[News] Not Just an Orchard, Not Merely a Field, We Demand the Whole World
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 10 11:37:04 EDT 2020
Just an Orchard, Not Merely a Field, We Demand the Whole World: The
Thirty-Seventh Newsletter (2020).
September 10, 2020 - Vijay Prashad
[image: Caption: Mallu Swarajyam (left) and other members of an armed squad
during the Telangana armed struggle (1946-1951). Credit: Sunil Janah /
Prajasakti Publishing House.]
Sunil Janah, *Mallu Swarajayam and other members of an armed squad during
the Telangana armed struggle, 1946-1951*.
Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
When news of the revolution in the Tsar’s empire filtered into
British-dominated India in 1917-1918, the reception was universal: if they
could overthrow the Tsar, then we can overthrow the British Raj. But the
temperature had risen beyond merely the removal of the British; the
barometric pressure had increased in the direction of a social revolution.
A liberal newspaper in Bombay wrote, ‘The fact is Bolshevism is not the
invention of Lenin or any man. It is the inexorable product of the economic
system which dooms the millions to a life of ill-requited toil in order
that a few thousands may revel in luxury’. That economic system –
capitalism – had created great wealth but it could not improve the
condition of the billions of people who produced that wealth.
Spurred on by the October Revolution of 1917, Indian workers went on strike
after strike, eventually creating the All India Trade Union Congress in
1920. The energy generated by the October Revolution and the strike wave
produced the conditions for the creation of the Indian communist movement a
hundred years ago. Revolutionaries in exile from Berlin to Tokyo and
revolutionaries inside India looked towards Tashkent (in the Soviet Union),
where their comrades formed the Communist Party of India on 17 October 1920.
no. 32 (September 2020) is a tribute to the *One Hundred Years of the
Communist Movement in India*. It is not easy – in this brief format – to
summarise the sacrifices and challenges, the struggles and advances of the
millions of Indian communists over these hundred years; this dossier
provides an introduction to a complicated and resilient world of
revolutionary activism in a country that recently had – in one day – more
COVID-19 cases than China has had during the entire pandemic.
Introducing the role of communists into the conversation in our time can
raises eyebrows, as some question the relevance of the tradition.
Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, in factories and fields, in call centres
and office buildings across India, workers continue to produce the goods
and services under the same oppressive conditions. Capitalism dances
between a major contradiction: between social production and private
property. Capital – namely Money that thirsts to make more Money endlessly
– organises all the forces of production into one effectively organised
social process that generates maximum profits to the owners and minimum
possible wages to workers. The remarkable network of social production ties
workers in one part of the world to another, brings commodities from there
to here. This network promised to link people together and to allow humans
to enjoy the fruits of each other’s labour.
[image: Caption: Members of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti headed by
communist leader SS Mirajkar (third from right, wearing dark glasses) who
was then the Mayor of Bombay, demonstrating before the Parliament House in
New Delhi, 1958. Credit: The Hindu Archives.]
Members of the Samyukta Maharasthra Samiti headed by communist leader SS
Mirajkar who was then the Mayor of Bombay, demonstrating before the
Parliament House in New Delhi, 1958.
The problem, however, is that the immense productivity of capitalism stands
on the foundation of private property. Capital is restless and must always
seek a profit. It is through the control of the production process that
capital exploits labour and draws out surplus value. Private capital
controls the system of social production, and appropriates the social
wealth produced, with little share to the actual producers.
The control of capital over the production process prevents the flowering
of the creative power of human labour; the pressure of profit, the fruit of
private property, seeks to draw more and more from the workers whose own
resourcefulness is stifled by the demands of routine, obedience, and
conformity enforced by the social relations of production.
Poverty is not an unfortunate manifestation of this system, but its
necessary product. To eradicate poverty – which is a shared human dream –
requires us to do more than seek welfare and charity. Charity and welfare
might lighten the immediacy of suffering, but they cannot do more than
that. To the early Indian communists, it was not enough to remove the
British from India and allow Indian capitalists to rule the country; their
philanthropy would be insufficient against the reproduction of generations
of poverty. The producing classes needed to be organised to overthrow the
system of private property and to found a system based on socialist
principles. That is what has motivated generations of Indian communists,
whose story is in our dossier, and that is what motivates the left around
the world in our time.
[image: Caption: A page from Hungry Bengal (1945) by Chittaprosad. Copies
of the book were seized and burnt by the British; this drawing is from the
only surviving copy (reprinted in facsimile by DAG Modern, New Delhi,
2011). Chittaprosad's drawings on the Bengal Famine were published in the
Communist Party of India's journal People's War, helping to intensify
popular anger against the British colonial regime.]
Chittaprosad, *Hungry Bengal*, 1945.
In July 1921, the Communist International formulated rules and advice for
communists around the world. Most of these rules are straightforward. But
one particular statement stands out: ‘For a communist party, there is no
time in which the party organisation cannot be politically active’. This
advice was useful seventy years later, when the USSR collapsed, and the
world communist movement suffered greatly from its demise. History, it was
said, is over: capitalism has proved that it is now eternal and cannot be
Since 1989, the capitalist system has lurched from crisis to crisis, unable
to face its deeply rooted contradictions and unable to offer solutions to
endemic social problems. Marxism remains an essential framework to analyse
a system that continues to operate by its centuries old rhythms. Capitalism
has no doubt changed in many different ways, developed a greater role for
finance for instance; but it remains governed by the system of social
production and private gain, by capital’s immense power over the system of
production and accumulation. Harsh conditions of work and life, the fight
over labour time and intensity, the pressures of unemployment and hunger
illuminate the centrality of class exploitation in our social order. This
situation calls upon the left to be ‘politically active’, to extend, to
deepen, and to unify the myriad struggles for concrete demands into a
larger, stronger movement. As each struggle develops, it provokes a
response from the capitalists and the state. And each response – often
violence by the police – has the potential, when combined with political
education, to clarify the political fight that must be waged by the workers
not for this or that reform alone but for the transformation of a system
that continues to generate poverty. The capitalist system, by its nature,
produces diabolical levels of poverty; the future does not seem possible
within the system.
[image: Caption: Circa 1946: Godavari Parulekar, leader of the communist
movement and the All India Kisan Sabha, addressing the Warli tribals of
Thane in present-day Maharashtra. The Warli Revolt, led by the Kisan Sabha
against oppression by landlords, was launched in 1945. Credit: Margaret
Bourke-White / The Hindu Archives.]
Margaret Bourke-White, *Godavari Parulekar addresses an All India Kisan
Sabha gathering in Thane, 1945*.
A better way has to be possible. That is the great possibility of
socialism, the great hope that we can go beyond a system that immiserates
billions of people. For the 1983 film *Mazdoor* (Worker), Hasan Kamal wrote
a song that captures the essence of this sentiment:
*Hum mehnat-kash is duniya se jab apna hissa maangenge*
*Ek baagh nahin, ek khet nahin: hum saari duniya maangenge.*
When we labourers demand our share of the world.
Not just an orchard, not merely a field: we will demand the whole world.
The extradition hearing for Julian Assange opened in London on 7 September.
Assange is wanted by the United States of America for ‘computer-related
offences’; but the US government really wants him for exposing US war
crimes in Iraq and elsewhere (as I detailed
recently). The persecution of Assange has had a chilling effect on
whistle-blowers and on investigative journalism. It is the outcome desired
by the powerful.
Confidence does not return because of the courage of individuals. It is
when people such as the communists of India take to the streets in the
millions that ideas of peace become vital. That is why we stand with
publishers and journalists who – given courage by the mass movements –
reveal the terrible secrets of the powerful.
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