Posted by: daniellesabai | 2013/05/17

Election 2013: A right wing victory

pakistan_historic_election_violence_may_11_2013_1

Farooq Tariq (General Secretary – Awami Workers Party)

A right wing wave swept Pakistan general elections on 11th May 2013. At Federal level, conservative Muslim League Nawaz will form the government with 35 percent of votes. Pakistan former cricket captain Imran Khan Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf came second with 19 percent of vote and surprised many. Pakistan People’s Party, the Bhutto’s ruling party for the last five year came third with only 15 percent of votes, thanks to Sindh where it was able to fetch most of the votes.

Here is brief of the election results and percentage of votes by different political parties:

National

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN); 35%, Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI); 17.8%, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP); 15.7%, Mutihida Qaumi Movement (MQM); 5.6%, Jamia Ulmai Islam (JUIF);  2.9%, Pakistan Muslim League Q (PMLQ); 3.2% , Pakistan Muslim League F  (PMLF); 2.2%,  Jamaat Islami  (JI) 1.6%;

Sindh

PPP; 38%, MQM; 26%, PMLF; 10%, PMLN; 5%, PTI; 8%, National Peoples Party (NPP); 2%

Punjab:

PMLN; 49%, PTI; 19%, PPP;11%, PMLQ; 5%

Khaiber Pukhtoonkhawa

PTI; 31%, JUIF; 18%, PMLN; 16%, Awami National Party (ANP); 5%, JI; 6%, PPP; 6%, Independents; 11%,

Baluchistan

Pukhtoon Khawa Mili Awami Party (PKMAP); 25%, JUIF; 22%, Independents; 17%, PMLN; 6%, PTI; 2%, PPP; 4%, National Party (NP); 5%, Baluchistan National Party (BNP); 4%

Almost 62 percent of total votes went to right wing and religious parties for the first time in history of Pakistan. Although the religious parties were not united in one single platform, despite that pro Taliban JUIF got 10 seats at national level and got 22 percent of votes in Baluchistan and 18 percent in Khaiber Pukhtoon Khawa province, the two provinces bordering Afghanistan. Unlike 2002 general elections, they will not be able to form governments in these provinces; however, they will be considerable force of reaction that will try their best to increase their support by opposing Tehreek Insaaf government in KPK and nationalist cum PMLN government in Baluchistan.

The elections took place despite consistent attacks by the religious fanatics on the election rallies and candidates leaving over 200 dead in different parts of Pakistan, mainly in Khaiber Pukhtoonkhawa, Sindh and Baluchistan. Taliban and other fanatic groups were able to carry out deadly attacks despite all the security measures taken by the police, paramilitary and military forces deployed on the occasion.

The PPP was punished for their absolute obeying the orders from IMF and World Bank to implement all the conditional ties of hiking all the basic services and for massive load shedding of electricity. The prices had gone up and no comparison for the pay raises of the public sector employees during the PPP government. Private sector workers were the most exploited sector of working class during PPP government. It was government littered with corruption and bad management of all sector of life. The vote of PPP dropped from 2008 general elections 36 percent to little over 15 percent in 2013.

The PPP election campaign was restricted to newspapers and television and no mass activity on the ground. Unlike PTI and PMLN, they did not have one major rally or public meeting during the election campaign. PPP was able to retain Sindh support by securing 38 percent of votes because of spending almost all federal state resources during five years on Sindh for a very volatile opposition alliance of 10 parties with nationalist, right wing and religious fanatics together, They even could not agree to contest elections on one single election symbol.

The right wing PMLN got the best result because of their Punjab government performance during the last five years. They were able to construct 27 kilometer long Metro Bus rout in Lahore and advocated such development projects in other cities. Although, the Lahore Metro Bus project was completed at the cost of the other district of Punjab who were left far behind in  development projects than Lahore.

The PTI of Imran Khan was able to replace PPP in Punjab and ANP in KPK because of total bankruptcy of the policies and strategies of these parties with a more right wing liberal programme. It could not do it in Punjab with the same success of KPK because another right wing political force PMLN almost similar ideas but an experience of fighting back and with a vibrant political campaign.

The Left

The Awami Workers Party decided to contest from limited seat in Pakistan. It contested 12 National seats, 10 provincial seats from Khaiber Pukhtoonkhawa, 10 from Punjab and 2 from Sindh. It was routed out by the voters in almost all seats apart from one national assembly seat in KPK where chairman AWP Fanoos Gujar was able to fetch over 10,000 votes. I received little over 2 percent of the total votes in my constituency. In Faisalabad, one textile worker contesting election on AWP nomination got over 3 percent of total votes. Although, the election campaign gave us an opportunity to popularize the name of AWP and some new membership, despite that we were unable to break through.

I felt during election campaign where we organized over 60 corner meetings that we had some sympathetic view of the voters but we were not seen as the top two who were in the race. Also the massive use of money, violation of code of conduct and the experience of contesting and winning elections were the main basis for a total domination of this constituency and many others like this one.

There were a lot of rigging allegations by almost all the parties. The rich spent money like anything in this election and violated election commission of Pakistan code of conduct in almost all the seat particularly the condition of  maximum expenditure of Rupees one million ($10,000) for provincial assembly and 1.5 Million Rupees ($ 15000) for national assembly elections.

In Toba Tek Singh, where I contested unsuccessfully elections for Punjab Assembly seat, the code of conduct was violated with setting up camps near polling stations, canvassing inside the polling stations, providing free transport to their voters and spending millions of rupees on election campaign. Despite my several applications to the district administrations, no effective action was taken to stop these violations.

Future

Not much will change for working class under PMLN government. It might go worst. PMLN is committed to implement neo liberal agenda with more effective means. PPP government was unable to carry out privatization under a massive resistance of masses against it. Privatization under Musharaf was very visible at the time and there was no support for this action. PMLN with its mass support and no resistance by any political party will carry out mass privatization of public sector departments on the excuse of reducing state losses on these institutions. It will try to do that in its first 100 days in power. Trade unions will have hard time under PMLN.

The soft strategy of PMLN towards Taliban will pave the way for more right wing forces to popularize themselves among masses. The proposed talks will Taliban by PMLN will have no positive results. Its failure can pave the way for a more aggressive military solution towards religious fundamentalism. This was the strategy adopted by ANP government in KPK during 2008-2013 but failed miserably and was wiped out politically. PMLN will try to do with more sensitively but will not succeed.

The fight against religious fundamentalism can only be carried by making fundamental changes in state structure, separating state from religion, no state subsidy for private religious educational institutions, nationalization of all madrassas and introducing far reaching reforms in educational system including spending at least 10 percent of state budget on education.

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2013/03/24

Two years after Fukushima

fukushima 

Pierre Rousset

The triple disaster of 11 March 2011 constituted a major turning point in contemporary Japanese history — its political impact is not however unequivocal. It has provoked a radical break in the way in which many Japanese people perceive the authorities and institutions of their country. It has informed a profoundly progressive citizens’ revolt. But it has happened at a time when the geopolitical situation in East Asia is increasingly unstable: the popular sentiment of insecurity is accompanied by a great uncertainty as to the regional evolution of the relationship of forces between the powers; which has led to a dangerous renewal of reactionary nationalist and militarist movements.

The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 have had important social and economic implications above all in the north east which was directly hit. A population which was massively damaged has found itself in a situation of impotence and dependency. The traditional family, social and institutional networks have been devastated. The psychological shock has been profound, fed by the physical disappearance of community spaces (villages, neighbourhoods and so on), the lack of reliable information, solitude, the feeling of no longer having a future. Faced with the incredible administrative impotence shown by the state in these times of emergency, regional activist organisations (trade unions, associations and so on) have done remarkable work to bring aid and offer frameworks of collective activity to refugees. They have benefited in this respect from national and international aid networks, but their resources have remained inadequate in relation to the breadth of the disaster. As for the Japanese workers’ movement, it is too weakened (and bureaucratised) to bring to the attention of the country as a whole the social issues revealed or provoked by the disaster.

Thus — and given also the extreme gravity of the accident in the Fukushima power station — it is the nuclear question which has dominated the political scène in the post March 11 period. The pro-nuclear consensus which had prevailed in Japan has been broken. The avowals of those involved in this economic sector and the publication of documents have shown how this consensus had been built on lies, corruption, and private-public connivance; on the negation of the risks linked to radioactivity and the possibility of major accidents. This policy of lies was perpetuated during and after the disaster — to the point that mothers in the contaminated zones no longer knew what precautions should be taken to protect their children (more sensitive than adults to radiation of relatively weak dosage). The anti-nuclear movement — yesterday predominantly local (a citizens’ collective against each power station) — has taken on a national dimension, sometimes mobilising tens of thousands of persons, something never before seen in the archipelago. For various reasons, the power stations were deactivated, one after the other, to the extent that by May 2012 not a single one was still in service. In July, Naoto Kan, Prime Minister at the time of the disaster, declared himself in favour of a non-nuclear Japan.

In 2012, a number of polls showed a very large majority in favour of abandoning nuclear power. However, in early February 2013, polls showed 56% in favour of the policy of reopening of the power stations advocated by the new government of Shinzo Abe. How can this turnaround be explained?

Regional instability and nuclear lobby counter-offensive

After the Fukushima disaster, the nuclear lobby hunkered down. The development of the situation in eastern Asia gave it the opportunity to retake the offensive. Although often misfiring, the North Korean missiles increased the fear of a military threat. Above all, a conflict of sovereignty with China has emerged. Tokyo administers the Senkaku (in Japanese) or Diaku (in Chinese) islands. Beijing has always contested their annexation by Japan, but for decades the two governments had avoided making this question a “hot point” in their relations.

The territorial hot points are located more to the West, China forcibly demanding with military deployments the Paracel and Spratley islands against Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, but remaining very discreet on the tracing of its maritime frontiers in relation to Japan.

In September 2012, Tokyo opened the Pandora‘s box wide. The government effectively “nationalised” the Senkaku islands which were under private ownership. Beijing reacted by sending ships and planes to the sensitive area, and then stating that it wanted to map the micro-archipelago. The tension has just mounted further with the Japanese government accusing a Chinese warship of having “targeted” one of its destroyers with an attack radar. All this does not presage war, but an “active” territorial conflict which is likely to endure.

If what was yesterday diplomatically contained has now become explosive, it is obviously because each state covets the underwater wealth of the South China Sea. It is also because each has an interest in encouraging great power nationalism. For internal reasons (diverting attention from the social crisis), but also because the relationship of forces is in full evolution here. China is affirming itself as a military power and does not wish to be contained by the “island front line” running from Senkaku/Diaku to the Spratley and Paracels. The USA is strengthening the presence of the Seventh Fleet. However, Tokyo is no longer assured that the protection of Washington will remain unfailing.

For the first time, authorised voices are heard in Japan to say more or less explicitly, that the archipelago should equip itself with nuclear weapons. A fundamental taboo is being lifted in a country which in 1945, lived through the crimes against humanity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The suppression of article 9 of Japan’s pacifist Constitution is increasingly evoked (it affirms the renunciation of war). Concrete measures are taken or announced to increase the military strength of the “Self-Defence Forces”: an increase in the military budget, redeployment of F-15s, launching of a high precision optical satellite and so on.

Energy security is going through troubled times, argues the nuclear lobby, which advocates nuclear power so as not to depend on supplies by sea. The lobby wants the bomb also, the “civil” nuclear power supplying the necessary fissile materials necessary to the military. This alarmist campaign has made an impact on the Japanese people.

Confronted with this new situation, the Japanese citizen left has launched an appeal that each country in the region affirms resistance to the rise of xenophobic militarist nationalisms. It denounces the invocation of a mythical history to grab islands which have never been inhabited. It aspires to a shared management of the seas in the interest of the peoples and respect for ecological requirements.

Two opposed political blocs are taking shape, and this is something new. On the one hand the nuclear lobby, the militarist currents and most of the nationalist right. On the other, the civilian anti-nuclear movement, the last survivors of Hiroshima/Nagasaki our those who represent them (the mayors), the pacifists who defend the Constitution, those opposed to US bases in Okinawa , personalities like the Nobel prize winner for literature Kenzaburo Oe and so on. However, the anti-nuclear movement in Japan faces a difficult political situation for which it was not prepared.

In the absence of a left political alternative, the rejection of nuclear power after Fukushima was first incarnated on the political level by the parties of the centre-right, although they became rapidly discredited because of their incompetence. New populist radical right formations have emerged in the region of Osaka, then Tokyo. For now, the dominant post-war party, the Liberal Democratic Party, has regained power under Shinzo Abe. It has benefited from the abstention of disillusioned sectors of the population and an unmerited reputation for good management. The bad news – like the signature of the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Treaty whose social effects will be devastating – was put off until after the electoral period.

Internalisation of the anti-nuclear movement

There is no return to normality in the Fukushima power station. The nuclear crisis is going to last. The civic movement continues its everyday struggles in the archipelago: pickets in front of the head office of Tepco (the operator of Fukushima), filing of complaints by victims, resistance against the reopening of each power station. Last November Japan hosted a second international conference for a nuclear free world. Closer links have been made between the struggles waged in various countries for a nuclear free world, as well as struggles in various countries of the region, like South Korea or India. For the first time, the Asia-Europe Popular Forum has published a declaration in favour of ending nuclear power. March 2013 will be marked by numerous mobilisations for the second anniversary of the disaster.

The shockwaves from Fukushima continue to spread.

From IVP

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2013/03/20

Peoples Forum against ADB – May 2013, 2-5

ADB

Our planet is not for sale!

ADB Quit India! Quit Asia!

We, peoples’ movements, mass organisations, struggle groups, trade unions, communityorganisations and many others from India and the Asia-Pacific region, call for a protestagainst the 46th Annual Board of Governors’ Meeting (AGM) of the Asian DevelopmentBank (ADB) in Greater Noida, Delhi during May 2-5, 2013.

The AGM will make decisionson key development issues for the Asia-Pacific region, that will affect all of us now and inthe future. India, which is touted as ‘the emerging power in the region’ and in the ADB, ishosting the AGM for the third time to showcase and endorse a ‘development throughempowerment’ model put forth by the ADB. In fact, over the years, the Indian ruling classhas been working hand in glove with the ADB in a mutually beneficial complicity at theexpense of hundreds of millions of poor, marginalised and other toiling sections of the society.

The ADB has earned the notorious title of actually being an “ Anti-human Destructive Bank ,” whose devastating acts are not limited to India, but are evident across the Asia-Pacific region and also at the global level in collusion with the World Bank, InternationalMonetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions of global capitalism. Likewise, our protest andresistance is not limited to the ADB but extends to all International Financial Institutions(IFIs) whose primary missions are to appropriate and commodify the natural, human andsocial wealth of the planet, and force nations into indebtedness and political subordination.

A self-acclaimed “development” financial institution, the ADB claims to combat poverty inthe region. But its poverty reduction strategy is merely a masquerade for prescribing adoomed model of rapid economic growth powered by the privatisation, commodificationand financialisation of natural resources and basic needs like water, power, education, etc.Under the guise of “good governance,” the ADB supports profit-mongering, un-accountable and non-transparent private sectors. The Long-Term Strategy Framework (Strategy 2020) of the Bank is a recipe for the transfer of wealth, means and capacities from the poor and middle classes to the wealthy, upper classes. Using grand slogans such as ‘inclusive growth’, ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘regional integration’, the Strategy 2020 focuses on private sector development and explicitly advocates private sector participation in ADB and borrower operations. In 2011, the Bank spent nearly $6 billion as private sector finance. Not surprisingly, in India the number of billionaires rose from 2 with a combinedworth of $2 billion in the mid-1990s, to 46 in 2012 with a total net worth of $176 billion!

With nearly $22 billion in annual financial investment for nearly 350 projects (loans, grants,equity investments and Technical Assistance) in Asia-Pacific, governments have given the ADB a mandate to direct the development path for the region. Under the pretext of addressing environmental and climate crises and alleviating poverty, the ADB continues todisplace and alienate large numbers of people from their lands, homes, water sources andforests, and violates their rights to livelihood, ctizenship and participation in decision making.

Join hands against the ADB AGM

While it is our governments who borrow, the onus of debt repayment falls on the public exchequer and the people of the country, and is transferred to subsequent generations and the environment. Debt repayment depletes scarce foreign exchange reserves, andredirects national revenues away from spending on essential public goods such as education, health, housing, water, sanitation, electricity and job-creation towards servicingan upward spiralling illegitimate debt.The struggles, movements and campaigns against ADB funded projects in West Bengal,Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharkhand,J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and the North Eastern States take this opportunity to expose the ADB’s collusion with the Indian Government to enable the concentration of wealth,resources and capacities in the hands of the economic-political elites. People led byvibrant struggles in these states to halt nuclear power, land and water grabbing, forcedevictions, anti-people laws, farmers suicides and environmental destruction send out thisappeal to challenge the asymmetrical, ill-designed and anti-people developmentprescriptions of the ADB. The 2013 ADB AGM in Delhi offers a much-needed opportunity for us to come together toexpose the destructive developmental model promoted by the ADB and our governments.

We invite all of you to join us in voicing our opposition to institutions like the ADB, which mutilate our democratic institutions, perpetrate untold violence on our societies and foster continuing marginalization and pauperization of our peoples.

Peoples Front Against IFIs Endorsed By

(19March’13)

India

Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch (Jharkhand), All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM), All India Union of Forest Working people ( AIUFWP/NFFPFW), ANBALAYAM – Pondicherry , Andhra PradeshMuslim Organization, Behavioural Science Centre (Ahmedabad), Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, Bharatiya KisanUnion (BKU), CASA-ACT, Citizens Forum for Mangalore Development, GM-Free Bihar Movement, HaldiaDock Complex Contractors Shramik Union, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, India FDI Watch, Indian Social ActionForum (INSAF), Indianoil Petronas Contractors Shramik Union, Janpahal, Kabani – the other direction,KSMTF – Kerala Fishworkers Forum, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Mines, minerals & People (MmP), Nadi Ghati Morcha, National Fishworkers Forum, National Hawkers Federation, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), Radical Socialist, River basin Friends, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People – SANDRP, Sundarban Banadhikar Sangram Committee & others

Asia/International 

Alternatives Asia, Asia Europe Peoples Forum, Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt & Development (JubileeSouth), CADTM International Network, FOCUS on the Global South, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)

Asian Countries

Bangladesh

EQUITYBD, Humanitywatch, Initiative for Right View – IRV, Online Knowledge Society,Participatory Research Action Network-PRAN, VOICE

Indonesia

Solidaritas Perempuan

Nepal 

All Nepal Peasants’ Federation (ANPFA), All Nepal Women’s association (ANWA), Forum for theProtection of Public Interest

Pakistan

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Umeedenao Citizen Community Board

Philippines

AMA- Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Agricultural Workers)

Sri Lanka

Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth

 Peoples Forum against IFIs – May 2013, New Delhi organised by: Peoples Front against IFI’

Draft Programme:

 Auditorium – YMCA, Greater Noida (http://newdelhiymca.in/gnpc.php)
2 May 2013 (Thursday) – “ADB: Quit India & Asia!”
08.30 am: Demonstrations & protest meetings outside ADB-AGM venue (Greater Noida)Protest demonstrations, public meetings etc. in different parts of India
OPEN FORUM:
01.30 am – 05600 pm: Understanding the Political Economy of IFIs
3 May 2013 (Friday)
08.30 am – 09.30 am: Demonstrations outside ADB-AGM venue11.00 am – 01.30 pm: Panel on “ADB vision & mission – Alienating people and urban poor, encouraging  private capital” Call by PEOPLES FRONT against IFIs
02.30 pm – 05.30 pm: Panel on “Contributing to Climate Change – ADB’s Climate Hypocricy”
4 May 2013 (Saturday)
08.30 am – 09.30 am: Demonstrations outside ADB-AGM venue11.00 am – 01.30 pm: Panel on “ADB & natural resources: Resisting ADB’s privatisation agenda” 02.30 pm – 05.30 pm: Panel on “Are IFI’s accountable to citizen’s & democratic institutions? Trade Unionsand political parties demanding public oversight and social audit of IFI projects & programs”
5 May 2013 (Sunday)
08.30 am – 09.30 am: Demonstrations outside ADB-AGM venue11.00 am – 02-00 pm: Concluding Open Session: “Ways forward in resisting IFIs – the struggle continues”
VIBGYOR – mini film festival:
“Celebrating Resistances against IFIs & Globalisation”
curated by film-maker K P Sasi: 2 May – 4 May: 2.00 pm to 08.00 pm in “Meeting Room – P4″

Secretariat – Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

New Delhi, India

http://www.insafindia.net

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2013/03/05

Greater than the Might of Armies

india_general_strike_1

Kunal Chattopadhyay, Soma Marik, Sushovan Dhar

Over one hundred million workers across India struck work for two days, on 20 and 21 February. The precise number is difficult to ascertain, but the strike went beyond the expectation of the trade union leaders and the bosses alike. This makes it probably the biggest general strike in working class history. Throughout the two days of the strike, Indian television channels and the internet were filled with comments on how the strike was a flop, how it was useless, how workers were violent, how the trade union leaders were selfish people leading poor workers up the garden path. The very vehemence of these campaigns was evidence of the gradual awakening of a sleeping giant, the working class of India, showing its massive power. Were this force to be mobilised properly, were it to fight for its goals with a greater clarity of vision, it could claim to be greater than the might of armies. But today, it is still partially hobbled. Both dimensions—the struggle and the limitation—require explanations.

General Strikes

The term general strike, if loosely used, can cause problems. Today, it is no longer possible to remain satisfied with what Luxemburg or Trotsky wrote after 1905, or with experiences of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

For anarcho-syndicalists, the general strike was to be the final cataclysmic battle, when capitalism and the state alike would be paralysed. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) picked up this idea. The general strike is the measure by which the capitalistic system will be overthrown. As a result of this “general lockout of the employing class”, control of industry will pass from the capitalists to the masses and capitalists will vanish from the face of the earth.

As one 1905 German syndicalist pamphlet argued, the general strike was the “new weapon of the struggling proletariat” for at least two historical reasons. For one, revolution on the barricades, as in 1848, was no longer feasible in modern cities with their wide streets, not to mention the advances in military technology already apparent by then. A national or even international universal work stoppage, however, would stretch the military too thin to break it, it was argued. For another, “modern industry, with its extremely specialized labour division and complications is but poorly adapted to oppose a general strike, even one initiated by a minority of the working class. However, Marxists in the Second International had a more nuanced position. They rejected the idea that a general strike by itself could topple the ruling class and its state. Nonetheless, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky and others did write about the general strike, and after the Russian Revolution, it was clearly viewed as an instrument of mass working class struggle.

In India, the idea of the general strike evolved in two ways. Under Gandhian leadership, the nationalist movement did not want specifically proletarian forms of struggle. But it did develop the hartal – a mass stoppage including shutting down of shops and marketplaces, transport strike, etc. The rise of the communist movement and mass trade unionism saw the growth of industrial strikes, from which mass strikes could also develop. In 1946, supporting the striking post and telegraph workers, the workers from all over India responded to the call of the All India Trades Union Congress (AITUC, then the sole all India TU) and went on strike. There had also been a mass strike over the attempted trial of Captain Rashid Ali, an Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz) officer earlier in the year, as well as strikes in Bombay and elsewhere supporting the revolt of the Royal Indian Navy sailors.

After independence, the aura of being the leaders of the nation meant the Congress could exercise hegemony for a considerable period, and attempts at general strikes, especially during ultra-left swings of the CPI or its heirs were not successful.

The situation also worsened due to the transformation of the trade union movement. In 1946, the AITUC had been the sole trade union federation at the all India level. Subsequently, every political party with some importance tried to develop a trade union wing. As a result, India now has a large number of all India trade union federations, often several of which try to work in the same work place.

Neo-liberalism and Struggles

United agitation by all the unions has been very difficult. However, the beginning of the neoliberal offensive brought about a change. Real wages began to fall in the organised sector. Job security worsened. Contractisation increased. As a result, strikes in various industrial and service sectors increased, as did bigger (general) strikes. Between 1991 and 28 February 2012, there were 15 general strikes in India. There was of course no continuous upsurge of the class struggle all the way through.

In 1991, it was mainly the left trade unions and left leaning mass organisations of various kinds that banded together in the National Campaign Committee. However, the predominantly Stalinist left wing politics in India, turning to social democracy, had no overall response. Rather, their class collaborationist politics of Popular Frontism, falsely paraded as “anti-fascist united front”, hobbled the working class. In 1992, the communal-fascist RSS—VHP-BJP-BD combine (often called the Sangh Parivar), destroyed the Babri Masjid. This was followed by the decision to lower the anti-neoliberalism struggle’s pitch, since fascism had to be combated. [1] As a result, the Left parties in parliament chose to tolerate the P.V. Narasimha Rao government as the lesser evil. Which was followed by a so-called United Front government with the CPI providing ministers and the CPI(M) and RSP providing outside support. None of this meant any halt to neoliberalism. P. Chidambaram, who had served as a minister in the Narasimha Rao government, became Finance Minister in the UF and presented what the industrialists called a dream budget. Then came the turn of the BJP and its partners in the NDA. They continued the same neoliberal trends, combining them with pogroms and communal politics. This provided the left with “reasons” to again support the Congress in forming UPA-I in 2004. [2] Though the left got its highest ever tally in parliament that year, instead of fighting tooth and nail for the policies whose supposed defence had garnered it the votes, it chose to soft pedal these issues. In West Bengal, where it ruled, the Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee indeed tried to follow a similar policy.

The non-left unions, notably the INTUC, close to the Congress, and the BMS, close to the BJP, have also been wary of supporting militant actions. Even though on paper the BJP has often opposed neo-liberalisation in the name of swadeshi (indigenous enterprise), this has been a rhetoric to gain support while in opposition. Generally the BMS has not joined in the major strikes, as in 2010.

The situation was however changing by 2012-13. In 1991-92, the left parties and following them the trade unions had been reeling from the shock of the collapse of the USSR and the East European bureaucratised workers’ states. A new generation of working class has grown up since then—often unorganised, but also not burdened with the memories of defeats and false ideological blinkers.

The repeated strikes by workers in the first place presented a different picture of India to the world than the one better known. They showed that India was not only a new economic miracle, and not just full of peasants committing suicide, but also a country with the second biggest working class in the world, and right now, among the most militant.

The Old Unions and the New

Why did the Central Trade Unions take such a major action? In the first place, there has been a continuous pressure on the working class. There as accordingly also been a growing anger about losses, job cut in the manufacturing sector, the decline in employment, the growing casualisation of labour, the growing insecurity, etc. A large part of these workers also form the union membership and hence put pressure on the unions to act. The union leadership – however, bureaucratic they might be – cannot ignore these signals altogether. Indeed, the national leaderships of the major trade unions intend to limit the action to tokenism, but rank-and-file pressure is growing in favour of militant actions including strikes. This was the first reason to go in for a two day general strike, following last year’s one day general strike. [3]

Contrary to the ultra-left posturing that sees in trade union bureaucracies only betrayals, we argue that trade union bureaucracies, precisely because they derive their positions – including the occasional favours from the ruling class – because of the working class, has been deeply upset by the changed relationship since the onset of globalisation. At times, within their reformist framework, they have even challenged the left party leaderships. Thus, in 2010, Gurudas Dasgupta of the AITUC responded to Buddhadev Bhattacharjee’s criticism of trade unions, who allegedly go on strike at the drop of a hat, by saying “Before Buddhadev was born, before I was born, the workers have protested through strikes”. [4]

The ground realities show that in the last two decades, the membership of trade unions have remained stagnant, if not declining. Their activities have been more or less confined to the organised sector, more so to the public sector enterprises – from where over 70% of the membership is drawn. In the past, the state ownership on the one hand and trade unions’ closeness to political parties made not only the unionisation work but also made easier securing non-productivity related financial benefits in the public sector establishments. With the onset of the liberalisation process that included disbanding of the public sector the trade-unions’ capacity to influence political leadership in securing due demands weakened, causing the labour movement to move from one stage of marginalisation to the other.

Moreover, the very party-union relationship has meant a multiplicity of unions, including multiple unions in each workplace. These also involve over-centralised decision making, ad hoc management, obsolete strategies, external and over-aged leaders, personalized and power-oriented leadership, confrontationist attitudes, non-existent second tier leadership, and negligible gendering at both leadership structure and demands and programmes of action. All these have created distances between trade-unions and the mass of workers. Even though workers adhere to formal membership, they do not have a sense of belongingness to unions any more as in the past. An ILO 2004 survey report found that in Gujarat, only 20% of respondents knew about trade unions and worse still, 33% of the respondents believed the best means of representing work-related interests were by direct representation to employers, as against 7.4% who preferred the union and 14.8% that preferred direct collective action.

Political parties in past relied on trade-unions to secure hegemony and also garner crucial votes during the elections. However, in this latest phase of capital accumulation, parties do not lay much of an emphasis on the unions which they have assumed to are ‘tamed’ in the absence of a militant workers movement. G. Sanjeeva Reddy, the president of INTUC, the trade union federation affiliated to the ruling Congress party has no voice within his party on economic and political issues, in spite of being a member of the highest body, i.e. the Congress Working Committee (CWC). In another situation, in 2006, during the four-day strike and struggle against airport privatisation by the airport workers workers, CITU and CPI(M) leader M.K. Pandhe endorsing the movement was strongly criticising the Central Government; while the CPI(M) leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee tendered an apology to a meeting of Indian industrialists for the actions of his party-members in bring the Kolkata airport to a halt. This time also, Bhattacharjee opposed the general strike. And in West Bengal, the CPI(M) knuckled under to bourgeois pressure, so that there was a clear distancing from the CITU, in the name of observing Mother Language Day. [5]

Over the years, the left parties moved away from an independent class action towards building regional power bases and patronage networks by their position to distribute privileges and building a mighty set of beneficiaries right from the local capitalists to unemployed youth on the streets. For years they have limited themselves to working within the confines of the capitalist system, and therefore had no choice but to continue with their attacks on the workers. In spite of the bureaucratisation, back in 50s and 60s a chunk of the leadership was with a trade-unionist background; in the current scenario the really influential leaders are seldom even from trade union background (regardless of whether they themselves are/were workers).

Since mid 1980s, organised labour has not been able to challenge the changing ideology of the ruling class. The multiplicity of unions led to a severe inter-union rivalry, which promoted a parochial and unprincipled view of membership among the union leaders. Since the unions’ bargaining strength is positively related to their size, membership was a crucial element to be inflated. Eventually, some unions realized that only an independent, vigorous labour organization that enjoys the loyalty of the members has any chance of standing up to the challenges from management and the government, as well as the problem of multiple unionism. As it seemed that national unions or union federations were toeing the lines of specific parties, many of the “independent” unions that developed started abandoning politics in the name of safeguarding workers’ interests. The ineffectiveness of politically affiliated unions as also of CTUOs affiliated to one or other political parties created conditions in which workers found their membership to unions of little practical use. In spite of these, another sort of unions emerged which were unaffiliated and also very militants, particularly, at plant levels, e.g. workers initiatives at Kanoria and Victoria Jute Mills (West Bengal); Kamani Tubes (Maharashtra); Madura Coats (Kerala) to the Maruti plant at Manesar. Sometimes independent unions have tried to stick to pure economic unionism. At other times, they have had to take up political issues in some form. The enterprise level independent unions are also functional at Siemens, Brooke Bond, Pfizer, and other multinational companies.

In the process a number of independent unions have been found by workers to be more acceptable. There has also been the growth of a significant independent trade-union federation, the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), which currently has a membership of over 11 lakhs (1.1 million). Realising the disastrous effect of disunity within working class, a section of independent, but militant and socially conscious section of working class realised the necessity of building a nationwide federation, unbiased from political loyalty but focussed for workers causes took a pioneering role to form NTUI, not for a further division within the working people, but to uphold their unity. From the Intent Document of NTUI, “For a New Initiative” in 2001 till its founding conference in 2006 “Unity is the Perspective” has remained the central slogan of NTUI, that is judiciously followed in every action of the federation. NTUI has sought continuous dialogues with other Central Trade Union Federations like AITUC, HMS, CITU etc to ensure unity of working class within a single union in the workplace.

Under the circumstances, if the central trade unions of the old type simply ignored the workers’ pressures, they stood to lose their support base.

Conditions of workers under neoliberalism

Writings, whether by bourgeois media commentators or by the so-called common person (who is capable of going online for hours) suggest that lazy workers are demanding hikes in spending on them at the cost of the hard working real people. Thus, one writer commenting on a post wrote: “This is what happens when citizens get addicted to free money. Trade unions saw central govt. distributing freebies through NREGA etc. and now they want a slice of the pie too. What no one cares to understand is the fact that money has to earned, it cannot be printed. More you print, more its value gets eroded and we are back to square one.” [6]

So workers basically want freebies, without working.

The Telegraph, a rabidly rightwing voice of the ruling class, a daily that in its quest for ever superior models of neoliberalism is willing to support the fascist Narendra Modi’s bid to become Prime Minister, had this to say, in part, in its editorial on 20 February:

“If the strike is aimed at forcing the government to change some of its policies, it may have already failed to do any such thing. It is unlikely that the government will roll back the reformist policies under pressure from the trade unions. There are compelling economic reasons as to why the reformist policies, which the trade unions oppose, are crucial to the country’s economy. One of the issues on which the strike has been called relates to the alleged violations of labour laws. The fact of the matter is, however, very different. Outdated labour laws are a major reason for low productivity and low investment rates in India. If anything, the labour laws need to be amended in order to make them suitable for a modern economy. Rising prices are a concern, both for the government and the common people. But those who think that a strike can help bring prices down obviously have rather strange ideas of how an economy functions.”

Television channels throughout 20th February showed one piece of footage – workers setting on fire a car and hurling bricks at one factory.

These are good points from which to enter the discussions. We learn that:

- Strikers are violent (rulers are evidently not)

- Labour laws are outdated and must be scrapped for the good of the economy, so that labour productivity is increased

- A strike cannot bring down prices

- Workers are lazy and want money without working

Between 2008 and 2011, the productivity of labour in India has gone up by 7.6 per cent. In the same period the real income of workers went down 1 per cent. The ILO’s Global Wage Report 2012 shows the foregoing, and punctures the myth of “reforms” as aids to the poor. Between 1999 and 2007, the previous period, the available data suggests another 1 per cent decline in real income while labour productivity went up by 5 per cent. In other words, in twelve years (1999-2011), labour productivity increased by 12.6 per cent, while real income went down 2 per cent. The reason for presenting the data in two fragments is, it shows that the world economic crisis has not meant any change in this matter. Both before and after, workers are constantly asked to tighten the belt, while productivity has not gone down, but steeply up.

From data presented by two scholars [7] we find that the introduction of economic liberalism has resulted in the rise in the top 50 business houses’ share in market capitalization from 32 percent in 1997 to nearly 40 percent in 2001.

In the last ten years, the share of profits in the value added has more than doubled as compared to the share of wages. This is happening in both the manufacturing and services sector where companies are using the loopholes as well as lack of implementation of labour laws to suppress wages. Companies and even the government are increasingly using contract workers to bring down wage costs and improving productivity.

The Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act of 1970 is therefore one that workers turn to and bosses try to flout, and are seeking to abolish as outdated. A study by Meenakshi Rajeev [8] showed that among the contract workers she studied, the majority earned Rs 2000 per month.

Formally, contract workers are supposed to get Provident Fund. It is a burden for them, since a bit of their meagre salary is docked, and then, as they often change contractors, they find it difficult to retrieve the previous amount.

In addition, there are a number of unregistered contract agencies that deduct provident fund contributions from the workers but never deposit the same in the provident fund office and after a few years change the location and start the same business with a different name. There are obvious advantages of being un-registered as it enables an agency to evade taxes, in addition to avoid paying PF, ESI benefits etc. to a worker and thereby increase ones profit margin.

In the industrial sector, the Public Sector has over 50 per cent contract workers, and the private sector over 80 per cent. One survey by a government organization shows over 36 million contract workers under licensed contractors. The labour ministry estimates that they make up nearly 28 per cent of India’s 459-million-strong workforce (this includes all categories of contract workers, and the figure in this reckoning goes up to 128 million contract workers).

The Economic Survey by the Government of India states that between 1991 and 2006, there were 870,000 jobs shed from the public sector. At the same time there has been an increase in the numbers of persons employed as ‘contractors’ or ‘casuals’, or where the precise relationship between the worker and the employer is legally uncertain, within the formal sector. Each of these developments inevitably reduces the proportion of the workforce covered by India’s labour laws. Furthermore many workers engaged within the formal sector may still fall beyond the law’s protection. In 2005 the total workforce of India was 457 million persons, almost 395 million of whom were engaged in the informal sector. Of those in the formal sector only about 53% were actually covered by the labour laws, the remaining 47% constituting what amounts to ‘informal’ employment in the otherwise ‘formal’ sector. Various figures are advanced, but it is estimated that well over 90% of the employed workforce falls outside the law’s protection.

According to World Bank’s World Development Report 2013: Jobs, part-time work is on the rise in India. Significantly, the number of temporary workers in the country grew more than 10 per cent in 2009 and 18 per cent in 2010. More unusual is the increase in its number of informal workers in the organised sector. The report also said that the share of informal workers in organised firms is up from 32 per cent in 2000 to 68 per cent in 2010. Various studies looking at key industries such as cement, iron, steel, cotton textile and jute, have found a high rate of contract labour ranging from 60-70%, and in some sectors, including construction industry it is as high as 80-90%.

Working class under neoliberalism may not have constantly risen up to challenge the rulers. But their sense of alienation has constantly increased. The “global factory” has meant that jobs are being restructured. Learning skills are at times irrelevant. As for women, their condition is often worse.

As far back as 1995, the Human Development Report had shown that 70 per cent of the people living below the very low definition of poverty were women. Men and women experience exploitation not identically, but in different ways, related to how patriarchy is related to capitalism. On the one hand there is a demand to draw women into wage labour directly under the domination of capital. At the same time there is a requirement to maintain the family as a unit for reproduction of labour power and to reinforce women’s role in domestic labour within it. These contradictory tendencies are embodied in the organisation of labour processes such as creation of flexible shifts, part-time work, home working and so on. This does not mean that the two aspects of women’s lives — as domestic workers and as wage-workers — are harmoniously related. While within the family men control the resources and are the main decision makers, outside, in the work-force hierarchy women’s status is never equal to that of men. The majority of them are confined to low-paid, low-skilled and irregular labour processes. Globalisation has intensified this, and with it their alienation, in the case of a significant part of the female labour force. Gender hierarchies are reproduced in workplaces with male owners, managers, and supervisors, and women assembly workers. Women complain of having restrictions regarding going to the toilet. There are many repeated cases of sexual harassment inside and outside the premises. Poor working conditions and long hours of work lead to occupational diseases which only means loss of job for these women. It is also this poverty and multiple pressures that lead to the ease with which violence is done to women. To cite only one recent example, three sisters, young girls aged 5, 0 and 11, were lured with offers of food, because since their father’s death they had lived in extreme poverty, and raped and murdered, in Murmadi in Maharashtra. Women who work in numerous industrial sectors are constantly at risk, given the growing violence against women, and which shows that lack of security is pushing them into ever greater economic difficulties or risks.

Price rise and low wages have been major issues behind working class unrest in recent years.

Taking the Consumer Price Index for 2001 as 100, the average price, according to government sources, of selected articles for industrial workers, has risen rapidly. Data for one city, Kolkata, shows that price of rice has gone up from 13.67 per kg (2006) to 22.21 (2010). Taking the same years, we find price rise for wheat going up from 10.65 to 16.78 per kg,

Pulses (of different kinds) from between 33 to 45 rupees to between 70 and 110 per kg; cooking oil from 46-47 to 60-67 (again, different kinds), fresh fish from 91 to 157, onion from 9.58 to 28.6, soft coke from Rs 1544 per 40 kgs to 204, milk from 16.5 to 24 per litre, and so on down the line. [9]

We have used the Kolkata data, but data for all cities would show a rise. In the decade 2002-2012 prices have grown a staggering 284 per cent. Housing, health, education have become considerably more expensive. And food access is certainly the most important political issue for the toiling masses. Nutrition indicators, already among the worst in the world, have stagnated and per capita calorie consumption has actually declined. Pervasive hunger has worsened. In the past year, inflation has moved across food items, and the average inflation has been high.

The other side of prices is wages. The minimum daily wage for unskilled work in Delhi is Rs. 203 and for skilled work, it is Rs. 248, in Maharashtra the minimum wages range from Rs. 116.54 -Rs. 310.62 (in film industry), ranges from Rs. 80 – 207.42 in Tamil Nadu and Rs. 87.50 – 163.30 in West Bengal. However if one calculates the minimum wage as per the norms set by the 15th ILC and subsequent Supreme Court judgements at current average prices (on which the CPI-IW is calculated by the Labour Bureau) of the 4 metros, the daily minimum wage would be Rs. 346.42.

Minimum wages in states especially for agriculture are so low that even if workers find employment everyday in a year and are paid the minimum wage, they will not be able to fulfill the basic needs of their family specified as per the 15th Indian Labour Congress (ILC) norms and the subsequent Supreme Court judgments (Unichoy vs State of Kerala in 1961 and Reptakos Brett Vs Workmen case in 1991) that is the basis for determining the minimum wage. The Supreme Court also has on various occasions amplified the need for payment of minimum wages by stating that the minimum wage sets the lowest limit below which the wages cannot be allowed to sink in all humanity; that it has to be paid irrespective of the kind of enterprise, the extent of profits and financial condition of the enterprise; or the availability of workmen at lower wages; that non-payment of minimum wages amounts to ‘forced labour’ under Article 23, and that employers have no right to conduct their enterprise if they cannot pay their employees a minimum subsistence wage.

A troubling aspect about the fixation of minimum wages by the Advisory Boards is that many wages are not linked to the payment of dearness allowance so that the real wages of workers keep eroding due to inflation. Another inadequacy is that though the Minimum Wages Act requires wages to be revised every five years, this rarely happens. According to the Minimum Wages Act if wages are not revised, the existing wages should continue. This has led to greater lethargy and less justice to workers.

Statutory minimum wage can prove to be a suitable instrument for combating wage discrimination against women and workers belonging to backward castes, migrant labour, who are usually over-represented at the bottom-end of the wage scale. Ultimately, implementing statutory minimum wages also contributes to the reduction of poverty. The minimum wage is supposed to set the wage floor, instead it now sets the wage ceiling in most informal sectors of employment. The minimum wage has also become a poverty wage instead of an anti-poverty wage.

The Demands of the Strike

These conditions determined some of the crucial demands of the strike. These were

- Living wage indexed to inflation for all

- Universal food security

- NREGA wage not to be less than minimum wage

- Raise the minimum wages to Rs. 10,000 per month

- Universal and comprehensive publicly financed healthcare system

- Equal wages for equal work for contract workers and women workers

- No to sexual harassment at workplace and mandatory sexual harassment prevention committees

- Defence and regeneration of the public sector

Most of the demands do not require further explication. Except to point out that in India, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2011 Global Hunger Index, about 60 million children in India are underweight and malnourished, while 21 percent of the population as a whole general is malnourished. [10]A study indicates that in 2000 about 70 per cent of non-pregnant and 75 per cent of pregnant women in the age group 15-49 were malnourished. [11]

The NREGA has been much trumpeted by the government as the way out of poverty and attacked by rightwing writers. In fact, it is a pathetic half measure, though even so, in a country with massive unemployment, of some use. According to the scheme, one person per family will be given employment for 100 days per year. In reality, this does not happen. But to the extent people are employed under NREGA, in the countryside, there is a bargaining counter against low wages. If only, however, NREGA is paid at the rate of the government stipulated minimum wages.

One major demand of the struggle was the restoration of democratic rights for workers. Because there are periodically organised elections to parliament, state assemblies, and municipal and rural self-government bodies, it is argued that there is ample democracy in India. Certainly, for the bulk of the working class, democracy does not extend to their everyday existence. Demands included compulsory registration of trade unions in 45 days, and immediate ratification of the ILO conventions 87 and 98. ILO Convention 87 is a charter giving workers the right to form trade unions of their own choice, and without state interference. Convention 98 tries to add teeth to the right to form unions by laying down what the law cannot do. Collective bargaining and the right to exist as human beings are thus supported by these ILO policy guidelines.

At the central level, an evident lack of gender sensitivity resulted in many women-specific demands were not highlighted. Even so simple a demand as the creation of crèches and separate toilets for women in every workplace, while very important for the women, do not find adequate space in the demands actually highlighted. But some demands have been raised. The central demands list includes, as we have seen, the demand for equal pay for equal work, as well as the demand for an end to sexual harassment at workplace. This has of course been a major problem for working women. Ever since the Bhanwari Devi case and the subsequent Vishakha judgement, sexual harassment , assault, all have come under some scrutiny, yet it is a reality that most institutions do not even now have Committees to look after issues like these, as laid down by the Vishakha judgment. [12] If women are to work as equals, sexual violence on them has to stop, and the fact that trade unions raised this demand shows their awareness, along with the callousness of owners and management even now.

Women in the trade union movement have been putting forward other demands. The demand for social security has to include maternity benefits in practice for all women, an important but difficult task, given the high proportion of unorganized and contracrual women employees.

“Strike doesn’t solve problems”

This is a favourite comment of bourgeois politicians and media persons. With record economic growth of the last two decades the income inequality has doubled, ranking the country as last amongst the so-called “emerging” economies. The price hikes, restructuring of labour, privatisations and deregulation of the economy, wage freezes and other “neoliberal” policies made the lives of even those in work overwrought. At the same time, the large swathes of suburban and rural populations continued to slide into the abyss of harrowing poverty and deprivation.

Corruption scandals involving the reactionary politicians and the hue and cry over petty non-issues went on unabated. The movement around a populist demagogue, Anna Hazare, was mainly sponsored by sections of corporate capital to attack their financial and political adversaries, but above all to divert and vent steam from the seething revolt in society beneath this smog of the burgeoning chaos.

The fact is that the greed infested Indian media has been playing a pernicious role in its crusade to observe a criminal silence over the real issues afflicting the teeming millions, while constantly whipping up religious and nationalist chauvinism. However, in the wake of the general strike call issued by eleven major trade union federations, the media machines came into full sway and a torrent of negative propaganda was unleashed against the strike. The editorial of The Telegraph, quoted earlier, summed up their public campaign. The strike cannot succeed because the government will not accept your demands.

The fact is that although the strike might not have brought India to a total standstill, it is still one of the most significant movements of the Indian proletariat on real issues, cutting across the prejudices and divisions imposed upon the masses to detract, distort and dent their class unity. And the strike, as with 2012, was called by all eleven national federations of TUs along with a vast array of unions from specific sectors. Almost one hundred million workers joined the strike. It called for a halt to price rise, employment, minimum wages to all workers, same wage for same and similar jobs, universal social security & the creation of National Social Security Fund, end to disinvestment, along with the issues of mass scale contractisation of work, rampant violation of labour laws and onslaught on trade union rights. Such was the pressure of the workers from below that most trade union leaders and federations had to heed the strike call to sustain a semblance of credibility amongst the workers who are seething with revulsion against their reformist and compromising policies. Even the trade union federation affiliated to the ruling Congress party, INTUC had to join the strike. Its president G. Sanjeeva Reddy, had this to say: “Our most important demand is the abolition of contract labour and a check on the uncontrolled increase in prices.” Even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) affiliated unions participated.

And if we now look at the reports that have come in, as well as deconstruct the message of the mainstream media, we actually get a picture of a tremendous working class anger and upheaval.

We deliberately leave out, initially, the detailed reports from various trade unions. Instead, we are looking at data provided by ‘serious’ bourgeois journals like Business Standard, where the capitalists talk to themselves on economic issues.

Reporting from Odisha, Business Standard announced that on 20 February, the first day of the strike [13]:

- The normal life in the state was disrupted as the vehicular traffic in most part of the state remained off roads. The bandh impacted rail services. Due to rail roko, as many as nine express trains were short terminated, one train was cancelled and two trains were rescheduled by the East Coast Railway (ECOR) authorities.

- The effect of the bandh was more prominent in industrial towns like Rourkela, Paradip, Sundergarh, Keojhar, Talcher and Angul.

- The Angul-Dhenkanal industrial hub witnessed a mixed impact of the bandh. Units of GMR Energy and Bhushan Steel were paralysed since no worker turned up for work.

- Industries in Angul including coal mines, however, reported normal operations. National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) power station and National Aluminium Company’s (Nalco) smelter complex functioned normally though the aluminium major recorded less attendance.

- Officials of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL) said all the regular workers in both Talcher and Ib valley field turned up for work while most of the contractual workers stayed away from their duties.

According to another news item on the second day of the strike:

- Banking services came to a standstill and 14 million cheques worth about Rs.80,000 crore [800 billion rupees] were not processed in the last two days as clearing houses were closed. [14]

- Business Line reported that the strike has resulted in a revenue loss of Rs 100 crore to major ports in the country. [15]

- Another report stated that transport had been affected across the country. Most reports stated that West Bengal, where the CPI(M)-led Left Front had been voted out in favour of the Trinamul Congress (TMC) led by Mamata Banerjee, saw a failure of the strike. This calls for a bit of discussion.

In the first place, most newspapers insist on using the word bandh in preference to general strike, with good reason. Several Indian courts have ruled that while strikes are permitted, bandhs are not. In some cases there have even been suggestions that in case of economic damages caused by bandhs the parties who call the bandhs should be made to pay compensation. Not for nothing are the media so keen to use the word bandh.

Secondly, in West Bengal, during its 34 year rule, the CPI(M) often enforced bandhs by using government machinery and its party cadres, and the success of bandhs was measured more often, not by how far industry was shut down, but whether employees in the government offices had turned up. While they too are part of the labouring force, white collar government employees are better off than many of the other workers. They do get pension, they get (albeit less than adequate) dearness allowance (the latest in West Bengal was paid a month back), and they are also more directly threatened under a very rightwing government. This is why, the government employee response to the strike this time was lukewarm.

But transport in Kolkata and in other parts of West Bengal was thin, and there was normally ample space in the buses, something unusual in the crowded metropolis, since many people did take part in the strike. Jute mills, teagardens, the Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt, and other places showed considerable participation in the strike.

In the transport sector, out of about 42,000 private buses and minibuses, less than 2000 were plying. It was the forced running of public sector buses that made up some of the deficit in Kolkata. Out of the 120 tea gardens in North Bengal, very few saw anything like regular work on 20 February. Banking service was completely shut down. In the Barrackpur industrial area there was considerable response to the strike, as also in the Taratala area (these are the areas to the North and South of Kolkata).

Two Reports and a Major Breakthrough

One report made television headlines throughout 20th February, while the other was tucked away in newspapers the next day. The latter was the news that in the town of Ambala, a scab driver ran over an AITUC leader who died. The news on display was that workers in Noida had set a car on fire and had attacked factory offices. It was necessary to highlight this news for two reasons. The first was to bolster the slander that it is the strikers not the government and the bosses who use violence. Just like last year, when after the violence in Manesar, it was reported simply that workers had killed a manager, without reporting the sustained violence on the workers, including the fact that factory gates had been closed, or the casteist abuse that had been unleashed, which was what had triggered off the conflict. [16]

The second important reason is that Gurgaon, Manesar, Noida, are areas where the trade unions have traditionally been weak. Trying to organize unions has met with solid owner-government resistance, including massive violence, sackings, etc. These are also areas where cotractisation is high.

At Maruti Suzuki, a leading car manufacturer in India, a study by Prasenjit Bose and Sourindra Ghosh had shown, between 2007 and 2011 while MSIL workers’ yearly earnings increased by 5.5 percent, the consumer price index (for the Faridabad centre, Haryana), went up by over 50 per cent. They calculated that MSIL profits after taxes have increased by 2200 percent since 2001. [17]

They also wrote the following:

“A comparison of the wages received by the workers of the MSIL’s Gurgaon plant in 2007 and what they earn currently (wage structures at the Gurgaon and Manesar plants are similar) reveals the movement of wages over time. If a senior permanent worker at the Gurgaon plant had not taken any leave in a year, he would have earned a maximum of around Rs.2.80 lakh in 2007. Today his maximum yearly earnings would be around Rs.3 lakh, i.e., an increase of around 5.5 per cent only. The consumer price index (for the Faridabad centre, Haryana), however, has gone up by over 50 per cent between 2007 and 2011. Therefore there has been a squeeze on the real wages of the permanent workers. In fact, the real wages of all categories of workers in MSIL have been squeezed during this period.

By contrast, the annual remuneration of MSIL’s CEO has increased from Rs.47.3 lakh in 2007-08 to Rs.2.45 crore in 2010-11, an increase of 419 per cent. The annual remuneration of the Chairman of MSIL has also increased by 91.4 per cent during this period (figures are from MSIL’s Annual Reports). This clearly shows the deeply skewed manner in which the benefits of rising sales and profits of MSIL have been shared between the management and the workers over the years.” [18]

And this is enough to explain why, ignoring threats, workers in these areas joined in massive numbers. As a result of the unexpected support (unexpected, at least, from the side of the bosses) the strike resulted in inflicting a bigger damage on the ruling class than it had estimated. The clearest statement comes from the ASSOCHAM or The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry. In its press release, it stated, inter alia, that “Against its initial estimates of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore, the GDP may be eroded by about Rs 26,000 crore, it is apprehended based on the damaging effect of the Bandh on the industrial activity and the services sector like banking, finance”. [19]

The ruling class had attempted to seal off those areas. Over three hundred FIRs had been filed and over a hundred arrested before anything had happened. Massive policing and terrorizing had taken place. It was this violence, this total lack of democratic rights, that had spilled over into violence in a few cases. And the ruling class was waiting for that. The swiftness with which its minions acted, and the rapidity with which demands were made to restore “investor confidence”, showed what was at stake.

Overall the strike was massive in not just banking, which is so visible that the ruling class could not lie about it, but also in mining, post and telegraph, communications, defence, ports, and other forms of transport.

Beyond the Strike

For the past decade and a little more, India has been held up by the economic pundits in the West, as an example of how neo-liberalism allowed a country to modernise. There has been the growth of a considerable middle class, with a rising purchasing power that translates into changing consumption patterns for the benefit of major producers. Wikipedia reported that the Indian automobile industry was the sixth largest in the world. It had an annual production of more than 3.9 million units in 2011. [20] In the same year, the number of mobile phone handsets sold touched 213 million units. [21] Sale of PCs touched 11.15 million units. [22]

What has not been reported so widely is the extremely skewed nature of that growth. The working class in India does not share the growth. After over two decades of neoliberal policies, the propaganda that only when the economy grows will workers be able to take part in that growth has worn thin. At the heart of the fight between the unions and the government is the need to ensure decent pensions versus the pension bill, which wants to tie pensions (for which workers’ wages are deducted) to market driven financial instruments, to ensure greater profits for the private insurance and other finance companies. This puts workers’ retirement benefits in great jeopardy.

The contradiction that exists now is between a tremendous pressure from below to fight, a pressure manifested in 100 million or more coming out though the formally organized are much smaller in number; and the inability of the traditional trade unions to wage sustained struggles. It is interesting, that while the ruling class has been trying to regain the offensive, the attitude of the trade unions linked both to the bourgeois parties and the reformist parties was dubious. While they dubbed it “general strike”, there was no attempt to draw in a vital sector – the railway workers. There was not even any attempt to get them to go on a token strike for a couple of hours, which would have shut down trains. It is for initiatives like the NTUI to push forward and build greater links. It is also necessary for the dissident currents in the left parties, and the “far left”, to make trade union work a central part of their work. The coming together of all such forces would be able to create a pole to the left. Meanwhile, the working class struggles, despite the heroic proportions, are unable to go to the next stage. The over 450 million working class in India is still only very partially aware of its potential.

Footnotes

[1] See Radical Socalist Kunal Chattopadhyay, “The Fascist Upsurge”.

[2] See Radical Socialist, Kunal Chattopadhyay and Soma Marik, The Left Front and the United Progressive Alliance (2004).

[3] See International Viewpoint Kunal Chattopadhyay, “A first assessment of Indian strike – to break their haughty power”.

[4] See Business Standard Nationwide industrial stir cripples Left-ruled states.

[5] See Radical Socialist “Class Struggle versus Serving the Rulers and Becoming Regional Linguistic Chauvinist: The Retreat of CITU in the coming General Strike”.

[6] See the comments section in Firstpost.India Bharat Bandh Live: Maruti Suzuki workers to join strike tomorrow.

[7] J. Dennis Rajakumar, ICFAI Business School, India and John S. Henley, The University of Edinburgh, UK, Journal of Comparative International Management 2007, V ol. 10, No.1, 3-22 “Growth and Persistence of Large Business Groups in India”,.

[8] Meenakshi Rajeev, “Contract Labour Act in India: A Pragmatic View,“.

[9] See “Labour Bureau Government of India Consumer Price Index (Industrial Workers) Base 2001=100 Statement showing the Average Monthly Prices of selected articles for Industrial Workers”.

[10] See IFPRI Global Hunger Index.

[11] See Economic and Political Weekly Sunny Jose and K. Navaneetham, “A Factsheet on Women’s Malnutrition in India”.

[12] See the full text of the judgment.

[13] “Trade unions’ strike hits normal life in Odisha”.

[14] See Livemint “Second day of strike peaceful, but public services hit ”.

[15] See Business Line “Major ports ‘suffer Rs 100-cr loss’ as strike hits operations”.

[16] See Kafila“Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers – Casteist Attack and Repression” and Radical Socialist “Maruti Suzuki Manesar Workers: Resisting Caste Violence – Facing Brutal Repression:”.

[17] See The Hindu“Workers’ struggle in Maruti Suzuki ”.

[18] ibid

[19] See Associated Chambers of Commerce of Industry of India press release “Bandh proves more damaging to economy, losses may mount to Rs 26,000 cr., says ASSOCHAM ”.

[20] See “World motor vehicle production by type”.

[21] See NDTV “Mobile device sales in India to reach 231 mn ”.

[22] See Economic Times “Indian PC market to register 11.15..

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2012/12/28

South Korea: The presidential election and the radical left

Young-su WonRadical left campaign

On the night of December 19, the whole nation was waiting for the final result of the presidential election; at midnight Park Geun-hye was declared winner, with 15.75 million votes or 51.5%. Her opponent from the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), Moon Jae-in, won 14.67 million votes or 48.80%. Park Geun-hye is daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee (1961-1979) and was the candidate of the ruling Sae-nu-ri party (Sae-nu-ri means a new world). She narrowly led the polls throughout the campaign.

Moon’s party and the many people who remember the tyranny of Park’s regime had expected Park’s defeat. Especially since another dark horse candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, supported Moon against Park in the final days of the campaign. Ahn was quite popular among people for his clean image and as a successful entrepreneur of his anti-virus programming firm, but he gave up his candidacy for Moon just before the formal registration for presidency. The gap was narrow — 1.08 million votes or 3.6% — but it was bigger than had been expected.

Competition among the left

Behind the two leading candidates, some radical or left-wing candidates also competed for the presidency, though there was almost nil chances of them winning. While Lee Jeong-hee was the candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), a successor merger party of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Kim So-yeon represented the radical wing of the trade unions and part of the radical social movements. Kim Soon-ja also ran as an independent. At the last general election, in May, she was the number one MP candidate on the proportional list of the Progressive New Party (PNP), a leftwing split from the DLP, but this time she had no support from her party.

Just before the official registration, Shim Sang-jeong, another female candidate of the Progressive Justice Party, the latest spilt from UJP, gave up her candidacy to support Moon and the UDP. And just a couple of days before the ballot, Lee Jeong-hee, UPP candidate, retreated from the campaign for Moon’s victory and regime change, though her decision was not welcomed by Moon Jae-in and his party. Thus, the election turned into the fierce battle between big two: Park Geun-hye versus Moon Jae-in. In a sense, a proxy war between Park Chung-hee, military dictator, versus Noh Moo-hyun, human rights fighter.

On the whole, South Korean politics looks quite chaotic and complicated, rendering it impossible to forecast what will come, even after the victory of Park. But in order to understand the deeper dynamics of this huge complexity, we need to look back at the past couple of years, which witnessed lots of ups and downs, turns and changes, not just for the mainstream parties and institutional politics, but also for progressive and radical parties and movements.

The general election and internal dispute within radical politics

The ruling party had been expected to lose the general election in May because of the unpopularity of President Lee Myeong-bak and his anti-people, pro-capital policies, but when Park Geun-hye emerged as party leader, the situation changed, and the opposition United Democratic Party suffered a painful defeat. This paved the way for Moon Jae-in, out of power since the end of the Noh Moo-hyeon government. Moon was chief secretary of President Noh, whose suicide shocked to the whole nation just before being prosecuted for his wife’s bribery.

However, something much more interesting was the internal strife with United Progressive Party (UPP) before, during and after the election. The UPP won 12 seats, six from direct election and six from the proportional list, which was not bad. However, throughout the course of the election, the party suffered from internal disputes over the unilateral hegemony and manoeuvring of the majority wing, mostly the successor group of the DLP against the other minority factions — such as liberal wing from the People’s Participation Party, a pro-Noh, Moo-hyeon split from the UDP, and a small splinter from PNP, a moderate faction within PNP that joined the merger of so-called progressive parties and formed the UPP.

The majority wing of the UPP, the pro-North Korea tendency of the DLP, overwhelmingly dominated the party and filled the list of candidates with its faction members, alienating other tendencies, rank and file party members and causing doubts and suspicions over party democracy. In the course of electing candidates, the majority used illegal and unjust means like rigged ballots and other technical manipulations. In one district of Seoul, Lee Jeong-hee, a young party leader who had a great chance of being elected, had to resign as a candidate because of illegal practices. This was a catastrophe for the UPP, but it survived.

A serious criticism of the UPP came from the left, inside and outside of the party. The UPP chose to align with the neoliberal UDP in a common electoral front. Historically, the relationship with the UDP or liberals had been the most keen over the issues of strategy and tactics of the movement. The building of the DLP was an expression of political independence from liberalism. But the UPP’s turn to an alliance with the UDP was regarded as a political and historic retreat and surrender to liberalism, despite of its gradual shift to reformism.

In short, the politics of the pro-North Korea factions dominated the party and party democracy, and the radicalism of the movement’s politics as a whole, not just UPP’s, were put in danger.

Aftermath of the general election

Just after the election, the UPP was driven into chaotic turmoil. The investigation committee’s final report was rejected by the majority faction, and in dealing with the election fraud, party meetings turned into a battleground with physical violence between the majority and minority factions. People inside and outside of the party were shocked at first with the widespread fraud, and later, by the ferocious process of dealing with the issues.

Thus, the UPP was driven into deep crisis, as the majority faction refused to discipline those party members responsible for fraud, and blocked any moves for discipline at any level, even when violence was used against party leaders who belonged to minority factions. Technically, the party was under the leadership of the so-called “renovators”, minority factions, but the resistance and obstruction from the majority tendency drove the party into disfunction. To the public’s eyes, the political credibility of the UPP was gone for good: it was a de facto political death sentence for the progressive party.

All these processes were televised, and in August the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea’s main trade union federation, withheld its support. In September, when it proved impossible to resolve the crisis and reform the party, the minority factions resigned from the UPP, forming a new party, the Progressive Justice Party (PJP), with seven parliamentarians.

The UPP was a total failure as a merger of all the progressive forces, though it had excluded the PNP which was having a long process of discussions over the issue of the merger. Part of the PNP and other radical groups were opposed to forming a merged party in that that right-ward shift meant inclusion of neoliberals and electoral alliances with the liberals UDP.

Thus, in the general election, radical politics in South Korea was shattered into pieces. The majority UPP was rejected by the masses other than pro-North Korea hard-core factionists, and the other radical forces now only existed as small splinter parties, like the PJP and PNP, and radical left grouplets. In the midst of there terrible crises and disputes, each faction had to face the presidential election. In the eyes of rank and file workers, progressive politics was a total failure in terms of the historic project of building working-class power.

Presidential election

From early September, the three-way competition between Park, Moon and Ahn was getting hotter and hotter. The results of opinion polling was changing at every turn of events. In the early stages, Ahn looked prominent because as a single-opposition candidate he could win over Park Geun-hye. But after the official inauguration of his campaign, he had to face various difficulties and personal slanders, and at the last moment he gave up his candidacy despite of huge protests from his ardent supporters. Ironically, the defeat of the UDP in the general election paved the way for Moon Jae-in’s candidacy and Ahn’s resignation gave him the status of a unified opposition candidate.

Just a week before the presidential vote, the race between Park and Moon was getting chaotic, even though the international news media predicted an easy victory for Park. Thus far she had been leading the race, but after TV debates and Ahn’s support for Moon, the final result of the election was unknown until final day of balloting.

There were minor left candidates. Lee Jeong-hee of UPP ran to save a party in crisis. She wanted an alliance with Moon, but the UDP and Moon refused to ally with the UPP becuase of its corruption and its refusal to apologise for illegalities. In the TV debates, Lee attacked Park Geun-hye and won some popularity, but finally she gave up the campaign for Moon’s victory. The success of her attempt to save her party remains to be seen, but it doesn’t look bright.

The Progressive New Party that had not been invited to the merger process of the UPP failed to win any seats in the parliament, and has also been faced with crisis. Thus, it decided not to run a presidential candidate on its own, but to work with other radical groups outside the party and form a broad electoral front of the radical left. It formed a roundtable for a joint presidential election campaign that would represent the interests of the working class and other popular sectors. However, in the course of negotiations, a tendency manoeuvred to change party policy and run the PNP’s own candidate. However, the PNP was divided and  the motion for party’s candidacy failed in the national committee of the PNP. Part of that faction split from the party and persuaded Kim Soon-ja, a cleaning worker, to be a presidential candidate. She had to resign the party and ran as an independent candidate, with support from a small sect.

Radical left’s campaign

Following the general election and the terminal crisis of the UPP, radical left activists in the trade unions, social movements and political groups began to discuss the possibility of intervening in the presidential election as a united radical left force. They formed a nation-wide network with rank and file groups and activists, and formed an alliance with the PNP. In October, though quite late, Kim So-yeon, a female militant, was elected as a workers’ candidate by a national assembly of activists. Her major slogan is no to redundancy dismissals and no to casualisation. As an anti-capitalist candidate, this campaign by Kim So-yeon and the radical left signified a huge step forward for radical left politics. Many leftists who had refused to get involved in electoral politics were now working as a united force. Huge sums of money were collected for the campaign, including for the absurd registration fee of US$300,000, and other campaign costs more.

In the course of her campaign, Kim and her campaigners faced police obstruction. While campaigning at the Gangjeong naval base construction site on Jeju Island and at her final weekend rally in downtown Seoul, she was violently assaulted by police

The final vote for Kim So-yeon was about 10,000, a poor result, but for her and campaigners the number of votes didn’t matter.

Conclusion

The election of Park Geun-hye is a victory for the status quo. The expectation for a liberal victory was big, but the final result will not be that much different. Ironically, Park Geun-hye benefitted from the ongoing economic depression and global crisis, as Moon Jae-in and his welfare populism was not regarded as a viable alternative to Park Geun-hye’s reactionary neoliberalism with a populist and feminist face.

The crisis goes on. So does the class struggle.

On the left, amid the crisis of the trade union movement and progressive politics, the radical left worked together to represent the interests of the working and popular classes under the banner of anti-capitalism. Also, the campaign’s focus was on active solidarity with sit-in workers on the high-rise towers demanding jobs against redundancy.

After the presidential election, movements and politics in South Korea will face huge changes, splits and mergers. In spite of difficulties and hardship, on the basis of a nation-wide joint campaign for working-class militancy, there will be some opportunities to rebuild a genuine working-class party with a socialist orientation, as well as revitalising labour movement and mass struggles.

Lotta continua against the Park Geun-hye regime and capitalism, locally and globally.

[Young-su Won, independent socialist activist and editor of the Tahrir Publisher.]

From  Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -

Au Loong-Yu

On November 4, 2012, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party officially endorsed the Politburo’s earlier decision to expell the former Chongqing chief Bo Xilai and to prosecute him on criminal charges of corruption. It implies that the 18th Party congress convened yesterday will be the victors’ congress, although up till now it is not clear who else these victors will be besides the appointed successor Xi Jinping or the outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao who openly criticized Bo.

At the end of October supporters of Bo wrote an open letter to the People’s Congress criticizing the prosecution of Bo as lacking both evidence and transparency. The former head of the National Statistics Bureau and one of the most influential leaders of the Maoists, Li Chengrui, was one of the initiators of this letter. [1] Before this letter campaign the website Utopia (Wuyouzhixiang), the most influential Maoist website and staunch supporter of Bo, had already accused the current leadership of making up charges against Bo, this after it was closed down by the authorities in May.

For anyone who believes in human rights and has some knowledge about the appalling situation of the Chinese legal system it is not that difficult to share the same kind of skepticism about the prosecution brought against Bo, even if they do not have enough information about his case. But the public cannot be sure if Utopia’s statement about Bo’s innocence is true or not. To know the truth an independent judiciary and the due process of law and everything essential to the rule of law in general, is required. Since these are absent in China one should, in the first place, demand their implementation.

Yet demanding this is difficult for Utopia, because it shares the same kind of mindset as Bo and the Communist Party – a hostility towards the rule of law. This is also why Bo, or Bo’s supporters in general and Utopia in particular, when criticized by the liberals as violating due legal process in his crackdown on the mafia when he was in power, responded with contempt about the independence of the judiciary or the due process of law as understood in most countries of the world. Just days before Wang Lijun fled to the US embassy, which triggered off the chain effect of the drama, Su Wei, the scholar at the party school in Chongqing who had defended the so called Chongqing model, insisted that the crack down on the mafia by the municipal government under Bo Xilai was not unjust precisely because, ‘we uphold a legal system which is under the party’s leadership’. By contrast the critics of this campaign want a legal system which is ‘independent of the Party’ and which is considered by him as something horrible. [2] Bo himself in a speech last December claimed that the municipal government had crushed more than 500 mafia groups in three years, and he warned that the Party should not be a peacemaker but rather its ‘team of political and legal cadres’ should remain cruel in its fight against mafia. [3] One may wonder if Bo would repent what he had said after he himself experienced the cruelty of a legal system that has no respect for the independence of the judiciary.

The same kind of irony can also apply to Utopia. The website claims to be leftist but its interpretation of ‘left’ has too much of a Stalinist flavour, manifested in its complete contempt of basic human rights like freedom of speech. In 2008 when Liu Xiaobo was arrested for writing Charter 08, the website published many articles applauding this. After he was officially sentenced to jail in 2009, an article by the author Xibeifeng denied that Liu’s sentence has anything to do with freedom of speech, arguing that Liu’s advocacy of Charter 08 is as criminal as a drunk driver demanding freedom to violate the rules of traffic. What is ironical is not only that this time it is this website and their patron Bo Xilai who were either closed down or prosecuted, but the fact that even after this they are only interested in trying to rehabilitate Bo as the true communist rather than calling for an independent court, open trial, trial by jury, cross examination etc. to reveal the truth, not only because they think that the independence of judiciary is ‘bourgeois’ in nature, [4] but also because they think that what they said is necessarily the truth. As to the question what kind of legal system is needed to find out the truth this is entirely irrelevant to them. We hope that after their experience of being repressed by the same authoritarian state they may rethink on their stand on the issue as the independence of judiciary is also beneficial to them as well.

Surely the question of what Bo Xilai or his ‘Chongqing model’ stands for is an even more interesting issue than the justice question, although the latter question is connected to the way one should evaluate the model. Three kinds of interpretation of the model among Mao’s supporters can be identified. Before his downfall the Chongqing model was seen by a section of his supporters, who were either part of or close to the party machinery, as ‘socialist’ as the rest of China, and if it differentiated itself from other provinces it is because Chongqing was taking the lead in promoting more equal distribution of wealth. This was what Su Wei, scholar of the party school in Chongqing, had argued. [5] While this argument is too propagandistic in tone, a second and third interpretation of the Chongqing model are worth more attention.

People associated with Utopia have offered a more radical interpretation of the Chongqing model, as a socialist experiment amidst a country that – even if it still manifests some features of ‘socialism’ as they understood the term – is nevertheless rapidly turning to the right under the leadership of the right wing of the Party. For that reason they enthusiastically counterpose the Chongqing model to the so-called Guangdong model which they see as the incarnation of the rightward drift. One of the most well known scholars who hold this view is Wang Shaoguang, a mainland-born professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has labeled the Chongqing model as ‘Socialism 3.0’, allegedly more equitable than the current socialism 2.0 version and of which he is critical. [6] Wang Hui, the well-known new leftist scholar shares a similar perspective which led him to defend the Chongqing model openly after Bo was publicly condemned. [7] In his essay he avoids any discussion as to whether the Chongqing model is socialist or capitalist in character, but is explicit in pointing out that in stressing, ‘the importance of equality and common prosperity’ it nevertheless provides an alternative to neo-liberalism and mourns that its downfall offers the authorities, ‘an opportunity to resume its neoliberal programme’. A more recent defense of the Chongqing model after Bo’s downfall is the essay by Yuezhi Zhao in the October issue of Monthly Review. He sees it as, ‘looking to revitalize socialist ideas and populist claims in its push for rapid and balanced growth’, and is counterposed to the ‘powerful hegemonic bloc of transnational capital, domestic coastal export industries, and pro-capitalist state officials’ which ‘block any substantial efforts at reorienting the Chinese developmental path.’ [8]

A third interpretation is proposed by people who are associated with the website Red China, formerly the China Labor Research Web which was closed down by the government long before the downfall of Bo. Its main theoretician was Li Mingqi who argues in his book The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy that China has been entirely transformed into a capitalist economy. This view is shared by Red China. Before Bo’s downfall they were also enthusiastic about the Chongqing model, less because it was ‘socialist’ but more because it was nevertheless a left reformist program. An article by “Li Mingqi” (I put this name in inverted commas because it is yet to be verified if this Li is the same as the one who wrote the aforementioned book) considered that Chongqing under Bo was a patriotic force within the Party and was involved in struggle with the forces of ‘traitors and compradors’, therefore leftists should help to promote the model throughout the nation so to strengthen the patriots. [9] Both the Utopia and the Red China support whoever they think is the left/patriotic wing in the party but what also differentiates the former to the latter is the fact that the latter is for a revolution in China while the former entirely confines themselves to put pressure on the Party leadership to return to a left course.

The downfall of Bo immediately triggered a fierce faction fight among the Maoists, but the fight is not neatly in line with the aforementioned divisions. The fight within the Utopia circle overshadowed the other differences not only because it has gone public but also because of the sharp attacks they fling at each other. Yang Fan, an economist at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who has been associated with Utopia, publicly attacked his comrade Zhang Hongliang, a lecturer at the Minzu University and also associated with the website, for being ultra left in calling for the rehabilitation of the Cultural Revolution and hence responsible for the closing down of the Utopia Web. [10] He also accused Zhang’s faction of receiving funding from Bo Xilai and being too close to the latter. Zhang, on the other hand, allegedly accused Yang of being a ‘traitor’ to the country. Meanwhile other Utopia people are also keen to distance themselves from the less well-known but more radical wing of the Maoists like Red China. This led Utopia’s manager Fan Jinggang to openly distance Utopia from those ‘ultra leftists’ who pursue, ‘an alliance with Western Imperialism in order to overthrow our present government and replace it with a proletarian dictatorship’. [11] Li Mingqi, on behalf of Red China, published an open letter to denounce Fan for exposing the internal debate among the Maoists. [12]

As to the evaluation of the Chongqing model, although there are Maoists who stand by their previous position, there are people like Yang Fan who immediately revised their previously whole-hearted support of the model. There are also Maoists who now think that Bo’s struggle with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao was simply a ‘dog eat dog fight’, hence the logical conclusion for the left is ‘to remain indifferent’ to this fight and to go further to expose Bo’s ‘deception of the working people’. [13] The downfall of Bo has thrown the Maoists into disarray.

Those who enthusiastically embraced the Chongqing model often failed to remember how Bo Xilai acted when he was mayor of Dalian in 1993 and later head of the Liaoning province between 2001 and 2003. In Dalian he oversaw the forced evacuation of many houses to make way for ‘re-development’, and for this he allegedly earned the nickname ‘Bo papi’ or ‘Bo the flayer’ among local people. [14] He also oversaw the privatization of the state-owned enterprises in Liaoning that resulted in millions of jobs losses while the cadres enriched themselves. When workers resisted privatization they were repressed. In 2002 in the city of Liaoyang the Liaoyang Metallurgy workers joined hands with other state-owned plants to stage protests against privatization and also appealed to Bo Xilai to investigate the corruption there. What the two worker’s leaders, Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang got in 2003 were seven and four years in jail respectively instead. Surely people can change, and one’s past performance is just one of the references in judging one’s later work. Yet in itself the Chongqing model is hardly what Yuezhi Zhao characterizes as something which ‘revitalizes socialist ideas’, because if the Chongqing model ‘allows the complementary growth of state, transnational, and domestic private sectors in a mixed economy’, [15] then it is a mixed economy of capitalism rather than socialism. And no one can talk about socialism without a democracy which allows the working people to dictate how the economy and the society is run, yet in Chongqing as in the rest of China common citizens do not even enjoy basic civil liberties. With its public housing program, granting resettlement in the city to 3 million rural migrants, improving the welfare system etc, there is a grain of truth in referring to the Chongqing model as something like a welfare state. A liberal critic of the Chongqing model pointed out that most of these things were not invented there but rather have either been promoted by the Central Government or experienced somewhere else in the country as well. Su Wei’s reply has not disputed this but stressed that it is the scale and the seriousness of the implementation of the reform that differentiates Chongqing from the rest of the country. [16] My critique is that all of these are economic benefits and none are related to political rights.

Without freedom of speech and of association, where all media are state owned, and independent investigators are often persecuted, how on earth do we know the official report about the good performance of Bo’s reforms is actually true? How do we know that public housings really housed the most needy and not the cronies of local bureaucrats – as was the case in many parts of China?

The reason Chongqing could move 3 million rural households into the city is because in exchange they have to give up their right to the piece of land for their houses. The land was taken over for agricultural purposes, and in the process a land certificate is generated for sale through a special land exchange. According to Beijing Review, ‘the swap operates as a market platform for the trading of land-use rights or land quotas for construction purposes. An individual villager’s housing land is assessed by the Chongqing Land Resource and Real Estate Management Bureau to calculate an equivalent amount of the arable land, namely the land quota they can exchange in the market. According to the Land Management Law, developers are responsible for offsetting the amount of construction land they use with the same amount of arable land.’ [17] While the Chongqing media could not speak freely under Bo, media elsewhere in China to some extent could and did make reports less favorable to Bo. Last year a report was released by the China Business Journal informing readers about irregularities like compensation that peasants got was much less than what they were entitled to, lack of transparency, the peasants being a marginalized social group were not able to directly take part in the trading of land certificates, and that eventually many of these lands certificates end up in the pocket of the eight biggest developers in Chongqing etc. [18] In a society where citizens are treated as mere subjects and peasants as second class subjects the danger of beishanglou – a term invented by common people to describe peasants being forced to evacuate from their village houses and being moved to high rise buildings in the city against their will – is wholly real.

It is not long ago that people associated with Utopia made a big promotion of the Nanjiecun experience – allegedly a socialist village which still practicing common ownership. [19] At most it resembles a cooperative which runs business within a capitalist market than a socialist village, and one which has been ruled with iron hands by the party secretary Wang Hongbin who is at the same time the village head and the boss of the company which owned everything there. Wang himself never denies this and is in fact quite proud of himself as the dictator. The village allegedly provides full welfare for the village people, but the company sustains itself partly, through exploiting ten thousand migrant workers. [20] In 2008 the Nanfang Metropolis Daily in Guangdong reported that Wang Hongbin and his colleagues had allocated themselves shares: Wang denied this although I think his defense is weak. It is one of the reasons why Utopia hated the Nanfang group – and also the so-called Guangdong model – so much. Anyhow after this report the receding enthusiasm about the village eroded even more quickly. If the myth of the Dazhai commune during Mao’s China symbolized the failure of socialism in one country, then by the same token one may say that the myth of Nanjiecun symbolizes the failure of socialism in one village. Luckily for the Utopia people, they soon discovered a socialism in one city, this time the Chongqing model. Never had they imagined that their dream could be crushed so quickly however.

Even if we should lower our expectations to just demanding serious reform rather than anything close to a socialist transition, the Chongqing model is not particularly attractive simply because its reform program has not touched the absolute power of the Party and has not promoted any basic civil liberties at all. And when all the economic and social reforms, however good in themselves, continue to be interpreted and implemented by the Party leaders alone, these reforms necessarily sooner or later turn sour. This is because today the party state machinery is not a solution to China’s deep contradictions at all, rather it is a problem in itself – its rampant corruption increasingly constitutes an unbearable burden for society and will trigger off an implosion sooner or later. This is not to deny that any real improvement in people’s livelihood should be welcomed. But one should not exaggerate this as anything close to ‘socialism’, nor should one gives Bo Xilai the credit that he does not deserve. Instead of playing into the hands of the power struggle within the ruling Party, the left should continue to denounce the absolutist regime and prioritize the demand for democratic rights, because without this no social reform can really benefit the people in a longer term.

It may be a good sign that certain Maoists now declare that they do not support any faction within the Party, but that they are now for revolution. However it is essential for them to clarify what kind of revolution they want. China has not been lacking revolutions, and even if the 1949 revolution was not just a repetition of the peasant revolutions, it nevertheless displayed a similar political mindset to that of absolutism. According to this it is not a problem if one party or one leader holds all the power and remain unchecked, so long as it is a good party or a good leader. On the other hand it is definitely intolerable for them if any ‘bad people’ ever enjoy freedom of speech. Accordingly, revolution is only needed when it serves the purpose of substituting ‘bad rulers’ with ‘good rulers’, rather than for an institutional transformation which really empowers the working people with democratic rights, and also one which will move on from all the great innovative ideas about human rights and judicial justice from the past period.

Yet if there is anything to learn from Mao’s China it is this: even if under Mao working people fared better in terms of jobs security and welfare than under the rule of KMT, they were not given any political rights, let alone the democratic right to elect or recall the leaders of the country. Without political rights these economic benefits remain grace granted unilaterally from the good rulers, hence easily taken back at any time if the good rulers wish. This is also why China had been transformed into a barbaric capitalism with such ease, and when the people struggled against capitalist restoration under Deng Xiaoping they had to do it barehanded, which end up in bloodshed in 1989. In recent years the CCP has promoted labor law reforms, and in appearance one may say that China today has put in place a welfare state. The problem, however, is that the bureaucracy at all levels do not have the incentive to enforce those laws which entitle people to all the economic benefits, and when the people rise up to demand their legitimate rights they are threatened with repression. Therefore no matter whether one calls for reform or for ‘revolution’, either these have to be wedded to a program of civil liberties, judicial justice, and genuine democracy, or they will just end up being used to serve very different interests, and particularly the danger of being used by certain party factions in their struggle for power.


Notes

[1] Zhi quanguo renda changweihui de xin (Letter to the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress), http://redchinacn.net/portal.php?mo…

[2] hongqing moshi shi zenyang bei wudude? (How the Chongqing Model has been misintepreted?) http://www.21ccom.net/articles/zgyj…

[3] Bo Xilai: Gongchandang bushi heshilao, yao jianjue chanchu heieshili (Bo Xilai Said that the Communist Party is not Peacemaker but rather It should Remain Firm in Eradicating the Mafia), http://politics.people.com.cn/GB/16…

[4] This is surely an over-simplified and therefore incorrect view. There always exist two interpretations on rule of law, one being conservative as it argues for unconditional obligation to obey the state’s laws, while the other approaches the issue of laws from a deep distrust against the state and a commitment to popular democracy. See for instance Democracy and the Rule of Law, Bob Fine, 1984, Pluto Press, p. 174.

[5] Su Wei yu oumeng zhiku zhuanjia tan Chongqing moshi liuda tedian ji dangaolun (Su Wei’s Conversation with EU Think Tank Experts on the Six Features of the Chongqing Model and on the Proposition of Making and Dividing the Cake), http://www.21ccom.net/articles/zgyj…

[6] Chongqing jingyan yu zhongguo shehuizhuyi 3.0 banben (Chongqing Experience and Chinese Socialism 3.0), http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/1314…
For an English report, please refer to Socialism 3.0 in China, by Peter Martin and David Cohen,
The Diplomat, April 25, 2011, http://the-diplomat.com/2011/04/25/…

[7] The Rumour Machine – Wang Hui on the dismissal of BoXilai http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n09/-wangh…

[8] The Struggle for Socialism in China – The Bo Xilai Saga and Beyond, Volume 64, Issue 05, Monthly Review.

[9] Lun “dadao hanjian” – zhongguo shehuizhyyi zenyang caineng fuxing? (On “Down with Traitors” – How to Revive Chinese Socialism?), http://club.china.com/data/thread/1…

[10] Lun “dadao hanjian” – zhongguo shehuizhyyi zenyang caineng fuxing? (On “Down with Traitors” – How to Revive Chinese Socialism?), http://club.china.com/data/thread/1…

[11] Fan Jinggang huida shidai zhoubao jizhe (Fan Jinggang’s Responds to the Queries of the Time Weekly Reporters), http://blog.cnfol.com/zhanghonglian…

[12] http://redchinacn.org/portal.php?mo…

[13] http://www.hongqi010.net/archiver/?…

[14] Bo Xilai zaoyou jianyue zhixin, juxing huabiao yazhu ‘longmai’ (Bo Xilai Nurtures the Plot to become the Top Leader Long Time Ago, the Big Huabiao is Meant to Suppress the Longmai), a report originally published in Asia Weekly and was re-posted at http://china.dwnews.com/news/2012-0…

[15] The Struggle for Socialism in China – The Bo Xilai Saga and Beyond, Volume 64, Issue 05, Monthly Review.

[16] Chongqing moshi shi zenyang bei wudude? (How the Chongqing Model has been misintepreted?) http://www.21ccom.net/articles/zgyj…

[17] Stepping Up to Challenges- Political advisors say urbanization holds the key to China’s future, Yuan Yuan, http://www.bjreview.com.cn/print/tx…

[18] Chongqing dipiao diaocha shidi nongmin shouyi youxian (Investigation on Chongqing Land Certificates Reveals Peasants who Lost Their Land Got Limited Amount of Benefit), http://news.cb.com.cn/html/60/n-534…

[19] lthough still named as ‘village’ it should be understood as more a small industrial area with more than 2 dozen factories than an agricultural village.

[20] ee their official website: http://www.nanjiecun.cn/homepage.asp For the Nanfang Daily report, see http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2008-02-2… For critique from the left, please refer to Mao Zedong sixiang zhaoyao xia de shichang jingji (Mao Zedong Thought Shines over the Market Economy), http://www.xinmiao.com.hk/0004/0100…

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2012/10/26

Bosses’ greed kills more than 325 workers

Pierre Rousset

On September 11, 2012, two particularly deadly fires struck company buildings in Pakistan. Some 300 employees in the garment export factory Ali Enterprises died in Karachi, making it one of the biggest disasters attributable to inhumane conditions imposed on workers. There were a thousand workers, many of them young women, in this four storey building, which only had one accessible exit. Many died of suffocation, trapped in basements. Others were seriously injured after jumping to escape the flames. On the same day, 25 employees were killed during another fire at a shoe factory in Lahore, in the centre of the country. The identification of the victims is difficult, many of them being contractually undeclared workers hired by subcontractors. It should be added that the company itself had no legal existence. [1]

As is often the case, no safety measures had been respected by the bosses for whom only profit counts: windows barred, emergency exits locked, few or no or no fire extinguishers, doors and stairs blocked by goods, highly flammable products in all corners, packing in of staff and so on. Fires are common in these factories, but no authority cared… until the tragedy.

For Nasir Mansoor, Secretary-General of Pakistan’s National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), in Pakistan “workers are treated more like slaves than human beings” [2]. During a street demonstration on September 12, the NTUF demanded a strict inspection of plants in coordination with organizations representing the employees, the registration of all industrial establishments under the Factories Act, the effective implementation of laws on health and safety, the abolition of the contract system, the issuing of a letter of hire to everyone at the time of their hiring and their inclusion in social protection systems [3].

What does the life of a worker matter to the wealthy? As Farooq Tariq, of the Labour Party (LPP) bitterly noted, if members of the elite had died in such a manner, the government would have declared a day of national mourning. Asif Zardari, president of Pakistan and co-chair of the ruling PPP, made a very brief visit to the Lahore hospital where victims of the fire at the shoe company had been taken, to the plant and to the families. He went after having promised compensation, and had, according to the press, given flowers to five hospitalized workers.

The tragedy has become an excuse for a polemical dispute between the two competing parties of the elite, each accusing the other of negligence: the People’s Party (PPP) which governs the province of Punjab (where the shoe factory was located) and the Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif (PLM – N) in Sindh (where the clothing company was located). In truth, in neither province was the inspection of enterprises authorized. Such inspections had been banned under the Musharaff dictatorship and this prohibition has only been formally lifted in Punjab (not in Sindh) after the death of 27 employees on January 4, 2012, at a pharmaceutical company in Lahore. However, the lifting of the ban did not mean authorization [4].

Charged (how could it be avoided?), the criminal bosses were immediately released on bail. They have sought refuge in Larkana bench, the hometown of the Bhutto family, which heads the PPP and, today, the country. The class injustice is obvious when we know that, for defending the rights of loom workers, trade union leaders in Faisalabad were each sentenced to 99 years in prison under anti-terrorism laws. “Not a single person”, notes Farooq Tariq, “has accepted any responsibility of this great tragedy and no minister or adviser or any state bureaucrat has resigned. It shows a complete collapse of morality of the ruling class in Pakistan” [5].

In Pakistan, popular anger is great. Various trade union federations, notably, called for a “black day” on September 15, as well as political parties: the Awami Party of Pakistan (APP), Workers Party (WPP) Pakistan, Pakistan Peoples Party (Shaheed Bhutto PPP). At Lahore, this appeal was launched at a press conference held on September 13 at the Press Club.

On September 15, in the great textile centre of Faisalabad, most businesses were closed due to strikes. United events, bringing together trade unions and left parties, took place, notably in Islamabad, Lahore, Hyderabad and Karachi.

On the international level the IndustriALL Global Union (IGU) federation and LabourStart immediately organized a protest campaign [6]. They joined Pakistani trade unions demanding wage compensation from the government of five million rupees for the families of the workers who were killed, and two million rupees for injured workers and the maintenance of the wages of the workers. The unions also asked the Government to arrest employers and charge them with murder. They are demanding sanctions against the Ministry of Labour and government authorities who have failed to ensure the safety and health of these workers. A petition is open online to support these demands. [7]

In a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IGU, wrote: “The 2010 Pakistan Labour policy has among its objectives the following: Just and humane conditions of work be guaranteed to all workers. We very much would like to see this be finally applied to the garment and shoe-making workers in Pakistan who constitutes 30 per cent of the workers in the country and who have some of the most inhumane working conditions” [8].

The labour movement and left-wing parties are bringing together their forces so that the guilty employers do not escape justice and safety measures are finally imposed on industrialists. Thus in Karachi – where the most deadly fire took place – a new movement was formed: the Workers Right Movement (WRM). To this end, on September 22 more than 70 representatives of trade union federations, enterprise union sections, territorial agencies operating in the industrial areas, left parties, youth, student, and women’s organizations, social workers, and human rights activists, as well as individuals, gathered [9]. A rally was announced for September 29.

It is, obviously, not just in Pakistan that such tragedies occur. On May 10, 1993, Thailand experienced one of its worst industrial fires. It destroyed the Kader toy factory, leaving 188 dead and more than 500 injured, some remaining victims with disabilities for life (some paralyzed) after having jumped out of the second, third and fourth floors of the building. Asian Food Worker, the newsletter of the IUF [10] Asia Pacific, described the working conditions in this company, which recall those of Pakistan: “minimum wages were the norm, overtime was compulsory, work often extended late into the evening and amenities were lacking” [11].

According to this article published on the 18th of July 2007 by the Asia Pacific secretariat of the IUF [12], through a rather complicated business and family links network, the Group Charoen Pokphand (CP) – a major transnational – owned 80% of the Kader toy factory. After intense mobilization, it had to pay compensation to the victims of the fire and their families. The Thai Government for its part had to undertake to strengthen health and safety regulation. Ten years later, however, nothing has changed. Which did not prevent CP from participating in 2003 at a conference in Sweden entitled “Human rights and economic relations”. [13]

These tragedies reveal the extreme contempt with which the ruling classes deal with ordinary people in these countries; but this was also the case in Europe before the struggles for social protection and a modification of cultures. This is a question on which the international labour movement must act with even more force.

Footnotes

[1] “Pakistan: Employers’ terror against Karachi weaving loom workers”.

[2] “Factories in Pakistan more like death trap than the work places, workers are treated more like slave than human beings”.

[3] “Horror in Pakistan after 300 workers die”.

[4] “Pakistan: Political gimmicks over the death of 300 workers”.

[5] “Pakistan: Political gimmicks over the death of 300 workers”.

[6] The Pakistani trade union federations affiliated to the IndustriALL Global Union are the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Pakistan Metalworkers’ Federation (MFP), The Pakistan Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (CDR) and the Federation of Textile, Garments and Leather Workers

[7] Pakistan: Make textile factories safe.

[8] “Horror in Pakistan after 300 workers die”.

[9] “Pakistan: “Workers Right Movement” formed to launch movement against culprits of factory fire, protest Rally on 29Sep in Karachi”.

[10] The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

[11] “10 Years After the Kader Toy Factory Fire: Thailand’s CP Group and Corporate Responsibility”.

[12] THis what the IUF secretariat wrote: “CP was the co-owner of the Kader Toy Factory. Through a complicated series of holding companies in Thailand and Hong Kong, with ownership held in the names of key CP Group executives, their spouses and other family members, CP effectively controlled 80% of the company that owned the factory where the fire broke out.

Immediately following the fire there was extensive debate within Thailand as to who would be held responsible and what actions should be taken. After initial foot-dragging and intense campaigning by surviving Kader workers and their allies, CP agreed to a one-off payment to family members of 200,000 baht (US$8,000) for each worker killed and set aside monies for the education costs of children orphaned by the fire. The government of the time promised increased regulation of health and safety standards.

Yet, 10 years later there has been virtually no change in health and safety standards in Thailand (in some measures they have worsened since 1993), no one from the CP Group or management of the Kader factory has been found responsible for anything other than building code violations (warranting a US$12,000 fine, imposed 10 years after the fire) and the workers who survived the fire today lack adequate social protection or the means to recover their lives.

Given these circumstances it is necessary to ask : what exactly is CP’s commitment to human rights, especially if a high-profile representative such as Sarasin Viraphol is chosen to speak on the company’s behalf at an international forum ?”

[13] The CP group, in an email sent after the publication of this article in English, states that “The Charoen Pokphand Group does not have ownership in anyway of the Kader toy factory,” and that to state the contrary would be “a defamatory statement”.

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2012/09/13

Fundamentalism, a challenge for the Left

An interview with Farooq Tariq, Labor Party Pakistan, on the importance of the fight against religious fundamentalism.

Farooq Tariq, Zely Ariane

The idea of interviewing Farooq Tariq came from a lecture he gave during the Asian Global Justice School in Manila at the end of July 2012. I remember him stating firmly that Marxism is totally opposite of religion, particularly because the main basis of religion is private property, which is in line with class based society and capitalism. He also highlighted the position of LPP towards religion, that they dont discuss religion nor make jokes about it, just as they oppose using religious arguments for socialism. At the same time, Farooq also gave inspiring examples of the role of socialists to defend religious freedom in Pakistan. For my context in Indonesia, a majority Muslim country which is seeing an increase of religious intolerancy and violence, this conversation was very important, especially concerning the attitude of the left. I also took the chance to ask him on the recent left collaboration project in Pakistan.

Q: There has been a growing number of islamic fundamentalist groups threatening religious minority, women and LGBT’s groups and democratic principles in Indonesia. As far as I know, no left forces take this development seriously or organise a significant response. These fundamentalist groups are growing in term of numbers, supporters, and activities, even though the number of people who really support Islam as a political idea and agenda in general is declining as was shown by the 2009 general elections [1]. So for us the violence of fundamentalist groups, such as the Islamic Defence Front (FPI) is a new issue. Their activities are creating new athmosphere in which we need to take them seriously. I would like to get a sense of your struggle in Pakistan as a socialist party which takes this issue very seriously.

But first, I’d like to go back to what you’ve raised during your lecture about the increase of fundamentalist forces in the world, particularly in South and South-East Asia after 9/11. What you can say about this?

Farooq: After 9/11 religious fundamentalism has been on the rise. All the efforts of the imperialist forces to cope with the activities of fundamentalists by military means have failed. Fundamentalism in different shapes has grown. They’ve grown as political forces, they’ve grown as very militant forces, new groups have came up, new ways of suicidal attacks have taken place not only in Pakistan and Afganishtan, but even spreading to some African countries, and Indonesia as well. And the attack are promoted by religious fanatics as a means of resistance.

Fundamentalism as a force has to be countered on political grounds, it has to be taken very seriously. We cannot think that imperialism will do our job for us by repressing them, killing them, through their drone attacks, through their war on terror and so on. Osama Bin Laden was killed, but not his ideas, his ideas still survive. New Osama bin Ladens have come to the front, with different name and activities. Did their activities decrease after Osama’s death? No. Things have even been getting worse after his dead, because the death of Osama was hailed by the US as a major victory for them. The president came on the air and said that Osama’s death could be an end of the fanaticism . But we have seen since 15th May 2011, Osama was killed, that the fundamentalists have not decreased their acitvities. They emerged in different shapes, it took little time for them to reorganise. In Pakistan there are more suicide attacks, there are more fundamentalists in different shape, and we have seen them increase in the parliamentary field, in Egypt they are coming to power, they lost narrowly in Lybia, they gained good results in Algeria, Tunisia. So you can see the progress they are making, also in Indonesia. The growth of fundamentalism has to be taken very seriously by the left.

I can tell you that we had a long debate in our party in 1998-1999 and 2000. There were debates on the growth of fundamentalism. We had two trends, one trend in the party was saying fundamentalism growth is orchestrated by imperialist forces and whenever they want, the imperalists can discard the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists, this trend said, are promoted by imperialism, and they will always be controlled by the imperialists. This was before 9/11. I was one of the leaders in the party who said fundamentalism will progress by leaps and bounds, because of the crisis of capitalism, and because of the inability of the capitalist parties to solve any of the problems of the people. So fundamentalistm would become to be seen like an alternative. I did not realise the extent to which they would go to attack America, 9/11 for instance.

It was argued by some comrades that fundamentalism was like a ballon with air inside: once you put a needle in it the ballon will burst, the air will go out and they will come to their own small size . We said no, it’s not a ballon, it’s a real problem, it’s a real monster, brought up by imperialist forces but it has gone out of control. We said the fundamentalist would form their own movements, build their own strenght. We have seen 9/11 and then in 2002 fundamentalism for the first time in Pakistan got over 50 per cent of the vote. Before, they never had more than three, four per cent. They could not beat this record 2008 because of several factors. There was the opposition from us and some of the fundamentalist forces were boycotting the elections while some were participating. So the fundamentalist forces split during the 2008 election. Paving the way to a PPP (Pakistan People Party) majority in parliament.

But it’s a real phenomena we have to face it. And the left should not think it’s not their problem. The left should not think someone else will handle the fundamentalists for them, the left should really take them seriously. Although they arenot the main enemy, which remains the capitalist system. But you should keep an eye on this growing enemy, which is threatening mainly the weakest section of our class, like women, and religious minorities. These sections are most threatened by the growth of fundamentalism.

Q: As you said the trend of suicide attacks is raising. In Indonesia it happened, and Jamaa Islamiyah Indonesia was accused of doing this, and maybe they did, but do you know of any possible connections between the Islamisc fundamentalist forces in Indonesia and Pakistan? Sometimes the government says that Indonesian fundamentalists were trained in Pakistan.

Farooq: I think religious fundamentalist groups are believers in internationalism. They want to change the world into an islamist world, so it’s not just national trends in Indonesia and Pakistan. There are different international groupings and regroupings of fundamentalist trends. There is Jemaah Islamiyah Indonesia, Jemaah Islami in Malaysia et cetera. There is also Jemaah Islami in Bagladesh. So there are different internationals, and fundamentalists are uniting on an international basis. And we have seen that a person responsible for the Bali bombing was arrested in Pakistan. One of them was recently sentenced in Indonesia to 20 years in jail, and he was arrested in Pakistan. He was arrested in the same city where Osama bin Laden was killed. So Indonesian fundamentalists have long standing contacts with Pakistan fundamentalists and that has to be exposed by left forces. Al Qaeda is not a national organisation. Their becoming more dangerous because they have an international, political agenda, agenda to take over the world. Indonesia is one of the countries where an absolute majority is mouslem. You can see from different aspects of life that fundamentalists are gathering support.

More moderate groups are paving the way for hard line fundamentalists. And that’s a very dangerous trend in Indonesia, and I think Indonesian socialists must take that phenomena seriously.

Q: What can say you on the connection between the military and fundamentalist religious groups in Pakistan? In Indonesia, there is a history of such cooperation, but sometimes leftists simplify the phenomen of fundamentalism as being just an invention of the military.

Farooq: Whenever the fundamentalists are growing, this explained by some of the left groups as the hidden work of the Americans or of the military, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligent Pakistan). In this view, the fundamentalist are only the runnings dogs of the military. To some extent it was true at one time, but now they are a real force, a political force. They are an established force, they have the sympathy of the majority of mouslems in Pakistan, they are being seen as anti-imperialist. It is the idea of religious fundamentalism which has regarded the sympathy by many mouslems, because after 9/11 the policies of US have been paving the way for this. For mouslems all over the world life became much harder.

One thing which true for Pakistasn and I think also true for Indonesia that most of the forces of fundamentalists come from people who left the country. These fundamentalist group collect a lot of money from the west, whenever the leader goes to the west he comes back with bag full of money. Immigrants in the west feel the pressure of racism, identify stronger as a religious group and think they are contributing to a good cause case in their own country. So the tough life of the ordinary mouslems, the lack of alternatives from the bourgeouis parties pave the way for the growth of religious fundamentalism. In Pakistan they have become very rich.

Q: Some people on the left argue that fundamentalists are also part of the working class because most of them come from the poorer sections of society.

Farooq: I’ve heard this argument several times, claiming they are from the working class. It’s a working class movement, and that we must be for them, we must join them in order to expose the idea of fundamentalism, the class basis of fundamentalism is a reason for the left to go with them and so on. I think these are all wrong notions. The class composition of religious fundamentalism is mainly middle class, upper middle class and it’s not a class-based movement, it’s a religious based movement. They want Muslims to join, they’ don’t want worekrs to join them. They don’t want any sort of class contradiction within their own ranks. In Pakistan theswe mistzken ideas are often promoted by some left groups who say that the pashtun working class has gone to the Taliban and all that, but I think it’s wrong and also in Indonesia. Thinking that because the cxlass nature of the fundamentalist we should have a very different attitude,even be positive a towards them and that we should try to work with them is a mistake; It would mean a complete collaps of the left if the left went along with tje funametnalist groups.

I know the case of Dita Sari very well, we had a debate with her urging her not to to electon on the list of an islamic party [2], even though that party was not a fundamentalist party, just a religious party. There’s a very thin line between religious parties and fundamentalist parties. Because religious parties are the basis for fundamentalist parties, they are the home ground on which fundamentalists can play easily. The rest of the leadership PRD (People’s Democratic Parti-Indonesia) chose the wrong strategy of working with this religious party. I had a debate with Dita Sari in 2007 on this issue but she thought they could enter parliament and do anything they wanted. And I asked; ’what parliament?’ This parliament will not really help your party to grow, it’s only the class struggle, it’s only the struggle on the street, the mass movement, people’s struggle, the struggle against fundamentalism that will pave the way for the success of PRD. And now we see the total collapse of that party, very unfortunate. I had a lot of respect for Dita Sari and her sacrifice, and the whole party was really like a shining example for the parties in Asia who fought against dictatorship, who fought for workers rights. PRD was the example of the kind of party that we wanted to build in Pakistan. When we started the LPP we always had this idea of PRD, who can grow and make sacrifices. And when Soeharto was defeated we hoped this party would grow tremendously, and it happened to some degree, the PRD did grow and attrack a lot of people. But unfortunately wrong choices can mean disaster. It was a crime, of the PRD leadership [3]. But I think even ignoring fundamentalism is also a crime. If you take them lightly, you will pay the price in the future.

Q: About the campaign against fundamentalism. Tell me about the experience of Labour Party Pakistan in the solidarity campaign for the Mayor of Punjab and for a converted Hindu woman. In Indonesia, we supported the alliance against FPI [4], support the petition against them, but no other part of the left joined this because the different reasons we’ve discussed.

Farooq: We always try to unite different trends against fundamentalism. Because this fight is big we need to have large forces to fight against them. We always try to bring together social organisations, NGOs, trade unions, political parties, in a national fight against fundamentalism. We have found a Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights. It has no structure, it just a committee but it get together to act on various issues. It’s a movement. At one time the LPP was considered as a NGO party because in a society which is controlled by feudalism and fundamentalism and imperialism, we need to do some social work with social organisations, and try to radicalize them. So we’ve been working with social organisations in this fight against fundamentalism, we always try to unite with the rest of the left, with trade unions, and various social movements.

When a Hindu woman in Sindh was forcefully converted to Islam [5], it was an LPP initiative to hold rally accross Sindh [6]. So there was a rally in Hyderabad, the second largest city, and one in Karachi. But the Hyderabad rally was attacked by the Sunni Tehreek fundamentalist group [7] who said we were against the anti-blasphemy law and that marched against fundamentalism. They attacked us, we fought back. Police came in, the fundamentalists got together, and all of our comrades, around a hundred, were arrested. And this is just against the case of a poor Hindi womanfwho was forcefully converted to Islam. We are in favor of free choice but knew that this was forced on this woman.

And after 8 hours of detention our comrades were released from prison, and the fundamentalist failed making a case against us based on the anti- blasphemy law . The penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan is the death setence. So that is one example of our strategy, we never compromise in defending the minorities in Pakistan which are mainly Hindu and Christian. It is our main task as socialists to defend the most downtrodden, and the minorities are among are the most downtrodden.

Another case in Punjab last year was the killing of the governor of Punjab. [8]. Punjab is the largest province of Pakistan. The governor was from PPP, Pakistan People Party, he simpathized with a Christian woman who was arrested and charged with blasphemy. He went to jail to meet her, he spoke to the press in favor of this woman. Fundamentalist said he had committed blasphemy by supporting the woman who was accused of making blasphemic comments. He was a liberal bourgeois who dared to defend this woman. And what happened to him? His own bodyguard , who was influenced by the fundamentalists, killed him. And People’s Party, his party, refused to defend his memory because they don’t want to take the fundamentalists, they want to close their eyes, they just kept quite. So we took the initiative to organise a first condemnation, a popular condemnation. We said we will light candles in front of the governor’s house [9] And thousands of people came to pay tribute. We had lot of problems with this governor politically, but when we fights against fundamentalism we have to be united with the liberals… We must be together, we have to be very flexible in our tactices and adept to the situation. We should be flexible on tactics and firm, on principles. It’s good that the family of the governor was quite happy with the initiative taken by LPP at that time.

Q: You said other parts of the left are also involved in the campaign against fundamentalism, it’s not only your party. I’d like to know more about the latest left unity project in Pakistan.

Farooq: Since we established the party in 1997 we always tried to work with different left currents in Pakistan. Although we came from a trotskyst backgroud, we will not build a party which is a Trotksyst party. We want a Marxist party, a socialist party. So we took very a ordinary name: the Labour Party. And the idea behind this name was that it should be a class based party, and it should attract different trends, people from different backgrounds, and they should unite on forming the party, but at the same time they can disagree on historical questions. Because after the collapse of stalinism and the offensive of capitalism after 1990s, the division among the left has become less important . It’s not the same situation as before 1990. I remember a lot of sectarian attitudes we also had at that time. Also because the offensive of capitalism the left is threatened, so it must unite. And I think in a country like Pakistan, the ideas of Trotsky, the theory of Permanent Revolution won over many stalinists because it opposes alliances with the bourgeoisie. It argues against the stages theory of revolution, and that the bourgeoisie cannot repeat the historical role it had in the European democratic political revolution. The bourgeosie cannot end imperialism, it cannot bring democracy or cannot unite the nation, neither can, they separate the state from religion or stimulate industrialization.

So we have been working together with different parties and groups, we always try to unite. In 2006 we found the Awami Jamhoori Tareek (AJT) [10], I was secretary of that, with all seven left groups of Pakistan, and we organised very succesfull events. But it did not go very far because of the sectarian attitudes of some of the groups. But still, we were together in the lawyer’s movement, we were united in our fight against fundamentalism. Last year a discussion started of how to merge started between three parties: Labor Party, Workers Party and the Awami Party of Pakistan. All these parties have found their own merger committees. Labor Party also found a merger committee, in the last federal committee meeting held in Aktabaad, the city where Osama bin Laden was killed. We insisted that the unity of the left has to be on the basis of a socialist program, not on an anti-capitalist program. Anti-capitalism is not sufficient. So our argumentation succesfully won and the other two parties agreed on this . It’s scientific socialism that we are talking about and democratic centralism, leninist method of organisation and so on…

In August the talks will continue on organisational terms and then we’ll go back to our own party. If the negotiation comes to a conclusion and we have an aggreement, then there will be a special federal committee meeting of the LPP. We dont want to take such a decision in a hurry, we have to be sure. Once you’ve merge, that’s your party. And we experienced 20 years of problems in such projects, so we also need to learn from other experiences, both negative and positive.

An united left party in Pakistan would attract lot of radicalized youth. At this time there is a lot of confusion about which party they should join, since all these different left parties are there. And they ask: what differences do you have? I hope that it will be a great step forward for the progress of left ideas if the merger negotiation succeed and the parties agree. If we are able to form one big party of the left, it will have potential to grow and will possibly win some seats in the parliament as well.

This interview was first published on the English-language blog of the People’s Liberation party Indonesia Partai Pembebasam Rakyat.

-Farooq Tariq is the national spokesperson of Labour Party Pakistan, http://www.laborpakistan.org/.

-Zely Ariane is a member of the National Committee of Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women), and member of the leadership committee of People’s Liberation Party (PLP – formerly Peoples Democratic Party-Political Committee of the Poor (KPRM-PRD), based in Jakarta, Indonesia.

NOTES

[1] Indonesia’s Islamic parties in decline.

[2] See Indonesia: Union militant to contest elections and The Indonesian left and Green Left Weekly.

[3] [For some background on this issue: Our Stance.

[4] No love shown to the FPI and Anti-FPI Movement Threatens Indonesia’s National Police With Lawsuit.

[5] Hindu girl tells Supreme Court she would rather die than convert to Islam.

[6] Hyderabad (Pakistan): Left rally against forced religious conversion attacked by Sunni Tehreek.

[7] Hyderabad (Pakistan): Left rally against forced religious conversion attacked by Sunni Tehreek.

[8] Punjab Governor Salman Taseer assassinated in Islamabad.

[9] A commemoration for the slain governor of Punjab/.

[10] Awami Jamhoori Forum (National Leftist Forum) .

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2012/08/23

Nationalism and National Liberation

Richard Solis

Reworked version of Richard Solis’s lecture given at the 4th Asian Global Justice School, IIRE-Manila, Philippines.

 Introduction

“…the duty of the International can and should be, not to abolish national peculiarities but to promote international unity in national diversity…and that only the abolition of capitalism and the introduction of socialism will make it possible to abolish national oppression…” Otto Bauer, 1924.

In the current global situation in which the neoliberal offensive of the global capital has been dominating the affairs of the world and its people, talking about nationalism and national liberation seems to be irrelevant. And this is despite the serious problems and severe crises that indicate that the current stage of neoliberal globalized capitalism is a failed project.

But the historical collapse of the really existing socialist countries before the turn of the century seems to put more burden on the shoulders of the current generation of progressives and revolutionary socialists to build a development paradigm in the current context of the struggle for democratic bourgeois reforms as necessary and integral part of the overall struggle for national and social liberation and the building of international socialism. Progressives and revolutionaries of these generations seem to fear more the historical failures of the past rather than be inspired by the vision of a viable alternative of the future.

It is very important, however, to point out that the so called “irrelevance” of nationalism or the struggle for nationalism has been blamed by some authors and revolutionaries more to Marx and Engels for their failure to give theoretical guideline on the National Question. They were expecting Marx and Engels to provide concrete historical context for the struggles for national liberation of peoples from both the socalled advanced and developing countries. The fact that the development of capitalism even to its current phase, does not necessarily lead to the assimilation of smaller and weaker nations into bigger and stronger nation but may also lead to the reawakening of the latter nations and intensify their struggles for right to self determination which can be in a form of cessation or separation from the bigger nation is worthy to be seriously considered.

It is very important to note that the historical trend shows that capitalism has developed in different countries or even within a given country in a very uneven manner directly affecting the development of peoples therein. It is an integral part of capitalist logic that development is faster in areas where it can extract profits to the maximum. Profits and more profits which can be generated dictate which market to concentrate and there is where usually one can find the lowest production costs and always the highest profits for the capitalists.

It is very obvious however that capitalism in its present form has, in a fastest manner, united the global economy and its market that the concept and the function of nation-state have been rendered hollow and irrelevant. Neoliberal policies and programs for global implementation have been decided by the unelected and unseen people hidden behind multi-lateral institutions.

The unevenness and backwardness or combined development of capitalism between and among peoples and within different countries and the most undemocratic manner in which global capital has governed the affairs of the world serve as the main if not the decisive driving force for the intensification of the struggles for nationalism and liberation today. The weakening of the nation-state has a direct immediate and strategic impact on the dominant class from both oppressor and oppressed nations which in turn is encouraging national liberation movements to take advantage of the opportunity to their advantage. It offers a rare situation for Marxists and progressives today to integrate the class content of the struggle for right to self determination of the dominated nations and establish international unity among the oppressed classes from both oppressor and oppressed nations.

It is therefore, very important for us today as progressive development workers, revolutionaries and socialists to understand the concrete historical context of the current struggle for nationalism and national liberation to contribute in achieving liberation for and with the oppressed peoples and nationalities ensuring that it can only be sustainable and genuine if it is ‘socially liberative’ as well.

Marx, Engels and other revolutionaries had provided us with theoretical tools based on their concrete historical situation and surely they are limited to these circumstances. We should therefore not deal so much on what they were not able to do but what they had achieved during their period.

To better understand the fast and widespread rising of nationalism in different forms and characters in different countries, it is best to put them in concrete historical context and the current realities and developments in the neoliberal phase of the capitalist globalization.

Marxist Concept of a Nation

Marx and Engels concept or idea of a nation was very much influenced by their period and the philosophy which they were trying to develop as revolutionaries. They live in an epoch (nineteenth century) still marked by the formations of national states in Europe (Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, etc.) which indeed influenced their view.

They (Marx and Engels) were trying to visualize the place of nations in the future communist society and at the same time trying to answer questions of the day regarding the nation’s place and role in the unfolding events in history towards the communist society.

It is also very important to note at this stage that Marx and Engels were not really concerned as the Philosophers of Ancient Greece had been with a purely moral aspiration but with a political project on a world historical scale that would result from revolutionary upheaval which only thru a communist revolution that history becomes wholly world history.

Their writings especially during 1844-1847 period more or less constituted an idea rather than an accomplished theory on the national question. This fact made a limitation of their theoretical elaboration, but at the same time it protected them against the danger of a rigid and normative definition of a nation. Such formulation had influenced a lot the Russia workers movement especially in Lenin but at the same time had been the object for misinterpretations.

At this point, one can deduce from their writings a concept of a nation as a historical formation linked to the rise of the capitalist mode of production and crystallized in a political superstructure – the national state.

This evolving concept was believed to be based on their belief that they lived in an epoch dominated by bourgeois cosmopolitanism and by the advent, in the near future, of a socialism transcending national conflicts.

On the document, Communist Manifesto 1848, authored by Marx and Engels cosmopolitanism and internationalism tend to fuse. The internationalization of the capitalist mode of production and the formation of the world market are seen as a process which has given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country, establishing a universal interdependence of nations and creating a world literature. This presentation of the revolutionary role of capitalist mode of production in an economic system that would increasingly unify the world materially and spiritually and suppress the basis for national conflicts certainly led the authors of the Manifesto to somehow neglect the importance of the national question.

Such formulation certainly created debates and profound discussion on how Marx and Engels neglected the importance of the national question. Issues like Communism would really want to abolish countries and nationalities came to emerge and presented negatively in the frame of the debates on the national question. During this period they tried to formulate a theory in response to the burning issues on nation-states. They argued that the workers have no country and one can take away from them what they have not got.

Marx and Engels had formulated these theses that (1) that national state belongs not to the proletariat but to the bourgeoisie and (2) the material, economic, social and political conditions of the proletarians are the same in all industrial countries.

Marx had emphasized that the proletarians must first seize power within the framework of a national state but this separate proletarians’ national state will be only a transitional stage towards the future classless and stateless society since the construction of such a society is possible only on the international scale.

It is clear that the proletarians must first of all acquire political supremacy and must rise to the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself as a nation, it is so far, itself national though not in the bourgeois sense.

National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing due to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the globalized market and to the uniformity of the mode of production.

The supremacy of the proletarians will cause them to vanish still faster and the united action of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletarians. The bourgeoisie has started the process of the disappearance of the national differences and antagonisms and the proletarians will complete and even perfect it.

At this stage, it seems that the abovementioned thesis of Marx and Engels came from a free trade optimism but their other writings clearly showed their belief that it is impossible to have a solution to the national contradictions within the framework of capitalist mode of production.

They further clarified that, it is not the bourgeoisie as such – but the large scale industry which eliminates national barriers by the creation of a new class, radically international – the proletariat – while the bourgeoisie of each nation still retained separate national interest. The large scale industry created a class which in all nations has the same interest and for which nationality is already DEAD.

For the authors of the Manifesto, only the proletarians, as a universal class which is no longer national and which has common world historical interests can lead to the establishment of a universal society where national differences will be overcome.

Furthermore, the proletarians in all countries have one and the same interest, one and the same enemy and one and the same struggle. The great mass of proletarians is by their very nature free from national prejudices and their entire disposition and movement is essentially humanitarian and anti-national. It is only the awakening proletariat can bring about fraternization between the different nations. For Marx and Engels (in the early stage of their writings), humanitarian and anti-national conception was called cosmopolitanism.

From this perspective, nation appears as a stage in the historical development of humanity which cannot accede to a higher stage of universality.

What the nations have done as nations, they have done for human society, their whole value consists only in the fact that each single nation has accomplished for the benefit of other nations. One of the main historical aspects in the framework of which mankind has accomplished is its development and therefore after industry in England, politics in France and philosophy in Germany have been developed, they have developed for the world. And their world historical significance, as also that of those nations, has thereby come to an end.

The Role of National Self Determination in the Struggle for Socialism

World capitalism has been creating incredible inequalities and brutal differences in life conditions of peoples between the centre and periphery of the system. It is only the complementarity and reciprocal relations of the struggles in different nation-states can generate internationalist solidarity.

Understanding the dialectical relationship between internationalism and national rights for revolutionary socialists since the international unity of the exploited can only be built on the recognition of the national rights and in particular the right to self determination of all peoples.

While the democratic right to self determination is indispensable, concretely applying it to territories and areas where nations and peoples are thoroughly mixed without setting off battles, massacres and ethnic cleansing, seem to be next to impossible. It is therefore imperative to profoundly understand the concrete historical context and present realities of the dynamics of the development of peoples in different nations so as to have coherent and rational framework for the struggles of right to selfdetermination of nation and building of socialism.

Among revolutionary thinkers and workers including Marx, Engels, Trotsky and Stalin, Lenin had a more coherent and systematic revolutionary strategy for the workers’ movement based on the slogan of national self determination. It had proven effective during workers’ struggle against capitalism in Russia at that period and had helped positively in the workers’ movements in other countries especially during the imperialist phase of capitalism.

It will be good to study theories and experiences of other revolutionaries during those times before we will thoroughly deal with Lenin’s theory and practice on the national question.

One of the revolutionaries who had been involved with the national question but differed very much with Lenin was Rosa Luxembourg. She belonged to the radical left current with the Party – the Socialist Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland (SDPKP) – in the politics of Poland especially with her bitter debates with the Socialist Party of Poland (SPP).

For R. Luxembourg, Poland could only have territorial autonomy because of the close link between the Russian and Polish proletariats and their common destiny. She even campaigned that the unifying political struggles of the proletariat should not be supplanted by a series of fruitless national struggles. She strongly believed that Polish independence was the aspiration of the feudal Polish nobility and not the working class. She based mainly her position from purely economic point of view. Her main theses regarding the national question were:

1) The right to self-determination is an abstract and metaphysical right.

2) The support for the right to secession of each nation implies in reality support for bourgeois nationalism for a nation as a uniform and homogenous entity does not exist.

3) The independence of small nations in general and Poland in particular is utopian from economic point of view and was condemned by the law of history.

R. Luxembourg’s theories on the national question developed between 1893-1917 are based on four fundamental theoretical, methodological and political errors; firstly, her economic approach of the national question in Poland. For her since Poland is economically dependent on Russia, she could not be politically independent. This was the economic tendency therefore the political tendency of Russian proletariat to unite with Polish proletariat. Secondly, for R. Luxembourg a nation was essentially a cultural phenomenon, she was supportive in abolishing the national oppression and allowing free cultural development but refuse to countenance separation or right to political independence. She did not understand that the denial of the right to form an independent nation-state is a concrete form of national oppression. Thirdly, she only saw the anarchronistic – petty bourgeois and reactionary aspects of national liberation movements and did not grasp the revolutionary potential against tsarism (and later against imperialism and colonialism). She failed to understand the complex and dual nature (contradictory dialectics) of this nationalist movement within Russia. She did not understand the revolutionary role of the non proletarian allies of the working class, the peasantry and the oppressed nations. She saw Russia’s revolution as purely working class and not led by the working class as understood by Lenin. Fourthly, she failed to understand that the national liberation of the oppressed nation is not only a demand of the utopian reactionary and pre-capitalist petty bourgeois but also of the masses as a whole including the proletariat and that therefore the recognition of the Russian proletariat of the nations to self-determination was indispensible condition of its solidarity with the proletariat and the oppressed nations.

Leon Trotsky, a leading member of the Russian Socialist Democratic Labor’ Party (RSDLP) and the contemporary of Lenin, became interested on the national question after 1914. His concept was expressed when he wrote an article on “The War and the International in 1914 during the early stages of the First World War” which was intended against Social Patriotism. He had a historical economic approach in dealing with the national question. For Trotsky the World War was a product of the contradiction between the productive forces towards a world economy and the restrictive framework of the nation-state. For Trotsky this situation would eventually lead to the collapse of the nation-state but not the disappearance of nations but it would only be able to exist in the future as a cultural, ideological and psychological phenomenon. Furthermore, he strongly believed that the ending of the economic independence is not synonymous with the disappearance of the nation-state as a political entity. Like Luxembourg, Trotsky would reduce the nation either to economics or to cultural aspects and thus lost sight of the political aspect of the problem.

Trotsky explicitly proclaimed the right of nation to self-determination as one of the conditions for peace between nations which she contrasted with peace of the diplomats.

Joseph Stalin a contemporary of Lenin and Trotsky, and also a leading member of the RSDLP (Russian Socialist Democratic Labor Party) had been tasked to do a comprehensive work on the national question in the early 1900s. His works “Marxism and The National Question” had differed very much from Lenin but had big impact on revolutionaries in many countries especially on later part of the Third International period.

The main points which Stalin had developed and which Lenin distanced himself and even categorized them as unMarxist before he died were the following.

First, the concept of national character of common psychological makeup or psychological particularity is not Leninist. This idea is coming from OTTO BAUER an Austrian Marxist but was criticized by Lenin. The idea of a national psychology has more in common with a certain superficial and pre-scientific folklore than with Marxist concept of the national question.

Second, Stalin tried to define a nation by stating that it had to have complete characteristics of common language, territory, economic life and psychic formation that an entity would be called a nation. He presented a very dogmatic, restrictive and rigid requirement of which if one is not present one cannot call such entity as a nation.

Third, Stalin had explicitly refused to allow the possibility of the unity or association of national groups scattered within a multinational states. Hence, the impossibility of unity into a single national union groups that have grown so distinct. Lenin, on the other hand, vigorously defended the freedom of association, including the association of any communities no matter what their nationality in any given state. And lastly, Stalin made no distinction between the Great Russian tsarist oppressive nationalism and the nationalism of oppressed nations. He glaringly rejected both the warlike and oppressive nationalism of the tsars from above and the wave of nationalism from below. Stalin did not only fail to make any distinction between nationalism from above and from below but he aimed his most severe criticisms at social democrats in oppressed countries who had not stood firm in the face of the nationalist movements. For Lenin, the difference between the nationalism of the oppressor and the oppressed nations is absolutely decisive.

V. Lenin was one of the leaders and founders of the RSDLP. One of his greatest contributions in the World Revolution is his concept on the national question during the period of Imperialism. His starting point in working out a strategy on the national question was the same with R. Luxemburg and Trotsky which was proletarian internationalism. But he stood higher than his contemporaries because he understood better the dialectical relationship between internationalism and the right of the national self determination.

He understood that first, only the freedom to secede makes possible free and voluntary union, association, cooperation and, in the long term fusion between nations; second, that only the recognition by the workers’ movement in the oppressor nation of the right of the oppressed nation to self determination can help to eliminate the hostility and suspicion of the oppressed and unite the proletariat of both nations in the international struggle against the bourgeoisie.

The a priori here is that the conscious proletariats of the oppressor nation has a certain level of organization and that since its support of the struggles to self-determination to the oppressed nation which includes the bourgeoisie of the latter, it brings with the support the obligation to ensure that the proletariat in the oppressed nation is organized and bring their democratic demand to the struggle for national liberation.

Furthermore, Lenin profoundly grasped the dialectical relationship between national-democratic struggles and the socialist revolution and showed that the popular masses (not just proletariat but also the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie) of the oppressed nation were the allies of the conscious proletariat.

In relation to the case of Russia, it was only in April 1917 that Lenin had adapted the strategy of permanent revolution. During this period, Lenin began to see the national liberation struggles of oppressed nation within the Russian empire not only as a democratic movement, but as an ally of the proletariat in the Soviet Socialist Revolution.

Lenin, unlike many of his contemporaries, always put politics in command. Others saw only the economic, cultural and psychological dimension of the problem while Lenin had stated clearly that the question of self determination belong wholly and exclusively to the sphere of political democracy that is to the realm of the right of political secession and the establishment of an independent nation state.

Lenin had emphasized strongly that “An autonomous nation does not enjoy rights equal to those of a sovereign nation”. His aim was democracy and international unity of the proletariat which both requires the recognition of the right of nations to self determination.

Again for Lenin, recognition of national rights is an essential condition for international solidarity, in so far as it permits the dissolution of suspicions, hatred and fears which set nation against each other and nourish false nationalism, chauvinism and xenophobia.

And without the right to divorce – to have a separate state – there can be no truly free marriage – unity or federation among nations.

The Classes and the National Movements

Many of the debates among revolutionary Marxists on aspects on the national question have been settled by history. The case of Poland for instance which R. Luxembourg referred to as petty bourgeois utopianism had become a nation-state after the First World War (1918). The non-historic Czech nation, which was destined to disappear because of its lack of national vitality (according to Engels), had become the dominant nation in post 1918 Czechoslovakia and had its own separate state today.

Events after the October 1917 Russian revolution would show to us that the concept of nation is not simply a collection of abstract, external criteria. It is very important to consider the role play by the subjective elements such as the consciousness of a national identity and a national political movement. These so called subjective elements have been the concrete product of historical and collective experience of communities of people like oppression and persecution. This means that right and self determination must have a wider and broader application, it must relate not just to secession but to the national entity itself.

Nobody can claim that he or she or they as revolutionary vanguards can have list of objective criteria for determining whether a community or people constitute a nation or not but the community itself. Revolutionary Marxists today face issues on national question in complex situation like aspects of national, colonial, religious and ethnicity are combined and interfaced. Cases like the continuous armed conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, Christians and Proletariats in Northern Ireland and the struggles of the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, Southern Philippines.

And today, Revolutionary Marxists face dual challenges/questions with regards to the national question; First, Do we deny the legitimacy of the nationalist movements because we consider them as petty bourgeois and divisive of the working class and to proclaim abstractly against them the principle of the necessary unity between proletariats of all nationalities, races or religions and the Second challenge/question to us is to espouse uncritically the nationalist ideology of these movements and condemn the dominant nations en bloc, without distinction of class as “reactionary nations” – nations to which the right to self determination is denied. Or we simply prefer not to distinguish the existence of nationalism from above from nationalism from below.

The task facing revolutionary Marxists today is to avoid these two extreme challenges/questions and discover – through a concrete analysis of each concrete situation – an authentically internationalist course which draws its inspiration from the nationalities policy of the Comintern when it was led by Lenin and Trotsky (1919-23).

One of the greatest contributions of Lenin in the struggle for national self determination is the differentiation of the nationalism of the oppressed or from below and the nationalism of the oppressor or nationalism from above. This clearly draws the class content of a democratic struggle for nationalism. It ensures the decisive role of the working class as well as the other oppressed classes (peasantry and the petty bourgeois) in ensuring the national struggle for social emancipation of the working class and all the oppressed people from all forms of exploitation and oppression.

The recognition and concrete support extended by the working class of the dominant/oppressor nation to the struggle of the national self determination of the oppressed nation is actually helping the democratic and the oppressed classes of the latter to strengthen its solidarity with the working class of the former nation and on this basis international solidarity of both oppressed classes in both nations can eventually lead to both democratic and social liberation of the two nations and can successfully plant the socialist seed in such country.

The international task of the conscious proletariat of the dominant nation is to help and support the struggle to self-determination of the dominated nation and build trust with the proletariats of the latter in order to strengthen the unity of both proletariats of the two nations to fight the bourgeoisie of both the dominated and the dominant nations. This is the best way to rally the non-proletariats in both nations to struggle and gain concrete democratic victories for the betterment of all oppressed and exploited people in both nations. This is also to ensure the democratic content of the struggle to right to self-determination of nation towards socialism.

The Struggle for Self-Determination of the Bangsamoro Revolutionary Fronts in Mindanao, Philippines

Currently, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels had just concluded their 30th Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In their (Government of the Philippines-GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-MILF) joint statement, they identified the positive developments of the talk especially in the discussion on power and wealth sharing through the creation of Technical Working Committees (TWCs). They also condemned the latest attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to the different villages in the province of Maguindanao to derail the peace talks. It is expected that the final signing of peace accord is in the offing in a very near future. Initiatives have been started already with regards to Constitutional Change from both houses of Congress and from the certified allies of the current administration in Congress precisely to prepare for constitutional accommodation of the peace accord.

Sixteen years ago today, the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had signed a final peace agreement. The peace agreement between the GRP and the MNLF is the second agreement that was signed, the first one was signed in 1976 or twenty years earlier and famously known as the Tripoli Agreement. The 1976 peace agreement was signed by the GRP under the Marcos dictatorship and the 1996 peace agreement was signed between the GRP headed by President Fidel V. Ramos a former general and the Chair of the MNLF, Nur Misuari (who also signed the 1976 Tripoli Agreement in behalf of the MNLF).

Thirteen (13) years after the Tripoli Agreement (1976) and during the period of President Corazon C. Aquino (the mother of President Noynoy Aquino) a law Republic Act (RA) 6734 creating the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was integrated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution but after several years that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had splitted from the MNLF. After the signing of the final peace agreement between the MNLF and the GRP in September 1996, the RA 6734 was amended and became RA 9054. It had defined the nature and characteristics of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao where the key players were given by then the Ramos administration to the MNLF headed by Nur Misuari who ran unopposed in a regional election in 1997 as governor of ARMM under the ruling party (Lakas NUCD). In November of 1996 or less than three months after the signing of final peace agreement between the GRP and the MNLF, the government opened up talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the stated main objective is to resolve the Bangsamoro problem. For almost sixteen years now that talks have not reached anything except agreements in principle; Meanwhile, the MNLF have been divided several times effectively weakening their position in pursuing the fulfillment of the incomplete implementation of the agreement. The MILF has been divided too even before the signing of an agreement with government. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter or BIFF which accused the MILF current leadership to be too compromising with the government. After creating the BIFF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) was formed as a political front of the BIFF under the leadership of Ombra Kato, the former commander of the MILF Base Command 105.

Meanwhile the government of President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) had enacted another law RA 10153 to postpone the May 2011 ARMM election to 2013 synchronizing with the national elections and gave authority to the President to appoint the Executive and Legislative bodies of ARMM. The law (RA 10153) specified that its purpose is to have the present set up of ARMM to act as transition mechanism for the “new” autonomous set up as a preparation for the expected result of the talks to constitutionally accommodate the MILF – that is if the aforementioned talks will not go nowhere. But already, both houses of Congress have announced that they want to have some amendments to the country’s constitution so that economic policies can be changed favourable to the foreign businesses and intentionally hiding the accommodation agenda for the MILF. PNoy has distanced himself from this congressional initiative but both leadership of the houses are identified with the administration and definitely such initiatives are not just circumstantial to the current phase of the GPH-MILF peace talks.

This early, signs of constitutional accommodation like the MNLF, are already becoming visible with the outcome of the GPH and MILF talks.

The abovementioned and the succeeding narratives are intended to serve as historical framework of the peace talks between the government and the Moro revolutionary fronts which have opted to resolve their struggle for national self determination on the negotiating table and the government’s framework in the engagements with the Moro fronts.

For almost fifty years of the Bangsamoro struggles and more than one hundred fifty thousand lives lost, millions of people dislocated, billions of properties destroyed and priceless opportunities lost, one has to ask if all these efforts and sacrifices are really worth it at least in terms of the concrete gains achieved especially of the basic Bangsamoro masses. At this point it is very important to take into account the role of the different sets of leadership of the different revolutionary fronts with regards to the gains and victories as well as the opportunities lost and threats which have unfolded their way in the protracted process of negotiation as the main stress these fronts have opted. It is also very important to have a glimpse to the class background of the key responsibilities on the leadership of the Fronts. And it will be helpful to know the attitude and role of the Bangsamoro ruling class in the different processes of the peace negotiations.. Lastly, but definitely not the least, is the attitude of the Fronts regarding the struggles for self determination of other non Moros specifically the Indigenous Peoples or Lumads.

On the other hand, it is very important to know the constant framework used by the government in dealing with the different Moro fronts. One can easily notice a consistently of the government peace framework towards the struggle for self-determination.

Having said this, we have to look on the nature of nationalism the fronts have been struggling for self determination. In the process we have to know the role of the masses and democratic forces within the Moro people in whose name the fronts have struggled for self determination.

And in the last part, we will try to analyze in whose peace that they (Fronts) want to achieve, “peace among the diplomats or negotiators or peace among nations and peoples.”

The struggle against colonial power by the Moros has started more than five hundred years ago. The economic, political and social structures of the Moros then had reached higher level especially in the southern part of the Philippines vis-à-vis in the central and northern parts of the country. So the opposition against colonial powers specifically against the Spanish occupation was very strong in the southern part of the country. The Spanish colonizers gained footholds in key areas in Mindanao but they had never gained full control of the interior areas occupied by the fighters of the Moro Sultanate defending their territories. The colonizers had used religion and the religious Christian missionaries to help in the colonization of the inhabitants including the non Moros and Moros as well in these areas. During this period, monotheism was already predominant within the sultanate since Islam was already introduced centuries earlier by the Muslim traders and missionaries to the area. The Islamic faith had helped in the resistance against the colonizers who made used of religion (Christianity) to further their colonial interests. The remnants of the Spanish churches and fortresses can still be seen even today in key areas of Mindanao especially along the water routes e.g. Tamontaka in today’s Datu Odin Sinsuat Municipality, Dulawan the present day Datu Piang both part of Maguindanao province and Pikit part of North Cotabato to mention a few.

The struggles against the Spanish colonizers were led by the Sultanate in the south and by the intellectuals in the North. The latter, was the generation that was the product of the new class which emerged in the new system of economic, social and political structures imposed by the Spanish colonizers e.g. encomienda and hacienda systems. Agricultural crop production intended for the needs of the colonizers and their countries and not for the local needs or the colonized inhabitants. Some families from such generation had sent their sons to study in Europe (the colonizing country such as Spain) and were influenced by the prevailing thoughts of equality, fraternity and liberty. These students and intellectuals brought back these new ideas to the country and led the struggles under the leadership of Katipunan against the Spanish colonizers at the same time of the struggles were continued by the Moros in the southern part.

At the eve of the defeat of the Spanish colonial power in the country at the end of 19th century, the new colonial power, United States of America came in to fill in the vacuum of the Spaniards in a historical buy off also known as Treaty of Paris in 1898. The defeated colonizer sold the territory they never fully subjugated to the new colonizer. And the rest would be a painful and bloody history of the new colonial brutality and occupation to neutralize and defeat the struggles for national liberation of peoples from the north to the southern part of the country.

In the 1930’s, with the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu effectively neutralized and rendered ceremonial and the leadership of the Katipunan and the local revolts literally decimated while the new working class movement (the Communist and Socialist Parties of the Philippines merged in 1938) had still on its early stage, the United States Imperialist power had consolidated the young national bourgeois class to form a colonial government. The first constitution of the country was formed in 1935 has been patterned letter by letter to the US constitution. The process was actively participated by representatives of the new ruling classes of the dominant nationality and the Moro people from the mainland of Mindanao as well as from the islands like in Sulu.

The life of a new national government was disrupted when the Japanese imperial power had tried to attack and subjugate the whole country and its people. A national united front for the defense for the fatherland was organized together with the defeated US army and also the Moro fighters who joined with the Filipino forces from the North and the central part of the country including the newly merged Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (Communist Party of the Philippines), to put strong and credible guerilla warfare against the Japanese occupying forces. It is important to note that the old Communist Party was playing an important role based on the call of the Third International (post Lenin/Trotsky period) to defend the Fatherland against fascism. The Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan laban sa Hapon or Army of the People against the Japanese) was formed on this purpose.

After the Second World War the new Republic of the Philippines (1946) was formed with the new bourgeois and ruling class from the North to the South participating. The US imperialist power had ensured its influence in all spheres of life of the Republic by enshrining it in the Constitution.

The development of industrialization of the country was ensured by the US imperialist to fit the role which the imperialist power would want the colonies to play. It had to make sure that it supplied the foreign colonizers with raw materials and to receive the goods coming from the latter. This kind of import oriented and export dependent economy made a one sided development for the foreign interest with the development of the new national bourgeoisie making sure that their policy is implemented and the development and orientation of the political superstructure – the nation-state had been tasked to do just this policy.

Peasant unrests and uprisings in the North and Central parts of the country were superficially solved by transferring these people to the South – Mindanao – the new place of hope and fulfillment of the peasants to own the lands they till become a reality according to government propagandists. In all these struggles which had happened mostly in the northern part of the country, the Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP) in most part were playing a decisive role against the US imperialist and the puppet government. In the 50s, the US imperialist through the puppet government had made sure that the PKP would be defeated and annihilated if they refused to surrender. In response, the HUKBALAHAP was transformed into Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan or HMB building a strong peasant army and almost defeated the puppet government if not for a direct but covert imperialist intervention.

Mainstreaming and integration of all peoples in this colonial set up by US imperialism was made possible through Religion and Education. And the Moro and the non Moro peoples in Mindanao were not spared with this policy and program. Their political set up like the Sultanate and Indigenous Power Structure were in a subtle manner becoming powerless and the western concept and method of resolving conflicts and governance were taking over. In the main, the ruling class of the Moro and the non Moro peoples had participated in these explicit and implicit processes in the exploitation, marginalization and integration of their people to one nation-state framework of the dominant nationality and its own ruling class.

The ruling class of the Moro people reacted seriously when their interests (both economic and political) were directly threatened. In the late sixties, when the puppet Philippine governments were exposed and became unpopular, a new nationalist movement headed by the newly established Communist Party (CPP) in 1968 and intellectuals were fighting for the national and democratic interests. In some of these movements, the Moro intellectuals were actively involved.

During this period there was, somehow, a convergence of interest of the traditional political leaders and the intellectual Moro professionals and students to fight for the people’s national interests. Thus they formed the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) in 1969. In the later period of the same year the first batch of young Moro intellectuals and students were sent to Malaysia to have military training. It would be followed by several batches later. It is very important to note that the first batch of trainees was headed by the Nur Misuari a Moro professional teaching in the University of the Philippines and who got involved in activism together with Jose Maria Sison who became the chairperson of the new Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Islamic countries which financed the military trainings of the young Moro fighters hired British mercenaries and tapped Malaysia to host the activities. It should be remembered that a year before (1968), there was a Jabidah massacre where young Filipino Muslim recruits were massacred by the Philippine military when they refused to go on mission to infiltrate Sabah for the interest of the Philippine government. This mission is called as OPLAN MERDEKAH, which was intended to get back Sabah from Malaysia. Hence, Malaysia was more than willing to host the military trainings of the young Moros against the Philippine government.

Together with Nur Misuari were the sons of prominent ruling families of the Moro people. And with its Islamic connection in the Muslim countries the MIM got financial support notably from Libya and Saudi Arabia where Hashim Salamat was studying and became active in the national struggle.

The foreign donors were not actually at ease with the Moro traditional leaders leading the young movement because they might collaborate with the puppet government in the process as history would prove it. Obviously these donors were convinced by the argument of the young intellectuals and students to give the financial support directly to them. With this arrangement the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was formed in the late sixties and early seventies. It was mainly composed of young intellectuals who had studied in the universities inside and outside the country. At early stage, there were several sons of the ruling class of the Moro people but later they were the first ones to give up and go back to the mainstream or to the government. Revolutionary and guerilla lifestyles were too much for them to sustain.

During this period a consciousness for a truly national identity was beginning to form and consolidate. Before this, the Moro people were those independent ethnic groups found in different areas/territories in Mindanao. The territories which were once comprised the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu had effectively weakened, disorganized and disintegrated. The MNLF had started to help in consolidating a national consciousness among the Moro people and start a national political movement of the struggle for self determination. This was done outside the traditional political structure and led by the nontraditional intellectuals.

The political movement headed by the MNLF aimed at political secession from the Philippine nationstate arrangement. The national oppression perpetuated by the majority nationality referred as those Christians in Luzon and Visayas who controlled the national government personified this kind of oppression which the MNLF also called as Manila colonialism. The active role of US Imperialism in the puppet government and orientation of the bourgeoisie were never factored in.

The main form of the struggle which was directly and indirectly supported by the Islamic countries (mostly numbers of the organization of Islamic countries – OIC) was armed struggle and had combined guerilla and conventional warfare on the ground.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972 to effectively suppress and neutralize the young movements led by both CPP and MNLF. A loose coordination was established between the two groups in fighting the same enemy.

The massacres and massive dislocations of the Moro civilians made the OIC to aggressively help both overtly and covertly the MNLF. They even facilitated the escape and having a safe base of Nur Misuari in their respective counties.

The intervention of the OICs had dual effects to the MNLF. First, it helped the organization survived and be projected in the international level and second it also helped the MNLF became very dependent on them. In fact the impact of this arrangement was the neglect of the MNLF leadership of consolidation works of its forces and continuously raising of their political consciousness to understand their struggle for nationalism.

The MNLF leadership was literally forced to sit down by the OICs with the Philippine government to have peace talks in mid 1970s. The talk led to the so called Tripoli Agreement in 1976. Disagreements and divisions among the leaders of the MNLF broke up after the signing of the agreement. As a direct result of these political uneasy arrangements disorientation and demoralization sipped in among both leadership and rank and file within the organization. Surrenders of some of the leadership had occurred making easy for the dictatorial government to inflict serious damage to the organization. Never again did the MNLF reach the high level of struggle after the Tripoli Agreement. The main stress of the weakened leadership of MNLF became the peace negotiations where the Marcos government had an upper hand and controlled set up. It was a political trap which the bourgeois leadership of the MNLF took and the direction of the process from that time on is the mainstreaming of MNLF to the nationstate arrangement of the Philippine government. The 1996 final peace agreement was just the formalization of this process of political accommodation and mainstreaming.

The division which had occurred within the MNLF was obviously the result of the serious weakness with regards to the internal organizational consolidation. It was also a direct result of external interventions both by the OICs and the Philippine government through massive and intensified militarization of the latter against the ground forces of the MNLF and peace negotiation with the foreign based leadership of the MNLF with the active cooperation of the host countries of the OICs. The abovementioned reasons made the divide and rule tactics of the Marcos dictatorial government a success in weakening and neutralizing the struggle for national liberation of the Moro people led by the MNLF. In fact, the basis for the MNLF division was along the ethnic differences and particularities. The national consciousness of a bangsa or nation was not consolidated and never consummated and ethnic conflicts and division had dragged down the Moro people once again. Eventually, the Maguindanao ethnic group formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whose leadership was composed mainly by the intellectuals and professionals of the Maguindanao tribe. The MNLF reformist group formed their own separate organization and was headed by the Maranao professional and intellectual members of the Maranao ethnic group. And this made the original MNLF as headed by the ethnic group in Sulu called the Tausugs to negotiate with the government while other groups negotiating separately.

During this period the consciousness of national identity of Moro people and the national political movement started by the original MNLF for a national struggle for self determination was stunted and co-opted and began to disintegrate again.

The formation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which had started after the Tripoli Agreement but was only formalized in the late eighties was a manifestation of the failure of internal consolidation of the MNLF and the intense pressures from the other countries (OICs) and massive Philippine military assaults on the ground.

The stress put on the Islamic aspect was to differentiate the opposition of the MILF founder, Hashim Salamat (acted as foreign minister of the MNLF during the Tripoli Agreement) from the stress on the nationalist aspect put up by Nur Misuari who was accused as non-religious and very secular. This kind of orientation immediately attracted the support of OIC individual members like Saudi Arabia and the MILF because official member of the Muslim Brotherhood because MNLF was still recognized by the OIC as the only legitimate representative of the Moro people.

The MILF started a movement to unite the Moro people especially the 13 ethno-linguistic groups into one national consciousness and identity through Islam and from the Sunni tradition like its principal patron, the Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood which recently won the elections in Egypt after Mubarak. In the late stage, MILF defines the Moro people and their ancestral domain/homeland as those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of pure blood. It is revealing here that the basis for Bangsamoro nationhood is on the superficial and mechanical aspects rather than the historical and collective experience of people whose consciousness as distinct people and identity is a result of the process of a national political movement towards achieving political objective. The definition does not even consider the individual and collective acceptance or non-acceptance of people to become or not become part of the nation and identifying themselves with the struggles for social and national liberation.

The abovementioned description was reinforced by its slogan of “one nation, one faith” the fear of external imposition of one’s faith to others. In fact, it will be ironic to even think that the struggle for national liberation as led by the MILF to resolve the national contradiction and the national oppression with its own kind of oppression even during the period of its struggles.

It is worth noting that the MILF has never considered and recognized the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) as distinct people with distinct history and ancestral homeland and therefore a distinct aspiration. Their definition states clearly that the IPs are part of the definition of Bangsamoro and their ancestral domains are also integral part of the Bangsamoro homeland as mentioned above.

It is very obvious that the Philippine government through its negotiating panel does not point out this objective reality out amidst the most logical results of such framework will invite another level of conflicts. From its nation-state framework, this is favorable so the government can effectively rule the divided peoples. But most importantly, genuine struggle for the democratic right to self-determination and its direction will be determine by the broadest participation of the people in whose name the struggle has been launched and sustained. The respect and support of other democratic forces can be realized if in return their democratic rights and aspirations are respected and supported. The truth about a nation which oppresses other nation can not be genuinely free will be tested in the concrete situation of the Bangsamoro and the Lumads.

As things stood today, one can have a glimpse of what will be the nature of political arrangement which can be reached by a compact peace agreement between the GPH and the MILF. In one of the mutually agreed principle, it is stated that the present set-up of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is the product of series of peace agreements if the MNLF since 1976, 1989 and 1996 with previous governments, is not acceptable and therefore should be replaced. It is obviously a blatant way of saying that the previous talks between the government and the MNLF are a failure but the reasons for such failed project have never been mentioned. Nevertheless, it is like saying that the laws created for the constitutional bases for the existence of the political entity called ARMM should be replaced or amended. Clearly, it is not saying on something on the framework behind the government‘s position of enacting such laws in the past which will be the same framework in having another arrangement albeit different actors.

It should be pointed out that the government has been an active participant in these failures because it (government) wants to manifest today that it is the MNLF which is at fault why the project failed. The so-called tripartite review of the 1996 peace agreement and its implementation between GRP and MNLF while there is an on-going talks between the government and the MILF is more to please the OICs rather than understanding the reasons behind the failures and correcting them. The importance of objectively identifying the reasons of the failed peace project between the government and the MNLF will have great implication for the success of the current peace process between GPH and the MILF. For instance, it is very clear that the government has been consistent in its one nation-state framework and so far one can clearly see that this framework has been the one utilize by the government in all the peace processes including the present one. If there are changes, they are just in the forms or shape but not in substance. The GRP or the GPH has never changed its position and its framework in any peace negotiations – that is Constitutional accommodation and mainstreaming of revolutionary groups. It has not gone “out of the box” solution in dealing with the different national liberation movements.

It is therefore very imperative to learn lessons from the GRP-MNLF peace process in order not to repeat the same failures.

In the experience of the MNLF with regards to the role of the International bodies and mechanisms, the manner and characteristics of the level of the International interventions should be moderated especially by the MILF. Dependency on the abovementioned bodies should be avoided. The tempo and substance of the talks should be dependent on the capacity of the MILF to engage. It is very difficult to 15 gauge the reasons and sincerity of the International bodies in their engagements with the talks but one thing is sure that they are there not without interest of their respective governments of their countries. Malaysia for instance has been consistently involved in the talks even during the times of the MNLF and now as the third party directly engaged in the talks has its own interest in Sabah. This is the obvious reason why the MILF has never touched the issue of Sabah in their claim of the ancestral domain of the Moro people. All stakeholders should be very critical on the involvement of this International bodies because more likely their framework is not different from the nation-state framework of the Philippine government because they need for instance the mechanisms to develop the very rich resources in Mindanao and create a viable market for their neo-liberal globalized economy. Besides if they will be involved in the political outcome of the national liberation of the MILF, they can be tasked to do the same by the oppressed people and ethnic groups in their respective countries. The role of the US should be contextualized in its regional interests especially with the rising influence of China and the corresponding threats in the balance of power in the changing geopolitics in this part of the world.

The setting up of a new autonomous political entity should not only be new in terms of replacing the old people in the ARMM or adding new structures but building mechanisms and infrastructure for political and economic empowerment of the broadest section of the people in the specific identified areas. The political set-up should be inclusive and will be more than the structure of the MILF and pluralist in its framework. In fact, MILF should redefine itself in this changing context and therefore it will have different role in the new political entity.

The strengthening and consolidation of this superstructure is very important because there is no independent economic system developed in the Bangsamoro. The neoliberal phase of globalized capitalist economy has made the whole country as one economic entity and part of the global market. The global capital with the active participation of the ruling classes of the dominant and dominated nations in the country has united their interest at the expense of the great majority of the peoples both Moro and non-Moro in the region. The MILF should have at this stage, its own economic agenda and program with all the peoples within the region in mind and that this program will not be part of the current neo-liberal globalized economy of capitalism. Substantive reforms in favor of the majority of peoples should be placed in all economic and fiscal policies otherwise the process of the opening up for the global capital interest the vast natural resources and wealth of the region will just create situation for intense exploitation of both its human and natural resources. This economic framework is very imperative since it has been proven that “an autonomous nation does not enjoy rights equal to those of a sovereign nation”. Failure to appreciate such arrangement will be another phase of accommodation and mainstreaming of the MILF and a more radical group and movement will emerge to take over and continue the struggle for right to self-determination in the name of the Moro people.

The role of the basic masses of the Moro people should be decisive in all phases of the peace process. The struggle of self-determination is not only political but democratic as well. The consciousness of a national identity should be translated into a political movement with clear democratic aspiration of the whole communities as represented by the MILF. The active role of the people in the peace process will ensure the sustainability of the success of a political settlement between the negotiators. Periodic but mechanical consultations with the people, who have also been involved in the previous peace negotiations, will not be democratic and sustainable. Participative and transparencies are both decisive aspects in any transformative peace process.

One feature which has played a very important role in the peace process between the GPH and MILF is the role of the non-government organizations or NGOs. One could not see this kind of participation during the previous talks.

NGOs can contribute positively in the success of the peace process like institutionalization of memories of the previous talks and development of skills of the personnel of MILF involved in the talks or in preparation for the eventual signing of a compact peace agreement. NGOs can also generate the needed funds and financial requirements needed for the technical needs of the talks. In terms of enhancing the management skills and machineries in the development of the communities involved. On the other hand, the NGOs can lead the MILF farther away from the basic masses and in the day-to-day struggles for economic and political empowerment of the basic masses of the Moro people. NGOs tend to deal with projects rather than the needs of the political movement of people in the communities. NGOs generally are not grounded on the actual activities of the communities and therefore do not feel the actual needs of poor people in terms of reducing the level of their poverty even if they (NGOs personalities) attend all kinds of conferences (local and international) on poverty. They become experts in packaging the poverty of the people and making project proposals for them and can make beautiful reports afterwards without substantially touching the lives of the peoples. They have already packaged the peace process and surely the dynamism of the political and peoples’ movements will be subtly downplayed and can only have a mechanical end of signing a peace agreement. Institutionalizing any process will lost its dynamism and vitality. But most importantly it should be pointed out that NGOs are not neutral, they represent the interests of their donor partners which are usually from the most developed countries which funded institutions which have appropriated the neo-liberal policies in the communities through the NGOs. The NGOs of these type are the implementers of neo-liberal program of global capital from below. In this context, the danger NGOizing the peace process is worth a serious consideration.

The current phase of neoliberal globalization of capital has created one people and one market but also unevenness and backwardness of economic system creating conflicts among and between peoples which all the more intensify the economic exploitation and political marginalization of the majority of people from both dominant and dominated nations/peoples in the country in general and Mindanao in particular. The deteriorating situation has added more fuel to the already burning fire of the national liberation movement such as the MILF. The Lumads in Mindanao just like the MILF has been struggling for self-determination based on historical fact of distinct development of people and the current realities of their own indigenous political structures. In the negotiation with the GPH, the MILF should not only respect but support the Lumads struggle of self-determination. Both their nationalism are coming from the same level and principle. Genuine peace can never be achieved in Mindanao if the democratic rights of all the oppressed and marginalized peoples are not respected and social inequities are not corrected in favor of the broadest section of the peoples

Conclusion

The struggle of the Bangsamoro for self-determination has been one of the longest national liberation movements in the world. It has started with the Indigenous Political Structure of the Sultanate to the formation of nationalist and revolutionary political organizations which has been the product of the increasing level of consciousness of a national identity. A political movement has been developed and strong religious bonding helped in the collective struggles with its ups and downs in the different stages of the movement.

There have been obvious weaknesses in terms of consolidation of a national consciousness as a nation and its ethnic peculiarities have been used by the government to divide them and weakened their position in the negotiating table.

The role of the International solidarity has been very helpful to the liberation movement especially in the internationalization and projection of its situation and aspiration and the excesses of the government in the suppression of their rights as peoples. Logistical, material, political and financial supports have helped the Moro people in sustaining their struggles but too much reliance on these external factors have made the Moro liberation movement dependent on them and basically neglect the internal needs for consolidation and forego relying on its internal consolidating capacity to further the movement on the next higher stage without the external pressures. One should be very careful with solidarity coming from above they tend, as past experience would show, to be in solidarity more with those nationalism from above practitioners. Solidarity coming from below should be encouraged and developed for they are proven to be genuine and sustainable. The nationalism from below practitioners have the same situation, same aspirations and the same struggles with those who are involved in political movement for social and national liberation and emancipation for all kinds of oppressions and exploitations. Solidarity among the basic masses of the Moro people, Lumads and the toiling masses of the dominant nation will bring the struggle for self-determination into genuine democratic and national liberation. Any genuine liberation movements should internalize this framework as basic obligation in order not only to attain national liberation but also eliminate the basis of conflicts and antagonism amongst the people we proclaim to struggle with.

The concept of peace which should be agreed upon will not be exclusive. This means that it will include the other peoples’ democratic interests in the identified region so that the other non-Moro people will not only be supportive of the right to self-determination struggle of the Moro people, they will even struggle together with them. In order to be sustainable and participative, a successful peace process should get the support of not only the Lumads but the dominant nationality as well. Democratic issues and the nationalism of the broadest number of peoples from both nations and peoples should be struggled together as common good and interest of the people.

Posted by: daniellesabai | 2012/06/16

One divides into two – Nepal’s Maoists in crisis

Alex De Jong

After ten years of Maoist insurgency and a coup d’Etat by the king in 2005, the Nepali people took to the streets in April 2006, forcing the king to hand power back to the parliament. It was the end of the only Hindu kingdom in the world but only a new step in the country’s continuing political crisis. The Maoist party, the UCPN(M) has entered into a crisis itself and a split has become inevitable.

For six years since 2006, the Nepali government has been unable to draft the Constitution that should have been the foundation of a new, democratic Nepal. The Constitutional Assembly (CA), elected in 2008, originally had a two year mandate but even after this had been extended several times, it remained in a deadlock, unable to reach any agreement. Ignoring a Supreme Court verdict that the CA could not be extended, Prime Minister and Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai tabled a bill proposing just that. The Supreme Court ruled against him on contempt charges and at midnight May 28th Bhattarai dissolved the CA and called for new elections. The final stumbling block was the refusal of the anti-Maoist coalition in the CA to allow changes in the structure of the state that would give greater autonomy to a number of the country’s minorities [1]. The UCPN(M) was allied with a party of the Madhesi minority in the CA. It was the end of the second Maoist-led Nepali government. The Right hopes that the elections will give them the change to grow big enough to not only block any progress in the CA, like they have done for the last four years, but also influence its course.

The Maoists hope that the elections will be a chance to break the deadlock but with increasing division in their own ranks it is uncertain they can repeat their surprise electoral victory of 2008. Inside Bhattarai’s party, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPNM), that led a decade of armed struggle and controlled most of the country before agreeing on a cease-fire with the government, criticism of the leadership has been growing. Bhattarai and other leaders have been accused of betraying the revolution and preparations for a split have been going under way for months. To understand the crisis of the UCPN(M) and the end of the second coalition government led by it, it is necessary to look at the evolution of its leaders’ strategy.

 A new step in the crisis

Negotiations between the establishment parties and the Maoists, building on a framework from 2005, led in May 2006 to a ceasefire and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in December 2006. After long delays, elections for an Assembly that would draw up a new Constitution and function as an interim parliament took place in April 2008. Surprising most observers, the Maoists won a huge electoral victory, winning one third of all seats and becoming the largest party in parliament. Their chairperson, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known under his nom de guerre Prachanda (’the fierce one’), became Prime Minister [2].

But the crisis of Nepali politics has continued. For a long time, the main contradiction was between the old parliamentary parties on one hand and the Maoists on the other. The most important of these old parties are the conservative Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party United Marxist-Leninist (UML, a party that is neither Marxist nor Leninist and supported the king for most of the insurgency) [3]. Together with other establishment forces these parties have been resisting radical change and the drawing up of new constitution that would alter the existing power relationships to their disadvantage. On the other side were the Maoists who commanded an apparatus and electoral support that overshadowed that of any other single party but who were relatively unfamiliar with the game of parliamentary politics and had influence in the patronage based political machines.

The Maoists emphasized that they had not given up their goal of social revolution and that their participation in parliament was only a step towards this. In the Maoism of the UCPN(M), the revolution would need to go through two stages. First is the ’New Democratic revolution’, as a step towards the establishment of socialism. This first stage is meant to finish ’bourgeois democratic’ tasks like land-reform, equal rights for all citizens and abolishing the monarchy and protecting national sovereignty, especially against traditional rival India. Although the Nepali Maoists had come out in favor of a multiparty system, including under socialism, they insisted that this first phase would be under leadership of the revolutionary forces and would immediately begin laying the groundwork for the second phase, that of socialist revolution [4] [5].

Since 2006, the establishment parties and the ruling classes of Nepal, with help of the United States and especially India, have been trying to channel the Maoists into parliamentary, institutionalized politics and convince them to postpone the New Democratic Revolution to some far undefined future. Nepal’s fractured political landscape is dominated by patronage networks and the establishment parties have been trying to integrate the Maoists into these networks and its political institutions and neutralize them, just like the parties that now form the UML have been neutralized years ago [6]. After a failed attempt at insurrection in 2010 and especially the disarmament and dissolving of the Maoist armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and numerous other concessions by the UCPN(M), worries in the dissident camp that establishment forces succeeded in this have been growing. This has led to a new contradiction, this time inside the UCPN(M), between it’s right and left-wings.

 Divisions

The last few years the UCPN(M) was actually divided in three power-centers. The right-wing was mostly closed identified with Baburam Bhattarai. Eloquent and highly educated, Bhattarai has been the chief diplomat of the UCPN(M), responsible for reaching out to other political forces and leading an important united front like that of the various national liberation organizations of Nepali minorities. He is the party’s number two after Prachanda and is also considered to be their most important theorist. Bhattarai has long argued that under the current geopolitical circumstances a revolution with a socialist orientation is impossible in Nepal. He cites Nepal’s position between capitalist China and pro-US India, its small population and the lack of natural resources or economic means and the low level of development as arguments for this. Nepal has a population of less than 30 million. In 1998, two years after the Maoists launched their ’people’s war’, approximately 82 per cent of Nepal’s work force was employed in the agricultural sector, with a large majority being smallholders, tenants who have to provide their landlords with at least half of their harvest and free services in return for the use of a plot of land and subsistence security, or landless peasants. Nepali agriculture remains underdeveloped and ranks among the very lowest of South Asia in terms of crop yield and value added per worker [7]. In 2000, adult literacy nationwide was a little over 50 per cent and life expectancy was under 60 years [8]. Indentured labor was only legally abolished a few years ago and still exists. The Human Development Index of the United Nations ranks Nepal 137th out of 177 countries.

Another cause of instability in Nepal is the oppression of a large number of minorities. Already before the people’s war, Nepal was officially recognized as ’multi-ethnic’ and ’multilingual’, with various ’national languages’. But the demand of the pro-democracy movement that Nepal should become a secular state and the privileged status of Hinduism ended, was rejected. Nepal remained a Hindu monarchy and the king was celebrated as a living god. The state policy favored Hindus and the caste system remained intact. This policy marginalized a large and diverse part of the Nepali population. Officially, there are 44 minority ethnic groups in Nepal, making up over one third of the total population. The Hindu caste-system is also applied to the minority groups, delegating them to the lower castes. These groups are underrepresented in the state apparatus, in elected positions and are disadvantaged by the concentration of power in the Kathmandu valley [9]. Laws on marriage, divorce and inheritance were based on Hindu norms and extremely disadvantageous for women.

In the face of this lack of democratic and economic development, Bhattarai has been arguing that Nepal needs to pass through a pre-New Democratic ’substage’ in which the progressive movement would not just limit itself to democratic tasks, not touching private property, but also accept the political hegemony of pro-capitalist forces [10]. Since the signing of the CPA, Bhattarai has been reaching to out India and the UCPN(M) has established contact with the Indian Communist Party (Marxist), long one of the ruling parties in large parts of India, and taking over their investment based, developmentalist approach.

 Red faction

Already before the signing of the CPA, the approach of Bhattarai was criticized by other forces in the Maoist party. A left-wing current crystallized among the Maoists, already in 2009 leading to a small split under the leadership of Matrika Yadav, a former parliament- and politburo-member, who said the UCPN(M) was no longer sincerely striving for revolution. A more significant left-wing current remained in the party but is now leaving as well. Among its leaders are Netra Bikram Chand (party name: Biplab), Chandra Prakash Gajurel (aka Gaurav) and Mohan Vaidya (aka Kiran), all prominent UCPN(M)-cadres who have been pressing for a more radical course and the preparation for an insurrection to seize power for years. The recent disarmament of the PLA seems to have been the last straw for them. (this is discussed in more detail later). Since then this faction has formed a united front with forces to the left of the party in March 2012 to campaign against the policies of the UCPN(M)-led coalition government and grown more and more vehement in its denouncements of the UCPN(M) leadership [11]. The left-wing faction’s orientation is much more classically Maoist, insisting on the (long term) possibility of armed revolution. The left-wing has also urged more cooperation with the Indian Maoists, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), also known as Naxalites, a party that sticks more closely to Maoist orthodoxy than the UCPN(M) [12].

Balancing between the right-and left-wings was Prachanda, allying with one, then the other wing in the intense faction fights, forging compromises on policy papers, reaching out to establishment forces one month, alluding to an insurrection the next, but always making sure he stayed in power [13]. But now it seems the party’s right-wing has won the power struggle and the left-wing no longer distinguishes between Bhattarai and Prachanda. The end of the PLA was also a blow to the support base of many of the left-wing leaders. In the highest party organs, the right-wing was also strengthened by the fusion of the CPN(M) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre-Masal) in January 2009 (this led to the adding of ’united’ to the party’s name). Although also claiming to be Maoist and operating underground, this smaller party had remained uninvolved in the people’s war. As part of the fusion agreement, a number of their cadres were given important positions in the UCPN(M) were they allied with the right-wing.

 Zig-zag

A thorough evaluation of the evolution of the UCPN(M) needs to take its development during the people’s war into account. The faction around Kiran has dated the degeneration of the party to the post-2006 period, arguing that by allying the Maoists with the parliamentary parties and against the king, Bhattarai and Prachanda already surrendered to ’bourgeois democracy’. In the words of Biplap, they have been functioning as ’agents of capitalist parliamentary democracy’ ever since [14]. This approach ignores the role of especially India, the United States and the United Nations who have been trying to bring the Maoists into the ’democratic mainstream’ through financial incentives, aid-projects and political pressure. It also reduces the political problems of UCPN(M) to one of the subjective orientation of Prachanda and Bhattarai. But the basis of this orientation goes deeper. For instance, a large part of the success of the UCPN(M) during the people’s war was thanks to its forging of a large coalition that included many of the poor and oppressed in Nepali society. This was however a coalition on the basis of an essentially bourgeois democratic program and since the CPA, important parts of it have already broken away, especially among the ’national liberation fronts’.

Without doubt, an increasingly right-wing orientation has developed inside the UCPN(M) after 2006, building on a strategy formulated by Bhattarai and Prachanda and accepting the need for the capitalist ’substage’ described above. Three moments have been key in the development of this right-wing orientation. The first was when in May 2009 the first UCPN(M)-led coalition dissolved after Prachanda as prime minister failed to bring the Nepalese army under its control. The army is very much an independent force in Nepali politics and before the abolishing of the monarchy it was a pillar of support for the king. The Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) was never defeated by the Maoists; the royal house kept it out of the operations against the insurgents for a long time, leaving most of the fighting to the armed police [15]. After signing the CPA, close to 20.000 Maoist fighters were restricted to dozens of cantonments. Until the handing over of the keys in late 2011 they retained access to their weapons that were put in UN supervised lockers. But the PLA was in no way a match militarily for the RNA; against 19-20.000 Maoist fighters with little over 3.000 guns (often poor quality ones at that), the government army was over 90.000 strong, trained by the US, Britain and India, armed by the US and later China as well [16]. Biplap, Gaurav and Kiran now vehemently criticize the parliamentary approach of Baburam and Prachanda but this approach was born out of an assessment of the relationship of forces after the signing of the CPA.

Bhattarai and others in the UCPN(M) leadership formulated an intricate plan to neutralize the RNA and ’crack Kathmandu’. First, they formed an alliance with the parliamentary parties and their followers after these had been disenfranchised by the king’s grab for power in 2005. This alliance won support from India, one of the most important factors in Nepali politics as New Delhi had grown irritated by the increasingly pro-China orientation of the king. It took the US longer to come around: after 9-11, it had classified the Maoists as ’terrorists’ and for a long time it insisted on the necessity of the mainstream political parties and the king to unite against them. However, as it became clear the king’s grap for power had only intensified the crisis and that he was unable to defeat the insurgency, the US too came to support the agreement of the ’Seven Party Alliance’ of the parliamentary parties with the Maoists against the king. As hoped, this alliance succeeded in driving out the king.

The second step for the Maoists would have been the neutralization of the army. The entrance of the UCPN(M) into parliamentary politics was justified as part of the plan for this: under the cover of entering into the parliamentary system, the Maoists would expand their support in the cities, primarily Kathmandu, and prepare for an urban insurrection against which the army would be unable to move. Under the conditions of the CPA, PLA fighters were to be stationed in UN supervised cantonments and to be paid an allowance. A number of PLA fighters however didn’t enter the cantonments but were secretly organized in the Young Communist League (YCL). The YCL would be the core of an urban fighting force, possibly assisted by the PLA fighters that could at any time leave their cantonments and take back their weapons.

During the people’s war, the UCPN(M) skilfully played out one of its opponent against the other: the royal house against the parliament, India against China, the US against India. This zig-zag of leaning one way one moment, the other the next moment, was called part of the ’Prachanda path’, the UCPN(M)’s adaption of Maoism. The party’s entry into parliamentary politics, so the leadership claimed, was only a new step on this path. Even the integration of PLA fighters into the government army was presented to the radicals of as part of the plan for taking power: after integration, the Maoist guerillas would carry out agitation aimed at the army’s rank and file and be in a position to sabotage the army’s operations. Exactly on this point the Maoists were outmaneuvered. India wished to see only a token integration of a few thousand Maoists in what was now called the National Army (NA) [17]. Evidently, India had realized the danger of subversion from within the NA by former guerilla’s. New Delhi, like Washington, had hoped the Maoists would suffer a defeat in the elections of 2008 and saw these as a way to lock them into the parliamentary politics [18]. After the unexpected electoral victory of the UCPN(M), a new struggle broke out over who would be the first President of the new republic – a crucial position since as replacement of the king, the president would have command over the army. A contest broke out between the Maoist candidate and Ram Raja Prasad Singh, the candidate of the NC and UML. With all the conservative parties united behind him, Ram Raja Prasad Singh won the election. The NA then provoked a confrontation with Prime Minister Prachanda as it flat out refused to carry out the integration as agreed in the CPA. Instead, the army continued to recruit and refused to integrate the Maoist fighters.

Prachanda then tried to dismiss army head Rookmangud Katawal for violating the CPA that had stipulated that the army-size would be reduced to pre-civil war levels and PLA fighters integrated in the NA. However, the President, as the official commander of the NA, reinstated Katawal and in May 2009 Prachanda stepped down himself. Like during the election of the President, with the guidance of India a grand anti-Maoist coalition took shape and UML-leader Madhav Kumar Nepal became the new Prime Minister. Throughout 2009-10, India was crucial in propping the government of this Prime Minister who had lost in two constituencies in the previous elections.
The Maoists would only be allowed back at the head of the state after dissolving the PLA. This episode revealed the relative weakness of the Maoists in institutional politics and the ability of the Nepali ruling classes and its political representatives to maintain an united front against them [19].

This led to the second turning point, the general strike/failed uprising of May 2010. The general strike of May 2010 was supposed to have led to the toppling of the government, the formation of a new, Maoist-led government and a new step in the revolution. After Prachanda had stepped down, the UCPN(M) started to mobilize its supporters for what was presented as the ’final push to topple the government’. The Maoists hoped that the political crisis and the obvious lack of legitimacy of Prime Minister Madhav Nepal would work in their favor and help organize a mobilization against the government. It needs to be pointed out that a strike or bandh in Nepal is more than just a work-stoppage, often it includes the blocking of roads and the paralyzing of all commercial activity. Maoist supporters were brought into Kathmandu from the countryside for this strike and were told to prepare for a long, hard struggle. However, the strike – that many on the party’s Left hoped would blossom into the long awaited insurrection and lead to the taking of power – failed. After a few very tense days and some clashes in Kathmandu, the UCPN(M) leadership called it off [20].

During the evaluation of the strike in November, divisions in the party turned out to be insurmountable. For the the first time, Prachanda was unable to present a political statement all factions could agree upon. The party’s Left blamed the leadership for a lack of nerves, and not carrying the struggle forward. They claimed the strike could have been stronger and that it had been weakened by the Maoist earlier concession to dismantle their parallel power structures in the countryside, the UCPN(M)-led ’people’s governments’, as had been agreed in the CPA. The UCPN(M) reaffirmed its orientation on seizing power but for the left-wing this was empty talk.

The party’s right-wing seems to have drawn opposing conclusions from the experience. For them the strike appears to have shown the brittle character of their support and the inability to win in a direct confrontation with the state. There have been reports that Maoist supporters began leaving the city after only a few days, confused about the character of the movement and its goal (new elections, a new parliament? or revolution?) and complaining about being pressured into participating in the movement and the risks of a confrontation with the army. The Maoists appear to also have made a mistake by timing the protests just as planting season began, prompting many of their peasant supporters to leave for home [21]. The UCPN(M) then agreed to new elections and Bhattarai became prime minister in August 2011. But the price of this was the signing of a slew of new agreements that committed the government to a liberal economic policy, based on foreign investment [22]. Other agreements further eroded the UCPN(M)’s support with the dissolving of the PLA and the return of lands that had been seized by peasants during the civil war to their ’legal owners’.
Prachanda meanwhile has been the subject of a number of scandals in the last months, involving the use of government money by his jet-setting son and the purchase of a luxury house in Kathmandu’s most expensive neighborhood. These are not the only scandals that have been plaguing the UCPN(M). The party’s left-wing has been complaining about corruption of cadres for years, at times pushing the leadership to organize anti-corruption drives [23]. Other scandals have also come to light, affecting former PLA-fighters. As described, not all of them entered into the cantonments. The fighters were promised that their allowances would be set aside for them but a lot of this money has gone ’missing’.These scandals have not only hurt the support for Maoists, who during the people’s war gained sympathy among many of Nepal’s poor with their dedication and simple lifestyle. They have also led to conflicts in the party. with clashes between pro- and anti-Prachanda groups of the former PLA [24].

 ’Without an army, the people have nothing’ [25]

The handing over of the keys of the weapon lockers in September 2011 was the third key moment in the evolution of the UCPN(M). After the dissolving of UCPN(M)-led base areas, the local ’people’s governments’ and the return of seized lands, the disarmament and dissolving of the PLA was seen by the party’s left-wing as the final capitulation of the leadership before the existing power structure. It was clear this dissolving was in no way part of the kind of tactical maneuvering outlined above: against the wishes of the Maoists only a part of their fighters were integrated in the NA. Former guerrilla-commanders that were integrated were separated from their men who were scattered over different units. And only a small part, around 3000, of the former PLA-fighters were integrated after the government made the offer to resign, receive compensation and go home more attractive than the terms of integration. Many former guerillas were not even given weapons but instead given jobs as unarmed forest-guards and the like! Instead of the PLA subverting the army from the inside, the Maoists were dissolved into the much larger NA [26].

Special mention needs to be made of the role of the UN and international NGO’s in this whole process. The United Nations Missions in Nepal (UNMIN) was crucial in first establishing the cooperation between the parliamentary parties and the Maoists and later the demobilization and disarmament of the PLA. The Maoist leadership agreed to the UN DDR program (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) program and the UN assisted in implementing a number of the more moderate demands of the Maoists: the abolition of the monarchy and political participation of marginalized groups like the lower caste Dalits and national minorities.

There is not much hope that the mainstream of the UCPN(M) will change its orientation. Baburam Bhattarai has been explicit in saying Nepal needs to go to a whole generation of ’capitalist development’ and Prachanda declared Switzerland his dream for Nepal [27]. Where before the UCPN(M) boosted they would make Nepal into a ’base area of the world revolution’, they now urge the Indian Maoists to give up the armed struggle. Where before the government of China was attacked as traitors to Maoism (and an ally of the king during the last phase of the civil war), UCPN(M)-members now tour the country on invitation of the bureau of external relations of the Chinese CP, writing fawning reports about their travels [28]. More significantly, the dissolving of first the people’s governments and later the PLA has ended the situation of dual power that was created during the people’s war. The ’red faction’ in the UCPN(M) claims Prachanda and Bhattarai are effectively reducing the UCPN(M) to one parliamentary party among others – and one with relatively little experience in Nepali style elections or influence in patronage politics at that. The ongoing integration of UCPN(M)-leaders in Kathmandu’s traditional politics has also alienated many of their followers. The party’s maneuvering has angered its most radical supporters who have been asked so many times to be patient and prepare for an insurrection that never came. Once lauded by his followers as the greatest Leninist strategist alive, dissident Maoists members now burn effigies of Prachanda.

 Stepping forward?

Whatever one may think of the failure of the orientation of Bhattarai and Prachanda and their current trajectory, their post-2006 strategy was a serious attempt at answering the difficult question of how to make a revolution in country like Nepal, an extremely underdeveloped, dominated country, ’caught like a yam between two boulders’ (China and India). The last few years the UCPN(M) developed a remarkably flexible and open kind of Maoism, embracing multi-party democracy, and widening its ideological horizon by drawing on formerly taboo figures like Rosa Luxemburg. In what must have been shocking to orthodox Maoists, Bhatarrai even approvingly quoted Trotsky.

An example of the ability of the UCPN(M) to change was its shift regarding homosexuality; during the war, they denounced homosexuality as a sign of ’bourgeois decadence’ and after the CPA, Maoists harassed LGBT-people. After internal and external criticism, the UCPN(M) reevaluated their stance and under their leadership the Nepali government defended legal rights for sexual minorities nationally and internationally. In 2008 homosexual relationships were (finally) decriminalized and in 2011, in an international first, Nepal officially recognized a third gender (like other South Asian countries, Nepal has a long tradition of third-gender communities that however have been very marginalized) [29].

Other examples of the genuinely progressive character of the UCPN(M)-led movement are of course the abolishing of the monarchy and the Hindu character of the state but also the increased role of women in public and political life. The interim constitution stipulates a 33 percent ratio of women representatives for the parliament and the Maoists have by far the largest proportion of female parliamentarians. The party has long campaigned against arranged marriages, domestic abuse and for rights of women [30]. But significant as these steps are, they are not ending the crushing poverty in the countryside or laying the groundwork for a more egalitarian economic order.

The left-wing of the UCPN(M) commands significant support, claiming that around a third of the party’s base and lawmakers will go with them. But at the moment this left-wing seems to have little perspective for carrying the struggle forward. They insist that the next step must be the seizure of power but admit that the UCPN(M) is weaker now than it was six years. The only thing they seeminlgy offer is a return to the people’s war and the rebuilding of the PLA and people’s governments. Confronted with what they consider the betrayal of the Bhattarai and Prachanda factions, they are returning to the classic Maoist stratagems and concepts. But after ten years of war, the winning of some democratic concessions and the prospect of further, lucrative inclusion in the clientelist networks of Nepali politics, the taste for war has declined among siginificant parts of the old pro-Maoist coalition of peasants and national minorities. Dissatisfaction among supporters of the UCPN(M) is likely to increase, freeing up room for a new Left – but if the recent history of Nepal has shown one thing, it is that the old forms of thought are no longer sufficient.


Notes

[1] See for example the editorial by Nepali writer Manjushree Thapa, ’Writer’s block in Nepall’, Deccan Chronicle May 30, 2012. Available on ESSF (article 25555)

[2] Achin Vanaik, ’Nepal – The new Himalayan republic’, New Left Review 49 (2008) 47 – 72 gives an excellent overview of the developments until then. Available on ESSF (article 10040).

[3] The attitude of the UML towards the Maoists has been extremely opportunist and incoherent. In the early days of the insurgency, it referred to them as ’friendly’, even donating money to them to weaken their biggest rival, the NC. (Krishna Hachhethu, ’The Nepali State and the Maoist Insurgency, 1996 – 2001’ in: Michael Hutt: Himayalan People’s War. Nepal’s Maoist Rebellion (Bloomington 2004) 58 – 79, there 66). They started calling them ’fascist’ after they became a powerful factor in Nepalese politics (Pradip Nepal, ’The Maoist Movement and its Impact in Nepal’, in: Arjun Karki and David Seddon ed., The People’s War in Nepal. Left Perspectives (New Delhi 2003) 405 – 438, there 427) and joining the NC and other conservative forces to block progressive change through the CA.

[4] The strategy of a two-phase revolution to achieve a socialist society in underdeveloped countries is part of orthodox Maoism. The current of Maoism the future UCPN(M) was part of, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, has emphasized the transitory character of the New Democratic revolution and the need for a socialist orientation

[5] The document ’Present Situation & Our Historical Task’, adopted by the Central Committee of the party June 2003 [online at http://www.ucpnm.org/english/doc9.php], describes how after the capture of state power, it will be necessary to institutionalize ’the rights of the masses to install an alternative revolutionary Party or leadership on the state’. The argument was further developed in Baburam Bhattarai, ’Teach-in (Nepal): The Question of Building a New Type of State’, The Worker. Organ of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) 9 (2004) Online on ESSF (article 24359) at http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spi…]. It should be noted many formulations in the articles are ambiguous, making the right to remove the party form power for instance conditional on failure of the party to lead the revolution further. Who will decide whether the party is failing is not specified. After signing the CPA, Maoists continued abducting opponents and attempts to intimidate media-workers (Sebastian von Einsiedel, David M. Malone, and Suman Pradhan ed., ’Conclusions’ in: idem, ’Nepal in Transition. From People’s War to Fragile Peace’ (Cambridge 2012) 361 – 383, there 372), raising more doubts about the democratic commitment of the Maoists.

[6] Aditya Adhikari, ’Revolution by Other Means: The Transformation of Nepal’s Maoists in a Time of Peace’, in: Sebastian von Einsiedel, David M. Malone, Suman Pradhan ed., Nepal in Transition From People’s War to Fragile Peace (Cambridge 2012) 265 – 287.

[7] Devendra Raj Panday, ’The Legacy of Nepal’s Failed Development’ in: Von Einsiedel, Malone, Pradhan ed., Nepal in Transition, 81 – 100.

[8] Nepal Human Development Report 2001. [Online at http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/nati… ].

[9] A large party of the succes of the insurgency was based on the existence of large groups of disadvantaged minorities. Gilles Boquérat, ’Maoism and the Ethnic Factor in the Nepalese People’s War’ in: Laurent Gayer, Christophe Jaffrelot ed., Armed Militias of South Asia. Fundamentalists, Maoists and Separatists (London 2009) 45 – 65 and Marie Lecomte-Tilouine, ’Ethnic Demands within Maoism: Questions of Magar Territorial Autonomy, Nationalism and Class’, in: Hutt ed., Himayalan Peoples War, 112–136.

[10] Already before the signing of the peace-agreement he made this argument, for example in Baburam Bhattarai, ’Monarchy vs. Democracy. The Epic Fight in Nepal’ (New Delhi 2005) 10.

[11] ’Baidhya faction-led front unveils protest programme’, The Himayalan, March 23, 2012. [Online at: http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fu…].

[12] An interview with UCPN(M) politburo-member Basanta, a supporter of the dissident faction, discusses some of their views on international relations, democracy et cetera. Nepal – Interview with Basanta April 22, 2012. Available on ESSF (article 25556): Nepal : On the “the two-line struggle” within the UCPN (M).. The criticism of the Indian Maoists regarding the UCPN(M)’s views on democracy, military strategy and other issues can be read in ’Open Letter to Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the Communist Party of India (Maoist)’, July 20, 2009 [online at http://www.bannedthought.net/India/…].

[13] A former UCPN(M) supporter discusses the development of the party after 2006 in Roshan Kissoon ’The Great Deception in Nepal’, September 6, 2011 [online at: http://www.anarkismo.net/article/20…].

[14] Red Front Article – The Challenge for the Nepalese Revolution by Netra Bikram Chand “Biplab”’. Available on ESSF (article 25557), The Challenge for the Nepalese Revolution – A “Red Front” Article.

[15] Von Einsiedel, Malone, and Pradhan ed., ’Conclusions’ in: idem, ’Nepal in Transition’ 361 – 383.

[16] In Nepal, it is widely believed that not the Maoists didn’t hand over all their weapons to UNMIN. The Maoists also kept a number of PLA-fighters outside of the cantonments while letting non-combatants be registered as former fighters. However, military analysts agree the PLA did have more members than firearms. S. D. Muni, ’Bringing the Maoists down from the Hills: India’s Role’ in: Von Einsiedel, Malone, and Pradhan ed., ’Nepal in Transition’ 313 – 332.

[17] Prashant Jha, ’A Nepali Perspective on International Involvement in Nepal’, in Von Einsiedel, Malone, and Pradhan ed., ’Nepal in Transition’ 332 – 361, there 337.

[18] Jha, ’A Nepali Perspective’ 338.

[19] S. Muni, ’Bringing the Maoists down from the Hills’ shows how India has continued its traditional role of ’big brother’ towards Nepal and how the United States ’outsourced’ the handling of the Maoists to New Delhi.

[20] Muma Ram Khanal, ’Nepal: The Maoist general strike and its limits’, Counterfire, May 6, 2010. Available on ESSF (article 25373).

[21] Red Marriot, ’The predictable rise of a red bourgeoisie: the end of a mythical Nepalese Maoist “revolution”’ online at [http://libcom.org/news/predictable-…].

[22] Especially controversial has been the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), that protects Indian investments.

[23] The ’Present Situation & Our Historical Task’ document mentions complains about ’rapid deterioration in party’s proletarian conduct and working style’.

[24] Disillusion and feelings of betrayal among former fighters are widespread, and discussed in many newsstories. A few are: ’Where is our deposit money, comrades?’, MyRepublica. December 7, 2011 [online at: http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/i…], ’The Disillusioned Soldier’, Aljazeera November 30, 2011 [online at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes…] ’Combatants’ Farewell: Voilence as party ’demands’ fighters’ cash’, Ekantipur 6 Febryary 2012 [online at: http://www.ekantipur.com/2012/02/06…]. Prachanda’s ’new lifestyle’ is reported in: Dean Nelson, ’Nepali Maoist leader adopts millionaire’s lifestyle’, The Telegraph January 30, 2012 [online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wor…].

[25] The quotation is from Mao Zedong.

[26] ’3129 for integration’, MyRepublica, April 20, 2012 [http://myrepublica.com/portal/index…].

[27] Zhou Shengping, ’http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/i…’, Xinhuenet, November 6, 2011 [online at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/i…].

[28] Dhruba Parajuli, ’Unique Experience, Unfulfilled Desires’, Progress 1 (2012) 14–17.

[29] Gary Leupp, ’Maoist Homophobia? Troublesome Reports from Nepal’, Counterpunch, April 23, 2007 [online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/04…], Sudeshna Sarkar ’Nepal Maoists to stand up for gay rights in UN’, December 11 [online at: http://www.igovernment.in/site/Nepa…]. Doug Ireland, ’Nepal’s First Gay MP Speaks — Nation’s Two Largest Political Parties Embrace LGBT Rights’, May 8, 2008 (available on ESSF, article 10398) is an interview with the Sunil Pant, Nepal’s most well known LGBT-rights activist, head of the LGBT-rights organization Blue Diamond Society and parliamentarian for one of Nepal’s many small communist parties, the Communist Party-(United).

[30] Mandira Sharma and Disnesh Prasain, ’Gender Dimensions of the People’s War: Some Reflections on the Experiences of Rural Women’, in: Hutt ed., ’Himayalan People’s War’ 152–166 describes how the Maoists were successful in winning the support of many women with campaigns like these. A remarkable and respected voice for women’s rights in the UCPN(M) is Hisila Yami (alias comrade Parvati). Yami is one of the leaders of the UCPN(M) and has long argued for the importance of women’s rights in the revolutionary movement while also strongly criticizing the existing sexism in the Maoist movement. Hisila Yami, ’Peoples War and Women’s Liberation in Nepal (Chhattisgarh 2006).

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