Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Question of Compulsory Land Acquisition and the Working Class

-Rajesh Tyagi/ 1.3.2015

Centre-stage in global development was occupied by urban cities, long back in history. Rest of the world, relegated to backward periphery around these centres, however continued to be dragged, gradually, into the whirlpool of urbanisation, since then. In 2007, the total urban population on our planet, had exceeded the rural one, heralding the advent of a new era in human history.

This urbanization of the world, marked briefly by an age of revolutions triggered by the ‘Red October’ and receding into later defeats of the international working class, had continued broadly to advance under capitalism.

The defeats of the world working class in the last century have not only left the twentieth century unfinished historically, but have doomed the world to rot inside the shell of decadent capitalism.

This advance of world capitalism, spanning over the last century in its highly developed stage, the imperialist stage, has been marred everywhere by wars, blood, violence and innumerable human sufferings.

There can be no grain of doubt that this development of our world would have taken place not only at far rapid pace but through most rational and humane path, had the ‘Red October’ emerged victorious through the last century.

Over the last century, though capitalism had continued to penetrate more and more into backward peripheries throughout the world, as part of its overall growth, but it failed miserably to address any of the tasks in these peripheries, that it had resolved in its past in Europe.

The question of compulsory land acquisition, in these countries of belated development, thus presents itself to us, in the teeth of highly developed forces of global capitalism around, on the one hand, and on the other its outmode production relations trapped inside narrow, decadent cages of these capitalist nation-states, continuous fragmentation of rural lands over generations, economically inviable land holdings, and a whole series of myriad forms and methods of agriculture, from tribal to modern commercial farming.

This results into a paradox. The immense growth of productive forces on global scale, and the ensuing thrust towards the big Industrial zones and mega cities, railways and metros, highways and airports, the monuments of modern capitalism, demands ready availability of huge chunks of virgin lands for planned development in all countries of the world. This demand, however, forthwith comes in direct conflict with the peculiar development of capitalism in India, like other backward countries, where centre-stage is already occupied by a whole sea of small peasant holdings, fragmenting further and further. The productive forces, expanding and integrating globally and thrusting towards socialisation of the whole world economy, exert immense pressure upon the old production relations, based upon private ownership in the property.

This pressure is the source of whole crisis. The right-wing bourgeois government under Narendra Modi, the watchdog of old property relations based upon private ownership, finds itself trapped in a dilemma. On the one hand it is obliged to defend the old production relations rooted in private property and the national state based on them, while on the other, in its run-up against rival countries, to accommodate ever more global finance and production, it is forced to erode those relations. This dilemma is perfectly reflected in the proposed amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, that attempt to smoothen the edges of this crisis through renewed offers of enhanced compensations etc. alongside reckless and more stringent measures for land acquisition.

All other more moderate and conciliatory measures, like voluntary consent of majority stake holders as condition precedent to land acquisitions, that bourgeois governments have sought to employ over time to resolve this contradiction, have collapsed in no time. 

The forced and compulsory acquisition, remaining the only path ahead, the ruling elite still remains divided in its opinion as to the nature, pace and intensity of the measures to be adopted to acquire the lands. In face of opposition to what is conceived popularly as appropriation of lands, bourgeois government under Modi, resorts to a two pronged policy- the brute force to acquire the land is laced with more lucrative compensations, that go as high as four times the prevailing market price of the holdings. Through amendments in the ‘Land Acquisition Act’ the right of individual landowners, joining themselves in a bloc, to say ‘no’ to acquisition, is however taken away.

Easing in land acquisitions, has become core issue and necessity of the capitalist development in India, vying to catch up with tempo of economic growth in China and other rival countries. Peculiar land relations, that emerged after 1949 overturn in China, coupled with the bureaucratic, exclusivist and oppressive nature of the Chinese state, had laid the necessary basis for its later urbanisation and industrialisation at such high tempo. Conscious of its deprivation of these core instruments, peculiar to China, the Indian bourgeoisie hopes to overcome this handicap through means like huge inflows of foreign capital, and compulsory acquisitions of rural lands.

However, in the period of general decline of capitalism, wars and conflicts, and the dependency of individual countries upon international capital and finance, neither China could catch up with the levels already achieved by the advanced West and the US, a century before, nor India would be able to catch up with China, West or the US. The general decline of world capitalism and the looming prospects of the war would scuttle the fantasies of any such growth.

Capitalism, however, is driven not by historic prudence, but by the logic of market that implies a continuous thrust not only to drag agriculture to world capitalist market but also a strong impulse to urbanize the village through expansion of industry and industrialisation of agriculture. In the process, bourgeoisie is forced everywhere, even against its own will, to pursue the blind path of ‘development’.

Compulsory acquisition of rural lands is integral to this development. But through this acquisition on mass scale, the bourgeois revolutionizes the society as a whole, firstly by appropriating the lands of farmers against their will, secondly by pushing them in the ranks of the proletariat and thirdly by eliminating the social base of petty producers, the bulwark, upon which its own power had rested for decades.

Inseparably bound up with capitalism as direct stakeholders in its growth, these petty producers, owners of small holdings in rural lands and urban properties, have been instrumental in keeping the bourgeoisie in power, decade after decade. Their appropriation would, for sure, shrink the social and political basis of the big bourgeoisie and strengthen the working class not only by introducing the new centres of its class concentration but also by making direct additions to its ranks.

Peasantry, is not product of capitalism, but relic of pre-capitalist forms of production. As social estate, it has dual character. Its poor and toiling sections lean upon working class, while its propertied and rich sections constitute a reliable support base for the big bourgeoisie. Its middle sections, embracing this dual character, dwindle between working class and the bourgeoisie. In times of revolution, when working class is strengthened, these sections lean upon working class and in times of reaction they follow lead of the bourgeoisie.

Peasantry, is a class on decline, in the teeth of rapid industrialization and fragmentation of agricultural lands. Its survival is doomed. Person of the future is worker and not the peasant.

Marxists are not interested in defending the positions of these petty producers, as owners of small holdings in land. These small owners are definite basis of capitalism and are not interested in socialism. Defence of small holdings, as against their consolidation into huge capitalist ventures, would be folly on the part of the working class.

The aim of the working class is to advance forward and not backward. The political program of the working class is based upon a forward march from large scale capitalism to socialism and not vice-versa. Working class, thus, does not oppose the acquisitions in land and does not support the regressive mission of the peasantry in defence of retention of its small holdings.

The agrarian question presents itself to us today, altogether differently than it presented itself in Russian or Chinese revolutions. No parallels can be drawn between the call of Marxists for ‘land to the tiller’, aimed at breaking-up of the large landlords’ estates, and the compulsory land acquisitions, the summoning of the small land holding by the bourgeoisie for its consolidation into large scale bourgeois enterprises- Railways, Airports, Metros, Expressways and Highways, Industrial zones, etc etc, that lay down the basis for huge socialized ventures of the future, that socialism would takeover from capitalism.  

Marxists do not aim at thwarting the development of capitalism. The struggle of Russian Marxists against Narodism is classic example of this policy. The political policy of Marxists is aimed at taking the world to next stage of development, from where capitalism has already brought it, but cannot take it any further.

Lenin, that brilliant exponent of Marxism, made it amply clear that “Marxists do not support every movement against capitalism”. Marxists do not support retrogressive movements against capitalism. The defence of small holdings, whether rural or urban, is such a retrogressive movement. The small holdings and proprietorships belong to the past of modern capitalism, out of which it has since grown into a large scale enterprise of huge dimensions. Task before the Marxists is not to drag it back into its old cocoon of small individual property or to fight for its retention, but to strive forward for an arena, the arena of huge socialized ventures, where capitalism is incapable to take it.

In saying this, we however, do not ignore the justified protests of the poor peasants who have small holdings as the only means to eke out a living and deprived of it would be thrown to the cruel winds of the capitalist market. We thus oppose any police methods employed by the bourgeois governments to crush the resistance of the peasantry.

While fully recognising the right and struggle of the peasants in defence of their holdings, against compulsory land acquisitions by the government of the big-bourgeoisie, marxists make it clear that such defence presents no viable and progressive solution. Peasant resistance on this issue need be raised to a conscious struggle under leadership of the working class, for abolition of all private property, including Banks, Industries, Lands etc. and putting them under control of a Workers' and Peasants' Government. Needless to say that such government can be established through a revolution from below that overturns the regime of big-bourgeoisie.

In the face of continuous fragmentation of lands and their spiralling speculative prices as against the use value, acquisition of peasant holdings is becoming inviable, if not impossible. Massive resistance from the landowners is making further compulsory acquisitions tougher than before, as these acquisitions threaten to uproot, devastate and deprive whole villages of their livelihood. The need and impulse for urban development is coming into direct conflict with existence of private property. The development is hampered by old property relations and is made immensely painful for toiling millions. Capitalism has exhausted all its potential and society cannot develop on the basis of its old production relations based on private property. Nationalisation of all lands, alongside Banks and Industries, under control of a workers' and peasants' government, is the only way forward.

We also underscore here that the whole policy of land compensations is consciously designed to benefit the rich and deprive the poor. The criterion of determining the compensation, the size of the landholding and its location, is completely irrational. The criteria, must be the actual dependency upon the land. The more the number of family members depending on the land, the more should be the compensation and vice-versa. More significantly, the landless labourers depending upon the land, and the poor artisans in the village, who are presently deprived of any compensation, must get compensated for the loss of their livelihood that had been so closely bound up with acquired lands. The landless, the artisans and the poor peasants, must fight for acceptance of this criteria.

We cannot ignore that the demand of the rich peasants for more and more compensations for land acquisitions, would ultimately burden the working class. We cannot support this enrichment of rural bourgeois at the expense of the working class.

Bourgeoisie has fooled the peasantry for long with fairy tales of communist appropriations of peasant lands if a workers revolution succeeds. This is turn for Marxists to tell the peasant, not through tales, but through the experience before its own eyes, that it is not communists, but the capitalists, who are to seize the lands of the peasant. While the government under bourgeoisie, appropriates the peasant holdings, communists pledge to appropriate the appropriators, to appropriate the big bourgeoisie, its industries and investments and put them in the hands of a Workers' and Peasants' Government.

We thus appeal to the poor and toiling sections of the peasantry to oppose the rule of the big bourgeoisie and join hands with working class for establishment of a Workers' and Peasants' government.

1 comment:

  1. Doesn't the issue of land nationalisation come in here? Capitalist society has overshot its capacity to develop the forces of production by means of compulsory land acquisition as private property. Land prices exceed value as monopoly capital speculates in rent and destroys the forces of production. The answer to bourgeois compulsory land acquisition dispossessing small peasants is land nationalisation under workers and farmers control in a Workers and Farmers Government. In this way the principle of 'land to the tiller' can be expressed as collective rights of small peasants use nationalised land under a socialist plan and make the transition to the full commune. On a second point related point, the ability of China today to develop the forces of production rests on its nationalisation of land as state property and the creation of peasant collectives. With the restoration of capital, speculation in land was minimised by collective land rights directing state monopoly capital into productive investment. Of course as the overproduction of capital develops speculation in land use rights increases. But so does the class struggle over nationalised land. Hence we should be looking to the Chinese workers and peasants to take the lead in the global socialist revolution.