People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 07, 2004
And Elections Across The World in 2004
is a momentous year for electoral politics, not just in India, but in the world.
Along with national elections here in India, there are important elections due
in other parts of the world - most notably in the United States. We have all
learned the unfortunate truth that the outcome of the US elections matters to
all of us and can even change the course of global politics and economics, not
to mention destroy the lives of innocent people in the opposite part of the
globe. So we are forced to give it some attention.
news is that in the United States, just as in India, the outcome of the
elections is not as predictable and self-evident as the current rulers in both
countries would like to think. And in both places, the rulers appear to be
oblivious to the real sources of discontent – that is, the worsening material
conditions faced by ordinary people.
Consider the following quotation: “We expect politicians to place a positive spin on economic news, but to insist that things are going great when many people have personal experience to the contrary seems foolish. To justify policies that more and more people call irresponsible, he must claim that wonderful things are happening as a result…
a while, that famous 8 per cent growth rate seemed to be just what he needed.
But in the fourth quarter, growth dropped to 4 per cent. And as we've seen, the
jobs still aren't there.”
could be forgiven about thinking that this is a reference to prime minister
Vajpayee, the BJP-led government’s focus on “India Shining” and the
official rejoicing at the 8 per cent GDP growth estimate the CSO has
conveniently produced for the current year. But no, this quotation is not about
Vajpayee – it is about president George W Bush, and the quotation is from the
well-known American economist Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times.
takes issue with the recent claims made by the US administration that employment
has shown a healthy increase in the current economic recovery in the US. He
points out that the recovery in the jobs in the most recent quarter year was
well below the rate of growth of working age population. Over the past few
years, the picture is even worse. “Since the recovery officially began in
November 2001, employment has actually fallen by half a percent, while the
working-age population has increased about 2.4 per cent. By this measure, jobs
are becoming ever scarcer.”
this, the household surveys of unemployment, on which the official unemployment
rate calculations in the US are made, suggest that unemployment has fallen to
5.6 per cent of the labour force. How is this possible? It happens, Professor
Krugman says, because people are not counted as unemployed unless they are
actively looking for work, and a growing proportion of the unemployed population
has simply stopped looking for work.
reason they may have stopped looking for work is because new jobs are very hard
to find. Nearly half of those who are defined as unemployed in the US have been
out of work for more than 15 weeks – and this number does not include all
those discouraged workers who have simply “dropped out” of the labour force.
for many of those US workers who do manage to find or keep their jobs, life has
not got much better. Since 2001, real GDP in the US increased by 7.2 per cent.
But the increase in real wages and salaries since then has been only 0.6 per
cent, and for less skilled workers there has been no increase at all. So the
benefits of growth have accrued to profits of corporations, not to most of the
people working for them.
Does all this sound vaguely familiar? Indeed, there is much similarity between what is happening in the country ruled by the current super-imperialist, and the country ruled by one of that super-imperialist’s most anxious and willing allies. In both countries, the rulers are trying to put a positive spin on what is essentially a bad economic situation.
difference is that in the US the Bush regime has gone in for major fiscal
deficits to generate the economic recovery, even if most of this has come in the
form of tax cuts which favour the rich. In India, by contrast, the government
has not used the current situation of economic slack to increase its own
investment, or to increase pro-poor expenditures at all.
The point is the in both countries, economic recovery has been mostly jobless. And this has been associated with major deterioration in the bargaining power of labour, and generally worse conditions for most workers. But both sets of governments appear to have fooled themselves into believing that they can use propaganda to counter the evident reality.
12 years ago, George Bush’s father lost the US election (after a more successful war against Iraq) because he was seen to be out of the touch with the economic reality of most voters. There is a real chance that this particular story will be repeated. The much-publicised backlash in the US against companies outsourcing service work to countries like India, is just one indication of the feelings of vulnerability and frustration being experienced by the US working class.
the major democratic contender for the president’s job – John Kerry – is
ahead of George Bush in the opinion polls. It may be that both Bush and
Vajpayee will find that hype cannot overcome reality when people actually have
the power of the vote.