“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Jun 9, 2014
This article is translated from the May 23rd, 2014 edition of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
After a voting process spread out over five weeks, the Indian parliamentary elections resulted in a devastating defeat for the ruling Congress Party, which got only 19 percent of the total vote.
The Congress Party, which has governed the country for more than 54 years since its independence in 1947, has never fallen so low, either in terms of votes or in seats in parliament. This demonstrates the extent of its discredit in the eyes of the population, due to its corruption and policies favoring capital, which have brought about increasing misery in the wake of the economic crisis.
As a result, the Congress Party's main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, or Indian People’s Party), will see its candidate, Narendra Modi, become the prime minister of India.
The way that these elections unfolded is in itself an insult to the poorer classes. The total cost of the various parties’ campaigns comes to more than five billion dollars. This is equal to about half of the annual budget of the government’s support program for India’s 90 million poorest households!
Although one of the main campaign themes this year was the struggle against corruption, the elections themselves were nevertheless a showcase for corruption in all of its forms. For example, nearly one fifth of all candidates were charged with various crimes while they were running for office, often for motives linked to corruption, but also for crimes such as rape and murder.
Finally, in this poor country that the Western media dares to describe as “the world's largest democracy,” all of the standard forms of fraud and violence came into play. An Indian human rights organization described them in this way: “Theft of votes and ballot stuffing, voter identity fraud, armed gangs preventing voters from going to the voting booths and using intimidation; campaign workers beat up, tortured, even assassinated; frequent use of clubs, firearms, and even bombs in place of electoral arguments.”
These elections did not permit the poor and working population to express itself, since none of the parties at the national level represented their interests. The elections were little more than a referendum for or against the Congress Party. If the BJP has been the main beneficiary, this is in part due to its being the only credible opposition in many areas, and also due to the considerable means at the BJP’s disposal.
The BJP is basically the parliamentary wing of the coalition that forms the Hindu nationalist far right. This coalition includes multiple religious and cultural organizations, small groups with all of the attributes of Western neo-Nazi gangs, and a union confederation with locals that act more like company unions than like true workers’ organizations. But its backbone is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or National Volunteer Association), an organization of several million members that, under the cover of Hindu cultural tradition, trains in squads resembling a regular military apparatus. Its members have been in the front ranks of the anti-Muslim riots of the past.
The new Indian Prime Minister Modi, himself a dignitary of the RSS, has been heavily implicated in the 2002 riot that left 2,000 dead in Gujarat. This took place just before his reelection on the basis of a campaign heavily charged with anti-Muslim demagogy.
This year, the BJP did not focus on this aspect of its politics, instead presenting itself as the only party capable of moving India away from corruption. This was a cynical move, given the long series of scandals that marked its rise to power between 1996 and 2004. But the BJP has above all promised to bring the country out of a crisis that weighs more and more heavily on the population. Modi has capitalized on the methods that, according to media commentators, have permitted him to make Gujarat one of the richest states in India. This translates to the creation of tax-free zones, the lowering of wages, and the freezing or elimination of all social programs.
The BJP’s victory is clearly not good news for the working class and the poor. But it’s easy to understand the enthusiasm of the Bombay Stock Exchange, which leapt up by 5% after the results were announced!