August 09, 2015

Capitalism, Corruption and Bourgeois Politics

Prof. C P Bhambhri

The monsoon session of Parliament has been disrupted because the BJP-in-government and the Congress-in-opposition, along with other parties, have raised the issue of corruption in public life. Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan is alleged to be involved in a humongous scam regarding pre-medical and job recruitment examinations which has so far claimed the lives of 45 people associated with it, and in this “Vyapam” scam, millions of rupees were earned through corrupt methods by politicians and bureaucrats of Madhya Pradesh. Not only this, Sushma Swaraj, the minister of External Affairs, and BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje have gone out of their way and used their “official” position to help a legal offender Lalit Modi because both Sushma and Raje have close social, business and family relations with the fugitive. The BJP government, led by Narendra Modi, shamed with such accusations of serious acts of omission and commission, has launched a counteroffensive against Congress Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand (Harish Rawat), Himachal Pradesh (Virbhadra Singh) and Assam (Tarun Gogoi). The topic here is if BJP is corrupt, the Congress is equally corrupt and both the major parties of India have exercised political and governmental power to indulge in corruption and deprive the people of India an opportunity to be governed by corruption-less and corruption-free governments.

It is essential to extend the scope of this discussion with a real purpose to understand the significance of so-called “corruption indulged in by bourgeois parties” in all capitalist democracies including India. A few facts may be mentioned here to substantiate the argument that corruption in politics and government in bourgeois democracies is an integral part of capitalist politics. First, during the last almost seventy years of post-Independence India, every major bourgeois party and fractions of the bourgeoisie have been in power and every party, group, all-India and regional, has been publicly indicted, investigated and criminal cases have been launched against chief ministers, and even a prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who had to say in Parliament that “no members of my family is involved in getting commission in Swedish Bofors gun deal”. This is a hard fact of bourgeois politics which is empirically validated at a global level.

Second, the so-called opening of Indian economy to foreign capital and investors from the beginning of 1990’s has opened floodgates of corruption indulged in by foreign investors and businessmen. The latest example is that of United States Louis Berger International Inc which paid bribes from “slush funds” and through “third parties” to get Japan funded Ganpati water supplying project. The most significant aspect of the bribery by a multinational company has been detected and made public by the US Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey district. This is the tip of the iceberg. The fact is all foreign multinationals including their Indian collaborators are actively involved in “corrupting” the Indian political system.

Third, every capitalist democracy as well as the American-oriented bourgeois social scientists of India have always suggested that “lobbyists”, professional and paid, are an integral part of the “business and government” in politics. It has been suggested that “lobbyists” perform legitimate functions to influence the decision-makers so that the “slow bureaucratic wheels of government” move fast and work gets done, otherwise delays will be the order of the day. If lobbyists are legitimate and recognised legally, corruption in public life for getting things done is also legitimate concretely; India is the greatest importer of arms from foreign countries like the US, Sweden, France, Germany and Israel. The Indian state has created a well armed and well equipped Army, Navy and Air force and every latest model of fighting “wars” is avoidable in the ‘International Arms Bazaar’ and Indians are standing in a “queue” to buy every deadliest weapon to project its military might. Every announcement for latest weapon alerts the lobbyists in international arms markets and activates them to influence Indian decision-makers. A K Antony, the defence minister of Congress-led UPA government I and II, “insisted that a defence deal must be put on hold if there was a allegation of corruption and firm concerned” automatically blacklisted. At present, fifteen companies including six foreign firms are “blacklisted” by the Ministry of Defence and 23 other companies are under scrutiny for allegations of corruption. All this is a drop in the ocean and the Narendra Modi government which is following a jingoist foreign policy as shown by India’s “fast speed operation” in Myanmar is determined to make India a great military power with purchases of arms from world over including Israel, and lobbyists of suppliers are at work to influence public decision-makers in France, Australia, Canada, et al to do “business” with India. Another door has been opened for informers and notorious “lobbyists” to mint money as middlemen between sellers of nuclear plants and various competitors.

The larger issue here is that while every bourgeois party in India has been publicly indicted for indulging in corruption and bribery while in government whether at the Centre or in the states, the dilemma of the BJP-led government at the Centre and in some of the states is that the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 were contested on the issue of “corruption” in public life from 2004 to 2014 and Narendra Modi, the new election campaigner of the BJP, had proclaimed from the rooftop that unlike the Congress, the BJP led by Modi will provide a “corruption-free” government. But within fourteen months, Modi is hard pressed to defend the indefensible actions of Sushma or Raje or Chouhan. It is just the beginning and Modi stands fully exposed because his one point agenda in 2014 election was “no corruption” and his achievements in fourteen months is his failure to check corruption in his party. Capitalism is a system where “accumulation” of private profit is considered a matter of priority and morality is irrelevant factor for capitalist accumulation. Capitalism, corruption and bourgeois politics are integral part of the system of private property ownership meant for earning profits. R H Tawney, a socialist, had written a seminal book on the “The Acquisitive Society”, which sacrificed morality for greed and profit. This is happening in Modi’s India. (END)