People's Democracy

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


No. 20

May 19, 2013




India Today: Looking Back, Looking Forward


EMINENT economist Professor Prabhat Patnaik has warned about growing signs of creeping fascism in the country as a result of the neo-liberal economic policies being pursued by successive governments that were creating vast unemployment. One of the signs of creeping fascism, he felt, was the increasing desire of the corporate-financial interests in our country to acquire direct control over the State. This is evident from the fact that they are projecting Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister of the country -- a person with communal-fascistic record and who has literally handed over entire economy of his state to corporate-financial interests.


Patnaik was speaking in the inaugural session of the three day national level seminar titled ‘India Today: Looking Back, Looking Forward’ organised by Sundarayya Vignana Kendram on the occasion of birth centenary of Putchalapalli Sundarayya began in Hyderabad on May 04, 2013. Professors Amiya Bagchi and Aijaz Ahmed were the other main speakers in the session that was chaired by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member B V Raghavulu.


Patnaik said that the major hallmark of present capitalist path is the massive increase in numbers of reserve army of unemployed due to complete ruining of petty production especially in

agriculture that is driving millions to migrate to towns in search of work. With the increase in weight of lumpen proletariat vis a vis proletariat, there is a distinct implication to democracy. He cited the recent attempts to physically eliminate the Left in Bengal. He warned that unlike in Germany of 1930s, fascism in India can experiment with different forms. He called upon the Left to remain extremely conscious of the political consequences of these developments.


Professor Aijaz Ahmed dealt with changing forms and fortunes of communalisms in our country since Independence. He felt that communalism in all its forms is deeply ingrained in the very structures of Indian society and day-to-day politics -- so deeply that much of it passes unnoticed. He said the present ruling classes of the country are turning their back on our anti-colonial tradition and seeking to redefine nationalism in religious and majoritarian terms. Neo-liberalism and communalism are seen as two sides of the same coin. Prof Ahmed felt that the social disorientation caused by the neo-liberal capitalist path of development create conditions for lumpenisation of sections of proletariat. The greatest challenge before the Left today is to tackle this situation where even the totality of class structure gets disoriented. He was emphatic that the real alternative to communalism is communism.


Professor Amiya Kumar Bagchi in his lucid presentation on ‘Imperialism and Indian Economy’ focussed on the centrality of the land question. “We are celebrating today a person who led one of the major peasant uprisings of the world in the twentieth century and played a pivotal role in ending the rule of perhaps the most important of the puppet rulers whom the British used to  keep under their control those parts of India which they did not directly rule. At the heart of colonialism was the control of the land, and at the heart of the peasant struggle was restoring the control of the land to the tillers of that land, and freeing them from the bondage of the usurpers”, he said.


After the synoptic session, eminent economists C P Chandrashekar, Surajit Majumdar and Chirashree Das Gupta presented papers in the session on ‘Industry, Finance, Planning’.  Professor Chandrashekar In the afternoon session, Professor Jayati Ghosh spoke about ‘Economic Policies and Women’s Work’ while another economist Smita Gupta dwelt on ‘State Policies and Women’. Kalyani Menon Sen threw light on the ‘Political Economy of Violence against Women’.





CPI(M) Polit Bureau member B V Raghavulu gave a call for convergence of forces of dalits and Left to wage united struggles to end all forms of caste discrimination and economically uplift the most downtrodden of the society – dalits.


Raghavulu made this call while speaking in the session ‘Class, Caste, Community’ in the seminar on the second day, May 05. Accepting that there were many differences of opinion between the two on issues and strategies, he said that the focus must be more on how to work together despite these differences and achieve unity in practice.


Raghavulu said upper caste landlords in rural areas want the present caste system to continue because it helps them to maintain their oppression and hegemony over agrarian labour classes, who are largely dalits. How to unite the dalit agricultural labour with fellow non-dalit labourers (who due to caste affinities may be inclined to be with the oppressors) is a complicated issue with many layers of problems.


Simply believing that taking up the class issue of wages would rally them together would also not be correct, he pointed out. It is crucial to make the dalit agricultural labourer an independent force, removing the dependence on landlords for their economic survival.


Professor Suvira Jaiswal speaking about ‘Caste in historical perspective’ said that caste has always functioned in favour of political and economic elites. The ideology of the dominant classes impacted on the subordinates and thus the caste system has been deeply ingrained in them. She felt that endogamy and vote bank politics are the two major reasons for continuation of caste system in our country. Pointing out that affirmative action like reservations alone would not change the status of dalits, she underlined the need for economic empowerment of dalits.


Professor Vimal Thorat said that dalits consider the Left as allies, Despite having differences on many issues, she stressed that both forces must unitedly wage struggles for the betterment of dalits, especially dalit women who are the worst sufferers.





Earlier in the day, in the second synoptic session, Professor Utsa Patnaik delivered a talk on ‘The Question of Land, Livelihoods and Poverty in the Countryside’. She said nearly 80 per cent of our population is facing a squeeze in purchasing power and a fall in their real wages due to the neo-liberal policies being pursued by successive governments. This is reflected in the mounting food stocks in the country. There has been a big rise in unemployment during the period 1999-2000 and 2009-10. Debunking the official poverty figures as a ‘sham’, she asserted that poverty has actually risen during this time. Land ownership is increasingly shifting to the top rich sections in the countryside.


Patnaik identified three sets of reasons for this state of affairs. One was the fiscal contractionary policies of the government under the euphemism ‘fiscal consolidation’ even at the time of greatest financial recession of 2008. Second was the dogma of free trade where our economy, including agricultural sector, is sought to be opened up to western economies. The third set can be grouped under withdrawal of State support as seen in the total dismantling of price control mechanism and procurement process.Going for exports mindlessly resulted in severe crisis as reflected in thousands of cotton farmers committing suicide.


Patnaik attacked the prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh by saying he was dogmatically committed to free trade. She said even after 60 years of Independence we remain intellectually colonized. Western theories continue to hegemonies our intellectuals and our capacity for independent thought has been crushed. With our education sector being opened up for foreign universities, this trend would assume dangerous proportions, she felt. Referring to the EU-India   Free Trade Agreement, she said it will displace our own producers while benefiting the rich farmers of EU. With the Indian elite always enamoured of imported goods, we may see a rise in consumption of packaged food in the coming days. Patnaik slammed the government for choosing to export surplus foodgrains instead of making efforts to increase the purchasing power of people who would then have purchased these stocks for consumption.


Journalist Sukumar Muralidharan spoke on the subject ‘Non-Alignment to Dependence: Shifting Paradigms for Foreign Policy’ in this synoptic session.





Prominent journalists P Sainath and Sasi Kumar dealt with the topic ‘State, Market and the Media’. Sashi Kumar opposed the Press Council of India chairman Markandeya Katju’s proposal of content regulation of media by an outside agency, saying it can be very subversive. Expressing surprise at the support received by Katju for this proposal, he expressed concern at the government using the present rhetoric to crackdown on social media. Any regulatory framework must be confined to only ensuring a level-playing field. With the press becoming more and more cartelized and the nature of monopoly becoming more acute, there is an urgent need for restrictions on cross ownership in media. This is necessary because the advances in technology are making it easier for cross ownership.


Kumar criticized the corporate media for not giving any space for rural affairs, poverty, caste oppression, marginal groups travails etc. The representative character of media has today become suspect and much vitiated, he felt. The ratings syndrome in electronic media was making the media blinkered. Every channel was chasing the same stories because of the fear of missing the story. Despite the tremendous growth of media in the country, it cannot be assumed that there has been a growth in journalism. In fact, journalists are becoming increasingly endangered. With the whole market model of media exposed, today there is a need for a new paradigm, felt Sashi Kumar. He wanted initiative from State for alternative models, including a mandatory State financing model.


P Sainath in his presentation contrasted how a tiny Indian media during freedom struggle served a huge social function while the present gigantic India media serves a tiny social function. He said a new convergence is taking place – of political, business and media families. From the corporate hijack of media agenda, today it has progressed to corporate hijack of media itself. Sainath felt there is a structural shut-out of the poor in the media. That is why there is a growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality. He suggested as alternatives the strengthening of public broadcasting, the bringing to centre the progressive fringes in Internet and popular movements to fight monopolies.


Post-lunch there was a session on ‘The Agrarian Crisis’ which was addressed by eminent economists Professor Venkatesh Athreya, Vikas Rawal and Ramakumar.





Speakers in the ‘Culture and Politics’ panel of Sundarayya centenary seminar on May  06 called for developing of a broad platform that would involve all progressive, secular and democratic people of the country. The Left must take an initiative in this regard.


CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and former education and cultural affairs minister in Kerala government, M A Baby cited the experience of Sahmat, which was formed to take the legacy of Safdar Hashmi forward, in this regard and said it showed practically how to successfully build such a platform. He stressed that in the field of art and culture it is very necessary to have relative autonomy and independence in functioning.


Baby termed the criticism from some quarters that there is no original work or creativity in the work of Left cultural artistes as baseless. There is a glorious past where such big names as Pablo Picaso in painting, Pablo Neruda in poetry, Sergei Eisenstein in films were all Leftists. However, there should be a continuous experimentation in all forms of art and culture.


Professor Malini Bhattacharya spoke about the ‘Politics of Culture in the Time of Neo-Liberalism’. She spoke of how the secular and democratic spaces are being taken over by corporate power in this neo-liberal period. A fall out of this has been that the communal, casteist, patriarchal politics is no longer confined to right reactionary forces. It is spreading across the board. She called upon the Left parties to launch a struggle for every inch of that receding public space all the time.


Noted theatre personality M K Raina gave an account of the experience of Sahmat in this terrain.


In the afternoon of the last day, there was a session on Science and Technology that was addressed by A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, Vice Chancellor of University of Hyderabad and prominent science activist Prabir Purkayastha.


The three day seminar came to a successful conclusion with an open session in which CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat was the main speaker.