INDIA’S farmers have launched a nationwide general strike against new capitalist laws creating agricultural markets, which they rightly say go against their interests and are in the interests of only India’s rapacious capitalist class.
Farmers have blocked roads and rail lines in eastern and western Indian states to force the government to annul the laws. They are now being backed by the whole of the working class, including the railway workers, the truck drivers, the teachers, and many other unions.
Many thousands of farmers have been camped outside the New Delhi legislature since November 27th in protest at the laws.
‘We will not allow the government to change the rules because they want to hurt farmers’ income by filling the pockets of big companies,’ said a spokesman Gurwinder Singh, a 66-year-old farmer from the northern state of Punjab, which is known as the food bowl of India.
Farm organisations called for the strike action after five rounds of talks between the farmers and the government failed. More talks are due on Wednesday.
‘We want nothing less than a withdrawal of the new farm laws,’ Balbir Singh Rajewal, a protest leader, said. At least 20 regional and national opposition parties supported the call for the strike.
The September laws allow farmers to sell their produce on the open market, including to supermarket chains, instead of government-controlled wholesale markets known as mandis, which guarantee a minimum price and a standard of living for tens of millions of farmers.
Their struggle has been echoed in London where thousands of Indian workers who live in the capital have demonstrated their solidarity with the farmers by demonstrating outside the Indian embassy.
The farmers remain completely opposed to the proposed amendments which will create profitable opportunities for large, private companies to enter and exploit the entire agriculture sector. Protest rallies are currently spreading like wildfire outside the capital to all parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the police have heightened security measures, deployed forces and put up barricades to prevent them from entering the city in large numbers.
Protest leader Kamal Preet Singh Pannu said thousands of farmers will launch a tractor-trolley march to New Delhi to voice our grievances against the new laws.
‘The government wants to discredit and crush our movement, but we will continue to protest peacefully,’ Pannu said.
Farmers from all over the country arrived in New Delhi suburbs by tractors and on foot last month. They blocked roads and set up makeshift camps, according to protest leaders. They slept on the road or in their tractors, and several places of worship offered food to protesters.
More than half of India’s working population comes from the agricultural sector, according to India’s most recent Census in 2011.
Many Indian workers now contrast the development of their own country to that of China.
In the 1930s, after Britain had demoralised China with its Opium Wars, the British concession in Shanghai boasted a notice in its park that ‘no dogs or Chinese are allowed’.
The response of the Chinese masses to this enslavement was to build a revolutionary party that overthrew the landlords and capitalists with a communist revolution that nationalised the land and the industries. Now, the British have even been forced out of Hong Kong along with their lackeys.
Now, the Chinese economy is the envy of the capitalist world, and seen as a deadly threat by even the US capitalists.
The lesson from this is that what the Indian workers and peasants need today is a revolutionary party, a section of the Fourth International, to provide revolutionary leadership to carry out the Indian socialist revolution. There is no doubt that this is what is on the agenda and the sooner the better!