The monopoly corporate houses of our country called it a historic day, the 24th of July, 1991. It was the day when Manmohan Singh, then Finance Minister in the Narasimha Rao government, unveiled in his budget speech the program of globalisation of Indian capital through liberalisation and privatisation. The monopoly capitalists have been propagating through the media that Manmohan Singh must be applauded for initiating this golden period for India.
The working class has an entirely different view of this so-called reform program and its results over the past 20 years. So do the peasants and other sections of the toiling and excluded majority. The views of this toiling majority are neglected by the corporate media.
Starting with this issue, Mazdoor Ekta Lehar will publish interviews with representatives of the working class, of the peasantry and other oppressed sections, to elaborate their views on the past two decades of globalisation of Indian capital; and on their vision for the next two decades.
We begin the series with an interview of Comrade Lal Singh, General Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India. The following issues will carry more interviews with representatives of the working class, peasants and other small business people.
MEL Correspondent: What has been the result of the two decades of the so-called economic reform program since 1991?
Comrade Lal Singh: “The result of implementing this program has been highly uneven and lopsided economic growth. It has led to the intensification of class contradictions within our society.
“If we look at who has benefited the most, we find a miniscule proportion of the population that has amassed enormous wealth in this period. The turnover of the Tata group jumped from Rs. 14,000 crore to Rs. 3,50,000 crore over the past 20 years. That of the K.M. Birla group grew from Rs. 3,100 crore to Rs. 1,35,000 crore. The turnover of the Reliance Group was Rs. 2,300 crore twenty years ago; now it has split into two groups, and the turnover of the Mukesh Ambani group alone is over Rs. 2,00,000 crore.
“Several new names have joined the top circle of monopoly groups, such as the Sunil Bharti Mittal group and Gautam Adani group. The combined wealth of the 10 richest capitalists in our country reached the astronomical level of Rs. 8,40,000 crore in 2008, more than one-fifth the national income. At the other pole, more than 80% of the rural population spent less than Rs. 900 per head every month, according to the National Sample Survey of 2006/07. This is equivalent to just 30 rupees per day. Over 80% of the urban population spent less than Rs. 1800 per month, or 60 per day.
“The monopoly capitalists naturally consider the liberalisation and privatisation program a great success because they have minted money. But India remains the land with the maximum number of poor people. It is the country with maximum number of victims of numerous diseases. Infant mortality and maternal mortality remain high in most parts of the country. Even safe drinking water is not assured for millions of our people. Enormous time is spent every day to fetch a pail of water.
“The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission makes the preposterous claim that a working person can live on 30 Rupees per day! It shows that the monopoly capitalists and their spokesmen have no clue about the actual conditions of life of the toiling majority, their needs and aspirations. By defining the poverty line absurdly low, they claim that poverty is being tackled in our country.
“The relatively rapid economic growth, which our rulers proudly applaud, is being achieved through the most ruthless exploitation of workers and robbery of peasants. To make sure that the workers and peasants do not fight back as a united force, all kinds of diabolical acts are carried out, to divert them and set them against one another.
“The economic offensive has been accompanied by a fascistic political offensive in the form of state terrorism, communal violence and other blatant forms of violation of the rights of nations, classes and individual human beings.
“We cannot forget that Manmohan Singh’s maiden budget was followed by the criminal act of demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, followed by state-organised communal violence. Both the principal parties in Parliament collaborated in these monstrous crimes against our people and their unity. Our Party responded to those developments by taking a historic step in February 1993, of initiating a mass campaign along with numerous organisations, giving birth to a committee for people’s empowerment.
“If we look at the composition of the high rate of GDP growth, we find that the fastest growing sectors of the economy in this period have been services for export markets, banking and other financial agencies, the land market, stock market and commodity futures markets. None of these activities add even one paisa to the real wealth of our country. They do not contribute to the living standards of the workers and peasants. The growth of the stock market and futures markets have enable a few giant gamblers and profiteers to steal the value in the hands of smaller businesses and from the savings of working individuals.
“If we discount the fictitious value addition that is imputed to banking, trade, public administration and defence, etc., the growth rate in the production of material wealth in our country is not as high as our rulers claim. It is obvious, for instance, that not enough is being produced of the various essential food items that working people need, which is reflected in the soaring rate of food price inflation. Food price inflation is being further fuelled by speculative commodity trading and hoarding.
“Ensuring the prosperity of those who toil requires enhanced production of the articles of mass consumption and their adequate availability at affordable prices. This is not being assured at all by the present orientation of the economy and economic policy. Only exorbitant profits in the hands of monopoly capitalists are being assured, through highly lopsided growth.
MEL: What was the context and main thrust of the policy reforms?
Com LS: “By the end of the decade of the eighties, the monopoly capitalists of India had become big enough to handle competition with the biggest corporations of the world in various sectors. They were willing to open the doors to foreign capital in order to upgrade their technological base and to bargain for greater access to foreign markets.
“The old method of developing capitalism, the Nehruvian model, had reached a dead-end. It was no longer appropriate for the big capitalists. The collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the bipolar division of the world meant that India had to redefine her position afresh in a newly evolving global scenario. The big capitalists used this as the occasion for embarking on an aggressive imperialist course.
“The program of globalisation, through liberalisation and privatisation, is aimed at enabling Indian monopoly capitalists to emerge as contenders for big power status on the global scale. It is based on intensified exploitation of labour and robbery of natural resources as the premise. It is an anti-worker, anti-peasant and anti-social program with imperialist aims.
“The Rupee has been devalued from Rs. 18 to Rs. 45 per US Dollar in this period. This has made production for foreign markets more profitable in comparison to producing for the domestic market. It has made investing in India more profitable for foreign companies and banks. Restrictions have been progressively removed from the path of domestic capitalist corporations to access financing from abroad and to acquire companies abroad. The path has been cleared for foreign companies to invest in diverse sectors of industry and services in our country. Speculation is rampant and so are land scandals and various forms of swindling of public funds.
“The capitalist propaganda claims that state control has been replaced by a free market. In actual fact, the competition in the market is highly uneven and monopolistic, with a few big players squeezing the small players dry. One form of control over the state by the monopoly houses has been replaced with another form of control by the same interests, at a higher level of domination and degree of monopoly.
MEL Correspondent: What is your assessment of Manmohan Singh’s role and contribution?
“Manmohan Singh did not design the liberalisation and privatisation program that has been pursued over the past 20 years. It is a program designed by a class of billionaire capitalists, who selected Manmohan Singh as a capable candidate to justify and market this program to the public.
“To justify and promote the program of big monopoly capital, Manmohan Singh claimed that once the wealthy start expanding their wealth at a rapid rate, it will trickle down to the toiling masses. When this did not happen, he claimed that further adjustments to the program would give it a ‘human face’. Then he further claimed that his party would make sure that rapid GDP growth does not enrich only a small minority but is ‘inclusive’.
“The actual results are the opposite of what he and other advocates of privatisation and liberalisation claim. The working class is suffering in all sectors. Wages are not keeping pace with the soaring prices of food and other essential consumption articles. Inflation is also much higher than the rate of interest received on bank deposits, so the savings of working families are falling in value alongside monthly incomes. Peasants are sinking into debt as their net income is not able to cover the debt servicing burden and also provide for health care, nutritious food and other needs of the family.
MEL: What is the alternative orientation and vision of the Communist Ghadar Party for the next two decades, i.e., 2010-30?
Com LS: “Our vision is that the creators of wealth must become the masters and the main beneficiaries of wealth creation. Who creates wealth? Manmohan Singh and other bourgeois economists claim that monopoly houses like the Tatas and Ambanis are creating wealth, and all restrictions must be removed from their path. The truth is that it is human labour, in interaction with nature and with past products of labour, which creates wealth. Workers and peasants create wealth through their toil. The capitalists pocket what others have created. They are the robbers of wealth and not its creators.
“The conditions in our country are crying out for a reorientation of the economy and reconstitution of political power. These together constitute the program for the Navnirman of India that our Party advocates.
“Only if workers and peasants become the decision-makers can they ensure that the economy works for them and not for the robbers of the wealth they produce. With political power in their hands, the workers, peasants and revolutionary intelligentsia will ensure that the economic system provides them with prosperity and stability, that is, it raises their living standard steadily without any crises or shocks.
“Fulfilling the ever-rising material and cultural needs of the population must become the overriding objective of social production, in place of the maximisation of private profits. A country of continental dimension like ours can be largely self-reliant. Imports and exports are needed only in a relatively small scale in some selected commodities.
“We agitate for the formation of a worker-peasant government to begin implementing the reorientation of the economy. We agitate for socialisation of finance, foreign trade and domestic wholesale trade on an immediate basis, to eliminate any scope for private profiteering in these spheres.
“To sort out the unresolved national question in our country and end the brutal violation of rights as in Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur, we call for the reconstitution of the Indian Union on a voluntary basis, with every constituent enjoying the right to join or not join the union.
“We call for radical changes in the political process, so as to end party rule and establish rule of and by the people, organised in samitis in every constituency. The right to vote must be accompanied by the right to be elected, right to have a say in the selection of candidates and the right to recall the one who gets elected at any time.
“There is an acute clash that is developing between those who desire a radical change and those who want to preserve the status quo. The outcome of this great struggle will determine whether India will stumble along on its present crisis-ridden and dangerous imperialist course, or lift herself out of crisis and advance on the high road of civilisation.
“Our party represents the outlook and standpoint of the working class, which is interested in empowering the toiling majority of people so as to achieve the anti-colonial, anti-feudal, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist revolution that Indian society needs. Navnirman is the decisive stage of ending the legacy of the past, and laying the foundation for a bright future.”