The Pandemic and the state

Part 3: Multipolar World: The task of the communists

Arup Kumar Baisya

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power with an overwhelming majority in 2014 with a political agenda of supra-nationalist ‘Hindu Rastra’ through a socio-cultural mass movement of ‘Hindutva’. When they came to power and reelected in 2019, globalisation projected as ‘deregulated’ but actually regulated by dominant capital and the G7 group of states politically beholden to it, was the dominant feature of global capitalism. This is also true that this dominant feature has been facing serious political challenges from Russia-China which started advocating the idea of the Multipolar world since 1997 to extend their global sphere of influence to combat Pax-Americana. In modern capitalism under globalisation, the whole earth is considered an area of market exchange so that the economic side of social reproduction acquires the quality of the ‘world economy’. This space for social reproduction does not completely fit well with the project of the Sangh Parivar or Modi Government. Throughout the BJP’s rule to date, it has been a strenuous journey of the Modi Govt to adjust the national economic agenda to support supra-nationalist political agenda of ‘Hindu-Rastra’ and the agenda of an overarching social identity of Hindutva devoid of any diversity with the process of globalization. The inherent conflict within this broad adjustment leads the BJP Govt to keep an eye on the development of multipolar world order and project India as one of the rising powers in the global power politics. The BJP’s project is a continuation of the populist national plan of Nehru and Indira Gandhi but is different from the policy framework under the non-aligned movement during the Bandung era of Bi-Polar world. In right-wing nationalism, they ostensibly and routinely claim that efforts spearheaded by sinister external forces is a threat to the political community of Hindutva and within this discourse, they find the alibi to crackdown all forms of civil society activities and oppositional voices. This right-wing nationalism needs to shield it from the pressure to protect human rights, maintain the rule of law, and respect domestic pluralism. But this, in turn, accentuates the contradictions within the domestic bourgeois class and becomes an impediment for a smooth ride to achieve their supra-nationalist or popular nationalist political goal on the one end and on the other, the globalization that marginalises the large section people becomes antithetical to the people under the hegemonic ideological fold of Hindutva.

US Global Hegemony and Russia-China axis
The Pandemic and the lockdown which disrupted both the production and labour process in a big way have created the space for reconstruction of politics, economy, and culture anew. The US president Trump’s China-bashing has nothing to do with China’s much-hyped misinformation on the Corona epidemic, but rather with China’s bold move a step further away from the dollar-economy. The pandemic propaganda war between the US and China is an addition to the ongoing geopolitical competition that gave rise to the United States-China trade war, sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, and the battle over Huawei’s access to Western fifth-generation communications networks. If the dollar domination in the global market is adequately challenged, the loosening grip of the US to arm-twist the domestic politics world-over will be in jeopardy and the US can no longer hold its super-power position. The main immediate task to frustrate Washington in its military project has already been achieved to a great extent. Military partnerships and security cooperation with the United States has always been an object of political contention. The US military adventure in Afganistan, Iraq, etc. and the politics of regime change in Syria have met with strategic retreat. The nuclear arm-twisting with false-flag and mala fide propaganda blitzkrieg against Iran and North Korea faced befitting counter-offensive stance ignoring the US military threat and power of economic sanctions. The renewed plot of the Trump administration to destabilize the leftist Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro supported by the people and to replace him with the US puppet and traitor Juan Guaido has been foiled this time. Though the US sanction on Venezuela, sabotage on infrastructure, and stealing of its asset continue, the shrewd business move by the Russian company has offset the US sanction on Venezuelan oil trade. The partnership with US which was once viewed as an important aspect of foreign policy for security cover by the leaders of various countries like Duterte, Erdogan, Orban et el and even the US’s western allies are no longer considered as indispensable and all have found alternative potential security and economic relation with Russia and China. The cooperation between Russia and China has deepened during the Pandemic crisis for their mutual benefit and to combat the aggressive stance of the US.

Since October 2016, the Chinese currency, Renminbi is part of the basket of IMF currencies which have Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and thus has the status of the world’s ultimate virtual reserve currency. An IMF capital increase is overdue and a quota adjustment in favour of China and the corresponding adjustment in the SDR basket would enhance China’s currency vis-à-vis the rest of the world. For retaining the super-power status and hegemony over the world market, the US is desperate in maintaining the dollar domination in global trade. Only, for this reason, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein for trading with Euro, Libya’s Gadhafi for introducing Gold-Dinar as a Pan-African trading currency was killed in the pretext of exporting democracy.

Pandemic and the US-China tussle
The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption of the global value chain due to lockdown strengthens and fuels these dynamics. The closing of borders and the curtailment of international economic exchange increased the appeal of nationalist narratives. The US government has not focused on the policies of global cooperation in health and prevention. The US president Trump started blaming the WHO for its alleged favour towards China and threatened to discontinue its funding if WHO, which is receiving fund and other support from China, does not make the course correction, but this was rebuffed by the Director-General, WHO downplaying the US image of supremacy over the world body. The US package for economic revival is more of the nature of pumping liquidity into the system than of rescuing the distressed people with fiscal support. “The Fed can lend money, but it doesn’t give away money. … These are not liquidity issues. They’re solvency issues,” said Stiglitz, the Nobel Laurette economist, who fears that with the deficit climbing to upwards of 15 percent of GDP, Congress will be reluctant to add more funds to the rescue (, site visited on 20th May 2020). The US president is eyeing on monopoly business in shifting the focus of the productive sector to health and especially on the vaccine. In the health sector, the US production industries are dependent on the Chinese supply. President Trump has appointed the former Big Pharma executive and a four-star General to lead a Manhattan project style effort to develop a vaccine for novel coronavirus. The effort, called Operation Warp Speed, has set a goal to create 300 million doses of a non-existent vaccine by January 2021. After the initial denial of any major impact of the pandemic in the US, when Trump was busy mending his own fences in the domestic front due to the sudden spurt in the viral spread, both China and Russia have made a public showing of providing medical supplies, equipment, and trained personnel to Italy and other ravaged European countries. While doing so, they have promoted the narrative that they have stepped in where the United States has failed. The viral spread from China and the Chinese help followed the old Silk Route or the route of the Chinese Belt and Road project. The ancient trade routes to Europe and the Middle East originating from China ultimately converged in Italy. Vietnam can’t close its border with China. The Chinese have put immense pressure on the Koreans, Vietnam, etc. Asian countries cannot act as they want vis-a-vis China because it’s the big power in the neighbourhood. While Cambodia closed its borders to several Western countries in mid-March, it started military drills together with hundreds of Chinese soldiers (, the site visited on 20th May 2020). The Chinese diplomacy and maneuvering during this pandemic crisis have outsmarted the US in influencing many countries to feel comfortable within the club headed by Chinese big power for support and help. But the main threat to US global hegemony has come from the Chinese move to extend the influence of Chinese currency over dollar domination in global trade.

China has successfully introduced the new crypto-currency e-RMB (Yuan) in its domestic market. When the Chinese central Bank-backed cyber-currency will be launched internationally, it will make the Yuan even more attractive among trading partners and as a reserve currency. China is also emphasizing state-controlled domestic production and market with a trend-reversal from export-led growth and in that event, China may divest its huge reserve of US treasury to the tune of about 1.2 trillion US dollars into purchasing assets abroad paid in US-dollars. The growing strength of Chinese currency within the countries where China is investing for Road and Belt project will reduce the need for dollar reserve in China. If a large proportion of world trade and reserve are denominated in Yuan, the dollar hegemony will be jeopardized.

This threat to the US hegemony both in Military strategy and dollar trade has agitated the US for China-bashing on the issue of Corona Pandemic. The Chinese trend-reversal in the policy of productive activity may increase the value of labour-power in the Chinese market and this may lead to some relocation of foreign industries making various components to the destination of cheap labour in Vietnam and Mexico, but not the industries of final products for the attraction of Chinese domestic market.

European Model
Is there any European model for meeting the economic crisis due to Pandemic for economic revival?   
Washington led neoliberalism was already discredited after the 2008 financial crisis and its appeal has been further lost its impact during the pandemic crisis due to the US’s inability to help mitigate the deepening economic distress by the Pandemic and lockdown in Europe. When the millions of workers are thrown out of their jobs because of the pandemic and lockdown which halted many activities, nearly all European countries are reimbursing workers’ income directly through their employers at levels from about 60 to 90 percent of wages. Germany launched a very successful programme called Kurzarbeit during the last financial crisis during 2007-08. This programme allowed the companies to keep workers on reduced hours, with their reduced paychecks underwritten by the state and thus averted the joblessness. 

Since the pandemic began, Germany has fine-tuned the program to offer more benefits and make sure more companies qualify. France’s work support programme has also swelled. Most of the European countries have undertaken a huge state-funded programme to address the labour market shock as an immediate fiscal measure. But heavily indebted countries and southern Europe with rapidly growing unemployment are pressing for ambitious Pan-European programme with large EU funds and “Coronabond”. For an effective European project, Germany and too some extent France must play the leadership role. Germany, for continuing with the center-periphery relation with its backward backyard, is still hesitant and resisting the call of the Southern European countries. Both the US and China also do not want that Europe emerges as one of the global powers in Euro-Zone to sustain their sphere of influence and dominance over the European countries which are economically weak and badly affected by the Pandemic. It is to be seen how long Germany can resist the pressure for a European bailout package. But the overall thrust of the European model to face the economic crisis due to Pandemic and lockdown is the state intervention to protect their labour-force and to address the rising unemployment rate.

The Indian scenario and the communists 
The Indian big bourgeoisie is visualizing this crisis and the global situation as an opportunity to restructure the domestic production process and the productive activities for the accumulation of profit and to become the leader of the subcontinent. But their strategy to restructure the labour process to lower the wage rate and deepening the rate of exploitation will be counter-productive and will not give any leeway to bargain with the world powers. The Indian Government in power with its philosophy of “Hindu Rastra” is hesitant to tread the path of democracy for self-reliance to become a big power in the changed global scenario. To be a self-reliant big power, Indian needs to empower its peasantry and working-class and that necessitates abandoning the Hindutva Supra-nationalist project. The BJP Government has become a prisoner of indecision from the two diametrically opposite pressure from the rising unemployment and distressed agriculture on the one end and its political agenda to promote “Hindu Rastra” on the other. So far India’s policy thrust to revive the economy is somewhat in between the US model of crisis management of pumping liquidity in the system and the European model of rescuing the workforce but tilted in favour of the private capitalists while responding to the workers’ pressure with hiccups, and BJP government is still gerrymandering for electoral political space. It is indicative of a trend of diluting the Hindutva politics to some extent to opt for building and strengthening a regime of authoritarian national populism for which space has opened for them due to a shift in the focus of global politics and breakdown of global value chain due to lockdown. But this policy drive of the BJP Government will face popular resistance due to rising unemployment and distress. The success of the BJP vis-à-vis Shangh-Parivar’s project is dependent on the failure on the part of the communists and democrats to formulate an alternative project to be built from within the dynamics of people’s resistance. This is the opportune moment for the communists too for building mass resistance movement with a vision for raising the working class to the status of the ruling class and for a developed self-reliant democratic India. It necessitates the communists to adopt an alternative political agenda diametrically opposite to the national populist or ultra-nationalist project.
Alternative political Agenda
(1)  To create a united workers’ front to build a radical movement and to opt for a radical programme for the solution of India’s peasant problem.

(2)  To build co-ordination among all the people’s movement in the subcontinent and to oppose regional big-brotherly expansionism.

(3)  To build fraternal coordination among all working-class parties of all countries with a focus on world socialism and to mount pressure for the working class rights, the democratic restructuring of international institutions, for funding of developed countries to meet the challenges of climate change and finally, for building alternative federal democratic institutions as an international center for the communists.

(4)  To oppose the imperialist policy of expansionism and the attempt to destabilise the left party rule in Venezuela, Cuba, etc.

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May 23, 2020

Arup Kumar Baisya

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