September 06, 2020

Tasks Among the Peasant Masses – I

THE Central Committee of the Communist Party adopted a resolution on the ‘Tasks Among the Peasant Masses’, in its meeting in April 1954. This resolution dealt with the questions related to “ceiling, ‘right of resumption’, rent reduction, tax burdens, economic price for the peasants’ produce, indebtedness, consolidation of holdings and prevention of fragmentation, cooperative societies, panchayats, irrigation facilities, demands of agricultural labourers and the problems of building and activising Kisan organisations”. It laid down concrete principles on all these issues, to guide the work of the Party in the Kisan movement. Below are excerpts from the resolution:

“Today the main fetter on production is the antiquated land system itself, which cannot be changed without united struggle of the peasant masses against the landlords. Therefore slogans and tactics must be determined in relation to the need of this struggle. It is only by drawing the peasant masses and rural labouring masses into the struggle, leading to giving them land that ultimately an appreciable improvement even in agricultural production becomes possible and not by the growth here and there of big modern farms owned by the landlords.

“We must demand and extensively popularise that the ceiling for landholdings should be fixed and that the land in excess of that ceiling be taken over and distributed free to the agricultural labourers and the peasants.

“The ceiling should be such as to allow enough income to maintain a person and his family at least at the same standard as that of a rich peasant, but it must not be so high as not to leave enough land for distribution among agricultural labourers and the peasant masses.

“The Party, basing on the above principles, must work out what would be such a ceiling from area to area, in close cooperation with the Kisan Sabha, after a thorough study of all the facts and after inviting a serious and thorough discussion with the peasant masses in the area.

“We must demand that those landlords who lease out their lands, even though they may own less than this ceiling, shall have no right of resumption, even under the plea of self-cultivation, as it would lead to the eviction of cultivators. They may be paid some rehabilitation grant, or alloted land from surplus land if they want to take to actual tilling and cultivation and live in peace with the people. This is especially so in those cases of statutory landlords like inamdars, etc., who never have been cultivators for generations.

“There are small landholders, who own less than a family holding (family holding being in certain cases, that amount of holding which would give employment for a single family of an adult male worker and his wife, with a pair of bullocks, employing seasonal wage labour, or in certain other areas it will be only that amount of landholding which gives a reasonable standard of living). They might have leased out their lands because it was uneconomical to cultivate them themselves, or because they might have been forced to take up jobs or trades in towns or villages. They will generally be factory employees, petty traders, low-paid professionals, etc. Those are not to be confused with landlord; their cases are entirely different.

“These small landholders should have the option either to come back and till their land, making it their main profession, or lease it subject to fixity of tenure and reduction of rent as per the tenancy laws, or sell it, or to take full compensation from the government at the market price, relinquishing the land to the tenant cultivator. If conflicts arise between these small holders and these tenants who are equally poor, the Kisan movement must strive to bring some compromise to preserve the unity of these peasant masses. But in the case of those who have professions with incomes enough to maintain a reasonable standard of life, they shall be paid compensation or allowed to receive the reduced rents, but shall not have the right of resumption.

“….the immediate and most pressing task of the Party is to take up the struggle against eviction and for rent reduction….In carrying on the agitation and struggles against eviction and for the reduction of rent, the Party and the Kisan movement must utilise to the fullest extent all concessions and facilities that are given by the existing agrarian legislation, however halting and restricted they may be.

“When we demand reduction of rent and fixity of tenure, we mean only the reduction of rents paid by the peasants to the landlords, and fixity of tenure to the peasants on landlords’ fields. This does not apply in the case of those areas, especially where commercial crops are being grown extensively like sugar, tobacco, etc., and where the common feature is for the landlord to take land on lease from small holders and pay them low rents. Here, we must demand increase in the rates that are being paid to the peasants by the landlords.

“Agricultural labourers are the most militant section of the agricultural population. The whole agrarian movement is to be based on those 70 percent of the rural population of agricultural labourers and poor peasants, firmly uniting with middle peasants and winning over rich peasants against the landlords, forging a close alliance with the working class and the democratic movement in the towns.

“The struggle of the poor and middle and rich peasants against the landlords for land, for fixity of tenure and even for reduction of rent, cannot be carried out successfully without the active support of and drawing in of agricultural labourers.

“The Party and the Kisan movement must vigorously take up and champion the immediate demands of the agricultural labourers, as well as their basic demand for land. It is only by taking up these demands of the agricultural labourers that we can draw them into the movement against landlordism, against the ruling class and for land, freedom, democracy and peace. Failure to do this allows these sections to be drawn into communal, disruptive and reactionary organisations. They may be even turned against other peasant masses in the villages, on the basis of caste divisions, disabilities and oppression.

“Some of their immediate demands are:
a) Cultivable waste lands to be assigned to them and the poor peasants without any charges at least for the first five years. Grants and long-term loans for purchasing cattle, implements, etc.,
b) Free house-sites and equal right to the use of common lands and sites with others. No eviction from homesteads or from the present occupied houses.
c) Cancellation of their debts to landlords and moneylenders and provision of cheap credit facilities.
d) Removal of social disabilities based on caste and untoucability.
e) Abolition of and penalisation of forced labour.
f) Free  medical and educational facilities by the government.
g) Provision of employment opportunities by government starting various irrigation and development schemes.
h) Fixation of minimum wage for day labour and minimum salary for the farm servants.
i) The present excessive hours of work for farm servants to be reduced and a minimum number of holidays per year to be given.

“The minimum daily wage of an agricultural labourer must be such as to enable him and his dependents to get at least the minimum necessities of life on the day of their working. The minimum wage is for normal work. But the daily wage for harder work or for busy seasons with longer hours will have to be higher than this minimum. The farm servant should get at least 365 times this minimum daily wage, as his minimum yearly salary.

“Overshadowing every other problem of the agricultural labourers the problem of unemployment faces them in an acute form….The Party must take up their demand for ‘work or unemployment relief’.

“Agricultural labourers should be organised separately in independent class organisations apart from the peasant organisation because, firstly, they have their own separate demands of wages, hours of work, holidays, etc. Secondly, most of these agricultural labourers are from socially backward or even so-called ‘untouchable’ castes and it will be more difficult to draw them and activise them in Kisan Sabhas directly along with the other caste peasants or even if we succeed in drawing them in, it may lead to the other peasants not joining the Kisan Sabha in large numbers. Thirdly, agricultural labourers will become the leading force if they are organised separately and at the same time brought into the Kisan Sabha.

“We should try to draw into the agricultural labour organisations all other wage earners in the rural areas, such as carpenters, blacksmiths, washer-men, earth-diggers and other miscellaneous manual labourers.

“Since their most important demand for land is also the common demand of the entire peasantry against the landlords and also because their economic tie-up is with that of the peasantry, immediate steps should be taken to evolve a coordinating mechanism at every level between agricultural labourers’ organsiations and Kisan Sabhas drawing both the organisations into closer and closer functioning wherein the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants would be playing the leading role”.