People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 5

February 15, 2009

 

National Seminar on Global Financial Crisis & Indian Peasantry


Fortify Worker – Peasant Alliance


A R Sindhu

P Krishnaprasad


THE unresolved agrarian question in India is center to people’s democratic revolution. The initiative by the All India Kisan Sabha and the All India Agricultural workers’ Union to organise a national seminar on Global Financial Crisis and Indian peasantry was an effort to bring back the agrarian question to the focus of the national political discourse in the context of the still unfolding world capitalist crisis. The seminar provided great opportunity to the Marxist economists, political leaders, academicians and social activists to share their vast experiences and differing perceptions on the deepening agrarian crisis and changing forms of contradictions vital in fixing the tactical contour in the struggles for radical social change.

The great depression in 1930s although caused unprecedented miseries to the people world over, created a condition which saw the emerging working class movement in the struggle for socialism, and national liberation grow. It has aggravated the intra -contradiction among world imperialist powers, which has led to the Second World War. Imperialism got weakened and massive anti colonial struggles succeeded in many parts of the world. National liberation struggles succeeded under the leadership of bourgeoisie in India and under working class in China in late 40s. The heroic peasant struggles like Telengana, Punnapra-Vayalar, Kayyoor, Warli, Thebhaga etc., against the colonial rule as well as the feudal landlords, which consolidated the Indian freedom movement, were the fallouts of the severe distress and miseries faced by the then peasantry and aggravated by the great depression.

Even the bourgeois economists have affirmed that the current capitalist crisis will have the same or more severe impact on the people world over comparing to the great depression. This capitalist crisis undoubtedly will bring deep changes on the political and social character of the world. It is of utmost importance for the progressive forces to understand the basic tendency of the current situation to intervene in it. Thus the two days seminar held at Kalpetta, Wayanad, Kerala on January 31 and February 1, 2009 which also has chalked out the peasant and agriculture workers charter of demands and the central committee meetings held immediately after that to draw a plan of action, became historically important.

Wayanad, the small hill district of Kerala, situated at the boarder of Tamilnadu and Karnataka, was chosen as the venue of the seminar due to a special reason. The district, which had the highest peasant suicide rate in India in early 2000 due to the agrarian distress, could successfully arrest the suicide tendency by middle of 2007. The peasant agitations, led by Kisan Sabha and Adivasi Kshema Samiti, in the district and the timely actions taken by the LDF government which came to power in Kerala in 2006 could bring new hope among the distress ridden people, who saw no alternative other than suicide. The agitation, which formed the widest possible platform, bringing all peasantry together against the neo liberal policies of the union government as well as the then UDF government of Kerala, could change the political character of this traditionally right wing dominated district by electing Left candidates in the last three consecutive general elections. The ‘Wayanad model’ of successful united peasant struggles made the leadership of the AIKS and AIAWU choose it as the venue of the seminar.

Nearly five hundred participants of the seminar included the central committee members of AIKS and AIAWU, academicians, and selected delegates from class and mass organisations within Kerala. The papers, to be presented were collected well in advance and bound volumes of the documents were given to all delegates in English, Hindi and Malayalam. The fact that four Polit bureau members including the general secretary of the CPI (M) participated in the seminar, proves the due importance the Party has given to the seminar and the plan of action.


FIRM ALLIANCE OF THE WORKING CLASS

AND THE PEASANTRY NEEDED

The inaugural session was chaired by S Ramachandran Pillai, president AIKS. Delegates were welcomed by P A Mohammed, chairman of the reception committee. Prakash Karat, general secretary, CPI (M) delivered the inaugural address. He stressed on the importance of resolving the agrarian question and how the later developments under neo-liberal reforms further aggravated the contradiction in the countryside between the landlord-moneylender-merchant trinity on one side and the peasantry on the other. Prakash said, “In the struggle ahead, we shall have to pay careful attention to building the worker-peasant alliance as an instrument in the resolution of the agrarian question. A particularly important and relevant formulation in the CPI (M)’s programmatic understanding of building the People’s Democratic Front is that- The core and basis of the people's democratic front is the firm alliance of the working class and the peasantry. This alliance is the most important force in defending national independence, accomplishing far-reaching democratic transformations and ensuring all round social progress.

The worker-peasant alliance envisages direct support by the working class to the struggles for the class demands of the peasantry and agricultural workers. In addition, in the period to come, we must seek to build this alliance in new and imaginative ways” he said.

S Ramachandran Pillai in his keynote address warned that “the orientation of government policy towards agriculture is a basic issue before the peasant movement in the context of the global economic crisis. If the direction of government policy continues to be in favour of further opening up of Indian agriculture to international trade and corporate intrusion in the backdrop of an unfolding global recession, the problems and sufferings of the peasantry will intensify manifold”. He recalled the role of All India Kisan Sabha, in bringing the peasantry into the mainstream of India’s freedom struggle, in the backdrop of the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the backdrop of the unfolding crisis of the capitalist world today, there is a need to relive that legacy and forge worker-peasant unity to unleash mighty struggles against the neoliberal regime in India, he said.

As part of the inaugural session, a paper on ‘Peasant agitations and aftermath- Lessons from Wayanad Experience’ was presented by P Krishnaprasad.

The academic sessions were divided into five. All the sessions were marked by deep theoretical and ideological discussions and debates which need to be elaborated separately. The significance of the seminar is that the debates were taken further by the political leadership and a clear political direction was given to the peasant movement.

The first session was on “The Agrarian Question in the Post-War Period and the Indian Peasantry”. Professor Utsa Patnaik, presented the subject focusing on the changing character of contradictions and the political importance of mobilising the peasantry against neo liberalism. The stormy session was chaired by Ashok Dhawle, joint secretary, AIKS and the discussants were Dr Ramkumar and Professor Venkatesh Athreya.

The second session on “Global Economic Crisis and its Impact on the Agrarian Situation in India” was chaired by Professor Prabhat Patnaik . Professor C P Chandrasekhar elaborately dealt with the impact of the Global crisis. Professor Abhijit Sen enriched the discussion.

The second day started with a session on “The Peasant Question and Contemporary Imperialism” presented by renowned Marxist economist Professor Prabhat Patnaik. Suryakanta Mishra, minister for Health and Rural Development, government of West Bengal, and Prasenjit Bose took part in the discussions. Sitaram Yechury, Polit bureau member CPI(M) beautifully summed up the deep ideological discussions, which gave the political direction to the seminar.

The fourth session, on “Peasant Demands in the Context of Crisis” presented by Professor Jayati Ghosh, helped the delegates to place their demands in the present context and was lively by the numerous suggestions received from them. In the session which was chaired by Balakrishnan, secretary , Tamilnadu state Kisan Sabha, the discussants were Ashok Dhawale and Dr Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya.

The fifth session was chaired by A Vijayaraghavan, general secretary, AIAWU. The subject was “ Crisis and Rural Livelihoods” which was presented by Professor Venkatesh Athreya. Suneet Chopra and Smita Gupta were the discussants.

A demand charter of the AIKS and AIAWU was presented by K Varadarajan, general secretary of AIKS in the last plenary session. The session was chaired by S Ramachandran Pillai. More than ten delegates enriched the charter by giving suggestions. The draft was adopted which will be finalised by the central committees of the organisations.

C K Saseendran, general convenor of the reception committee, gave the vote of thanks.

A massive rally and public meeting held on the evening of January 31, enthused the delegates as well as the progressive masses of Wayand. Prakash Karat while inaugurating the meeting, called upon the people to work towards a third alternative, based on independent foreign policy, alternative people’s economic policy and a secular polity, in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The other speakers include Sitaram Yechury, S Ramachandran Pillai, K Varadarajan, Suryakant Mishra and A Vijayaraghavan. All the speakers exhorted the masses to be cautious about the so called grand alliance against the Left all over India,and particularly in Left ruled states.

The seminar helped the Indian peasant movement to sharpen its vision and to advance to intensify the struggle against the neo liberal imperialism by strengthening the worker peasant alliance.