India elections: defeat the BJP with an indefinite general strike! Fight for socialist revolution!

Elections to India’s parliament are starting on 19 April. The reactionary BJP-led Modi government has been in power for two terms, in which time it has failed to meet any of its promises to the masses; it has sold swathes of public property to multinationals; stirred up chauvinist hatred towards minorities and women; and backed Israel’s war of slaughter in Gaza.

The opposition parties are all rotten. The Stalinist Communist Parties have abandoned Leninist principles and betrayed the masses. The Indian workers, peasantry and youth must defeat Modi under their own strength, along with the capitalist system he upholds.

When he was elected in 2014, Modi promised to create 20 million jobs every year and deposit Rs.15,000,000 in the account of every Indian to reduce fuel prices. Since then, one of Modi’s own cabinet ministers even arrogantly bragged that these promises were only a trick to get votes and hoodwink the masses. Under the BJP, economic policies of demonetisation, privatisation of the public sector, and introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) further squeezed the working class and stuffed the pockets of capitalists like Adani and Ambani. Inflation and unemployment have reached unprecedented levels under the Modi regime.

To divert attention from its brutal, anti-people policies, the BJP government uses divisions of caste, religion and ethnicity to undermine class solidarity. The results of this poison can be deadly. Manipur, a BJP-led state recently witnessed riots on ethnic lines, which led to the death of hundreds and many vicious attacks on women.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government employed bulldozers and demolished houses of activists opposing Modi’s anti-Muslim citizenship law (CAA) and anti-government protestors. Anti-CAA activists have been deliberately targeted by the Modi regime, with some like Umar Khalid having rotted in jail for years. They have been charged under the draconian UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), under which one has to wait years to get bail.

Peaceful protestors are locked up, whereas those who openly advocate violent repression (including ministers like Anurag Thakur), and fascist RSS thugs are let off scot-free. Narendra Modi has been silent on issues of Manipur and violence against minorities, and has in fact doubled down on the CAA and religious discrimination.

There is a huge resentment against Modi’s policies, which has boiled over into struggle. India witnessed a massive farmers’ protest against pro-corporate farm laws and for a guarantee of Minimum Support Prices for crops. This powerful struggle enjoyed widespread support from workers and managed to force Modi to retreat. There has also recently been an all-India workers’ strike against a new labour code that would further casualise the working class.

Repression and corruption

Modi has been employing all manner of dirty tricks to secure victory / Image: Narendra Modi, Twitter

In the run-up to the election, Modi has been employing all manner of dirty tricks to secure victory, including launching dubious legal proceedings against opposition figures. Early this year, Shibu Soren, Jharkhand’s Chief Minister, who was part of the opposition-led INDIA alliance; along with Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, were arrested on alleged corruption charges. The main opposition party, Congress, was also hit with a Rs.180,000,000,000 notice from the income tax department, which it described as ‘tax terrorism’.

The bourgeois opposition is certainly not above corruption (with which the BJP is also riven), but the timing of these arrests and the tax notice in an election year has led to widespread suspicion that these were deliberate manoeuvres by the Modi government.

We have also learned the extent to which political power in India is up for sale. Previously, the electoral bond scheme permitted individuals to donate to political parties, while concealing their details. A recent judgement of the Supreme Court has annulled the scheme as not transparent to voters and has demanded the SBI (State Bank of India) disclose details of any money received by political parties to the Election Commission by 13 March. 

The data published by the SBI shows that all the capitalist parties have received huge sums from big corporations. The BJP received the lion’s share with Rs.6,986 crore(multiplied by 10 million) through electoral bonds (47 percent of donations), Trinamul Congress got Rs.1,397 crore (13 percent) and Congress Rs.1334 crore (11 percent); while smaller outfits like Bharatha Rashtra Samiti received Rs.1322 crore, with Biju Janata Dal getting Rs.944 crore, and DMK Rs.644 crore.

The disclosure of these bribes (which is what they are) has especially exposed the corrupt Modi regime, which is totally in the pocket of the capitalists. The parties receiving the biggest kickbacks will be the least accountable to the people, and are expected by their fatcat benefactors to carry out policies favourable to the rich. So much for ‘the world’s biggest democracy’!

Bourgeois opposition is no alternative

The capitalist system is in deep crisis at an international level and India is also feeling the effects. The BJP-led Modi regime has worsened the conditions of the masses over the last 10 years, having come to power only due to the resentment of the masses after a decade of the bourgeois UPA government, which also carried out cuts and attacks.

The BJP has maintained its position in part by whipping up Hindu nationalist chauvinism. The inauguration of the Ram temple has been trumpeted as their achievement in these elections, for example – even though it has been a complete disaster and a huge waste of public money.

Congress has cobbled together the multi-party, so-called ‘INDIA alliance’ / Image: INC, Twitter

Similarly, anti-Pakistan rhetoric is also being used once again to whip up support. This is a usual tactic of the Indian ruling class over the last 76 years and has become more like a ritual before every election. This rhetoric helps to divert the attention from burning issues of poverty and unemployment, and always strengthens the grip of the ruling class on both sides of the divide.

But Modi has also benefited from the pathetic weakness of the opposition, which does not offer anything fundamentally different. The main opposition party, Congress, is the historic party of Indian capitalism after Independence. It is a right-wing party that follows the same capitalist policies of privatisation as the BJP, wrapped up in various degrees of the same Hindu chauvinism to appease backward religious layers.

In these elections, Congress has cobbled together the multi-party, so-called ‘INDIA alliance’. This Frankenstein’s Monster consists of Congress; regional capitalist parties like the DMK, Shiv Sena, TMC, the Samajwadi party, AAP and VCK; alongside India’s various Stalinist Communist Parties (CPI, CPI(M), CPI-ML). Its programme consists of opposing Modi (although some of its constituent parties were previously in alliances with the BJP); defending ‘India’s democracy and constitution’; and maintaining so-called national unity. But there can be no ‘unity’ between workers and capital, who are mortal enemies.

The fact that self-described ‘communists’ are running alongside Congress, historically the main party of Indian capitalism, and extreme reactionary Hindutva outfits like Shiv Sena, is an utter disgrace. And this so-called ‘alliance’, behind which lies the interests of Indian capitalism, presents no alternative for the masses. Indians need free, high-quality education, healthcare, jobs, and decent homes etc. The parties at the head of the INDIA alliance cannot offer any of this, and their policies, amid an organic capitalist crisis, will only squeeze the working class further. 

Indian capitalism 

While Congress and the INDIA alliance preach a return to ‘the good old days’ before Modi, the truth is that 76 years of independence on a capitalist basis have done nothing to advance the conditions of the masses. Allusions to socialism and secularism in the Constitution are merely a ruse to hoodwink them. 

The Constitution, alongside all of India’s bourgeois institutions (the judiciary, parliament and executive) were founded by British imperialism. After independence, the resulting Indian state was just a continuation of the bourgeois state and capitalist system of exploitation established by the imperialists. The working class can never benefit within the confines of this state, and its exploitation will continue for as long as capitalism exists.

Modi’s 10-year rule reflects the intensifying crisis of Indian capitalism / Image: World Economic Forum, Flickr

Modi’s 10-year rule reflects the intensifying crisis of Indian capitalism, which has the most self-interested and short-sighted representatives of the ruling class trample all over democratic norms and niceties to preserve their power. The Indian bourgeoisie brutally exploited the working class under Nehru and subsequent governments. But previously, there was a veil of respect for state institutions and ‘democracy’. The Modi regime has torn it away.

All the pillars of Indian democracy have been exposed as mere instruments of capitalist rule, to be manipulated, subverted or ignored in the interests of maximising profits. Modi has also been shameless in leaning on the most backward prejudices to maintain his position. While in the past, there were still brutal attacks on religious minorities, oppressed nationalities from Kashmir to the North East, and endless corruption charges against leading politicians, these have all intensified. 

India as a whole has never been richer. It is the world’s fifth-largest economy, overtaking its old colonial master Great Britain. Some of the wealthiest men and women on earth live here. Yet the poverty of the masses has never been worse, income inequality has never been greater, and India is ranked a derisory 134 in the global Human Development Index. Unemployment and brutal inflation have become the norm.

The rich enjoy the highest luxury, while laughing at the impoverished majority. The slums in Delhi had to be evicted before the G20 meeting held last year to spare Modi’s blushes. Similar measures were taken to ‘clean out’ the slums in Gujarat before ex-President Donald Trump’s visit in 2020, and the engagement party for Ambani’s son, held at a cost of Rs.1,000 crore

In short, the real face of capitalism, with blood dripping from every pore, has been exposed. A section of the ruling class has become concerned at Modi wrecking democratic illusions that undermine the whole legitimacy of bourgeois rule. In recent months, the Supreme Court has ruled against the BJP government (on the disclosure of donations, for example), which shows infighting within the ruling elite: a symptom of the general crisis. 

The Communist Parties

The liberals and so-called lefts and communists in India are in lockstep behind the ‘anti-Modi’ wing of the ruling class. They cry loudly about ‘fascism’. They want to return to the old methods of exploitation of the working class, where they could preach liberal values, secularism, and bourgeois democracy.

The Stalinist Communist Parties argue the INDIA alliance is necessary to defeat BJP’s ‘fascism’ and to save the Constitution. This scaremongering merely provides a fig leaf for their opportunism. Instead of presenting a revolutionary programme of struggle and socialist revolution, they trail behind the ‘democratic’ capitalist parties and sow constitutional illusions among the working class.

Modi is a right-wing reactionary. He might personally hold some fascist ideas and is supported by the fascist RSS, but this doesn’t lead to the conclusion that India is under the fascist jackboot. What we are seeing is, in fact, the true, ugly face of capitalism, about which the liberals and ‘leftists’ are in a perpetual state of denial. Yes, there is a wave of mild reaction under the Modi regime but this cannot be characterised as fascism.

The Stalinist parties in India have mostly supported Congress and other bourgeois parties in the past / Image: Phil Warren, Flickr

The trade unions in India are still intact and openly organising general strikes of around 250 million workers every year. Communist Parties are still active across the country and are not only contesting elections, but in power at the state level. None of this would be possible under genuine fascism.

The liberals and Communist Parties present this hoax only to cover for their own weaknesses and opportunism. Not only are our so-called communists unable to put forward a revolutionary programme, they were even against the farmers’ movement, in which millions were mobilised into a victorious, year-long struggle against the Modi regime. This was a huge blow to the BJP, but there was no political leadership for this movement nor any clear political programme. No serious efforts were made to link the workers with the peasants’ struggle. If there had been, the Modi regime could have fallen already.

All the blame for this can be laid on the degeneration of the Stalinist parties, which have betrayed the working class time and again. The Stalinist parties in India have mostly supported Congress and other bourgeois parties in the past. Whenever they came to power in a state or a coalition central government, they always supported the bourgeois regime and its policies quite openly. The bankrupt Stalinist two-stage ‘theory’ (which holds India has not yet completed its bourgeois democratic revolution, which must happen before socialism is on the table) has been the Communist Parties’ excuse for supporting Indian capitalism for almost a century now.

In these elections, their opportunism and corruption are on full display, as they are once again aligning with the most reactionary and corrupt parties in the country, and putting forward no clear program for the working class. Under the pretext of fighting fascism, they have aligned with ultra-right-wing parties (like Shiv Sena and TMC), which they called fascists in the past!

These so-called Communist Parties are not only living in the past, they also sow illusions in the bourgeois Constitution and state institutions, and campaign to rescue them from Modi. They claim that if they are voted to power, things will return to ‘normal’, and the democratic rights of the past will be restored. They have no faith in the ability of the working class to run society, and instead put themselves at the service of the capitalists to help stabilise their system.

Moreover, many of the leaders of these parties have vested interests in capitalism. They have government positions, and strong ties with parts of the ruling elite. They want to save the system, so that the exploitation of the working class by the bourgeoisie can continue, and they keep getting their own share of the loot.

In this situation, it is important for genuine communists to wage a battle against the rotten ideology of Stalinism and put forward a clear revolutionary programme for the working class as an alternative. The leaderships of Communist Parties are, in fact, open enemies of the working class and must be cast aside.

Which way forward?

The corporate media and press are working day and night to support Modi in these elections. But there is huge anger against Modi’s regime, which was revealed in a few state elections like Karnataka and Telangana where his party was defeated; not to mention the strikes and protests of recent years.

The BJP has also won elections in several states, which has been touted as evidence of enduring mass support. But the BJP’s main advantage has been weak opposition. Wherever the opposition parties were forced to put forward a strong position and a clearer program, they defeated the BJP. In Karnataka, for example, Congress won because there was a mass movement against the hijab ban there, and Congress was forced from below to put forward a strong position against the politics of Hindutva. They also presented some welfare schemes to attract voters. In Punjab, the BJP, Congress and Akali Dal were defeated in state elections held soon after the historic farmers’ movement, propelling the AAP to victory as it was considered an outsider, winning for the first time.

The corporate media and press are working day and night to support Modi in these elections / Image: UN climate change, Flickr

But most of the time, the opposition parties rely on local petty politics to win against the BJP, whereas the BJP strongly puts forward its ultraliberal economic agenda with a poisonous mix of Hindutva. Opposition parties mostly rely on caste linkages, and tribal or religious backgrounds in particular areas. They lean on local strongmen who wield influence due to their family ties, or caste and nationality, meaning the opposition lacks any coherent programme or clear political line to counter the BJP. In fact, most opposition parties, especially Congress in many areas, are trailing the BJP by trying to portray themselves as even bigger Hindu fanatics, to attract some of Modi’s base. This policy failed in 2019 and is doomed this time as well. 

The other line followed by some opposition parties is to emphasise secularism and ‘democratic values’, mixed with the same liberal economic policies that the BJP is already aggressively pursuing. This also is not attracting any significant enthusiasm from the working class, who have already suffered poverty and misery under the so-called secular Congress and other regional parties. The bourgeois opposition cannot be trusted to prosecute a serious fight against Modi, the BJP and its fascist RSS thugs. The working class cannot feed or warm themselves with empty promises about ‘democracy’. They want bread on the table, clothing and housing. They want healthcare and education for themselves and their families, which no one is offering. This is why these opposition parties are not getting any significant support, and their chances in these elections are bleak.

The only prospect for a decent future for working people in India lies in the overthrow of the capitalist system through a socialist revolution. Even democratic rights like freedom of expression and others cannot be won back without a defiant struggle against bourgeois rule. The caste system, national oppression and oppression of religious minorities including Muslims can only be abolished through a socialist transformation of society. But so far, no revolutionary alternative has been developed to fill the vacuum on the left.

The Indian masses have tremendous revolutionary traditions, and in recent years have participated in some of the biggest strikes in history. Their capacity for struggle is not in question, but they are held back by the conservatism of the trade union leaders and the bankruptcy of the so-called left-wing parties. None of the offerings in this election offer a road forward. The workers, peasants and youth must take the fight to Modi themselves.

What is needed is to organise an indefinite general strike of workers and peasants at an all-India level, along the lines of the victorious farmers’ protest, to bring down Modi’s regime and lay the basis for a socialist revolution. By expropriating the multinational corporations, big banks, insurance companies, industries and all major levers of economic power under workers’ democratic control, the Indian workers, poor and youth will finally be able to put their country’s vast resources to work providing a decent existence to all.

This alone will stem the poison of ethnic, caste, religious and anti-women chauvinism. Only by overthrowing the Indian bourgeoisie can we put an end to their support for imperialist slaughter abroad, and instead see workers reach out in solidarity across national divides. A socialist India would be a mighty force, not only in the subcontinent but on a world scale: but for this to be achieved, we need real communist leadership!

But for such a struggle to be victorious, a genuine, revolutionary communist party needs to be built on the lines of the Bolshevik Party, which led the workers and peasants of Russia to power under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917. The foundations of this party must be laid now, by winning the advanced layers of the working class and youth to the clean banner of Marxism and Bolshevism. 

We appeal to the class fighters of India, those who stand in the tradition of Lenin, and the great communist martyr Bhagat Singh: help us build this party! Join Bolshevik IMT – India

And if you want to help us build a new Revolutionary Communist International that can lead the working class to victory on a world scale: sign up for the founding conference of the RCI!