People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 10, 2005

Imperialism, Sovereignty And Democracy: Seminar Report

Nalini Taneja


ON the eve of the Eighteenth Party congress to be held in Delhi, a three-day seminar was organised by the reception committee on the theme of Imperialism, Sovereignty and Democracy.


As the title of the seminar shows, the Party considers that the defense of economic sovereignty is inseparable from a deepening of democracy: the anti-imperialist agenda of the Party cannot be realised without the widest possible mobilisation, which can only be on the basis of a struggle against the structures of social and political domination. Such structures include the forces of casteism, communalism, and obscurantism.


If, as all economists at the seminar pointed out, the ruling classes have made their peace with imperialism and see themselves as junior partners in the globalised economy, then, with the resources from a national bourgeoisie absent, the anti-imperialist struggle has to be focused on defending national sovereignty in all critical areas of national life. But support for such defense can only come from winning the support of those who suffer oppression at the hands of the ruling classes. This means that class struggles, anti-caste movements and defense of minority rights must become the focus of political activity, without which popular support for the defense of economic sovereignty and anti-imperialism is not possible. In other words, although the working class, the peasantry, particularly, the poorer sections and dalits are hardest hit by globalisation policies, it is not enough to talk only of imperialism, without simultaneously also protesting the oppression of dalits and attacks on minorities, and supporting popular causes against all forms of ruling class exploitation. A fight for greater democracy is the essence of anti-imperialism, and the best guarantee that popular struggles become a part of the larger goal for socialism. On the other hand, the defense of economic sovereignty is a very important dimension of political mobilisation against the ruling classes. The two aspects of the struggle are intrinsically linked. That seemed to be the dominant theme of the seminar, expressed in so many ways in the different sessions dealing with specific themes.


Sitaram Yechury argued for the need to understand the imperialist-globalisation policies as part of the process of capitalist development in its current phase. The widest mobilisation against it is a pre-requisite for any social change we may choose to usher, and a part of our democratic revolution, he said. Another point that emerged clearly from the addresses of both Yechury and Prakash Karat was that in the context of the imperialist offensive in the context of a uni-polar world, the struggle for socialism is going to be much more protracted struggle than communists had thought, and in the adjustments that needed to be made to the programme, as a consequence, it is important to realise that these is a need to engage with globalisation in order to build the material forces for a socialist alternative. As Karat said, there is a need to experiment with various forms of cooperative forms of ownership, to see the current stage of the fight for a socialist alternative in terms of defense of national sovereignty and democracy.


The reasons for this as priority were outlined in the analysis of the content of the current phase of imperialist onslaught on the lives of the people. C P Chandrashekhar showed, how far from leading to a growth in the industrial sector, it is leading to its collapse and a shift in investment to the service sector which serves in bringing down the cost of production for imperialism, but leads to a depletion of our own sectors of industry. Prabhat Patnaik argued that FDI is in the form of finance capital and not investment in production, which only increases the stranglehold of imperialism on third world economies like ours. Utsa Patnaik showed how the policies of our governments have resulted in an extreme agrarian crisis, and Madhura Swaminathan talked of the decline in rural credit available in the rural areas, and the collapse of the PDS which have aggravated the situation. The dismantling of the public health system at the behest of multinational pharmaceutical firms, and the privatisation of health care and education have virtually left the majority of the people defenseless and helpless in the face of the impact of globalisation policies, as apparent from the presentations of Imrana Qadir and Venkatesh Athreya.


In such a context it has been easy for sectarian and communal forces to intensify their hold on people. Tanika Sarkar outlined the growth of the RSS and its affiliated organisations, Malini Bhattacharya argued that secularism and a secular state are essential to the safeguarding of the democratic cause. Dr Thorat spoke on how the oppression of dalits is intrinsic to the agenda of sectarian religious forces, and T Jayaraman emphasised that the fight for a scientific temper is linked with democratic political moblisation. Without all these struggles it would be impossible to wean people away from the ruling class agendas. Thomas Isaac stressed decentralised planning as one way of mobilising people. U Vasuki outlined the positive gains from women’s participation in panchayats, while calling for ways to ensure that this participation remains effective and substantial. Subhasini Ali, stressed on the links between patriarchy and capitalism, and the necessity to undermine it even as she showed how women’s emancipation is linked with socialism.


In another session Walden Bello argued for opposing the militaristic agendas of the US in Iraq, and West Asia, and Aijaz Ahmad analysed the political agenda of the neo-conservatives and showed how the US has been guaranteeing the global interests of imperialism through a national state: it combines both roles as a modern Empire. A militarised US is a threat to democracy all over the world, not least through interference in domestic politics of third world countries.


The defense of democracy, as it emerged from the seminar, includes anti-imperialism, just as the defense of economic sovereignty is not possible without safeguarding democracy within our country. This was the message of the seminar, and no doubt an indication of the issues that are likely to be discussed during the congress.