03 March 2009

Red Flag Hoisted on Satyam’s Lands

The Satyam scam has exposed corporate corruption and greed, protected by Governments and even ‘watchdog’ institutions. Among the many aspects of the scam was the aspect of massive benami land transfers effected by Satyam. It became apparent that thousands of acres of land were acquired by Satyam – literally by hook or crook. Land is a burning issue – in Andhra Pradesh as well as all over India. Land ceiling laws and laws against land grab have been openly violated, and the state has an abysmal track record of implementing land reforms. Governments, mouthing virtuous slogans of ‘development,’ have justified massive land grab to feed corporate greed. In AP, too, there have been fierce struggle against SEZs and other kinds of corporate land grab. Also, AP has seen militant struggles confronting the YSR Reddy Government on why it failed to keep its promise of house sites for the poor. Now, the question arises, why rural poor are met with bullets (as at Mudigonda, Khammam) when they raise a legitimate demand for land; why anti-SEZ activists (as at Kakinada) are jailed; why, when the rural poor wage struggles to occupy ceiling-surplus and other kinds of land illegally grabbed from the poor, they are branded as ‘terrorists’; yet Ramalinga Rau and Satyam-Maytas were freely allowed to grab thousands of acres of land illegally – and both the previous NDA Government of...

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Charles Darwin: Reluctant Revolutionary

In 1846, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The German Ideology, the first mature statement of what became known as historical materialism. This passage was on the second page: We know only a single science, the science of history. One can look at history from two sides and divide it into the history of nature and the history of men. The two sides are, however, inseparable; the history of nature and the history of men are dependent on each other so long as men exist. The history of nature, called natural science, does not concern us here. . . . . At the last minute, they deleted that paragraph from the final draft, deciding not even to mention a subject they had no time to investigate and discuss properly. What the founders of scientific socialism couldn’t have known was that a compelling materialist explanation of the history of nature had already been written by an English gentleman who had no sympathy for socialism. They couldn’t read that account, because the author, Charles Darwin, was so shocked by the implications of his own ideas that he kept them secret for twenty years. Darwin’s views on evolution were fully developed by 1838, and he wrote, then hid away, a 50,000-word essay on the subject in 1844. But he didn’t publish what Marx was to call his “epoch-making work” until 1859. Darwin’s...

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Slum-lord aesthetics and the question of Indian poverty

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (based on Indian diplomat Vikas Swaroop’s novel Q&A) takes the extremely potent idea of a Bombay slum boy tapping into his street knowledge to win a twenty million dollar reality quiz show and turns it into a universal tale of love and human destiny. In the quiz, Jamal is unable to answer questions that test his nationalist knowledge but is surprisingly comfortable with those that mark his familiarity with international trivia. For instance, while he knows that Benjamin Franklin adorns a 100 dollar bill, he has no clue about who adorns the 1000 rupee note. This is obviously meant to suggest the irrelevance of the nation to its most marginalized member but less obviously also indicates its supposed redundancy in a globalized neo-liberal setup. The film is on an awards-winning roll, having won four Golden globes, seven Baftas, plus a couple others, it is a confirmed winner at the Oscars this year, something that surely adds rather than subtracts from its imperial charm. The centrality of the neo-gothic structure of the Victoria Terminus as the transformative point in the film thus heralds a Dickensian aura as much as an imperial vision. Boyle had promised the studio bosses a film in English in tandem with the one-world logic, surely. Loveleen Tandan, the co-director took her role as cover-up officer for cultural gaffes seriously enough to push...

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Message of Greetings from CPI(ML) to the 8th National Congress of CPN(UML)

(Below is the text of the message delivered by CPI(ML) General Secretary to the 8th National Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), CPN(UML), held at Butwal, Nepal, from February 16-22.) Dear Comrades, On behalf of the Central Committee and entire membership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), we extend warm revolutionary internationalist greetings to the 8th National Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). We hope this Congress of yours will play an important role in consolidating the historic gains secured by the communists and other republican forces of Nepal and carrying the society forward towards greater democratisation and progress. We wish you every success in this direction and assure you of our fullest support in this momentous march of the communists and fighting people of Nepal. Your Congress is taking place at a time when global capitalism is facing an unprecedented crisis, with the US and many other developed economies mired in an acute recession that is likely to prove quite prolonged and deep. The collapse of Wall Street has sent shock waves throughout the world of speculative finance and re-energised the working class movement and socialist forces in the developed world. In many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the people are seething in anger against imperialist globalisation and the US-led global war and popular resistance is advancing through various...

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Stop the War in Sri Lanka

(Siritunga Jayasuriya, currently the General Secretary of the United Socialist Party (USP) recently visited India. One of the voices in Sri Lanka who have refused to be terrorised into silence, Mr. Jayasuriya has been campaigning against the ongoing war in Sri Lanka. He contested the 2006 presidential elections in Sri Lanka against the money and muscle power of both SLFP & UNP, and came a creditable third out of the 11 candidates in the fray polling around 36, 000 votes. Extracts from an interview with him during his Delhi visit, 21.02.09.) LB: Would you say that the war in Sri Lanka is over? What is the impact of the war on the civilian population of Tamils in the war-torn region? SJ: Yesterday, the LTTE has again bombed the heart of Colombo – proof that the war is not really over. Of course, the Sri Lankan Army may triumph over the LTTE eventually – but even then, the war will continue in a different style. What is apparent is that the Sri Lankan Government is willing to pay any price to clear the Eelam areas and achieve a final victory. Around 200, 000 civilians in the area are caught up in the war. The Sri Lankan Government, in the name of an attempt to get them out of the area, is actually asking them to exchange one prison for another....

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People’s Victory in Referendums in Bolivia and Venezuela

The first two months of 2009 have seen two remarkable instances of democracy in Latin America. Radical agendas promoted by President Evo Morales (Bolivia) and President Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) won convincing victories in popular referendums January and February respectively. In Bolivia, the referendum was held to vote on a new constitution. One feature of this constitution was the unprecedented degree of democratic participation in its making: this is the first constitution in Bolivia to be drafted by a specially elected delegate assembly and be put to a national vote. The last constitution of 1967 came into being entirely without the participation of indigenous people. Indigenous people – a majority in Bolivia, which is one of Latin America’s poorest nations, were only granted the right to vote less than 60 years ago. Even more remarkable is the content of the new constitution: expanded rights of the indigenous people within a “pluri-national” state, including their right to “self government and the exercising of self-determination”; greater indigenous control over local development and natural resources; reservation in Congress and in the Constitutional Court for smaller indigenous groups; access to water declared a basic human right; land reforms. These policies are totally against the grain of the neo-liberal policy thrust by the ruling class in countries like India: policies of state-sponsored grab of land and water, if necessary killing indigenous people and agrarian poor...

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Reports

CPI(ML) Protests against the War in Sri Lanka The Delhi State Committee of the Party held a demonstration outside the Parliament in New Delhi on 16 February in protest against the ongoing war on the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The protest meeting was addressed by CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Com. Sanjay Sharma, AISA State Secretary Rajan Pande, Delhi State Committee member Santosh Rai, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan and others. Co- inciding with the Delhi demonstration, all over Tamil Nadu & Puduchery CPI(ML) activists came out on streets demanding the Manmohan-led UPA Govt. to stop all military aid to Sri Lanka and pressurize the Rajapakse Govt. to stop the war massacring the Tamil minorities in Srilanka immediately and start a political process for a democratic resolution. Starting from Kanyakumari to Chennai, Sirkazhi (Nagappattinam dist.) to Coimbatore, Party and mass organization leaders and activists assembled on the streets. Politburo member Com. S. Kumarasamy participated in Pudukottai demonstration. Com. Balasundaram, State Secretary of the party took part in Ulundurpet (Villupuram Dist.). Apart from these, demonstrations were held in Salem, Kumarapalayam, Kattu Mannar Koil (Cuddalore dist.) and Tirunelveli. In Puducherry, Balasubramanian, State Secretary and Balasundaram, State secretary of Tamil Nadu, led the demonstration. Also on February 4th, CPI(ML) State units of Tamil Nadu and Puduchery observed a state-wide general strike on the same issue. Party cadres were arrested in Villupuram Dist. for...

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Nagrakata Police Firing: Fact Finding

On 5 February 2009 a posse of police force, deployed at Nagrakata P.S. in the Dooars (Jalpaiguri District) region of North Bengal opened fire on adivasi protesters and fatally injured at least 2 persons, both leaders of the local unit of Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad (ABAVP), with metal bullets fired from point blank range. They were shot from behind while purportedly trying to secure the protesters, caught under heavy tear gas shelling. On the previous night, 4 adivasi activists of ABAVP, named in an FIR lodged by Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM), were arrested from nearby Naya Saily Tea Estate and taken to Jalpaiguri Kotowali under cover. Since early morning the next day, 5000 adivasi protesters, mostly Jharkhandis, gheraoed Nagrakata Police Station and demanded immediate release of the arrested persons. The arrest was believed to be a ploy of the state police administration despite the prior caution sent forth by the Officer-in-charge of the PS in anticipation of adivasi retaliation. Against such mass outrage, the district police administration, willy-nilly, had to succumb to the pressure and agreed in freeing the accused persons. But the delay in bringing them back from Jalpaiguri Town enraged the masses and some of them started pelting stones on the thana building. A large number of young men and women got trapped in the melee. Without resorting to prior lathi charge, the police force...

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Party Class for Women Activists in West Bengal

A state level party class of leading women cadres was held in Kolkata on 18-19 February. A set of two papers — “Women’s Movement And Communist Party: Basics Revisited” and ” Direction Of Work And Policies Of Women’s Organisation” — were presented respectively by comrades Mina Pal and Chaitali Sen, both members of the party’s West Bengal state committee and state women’s department. The first one basically summarised comrade Arindam Sen’s paper with the same title discussed at the all- India women’s education camp for woman cadres held in Bardhaman on July 26-27, 2008. The second consisted of two parts: one dealing with the general orientation and overall policies drafted in light of comrade Kavita Krishnan’s paper in the Bardhaman camp and the other dealing with policies for the peculiar conditions obtaining in West Bengal. Inaugurating the session, West Bengal state secretary Partha Ghosh congratulated the recently formed state women’s department for a pair of good endeavours: fixing up pockets of concentrated work for the department members and independently organising this class. The principal aim of the session — indeed of all Marxist studies — should be to broaden the horizon of thought, to learn to think scientifically, he said. The In-charge of the state women’s department ,Chaitali Sen then explained the political and organisational context of the class. She also said the central women’s department in its recent...

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Countrywide Campaign for Student Rights Against ‘Undeclared Emergency on Campuses’

AISA conducted a nation-wide campaign from 5-20 February for student rights, with the slogans, “Stop importing economic Crisis and terror from USA”; “End the Virtual Emergency in Campuses,” and “Restore Student unions and Democracy.” The campaign consisted wide-ranging protests against the anti-student, pro-privatisation policies of the government; the attacks on student unions in campuses all over the country, including the model JNU students’ union; the witch-hunting of students and youth from among the minorities; the issue of sexual harassment and curtailed rights of women on campuses; the Right to Education Bill that actually snatches away the right to education; and the proposal to do away with SC/ST reservations in appointments to faculty positions in ‘premier’ educational institutions in the country. In these protests, students took on the UPA Government and various state Governments for betrayal of students and crackdown on student rights, raising the slogan, “Privatisation of Education is their Goal – Crackdown on Students Unions is their Tool!” In the national capital on 5 February, hundreds of students from JNU, Jamia, DU and IIMC held a bicycle rally, which covered the respective campuses and then reached Parliament Street via the streets of Delhi. JNUSU President Sandeep Singh, AISA Delhi State Secretary Rajan Pandey, State Vice President Aslam, AISA DU leader Pooja Bhardwaj, Sucheta De among others addressed the gathering. As part of the campaign, various public meetings on...

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Letter from Bihar

Nitish’s Vikas Yatra’ Gimmick While CM Nitish Kumar has been on a ‘Vikas Yatra’ (Development Yatra) with an eye to the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, people of Bihar have been calling his bluff. The ‘Vikas Yatra,’ conducted in the style of a ‘Raja (King) mingling with the ranks,’ started from Bagaha, Champaran, the place from where he launched ‘Nyay Yatra’ in 2005 before his enthronement in Patna. (The analogy of ‘raja’ is not coined by us: the media, fed artfully by the CM’s entourage, made repeated use of this term.) He made a promise of a bridge at Gandak river which has devastated the West Champaran and Gopalganj districts and displaced thousands of poor in last year’s floods. 22 families of flood victims living in make-shift jhuggis on the roadside were, ironically, evicted to make way for the ‘Raja’s’ mass meeting. CPI(ML) leader RN Singh was arrested and jailed when he opposed the eviction. Then Nitish Kumar distributed pattas to 400 displaced families of Bagaha-1, though there are 715 displaced families on record. And these pattas are for homestead land only and that too at a far place in Bagaha-2 in a land which remains inundated for months. This facelift exercise of his administration couldn’t see more than 5000 families now living on railway lands in Bagaha-2 who are facing eviction threat from Laloo’s rail administration. Not only this,...

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Capitalist Crisis and Making of a Marxist

Four Lectures on Marxism (Monthly Review Press, 1981). Reprinted by Cornerstone Publications, Kharagpur, West Bengal. ISBN 978-81-88401-17-8. Rs 55. pp 97 Back in the dog days of the Great Depression, “a very bourgeois American first-year graduate student” (as he would describe himself in a letter to a friend decades later) from Harvard landed in the London School of Economics. After a year he returned home a confirmed Marxist and devoted the rest of his long and highly productive life to the propagation of Marxism. How did the ideological transformation come about? He had an occasion for sharing that experience with young students in another foreign university nearly half a century later. “The year 1932-1933 proved to be a turning point in the history of the 20th century. The prelude to World War II, if not the first act itself, was under way in the Japanese invasion of what was then called Manchuria. The Great Depression hit bottom in Western Europe and North America, giving rise to two simultaneous experiments in capitalist reform: the liberal New Deal in the United States, and the fascist, war-oriented Hitler dictatorship in Germany. The first Soviet Five-Year Plan, launched a few years earlier, suddenly began to appear to a crisis-ridden world as a beacon of hope, a possible way out for humanity afflicted with the peculiarly modern plague of poverty in the midst of...

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TOWARDS WOMEN’S DAY 2009

(Women’s Day 2009 is being celebrated all over the world as the centenary year of International Women’s Day. It marks about a hundred years since the working women of several cities in the US sparked off a remarkable struggle for their wages, the 8-hour working day and other working conditions – and also for the right to vote. In India, Women’s Day will be an occasion to reflect on the remarkable strides that the women’s movement has made – in the world and in India too. But recent events – like the assaults on women in Karnataka; women being drawn into the workforce in large numbers, but in ruthlessly casualised, contractualised, insecure and exploitative work conditions; the denial of equal rights and minimum and equal wages in the workplace (even in ‘flagship’ schemes like NREGA); and the betrayal by the ruling UPA Government of the Bill for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies – will also remind us that those achievements of the women’s movement are under a concerted attack – by the communal fascists as well as by neoliberal economic policies being pursued by the Government. Ed/-) Gendered Violence by Communal Fascists (Rati Rao, Vice President of AIPWA, has for several decades been a leading figure in the women’s movement in Karnataka and the country, associated with the Mysore-based Samata Vedike. Rati Rao comments on the...

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Health Workers Launch Struggle

(Recently, health workers across the country united to form the All India Health Employees and Workers Confederation, and have launched a spirited struggle to defend the public health sector against privatisation and contractualisation. Chandan Negi interviewed Comrade Ramkishan, seasoned leader of health workers and Convenor of the Confederation.) Q. The Central Government has implemented the Sixth Central Pay Commission (6th CPC) report with great fanfare. In fact, the UPA government is projecting it as its one of its major achievements. But health employees in the government sector are on the streets on the issue of Pay Commission. Why is that? The hard truth is that the 2.5 lakh health workers of this country are feeling betrayed by 6th Central Pay Commission and have decided to launch a struggle. From 23 February onwards, all health services in the country will come to a complete halt. Q. How would you characterise the 6th CPC policy framework? It was a strike notice by Central Government Employees including the Railways and Defence Employees which forced the government to constitute the 6th CPC, though the Government was legally bound to constitute the CPC and it was already overdue. Up to the 4th Pay Commission, prior to the neo-liberal New Economic Policy (NEP) phase, the orientation of the recommendations tended to be more pro-employee, favouring mass-employment, self-reliance, strengthening and expanding government responsibility in the social...

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ILC: Defending Workers During Meltdown or Countdown for Elections?

[Address by Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) in the inaugural session of the 42nd Session of Indian Labour Conference (ILC). – Ed/-] In his speech at the inaugural session, we have just heard Labour Minister Shri Oscar Fernandes extol a range of leaders from Mahatma Gandhi down to Indira Gandhi. In this phase of meltdown, this session of the ILC seems more convened with more concern about the countdown to elections. Whereas the Government should have taken the opportunity to seriously review its record of implementation of schemes like NREGA, the platform of ILC is instead being used to project these schemes. The inaugural speech of the Finance Minister preached ‘austerity’ in times of financial crisis; but it is obvious that this ‘austerity’ does not apply for rich CEOs who, as recent reports show, continue to earn obscenely high salaries and indulge in unabated conspicuous consumption and lavish lifestyles. These latter continue to get huge sops and subsidies unabated – while the FM preaches ‘wage cuts’ for workers! This, while the Government’s own Arjun Sengupta Committee revealed that 77% of India’s people survive on Rs. 20 a day. For the past 15 years, governments (the present aam aadmi Government being no exception) have stubbornly implemented US-dictated neo-liberal policies with disastrous consequences on our agriculture, economy and lives and livelihoods of the...

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