Indian farmers strike

May 2024 Forums General discussion Indian farmers strike

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    It is a little more difficult to garner information of the Farmers Strike from other regions of India since the media attention and focus is upon Delhi. However, adding a state name such as Tamil Nadu to the search brings up those local news features.

    What is to bear in mind with India politics is the differentiation between what is called the Centre – ie Modi’s government – and all the other state governments, many held by Modi’s opposition. (Congress and CPI(M) are as you say offering their support to the strikers for partisan reasons but from all accounts are not in any control of it.) Therefore, the farmers strikes are not prominent actions.

    Nor is there likely to be any contingents of farmers from, say, Kerala, travelling to Delhi to protest. It is a very long journey to make.

    A poll of what some parts of India think are the main concern.

    So there are other issues of importance to Indian workers, one being unemployment (perhaps reflecting the urban populations). Only Kerala had the pandemic as a main worry (maybe because of its tourism. Goa, the other tourist spot wasn’t featured in the poll)

    I can’t be sure but i wouldn’t judge the status of farmers from the fact that there are tractors on the protest. If similar to where i am, large machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters are bought on credit and then they hire out to individual farmers. (plus tractors are often used for non-agricultural work). You would be surprised here by how many farmers drive 3-litre pick-ups because of the easy credit compared to when i first came here decades ago when a motorcycle was luxury.

    And according to this story, many on show were not new but smartened up just for the protest.


    An article about the farmers protests in Mumbai by the adivasi (tribal) community

    Our message should be that the repeal of three laws does no more than return the farmers back to the status quo – exactly where they were – which was never ever good. Socialism is the only option for real progress. But our problem is how to get that message communicated.


    Email received at Head Office today from a group (probably best desribed as “workerist”) with a link to their blog about “peasants” in the Indian sub-continent . They seem to be taking the view that, as in China, the peasants will eventully become wage-workers, with the implicit assumption that this will be good as it’s wage-workers who have an interest in going beyond capitalism (at least that’s how I read them, but I could b e wrong):

    ● A Note on Peasants in the Indian Subcontinent ●


    The article goes back to 18th C…so a very contemporary analysis (irony).

    I’m reminded that they say India inherited two things from British rule, the railways (that is just getting around to building high-speed trains) and the civil service.

    I once met a rich Swiss businessman who was starting up a company to provide luxury hotels with their own bread-making facilities, as he had done in many other countries.

    Usually, he explained, it requires a briefcase with a few folders in it for all the government applications forms. But in India, he told me, it needed a full filing cabinet, each drawer packed with papers for each separate government ministry and he still hadn’t gone through the complete process, after months of bureaucracy.

    I once had to walk by a building site where the same man was using a sledge hammer all day long to break up some huge boulder. He was at it for a week or so. A pnuematic drill would have broken it up in an hour or two…but with low pay it was cheaper to employ a person with a sledge-hammer than use a jack-hammer.


    Yes, their friend in Europe must have been expecting more on what’s going on now.


    Reply from our companion party in India:

    “We know that the farmers’ movement is a “reactionary” movement. So, I didn’t find any interest in writing an article on it, few comments notwithstanding.”


    Perhaps this is the real reactionaries?

    a crowd of 200 men, largely made up of members of the Hindu nationalist group Hindu Sena, descended on the farmers, throwing stones at the protesters and tearing up their tents, shouting at them to clear the road. Chaos erupted as police responded with teargas and batons, though the retaliation appeared to be largely against farmers.

    Orders from the state government [BJP ruled, ajj] demanded that the farmers vacate the Ghazipur protest site and by Thursday night, hundreds of police in riot gear descended on the area to clear the farmers, and the camp’s water and electricity was cut off.

    farmers’ union leader Rakesh Tikait broke down in tears. “This government will destroy farmers, BJP’s goons will come and attack them with the police,” he said.


    The support network

    Thousands of men and women are being sustained by huge community kitchens serving food day and night, and other facilities, including makeshift medical camps.

    Behind the continuing protests is a well-organised network of volunteers from villages in Punjab and the neighbouring Haryana state, supplying the agitators with “whatever is required”.

    Behind the well-managed chain of pooling resources is a decades-old tradition in Punjab villages.

    “We did not set up any new structure to support the protests,” 55-year-old Jigrup Singh told Al Jazeera.“In villages, we always have volunteers associated with the gurdwara who keep pooling in resources for different religious and social occasions.”

    the concept of community kitchen is central to Sikhism.


    Jio Platforms runs India’s largest mobile network service. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which was recently allowed to provide online payment services, has an estimated 400 million subscribers in India. They will be targeted as a potential customer base for Jio Mart, a network of grocery stores owned by Jio Platforms, that is already present in over 200 Indian cities and delivers groceries, dairy items, fruits, vegetables. The idea is primarily to dominate India’s rapidly growing e-grocery market. Jio Mart also hopes to use WhatsApp to integrate thousands of mom-and-pop stores into the online retail network.

    The online commerce market in India is predicted to reach US$ 99 billion by 2024 and US$200 billion by 2026

    Facebook invested $5.5 billion dollars last year in Ambani-owned Jio Platforms. Google with US$4.5 billion. Public Investment Fund, which is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, with US$1.5 billion; KKR, a large US investment fund with US$1.5 billion; Mubadala and ADIA, both investment funds based in Abu Dhabi with US$1.2 billion and US$750 million and TPG Capital, a global asset management firm with US$600 million.

    All these plans however will come to nought if the three new farm laws are not in place, as they provide the legal basis for entry of large corporates into the highly fragmented and diverse Indian food production, processing and distribution market. The laws create a national framework for contract farming in agriculture, deregulate pricing, purchase and storage of many basic food products and facilitate online sales of agricultural produce. Essentially the laws will allow entities like Jio Platforms to control the entire supply chain for food and related items – procuring at low prices from farmers, stocking and processing for value addition, booking orders online and delivering the final product to either domestic or even overseas consumers as needed.

    The Modi government’s insistence on imposing the farm laws despite massive opposition is not just about Indian agriculture either. They are also a way of signaling to all foreign investors that the Indian government is firmly on their side and willing to put down its own people – with bullets if needed- to protect their profits. Government advisors worry that not being ‘tough’ enough with the agitating farmers could result in a fall in ‘confidence’ of investors and stop the flow of big money.


    Interesting here: analysis of BJP vote

    “Troubles in the rural economy, such as stagnating farm prices and wages, had led to concerns about disenchantment with the BJP in the hinterland. But in this election, there has been a sharp increase in the BJP’s vote share in rural constituencies of 7.3 percentage points. This has meant a weakening of the urban-rural divide in support for the BJP. The difference between the party’s vote share in urban and rural constituencies reduced from 8.9 percentage points in 2014 to merely 3.5 percentage points in 2019.”

    I did wonder if these farmers were the BJPs voters..


    OK, interestingly, the farmers strike is driven by Punjab, where the BJP’s NDA alliance is actually weakest: according to the conversation although BJP has taken the seats in Haryana (around Delhi).

    But, I’ll add a link to this abstract:
    “The Indian general elections occurred amid a widespread and severe agricultural crisis. Many analysts thought that this could have a substantial impact on the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prospects to remain in office. This article, using post poll data, analyses the voting behaviour of two key sections of the electorate, the rural poor and the farmers. It shows that the BJP drew substantial support from both categories, across caste and class. Far from being a party of the urban upper classes and castes, the results of the 2019 elections mark the culmination of a decades-long process of ruralization and ‘proletarianization’ of the party.”


    Sorry, I can get access to that article, a few choice quotes:
    “Second, and relatedly, food inflation collapsed. While this benefited both urban consumers and the rural poor, particularly small and marginal farmers that do not sell agricultural surpluses on the market and agricultural labourers, it also caused a severe deterioration of farmers’ income”

    “after not paying particular attention to agriculture during the first years of its tenure, the government quickly changed track in the wake of the protests and of the disappointing results in some of the state elections, particularly in Gujarat in 2017—where the BJP barely obtained a majority—and later in the three Hindi belt states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the BJP lost to the Congress party. In all these cases, rural distress seemed to have played a significant role.”

    “Shortly before the elections, the government also increased steeply the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the Kharif crops, after years of virtual stagnation” [So are they reaping the harvest for playing silly buggers to win the election?]

    “Farmers, on the other hand, while keep struggling for a number of structural reasons that were not seriously tackled by the government, did see some policy response to their grievances. This might have been sufficient to convince farmer-voters that Modi, although not possessing a magic wand that could transform agriculture into a highly profitable economic activity, at least did try to address some of their problems.”

    “The BJP performed exceptionally well in rural areas.”

    “As the table clearly shows, in rural areas, the BJP draws higher levels of support, the higher the economic status of the voter. While this is not surprising, given the historical strength of the party among the wealthiest sections of the society, what is striking is the exceptionally high increase in support for the BJP among the rural (as well as the urban) poor.”

    “the robust support that the BJP enjoys among agricultural classes (which, it should be remember, include big and small farmers, tenant cultivators and agricultural labourers). Whereas there is a clear class element that shapes voters’ preferences—the lower the class, the lower the preference for the BJP—it remains that the saffron party was the preferred choice of a very large number of people who depend on agriculture for their livelihood, irrespective of their class. Even for the ‘poor’ and ‘lower’ agricultural classes, ”

    “However, the table also confirms that the BJP’s support is lower (although still considerably high) among agricultural labourers and exceptionally high among big farmers.”

    “Overall, the data presented so far unequivocally show that the BJP’s performance was in a significant way due to the increased support it received from the lower castes and classes in rural areas. One argument that many analysts made trying to explain the 2019 election result is that the social policies introduced by the government (discussed in section 2) were crucial to win the votes of the weakest sections of the society.”


    In conclusion, it looks like there is a political animus against the BJP (possibly Sikhism?) and across the rest of India, the farmers are calling in their chips, the BJP tried to help the big farmers (which seems to be part of its core), but the raw political might of the small farmer seems to be being asserted.


    Modi has seriously politically miscalculated how this privatisation was received. If it has been a nail in the coffin of the RSS/BJP hindutva all the better.

    If Modi can be equated with Trump (and in many ways there are similarities) he has lost the Make India Great Again movement who have now come to understand that Modi’s “nationalism” can now be seen as secondary to his “corporatism”.

    Our question is do we treat the present farmers struggle as “patriotic” protectionism against globalisation, as a campaign against the dismantling of the Indian welfare State, or a sectional defence of the privileges of the “rich” farmer akin to the EU Common Agricultural Policy, to single out some of the negative “reactionary” features.

    Or do we point to the growth of political consciousness in a very conservative culture as revealed in the cross-caste and multi-religion cooperation despite the media focus only on the Punjabi front. There is the urban trade union solidarity seen in the November general strike, and it has an all-India sympathy although blocking the streets of the State capitals of Modi’s rivals is rather like preaching to the converted and doesn’t get the headlines.

    This won’t necessarily be the first occasion that a resistance against one particular government policy evolves into wider action. People learn from experience, practice leads to new demands.

    Unlike Trump MAGA which has remained loyal despite betrayal, Modi’s supporters have recognised he does not represent their interests anymore and have deserted him.

    Will the result be a return to Congress and CPI(M)? Well, we know without real socialist consciousness, this swing-pendulum exists with voters.

    But how is a socialist party able to create a presence in anti-establishment movements that express certain progressive ideas but fall very short of being a socialistic movement?

    I’d like to hear a few alternative strategies for reaching out to a huge reservoir of possible receptive audience. We shouldn’t dismiss this mass movement too quickly.

    To return to Marx, this is a class in itself but not yet a class for itself

    My speculative message is simple…we understand your grievances, we know the new laws are not designed for your benefit, but you may prevail at this moment in time but the problem doesn’t disappear. It takes you only back to the position which you were originally in, which was not at all good, and the multinational corporation invasion of India will return, regardless of who holds power, in a different form perhaps but with the same intent. Capitalism is global and eventually the national capital hold-outs are defeated. Britain will soon realize this with Brexit.


    Continuing our crash course in Indian politics and society, as far as I can see — literally from photo and tv images of sword-wielding Sikhs on big tractors — this is a movement of independent capitalist farmers defending their particular sectional interest. (By the way, does anyone know if Sikhs are farmers anywhere else in India apart from the Punjab?) So why on Earth would they be interested in a message saying “good luck but you are going to lose in the end so become a socialist”?

    This shows the danger of basing our position on “compassion” rather than class. Mention “Indian peasants” and in many people’s minds that conjures up an image of a subsistence farmer with one cow and land the size of a soccer pitch or two. Such people exist in India, millions of them, but they are not involved in the protests nor affected by the new laws. They really do need socialism now but would settle for more land.

    The one-day token general strike last year did involve people of all castes and religions. That’s a good thing. Ignoring caste and uniting people of all religions is one of the principles of the main opposition party (Congress) which I suppose makes them the “lesser evil” compared to the ineffable BJP and its Hindoo communalism.

    Anyone for a thread on who the next Congress prime minister of India might be (and how he or she won’t be any different from the last one as they’ll be governing within the context of capitalism and so have to put profits and conditions for profit-making first)?

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