1. The Indian economy is currently undergoing a boom, a moderately long boom for a less developed economy: “between 1999-2000 and 2006-07, the gross domestic product (GDP) in constant prices increased at an average annual rate of nearly 7 per cent. And for the past three years, the economy has been growing at 8 per cent.” This boom is a profit-led boom, where surging profits of the Indian corporate sector is leading the growth in savings and investment. This seems to be a far cry from the general economic “stagnation” in the “semi-colonies” predicted by the classical theories of imperialism. Of course, this growth is accompanied by growing inequality; capitalists are gaining more than workers and big capitalists are gaining more than the small-sector capitalists. This is a situation which had occured in Argentina, Brazil and Chile (and Mexico and Iran possibly) about four decades earlier and continues to this day; this is what has been called “dependent development”: dependent, to take account of the continued operation of imperialism (through various channels) and development to take account of the non-trivial industrial development (as opposed to the earlier periods of general economic stagnation and no industrial development). Would this (the move from semi-colonial stagnation to dependent development) change the agenda for radical social transformation?
2. A mark of the recent trend in the Indian economy are the new economic kings, the new capitalist moguls whose wealth (in purchasing power parity terms) would equal those of the richest in the First World. Here is a typical example of the rising wealth of the new capitalists. It is important to reiterate that these are capitalists and not feudal lords, and they are (or will, in the near future, be) calling the shots in India. Is it not capitalism, dependent capitalism to be sure, that is the dominant mode of production in the Indian socio-economic formation?
3. One area of the Indian economy which is going to see a lot of turmoil in the coming months is the retail sector. Recall that the retail sector directly employs about 8 percent of the workforce; the indirect employment is probably much larger. Most of the “firms” in this sector are what are called the “mom-and-pop” shops; these are small family-owned and managed businesses, often employing very outdated technology (transportation, storage, etc.). Big corporate entities, both Indian and foreign, have already started entering this market which is estimated to be around $250 billion! Two interesting things can be expected to happen here. One, big corporate entities entering and wiping out the mom-and-pop shops will considerably increase the technological level of the retail sector; it will lead to a huge growth of the productive forces. Two, Indian big capital, represented by Reliance, is going to fight for this huge market against the Walmart-Bharati enterprises combine which is a foreign capital led alliance. Given these two facts, how will the revolutionary forces consistently oppose this development while (a) accepting the primacy of the development of productive forces for social transformation and (b) adhering to their anti-imperialist stance.
4. I want to return to Marx’s famous letter to Vera Zasulich in relation to the question of the socialist revolution in Russia. In the draft letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx had specifically mentioned that the Russian peasant commune could be used for the development of a higher form of social ownership and labour, i.e., socialist labour and that defending and deepening the communes should be an express task of the revolutionary movement of the working class. In the preface to the second edition of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels added a crucial condition for this possibility to materialise.
“The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and bourgeois property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West? The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development (Source). ”
If we juxtapose this assertion to the debate about the possibility of building socialism in one country then we come up against an inconsistency. Let me elaborate.
It is well-known that the Bolsheviks gave a call for a socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 with the express recognition that the Russian revolution could only be sustained if it “becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other”; the Bolsheviks were especially anxious about the outcome of the German revolution. Thus, both the call for the socialist revolution and the movement for the strengthening of the peasant commune (to be used as a springboard for the construction of a higher form of socialized labour) rested on the hope of support from proletarian revolutions in the West. The Bolsheviks gave the call for a socialist revolution but did not give a call for strengthening and deepening the peasant communes. Why?
5. This is a nice picture of the enduring (and possibly growing) strength of the anti-capitalist strand within the anti-globalization struggle.