January-February 2009

Table of Contents

1) Workers, Students and Youth March to Parliament

2) India Must Not Succumb to the US Strategy of Proliferation of Terror

3) Corporate Governance and Nuclear End Games Cannot Make Us Secure

4) The Battle Now Begins for the Lok Sabha

5) Obama and ‘Change’: Analysis of the 2008 US Election

6) CPI (ML) Sankalp March on 6 December

7) Convention on Dalits’ Rights in Tamil Nadu, India

8) Sri Lanka: the State and the Media

9) New Book Examines the Character of the Deepening Crisis in Capitalist Globalization



Mumbai Attacks

Workers, Students and Youth March to Parliament

against Terrorism, Communalism, and Regional Chauvinism

– ML Update, 16-22 December, 2008.

On December 12, the streets of Delhi saw the largest mobilisation yet since the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008, with many thousands of students, workers and youth marching condemning the heinous attack in one voice, and paying tribute to the memory of its victims.

The media may be full of war cries trying to whip up a communal jingoistic frenzy, especially amongst youth, against Pakistan, and promoting army rule or dictatorship as an antidote to terror. This din is trying to drown out all the saner voices speaking out against US imperialism, or demanding investigation into the Sanghi terrorist network, punishment for regional chauvinists and communal hate-mongers, and justice against fake encounters and framing of innocents by the police. The March to Parliament on 12 December was a spirited rebuttal of these attempts to silence the voices of democracy and whip up a communal, anti-democratic and jingoistic frenzy.

Thousands of workers, students and youth from all over the country, under the banner of AISA (All India Students’ Association), Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), AICCTU (All India Central Council of Trade Unions) and AIALA (All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association) marched towards Jantar Mantar from Ramlila grounds, holding up banners and placards and raising slogans proclaiming “Stop importing terror and economic crisis from the US,” “Shame on BJP for garnering votes in the name of terrorism,” “People’s Security = Democracy + Secularism + Anti-Imperialism; Recipe for Terrorism = Dictatorship + Communalism + Pro-US policies,” “Ban Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)-Shiv Sena,” “Why bail for Raj Thackeray and Jail for protesting students – United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – National Democratic Alliance (NDA) must answer.” At the head of the March were CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Politburo member Swadesh Bhattacharya, AICCTU general Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, AISA General Secretary Ravi Rai, RYA President Mohd. Salim and General Secretary Kamlesh Sharma, as well as Shri Kundan Singh, father of Rahul Raj, the young job-seeker killed in a police ‘encounter’ in Mumbai, and Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhury, Head of Department, Economics, Patna University. Shri Kundan Singh held up a portrait of his son along with one of Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh. The March culminated in a massive meeting at Parliament Street.

The meeting began by paying homage to the victims of terrorism, communal violence and regional chauvinism. Conducting the meeting, AISA General Secretary Ravi Rai was greeted by enthusiastic slogans and thousands of people clapping when he declared, ‘No war on Pakistan; united struggle of India and Pakistan against US Imperialism and the forces of terrorism!’ The meeting was addressed by AISA Vice President Abhyuday and RYA National President Mohd. Salim who recounted experiences of AISA’s and RYA’s leading role in the struggle against the MNS-Shiv Sena violence, which exposed the opportunism of UPA and NDA alike. AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee said that the US economic crisis was being imported into India by the Manmohan Government – and workers were being laid off as a result. He demanded that instead of layoffs for workers and bailouts for corporates, the Government should resolve the crisis by reversing pro-US economic policies, and enhancing public expenditure in pro-poor schemes.

Addressing the gathering, Shri Kundan Singh said that the Maharashtra police, which had treated the marauding Shiv Sena and MNS cadre with kid gloves, had cold-bloodedly killed his son, Rahul. The fact that those in power were avoiding to order a probe into the ‘encounter’ proved that they had something to hide. In the quest for justice for Rahul, he expressed his sense of betrayal by the parties that swore by the cause of Bihar, and said that it was the students, youth and workers of Bihar who were his partners in the struggle.

Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhury said that governments were showing double standards by soft-pedalling communal and chauvinistic forces. He demanded a ban on the MNS, Shiv Sena, as well as Bajrang Dal. Opposing war-mongering and jingoism, he said that democracy, peace and justice were the best guarantee against terrorism.

Addressing the mass meeting, CPI (ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar said that “some sections of the media and politicians are trying to peddle dictatorship, army rule, war with Pakistan and partnership with the US as solutions for India’s security. Pakistan’s own experience is proof that this is a recipe for disaster. India’s ruling class – both Congress and BJP – are hell-bent on shackling India to the globally hated US imperialist policies, and thus importing the US’ economic crisis as well as terrorism onto Indian soil. To fight terror India must first of all de-link her foreign policy from the American strategic stranglehold, and must engage Pakistan in a shared struggle against terror.”

Condemning the UPA and NDA parties and Governments for failing to protect the migrant workers, students and job-seekers of North India from the regional chauvinistic violence of the MNS-Shiv Sena, Comrade Dipankar said that “the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janashakti Party (LJP), as well as Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) [JD (U)] have all proved equally hollow on the issue of confronting the MNS-Shiv Sena. It is the students and youth of Bihar and UP who challenged the MNS-Sena and yet they were punished with lathi-charges and jail.”

AIALA General Secretary Dhirendra Jha read out several resolutions, which were passed unanimously. A memorandum was submitted to the Home Minister as well as President of India. Apart from the above-mentioned concerns and demands, the memorandum also demanded legislation to ensure the security and dignity of migrant workers, and raised the concerns of the victims of the Kosi floods. The memorandum demanded year-long work under NREGA in these areas, as well as free and regular monthly rations, immediate temporary shelter and a time-bound provision of housing to all affected families.

Resolutions Adopted at the March to Parliament

1. This gathering expresses the deepest grief and condolences for the victims of the heinous terror attacks at Mumbai last month and for all the victims of bomb blasts and terrorist violence.

2. This gathering resolves to struggle against every brand of terrorism, communal violence and regional chauvinism, for a secular, democratic and united India. This gathering expresses the strongest condemnation of the political forces seeking to gather votes from the bloodshed in terror attacks and communal and regional-chauvinistic violence.

3. This gathering condemns the attempts to whip up demands for war, army rule, or partnership with the US as solutions to terrorism. We hold that a stronger democracy and de-linking from the pro-US policies as the foundation of our security. We condemn any attempt to whip up war between Pakistan and India, resist US meddling in the sub- continent, and call for a united struggle by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh against the shared problem of terrorism.

4. This gathering condemns the corporate bailouts and layoffs which can never be the way out of the current economic crisis. We demand that the Indian government reverse the disastrous policies of globalisation and stop importing the US economic crisis onto Indian soil, put an end to layoffs and instead enhance public expenditure and invest more in schemes for the poor in order to rejuvenate the economy.

5. This gathering condemns the UPA-NDA parties and governments for doing nothing to protect the migrant workers, job-seekers and students of North India who have been victims of regional chauvinistic violence by the MNS and Shiv Sena. We demand a ban on the MNS-Shiv Sena, prosecution of Raj and Bal Thackeray for murder, and withdrawal of all charges against students who were arrested for protesting against the violence. We demand a judicial enquiry into the ‘encounter’ in which Rahul Raj was killed in Mumbai.

6. We demand legislation to ensure the security and dignity of migrant workers, including rights like identity cards and comprehensive social security.

7. This gathering condemns the Nitish Government of Bihar for retreating from its promises to the victims of the Kosi floods. Relief camps are being closed and people forcibly evicted, and people are being forced to face the approaching severe cold without even minimum temporary shelters. Hunger and starvation loom large there. We demand year-long work under NREGA in these areas, involving their own rehabilitation work, free and regular monthly rations, immediate temporary shelter and a time-bound provision of housing to all affected families.

8. This gathering condemns the killer Soren Government for the recent police firing on adivasis protesting peacefully against land grab in Dumka, Jharkhand, and demands scrapping of all Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and moratorium on land acquisition without people’s consent.

9. This gathering demands the immediate release of Dr. Binayak Sen and disbanding of the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh.

10. We demand a time-bound judicial enquiry into the Batla House ‘encounter’ and action against the Special Cell operatives found by the CBI to be guilty of framing two innocent Muslim youth as terrorists.

11. We demand a thorough probe into the role of the Sangh Parivar and Sanghi elements in the armed forces in terrorism.

Mumbai Attacks

India Must Not Succumb to the US Strategy of Proliferation of Terror

Dipankar Bhattacharya, Liberation, January, 2009.

The recent siege of Mumbai for nearly three days by a small band of well trained terrorists has almost universally come to be described as India’s 9/11. In terms of sheer audacity of planning and execution, the places targeted and the scale and range of people killed and injured, the Mumbai terror siege can surely be bracketed with the original 9/11, and in terms of the duration of the skirmish it can also claim to have left the original way behind.

The analogy between New York 9/11 and Mumbai 26/11 must not however be confined to these operational details, what is most important is to recognise the Mumbai attack as an extension of the same terror trajectory that struck New York seven years ago. What should we learn from this?

The terror that visited the US in September 2001 was not just executed in the US but it was also born and brought up in Washington’s foreign policy laboratory. The history of development of the Taliban and Mujahideen variety of terror – the precursor of Al-Qaeda – under the aegis of Washington is too well known to merit repetition. But instead of effecting a policy change to terminate the trajectory of this terror, the Bush Administration could only think of attacking Afghanistan in the name of avenging 9/11. And soon enough it moved on to its next project – invasion, occupation and plunder of Iraq. The US has not been able to bring Laden to justice; all it could do was to capture and kill Saddam and create a huge vacuum that is now filled up by more terror and anarchy.

Some ‘terror experts’ in India claim that this ‘firm’ and ‘no-nonsense’ response has made the post 9/11 US a safer place. The American people evidently do not believe this story and hence we saw them deliver an emphatic mandate against the entire Bush strategy in the recent Presidential election. The US may well have escaped a repeat of 9/11 within its own territory, but at a price that has made Americans the world over more insecure and vulnerable to terror threats as once again confirmed by the Mumbai siege. And when more and more parts of the world reel under terror, the US can hardly expect to remain indefinitely insulated from its vicelike grip.

The US strategy to counter terror is therefore nothing but a strategy of proliferation of terror, and India can never afford to adopt such a strategy. While the US can in the short run hope to transfer its burden of terror on to other parts of the world till the accounts are settled and all the transferred terror begins paying a return visit to the US, India just does not have that kind of an option. India can only invite more terror with such a strategy.

Instead of realising that to fight terror India must first of all delink her foreign policy from the American strategic stranglehold, our US-crazy terror experts and policy analysts have begun prescribing that if the US had followed up 9/11 with Afghanistan and Iraq, India should follow up 26/11 with at least Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Nothing could be a surer recipe for disaster. Pakistan today is more susceptible to terror than India. The Lal Masjid siege, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the attack on Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and the blasts that are rocking and bleeding Pakistan at regular intervals, all confirm this undeniable reality. India must therefore seek Pakistan’s cooperation in a shared battle against terrorism and not try and bully or corner Pakistan, let alone ask for a US-led invasion or occupation of Pakistan on the lines of Afghanistan or Iraq.

Any attempt to destabilise Pakistan could only lead to an unprecedented escalation and proliferation of terror in South Asia. The US, which is desperately looking for an exit route from Iraq while intensifying its presence and intervention in South Asia, may find an Indo-Pak war, or at any rate a permanent state of heightened Indo-Pak tension, an attractive proposition for fishing in troubled waters. But India and Pakistan must by all means avoid such a scenario. Instead of inviting the US to act against Pakistan, India must keep the US out and directly engage Pakistan in a shared bilateral fight against the common problem of terrorism.

Mumbai Attacks

Corporate Governance and Nuclear End Games Cannot Make Us Secure

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, January, 2009.

In the aftermath of Mumbai, sections of the media have made much of ‘people’s anger against politicians and the system.’ What do we make of this claim? Sure, people are angry. Anger with those who rule us and with the system is surely a healthy emotion. Anger at those who are putting us in a position where we never know when our loved ones could be subjected to sudden and violent death; anger at those who circled around the Mumbai tragedy for votes, with the eagerness of vultures spotting a meal; anger at the shamelessness of those who vilified Hemant Karkare for his courage (in investigating Sanghi terrorists) in life, and tried to appropriate him in death; anger at Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP who dismissed the people’s anger in loaded gendered language; anger at the Kerala Chief Minister who could not gracefully accept the feelings of a bereaved parent who wasn’t interested in meeting him, and instead indulged in unwarranted and contemptuous abuse.

Armed marauders indulging in random shooting at public places and killing nearly 200 people is surely just cause for rage. Some sections of the media are telling us that the target of our anger must be Pakistan. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) Chief Sudarshan has said in an interview that if it comes to a nuclear war to defeat the ‘demons’, so be it – a better world will emerge from it? Does he know what a nuclear war means – or does he imagine it like a scene from the TV Mahabharata? That may be a Bollywood scenario – go across the ‘Border,’ with the US backing us, and get the bad guys. Unfortunately in real life, the bad guys are not that easy to recognise. Take the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI): that familiar bugbear for Indian rulers for decades. The ISI is known to have had inextricably close links with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – in fact, many in Pakistan’s beleaguered democratic movement were sure that the ISI listened more to US diktats than to those of the Pakistani government. Ditto, often, for the Pakistani Army. So what are we saying if we demand an attack Pakistan with the US on our side? That we don’t really care about the morals of our allies; or for the true identity of our enemies; we just want a quick, easy, feel-good target to attack?

What does Pakistan stand accused of? Of allowing its soil to be used by terrorists to launch attacks on other countries. Of allowing banned terrorist organisations to rename themselves and get a new lease of life? It is a cautionary reminder that the very country being touted as our greatest ally and powerful friend in the war on terror – the US – is guilty of an even worse crime. The US Army ran the ‘School of the Americas’ (SOA) at Fort Benning on US soil, for decades – training Latin American troops to put down popular democratic movements, prop up dictatorships and defend US corporations in Latin American countries. The SOA, dubbed by a President of Panama as the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America,” was not a ‘non-state actor’ – it was run by the US Army. Though public notoriety that dubbed it the ‘School of Assassins,’ it has recreated itself under a new name: the ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.’ And that’s just the story in Latin America; there’s a similarly sordid story of US intervention to destabilise democracies in West Asia. So, are we willing to range ourselves against such ‘bad guys’? Or will we allow the bad guys to decide which of their disposable minions we are allowed to target?

Let’s also take time to broaden our perspective somewhat. Yes, Mumbai has taught many of us that the sight of innocent people and loved ones being killed in cold blood can enrage us. Let’s just remind ourselves that many thousands of Indians already live with this rage simmering within them. It insulted many that the media did not deem the deaths at Chakraparti Sivaji Terminal station (CST) as worthy of TV coverage as those at the Taj hotel. Let’s not similarly insult the loss and pain of others whom TV has not brought to our sight. The National Crime Records Bureau has come up with its grim count of annual suicides. India, we’re told, saw 16,632 farmer suicides in 2007; and in 2006, the number was marginally higher. What do we tell the families of those 17,000 people whom despair (caused by Governments that would rather bail out stinking rich corporates rather than suicidal farmers) destroys every year? That just because there’s no AK-47-wielding foreign ‘aatankvaadi’ [terrorist] (dead or alive) to hate and kill, their rage is any less justified?

What about the thousands of Muslim kids in Gujarat 2002 who saw their mothers raped, wombs ripped out, families burnt alive, quite openly, by gleeful brigades armed with a carefully prepared arsenal of gas cylinders and sharp weapons? No commandos rushed to save them and put down the killers. The killers gloated about their deeds on hidden camera – and are yet to be punished; their patron is a Chief Minister is the darling of corporate houses. Don’t those kids have a right to feel that ‘Enough is Enough’? If we expect sanity from the Vidarbha farmers and the Gujarat genocide victims, if we expect them to understand the ‘big picture’ and overcome blind rage to uphold democracy and secularism, surely we can expect a modicum of restraint and depth of analysis to guide our response to Mumbai?

The crude attempts by the media to whip up a mindless frenzy in the wake of Mumbai have been marked by breathtaking insults to our intelligence and independence. In one show, yesteryear film star Simi Garewal called for ‘carpet bombing’ of Pakistan and declared, “When you look down from the Four Seasons onto the slums, you see, not Congress or BJP flags but Pakistani flags.” She later apologised, explaining that she had mistaken Muslim flags for Pakistani ones; and that she thought ‘carpet bombing’ meant a covert military operation. Unfortunately there’s no ban on this Simi – she’s allowed to inflict her prejudices and idiocies on us all.

A media channel flashed a placard again and again, “CEO, Not CM;’ an article in the American Forbes magazine advised that Ratan Tata be made India’s PM. The article said that “Indians and Pakistanis alike criticized President Bush’s” response to 9/11; and claimed that after Mumbai an Indian friend said that “only now does he understand Bush’s cowboy reaction.” Others have advocated ‘army rule’ as an option.

One need not look far to see that corporate governance and army rule have never guaranteed security. Pakistan has had army rule (and US as an ally) for years and decades, yet today Pakistan is as insecure and unsafe as India. Ask the adivasis of Kalinganagar or the peasants of Singur, or for that matter, the Muslims of Gujarat if they trust Tata, who christened Modi the “good M,” to keep them safe.

The only option to a rotting system is to struggle for a system on radically new democratic foundations. Corporate and authoritarian forces are at the heart of the rot: we can’t peddle them as the solution to it. Anger and outrage at Mumbai must join the anger and outrage at all the victims of every kind of terrorism and mass murder in this country.

Elections in India

Assembly Elections Are Over –

The Battle Now Begins for the Lok Sabha

– Liberation, January, 2009.

If the terror siege of Mumbai had left the country in a state of shock, the verdict of the recent Assembly elections should have a sobering impact.

The overall outcome of the Assembly elections held in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram suggests gains for the Congress and losses for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). Before the elections the Congress was in power only in Delhi, now apart from retaining Delhi it has regained Mizoram and Rajasthan. The BJP will have to content itself with Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Chhattisgarh.

This election outcome has also challenged some rather well entrenched media perceptions about elections, the politics in these states and the present political situation in the country. The so-called ‘anti-incumbency factor’, invoked time and again by media analysts to explain election results and elevated to the status of almost an iron law, does not seem to have held good in these elections. The Congress has won in Delhi for the third successive time, the BJP in MP and Chhattisgarh for the second successive term. In the absence of powerful mass assertion and a viable electoral alternative, the ‘anti-incumbency factor’ by itself does not automatically lead to change even in a limited bourgeois context.

It was also commonly believed that the Amarnath land row in Kashmir and the issue of terrorism would yield considerable dividends to the BJP. In recent months, the BJP has once again been quite aggressive in invoking the bogey of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ and ‘persecution of Hindus’. It tried to justify the anti-Christian violence in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and elsewhere as a legitimate reaction to ‘religious conversion’ and the killing of an infamous VHP functionary in Orissa. The ATS investigation into the September 29 Malegaon blasts that led to the arrest of ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col. Purohit was sought to be rubbished as a conspiracy to defame the Sangh and Hindu saints. And finally following the Mumbai terror siege, the BJP went into overdrive with its ‘fight terror, vote BJP’ call.

The results do not suggest that this entire campaign has yielded any electoral benefit for the BJP. No less instructive in this context is the debacle suffered by Uma Bharti and her BJSP, who only gave the BJP’s theme a more aggressive and shrill note.

A third hypothesis regarding the ‘bi-polar’ nature of politics in these states may still seem to hold good. But the gains made by the BSP and the relatively impressive performance put up by the CPI (M) in Rajasthan, where the party has won three seats for the first time, point to a growing third camp in a political environment otherwise dominated by the BJP and the Congress.

The script of the downfall of the BJP government in Rajasthan was being written for quite some time. The Raje government had become infamous for its feudal-monarchical arrogance, record of brutal repression and utter insensitivity to the problems of the masses. The anger of the peasantry and alienation of powerful social groups had made the end of the Raje regime a near-foregone conclusion. The repressive Raman Singh government of Chhattisgarh too deserved a similar fate, but in Chhattisgarh the Congress remained busy colluding with the BJP to sponsor the infamous Salwa Judum campaign and every other assault on democracy. The Congress thus had neither the organisation nor the necessary oppositional plank to oust the BJP in the state. In Delhi, the anger of the traders over the issue of sealing of shops had already been played out in the 2007 municipal elections, leaving the Congress on a stronger wicket vis-a-vis a confused, divided and faded BJP.

The refusal of the electorate to get swayed by the BJP’s high-voltage propaganda and fascist communal campaign has surely sent out a healthy message. But as long as politics in the country will remain polarised between the Congress and the BJP, and pro-US policies will dictate the economic and foreign policy agenda of the country, there can be no respite for the people in any key sphere of national life. As we begin a new year and start preparing for the coming Lok Sabha elections, we must make sure that the battle for reversal of existing policies and freedom from the American strategic stranglehold acquires an unstoppable momentum and takes the rulers to task for all their betrayals and lapses.

Elections in US

Obama and ‘Change’: Analysis of the 2008 US Election

– Surya, Liberation, December, 2008.

Introduction

The 2008 election was historic as the United States (US) voters elected the first African American President. This is of immense importance in a country where African Americans had been systematically lynched for having the audacity to vote. In a country built using slave labour, it is the Blacks who built the White House. Now a Black man will reside in the White House.

Barack Obama won the presidential election after winning 365 electoral college votes, calculated based on number of states won, out of a total of 538. He received more than 65 million votes in total. Despite the institutionalized racism being perpetrated by the system and commercial media, white people voted for an African American candidate with the name Barack Hussein Obama. This again shows that it is possible for people to overcome their prejudices despite the propaganda. The highly unpopular eight years of the Republican party with George Bush as the most despised President did provide a conducive environment for this polarization.

The Dominant Issues

The election campaign started in 2007 with war in Iraq and Afghanistan as the top issue. In a matter of months, by 2008, economic issues started to dominate the election campaign. This recession is being called the worst since the great depression. Despite the massive infusion of government money the economy continues to plummet. Individuals backruptcies have jumped. Forclosure on houses has skyrocketed. People of color and women are the ones who are always disproportionately affected. The unemployment has increased to 6.5% and unemployment claims are highest since 2001. Amongst African-Americans it is 11.1% and Latin@s it is 8.8% [1]. As is well known, these numbers are underestimates of the actual unemployment and suffering. As peoples’ suffering intensifies the commercial press is full of articles on the great depression and speculation about its present re-incarnation.

The financial crisis has become a global capitalist crisis. The capitalist tactic has been the bailout of firms – socialization of losses – and lately massive government investment – socialization of investments. The first installment of the bailout money has already been spent on the large US financial institutions from American International Group (AIG) to Bank of America to Goldman Sachs. An economic ‘stimulus’ package has already been spent and more are in the works – as tax rebates to massive infrastructure projects. More than $ 2 trillion of government money has been pumped into the economy. Now the three big US auto makers want a bailout. The US national debt will soon be more than $ 11 trillion. At this juncture the ideas of John Maynard Keynes are being promoted than those of Milton Friedman as possible solutions. The Democratic party and Republican party, along with their presidential candidates, worked together to implement the corporate bailout. Barack Obama has promised to continue to implement this corporate welfare program.

Obama launched his career at the national level as an anti-Iraq war candidate. However the Obama plan is to withdraw troops slowly but still keep a residual force in Iraq to conduct “targeted counter-terrorism missions.” Permanent US military bases in Iraq have already been built and US is likely tomaintain military presence for the foreseeable future. Whenever Obama talked about the Iraq war, which is estimated to cost $ 3 trillion, in the same breath he would add how he wants to increase military presence in Afghanistan. Even leaving open the possibility of attacking Pakistan if needed.

While campaigning Barack Obama gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel lobby group. He said “We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel”, and promised continued American military assistance to Israel. Rahm Emmanuel, a big supporter of Israel’s policies, is now Obama’s chief of staff.

With the recent spike in energy prices, the ‘new energy’ policy also was on peoples’ minds. The solutions proposed by the two capitalist parties were nothing but ‘re-cycled’ energy industry plans. Healthcare costs have skyrocketed yet private industry based solutions continue to be proposed. Immigration policy of both the parties continues to support militarization of the border. Raids and deportations have increased dramatically. This was an important issue for the new immigrants, especially from Latin America.

Obama’s campaign mostly avoided the questions of race and class. When speeches of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s radical black priest, stressed that present day racism and imperialism has to be understood in the context of colonization and slavery, Obama disassociated himself. The opposition campaigned to instill fear in the electorate that Obama was a Black radical a la Malcolm X. Obama actually quotes Martin Luther King but never his radical speeches against US militarism, imperialism, and bigotry. Obama was also accused of ‘palling around with terrorists’ such as Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical. In the same vein, he was also accused of being a socialist – a supposedly derogatory term. Interestingly, people, especially the youth, have become more curious about Socialism.

The Money Issue

Elections in capitalist democracies are money dominated. This election set a new record. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector was the most generous and collected at least $13.4 million for Obama. Executives from firms such as Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs, who are at the epicenter financial and economic crisis, bundled millions of dollars. Courtesy of all the large and small contributions, Obama had an almost two-to-one monetary advantage over John McCain. This obviously gave the Obama campaign a major advantage [2].

The securities and investment industry contributed $101 million in total during this election, 56 % of which went to Democrats. The Democratic party became the favorite of the securities and investment industry that has preferred Republicans in the last 10 years. The average cost of winning a House seat was $1.1 million and the Senate seat almost $6.5 million. The total cost of the 2008 elections for Congress and the White House is estimated at $5.3 billion. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics said “The 2008 election will go down in U.S. history as an election of firsts, but this was far from the first time that money was overwhelmingly victorious on Election Day,” and added “The best-funded candidates won nine out of 10 contests” [3].

The Change Issue

The campaign centered on “Change We Need” and “Hope”. In these depressing and alienating times, people needed something to ‘Believe In’. Obama’s campaign created this image of an African American who rose from an ordinary family to graduate from Harvard Law School and then gave up trappings of wealth to become a community organizer. This is a carefully crafted image. The Obama campaign mobilized youth and people of colour in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Traditional door to door campaings to Internet based social networking tools were used. People of color and youth in the US identified with Obama because he mirrored their aspirations for change. The hopes of people have been raised.

The Democratic party is doing what it has always done, being a good manager of capitalism and imperialism. Obama’s transition team consists of bankers and Bill Clinton appointees, including Indian American Sonal Shah. She has reportedly served on the governing body of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. This appointment, with the Hindu fascist links, has become quite controversial. Bush policies have lowered the expectations such that if the Democratic party is willing to even talk with Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, it is a major sigh of relief. If organized labor, which supported the Democractic party, can conduct union-organizing drives under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, it is groundbreaking. If minor progress can be made on social issues such as abortion and same sex union rights, it is a major achievement.

The anti-war and immigrant rights movement, including major sections of the progressive movement, were sucked into the election. This year witnessed very few demonstrations against the domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration. Elections usually dampen the movement in the US and this year did that more than ever. Except for small spontaneous demonstrations against the Wall Street bailout or foreclosures, it has been an insipid year.

The two progressive independent/third party presidential candidates were Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader. Having run for president earlier he is a known figure and he received 672, 000 votes [4]. The Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, an African American woman, ran on a progressive platform for change. After being kicked out of the Democratic party, she has been trying to build a progressive movement and was supported by several socialist parties. Communist Party USA, as in previous elections, supported the Democratic party.

Obama as a person is an achievement of decades, if not centuries of struggle. Obama as President is the executive officer of the US capitalist and imperialist class. It is an illusion that he represents fundamental change. People definitely want change. History’s lesson is that for change to truly transform people’s lives it has to be a radical socio-economic change. Hope the progressive movement in the US steps up to the challenge.

Endnotes

1. Reports, US Bureau of Labor Statistics. [www.bls.gov]

2. News articles, Center for Responsive Politics. [OpenSecrets.org]

3. News articles, Center for Responsive Politics. [OpenSecrets.org]

4. Reports, The Independent Institute. [Independent.org]

Politics in India

CPI (ML) Sankalp March on 6 December

– Liberation, January, 2009.

On 6 December, on the 16th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, CPI (ML) held ‘Sankalp March’ programmes all over the country to pledge to intensify the struggle against the divisive forces of terrorism, communalism and regional chauvinism. Condemning the terrorist assault on Mumbai, the CPI (ML) protests on 6 December rejected all prescriptions of dictatorship, army rule, war with Pakistan and partnership with the US as ‘solutions’ to make us secure. They demanded punishment for the perpetrators of the Babri Masjid demolition as well as the communal pogroms at Mumbai (1992), Gujarat (2002) and Kandhamal (Orissa) and Karnataka in 2008.

In Delhi the Sankalp March started from Mandi House and culminated in a mass meeting at Jantar Mantar. The march was led by CPI (ML) Politburo member Swadesh Bhattacharya, AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee, AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan, CPI (ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, AISA General Secretary Ravi Rai, JNUSU President Sandeep Singh, along with many democratic individuals, workers, and students. The meeting was addressed by the above activists as well as by noted journalist Jawed Naqvi, Tanweer Fazal of the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Group and student activists of various universities in Delhi.

At Patna, the Sankalp March from Gandhi Maidan culminating in a meeting at Patna Junction Circle, was led by CPI (ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Bihar State Secretary Nand Kishore Prasad, Central Committee member (CCM) K D Yadav, Saroj Chaube, Meena Tiwary, and BB Pande, AISA State Secretary Abhyuday, AICCTU State Secretary R N Thakur and AIPWA State Secretary Shashi Yadav. Apart from CPI (ML) leaders, the meeting was also addressed by Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhury, Head of the Department of Economics, Patna University, former NIT professor Prof. Santosh Kumar, Prof. Amarnath Singh of Patna University, intellectuals and social activists like Arshad Ajmal, Father Philip Methra, Prakash Louis, Prof. Bharti S Kumar as well as Shri Kundan Singh, father of Rahul Raj, the young man from Bihar who was killed in a suspicious encounter in Mumbai.

The Sankalp March at Lucknow from Charbagh to the Assembly was led by UP State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav, as well as state committee members Kranti Kumar Singh, Madan Singh, Vidya Rajwar, Balmukund Dhuria, district secretary Shiv Kumar, Jan Sanskriti Manch convenor Kaushal Kishore, Ravindra Sinha, poet Shobha Singh, AIPWA National Vice President Tahira Hasan, PUHR General Secretary Dr. Brijbihari, AICCTU leader Hari Singh and many other activists.

Similar marches were also held at Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Allahabad, Moradabad, Mirzapur, Sonebhadra, Jalaun, Azamgarh and many other centres. An impressive March was held at Sikandarpur in Ballia, and marches were also held at two other centres in the same district.

Marches were also held at Ranchi, Gumla, Giridih, Ramgarh, Hazaribagh, Dumka, Jamtara, Bundu, Bagodar and Barwadih in Jharkhand; and Agartala, Kailasahar, Udaipur, Dharampur and other towns in Tripura.

Dalit Struggles

Convention on Dalits’ Rights in Tamil Nadu, India

– Liberation, January, 2009.

CPI (ML)’s Tamil Nadu State Committee organized a convention in Madurai on December 9th, 2008 on the issue of protecting democratic rights of Dalits. Tamil Nadu witnessed several caste clashes in the last two months. A fact-finding team under the leadership of state secretary, Com. Balasundram, lawyers and students, met the people of the affected areas of Elumalai, E Kottapatty and Uthapuram. A report was produced based on the major findings of the visit and it was released in the convention at Madurai. More than 200 rural poor mostly women and agriculture workers participated in the convention.

A separating wall was erected between the Dalit and non-Dalit areas in Uthapuram village in Madurai district. Dalits there were attacked as they protested against the maintenance work of the caste wall. The fact-finding team found that the police at Uthapuram had sided with upper caste goons. Holding the government and political parties to blame, the team demanded that action be taken against the police and revenue officials.

The dalits’ demands included removal of the encroachment in the common path (that is, demolition of the caste wall), restoring worshiping rights of the dalits (that is demolition of another caste wall built around the worshipping area and removal of encroachment on the banks of the Kanmoy-water body), and construction of a bus shelter and so on. Instead of meeting these straightforward demands and implementing the law, the government was conducting peace committee meetings. When the government was forced to concede the demands eventually, the local casteist group attacked a convoy of Dr. Krishnasamy (Leader of Puthiya Tamilagam) and initiated a fresh round of clashes and attacks in and around Madurai district. Dalits were attacked in many villages and police killed a youth in E Kottaipatti in an attempt to suppress the voice of Dalits. The latest assault was the well-planned attack on dalit students of Dr. Ambedkar Law College of Chennai, aimed at sparking off a fresh round of castiest frenzy.

The report was released by Comrade Gundumalai and received by Comrade Thangapandiyan, editor of Puthiya Poraali (New Fighter or Militant) magazine. Comrade Mathivanan, who presided over the convention, briefly narrated the major findings. Comrades Sankara Pandiyan, Bharathi and Usha (State Committee members) addressed the gathering. Comrades Bhagat Singh (lawyer), and Vaiyavan (Tamilaga Manavar Munnani (Tamil Nadu Students Front) also spoke on the rights of Dalits. Comrade Balasundaram asserted that protecting the rights of Dalits is an integral part of democratic struggles.

The convention demanded that the rights of Dalits over land and livelihood should be protected and the dignity of Dalits should be maintained, the notorious elements behind the attack should be arrested, and erring civil and police officials should be suspended or transferred and action against certain officials be taken under the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) act. The convention also demanded that the government should stop sponsoring ‘Thevar Jayanthi’ (‘Birthday of Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar’) as the annual event is being used by reactionary forces to instigate caste frenzy.

South Asia

Sri Lanka: The State and the Media

– S. Sivasegaram.

The tolerance of the Sri Lankan state towards the media is at an all time low. Despite denials by spokespersons for the state, Sri Lanka is ranked very low by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) in its Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. Although the RSF criteria have their class bias and overlook imperialist meddling, the fall of Sri Lanka from a rank of 51st (among 139 countries considered) when ranking began to 165th (among 173, or the ninth worst) in 2008 was a consequence of the increased threats faced by media personnel since 2005. The Free Media Movement (FMM), a prominent media rights group in Sri Lanka, and its website (http://www.freemediasrilanka.org) persist in their protests about the treatment of the media by the state and the complaints are echoed by international bodies including the International News Safety Institute and the World Association of Newspapers among others.

What is most worrying is the threatening attitude of the state towards dissent: not long ago, the website of the Ministry of Defence carried a statement labelling journalists critical of the war effort “enemies of the state” and threatening to take “all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery”. Several Sinhala journalists have since 2005 been held in detention under Emergency Regulations and anti-terrorism laws. However, it is the Tamil journalists who have suffered the most in every way, including arrest and prolonged detention, physical and verbal assault, and cold blooded murder, mainly by forces loyal to the government and to a less but significant extent by those loyal to the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

The decline of media freedom in Sri Lanka started many years ago and has culminated in a fall of journalistic standards and ethics, journalistic quality, and professionalism in the face of repressive political interference. What we witness now is a reflection of a deep crisis of democracy.

A Glimpse of the Past

The mainstream media in Sri Lanka for long since inception under colonial rule was owned by members of the reactionary capitalist class. However, despite the in-built bias, norms of journalism were observed and journalists enjoyed considerable freedom, provided that the system of government was not under threat. The print media as a whole was hostile to the government led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) that ended the rule of the pro-imperialist United National Party (UNP) in 1956. The government used the radio, which was under its direct control, to counter the newspapers; but that eroded the credibility of the radio in due course. The SLFP government, in the face of bitter hostility of the powerful Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL) towards it in the 1960s, made an unsuccessful bid in 1964 to nationalise it, and was forced to step down.

New players entered soon after, the Sinhala nationalistic Sun and its sister newspapers in particular, with agenda different from those of the older pro-West print media. A second bid to nationalise the ANCL, with most of its fixed assets divested in anticipation, succeeded in 1972. By then the Sun and sister newspapers turned hostile to the government for other than political reasons and conducted a vicious campaign against the food drive of the government in 1974-75, a time of serious food shortage precipitated by a severe drought. The government over-reacted by sealing up their printing press. It was a drastic legal action against the media, but there was no harassment of journalists, although the state-controlled media came under increased political pressure.

The return to power of the UNP with an unprecedented 5/6 majority soon led to escalated national oppression of Tamils and the curtailment of democratic rights throughout the country. Private broadcasting came into being in the 1990s but that did not mean real freedom of the media. In the pretext of fighting terrorism, newspapers in the Tamil North came under attack since the 1980s. Some newspaper reporters in the South were killed under mysterious circumstances. But the killing of the popular journalist Richard de Zoysa in the wake the witch hunt against the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1989 provoked public anger and contributed in a modest way to the fall of the UNP in 1994.

However, it was the Tamil newspapers in the North and Tamil journalists in general who faced the brunt of oppressive violence mainly from the state and forces loyal to it in government controlled areas, where journalists had also been targeted for being critical of the LTTE. The LTTE maintained an iron grip on journalism in areas under its control.

While the state used press censorship and other means under Emergency Regulations to control the media as necessary, criminal elements carried out acts of intimidation, physical harm, abduction and killings with the blessings of people in power. The last two years have been especially notorious for the revival since 1990 of open intimidation, physical attacks and abduction of Sinhalese journalists, including employees of the state media. It is against this background that the government seems to be moving for total control over the media.

New Threats

New rules were announced on 27th October to control the content not only for broadcast but also MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), a form of news dissemination rapidly gaining in popularity. The rules also seek to control private television and radio stations by placing them under the control of a single minister for the media. The rules dated 10th October 2008, but cited as the Private Television Broadcasting Station Regulations of 2007, cover all private television broadcasting stations including terrestrial, cable, satellite and internet TV and mobile telephony platform based TV.

Media groups and other public organisations have instituted legal action in the Supreme Court against the regulations, and several political parties have openly endorsed the move. Protesters have pointed out that these repressive draconian rules are unprecedented and designed to use the power of the Media Minister as regulator to cancel licences for broadcast on the flimsiest pretext by claiming that the content of a broadcast was detrimental to the interests of a national security, incited a break-down of public order, incited ethnic, religious or cultural hatred, was morally offensive or indecent or was detrimental to the rights and privileges of children. The rules are also restrictive in other ways by limiting the period of the licence to a year and excluding political parties and foreigners from operating stations.

The government whose only basis for public support is its claim of success in fighting terrorism hopes that with a continuous flow of news of unhindered government success on its battlefronts the people will bear with repression, corruption and mismanagement of the economy. News of military setbacks and losses to the armed forces hurts the government’s credibility as do reports of corruption and various misdeeds by people in power. Thus the rules, if implemented will lead to the suppression of not only news but also democratic views and objections against the government and pave the way for the government to continue its pursuit of war and to frustrate the protests of the people who are suffering under the economic crisis.

Some like to isolate the question of war, the national question, human rights, and democratic and media freedom from each other. Such segregation is illusory since the issues are closely interwoven; the struggles related to them therefore will inevitably be interwoven.

Book Review

New Book Examines the Character of the Deepening Crisis in Capitalist Globalization

– Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire.

Title: Colossus With Feet of Clay: Low-Wage Capitalism, What the new globalized, high-tech imperialism means for the class struggle in the U.S.”.

Author: Fred Goldstein

Publisher: WorldView Forum, New York, 2008

This is a must read book for those seeking answers to the current crisis in world capitalism. With the economic meltdown of 2008, the very future of the system of international finance capital has been thrown into question.

Just within the last year we have witnessed the monumental write-offs of hundreds of billions of dollars by the world’s leading banks and investment firms. Names such as Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, UBS, HSBC, Wachovia, Citigroup, AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc., have become the focus of attention for not only the bourgeoisie but working people who have seen their jobs, homes, pensions and overall living standards plunge.

Over the course of 2008, official statistics on the United States economy indicate that in excess of 1 million jobs have been lost. Consumer confidence has plunged while greater signs of social discord have emerged, that in part, has resulted in the willingness of many whites to vote for the nation’s first African American president.

This crisis is not confined to the United States. The so-called “subprime mortage mess” or the “credit crunch”, as it was described during the early months of 2008, is now, even by the corporate press, being labelled as a major economic dilemma affecting billions throughout the globe.

What has generated profound anger among working people throughout the United States is the response to this crisis by the capitalist class and the bourgeois state which has given in excess of a trillion dollars in taxpayer money to the very same financial institutions that created the crisis.

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, along with central banks througout Europe and the world, have handed over hundreds of billions of dollars and other units of currency to the bankers in order to stave off a more rapid collapse of the system. Despite all of these subsidies to the financiers, many of these firms have not survived. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have essentially been “nationalized” under capitalist control by the United States government in order to soften the fall of the multi-trillion dollar housing market in the country.

Yet there has been no bailout for the working people of the United States and the world. Millions have loss their homes and jobs. Their pensions are rapidly drying up because many of these funds were invested in the gambling houses of Wall Street and their allies around the world.

Nonetheless, the resistance and fightback is developing. Workers in Europe have staged general strikes against rising fuel and food prices. There have been food rebellions in various countries throughout the Caribbean and Africa. In the United States, a burgeoning movement calling for a moratorium on foreclosures has made a political impact and is influencing the political dialogue taking place inside the country.

What is the Source of This Crisis?

Goldstein, utilizing marxist economic analysis, has approached this crisis from the standpoint of those who are most seriously affected: the working class, the nationally oppressed and women. The author makes the case in very simple and straight forward language that the crisis is one of capitalist overproduction.

According to Goldstein: “This cycle dictates that, during periods of capitalist expansion, the powers of production increase ever more rapidly while the powers of consumption of society expand only gradually. Sooner or later production outstrips consumption. Profit does not arrive in corporate bank accounts until sales take place. If commodities cannot be sold at a profit, inventories pile up, production stops, workers are laid off, and a crisis ensues. That is the crude dynamic of the capitalist crisis of overproduction.” (pp. xi-xii).

The author continues by pointing out that: “The new international division of labor pits workers all around the world against each other in a race to the bottom. It depresses wages of the working class in imperialist countries and expands the sweatshop, superexploitation of the workers in low-wage countries. It makes each capitalist recovery more difficult and undermines the historic advantages accruing to the workers in a capitalist upturn. All this is aggravating the general crisis of capitalism. High technology and low-wage capitalism on a world scale are accelerating the crisis of overproduction and laying the basis for a massive counter-attack by the working class.” (p. xiii).

Women, Race and the Crisis in Capitalism

As it relates to the impact of the crisis on women and the nationally oppressed in the United States, Goldstein looks at this phenomena within the context of the historical development of the country. It was the stolen land of the Native Americans and the slave labor of the African people, along with the low-wage exploitation of Chinese workers in building the railways on the west coast, that made America the leading capitalist nation in the world.

The author takes note of the changing character of the labor force in the United States: “But the rise in the number of women compared to men in the workforce over the last three decades is telling. In 1970, 79 percent of all men participated in the labor force as opposed to 43 percent of all women. In 2005, men’s participation dropped to 72 percent while women’s climbed to 60 percent. Women’s participation in the labor force has steadily risen since 1980 and men’s participation has steadily declined. By 2005 there were 80 million men and 70 million women in the workforce.”

Nonetheless, Goldstein emphasizes that women are more likely to receive lower wages than men. He also points to the class nature of the Clinton-era “welfare reform” policy that advanced the “politically reactionary campaign to spread the idea that those on welfare were lazy people who just wanted to ‘live off the dole.’ It was racist in character because the racist regime of U.S. capitalism has left so many Black single parents in poverty and almost all references to the poor focus in on African Americans (even though the majority of the poor in the U.S. are white).” (p. 134).

In specific reference to African Americans, Goldstein illustrates how the restructuring of capitalism has devastated large sections of the Black working class. He says that: “The restructuring by the bosses devastated Black workers, partly as a result of a deliberate effort starting in the 1960s and 1970s to relocate plants away from the industrial central cities, where there were great concentrations of the African-American proletariat. But this devastation was also the result of a general decline in manufacturing and particularly of the general attack on the union movement.” (p. 137).

The Coming Fightback

Not only does Goldstein analyze the character of the modern-day capitalist crisis but he is bold enough to put forward a set of possible demands that can serve as a rallying point for a national and international fightback movement. Looking at the recent struggles that have taken place over the last three decades during the decline, he firmly believes that the present crisis can be reversed through a proactive approach by the working class and the oppressed.

This struggle will not only encompass the workers of the industrialized capitalist states but the proletariat in the United States and western Europe must understand the necessity of forming alliances with working people in the former colonial and neo-colonial countries. The globalization of capitalist production has created the condition for such an alliance that can transform the course of history.

Goldstein’s work not only makes a significant contribution to the resurgence in literature on marxist political economy, but it can, more importantly, serve as a guide for building broader and more militant social movements that directly address the need to transform capitalist societies in order to ensure a socialist future for humanity.

[Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has served as a contributing editor to Workers World Newspaper.]

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