Democracy Means Controlling The Bank



Every day in the papers we are reading about the impacts of the starvation politics of demonetisation by the BJP on agricultual labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers. During my years long study of the social, political and economic implications of man-made climate change, I found obviously that economists looked into the economic implications, politicians study the political implications, activists are into the social impacts, and environmentalists because of their training pressure all three to address the problem holistically; but in doing so they have over time become more bourgeois than the bourgeois economists, politicians and social scientists themselves, boxing themselves into a corner where all they do is examine how the actions of all these other people impact man-made climate change positively or negatively. Environmentalists have become academic types albeit with some tradition of pressure group activism. Finally, amongst the bourgeois educated elites, journalists and fiction writers are the most radical, but are judged to be unrealistic.

Then who is thinking most constructively about the implications of man-made climate change? Well. It is the landless agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers themselves. We need to eat,and we need an economic system that allows us to produce food and earn enough to build houses and plant trees and we need free health care, free education and free clean water and clean air and the means to create full employment so that we have the jobs to do all this.

The links between the people who make these simply demands, and the activist, are often tenuous; activists are reluctant to be representatives of the people in Parliament let alone in State Assemblies. The lack of close connection between ordinary people and bourgeois activists, – the former are the “beneficiaries” or the “customers” of the latter -, has made the latter highly suspect in the eyes of many. Non-Government Organisations are now more or less outlawed by the BJP. They have had to become social private enterprises.

So obviously in India if only for this reason the pressure groups of environmentalists must merge with the political agendas of agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers and the electoral politics of the regional parties that represent their demands. Or to put it another way, the discourse on environment must be the discourse of the landless agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers themselves and the bourgeoisie must avoid any self-satisfied rhetoric of criticising but not taking responsibility, which often is seen as serving only to perpetuate their own elite jobs. The Supreme Court today is totally in thrall to the government of the day. Just acting through the courts has also become useless.

To put it in a nutshell, if Indians are to cope with man-made climate change with dignity we need a programme of statutory changes passed by a better set of Representatives of the People in Parliament, that meets the needs of landless agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers even at the expense of bourgeois environmentalists: in short, we need democratic control of the banks.

Environmentalists won’t like this. Like the rest of the bourgeoisie we often depend on Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes and other hand me outs from the private capitalist system to do the marginal protests and make the marginal interventions. Of course the material we produce informs the educated public and sometimes politicians. But it has very marginal impact on political decision making by government, where politicians are dealing with the needs of agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers within the constrainst of the bourgeois capitalist state. They would often like to do more but environmentalists are not giving them any new ideas about how to change the fundamentals of the state in order to better serve the people. We are just nagging.

Narendra Modi is still hugely successful as Prime Minister in the eyes of at least half the people of India because he presents himself as the absolute ruler of money. This is obviously the crux of the matter in modern national democratic politics. We may say the people are constantly being defeated by bourgeois democratic politics. Or we can say that we will have a socialist democratic manifesto for a grand coalition of regional parties that is designed for agricultural labourers, cultivators and other agricultural workers first, and urban migrants next, and get our Representatives to Parliament voted in on that basis.

Like the Fabians who served labouring people in the early days of the Labour Party in the UK, the environmentalists need to support the agricultural labourers, the cultivators and the other agricultural workers and their leaders in the various regional parties, and in this way support or create political parties that will promise when in power to make the Indian state fit for purpose. The Indian constitution was usurped because the elites pushed capitalism to usurp the power of the people. The constitution will again be defended if we get the right Representatives of the People into government with policies that defend the most deprived by creating full employment through creating and maintaining ecological renewability.

In India governments have to cater for the poor. But what the successive governments both INC and BJP refuse to admit is that private banking and socialist government cannot co-exist. Despite his OBC rhetoric and his attempt to woo the majority of Indians who are deprived in every conceivable sense, what Narendra Modi is not able to do was to go back to early days of ad hoc Treasury Bills to monetise his fiscal deficit; and so his promise of lakhs in new depositors’ bank accounts let alone education, skills and jobs went unfulfilled. The Government of India, the Finance Commission, the State Assemblies are all constrained by this farcical economic policy of FRBMA and so called fiscal discipline inflicted on India by its comprador elites. The INC is equally in thrall of course to this policy, which they in any case introduced.

If the people of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and indeed all the other states of India are to survive the coming onslaught of massive temperature rise, we are going to have to throw out the influential upper caste elites who opted first for central planning and then for capitalism since Independence, and instead we must have a new system of local public money creation through decentralised branch offices of the Reserve Bank of India: this at least is my proposal.

Capitalism runs on private money. Socialism runs on public money. Where is the need for private money if you have public money? The mixed economy was a lie served up by the upper caste elites in India to serve their own purpose of controlling the poor majority with some state enterprises, – and nationalised banks operating on private principles -, whilst all the while themselves acting as agents for ex-colonial corporations and ex-colonial private banks. Today by passing the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Rules 2016 the elites think India can be made more attractive for private business. But such business needs industrial forms of energy that cause man-made climate change and is the cause of war in the world, it needs land stolen from the poor, it needs automation or cheap labour that makes a person redundant or unable to feed themselves. Even solar power is less renewable than biogas, a technology that was hugely popular once. Why has it been pushed out? Because it is labour intensive in villages. A mason in India gets a job, not a silicon wafer manufacturer in Norway.

It is no longer possible for Indians to cater for the upper caste elites who want to be part of world trade first, when 800 million agricultural labourers, cultivators, and other agriculture based workers need to first cater for themselves. It is stupid to export buffalo meat or meat of old cows that we could be eating ourselves. We should have the power to prevent any economic activity that is counter to the interests of the people, and our power to govern should include making economic policies and decisions through our local autonomous Reserve Bank of India branch offices in our own control.

Capitalism is simply not something that serves Indians especially now, in the age of man-made climate change. The private cars, the LPG, the frequent flying is the cause of acute suffering of the majority because of the energy base of the activities, first of all, and secondly because these activities in no way form part of a full employment policy. Socialism with an environmental face on the other hand takes into account the need to mitigate and adapt to man-made climate change as well as create full employment. It does so by taking charge of the banks on behalf of the public. In my draft New Reserve Bank of India Act I make the following suggestion in the draft Preamble:

We should reconstitute the Reserve Bank for India to regulate the creation and issuance and circulation and withdrawal of the Rupee and the keeping of reserves in India, with a view to securing human survival in our period of ecological instability in India, and to do so by abolishing all existing banks and non-banking institutions and all money creation agencies in India in existence today except for the Reserve Bank of India, and instead of these private agencies hitherto licensed to conduct private and nationalised banking business in India, instead to empower branch offices of the Reserve Bank of India under the control of the residents in the relevant jurisdiction of the branch offices of the Reserve Bank of India, – to be established in every gram sabha and municipal ward or in any case at every smallest level of government in India, – to create, issue, circulate and withdraw the Rupee and keep reserves and maintain deposits.

It may not be known to the elites of this country, but in several Districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and many other states the majority of villages do not have primary health care centres, there is up to 50% illiteracy, the average cultivable land for main agricultural workers who often constitute 80% of the workers of the District is around 600 square metres; there is no agricultural extension officer in most villages, millions are suffering from arsenic poisoning, and there is no cash, and electronic money is not circulating. Citizens in such difficult situations cannot cope with man-made climate change.

The money creation system of the Government of India must be changed to allow Indians in our own town wards and village sabhas to make arrangements to help ourselves, including if we want to buy the services we need from the educated elites. There is a huge un met demand for doctors. We need to be able to pay them. The elites need to stop acting on their own behalf and start being servants of the people. A decentralised Reserve Bank of India to fit with the powers of government by local people under the 73rd Amendment could make this happen.

Anandi Sharan is a current affairs commentator focusing on India and the policies needed for people to be able to adapt to climate change. She has drafted a new Reserve Bank of India Act 2017 which she would be happy to share with interested readers. She can be reached [email protected]


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