THE exceptional experience and triumph of the Long March of Maharashtra farmers under the leadership of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has brought enormous confidence among the toiling people. It has awakened the imagination of all progressive forces in their longstanding struggle to overthrow the exploitative rule of corporate-land lord forces in India. This struggle has seized its own space in the history of modern India, similar to the Dandi Salt March during the pre-Independence period.
This article is an attempt to evaluate the general relevance of massive struggles in developing a Left and Democratic alternative at the state as well as national levels.
AIKS and Peasant Struggles
The neoliberal era is marked by agrarian crisis and the resultant widespread peasant suicides. Although the AIKS was in the forefront of the struggles against neoliberal economic policies, the important weakness of the peasant movement identified by the 33RD all-India conference of the AIKS in 2013 was that the primary units and village-block level committees of the Kisan Sabha were not active and dynamic. The 34TH conference of the Kisan Sabha in 2017 put forward the slogan “Kisan Sabha in every village” and “Every farmer in Kisan Sabha” and resolved the slogan “towards issue-based united struggles to resist agrarian crises’’. Priority was given to make the peasant movement active especially in North Indian states and to take up struggles and agitations independently as well as jointly to consciously build worker-peasant alliance and thus work towards building of a Left and Democratic alternative at all-India level.
Building up United Platforms and Struggles
Accordingly, the AIKS took up massive campaigns and consistent peasant agitations and struggles at various levels. The most significant among consistent and innumerable upsurge of farmers’ struggles in the recent period was the massive resistance against the notorious Land Acquisition Ordinance by the Modi government intended to seize farmlands without the consent of the holding farmers. The Boomi Adhikaar Aandolan (BAA) was formed as a united platform against this and it forged unity of all the Left organisations of peasants and farm-labourers at all-India level for the first time ever since the 1964 split in the Indian Communist movement. Many peasant organisations of socialist orientation and the National Platform of Peoples Movement also joined the BAA, thus making it as the most cohesive joint forum of Indian peasantry in the post-Independence period. The leading role of the AIKS was decisive in this process.
As a result of this powerful struggle that united all opposition parties and forced division among parties in the ruling alliance, the central government could not enact the ordinance. The BAA was further consolidated by consistently taking up issues of the peasantry at various levels. The struggle against the nefarious game of the RSS- BJP regime of mob lynching in the name of ‘gau raksha’ and the ban of cattle trade is significant. AIKS and BAA could expose through timely interventions, the effort by the ruling classes to communally polarise the society which is aimed at disrupting this growing unity of peasantry and working class and at the same time corporatising the cattle economy.
Issue-based United Struggles and Formation of AIKSCC
Countrywide protest actions were erupted against the heinous murder of six farmers in police firing in Mandsaur in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. Consequently, the All India Kisan Samgharsh Samanwaya Samithy – AIKSCC --another joint platform was formed with 171 farmers’ organisations including AIKS and BAA. The AIKSCC organisedKisan Mukti Yatra covering all the states, and the massive Farmers’ Parliament on November 20, 2017 in Delhi was a huge success.
Worker-Peasant Alliance and Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan
The peasant movement has extended support to the last two all-India workers’ strike on September 2 in 2015 and 2016. The trade union movement took up the issue of the land acquisition in the strike. The conscious move to pledge solidarity marks the importance of the worker-peasant alliance in resisting the exploitative corporate-land lord rule. Around 18 crore workers have participated in the strike of 2016, illustrating the might of the working class organised under trade unions.
In the background of increasing struggles, at the initiative of the trade unions and peasant organisations, in a convention in New Delhi on 18 September 2017, Jan Ektha Jan Adhikar Andholan (JEJAA) -- a wider platform of more than hundred class, mass and social organisations having a membership of around 20 crores -- was formed as a platform of struggles to overcome the communal, neoliberal challenges thus to strengthen secular, democratic and socialistic ideologies.
Parliamentary and Non-Parliamentary Struggles
It is in this context the historic and splendid Long March of peasants of Maharashtra covering 200 kilometers in six days, an unparalleled protest form by the peasant movement in the country, was held. It was planned as a continuation of the innumerable strikes organised by the Maharashtra state unit of Kisan Sabha and by peasant movement all over the country.
In the continuing social and economic backwardness, the toiling masses of workers and peasants still continue to be under the influence of the right-wing political parties. The Left and Democratic forces cannot overthrow the right-wing political parties from power and thus seize the political leadership by rallying the toiling masses through electoral or parliamentary struggles alone. It is not easy to convince the masses belonging to basic classes that it is the same right-wing political parties that they used to cast votes in elections and the economic policies of such governments that threw hardship in their own life and responsible for their prolonging poverty and backwardness. It demands great effort to politicise them by involving them in mass struggles against the ruling classes and their governments and the independent role of mass and class organisations are vital in this process.
Change in Political Situations
During the last 25 years, by following the neoliberal policies and causing distress of the toiling people, the Congress party has systematically lost its prominence irretrievably as the main ruling party, with the BJP which is now in power at the Centre and in 22 states replacing it. It is the Congress and its policies responsible for ascendance of the BJP.
In its quest to capture power, the BJP while in opposition has been championing the left and democratic demands such as MSP and debt waiver for the peasantry and opposing the impacts of the neoliberal policies including GST, FDI in retail, etc. After ascending to power, the BJP-RSS combine has started intensifying the same neoliberal policies thus distancing the toiling masses from it which is visible in the increasing struggles of the basic classes.
In the background of the world systemic capitalist economic crisis, the downfall of the BJP-RSS combine that vigorously pursuing the neoliberal policies is imminent and the downfall of the BJP will not take that much time as taken by the Congress that had the tradition of independence struggle.
United Left in Leadership of Alliance against BJP
The recent agitations of the peasantry in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka etc. victorious struggles by the trade unions against privatisation – by electricity employees, steel workers, transport workers, etc., and the massive strikes and struggles with achievements by scheme workers show that the left class organisations can mobilise millions of toiling people to victorious struggles, not only in Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal but in even the Hindi heartland.
The potential future political circumstance gives ample space for the united Left to emerge as the national leadership by intensifying both the parliamentary as well as the non-parliamentary struggles. Only the Left and Democratic mass and class movement is consistently on struggle path. The united Left has existence all over India, can present alternative policies to both the BJP-RSS combine as well as the Congress and emerge as the all-India leadership. The worker- peasant alliance and a Left and Democratic Front can work as a thread to unite all secular and democratic forces including the Congress and ensure polarisation of all anti-BJP-RSS votes to ensure defeat of the Modi government as well as take up the challenges that India faces toady.
Hence the basic issue is not the correlation of the Left with the Congress party but the leadership role of it in the vast alliance against the BJP which is controlled by the fascistic RSS. Accepting the Congress party as the leadership of a vast alliance against the BJP-RSS combine will not help the struggle against the dual menace of neo-liberal and communal forces and rather discredit it. Instead, the united Left must independently assert itself as the political leadership that facilitate vast alliance of all secular and democratic forces and bring together all social sections and progressive groups and individuals. Without any political understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress, the united Left could extend cooperation to it to ensure defeat of the BJP wherever there is a direct fight. This correct political line only could draw those toiling masses still under the influence of the BJP and the Congress towards a credible political alternative.
The bleeding feet of the thousands of peasants, who marched from Nasik to Mumbai through the highway, shouting the slogan “Future India is definitely ours” is the answer for those minds still doubts the potential of the Left and Democratic forces as the leadership of the country.