Authoritarian populism, agrarian question and the challenge of formation of worker peasant alliance in India

11 March 2018

What are the the drivers, consequences and emerging dynamics of the ascent of right wing authoritarian populism in India?

This paper assesses the emerging pattern of response of the peasantry and rural labour to the ascent of right-wing authoritarian populism of Modi and BJP in India. There is evidence of a growing mismatch between the material impact of the politics on people's lives and livelihoods, and the discourse of government led by Modi in India. However, the central government and Modi actively supported by the mobilization of cadres of right-wing ruling party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar-affiliated organizations, have been able to contain the opposition due to the lack of a robust political alternative on the ground.

Protests from the side of Dalits and Muslims have the potential to contribute to the opening up of the space for an alternative to neoliberalism and for the wider mobilization of peasants and rural labour on the front of agrarian situation in India. The assessment points out that the left parties-led class and mass movements are active and involved in the resistance to the agenda under implementation by the Central and State Governments. However, to open up the space for emancipatory politics, the left and democratic forces will have to shed their dilemmas on what kind of strategy needs to be followed with regard to development of productive forces in the case of Indian economy and agriculture in particular.

The paper analyses the response of left politics with the aim to frame the position of this author to the ongoing debate in the Marxist scholarship on how to conceptualize the agrarian question. The challenge facing the question of building on worker peasant alliances is addressed. Given the current balance of forces in India, it is argued that the left and democratic politics need to combine the mobilization of class politics on land and labour rights with the politics of democratic identity formation among the Adivasis, Dalits, Other Backward Classes, Muslims and Upper Castes.