Fighting for False Solutions

False solutions are a way to turn away from real alternatives to the mounting job crisis resulting mainly from uncontrolled mechanisation despite sporadic industrialisation here and there. Also, emulating US model of management in every sphere of economic activity is taking its toll. When the Tatas shifted their Nano Car Project from Singur to Gujarat the lobbyists for reckless, if not unplanned, industrialisation from media barons to small town politicians cried themselves hoarse about the impending disaster—no alternative for job creation in a state with a huge army of unemployed youth. The hard fact is that industrialists are not interested in labour intensive industries any more. While labour’s very own outfits in the form of workers’ party or trade unions have so far failed to project alternatives, conducive to environment and job creation as well. ‘Nano’ or no ‘Nano’, the industrialists are hell bent on using less and less labour force and in doing so they just destroy more jobs in the process while continually arguing for their brand of industrialisation. They just skip the issue of modernisation of existing labour-intensive industries. On the contrary what they suggest is no answer to their job-killing mechanism of mechanisation. All their tall talk of technology upgradation relying solely on second grade imported technology is aimed at imtroducing labour-saving devices.

Making India an economic ‘Super Power’ in a decade or so is now a nightmare for indigenous and tribal people who suffer most for issuance of indiscriminate mining leases. While the ‘Nano’ protagonists may like it or not the real solutions are found in obscure places and continue to be spoken through other voices : in forest dwelling communities, in tribal hamlets, social movements, environmentalists and students that oppose the west-imposed system and propose a local sustainable but small agriculture, food and energy sovereignty, community and water management, environment friendly development so that this can become another world that is more just and humane.

Unless political forces on the left revise their agenda and outlook on industrialisation and emphatically say ‘no’ to US pattern of economic management, nothing positive will emerge in a situation of despair. Agriculture is under attack from all corners. The Modis are actually trying to copy American policy of crop insurance in adverse weather conditions while hailing it as a panacea for poor farmers affected by recurring droughts and extreme weather. The US crop insurance scheme has been touted as a solution for vulnerable farmers all over the developing world, particularly in Modi’s India, as a means to address climate change and climate-related extremes. What is ignored is how it can perversely affect the farming community in India, when bad weather destroys part or all of their crop, those with a harvest price clause in their insurance policies are compensated for most of their expected crop at market price. When farmers can earn more from insurance at higher prices, they have an incentive to balance in ways that may raise prices even more—in reality, somewhat ironically, by delivering less.

What the Americans do in the economic field, they do it for the gains of their corporate houses. Crop insurance in America is now very big business and the Modis think it can be so in India too. In truth US crop insurers collect more in premiums for administrative and operational costs exceeding a fifth of total premiums. The ‘success’ of US crop insurance is principally due to high levels of government subsidy, beyond the means of most developing countries, including India. So Modi’s much touted crop insurance for poor farmers is unlikely to deliver because to appease their overseas masters and big bosses in WTO, they are determined to curtail whatever remains of agricultural subsidy—subsidy is under attack. Importing American policy is no answer to the ground reality in India.

In the fifties and sixties, the Communist-Left raised the slogan against unchecked mechanisation. But they have now mellowed beyond recognition, demanding unfettered mechanisation without bothering about consequences, short-term or long-term. They think heaven will fall without mechanisation of every aspect of economic activity in a globalised market. In a sense they too are worshippers of market and respond to market philosophy, losing their natural and moral right to lead the masses. Why they cannot act differently is a puzzling question to the concerned people. They love spontaneity and they love tailism.

No doubt the collapse of Soviet Union was more like atomic bombing of Hiroshima but it had some good sides. Cuba showed the way. It paved the way for dismantling age-old dogmatism in communist culture and created a situation where controversial ideas were allowed to contend. Not that communist parties have vanished from the face of the earth after the Soviet shock. But they are trying to regroup themselves without changing their outlook to confront the changed reality. In the latest issue of the organ of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations there are discourses from 17 communist parties from as many countries, ranging from advanced Denmark to backward Burkina Faso.

But their approach is so stereotyped that the oppressed don’t see any ray of hope in their business as usual pledge for a better tomorrow, leaving the political vacuum to be filled by reactionary forces. So Burkina Faso hits the headlines for Islamic terrorism, not toilers’ movement for emancipation.

The message of the last ‘Davos’ summit was that the world was entering the fourth industrial revolution or what they call robotisation. Without relentless struggle against robotisation all the tall talk and utopia about industrialisation will vanish in the thin air. The Left in this part of the globe is repenting over the location of ‘Nano’, not robotisation that will soon make ‘Nano’ debate redundant.

Vol. 48, No. 44, May 8 - 14, 2016