The G20 summit in Delhi has ended, and the ceremonial passing of the leadership ‘gavel’ has been done. Lula and Brazil that will host the next G20 summit. The leadership of this group of nations, which control 85% of the world’s GDP and most of it’s landmass and population, has now falls into the hands of President Lula of Brazil. His party presided over the FIFA world cup preparations during which military police stormed slums and shot children. He did not denounce police excesses during this time, now he is showering praises on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘visionary leadership’ during the G20 summit.
Delhi ‘prepared’ for the summit by engaging in the mass evictions of slum dwellers, covering up slums with green sheets and with massive drives against stray dogs resulting in a large number of animal cruelty cases. The cost of these preparations far surpassed that of the last G20 summit, with the Modi government spending over three times as much as Germany. Some of this money went into garish dinners for the G20 guests, where they were served on gold and silver cutlery. In President Lula’s own words, “India showed a new way” not in diplomacy or global leadership, but in how to get away with oppressing its own people.
India is counted as an emerging economy, as of now it is the fifth largest economy in the world and bigger than the UK. It boasts a large market, enormous mineral and agricultural resources, and hosts its own large multinational companies like the Tata Group. The G20 leadership were far more keen on the profits to be earned in India than the state of its people. They were more than willing to turn a blind eye to the events in Manipur where a full blown ethnic cleansing of Kukis is taking place as the region spirals into a state of civil war. They could also care less, it seems, about the high rate of poverty in India, or Modi and his party’s attacks on civil liberties and minorities. The world was silent, and so was the Brazilian ‘hero’ of the working class President Lula.
It would be naive to think world leaders are not aware of the history of the Indian Prime Minister, when one quick Google search shows sources of information that expose his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. If that were not enough, his record in the past nine years when he assumed the Prime Ministership of India in 2014 should speak for itself.
Since the formation of his government, violence against minorities has increased dramatically. The worst of these took the form of lynchings by ‘cow protection’ vigilantes, and a large anti-Muslim pogrom in Delhi in 2020. BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) ministers and political leaders like T.Raja have repeatedly given hateful speeches against Muslims and Christians, but Modi has remained silent. When there were violent attacks on churches and on Christians in Southern India, Modi failed to condemn the violence, nor did he criticize those who fanned the flames. Between 2010 and today there have been 63 lynchings that have caused 28 deaths (24 of the victims were Muslim), and the Delhi pogrom claimed fifty lives. Today, even as Manipur burns, Modi has not taken any action against the Chief Minister, who is from his same party. So far 200 people have died in Manipur, and thousands have been displaced.
Under his Prime ministership, attacks on journalists, activists, and left wing leaders of struggles have grown. The assassination of Gauri Lankesh and Narendra Dhabolkar are well known, as is the infamous case of the arrest and the death of noted indigenous rights activist Stan Swamy. Of those arrested during the crackdown following the CAA protests, many still remain behind bars, including Umar Khalid. Under Modi’s rule, the space for dissidence has shrunk progressively. The government has used intrusive spying software to target activists and critics of the regime they dislike. The scope of laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act has been broadened. Indian democracy is slowly withering and Modi is making it happen.
Perhaps Modi’s ‘crowning’ moment, was his utter mismanagement of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Officially India lost about 500,000 people to the virus, unofficially the number could be as high as 3 million. During the pandemic the government was caught completely unaware as it had not put in place preparation measures, and consequently millions of the country’s poor were pushed into a hellish chaos. The lockdowns imposed saw trains and essential services shut, migrant workers were left stranded in their cities of work, and mostly poor and working class people who depend on trains and busses, had to resort to trekking on foot to get back home. There were tragic cases of entire families dying on train tracks, or desperate men eating spilled milk to quench their hunger. As if the first wave was not bad enough, durinng the second wave the government deliberately stalled imposing lockdowns or preventive measures, just so they could conduct election campaigning freely. This was the year when the state of West Bengal had elections for the Legislative Assembly.
The BJP was badly defeated in that election, but the cost in lives and livelihoods as the pandemic spread was borne by the West Bengali people and the country as a whole. Lockdowns were imposed belatedly once the election had ended. This was how Modi guided India through the pandemic, in a combination of foolishness and vicious apathy towards the poor.
Even if we overlook all of this, Modi’s record shows that he stands resolutely behind the forces of big capital. Since his coming to power environmental laws have been diluted, this comes even as India’s ‘green transition’ is being hailed by hypocritical capitalist regimes. The purpose of the changes to laws like the Forest Rights Act, which designates jungle areas and redraws borders, is to favour resource extraction. If choosing between the fate of the earth and the profits of corporations, Modi has chosen the latter and brazenly so. His thinking is far more aligned with Bolsonaro than with Lula in this regard, but nevertheless Lula stands with Modi.
The name of President Lula is often taken fondly among left-wing Indians, as one of the key personalities of the ‘pink revolution’ in Latin America. He is shown as one of the most significant challengers of US imperialist hegemony in the western hemisphere, and a leader of the Brazilian working class who lifted millions out of poverty. This is a rose-tinted vision of Lula that we are given, which often comes from the mouths of Stalinists who are more likely to see the world in terms of camps than classes. They often very eagerly ignore the brutal reality of capitalist Brazil that Lula has presided over.
President Lula began his term in 2003. The very next year the UN organized MINUSTAH, the UN mission to stabilize Haiti. A massive military intervention, its official goal was to ensure order in Haiti in the wake of the Haitian coup of 2004. In reality it was a military mission at the behest of the leading imperialists, namely the USA and France. Its purpose was to ensure imperialist dominance over the island nation, which has been perennially ravaged by imperialism since it’s birth and even before it.
Brazil under Lula served the imperialists designs dutifully, presiding over one of the most violent and controversial UN missions in the Caribbean. Haiti is still facing the negative consequences of this intervention. It can be said that Lula, the ‘the great friend of the working class’ has joined the list of those who have crippled Haiti throughout its history.
This was but one instance in Lula’s first tenure as president of Brazil. Over the course of his tenure the Brazilian economy grew manifold; between 2004 and 2011 it emerged as one of the world’s leading developing economies. This is a rank it acquired by beginning the large-scale deforestation of the Amazon, committing violence against native peoples, and deepening the presence of US capital. While attempting to chart a neutral course, or at least pretending to, Brazil never seriously challenged the status quo within Latin America. It acted then, and still acts as the regional hegemon, ensuring the dominance of US imperialism over South America. Lula’s role is in extending the door to the imperialists of Europe to share in the pie.
Lula’s lasting legacy is perhaps best embodied by Brazil’s most hated World Cup in 2016. This was when President Dilma, Lula’s successor and the leader of his Workers Party, let the police into slums where they killed children in order to clear the way for World Cup preparations. In the midst of a crippling financial crisis which had gripped the world, Brazil included, the event did nothing but pander to the interests of big capital invested in the commodification of sports that organizations like FIFA have increasingly come to represent.
The deaths of children in the vicious slum clearance drive by Brazil’s militarized police will forever remain the lasting legacy of the Workers Party. It is the culmination of Lula’s leadership in his collaboration with imperialism while pretending to be a friend of the working class.
Lula is a proponent of the ‘pink revolution’ in Latin America. Modi is a counter-revolutionary right-wing leader, one could argue a proponent of a ‘saffron’ counter-revolution in India. On the surface, they couldn’t be further apart, but at a very fundamental level they both play the same role when it comes to the defense of capitalism.
At the end of the day, both are tools of the bourgeoisie, and they serve to keep the capitalist system intact. Where Lula does this by fooling the working class with socialist posturing, Modi does this by straight forward counter-revolutionary politics, defended by a policy of divide-and-conquer that pits Hindus and Muslims against each other.
The G20 summit was a meeting of all such capitalist tools, some posture as defenders of the people, while some are more brazenly against the people. In the spectrum between Modi and Meloni on the one hand, and President Lula on the other, we have different shades of capitalist rule. The only correct line for revolutionaries to take is to refute them both.
The results of the G20 summit
The Indian media, which is infamous as a propaganda machine for the Indian government, jumped on the bandwagon in hailing the summit as a great success. The G20 resolution was extensive and achieved with consensus from all sides, despite the division between the western powers and the pro-Russian camp over Ukraine.
Brazil, Indonesia, and India worked to ensure that Ukraine did not feature on the resolution, and the west largely sidelined the question of the Ukraine war. This snub to Ukraine and it’s concerns was in no small part due to India’s leanings towards Russia. But it also clearly indicates that the West’s support to Ukraine doesn’t stand on principled grounds, but is rather a cynical power move. The US has used the Ukraine war to enrich it’s own weapons industries and expand NATO into the Nordic countries, while neutering any possibility of independent European power. It has also opened another market for Middle Eastern oil, which is tied to the dollar, thus ensuring the power of the dollar for as long as Russia can be isolated from Europe.
At the end of the summit, we witnessed a worsening of India’s ties with some western countries, especially Canada, over the killing of a Sikh pro-Khalistan activist who was a Canadian citizen. While Canada protested against India’s allegedly killing of a Canadian civilian on it’s soil, the UK was far more willing to work with India against ‘anti-India’ elements. Since it’s arrival, the Modi government has shown intolerance towards dissent, and in the aftermath of the farmer’s protest, the Modi government has raked up the ghost of the mostly dead Khalistan movement. This was a separatist movement of Sikhs in Punjab that emerged as a result of Indira Gandhi’s assault on the Golden Temple to crush an insurrection by the Sikh extremist leader Bindranwale. Many pro-Khalistan individuals emigrated to Canada which became a safe haven for the movement in exile.
However, the real intention here is not to target Khalistan, which barely has any impact on Punjab any more, but rather to attack Sikh activists who support the farmer’s movement and are critical of Modi. Many Sikhs from religious orders had come forward in support of the agitation, which was at it’s strongest in Punjab and Haryana. Solidarity between Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims gave the movement power, and the Modi government is strategizing ways to curb that power by playing the old game of divide and conquer. While the UK has gone along with India, Canada has not.
Another highlight of the summit was the inclusion of the African Union into the G20, largely on account of India’s efforts. This comes at a time when there is a rise in the demand for Africa’s resources due to the intensification of the electronics industry and the turn to so-called ‘green technology.’ Resources like cobalt, coltan, and oil, as well as more conventional fossil fuel resources like oil, and non-fossil fuel minerals like uranium, are in relative abundance in Africa. The exploitation of Africa keeps European imperialism powerful and relevant, but it is also emerging as a field for expansion for the rising capitalists of China and India who are aiming at the resources and market of an ‘emerging’ Africa. India’s move positions it as a ‘leader’ of the so-called ‘global south,’ but this must be seen for what it is: a cynical ploy by an underdog among world powers who is looking to bolster its diplomatic and economic position. Ultimately, India wishes to have Africa and its wealth for itself, just as Russia does through the Wagner Group and its actions in the Sahel, and China through its investments and loans. The bourgeoisie can cheer these moves as much as they want, we have no reason to celebrate them. Rather, we should look at these development as a reason to prepare for the fight against a new imperialist scramble for Africa.
Not campism but revolutionary politics
There are some on the left for whom the victory of rising powers, and the so-called ‘global south’ is more important than the victory of the working class. This is not the politics of revolution, but simply a cover for a group of capitalist nations, and by extension their capitalists.
If the BRICS somehow gain hegemony over the world and displace the currently dominant imperial powers of Europe and the US, this will not result in a better quality of life of the working class, let alone end the exploitation of the working class. It will only benefit the capitalists and political leaders of these nations who will grow in wealth and power.
The bourgeoisie does not need defending. Even when we defend semi-colonial countries from imperialist aggression, we do this not by defending the bourgeoisie of those countries, nor do we surrender to their leadership. Rather, we defend the working class. Our strength comes from the working class, and we must consistently fight for our class’ interests.
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