The 14 known dead, the wounded, the raped and the unknown number missing in Nandigram, the victims gunned down by the joint police and the CPI M cadre ‘action’ on the 14th of March, visibly signify the pain of the marginalised sharecropper suffering from capital and state terror. Singur and Nandigram share their grief with the people of Kashipur and Kalinganagar in Orissa, the farmers who have committed suicide in their tens of thousands, the victims of Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, the dispossessed of the SEZs being instituted across the country, regardless of the political persuasions of the state governments. In these we see the resistance of the tribal and the peasant to the policies of an imperialist-sponsored neo-liberal global economic order, which is being prompted by the IMF and the World Bank and is being supported by the ruling amalgam of the big bourgeoisie and landlords and their political parties. Something like a united front has been established from the RSS to the CPI M which avers that ‘there is no alternative’ to the path of neo-liberal globalisation. Under the shiny packaging lies the reality that the poor peasant and the tribal are being divested of their means of production by non-economic coercion so that Indian and foreign capital can flourish. It is the process which Marx termed the primitive accumulation of capital. The Indian state itself facilitates this process by purchasing land for Indian and foreign capital at rates far below the market value and so subsidising the rich at the expense of the poor peasant and the tribal. This much is common across the state boundaries of India in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh.
West Bengal, in Singur and Nandigram, is witnessing a crisis resulting from a peculiar path of development. The Indian communist movement from its genesis, as elsewhere, advanced the proposition that the transfer of the land to the tiller creates an internal market which can facilitate the industrialisation of the country on the basis of a democratic path of development in the interests of the working people. The domination of reformism from the nineteen-fifties ended this project. It was the peasantry of Naxalbari and the communist revolutionaries in the nineteen-sixties who once again posed the question of agrarian revolution in India. In reaction to this the reformist democratic left front in West Bengal carried out a land reform in the nineteen-seventies which ameliorated the position of the sharecroppers while retaining intact the landlord structures. This was the basis of the three decade longevity of the political rule of the reformist left in West Bengal. The modification of the sharecropping system, although it led to a regeneration of Bengal agricultural production, never led to the abolition of landlordism as such nor the transfer of land to the tiller, no more than it developed a system of cooperatives of the sharecroppers which would have been consistent with the reform of the capitalist system in agriculture. Similarly, no perspectives were elaborated for the industrial development of the state based on the internal generation of financial resources through public institutions. The overall failure to evolve a democratic path of economic development, despite the marked productive advances in the agrarian sector, in the decades of the chief ministership of Jyoti Basu in West Bengal could only lead to the cul-de-sac of economic stagnation. Under the current chief ministership of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya the left front administration has sought to break out of this stasis and opted for a fully-fledged neo-liberal programme of economic development in cooperation with big Indian and foreign capital through the establishment of Special Economic Zones. A large section of the working people in agriculture who are already bereft of sustainable economic livelihood face a future where they will be stripped of their land in return for paltry compensation while those sharecroppers who do not have legal titles will have to be satisfied with no compensation at all. Many of the people of Nandigram face a future of pauperisation which compels them, whether or not they have given their support to the CPI M in the past, to defend their livelihood from the intrusion of the Indonesian Salim group and its projected SEZ.
The pressure of US imperialism is mounting on the political class to further push forward the neo-liberal globalisation agenda in India and to effect a deeper alignment of the country with the requirements of US foreign policy around the world. The two major parties of the big bourgeoisie and landlordism, the Congress and the BJP in the main concur with the economic and political policies of the US; sections of the CPI and the CPI M still retain significant reservations on this score. It must be considered positive that the current peoples’ struggles in Singur and Nandigram have compelled the central government to rethink and prettify their policies on SEZs in the country and led to a belated, half-hearted and partial re-evaluation of their role by the parties of the left front government in West Bengal. The need of the hour is to unite all the democratic forces who are opposing the effects of the current neo-liberal programmes in order to halt and reverse them and to substitute in their stead a programme of pro-people industrial development founded on adequate compensation for the potentially displaced and the consent of the working people: for this strong, steady and sustained pressure will have to be brought on the left front government of West Bengal. This is the immediate task of the genuine left and democratic forces in the country.
25th March 2007
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