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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 2, January 24, 2009

Remembering Bhowani Sen On His Birth Centenary

Monday 26 January 2009, by Bhowani Sen, SC, Susobhan Sarkar

January 26 this year is not only our sixtieth Republic Day. It also marks the birth centenary of one of the most outstanding Communist leaders this country has produced—Bhowani Sen, who was described by C. Rajeswara Rao, the erstwhile CPI General Secretary, as a “staunch Bolshevik”; in fact after Bhowani Sen’s death in Moscow in the morning of July 10, 1972, Rajeswara Rao underscored: “He was a Bolshevik, every inch of him.” But apart from the fact that he was one of the most erudite scholars of Marxism in general and Marxist philosophy in particular, Bhowani Sen had a highly enriched analytical frame of mind and a broad national vision which is why he could, with effortless ease, discard sectarianism (which he had once vigorously practised as the lieutenant of that arch-priest of Indian sectarianism, B.T. Ranadive) and adopt the policy of the Communist Party’s close cooperation as well as struggle with the Indian National Congress; and while adopting this course he steadfastly fought the die-hard Left adventurists-cum-opportunists in the CPM without deviating from the basic ideological principles of creative Marxism.

Bhowani Sen was also one of the architects of the peasant movement in the country. He was the real initator of the Tebhaga movement in the forties when he headed the State Committee of the CPI in undivided Bengal. In 1970 he was elected President of the All India Kisan Sabha, a post he held till his death. At the same time his repeated proposals for building a separate organisation of agricultural labour were rejected by certain sections who feared it would hurt their interests. They were to subsequently form the CPM—and these elements were also opposed to lowering the ceiling on land from 25 to 15 acres so that more land was available for distribution among the land-hungry and landless peasantry.
Finally under Bhowani Sen’s guidance the Khet Mazdoor Union and Adivasi Mahasabha were set up in 1968. As historian Chinmohan Sehanavis has noted, “he personally guided the cadres who were building up these movements”—among those cadres was the present General Secretary of the CPI, A.B. Bardhan, the only surviving link of the communist movement (now dominated by rootless upstarts in the CPM) with the past.
Bhowani Sen’s last memorable contribution to national life was his tireless endeavour to propagate the importance of the Bangladesh liberation struggle while rendering material assistance and extending full support to that struggle. Chinmohan Sehanavis has aptly observed: “….. when on March 25, 1971 Yahya’s hordes treacherously launched a brutal attack on the defenceless people of Bangladesh, followed by the glorious liberation war of her people, Bhowani Sen played a leading role not only in organising relief for the lakhs of refugees who came pouring into the bordering States of India but also helping to mobilise Indian and international opinion in favour of Bangladesh.”

Bhowani Sen enjoyed a close fraternal friendship with N.C. nurtured though their intimate association during the underground days of 1948-50. (So overwhelmed was N.C. by Bhowani Sen’s untimely demise that he could not collect his thoughts to write anything about the person whom he knew so well and had worked together with for so long.) Bhowani Sen wrote an incisive article on the agrarian problems in the first issue of Mainstream that evoked the ire of the then Secretary of the CPI in West Bengal, Promode Dasgupta (who later became a CPM stalwart); thus Dasgupta, by a notification, announced that the party had no connection with the journal—as if to brand it, by implication, as anti-party (although Bhowani Sen was a central leader of the party at that point in time). This was quite natural for Dasgupta and his colleagues who subsequently formed the CPM could not stand the sight of Bhowani Sen, and after the latter’s death the CPM leaders (including B.T. Ranadive, once a close comrade of Bhowani Sen) were conspicuous by their absence at his funeral even though leaders of every other political party mourned his death and his funeral procession on July 15, 1972 was one of the biggest Calcutta has ever witnessed.
While remembering Bhowani Sen on the occasion of his birth centenary we carry a piece on him by the distinguished Marxist historian, Susobhan Sarkar, after his demise, and Bhowani Sen’s article in the first issue of Mainstream (September 1, 1962). S.C.

Memories

by Sushobhan Sarkar

I shall not try here to assess the life and work of Comrade Bhowani Sen, the services he rendered to the Indian communist movement, the impact he has left on the history of an entire generation. I am conscious that I do not know enough and even all his writings are not now before me. The sorrow of a personal loss, tragic though not perhaps totally unexpected in view of the poor state of his health, weighs still heavy on my heart. Others, far more competent and far closer to him, will doubtless make the attempt and will give him his proper historical due. I shall offer here only a string of memories, personal and political, throughout the years, which are still fresh in my mind.

I came to know Bhowani Sen first in the early forties when the party had just started to function legally, after long years of underground and semiunderground activities. He emerged at once as the undisputed leader in Bengal, as P.C. Joshi was on the all-India plane. Unlike in very many ways, the two had the common quality, rare enough in men, of attracting people and inspiring them, not merely party comrades but also sympathisers and intellectuals who normally fight shy of political leadership of all kinds. Bhowani had a reputation for rousing and holding the affection of the masses, but he had also the striking capacity of holding his own in discussions with the toughest intellectuals, of winning their respect and confidence. Unassuming, simple and homely as he was, self-confidence and humour lighted up his face; men who came to debate went away with new enthusiasm. Happy indeed were those far-off days, as they appear in retrospect.

We were passing through the people’s war phase and Bhowani Sen implemented the line in Bengal with eminent success. I knew that many comrades, young and old, criticise the “line” today, with hindsight perhaps. I am, however, still convinced of its essential correctness in the crisis when fascism seemed to be on the point of smashing through the citadels of socialism. Maybe there was some mistake in emphasis, a failure to keep track of the shifting situation. Communist policies have often enough lagged behind a new development or clung too long to an outdated formulation. Bhowani Sen’s leadership, however, had the outstanding ability to win a firm foothold in Bengal for the unpopular wartime policy. I still remember the tributes he earned from the most unlikely circles, how he helped to create almost a legend about communist tenacity and courage of conviction, how he drew countless individuals into the movement in spite of prejudices and heavy odds, how he retained the affection and devotion of people. This was indeed party building at its very best.

This work of party building was immensely helped in our region by the heroic leadership provided by Bhowani Sen in the fight against the Bengal famine. Into the struggle were drawn very many people of different ranks and various social groupings who came to form a composite, temporary perhaps, front which was quite effective. Social conscience was stirred and even apolitical persons were roused to some action. I remember how I myself was drawn into the People’s Relief Committee and how Bhowani gave valuable guidance to the Nari Seva Sangha in its early days, a federation of the manifold social service centres which sprang up all around. There was a cultural resurgence which was reflected by the Indian People’s Theatre Association which became an all-India force under Joshi’s encouragement. The song and dance shows in Calcutta to raise funds for the distressed attracted even people who were never expected to attend communist-sponsored performances. The play Nabanna and its earlier version on the famine and the resistance theme, whatever their artistic merit, drew crowds and created a big sensation. The progressive writers, turned into the Anti-Fascist Writers’ Association, rallied intellectuals in a new crusade. Bhowani Sen was the man to whom all these groups and organisations turned for advice and never in vain, though often enough he remained behind the scenes.

Bhowani Sen inspired the Stream of History, (Itihaser Dhara in Bengali) just as two years later the Notes on the Bengal Renaissance was sponsored by P.C. Joshi. In the first booklet, my first idea was to write in “colloquial” Bengali, the form adopted by most of our writers. Bhowani, however, urged that it should be written in the “pure” style which differs from the former mainly in the verb-forms and pronouns. His argument was that literate persons in the countryside, unlike the city educated, were more at home with the latter variety, and that our aim must be, if possible, to reach out to them. This would also get over the difficulty of the “spoken” dialects familiar to the districts. I was convinced by his argument and followed his advice. Today possibly the situation has changed with the universality of the radio and the giant vernacular newspapers which now seem to prefer the “colloquial” to the “pure” version of our language. The two booklets mentioned above were incidentally intended not for the learned academics, but for young political workers in a hurry who needed some kind of historical background in their active approaches to people.

IN the different atmosphere of postwar demonstrations, students and activists again turned to Bhowani Sen for the course of action to follow, in every turn of the crisis. But, of course, he really came into his own in the leadership of the great “tebhaga” movement. No one knew our peasantry more intimately as his priceless studies on the agrarian problem testify. Some of my students, who were in the “tebhaga” upsurge, have described to me the role played by our great leader, the inspiration, the wisdom, the pragmatism revealed by him in what has become a memorable chapter in Bengal’s modern history.

Memory harks back to many other events in the hectic early forties and midforty days, all centred round the indispensable figure of Bhowani Sen. I vividly remember, for instance, how the famous monthly Parichoy was acquired by the progressives (to serve as the literary vehicle of advanced ideas); how foreign soldier comrades in wartime flocked round the party (Bhowani himself took some informative classes for them); how the Bengali daily Swadhinata came to be launched (considerable financial aid flowed in from quite unlikely contributors); how the Red Aid Health Centre was organised for political workers (some of them belonging to other parties); how Communists weathered the frenzy unleashed against them by the INA demonstrators (party offices had to be defended from attacks); how, in spite of all, Communists could spearhead the mighty upsurge of July 29, 1946 (a fitting climax to the sectional struggles of the period).

There followed a sad setback. My friend Dr Adhikari’s famous thesis, I think, was basically correct in bringing out that India is a multinational country, a fact which is being realised today more and more as the days unfold themselves. What the party missed, however, seems to have been the lack of zeal parallel with Russia. There was nothing like Great Russian chauvinism here keeping down suppressed nationalities; the bigger fact was foreign imperialism treading alike on all of us. After all, Lenin had invoked “selfdetermination” not as an absolute, but as a necessary weapon to disarm the suspicion of the different sections of the proletariat, to banish the fears about the future free development of all peoples. What was missed by our Communists was the need, along with the recognition of a multinational reality, of waging an intense campaign for India’s federal unity, for the sake of broader all-India interests, for liberation as a whole, for an effective defence and foreign policy, for material prosperity, for the unification of the Indian working class itself. We were sidetracked into the slogan of Congress-League unity at any cost, which proved illusory on account of the recalcitrance of one or the other “big brother”. And we were overtaken by a fratricidal slaughter. Within less than three weeks of the upsurge of July 29, 1946 there came to Calcutta the anticlimax of the communal riots.

During the communal carnage, Bhowani Sen stood out like a rock of strength to the forces of sanity. I remember how he imparted courage to people around him; how he arranged for the evacuation of pockets of areas in acute danger; how he sent succour to rescue isolated families; how he fostered Hindu-Muslim amity. Communist strongholds remained safe asylums to members of both the communities who could rise above the battle. But the price paid was heavy indeed. It was the bloodbath over the country at large which forced us to accept the partition as the lesser eveil. Selfdetermination for our various nationalities had turned into an illusion.

The gloom cast by fratricidal strife was dramatically lifted by the coming of independence, surely an unforgettable experience. While the “Tryst with Destiny” speech was ringing out from Delhi, Calcutta passed through scenes of spontaneous joy. At midnight of the fateful eve of independence, big crowds came out into the streets, Hindus and Muslims alike, greeting one another with genuine delight. Our Hindu Hostel boys met with a tumultuous welcome at the Nakhoda Mosque itself. On Independence Day there was flag-hoisting all over the city and the new national flag fluttered out from countless housetops. I recall how after a stirring speech from Bhowani Sen, a big crowd streamed out to the thronged highways and even passed through the gardens and halls of the Raj Bhavan, for once open to the multitude.

Only a few months later, and the party was swinging to a new line of extreme militancy which logically could lead up to insurgency alone. Early in 1948, the rumours went round that Joshi and Adhikari had differed, that Ranadive was taking over charge, that Bhowani Sen was ably seconding him. I had ventured to express some doubts and misgivings about the new line and so close was the contact with even outsiders in those days that Bhowani came to see me with a bigger leader. The latter lectured me in a hectoring vein on the lack of a concept of power; I suppose he meant the failure to grasp the necessity of preparing for an immediate seizure of power. Bhowani, on the other hand, talked in a gentle persuasive manner, that was indeed the difference between him and many others. The Second Congress switched on the new ultra-Left course of action, without adequate preparation, without gauging properly the mood of the great majority.

There followed the dark underground months during which unfortunately Bhowani Sen took his full share in silencing all critics. One episode at that time stands out in my memory. He wrote under a pseudonym a blistering attack on the heritage of the Bengal renaissance, which seemed to many of us one-sided and unfair, though some of the points he made out were something of a revelation. Yet, after the fury of ultra-Leftism subsided, Bhowani Sen sent for the earlier writings of intellectuals, who had interpreted the renaissance differently, to revise his iconoclastic views. This was greatness—this capacity to learn from others, this humility in approach.

I understand that Bhowani Sen was one of the very first to realise the mistakes of the Left line and turn to the new corrected path. But he had made too many enemies, perhaps because of too much sincerity, and paid the penalty of an exclusion from the leadership for a decade. He was undaunted, however, and started to work again from the very ranks, from the scratch as it were. I learned from mutual friends that he had now to live in most straitened circumstances, and I suspect that this was the period in which his health began to fail on account perhaps of the hardship and the hard work. Yet he could retain his alert mind. In the midfifties, he could propound the approach towards a National Democratic Front, an idea then ridiculed by most but destined to prevail later on.

My memories centre mostly round the forties, as it would appear above. For various reasons, perhaps for our own faults, the gulf widened between the sympathisers and the party. It was, therefore, from a distance that I watched the struggle of Bhowani Sen back towards the leadership till the split in the early sixties brought him back into power and authority. I appreciated how he unerringly grasped the correct line and how he set himelf to the task of rebuilding the shattered party, though he had no longer his old youthful strength. Most of the Bengal comrades passed over to the rebel camp, grouped into a new party, but Bhowani was undaunted and unshaken after the India-China breach, firm in his loyalty to the mainstream of our national adance, firm in his international understanding. The now-lost Swadhinata was replaced by the Kalantar. Once again he tried to reorganise the intellectuals and revitalise Parichoy. Once again he showed his persuasive powers in private and difficult discussions, while his public speaking at big rallies and election meetings in particular was as effective as ever with his homely use of our traditional lore, combined with simple witty words of wisdom, which won over listeners. His writings were as thoughtful and thought-provoking as before, extending even to the realm of Indian philosophy. He was one of the main architects of the united front in Bengal, though for no fault of his it came to grief. He passed on to the concept of Communist-Congress-Left understanding which, if acted on in Bengal in 1971, might have placed the party in a vanguard position of strength instead of the danger of tailism. In the latter years, Bhowani Sen was deservedly lifted into the central leadership, but this brought no relief from hard toil. In his wonted style, he rendered services of a sterling nature to the cause of Bangladesh, to the relief of the refugees and to the liberation of the greater part of Bengal. And he died in harness, as he perhaps would have liked himself.

Today I recall with love and affection the many kindnesses he showered on me. The last time he visited our household was a day of family rejoicing in 1970, when he unexpectedly came to share our little celebration. The last personal talk I had with him was in 1971 when we were passing through illness and anxiety. And I cannot end without recording how envious I felt when I saw him firm and devoted to his chosen work in the midst of prolonged domestic sorrow and the gathering clouds of failing health.

[Reproduced from Bhowani Sen: Tributes published in December 1972]

Bhowani Sen’s Article in the First Issue of Mainstream

New Tasks in Agriculture

Agriculture continues to be the weakest link in the chain of India’s Plan-progress. In a certain sense this is true for every country, whether advanced or backward, or whether under the capitalist or the socialist system; because, as yet, there is an inherent difference between industry and agriculture. The main distinctive feature of the latter consists in its dependence on weather, as the science of astronomy and weather-control is yet very undeveloped. The application of science in agriculture continues to face many limitations. But in India, we are lagging far behind even the level imposed by the limitations of science. This is shown by the fact that under the first two Five-Year Plans, the rate of improvement in agricultural produce is only 3.3 per cent per annum at a cost of about Rs 1500 crores and we are compelled to import foodgrains at the approximate rate of three million tonnes per year.

If response to the agrarian measures adopted by the government is too weak in respect of agricultural production, the reason lies in three main factors: (1) perpetuation of old, semi-feudal agrarian relations; (2) growth of new capitalist relations in production in a way most unfavourable for increasing agricultural productionl; and (3) the increasing grip of capitalist monopolies in the rural sector. All these are inter-related, and the cumulative result blocks advance. These institutional factors account for the fact that productive resources pumped into the rural economy are grabbed by rural vested interests—both old and new—and the vast mass of the tillers of the soil are largely deprived of the benefits which alone can enable them to increase production. That is why the improvement recorded in agricultural production is so limited.

Low Productivity

HOW and why institutional factors affect agricultural production can be looked at from another angle. Small holdings (below five acres) constitute roughly 40 per cent of the total area under sugarcane, 32 per cent in jute cultivation and more than 50 per cent in groundnut. Only in cotton, big holdings (above 25 acres) predominate. Such is the position in respect of commercial crops in which production for the market is the general rule. In production of foodgrains, which accounts for two-thirds of the cultivated area, tiny holdings constitute the major part of the acreage. Productivity is so low in small holdings that, according to data obtained from a survey in Kodinar Taluk in Bombay, more than 80 per cent of the small and medium farmers have very little marketable surplus.

This does not mean that big holdings by themselves have an inherent capacity to produce more. According to the same survey, only 40 per cent of the big farmers (above 25 acres) had a marketable surplus exceeding 50 per cent of the crops.

No wonder that most of our peasant-farms have hardly risen above the level of self-sufficiency and the surplus they bring to the market is more artificial than real. It is common knowledge that the small-holders are forced to sell a part of the crops out of sheer need for money, without even providing for their own needs in respect of foodgrains; these people sell at the beginning of the season and fall back on the market to purchase during the closing months.

Hangover from Past

IF the big farmers are unable to supply enough for the market, it is because in many cases they get their land cultivated by share-croppers and inferior tenants instead of by wage-workers. It is significant that in Bombay and West Bengal, the two most industrialised States, the percentage of the area cultivated by share-croppers is 30 and 22 per cent respectively; besides there are other types of inferior tenants who are classified as agricultural workers but who really are tenants-at-will. Daniel Thorner rightly observed that:

The kisans are drawn primarily from cultivating or artisan castes; the mazdoor log primarily from Harijans, scheduled, depressed or ‘backward’ classes. Certain types of work locally considered degrading, such as ploughing in eastern UP, are reserved for these lowly servitors. (The Agrarian Prospect in India, p. 11)

The preponderance of inferior tenants and crop-sharers, despite the various Land Reform Acts, accompanied by large land-ownership (divided into fragmented holdings) by parasitic elements (owners disinterested in the productive process) constitute the most important remnants of the old semi-feudal land relations. Barely four per cent of the households possess 33 per cent of the land. These outmoded agrarian relations were characterised by the Planning Commission as being “impediments to an increase in agricultural production as arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past”. (Third Five Year Plan, p. 220)

Usury constitutes another important remnant of the old semi-feudal rural economy. Despite the extension of co-operative credit, three-fourths of the agricultural loans are yet supplied by usurious money-lenders, who charge extraordinarily high rates of interest. Small-holders are losing land to the money-lenders on an increasing scale, and the result is disastrous. While on the one hand poor and landless peasants have, to a certain extent, obtained land here and there through the imposition of ceilings, the land-owning peasants are simultaneously losing their tiny holdings to money-lenders. Decentralisation of non-peasant holdings is accompanied by its re-centralisation into the hands of the same class of people. Naturally, by and large, the incentive to step up agricultural production is lacking, thanks to the prevailing state of unsettlement and insecurity, and the loop-holes in land reform legislation.

Certain changes have, of course, been brought about by Land Reform and other agrarian measures of the government. The changes include the introduction of the following principal elements of our rural economy: (1) the growing trend of replacement of tenancy by self-cultivation; (2) the increasing use of artificial irrigation and fertilisers; and (3) gradual rise of cultivation by wage-labour in the employment of enterprising peasants. But this process of transformation suffers from two serious limitations: First, irrigation facilities and the supply of fertilisers are still very inadequate; and secondly, land-ownership is still concentrated into the hands of a non-cultivating class (the old intermediaries as well as new money-lenders). These two factors are mainly responsible for holding back agricultural improvement. Improvement so far recorded is only due to the fact that, during the post-independence period, a section of the peasants have been able to extend their holdings and take recourse to the capitalist mode of cultivation, that is, cultivation by employing wage-labour instead of sub-letting land to unprotected tenants, by utilising irrigation facilities and fertilisers supplied under the Plan-projects. If this improvement is very limited, it is because the agrarian measures adopted by the various State governments have not released this process sufficiently from the restraining grip of the outmoded practices. The ceilings have been imposed in such a way that the non-cultivating and non-enterprising old land-owners are able to retain substantial holdings, while enterprising peasants continue to suffer from land-hunger.

New Alignment

NEVERTHELESS, in the course of the last ten years, a shift has taken place in the rural class structure. The peasantry, which was more or less an undifferentiated whole, despite the traditional division into agricultural workes, crop-sharers and occupancy ryots, is now being increasingly divided into such classes as employers of labour and wage-workers. Through the process of mass eviction, thanks to the government’s agrarian measures, land-owning peasants, along with non-cultivating land-owners, have been resuming land from crop-sharers and inferior tenants for the purpose of self-cultivation, including the employment of wage labour. Even the crop-sharers are being disintegrated into wage-workers and land-owners in diverse ways. But in the race between the peasant elements and the non-cultivating land-owners for the resumption of land for self-cultivation, the latter is outstripping the former by virtue of their existing position and influence in rural society. At the same time, old semi-feudal relations are also being produced. The extent of this competition between these two elements cannot be ascertained from official data because they place all categories of land-holders under the same vague characterisation—“self-cultivators”. But this reality is obvious to any observer of Indian rural society today.

One conspicuous consequence of the process of disintegration of the peasantry, however weak and confused, is a change of attitude of the peasantry towards all problems connected with land and labour. Formerly, the whole of the peasantry, including agricultural labourers, had a common consciousness of the need for radical land reform because the broad class division was between rent-receiving landlords and peasants.

Today the situation has changed because the rent-receiving landlords have been drastically reduced as a class. On the question of the imposition of a ceiling on land-holidngs and on the question of conferring land-ownership on crop-sharers, the land-owning peasants, rich as well as poor, take a critical view, while a favourable exception is offered by crop-sharers and agricultural labourers. On the question of eviction, the crop-sharers and inferior tenants face the combined offensive of the land-owning class as a whole, irrespective of what they are: peasants or non-peasants, rich peasants or middle peasants.

The old type of peasant unity, as demonstrated during the great share-croppers’ struggles in 1946 and the anti-eviction campaigns during 1955-1958, are today almost out of the picture. Consequently, the struggle for sectional interests of specific categories of peasants can hardly evoke all-peasant unity under existing conditions, at least on the economic plane. Therefore, the interests of the agricultural workers cannot be served except by an Agricultural Workers’ Union. An anti-eviction struggle has to face the opposition of a section of the peasants too. A campaign for granting land-ownership, or even permanent hereditary occupancy rights, to share-croppers and inferior tenants has to face opposition from even middle peasants. These struggles and campaigns have therefore to be conducted relying mainly on landless tillers. Unity of the peasantry can be achieved by appealing to their patriotic and democratic instincts, by educating them about the larger interests of the economy as a whole; but spontaneous unity of the peasantry on the economic plane is now a thing of the past.

Enter Monopolies

THE biggest unifying force of the peasantry as a whole is the fight against exploitation by the monopolies. Increasing penetration of monopoly-exploitation is a recent phenomenon, thanks to India’s industrial progress along the capitalist path. In rural trade, independent middlemen are gradually being eliminated by the industrial and trading monopolies. In the course of the last twenty years, three major changes have taken place in our rural economy: first, big mill-owners have appeared as traders and stockists; secondly, independent middlemen are either replaced or converted into agents of the big stockists; and thirdly, traders and money-lenders have appeared as big land-owners. According to the report of a marketing committee, in a particular year, in a particular region, 25 per cent of the small farmers sold their stocks to independent middlemen, while 75 per cent of them sold their stocks to the agents of urban monopolies. In the same year and in the same region, the large producers sold their stocks wholly to the millers and dealers. One-third of the farmers (rich peasants and non-peasant owners) were in a position to hold the stocks in order to raise the prices artificially. These facts clearly indicate the penetration of monopoly’s tentacles in our rural economy.

The monopolies hit the working peasants broadly through the price scissors. The latter get unremunerative prices for their own goods and pay exorbitant prices for everything they have to purchase. As a matter of fact, the price scissors were always operative in the past, but with the progressive elimination of free middlemen, the two blades of the scissors are moving apart.

One of the results of this development is the increasing indebtedness of the peasants, the growing volume of land transfer and further impoverishment of the majority of the working peasants. Certain sections of the peasants, parti-cularly the rich ones, have been able to improve their lot by taking advantage of the government’s agrarian measures; this improvement, however, is not confined to rich peasants alone. But despite this improvement the peasantry as a whole is feeling the pinch of the price scissors.

The trio consisting of the large land-owners, money-lenders and traders linked with monopoly capital in diverse ways are gaining at the cost of the peasantry as a whole. In an official Report on the Market Arrivals of Food Grains (1958-59) a significant remark has been made which throws new light on the problems of rural economic development. In this report it has been stated (page 145) that “on the trade side therefore there has been no lack of funds or shortage of credit in the market. In fact the major complaint of most of the dealers and millers has been that their funds are lying idle.” The Report comes to the conclusion that “there was no shortage of State credit in the current year but productive credit was in short supply, particularly for small farmers”. These observations corroborate the experience that the monopolies and their agents in the rural areas are responsible for denial of adequate prices and credit to the peasantry. The tie-up between the large land-owner, the money-lender and the trader, and the tentacles of the urban monopoly octopus are the main enemies of the entire peasantry in the countryside. It is this very tie-up which constitutes the main prop of Right reaction as represented by the Swatantra and communal reactionaries, as well as by certain elements inside the Congress itself.

If this tie-up is permitted to grow, the very foundation of India’s parliamentary democracy will be imperilled. It is this parasitic trio which is growing into the new agricultural capitalist. The growth of capitalist relations in Indian agriculture is taking place generally by converting the non-cultivating owners into capitalist cultivators who are apathetic to revolutionising production techniques.

Co-op Movement

UNDER these conditions, the main weapon of the peasantry against the monopolies and the parasitic tie-up is the co-operative. Co-operative credit, co-operative marketing, co-operative farming and service co-operatives of various types can hurl back the offensive of the monopolies and their rural agents. Even share-croppers and agricultural workers can be organised into co-operatives for purchasing land. Through co-operatives, peasant ownership can be protected and the transfer of land to big land-owners checked. Not only the entire peasantry, but all patriotic and democratic elements can be united on this platform for the fulfilment of a common objective, namely, regeneration of the rural economy. Co-operatives for small and medium industries in order to give employment to the rural surplus population will also reduce the internal conflicts of the peasantry. The fight for the share-cropper’s right of land-ownership can be advanced only by assuring other land-owners the industrial alternative.

It is not easy for the peasants to organise co-operatives. Government resources and aids offered for the organisation of co-operatives are grabbed by the rural reactionary vested interests by depriving the working peasants. Officialdom and many of the bosses belonging to the ruling party are so linked up with these vested interests that even the initiative to organised and run a co-operative itself becomes a struggle against reaction. But in this struggle the overwhelming popular forces are on this side of the fence. A large number of Congressmen are also worried as to the means and methods for developing a co-operative economy.

The co-operative movement must of course be accompanied by a movement for vesting land-ownership in all inferior tenants of every type for the betterment of the living conditions of agricultural workers, by extension of agricultural credit, through nationalisation of banks and by State trading in agricultural goods. The organisation of a peasant movement for the realisation of these objectives in order that a mass co-operative movement can emerge with a vigorous tempo is the common task of all those who are interested in the regeneration of our rural economy.

(Mainstream, September 1, 1962)

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