09 September 2008

Stalemate at WTO

When the Doha round was initiated nearly 7 years ago, it was promised to be a “development round” that would address the concerns of poorer countries through “special and differential treatment” in respect to import tariffs. Never in the past was this promise kept, and the latest ministerial in Geneva broke down once again on the rocks of Euro-American adamancy in these matters. The immediate cause of the collapse lay in the controversy over the precise point at which developing countries could use the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) to check a sudden surge in imports of farm products. While India and China wanted SSMs to kick in if imports increased 10 to 15 per cent over the base period, the United States demanded the limit to be set at 40 per cent at the minimum. Developing countries argued together that such a higher trigger would seriously affect the livelihood of a huge number of their peasants. Farm subsidies in the U.S. and Europe were already squeezing their own farmers out of the market — they pointed out — thereby reducing indigenous food production and endangering food security; they simply could not allow the situation to deteriorate further. There were other sticking points, too; the most important being US unwillingness to reduce cotton subsidies. The US Farm Bill 2008 having promised that cotton subsidies will be maintained or increased in...

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Greetings to Comrade Prachanda on Becoming Prime Minister of Nepal

To Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal Hon’ble Prime Minister, Republic of Nepal Dear Comrade, On behalf of the entire membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation) and the progressive and democratic people of India, I extend hearty congratulations to you on being elected Prime Minister of Nepal. This is a decisive victory for the CPN(M) and other left and republican forces. We also welcome the encouraging fact that the Left in Nepal, CPN(UML) and CPN(M), could forge this unity at this crucial juncture to make this victory possible. We wish you all success in leading Nepal towards a modern democratic people’s republic, and assure you of heartfelt solidarity and determined support against any intervention or big-brotherly move on part of imperialist forces or the Indian ruling class. With warm greetings of proletarian internationalism, Comradely yours, Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary CPI(ML)...

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Remembering Mahmoud Darwish –

Mahmoud Darwish, poet of the Palestinian experience of exile, passed away on 9 August in Houston, Texas, far from his beloved homeland, at the age of 67. A leading resistance symbol who crafted the 1988 Declaration of Independence that was adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization, in his later years he was deeply disturbed by the factional fighting among Palestinians, especially between Hamas and Fatah. While he had said that “most of my poetry is about love for my country”, he also resisted the idea that “Palestinians are supposed to be dedicated to one subject — liberating Palestine,” saying that in the prison that was Palestine, it was an act of resistance to write of the entire range of human subjects: “If I write love poems, I resist the conditions that don’t allow me to write love poems.” His 1964 poem ‘Identity Card,’ in the words of Electronic Intifada, “express the spirit of resistance of Palestinians in the face exile and dispossession.” In tribute to the indomitable Darwish, Liberation reproduces those verses which celebrate the hunger and anger of liberation struggles the world over. Identity card Write down! I am an Arab And my identity card number is fifty thousand I have eight children And the ninth will come after a summer Will you be angry? Write down! I am an Arab Employed with fellow workers at a quarry...

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Workers’ Strike for Minimum Wages in Pakistan

(Taimur Rahman of the CMPK reports from Pakistan.) Defence Road, on the outskirts of Lahore, is a massive industrial area where thousands of workers are employed. Police and local administration here are often in collusion with local gangsters, capitalists and landlords. The working class in this area is almost completely non-unionized. Most workers in the area are first generation workers that have arrived from various villages all over the Punjab and live together in small cramped quarters. They send money back to their families in villages and try to eke out a meagre existence in the cities. The CMKP has been working in this area for the last 12 years. We have seen the area change slowly. We have seen the roads develop. Farm land change into estates for the wealthy. Massive schemes that have robbed people of land in order to feed the land mafia. A flyover is now being constructed over the area. Today our supporters run to thousands and we have built a left-wing working class constituency. The comrades of the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Working Women’s Organization, and Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party, who enjoy a very close working relationship under the banner of the Mazdoor Action Committee, decided to launch a concerted campaign on the issue of the provision of minimum wages. The minimum wage of Rs. 6000 is rarely paid in the area....

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Beijing Olympics: Some Observations

The impressive Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony was no mere cultural performance: with it, China showcased its ancient civilisation as well as the remarkable technological prowess achieved by a third world Asian country. The opening ceremony was, beyond doubt, a political assertion, loud and clear, against the arrogance and racism of the West and expressed the sentiment of Chinese nationalism deeply felt by its people. The enthusiasm and involvement of Chinese people in the Games is also quite palpable and visible; and it is the human resources of China that stole the Opening Ceremony show both in terms of quantity (by far the highest number of performers in any Olympic Ceremony, most from the PLA) and quality (artistic excellence, perfect synchronisation and discipline). China’s impressive medals tally has also spoken for itself – with Chinese sportspersons making inroads into the virtually every bastion of sports, and emerging triumphant more often than not. For India, the comparison (and contrast) with China is almost inevitable. India feels justifiably proud of those who won three medals – one gold in shooting, and two bronzes each in wrestling and boxing. But what comes through clearly is that those achievements have happened in spite of the entrenched apathy, neglect, and corruption of the Indian sporting establishment. In Abhinav Bindra’s case, the necessary infrastructure and training was provided by the private efforts of his industrialist father...

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Proxy War in Caucasus: Wider Ramifications

When Mikheil Saakashvili launched the highly provocative attack on South Ossetia, he obviously relied on Western support. After all, was it not the United States, Turkey and Israel that provided him with hundreds of tanks, armoured vehicles, warplanes, gunboats and other weaponry and trained thousands of his troops? Did not President George W. Bush declare Georgia America’s “strategic partner” in the Caucasus? And did not Georgia reciprocate by supplying the third-largest military force in the occupation of Iraq? So the Georgian President’s estimate was, once he could provoke Russia into a retaliatory “aggression”, the fait accompli would force the US and NATO to get directly involved in the conflict in his favour. The gamble proved counter-productive. While some NATO members criticised his foolhardiness, from his principal mentor he got little more than rhetoric. In fact that was what a frustrated Saakashvili said on CNN at the height of the conflict. Action was more important than rhetoric, he said: “We should realize what is at stake here for Americans… America is losing the whole region.” But George W. Bush could hardly help it. With his armed forces bogged down in a couple of losing wars, he could do little more than ferrying the 2,000 Georgian troops engaged in Iraq back to the war zone in Ossetia and Georgia. Vladimir Putin on the other hand exploited the overextended state of the...

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Student Movements

ABVP Ransacks Universities in Uttarakhand The ABVP indulged in serial incidents of violence on 1 and 4 August respectively at the H N B Garhwal University and Kumaun University in Uttarakhand. ABVP – the student wing of the ruling BJP had given a call of ‘University Gherao’ in both Universities on those dates. But what happened in the two prominent Universities was not just a ‘gherao’. At the H N B Garhwal University at Srinagar (Garhwal) on 1 August, some four dozen ABVP activists entered the Vice Chancellors office to submit a demand letter. But in spite of submitting the memorandum, they immediately started breaking the furniture, fans, AC, etc. They ransacked the VC office with utmost ease despite the presence of the local police headed by the SHO. After all, how could the administration act against a student organization patronised by non other than the state government headed by a ‘strict’ ex-military officer? The University lodged an FIR naming four ABVP leaders and others. But the next day ABVP was again in full swing claiming that they did all this in the interest of the students, and that ‘their’ state government would allocate funds to the university to replace the broken furniture. The teachers and non-teaching staff went on indefinite strike until the culprits were arrested. AISA organised a public meeting on the campus against ABVP’s goondaism, and...

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Revisiting Chennai: Message of AICCTU’s 7th all India Conference

Our party launched its Central TU — AICCTU — in 1989. The founding conference in Chennai was actually little more than a meeting of party activists engaged in TU work and some worker vanguards. After nearly two decades, AICCTU revisited Chennai to hold its 7th conference on 2-4 August 2008. During the intervening years, the situation has obviously changed a lot. In coping with the new challenges of working class movement, AICCTU has got its share of both strong and weak points. Unlike official mainstream trade unions, AICCTU does not suffer from old baggage and inertia; it has the capacity to mould itself in accordance with demands of new situation. On the other hand, limited base in working class remains its historical weak point. Thanks to its dynamism, however, it has partly overcome the historical limitation and achieved the status of a recognized TU as per criteria fixed by the Labour Ministry of Central government. Working class movement today: emerging challenges and our response A) Organising the unorganized and revitalizing the entire working class movement From the very inception, the AICCTU identified SSI units, sick industries and unorganized workers in general as its area of focus. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, as a latecomer in the trade union arena, AICCTU was hard-pressed to identify an area for quick expansion; secondly, it was necessary to develop a specific...

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AICCTU Seventh National Conference at Chennai

The 7th National Conference of AICCTU was held at Chennai (Comrade Yogeshwar Gope Nagar) on 2-4 August. Nearly 400 delegates from 18 cities and 3 Union Territories participated in the conference. A cross-section of workers of unorganized and informal sectors, representatives of coal, steel, oil, MTNL, power, private security, telecom, textiles, power-loom, automobiles, transport, brick-kilns, leather, hawkers, tea gardens, building construction, railways and corporate big industries like Pricol, Ashok Leyland, MRF, Hyundai, as well as State Government employees were present at the Conference. The dais was named after late Comrade Palaniappan. Veteran trade union leader R N Thakur hoisted the flag and inaugurated the Conference, and all delegates, leaders and guests made floral tributes at a martyrs’ column. CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar inaugurated a poster-exhibition highlighting the first political strike of Indian workers and the history of the working class movement, which drew a lot of appreciation. The opening session of the Conference was addressed by Comrade Dipankar, CPI(ML) PB member Comrade D P Buxi, CCM Comrade Rajaram, guests – Kalpana Wilson of the London-based South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG), Zubran Ali Jewel, Convenor of Bangladesh textile workers association the Bangladesh Krantikari Kapda Kamgar Ekta, and Balram Khatri and Surya Mohan, National Executive members of GEFONT, Nepal, WFTU Vice President and AITUC Deputy General Secretary Comrade Mahadevan, CITU Vice President Comrade Varadarajan, TUCC leader Comrade Tiwari, and All...

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Communist Women Activists’ Camp: An Account

The CPI(ML) held a party education camp for leading women activists of the party on 26-27 July 2008 at Bardhaman, W Bengal. Around 60 leading women activists of the party – working on various fronts ranging from the peasants, agricultural labour, student and trade union fronts; editing various party journals; and working on the women’s front participated in the camp. In his introductory remarks at the camp, CPI(ML) General Secretary said that women are beginning to enter the workforce in very large numbers, and are also on the threshold of entry into male bastions including the political arena. The ruling class, in response to changing material conditions and emergence of assertive social groups, often takes initiatives to accommodate the agendas raised by these groups. The communist party must not just keep pace with these initiatives, adjustments and accommodations by the ruling class – it must anticipate and keep ahead of them. Comrade Dipankar said that patriarchal patterns and structures in society tend to be reproduced within the communist party too. The fight against patriarchal tendencies within and without the party must not be considered ‘women’s work’; men comrades must be just as involved in this fight. The first session of the education camp was devoted to reading and discussing Comrade Arindam Sen’s paper on ‘Women’s Movement and Communist Party’. “In the title”, said comrade Arindam Sen introducing his paper,...

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Liquidate Liquidationism, Strengthen the Party in Every Way

The 8th Congress of the Party had identified a certain suicidal trend of thought within the Party as liquidationism. The Congress secured an important victory in the ideological-political battle against liquidationism and called upon the entire Party organization to remain ever alert against such trends. While stressing the ideological significance of the battle against liquidationism, the Congress was also aware that liquidationist ideas grew on the basis of various weaknesses of the Party. The Congress therefore called for all-round strengthening of the Party laying due stress on mass expansion and intensification of militant struggles of the masses, stronger intervention in the ongoing socio-economic crisis and political turbulence, organizational consolidation and ideological-political unification and enhancement of the entire Party. Since the 8th Congress, the entire Party has been moving steadily and confidently in this direction. Work among the rural poor has acquired greater momentum in almost all our areas of practice, and determined attempts are on in several places to restructure and rejuvenate our peasant organization so as to suitably intervene in the present state of agrarian crisis. The central trade union organization has successfully held its national conference with an increased membership, and the women’s organization and agricultural labour organization are getting ready for their forthcoming national conferences. Party committees on all levels have responded energetically to the action calls and mass political campaigns announced by the Party Central...

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Pune Villagers Confront Killer Dow

(B.J. Kerkar, senior leader of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) reports from the frontlines of a powerful people’s struggle against US MNC Dow Chemicals, responsible for crimes like the Bhopal gas disaster.) The villages Shinde and Vasuli – some 30/35 Kms. away from Pune – have waged a struggle against the notorious American MNC – DOW Chemical Company. Without the knowledge of the villagers, Dow Chemical began construction of their plant in over 120 acres of Shinde-Vasuli’s Gairan land (land reserved for cattle grazing), illegally cutting down some 7000 trees on the plot. Since there was no name board of the company, as yet villagers were unaware as yet as to who was constructing the plant. The villages fall between two small hills – Bhamchand and Bhandara – highly revered by the Warkari Sect, because they are associated with 16th century poet-saint Tukaram, and are said to mark the birthplace of the Warkari Sect. The plot continued to be in the name of the Gram Panchayat of Shinde-Vasuli. The Panchayat Act requires that without the permission of the Gram Panchayat, the land cannot be taken. But without fulfilling this requirement, the construction was started. Due to a chance encounter with Justice B.G. Kolse-Patil, retired Judge of Bombay High Court and Vilas Sonawane, both leaders of the Lokshasan Andolan, (who had come there in connection with an agitation going on...

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Onslaught on Adivasis’ Land and Livelihood in Navin’s Orissa

Recently, the Supreme Court gave a ‘green signal’ to the MNC Vedanta (a subsidiary of Sterlite industries (India) Ltd. owned by NRI Anil Agarwal) to launch bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills, where the adivasi population has been resisting eviction from their forest land and livelihood. It is another matter that the Supreme Court is not authorized to give such a green signal, since it would blatantly violate the Forest Rights Act – which protects the rights of Dongaria Kondh adivasi people of Niyamgiri – forest-dwelling tribal peoples – to the forest land and resources on which their lives depend. After the massacre of adivasis at Kalinganager to oblige Tata; the bloody clash with “would-be” evicted farmers to make way for Korean major POSCO’s steel plant-cum-port near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur, a potential confrontation is building up with the adivasis of Niyamgiri hills in the region bordering Kalahandi-Rayagada district, where the Navin Patnaik Government of Orissa has decided to allow bauxite mining to ensure supplies for a big alumina refinery of Vedanta in Lanjigada. An agreement had been signed between the Orissa Mining Corporation Limited, a Government of Orissa undertaking and M/S Vedanta on 5 October 04. As per the agreement, a joint venture company (JVC) would be launched as a private limited company with 26% share holding with OMC and the rest 74% with M/S Vedanta. The shares would...

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Communal Assault on Human Rights Lawyer in UP

Mayawati may claim to have opposed the Nuke Deal because she deemed it “anti-Muslim” and herself the new symbol of ‘secularism’, but the ground reality of the state she rules over tells another tale. This is the reality of fake encounters, surreptitious arrests, endless incarceration, unspeakable torture and unfounded allegations of being ‘Islamic terrorists’. Ah, that catch-all phrase that absolves all state crime, even turning it into national duty. In short, all the makings a Police State. According to Human Rights activists in the state, there is no clear count of the number of Muslim youth picked up by the Uttar Pradesh police and the dreaded Special Task Force (STF); nor any independent scrutiny of the several encounters staged by the police and STF, where corpses of “HuJI and Lashkar militants” have been displayed to the media. Peoples’ Union for Human Rights (PUHR) tracked the cases of those charged with plotting terrorist strikes in Ayodhya, the CRPF camp in Rampur, the Varanasi blasts etc. They were all invariably picked up by the STF, tortured for a few days, confessions extracted, and then shown as having been arrested with a cache of arms and RDX. But of course, given the prevailing atmosphere of jingoist ‘war on terror’, few paused to question the veracity of the STF/Police’s claims. In 2005, the Varanasi Bar Association passed a resolution, imposing a ban on...

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Tribunal Strikes Down SIMI Ban – But Communalism Continues in Courts

On 5 August 2008, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal headed by Justice Geeta Mittal struck down the ban on SIMI. The judgement was greeted in characteristic fashion by the Hindu Right led by the BJP and a major section of the corporate media, who cried hoarse that SIMI is a terrorist outfit – no matter what the evidence says. However, this was expected from the Hindutva brigade and its corporate propagandists. Mukul Kesavan, in his column in The Telegraph on 7 August wrote-“There is something reassuring about a mainstream judge….resisting the anxieties of the time, to insist that the government meets the standards of evidence set out in the law. The reason this is important is because it allows us to re-invest our faith in the system.” Justice Mittal’s verdict was indeed a valiant one considering the tense atmosphere created by the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts and with investigating agencies hinting at a possible SIMI involvement(though without any proof) in both the outrages. But unfortunately for Kesavan and others who seek reassurances to “reinvest our faith in the system”, the day before the article was published (presumably after it was written), the Supreme Court reinforced the ban and sought a reply from SIMI – in effect characteristically putting the onus on the accused to prove his innocence, thus turning on its head the judicial norm of “assumed innocent till...

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