[WSMDiscuss] The lessons of the Indian farmers’ struggle (Sushovan Dhar)

Devendra Oza oza.devendra at gmail.com
Tue Feb 2 04:13:24 CET 2021

My comment:

On Republic Day the 'farmers', or 'anti social elements' indulged in
unacceptable violence. The 'farmers' keep on claiming that this is a
peaceful agitation. The same 'farmers' claim that the Union government had
staged the crude violence on the Republic Day in Delhi.

As a former Civil Servant, I am trained to hear both sides before forming a
judgment. What I mean is the 'farmers' and the union governments points
must be clearly understood. Can I suggest that you can carefully examine
the claims made by both sides and try to verify whether these claims are


On Mon, 1 Feb 2021 at 22:05, Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net> wrote:

> Monday, February 1, 2021
> *India in movement…, Farmers in movement, Peasants in movement…, **Resistance
> in movement…, Rights in movement…, Politics in movement… Democracy in
> movement…, History in movement…, Herstory in movement…, Studies in
> movement…*
> [Here is a first set of what I think are some useful reflections on the
> farmers’ movement in India by someone – based in India, I think - who
> describes himself as a ‘political activist and commentator’.
> [As I’ve tried to point out before, I personally think that this movement
> (perhaps more than any movement in India in recent years), and the issues
> that it is raising, are both historic and civilisational in nature; and
> which is why I think that it’s extremely important – for all of us
> interested in and supportive of ‘movement’, and working for social justice
> and change – to try and comprehend this moment, to reflect on it, and to
> write on it.  So thanks Fiona, for referring me to this article, and thanks
> Sushovan Dhar, for writing this.  And I’d like to invite others on this
> list both to post articles that you think are useful – and that offer us
> something beyond the ordinary and tell us something about this moment –
> and, indeed, for those of us in a position to do this, to try yourselves to
> write on this :
> *The lessons of the Indian farmers’ struggle*
> Sushovan Dhar
> January 28 2021
> https://www.groundxero.in/2021/01/28/the-lessons-of-the-indian-farmers-struggle/
> *The Farmers struggle and its partial advance has shown us the way. Strong
> movements from below can have the potential to take on the Hinduvta
> juggernaut much more than stitching electoral alliances. What will be the
> fate of this movement six months down the line? We don’t know but it is
> worth recalling the ancient Chinese proverb “a journey of a thousand miles
> must begin with a single step”, writes Sushovan Dhar.*
> No other Republic Day witnessed such unprecedented levels of public claims
> over their nation. The streets of Delhi were enlivened with spontaneous
> marches of hundreds of thousands of peasants who wanted a serious say in *Res
> Publica* or public affairs. Within a bouquet of lame excuses intended to
> stop the peasant march, one had been particularly ironic. That this
> demonstration was a “conspiracy” to defame India before the world by way of
> doing a tractor parade in the capital on Republic Day. The struggling
> peasants proved that they held high the banner of the “world’s largest
> democracy” when the present regime is hell bent at trampling down and doing
> away with whatever democratic values are left in the country.
> Earlier, in an interesting twist to the tale, the Union government on
> January 20, proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for one and
> a half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the legislation at the
> tenth round of talks with farmer unions. However, *Samjukta Kisan Morcha*
> rejected the offer the very next day. It resolutely clarified the
> continuation of the movement till the three anti-farmer laws were
> completely repealed. The AIKSCC was also determined to carry out its
> scheduled Tractor Parade on the Republic day.
> A few days ago, the Supreme Court had expressed intentions to stay the
> implementation of the controversial agricultural laws while proposing to
> form an independent committee chaired by a former Chief Justice to
> “amicably resolve” the stand-off between the farmers and the government. Of
> course, there were serious questions about the “independence” of the
> committee nevertheless, the first signs of backing down were obvious.
> *Government forced to step backwards*
> Given its belligerent and antagonistic attitude of the present current
> government – more so after it was elected for the second time in 2019 – the
> Union Agriculture Minister, Narendra Singh Tomar’s announcement might have
> appeared a little unusual but not entirely surprising. The government hoped
> that this announcement would force the unions, determined to take out a
> tractor rally on Republic Day to rethink their months-long agitation and
> vacate their blockade of the national capital, tamely. Various measures,
> including threat and intimidation, to dissuade the farmers were tried and
> tested earlier but it was all in vain. In an attempt to discredit the
> agitation, a section of the ruling dispensation hurled accusations of
> infiltration by *Sikh* separatist elements. This foul play resulted in a
> backlash and the government ministers in charge of negotiations with
> farmers’ unions had no options but to dismiss the allegations, washing
> their hands off.
> The continued agitation by the unions, the imminent nature of Republic Day
> protests and the highest court’s refusal to ban it were just the immediate
> reasons for the compromise formula. A desperate and a last ditch effort to
> contain this growing agitation which can potentially spread to other parts
> of the country, more vigorously. The fascist brigade’s parent organisation,
> i.e. the RSS was also nervous about the indefinite continuation of this
> well organised protest. Suresh “Bhaiyaji” Joshi, the number two of the *Sangh
> Pariwar*, expressed his apprehensions about the stability of the
> government in the face of such resolute defiance, in an interview to the
> Indian Express.
> Can this be termed as a partial advance? Sure. Are there reasons to
> celebrate? Of course, yes. While it is important to abstain from being
> overwhelmed or getting carried over, there are enough reasons to feel
> confident about this collective action that has put the government on a
> back-foot. Certainly, the credit goes to millions of peasants of this
> country who relentlessly fought with their backs on the wall. The peasantry
> is clearly fighting for a control over its own destiny (lives and
> livelihood) against corporate control of agriculture ushered in by this
> government. Neither the deep agricultural crisis engulfing the country
> since the last three decades which has led to over 3 hundred thousand
> farmers committing suicides due to severe indebtedness nor the chronic
> rural distress which forces thousands to leave their villages to migrate
> towards urban centres in search of an uncertain future can be undone so
> easily. We surely need a larger political battle to overcome that but the
> current struggle is an earnest way towards that direction. It has instilled
> hopes in the minds of millions who want to fight this fascist regime and
> regain the democratic soul of the nation.
> The recent farm bills plus the new Labour Codes are attempts to carry on
> an unprecedented degree of reforms that gives the big bourgeoisie a free
> hand to run the economy. No doubt they are backing it very strongly. While
> the labour codes are an attempt to flexibilise employment by giving owners
> the right to ‘hire and fire’ employees and do away with minimum legal
> guarantees for the workers, the former can be seen as a response to the
> agrarian crisis from the Right. They are ably supported by the media and a
> pet group of economists – so impressed about the new farm acts – attempting
> to craft popular public opinion about the laws. Many have gone to the
> extent of heralding these laws as something that will revolutionise the
> Indian agricultural sector. Fortunately, the farmers are oblivious towards
> such enlightened counsel.
> The strength and the prestige of this agitation stems from the courage and
> tactical ingenuity of a movement that has a real economic base. It is an
> endorsement of the fact that the neo-liberal agenda, internalised by all
> political parties in India including sections of the mainstream Left,
> continues to be resisted from below. The resilience shown by the peasants,
> mostly from Punjab and Haryana, and their organisations are exemplary and
> frankly, much more radical than the politics of the existing Left parties.
> *The crisis of the Left*
> The crisis of the Left partially explains the relative lack of inertia on
> the part of the trade unions and the overall workers movement to come out
> in full support of the current protests. There have been minuscule attempts
> by workers to join in unison with the agitating farmers and one fears that
> they are squandering a golden chance to launch similar offensives, in their
> own interests, just when the iron is hot.
> Unfortunately, the major trade unions of the country are controlled by one
> political party or the other. In the absence of genuinely independent
> organising, these unions instead of acting as authentic expressions of the
> working class, function as the transmission belts of their “parent
> organisations”. Perhaps, this party-unionism explains the weak
> working-class response to the current farmers’ movement. Can the situation
> be reversed? Difficult but not impossible! Is it worth giving a try? Yes,
> we have no other choice! Without the self-organisation of the class it has
> already conceded a lot, as evident in the current scenario and historically
> too.
> This movement is very important for the left. While any attempt to see
> this as a peasant uprising to capture state power would be fool-hardy it is
> also not “a movement of only rich peasants” as per certain sections of the
> left or more precisely, some adherents of a stage-ist Socialist Revolution.
> The farmers are fighting for their immediate and longer term survival. It
> would be criminal for the left either to be steeped in deep sectarianism or
> squander this opportunity to form a redoubtable opposition to *Hindutva*
> coming out of their time-worn ideological cocoons. We must seize the moment
> and make all efforts to transform these protests into wider peoples’
> struggles against the fascist regime and to give it an anti-capitalist
> character. The current momentum can be deepened by including the demands of
> various sections of working people. Demands for employment generation, food
> security and food sovereignty among others would serve to reinforce the
> appeal and strength of this movement among the masses across different
> regions. Pursuing these demands would not only help the movement to gain
> support among the working people, but it will also push the representatives
> of the sections of the rich peasantry to the margins. There is an urgent
> need to build solidarity with the working-class struggles going elsewhere.
> *Post-script*
> The current struggle also helps us to throw light on another important
> question. Can the fascist forces be defeated by forming electoral
> coalitions or are they best dealt with by powerful mass mobilisations from
> below? While not entirely ruling out the possible electoral scopes, we need
> to pay attention towards the evolution of Indian elections and the
> trajectory of the Right wing. The *Sangh Parivar* and the other *Hindutva*
> forces have maintained a consistent ultra-right direction since the 1950s
> unhindered either by electoral defeats or any alliance with “secular”
> forces. One vividly recalls the optimism of a section of the liberals when
> the extreme-right entered the Janata party to form the government in 1977.
> With Vajpayee as the foreign minister in Morarji Desai’s cabinet many saw
> the *Hindutva* project contained, tamed and civilised. History has
> treated such optimism with contempt. No electoral misfortune is enough to
> uproot this agenda and any genuine battle against *Hindutva* project must
> acknowledge this. A long-term political project to deal with it must be
> based on class struggle and our search for a lesser evil, i.e. relatively
> ‘harmless’ bourgeois allies, will act as serious roadblocks to vibrant
> opportunities for class agitation and mass movements.
> The Farmers struggle and its partial advance has shown us the way. Strong
> movements from below can have the potential to take on the *Hinduvta*
> juggernaut much more than stitching electoral alliances. What will be the
> fate of this movement six months down the line? We don’t know but it is
> worth recalling the ancient Chinese proverb “a journey of a thousand miles
> must begin with a single step.”
>    - *The author is a political activist and commentator. *
> ____________________________
> Jai Sen
> Independent researcher, editor; Senior Fellow at the School of
> International Development and Globalisation Studies at the University of
> Ottawa
> jai.sen at cacim.net &  <jsen at uottawa.ca>jsen at uottawa.ca
> Now based in Ottawa, Canada, on unsurrendered Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282
> 2900) and in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325)
> *Check out something new** – including for copies of the first two books
> below, at a discount, and much more : **The Movements of Movements
> <https://movementsofmovements.net/>*
> Jai Sen, ed, 2017 – *The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us
> Move ?*.  New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press.  Ebook and
> hard copy available at PM Press <http://www.pmpress.org/>; hard copy only
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> Jai Sen, ed, 2018a – *The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our
> Dance*.  Ebook and hard copy available at PM Press
> <http://www.pmpress.org/>; hard copy only also at The Movements of
> Movements <https://movementsofmovements.net/>
> Jai Sen, ed, 2018b – *The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us
> Move ?*  (Indian edition). New Delhi : AuthorsUpfront, in collaboration
> with OpenWord and PM Press.  Hard copy available at MOM1AmazonIN
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*Devendra OzaNo. 1, First Cross StreetIndiranagar, AdyarChennai 600 020Tel:
91-44-24422269 / 94442 16627Email: oza.devendra at gmail.com
<oza.devendra at gmail.com> *
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