07 July 2014

Resolution on Unity in Action in Defence of Democracy, Pluralism and People’s Livelihood and Rights

(adopted by the CPI(ML) Central Committee in its meeting held in Delhi on 25-27 May 2014) The sweeping victory of the BJP and NDA in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections poses a new challenge to all justice-loving democracy-loving people of India. Even as the new regime starts unveiling its agenda, pronouncements made by various leaders of the new dispensation and cases of hate crime, political terror and police highhandedness being reported from various corners of the country point to a testing time for democracy and communal harmony. Fresh attacks on people’s livelihood in various forms like cuts in transfers to the poor, upward revision in gas prices and FDI limits etc. and selective silence of the new prime minister on a whole range of shocking events mark ominous early portents. The new government has come to power promising to usher in ‘good days’, but Modi’s Gujarat track record rests on unfettered corporate domination, state-patronised communal violence, systematic misuse of the state apparatus and wholesale violation of constitutional norms and rights and an unmistakably authoritarian mode of governance that stifles dissent in every form and engineers large-scale assaults on people’s rights and liberties. While championing popular aspirations for basic rights, improved living and good governance, every defender of democracy will have to be vigilant and battle-ready to combat any attempt to replicate and amplify the inherently anti-democratic features of...

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Communal Violence Against Muslims in Sri Lanka

After Tamils, it is now Muslims at the receiving end of majoritarian violence in Rajapksa-ruled Sri Lanka. A fresh bout of majoritarian violence was unleashed by Buddhist communal organisation Bodu Bala Sena on the Muslim community in Aluthgama, Beruwala, Velipenna and Dharga-town. The communal violence erupted after the Bodu Bala Sena leader, Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, made an inflammatory speech at a BBS rally threatening “the end” of all Muslims. Following the rally, BBS mobs marched through Muslim neighborhoods, setting fire to dozens of homes and shops. The violence that continues for several days and nights, killed at least 4, injured around 16 severely, and rendered hundreds homeless. Wataraka Vijitha Thero, a prominent Buddhist monk who has spearheaded campaigns for communal harmony between Sinhala Buddhists, Tamils and Muslims, has also been attacked. He was found tied up and dumped on a road on the outskirts of Colombo. He had earlier been threatened by the BBS leader Gnanasara when he had helped organise an interfaith press conference addressed by Buddhist and Muslim leaders. Meanwhile, the Power and Energy Minister in the Rajapaksa Cabinet has made a public speech threatening a 100 more massacres against Tamils. Champika Ranawaka, the leader of Sinhala right wing Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a main constituent party of the ruling coalition headed by Rajapaksa, warned Tamil people not to support a Tamil political party if they wanted...

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Destroying Iraq

What is happening in Iraq is a de-facto re-invasion of Iraq by Western interests, but this time it is through a proxy force in extremist outfit ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). War hawks like Blair, Cheney and McCaine are crying for direct war. Though the US has expressed shock and is feigning having no knowledge of ‘sudden’ ISIS advancement in Iraq and falling of Mosul, the charade is quite obvious. With surveillance drones, satellites and deep infiltration of intelligence agents in the region, it is highly improbable that the US was not aware of what was happening on the ground. The Lebanon Daily Start in March 2014 had reported that ISIS openly withdrew its forces from Latakia and Idlib provinces in western Syria, and redeployed them in Syria’s east – along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The article titled, “Al-Qaeda splinter group in Syria leaves two provinces: activists,” stated explicitly that: On Friday, ISIS – which alienated many rebels by seizing territory and killing rival commanders – finished withdrawing from the Idlib and Latakia provinces and moved its forces toward the eastern Raqqa province and the eastern outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo, activists said. If a Lebanese newspaper knew ISIS was on the move eastward, why didn’t the CIA? The obvious answer is the CIA did know, and is simply feigning ignorance at the expense of their...

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Socialist Alliance Conference in Australia

CPI(ML) Politburo member and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan was the keynote speaker at the People’s Power in the “Asian Century” seminar in Sydney, Australia on June 7. The seminar was held as part of the Socialist Alliance’s 10th national conference on June 7-9. Around 250 people from various states in Australia attended the conference, where Kavita Krishnan spoke about the experience of struggles against capitalism, misogyny and sexual violence in India. She argued strongly against the tendency in the Western media to talk about gender violence as though it was a result of the ‘backward’ culture in places like India, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Instead, she argued that the gender violence in these societies should be discussed in conjunction with the terrible crimes against women in advanced capitalist societies – such as, for instance, the recent massacre of women by a man in California. She spoke of how capitalism and neoliberal economic policies are complicit in violence against women in India as well. Drawing from the Indian experience, she argued strongly for revolutionary socialists and communists to intervene positively in movements against rape and rape culture. India witnessed such a movement post December 16th, while in Australia last year, there was a similar movement following the rape and murder of a woman, Jill Maegher, in Melbourne. Other speakers at the Conference included S Arultchelvan “Arul” from the Socialist Party of...

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FIFA in Brazil: Ugly Exploitation Undermines Beautiful Football

“The history of football is a sad voyage from beauty to duty” Uruguayan writer and football chronicler Eduardo Galeano’s famous lines were reflected in the turbulent protests and popular discontent that hit the streets of various cities of Brazil prior to FIFA World Cup. While Brazil was announced as the host of this edition uncontested, seven years back in 2007, people around the planet whose passion revolves round the beautiful game were elated, as the land of “beautiful football” which produced the greatest artists of the game was given a nod for the second time after 64 long years. Brazil was not only announced as the host, but also huge promises were made that this World Cup would revive her emerging economy, and a respectable living for the toiling masses, the section that forms the base and the pillars of football-culture of the Latin American nation. A huge investment was promised that would create millions of job-opportunities to boost the GDP of the nation. Seven years down the line, people of the cities from Sao-Paulo to Porto Alegre, Rio to Manaus re-decorated for hosting the matches were on the streets, after bearing the brunt of severe taxation, unfulfilled promises, ruthless evictions, child-sexual abuse ‘tourism’, deterioration of emergency services, and under-payment for work in construction projects. Football is called “Joga-Bonito”, which means ‘beautiful game’ in Portuguese, and Brazilians believe they...

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Minimum Wage Struggle in Seattle: Victory of the Working Class

On June 2nd Seattle, a city in United States, struck a blow against rising inequality, when its city council unanimously adopted a city wide minimum wage of $15 per hour, the highest minimum wage in the United States. The dramatic change in public policy was a result of continuous activism of working class and youth in Seattle and other cities, the role of different political activists and groupings over last 5 years and partly the result of changes brought about by November 2012 municipal elections of Seattle, where a leftist candidate Kshama Sawant won the election and Seattle saw the victory of socialist after almost a century. We can see the growing frustration of working people, unable to survive on the minimum wages in the face of the rising inequality in society. Since the recession, which started in 2009, low wage work has made up an increasingly large share of new jobs in U.S economy, according to a new study from the Alliance For a Just Society. As per the study, in the beginning of 2009, this percentage was 36.6 % , which shot up to 39.5 % in the year 2012. Hence the number of low wage workers which itself in the year of 2009 was more than 11 crores, saw rise by 3.6 million, where median paid jobs reduced by 4 million. The study defines the boundary...

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David Harvey Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism

(Hachette India; 337 pages; Rs 699) A General Reader’s Digest/ Annotated Excerpts After Thomas Piketty, it is the turn of David Harvey, currently a professor of anthropology and geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, to mount a scathing critique of capital in our age. Both authors are brilliant, each in his own way. The former is no Marxist (he himself has since declared, in the face of accusations in the right wing press that he is a Marxist in disguise, that he has not even read Marx’s Capital) but he irrefutably lays bare the “inegalitarian spiral” inherent in capitalism, and the threat it poses to the system, without actually trying to explain the underlying ultimate causes. The latter, who has been taking classes on Marx’s “Capital” for more than 40 years, is one of the most authoritative Marxist scholars living today and author of several books on capital, capitalism and imperialism (including a two-volume “Companion” to Marx’s magnum opus). He goes deep beneath the surface, and carefully dissects the many contradictions of capital, including the most explosive ones. We carried a review of Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” in our last issue; here we bring you annotated excerpts from Harvey’s latest book. Let us begin at the beginning[1]. “Prologue The Crisis of Capitalism This Time Around “Crises are essential to the reproduction...

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Lockout at Stump, Schuele, and Somappa A Citizens’ Fact-finding Report

Stumpp, Schuele and Somappa Springs Private Limited (SSSPL), a leading manufacturer of springs for cars, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles, declared a lockout at its Hosur Road factory for its contract workers on 1st March 2014, and five days later, also for its permanent workers. All these workers who were also union members were suddenly rendered jobless. Concerned about the lock-out incident, a group of citizens formed a team and decided to undertake a fact-finding investigation; the following are the details from the report. In order to understand what exactly brought about the lockout since March 6th, one has to look at the work conditions of contract workers in the factory vis-à-vis work conditions of permanent workers. In the factory, there are only 88 permanent workers, while there are 620 contract workers (this includes various kinds of workers such as casual workers, and trainees). According to the workers, although contract workers, permanent workers, and workers designated by the company as ‘engineers’ do the same work on the same machine, the differences in their remuneration are huge, ranging from Rs.6000 for contract workers to Rs.12 – 15000 for permanent workers and Rs.20000+ for workers designated as engineers. Contract workers are also denied benefit of many of the 14 components of wages given to permanent workers. In order to fight this blatant imbalance in the remuneration among different workers, the union felt...

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Jute Workers’ Plight – And Resistance

The jute industry is in the news nationally – with sensational headlines about a CEO being killed. Unfortunately, the lives of the jute workers and other workers get scant attention unless in the wake of such tragic and unfortunate incidents. Let us take a look at the facts and background of this particular incident. On 15th June, a workers’ agitation took place at North Brook Jute Mill, which is located at Bhadreswar, Hoogly District. The management took a unilateral decision to run the mill 3 days a week. In this mill, all the labour laws are violated (which is a common phenomenon in all the jute mills of West Bengal) with impunity. The legal dues of statutory leaves were paid in 4-5 instalments, and workers were thrown out of employment at the drop of a hat. All sort of undignified, undemocratic, feudal and exploitative work conditions are prevalent in the mills. The workers were seething with anger and discontent, and the decision to reduce the working days was the last straw. The actual circumstances of the unfortunate death of the CEO are not clear. But as a consequence, work was suspended in the factory, and there have been indiscriminate arrests of local TU leaders and police terror unleashed on ordinary workers – following the same pattern as has been seen at Maruti and Pricol. TMC leaders denied their presence...

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Centre of Steel Workers Protests against Illegal Retrenchment of Contractual Workers

Centre of Steel Workers organized a one day dharna at the main gate of the Bhilai Steel Plant on 19 June 2014 to protest against the illegal retrenchment of 18 contractual workers (semi skilled workers) on 10 June. 11 contractual workers (skilled workers) were already on strike from 10 June in solidarity with the retrenched workers. The meeting was addressed by A Shekhar Rao, Rajendra Parganiha, Shyam Lal Sahu, Muktanand Sahu, Adalat Ali, Ashok Miri, Jaiprakash Nair, and others. Through the dharna, a delegation from the Union met the DGM (Industrial Relations, Bhilai Steel Plant) Roy Choudhary and DGM (HSCL) Manoj Singh and submitted a memorandum to them. The delegation was given the assurance that all the workers would be reinstated immediately. These workers had been in their jobs for a period varying from 8 to 20 years, working for contractor Westcon engineers Pvt. Ltd., under Hindustan Steel Construction Ltd. (HSCL).They had done a hartal 2 months ago demanding minimum wages, payment slips, attendance cards, PF slips, safety shoes, additional welfare amenities and other issues, as a result of which the contractor was forced to agree to minimum wages and pay slips. On 10 June these workers were removed from work as a retributive step. Earlier, on June 12 a representative team from the Union had met GM (Steel Melting Shop 2) Sanjeev Nayyar, AGM (Contract Labour Cell) BVN...

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Gas Leak in Bhilai Steel Plant

An investigating team of AICCTU, affiliated to Centre of Steel Workers, enquired into the accident which occurred in Pump House 2 of the Water Management Department (WMD) on 12 June 2014. Six people lost their lives in this accident: DGM in charge BK Singh, DGM NK Katariya, Chargeman Samuel, Fire Officer Ramesh Sharma, Senior Operator Yad Ram Sahu, and contractual worker Vikas Verma. About 40 people were injured in the accident. Soon after the incident the team members spoke to the workers of WMD, the injured workers at the hospital, and others and inspected the site of the accident. The team included Brijendra Tiwari, Rajendra Parganiha, Muktanand Sahu, Shyam Lal Sahu, and others. The investigating team was told that on 12 June at about 6 pm a 3 ft pipe broke between header valve 55 and delivery valve 15. This pipe supplies water to Blast furnaces 1 to 6 as well as the gas cleaning plant. Around 40 workers and officers arrived at the spot for pipe line repair (technically called line isolation). During the process of line isolation, the water in the pipe started gushing out and after 15 minutes the leakage of Blast furnace gas started, causing 6 personnel to die and over 40 to sustain injuries. Of the injured, all except one worker have been discharged from hospital. This gas is carbon monoxide which is odourless,...

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Badaun and Bhagana Rapes: Grim Reality of Gender and Caste Atrocities

The brutal gang rape and lynching of two minor girls aged 14 and 15 in a village in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh is a grim reminder of the gender, caste and class based atrocities that women from Dalit, oppressed castes face on a daily basis in India. Two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were gang raped by higher caste landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, where the survivors are still fighting for justice to take off. The fact that the higher caste rapists at Badaun chose to finish off their vile crimes by murdering the victims and leaving their bodies on brazen display in full public view, rather than make any attempt to hide their deeds, shows that the act was intended as a chilling spectacle of higher caste dominance. It also displays the confidence of the perpetrators, that they would not be punished for committing crimes against women from oppressed castes. Indeed, less than a percent of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction. In the Badaun case, the police refused to investigate when the girls’ families reported them missing. Two policemen have now been arrested with charges of conspiring with the higher caste rapists. The families of the victims of Badaun have been warned with dire consequences for seeking justice. They have been threatened with retribution once media and public...

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US and UK Wage War on Dissent

(The Modi Government is trying to accuse activists of being the ‘foreign hand.’ The truth is, that it is the intelligence establishment of the Manmohan and Modi Governments that are following in the steps of the ‘foreign’ – i.e imperialist – intelligence and defence establishments. Below are excerpts from two articles by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, an international security journalist and academic, that appeared in the Guardian newspaper, that outline the efforts of the US and UK Defence establishments to use ‘studies’ to criminalise peaceful dissent.) Pentagon Paints Civilians As Potential Terrorists Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding a multi-million dollar programme in universities to identify risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.” Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” Twitter...

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IB Report on ‘NGOs’: Dissenters Branded as ‘Traitors to Development’

A report titled ‘Impact of NGOs on Development’ on the threat posed by ‘foreign funded NGOs’ to India’s national economic security and the ‘Gujarat model of development’, supposedly submitted by the IB to PM Modi, was ‘leaked’ to the Indian media. And a storm broke over the bogey of ‘foreign-funded’ activists supposedly paid to derail India’s development engine. The IB ‘report’ was supposedly begun at the behest of the UPA Government, and has now been submitted at the beginning of Modi’s tenure, coinciding with protests against the raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Now, one might ask, are the UPA and NDA, Congress and BJP, not faithful advocates of globalisation? They advocate FDI and foreign funding in every aspect of India’s economy – so how come they suddenly see ‘foreign funding’ as dangerous? Reading the so-called ‘IB Report’, the matter becomes clear. The report has nothing to do with security. It is no ‘investigative report’, and has no ‘facts’ that are not readily available publicly. The ‘Report’ seems to have been prepared for the express purpose of being ‘leaked’ – to create a bogey of ‘foreign-funded activists’ in the public mind. The Report is so shoddy that portions of it are actually copy-pasted from a published 2006 speech made by Modi in Gujarat! And in fact, the ‘IB Report’ is very much a political narrative, peddling...

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Bury Rajasthan’s Anti-labour Amendments in the Sands of Thar

‘With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple….’ – Marx, quoting from T J Dunning, in Genesis of Industrial Capital The BJP government in Rajasthan is emerging as BJP’s laboratory for its intended onslaught on labour. The Rajasthan cabinet has cleared some major anti-labour amendments in the labour laws such as Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and Factories Act. These amendments will come into force once they are passed in the State Assembly and then get Presidential assent. The amendments seek to further facilitate the already existing hire and fire process by raising the minimum limit of employed workers for an industrial establishment to need permission from the government for retrenchment, from 100 workers to 300. An industrial dispute has to be raised within 3 years. Only a trade union with a membership 30% of total workforce can register, contract labour legislation will apply in an establishment only where the number of such workers is 50 (earlier it was 20) and Factories Act will apply to an establishment which uses electricity and employs 20 workers and which does not use...

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