May-June 2013

 

Table of Contents

  1. Carry Forward the Achievements of the 9th Congress
  2. May Day 2013: All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Celebrations
  3. Working Class Struggles: Defying Assassination and Repression
  4. CPI(ML)’s 9th Party Congress: Stop Corporate Plunder, Defend People’s Resources, People’s Rights
  5. CPI(ML)’s 9th Party Congress:Excerpts from Statements of Left Leaders
  6. Commute DS Bhullar’s Death Sentence, Abolish Death Penalty
  7. Fresh Wave Of Protests Demanding Action to Curb Rape and Ensure Accountability of the Police
  8. Bangladeshi Garment workers Died in Factory
  9. A Challenging Time for Venezuela

Struggles in India

Carry Forward the Achievements of the 9th Congress

– Liberation, May, 2013.

22 April 2013 marks the 44th anniversary of the foundation of CPI(ML). This year as we observe this historic day and rededicate ourselves to the revolutionary tasks and goals the Party was formed to fulfil, we draw strength and inspiration from the success of the recently concluded 9th Congress of the Party. Hosting a weeklong Congress of 1200-plus delegates, observers and guests in Ranchi was a major organisational challenge and the Party in Jharkhand proved it was equal to the task. With the Congress just a few weeks away municipal elections were suddenly announced in Jharkhand on 7 April – and for Ranchi on 8th April – forcing us to change the date and venue of the post-Congress Jan Vikalp Rally. To top it all, Maoists declared a 48-hour bandh in Bihar and Jharkhand on 6-7 April disrupting transport. Yet the entire Congress was conducted smoothly and the turnout in the April 7 rally once again proved the determination of the people to march ahead and defy all the odds.

On the eve of the Congress we lost Comrade Gangaram Kol, General Secretary of our tea garden workers’ union in Assam and a popular and resolute leader of the people and the Party. Powerful protests organised by the Party and supported widely by the people and various opposition forces forced the Assam Government to order a CBI probe into the murder. Comrades of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts stayed back to carry on the agitation. While the Congress was on, news came from Karbi Anglong of the passing of Comrade Monsing Bongrung, President of the KANKIS in Langsomepi Block, and the house paid him homage. And on 3rd April evening we lost one of our delegates from Siwan district of Bihar. Comrade Ghughali Prasad, member of Siwan District Committee of the Party and popular leader of the rural poor in the district, succumbed to cardiac arrest and the entire Congress bade him a solemn farewell as the comrades of Siwan had to leave the Congress midway to organise the funeral of their beloved comrade.

The grief caused by the loss of these comrades strengthened the resolve of the Congress and the Party.

The 9th Congress paid glowing tributes to all our martyrs and departed leaders and reiterated its resolve to fight for the release of all Party leaders and members who are imprisoned in various jails of Bihar and Jharkhand. Comrades Shah Chand, BN Singh, and Pradip Vishwakarma who are currently lodged in jails in Bihar and Jharkhand, sent inspiring messages to the Congress. The Congress brought to the fore the rich experiences of ongoing struggles led by our comrades on a variety of issues and in newer areas. The spirited participation of large number of young delegates – for many of whom this was the first opportunity to attend a Party Congress – indicated the potential of a new generation of revolutionary activists. Likewise, the participation of women delegates in the Congress deliberations left a noteworthy impact. The presence and participation of veteran comrades who defied age and health factors left an inspiring imprint.

The presence of leading comrades from various AILC constituents marked the growing understanding and cooperation within AILC even as the inaugural session stressed the need for a new model of broad-based and fighting unity of the Left and development of closer ties of cooperation between the Left and various adivasi streams in Jharkhand in anti-corporate anti-displacement struggles. The presence of fraternal delegations from Nepal, Bangladesh and Australia and messages of greetings received from Venezuela, France, US, Philippines and Sri Lanka struggle brought home the renewed appeal of socialist imagination in the era of deepening crisis of global capitalism.

The Congress has called upon the entire Party to take the lead in building and spearheading popular struggles over various democratic demands of the people and give a fitting rebuff to the growing corporate-fascist clamour in the country to make Narendra Modi India’s next PM and rob the people of all their resources and rights. The fact that Modi has been allowed to get away with the Gujarat genocide and emerge as a corporate darling by riding roughshod on the aspirations and rights of the people of Gujarat despite a decade of UPA rule at the Centre makes it amply clear that the UPA is no answer to Modi. Nor can Nitish Kumar claim to provide an alternative having been hand in glove with Modi’s party since the inception of NDA. It is height of opportunism to claim to fight Modi while sharing power with his party in Bihar and serving the communal and feudal agenda embodied by the BJP. While targeting the NDA and UPA we will also boldly expose the opportunism and betrayal of regional parties in power. The Left movement must vigorously oppose the TMC in West Bengal, JD(U) in Bihar, SP in UP, BJD in Odisha and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.

We must understand that Modi has not dropped from the sky, he has grown precisely on the economic and political soil cultivated by our ruling classes; he is the most aggressive face of the pro-corporate anti-people policies imposed on us by NDA-UPA coalitions at the behest of US imperialism. Modi can therefore never be weakened or defeated without a rollback of the present policies that fatten corporate coffers while depriving and dispossessing the people. The present juncture therefore calls upon us to carry forward the battle against corruption and corporate plunder and for democracy and people’s rights over national resources. CPI(ML) must increase its strength and expand its role and initiative at this juncture to emerge as the most powerful voice of popular assertion, at the helm of a whole range of class and mass struggles of various sections of the Indian people.

The Party will have to face major electoral battles in the coming months. Beginning with the Assembly elections in Karnataka and panchayat elections in West Bengal and Punjab, the forthcoming electoral battles will include elections to several State Assemblies as well as the Lok Sabha. The Party must seize this opportunity to boldly raise the voice of the people and strengthen the people’s movement by all means. Undeterred by the electoral reverses suffered in 2009 and 2010, the Party exhibited its growing strength and determination through powerful mobilisation in political struggles. And now the 9th Congress has demonstrated the growing organisational capacity and political maturity of the Party. Every member and every branch of the Party contributed to the success of the 9th Congress. The increased strength and resolve of the Party must now lead to an improved performance in electoral battles too.

Armed with the achievements of the 9th Party Congress, we must now once again mobilise the entire Party and the revolutionary masses, strengthen and streamline the Party organisation on every level and intensify the movement on every front.

Red Salute to all our Great Martyrs and Departed Leaders!

Let us Give our Best for Bigger Victories in the Coming Battles!

Central Committee

CPI(ML)

22 April 2013

Struggles in India

May Day 2013: All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) Celebrations

– Rajiv Dimri, AICCTU, May 3, 2013.

[Below are preliminary reports of AICCTU activities on May 1st, 2013]

The May Day 2013 was celebrated by All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) with the pledge of taking forward the spirit generated in the 20-21 February unprecedented all India general strike and continue the fight for the reversal of neoliberal policies in the country.

Below are some of the reports of May Day celebrations across the country.

The 28th May Day, this year was observed in Assam as a Day opposing the heinous murder of comrade Gangaram Koul. In Borgong, Sonitpur, Guwahati, Jorhat Silchar, Nagoan, Dibrugarh and other places the day was observed in order to generate new dynamism in working class movement. In Tinsukia, braving heavy down poor about 1000 workers from tea gardens took part enthusiastically in the procession covering about 4 kilometres and passing through the main thoroughfare of the town shouting slogans like arrest the killers of com. Gangaram Koul, arrest Raju Sahu the main perpetrator along with 5 and to make the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report public within 6 months, remove Raju Sahu from all his responsibilities including that of parliamentary secretary, rise to occasion against price rice and random corruption, increase the tea workers’ daily wage to Rs. 200, calculate bonus on the total sum of daily wage plus subsidised cost of ration and fuel as per clause 22(2) of the Bonus Act, 1965.

Tamil Nadu (TN)- May Day was celebrated with flag hoists in as many as 150 centers with a participation of more than 2000 workers. In Coimbatore, it was a dream come true for Pricol workers that they hoisted their union flag in the factory gate in the morning with hundreds of workers raising slogans for workers’ unity. Comrade S.Kumarasami hoisted the flag and in the evening a public meeting was held in which 700 workers from Pricol, Shanthi Gears, Lakshmi Motor Works (LMW) participated. AICCTU in TN has taken up a solidarity campaign for Maruti workers which includes a solidarity fund for the Maruti workers. AICCTU has released 6000 pamphlets with the ‘Letter From Jail’ of Maruti workers and called for the workers of TN to rise in solidarity for them. ‘Letter From Jail’ is also published in Orumaipadu (Tamil Solidarity) which has a circulation of 5000 copies. Co-optex Employees Union also participated. Solidarity fund was collected to help Maruti workers. In the May Day public meeting held in Coimbatore Rs.24000 was collected from among the participants.

Punjab- May Day was celebrated in Punjab at Batala, Chandigarh, Mansa, Himmatpura (Moga) and Tapa (Barnala). In Batala, a march of nearly 700 workers was taken out in main market of Batala, The march was done in the leadership of Com Gurmeet Bakhtpura, Com Sukhdev, Com Guljar. In the march brick-kiln workers, who are on strike for their demands participated in large numbers. In Chandigarh, a program was organized by AICCTU and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation [CPI (ML) Liberation]. Revolutionary Songs and a play based on Women issues by a theatre team of Chandigarh were also performed.

Odisha- at Bhubaneswar may day was observed at Nagbhusan Bhavan where 150 workers from different unions came together. Public meeting was conducted at Nagbhusan Bhavan where comrade Khitish Biswal secretary of CPI (ML) liberation gave a clarion call to the workers for united movement against both United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government who have failed the working class in the country. He emphasized that the 2 day strike in February 2013 was a symbolic movement in the country and workers should learn from it and fight always against corporate loot and anti labour policy of UPA at the center and BJD government in the state.

AICCTU state secretary Mahendra Parida expressed that, workers are not getting social security and instead of 8 hours they worked for 12 hours per day. May day also observed in Sambalpur where 2000 construction workers participated in a big rally.

Noida (UP)-from Delhi and Noida hundreds of AICCTU and CPIML activists along with many student activists from All India Students Association (AISA) took out a march from AICCTU office at sector 10 defying the atmosphere of terror created by police and administration after 20-21 February strike. The armed police was present in large numbers during programme.

Jharkhand-In the entire coal belt flag hoisting and mass meetings took place against the ongoing loot and scams and privatization of coal industry. In Bokaro Steel plant flag hoisting and meeting took place. This apart the rallies of unorganized workers and women workers working on honorarium in various government schemes were held throughout the state including the capital Ranchi.

Bihar- May Day rallies, demonstrations and flag hoisting progammes were held in most of the districts including Patna with the participation of thousands of unorganized workers. In Patna a joint rally was held.

In UP and Uttarakhand all affiliated unions in different districts with participation of unorganized workers held progammes. In Uttarakhand, joint rally of workers was held in Rudrapur, an Auto Hub. In most of the districts including Haldwani and Pithoragarh joint programmes were held.

Gujarat, a rally was held by AICCTU in Himmat Nagar with participation of hundreds of unorganized workers. Mumbai: A joint mass meeting of trade unions was held at Azad Maidan. In Bhilai workers’ meeting was held in Bhilai Steel Plant and also a meeting of municipal contract sanitation workers.

Struggles in India

Working Class Struggles: Defying Assassination and Repression

– Liberation, May, 2013.

May Day commemorates the historic struggles for workers’ rights and the legacy of the Haymarket Martyrs of 1886. In May 2013, the legacy of the Haymarket Martyrs continues to be most relevant and alive with meaning – as India’s workers fight courageous battles defying repression and assassination in different parts of the country. On the occasion of May Day 2013, we pay tribute to comrade Gangaram Koal, All India Central council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) tea garden leader martyred in Assam on 25 March 2013, and bring you updates on workers’ struggles in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) especially the Noida workers who have been arrested during the All-India Strike and have since been in jail.

Assassination of Comrade Gangaram Koal-on the night of 25th March, Comrade Gangaram Koal, General Secretary of Asom Sangrami Chah Shramik Sangh and member of Assam State Committee of CPI(ML), was brutally assassinated near his home at the Gutibari tea garden in Tinsukia district. Comrade Gangaram was a militant and popular leader of the tea community in the Dibrugarh-Tinsukia region, and he had been at the forefront of protests against large-scale corruption in gram panchayat schemes and in the public distribution system. Undoubtedly, he was killed at the behest of the corrupt nexus of panchayat representatives, government officials, and politicians, in particular the Congress Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Chabua Raju Sahu whose interests were threatened by his relentless activism.

Comrade Gangaram Kol’s home adjoins a tea estate in Gutibari in Tinsukia district. He had been returning home at around 9 pm on is motorbike when he was attacked by assailants with an iron rod and hacked to death with machetes. His body was discovered by a tea garden worker soon after.

Comrade Gangaram Koal had led a successful struggle last year to get the licence of a corrupt ration agent canceled. The ration agent, known to be close to the MLA Raju Sahu, ran a ‘fair price’ shop in which 60% of the consumers proved to be bogus, and the remaining 40% genuine consumers had not got even a fraction of their due rations. Only recently, leaders of the The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS)-the tea garden union affiliated with Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) were heard publicly declaring that comrade Gangaram challenged their role as agents of the Congress and the tea industry.

The ACMS acts to keep the tea garden workers as a captive vote-bank, and any emerging popular and independent leader from this community is ruthlessly eliminated or terrorized by the tea garden mafia. In 2000, Daniel Topno, a popular student leader from the tea community who contested as an independent MLA candidate and got substantial votes, was killed. In Sonitpur, Lakhikant Kurmi and Narayan Pondel, tea garden activists, survived a life-threatening assault. Not long ago, a close comrade of Gangaram Koal, CPI(ML) activist Shubhrajyoti Bardhan, was attacked twice – once at the Deputy Commissioner’s office where he had gone to raise question of irregularities in Pubic Distribution System (PDS), and once more in a village.

Comrade Gangaram had been the CPI(ML)’s candidate in the Lok Sabha polls from Dibrugarh in 2009, and had twice been CPI(ML)’s MLA candidate from Chabua in 2006 and 2011. His heinous political assassination has sparked off a massive state-wide protest in Assam. It should be noted that CPI(ML) activists have been assaulted just a few months back by goons when they went to the food and civil supplies department to register a complaint against irregularities in the PDS.

The Tarun Gogoi Government of Assam initially ordered a CID enquiry and was adamant against ordering a CBI enquiry as demanded by the powerful mass movement that emerged to demand justice for Gangaram Koal. On March 29th, Assam observed a successful 12-hour Bandh at the call of the CPI(ML), demanding a Central Bureau of India (CBI0 enquiry into the assassination. A delegation of Opposition parties met the Governor with the same demand. Subsequently, the Government has had to concede the demand for a CBI enquiry. However, it is important for the CBI enquiry to be time-bound. Justice delayed is often justice denied, and we can recall that the CBI enquiry into Daniel Topno’s murder is yet to submit its report even after 13 years.

Assassination has been a notorious stock-in-trade for the mafia of industrialists and politicians threatened by trade union movements. Trade Union leaders such as Shankar GuhaNiyogi and Darasram Sahu in Chhattisgarh, Datta Samant in Mumbai, Gurudas Chatterjee and Jagdev Sharma in Jharkhand are some of the popular workers’ leaders who were martyred at the behest of the powerful vested interests. Comrade Gangaram’s courageous struggle will be continued by his comrades – because murder never can and never will silence workers’ struggles for their rights and their dreams of an egalitarian world.

Repression on Workers Continues in Noida-“we might as well commit suicide – we cannot be assured of a daily meal since my husband was jailed” – Shakeel’s wife says in a distressed phone call to CPI(ML) activists in Delhi. She and her children have been surviving with the help of funds collected from other workers’ families by the AICCTU and CPI(ML).

Shakeel, a member of Delhi Street Vendors’ Union affiliated to the AICCTU, lives in Mayur Vihar Phase-1 Delhi. He is a migrant worker from Bihar. On the morning of 21st of February, he had gone to the AICCTU’s Sector 10 office to help the Noida comrades prepare for a small procession on the second day of the Strike. In his pocket, he had Rs 40,000 that he had taken from someone for his daughter’s marriage. That morning, a large posse of police officers had descended on the office, accompanied by the media; had arrested all those in the office, and had announced to the media that they had nabbed the culprits responsible for arson and looting in Noida Sector 20 (Phase-II) the previous day.

Another worker arrested that morning was Gauri Shankar Pal, also a migrant worker from Bihar, who is a street vendor selling boiled eggs in Khora Colony, Ghaziabad, just 1 Km. away from the AICCTU’s Delhi-NCR office branch in Sector 10, Noida. Gauri Shankar is the only earning member of his family, and his family is in great hardship ever since he has been in jail. Anoj Kumar Singh works in a factory far from Noida Phase-II. He has two small children (aged 1 and a half and 6 yrs.) Since he has been jailed, there no one to support his family. His wife, Poonam, is now taken up a job as a domestic worker to survive, leaving her two kids behind while at work. CPI(ML)’s Delhi State Committee member Shyam Kishore Yadav was also arrested on that day. Shyam Kishore is just recovering from a serious accident in which his hip bones were fractured; even now, he has trouble walking. His brother Hareram, also a CPI(ML) activist, is also in jail. Hareram suffers from TB; with the TB treatment being interrupted in jail, his health has deteriorated.

Workers in Noida are being punished for the remarkable success of the All-India Strike, with their democratic rights under an all-out assault by the police and administration, under pressure from the industrialists’ lobby. In Noida, workers were picked up by police from trade union offices, homes, streets. Trade Union members all over Noida were targeted, while innocent workers were also picked up at random. The arrested workers have remained in jail ever since. They were denied bail in the Sessions Court, in spite of the fact that the FIRs against them are blatantly, obviously false.

In the FIR that named Shyamkishor Yadav, the SHO of Sector 20 police station stated that she and her team were on a raid when they received information that a group of people were gathering to protest. On reaching the spot, they found 34 people, whom they instantly recognized as the ones responsible for the arson and looting carried out the previous day. She further stated that they arrested all of them, and that their families would be duly informed of their arrest. She took care to add that the guidelines laid down by the honourable Supreme Court were followed to ensure that there were no human rights violations, and those arrested had no complaints against the police! The Sessions Judge asked the police how they could claim to recognize so many people: she quizzed them on whether the men’s faces were towards them all the time during the violence on February 20th? The police claimed they had a video clipping of the violence that took place on February 20th. The counsel for the AICCTU members asked to see the video footage with the Judge, and also provided photographs of the AICCTU members to match with the faces of people in the video. We did this, knowing full well that there was no way any of these men were anywhere near the spot where the violence took place on the 20th February. However, the video was not shown to us – it was seen by the Judge in her Chambers, accompanied by the police. Subsequently, the Additional Sessions Judge passed an order denying bail. That order states that the accused causes crores of rupees of property to be destroyed in 200 factories; that they set fire to vehicles and factories; and that the police arrested the workers having recognised them in the video clipping! The bail rejection order states that “the accused have indulged in anti-people activity and have caused damage to public property.” In a blatantly biased and illegal way, the bail rejection order deems the accused to be guilty even before the trial has been held – on the basis of a video clipping which would in fact go to prove the innocence of these workers!

As we go to press (22 April), just a few of the arrested workers have got bail. There is a virtual emergency in place in Noida in the working class localities, and there is palpable fear in working class settlements. On 20 April, some students from Delhi and the CPI(ML)’s Delhi State Secretary went to Noida to campaign for a Convention to be held in Delhi on the 23rd April and for a March to the Noida District Magistrate (DM)’s office on the 25th April. When they reached the AICCTU office in sector 10, they were told that the Station House Officer (SHO) of the sector 20 police station herself had come with her team and sat near the office for a long time, warning workers that there would be more arrests if they distributed any leaflets or campaigned in any way! I made a call to the Noida Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) to ask him about this intimidation by the police. ‘Why are people being prevented from distributing leaflets,’ I asked. He replied, “What is the content of the leaflet? Is there anything against police or factory owners?” It has, then, become the job of the police to enforce a gag order on any criticism of factory owners or police by workers and trade unions!

In Uttar Pradesh (UP) with Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister (CM), it is interesting to reflect on the role of the police. The police does not so much as lift a baton against the Samajwadi Party-backed mobs of the dominant community who have repeatedly assaulted the Dalits of Ramgarh village in Dadri (Greater Noida). Likewise, they watch benignly as communal mobs repeatedly attack minorities. But when a 10-year old Dalit girl complains of gang-rape by Rajput criminals, the police in Bula House Officer (nshahr was quick to confine her over night in the police lock-up, separated from her mother! In Aligarh, the police refused to register an FIR when a little girl went missing. When her raped and murdered body was found the next day, her parents protested – and the police was caught on camera brutally hitting the grieving family and knocking one old lady to the ground. And in Noida, the police has arrested workers wholesale, without bothering to investigate the events of February 20. So, the police that won’t raise a finger against perpetrators of dalit atrocities, communal violence or rape, is quick to beat up protestors and arrest innocent workers.

The Noida police’s motto is ‘Always Alert and Serving People’. Given the way it is arresting innocent workers and terrorizing unions, it should be ‘Always Anti-People, Serving Corporations’. If the Noida police and UP administration really wanted, surely they could, in the two months since the Strike, easily use the available CCTV footage to identify the real miscreants and arrest them, instead of booking TU leaders and innocent workers who had nothing to do with the incident? Actually, the stray incidents during the Strike have just been used as a pretext to crack down on the entire workers’ movement and to terrorise workers against joining trade unions. The police, acting at the behest of the UP Government and factory managements, is hell bent on preventing workers from organising against denial of minimum wages, exploitation of contract workers in violation of the law, and denial of the right to unionise. It is an all-out crackdown on democracy – and calls for widespread democratic mobilisation in defence of democracy in Noida, as well as a concerted effort on part of the Central Trade Unions that had called the Strike.

Workers are under attack in the entire Delhi-NCR region- in the Delhi-NCR region, there are multiple instances of workers’ struggles for basic rights, facing victimisation and repression. The Maruti workers’ struggle continues: as in Noida, not oly the Maruti workers, but workers in the entire Gurgaon Manesar region are having their voices muzzled. The Maruti workers continue to be in jail on charges of arson and murder. In the Lala Ram Swarup TB Hospital (a public hospital in Delhi), most of the workers are employed on contract, and paid far below the designated wage – in violation of the law restricting contractualisation. Workers here have organised in a union affiliated to the AICCTU. Workers had a considerable backlog of unpaid wages to boot. When the contractor defaulted on wage payment, they demanded that the Director of the hospital, as the principal employer, ensure payment of wages. The hospital took the plea that the employer was not defined, and, in violation of the contract labour law, held that the hospital could not be responsible for the contractor’s terms. They went on strike, and gheraoed the Director. Some workers then got their pending wages, but 8 of the leading workers were victimised and lost their jobs. Their struggle continues.

In Wazirpur, workers employed in the same trade in different factories, united under a single trade-based Union to raise the demand for minimum wages, ESI and PF. They protested at the Labour Office and went on strike from 11-16 April. The workers later said that the Union leadership sold out; they chased away the leader who had sold out and sat independently on a dharna to continue the strike. Police cracked down on the dharna. A local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP ) corporator as well as an NGO activist offered to mediate. But both the BJP corporator and the NGO cheated the workers by unilaterally announcing a ‘settlement’ based on an increase ion wages of Rs.1500 – which the employers had already conceded before the Strike, an which was still far below the minimum wage. The BJP leader insisted on a compromise which the workers refused. The police then arrested the workers’ leaders and beat them up in custody; when they were released after several hours, the strike had been broken. AICCTU held a demonstration in Wazirpur against the various agents who forced a compromise on the workers, and against the police terror.

Politics in India

CPI(ML)’s 9th Party Congress:

Stop Corporate Plunder, Defend People’s Resources, People’s Rights

– Liberation, May, 2013.

The CPI(ML)’s 9th Congress at Ranchi, Jharkhand, was a powerful assertion of the Left agenda and response to the challenges of today’s India. The theme of the Congress – calling for a defence of ‘ People’s Resources, People’s Rights’ against corporate plunder, smashing of the ‘Business-Politics Nexus’ and strengthening of a ‘People’s Politics’ emerging from people’s struggles – resonated strongly in the context of the daily mega-scams involving top corporate houses and politicians. It was especially apt in Jharkhand, where for over a decade since the formation of the State, ruling political parties and coalition governments of various hues have been united in facilitating corporate plunder of resources by evicting the resisting indigenous adivasis through ruthless repression. The CPI(ML)’s 9th Congress underlined the foremost task of the Left at such a juncture – to unite with people’s movements and seek to assert a people’s political alternative rooted in people’s resistance. A report.

The CPI(ML) 9th Congress began appropriately by saluting the legacy of the legendary adivasi anti-colonial hero Birsa Munda at the premises of the old Central Jail where he had been killed in colonial police custody. CPI(ML) general secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya addressed the gathering at the old Birsa Central Jail, saying that the historical legacy of the anti-imperialist resistance of adivasis and Birsa Munda is all the more relevant in the context of plunder by corporations and foreign MNCs, Operation Green Hunt and repression on all kinds of people’s movements today.

CPI(ML) leaders and delegates from twenty states, leaders of various left parties as well as foreign guests from Bangladesh, Australia and elsewhere then marched from the old Birsa Central Jail to the Birsa Samadhi and offered floral tributes.

The march then proceeded to the Zila School grounds, the venue of the 9th party congress, and the red flag was hoisted at the Zila School grounds by Central Committee member Comrade Khitish Biswal, and floral tributes were paid at the martyrs’ memorial by the foreign guests, CPI(ML) polit bureau members and leaders of left parties. The campus was named after the legendary Com. Ram Naresh Ram, and the stage after Com. Ibn-ul Hasan Basru, both CPI(ML) leaders whom we lost recently.

At the inaugural session of the congress, a Condolence resolution in memory of various left leaders, progressive intellectuals, cultural figures and CPI(ML) leaders who passed away or were martyred. A resolution was also passed calling for a celebration of the centenary year 2013-14 of the historic anti-colonial Ghadar movement. The inaugural session was addressed by leaders of a range of Left parties as well as representatives of the Jharkhand movement, who together asserted the spirited of united assertion of Left and people’s movements. B.P. Kesri, Chairperson of the Reception Committee welcomed all delegates and guests on behalf of the Ranchi-based reception committee. Prof. Nirmal Minz, ideologue of the Jharkhandi movement, talked of the need for a militant assertion of tribal identity and rights – and expressed hope that CPI(ML) would continue to strengthen movements for tribal rights and identity.

Apart from the CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, the inaugural session was addressed by CPI General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy, and CPI(M) central committee member comrade JS Majumdar read out a message from CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat. Forward Block general secretary Debabrata Biswas, CPM (Punjab) general secretary Mangat Ram Pasla, RSP leader Manoj Bhattacharya, Taramani Rai of CPRM, Vijay Kulkarni leader of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), and Haladhar Mahto from Marxist Coordination Committee addressed the session. Veteran RSP leader Abani Roy and Comrade RB Rai (former Lok Sabha MP and CPRM President) as well as the international guests from CPN (UML), RWPB, and Socialist Alliance, Australia, were also present at the inaugural session.

From 2 April to 6 April, the delegate session took place, which was conducted by a 11-member Presidium. 1024 delegates and 163 observers deliberated on and adopted a wide range of policy resolutions that would guide the party’s practice – including the working class movement, agrarian and other rural struggles, women’s movement, student-youth movement, intervention in panchayats, the urban work of the Party, media and culture and environmental protection and people-centric development. he 9th Congress demanded justice for the victims of the war-crimes during the Bangladesh war of 1971, and the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The 9th Congress also committed itself to uphold the legacy of Hugo Chavez – who had fired the imagination of the Left worldwide with his bold anti-imperialist resistance, his assertion that socialism is possible, and his model of regional and neighbourly solidarity instead of war-mongering, all of which is especially relevant for the people of India and the sub-continent.

Late at night on April 6, the CPI(ML)’s Party Congress elected a new 59-member Central Committee, which in turn elected a 17-member Polit Bureau and re-elected Dipankar Bhattacharya as General Secretary. A 7-member Central Control Commission was also elected with Ramjatan Sharma as its Chairperson.

The guests from CPM Punjab, CPRM, and Lal Nishan Party (Leninist), as well as from RWPB and Socialist Alliance Australia, attended the Congress throughout.

Many artists and comrades had worked day and night to make the city of Ranchi and the venue of the Party Congress come alive beautifully with red flags, banners and other decorations. Paintings by the young painter Anupam Roy were displayed on the street next to the 9th Congress venue, catching every eye. Especially striking and evocative was an installation by sculptor Vineet, which had imaginatively used a fallen tree to convey the struggles of people against corporate land grab and environmental devastation. Teams and performers from various states held a Cultural Evening on 6 April.

The CPI(ML)’s 9th Congress concluded on April 7, 2013 with a massive ‘People’s Alternative Rally’ at the Vidhan Sabha Maidan at Ranchi. The rally called for a people’s political alternative to the UPA-NDA model of pro-corporate and anti-democratic governance. The Rally was presided by Bahadur Oraon, and addressed by CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Saiful Haq; Sue Bolton of Socialist Alliance; Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary of CPM Punjab; RB Rai, President of CPRM; and Vijay Kulkarni, Central Committee member of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist); CPI(ML)’s MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly and newly elected Central Committee member Vinod Singh; All India Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Raja Ram Singh; and CPI(ML) Polit Bureau members Kavita Krishnan and Dhirendra Jha.

Struggles in India

CPI(ML)’s 9th Party Congress:Excerpts from Statements of Left Leaders

– Liberation, May, 2013.

CPI General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy spoke about the global capitalist crisis and its impact on India, and various struggles against draconian laws like AFSPA, against neo-liberal policies and forcible land grab in Jagatsinghpur, Jaitapur and elsewhere.

CPI(M) Central Committee member Comrade JS Majumdar read out a message from CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat saying that while the All-India Strike “should provide a fillip to more united struggles and broad-based movements, it must be recognized that the Left has still not been able to reach out to large sections of the working people in different parts of the country and to organize them and to bring them into the movement. This requires a more united effort by the Left forces. Differences in ideological and programmatic positions should not come in the way of unity in action, in building united Left platforms to fight against imperialism, neo-liberal policies and communalism.”

Forward Block general secretary Debabrata Biswas said that in Jharkhand, we have seen not just corporate loot of resources, but also cultural and social subjugation along with economic subjugation. The fact that this Congress is being held in Ranchi is a big message to the entire left, and is very significant. It is also to be noted that CPI(ML) is trying to bring together all left and democratic forces, not just left parties – all forces fighting against land grab, against state repression, against corporate loot. “We are being told that the biggest problem is not inequality, poverty and environmental degradation, but so-called ‘Naxalism’: we must challenge this propaganda.”

RSP leader Manoj Bhattacharya stressed the need for left unity at a time when democracy is at peril. He said that on all people’s issues – unemployment, violations of rights, corruption, attacks on women, price rise, environmental degradation – united left struggles need to be waged. He appreciated the fact that CPI(ML) has taken the initiative to prepare a document on environment and ecology, which has emerged as a serious concern. Overall, he felt there is a need to challenge and discard the dominant paradigm of development and the existing developmental orientation.

CPM Punjab General Secretary Mangat Ram Pasla said that “The present challenge is to make people realize that we have an alternative model of development. We have to break the ideological hegemony of the ruling classes, convince people and prove to them that left is the only alternative available to the present crisis. We have to use every occasion possible to highlight this alternative and the need for it. People have to be made to feel the need for the left and this is possible only through uncompromising fighting left unity.”

Comrade Taramani Rai of CPRM began by highlighting the discrimination being faced by Gorkhas in India, where they are made to feel like outsiders, and therefore they want a separate state in India’s federal structure. He highlighted the need for the communist movement to understand the “unseen contradictions” of caste, race, nationality and language.

Comrade Vijay Kulkarni, Central Committee member of the Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) stressed the need to challenge the growing assault on workers’ rights. He spoke about how corporations and ruling class politics had become coterminous in Maharashtra.

Comrade Haladhar Mahato from MCC called for united Left assertion against displacement, against the land and coal mafia, against corruption and to defend people’s rights over land and livelihoods.

International Greetings

International guests – the CPN(UML) General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel, RWPB General Secretary Saiful Haq, and Socialist Alliance representative Sue Bolton, were felicitated by the Congress, and addressed the 9th Congress on the night of April 2nd. Solidarity messages from various international parties that could not attend, were read out. Below are excerpts from international messages of greeting and solidarity.

CPN(UML)

I would like to revive my memories of those days when the people of Jhapa and Naxalbari had such deep relations not only of physical proximity but of class friendship.

We are aware that India has made gret economic strides today. But the question is – what is the cost and whether India is ready to share this prosperity with its poor neighbours like Nepal. If the prosperity of India is only for a small section of capitalists and ruling class of India, and the vast majority is still denied basic necessities, then such progress means nothing to Indian people and even less for Nepal people. We request all progressive forces of India to raise their voice for an equitable relation with Nepal and cancellation of all unequal treaties between the two countries. We also express our solidarity with the Indian people in their struggle for a just society and against feudalism and imperialism.

The frequent exchange of visits and ideas and experiences between our two parties have been very helpful for both of us and we hope that our relations develop even further in the coming days. I wish many successes for CPI(ML) Liberation in the coming days and express my best wishes for the success of this Congress.

– Ishwar Pokhrel,

General Secretary

UCPN(M)

We received your invitation in time, and we were very eager to participate in the Congress. But due to the political complexity and uncertainty, we regret to state that delegates from our party will not be able to take part in the Congress. We are desirous to strengthen the existing fraternal relations between our two parties in the days to come. We feel proud if leaders from the both parties join their hands for such purpose.

We would like to convey our best wishes for the grand success of the upcoming congress.

Surendra Kumar Karki ‘Partha’

In-Charge, International Bureau

Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh (RWPB)

We are here at a moment when in Bangladesh we are witnessing an unprecedented wave of youth and students rising, demanding just trial and punishment of war criminals, banning of communal outfits and for a genuine democratic secular state on the basis of the spirit of our great liberation struggle in 1971. It is the left and left-leaning student, youth, cultural organizations along with progressive bloggers who are playing a very significant role within this mass uprising.

Because of the particular objective situation in our respective countries there are unique problems and issues and differences of strategy and tactics among revolutionary parties, but obviously there are common grounds among us, based on which we can come closer and share our experiences and ideas, and coordinate our campaign. Let us stand together with revolutionary courage and commitment. Once again I congratulate all of you and wish every success to the 9th Congress of CPI(ML) Liberation.

Saiful Haq,

General Secretary, RWPB

New-Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party, Sri Lanka

We appreciate the principled and consistent stand of your Party on the Sri Lankan national question whereby it steered clear of narrow nationalism while unreservedly criticizing the chauvinist state.

Our Party highly treasures the goodwill between the peoples of India and Sri Lanka and the friendly relationship between our two parties. It particularly appreciates the sustained support that you have given it by publicising important statements and other publications, and the continuous provision by your Party Secretariat of important political documentation on national and global issues.

While the Politburo of the Party regrets its inability to attend the 9th Party Congress at a time when things are taking a critical turn globally and in India and Sri Lanka, it sends its sincere fraternal revolutionary greetings to your Party on the occasion of its 9th Congress, reaffirms the solidarity of our Party with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist,), and wishes the 9th Party Congress a well deserved grand success.

Fraternally

Comrade SK Senthivel

General Secretary, New-Democratic Marxist-Leninist Party

Socialist Alliance, Australia

I was inspired by the account of the Ghadar movement at the beginning of your congress. This rebellion shows the true spirit of internationalism with Punjabi migrants in North America and Canada protesting against the racial discrimination they experienced. These Punjabi migrants were radicalised by this protest movement as well as being inspired by the Mexican revolution and the Irish uprising so that they returned to India to fight colonial rule.

That story conveys the true spirit of internationalism. More recently, our comrades in Socialist Alliance have been inspired by the CPI-ML comrades in your campaign against rape culture and for freedom for women. We had a similar incident in my city, Melbourne, where there was an outpouring of sentiment against rape. This has led to a new rise in the women’s movement, with feminist campaigning for the first time in many years.

The role your comrades played in putting forward progressive politics, highlighting the need for fight against sexist culture and highlighting rapes by the military and police and marital rape was an example of the important role that left parties can play in helping spontaneous movements develop in a progressive direction. The world is more linked now than ever, with capitalists chasing lower and lower wages as they shift production from country to country.

In a big warehouse strike in Melbourne early this year, Indian workers played an important role as part of the strike. We’ve also got the situation of South Asian students experiencing super-exploitation as they work for jobs under the minimum wage and experience racism. Some of these students have gone on to get involved in unions and local movements.

The capitalist political parties in Australia tell us that Australia has escaped the world economic crisis. But it’s highly unlikely that we will escape. We are trying to develop a stronger left response in preparation for the economic austerity that we know is around the corner by exploring left unity with one of the other left parties. We know that this period has great challenges for the left. In times of economic crisis it isn’t inevitable that people will look to the left. Some will look towards the right. In Greece, as well as the spectacular rise of the left, the far right has also grown with a section of the population blaming migrants and refugees for the crisis.

It’s not enough to be against what capitalism is doing. People have to understand that there is an alternative. The left has to help people imagine an alternative to capitalism and imagine the possibility of a socialist world. We have to come up with the slogans which point in the direction of a world that isn’t controlled by the corporations.

Let’s make socialism an alternative that people can relate to.

I hope you have a successful 9th congress.

Long live the struggle for socialism.

Sue Bolton

French Communist Party (PCF)

We are confronted, in France, with a complex political situation where the win of the candidate of the Socialist Party, with decisive support of our Left Front, has lead in some months to a big disenchantment in the face of the absence of resistance to the diktats of “financial markets” from the new government and from the French President.

The crisis of capitalism imposes dramatic consequences on living conditions and on hopes of human beings for the great majority of the populations of our countries. Mankind deserve better. We can make it better. We must surely reinforce our collaboration. Full success to findings of your congress in this right way.

Lydia Samarbakhsh

Member of national coordination in charge of foreign relations ships

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in India

Comrades and participants of the CPI(ML) 9th Party Congress, warm greetings from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The legacy of Commander Hugo Chavez, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, is already being carried out in all spheres. In this revolution’s unending struggle against imperialism, Chavez took a stand against the world order imposed by the superpowers. The ideas of the Commander, expressed as a liberating school of thought known as ‘chavismo,’ apart from having class consciousness, is anti-imperialist, socialist, and consequently, against capitalism.

The Socialism of the 21st Century is not just for Venezuela or Latin America. It is a model for the oppressed people of the world, a guide to fight capitalism.

The people and the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela wish success to the participants of the CPI(ML)’s 9tjh Party Congress in its deliberations and outcomes in order to gradually move towards the achievement of a more just and egalitarian society with greater social justice.

Long Live Hugo Chavez!

Long Live the Bolivarian Revolution and Socialism of the 21st Century!

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) the assurances of my highest consideration.

Truly yours,

Milena Santana-Ramirez,

Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) conveys its warm greetings of solidarity to the leadership and membership of the Communist Party of India (ML) on the auspicious occasion of your 9th Party Congress on 2-8 April 2013.

We wish you utmost success in consolidating and expanding your ranks in pursuing the manifold revolutionary tasks in upholding and defending the fundamental interests of the Indian people, fighting against the ever worsening oppression and exploitation by imperialist powers and their local cohorts, and advancing the struggle for the national and social liberation of the Indian people.

We in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are also waging a revolutionary struggle against US imperialism and the local reactionaries presently led by the Aquino regime.

Dear comrades, we wish you a victorious 9th Party Congress! The revolutionary struggle of the Indian people is a very significant part of the worldwide revolutionary struggle against imperialism and for socialism.

Long live the solidarity between the Indian people and the Filipino people!

Long live anti-imperialist international solidarity!

Comrade Luis Jalandoni

National Democratic Front of the Philippines

Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

Revolutionary Greetings to the 9th Congress of the CPI (ML)-Liberation! In the spirit of proletarian internationalism, we send our best wishes that the 9th Congress of your party being held in Ranchi, Jharkhand, India, will provide positive steps for the Indian masses and your proletarian vanguard forces to advance the struggle against the Indian state and imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, and for national democratic and socialist revolution in your country and throughout the world.

As representatives of the revolutionary proletariat “in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast,” we pledge to continue to do our best to contribute to this global struggle. We look forward to future revolutionary collaboration of our two organizations in the interest of all the oppressed and exploited of the earth.

With comradely regards,

Rose, for the

Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

Socialist Alternative, Australia

Please accept our warmest regards and revolutionary greetings on the occasion of your 9th Party Congress. We acknowledge the tremendous sacrifices that have been made and the tireless work carried out by your comrades in the struggle for socialism in India.

We send the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) our solidarity and wish you all the best for the future. We look forward to developing closer relations between our respective organisations.

The fight for socialism is a world-wide fight and we stand with you in this our struggle: Workers of the world unite!

Comradely regards

Tom Bramble,

On behalf of Socialist Alternative

Politics in India

Commute DS Bhullar’s Death Sentence, Abolish Death Penalty

– Liberation, May, 2013.

The Supreme Court verdict rejecting the plea for commutation of death sentence for DS Bhullar is most unfortunate. The case against DS Bhullar rested almost wholly on custodial confession. In 2002, when the majority bench of the SC upheld the death penalty for him, Justice Shah in his minority judgement had actually argued for acquittal, on the grounds that custodial confession was inadmissible as evidence. In a case where even guilt is in such doubt, there can be no justification for the death penalty.

In the past the Supreme Court has held that long delay in carrying out the sentence could be grounds for commutation of the sentence of death into life imprisonment. However, the Supreme Court this time has held otherwise. In doing so, the apex court, instead of judging the matter on the grounds of principles of justice, has instead invoked the growth of terrorism “in recent years.” How can a matter of principle be subject to change on the grounds of subjective opinions and assertions of judges?

The SC has also chosen to make comments against human rights activists, accusing them of raising “the bogey of human rights.” In the case of Bhullar, it was a judge of the Supreme Court, not a human rights activist, who had called even his conviction into doubt on the grounds of insufficient evidence! If the Supreme Court considers ‘human rights’ as a ‘bogey’, which institution is there to check the state from riding roughshod on human rights?

Last year, 14 retired judges wrote to the President of India, admitting that the Supreme Court had wrongly awarded the death sentence to 13 people. It is unacceptable in a democracy to risk such grave miscarriage of justice. Moreover, it is overwhelmingly those from marginalised sections of society who face the death penalty: offenders from privileged sections are rarely subjected to such punishment.

In the interests of justice, CPI(ML) demands that DS Bhullar’s sentence should be commuted. In the light of the inconsistency and bias in awarding of death sentence and grave errors in this regard admitted by retired judges of the Supreme Court, CPI(ML) supports the growing demand that India abolish the death penalty or at least honour the UN resolution to uphold a moratorium on death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition.

Struggles in India

Fresh Wave Of Protests Demanding Action to Curb Rape and Ensure Accountability of the Police

– Kavita Krishnan, Liberation, May, 2013.

Even as Delhi and other parts of the country witness a fresh wave of protests against the rapes of minors and the dereliction of duty and highhandedness on part of the police, Justice JS Verma passed away. Justice Verma had headed a committee that had, in January, in consultation with citizens as well as activists from India and beyond, drafted a comprehensive report on tackling the menace of sexual violence and crimes against women. Protestors are paying warm tribute to Justice Verma for a Report that became a veritable manifesto for the people’s movement against rape. But the continuing trail of crimes against women and children, aided and abetted by police apathy and misogyny is stark evidence that the Central and State Governments have not bothered to even attempt to seriously read, let alone implement, the Justice Verma Report.

What has triggered the current wave of protests is not just the heinousness of the rapes of minors, but the fact that these were crimes that prompt police action could possibly have prevented. Adding insult to injury, the police responded with corruption and criminal abuse of power that reeks of arrogance borne of a sense of impunity. In the Delhi case, the little girl was abducted by a neighbour. Had the police not delayed in filing the FIR and been serious about searching for the child, they could certainly have rescued her before she came to grievous harm. After she was found, the police tried to bribe the father into suppressing the complaint. And when people protested, a senior police officer was caught on camera repeatedly slapping a young schoolgirl protestor. In another case in Aligarh, the police refused to file an FIR in the case of a missing Dalit little girl, and later her body was found, raped and murdered. When the family protested, they were viciously assaulted by a police officer – again, caught on camera. Yet, the UP Government has failed to lodge an FIR against the Aligarh cops for delay in filing a case and for assault; similarly, FIRs are yet to be filed against the Delhi Police cops responsible for dereliction of duty or for assault. In another case in Bihta in Bihar, a 7-year old girl was raped and killed – but the police did not file an FIR for 5 days, clearly trying to protect the rapists.

The movement’s demand for sacking of the Delhi Police Commissioner is entirely justified: because the Commissioner is guilty of protecting his junior officers. He claims that the suspension of the accused Delhi cops pending enquiry is ‘due process’ and is adequate action. When police officers break the law and commit a crime, they must not be spared: action as mandated by the law must follow just as it would in the case of a common citizen. And the law mandates that a police officer who is derelict in duty in a sexual violence case must face criminal charges that, if proved, could lead to between 6 months and 2 years in jail. Similarly, assault of an unarmed citizen by a police officer is a crime – why the delay in lodging an FIR against a crime, just because the perpetrator is a cop, that too when video evidence stands testimony to the crime?

In February this year, the Supreme Court has commented on the apathy of the Centre and State Governments towards the epidemic of missing children. Every day some 100 children go missing in India, and only a small proportion of them are recovered. The apex court had ordered that every missing child complaint must be automatically turned into an FIR, and be followed by exemplary investigation and efforts at recovery. It is clear that the Home Ministry and the various State Governments are yet to ensure that the police abide by the Supreme Court’s order in this regard.

The Delhi Police CP has declared that his stepping down cannot bring down rapes. The fact is that accountability on part of the police is crucial in curbing rapes and other crimes against women. And accountability can be ensured only by a zero tolerance policy for wrongdoers in uniform. If action is not taken – both in the case of the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh (UP)and Bihar cops – the UP and Bihar Governments and the Home Ministry are condoning criminal misconduct on part of the police, due to which cases of missing children turn into cases of rape and murder. It is clear that such cases are on the rise in all states, with Bharatiya Janata Party-National Democratic Alliance ( (BJP-NDA)-ruled states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh being no exception.

The Central Government and State Governments must immediately take steps to ensure strictest possible accountability on part of the police and other institutions, and implementation of the Justice Verma Report’s comprehensive recommendations towards both preventing and punishing sexual offences. The All-India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) held protest programmes at several places across the Country on 22nd April to condemn spiralling incidents of rapes and assaults on women and to demand concrete action for urgently saving children and women from becoming brutal victims of these crimes being committed with greater impunity. At the time of going to press, reports of programmes have come only from few places; rest will be published in the next issue. In Vijaywada a human chain was formed that blockaded traffic for an hour and an effigy was burnt. Similar programmes with effigy burning were held at several districts in Andhra Pradesh including Vissanapeta of Krishna district, Ananthpur town, and Kakinada, Prathipadu, Yeleswaram in East Godavari district. AIPWA leaders led and addressed the protest demonstrations.

Struggles in South Asia

Bangladeshi Garment Workers Died in Factory

– Liberation, May, 2013.

As Unions Around the World Prepared to Commemorate The International May Day, Hundreds of Bangladeshi Garment workers Died in Factory Collapse. As Many as 1,000 Workers May Have Been Killed

There are fears as many as 1,000 people may have died in a building collapse that is now Bangladesh’s worst ever industrial accident. At least 377 people, mainly female workers, are confirmed to have died, and more than 1,000 were injured, when the Rana Plaza factory building in Savar, that housed several garment units with over 3000 workers, collapsed on Wednesday, 24 April. Hundreds of people are still missing. Rescuers are still crawling through the rubble, hoping to find anyone who has managed to survive so long, but nearly all the people being carried out now are dead.

The disaster sparked a mass rally by garment workers, who clashed with police. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the angry crowds as the workers, some armed with bamboo sticks, blockaded roads and attacked factories in the textile hub of Gazipur. Rescuers said at least half of those still inside the collapsed building were women and children, and the building also housed a crèche on its 7th floor.

Survivors said the building developed visible cracks on Tuesday evening, but factory bosses had demanded staff return to the production lines despite a police evacuation order. “We were working inside the building when it collapsed,” one survivor said. “I was still working, I could not understand what happened, my co-worker told me why are you sitting here? Run run. Before I could reach the exit the building collapsed.” The collapse of the multi-story building is the worst industrial accident in the country’s history and the latest in a spate of tragedies in the “Made in Bangladesh” clothing sector.

During the long search, the owner Rana was missing. Local media reported he left his basement office in Rana Plaza just before the collapse, drove away and dropped from sight. He was arrested Sunday as he tried to cross the border into India. For years, though, Rana had sat at the nexus of party politics and the powerful $20 billion garment industry that drives the economy of this deeply impoverished nation.

While Rana is currently a leader of the youth group of the ruling Awami League, he has also worked for that party’s archrival, the Bangladesh National Party. This intersection of politics and business, combined with a minimum wage of $9.50 a week that has made Bangladesh the go-to nation for many of the world’s largest clothing brands, has made dangerous factory conditions almost normal.

Labour activists had called for improved safety standards after a November 2012 garment factory fire in the same suburb, when locked emergency exits trapped hundreds of workers inside and 112 people died. But almost nothing has changed.

The largest factory in the stricken complex, New Wave Style, lists international retailers such as Benetton among its clients. British low-cost fashion line Primark and Spanish giant Mango have so far acknowledged having products made in the collapsed factory bloc, while a host of brands including Wal-Mart and France’s Carrefour are investigating.

Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi workers walked out of their factories in solidarity with their dead colleagues on Thursday as flags flew at half mast and a national day of mourning was held.

The National Garment Workers’ Federation (NGWF) called on major international buyers to be held to account. “This negligence must stop. The deaths of these workers could have been avoided if multinational corporations, governments and factory owners took workers’ protection seriously,” NGWF president Amirul Haque Amin said in a statement.

Around 4,500 Bangladeshi factories produce clothes for many of the world’s major brands, employing 4 million workers and generating 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s $US24 billion annual exports, making it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter behind China with wages as low as $37 a month for some workers toiling for 10 to 15 hours a day, in unsanitary and unsafe working conditions.

International

A Challenging Time for Venezuela

– Om Prasad, Liberation, May, 2013.

(Om Prasad, a leader of AISA in JNU, visited Venezuela on invitation from the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (CNE) to be part of the International Electoral Accompaniment Program. He recounts the experience.)

The Presidential Elections of April 2013 in Venezuela marked an important milestone in the struggle of the Venezuelan people for democracy and freedom from the imperialist shackles of the United States. Within a month of the death of their leader Hugo Chavez the people of Venezuela had to decide on the future of their country. The importance of these elections was not limited to the future of Venezuela alone, it was being closely followed by all the progressive and anti imperialist forces of the world, for the outcome of the elections would have an important bearing on the path that Venezuela would tread post-Chavez.

On the eve of my arrival in Venezuela, a huge rally in support of Nicolas Maduro totally filled up the central avenue of Caracas, which is known as the Simon Bolivar avenue. Argentine football champion Diego Maradona attended the rally in solidarity with Maduro’s campaign.

Being part of the International Electoral Accompaniment Program of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela (CNE), I had the opportunity to witness the electoral process at very close quarters. Like many things in this beautiful country, the electoral process too is unique and designed to ensure maximum participation of the population and safeguard the process from any external interference. Since Venezuela has a unique electoral process it is important to also understand the process and its significance in strengthening Venezuela’s participatory democracy.

The CNE: An Exemplary System of Transparent Democracy

The CNE was established as part of the new ‘Bolivarian’ constitution that was promulgated by Chavez and approved by a referendum in 1999. The CNE was created as part of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution and the imprint of this legacy is still visible. No other country in the world invites people and international organisations from all over the world to accompany the election process. It is to be noted that the delegation comprised not only of activists, trade union leaders, journalists from around the world, but also officials of the electoral bodies of different countries, including India’s Election Commission. The program is consciously called an accompanying program rather than a observing mission because of two reasons: firstly, it is an integral part of the electoral process of Venezuela and secondly, observing implies an asymmetric relationship between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’. Imperialist nations demand to observe and certify the elections of the third world but do not allow anyone to observe and monitor their elections! This program has also allowed Venezuela to firmly establish the credibility of the electoral process, and has also acted as an effective deterrent to any underhand means employed by the right-wing to destabilize and rig the elections. In a way the CNE has played a revolutionary role in Venezuela. It was after the forming of CNE that millions of Venezuelans who had hitherto not even been registered as voters were enlisted as the voters for the first time in their lives.

As activists of the left we always knew that every time an anti imperialist leader is democratically elected the United State wastes no time in declaring the elections a fraud without any evidence and starts planning ways to topple the popularly elected government. They did it with Salvador Allende of Chile, and they did it numerous times with Hugo Chavez. But the Venezulean electoral process is so robust, transparent and fool proof, that had a process as rigorous as Venezuela been followed, both George Bush in 2000 our very own Chidambaram would have found it very difficult to win! The whole process goes through 17 audits during which the representatives of all the political parties are present. The voting is done electronically but for every vote, there is a paper receipt which confirms the voter’s vote and the receipt is deposited in the ballot box. On the day of polling after the voting is completed, 54% of all the ballot boxes across the country are audited to make sure that the number of paper receipts tally with the number votes cast electronically. Any interested person is allowed to watch this process. Such a public scrutiny is yet another indication of Venezuela’s desire to involve people as far as possible in public processes.

Moreover, immediately after the polling gets over, results are transmitted by the EVMs if all the polling agents present agree that the polling process has ended in their booth. This is unlike the process in India where EVMs are sent to the DM’s office for ‘safekeeping’ – and results declared only the next day after the machines have been custody of the state machinery for several hours.

In another attempt to ensure more involvement of the people in the polling process, the CNE had placed dummy machines in public places like subways so that people could practice voting and get familiar with the process.

In summary, it’s a system which leaves no space for any fraud or tampering as imperialist forces claim.

Venezuelan Democracy: Participatory Not In Name Only

But Venezuela today is much more than the elections. The vibrant participation in the elections of the populations (the turnout in this Presidential Elections and the previous was near about 80%) are actually a pointer to the political vibrancy of Venezuelan society and the participatory nature of Venezuela’s polity.

In the week long stay in Caracas one got a sense of this vibrancy and the healthy politicization of the people of Venezuela which has taken deep roots in Venezuelan society. This was evident on the walls of the Caracas. With almost every wall in the city being used for political graffiti either expressing support for Maduro or remembering El Commandante Chavez, the walls truly belong to the people and they use it extremely creatively for their political expression. It was striking to note that the walls were almost exclusively used by the Maduro campaign, the opposition preferred to put billboards on top of high rise buildings. The walls of Caracas also tell us that the historical memory is very much alive in Venezuela, a memory which struggles against forgetting and remembers the anti-imperialist, nationalist, and revolutionary martyrs of South America and martyrs of the world who in many cases have been murdered by US sponsored right wing groups.

So one sees wall writing on top of a ten-storied building announcing ‘Col Salvador Allende Presente’, a tribute to the socialist President of Chile whose government was toppled by a US sponsored coup in 1973 and who was forced to commit suicide. The slogan conveys, beautifully, how Allende is present in Caracas as a living inspiration: because fighters for freedom and equality are never ‘absent,’ they remain by the side of all the fighting people of the world. A wall at the Bolivar Plaza near the city centre had a wall which was adorned by the portraits of Lenin and Che! There were hoardings of Hugo Chavez and Yasser Arafat together in the city. What does this say about the people? Once can only infer that a society which had resisted decades of loot of its natural resources by huge multinationals and imperialists and paid a huge cost at the altar of brutal repression, always wants to refresh its memory by paying homage to and drawing inspiration from the fighters and martyrs.

Through the Bolivarian Constitution, Venezuela has also managed to have a very vibrant participatory model of democracy. In Caracas, near the National Assembly the street corners are a place for intense public debate and discussion. The National Assembly when it is in session comes out to the streets for one day to take the opinion of the ‘street’ while designing a major policy. This was also a process which Chavez consciously put in place bring the people to the centre of everything. Today there is no place in Caracas where the people have not left their mark. Even the Miraflores Palace (Presidential Residence) is not ‘ set apart’ from the people: right in front of it is a newly built housing block for the urban poor as part of the massive social housing program undertaken by Chavez, called Mission Vivenda.

In fact it’s very difficult not to see the imprint of Chavez’s personality and policies in Venezuela. As one comes out of the airport one notices the Mission Vivenda housing blocks right outside the airport. In the urban slums – the ‘barrios’ – one sees ‘Popular Clinics’, medical clinics run with help from doctors from Cuba and also the Centre for Music for Social Action. This is a unique initiative of Venezuela which started before Chavez, but its funding was massively increased by Chavez. It is run by the Simon Bolivar Musical Foundation, which runs a network of youth orchestra across Venezuela. The foundation provides learning music as a means of social recovery and social assimilation for children from deprived backgrounds who have had histories of violence and drug use. This model has provided children with music not only as a recreation but also as a means of re-entering the world.

Chavez’s Final Resting Place

The visit to Cuartel de la Montana (Mountain Fort) – the final resting place of El Commandante Hugo Chavez – will be a memory that I will always cherish. The resting place of the Supreme Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution has been named as 4F in memory of his first attempted coup on 4th February 1992 which failed, but jettisoned him into the limelight. He had planned the coup from this very place and promised to come back even though he was arrested “Por Ahora (For Now)” (in his words). The entrance to the resting place is guarded by the flags of all the South American countries, countries who comprised the Bolivarian continent. We were visiting it on voting day and people had queued up to see him after casting their votes, most had tears in their eyes after paying tributes to their beloved leader. The Fort which is in the middle of a working class locality has been turned into a museum documenting the rise of Chavez in Venezuelan politics, from being a paratrooper in the army to being President. Many young soldiers with wet eyes were also there to pay tributes and salute their commander. The support of the army and Chavez’s success in ideologically winning over the military on the side of the Bolivarian Revolution, was an important factor in his successful 14-year stint as President. As a result of this, the chasm between the military and the civilians which exists in most countries is largely absent, and it was heartening to see many military personnel coming and voting with the civilian population in the polling centres. Anywhere in Caracas it is hard to miss that one is in Chavez’s city and Chavez’s country.

The Election Results

The results of the elections left many of us a little disappointed. The public sympathy that one witnessed after his death led many to assume and predict that Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s appointed successor, would win the elections by a comfortable margin of 10%. However after the results came late 14th night, the margin was a slender 1.77%. Immediately after the announcement of the results, the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles rejected the results alleging fraud in the electoral process; but he did not formally demand a manual recount of the votes. The US rushed gleefully in, and ironically Al Gore who lost to George Bush in a very controversial election, proclaimed that there were serious allegations of election fraud in Venezuela’s Presidential Election. Even though the Venezuelan system allows a written request for a manual audit of 46% of unaudited votes, the opposition preferred not to as for it in writing, but to raise the issue in press conferences where the CNE was accused of fraud and bias towards the official candidate. During this period, seven activists of PSUV (Maduro’s party) were murdered in Caracas, and xenophobia against Cuban doctors was tried to be whipped up. Finally after two days of spewing venom on TV and bloodshed on the streets, the opposition put in a written request to the CNE for a manual recount which has been subsequently accepted. Maduro has publicly said that he will accept the results of the recount. But the conviction of the Venezuelans to defend their democracy and their democratic institutions need to be saluted. On the day after the results were declared and Capriles refused to accept the results put out by the CNE, thousands came out on the streets in defence of Venezuelan democracy. On the 16th of April the employees of the National Assembly organized a mass meeting outside the administrative building of the National Assembly to defend their democracy and warn against any external interference.

In this midst of all this, one also wonders as to why, in a country where the policies of Chavez have brought the poor and the marginalized to the forefront of Venezuela’s political discourse, the people vote in such large numbers for a political group that is avowedly right wing and in for a presidential candidate who is alleged to have played a crucial role in the US-sponsored coup against Chavez in 2002. Since the turnout remained more or less same as in the Presidential elections of October 2012, it is clear that many who had voted for Chavez in October decided to vote for Capriles this time around.

The reason for this has to be understood at two levels. Firstly, Chavez has left behind a polity where his policies dominate the political discourse. The opposition, learning from its earlier defeats, decided to appropriate the language and metaphors of Chavez’s campaign and issues. To start with they named their campaign ‘Simon Bolivar Campaign’! These were the same people who during the 2002 coup had publicly stamped on Bolivar’s pictures. The main agenda of the Capriles campaign was to raise minimum wages, reduce unemployment, continue the social programs started under Chavez and give Venezuelan citizenship to Cuban Doctors working in country. Even though this was a smart strategy by the Capriles campaign, there was enough in the campaign to unmask their real intentions. Firstly, the Capriles campaign kept terming Maduro’s agenda of moving away from a oil-dependent economy as ‘deindustrialization’, and secondly Capriles openly stated that if he is elected he would immediately put a stop to the oil that is given as ‘freebies’ to Cuba and other Latin American countries.

Maduro on the other hand was at an advantage because Chavez before his death had publicly appointed Maduro as his successor and disadvantaged because he was a new figure in terms of addressing the public. A lady shop keeper of a souvenir shop told me she wanted to know who Maduro is and what his plans for Venezuela are, and she doesn’t simply want to hear that he is ‘Chavez’s son’. Also the Maduro campaign probably couldn’t expose the hypocrisy of the opposition enough, except to point out that the opposition campaign consisted of many members who had signed the Carmona Decree which declared Pedro Carmona as the President after ousting Chavez in a coup in 2002. And the fact remains that during the last 14 years many problems have been solved and many newer problems have arisen like unemployment, crime, corruption and food shortages and these require real solutions and the people wanted to hear from Maduro what would the solutions to these problems. There seemed to be a lack of communication about these issues between the people and the Maduro campaign.

But the road ahead for Venezuela remains tough. Maduro has his roots in the working class movement, he himself is a bus driver and a leader of the Bus Drivers union, he would know the difficulties faced by the poor of the country. Also he himself has publicly admitted that this is not a victory to be celebrated. He has also warned the United States to stay away from the affairs of Venezuela and that he doesn’t care if the US recognizes his victory or not. As supporters of the Venezulean people’s fight for equality, justice and struggle against neo-liberalism and imperialism, we hope that the legacy of Chavez is carried forward as Venezuela enters a new phase of history. As Maduro said after being sworn in as the new President, the need of the hour is a ‘Revolution of the Revolution’.

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