August , 2019

People Aur Politics

A liberation zone for democratic rights, multiculturalism, international brotherhood and peace.

Early this year a relatively unknown 74-year old Gandhian, Kisan Baburao Hazare (also known as Anna Hazare), shot to fame for raising a campaign against corruption. For days on end, Anna Hazare haunted our television sets, and details of his campaign greeted us every morning in almost all newspapers. Perhaps some of the readers of this article were avid supporters of the crusade he led, and perhaps some were vocal or even silent critics. However, now that the high point of the campaign has passed and tempers and anxieties have ebbed, a calm and composed assessment of anti-corruption campaigns may be pursued. This paper is one such endeavour to sum up and assess the contours of the ‘India Against Corruption’ campaign. A special focus of the paper is on the process, whereby anti-corruption campaigns conflate the discontent of exploited and oppressed classes with the interests of the economically dominant class, i.e. the class of capitalists. This subsumption or conflation of differing class discontent is intrinsic to anti-corruption campaigns and it is this process which provides such campaigns their distinctive nature. It is argued here that the ‘India Against Corruption’ campaign corresponds with the interests of international as well as Indian capitalists. For the capitalist class an “efficient” and “incorrupt” administration has become a necessity to sustain on-the-ground implementation of pro-capitalist policies and laws. This demand by the capitalist class for a strong state has emerged in the context of growing mass discontent among India’s poor, as well a large section of India’s middle class (1), against brutal capitalist appropriation of public resources. In a well-formulated political manoeuvre, Indian and international capitalist lobbies have hand-picked and promoted NGO leaders in a bid to use them as authoritative pressure groups whom the state is compelled to consult in the process of policy formation and implementation. These selected leaders have been superimposed on the masses, as a result of which the discontent of the masses has been conveniently misdirected towards the capitalist understanding of corruption, and hence, towards a bourgeois resolution of the problem.

Hijacking mass discontent, anti-corruption struggles like Anna Hazare’s campaign work towards restoring faith in the given bourgeois political structure, i.e. by projecting that a “pure” and “incorrupt” form of such a structure is even possible. Overshadowed by the anti-corruption rhetoric is the fact that the intrinsic nature of the bourgeois political system is to preserve capitalist exploitation and oppression of other classes. Precisely because anti-corruption crusades are devoid of an understanding of exploitation they are campaigns that exist under bourgeois hegemony. However, movements that are hegemonised by the bourgeoisie still manage to hitch mass discontent to the wagon of capital. The paper explains this disturbing trend in terms of the particular form in which the bourgeois political system has evolved. This form has allowed the bourgeois state to control many mass upheavals by coopting certain class forces and individuals within mass movements. Such cooption is often pursued by selecting and placing leaders in a privileged position vis-

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