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January-February 2010

Table of Contents

  1. Copenhagen: India Signs Undemocratic US-scripted Accord

  2. Telengana and Beyond: The Issue of State Reorganisation and Autonomy

  3. 25 years after the Bhopal Gas Disaster

  4. Health Care in the United States and the Debate for ‘Health Reform’

  5. Intensify the Struggles for Land, Livelihood, Democracy!

  6. Struggle against Privatisation and Loot of Water in the Sone Canal

  7. CPI(ML)’s Bihar Bandh on 24th November

UN Climate Change Conference

Copenhagen: India Signs Undemocratic US-scripted Accord

– Radhika Krishnan, Liberation, January 2010.

The 15th Conference of Parties (COP-15) has finally ended in Copenhagen, and it is now time to officially write the obituary. This week-long conference, where 110 countries of the world got together to try and evolve a blueprint to handle the climate change crisis, has quite predictably and most unfortunately ended in failure. Predictable, because for a long time now there have been indications that the US would continue to hold the rest of the world to ransom by refusing to accept responsibility for its role in creating the climate crisis.

Much was at stake at Copenhagen. The Kyoto Protocol, which was the first concerted attempt to address global warming, comes to an end in 2012 and the Copenhagen conference was meant to build on the foundations that Kyoto had set. The Kyoto agreement essentially suggested that all industrialized countries cut down on their carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists however believe that the emission reductions suggested in Kyoto are far from sufficient to keep the atmospheric carbon dioxide at an acceptable level, and therefore it was widely hoped that the Copenhagen summit would result in an agreement wherein industrialized countries would commit themselves to deep cuts in their current emission levels.

Before the negotiations officially began, the US came up with a proposal to cut its emissions to just 3 per cent below its 1990 levels. This proposal was patently absurd, since any meaningful effort towards mitigating the climate crisis demands that the US cut down its emissions by at least 40 per cent. Apart from this pathetic offer, Barack Obama (representing his corporate funders) came to Copenhagen armed with the usual bullying tactics and US’s oft-used trump card: unless India and China agree to binding emission cuts, neither will we. In a most shameful betrayal of third world unity, India and China responded to this blackmail by breaking away from the group of 77 countries (G-77) and signing a US-scripted ‘deal’ on the last day of the conference. It is indeed shocking and shameful that India and China, along with Brazil and South Africa decided to sign this deal – an agreement which signifies an important departure from the developing countries’ long-standing position at the climate change talks.

Copenhagen Agreement: A Recipe for Disaster

The ‘Agreement’ that was finally tabled (though not approved) at the conference is nothing but a recipe for an environmental catastrophe of monumental proportions. To those millions all over the world who were looking forward to an agreement with some teeth, capable of ensuring swift and effective mitigation of the climate crisis, the agreement is a huge disappointment.

To begin with, the agreement mentions no legally binding emission cuts for industrialised countries, thus effectively letting them off the hook. Given the fact that prior to the conference, many other industrialised countries had promised reductions (the EU for instance had unilaterally agreed to reduce its emissions by 20%, and the UK by 40%), it is clear that the US obduracy and arrogance finally scuttled any meaningful proposal. More importantly, the agreement asks developing countries to also ‘voluntarily’ reduce emissions, thus eliminating the important distinction between developing and developed countries. Developing countries have fought long and hard to maintain this distinction – and this huge political volte-face aided and abetted by Manmohan Singh absolves the developed world from their historic role in creating the present crisis, and essentially locks existing inequities for perpetuity. The agreement also states that developing countries’ performance on emission reductions (even those that are not funded by international finance and technology) will be subjected to “international consultation and analysis”. This clause clearly opens the door to enforcing international monitoring, and will soon lead to binding commitments by developing countries.

Regarding the other important agenda of funding mitigation efforts in developing countries, the developed countries have set a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year by 2020. This includes a short-term financing pledge (for 2010-2012) of $10.6 billion from the EU, $11 billion from Japan, and $3.6 billion from the US. To put this ‘dole’ in perspective, the EU’s contribution (which is the largest) is approximately 0.5% of global entertainment and media spending, 0.7% of the US military expenditure for 2008 and 1.4% of the bailout package that richest corporations of the world received following the economic recession! The priorities of the powers-that-be, and the level of their commitment (or the lack of it) to tackling the climate crisis, has become abundantly clear.

The UPA’s Surrender to US Imperialism

At Copenhagen, Jairam Ramesh and Manmohan Singh worked overtime to broker this blatantly pro-US deal. An effort which earned them praise from none less than Obama in his post-conference speech. And while this betrayal of G-77 and of India’s poor is shocking, it is certainly not surprising. Some time back, Ramesh wrote a “confidential” letter to the Prime Minister articulating precisely the agreement which has been now signed. At that time, the UPA tried to defend itself and fend off the resulting uproar by distancing itself from Ramesh’s proposals. Now, after the Prime Minister himself has signed this proposal, the slavish, pro-US kowtowing of the UPA stands thoroughly exposed. Let us not forget that India has already announced targets for reducing carbon intensity (i.e. not total greenhouse gas emissions, but emissions per unit of GDP generated) – as a result of a ‘bilateral agreement’ with the US.

Not surprisingly, India’s and China’s stand has deservedly invited an angry response from the other developing countries. And it was not just the content of the agreement that merited their anger. The entire process of drafting the agreement was marked by secrecy and a lack of respect for basic democratic principles – most countries were deliberately kept away from the drafting process. Bolivia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba have therefore blamed those who have drafted the deal for showing them great “disrespect” by leaving them out of the drafting process and imposing their document on the vast majority. The Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping has gone to the extent of comparing the deal to the Holocaust.

Overall, the Copenhagen summit was a shameful display of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s subservience to US imperialism. Instead of this betrayal, what Jairam Ramesh and Manmohan Singh should have done was to cash in on the massive world-wide support and aspirations for a meaningful agreement. They should have joined hands with the vulnerable coastal nations most likely to suffer the most from the climate crisis and the G-77 to build pressure on the US. The industrialised countries, including the US, have to be forced to accept responsibility for their huge greenhouse gas emissions. More importantly, they have to be held accountable for the historic role that they have played over the past two centuries in contributing to the climate crisis through their capital and energy intensive economies.

India should of course also reduce its emissions – not because the US demands it, not even because it is a huge contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (though India’s total emissions are quite high, its per capita emissions are just 0.9 tonnes per person per year compared to the US’s 20.1 tonnes and China’s 2.3 tonnes) but because it is in the larger interests of India’s poor and because it is essential for maintaining the delicate ecological balance. India should have demanded funding and technology transfer from the industrialised countries for reducing its emissions. Let us understand very clearly that this funding is not a ‘gift’ from some of the richest countries in the world, it is rather a small attempt on their part to compensate the millions of poor in the developing countries for the massive crisis that they have plunged the world into through the mindless, profit-driven, ecologically insane ‘development’ paradigm that they have been pursuing for centuries. This funding could have been used to completely revamp our internal energy policy. It is an ideal time and occasion to pull away from our fossil-dependent energy policy to a more ecologically sensible one that depends more on renewable sources of energy.

However, it is clear that the UPA is least interested in pursuing any of this. For instance, forcing Indian industry to invest in cleaner technology or to comply with strict pollution standards is complete anathema to the current regime, which is hell-bent on protecting the huge profit margins of corporations. The UPA, with its single-minded agenda of pandering to US imperialism and corporate interests back home, would much rather take the business-as-usual approach. And in the process, be party to what the Sudan has called the new Holocaust.

Struggles in India

Telengana and Beyond: The Issue of State Reorganisation and Autonomy

– Liberation, January, 2010.

The intense agitation for a separate Telengana, especially the upsurge of students, in the face of severe repression, eventually succeeded in wresting an announcement from the Central Government that steps would be taken towards formation of a separate State of Telengana. The demand for Telengana has been a long-standing one and it gained ground in recent years in the face of deepening economic backwardness and acute agrarian crisis in the region.

While the announcement ‘conceding’ a separate Telengana state has been greeted with predictable public rejoicing in the region, there has been a rash of resignations of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) from Andhra Pradesh, including a large number from the Congress party itself as well as from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The issue that is particularly proving contentious is the future of Hyderabad. While Telengana agitationists have staked their claim to Hyderabad as the capital of their new state, discordant notes can be heard within Hyderabad while the dominant political establishment in Andhra is particularly loath to part with Hyderabad. Speculations are on that the Centre might seek a way out of the impasse on the lines of the Chandigarh model, by keeping Hyderabad as the capital of both Andhra and Telengana and converting Hyderabad into a Union Territory.

Against this backdrop, Congress leaders as well as TDP leaders in Andhra are now launching agitations to fan up frenzy in the coastal and Rayalseema regions of the State against bifurcation. In response, the Centre has begun to indicate that it will back-pedal on the issue of Telengana Statehood, with senior leader of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government Pranab Mukherjee stating that the resolution in favour of Telengana could only be passed by consensus in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly itself. While the Congress at the Centre has blamed the lack of consensus on the TDP, it is unable to answer for the lack of consensus within the Congress party itself.

It appears that as in the past, the Congress is once again playing politics with the issue of Telengana Statehood. If such a violent opposition to Telengana has existed among Congress leaders in Andhra Pradesh, one wonders why the Congress included Telengana in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA Government formed in 2004, and in the party manifesto for the last Lok Sabha elections? Can the Congress explain why, in all the years since then, it has failed to create a consensus within its own party on this issue?

The Congress at the Centre and the State must not play politics with the Telengana issue any longer; and attempts to pit the people of Andhra Pradesh against those of Telengana by whipping up an agitation against the formation of the latter must be stopped forthwith. Communist Party of India (Marxist -Leninist) [CPI(ML)], while supporting the demand for speedy constitution of Telengana, appeals to the people of Andhra Pradesh to maintain unity, respect aspirations for separate statehood, and foil any attempts to ignite chauvinistic politics that can only be destructive for the struggling unity of the people on the burning and unresolved issues of their survival and dignity.

In the wake of the Telengana agitation, demands for separate statehood have come to the fore once again in many parts of the country. The UPA Government must immediately constitute a second State Reorganisation Commission to favourably and holistically address pending separate statehood demands.

There is also an urgent need to address the struggle for autonomous statehood for Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills (NC Hills). The people of these two hill districts of Assam, have been waging a peaceful struggle for the past two decades demanding implementation of Article 244A which provides for an Autonomous State comprising the two hill districts within the state of Assam. It is ironical that while the Centre has had no hesitation to amend the Constitution time and again to create newer states under Article 3, the most logical demand of the hill people of Assam which calls for no more than honouring an existing Article of the Constitution has gone unheeded.

The Congress Government at the Centre must not only honour its commitment to the formation of Telengana, it must also urgently address the aspirations for autonomous statehood in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills as well as several pending demands for separate statehood in other parts of the country.

Politics in India

25 years after the Bhopal Gas Disaster:

UPA Govt. and MP Govt Out to Bury the Truth and Bail out the Killers

– Liberation, January, 2010.

On the night of December 2nd and the early morning of December 3rd 1984, some 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) spewed out of the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, exposing over 5,00,000 people to the toxic fumes. 25,000 people died as a result, hundreds of thousands of persons were maimed for life, and entire future generations poisoned.

Union Carbide left without cleaning up the toxic chemicals dumped on the ground – and the toxins have seeped into the soil, poisoning the drinking water which people have no option but to consume. Studies have shown toxins to be present even in the breast milk of mothers living around the factory.

The past 25 years are a shameful saga of the Indian Government’s callous betrayal of the victims to appease the killer corporation. The Indian Government has done nothing to demand that Warren Anderson, CEO of Carbide, be extradited to India to face trial. And Dow Chemicals, which has taken over Carbide, has refused to take responsibility for cleaning up the Union Carbide factory wastes.

Soon after the incident, Union Carbide denied that poisonous gases had been released. One of the Carbide doctors recommended sodium thiosulphate as treatment – but withdrew this (correct) advice, since success of this treatment would have proven that poisonous gases had entered the bloodstream, resulting in heavier damages for Carbide! The MP Govt then even banned the sodium thiosulphate treatment method.

Today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government of MP and the Congress Government at the Centre are united in their efforts to exonerate the killers.

Visiting the Carbide factory site in Bhopal on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh insulted the victims by brandishing a handful of waste and proclaiming, “I’m alive, I’m not coughing!” as proof that the factory site is now harmless and no longer poisonous. In other words, he suggested that the claims of victims who say their daily drinking water is poisoned are bogus and Dow is not called upon to clean up any further.

On top of this, the MP Government has now decided to throw open the doors of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal to the general public as a tourist spot – as ‘proof’ that the poisons are gone and all is well. Madhya Pradesh Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur has announced that the waste lying in the Union Carbide factory site here for the past 25 years is no longer toxic enough to adversely affect human beings.

Indian ruling class parties and governments have done their best to roll out the red carpet for Dow. Among those who have pleaded and lobbied on Dow’s behalf between 2005 and 2007 are Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Home Minister (then Finance Minister) P. Chidambaram and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath, as well as Ratan Tata.

The Bhopal crime is a damning instance of how India’s ruling class is committed to defending corporate killers and MNCs at the cost of Indian people’s lives and safety. Shamefully, Dow’s long-term legal counsel who peddles all the lies on behalf of the killer MNC is none other than the Congress party spokesperson – Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

In October this year, India approved the commercial release of Bt Brinjal, the first ever such Genetically Modified (GM) food crop anywhere in the world with the toxin-producing Bt gene in it. The Bt Brinjal is produced as part of a US Artificial Insemination Department (USAID) programme called Agri-Biotechnology Support Programme [ABSP] – a Public Private Partnership of various institutions with MNCs Monsanto and Mahyco. This is a direct effect of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, signed alongside the Nuke Deal. Now, Supreme Court observer to the committee Dr Pushpa Bhargava, in his letter to the GEAC and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, has revealed that Prof Arjula Reddy, Chairperson of the Expert Committee on whose recommendation the approval was granted, had complained of being under “tremendous pressure” to clear Bt Brinjal and had calls from Agricultural Minister, Genetic Engineer Approval Committee (GEAC) and industry.

Bhopal, Bt Brinjal – all are grim evidence of how governments are willing to lie to the people, even endanger their lives and allow them to be poisoned – all in order to serve corporate interests or partnership with the imperialist US.

On the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the people of India demand that the UPA Government seek extradition Of Carbide CEO Warren Anderson from the US; ensure that Dow pays for clean up both on the factory site as well as of ground water and surroundings; blacklist Dow and Union Carbide; and guarantee free medical treatment for the victims.

International

Unhealthy Medicine- Health Care in the United States and the Debate for ‘Health Reform’

– Padma.

Unhealthy Facts

The population of the United States (U.S.) per the U.S. Census Bureau is slightly above 300 million (July 2008). 47 million Americans do not have any kind of medical insurance. In 2006, 108 million Americans had insufficient coverage or were underinsured. The definition of underinsured varies but includes individuals who spend more than 10% of their post tax incomes on medical expenses. 62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Research released in September, 2009, in the American Journal of Public Health estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. A 2007 report ranked the U.S. 42nd in the world for life expectancy and 41st in infant mortality rate worse than most of Europe and Cuba.

Health Insurance – Private and Government

Having given the grim statistics above, what exactly is the health care system in the richest country in the world? The health care system in the U.S. has been described as ‘highly decentralized and fragmented’ and there is no Ministry of Health. Although the private sector dominates the health care delivery system, it is the government funded programmes and facilities that treat the mentally ill, native Americans living in dire poverty in reservations, short and long term care of the elderly, those with end stage kidney disease on dialysis, patients with AIDs etc. The Federal agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that the government pays for two-thirds of the nation’s health care, the private health insurances cover 2/3rds of the population and pay for a third of the total health expenditures. The private health insurance companies are known to ‘cherry pick’ insuring only healthy people and refusing to insure those who were unhealthy or are likely to become unhealthy.

There are about 1,300 private health insurers. The government insurances are Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals that treat the veterans (those who have fought in the innumerable wars that American imperialism has waged in the last 100 hundred years). Not all veterans are eligible for free health care. A research team at Harvard just released a study which reported that over 2200 veterans died in 2008 from lack of insurance. Medicare which is health insurance for citizens above the age of 65 was established in 1965 during the peak of the civil rights and anti Vietnam War movements in the U.S. Medicaid established at the same time provides some medical coverage for poor people. It is supported both by federal and state taxes and benefits vary by the states. A 2007 study by Public Citizen’s health Research Group reported that 60% of poor Americans are not covered by Medicaid.

Medical Industrial Complex

Vicente Navarro, Professor of Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, describes the private health insurance companies, for profit health care facilities and the pharmaceutical companies as the medical industrial complex. In 2002, the ten most profitable drug corporations earned about 36 billion dollars more than the other 490 corporations on the Fortune 500 combined! In 2007, insurance industry profits reached $12 billion, and pharmaceutical industry profits $49 billion, the highest in the U.S. and in the world. The top executive of United Health a powerful private health insurer makes 37 million dollars year and has billions in stocks. All this comes from hardworking Americans with many going without adequate coverage even after paying premiums! The health sector contributed $54.5 million to Democrats and $46.1 million to Republicans in the 2008 elections. The so called ‘lesser of the two evil’ ruling class parties received more than its right wing counterpart! Contributions linked to manufacturers of pharmaceutical and health care products were split about evenly between the parties.

Health Care Debate- Was the Ruling Class really that Disunited?

CBS News/New York Times poll found in June 2009 that 72% of Americans supported a government-sponsored health care plan. Most also thought the government would do a better job than private industry at keeping down costs and believed that the government should guarantee health care for all Americans. The mood of the working class and the middle class has been increasingly angry in response to the economic recession and the trillions of dollars doled out to Wall Street. The ‘change’ desired by the vast majority of Americans which led to the ‘historic’ election of Obama has been missing in action. Whether on immigration policy, on national security or on the bail outs to banks and corporations the two ruling parties have been united. Health care became the most controversial issue in 2009 as millions were forced into unemployment. The Taft Hartley Act established in 1947 forced the workers to get health care benefits through collective bargaining agreements at the place of employment. Workers who lose their jobs lose not only wages, but also health benefits for themselves and their family. The lack of universal health care has resulted in important U.S companies like the big automakers like Ford and General Motors closing factories in the U.S. because of huge health care expenditures for their employees (Ray O.Light Newsletter,July 2007). Interestingly, corporations like Walmart known for extremely unfair labour practices have supported health reform as they would like some sort of public health insurance for their employees. The Democratic Party which has traditionally been supported by organized labour and other ‘progressive’ and liberal groups in its election campaign had promised to bring changes to the health care system. President Obama who vociferously supported universal health care during his campaign changed his position in deference to the health care industry from universal care to ‘health reform’.

After months of debates and intense lobbying by the ‘medical industrial complex’, the House of Representatives (the lower house) on November 7 passed a health care bill by a vote of 220-215. The 1,990-page bill will fail to deliver even any real ‘reform’. While a small proportion of people will have improved access and that too in 2013 when they will be offered a public health insurance option, private insurance’s grip on the healthcare system will increase as uninsured Americans will be mandated to buy private insurance or else pay a hefty fine. There will be little assistance for individuals and families who presently have employer-sponsored health plans and face frequent erosion of their coverage and health security. According to California Nurses Association (CNA), with no effective limits on the insurance industry’s price gouging, out-of-pocket costs for premiums, deductibles and other fees may eat up from 15 to 19 percent of family incomes.

Senator Max Baucus of the Democratic Party who has been prominently involved in the health reform bill had reached agreements with his colleagues in the Republican Party (the so called ‘right’ wing of the ruling class) in private on the health bill. The Montana Standard a paper from the Senator’s home state reported that he received more campaign money from health and insurance industry than any other member of Congress in the past six years. Nearly 25% of the money raised by Baucus and his political action committee has come from groups and individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply companies, and other health professionals.

At the peak of the heated discussions over national health insurance in June,2009, when the Democrats and Republicans appeared to be at loggerheads, a deal was struck between the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the White House and Senate Democrats. As detailed in a memo first published by The Huffington Post, the Obama administration agreed to oppose congressional efforts to use government leverage to bargain for lower drug prices. This will result in a net gain of more than $137 billion dollars in total market sales over the next four years.

The pharmaceutical and health insurance industry have used lies and propaganda in the last several months to create hysteria about the Obama administration’s efforts to bring in health reform. United Healthcare and WellPoint, two of the largest health insurance companies in the country, sent memos to their employees to take part in the town hall meetings. They are both under government investigation in California for these activities. (Workers World, Sept. 23, 2009) The fascist section of the ruling class has worked with these groups to fan chauvinism. Town meetings where Obama and other democrats addressed people over health issues have been attacked and disrupted. Stories have been spread about how universal health care will affect health care for the elderly and how it will benefit illegal immigrants and other dregs of the society like poor people and people of color at the expense of good hardworking whites. Politics of divide and rule as usual! Obama has been called a socialist for supporting a health plan which has been described by progressive health care activists as a gift to the private health industry! While there are differences and internal conflicts between the two ruling parties in the U.S which manifested in the debates over the health care system the bill that passed will continue to further the profits of the medical industrial complex that serves both parties.

Health Care as a Right: The struggle for National Health Insurance –A Brief History

In the late 19th century largely middle class professionals called ‘Progressives’ created a reform organization American Association for Labour Legislation (AALL). AALL campaigned for compulsory health insurance plan for all. The American Federation of Labour (AFL) teamed up with organization of business leaders and defeated the implementation of the plan. Samuel Gompers the president of AFL described compulsory health insurance as ‘a menace to rights, welfare and liberty of American workers”. The AFL union leadership felt that social insurance would lower wages as the contributions would have to come from the wages of workers. The AFL was in direct conflict with the Socialist Party which endorsed the national health insurance.

After the end of the World War afraid of the influence of the Soviet Union, imperialist countries made concessions to their working class which included national health care. In the U.S too national health care began to assume a central place in the discussions. The communists and their sympathizers had organized large numbers of the working class into unions. This period became infamous for the witch hunts of communists and their sympathizers in an organized fashion by the American state. The American Medical Association (AMA) and its supporters ardently opposed national health insurance. They succeeded in linking socialism with national health insurance. They had one pamphlet that said, “Would socialized medicine lead to socialization of other phases of life? Lenin thought so. He declared socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” The anti communist propaganda of the government and the efforts of the AMA helped to defeat the plan to have universal free health care. Private insurance systems expanded and provided enough protection to prevent any great agitation for national health insurance in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

In the mid 1960s the civil rights movement was at its peak. Two thirds of people over 65 had no coverage for hospital treatment. There was militancy in the air with leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King posing serious challenges to the system. The Black Panther party, a revolutionary party with its goal of real economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines, was becoming popular with the youth. Against this background Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965. However, universal health care remained elusive.

The Struggle for National Health Care Now

California Nurses Association (CNA) and Physicians for National Health Program (PNHP) are two organizations which have been in the forefront of the struggle for implementation of universal health care in the form of single payer health care or ‘Medicare for All’. Healthcare-NOW! is a coalition that has been mobilizing a large community of advocates composed of organizers and activists in more than 300 cities in all 50 states. There have been many rallies, sit-ins and voluntary arrests in front of large private insurance companies this year. Thousands of unionized workers have supported these actions. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States and Canada representing about 10 million workers and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) a labor union representing about 1.8 million workers have supported the health reform bill. They have not gone all out for a national health insurance/single payer as demanded by other health care activists.

When Health Care is Not for Profit

In 1932 Sir Arthur Newsholme of the Local Government Board of England and Wales, and John Adams Kingsbury, former commissioner of public charities for the City of New York, traveled to the Soviet Union to examine that country’s health care system. Their observations were published in 1933 as “Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia.” Among their conclusions is the following… “It has surpassed all other countries in its socialization of medicine. It has removed the doctor almost entirely from the field of monetary competition…. it has made medical service of an astonishingly complete character promptly available for the vast majority of urban populations, a service which is being rapidly extended to rural Russia”. In China after the revolution, life expectancy doubled from 32 years in 1949 to 65 years in 1976. One of the important achievements at the time in China was community participation and people taking responsibility at the grass roots over health issues.

Cuba’s achievements in providing free quality health care at all levels are very well known. The New England Journal of Medicine, a premier U.S. journal reported, “Cuba has engineered a national medical apparatus that is the envy of many developing nations. For some of these nations, it is not Boston, but Havana that is the centre of the medical world.” This small country has approximately 28,000 health professionals now providing care in 68 countries.

Conclusions

Obviously, nationalization is not socialization. In fact, nationalization has been used by sections of the capitalist class to strengthen their position as in India during Nehruvian socialism. Nevertheless, from the example of the ‘health reform’ bill in the U.S., it is clear that the so called public-private partnership is really about putting the profits of the private corporations over people’s health. The struggle for “Medicare for All” in the U.S. is a step in the right direction. It has the potential to raise the consciousness of the working class in the U.S. The struggle for health care can become part of the larger struggles for economic and social rights.

[Article completed on October 20, 2009]

Politics in India

Intensify the Struggles for Land, Livelihood, Democracy!

– Liberation, January, 2010.

India’s common people continue to reel under ever-increasing prices, retrenchment and job loss, hunger and farmers’ suicides. While the whole world holds the United States of America (USA) responsible for the global crisis that has intensified the sufferings of the poor all over the world, Prime Minister (PM) Manmohan Singh, visiting the US recently, took the opportunity to display his loyalty by hailing the strength of the US economy and the dollar. While many US citizens are calling for an end to the US occupation of Afghanistan, our PM shamefully assured his support for the occupation. Soon after, India once again voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). By reiterating his commitment for US-sponsored economic and foreign policies, Manmohan Singh has made it clear that the Congress Govt.’s priority is to protect the interests of the US empire, not those of India’s people.

The UPA Government, and state governments of various hues have displayed a consensus in favour of corporate loot of India’s resources and the land of the poor. In Jharkhand recently, we saw how former CM Madhu Koda amassed Rs 4500 crore illegally. The question arises – which mining companies paid him those thousands of crores in commissions; which other politicians got paid by mining companies? But all ruling parties that have shared in the loot want the answer to remain a secret. In Karnataka, however, the secret is out: the mining mafia of Bellary rules its illegal mining empire with the help of the BJP in Karnataka and the Congress in Andhra Pradesh!

The blatant corporate loot of precious resources exposed by the Koda scam, the Bellary episode, evidence of illegal mining in many other states including Chhattisgarh and Orissa, and the tussle between the Ambani brother over gas – all lend urgency to the demand for immediate nationalization of all mineral, oil and gas resources.

A recent report by the UPA Govt’s own Ministry of Rural Development highlights the “Unfinished Task of Land Reforms”, showing that, at last count, 77% of dalits and 90% of adivasis were landless in India. The report comes down strongly against betrayal of land reforms by Governments, violation of land laws and Forest Rights Act to grab tribal land, corporate land grab and misuse of water by SEZs and rampant homelessness in villages and cities alike. The report recommends strict implementation of ceiling laws with lowered land ceiling, redistribution of bhoodan land, tenancy rights to sharecroppers, and guarantee of homestead land for the rural poor and homes for the urban poor. But the UPA Govt. is turning a deaf ear to the report submitted by a Commission appointed by its own Ministry!

Struggles around land, livelihood and food are erupting all over the country. Corruption in NREGA and ration system, cutbacks in BPL coverage, eviction of street vendors, and of the urban poor from slums have all sparked off massive protests. Workers have been on the streets – be it in Coimbatore or Gurgaon – against the rampant violations in labour laws. Struggles against corporate land grab are being waged in the face of severe repression. In Bihar, the Nitish Government’s mask of ‘mahadalit’ empowerment has come apart, and the Government has chosen to be loyal to its primary feudal constituency and betray the recommendations of the Committee on Land Reforms headed by D Bandopadhyaya. With the entire ruling class opposition united against land reform, the CPI(ML) alone is mobilizing the rural poor to demand sharecroppers’ rights and homestead land. In Punjab, a struggle by agricultural labourers to make the Government keep its promise of homestead land for the poor resulted in mass jailing and repression of the rural poor.

At this juncture, it is becoming increasingly clear that the UPA Government’s declaration of ‘war on Maoism’ is a pretext – the real target is people’s movements and the protests of the poor. Any people’s movement that inconveniences the Government is being branded as ‘Maoist’ in order to justify repression of struggles and silencing of dissent. Draconian laws are mushrooming in every state. While military suppression of struggles has long been a grim reality in Kashmir and the North East, now the UPA Government is planning to bring the entire country under the shadow of its war on people – all to “make the country safe” for corporate loot and suppression of democracy – be it in industries or in society at large. Meanwhile, the so-called ‘secular’ Government is allowing those responsible for communal genocide to get away scot-free.

The CPI(ML) was born in 1969 in the crucible of revolutionary struggles where the rural poor sought to shatter the feudal fetters. The assault on democracy that began with brutal repression unleashed against the CPI(ML), very soon engulfed the entire country and ended with the imposition of Emergency. In the 40 years since its birth, the CPI(ML) has unleashed powerful struggles of the oppressed in several parts of the country in the face of fierce feudal violence and state repression.

Today, it is urgent that mass struggles for land, food, livelihood, democracy confront governments and ruling class parties with renewed vigour, defying the attempt to suppress and silence them with state repression. On December 18, 2009, the eleventh anniversary of the demise of former CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Vinod Mishra, the CPI(ML) rededicates itself to fulfil this task with all its might.

Struggles in India

Struggle against Privatisation and Loot of Water in the Sone Canal

– Kunal, Liberation, January, 2010.

Canals and irrigation too have not escaped the assault of privatisation. In Laloo Yadav’s term itself, President Abdul Kalam had begun the process by declaring the formation of a ‘Distributary Committee’ for the No. 10 Distributary on the Sone Canal. While this was said to be an ‘experiment’, it proved in fact to be the first step towards handing over the Canal to feudal forces, and gradually a feudal ‘canal mafia’ emerged. The No.10 Distributary irrigated the entire Paliganj area and Dulhin Bazaar Block, and the privatisation hit the farmers badly. 30% of the water tax is given to the government, and the remaining 70%, intended for maintenance of the canal, is instead looted in entirety. 150 workers, recruited for maintenance of the canals, have been kicked out of their jobs. The area that pays the water tax lies dry, while the President of the Distributary Committee, Valmiki Sharma colludes to sell the water on the black market. The canal is blocked at various spots to divert water, and the canal is even cut to sell the water. Much water is wasted too, as a result, since in the process it collects in holes. As it is, due to irregularities in the implementation of the Bansagar Agreement, Bihar gets less water, and what it gets is squandered due to corruption.

The Sone canal area, usually unaffected by drought, was hit by drought this time; canal water remained in the upper reaches of the canal, badly affecting the sowing of the rice crop and jeopardising the rabi crop in the lower reaches. Peasants were angry and worried at this situation. Around 12,000 acres of land in 20 villages were badly affected in the lower reaches of the No. 10 Distributary, but even the lower reaches of the main canal were affected and crops were drying in Bikram, Naubatpur, and Danapur blocks. When CPI(ML)’s Paliganj MLA Comrade Nand Kumar Nanda raised the matter with the Irrigation Minister, he pleaded lack of sufficient water in the canal. But the farmers were sure that water could reach the lower reaches if only the black marketeering and diversions could be stopped.

The Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha began an agitation, mobilising angry farmers on the issue of canal water, compensation for the damaged crops, and identity cards for the sharecroppers. First a dharna was held at the Dulhin Bazaar Block headquarters; receiving no response, they demonstrated at the Canal Department Sub Divisional Office (SDO) at Arwal and also gheraoed the office of the Distributary Committee at Paliganj. At the Arwal demonstration, it was declared that failing proper arrangement for irrigation, roads would be blockaded on 8 November at Dulhin Bazaar. A delegation also met the SDO at the Paliganj sub-division, to no avail. So the roads were blockaded on 8 November as announced. A very large number of farmers from outside the organisation unexpectedly joined the blockade (in all, around 1000 farmers participated in the protest). Finding themselves isolated, even the block presidents of The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)and The Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] were forced to join the blockade. Even after assurances from the Administration, farmers were in no mood to withdraw the blockade, saying they would stay till water reached their fields. Keeping in mind the party’s ongoing Land reforms Awakening Padyatra (march) from 10-16 November, however, we withdrew the blockade, resolving to raise the issue through the padyatra. On November 10, a meeting of farmers was convened to decide the course of action; but the meeting was held in the open with all farmers being invited through announcements on a mike. 400 farmers from 35 villages participated in the meeting, and it was decided that if water did not reach the fields by 16 November, an indefinite road blockade and lock-out at the block headquarters (HQ) would take place. These decisions were announced publicly in the course of a March in the market by the farmers following the meeting.

Seeing the mood of the farmers, the administration too became active and began patrolling the canal, identifying and removing blocks that had been created at various points, and gradually water began to flow downwards and reach the fields. In Arwal, feudal forces had even made a pukka dam on the main canal! When hundreds of farmers gathered and began breaking the dam, the police intervened to destroy the dam. Leaflets calling for protests on 6 November were distributed during the padyatra.

By 16 November, around 4000 acres of land in 7 villages had received water. In view of this, we went ahead with the plans for the road blockade but held back from the lock-out of block HQs. More than 1000 small and marginal farmers from 40 villages participated in the blockade this time, especially a large number from the Yadav mass base of the RJD. The blockade was called off after talks with the canal division SDO.

The struggle had its impact even in the Bikram and Naubatpur areas where we had not taken any initiative; water reached the lower reaches of the main canal too as a result. Farmers were encouraged by the victory. We formed a 35-member committee of farmers at Dulhin Bazaar to consolidate the impact, and it was resolved to conduct a membership drive of the Kisan Sabha.

The Sone Canal system, recognised as one of the most successful canal systems in the world, is in crisis thanks to the wrong policies adopted by successive governments. There are various suggestions for more efficient water management that can increase the irrigated area substantially, but governments have not adopted any of these. As a result, farmers in the Maner block of the Sone diara cultivate bajra instead of rice due to water shortage. During the Land Reforms Awakening campaign, the local party committee called for a movement to ‘Replace Bajra with Rice’ and this received widespread support.

Patna district suffers drought and flood despite of being in the lap of nine rivers; this can only be due to the anti-peasant policies of Bihar governments. The party is planning a long-term campaign demanding withdrawal of the privatisation of the Sone Canal; repair of the canal; stable solution to the flood problem; and comprehensive management for the water of the rivers in this region. The Paliganj MLA raised the demand for withdrawal of privatisation of the Sone canal in the Assembly. The Government has assured that this demand would be met but has as yet shown no signs of keeping its word.

Struggles in India

CPI(ML)’s Bihar Bandh on 24th November against

Four Years of Betrayal by the Nitish Govt

– Liberation, January, 2010.

On 24 November, in the midst of official ‘celebrations’ of the completion of four years of the Nitish Govt, the Commmunist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML] held a Bihar Bandh against Government’s betrayal on all fronts – be it the failure to implement of the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission as well as the Common School Commission; in providing relief, ration and employment to the poor under assault from severe inflation; in providing dignity and security to the dalits, women and poor; and in curbing loot and corruption in The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), ration and other schemes; or industrial and agricultural development.

The Bandh was the culmination of a campaign of ‘Land Reforms Awakening’ in which leaders of the party’s central and state committees had led padyatras highlighting the recommendations of the Bandopadhyaya Commission on Land Reforms, sharecroppers’ right to registration and homestead land for the landless poor.

During the bandh transport including rail traffic was completely shut-down and more than ten thousand people across the State were arrested. Thousands of bandh supporters all over the State carrying red flags and banners sat on dharna on roads/highways and railway tracks, blocking the traffic for hours. Massive rallies were witnessed at all district headquarters in Bihar, ensuring the closure of markets and businesses. All India Students Association (AISA) activists ensured total closure of Patna University and all colleges.

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Produced by:

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation

International Team

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