In a world where struggles against the rule of the rich and powerful often result in defeat, this week, poor and working people got a piece of encouraging news: the farmers of India, who have protested three new agricultural reform laws for one full year, have successfully forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal all three!
A little over one year ago, the Indian Prime Minister enacted three laws that would collectively open the Indian farming sector to free market reforms (translation: less protections for farmers against the forces of big business). Quickly, hundreds of thousands of farmers, many from the Sikh minority population, began a major protest in and around the capital of New Delhi that evolved into a massive protest encampment on the outskirts of the city. For one year following the first protests, the farmers and their allies persisted, camping out through the cold winter and hot summer, and despite a raging pandemic.
A few days ago, their struggles paid off, as the Prime Minister publicly announced the repeals. Although some farmers said that they don’t trust the government and would stay in their encampments until the repeals are official for all three, there was undeniable joy amongst the protesters. One said the victory felt “like you’ve conquered Mount Everest.” Another said “this is a win for all those farmers who laid down their lives to save hundreds of thousands of poor farmers of this country from corporate greed.”
Although they didn’t try to dismantle or even challenge the capitalist system that shapes all of our lives in often disastrous ways, the farmers of India fought successfully to protect the few protections and rights that they have won within the system. By doing even that, they have demonstrated once again the potential that workers and poor people have if we organize ourselves and fight together. If we all take a lesson from them, the 1% won’t stand a chance.