A Long Struggle Ahead
THE big success of the Bharat bandh called by the farmers’ organisations on December 8 was a display of people’s support and sympathy for the cause of the farmers.
The spontaneous response to the bandh call in many places and the support extended to it by a wide range of organisations and sections of the society – trade unions, traders’ organisations, transport associations, teachers, students and women’s organisations – all indicate the isolation of the Modi government on this issue. It is also significant that almost all non-BJP opposition parties expressed support for the protest action. Particularly noteworthy was the stand taken by the ruling regional parties who were unwilling, so far, to come out categorically against any important policy measure of the BJP government at the centre. The TRS in Telangana worked actively to make the bandh a success. The YSRCP government in Andhra Pradesh closed all government offices, public transport and educational institutions till 1 pm, respecting the wishes of the farmers. In Odisha too, though the BJD did not support the bandh call, it expressed support for the farmers’ demands and government offices were shut.
Underlying this wide ranging support across the political spectrum is the class divide. The pro-corporate farm laws have created a conflict between the big bourgeoisie on the one side and the entire peasantry, including the rich peasants, on the other side. Even among the capitalist landlords, there is a division. This explains the practically unanimous support the farmers are getting from the regional parties.
The other important class aspect that has emerged is the growing convergence of interests of the peasantry and the working class. The naked pro-corporate stance of the Modi government was exemplified in the three farm bills and the three labour legislations which were adopted in close succession during the last session of parliament. Both the workers and the peasants are getting united to fight these twin onslaughts.
The Modi government brought these three farm laws, first as ordinances which were promulgated in June this year. Subsequently these ordinances were presented as bills in parliament in September and pushed through by-passing all parliamentary procedures. The government had made its intent clear when it promulgated the ordinances. For instance, the amendments to the Essential Commodities Act removing all agricultural commodities from the list of essential commodities was explained as “the freedom to produce, hold, remove, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector”.
All the three farm laws taken together work to deregulate agricultural markets, centralise policy by taking away state government control over markets to facilitate the free and unregulated entry of corporate agri-business and big traders.
Right from the beginning, the farmers understood the threat posed by these ordinances. The movement against these three laws began in July itself. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee supported by the trade unions gave a call for jail bharo on August 5, in which lakhs of people participated in 600 districts across 25 states. In Punjab, the rail roko agitation began on October 1. The Delhi Chalo call by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha began on November 26, the day the central trade unions held the general strike.
Faced with the massive protest actions on the borders of Delhi, the central government began talks with the representatives of the kisan organisations. After three rounds of talks, it became clear that the government is not willing to repeal the three farm laws and the electricity bill.
Prime Minister Modi has accused the opposition of instigating the protests and misleading the farmers. He has declared that the laws of the past century are archaic and they cannot be used to build the present century.
The government is indicating that it will not rollback these pro-corporate measures. The class interests of the big bourgeoisie are being clearly expressed by the corporate media which is urging the government to stand firm and reject the farmers’ demands. The Times of India editorial of December 9 reflects this position. It states: “If the government compromises on MSP or the farm laws under pressure from the protestors, it would signal that any reform effort in India can be sabotaged by some interest group’s opposition and laying siege to the national capital”.
With the talks having failed, the united platform of farmers’ organisations had no other option but to continue the struggle. Rejecting the written proposals of the government, a decision to intensify the struggle has been taken.The magnificent unity that they have displayed must be strengthened. This is important as the government will try to divide the movement.
This vital struggle of the farmers must be backed up and strengthened by the active solidarity and support from all other sections of the working people. The working class movement has a special responsibility to not only support but to build a united struggle by bringing together the twin struggles against the farm laws and the labour laws.
(December 9, 2020)