Saturday, October 13, 2018

Marxist views from India


by Robin McGregor

Revolutionary Democracy Vol XXIII, No 2. April 2018.
£5.00 + £1.00 p&p from NCP Lit: PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

The arrival of this twice yearly Indian journal is always to be welcomed; the latest issue is no exception. The well-established format of articles on recent and contemporary India, materials from parties of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations (ICMLPO), and translations of Soviet archival material are continued, along with reports on the centenary celebrations of the October Revolution.
The Indian material includes a damning indictment of the BJP government’s latest budget which, despite its rhetoric, is condemned for only benefiting the very rich. These are explained in more detail by a long article by a KB Saxena that looks at recent reactionary developments on India’s concentrated landownership, rights of access to forests, labour laws, mineral rights, education and freedom of information. It also highlights recent changes to the law that forbid poor people without approved educational qualifications from standing in elections. A book review of Indian big business in Nehru’s time demonstrates that these are long-term trends worsened in recent decades.
A more specific example of the hardships faced by Indian workers is contained in an account of a strike this January by rickshaw workers in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar, where a company making compressed natural gas vehicles persuaded the local authority to start fining drivers of older diesel-powered rickshaws. The authorities have also issued massive numbers of licences for drivers in rural areas where there is no demand, resulting in them having to move to the city to survive. Drivers are also forced into debt when they acquire new rickshaws in instalments.
The specifically Indian material concludes with a book review on the life and work of BR Ambedkar who, in the 1930s, tried to combine Hinduism with Marxism. Two major women activists also feature in this issue, with a summary of the life and works of Clara Zetkin and an obituary of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
After commentaries from ICMLPO parties from Bolivia, France, Iran, Italy and Tunisia we turn to the Centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. There is a short article on the role of trade unions before Birkram Mohan defends the achievements of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1950s from its Trotskyite, modern revisionist and bourgeois critics.
The seemingly dry title of an article on The 1917 Russian Revolution and its Impact on International Law reminds us of how important 1917 was for anti-colonialism, and compares Chinese and Soviet concepts of ‘peaceful co-existence’.
Connoisseurs of factional polemics will enjoy a detailed critique of a work entitled Dawn of the International Socialist Revolution by Stefan Engels of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany, which is criticised for its Kautskyite tendencies.
There is a detailed progress report on work towards a new edition of the works of Stalin presently being prepared in Russia. At present eight volumes, covering up to June 1918, of a projected 40 volumes have been published, along with the first part of a detailed index of obscure individuals referred to in Stalin’s writings. Identifying the pseudonyms used to confuse the Czarist police has been a demanding task.
The archival material in this issue includes an extensive critique of the 1964 Programme Document of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) by Parimal Dasgupta when the foundation of that party was being debated. We also have the second instalment of reports of the 1949 secret mission of Soviet deputy prime minister AI Mikoyan to China, which reveal the extent of Soviet military aid to the Chinese communists and discussions on the type of state that was to emerge in China. The issue concludes with a letter from Stalin to Italian Communist Party leader Togliatti in November 1947 about a meeting he had held with Pietro Nenni, leader of the left wing in the Italian Socialist Party that wanted to cooperate with communists.

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