I was born and brought up in India and lived here till I was 27years old and had never heard of Antonio Gramsci neither at home nor at school or university my majors had been Sciences. I live in Italy since 2001.
Looking at the life of Gramsci, being an Indian I cannot but observe the similarities between him and Bhagat Singh the Indian freedom fighter, who we can say had been the contemporary of Gramsci as a political prisoner between the years 1926 and 1934. Bhagat Singh was imprisoned between 1929 and 1931 and died in the prison after being sentenced to death by hanging. Both of them have written notes, influenced by Marx and communism the difference has been of age Bhagat Singh was only 23 when he was hanged to death.
Even growing up in a family of people where even my grandfather was a graduate and my uncles and father all were graduates/post graduate in various streams, none ever mentioned Marx or Gramsci. Though, there has been talks about the Left, which was considered extremist by most of the people as it has been related to the rebellious activities of the Maoists and Naxals in the eastern states and tribal areas of the country.
During these days that I happen to be in India and had the chance to talk to many people who belong to the middle, educated class of Delhi and discussed with them about the state of affairs of politics and the society in general. It confirmed my intuition that they have never heard of Gramsci, yes, they have heard about Lenin and something about Karl Marx because of the ties with the USSR during the Cold War years, my peer group has grown up in the 70s and 80.
In India, we have CPI(M) – Communist Part of India (Marxists) which has a long history and forms the democratically elected Government of the State of Kerala, the only state in India which can boast of 100% literacy rate.
After the collapse of the USSR in 90s and liberalization of the Indian market towards the west the Indian mindset completely left behind the USSR and have been oriented toward the western capitalist mindset.
Gramsci has been studied by the subaltern groups in the academic sphere of the Indian universities and intelligentsia but the common middle class has not heard of him.
I would like to get out of the study groups and would like to observe what Gramsci has talked about and look for actualities happening in front of me, which can be related to the thoughts and ideas of Gramsci.
The farmers protest
The Farmers protest is happening in India since September 2020. The protest started after the controversial bill passed in the Indian parliament with a questionable procedure which opens up the agriculture market to the corporate world.
Earlier, in the bread basket states of Punjab and Haryana, there has been a state-run market system – Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) which would provide the farmers an evaluation of their produce and set a minimum supporting price (MSP), this price would become a benchmark for the farmer to ask this price from the buyer. But, this price was rarely respected by the private players, though some of the produce, 6% is more or less the official figure, which was bought by the state granary at established MSP.
The system of the APMC market works with presence of service providers to the Farmers who will take a commission from the sales, these service providers are called AADTHIYA, an ancient Indian term used specifically for this profession. The generational and personal relation between the farmer and the Aadthiya has its complications and benefits. During the year while the produce is growing in the fields of the small farmer who has an ongoing economic relation of financial help with the Aadthiya. The Aadthiya knows very well once the crop is ready, he will be paid back and this has been going for ages, of course there are situations where this is not ideal the Aadthiya might be charging an interest rate which can be usury.
This uncertainty of MSP and the personal economic relation between the Aadthiya and the Farmer is important to the farmer as he can approach him in the time of need, which they argue that if this goes in the hands of the corporates, they will not able to avail this help. The farmers call the Aadthiyas their ATM (Any Time Money or Bancomat in Italy).
The farmers main fear is that they will be turned into modern day slaves through this system and there will be no guarantee of price and the prices will be controlled by the giant corporates. I will not go in to the details of the protest and the law as it will require a lengthy article.
This new law has done something which has been missing in the country for a long time which is coming together of Farmers from different states and along with them many other workers organization. The situation which has been observed by Gramsci in the Turin prison, where he observes parallel between the lower classes of Sardinia, the peasants, and the factory workers of Turin. He thought of an alliance between the peasants and the factory workers. This is what has happened here today and the power of this alliance is so, that the Indian Government is trying every way to discredit this peaceful protest where till today 41 peasants have lost their life because of the cold, as they sleep in open, blocking the national highways.
Antonio Gramsci, became a journalist and editor and had launched newspapers to promote his ideas and thoughts, and something incredible has happened in the farmers protests here in Delhi that to counter the narrative of the Government and the propaganda of fake news and news that wishes to malign the protests, the farmers have setup their own media outlet a newspaper Trolly Times in two languages Punjabi and Hindi along with Social media accounts where they are doing live streaming and reports directly from the ground.
Facebook just two days ago unpublished their page https://www.facebook.com/
kisanektamorcha , but after a general outrage by the people the page has been republished. We know the reason the corporate reality the reliance group and facebook are partners in the JIO platform owned by Reliance and facebook holds a 9.99% stake in it. One can imagine the clout of power trying to disrupt this movement from the ground. There has been a mass boycott of the products of these corporates mainly the Reliance Group owned by the richest Indian Mr. Mukesh Ambani and the Adani group owned by Mr. Adani himself.
I have personally heard from the stage of the protest site words cited by Rajratan the great grandson of B. R. Ambedkar
Educate. We shall need all our intelligence.Agitate. We shall need all our enthusiasm.Organise. We shall need all our force.
The same words cited by Gramsci.
I will conclude this essay with the words from a leaflet which was thrown by Bhagat Singh in the Central Assembly on April 9, 1929, he stated “It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas. Great empires crumbled, while the ideas survived.”