May-June 2008

Table of Contents

1) Unleash a Powerful Solidarity Movement of all Workers and Oppressed

2) Take Dr. Binayak Sen’s Mission Forward

3) The Challenge of Shaping a New Nepal Begins Now

4) Republican Resurgence Led by the Red Flag in Nepal

5) Crisis Engulfs the Global Financial System

6) Sri Lanka: Threats to the Media

7) Citizens’ Convention Against Draconian Acts

8) Construction Workers in Delhi March Against Price Rise

9) Hisab do-Jawab do Rally in Jharkhand

10) Assembly Gherao in Tamil Nadu

May Day Call

Unleash a Powerful Solidarity Movement of all Working,

Oppressed People of the World against the US Imperialism and its Agents!

– Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU).

May Day 2008 is being observed worldwide in the backdrop of the imperialist project of globalization which is facing a serious crisis. The US-led globalisation has turned into a US-led global crisis resulting in food riots and skyrocketing prices affecting countries throughout the world including India. There is no sign of recovery from the 17th March market meltdown, and all the desperate measures which include even state intervention could not stop the dollar slide-down and the rise in the prices of gold and oil. Behind the serious food crisis that has hit the world, the diversion of food grains towards fuel (bio fuel) to sustain the affluent lifestyle of the ‘developed’ world is one of the reasons. But the major cause is unequal system of distribution and the major fall in the purchasing power of the common people. With typical imperialist arrogance, however, the US establishment represented by Condoleezza Rice has blamed improving diets in China and India for the global food crisis!

The imperialist countries are indulging in massive job cuts, cuts in welfare measures giving rise to powerful movements everywhere. This anger of the people has got further aggravated due to the continuous bloodshed in the continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Food riots are breaking out in several countries in Asia and Africa. More and more trade unions in world are joining the battle against the imperialist policy of globalization and war and thus the situation is ripening throughout the world for a militant working class solidarity movement.

India is reeling under a serious inflationary crisis with prices of food items skyrocketing. The pursuit of imperialist-dictated policies by both the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and earlier National Democratic Alliance (NDA) governments has seriously affected the food security of the people particularly of the urban and rural working people. On the one hand India has become a nation of rising billionaires, on the other hand 77% of the people earn less than Rs. 20 a day (less than half a US dollar). This rising inflation with a fall in real wages is pushing more and more people to the verge of starvation and slavery. The large scale entrance of MNCs and corporate houses in the business of procurement and trading of food commodities is the essential reason behind this serious crisis.

The movement against price rise and for increase in minimum wages and better living conditions is rising everywhere and the government is coming down heavily on the people and is introducing draconian measures to take away the rights of working people. Grabbing agricultural land for Special Economic Zones by forcibly evicting the peasantry is another issue of popular resistance movement. The real face of imperialist globalization and its native agents stands exposed before the common people.

So, in this critical juncture both internationally and nationally, this May Day marks a significant shift in the situation, and the working class must give an all-out push to the struggle against imperialist globalization. The issues of food security, checking of price rise, rise in wages and trade union rights are the issues on which a worldwide solidarity movement must be initiated.

On May Day 2008 let us issue a clarion call to unleash a powerful solidarity movement of all working, oppressed people of the world against US imperialism and its agents.

Struggles in India

Take Dr. Binayak Sen’s Mission Forward!

– Satya Sagar.

On 14th May 2007 when the Chattisgarh police arrested reputed public health and civil rights activist Dr Binayak Sen, along with him, they threw into prison Indian Democracy itself.

Detained under the draconian ‘Unlawful Activities Prevention Act’ on false charges of being a ‘Maoist’, slandered in the media, denied bail by the Supreme Court, Dr Sen’s case stands as a challenge to every Indian who aspires for a humane, democratic and civilized India. If this is the treatment meted out to the Vice-President of a national civil rights organization and a doctor of international reputation, who has dedicated three decades of his life to work among the rural poor and tribals, it can very well be imagined what more ordinary citizens are undergoing all over the country.

Almost a year later, Dr Sen continues to be in jail and hearings of the case against him in the Chattisgarh High Court have commenced. While the future course of the trial cannot be fully predicted, going by past experience, it could be several years before even a judgment of sorts will be delivered. In the meanwhile Dr Sen, who has already lost 15 kilos in just ten months of imprisonment and is in poor health, will continue to languish in jail- robbed of his freedom for the sole crime of working with the poor and defending democratic rights.

The charges under which Dr Sen has been held under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and also the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 include the following:

Being a member of an unlawful association

Being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation

Holding the proceeds of a terrorist act

Giving support to a terrorist organisation

Soliciting contributions, and aiding an unlawful organisation

No substantion of the charges has been provided though with even the name and details of the so called ‘terrorist gang’ Dr Sen is accused as being part of not being mentioned. Much of the prosecution’s case seems to rest upon evidence in the form of some letters seized from Piyush Guha, an alleged Maoist, which the police claims were passed on to him by Dr Sen on behalf of Narayan Sanyal, a Maoist leader currently in Raipur Central Jail.

Dr Sen was treating the ageing Sanyal for various ailments for several months under supervision of prison authorities. For several years now Chattisgarh, one of the poorest states in India, has been the site of a virtual civil war between the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) and private militias armed by the state government with both sides in the conflict accused of serious human rights violations.

“Dr Sen’s arrest is clearly an attempt to intimidate Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and other democratic voices that have been speaking out against human rights violations in Chattisgarh” said a statement soon after his detention and signed by large number of renowned intellectuals and activists including Noam Chomsky, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Arundhati Roy, Prabhat Patnaik, Ashok Mitra, Habib Tanvir, and Rajendra Yadav.

An alumnus of the Christian Medical College and of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr Sen is a respected physician much honoured for his self-sacrificing commitment to social causes and also his work as the national Vice President of the PUCL. In December 2007, the Indian Academy of Social Sciences conferred on him the R. R. Keithan Gold Medal, as an “indefatigable defender of human rights and Gandhian social activist of rare courage and dedication”. Currently, he has been nominated for the Jonathan Mann Award 2008, the highest international award for health professionals excelling in human rights activities.

Since his arrest members of civil liberties groups, medical professionals in India and abroad, artists, journalists and Dr Sen’s well wishers all over the world have appealed to both the Chattisgarh and the Indian government to withdraw the ridiculous charges and release him immediately. Their appeals have fallen on deaf ears however with the Indian Supreme Court shockingly dismissing Dr Sen’s application for bail without offering any explanation at all.

Even as the trial against Dr Sen is set to commence on April 30, health and human rights activists are now campaigning for Dr Sen’s release through a series of activities ranging from holding Free Binayak Sen Medical Camps around the country to public lectures highlighting the threat to Indian democracy.

Over 125 men, women and children attended the first Free Binayak Sen Medical Camp held in New Delhi at the Jai Hind basti, a colony of ragpickers and domestic workers. Other camps are planned every month for the rest of 2008 in Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Kolkata.

A series of protests, seminars, campaigns, including mobilizing Members of Parliament are also planned for the month of May in 2008 that will mark the first anniversary of Dr Sen’s arrest. Groups overseas, particularly in the US and UK are planning to organize vigils outside Indian embassies and consulates, to highlight globally the injustice being done to one of India’s most outstanding public spirited doctors for the sole crime of sticking to his principles.

Elections in Nepal

The Challenge of Shaping a New Nepal Begins Now…

– Liberation, May, 2008.

The outcome of the April 10 elections in Nepal goes far beyond signalling the eventual end of the country’s 240-year-old monarchy. The fate of the monarchy was more or less decided before the elections when all parties had agreed to pass a resolution proclaiming Nepal a republic in the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. It is the new balance of political forces in post-poll Nepal which has taken everybody by surprise.

The Maoists of Nepal, still listed as a terrorist outfit by the Bush administration, have emerged as the biggest political component in the Constituent Assembly. They have bagged half of the directly elected seats and more than a third of the popular vote in the proportional representation system. The Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Part of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) [CPN(UML)], the two big parties that dominated the parliamentary arena since the 1990 restoration of parliament, find themselves lagging far behind the Maoists. Meanwhile, the terai region of Nepal has witnessed the rise of a powerful Madhesi factor, with the two leading organisations representing the Madhesi identity having a combined tally that places them almost at par with the NC or the UML.

The rise of the Maoists as the leading current in the Constituent Assembly provides an interesting case study of a communist movement in a feudal-monarchist setting. During the 1990 movement for restoration of democracy, the Maoists were present as a minor tendency within the communist spectrum while the CPN (UML) emerged as the leading communist trend. As the `twin pillars’ experiment of running a constitutional democracy within a monarchist framework tumbled from one crisis to another, the Maoists took to the path of armed struggle and gradually stepped up their campaign for a full-fledged republic. With the monarchy rapidly losing its prestige and authority in the wake of the infamous palace massacre, the idea of a republic caught the imagination of the people. The victory of the Maoists at the hustings must primarily be attributed to their success in setting the republican agenda.

The communist-led surge of republicanism in Nepal has rebuffed the arrogant designs of the world’s greatest `exporter’ of democracy. The US backed the King all through, branding the Maoist campaign for a republic as terrorism. The foreign policy strategists in New Delhi who increasingly look at the world and even themselves through the US prism saw the monarchy as the anchor for the stability of Nepal. Now that the ballots have sealed the fate of Nepal’s moribund monarchy, these strategists have become jittery about the possibility of republican Nepal pursuing an independent foreign policy and seeking a new balance between India and China.

As far as the US is concerned, containing and encircling China is clearly one of its foremost foreign policy objectives. It is on this basis that the US seeks strategic partnership with India and would also like to use Nepal both as a base and buffer between India and China. As far as India is concerned, Nepal is the closest northern neighbour with a long history of shared multifarious ties. Instead of toeing the US line on Nepal, India must honour the verdict of the Nepali people and sympathetically address the concerns of the emerging Himalayan republic. If we cannot do that, our foreign policy will also prove as anachronistic as the moribund monarchy in Nepal.

While the Sangh Parivar is destined to miss the dynastic head of the erstwhile Himalayan Hindu Kingdom, all progressive people in India should wholeheartedly welcome Nepal’s transition to a constitutional republic. In India too, a republican constitution was won only through a determined battle against the British colonialists and their numerous ‘royal’ partners. And for revolutionary communists, it is of course most heartening to note that communists have been at the forefront of the popular quest for a modern democratic and republican Nepal. The composition of the emerging Constituent Assembly also reflects this reality with communists and Left forces of different shades having a clear majority over the political representatives of the nascent Nepali bourgeoisie who have always betrayed the democratic aspirations of the people. The real challenge of writing a democratic constitution and shaping a new Nepal begins now and on behalf of the revolutionary communists and democrats of India we convey our warmest wishes to the communists and fighting people of Nepal at this critical hour of change.

Elections in Nepal

Republican Resurgence Led by the Red Flag in Nepal

– Lal Bahadur Singh, Liberation, May, 2008.

‘Nepal Stuns World, Itself: Poll Peaceful, Turnout 60%’, that was the banner of Kathmandu Post, the leading Nepal newspaper, on April 11, the morrow of the historic Constituent Assembly (CA) elections. It was stunning indeed that the CA elections in a Nepal, torn by civil strife, were held in a remarkably peaceful atmosphere and that too with a huge participation of the people. However the real stunner was yet to come some hours later when by the midnight of April 11 itself it became clear that a Red Star was rising in full bloom over Sagarmatha, i.e. Everest, the highest peak of the world, in the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom.

In an ironic reversal, at a time when people were speculating whether the Maoists would accept the verdict or return to the jungle again in the eventuality of their presumably certain defeat, when American ex-President Carter was citing his Nicaraguan Sandinista experience and telling the world that Maoists had assured him that they would accept results even if defeated, and so on and so forth, the people of Nepal catapulted the Maoists to power.

It was indeed a great comment on the complete alienation from the popular masses and myopic vision of the middle class opinion makers in Nepal, as well as the corporate media and powers-that-be in India and the world over, that till the election results started pouring in, they were all predicting a Congress lead and Maoists in third place.

To be in Kathmandu and Nepal was to have a real feel of the excitement that rocked Nepal in those tumultuous days, in its historic moment of epochal political transition from monarchy to republic and that too under revolutionary Communist leadership.

“Dundubhi Baji sakeko chh

Gandiv Uthisakeko Chh

Ekaishon Shatabdi ko yo Mahabharat Ma

Aaj, Aeuta Abhishapta kalo Yug Astaunaiparchh

Aaj ko Kuruchhetrama Pani

Satya, balidan, Nyay Ra samanta Ko jit Hunaiparchh

Aaj, Aek Jugma Aune Tyo Aek Din Ho

Jasle Ulatpulat, Uthalputhal ra Herpher Nyaujaiparchh”

(A Maoist slogan painted on the walls draws upon the imagery of the Mahabharata and calls upon people to lift the bow and blow the bugle; to ensure the victory of ‘truth, sacrifice and justice’ in the 21st century Kurukshetra (battlefield); to end feudal oppression; and to turn an upside down world the right way up. This is a glimpse of the popular, spirited propaganda that stirred Nepal in those stormy days.)

The people’s verdict was equally stunning and unexpected for the political parties, too. Had even the Maoists assessed such a huge lead over others for them and hence not insisted for Proportional Representation system, they would not have been just the single largest Party today, but would have secured an absolute majority in the newly constituted CA.

However, the writing on the wall was there for anyone willing to see, that the Maoists were set to win in quite a big way. All along the route from Birganj, the gateway to Nepal on the India border, up to Kathmandu, we found bold, beautiful wall-writings by the Maoists calling upon the people to participate in the CA elections to make Nepal a federal, democratic republic, abolish the monarchy and make Prachanda the first President of Republican Nepal. The hectic movement of the enthusiastic Young Communist League cadres on campaign vans with red flags atop, wearing the hammer and sickle in a circle (the election symbol of the CPN (Maoist)) on their clothes and even painted on their bare bodies, could be seen all around. As we entered Kathmandu, the first comment we heard from the young conductor of the city bus gave us some hint of the things to come. As soon as he came to know that we were interested in the elections, his impromptu reaction came, gleefully and confidently, ‘Yahan to Maovadi jeetenge” (The Maoists are winning here).

Just on the heels of the elections, while roaming the lanes of Kathmandu, we found a broad pattern of the social preference for various parties, of course based on our limited experience in the Kathmandu valley. The traditional upper sections favoured the Nepali Congress, the liberal middle sections, employees etc supported the UML and the lower, unorganized working masses and overwhelming youth force vociferously worked for the Maoists.

Many liberal theories are now being peddled to explain the Maoist victory: ranging from its trivialization as just an anti-incumbency factor; a ‘vote for change’; to downright defamation by terming it as a victory of their terror tactics and intimidation of other parties by YCL cadres. There are even some funny theories suggesting that people made Maoists victorious lest they again return back to jungle and restart violence! In fact, the Maoist victory was in-built in the very logic of the political developments leading to virtual demolition of the monarchy in Janandolan II in November 2006 and the subsequent elections to the CA.

It is obvious that for the Nepalese people reeling under the dead weight of monarchist- feudal regime which had turned Nepal into an extremely backward country and a happy hunting ground for imperialist forces and Indian hegemonism for centuries, resulting in many unequal and humiliating treaties, the central political agenda has for long been the overthrow of monarchy. As the Nepali Congress was at the fore-front of the battle for democracy in 50s, people went with it and NC became the main political force. But the monarchy soon consolidated its autocratic power and ruled with an iron hand for the next three decades. In the next wave of the anti-monarchy battle in the early ’90s, CPN (UML) played the crucial role, of course joining hands with Nepali Congress. The UML then naturally emerged as a major political force. However, this Janandolan I could not reach its logical conclusion. The King though weakened by the blow of the heroic peoples’ movement, was down but not out. With his hold on the Army still intact, he gradually manoeuvred his way out. The opportunist parliamentary political games fatally corroded the moral authority of the main political parties and made them prey to royalist machinations. They became captive to the forces of the status-quo instead of persisting with the radical course towards fulfillment of the unfinished agenda of establishing a republic on the ruins of monarchy. As a bourgeois-landlord Party, this path was quite natural for the Congress, but UML too could not make any radical departure at this juncture to break the impasse. It was at this critical moment in the onward march of Nepalese history towards its destiny of republicanism, which CPN (Maoist) came out unequivocally for an uncompromising battle against monarchy, towards establishing a Republic, rejecting even the liberal proposal of ceremonial status for the king as proposed by the other main parties.

And with this central slogan they galvanized the whole of Nepal, arousing and mobilizing in particular the vast rural masses and youth with the dream of a new Nepal, a Republican Democratic Nepal, a sovereign, peoples’ Nepal free of bondage and backwardness as well as imperialist loot and hegemonistic arm-twisting and humiliation. Winning the vast rural masses to their side, they deprived autocracy of its main social prop in society. Thus was paved the way for the eventual fall of the dead weight of monarchy like a dry wooden log, deprived of its roots and nourishment! The rest was done by the King himself in his arrogance: his patently miscalculated bloody palace coup-d’état’; later, monopolizing power in his hands and doing away even with the minimal semblance of democracy, ostensibly on the pretext of crushing the Maoists on behalf of the ruling elite. Thus he himself hammered in the proverbial last nail in his own coffin.

In this war against Nepal’s people, he was obviously banking too much on the mightiest power of the world, the US and of course, his time-tested protagonists, the Indian rulers with their notorious ‘two pillar’ theory. The US openly offered him all-out help and co-operation in his autocratic rule in the name of crushing the Maoists. While the King declared an award of Rs 5 million (Nepalese currency) for Prachanda’s head, the US put CPN(M) on its terror list and did much business of arms and ammunitions with Royalist Nepal. All this further alienated the already discredited and hated King and with the formation of a grand alliance of Maoists and other anti-monarchy forces the stage was set for a final showdown between the royalists and the republican forces. Thus the Maoists were perceived as the principal architect of the heroic mass uprising against the king which ultimately forced him to eat humble pie. Even the last-ditch effort by the Indian ruling establishment to sell its notorious two pillar theory, sending yet another dethroned king Karan Singh as their emissary, could not save the beleaguered King.

It is curious to see that the Indian ruling establishment and even some CPI(M) leaders are patting themselves on the back for advising the Maoists to shun violence and ‘join the mainstream’. In Nepal, it is apparent that the Maoists are now themselves the new mainstream while the so called mainstream of the politics which Indian rulers wanted them to join has now itself been relegated to the margins. The dichotomy of armed struggle vs elections is a false one; it is obvious that the essence of the Maoist rise lies in their command over politics and their correct political orientation: their uncompromising battle against the monarchy. The form of that battle followed as per the demands of politics at different junctures. It was here that they proved to be of a very different mettle from the Indian Maoists, who remain cut off from crucial questions of Indian politics and from the political pulse of the people. The Indian Maoists were always flummoxed by the change of tactics of the Nepal Maoists when the latter came over-ground and joined hands with the seven parties to launch a mass movement and then subsequently decided to participate in elections. The Nepal Maoists’ experience till now also presents a contrast to the CPI(M): far from tailing behind the ruling class formations as the CPI(M) does, the CPN(M) pioneered the agenda of the Republic and led the pro-democracy movement from the front, while ruling class formations vacillated and dragged their feet as is their wont.

The spectacular performance by Madheshi Parties (specially, MJAF led by Upendra Yadav) has surprised many political observers. It is essentially rooted in the democratic aspirations of the Madhesh people, though it is true that powerful vested interests and reactionary forces within and without Nepal have been making desperate efforts, as their proverbial last straw, to save the monarchy and stall the Maoists. Ironically, however, it seems that Madheshi Parties have damaged the electoral prospects of the Nepali Congress more than they have damaged the Maoists. To cite just one example, Sujata Koirala, daughter of Girija Prasad Koirala projected as the heir-apparent to the Koirala dynasty, was trounced by Upendra Yadav. The Madhesh issue is bound to remain one of the central concerns of the future dispensation in Kathmandu to be addressed with utmost sensitivity and caution, as reactionary forces won’t miss a single chance to lead it on a sectarian course.

We can only wait and watch the trajectory of the new Republic, and the role of Nepal’s communists on the road to people’s democracy and socialism. But indisputably, the world has witnessed that the successful consummation of a popular mass movement for a republic has been led by none else but the Communists. Those very Communists, who were tagged as ‘terrorists’ by the ‘world’s greatest democracy’, the US (it is another matter that the US is seen as the biggest terrorist for the world’s people!). It will certainly be interesting to see whether these biggest hypocrites to use the word democracy, will buckle down and recognize the Maoist-led Nepalese Republic and remove the terrorist tag, thus saving themselves from further ridicule in the eyes of the world! Or if they will still treat the newest democracy of the world, whose elections have been observed and applauded as free and fair even by their ex-President Carter and the UN, as a terrorist/rogue state like many others in their list!

The pronouncements of some ‘strategic analysts’ and foreign policy experts in India as well as the Sangh Parivar ideologues are also revealing. They glaringly prove the popular perception of Nepalese people that Indian rulers regard Nepal as their fiefdom. These Sangh ideologues and ‘expert’ advisers of the Indian ruling class accuse the Indian Government of ‘gifting’ away Nepal to the Maoists and failing to protect that great guarantor of ‘India’s interests’ – the Nepalese King. They forget that Nepal, in the first place, was never theirs to ‘gift away’! And if Nepalese people choose to get rid of their King, and vote overwhelmingly to do so, shame on those who imagined they could meddle and reverse that decision! One such ‘expert’, Brahma Chellaney, writing in India Today, ended by declaring that the Madhesis, “who populate the Terai, Nepal’s food bowl, are India’s natural constituency, and that card is begging to be exercised.” This is the language of ‘strategic’ policy advisors in India, which claims to be the US partner in exporting democracy: a blatant, open, shameless game-plan for an Indian design to retain hegemonic control on a sovereign Republican neighbour!

In the past much damage has been done by the hegemonic and erroneous Nepal policy of Indian ruling establishment; it’s time for a new beginning, forging a healthy democratic bilateral relation based on genuine equality, mutual respect and benefit.

In a society where the level of subservience to the monarch was such that till yesterday Parliamentary candidates, prospective people’s representatives, sought blessings from the king by offering a coin at his feet, the abolition of monarchy is no less than a miracle – a miracle achieved by the Nepalese people. Let us hail this great victory of the Nepalese people and the republican forces, and warmly wish success for Nepal’s communists in facing the many complex challenges that lie ahead on the road to democracy and socialism.

World Financial Crisis

Crisis Engulfs the Global Financial System

– Surya.

Headlines such as “Apocalypse now?”, “The Great American Slowdown”, and “Panic is in the Air” have dominated commercial financial media recently. The US Federal Reserve Bank has thrown its own rule book out the window to not just rescue Bear Sterns but the entire financial system. The British government has been forced to nationalise one of the big mortgage lenders Northern Rock. All the world stock market indexes have been in free fall for the last few months. No wonder billionaire George Soros called the current financial crisis the worst since the Great Depression.

The current crisis is not limited to FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) sector, although this is where it started. It is spreading like wild fire to other sectors of the economy. According to most estimates the US is already in a recession and the real question is how severe and for how long. Ben Bernanke, chief of the US Federal Reserve, and Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, along with the others are busy dousing the flames. Bernanke is a well known academic with expertise in the Great Depression and Paulson is the former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious investment banks. As of now the fire in FIRE is still raging and could get worse. Bear Sterns is a case in point.

Bear Stearns’ Fire Sale

Collapse of Bear Sterns was the culmination of a week that shook American capitalism. Bear Stearns, the 85-year-old investment bank that had traded during the Great Depression, was sold at a fire sale price. The scale and speed of the collapse was mind boggling. This is a brief account of the last few days of Bear Stearns [1]:

Tuesday, March 11

The US Federal Reserve, invoking a clause not used since the Great Depression announces that it will lend up to $200 billion in Treasury bonds to investment banks for 28 days starting March 27. This is an attempt douse the fires on Wall Street. Investment banks are elated. Bear Stearns feels comfortable with its capital base of approximately $17 billion.

Thursday, March 13

Bear Stearns’s cash position has dwindled to mere $2 billion. Bear, to save it from creditors, plans to file for bankruptcy on Friday morning. If Bear could not repay several billion dollars to creditors on Friday morning, they would in turn start selling the collateral. The fire could engulf the forest.

Friday, March 14

As the news spreads the capital markets are at risk. There is a possibility of generalized flight from the markets. There is panic in the air.

Saturday, March 15

Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, is inundated with calls from Bank CEOs. They are nervous that a run on Bear Stearns could spread to all financial markets. The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department have to seal the deal between Bear Stearns and J. P. Morgan Chase latest by Sunday night i.e. before the Asian markets open.

Sunday, March 16

Federal Reserve governors get together again to approve borrowing directly to a non-bank. It borrows $30 billion to J. P. Morgan Chase for Bear Stearns. Treasury Department and Federal Reserve work non-stop to complete the deal before the evening. Bear Stearns is sold for $2 a share for a total of $236 million, which is a fifth of the value of its swanky headquarters office block.

J. P. Morgan acquired Bear Stearns for a fire sale price of $2 a share (raised to $10 later), which had a record share price of $172 in 2007. Not only has J. P. Morgan Chase acquired Bear for cheap it has also saved itself from serious risk courtesy the US taxpayer. J. P. Morgan Chase would have suffered as counterparty because it is the biggest credit-default swap player [2].

Leading up to the crisis several hedge funds, owned by Bear Stearns, Carlyle Group and other major banks had collapsed. Bear’s unmanaged collapse would have crashed the $4.5 trillion repo market, a decades old market where banks and securities firms extend and receive short-term loans, typically made overnight and backed by securities. The default of a major counterparty in the repo market would have had unprecedented consequences for capital markets. No wonder the Democratic Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, who worked with Bernanke and Paulson on Bear Stearns, said, “To allow this to go into bankruptcy, I think, would have [created] some systemic problems that would have been massive.” [1]

The Financial Crisis

This is a major financial crisis far bigger than Bear Stearns. As The Economist has written, “Since the era of frock coats and buckled shoes, finance has been knocked back by booms and busts every ten years or so. But the past decade has been plagued by them. It has been pocked by the Asian crisis, the debacle at Long-Term Capital Management, a super-brainy hedge fund, the dotcom crash and now what you might call the first crisis of securitisation” [3].

As Charles Kindleberger, an economic historian of financial crises who has advanced Hyman Minsky’s model, explains the anatomy of a typical crisis as consisting of: displacement (new offering), credit expansion, speculative mania, distress, and crash/panic [4]. This crisis has its roots in the securitisation of mortgages, specifically the collateralised debt obligation (CDO), a new offering. Over the years, CDOs and collateralised mortgage obligations (CMOs) increased in complexity with the mixture of high risk (sub-prime) to low risk mortgages. Large financial firms created structured investment vehicles (SIVs) for CDOs as off balance sheet conduits. They were in turn linked with these financial firms using the credit default swaps. The resulting expansion of credit increased the asset price mania, in this case sky rocketing house prices. Predatory lending practices targeted vulnerable people using sub-prime loans. Later when interest rates increased and vulnerable people defaulted, then, distressed loans increased and house prices fell. As the asset price bubble burst, hedge funds and SIVs started to fail [5]. In March, Bear Stearns fire sale occurred. The lender of last resort, US Federal Reserve, has been in overdrive since summer of 2007. Other central banks, such as Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank have also been supplying cheap money (by way of lower interest rates) and saving financial firms.

The “shadow financial system”, which is composed of conduits, SIVs, investment banks/broker dealers, money market funds, hedge funds and other non bank financial institutions are at the heart of this crisis [6]. Nevertheless, the entire financial services industry has used debt, securitisation and proprietary trading to boost fee income and profits. Since 1980 financial-sector debt has increased from 10% of the size of non-financial debt to 50%. The value of outstanding credit-default swaps, for instance, has climbed to a staggering $45 trillion. Bear was counterparty to some $10 trillion of over-the-counter swaps [3, 7, 10].

The US financial-services industry’s share of total corporate profits went from 10% in the early 1980s to 40% in 2007. This is striking as financial services comprise 15% of corporate America’s gross value added and a mere 5% of private-sector jobs [3, 7]. These profits come at a huge cost. Investment banks are highly indebted and, hence, leveraged. For example, Goldman Sachs employs $40 billion of equity as the foundation for $1.1 trillion of assets; Merrill Lynch, the most leveraged, uses around $30 billion of equity as a foundation for $1 trillion of assets [3]. In rising markets, huge profits can be made but during falling markets shareholders can be wiped out. This is the lesson of Bear Stearns.

The total debt default losses, from mortgages to credit cards, have been estimated to be a minimum of $1 trillion (7% of US GDP). The losses could be as high as $2.7 trillion [8]. Analysing the losses the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) April 2008 Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) states “events of the past six months have demonstrated the fragility of the global financial system” and acknowledges that the “events are still unfolding” [9].

The Capitalist Crisis

Marxist-Leninists have stressed that financial crises are endemic to capitalism. The last few decades have been plagued by these crises. Three important trends from recent history of capitalism, i.e. since 1974-75, are: financialization of capital accumulation process, international proliferation of monopolistic/ oligopolistic multinational corporations (MNCs), and slowing overall rate of growth. This monopolization has contradictory consequences: on the one hand it generates a swelling flow of profits, on the other it reduces the demand for additional investment in increasingly controlled markets: more and more profits, fewer and fewer profitable investment opportunities [11]. These MNCs increasingly and heavily rely on finance and speculation for huge profits.

A recent articles states, “The fact that such financialization of capital appears to be taking the form of bigger and bigger bubbles that burst more frequently and with more devastating effect, threatening each time a deepening of stagnation—i.e., the condition, endemic to mature capitalism, of slow growth, and rising excess capacity and unemployment/underemployment” [5] These crises are the crises of capitalism.

US dollar is weakest since the era of floating exchange rates began in 1973 [10] and its hegemony is being challenged. World wide commodity/food prices are soaring and inflation is increasing while the mature capitalist economies are teetering into recession. US consumer sentiment is at a 26 year low. Since the consumer spending comprises 70% of US GDP, it could mean a prolonged recession. Imperial occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is also failing and costs of war mounting. The conservative cost estimate is now $3 trillion [13]. This is a global capitalist and imperialist crisis.

The People Cost

The system is currently shifting the burden of this crisis onto the people. A significant section of them are already suffering. It is the weakest and most oppressed – from the people of colour to women – who have to bear the brunt of the cost. Just for the people of colour in the U.S., the monetary cost of the subprime mortgage crisis is estimated at $213 billion [15]. On the one hand workers’ incomes have stagnated, cost of healthcare, education, food, and gasoline keeps rising and pushing more people towards poverty. On the other hand, the wealthiest 1% of U.S. families is now garnering the largest share of income since 1929 [12].

As the economy most likely is in a recession and there has been a net job loss of 232,000 since the start of 2008. Joblessness rose to 7.8 million in March and this does not include the 5 million who are forced to work part time. Predatory lending practices, from which financial firms profited, has now led to massive foreclosures. Nearly 1.3 million homes in the U.S are in some phase of foreclosure at the start of 2008 [14]. This is more than one in every 100 U.S. households. City of Detroit’s foreclosure rate is 10 percent and in Michigan state over one million are now dependent on food handouts. The number of hungry and homeless people in U.S. cities has risen dramatically in 2007. Except for lip service the government has hardly provided any assistance.

The people are organising in these hard times. They are organising civil disobedience during housing re-possessions, picketing the banks and calling for a moratorium on foreclosures. A recent protest at the Policy Conference of Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington, D.C. people chanted “Mortgage bankers lie and cheat, people get thrown out on the street!” It is time for these movements to converge with the anti-war, anti-racist, immigrant rights, women and working class movements.

The global capitalist system is likely to suffer more crises and crashes. But crashes do not necessarily lead to new systems. A thousand wild fires are engulfing the global financial system. This is not enough to change the system. It is the heat from ten of thousands of internationally proliferating movements that has the potential to create a radically new social and political system.

End Notes

1. Sidel, R., Ip, G., Phillips, M. M., and Kelly, K., The Week That Shook Wall Street: Inside the Demise of Bear Stearns, Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2008.

2. Economist, Bear’s Pits, The Economist, March 17th 2008.

3. Economist, The Financial System: What Went Wrong, The Economist, March 19th 2008.

4. Kindleberger, C. P., Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, John Wiley, 2000.

5. Foster, J. B., The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis, Monthly Review, April 2008.

6. Roubini, N., A Generalized Run on the Shadow Financial System, RGE Monitor, March 17, 2008.

7. Economist, Wall Street’s Crisis, The Economist, March 19th 2008.

8. Roubini, N., Martin Wolf on My Estimates of Financial Losses: $1 Trillion is the New Size 6! RGE Monitor, March 11, 2008.

9. International Monetary Fund (IMF), Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), April 2008.

10. The Economist, Central banks: A dangerous divergence, The Economist, March 19th 2008.

11. Sweezy, P. M., More (or Less) on Globalization, Monthly Review, 49:4, September 1997.

12. Lahart, J. and Evans, K., Trapped in the Middle: The incomes of most Americans have stalled, Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2008.

13. Stiglitz, J. and Bilmes, L., The Three Trillion Dollar War: on the True Cost of the US Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, 2008.

14. Data according to Moody’s Economy.com.

15. UFE, Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008, United for a Fair Economy, 2008.

Politics in South Asia

Sri Lanka: Threats to the Media

– S. Sivasegaram.

A most discussed current affair in Sri Lankan is the threat to the media. The section of the media facing the most serious threat now is the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), the state-run television broadcaster. The SLRC, which, along with its radio counterpart, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the state-owned newspaper group, the Lake House, has a reputation for slavishly giving a pro-government slant to every communication, be it news, analysis or comment. But it came under attack by Minister Mervin Silva when it failed to broadcast in full a speech by him at a ceremony, with attacks in bad taste against a former cabinet colleague, Mangala Samaraweera (once a close ally of President Rajapaksha but left the government an year ago in protest against several issues, including corruption and nepotism). On 27th December 2007, Mervin Silva and his bodyguards entered the SLRC premises and abused the News Director verbally and physically. The attack provoked SLRC employees, who stopped work in protest, restrained the intruders, and handed them over to the security staff. Besides, the incident was telecast live on SLRC channels.

Mervin Silva has since been denounced by many parliamentarians including members of the ruling party and by national and international media organisations. The government, however, angered more by the bad publicity than by the misconduct of the minister, avoided action against the intruders and initiated a police witch hunt against SLRC employees at the forefront of the resistance. Although Mervin Silva has stepped down as minister and resigned from parliament to defuse the rising indignation, so far five of employees of the SLBC have been individually attacked and injured, two seriously, by criminal elements. But the police have yet to act against the offenders. In March, while the employees threatened strike action demanding protection, a retired army officer was appointed Additional Deputy Director General, about which various media organisations, including state media unions, have protested to the President. But no useful outcome is expected.

SLRC employees face a mild version of the treatment meted out to other sections of the media. In 2006 and 2007 the Jaffna-based Tamil daily, Uthayan received threats to cease printing; four employees were killed, and several more kidnapped, threatened and censored. While pro-government militia groups backed by armed forces have been implicated in attacks on the Tamil media in the North-East, government politicians were prominent in threats to the Sinhala and English media in Colombo. Besides, journalists have been detained by the police without charges for long periods, and some who won legal battles for freedom were later harassed by thugs. In 2007, five FM radio stations (Hiru, Shaa, Gold, Suuriyan and Sun) and two newspapers (Maubima and Sunday Standard) were forced to close down; the Leader group of newspapers, faced its second violent attack, this time arson that gutted its printing press, located in a high security area just south of Colombo. The Director of the radio stations, a United National Party organiser, quickly switched political loyalty; and, after a six month lapse, broadcast may resume in April 2008. The Leader defiantly continued to publish.

Private and public threats to journalists and publishers are almost routine, but not meant to be taken lightly. The threat to the media is accentuated by the plans of the state to control the media in the name of national security, making free expression of views in the media as hard as under censorship and emergency rule. Media and fundamental rights organisations fear that the National Media Policy proposal announced by the government in September 2007 is aimed to subdue the media. Political statements by officers of the armed forces are on the increase, and the statement by the Sri Lanka Army Commander on 2nd January, accusing sections of the media and journalists of treachery and being unpatriotic, is ominous.

These developments concerning the media need to be seen against the background of a staggering number disappearances and killings, whose victims have so far been mainly Tamil males (mostly below 30 years and including a significant number of humanitarian workers and media personnel, as stated in a report by the Civil Monitoring Commission, Free Media Movement, and Law & Society Trust in October 2007), to which should be added the large number of arrests of terrorist suspects remaining in detention without charges.

Silencing the press is, among other things, crucial to blacking out information on crimes committed in the name of national security, and the large number of civilians killed, injured and disabled, and suffering loss of livelihood in the course of attacks on ‘carefully selected enemy targets’. The government has placed itself in a paradoxical position by claiming that it will bring the war to an early end by defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Defeating the LTTE militarily in the Batticaloa and Ampara Districts in the East was helped by various factors including the US-engineered split in the ranks of the LTTE in the East in early 2004, collaboration between the rebels and the army, losses inflicted on the LTTE by the Tsunami of December 2004, the massive firepower including bomber aircraft possessed by the state, and lapses on the part of the LTTE, deriving from its almost total reliance on military means at the expense of political work and its neglect of contradictions among the people. The war in the East, which internally displaced 200,000 people, has been expensive to the government in direct costs as well as by damage to the economy. The war in the North, with less certain success, will be costlier. Even a military victory for the government can only alter the form of the struggle and the mode of operation of the LTTE.

The heavy cost of the war to the country’s economy includes uncontrollable internal budgetary deficits, balance of payments problems, rising inflation and depreciation of the currency; and before long could include flight of capital and soaring unemployment, accompanied by a fall in real wages. Although these are anticipated direct consequences of the war dating back to 1983, the government chose to return to war informally in 2006 and formally in January 2008, rather than salvage the peace negotiations that were in a state of limbo since 2003. Having made the choice, it now needs the war to deflect public attention from the failing economy and rampant corruption in high places. Consequently, it also uses the war to undermine democracy and weaken political opposition.

The government, having painted itself into a corner by opting for war and whipping up war hysteria among its electorate, would forfeit credibility if it seeks peace. Thus, military considerations increasingly determine political decisions, to the detriment of democratic institutions, as recently evident in the elections to local bodies in the Batticaloa District in March, where the government colluded with an armed group which has been widely accused of resorting to intimidation to secure victory. Tragically, the parliamentary opposition too is steeped in chauvinism, and intimidated by the rise in popularity of the government following its military success against the LTTE in the East, starting with confrontations south of Trincomalee in early 2006. No opposition party has dared to speak out against the war, nor have the parliamentary ‘left’ allies of the government.

The threat to media freedom is part of a complex problem; and its elimination demands a just solution to the national question, based on the right to self-determination, free of foreign meddling. Local and foreign human rights organisations that are funded directly or indirectly by foreign governments are demanding UN intervention to resolve the human rights crisis. Sadly, knowingly or not, nationalists on different sides to the conflict are creating the space for foreign intervention on a humanitarian pretext. The dangers are well known, and the genuine left and democratic forces among the Sinhalese are duty bound to take the initiative in leading the country out of the impending disaster by reviving the peace movement.

Struggles in India

Citizens’ Convention Against Draconian Acts

– Liberation, May, 2008.

The Forum for Democratic Initiatives (FDI), Delhi, organized a Citizens’ Convention titled ‘Undeclared Emergency? Special Security Legislations and the Making of a Police State’, in the backdrop of various State governments clamouring for Special Security Acts. Though the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has enough provisions to deal with law and order issues, these Acts are being increasingly invoked to deny the arrested persons bail and extract confessions from them. This is even as the third Police Commission of India has already observed that 60 per cent of all arrests in India even under ordinary laws are unnecessary.

The laws include Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (ULAPA) 2004, as well as various state specific legislations, which have been used to crack down on political dissent including the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) 2005, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), the AP public security Act, the Bihar Police Act. In Uttar Pradesh, the Mayawati government has recently brought in the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA).

The FDI convenor, Radhika Menon presented the concept paper for the Convention. Delhi University teacher, Dr Ujjwal Kumar Singh, said that ‘special’ measures like detention and torture were being made ordinary and acceptable through these Acts. Praful Bidwai, senior journalist, spoke about the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and how it was complementary to the politics of Salwa Judum. The history of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in the North East (NE) was summed up by Bablu, a lawyer from Manipur. Dr Bhagat Oinam, teacher from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), spoke of how some of the insurgent groups in the NE in the name of which the Army justified its presence reportedly had identity cards issued by the Army itself. The situation in Uttarakhand where the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government is eager to present a Maoist threat in order to corner anti-Naxalite funds offered by the Central Government was presented by Girija Pathak, CPI (ML) leader from Uttarakhand. He pointed out that in the face of high profile cases routine assaults on trade unions gets forgotten but it these that which allows the normalization and introduction of Special Security Acts. PUHR activist Manoj, presented the emerging crackdowns in Uttar Pradesh on specific religious communities as well as that of the poor. Film Maker Sanjay Kak who has made a documentary on the perspective of the Kashmiri people towards the political issues in the state said how in Kashmir and North East, there already was a military State. Writer Arundhati Roy explained the predisposition of the police and judiciary to interpret such Acts according to political convenience such that even a Convention like this one could be declared illegal. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan spoke of how even the ordinary liberal foundation of Indian democracy was being undermined and said that a mass civil disobedience was called for. The report on the Bihar Police Act and political crackdown in Bihar sent by Ashok of the Lok Yudh editorial board was read out. Lalit Batra summarized the paper on legal violations by the police in West Bengal sent by Amitadyuti Kumar of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR). FDI co-convenor, Manisha Sethi highlighted a newspaper report of the wrongful detention and torture of a Kashmir University student in Tihar Jail without the police presenting any evidence. Senior journalist Jawed Naqvi pointed out that for the poor and the deprived there was already a state of Emergency, it was just that the media was silent about it. A message by Illina sen, wife of medical doctor and PUCL activist Binayak Sen, who has been detained in solitary confinement in Chattisgarh under ULAPA 2004 and CSPSA 2005, was read out. A number of people from different walks of life participated in the Convention and stayed back for the discussion after the Convention. Pranay Krishna Srivastava, PUHR member and Jan Sanskriti Manch General Secretary summarized the proceedings and presented resolutions on a range of issues which the house passed.

Struggles in India

Construction Workers in Delhi March Against Price Rise

– Liberation, May, 2008.

Flagging off the CPI (ML)’s fortnight-long campaign against price rise, construction workers in Delhi marched under the banner of All India Central Council of trade Unions (AICCTU) to the Delhi Secretariat from Bhagat Singh Terminus. Raising spirited slogans, they protested against skyrocketing prices; against the rampant deaths of building workers in ‘prestigious’ areas like the Comonwealth Games Village and Delhi Metro; against denial of basic rights of citizenship as well as the welfare benefits due to construction labourers, and demanded urgent measures from the State and Central Governments to protect poor unorganised workers in the national Capital. The processionists sat on a dharna at Samta Sthal in protest when they were stopped by the police. A memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister of Delhi was also given by the protesters.

Addressing the dharna, CPI (ML) Delhi State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi highlighted the Party’s demand for urgent emergency measures to cushion the poor from the impact of inflation. He also criticized the government of Delhi as well as the Central government for protecting hoarders and black-marketeers.

The AICCTU Delhi State General Secretary Santosh Rai termed the Delhi government a killer of workers, blaming it for the high death toll of building workers: be it in building collapses, or due to epidemics or accidents in the highly unsanitary and unsafe labour camps set up for the Commonwealth Games Village and Delhi Metro. The other speakers at the rally said that the Delhi government was projecting the Commonwealth Games as Delhi’s pride, but in fact the hell-holes in which labourers were being forced to live in the national Capital were an international shame and scandal. The Delhi government is wooing huge amounts of corporate capital towards the Games; while denying even the basic minimum legally guaranteed rights to the workers and forcing them to live in inhuman conditions. The Delhi government is not interested in protecting the constitutional rights of the Construction Sector workers and all labour laws are openly being violated by the employers, and now this steep and sudden hike in prices has left them to face further hardships. The construction sector has been left in the hands of the mafia under full government protection.

The General Secretary of Delhi Building Workers Union VKS Gautam asked why building workers were being denied the status of citizens in the city, and demanded that the Delhi Govt. bring all construction workers under the below poverty line (BPL) umbrella; issue voter I-cards to them; include them in the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme; and take full responsibility for their health, education, housing etc. He said that the Delhi Building Workers’ Board has proved itself to be a complete failure in its sole objective – which is to protect the rights of the construction workers. Hardly 1% of building workers are registered under this Board. Construction workers’ activists from various parts of Delhi addressed the meeting and spoke of their struggles. CPI(ML) Central Committee members Kavita Krishnan and Sanjay Sharma, AICCTU National Secretary Rajiv Dimri, Delhi Building Workers’ Union leaders Surendra Panchal, Amarnath Tiwari, CPI (ML) State Committee member Uma Gupta and many others also addressed the mass meeting.

Struggles in India

Hisab do-Jawab do Rally in Jharkhand

– Liberation, May, 2008.

Under a scorching sun on April 10, masses of people thronged the CPI (ML) Rally at Ranchi, spiritedly raising the questions of plunder, state repression and corruption in Jharkhand and demanding ‘Accountability and Answers’ (Hisab Do Jawab Do) from the ruling Madhu Koda Government. The Rally was marked by the participation of a substantial section of tribal people and rural women. The rally began with a minute’s silence in memory of all the martyrs.

Addressing the people as the main speaker, CPI (ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar said that from the very inception of Jharkhand, there had been a struggle between two distinct political currents in the State – one, of loot, repression, divisive politics and corruption in favour of the corporate; the other, of united resistance of all oppressed and marginalised people. The latter is represented in the struggles and sacrifices of CPI (ML) activists and leaders like Comrade Mahendra Singh in defence of democracy and the rights of citizen’s in Jharkhand.

The previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government as the first Government of the State, had shot dead tribals in Tapkara and then Muslims in Ranchi on Eid day, making clear its agenda of land grab, state repression, and communal fascism. Asking the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) constituents in the State, the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) to stop playing ‘Opposition’ when they themselves were behind the Government, Comrade Dipankar challenged them to pull down the Government and call for elections. Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Congress, JMM, RJD and Babulal Marandi all colluded to get the Director of Ambani’s company – from Delhi – elected from Jharkhand for the Rajya Sabha through the backdoor. The UPA government of the State and Centre speak of the aam aadmi (common person) but they work for Ambani and America.

Comrade Dipankar said that Jharkhand’s people are forced to migrate in search of work and face xenophobic assaults in other states, even as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is turned into a mockery of employment for the poor. The Jharkhand Government is busy signing memorandum of understanding (MoUs) in the name of industrial development with the Jindals and Mittals. Existing industries in Jharkhand are actually being finished off by the UPA and NDA governments turn by turn, while the richest mineral resources are gifted away to big companies without any benefit to the people, and Governments plead lack of resources for running welfare schemes!

Addressing the Rally, Comrade Bahadur Oraon, CC member of CPI(ML), said that the Chhotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act intended to safeguard tribal lands are being openly flouted, and those who resist are subjected to rape, repression and massacre. Tribal people are being cheated by the range of ruling parties. He appealed to all segments of tribal people to spread this awareness and associate with the revolutionary current of CPI (ML).

One of the main speakers at the Rally was Comrade Jayanta Rongpi, CC Member of CPI (ML) and former MP from Karbi Anglong. He said the Congress and UPA, be it in Jharkhand or in Assam, had shown its true face on the question of tribal welfare. When tribals of Jharkhand origin who had been living in Assam for several generations demanded recognition as tribals, they were stripped and paraded naked in the State capital of Guwahati. It was the CPI (ML) which was the first to reach out to the victims of that atrocity – not the self-proclaimed ruling class messiahs of Jharkhand’s adivasis. While the BJP and Congress are united in promoting the interests of the industrialists at the cost of the tribals, the CPI (ML) was at the forefront of the battle for the adivasis’ rights to land, forests and water.

CPI (ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly Comrade Vinod Kumar Singh said within the Jharkhand Assembly, CPI (ML)’s was the lone voice raising the issues of Turia Munda’s suicide due to non-payment of wages under NREGS, or the police brutality that killed Ramzan Miyan on Muharram day, nor of the questions of the right of Jharkhand’s people to its resources. The CPI(ML) is the only true Opposition in the State, both within the Assembly and out on the streets.

Others who addressed the Rally were Comrade Shubhendu Sen, CPI (ML) Jharkhand State Secretary, Comrades Janardan Prasad and Rajaram, CC Members of CPI(ML), Comrade Ibnul Hasan Basroo, CC member CPI(ML) and State’s incharge of Inquilabi Muslim Conference (IMC), prominent cultural personality Dr. B.P. Kesri, AICCTU National General Secretary Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) leader Rajkumar Yadav. Prof. Sambhu Badal of Vinoba Bhave University recited the poems penned by him dedicated to Comrade Mahendra Singh. Office secretary Comrade J.P. Minz presented a 15-point resolution which was unanimously adopted by the Rally.

In the run-up to the Rally, an ‘Ulgulan Chetna Rath’ by a team of cultural activists had campaigned all over the city. The Rally was made colourful by the performances by many cultural teams: Anjam, Jagaran, Mashal, while the Panchpargana unit of Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM) and Sengel cultural team presented a Chhau tableau on the suicide of Turia Munda and JSM’s Singhbhum unit presented a tableau depicting Birsa Munda in battle against today’s agents of imperialist loot: Jindal-Mittal-Tata etc… The entire Ranchi city was decorated with gates erected in the names of revolutionary martyrs of the Jharkhand movement.

Struggles in India

Assembly Gherao in Tamil Nadu

– Liberation, May, 2008.

In Tamil Nadu (TN), the CPI (ML) held a massive Assembly Gherao on March 27, raising the burning issues of the toiling masses of the state. All over the state, the party took up a vigorous campaign in the three months towards the Rally. The demand for 2 acres of land for the rural poor, an election promise of the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) government, is a burning question in the rural parts of TN, and has been thrown to oblivion by both opposition and ruling parties of TN including the official left. This demand, championed by CPI (ML), drew the rural poor to the Rally in large numbers. Thousands of urban and rural poor rallied on the demand of 5 cent home-stead land in many parts of the state particularly in the western districts of TN. An intensive signature campaign was held on the issue of rights of trade union recognition, in which 1.5 lakh signatures were collected by Pricol workers and workers of Solidarity Forum of Poonamallee and Tiruvottiyur. Hyundai workers also took up a SMS campaign and collected 1000 SMS on demand. A convention was organized by the Tiruvottiyur Solidarity Forum demanding that trainees involved in direct production be regularized. There were efforts on the part of the government to disturb the Gherao preparations and mobilization. Permission was denied; comrades who set out from Tirunelveli toward Chennai to participate in the Gherao were arrested and detained in Tirunelveli itself; a bus owner in Pudukottai was threatened by the local police and he returned the advance paid for the vehicle booked for the trip to Chennai; comrades of Tuticorin were prevented from entering into the railway station; the vehicles of Tiruvallore comrades were blocked on the way to the Assembly and so on. In spite of all these disturbances, on 27th of March, more than 7000 urban and rural poor gathered in Chennai to vigorously assert their demands.

The colourful rally was led by Comrade Balasundaram, State Secretary, and Comrade N K Natarajan, SCM, flagged off the rally. As the gathering was not allowed to proceed toward the Assembly, a demonstration was held near the Assembly when the Assembly was in session. Comrade S Kumarsawamy, PBM, Comrade Swapan Mukherji, CCM and General Secretary AICCTU, Comrade Shankar, CCM, Comrades Janakiraman and Gunasekaran, SCMs, addressed the gathering.

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