People's Democracy

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


No. 23  

June 7, 2009


World Capitalist Crisis And

Growing Racist Attacks


Sitaram Yechury


THE attacks in Australia on Indian students continues unabated. This has naturally caused both anguish and angst back in India. Our solidarity goes out to the victims of the racist outrages in Australia, particularly in Melbourne. The Australian prime minister and the government have been giving the right assurances but the racist attacks continue to take place. It is only hoped that the will of the democratic civil society will prevail.  



Australia had aggressively marketed itself as a lucrative education destination.  This resulted in nearly a lakh of Indian students currently studying in Australia constituting 18 per cent of the entire student community there.  They contribute nearly 2 billion Australian dollars (Rs 7500 crore) annually to the Australia's GDP. 


Migration leading to racist outrages is fairly common.   We have our own domestic variety like what was witnessed in Mumbai recently.  We had seen such expressions earlier in the North East as well.  The rivalry associated with the size of the share of the cake, so to say, is normally attributed as the main reason for the `locals'  outraging the migrants.  Some have reaped political benefit, like the Shiv Sena, which uses  racism as its electoral mascot. 


The record of racist abuses in Australia has been  documented even by Hollywood in the early 1990s.  A strident racist campaign was launched in 2004 under the slogan, “Australian universities for Australian students”.  During the last 12 months, there have been as many as 70 attacks on Indian students.  The gory details need not be repeated. 


However, to attribute such attacks as an expression of racism alone, in the present context of global recession would be like missing the woods for the trees.  Racist outrages are an expression of a deeper malaise.  Between January 2008 and January 2009, Australia's GDP growth rate plummeted  from 4.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent.  The last quarter saw company profits falling by 7.2 per cent.  Business investment  tumbled at a record rate of nearly 9 per cent.  Additionally, this year has seen  one of Australia's worst droughts.  As a result of this, unemployment climbed to 5.4 per cent in April 2009 from 3.9 per cent in February 2008.  The Australian Prime Minister has declared, for the first time, that the economy has  moved into a state of recession.  Though the Labour government in Australia has begun distributing a whopping 9.9 billion Australian dollars to low income  families directly, clearly serious problems of livelihood are affecting its people. 


The century-old world's automobile leader, General Motors, declaring bankruptcy  indicates  that the global recession is worsening. The World Bank has declared that the year 2009 will see the “first decline in world output on record”.  How this recession will be tackled by the governments in different countries will determine the nature of social conflicts that arise as various sections of the people scramble for their share of the shrinking cake.  Bail out packages for the corporates, however necessary, cannot go unaccompanied by huge doses of public investments that will generate both employment and importantly domestic demand.  It is the latter that will provide the much-required stimulus for the economy.  The way of tackling the present crisis must be based on putting people before profits and not the other way around. 


This, however, requires the recognition  that the path of neo-liberal globalisation of recent decades has ended.  Corporate India, however, continues to remain in the neo-liberal mindset, notwithstanding the collapse  and bankruptcy of its global high priests. It is asking for speedier reforms particularly since this UPA government does not require the support of the Left.  It is precisely because the Left had prevented the last government from undertaking unbriddled financial reforms like the privatisation of the pension funds, raising the cap on foreign investment in the insurance sector, banking reforms permitting foreign banks from virtually take over Indian private banks, that has prevented a far greater devastation of the Indian economy.


It is also necessary to learn from history.  The devastation caused by the great depression of the 1930s was met in different ways by different capitalist countries.  One of these ways laid the basis for the rise of fascism. As Georgi Dimitrov underlined in his speech at the Communist International in 1935, “Fascism adapts its demagogy to the peculiarities of each country. And the mass of petty bourgeois and even a section of the workers, reduced to despair by want, unemployment and insecurity of their existence fall victim to the social and chauvinist demagogy of fascism.” Further, he explained how “it is in the interests of the most reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie that fascism intercepts the disappointed masses who desert the old bourgeois parties. But it impresses these masses by the vehemence of its attacks on the bourgeois governments and its irreconcilable attitude to the old bourgeois parties”.  


The large-scale unemployment created by the crisis was a huge army that was mobilised by fascist demagogy heralding Hitler's rise to power.  Nazi fascism  was also the most extreme expression of racism – Aryan supremacy.  It's horrific consequences of the concentration camps and the second world war  continue to haunt us even today.  The building of the fascist war machine was, probably, the biggest economic stimulus of that time.  The question therefore is not one of giving an economic stimulus. The question is what type of economic stimulus is given that does not engender authoritarian and fascist tendencies.


Popular pressures must be mounted to ensure that such ways of meeting the capitalist economic recession are prevented.  This can only happen when the governments of different countries are forced through popular pressure to embark on a path of taking a quantum leap in public investments to build and strengthen the social and economic infrastructure. In the meanwhile, all efforts must be made to ensure that ugly, uncivil  and anti-democratic  expressions  like racist abuses  are contained on the basis of decisive deterrent action by the authorities.