such politics may play in the furtherance of class struggle. The role of partial struggles and cultural politics cannot be negated altogether in this regard. As Gramsci himself opined, such struggles may not overhaul the class structure or bring about revolution, but they are important in accentuating the contradictions and preparing the ground for the final push.[7] Following this, it is pertinent to ask whether current expressions of political identity and sub-nationalism of different varieties fulfill this purpose or not? If yes, then how should class based organisations deal with such a phenomenon and what theoretical tools should be used to analyse it?


The idea of the modern ‘Indian nation’ gained birth with the anti-imperialist nationalist movement. Before the advent of Gandhi, the nationalist movement was considered to confined largely to the intelligentsia. However the post-Gandhian phase saw the increased participation of the peasantry and workers within the freedom struggle. The presence of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) ensured that the ‘idea of India’ emerged through a process of negotiation where the working class itself considered political freedom as the first step towards furtherance of class struggle. Quoting from the Manifesto of the CSP, EMS Namboodiripad wrote in Marxist on the occasion of the fifty years of the formation of the Congress Socialist Party:

‘The immediate task before us is to develop the national movement into a real anti-imperialist movement-a movement aiming at freedom from the foreign power and the native system of exploitation. For this it is necessary away its present bourgeois leadership and to bring them under the leadership of revolutionary socialism’. This task can be accomplished only if there is within the Congress an organised body of Marxian socialists. In other words, our party alone can, in the present conditions, perform this task. The strengthening and clarification of the anti-imperialist forces in the Congress depends largely on the strength and activity of our party. For fulfilling the party’s task it will also be necessary to coordinate all other anti-imperialist forces in the country.[8]

Namboodiripad clearly identified the formation of the Congress Socialist Party as a step towards the radicalisation of the Congress and the maintenance of mass politics outside the Congress. The communists, active within the CSP, built trade unions and peasant organisations in order to pressurise the Congress and radicalise its programme. The CSP aimed at ‘Complete Independence in the sense of separation from the British Empire and the establishment of socialist society. . . . Inside the Congress, it aimed to secure the acceptance of a socialist programme; outside, it planned to organise the peasants and workers and create a powerful mass movement for independence’.[9]

Another working class perspective of nationhood came from the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association which wrote in its Manifesto ‘that the revolution they [the revolutionaries] are constantly working for will not only express itself in the form of armed conflict between foreign governments and its people and supporters, it will also usher a new social order. The revolution will ring the death knell of capitalism and class distinctions and privileges. . . . Above all, it will establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and banish social parasites from the seat of power’.[10] Though the Association expressed its impatience with the CSP and Gandhian tactics, but their presence and the mobilisation of the labouring masses by the Communists kept up the political pressure on the CSP and bourgeois leadership of the Congress to provide political support to anti-imperialist mass movements. These developments also influenced the way in which the constituent assembly was formed and the principles on which the Constitution was structured.

In a broad sense, it is possible to state that though the basic philosophy of the Constitution was permeated by a liberal democratic bourgeois notion of the nationhood, its basic character was not one of cultural nationalism. Rather over the years it has exhibited a cosmopolitan character, and also given some instruments of struggle to the working classes, especially through its directive principles as well as its recognition of the rights of collective bargaining, abolition of landlordism and the recognition of diversity in cultural rights. At the same time the absence of a significant Communist presence within the Constituent Assembly also gave the document a decidedly pro-bourgeois tilt, though the veneer of social democratic ideas continued to dominate the public discourse. This was largely possible because of the capacity of the Indian Communists to organise and mobilise the working masses through big mass movements that raised substantive issues in the transition years. This was done through collective bargaining and negotiation between different sections and was largely responsible for the marginalisation of culturally exclusive and majoritarian views of nationhood that had begun to emerge under the leadership of the Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.

But the impact of such a process was uneven because the non-incorporation of several sectional interests laid the basis of protests that took the form of cultural expressions or identities. These cultural expressions were potent forces in the mobilisation of several sections of dalits, adivasis and other sectional interests that emerged in their earliest modern forms in the first quarter of the twentieth century.[11] Thereafter they developed into more formed political identities that opposed hegemonic politics especially in cases where majoritarian identities tried to incorporate them. This was particularly true after the decade of the 1970s when the Hindutva nationalists revived their political organisation through agitations in Bihar and Gujarat. Identity politics, particularly in Central India, constituted itself against majoritarian articulations of culture and the attempt to co-opt elites of marginalised communities within their own fold. One can recall that the Jharkhand agitations amongst the adivasis and the formation of the Dalit Panthers party were a reaction to the growing inequities of the society and the incorporation of the elites of these social groups into the dominant power structure.

The diversity of identity notwithstanding, political conscious­ness around sectional interests was being reproduced through the ways in which the bourgeois state was reacting to the demands of different sections of the working classes. A case in point has been the systems of affirmative action that have been set up in response to the struggles of marginalised social groups since their inception. These led to the reproduction of identity politics through the actions of the State. In the long term, large sections of oppressed social group were integrated into the lower end of the power structure and at different levels of the capitalist system. This process also influenced the changes within communities and their non-class politics. While identities emerged through the institutionalisation of affirmative and protective measures, such hegemonic measures also created their own opposition in the form of the politics of ‘adivasi and dalit identity’ which has been led by a stratum of educated elite. Such politics, though oppositional in character was not counter hegemonic in its content. Essentially it was non-class in its orientation and has romantic neo-traditional influences and critiques all forms modernity. Hence it is not surprising that non-Marxist analysis of dalit and adivasi identity is unable to address the issues of inequality and growing differentiation within these sections. Hence it is obvious that these identities have not been able to address the issues of dalit and adivasi working classes which have continued to expand as a part of larger ‘labour reserves’ under contemporary capitalism.[12] In this sense non-class identity politics may take care of the interests of a small section of the historically oppressed social groups, but does not aim to build and foster political and social consciousness that influences fundamental social changes.

Further, such identities can also not be treated as a ‘primitive’ phenomenon that represents an ‘egalitarian’ pre-class society. Rather it is a social and cultural manifestation of capitalism itself which Left and democratic movements have had to take note of in contemporary times. Since such measures were implemented after long years of struggle by different sections of deprived social groups, all Left and democratic movements had to take positive note of them. Equality of opportunity in education and employment for different historically oppressed social groups also became an important demand of Left and democratic class based struggles.


In the light of this complex politics, mass agitations by the Left and their ascendency to power in different states has forced the Communist movement to reconsider the interface between community led and class based struggles. The best examples of this are seen from contemporary Communist history where such questions were confronted in the revolts which occurred in the post Second World War period and were carried on well into the 1950s and 1960s. The most famous of these revolts were the Telengana, Tebhaga and the Warli struggles. Of these the development of the Warli and the Tripura organisations in the post-independence period are especially interesting as they help to analyse the relationship between class and community structures. This relationship was mediated by the understanding that the organisation of dalit and adivasi people would help in building a common understanding and strengthening the alliance between peasants and workers.[13] Hence the incorporation of sectional interests within the larger strategy of class struggle became an essential component of the Left led peasant movements. Thus the Communist movement’s struggles against the historical deprivation of adivasis from the early 1970s onwards were aimed at building a democratic adivasi consciousness. This work has been based on the assumption that a traditional communitarian consciousnsess has to be transformed into a modern political movement which is non-exclusivist in character. Some examples of this are the Gana Mukti Parishad’s militant movement for the implementation of the sixth schedule which was based on the principle of the unity between the Bengalis and the adivasis. Similarly the Adivasi Pragoti Mandal in Thane does constructive work, and runs educational institutions in order to socialise the neighbourhood adivasis into modern and progressive thinking. The similarity of perspective and method in both these organisations is based on the strategic understanding that such sectional platforms and organisations would be rooted in broad based mass fronts of the basic classes. dialectical relationship between these two would serve a twofold purpose. First it would sensitise larger class based organisations to sectional interests and second it would socialise the historically deprived social groups into a class based perspective. Thus the Adivasi Pragoti Mandal is conceived as a trust whose trustees largely belonged to the Kisan Sabha in Thane and whose main struggles have been launched through the Sabha. Its membership is non-exclusivist in character but open to non adivasis. But despite successful economic struggles in Thane, the problem of bridging the gap between the peasant consciousness and tribal consciousness remains as the Kisan Sabha competes with other adivasi organisations like the Kashtkari Sangathana. In Tripura too, the consciousness fostered by the Ganamukti Parishad is not confined to adivasi social groups but is also representative of the non-tribals who were engaged in organising these struggles. This was particularly true in the context of Tripura where the 1970s and 1980s were a direct contest between the Left supported Ganamukti Parishad and the Tripura Upjati Juba Samiti which was supported and practiced an exclusivist tribal identity through the support for a separate tribal state. In contrast the Parishad advocated the development of a tribal consciousness which was largely based on the idea of tribal-Bengali unity which was to be based on the democratisation of tribal consciousness.[14]

From the 1980s, separate unions of agricultural workers recognised dalits and adivasis as a rural proletariat displaying a more complex understanding of the worker-peasant alliance. The policy statement of the Agricultural Workers Union stated in 1982 that ‘The agricultural workers constitute the most important part of the agrarian movement in the country. They form a link between the urban working class and peasantry. They are the worst exploited socially, economically and politically. A big chunk of them come from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes who still continue to be the victims of social oppression at the hands of the caste-Hindu vested interests’.[15] Since the agricultural workers were a separate class they would have to be ‘organised separately’ for higher wages in agricultural work and social security for agricultural workers.[16] The unity of the dalit and adivasi agricultural worker with the peasant was to be achieved through land struggles, demands for land reforms and universal social security for all rural and urban workers.


The aggressive rise of Hindu cultural nationalism in the last two decades can be seen as a major challenge to this communist project through the construction of a dominant and hegemonic ruling class conception of nationhood. Such a conception is based on certain false and ahistorical claims. First, the concept of the Hindu Rashtra is a historically evolved cultural notion. Historians have contested this claim through well researched historical evidence which shows that there was no one homogeneous Hindu society or Hindu way of life since the pre Mauryan empire days. This is particularly seen in the fact that the rulers of successive regimes extracted surplus grain, money tribute, military service and other forms of slave labour from the mass of working people in the name of religion. In this situation they did not need to use force as they justified their exploitative and oppressive practices by using religion as a ideological and material force in the society. By refusing to acknowledge the use of religion as an important ideological apparatus of the State, Hindutva ideologues in fact misrepresent and misuse history for their own narrow political ends.[17]

The second important aspect of the Hindu nationalist argument is the repeated claim to spiritual democracy and inclusiveness. Since the 1980s the Hindutva nationalists have realised that their dream to establish hegemony is not possible if they do not expand their social base. In order to do this Sangh Parivar affiliates began to do constructive work amongst adivasis and dalits. This has enabled the penetration of the RSS in caste and tribal institutions. For example in the case of the dalits of North India, the first step is to build a base and carry out recoversions for re-integrating dalits within the mainstream of the village. But in recent years the RSS has gone one step ahead and decided to form local level committees to end caste discrimination in 2015. For the first time the RSS held district level meetings of volunteers in about 75,000 villages of India, and much of this was concentrated in the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where elections have been held. Reports from the organisation suggests that the committees started holding dialogues in order to persuade higher castes to take up their programme of ‘one village, one well, one crematorium’ and in doing so projected themselves as an anti-caste force. In order to justify this programme the Sangh ideologues reinterpreted Ambedkar and projected him as both anti-Communist and anti-Muslim. In its 125th year commemoration of Ambedkar, the Organiser effectively proclaimed reinterpreted Ambedkar as icon of social harmony and unified Hindu society in order to counter the dalit movement which has always held that social structures under Hinduism are the root cause of untouchability. But instead of targeting these structures, which in fact form the core social support of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, the RSS impressed upon its volunteers the need to explain the political necessity of the social harmony project. Thereby it emphasised both voluntarism and adjustment with its upper caste base and propelled them into taking up programmes of health, education and the implementation of schemes by pressurising the local administration. It assured its upper caste base that the dalits would be integrated into the mainstream Hindu society on the terms set by the upper caste; i.e., they would have to follow the practices and morality which the Hindutva cadres prescribed. To this end the RSS called a high level meeting of 40 affiliates (including the Dharm Jagran Sangh and VHP) in 2016 in order to coordinate a well thought out political and social campaign that targeted the non-jatav base of the Bahujan Samaj Party, the results of which were seen in the 2016 Uttar Pradesh elections.[18]

Similar processes have also been seen in the context of the Sangh response to the politics of adivasi identity. The RSS work in the tribal areas can be divided into three broad phases; each laying the basis and the foundation for the ‘next step’. The current phenomenon is characterised by a right wing radicalisation of tribal politics and identities through selective appropriation and moulding of tribal institutions and structures by RSS affiliated organisations. The earliest work of Hindu nationalist organisations in tribal areas can be traced to the early 1940s in Madhya Pradesh. By the late 1930s many Princely States had already passed the anti-conversion laws under the influence of the Hindu Mahasabha and in the mid-1940s the political right, both inside and outside the Congress, raised the issue of ‘conversions’ by Christian missionaries. The resultant Report of the Niyogi Committee banned the work of the Christian Missionaries in the fifth schedule areas. This formed the entry point and the basis for the formation and work of the RSS affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad in Central India by the early 1950s.[19] This mode of operation created the foundation for the second phase of the RSS work which started with the ‘ghar vapasi’ campaign in the 1970s and 1980s.  This campaign wanted to give an image of an inclusive political Hindu nationalism that would unite all castes and tribes under a broad umbrella. The inclusion of Dalit, adivasi and OBC leaders and the expansion of the political base of the BJP was reflective of this. The main idea was that cross caste and community alliances would create a broad spectrum that would counter all movements of resistance by democratic forces. Such a widening of social base has put the RSS in a position to penetrate caste and tribal institutions and thus affect polarisation within tribal and caste groups which characterises the current phase of the RSS work in tribal areas. The first signs of this were seen in the Kandamal riots of 2008 when the Sangh mobilised the Kondh Samaj against converted Christian tribals and argued that only non-Christians should get benefits under the Scheduled Tribe category. The next major signal of this polarisation was the riots in Kokrajhar in 2012 when the Bodo militants attacked ‘Bangladeshi Muslim refugees’. This adaptation of the RSS to the political challenges in tribal regions has allowed it to change and mould the character of tribal identity in a way that brings about religious polarisation within tribal groups. Thus a non-Christian tribal identity is preferred over one that is influenced by the Christians, so that their leaders can ultimately be incorporated into the RSS fold.  Hence the conception of an inclusive Hindu nationhood has been pitted against divisive ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian’ politics of ‘separatism’ and identity politics has been moulded to suit this conception.[20]

Such a conception is repeatedly used by ruling classes and corporate backed Hindu nationalists to justify and build an oppressive nationalism which would fit into both Benedict Anderson’s and Hobsbawm’s analysis of mainstream ‘capitalist nationalism’. After all the first phase of the nationalism in Western Europe was led by nation-states in order to protect the interests of the capitalists; and the concept of the national bourgeoisie as the we know it now came into operation only after the October Revolution. Further the modularity of the formation of new states in the post-independence period, as Benedict Anderson showed, was one where the national bourgeoisie replicated the western model of the nation-state. Though Anderson’s own work stops with the structuring of neo-liberal models within newly independent states it is possible to argue that the post-Soviet models of neo-liberal states also follow a certain type of modularity.[21] With the existence of the Soviet Union the model of a worker controlled state inspired working class movements to argue for a socialist alternative. The birth of state capitalism with an agenda of social reform was considered a compromise solution by a liberal democratic political leadership. Such a leadership was prevalent in almost all continents and non-aligned countries. But by with the end of the Soviet experience, and the capitulation of China to the market economy, the only models available to the national capitalists were in North America and Western Europe. These predatory models of the nation-state matured into expression of a socially conservative political culture across the globe. The trend of the massive pace of expansion of Hindutva nationalism is also part of this modular reproduction of socially conservative regimes which are essentially based on support from corporate capital. The principle from which such ruling class nation-states derived their legitimacy was the idea of ‘tradition’ which militated against any type of social reform to which the negotiated idea of a liberal democratic state has been wedded to. This worldwide trend is evident in America, Central Europe, Europe and many other countries, India being no exception. Hence, the recent obvious process of redefining the nation in India is part of the larger trend of the consolidation of the right in the contemporary world and is closely aligned with the emerging partnership between trans-national and national bourgeoisie who were largely responsible for the spread of right wing nationalism as shown by Hobsbawm in his famous work Age of Extremes.[22]


The consolidation of capital described above and its support for neo-conservative agenda has underlined the upsurge in the dominance of Hindutva cultural nationalism. The impact of such nationalism on working class politics has been immense. The fragmentation of the working class through greater informalisation of the workforce poses a challenge to traditional trade unionism. At the same time it also creates space for fragmented identity politics. Not all of this identity politics is led by the ruling classes. The difficulties of forging working class unity in fragmented workspaces have also made space for political expressions that challenge the dominant forms of nationhood, but do not have the ability to challenge the class relations that structure such ideologies of nationhood. Hence current class based movements will be forced to find alternative strategies that will forge working class unity and provide a culturally pluralistic space to resistance that finds its expression in multiple form of political identities. This process can also generate alternative conceptions of nationhood that are embedded within the larger socialist movement.

One may lay down certain principles of what such nationalism may entail. The development of scientific temper or a rational method of knowing the presently unknowable world is central to the idea of nationhood and nation building. The Indian nation is described in terms of its past traditions, a continuous adaptation of old ideas to the present situation, representing a continuity that defies sharp cultural breaks in history and thereby creates a spirit of tolerance and flexible mind. For Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, the relationship between science and religion will change, but only through a process of social reform. All of them believed that the past has two elements: the forms that have become hierarchical and cultural exclusivity of the caste system on the one hand, and the traditional freedom of thought and tolerance on the other hand. Science, scientific enterprise and the efforts to cultivate scientific temper are embedded in social relations of production.

The Communist idea, as it has been articulated in independent India, has two core ideas: anti-imperialism and socio-economic reform for equity through a process of reconstruction. Thus writing his last message to young political activists (February 2, 1931) Bhagat Singh clearly says that there can be no ‘economic liberty for workers and peasants without political freedom’. For Bhagat Singh political freedom meant more than the ‘transfer of State from British to Indian’. It implied the rule of the country by those Indians who would ‘proceed in right earnest to organise the whole society on a socialist basis’. The HSRA itself described the task of the proletariat as a twofold one in its manifesto of 1925. The first was to oppose the emergence of the Indian capitalist class and its potential of the alliance with the foreign capitalists and the State. The second was to organise the workers to oppose State power in the hands of a few privileged people and to bring about a social reconstruction. Thus socialism was to be a path where ‘swaraj’ was the freedom of ‘98 per cent of the Indians’ and declared that ‘the freedom of India would ultimately be the freedom of all slave nations’. This internationalist conception of nationhood was thus based on the premise that there could be no ‘free nation’ if injustice prevailed in the country itself, or in the nation as a whole. Thus freedom required the establishment of worker ruled state as well as a multi-national state where the cultures and rights were respected and ensured for all. In its own manifesto, the Naujawan Bharat Sabha declared communal hatred and religious politics as a way of sabotaging the revolution. In 1926, the manifesto states that the ‘conservatism and orthodoxy of Hindus’ and the ‘fanaticism of the Mohommedans are being exploited by the foreign enemy’. In the present situation this could well be applied to Narendra Modi and other right wing religious fundamentalists who themselves are the agents of political and economic imperialism. Their divisive politics is disrupting the unity of Hindus and Muslims. The division of Hindus and Muslims will only benefit economic and political imperialism.[23]

The Communist project of building working class unities through social engineering can only be based on building an inclusive agenda of universal rights for the working classes which is sensitive to discrimination and oppression faced by historically oppressed social groups. One of the recent examples of this has been the struggle waged by the All India Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra where the adivasi people see themselves as an integral part of the peasantry. On the other hand the Kisan Sabha has also focused of some of the sectional interests of the adivasi peasants in their struggles. The unity forced by these struggles was seen in the much acclaimed Long March that concluded recently and whose success can partly be attributed to the building of a democratic consciousness amongst deprived social groups.[24] Contextualised in these recent struggles, the socialist vision of nationhood is not only internationalist in character, but is based on the fight for a truly democratic state where freedom from exploitation is holistic within the nation. This means that rightwing bourgeois nationalism (in which conservative identity politics is embedded) can only be fought by a programme of social and economic reconstruction which involves and cares for the workers and peasants irrespective of their religion and caste. Given two polar opposite visions (of rightwing and socialist conceptions of nationhood), present day communists  face the twin challenge of reclaiming the idea of non-capitalistic, secular and socialist alternative that can fire the imagination of all the exploited masses to join its ranks and resist the rise of fascistic forces.



[1]       This essay is a revised version of the text of the lecture delivered at Town Hall in Kannur on 12 September 2017 in the Eric Hobsbawm Lecture Series in order to commemorate his birth centenary which was hosted by Janaavishkara and Kerala Sahitya Academy.


[2]       Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1870s, Cambridge University Press, 1990.


[3]       Antonio Gramsci, ‘Civil Society’ in Selections from Prison Notebooks (Translated by Hoare and Smith), Elec Books, 1999.


[4]       Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, 2006 (revised edition) and Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism.


[5]       Archana Prasad, ‘Class, Community and Politics of Adivasi in Contemporary India’ in Amiya Bagchi and Amita Chatterji, eds., Marxism: With and Beyond Marx, Routledge, 2016.


[6]       J.V. Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913.


[7]       Antonio Gramsci, ‘Civil Society’ in Selections from Prison Notebooks.


[8]       E.M.S. Namboodripad, ‘The Congress Socialist Party and the Communists’ Marxist, January 1984.


[9]       Sonal Shah, ‘Indian Socialists and their Legacy’, Economic and Political Weekly,  Volume 68, No 43, October 2016.


[10]     Bhagwati  Charan Vohra and Chandrasekhar Azad, Philosophy of the Bomb, 1929, pp. 1-2.


[11]     Archana Prasad, ‘Adivasis and the Trajectories of Political Mobilisation in Contemporary India’ in Meena Radhakrishna (ed.), First Citizens: Studies of Adivasis, Tribals and Indigenous People in India, Oxford University Press, 2016.


[12]     Archana Prasad, ‘Inequality and the ‘Class Divide’ in Dalit Politics’, People’s Democracy, 17 April 2016, and Archana Prasad, ‘Structural Transformations in Adivasi Societies, 99-11’, Yojana, January 2014.


[13]     Archana Prasad, The Red Flag of the Warlis: History of an Ongoing Struggle, LeftWord, 2017, and Archana Prasad, ‘Class, Community and Politics of Adivasi’.


[14]     Text of this paragraph is summarised from Archana Prasad, ‘Trajectories of Mobilisation and Politics of the Adivasi’.


[15]     Indian News Network. 2008.  25 Years of All India Agricultural Workers Union posted on (accessed 21 May 2013).


[16]     Mollah, Hannan. 2007. AIAWU to celebrate its 25th Anniversary, People’s Democracy, 4 November 2007.


[17]     Archana Prasad, ‘Ruling Class Nationalism and Religion: A Counter to Rakesh Sinha’ People’s Democracy, 30 April 2017.


[18]     The empirical material for this paragraph is taken from Archana Prasad, ‘The ‘RSS Factor’ in Dalit Politics’, People’s Democracy, 26 March 2017.


[19]     Archana Prasad, Against Ecological Romanticism: Verrier Elwin and the Making of an Anti-Modern Tribal Identity, Chapter 3, Three Essays, 2011.


[20]     Archana Prasad, ‘RSS and The Politics of Tribal Identity’, People’s Democracy 10 March 2018.


[21]     Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities.


[22]     Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes, 1914-1991, Little Brown Book Group, 1995.


[23]     Manifesto of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha, 1926.


[24]     Archana Prasad, Red Flag of the Warlis, and Ashok Dhawale, ‘Kisan Long March Ends in a Resounding Victory’, People’s Democracy, 18 March 2017.

Marxist, XXXIII, 4, October-December 2017


Crisis of Neo-Liberalism: Manifold Ramifications

Sitaram Yechury

The Political Resolution adopted by the 22nd  Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had noted the crisis of neo-liberalism that has arisen due to the prolonged current systemic crisis of global capitalism. This is manifesting itself in multiple ways: further consolidation of the political right, globally and domestically; aggressive imperialist political/military interventions with the aim of controlling world’s economic/mineral resources and to consolidate US global hegemony;  to coerce developing countries to further open up the domestic economies for profit maximization; creating new ruptures and conflicts amongst the imperialist countries as well as rising social tensions in the pursuit of a divisive agenda imposed by imperialism, amongst others. Such a pursuit engenders the growth of racism, xenophobia and extreme rightwing neo-fascist tendencies, buttressing the political rightward shift in many countries.

Analysing the Indian situation, the Political Resolution has concluded that there is a further consolidation of the political right.  This is reflected in a vicious four-pronged attack on the country and our people.  These are: (a) the aggressive pursuit of neo-liberal economic policies (b) the sharpening of communal polarization in multiple forms (c) increasing authoritarian attacks against parliamentary democracy, institutions and people’s democratic rights and (d) cementing India to the status of a junior strategic partner of USA and imperialism.

Each one of these needs to be assessed in the background of the crisis of neo-liberalism which has a direct bearing on the Indian situation.

Crisis of Global Capitalism

The systemic crisis of global capitalism that manifested a decade ago in the global financial meltdown of 2008 continues with no signs of any meaningful recovery.  This crisis is intensifying further the levels of exploitation of the vast majority of the world’s people.  Every response of global capitalism to overcome the crisis has laid the seeds of a new deeper crisis.  Neo-liberalism’s essential thrust is profit maximization, the raison d’etre of capitalism.

In pursuance of this thrust, the capitalist State, needs to create the legal-administrative structures to facilitate profit maximisation. Neo-liberalism buttresses this with a theoretical construct around the  ‘God’ of Capitalism – Market. Markets, as capitalism always deliberately and misleadingly asserts, allocate resources efficiently, serve public interest and are self-regulatory and self-correcting. Based on the so-called Washington Consensus, in the late 1980s neo-liberalism theorized that free trade, open markets, privatisation, de-regulation, reduction in governmental expenditures to facilitate an increase of the access for private sector as the best ways to boost economic growth. By now, it is clear with the continuing global crisis that neo-liberalism boosted unprecedented accumulation of profits leading to low growth and exponentially escalating levels of income inequalities.

2001 economic Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz, ideologically far removed from Marxism, had said in an article: “The end of Neo-liberalism?”, : “ Neo-liberal market fundamentalism was always a political doctrine serving certain interests. It was never supported by economic theory. Nor, it should now be clear, is it supported by historical experiences. Learning this lesson may be the silver lining in the cloud now hanging over the global economy.” ( 

Neo-liberalism : Genesis of current capitalist crisis.  

In pursuit of profit maximisation, neo-liberalism has imposed a global economic re-ordering. It has created new avenues for profit maximization and privatized most, if not all, of public utilities and social expenditures.  As a result of these policies, the economic and income inequalities have sharply widened amongst the rich and poor in every country and between the rich and poor countries.

The consequent vicious attacks on people’s livelihood saw the decline in the purchasing power among the majority of world’s people. In order to overcome the crisis caused by this, if there are no buyers for commodities that capitalist production produces, then neither profits can be generated nor economic growth  takes place leading to a crisis. Cheap credit and subprime loans were provided to the people, so that their consumption expenditures can rise permitting the pursuit of profit maximization.  The inability of the vast majority of the people to repay these loans led, amongst others, to the global financial meltdown in 2008.  The consequent crisis was sought to be overcome by bailing out the bankrupt financial institutions.  This entailed humongous bailout packages that the capitalist governments offered.

This was essential because the current phase of imperialist globalization is led by international finance capital whose hegemony has to remain unchallenged to further pursue neo-liberal profit maximization.  These trans-national banks and financial institutions were bailed out. This, however, led to the next stage of the crisis where corporate insolvencies were converted into sovereign insolvencies.  Global capitalism is now seeking to emerge from this stage of the crisis created by threatening sovereign insolvencies  (where the country’s debt vastly outstrips its GDP) by vastly reducing government’s expenditures in the social sector through the imposition of  austerity measures, i.e., severely attacking people’s livelihood by increasing the working hours; cutting pensions; eliminating all social sector expenditures; and withdrawing even the meager socio-economic safety net provisions that the capitalist governments were making earlier.

This, in turn, is leading to a further sharp reduction in the purchasing power of the people indicating that another round of crisis is imminent.

It is clear that no amount of reform within the capitalist system can permit capitalism to emerge from this crisis.  A political alternative to capitalism is the only solution to end the vicious misery of the vast mass of the people. This would require the emergence of the political alternative, i.e., socialism as a powerful force based on the widespread struggles by the working class and the working people all across the world, i.e., by sharpened class struggles.  In many countries like in Latin America, these anti-imperialist, anti-neo-liberal protest movements had led to the emergence of elected anti-imperialist governments.  These, however, are the targets today of imperialism seeking to weaken the resistance to its neo-liberal order.

This prolonged economic crisis of global capitalism has created a crisis for neo-liberalism and its trajectory, as a consequence of growing popular discontent, against this trajectory.  This is having a multi-fold impact on global and domestic developments.

Political Rightward Shift

The growth of popular discontent against the misery imposed by neo-liberal reforms is sought to be nipped in the bud by the forces of world reaction and imperialism.  This is essential to continue the pursuit of profit maximization and not to permit this rising popular discontent consolidating as a political alternative to capitalism.  This discontent is sought to be diverted through the global agenda of fostering domestic, local and regional tensions resulting in the growth of racism, chauvinism, xenophobia and extreme rightwing neo-fascist political tendencies.  By disrupting and diverting the struggles against capitalist exploitation into such divisive agendas, global capitalism seeks to further pursue the trajectory of profit maximization, despite the continuing crisis. The objective of the political right is precisely this: establish political control for further maximization of profits by further intensifying capitalist exploitation.

In many countries the traditional social democratic parties and centrist parties had surrendered to the neo-liberal trajectory and hence, vacated the political opposition spaces.  This is sought to be filled up by the political right. CPI(M) 22nd Congress Political Resolution noted: “ This period has witnessed the further marginalization of the social democratic parties in Europe alongside the rise of the ultra-right………This is because they (social democratic parties)  embraced neo-liberalism, betraying the interests of the working people.”

The Political Resolution  has noted: “The triumph of Donald Trump in the US elections, the rightward mobilisation in the Brexit vote in Britain, the electoral gains of Marine Le Pen of the extreme right National Front in France, the advance of the Alternative for Deutschland in Germany, the formation of a rightwing government in Austria which includes the extreme right Freedom Party, and representation of nearly a third of the European Parliament MPs from rightwing and extreme rightwing political  parties are a reflection of this rightward shift. This tendency has also its consequent reflection in Indian politics.”

Before coming to the Indian situation, let us examine the emergence of the Trump presidency in the USA.  This happened when the median real income for full time male workers in the USA was lower than it was four decades ago. The income of the bottom 90 per cent of the US population has stagnated for over 30 years.  The growing discontent amongst the working American people was marshaled by Trump and the Republican Party not by seeking to reverse the neo-liberal trajectory but by diversionary and disruptive slogans that would permit the continuation of this very trajectory imposing even greater burdens on the people.

Growing unemployment amongst the US working people was met with the propaganda of restricting immigration from the rest of the world under the campaign that “foreigners are taking away your jobs”.  The growing unemployment was also ascribed to American capital locating production units outside USA and creating jobs in those countries while Americans remain unemployed.  The promise made was to stop the flow of American capital outside its shores for setting up production units.  The restrictions on immigration and the campaign that foreigners are cornering American jobs are leading to the growth of racism, which is  manifesting itself viciously.  All of Trump’s measures like imposing larger taxes on imports while forcing the world to accept US products without any duties is leading to trade wars that has a great potential for creating further instability for the global economy and intensifying the crisis.

This political rightward shift is nothing else but an attempt to prevent the growing popular discontent from taking the shape of a political alternative to capitalism. This permits the predatory character of capitalism and its profit maximization to consolidate despite the global capitalist crisis.  For instance, in 2017, 82 per cent of the additional wealth generated globally was cornered by 1 per cent of global population. Likewise, in India, 73 per cent of the additional wealth generated was cornered by 1 per cent of the Indian population- India’s ultra rich.  The shift to the political right is to ensure the continuation of such intensified economic exploitation and profit maximization.

Consolidation of Political Right in India

It is precisely this phenomenon of the political rightward shift accompanied by aggressive pursuit of the neo-liberal trajectory of intensification of exploitation of the people globally, that finds an expression here in India.  The grandiose declarations of this BJP Central government in 2014, of  achhe din (good days) accompanied by illusory balloons floated of prosperity for the people and growth of the economy were designed to mask  the opposite.  Popular discontent in India has manifested itself during the last four years in the growing struggles by the working class, by the peasantry, agricultural labour, youth, women etc.

To prevent this growing discontent from emerging as a political alternative, the RSS/BJP seek to divert this discontent through the pursuit of aggressive communal polarization amongst our people.  The mushrooming of private armies under State patronage has led to horrendous instances of mob lynching.  Under the pretext of `cow protection’, `moral policing’, `love jihad’, `child lifting’, murderous assaults, particularly on the religious minorities, Muslims, and the socially-oppressed sections, Dalits, are growing alarmingly across the country, especially in the BJP-ruled states.

Such assaults accompanied by divisive slogans breed social tensions and conflicts.  Various slogans are employed in various parts of the country, in the North East, in Jammu & Kashmir, in the South – whether on the issue of language, or, Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, or, on fomenting  ethnic and religious divide (like the current discord over the draft NRC in Assam). Such tendencies are growing under State patronage diverting people’s anger away from intensified exploitation.  While such communal polarization is seeking to tear asunder the unity of our social fabric, it imposes grave dangers for the very unity and integrity of our country.  This sharpening of communal polarization and fostering of social tensions is buttressed by the propagation of Hindutva nationalism as synonymous with Indian nationalism.  Hindutva nationalism, based on exclusivity and intolerance, in fact, negates Indian nationalism that is based on inclusion and equality of all Indians, “irrespective of caste, creed or sex”, as our Constitution proclaims.

Ideological Project of RSS 

The present BJP Central government, simultaneously pursues, as the political arm of the RSS, the latter’s agenda of transforming the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic into the RSS ideological project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’.  This, in itself, is a grave assault on the present Indian Constitution.

A natural corollary of this is the systematic undermining of all institutions of parliamentary democracy and Constitutional and statutory authorities.  Beginning with the undermining of Parliament itself, the developments in the highest judiciary, the question marks over the neutrality of the Election Commission, the appointments to investigative agencies of the State like the CBI, the appointments of the Heads of institutions of higher education and research bodies to the dismantling of regulatory authorities in the field of education are all manifestations of such growing authoritarian attacks.  These are aimed at facilitating the realization of the RSS project of establishing its conception of a `Hindu Rashtra’ in India.

This consolidation of the political right in India disrupts, through sharpened communal polarization, the unity of those very classes – the most exploited in Indian conditions, i.e., the working class, the poor peasantry and the agricultural labour – who form the backbone for strengthening the struggles against the neo-liberal offensive.

The unity in struggle of these most exploited classes of the Indian people forms the core of the advance of the class struggle in India with the eventual aim of forging the people’s democratic front that shall lead the people’s democratic revolution. It is this advance of the class struggle in India that the consolidation of the political right seeks to disrupt.  A further consolidation of the political right means a further correspondent push back of the advance of the class struggle in India.  Defeating this RSS/BJP agenda is the essence of the current battle to advance the class struggles in India.

Aggressive Pursuit of Neo-Liberalism

This consolidation of the political right in India is facilitating a humongous profit maximization by the Indian ruling classes led by the Indian big bourgeoisie. At the same time, foreign capital is provided greater access to exploit the Indian economy for its profit maximization.

Under the present BJP government, there is no area of economic activity, including defence production, where foreign capital’s entry is not automatically permitted.  100 per cent automatic clearance of foreign capital to maximize profits in India and repatriate them to their countries has now become the norm.  There is no public sector undertaking that is not being privatized, including the Indian Railways, Air India, defence production and communications network.

Education and health sectors are increasingly dominated by private capital denying quality education and quality health care to the vast majority of our people.  All public utilities and services like public transport, electricity, water, postal services, etc., are being privatized.

Both demonetization and the introduction of GST have also been measures to expand avenues of profit maximization for foreign and Indian corporate capital.  Apart from all valid critiques of both these measures that have been widely discussed and are the focus of people’s agitations and struggles, how these measures help the process of profit maximization need to be comprehended.  All stated objectives of the Prime Minister, when he dramatically demonetized high value currency notes, have been proven beyond any shadow of doubt, as being shallow excuses.  Instead of unearthing black money, this has been converted into `white money’, instead of confiscating counterfeit currency, this has been legalized; instead of ending corruption, the rates are doubled with the introduction of Rs. 2,000 notes in place of Rs. 1,000 notes.  On the question of terrorism, instead of terrorist strikes declining due to restrictions on cash funding, such incidents have actually escalated.

What demonetization actually did was to facilitate the initiation of a  shift to a plastic/digital economy by providing massive profits to credit card companies through `transaction costs’.   Further, demonetization has shattered the cash based petty production and trading that constituted more than 50 per cent of the country’s commercial transactions, from the sale of fish to fresh vegetables to milk etc., being virtually eliminated due to cash restrictions.  These have led to the destruction of the livelihood of crores of people dependent on such daily cash transactions.   These activities are now being taken over by e-commerce corporates or corporate retail giants.  Vegetables are no longer available with the vendor who used to come to your doorstep but people have to go to Reliance Fresh outlets now.

The GST has, it is abundantly clear by now, virtually destroyed the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) that accounted for the huge segment of small scale production in the country.  These MSMEs generated significant employment (next only to agriculture) in the country and provided livelihood for crores of Indian people.  This area of production is also now being taken over by big corporate capital in collaboration with foreign capital.

Further, India’s rich mineral resources have now been thrown open to be exploited for profit maximization to both foreign and domestic corporates.  Thus, this political rightward shift facilitating the intensification of the neo-liberal trajectory is imposing greater and greater misery on our people.

Crony Capitalism

Crony Capitalism is nothing but the profit maximisation through the loot of public monies. This is a throwback to the methods of primitive accumulation under the neo-liberal order, as analysed in the CPI(M)’s 20th Congress `Resolution on some Ideological Issues’. This had noted: “ Such an assault by the process of primitive accumulation has opened up hitherto unknown avenues for large-scale corruption.”

Such massive levels of profit maximization, aided  by crony capitalism of the worst order, facilitates the loot of India’s resources and people’s savings in a manner hitherto never seen. The Rafael aircraft purchase scam highlights the legalization of corruption at high places.  The non-repayment of loans taken by corporate India, by one estimate, is placed at a whopping Rs. 11.5 lakh crores.  The guilty are permitted to leave our country and are never punished.  Officially, this BJP government has written off close to Rs. 4 lakh crores of such corporate debt.  At the same time, this government refuses even a one-time loan waiver to the Indian farmer who is increasingly being pushed into committing distress suicides, because of growing debt burden.  The class character of this BJP government cannot be more unambiguous!

Imperialist Military and Political Aggressiveness

This prolonged global capitalist economic crisis is leading to a greater aggressiveness displayed by USA through military and political interventions across the globe.  Given the crisis of neo-liberalism, US imperialism seeks to control the major economic reserves across the world in order to overcome the impact of this economic crisis.  Further, in its efforts to further strengthen its global hegemony, it seeks a unipolar world under its leadership.

Political/military interventions are also aimed at strengthening these efforts. US/NATO military interventions are continuing in various parts of the world, particularly in West Asia, North Africa and Latin America.  Under the Trump Presidency, the US budgetary allocation for defence in 2018 increased to an unprecedented level of $700 billion.  Apart from the continuing military interventions, US global military strategic focus has shifted to the Pacific Ocean with two-third of its naval fleet deployed there. US imperialism’s specific focus is around the disputes in the South China Sea region to “contain China”, which it increasingly sees as a potentially rising rival to its designs of strengthening its global hegemony.

The US-Israel nexus has strengthened its grip in West Asia following Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel  and shift the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. This was rightly seen as an open provocation to justify Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and runs in stark contrast to all United Nations resolutions and the international community’s stand that East Jerusalem is an Israeli occupied territory since 1967.

An independent Palestine State with East Jerusalem as its capital is the internationally accepted position. The US administration is thus responsible for scuttling any possible peaceful negotiations between Israel and Palestine. This decision by Donald Trump will trigger further tensions and conflicts in the region having global ramifications.  This is already reflected  in the merciless killing of nearly 60 Palestinians, on a single day, in April 2018. Israeli armed forces opened fire on people demonstrating at the Gaza border fencing demanding return of occupying lands.

With its efforts to effect a regime change in Syria having failed, US imperialism is shifting its focus towards Iran. USA has walked out of the Iran nuclear agreement and re-imposed earlier sanctions and threatened additional sanctions not only on Iran but on any country that maintains trade or commercial relations with Iran.

In Latin America, a serious confrontation is going between the people and US imperialism following sharp escalation of US political and military interventions.  USA is targeting Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and seeking to destabilise the anti-imperialist elected governments there and to prevent the return of such forces to government in the future.

In the name of combating terror, USA is strengthening its military presence in Africa through the Africom.  Reports of US military casualties in anti-terror operations are coming in  from Nigeria, Mali and the Sahel region. The US is intervening in the internal affairs of these countries with an intent to capture their rich natural resources, control the important trading routes and markets, and also contain the growing influence of China in the African continent.

Growing Inter-Imperialist Contradictions

This crisis of neo-liberalism is, also, adversely affecting the cohesion of the imperialist camp.  The Brexit vote, the cancellation of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement by USA, US withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty, the recent developments in the G-7 summit, threatening the cohesion of the world’s club of most powerful economies, the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran – are all leading to strong differences and disagreements between the developed capitalist countries like France, UK and Germany and others like Russia and China with the USA.

At the economic level, in order to soften the impact of the crisis on itself, USA has begun to increase tariffs and duties on its imports.  This has begun a virtual trade war between USA and other countries which are now imposing counter tariffs.  This is bound to adversely impact the current crisis of neo-liberalism.

Socialist China

During the last three years, the Chinese economy expanded by an annual average growth rate of 7.2 per cent.  It is the world’s second largest economy today contributing more than 30 per cent of global economic growth, annually.

This growing economic power of China is having a big impact on international relations.  Many countries have joined the Chinese initiative of One Belt One Road project that retraces the ancient Silk Route and the maritime spice trade route.

This Modi government, in order to appease US imperialism, is the only country in South Asia, apart from Bhutan, not to join.  The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank mooted by China was also welcomed, with as many as 60 countries, among them some of the closest allies of the US like UK, Australia and South Korea too joining the initiative. Increasing assertion of China is witnessed in the strengthening of many multilateral organisations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS, etc. Alarmed at the growing clout of China in international relations, the US has stepped up its efforts to “contain China”. It is intervening in the affairs of South China sea, Korean Peninsula and Asia-Pacific region. The coming days are going to witness intense competition between the imperialist US and socialist China – a reflection of the intensification of the central contradiction of our epoch between imperialism and socialism.


The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) held its summit simultaneously with that of G-7.  The contrast between the two was obvious to the whole world.  While the G-7 was plunged into a disarray by the USA, the SCO has now consolidated its role as an effective regional forum with India and Pakistan becoming full members.  China is taking the initiative to establish the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank with 60 members, including some from the developed countries.  Elsewhere in Latin America, regional fora continue to play an important role as a counter to challenge US imperialist agenda.  With the establishment of rightwing governments in Argentina, Brazil and with US, which backed interventions strengthening the rightwing offensive in other countries, new problems have been created for such regional cooperation.

Conflicts between Russia and the USA continue to sharpen.  Russia has successfully outmaneuvered USA and its allies in Syria.  Sino-Russian ties are being strengthened and both are working together to strengthen multilateral fora.

All these developments show the growing resistance to US efforts to impose its unipolarity to strengthen its global hegemony. 

India: Cementing Alliance with USA

In this background, instead of utilizing the growing inter-imperialist conflicts and emerging multipolarity to our advantage by strengthening India’s independent foreign policy positions and independent interventions in multilateral fora,  this BJP government continues to further cement India as a junior partner of US imperialism.  Apart from surrendering to the diktats of international finance capital, the RSS/BJP expects that cementing strategic alliance with the USA will enable  to obtain international support for its domestic agenda to transform the character of the Indian Republic into its project of a “Hindu Rashtra”.

Though, of late, some vacillations are visible due to the above noted developments at the international level such as at the SCO summit, or, in continuing to buy defence equipment from Russia and oil from Iran in defiance of US threats, the main tendency of this Modi government continues to remain that of surrendering India’s interests to the dictates of US imperialism.

This is now visible in the negotiations that are proceeding between India and USA on the draft Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). This provides a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the USA to India facilitating “interoperability” between Indian and US armed forces. This also links with other pro-US militaries that use such technology. Overriding defence ministry reservations that fear US intrusive access to Indian military communication systems, the Modi government is proceeding to further strengthen its status of a subordinate ally of US imperialism.  This comes after the strategic  defense agreement, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which actualizes India as a `major defence partner’ of USA, permitting USA to access our military installations and obliges India to provide all support, logistically and materially, to US military interventions against sovereign independent countries.

Growing Resistance

The Political Resolution adopted at the 22nd Party Congress noted: “In times of intense global economic crisis, a political battle over who would marshal the rising popular discontent surfaces. The political rightwing advances by rallying popular discontent and in ensuring that the Left and progressive forces do not emerge as a major alternative political force. These right-wing forces capitalising on people’s discontent end up pursuing precisely those very economic policies that have led to this economic crisis, imposed unprecedented burdens on the people and caused the rise in popular discontent, in the first place.

It is clear that in the coming days, the political direction in many of the countries of the world will be determined by the political success in marshalling popular discontent between the left-oriented democratic forces and the political right. Fascism arose with the support of the world’s monopoly capital in the wake of the Great Depression of 1929-33. Fascist forces were able to successfully exploit the growing popular discontent amongst the people as a consequence of the crisis. In the current conjuncture, the rising popular discontent against the prolonged economic crisis is fuelling the rise of extreme right and neo-fascist forces.”

At the same time, the resistance to the rise of the political right is also growing in many parts of the world.  The French elections saw the resistance to rise of the ultra-right.  However, the choice was between a neo-liberal banker and a neo-fascist led to nearly a third of the electorate abstaining from voting in the absence of a Left alternative.

In countries where strong Communist movements and the struggles under the Communist Party’s leadership like in Portugal, Greece, Cyprus etc, the resistance to the rising political right is gaining ground.

The Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK has been resisting the neo-liberal onslaught by the political right and bringing back people’s issues to the centre of the political agenda. In the USA likewise Bernie Sanders continues with  campaigns championing people’s issues and advanced the slogan of democratic socialism. Elsewhere in Europe many neo-Left formulations have emerged as platforms of popular resistance.

India: There has been a growing resistance among various sections of the Indian people against this rightwing BJP government’s economic policies, communal polarization and authoritarian attacks. The peasantry has displayed a big resistance that continues. The working class, after two successive annual all-India industrial strikes and a massive siege of the Parliament, is now preparing for another round of an all-India industrial strike action. The proposed August 9 ‘Jail Bharo’ and the September 5  `march to Parliament’ is seeing the emergence of a worker-peasant unity in struggle which has the potential to emerge as the core of the popular resistance and forge the worker-peasant alliance in the future.

Various new platforms for struggles are consolidating. The unity between the Left movements and the dalit protest movements is strengthening. Various peasant organizations have come together on a common platform and strengthened the resistance against this Modi government’s retrograde anti-farmer  agrarian policies. Intellectuals and students are participating in big protest actions against growing intolerance and attacks on rationality and reason mounted by the Hindutva forces. In various institutions of higher education, the students and the academia are mounting resistance against attacks on our education system and the efforts to convert these institutes of learning into intellectual Hindutva laboratories.

This growing resistance, both globally and domestically, confirms the conclusion arrived at the CPI(M) 22nd Congress Political Resolution: “However, there are also countervailing developments of political struggles to stem this tide through the rise and emergence of Left oriented platforms in various countries.”

Further, the Political Resolution notes: “These developments clearly show that wherever the Left and Left oriented forces have vigorously championed opposition to neo-liberalism and imperialist aggressiveness and strengthened popular mobilization and struggles, they have overtaken the social democrats, received popular support and registered advances. In the future this is going to be the arena for political battles. In the absence of an effective left-oriented opposition to neo-liberalism, it is the right that capitalises on the growing popular discontent.”

The imperative: Defeat the Political Right
Oust this RSS-BJP government

In the final analysis, in order to advance the popular struggles against this intensified exploitation and growing misery of the people, it is essential that the political right needs to be defeated.  The struggles against neo-liberalism will have to be intensified on the basis of an alternative policy trajectory  that will eventually lead up to the consolidation of the political alternative to capitalism. It is precisely such intensification of popular struggles that the political rightward shift disrupts through its divisive agenda and, in the process, it pursues policies that further advances the neo-liberal trajectory.

Therefore, the counter posing of intensifying class struggles versus adoption of tactics, including electoral tactics, to isolate and defeat the political right represented by the communal forces in India would be tantamount to remaining oblivious to the current complex realties. Following a rich, intense discussion at the Party congress, the Political Resolution analysed the International and National situation and adopted the following political line that the Party needs to implement in the current conjecture:

(i) Given the experience of the nearly four years rule of the Modi Government it is imperative to defeat the BJP government in order to isolate the Hindutva communal forces and reverse the anti-people economic policies.

(ii) Thus, the main task is to defeat the BJP and its allies by rallying all the secular and democratic forces.

(iii) But this has to be done without having a political alliance with the Congress Party.

(iv) However, there can be an understanding with all secular opposition parties including the Congress in parliament on agreed issues. Outside parliament, we should cooperate with all secular opposition forces for a broad mobilization of people against communalism. We should foster joint actions of class and mass organisations, in such a manner that can draw in the masses following the Congress and other bourgeois parties.

(v) The Party will fight against the neo-liberal policies being pursued by the BJP government at the Centre and by the various state governments including those run by the regional parties. The Party will strive to develop united and sustained actions on the issues of people’s livelihood and against the onslaught of the economic policies.

(vi) Joint platforms for mass movements and united struggles at all levels must be built up. Resistance to the anti-people policies should be intensified. The united actions of the class and mass organisations must seek to draw in the masses following the bourgeois parties.

(vii) Given the serious challenge posed by the Hindutva forces both inside and outside the government it is essential to build platforms for the widest mobilisation of all secular and democratic forces. The emphasis should be on building unity of people to fight the communal forces at the grassroots. These are not to be seen as political or electoral alliances. Similarly, broad unity to fight against the authoritarian attacks on democratic rights should be forged.

(viii) The Party will give priority to developing and building the independent strength of the Party. It will work to broaden and strengthen Left unity.

(ix) All Left and democratic forces should be brought together on a concrete programme to conduct united struggles and joint movements through which the Left and democratic front can emerge. In states, the various Left and democratic forces should be rallied to form a platform around a concrete programme. At the national level, the Left and democratic alternative should be 54 projected in our political campaigns and to rally all those forces who can find a place in the Left and democratic front.

(x) Appropriate electoral tactics to maximize the pooling of the anti-BJP votes should be adopted based on the above political line of the Party.

(Published in – Marxist (Eng) April 2018 to June 2018)