The Manifesto of New Path

National Council, New Path: For some time now, some of us in a small collective, mostly from backgrounds in social movements and mass organisations, have been discussing how the work of people’s struggle and revolutionary transformation can be taken forward in the Indian context. Out of those discussions we have reached the decision to found a new organisation, tentatively called “New Path”, whose goal is to further the revolutionary process in India at its current stage. Below is our draft manifesto, which we are circulating for comments, criticism, suggestions and observations from comrades and friends. As the manifesto seeks to argue, New Path is not and does not aim to be a traditional revolutionary party. Rather, it is a political formation that seeks out opportunities, through struggle, to weaken bourgeois hegemony in this country. We are seeking to implement these ideas through a number of different programs as well as in our work in the various struggle groups that we are a part of. The manifesto is one of several documents that New Path has been working on developing; it aims to provide a synopsis of some of the key ideas that are important to our approach. We hope this will be of use and look forward to your responses. We can be contacted at nayarasta.india@gmail.com.

India today is a society scarred by immense poverty, terrible injustice and inhuman brutality. Crores of people cannot buy enough food to survive; there are more people living in hunger in India than in any other country in the world. Children are malnourished, people die like flies from disease, and real education and health care are out of the reach of millions. The majority of people struggle to survive, uncertain of making it from one day to the next. Yet, at the same time, a small minority of people has access to every luxury in the world and lives as if the poor do not exist. Any attempt to confront the horrific injustices that occur daily is repressed with inhuman violence. Every form of atrocity known to humanity has been carried out within this nation’s borders; the rape, torture, and slaughter of thousands is deemed part of normal life. A life of dignity is a dream for the vast majority of the people.

India is not alone in this. Across the world a handful of people reap all benefits, while the majority struggle against violence, poverty and oppression. In 2005, the top ten percent of people in the world consumed 60% of what the world produced and owned 85% of total wealth; the bottom 10% consumed 0.5%. In a thousand different forms, the majority is everywhere crushed by the small minority who control wealth and power. Women are beaten, tortured and treated as second class citizens. Oppressed castes and communities face terrible discrimination, deprived of their lands, their livelihoods, their rights, their freedoms and their dignity. Workers give their bodies and their souls for the profits of their employers. The aged are forced to work till their deaths while children are treated as objects to be brutalised and beaten into submission. The natural environment is being despoiled and destroyed at an ever accelerating rate. An environmental crisis is developing today that threatens the fate of humanity itself.

Those who benefit from this system proclaim that this is the way the world always has been and always will be. But no thinking person can accept that such an unjust order should be the fate of humanity, that most should suffer and die for the benefit of a few. Injustice is a creation of human will and human oppression. In every place where oppression takes place, there is resistance, anger and heroic courage in the fight for justice. The oppressors may rule this world but they do not do so unchallenged. What human beings can create, human beings can overthrow. We can build a new country and a new world, in which human dignity would be the centre of existence.

The Nature of This Society

Proposition 1: India and the world today are capitalist societies, in which production is done by nominally ‘free’ producers and workers for the primary purpose of exchanging the resulting commodities. In this world the dead hand of capital exploits the lives and bodies of the majority of people.

The ability to make things together – indeed, to produce and shape the world together – is the most fundamental feature of being a human being, the key point that marks our difference from other animals. No other animal has been able to transform the world through its collective action the way humanity has. We can no longer imagine living in a world that has not been shaped by the work of billions of people. For any group larger than a few people, the capacity of the group to work together provides the food they eat, the shelter they live in and the water they drink. Hence, if a society’s system of production is controlled in a way that oppresses people, that society will be oppressive. If it is controlled in a way that liberates people, then there is at least the possibility that that society will be truly free.

In today’s world the labour of the majority of people is not controlled by them, and they do not benefit from it. Instead a small minority takes most of the gains of the labour of others. Those who enjoy the benefits of this system do not do so because they work harder or more intelligently than others, but because they enjoy power over others’ labour. This power does not spring from force alone; it fundamentally comes from the economic system itself.

Today it is no longer possible for a person or a community to survive on what they have alone. The vast majority of their needs are met through purchase, by exchanging money with others for the goods they require for their own existence. To earn this money, a person has to produce something that they can sell. In turn, to produce things and sell them, people require the means to do so, such as factories, tools, transport or knowledge. These means of production are today owned by a small minority of people and are their property. In order to survive, then, people are left with only one thing to sell: their capacity to labour. Instead of working alone or together for their own benefit, they have to sell this capacity to work to someone else, who pays them directly or indirectly for working. Those who buy their labour power invest a certain amount of money – to purchase people’s labour power and the raw materials needed for production – and then sell the resulting products. Thus they invest money in order to get more money, but the revenue they “earn” is from the labour of their workers. The labour of workers and producers is not their own; the full gain of their work goes to someone else. Moreover, they have no choice in this matter. They may choose who to work for, but they cannot choose to not work for the benefit of someone else. If they do, they will not have enough money to survive.

While exploitation and oppression take many forms, in most parts of the world these basic realities now prevail. Society is built around buying and selling commodities for money, and a small minority of people control and extract the labour of the majority for their benefit. This group, the capitalists, possess capital, or money that is used to generate more money through the production process. Through their control over production, they are the ultimate beneficiaries of the current economic system.

For most of human history, this was not the case. The means of production, such as land and water, were used by everyone in common. People hunted, gathered plants, and (during a later period) worked the land together. The benefits were shared among the community. Such systems are still visible in a limited way in some adivasi societies. Over time, however, these systems changed. They were replaced by systems of classes, where some people gained from the labour of others. In most cases, people were subjected to coercion in order to work for the gain of others. Social custom, physical violence and religious tradition were used to lock people into their exploitation. The first group to be subjected to this oppression, in most societies, were women. In south Asia this was then extended through caste; in other parts of the world, slavery, serfdom, or other such forms were used.

These systems continued to evolve and change. In recent centuries they were in turn destroyed, or are being destroyed, in most of the world. They have been replaced in most cases by the capitalist system. In this system, on the surface, people are supposed to be free. People today, we are told, can leave their employers if they like; no one locks them into working for someone or forces them to work when they do not want to. But this is actually nonsense. In reality, some people continue to be oppressed by force; in India many continue to be crushed under caste, and women continue to be treated as subhuman. More fundamentally, whether people are oppressed by force or not, no one today is free from the need to work for the ultimate benefit of the capitalists (except the capitalists themselves and those they employ as their agents). As a result, despite the appearance of being free, human beings can still not be human. They must be servants, robots or slaves, even as they are fed the illusion that they are free.

Since they do not always use force, the capitalist exploiters today are not as obvious as they once were. Among themselves they fight and compete and try to pull each other down, each trying to get more profits than the other. They therefore appear very disunited. But the reality is that today’s exploiters neither always need to beat people, nor do they need to be from the same social group. Since survival will force the majority to work for them anyway, they can hide behind the illusion that they are merely ordinary people who were lucky or skilled enough to become rich. Those who can control the means of production can exploit others without even appearing to do so.

In a world where production is connected across countries and continents, the exploiter often does not even need to see the exploited. Capital today is truly global. Capitalists hold down wages and move across borders from country to country without any hesitation. A handful of giant companies control world trade in clothes, foodgrains and other key items. Very few of their workers know who their labour is benefiting, and the capitalists sitting in New York or Paris have no idea whose labour they are benefiting from. Capitalists dominate other entities and forces and bend them to the desires of capital. Similarly, in India, though the local mafia, landlord or upper caste person may appear to be the direct exploiters, society is structured such that the ultimate benefits flow to the owners and controllers of capital.

Proposition 2: Exploitation of people’s labour occurs through many forms, not only through direct wage labour of workers.

Indeed, today, those who do not even seem to be working for someone else are also often exploited by the same process. For example, a farmer with enough land to sell his or her produce, a chai-wallah or small hawker selling something on the road, and so on seem to be free of exploitation. But this is an illusion. Instead of taking their labour directly, the exploiters often take the labour of such people indirectly. Farmers are often in debt to the moneylender or the bank, seeds and fertilisers are increasingly controlled by cartels of big companies, and hence the price the farmer gets for selling produce is controlled by these other entities – who effectively live off extracting these farmers’ labour. Such persons seem more secure than the landless worker, but this is just a difference of degree; and their security is not enough to stop their exploitation. All such persons, as well as those who work for wages, who are forced to work as bonded labourers, etc. are part of different sections of the overall class of workers and producers.

This is of course not true of every farmer or shopkeeper. Those with control over a large amount of means of production become exploiters themselves, such as the tea estate owner or big capitalist farmer who cultivates his land for profit by hiring workers. There are also those with sufficient means of production to enjoy some degree of independence for some time, balancing between being exploited by capital and becoming exploiters themselves, but this is a precarious position that often does not last very long.

Further, there are others in society who may not exploit people directly, but whose duty is to operate, manage and control the system for exploitation. Managers, government officers and many others are paid a share of the surplus to ensure that the system continues to run. Some of them are exploited themselves – such as low level government servants – but they are made to work not in order to produce directly, but to maintain the system.

Finally, alongside exploitation through markets, wages and other means, there is another form of robbery – the use of force to simply grab for profit. This has increased in intensity with the recent rise to power of finance capital. It includes the grabbing of the land of the peasants and the poor; the eviction of urban slum dwellers; the takeover of minerals by force; and other attempts to accumulate capital by simply expropriating others.

Proposition 3: The commodification and expropriation of nature is also a fundamental part of capitalism today.

Under capitalism, the oppression of human beings is accompanied by the plunder of nature. When the driving force of society is the profit of a few, nature itself becomes a commodity to be bought and sold. Water, air, land and forests have no value to this system except as a means to earn money.

Besides the direct exploitation of these resources for money, the current system of capitalism, where large companies dominate (especially at the global level), directly encourages massive wastage and destruction in order to increase sales without lowering prices. Enormous amounts of money are spent to convince people to purchase products that they do not need, and that often perform the same or less functions than earlier products. Packaging and advertising are used to make functionally useless or even dangerous things seem appealing. While actually reducing people’s choices and control over their lives, capitalists create false and meaningless “choices” in order to encourage consumerism. The cost of goods rises to pay for all of this wastage, reducing the ability of workers and producers to purchase their requirements. These few large companies at the global level are able to keep prices for these goods high, since there is no competition. By keeping these prices high, they pass on the costs of their own wastage to the same workers and producers whom they are otherwise oppressing. Simultaneously, they shift their production to wherever it is cheapest to do so.

The result is massive pollution, water shortages, climate change, natural disasters and destruction of land and forests – even as the profits of the big capitalists rise enormously. This in turn has a terrible impact on workers and producers, who lose their health, livelihoods, families or lives. The whole basis of the existence of the human race is being swallowed by the greed of the exploiters.

These are the basic outlines of the system of production in the world today, where capital rules over human beings. Until this system is overthrown, humanity can never be free. The freedom of today is a cover for the crushing of the majority. But another world is possible, in which people collectively control their production together as free human beings, and use the benefits for all. Those who declare that such a world can never exist forget that exploitation and injustice are not laws of nature; both in history and today, we can see countless examples where people work together out of love, caring and a sense of common humanity. There was a time when this was true of all production. That time can come again, but now as a conscious new world in which all innovation, creativity and work will be at the service of expanding human freedom.

India Today

Proposition 4: Capitalism in India has devastated the lives of the majority of the people, and its brutality and exploitation are increasing. Divisions between urban and rural, between agriculture and industry, are decreasing in importance; instead an increasingly united ruling class exploits many disunited, dispersed and destitute producers.

The consequences of this kind of exploitation are particularly apparent in our society. No country in the world has more poor people, yet India also has some of the world’s richest people. The richer that the country grows, the more “economic growth” accelerates, the more that this inequality increases and the more that money, wealth, power and production are controlled by a small group of people. This has never been truer than after the 1991 “reforms”, which have empowered the finance capitalists – the banks, investment funds and speculators – at the cost of all of the rest of society.

More than 60% of this country’s people depend on agriculture for survival, but agriculture is now in a terrible crisis. Within agriculture, there is tremendous inequality in land ownership. There are crores of landless workers who have no land at all, along with as many small farmers who cannot live on the produce of the land that they have. Many of these have to work for wages in agriculture, construction or other kinds of work, sometimes by migrating over long distances. As men migrate and hunt for work, women have to run their households and often also take care of all agricultural work. Despite promise after promise, very little real land reform has been carried out since independence, and the number of those without land (or without enough to survive) goes up every year. In addition to this, both these groups and the middle and rich peasants, who own more land and who may not have to work for wages, today find themselves squeezed by other forces. These include the moneylenders, who have become more powerful as banks and government funding have decreased; the companies and big traders that control the trade in grain, vegetables and other crops, who pay farmers less while charging more from buyers, keeping the differences for themselves; and the government, which does not enforce its own laws on trading, and uses police force to grab land from forest dwellers, adivasis, the rural poor and those who are in the way of “development projects.” With the power of the private companies and financial investors increasing in India and around the world, prices go up and down as they decide, affecting both those selling produce and those purchasing it. Subjected to the increasing pressure of the market, farmers are using up water and destroying the soil with fertilisers, reducing the fertility of the land across India. The common lands that most rural people depend on for firewood, grazing and water are being taken over by private companies, big landowners and the government. For capitalists today, agriculture is no longer a key area for either production or profits. Instead, it is seen as a source of cheap labour, since workers with fields can be paid even less while depending on their fields to survive. Profits can be made by capitalists through controlling farmers with contract farming, moneylending and control over markets; in the process, much of the revenue and earnings of those in agriculture, even of large farmers, is extracted from them. Meanwhile, the farmer bears all the risk of failing crops and destroyed lands. As a result of all this, agriculture has been driven into such a terrible crisis that only the small minority of big capitalist farmers can survive; the majority of India’s people are thus seeing their basic livelihood and survival destroyed.

But it is not only those engaged in agriculture who are suffering. In the cities, the majority of people have no legal housing or shelter. Factory and industrial workers are hired on contracts, paid extremely low wages and thrown out of their work without warning. Export industries and other “new industries” exploit huge numbers of women because they are easier to repress and control in the factory. After agriculture, the largest group of workers in the country are those who work in construction, where they have no legal protection, work in extreme danger and live in illegal slums. Such workers and others who migrate into cities are treated like criminals and exploited brutally by the police, employers and other government agencies. Crores of women work as domestic workers, are paid very little and forced to face physical and sexual abuse by their employers.

Meanwhile, the ruling class across India is increasingly united. The big capitalist farmers, the senior government servants, and the big businessmen all have houses in the cities; they send their children to the same schools and try to get them into similar professions; and while the rural rich enter into construction and other non-agricultural activities, urban businessmen engage in contract farming and seek to expand into rural India. At the same time, the vast majority of millions of working people struggle to survive in both places, and many migrate between them. Many people do not occupy any fixed position. They may migrate to a city one year for survival, spend some other months as agricultural workers, and – for those who have land – spend the agricultural season trying to grow enough crops to survive.

Thus one key boundary in India – between urban and rural – is slowly breaking. Another such boundary, between Indian capitalists and those of other countries, has also greatly diminished. In the era of neoliberalism (“liberalisation”), finance capital has become truly global, backed by the power of the world’s most powerful states. These capitalists are those who control the supply of money itself, and include banks, mutual funds and other large private stock market investors. The largest Indian companies are so deeply connected to international finance, and so many international companies are now here, that the clear distinctions of earlier times are fading. Today’s imperialism is much more complex, with elements of the Indian ruling class joining the global ruling class in an alliance. Overall, rather than the earlier divisions, there is now a complex mix of exploiters, growing ever richer, more powerful and more unified, confronting a mass of exploited producers of many types.

Proposition 5: Relations of production and exploitation of producers in India are highly diverse. Under the overarching rubric of capitalism, exploiters in India use myriad methods to alienate the labour of producers. There is no sign of such diversity decreasing with the intensification of capitalist oppression.

The vast confusion and desperation of India is marked by another reality, in which too it reflects the world situation. The ruling class has always said that, with “development”, all in society will be treated as equal “citizens”. What they mean is that everyone will be a capitalist, an agent of capitalists, or a worker. In this view the distinctions of caste, religion, family and language would stop being important. For the capitalists and their supporters, this is considered a good thing, since it leads to greater “freedom.” Even some revolutionaries have said that this would be the trend in future; in their view, this will make it possible to finally overthrow capitalism, since the workers and the producers will see their exploitation more clearly and realise that they can unite.

But in practice this has not happened. There is no one way that people are exploited in India; there are hundreds. The form of the labour relation varies widely, and in many cases it extends to what are sometimes described as “feudal” methods. In some places, small farmers continue to be exploited by sharecropping when they rent land from landlords. In others, they pay cash rents, while in still other areas, they may be forced to give free labour to landlords. Often small farmers are exploited at one time through the market, when they sell their surplus produce from their land; at another time by their employer if they must work for wages; and in yet another way by traders and police when they are forced to migrate for finding an income. As a result, the nature of the immediate enemy also varies across the country. For adivasis in forest areas it is often the government that harasses and evicts them; for small peasants in Bihar it may be the landlord who extorts rent from them; for the farmer in Maharashtra it may be the trader and the moneylender; and for the urban construction worker it is often the big contractor. These differences have not decreased with time in India. Some differences have decreased, but others have increased. There is no overall trend towards people all being exploited in similar ways.

But even as these variations occur, it is equally clear that the overall benefits from society and the gains from the labour of the majority go to those who control capital. The system itself is clearly capitalist, but it does not need to bring all workers to the same position. The relationship between the exploiter and the exploited can take many different forms, even if the ultimate beneficiary is the same. Facing the capitalists is a vast and diverse class of workers and producers, most of whom do not even realise that they belong to the same class and that they are, ultimately, exploited for the benefit of the same people.

Proposition 6: Capitalism in India cannot be understood without also understanding caste, patriarchy and other non-class relations of oppression. These other systems are neither relics nor “outside” capitalism; they, along with capitalism, form an integral socioeconomic formation in India today. It is not possible to defeat capitalism without also fighting these relations of oppression. Equally, revolution against capitalism is the necessary though not sufficient condition for liberation from these systems as well.

Capitalist exploitation in India cannot be separated from several other kinds of exploitation. The most widespread of these are the caste system and the oppression of women, though there are other such systems of exploitation as well.

Caste as a system of exploitation is a central feature of Indian society. The rulers tell us that caste discrimination is disappearing in India today, but this is clearly not true. In many parts of the country, Dalits still cannot access water or temples used by upper castes; Dalits, adivasis and lower caste people are deprived of their land. They are humiliated in public and denied basic dignity; their children are marginalised in school or prevented from going to one. A person’s chance to get a job or enter a college is still heavily dependent on what caste they belong to. High castes continue to control the media, big business, the police, the Army and many government positions. Moreover, caste is also central to the way business and capitalism itself works, and caste is still central to the economy as a whole. Company owners and other exploiters rely on caste connections to get loans and to manipulate the political process and the government. Caste connections also help them to ensure that they act together to keep workers’ wages down, prices high and otherwise prevent competition with each other. Thus caste oppression and class exploitation are intertwined for the exploiters. At the same time, for the producers and workers, caste functions both ways. It serves to keep them divided and prevents them from uniting against exploiters. Even those who are otherwise exploited, but are from middle and high castes, try, often using violence, to protect the little power that they have against the lower castes. On the other hand, for many oppressed castes and Dalit communities, their caste or community is a major source of solidarity and unity. To imagine that these relations can be wiped out or are being “reduced” by capitalism is to ignore the manner in which Indian society actually works. The form of caste has certainly changed, but it is still a huge force for exploitation in India, and it will remain one in the future unless it is fought against.

The same is true of the oppression of women (or patriarchy). Women in India face several different kinds of oppression at the same time. They cannot move freely or speak freely. Their life is controlled by men from the moment they are born until the moment they die, starting with their fathers, followed by their husbands, and finally their sons or sons in law. Female fetuses are killed in their mother’s wombs before they are even born. Women face sexual violence and rapes, most of which are never punished, and at home they are routinely beaten by men. In the system of production, the burden of household work is fully put on them. They must run the house, raise their children and quite often work outside at the same time. Their work in the home, which is the basis for all of society to function, is never acknowledged and is treated as free both by the rulers and by the men of their household. Taking advantage of their oppression and the discrimination against them, employers pay them less for the same work; they are often given no rights in land, and what they have they are often forced to give up. As with caste, patriarchy is also closely integrated with production. More and more tasks are dumped on women in order to save money for the exploiters. Schools are not opened, medical care not provided, water not given, and fuel restricted, forcing women to cover for all these failures with their labour. Child care outside the family is unavailable except to the wealthy, forcing working women to bear double burdens. The lower wages paid to women permits employers to get more work out of them, and prevents both men and women from fighting for higher wages, since men who do so can often be replaced by women. As the oppression of the producers increases, women are forced to work more and more, and they are exploited more than the men of their class.

In the same manner, people in India are exploited based on ethnicity, religion, language, region, nationality and many other non-class factors. Oppression of minorities has increased greatly. The Indian state uses its military power to brutally crush any aspiration for national liberation and/or separate states, whether it be among the Kashmiris, the Nagas, or elsewhere, and in particular if they are led by democratic or progressive forces. With the passage of time such use of force has only increased and intensified. This paves the way for the emergence and strengthening of chauvinist or other authoritarian forces, who in turn are encouraged by local, national and regional ruling classes. As a result progressive and democratic movements are increasingly sidelined by the rise of militarism and mass violence, which then becomes the justification for more repression. The massacres, killings and torture are never reported by the mainstream media.

All of this shows that it is a lie to believe that India is moving toward a society where everyone will be equal and judged just on the basis of their work. If anything, the opposite is happening, and the gap is widening. As seen above, exploitation for non-class reasons continues on two levels. In all of these other systems of exploitation, as in patriarchy and caste, there is exploitation that is not directly related to one’s role in production. Even a wealthy woman, Dalit or Muslim does not have the same opportunities as an upper caste Hindu man with the same wealth. At the same time, these systems of oppression are directly linked to production and capitalism. Capitalists in India use the fact that they often speak the same language, belong to similar castes, are almost all men, and so on to also increase their unity and their power as exploiters of producers and workers. They use the social oppression of others to increase their exploitation of their labour; for instance, a Dalit woman or a Muslim woman is much easier to exploit for profit than a Brahmin man. At times, as in the Hindutva movement, they channel the anger and aspirations of producers into identities (such as being “Hindu”) that pose no threat to the real exploiters; instead, these identities offer the illusion of advancement and dignity to people, on the condition that they turn on others who are more oppressed than them.

All these systems are thus part of each other. At the root of this system, however, lies control over the means of production. Where caste, patriarchy, religious discrimination or other kinds of oppression have become a problem for capitalist exploitation, they have become weaker over time. Examples include caste restrictions on people performing some work; such restrictions may reduce availability of workers and competition among them, and hence they have eroded. Where these other systems have helped to shore up the power of those with capital, they have often become stronger. Indian capitalism cannot exist without caste, patriarchy and other non-class forms of oppression; it is built through them and with them. However, where they conflict with capital’s attempts to expropriate more from producers, they are weakened. The resulting system rules Indian society today.

Hence capitalism cannot be fought without fighting these other systems of oppression, for not only will injustice from those forms of oppression continue, they will strengthen capital. At the same time, the fight against these other forms of oppression will remain unsuccessful and incomplete unless it is also integrated with the struggle against capitalism. The leaders of oppressed sections that enter the ruling capitalist class almost always defend the interests of that class, even if it means exploiting their own community, religion, gender, etc. The overthrow of capitalism is necessary for real liberation from all of these forms of oppression, even as such liberation will also require dedicated struggle to eliminate each of them. Building the road to this is the task before revolutionaries in India today.

Power and Politics

People have fought against exploitation from the dawn of history. Whether it is Dalits fighting for their right to dignity, adivasis rising for their control over their forests, workers striking to demand justice, or women protesting against violence, the oppressed have never been silent and never will be.

However, the response of the oppressors has changed in some ways. Unlike their predecessors, today’s rulers do not necessarily say that such protests are wrong or unjustified. In fact, at times they accept that injustice is happening and people are exploited. But instead of denying injustice, today’s rulers deny the need for struggle; those who rise up are told there is no need to do so. After all, the exploiters say, there are courts, government officers, and the police, all running on the basis of the law. The law gives everyone an equal right to justice. If nothing else works one can try to use elections to change the government and change the law. Today’s Indian government is said to be a democracy that runs on the will of the people. The same things are said by governments around the world.

But this is clearly not true. Whatever happens with the law, the courts and the elections, the fundamental reality does not change. Those who work and produce continue to struggle. No election in India has ever made it possible for the majority of the people to control their own labour or to live a life of dignity. Instead the same system goes on.

This is not surprising, for there can be no real “rule of the people” as long as capitalism exists. In a capitalist society the system is driven by the needs of the capitalists, as they control the production process. Hence the desires of the majority can never be the real basis of decision making in a capitalist society. Therefore, the fight against capitalism is also the fight for real democracy.

Proposition 7: In response to the resistance of the oppressed, political power in capitalism has developed as a fusion of material, ideological and repressive power. It does not rely solely on fear, or on material dependence, or on cultural-ideological means alone; it is a complex, shifting mix of the three. This mix makes it impossible for people to imagine, believe in or build an alternative.

The combination of capitalist exploitation and limited democracy is made possible by a complex fusion of three basic systems. The first is the most obvious – the government breaks its own rules on “democracy” when it is threatened. Even as the rulers declare that everyone in India is free to protest, every person is aware that a mass struggle for justice in this country will be met with force. The limit is clear: do not come together in large numbers to demand your rights, and do not threaten the control of the capitalists over their production system, or the power of the government to enforce its decisions. When people actually do so, all law and justice are forgotten and the police use arrests, torture and guns to crush protests.

But what is equally clear is that this is not the entirety of the situation. The state does not always resort to force; in fact using force against people is the exception rather than the rule. It is not only force that makes it possible for capitalism to go on. The reality is that, even as the majority of people are oppressed, they do not protest. They do not struggle against this system. Instead, they knowingly or unknowingly give their consent to this society and this state.

This consent is the result of the other two systems of power. The second one is the promotion of ruling class ideas throughout society by the media, films, books, the schools and other institutions. Through these channels, everyone is told that this system is natural; histories, theories and analyses that go against this are not taught or propagated. Where they are mentioned, they are dismissed as impractical, idealistic or impossible. The constant refrain is that one has to be selfish, individualistic and exploitative, and that one has to accept exploitation at the hands of the capitalists.

But this too is not all, and the system does not only exist on the basis of lies. In reality, the ruling class does give in at some points, and shares a part of its profits and surplus. The most obvious form this “sharing” takes is government schemes like rations, government hospitals and government schools. While the government rarely tries to actually run these systems properly, it cannot shut them down completely; even though the businessmen and the international financiers howl that they are a waste of money. These and other public services are all signs of the struggle of the people, for they show the fear of the ruling class. Of course, even as they share this part of their surplus, the capitalists seek to regain some benefits from it, and indeed use it to boost their own markets. There is a constant tussle between the majority and the exploiters over such benefits.

Such “sharing” extends far beyond these obvious forms, though. Every institution of power in our society is marked by the constant attempt of the exploiters to safeguard and expand their power and the constant struggle of the oppressed to liberate themselves from it. Whether the idea of a “rule of law”, the system of courts, or the notion of equal citizenship promoted by the media, many systems seek to simultaneously legitimise the ruling class while conceding some dignity or benefit to the producers out of fear of their revolt. The one power that the ruling class will never concede, however, is the power of the producers to collectively control production.

All three of these systems – the repressive process, or the use of force; the ideological process, or the cultural battle over ideas; and the material process, or the sharing of material resources and surplus – function together to define the current system of power. They cannot be separated except in theory; they work as an integrated whole in reality. All of them contribute to the maintenance of the idea that the current system is good, fair, and just, and that nothing else is either desirable or possible. As a result of all this, the exploited cannot imagine another world; they cannot build another system that will give them greater security; and they cannot fight for it, because they are terrorised if they try to do so, and described as the enemies of society. Thus do the real anti-socials disguise their agenda as that of “development” and “welfare”, and maintain their hegemony over society.

This system is not fully stable, and it never can be. It is not the result of some perfect plan hatched by the ruling class. At all times the capitalists have to keep adjusting to new struggles and their demands, attempting to ensure that the lie at the heart of their “democracy” is not exposed. In response to every resistance, the rulers sometimes concede another material demand; sometimes respond with brute force; sometimes try to obfuscate and confuse the issue with new cultural responses. Most often all three are deployed. Each move by them produces its own new forms of struggle. This makes the system unstable, constantly changing and altering.

Proposition 8: A key function of the state is to help organise the rulers and exploiters and disorganise the producers and workers.

The limited democracy in India today is perhaps the most complex result of this struggle over power. Individual capitalists rarely desire to have even limited democracy for producers and workers; they would always prefer to run the government directly without “interference” and “unreasonable” demands by the oppressed. One can see this in the behaviour of sections of the financial press, which sigh about how democracy is interfering with the “economy” and the desire of the “investors.” Some capitalists even openly declare that a dictatorship would be better for the country.

However, the capitalists know they cannot bring about such a dictatorship, for they fear the consequences for their rule. Hence they permit some freedom of speech, assembly and action to all, since that will prevent an explosion. But at the same time, the system by which this freedom is permitted helps to actually disorganise producers and workers. The benefits and freedoms that are permitted out of fear are never given to the workers and producers as a collective or as a class, and are not given to them in a manner that would permit them to exercise any real control. The state and the system claim to treat every person as an individual, an isolated single person who receives benefits as a citizen. These “individuals” receive gifts from this system that claims to care for everyone. The reality of struggle is masked behind the talk of rights and law. Even where the individual is identified with a group – such as in the case of caste reservations, or BPL cards – the person is still treated as an eligible individual when receiving the benefit.

Moreover, unlike in earlier times, the modern state hides real power behind a labyrinth of institutions and appears to have no clear centre. There are courts, legislatures, local bodies, elections, committees, and many other institutions. On a constant basis, struggles against oppression are directed into one or the other of these institutions, even as the powerful use other institutions to maintain their control. As sections of workers or the oppressed gain power in elections, the ruling class moves to make elected bodies less powerful. Chance victories in courts are countered by changing laws or ignoring court orders. The ruling politicians may concede something to a struggle, only to have the government bureaucracy sabotage it.

Through this process the unity, struggle and consciousness of producers and workers is weakened. By treating them as “individuals” and fracturing their unity from the start, the state stops most resistance from forming; where movements do form, they are forced into endless battles with one section of the state after another, with each victory seeming to be undercut and undermined by some new attack. Thus they are isolated, coopted, divided or simply crushed.

Yet, at the same time, the same system has the opposite effect for the exploiters. Capitalism is not a planned machine; it is a spontaneous order in which there is constant turmoil. The ruling class under capitalism is a divided, chaotic entity with many fractions each seeking their own interests. It is not the case that all of these fractions share the same interests or are, indeed, aware of what their shared interests might be. Indeed, each has an immediate interest in pulling down the other. There are contradictions between the big finance capitalists and the small industrialists; between the capitalist farmers and the commercial companies that control trade; between some sections of capital from more powerful countries and some sections of Indian capitalists. Each one of these would benefit if it could make its rival weaker. These contradictions are not strong enough to threaten their unity in the face of an active movement of the producers and workers. When they see a real and immediate threat to their control over production, they will band together. But until then there is constant turmoil, competition and fighting within the exploiters as well.

However, the democratic system offers them ways to find common ground between their inconsistent interests. Through the free debate among political leaders, the struggle between political institutions, and the competitive elections, the system makes it possible for the exploiters to argue out their problems and differences and constantly seek to identify their interests as a class. The system permits the space for different ideologies to exist that offer different “solutions” to maintain the system; the conflict between these is sorted out in the political arena. This freedom is only partially extended to any ideology or political position that actually threatens the ruling class; these are marginalised, coopted, diluted, or simply crushed. Thus, even as different political parties clash, the shared understanding between them is simultaneously presented as the “national” interest. This interest is then upheld by every arm of the state and every political actor, defining and extending the unity of the exploiters. This unity, one must remember, is unstable. It always has to be made again and again.

We can see this dual function of the state in the way the interests of the warring classes are described. The interests of producers are described as those of private individuals, sectional interests and “citizens”; the interests of exploiters are described as the voice of all society. Thus this system turns the very demands of the producers against them; it organises the exploiters and disorganises the workers and the producers. This helps to maintain the balance of power in favour of the exploiters and to head off threats from the organisation and unity of the workers and producers. The very freedom and benefits that have been won from the rulers are used to prevent further victories.

The Path of Struggle

Proposition 9: The new society must be created by the collective action of the producers themselves.

The road to a society of free associated producers is a long one. Such a society can only be created by the producers themselves, not by replacing one set of rulers or leaders with another. The key issue is power – the power of producers to control their own production in a collective, democratic manner. Hence, no one can make a true revolution by acting on behalf of the producers and workers. For this reason, just taking over the formal state and its army will not in itself lead to justice, for the state is capitalist by its very character, not merely because it is being led by capitalists. Earlier experiments in revolutionary action – such as the Soviet Union and China – have demonstrated that seizure of the formal state is neither the beginning nor the end of revolution. Instead, the struggle goes on, and as in those cases, the new state can as easily become an enemy of human liberation rather than a revolutionary force. The revolution is a process, not a single event; it is a struggle towards collective control and human dignity. It must transform the entirety of society as well as the producers themselves.

Such a process would have several key characteristics. It has to be collective. It must be based on a spreading shattering of ruling class capitalist hegemony and its replacement with the hegemony of the producing class, where the producers establish that it is their interest that is the true interest of all of society. In the interim the revolutionary process has to focus on the demolition of ruling class power, including the state, but not only the formal state. Rather than seeking to replace ruling class control with working class control, it would seek to smash ruling class power and to build the collective power of the producers. It is only through such a process that social transformation can occur.

Proposition 10: The task of a revolutionary force in India today is not to seek to lead or to control the struggle. It is to work towards the weakening of ruling class hegemony and the sharpening of all struggles towards collective production.

Any revolutionary force must contend with these three features of Indian society at present: the diversity of the relations of exploitation; the integration of capitalist and other forms of oppression; and the existence of a capitalist limited democracy. All three of these make unity between the workers and producers both objectively and subjectively impossible, until they are confronted. Such unity cannot be brought about through the leadership of one organisation. Unity must be an organic process, and for this the producers must experience and perceive their common exploitation, while also respecting their mutual differences and their mutual autonomy.

The biggest obstacle to this true unity is the hegemony of the ruling class – its ability to make its own goals and interests seem to be those of all, while making all other demands seem to be that of one “section” or the other. The capacity of the system to continually disorganise, disunite and atomise producers and workers works to continually weaken and undercut efforts at unity. The existing differences are not merely continued, they are expanded and multiplied through the process of hegemony. Thus at present the Bihari peasant sees no common interest between him and the auto worker in Delhi, though both are exploited by the same capitalist companies; the construction worker does not regard the adivasi as his or her ally, though both are crushed by the same system. Their unity will come about only in the process of shattering the hegemony of the ruling class.

The task of a revolutionary force is therefore at this time to work towards weakening this hegemony and towards building the space for the revolutionary struggle. Each step in such a process must seek to create new contradictions which would drive the process forward. It is not sufficient to merely seek those demands that mobilise people and that will lead to greater support for the revolutionaries. Rather, at each stage the aim should be to build a mass democratic struggle in which, simultaneously, the possibilities of solidarity, unity and collectivity are expanded. In such a process the three legs of the rule of the ruling class – fear, production of disunity, and false ideas – are confronted together.

The contradictory nature of the existing system offers spaces for this process, but also limits what those spaces can achieve. Thus, every time people attempt to expand these spaces – to use gram sabhas as real spaces for control over natural resources; to build true production cooperatives; to build a union or occupy a factory – this triggers a direct confrontation with the state and ruling class power. The fight against this can then be used to build a new, wider solidarity and collectivity. Thus the demands and politics of such a struggle cannot be limited to seizing one or the other immediate benefit, though they must start from that, but must always imply, include and make possible a growing struggle towards control over production. At its most effective such a process will also expose contradictions within the ruling class and expand them. The rulers will seek to maintain the consent of the ruled, even as the basis for that consent is eroded by the struggle. In the process their own differences will become more difficult to resolve, even as unity becomes stronger among the oppressed.

The current era, in which finance capital dominates, is a particularly fertile one for struggle. Unlike industrial and other forms of capital, finance capitalists feed off the production that is already happening (through giving loans, trading in stocks, speculating on currencies, grabbing resources to sell them at a high price, and the like) rather than organising any production of their own. As a result, it is much harder for them to concede any demands or share any benefits with the producers, since any sharing leads to a direct reduction in their own profits. This makes finance capital far more short-sighted, brutal and politically repressive than other sections of capital. In such a context the hegemony of the ruling class is much harder to sustain. Every time a ruling political party or government tries to concede something to the producers, the finance capitalists raise howls of protest and try to destroy it. In the process they openly expose the fact that it is only through power over production that the oppressed can in fact win justice, since anything else will only be hijacked by the financiers. Thus they help to dig the grave of the very system that they so foolishly believe represents their triumph.

Such a situation will not continue indefinitely. But even if the ruling class returns to older forms of politics, or develops new ones that are more superficially democratic, we believe that it is through the steadily growing struggle for collective control over production that the way forward lies. Through such a struggle, the victories already won and the freedoms already gained can be built upon. The focus will be on the weak points of the exploiters. At each stage the struggle would aim to bring more power into collective control and the hands of the conscious producers, even as it confronts the brutality and lies of the ruling class. Over time, as the hegemony of the ruling class fractures, unity will come to develop organically among the producers. The limited democracy must be exposed for what it is and expanded into a real democracy; the crippled welfare system and benefits must be shown to be broken and expanded into a new system of collective provision; and most of all, the lie of capitalist production, the lie that society can only function for the profit of a few, must be smashed and replaced with the collective society, where production happens together for the dignity and welfare of all. Thus only will the liberation of each become the liberation of all.

New Path

New Path seeks to be a part of this process. The organisation’s work is to seek opportunities and spaces to build unity and to push for struggles against repression and all forms of exploitation, with the aim of building collective control over production. The organisation will be involved in its own process of mass struggle, and it will also engage and join with other struggles, in which the priority is to spread the idea of collective control and to sharpen struggles in that direction. It will always respect the democratic autonomy of those struggles.

Today, resistance by adivasis and forest dwellers against state and private land grabbing are creating possibilities of collective production and community control over forests. Militant strikes by workers in industrial belts make it possible to imagine occupation and takeover of factories. Small farmers’ struggles can lead to cooperative production. New Path will seek to build, ally with and participate in all such movements for liberation, and in particular in movements by toilers and workers to stake collective claim over productive natural resources, such as land, forest and water; movements to improve working conditions and to take control over the means of production; struggles for the liberation of adivasis, dalits, oppressed and subjugated communities and nationalities; movements to demand and obtain state intervention to reduce the power of finance capital, such as in agriculture; struggles against patriarchy and the oppression of women; struggles to defend the natural environment; struggles for public control and provision of education, health care and all basic services; movements for the protection of democratic and human rights; movements for creating democratic and political consciousness; cultural struggles for a culture of equality, freedom, dignity, reason and creativity; efforts to expand international solidarity among oppressed people and sections; and defence and expansion of experiences and experiments in cooperative and collective control. In each case New Path members will join in and work for the success of these struggles.

To reiterate, New Path does not seek to lead all struggles of the workers and producers; nor does it seek to be the vanguard of the revolution. It does not claim to be the bearer of the truth or of the sole true ideology. Not only does New Path not possess any such truth; there can in fact be no such thing in a divided class society. New understandings will constantly develop and change as the collective actions of the producers expands. Rather, the primary goal of New Path is always to contribute to the weakening of ruling class hegemony.

The manner in which this can be done will vary depending on the nature of the struggle as well as the political conjuncture. At each point New Path will seek to analyse the present situation and develop an analysis of the possible demands, actions and steps that can take the revolutionary movement forward. All instruments that can contribute to this, such as mass struggle, organising movements, and use of the electoral platform by friendly and allied organisations, will be used, while not falling into the illusion that any one such instrument is sufficient for the task. Elections will be seen as primarily a platform for public action and propaganda, and not as a means to power. New Path will not take up arms, as armed struggle within a functioning bourgeois democracy does not contribute to enhancing mass consciousness and weakening ruling class hegemony, which are the key tasks of the revolutionary movement; rather, it is a route to repression and isolation.

As a collective democratic organisation, New Path has no individual posts, only elected bodies subject to the right of recall by the Congress of its members. It seeks to operate through internal consensus and discussion, with majority voting being only a last resort in limited circumstances. New Path is not a federation or a coalition in itself, though it will seek to build such. Rather, it seeks to be an ideological focus, a disciplined hub of activists who – through discussion, work and struggle – share an understanding of the revolutionary process and seek to spread that understanding and that mode of work into every sector and struggle in society. In this way New Path will work for the struggle for a new world.

In memory of the martyrs of the struggles past, and in celebration of the victories to come, New Path stands with all those who fight for justice and dignity in the face of the oppressors, exploiters and plunderers who rule our planet today.

DU Dilemma: It is Neoliberalism on Offensive

Ravi Kumar

Apart from asking questions such as what was so wrong with the three year undergraduate course or with the annual academic system the developments in Delhi University need much more attention for two more reasons. Firstly, these developments will have far reaching ramifications for the future of higher education in specific and commodification of education in general in the country. Secondly, it reveals how battles against privatization and disruption of welfarist regime are being lost everyday.

Neoliberal Inroads in Higher Education

The developments in Delhi University represent the most aggressive face of neoliberalism in many ways. Firstly, it redefines the epistemology of ‘innovation’ itself, which emanates through a top-down approach rather than a decentralized practice of dialogic policy making. Ever since the issue of semesterisation it has become amply clear how the different instruments of state and decisions of judiciary combined produced an undemocratic ethos within academia. Otherwise how does on explain that the administration every time takes recourse to legal institutions – whether against strikes or for regimenting the teaching labour force?

Secondly, along with this a new avatar of the University system has emerged, which is otherwise also known to pose challenges to the established wisdom. It is an institution now where the administration (as a conglomerate of academics in power) dictates aggressively and undemocratically the new policies. It expressed through threats to faculty members if they dissented or refused to abide by the recent orders. This aggression is also evident when one is asked to make a course in two weeks time. Consequently, this does not leave any space or time for any deliberative process to take place. The new university becomes a site of authoritarian structures and value system. Surveillance using modern technology and traditional muscle power become prominent methods of control.

Thirdly, by becoming so it saturates spaces of democratic politics and expression or dissent. Symbolically, the Walls of Democracy and the increasing beautification around administrative power-centres are representatives of this increasingly non-dialogic space between those who administer and those who are administered. Hence, the darbars, where the common man is expected to grovel in front of the lord, only become a natural culmination of such a trend.

Fourthly, this is also the time when one finds an unprecedented allegiance of a section of the teaching community towards the administrative lords. It is apparent in the fact that the new structures comprise primarily of teachers who formulate and implement the repressive rules and run the University with a heavy hand. They hunt down the other colleagues. This allegiance is generally countered through a more powerful mobilization of teachers on the other side of the battle-front but that does not seem to happen and it remains a matter of concern. The required solidarities are ruptured as a depoliticized academia imbued with the same logic of an aspiring middle class facilitates the aggressive march of neoliberalism.

Lastly, this whole process is put into place to change the nature of what is to be taught and how is it to be taught. Critical aspects of education are increasingly being excluded, as the demand is more for teaching things, which can give one jobs. It seeks to put into place a system that would impart a new, safe and detheorised education, which would prepare mechanized skilled workers, if at all, for the new economy.

These are only some of the aspects of how neoliberalism can be seen in the ongoing developments in the Delhi University. Being one of the largest universities in the countries its move will become an example for states to follow and UGC has already indicated its support for it.

Lessons to learn

What is happening to the higher education institutions already happened to the school institutions in a certain sense. They were ruthlessly destroyed through putting an unsaid blanket ban on appointment of regular teachers. Their curriculum development and, in many cases, teaching itself is outsourced to private companies. Teachers are not consulted and socio-cultural or political contexts of the sites of teaching-learning are neglected in pedagogical and curricular aspects. In other words, there is a non-dialogic and undemocratic process in which educational institutions are run. When the lakhs of contractual teachers across states protest to make the system more accountable they are beaten up brutally. This has been continuing for more than a decade now.

The University system is under attack now. What to teach and how to teach is being decided if not by private companies as in case of schools then by a handful of people in Delhi University without taking into account the pros and cons of what kind of learning process will it produce. What kind of workers would come out of it remains to be seen. If the education system as a whole is under attack should its constituents such as the teachers not have built bridges and expressed more than mere sporadic gestures of concern. In the new situation the solidarity of the labour force (teachers in this case) is under attack. It is no surprise that the case for biometric attendance argues that if Delhi University had such a system in place the teachers would not have tried to “engage students and members of the public against proposed changes in the curriculum.” Inbuilt into these moves, which are endorsed by the state and its other instruments, is the idea to weaken and destroy all forms of solidarities within the system so that new policies could be implemented without any hiccups. With the growing number of private institutions (and lots of state institutions) one finds that the collective bodies of students and teachers do not exist. In such a situation, which will grow much more acute, it is important to realize for teachers that neoliberal stage of capitalism necessitates a much serious solidarity to encounter its aggression.

Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka crimes: More of the same nonsense causes huge protests

Ron Ridenour

United Nation’s Human Rights Council’s passed a resolution on March 21, the third in four years, concerning Sri Lanka’s conduct towards Tamils. The vote was 25 for, 13 against with eight abstentions. Those opposed rejected any criticism of Sri Lanka as “foreign meddling”. (1)

The US-led resolution A/HRC/22/L.1 “Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka” “noted” that the National Action Plan put forward by Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations made in its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) “does not adequately address serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Sri Lanka’s government is then called upon to conduct an “independent and credible” investigation into allegations of human rights violations.

One paragraph goes a bit further than the previous US-led resolution last year. It expresses “concern at the continuing reports of violations of human rights in Sri Lanka, including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and violations of the rights of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion and belief.” (2)

While the US resolution also stated that Sri Lanka’s government (GoSL) has failed to devolve political authority to Tamils, it expressed thanks for having facilitated “the visit of a technical mission from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.” It “notes” the High Commissioner’s “call for an independent and credible international investigation into alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” without suggesting such itself. No remedies are demanded. The resolution simply concludes by suggesting further reports “monitoring progress”.

No more white-wash

A day before the vote, the greatest pro-Tamil protest in years took place with upwards of one million people in India’s state Tamil Nadu. They denounced the US-led resolution as “ineffectual” for calling upon the Sri Lanka government to investigate itself. Protestors demanded that the GoSL be investigated by an independent international body for its war crimes and genocide against the Tamil people.

Varieties of colorful actions, including civil disobedience, occurred in several Tamil Nadu cities and schools. People denounced the “empty resolution further diluted by New Delhi.” They called for a UN plebiscite for Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka. (3)

For the first time since the end of the civil war, significant numbers of Tamils have publicly protested the US for meaningless “slaps on the wrist”. Thousands of Tamils in many countries in the Diaspora demonstrated against the resolution, burning it before the US embassy in several cities. Protestors now view the US as actually “facilitating the agenda of the genocidal state”.

Critics assert that the US and Europe are not seriously advancing the rights of Tamils nor actually sanctioning GoSL for its brutal war crimes, and certainly not its 65 year-long genocide against the minority Tamils. They point out that the US, its side-kick Israel and NATO countries, always aided the Sri Lankan government.

The Western powers provided Sri Lanka’s military with weaponry, money, counter-intelligence, and training to win the long war against Tamil nationhood. Then, since their mutual victory, the Western axis criticizes the Asian government for having committed excesses. This “human rights” approach is the best of all possible worlds for Western dictates: world domination for the cause of humanity is what they say if you read between the lips of communicators for globalization. (4)

China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan also militarily and economically assisted Sri Lankan governments in avoiding federalism for the two peoples—majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils—yet they did so without the hyperbole of “protecting human rights”. Unfortunately, Cuba and its seven associates in the Latin American-nation Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas (ALBA) got caught up in the geo-political game and supported Sri Lanka.

The two ALBA countries on the Council, Ecuador and Venezuela, voted for Sri Lanka’s stance, while six other Latin American countries voted to criticize it. The Africa and Asian governments were divided in three ways. There was no obvious “first world,” “third world” juxtaposition. (1)

The conciliatory role India’s Congress party-led government plays to placate Sri Lanka with massive economic aid, and by diluting the original draft of the both 2012 and 2013 resolutions, led the Tamil Nadu DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan) party to withdraw its participation in the coalition UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government. By losing 18 seats in the government, including the minority party’s five ministers, Congress President Sonia Gandhi felt compelled to state that, “We are fully committed to the cause of Lankan Tamils and an impartial inquiry should happen into the allegations of atrocities against them.”

Apparently, at the last minute, the weakened UPA government leadership tried to amend the final draft with stronger words, according to the newspaper “The Hindu”.

However, DMK Chief Muthuvel Karunanidhi said, “There were no strong words of censure against Sri Lanka in that resolution, which indicated that there was no scope at all to incorporate amendments suggested by the DMK like including the word ‘genocide’.”
Karunanidhi said, on March 19, this justified the decision to pull out of the government, which forces the Congress party to rely even more so on opposition parties, in order to continue to rule.
The new resolution has not ceded to demands of human rights bodies and almost all Tamil political parties and grass roots organizations for an independent international investigation, which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navaneetham Pillay also asserts is necessary.

She has consistently upheld the findings of the “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” delivered to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 31, 2011.

“The Panel found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war. Between September 2008 and 19 May 2009, the Sri Lanka Army advanced its military campaign into the Vanni using large-scale and widespread shelling causing large numbers of civilian deaths. This campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni. Around 330,000 civilians were trapped into an ever decreasing area, fleeing the shelling but kept hostage by the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]. The Government sought to intimidate and silence the media and other critics of the war through a variety of threats and actions, including the use of white vans to abduct and to make people disappear.

“The Government shelled on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons. It shelled the United Nations hub, food distribution lines and near the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ships that were coming to pick up the wounded and their relatives from the beaches. It shelled in spite of its knowledge of the impact, provided by its own intelligence systems and through notification by the United Nations, the ICRC and others. Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling.”

The new resolution is virtually the same as the one put forth by the US last March when the HRC made a shift from the pro-Sri Lanka resolution of May 2009.  In March 2012, a majority (24 for, 15 against and 8 abstentions) voted to criticize the Sri Lankan government for “not adequately address[ing] serious allegations of violations of international law” when conducting its final phases of war against the liberation guerrilla army LTTE (Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam). Nevertheless, the statement simply asked the government to investigate itself. (5)

Despite the UN panel of experts’ 214-page report and recommendations, and those of the High Commissioner, no session of the Human Rights Council has discussed those recommendations.

While US-NATO conducts war crimes against several countries in the Middle East and Africa, progressive governments in Latin America, along with Russia-China-Iran-Pakistan, view the US role in Sri Lanka as hypocrisy. This motivates those governments to back Sri Lanka as a “victim” of US-European meddling. In so doing, they are silent about the crimes against the Tamil people.

Venezuela, a new member on the HRC replacing Cuba, voted against the slap wrist resolution. Parting from journalistic style, I would suggest that Venezuela, in the spirit of its recently deceased leader, Hugo Chávez, would take the bull by the horns. Take the moral, solidarity path and admit war crimes wherever they are committed and oppose them. That goes for Sri Lanka, and it goes more so for the US-UK-NATO axis. Publicly chastise Sri Lanka for its brutality, and then introduce a new HRC resolution indicting the Western axis for the untold amount of human blood and planet destruction it causes with its aggressive profit-grabbing wars.

Future Actions

There is a shift in the wind. Tamils are righteously upset with the US-UK axis. The multitude of Tamil groups especially some international ones in the Diaspora, have relied upon the axis to come to their aid. After four years of getting nowhere, great numbers of Tamils are awakened.

Some pro-Tamils groups are calling upon the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to prevent the Sri Lanka being rewarded as planned by hosting the Commonwealth’s grand summit this November.

The moderate Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice wrote: “If the Commonwealth continues as usual then the Government of Sri Lanka will be able to use this to whitewash their crimes, and derail the process of reconciliation. The cycle of violence will continue.”

The group initiated a petition to sign pressuring Commonwealth countries to follow “the Canadian Prime Minister’s example and announcing that if the summit happens then they will not go.” (6)

A more activist movement is expected to grow now!

Notes:

(1) The Vote:
YES: Argentina, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cöte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Libya, Montenegro, Peru, Poland, Republic of North Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sierra Lone, Spain, Switzerland, USA

NO: Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela

ABSTAIN: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia

NO VOTE: Gabon

(2) http://www.thehindu.com/news/unhrc-adopts-resolution-on-human-rights-violation-in-sri-lanka/article4533969.ece

(3) http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=36151

(4) http://www.ronridenour.com/articles/2012/0525–rr.htm

(5) See: http://www.ronridenour.com/articles/2009/1116–rr.htm

http://www.ronridenour.com/articles/2012/0323–rr.htm

(6) )  http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-david-cameron-do-not-attend-the-commonwealth-summit

Marx on Capital Punishment

London, Friday, January 28, 1853

The Times of Jan. 25 contains the following observations under the head of “Amateur Hanging”:

“It has often been remarked that in this country a public execution is generally followed closely by instances of death by hanging, either suicidal or accidental, in consequence of the powerful effect which the execution of a noted criminal produces upon a morbid and unmatured mind.”

Of the several cases which are alleged by The Times in illustration of this remark, one is that of a lunatic at Sheffield, who, after talking with other lunatics respecting the execution of Barbour, put an end to his existence by hanging himself. Another case is that of a boy of 14 years, who also hung himself.

The doctrine to which the enumeration of these facts was intended to give its support, is one which no reasonable man would be likely to guess, it being no less than a direct apotheosis of the hangman, while capital punishment is extolled as the ultima ratio of society. This is done in a leading article of the “leading journal.”

The Morning Advertiser, in some very bitter but just strictures on the hanging predilections and bloody logic of The Times, has the following interesting data on 43 days of the year 1849:

Executions of: Murders and Suicides:
Millan March 20 Hannah Sandles March 22
M. G. Newton March 22
Pulley March 26 J. G. Gleeson — 4 murders at Liverpool March 27
Smith March 27 Murder and suicide at Leicester April 2
Howe March 31 Poisoning at Bath April 7
W. Bailey April 8
Landick April 9 J. Ward murders his mother April 13
Sarah Thomas April 13 Yardley April 14
Doxey, parricide April 14
J. Bailey kills his two children and himself April 17
J. Griffiths April 18 Charles Overton April 18
J. Rush April 21 Daniel Holmsden May 2

This table, as The Times concedes, shows not only suicides, but also murders of the most atrocious kind, following closely upon the execution of criminals. It is astonishing that the article in question does not even produce a single argument or pretext for indulging in the savage theory therein propounded; and it would be very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to establish any principle upon which the justice or expediency of capital punishment could be founded, in a society glorying in its civilization. Punishment in general has been defended as a means either of ameliorating or of intimidating. Now what right have you to punish me for the amelioration or intimidation of others? And besides, there is history — there is such a thing as statistics — which prove with the most complete evidence that since Cain the world has neither been intimidated nor ameliorated by punishment. Quite the contrary. From the point of view of abstract right, there is only one theory of punishment which recognizes human dignity in the abstract, and that is the theory of Kant, especially in the more rigid formula given to it by Hegel. Hegel says:

“Punishment is the right of the criminal. It is an act of his own will. The violation of right has been proclaimed by the criminal as his own right. His crime is the negation of right. Punishment is the negation of this negation, and consequently an affirmation of right, solicited and forced upon the criminal by himself.” [Hegel, Philosophy of Right]

There is no doubt something specious in this formula, inasmuch as Hegel, instead of looking upon the criminal as the mere object, the slave of justice, elevates him to the position of a free and self-determined being. Looking, however, more closely into the matter, we discover that German idealism here, as in most other instances, has but given a transcendental sanction to the rules of existing society. Is it not a delusion to substitute for the individual with his real motives, with multifarious social circumstances pressing upon him, the abstraction of “free-will” — one among the many qualities of man for man himself! This theory, considering punishment as the result of the criminal’s own will, is only a metaphysical expression for the old “jus talionis” [the right of retaliation by inflicting punishment of the same kind] eye against eye, tooth against tooth, blood against blood. Plainly speaking, and dispensing with all paraphrases, punishment is nothing but a means of society to defend itself against the infraction of its vital conditions, whatever may be their character. Now, what a state of society is that, which knows of no better Instrument for its own defense than the hangman, and which proclaims through the “leading journal of the world” its own brutality as eternal law?

Mr. A. Quételet, in his excellent and learned work, l’Homme et ses Facultés, says:

“There is a budget which we pay with frightful regularity — it is that of prisons, dungeons and scaffolds…. We might even predict how many individuals will stain their hands with the blood of their fellow men, how many will be forgers, how many will deal in poison, pretty nearly the same way as we may foretell the annual births and deaths.”

And Mr.Quételet, in a calculation of the probabilities of crime published in 1829, actually predicted with astonishing certainty, not only the amount but all the different kinds of crimes committed in France in 1830. That it is not so much the particular political institutions of a country as the fundamental conditions of modern bourgeois society in general, which produce an average amount of crime in a given national fraction of society, may be seen from the following table, communicated by Quételet, for the years 1822-24. We find in a number of one hundred condemned criminals in America and France:

Age Philadelphia France
Under twenty-one years 19 19
Twenty-one to thirty 44 35
Thirty to forty 23 23
Above forty 14 23
Total 100 100

Now, if crimes observed on a great scale thus show, in their amount and their classification, the regularity of physical phenomena — if as Mr. Quételet remarks, “it would be difficult to decide in respect to which of the two” (the physical world and the social system) “the acting causes produce their effect with the utmost regularity” — is there not a necessity for deeply reflecting upon an alteration of the system that breeds these crimes, instead of glorifying the hangman who executes a lot of criminals to make room only for the supply of new ones?

Courtesy: marxists.org

Nurses celebrate International Women’s Day

Today (9 March), large numbers of nurses from Delhi & NCR hospitals gathered under the banner of Nurses Welfare Association and Centre for Struggling Women (CSW) to celebrate International Women’s Day. The meeting was called to discuss problems such as lack of safety for women nurses, strenuous work schedules due to poor nurse to patient ratios, pay disparity between private hospital and government hospital nurses, etc. The nurses decided to use the historic occasion of International Women’s Day to come together, especially due to growing concerns regarding rising incidents of sexual violence on women in the city.

The meeting commenced with two prominent panelists, Dr Mary John (Professor of Economics, J.N.U.) and Dr Bijayalaxmi Nanda (Asst. Professor, Miranda House, D.U.), addressing issues like gender discrimination in workplaces. Other speakers like Mrs. Krishnakumar from the Nurses Welfare Association encouraged the nurses to voice their concerns about harassment and exploitation at workplaces. Maya John from the woman’s organization, Centre for Struggling Women, emphasized that for sexual violence and discrimination to come to an end it was necessary for greater numbers of women to enter public spaces, and hence, for greater employment generation. She argued that such enhanced participation of women in the workforce would effectively challenge existing discrimination in workplaces.

Maya speaking at Public Meeting of Nurses

Anxious about the daily risks they face while commuting to work as well as when at work in hospitals, women nurses discussed how existing laws regulating workplaces need to be re-assessed. Many of the nurses complained of harassment by patients’ visitors, as well as male hospital staffers. However, they felt that such sexual harassment was made worse by the fact that most of them were in highly exploitative work contracts. Many nurses, for example, expressed how growing contractualization of work was forcing them into more vulnerable conditions. They discussed how the lack of government hospitals was compelling most nurses to enter contract jobs in private hospitals/clinics where salaries were low and on an average ranged from just Rs. 5000-10000 rupees per month. Moreover, the simple fact that many private hospitals force their nursing staff to work extra shifts, do overtime, etc. and do not at the same time provide for something as basic as transportation to their women employees, is indicative of the conscious ways in which hospital managements’ are putting their women work force at continuous risk. Similarly, by not providing on-campus accommodation to their nursing staff, most hospitals were compelling nurses to commute unsafe distances after their evening shift.

Public Meeting of Nurses

Many nurses employed across Delhi-NCR hospitals also complained that hospital bouncers are often used to physically and verbally intimidate nurses who speak out about unsafe and exploitative work conditions. The nurses also highlighted how the local administration and local police stations have proved to be very lax in their response to complaints made by nurses about sexual harassment, stalking, and even complaints concerning the use of bouncers by hospital managements during nurses’ strikes.

In this light, the nurses discussed and passed a resolution/demand charter. This charter included demands like pressing the Government to constitute a wage board for the health sector, to create more government funded nursing colleges and government hospitals, and to properly regulate work conditions in hospitals, i.e. by conducting regular safety audits. According to the nurses, the safety audits would help regulate: (i) work hours/shifts given; (ii) whether a safe atmosphere exists in and around hospitals; (iii) whether the recent Supreme Court ruling against the bond system (i.e. surrender of original certificates to the hospital management for the period of contract) is being followed in all hospitals and nursing homes; (iv) whether written work contracts are being provided to all employees; etc. The nurses believe that it is through such regular safety audits that the Government can assess whether such essential work conditions exist in workplaces or not. Moreover, in the light of how unregulated private transportation is in the Delhi-NCR region, the nurses also resolved to petition the Government to make it mandatory for all hospitals to provide transportation to their staff. In addition to this, it was also felt that a better managed and more accountable public transport had to be introduced by the Government in order to replace various modes of unregulated private transport—a measure which will go a long way in ensuring safety of women commuters.

Lastly, the issue of regulating the functioning of police stations was also raised in the meeting. After many nurses recounted their experiences at local thanas where their complaints were not entertained, the gathering of nurses decided to press for some concrete action on this front. The nurses felt that lodging of FIRs and placing of police stations under CCTV surveillance in order to encourage prompt police action, has become a non-negotiable demand. The fact that many women, including those who face sexual harassment at home or in workplaces, are still afraid to file complaints with the Police, or, have been turned away by police stations, is a serious problem that the nurses will address collectively, and raise with the concerned authorities.

Maya John, Convener, Centre For Struggling Women, 
Contact: 9350272637, 9540716048, cswdelhi@gmail.com

RESOLUTIONS PASSED IN 09.03.2013 MEETING OF NURSES

We, members of the nursing community in India, solemnly resolve to press forward with the following common concerns and demands:

  1. Organize and mobilize other nursing and health personnel on the need for a wage board for health sector

  2. Expose institutions that are violating the recent Supreme Court ruling against the bond system

  3. Intensify the struggle for more public-funded nursing colleges

  4. Provision of compulsory transportation for all nursing and health personnel

  5. Provision of on-campus residential facility by hospitals

  6. Enhanced security provisions in and around hospitals so as to prevent assaults (including sexual assaults) on nursing staff

  7. Mandatory consultation with nursing representatives while formulating work-related provisions such as shift-timing, dress code, etc. This is essential so as to prevent practices like assigning night duty to a single female—a practice which often exposes the lone nurse to harassment by ward-boys, other male staff, etc.

  8. Provision of greater educational and job opportunities for women, especially in terms of starting more government hospitals

  9. Intensify the on-going struggle against contractualization of the nursing profession

  10. Parity in the salary-scales of nursing tutors and government college lecturers

  11. Complaints of sexual harassment, violence and intimidation of women should be filed immediately by the concerned police station. Non-filing of FIR and/or lack of prompt police action should result in severe action against concerned SHO as such behaviour amounts to dereliction of duty

  12. Conducting of regular safety audits of hospitals by the Government so as to assess whether necessary conditions of security are provided to hospital staff and whether nursing staff are not being exploited

  13. Parity in salaries of nurses working in private hospitals and those working in government hospitals

  14. Protection of labour rights and fundamental rights like freedom of speech and assembly, during agitations/strikes called by nursing staff. District officials and police authorities should take strict action against hospitals for using bouncers to intimidate nursing staff. The responsibility of any untoward incidents like assault on nurses in struggle lies with local/district authorities who should be made accountable

Chavez: The Man in the Red Beret

Peter McLaren

The historical debates surrounding the legacy of Hugo Chavez have begun. Perhaps one day I will join these debates. But not now. Attacks on Chavez “the dictator” or Chavez the charismatic “opponent” of the United States will demand from the left a spirited defense. Perhaps I will join such an effort in the months and years ahead. But not now. In this brief space I want to speak about Hugo Chavez as a leader who inspired a generation to believe that an alternative to capitalism could be fashioned from a reinvention of the state by the popular majorities.

chavez-red

The popularity of Chavez had a world-historical reach and it would not be a mistake to analyze his charismatic leadership in the context of a personality cult like that of Fidel, Che, or Subcommandante Marcos, for instance. To do this is not to diminish the importance of his role as a figure that could galvanize millions on the left and animate their faith that a more humane alternative to capitalism was a possibility, once the battle against U.S. imperialism was won. Chavez, whose father was of Indian descent and his mother, of African descent, was often the object of racial derision by the Venezuela’s white ruling elite, who did not hide their racial separateness from the rest of the Venezuelan population, four-fifths of whom could be described as indigenous-mestizo-mulatto-African.  I remember one day, after a particularly long march down the streets of Caracas supporting President Chavez, I went from store-to-store in an attempt to purchase a popular Chavez doll as a souvenir.  But there was not a single doll to be found.  I was told that I could find one in Altamira, an affluent east Caracas neighborhood.  I was surprised. A fellow camarada laughed at my expression and told me that the white ruling elite – often referred to as “esqualidos” (a colloquialism for squalid people) – had plenty of Chavez dolls available in their upscale stores.  Referring to Chavez as “ese mono” (that monkey), they would tie the dolls to the bumpers of their cars and drag them through the streets.

Insinuating itself into our daily life as an ideology as much as a set of accumulation practices and processes of production, neoliberal capitalism pretends to the throne of democracy-building, but in reality it has hastened its demise. Capitalism wears a coquettish and self-effacing sheen of timelessness, inviolate consistency, and seamless immutability, but that sheen is not any more permanent than the lipstick on a mirror, or than the Barry Manilow hits played on vibraphone wafting through the shopping malls, or than one of Charles Bukowski’s famous beer farts. What makes capitalism seem indelible yet imitable is the fact that it makes certain people very rich, and these paragons of the capitalist class are those that the state media apparatuses parade in their garish media outlets – the movie stars, the corporate moguls, the trend-setters, the celebrities and the culture brokers. While news of celebrity cellulite shakes us awake with amphetamine alertness, Hollywood gossip barons, equipped with the most profound and galvanizing lucidity available, provide us commentary on which star has the best bikini body. At the same time, we remain emotionally drowsy to the pain and suffering of people who struggle and strain against falling household wealth, unemployment and lack of food and medical care. And we rarely cast our eyes south of the border.

Hugo Chavez raised the stakes for North Americans. He showed us that a President could be democratically elected many times and still direct the majority of his efforts at helping the poor and disenfranchised help themselves. He made us aware that the comfort we enjoyed in the United States was a direct result of the enforced dependency that the US created with Las Americas. He showed the world that the class struggle is no longer demarcated by men in boiler suits or railhead pants versus factory owners in top hats, continental cross ties and double-breasted vests. Or the sans-culottes versus the breech-garbed ruling class. Or financiers with capes and silver-tipped canes exploiting the labor power of frutiers, cobblers and copper miners lugging lunchpails of lost dreams. The struggle, as he would tell us in his weekly television show, Alo Presidente, is the transnational capitalist class against all those who depend upon wages for their labor. He showed us that we need cultures of contestation that are transnational in scope to end the exploitation of capitalism.

Chavez’s Bolivarian Circles (named after Simon Bolivar serve as watchdog groups modeled after Cuba’s Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and function as liaisons between the neighborhoods and the government as well as fomenting support for Chavez) were important in combating business leaders and dissident army generals whom, with U.S. support, were trying to overthrow the Chavez government. Members of the Bolivarian Circles would bang on hollow electricity poles to warn against mobilizations by the opposition and to rally supporters across the city’s working-class neighborhoods. They were an example of self-determination for sovereignty as evidenced by the Bolivarian declaration “Nuestra America: una Sola Patria” (Our America: one motherhood)  which rejects an ideological loyalty to “America” as an America defined by a capitalist laden value system that favors imperialism and exploitation for increased profit margins.  Chavez created an infrastructure for communal councils and for self-management in factories and cooperatives and for participation in social programs. This was an astonishing accomplishment because never before did the people living in the barrios have a real chance to participate in the government. For a leader to take the position of working from a preferential option of the poor and powerless and to be re-elected more times than any other leader in the western hemisphere (in the same amount of time) – and to survive a U.S.-supported coup in 2002 and oil strikes that crippled the economy- that is quite a feat. Even Jimmy Carter has praised the election process in Venezuela as among the fairest he has observed.

Chavez’s policies pointed towards the importance of ‘development from below’ which could be achieved through the democratization of the workplace by way of workers’ councils and a major shift of ownership of production, trade and credit in order to expand food production and basic necessities to the poor who inhabit the ‘internal market.’ Once President Chavez was able to control the oil industry, his government was able to reduce poverty by half and extreme poverty by 70 percent.  Chavez helped turn Venezuela from being one of the most unequal countries in Latin America to (after Cuba) being the most equal in terms of income.

Capitalism works through a process of exchange-value, whereas Chavez was more interested in the process of communal exchange—that is, to cite but one example, exchanging oil for medical care in a program with Cuba in which Cuban doctors were brought into Venezuela and were set up in various barrios.  I remember once I was very ill with a fever off the charts and had to call a doctor, but before the doctor arrived I struggled in vain to pull  my Che t-shirt over my drenched body to express a sign of solidarity from this ailing gringo.  Chavez followed the principle of “buen vivir” which can be translated as “to live well.”  But this term, which has indigenous roots, is very different from the North American term, “the good life.” Buen Vivir requires that individuals in their various communities are in actual possession of their rights and are able to exercise their responsibilities in the context of a respect for diversity and in accordance with the rights of ecosystems.  It’s about social wealth—not material wealth.

I remember how much I enjoyed teaching at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, located near the Central University of Venezuela – part of Mission Sucre, which provides free higher education to the poor, regardless of academic qualification, prior education or nationality – housed in the ultra-delux offices of former PDVSA oil executives that Chavez had fired for their attempt to bring down the government.  College enrollment doubled under Chavez.  Student projects were insolubly linked to local community improvement. At a graduation ceremony in the early years of the university, Chavez famously said: “Capitalism is machista and to a large extent excludes women, that’s why, with the new socialism, girls, you can fly free.”

Chavez set up a structure to offer employment for the graduates of UBV through a Presidential Commission that enabled new graduates be placed around the country in development projects. The graduates would receive a scholarship that was slightly above the minimum wage. Some of these projects involved Mision Arbol (Tree Mission), recovering the environment damaged by capitalism such as the Guaire River.  When I was first invited to Venezuela by the government to help support the Bolivarian revolution, I remember speaking at the Central University of Venezuela.  The students who attend this university are mainly the children of the ruling elite. Not many were Chavistas, well, at least not when I spoke there. After I announced to the students present that I was a Chavista (Soy Chavista!), I was told later that some students in retaliation had ripped my portrait off of a mural student had created of critical theorists. Yet I was able to have very good conversations with some of the students there in the years that followed.

I was privileged to be a guest several times on Alo Presidente, once when sitting next to Ernesto Cardinal.  I listened to Ernesto wax eloquently about Chavez, and Chavez’s dream of bringing humanity together through a deep spiritual love.  I attended meetings of the misiones, social programs in health, education, work and housing, set up by Chavez when he came into office in 1999 to help the poor to become literate, to finish high school, to organize their communities and to get medical attention.

In 2005, when President Chavez offered residents of the Bronx a new type of program to heat homes, it was ridiculed as a cheap publicity stunt in the US media. Chavez was using the profits from his nation’s rich oil reserves to enact social spending programs, and was offering residents of the Bronx the same deal, which meant he would provide home heating oil to economically disadvantaged residents at a major discount—through Citgo—provided the savings that were made were reinvested into programs that benefitted the poor. Veteran Congressman José Serrano has since voiced his praise of Chavez for instituting this program in his district.

Although I met President Chavez half a dozen times, I only had one conversation with him. He thanked me for my work in critical pedagogy, and for my willingness to share some of my work with those in the Bolivarian revolution. But he reminded me that I have as much to learn from the people of Venezuela, and that I needed to maintain that attitude in my work. He turned out to be right.

Hugo Chavez Frias rode the Angel of History like a wild stallion across the fiery firmament of revolution, drawing back the curtain on imperialism’s ‘southern strategy,’ and advancing the cause of a twentieth century socialism. He was a solider, in essence, one with sufficient humanity to stare directly into the heart of capitalism and warn us that it pulsed with leakages of sequestered oil and that its ‘cap and trade’ compassion was market regulated. Hugo Chavez was crowned by history with a red beret and gave us pride to be warriors for social justice, marching towards a new future.

Nagpur: A Leaflet for the 20-21 February all India workers strike

Issued by a workers journal, Parivartan ki Disha, Nagpur
on Feb 12, 2013, Translated from Hindi

Make the nationwide general strike on 20, 21 February a success through your own initiatives!

Central Trade Unions have called for a countrywide general strike on 20-21 February. Workers from all central institutions and industries like Banking, Coal, Transportation, Postal, Shipping, Ordinance (Defense), Steel will observe this two-day all India level strike by organizing rallies against anti-worker policies of the government. Unions have demanded that the price-hikes should be controlled and concrete measures should be taken towards employment generation, contract workers should get wages and benefits equal to permanent workers, every citizen should get pension, and minimum wages should be at least Rs 10,000 per month. We support these demands of the unions and appeal to the workers and common masses to give the strike a massive support. However, we would like to underline the fact that there is an established opinion among union leaders and workers that a general strike of unionized workers in the organized sectors is enough to ensure a 100% success of the strike. But is this understanding correct? Without the participation of millions of unorganized workers (those who are not members of unions) in our struggle, in our movement and in our strikes, can our movement attain its aims and objectives? We the workers should give serious thoughts to this question.

The Call for a Strike and Today’s Situation

Last year on Feb 28 there was another one-day countrywide strike on the call of the unions. What did we achieve from that strike? There was a hope among union leadership that the strike would pressurize the government to agree to bring the unions to table to discuss their demands, but this hope proved to be false. Whether the government is that of UPA or of NDA, or of any party or alliance, Indian government itself is a big capitalist, an investor. Indian government is itself selling capital to foreign capitalists by taking it out from the public industries, for investing in other countries for more profit. In this situation, for unions to think that workers’ interests would be protected if their mother parties form or join the government is very distant from the reality. Today throughout the globe the slowdown of capitalist production and distribution has plunged the system into a deep crisis because of its own contradictions. The efforts of the G-8 and G-20 countries to come out of this crisis have taken the forms of new economic policies, new labour policies that establish contract system, outsourcing, foreign investment, divestment, privatisation, multinationalisation etc. Capitalist governments everywhere are indulging in deception, fraudulent practices and measures in order to provide oxygen to their respective economies. In this situation, to differentiate between the American and Indian governments and support the latter is purely a bourgeois point of view. In the same manner to differentiate between foreign capital and national capital and take the side of national capital against foreign capital is anti-working class since the colour& character  of both the foreign as well as national capital is same—to exploit workers in every possible way.  On the contrary, we must adopt a working class position and advance on the basis of a long-term working class understanding. Today to say that the working class should follow the ideals of Gandhi, Vivekananda or other saints (as some unions have said this in their leaflets) will amount to a gross neglect of the specificities of the changed reality. Could anyone have imagined 100 years back that India would attain such a high level of production, which it has attained through the capitalist mode of production?

The need for a new approach to the question of Struggle, Movement and Organisation

What did we achieve from the 28 Feb 2012 strike? If nothing, then why not? How are we being deprived of even the minimum that we had? Are the tactics that we are adopting to regain them correct? What are the new means that need to be invented to attain our objectives? There is a growing need to give priority to a discussion on these questions.

Today, union leaders are formulating our demands and calling for strikes. When we formulate our own demands in a collective manner and take our own measures to attain them, then whether the strikes will be for one or two days or indefinite will not be decided beforehand. Then our struggle and movement will not be limited to slogan shouting at factory gates or street-corners. Then our struggle would generate a massive workers unity, long-term movements and revolutionary organisations. The beginning to “Take your own initiatives – be organised – implement on your own” must be made at our own workplaces – we will have to start thinking of struggles and movements on the basis of our self-activities on the everyday questions.

False Unity, Real Unity

As long as we accept the present relationship between capital and labour, we will have to deal with the problems generated by their contradictions. More and more exploitation, attacks on workers to gain profits – all these are necessary for capital, they are its compulsions. Capitalist production process has itself arrived at its final stage. Worldwide depression, inflation, unemployment, outsourcing, contractualisation, increase in the amount of work, increase in the working hours, shutdown of the newer companies before they could attain their maximum capacity are all symptoms of a moribund capitalism. In order to save ourselves from destructive wars, to save environment, humanity and all other species it has become extremely necessary to remove this inhuman capitalist production system by establishing a collective production-distribution system or socialism that is based on associative collectivity of workers-producers – their control and management.  Present organisations and unions are associated with political parties who are entrenched within the capitalist parliamentary system. These organisations and unions do talk about workers but they are ever ready to establish secured positions for the leaders in the present society and within their own organisations – they reproduce the distance between leaders and general workers. The unity among today’s unions and organisations are enforced from above, and thus are unstable and illusory. On the other hand, struggles and movements initiated by workers themselves would generate workers organisations (factory committees, workers councils etc) promoting a true unity with a commitment towards revolutionary transformation. A strong, long-term unity is possible only on the initiatives of the workers themselves.

The need for a struggle based on the unity between permanent and temporary workers

The capitalist class in India has achieved two goals in the general interest of capital by implementing the new economic policy. By employing cheap contractual labour in place of permanent workers, they have, on the one hand, subsidised the production cost, and on the other, they have intensified intra-class competition and discrimination on the basis of permanent and temporary categories. Permanent workers look down upon temporary contract workers instead of recognising them as equals, thus fragmenting the workers unity. Hence, in order to intensify the struggle against their exploitation and oppression by capital through their own initiatives, establishment of a unity between permanent and temporary workers is extremely necessary. In this regard, permanent workers will have to take the initiative. In 2011-12, workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar led a heroic struggle on the basis of such unity between permanent and temporary workers and despite an intensive crackdown by the management, government and police on the workers after the July 18 incident the struggle is still on – on the basis of this unity.

Learning from the struggle of Maruti Suzuki workers, during the upcoming Feb 20-21 strike, let us build workers committees uniting workers across all segmentations and divisions – permanent-temporary, men-women etc. Let us build our struggle on our own initiatives on the principle of “Do not demand, but implement’, and continue it even after the strike! Only then we will be able to pressure the government and the capitalist class to concede. Only by a continuous struggle based on our own initiatives beyond any ritualistic confines can we make this two-day strike successful.

Video: National Protest Day in Support of Maruti Suzuki Workers (Delhi), Feb 5

Sanhati’s Special Issue on “Caste and Left Politics in India”

The left is often accused of playing down the importance of caste. At the theoretical level this has often been the result of a mechanical application of Marx’s base-superstructure metaphor is to the Indian context. At the institutional level, communist parties have often been led by Brahmin and other upper-caste individuals. Articles in this special issue, which come from authors with very diverse backgrounds, offer theoretical analyses as well as examples of organizations and movements that have taken both class and caste seriously, and are committed to a revolutionary transformation of Indian society.

We are delighted to include not only analytical pieces and interviews, but also poetry of the Dalit movement. Swapna Guha-Banerjee has shared her translations of 5 Marathi poems by leading Dalit and tribal poets, Narayan Surve, Babulal Bagul, Waharu Sonawane, Arun Kale, and Pratibha Rajanand. The poems speak for themselves and are not in need for editorial commentary. They are accompanied by short bios of all five poets.

Contributions by Gail Omvedt and Anant Phadke highlight the work of the Shramik Mukti Dal an organization active in eleven districts of Maharashtra. The SMD organizes farmers and toilers on issues of drought, dam and project eviction, and caste oppression. At the theoretical level SMD is guided not only by Marxism but by Marx-Phule-Ambedkarism. As Gail Omvedt puts it, “In their analysis, caste is a system of exploitation in which there is a graded hierarchy: people at each level labour, and the surplus from their labour is extracted upwards to the level above.”

Asit Das reviews the writings of Comrade Anuradha Ghandy on the caste question. For this, we are also grateful to Anand Teltumbde and Shoma Sen for putting out a collection of Com. Anuradha’s incisive essays. Asit reviews Com. Anuradha’s principal essay on the issue “Caste Question in India,” in which she traces both the historical evolution of caste as well as 20th century anti-caste movements. She concludes with a concrete program for caste annihilation which it would behoove all revolutionary parties to study. Com Anuradha’s essay is an excellent example of the revolutionary left’s engagement with caste.

P.K.Vijayan’s article on caste and class solidarity is a theoretical look at why caste relations cannot be reduced to class relations. The author avers that caste bonds

…cannot be dismissed as false consciousness, or even as ideological constructs more or less independent of the economic circumstances they exist in, however persuasive this might appear to be. The caste system operates on a logic of ownership that transforms the individual (indeed the community itself) into an object…In the process, it shackles and stifles the ability of the individual to think beyond the immediate hold of the community. As such, caste works in favour of capitalism, as a ready and already regulated system of ownership of bodies and therefore of labour.

The special issue also contains two interviews. One of the dalit transgender feminist writer and theater artist Living Smile Vidya, who lives and works in Chennai, conducted by her transgender brothers Kaveri Karthik and Gee Ameena Suleiman from Bangalore, and the second of Karnataka-based Shivasundar, conducted by Shiv Sethi.

The conversation between Kaveri, Gee, and Vidya brings out, in vivid relief, the nature of oppression at the intersection of caste, class, and gender hierarchies. Vidya raises some difficult questions for left and feminist activists. In her response to a question on “unifying the oppressed peoples’ struggles” she notes:

I always talk about working together, along with women’s struggle. But I know that most so called feminists think that I am a man in woman’s clothing…The general public accepts me as a transgender quite readily so why do activists take longer? Some of these feminists will wear fabindia clothes and their gold and think women must be modest. They talk as if the strongest and most satisfying thing in the world is to give birth and take care of their children…They also are very patronizing about caste and can talk progressively but will have a dalit woman making tea and serving them at their meetings instead of also including her and learning from her experiences.

Shivasundar offers both a historical overview of how dalit, OBC, and left movements have interacted in Karnataka’s history as well as a theoretical analysis of “caste-based feudalism.” He notes:

When we say caste-based feudalism, we mean that the base of such feudalism is caste, implying that the production relations are determined by caste. But, in the last three decades, caste-based feudalism is on decline as indicated by some of the markers of such a system: feudal usury, unfragmented feudal power, bonded labour, jajmani system where caste becomes the category of production and distribution. There is also a rise in production for markets and the capitalist modes of exploitation of the surplus. In most of the places, the capitalist mode of surplus exploitation dominates, resulting in the increasing secularisation of work place and labour force. Having said this, it is also equally true that the diversification of rural elite is not taking place, or it is changing its configuration very slowly (in comparison to secularisation of labour).

Suraj Yengde’s piece brings much needed and timely attention to the question of caste discrimination and sexual violence. By focusing on rape of Dalit women, Suraj offers a critique of the rape protest across Delhi and worldwide. His essay points out that rape is a recurring phenomenon at the hands of upper caste groups and patriarchy. It also criticises the role of religious leaders for providing false leadership for the Indian citizens.

We hope that this collection will provoke a much-needed debate among and between left and anti-caste activists.

– Editors
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Introductory Remarks by Saroj Giri

‘Brahminical Marxism’. ‘Being a Brahmin, the Marxist Way’. ‘Communist pundits’ (‘like say EMS Namboodiripad’). Or just think of Kanshiram’s characterization of communists as ‘green snakes hidden in green grass”.

How then can we start talking about the relationship between the left movement and Dalit movement?

Often one is referred to an originary moment of the (communist) left’s supposed bankruptcy on the question of caste. Here is Arundhati Roy:

Dr Ambedkar’s disillusionment with the Communist Party began with the textile workers’ strike in Mumbai in 1928 when he realised that despite all the rhetoric about working class solidarity, the party did not find it objectionable that the “untouchables” were kept out of the weaving department (and only qualified for the lower paid spinning department) because the work involved the use of saliva on the threads, which other castes considered “polluting”.

With an originary moment, there follows an entire narrative. Cut to the present period. Read Kancha Ilaiah on Gaddar. Gaddar is a Dalit but openly aligns himself with the left (Maoists). Gaddar calls himself anti-imperialist. In Ilaiah’s narration, Gaddar’s anti-imperialism passes almost unnoticed.

What is forgotten is the communist movement’s close ties, in fact, seminal contribution to the Dalit movement. Take one of the closest associates of Ambedkar, R. B. More. He was one of the chief organizers of the Chowdar satyagraha in 1927. More chooses to go with the left (the CPI) and remains a communist till his death. Ambedkar was always close to More. Dr Ambedkar and Shamrao Parulekar (a communist) led a huge peasant demonstration on the Mumbai Assembly in 1938 against the ‘Khoti’ system of landlordism that was then prevalent in the Konkan region.

If one speaks from within a particular way of doing politics which mobilises liberal upper caste guilt – where the latter accedes to rights and reservations for the Dalits – then of course it is a different matter.

Otherwise, we can perhaps say something else, something like this: Just as large parts of the left movement had for example become social democrats containing the class struggle similarly large sections of the Dalit movement today contain the anti-caste struggle rather than accentuate it. There is a meeting point here between a particular kind of left and a particular brand of Dalit politics. Some of it is badly spilling over into where the advocates themselves are getting bitten by what they reared for so long: ‘politics of hurt’, ‘narrow identity politics’ and so on.

We will not reject the term ‘Brahminical Marxism.’ But let us identify the counterpart to the ‘Brahminical Marxist’: the counterpart on the side of the Dalits. Is there any? Ambedkar himself used the term Harijan leaders to mean those who have compromised with upper caste domination.

In the US, there was a counterpart to the white left who could never really relate to the black question: the black strike-breaker. The black revolutionary had to fight the cunning of the white left as well as the scourge of the black strike-breaker. What is equivalent of the ‘black strikebreaker’ in India? Perhaps it is not just Harijan leaders. This brings us back to the ‘originary story’ about the strike above: is a different interpretation possible?

‘Brahminical Marxists and Dalit strikebreakers’ – is that the combination we need to challenge in order to effectively fight the scourge of caste?

Maruti Struggle: National Protest Day (February 5)

As you are well aware, we workers in Maruti Suzuki India Ltd., Manesar, Gurgaon are waging a struggle against the exploitation and injustice heaped on us by the company management, state administration and the government. Our only crime has been that we have dared to raise our voice for the demand of formation of Union and against the illegal practice of contract workers system.

Since 18th July 2012, after the unfortunate incident in the factory premises as part of a management-woven conspiracy, we workers have been continually facing the brunt of repression. The company-management has at once terminated the jobs of over 1500 contract workers along with 546 permanent workers. They have, with the help of the state administration, heaped fabricated cases ranging from arson to murder on 211 of our fellow workers, while 149 workers, including our entire Union leadership, continue to languish in Jail for the last 6 months. Keeping aside all legality, workers and our families have continuously faced brute police atrocities.

We have chosen the path of struggle against this repression and injustice. In the past 6 months, even when faced with various state administrative blockades and repression, our spirits are unfazed and our movement is raging on. One of the reasons that we are able to sustain this struggle is also the solidarity and support that we have continued to receive from various workers organisations-trade unions and pro-people forces. But to take the struggle forward, we require more support and solidarity from your side.

In this stage of the struggle, we have decided that on 5th February 2013, Tuesday, there be a all-India day of solidarity action, demonstrations in our support and on that day itself, a memorandum also be sent addressed to Chief Minister of Haryana. We not only hope but trust that we will get your full solidarity once again. Against the nexus of company-management and state power, the protest of our pro-justice and class unity shall reach the deaf ears of those in power.

With revolutionary greetings,
Imaan Khan, Ramnivas, Omprakash, Mahaveer, Yogesh, Katar Singh, Rajpal
Provisional working Committee
Maruti Suzuki Workers Union

For the memorandum on 5th February 2013:
Address/Ph. No./Fax No. of Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Chief Minister, Haryana
Office: Room No. 45, 4th floor, Civil Sectt., Chandigarh, Haryana.
Ph No. 0172-2749396/2749409 (O); 2749394/2749395 (R)
Fax: 2740596; EPBAX Ext. 2401, 2402
Residence: Kothi No. 1, Sector 3, Chandigarh