How to ensure peoples control over the political system, process and institutions is the most important question facing our people today.
There are two issues we must deal with today.
What do we mean by political system, process and institutions?
Who is controlling these? Why do we need Peoples control over these? What must we do to ensure peoples control over these?
We are part of society, born to society, which is organized in a certain way. Workers and peasants work and contribute to society. Children study in order to get trained and work and contribute later on. The old who have already exhausted their productive years in taking care of society must now be taken care of by society. All of us expect that our aspirations, which are higher than those of the preceding generations, are fulfilled.
When we look at our country it is one of sharp contrasts. The top ten capitalists control more than one fifth of the country’s national income. (840,000 crores rupees). The amount of money stashed away in Swiss Banks is more than the GDP of our country. The money stashed away by the Gandhi family in foreign accounts is not much less than the total wealth of the Mukesh Ambani group. At other end, more than 80% of our population spends less than Rs 900 per month in villages, and less than 1800 per month in cities.
Medical tourism is flourishing, on other hand millions of pregnant women and infants die every year for lack of access to even basic health services.
Millions of people live in slums and foot paths, without the basic amenities of life – water, sanitation.
Majority of sons and daughters of workers and peasants have no access to schools that impart quality education.
Large sections of our tillers of land, those who feed the entire country, go hungry to bed because they have no land and no work, or because their crops have failed to earn enough income after paying banks and money lenders.
Our youth are being sought after by multinational corporations in the most modern productive enterprises. At same time, millions of our children suffer from malnutrition and preventable diseases, millions are out of school, and youth unemployment is rising.
The most precious human productive asset is being ruined by the existing economic system in which one section of labour force is intensely exploited while another section is partially or fully idle for lack of employment. Of those employed, some use modern technology while others are gathering garbage with their bare hands or carry loads on their heads in construction sites.
Young women are killed for marrying outside their caste. Women suffer multiple forms of discrimination. Girls are killed in the womb. They are superexploited in the work places earning less than men for the same work.
In entire regions of country, there is army rule and people are shot dead on slightest pretext, accused of being terrorists or extremists. Individuals and collectives who question the unjust authority and demand their human, democratic or national rights are deemed to be a threat to unity and integrity of India.
The root cause of the contradictions and contrasts lie in the nature of the economic syst6em and state power that exist. Capitalism is the motor of the economy. It perpetuates feudal and other backward relations as well as imperialist plunder, even as it has developed to the stage of state monopoly capitalism. The state is colonial and imperialist in character.
This society is class divided. A small section owns and controls the means of production – the land, the factories, the mines, the machinery, the raw material, the capital. The majority own nothing except their labour.
The economy — how society provides for itself — is under the control of those owning the means of production. Its orientation is to ensure maximum profits for those controlling it — the capitalist class.
The capitalist class headed by Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis is economically and politically the dominant class in our society. The monopoly houses control the bulk of the means of production through a variety of forms including private ownership and state ownership. They control the massive financial resources of the country which are concentrated in the hands of a few banks and insurance companies. The monopoly capitalists sit on the board of directors of the state and private banks and decide how the concentrated savings of the people should be deployed. The interests of the big capitalists are protected and promoted by the central state and all its institutions and agencies.
Indian economy has long since reached stage of state monopoly capitalist. That means that the state is under the control of the monopolies, who use this control to extract tribute from the whole of society, use the state to crush the revolutionary struggles of the workers and peasants, as well as to carry out their international program of imperialist plunder of other peoples and countries. The armed forces, the police and paramilitary, have been constantly strengthened with this aim.
The state intervenes directly in the economy in the interests of the financial oligarchy. The capitalist groups have their interests represented in the parliament and state assemblies. They have close connections with the ministers and senior government officials. They give them suitcases full of cash in exchange for various favours. The officials and ministers use their positions to accumulate wealth and capital. Capitalists of different regions and caste groups form political parties and compete for a share of the wealth accumulated through the exploitation of the labour, robbery of peasants, and plunder of natural resources.
The exploitation of workers has become so intense that real wages, that is money wages adjusted for price rise, has declined for majority of workers since 2000. However, the profits of capitalists have increased immensely in same period. The real exploitation of labour is hidden from government statistics because the huge amounts of black money stashed away in Swiss banks and in land purchases are also from the exploitation of labour. This money is used whenever needed for financing party campaigns, bribing officials and ministers, etc.
Comrades, right now in past 6 months there have been a number of scams, and Radia tapes showed how biggest capitalist houses are deciding who should be ministers, what should be government policy, and so on, and making crores of rupees in that way. In each and every scam, we can see role of ministers, officials working closely with the big capitalists. The question is this — are these aberrations, or are these integral to the system.
The government and the media make out that these are aberrations. That some individuals are guilty of such things, but there is no problem with the political system and its institutions. They point to the judiciary, the media, the CBI, the opposition, as well as the arrest of some ministers and officials to show that there is no problem with system.
This is a lie. If we see the history of scams, they are there from the time of independence to today. In every government from Nehru’s time, Ministers have been accused of using their position to help various capitalists make money. There are people who have investigated history of scams in our country. After every scam, there are promises to punish the guilty and introduce checks and balances to ensure that such things do not happen. But they keep happening and each one is bigger than the previous one. Why is this the case. The same thing is there regarding black money being stashed away abroad. It has been going on since independence and increasing.
This is because this is the system and the way it works.
Gandhi and the main leaders of the congress party were part of the capitalist class, there political representatives. They were openly funded by Birlas, Tatas and others. Same has continued since then with the Congress party, and other parties as well. The capitalists, the top government officials, the ministers and MP’s and MLAs, the judges the army generals, all these are part of one class, the bourgeoisie. They have a common class aim. This is to make maximum profits, enrich themselves, through exploitation of workers and peasants, and through the exploitation of whole of society using their control over state.
There are contradictions amongst the capitalists, and this is reflected in the fight amongst different capitalist parties in states and in center, and in the periodic exposures, when one group feels cheated and exposes the other. But what cannot be negated is that the system has been established precisely to ensure the rule of the capitalist class over the workers and peasants. Corruption is one of the methods one set of capitalists gets an upper hand over another. It is part of the system.
Corruption is the way new capitalists emerge and challenge the older ones, sometimes overtaking them. The Ambanis are a prime example, who grew with state support in the times of Indira Gandhi and later on to become the biggest group. When they became the biggest, naturally their rivals like Tatas and Birlas are jealous. They felt it was their birth right to be number one. But within the capitalist system, this happens all the time. Now, Tata is talking about how there should be no "crony capitalism" that is people should not become big because of connection with state. But that is way Tata himself became big, and that is the way Tatas continue to enrich themselves, as hundreds of examples show. For instance he made a big thing of opposing corruption, saying he refused to pay money to Jharkand Chief Minister for renewal of land for mines. What does this show? That it is the normal thing that money is paid to politicians for favours, to plunder the natural resources cheap, and to get advantage over rivals. And secondly, the tapes reveal that he set up a team to get the deal done much cheaper — eventually it was done by establishing Presidents Rule, and going through the governor, a Congress appointee. We must not forget that Tatas became big during colonial times, using government connection to sell Opium to China in the Opium War, and along with Birla and others, made money in supplying uniforms to British army in first and second world wars.
While capitalist class is united in intensifying exploitation of workers, there is intense rivalry amongst capitalists over markets. It is known that in England, the classical country of capitalism, capitalists were first afraid of trade unions. Later they found they could manipulate trade unions for their own ends of maximum profits. For instance, when he market was down, they would encourage unions to strike, so that they could cut back production. If a rival capitalist was making more profits, they would encourage trade union in that rival capitalists factory to strike and cause losses.
This happens regularly in our country. A recent example is Tata openly admitting to egging on Shiv Sena to organize protests in Mumbai against Reliance power, which is competitor to Tata Power.
In conditions of state monopoly capitalism, where state has so much powers in the economy, control over state is essential to make maximum profits. For all the computer companies, biggest market is government and PSU’s. This is why all the computer manufacturers come regularly to meet government officials and ministers to sell their wares, at high margins, and bribe them too. When Bill Gates of Microsoft goes around talking of charity, and visits Rahul Gandhis constituency with that man, and talks of setting up training centers, daal me kuch kala jaroor hai.
So control over the state machinery is used to defend and expand markets, at the cost of rivals, as well as to plunder the whole of society. Corruption is integral to this.
This is not a phenomenon peculiar to India or restricted to internal situation. At international level when Indian Prime Minister discusses with leaders of other countries, he talks on behalf of Indian capitalists and their individual and collective interests. For instance, in nuclear deal major Indian companies – Tata, Land T and so many others are interested in making money in nuclear power. The US, French, Russian imperialists interested in selling their technology. The govts work on behalf of these capitalist groups. Similalry, when the leaders of P5 came to India last year – britian, US, Russia, France – all came openly on behalf of various capitalist monopolies including in arms and war planes, as well as other sectors to expand their markets. The different capitalist groupings of different countries regularly bribe the leaders of recipient countries to get edge over their rivals. Last year, the French govt even warned that India was chosing US planes over France planes for other reasons than technical. Maximum bribery is in arms purchases, as all the parties in parliament are interested in maintaining silence on this in name of national security. But Bofors was not exception, it is the rule. Same thing is done by Indian capitalists when they invest in other countries. They bribe the local politicians in order to get an advantage over those from other countries.
State monopoly capitalism must be understood fully. It is control over state and policies by the biggest monopolies, which dictate everything and use this control to plunder whole of society and exploit all working people, including peasants and small capitalists too. Within this, rivalry of the biggest monopolies, Indian and foreign is intense, and bribery is one way of gaining advantage.
Corruption exists in all the capitalist countries, whereas in some places it is legal like in US, where it is called lobbying, while in others it is not legal. The wars launched by US and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc are all on behalf of this or that capitalist grouping to serve definite interests.
SO, there are proposals now that corruption can be ended or controlled by enacting a Lok Pal Bill. This is what government is saying. And there are other proposals for a different bill called jan Lok Pal Bill. Here we are not discussing the merits of these bills. Fundamental question is this — all these bills assume (1) – problems is with individuals not system (2) it can be solved by having "good people" in charge of investigation of corruption cases.
The point is that the problem is in the capitalist system, and it is acute in conditions of state monopoly capitalism. Corruption is the grease or oil through which the system functions, and to think of capitalism without corruption is to dream of something impossible. The fundamental condition of eliminating corruption is to end the capitalist system and replace it with the socialist system, in which means of production will be in hands of working class, and aim of economy is to ensure maximum satisfaction of growing needs of the entire working masses, not private profit. Then the role of the new state will be to ensure that political power vests in the working masses, and the new state will suppress the capitalists and all those who want to restore capitalism. This new state, will be capable of putting an end to corruption, as this is in the interest of the new ruling class, the working class. The new state should be an instrument for ensuring the well being and security of all the working masses, ie of all of society and not for ensuring private profits of individuals.
Let us take up the question of political system, process and institutions. We must clearly understand that political system, process and institutions do not stand above society and apart from society. Together they constitute the way the state is constituted. The state is not above classes. It is on the contrary a creation of a definite class and it serves the rule of this class over the other exploited classes. Its role is to ensure the suppression of the exploited classes to deprive their struggle legitimacy. To justify crushing their struggles.
We have in India a Cabinet system of rule.
Cabinet is formed of the political party or coalition getting majority in elections.
Cabinet is at head of executive – that is over the bureaucracy, the armed forces, and police.
There is a judiciary which is supposed to be "independent" but finally answerable to the Constitution, that is to the Indian state as a whole, and it must uphold the class interests and rule of the capitalist class.
Power vests in the executive. In India, the system has been so designed that the executive works on behalf of the capitalist class in general and the biggest monopolies, Indian and foreign, in particular.
The political process in our country is designed to ensure the rule of the capitalist class. Elections provide the capitalists with legitimacy by declaring that their representatives have been elected by people. It also provides the capitalist a chance to sort out their internal contradictions.
Let us see how the system works. It works the way it is supposed to work. If we look at evolution of parliamentary democracy, in England, we can understand better.
Initially, vote was restricted to the capitalist class, to class of property owners. Working class and women did not have vote. Parties of capitalist class competed and formed govts.
Later on, with the struggle of working class, and of working women, vote was expanded to include workers and women. However, it did not change nature of power. Power still vested with the capitalist class. The state was under their control. Votes of workers merely showed how conscious they were or lacked consciousness. If they voted for capitalist parties, they showed lack of consciousness; if they voted for working class party they showed consciousness.
Only when Labour Party clearly declared that it was not against capitalism, would not change system that it was allowed to form governments.
In India too, in British colonial rule, after 1857, the British slowly began developing the political system through which they ruled. Initially the Governor General was in control, answerable to the British parliament. He had a viceroy’s council consisting of bureaucrats whose opinion he need not listen to. It was the interests of British capital that decided the policies of the Governor General. Over a period of time, various reforms were carried out, and Indians were included in such councils. Later, Indians were allowed to form political parties like Congress and Muslim League. The colonialists decided what power should be devolved, what should be the constituencies, who should be the electorate, etc. They came up with communal constituencies, as well as electoral laws that said only men of property could stand for elections. Of course, only those parties could stand for elections who accepted the British rule and fought for reforms within, but did not want to overthrow system.
The Tatas and Birlas and the feudal landlords who emerged under colonial rule colluded and contended with the British. They feared workers and revolution more than they feared the British. Their party the congress was the vehicle through which they contended for power within the colonial rule. In return for keeping the working masses divided and diverted, they were given a place in the arrangement through which the colonialists ruled and plundered.
In 1947, power was transferred to the capitalists and landlords of India and Pakistan through their political parties, Congress and Muslim league. The colonial state was retained. In 1950, after forcible integration of princely states into India, Constitution was promulgated which defined the new state structure.
Who wrote the constitution? It was a constituent assembly of representatives of capitalists and landowners, who wrote the constitution, to ensure their own power. Within this arrangement, it was the capitalist class that controlled the state power, and ruled in alliance with the landlords. It was this class that decided to co-opt sections of the oppressed castes through caste reservations.
The Indian Union was designed as a federation. Propertied landed and non landed interests were accommodated in the states. The big bourgeoisie controlled both the center and the states. They set the direction of state policy.
The constitution passed in 1950 extended right to vote to all. This was so because (1) following experience of Britain and other countries, the Indian bourgeoisie knew that merely extending right to vote to all would not prevent it from continuing to rule (2) The mass participation of workers and peasants in the freedom struggle, and the victory over fascism in second world war, and the work of communists in India, meant that if this was not done, the bourgeoisie could not rule with any legitimacy. Revolutions were taking place in many colonial countries and bourgeoisie feared a proletarian revolution.
At the same time, the bourgeoisie ensured that the entire political process was so organized that it would be very difficult for workers and peasants to come to power. How?
Firstly, power vests with the executive – the top officials, the top army officers, top police officers, headed by the cabinet. They were and are committed to the rule of the bourgeoisie, they are part of the bourgeoisie.
The Party system of rule means that political parties of the capitalist class rule on behalf of the bourgeoisie, those that get a majority. There is competition amongst capitalist political parties, but that does not change the system.
Communist party’s are barred from election unless they accept the constitution in word and deed. In India, the CPI was illegal in 1948, and was allowed to participate in elections after it had agreed to the constitution.
The Constitution, allowed the President to decide who should form the government. It permitted the President to dismiss a government which possibly threatens the existing arrangement. Kerala govt of Namboodiripad was dismissed for some minor reforms after Congress Party under Indira Gandhi’s Presidentship organized the landed interests to carry out agitation against the communist moves.
The attitude towards communists was as follows. Against revolutionary communists, those mobilizing to change system, state repression. And towards others, method of cooption into system.
We can see this working over the years, with CPI and CPM falling victims to parliamentary illusions, and getting coopted to this system. They were used by the bourgeoisie to create illusions amongst workers and peasants, that their interests can be satisfied within system. And then, when the system has become strengthened, they have become revealed as parties no different from other capitalist parties.
Thus during whole period of sixties, when communist revolutionaries were fighting for system change, CPI promoted Indira Gandhi as progressive, supported her, got some positions, and CPM formed governments in Bengal and Kerala.
Later, after emergency, when bourgeoisie was weakened through infighting and struggle of people, CPM was allowed to form govts in Bengal and Kerala and run the system.
Within this situation, the entire machinery of state under its control, with control of the media, of the presses and all public places, the bourgeoisie easily ensures that it is one or the other capitalist parties which get elected to power. This includes those calling themselves communist, but who have decided to defend the capitalist system, such as CPI and CPM.
The direct use of money power, and the use of violence, to influence voters are very much there, but they are not essential part of the rule of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie will win the elections any which way. The use of money power and muscle power is to settle the contradictions between different groups of capitalists as represented by different capitalist parties.
Within the system, the bourgeoisie has set up institutions to monitor that things do not go out of hand. Take the election commission. It is a constitutional body set up by the Cabinet, to oversee elections, suggest changes in election laws etc. When there was congress party rule, it was understood that the EC belonged to the Congress party and would do its bidding. During the 90’s with weakening of Congress Party and emergence of BJP, EC was expanded to three members. The EC consults all the so called recognized parties, that is those who are considered worthy of competing for power in the system, and particularly Congress and BJP. Still there are accusations that this or that EC is favouring this or that party, and these accusations are true.
This three member EC does not make the EC democratic. It works to strengthen Party rule, or rule of the bourgeoisie, just like the one man EC did earlier.
Take the measures taken by the govt and EC over 6 decades regarding elections
(1) A category of "recognized" political party has been created which is given privileges in terms of free radio and tv time, and a common pre-allotted symbol, and other privileges not given to unrecognized parties and to individuals. This means that such parties can popularize their names and symbols at all times, and not just during elections, while others cannot since they will get symbol only in the last ten days of the elections.
(2) The media which is capitalist daily carries out propaganda in favour of this or that capitalist party. There is no stopping this, and the parties of workers and peasants have to rely on their own limited resources for propaganda. There is no bar on capitalists doing propaganda for their parties, openly or secretly. Nor is there a bar on financing of capitalist parties.
(3) In every election, the legal expense limit for candidates is raised, and it is now astronomical. Actual expenses are much more than what is officially allowed. The official limit of Election expense of a candidate for parliament has been raised from Rs 25 lakhs to 40 lakhs. For state assemblies from 10 lakh to 16 lakhs. But according to the current election commissioner, the actual expenditures are 25-40 times higher. The MPS are fighting for further raising official limit. According to MP’s, the minimum expenditure on elections in poor states such as Bihar, Bengal, Eastern UP is 1 crore, while the normal expenditure is 5 crore. In "rich" states like TN, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, the costs are much higher. In TN it is estimated that average expenditure on MP elections is 25-40 crores per seat. There are no limits on expenditures by political parties on candidates of their choice. Friends and associates of candidates can also pour in unlimited amounts of money. So now, the present parliament is considered a parliament of crore patis.
(4) With every election, the EC tries to make it even more difficult for candidates of workers and peasants from standing. The present EC has publicly declared that most of the registered parties are non serious and they should be de recognized. They keep increasing the minimum limit for deposit for a candidate. The aim is to bar candidates from workers and peasants and their organizations from even participating in elections to propagate their views.
(5) EC has banned various forms of propaganda that are usable by candidates of workers and peasants. For instance, there is a ban on posters, which is selectively used to attack such candidates. While the candidates of the capitalist parties can do propaganda through the print and electronic media, and other ways, under their control, candidates selected by people have to depend essentially on leaflets and word of mouth.
(6) The bourgeoisie has organized the constituencies in such a manner that in most states, even a MLA constituency has several lakh voters, and an MP constituency has over a crore voters. It is not possible for a candidate selected by people to canvas in such a huge constituency, with the limited means at their disposal, in the few days of electioneering allowed for such candidates.
The point to understand is that when the EC and media keep talking about election reform, actually their aim is to strengthen the stranglehold of the parties of the monopolies over the political process, so that the rule of the capitalists is strengthened. The capitalists openly finance the parties and candidates who will later do their work for them. At the same time, whichever party comes to power, it will defend the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.
There are a lot more of detail that can be discussed on the political system, process and institutions. But the essential point to note is that these are designed to carry out the rule of the bourgeoisie, and legitimize this rule.
No amount of reform can change the content of this.
That means, when we speak of people control over political system, process and institutions, first and foremost, it means that the system must be changed. Political power must be transferred into the hands of workers and peasants and all those who are deprived of power. That is, we need the navnirman of the Indian state. This is central question.
What is meaning of navnirman of Indian state? It means that the state has to e reorganized that power vests not in hands of capitalists, but in people and their organisations.
We are committed to organizing people in samitis and sabhas in work places and residential areas, in town and country. This is first condition for power to be transferred to people.
We discuss amongst the working masses, the women and youth, why the party system of rule is a cover for the rule of the capitalist class. Why we must establish our own rule wherein the executive and legislature will be under the control of the people organized in their samitis in different workplaces and residential areas.
We discuss amongst workers and peasants how we can ensure that the executive is subordinate to the legislature, and the legislature is subordinate to the people.
This means the right to select candidates must vest solely with the working masses organized in their samitis. Not in the hands of capitalist political parties as is case now.
We discuss how the candidates selected must be answerable to the electorate, and the powers the electorate must have to recall the elected candidate.
We discuss that electorate must have right to initiate legislation, and this cannot be only the right of the executive, as is essentially the case today.
In other words, we organize the working masses to empower them, so that we can create a system wherein people will be in power, set the afgenda, and be decision makers.
When people are in power, then we will be able to reorient the economy to ensure that it fulfils people’s needs. We will rewrite the constitution to ensure that human rights are guaranteed and enforceable – right to work, right to food, to education, to health care and so on. Also that we can reorganize the Union so that all the nations and peoples constituting it have full rights, including the right to self determination upto separation.
When people are in power, we will institute mechanisms that will ensure that any capitalist who tries to incite communal violence, or tries to corrupt the new state power, will be severely punished. We will move towards a situation where in the "right to exploit" is no more a right.
In other words, the solution to all the problems facing the people today is to change the system, and build a new system in which people are in power.