by Dr. Ravi Kumar
Some have already started pondering whether Anna Hazare himself or an agitation on his lines could be used to highlight the issue of establishing a Common School System or for some other welfare measures that concern the downtrodden. My conviction that it is impossible emanates primarily from the analysis of the so-called amorphous ‘civil society’ which is essentially liberal bourgeois in character. What would one expect from a ‘movement’ (??) which relies heavily on the corporate sector – from a doctor who would love to deprive millions of Indians of primary healthcare and promote privatization of health facilities to collecting enormous amount from them as donations?
Why don’t we sit down and address a basic question about such trans-political antics which bring together the right wing fundamentalism, social democratic traditions, and progressives who would like to call themselves ‘left’ of a different type (who would jump at any gathering that gives them space and where the congregation is of a sufficiently large number) under one banner? What are those interests which are common to everyone – the corporates, ‘poor’ as well as the so-called ‘middle class’? Are we talking about bringing together the exploiters and the exploited (“the rich and the poor”, as Anna calls them) under the rubric of what they call ‘nation’ cemented through the slogans of ‘Bharat Maata ki Jai’, ‘Jai Hind’ and other symbolisms of a farcical nationhood represented by people holding Anna Hazare’s army days’ pictures? Is it not another social corporatist ideology that defines every right wing mobilisation throughout the globe? Is this a moment or an issue which would transcend all forms of polarisation in Indian society?
At a time when the nation has been reeling under inflation, poverty of people is depriving them of their basic necessities, a movement emerges which allows a much wanted deviation from the issues which could have taken the form of a class war, only if the Left had also realized it. Unfortunately we live in a political climate where particular forms of ‘Left’ politics are also fighting a battle for survival – which they believe could be won only by catering to the frustrations of the petty bourgeoisie assembled at the behest of a man who tries to become another ‘Gandhi’.
The rule of capital gets a breather in the form of this movement, as every systemic problem has been pinned down to a single cause, corruption, which of course needs only policing and, why not, also self-policing. Everybody wants a strong independent body above political ‘manipulations’ – so let it be, what’s the problem? The corporate world is all happy – it is already tired of buying and dealing with so many layers of politicians and bureaucrats – it wants a strong and resolute administration, which is not influenced by political flux and uncertainty.
Recognising that all indicators of economic and social life point towards an objective crisis of the system (which survives only by creating breathing spaces – through identitarian politics as well as momentary antics like this), one will have to go beyond the issues of how democratic is this ‘movement’ or how corrupt the corporate sector itself has been or how sectarian (on religious grounds as well as politically) this endeavor is or how well funded has been this movement (through money collected from Ford Foundation, UNDP… as well as through public fund collection). The question is – now that the Parliament has endorsed the will of Anna Hazare as the will of the people and therefore as the will of the Parliament, will it alleviate the poverty, and all other forms of oppression from society? Pointing to corruption as the most vicious form of oppression and playing down the more fundamental forms of exploitation unleashed by capitalism has been the hallmark of such a movement, which would never bring into focus the class question. It appears that everything will be alright if such a bill is passed, as if the system would not devise its own means of circumventing these acts.
Laws are not products constituted outside the system. Some of them may provide respite to people (without endangering the rule of capital) but they are never meant to subvert the system. Hence, if one has to recognize the utility of laws such as RTI or anti-corruption, it has to be done keeping in mind their role as instruments that keep dissent within the functional limits of capitalism. They are not meant to serve as instruments that would jeopardise the system. Those who portray this moment and act of a few disgruntled ex-bureaucrats and ‘civil society’ activists as revolutionary are misleading masses into a trap that would consolidate the rule of capital. The discontent that is there, evident in mobilizations, needs an articulation which tells people that laws only provide you a brief, temporal respite within the system (which would invent its own ways and means to accumulate, if not through ‘illegal’ cuts then through fully endorsed ‘incentives’). It may, at a certain plane, bring about contradictions within the system but it would never establish the truth that such pathologies are inherent part of the system.
Coming back to the point raised in the beginning, those who feel that Anna Hazare would take up the questions of education and health are grossly mistaken because the ‘Team’ with him – the drivers and strategists – would never be interested in demolishing capitalism and build a system where there is no place for commodification of education and health facilities. Even if individuals therein (including Anna) might want to raise these issues, this unity of “the rich and the poor” that we see on the issue of corruption cannot be envisaged on the issues that harm the mainstream interests of private capital. In fact, many in the corruption movement would rather argue that the state withdrawal from these sectors and segmentation of these facilities at least ensure that everybody gets something (‘something’ being amorphous like the ‘civil society’). On these issues, Anna’s fast will go Irom Sharmila’s way – no media attention and no parliament debate.