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

MSWU: DILLI CHALO!!! Against Police Repression on Auto Workers Convention

As you know, we from Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU) have called for an Auto Workers CONVENTION on 9th December 2012 in Ambedkar Bhavan, Jhandewalan, New Delhi with common demands of auto workers in NCR industrial belt.

This program with our legitimate demands has been declared one week back, for which we have given due information for permission to the PMO and the Paharganj police station and have received copies of the same. But Haryana and Delhi government administration through the use of Police of both the states, along with CID Haryana has come down heavily on us for raising our legal and legitimate demands. They have denied us permission to hold the Convention in the evening today with the imagined reason that this will disrupt peace in the area. And since last two days, Haryana Police and CID has been calling on us and our parents and relatives to strongly threaten against holding this program and any such program in the future, or force will be used against us.

We condemn this direct attack on our democratic right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution by the joint forces of Haryana and Delhi government administration through the naked use of force in the service of the Maruti Suzuki management. And with what we have seen in the last four months, this is nothing new to us now, as the police and government administration have nakedly sided with the company management in their attempt to crush our voice of truth.

We appeal to all concerned with democratic rights and our just struggle to stand by us as we will go ahead with the declared program tomorrow and similar programs in the near future.Our fellow workers from across Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal-Noida-Faridabad-Ghaziabad industrial belt will join us and strengthen our struggle.

Condemning the police and administrative action against us, we reiterate our demands:

1. In the permanent nature of work in the auto sector in Gurgaon-Manesar-Dharuhera-Bawal-Faridabad-Noida-Ghaziabad industrial region, completely abolish the illegal contract worker system by the year 2013. Till they are not made permanent, all workers in the auto sector in this region should be given minimum wage of Rs.15,000.

2. All permanent workers in the auto sector must be given minimum wage of Rs.25000.

3. Unions must be formed in the auto belt industrial region. Within 45 days of application for registration of Trade Union, the concerned labour department must ensure the registration of the Trade Union with due process.

4. The High Court order in favour of workers of Eastern Medikit must be immediately implemented and the illegal lockout be ended. Take back all the workers of Eastern Medkit and ensure payment of due wages.

5. Along with all the 546 illegally terminated workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar, all the contract workers must be immediately taken back to work.

6. All the arrested workers of Maruti Suzuki Manesar must be immediately released, the false cases withdrawn and stop the repression and torture of workers.

Sincere Regards,

Provisional Working Committee

 Program details:

Date: 9 December 2012; 11am to 6pm.
Place: Ambedkar Bhavan, Panchkuiyan Road, near Jhandewalan Metro Station, New Delhi

Contact: Imaan Khan-             09467704883      , Ramnivas- 08901127876, Omprakash-08607154232, Mahavir-09560564754,Yogesh-             08510043143      , Katar Singh-09728778870, Rajpal-             09555425175

Protest Against the Bijapur Massacre (July 31, 2012)


At Parliament Street, New Delhi
11 am – 5 pm, 31 (Tuesday) July 2012

The chilling incident of the premeditated massacre of 20 adivasis peasants of Sirkegudem, Kothagudem and Rajupenta in the Bijapur district of south Chhattisgarh on the night of 28 June 2012 have shocked the conscience of every democratic and freedom loving people of the subcontinent. Till date no action has been taken on the officers responsible for this cold-blooded murder. Worse was the nominal sorry rendered by P. Chidambaram in his dull academic tone followed by a regret by his CRPF chief that too when more and more glaring stories and reports started flooding the media from various independent observers and some of the conscientious journalists.

We are witness to the countless massacres of dalits, adivasis, Muslims and other oppressed sections in the subcontinent by various gangs, landlord armies and private militias in the Indian subcontinent. But what we have witnessed in Bijapur is a continuing pattern of state-sponsored massacres committed by the so-called guardians of law with impunity. Significantly in this case, we come across a scenario in Post-1947 India where the Home Minister would openly defend the criminal act of the paramilitary without batting his eyelids. Rarely do we come across a situation where the Director General of the CRPF would openly come out in defence of the criminal act of his forces. Well this sum up the lawless face of the Indian state personified in the cold and calculated sophistry of a Chidambaram and his able accomplice in Vijay Kumar the CRPF chief. But the democratic and freedom loving people of the subcontinent have seen through the white lies propagated by Chidambaram, Raman Singh the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and Vijay Kumar the CRPF chief as more and more tell-tale reports started pouring in from independent enquiry teams of civil rights bodies and other citizens who went to the area to get first hand information.

At this juncture it becomes important that we refuse to remain silent to this brutality of the state failing which we are complacent and condemned to be silent accomplices to the terror of the state all being perpetrated in the name of development; a development ostensibly for you and me, but irreversibly and violently wipes out the vast sections of the masses of the people. Yes, it becomes important for all of us to come together and say NO to such premeditated massacres of the state and demand unequivocally that all those responsible for conceiving and executing such acts be brought to book let alone those who vehemently and unabashedly patronise such criminal acts.

• We invite you to be part of this protest demonstration to be held on the 31 July 2012 at Parliament Street from 11 am to 5 pm in which various people’s organisations, civil rights groups, intellectuals and prominent citizens from various states would participate. Your presence is very much needed at this juncture as an act of protest to strengthen the voice of the adivasis in Bastar. Unite with the resilient masses fighting for their Jal-Jangal-Zameen!

A delegation from the Dharna Site at Parliament Street will go and meet the President of India to submit a memorandum on the Bijapur Massacre with the following Demands:

• Constitute judicial enquiry with a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge to look into the massacre,
• Punish the police personnel and politicians like P Chidambaram and Raman Singh responsible for the massacre,
• Stop Operation Green Hunt– Indian State’s War on People Immediately,
• Withdraw military and paramilitary forces from Bastar now, and
• Scrap all MoUs signed with imperialist MNCs and the domestic corporate houses.

Contact: Varavara Rao (President), Rajkishore (Gen. Sec.) | 09717583539
| Email: |

Repeal ‘AFSPA, 1958’ for a Humane, Internationalist Future

Gilbert Sebastian

“Sharmila Irom … has not eaten for almost 10 [now, 12] years.
She is too angry to eat ….
She is hungry for justice, not for food.”

– Andrew Buncombe (The Independent, 5 May 2010)

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (henceforth, AFSPA) in India provides total legal immunity to officers of the armed forces (down to the level of a havildar) in the “disturbed areas” to shoot and kill anyone without attracting punishment, to arrest using violence and without warrant and allows unhindered entry into any premise. There cannot even be a First Information Report (FIR) filed in case of such killings except through prior sanction of the Union government; only a simple complaint can be filed. AFSPA, is by far, the most draconian Act in the country because the Act contravenes the spirit (although it adheres to the letter) of the Fundamental Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which says, ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’ Notably, AFSPA is operational in the frontier regions where militant nationality movements go on against the Indian State, i.e., in Kashmir and parts of the north-east of India. The footages from real life on the reels of the documentary film, ‘AFSPA, 1958’ in the context of Manipur shocks the consciousness of any democratically-minded person. As Asit Das (2011) says, the Act is clearly used as an instrument of war and is, by no means, used for enhancing conviction rate. The operation of this single Act has led to thousands of murders, enforced disappearances (as in the case of the unmarked graves in Kashmir), tortures, rapes, etc.

AFSPA is an example of a ‘permanent’ law that was justified at the time of its enactment as merely shifting, under logistical compulsions, powers of ordinary policing to the army (Ujjwal Singh 2011). It may be borne in mind that police forces dealing with civilians are usually instructed to use the least amount of force whereas the military is trained to inflict the maximum lethal force. The term, ‘extraordinary law’ loses the meaning it denotes for a law that has been permanently operational in the country since 1958 except as a law which gives extraordinary powers to the armed forces. Initially enacted for use in the seven sister states of the north-east of India, the scope of the Act was extended to Jammu & Kashmir since 1990.

The empowering Supreme Court judgment in Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights vs. Union of India, 1998 defined a “disturbed area” wherein the Act would be applicable. However, the basic structure of the draconian Act remains unaltered as yet. The judgment held that AFSPA, 1958, Section 3, does not confer any arbitrary or misguided power for declaring an area as a “disturbed area” for which there must exist a grave or dangerous situation of law and order on the basis of which the Governor of the State or Administrator of the Union Territory can form an opinion as such.

It has also been pointed out that AFSPA constitutes a clear violation of international law and of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, ratified by India in 1979.

De-facto partial citizenship

The notion of universalism was somewhat absent under the caste-based feudal moral/legal order in India. The legal system was heavily at odds against the underprivileged castes and women. Even the formal – not substantive – notion of universalism in India was typically a contribution of the colonial rule. The Panchamas, the outcastes/untouchables (self-named as Dalits today) hardly enjoyed any of the benefits of citizenship. As part of the Hindu identity formation under the influence of colonial modernity, there has been a half-hearted attempt at their incorporation into the Hindu fold. The exclusionary process continues even today in a different manner whereby certain social sections are not permitted to enjoy full-fledged citizenship in the country. Today, AFSPA is used against the nationalities of Kashmir and parts of the north-east of India like Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. Especially with the rise of fascistic communalism, recurrent communal violence has taken place against Muslims and they find themselves overrepresented only in the Indian jails. Similarly, tribals have faced systematic eviction from their traditional habitats with the expansion of capitalist accumulation since colonial times. It may be argued that these social sections and others like migrant workers, fisher people, etc. enjoy only ‘partial citizenship de facto’ in our polity.

Distinction between Mainland and the Frontier

In order to understand the continued prevalence of AFSPA, 1958 in some parts of the country today, we need to draw a geo-political distinction between mainland and frontier. The frontier consists of whole geo-political regions, whose citizens are de-facto recognised as only incomplete citizens. There are ethnic/religious differences that mark them out from the mainland. What we refer to, in particular, are the national formations in Kashmir and large parts of the north-east of India. Both mainland and frontier are politically constructed geographical categories. The people of the mainland are considered as complete citizens of India in geo-political terms although there are gross aberrations which are not primarily of a geographical character in the case of social categories such as religious minorities, Dalits, Adivasis, migrant workers, etc. We also need to bear in mind that there is a possibility of interchange between parts of the mainland and parts of the frontier and so these are dynamic categories although stability rather than change is the primary characteristic of these geo-political categories.(1) To use the expression of Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze (2002), India is a “bastion of disparity”. The disparity between mainland and the frontier is a crucial one among these disparities.

It is true that the construction of a dominant Hindi nationality has been an ongoing hegemonic project of the Indian State in north India where Indo-Aryan dialects like Bhojpuri, Maithili, Braj bhasha, Haryanvi, Rajasthani, etc. are spoken. However, the acute class division and the extremely low levels of human development, by far, the lowest in the country, in several of these states (particularly, BIMARU states – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh) remain significant barriers to this project.

An instructive example of the mainland-frontier distinction can be had in the case of the discussions in the media during 2009-10 whether the army and the air force should be deployed in the fight against the Maoists. Both the Chief of Army Staff, Mr. V. K. Singh and the Chief of Air Staff, Mr. P. V. Naik were against the idea of such a deployment on grounds that ‘they are our own citizens’. This draws a sharp contrast with the case of nationality movements in the frontier regions against whom army has been used and continues to be used. Moreover, AFSPA, the most draconian Act in the country and also the most hated Act in the frontiers, has been operational in these regions.

Over the decades after the transfer of power in 1947, untold atrocities have been committed by the armed forces of the Indian Union and State-sponsored militias on the peoples of the struggling nationalities on the frontiers of India. But opposition to such atrocities from the mainland India have been few and far between.(2) This is a far cry from Lenin’s advice to Communists and democrats from the dominant nationality (in this case, those from the mainland) that they should be categorical in their opposition to national oppression towards the subject nationalities. Even in India today, in fact, it is easy to distinguish democratic intellectuals from the others on the basis of their standpoint on the question of national oppression.

‘A Generalised State of Exception’

There is a substantial portion of the geographical/demographic terrain of India wherein there is, to use the concept used by Italian legal theorist, Georgio Agamben, ‘a generalised state of exception’ to the liberal democracy prevailing in the rest of the country. In government terminology, these are either the ‘backward regions’ (such as the central forest region) which are ‘Maoist-infested’, well within the mainland India or ‘frontier states’ meaning, states bordering the neighbouring countries where there are, often, insurgencies demanding self-determination. As the Maoist literature does, movements designate these as ‘struggle areas’ – arena of class struggles or nationality movements. The liberal democratic discourse of the ‘rule of law’ (nomos) is largely non-functional in these vast regions. The Fundamental Rights as guaranteed in the Constitution of India face blatant violation in these regions, where even the most basic one, the right to life, is violated with impunity on a large scale on a day to day basis. This “undemocratic exception” (Pothik Ghosh 2010) is not merely an exception or aberration but a generalised phenomenon. Crucially, anyone concerned about the future of democracy, human rights and the question of social transformation in this country, cannot overlook this phenomenon.

‘Rule of law’, Impunity and a Selectively Repressive State

Speaking of the system at large, unlike in most of the liberal democracies of the west, there is a vast terrain of exception to the rule of law in India. As Hannah Arendt (1951) says, the sought after goal here is ‘order’, rather than ‘law’. A patent example is the case of hundreds of extra-judicial killings of detenues that happen in the police lock-ups in India every year. In the heavily militarized regions of the country i.e., in regions where there are nationality movements or Maoist insurgency, ‘fake encounters’ by the Indian security forces are a rather common phenomenon. Counter-insurgency operations by the State, such as the Salwa Judum, have been carried out in blatant violation of all Constitutional and legal norms.

Despite the legal universalism formally prevailing, the rich and the powerful continue to enjoy impunity. The instances have been far too many: The high profile perpetrators of Gujarat carnage of 2002; the leader who opened up the pandora’s box of communal polarization in contemporary India and has been instrumental in the post-rath yatra riots in 1990; the leaders accused in the demolition of the Babri Masjid; the architects of the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh; those responsible for clandestine killing and cremating hundreds of young persons at Tarn Taran in the Punjab during the early 1990s; those responsible for the violent suppression Adivasi landless at Muthanga in Wayanad district in Kerala state, and of those who resisted corporate land grabs at Kalinga Nagar, Nandigram, Singur, etc.; those responsible for the trafficking of vulnerable sections of people which is a rising trend today; those employing children in hazardous occupations; etc.

It also needs mention that the Indian State has been selectively repressive against its adversaries who violate its canons. While being heavily repressive against Islamist extremists, nationality movements, and the Maoist movement, the Indian State has been quite lenient towards the criminal activities of the Shiv Sena and the Sangh Parivar.

Frontier Peoples in an Intersectional Analysis of the Indian State

Given the experience of AFSPA, how do we understand the Indian State under neo-liberal globalisation? Liberals of diverse shades have argued that with globalisation, the State had ‘retreated’ and the world had become ‘borderless’. However, it is apparent that the role of the State has heightened in India under neo-liberal globalisation in terms of its functions as an agency that is regulatory, repressive and a facilitator of unhindered accumulation (T.J. Byres 1997).

Marxists usually speak about the Class character of the State but it should be borne in mind that Class formations are not merely about class in the narrow sense of the term. There is need to reveal the broader Social character of the State in India. In the Indian context, Class needs to be viewed substantively in relation mainly to space, caste and gender. In this respect, intersectional analysis could be a very valuable analytical tool. Intersectional analysis as expounded by Nancy Fraser, et al has its origins in gender studies in the West since late 1960s that sought to understand experiences beyond gender alone. This approach has to do with how forms of oppression interrelate or intersect in multiple ways to create a system of oppression manifesting itself as exploitation, discrimination, violence, marginalisation, etc. It links various kinds of oppression which have to do with interrelated/overlapping/intersecting social categories. Speaking of the class/social character of the State, from the angle of intersectional analysis, could we not as well speak of the Indian State not only as pro-corporates and pro-landlords but also as [pro-mainlanders], pro-men, pro-upper castes, pro-non-tribals, pro-Hindus, etc.? (3) The deployment of military and the operation of AFSPA reveals the bias of the Indian State against frontier peoples.

Erosion of State Legitimacy and Repressive Legislations

How do we understand an apparently contradictory character of the legislative process in India whereby there is a co-existence of empowering and disempowering legislations? There have been a number of apparently pro-people legislations during the very period of neo-liberal reforms: National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), 2005; Forest Rights Act, 2006; the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996; the Right to Information Act 2005; the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2005; Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Act, 2005; The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008 which seeks to grant 33 per cent reservation to women in parliament and elected assemblies; etc. These may be viewed as having been necessitated by the need for the neo-liberal State to generate popular consent or secure legitimacy, particularly from deprived classes and social identities and thereby maintain the hegemony of the ruling classes. Maintaining ‘hegemony’ in the Gramscian sense involves sustaining the moral and intellectual leadership of the dominant classes through generating consent rather than through coercion or force. As Bob Jessop (1982) says, it involves taking systematic account of popular interests and demands, making compromises on secondary issues, without sacrificing the fundamental long-run interests of the dominant group.

On the other hand, ‘the limited nature of consent’ leads to a weak basis for a political order, which comes to rely increasingly on force (A. S. Sassoon 1991). The gearing up of the repressive apparatus of the State under neo-liberalism through draconian legislations like Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, 2005 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2008 is worth mentioning in this context. Notably, however, AFSPA has continued to be the most draconian legislation among all these and has been prevailing in the country from the first decade of the existence of the Republic as a testimony of the distinction between the mainland and the frontiers. These draconian Acts have been operational especially in areas of militant struggles against the Indian State. The increasing ascendancy of the Hindutva fascist movement in India also should be seen in conjunction with the deepening crisis of legitimacy of the Indian State under neo-liberalism.

An insightful statement from the film, The Spiderman says, ‘The cunning warrior attacks neither the body, nor the mind but the heart.’ But how about the peoples living under the terror of AFSPA? If they are citizens, why are they treated this way? Apparently, the cynical and hawkish strategic analysts in the corridors of power in the Indian State have no long-term perspective for the integration of the frontier regions.

Self-determination and People’s Rights

A clarification on the notion of ‘People’s Rights’ by Manoranjan Mohanty (2011) can be useful in this context. The conventional discourse of ‘human rights’ has laid exclusive emphasis on civil liberties of individuals in particular, mostly as recognized by the State. The notion of ‘people’s rights’, on the other hand, entails a comprehensive notion of rights. It includes both civil liberties on the one hand and political, social, economic and cultural rights on the other. Rights are understood as “political affirmations in course of struggle”, irrespective of whether or not they have gained recognition from the State. Moreover, besides individual rights, people’s rights include the rights of collectivities and regions. [Regions, here, refers to the question of spatial equity and could include the notion of centre and periphery on the worldscale and also the nationalities question. One might recall Mao’s slogan, ‘Countries want independence, nations want liberation, people want revolution.’ It refers to independence from imperialism, liberation from national oppression and revolution by the broad masses of people and not certain deprived classes.]

On the contrary, the State in India, apparently, has no long-term policy vis-à-vis the frontier: It is basically a policy of ‘catch ‘em and hold ‘em’ as long as possible, for geo-political gains, for markets and resources. If, however, we want a lasting integration of the nationalities in India, South Asia and the world at large, it cannot be a vertical integration but a horizontal integration. An enduring unity cannot be a forced unity at the point of the gun but a voluntary union of states. As a Malayalam saying goes: ‘If you have a nose that would fly away when you sneeze, you should rather let it go!’

The right to self-determination of nationalities, including secession, was upheld by Marxist-Leninists since 1914 and ‘a person’s right to nationality’ by most liberals soon after the Second World War. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948 had upheld the individual’s ‘right to a nationality’ and the ‘right to change his nationality’. In India, the mainstream Marxists have given up on the right of nations to self-determination. Most liberals all across the world have given up on it, except in cases where they were granted under genocidal situations in little nationalities as in East Timor and South Sudan. Moreover, it is the experience of the 20th century that most nationalities that waged successful anti-colonial struggles succumbed to the indirect exploitation by neo-colonialism and thus the substantive content of self-determination was hollowed out. In spite of all these, rightly do the democrats uphold the right to self-determination, through means of a referendum, as the most democratic right on the question of the nationalities.

By distinction, ‘Repeal AFSPA’ is no revolutionary demand, no secessionist demand but a demand for basic human rights, a legitimate democratic demand against the undue privileges enjoyed by the Indian armed forces in the frontier regions, a demand for a democratic integration of the country, if it all, it could be made possible. But no doubt, it is a little step, but a significant one, for a long-lasting, durable unity, for the internationalist future of humanity. We salute the iron will of Ms. Irom Sharmila, the Manipuri poet in the 12th year of her hunger strike against AFSPA, the most draconian Act in the country and bow our heads in our respect for the struggling peoples in the frontiers of India.

Gilbert Sebastian ( is a post-doctoral researcher based at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.


(1) Remember that Tamil Nadu and Punjab, which were parts of the mainland had secessionist movements whereas Mizoram, which used to be part of the frontier, has been somewhat incorporated into the mainland.
(2) One important reason for this is the retraction of the mainstream left parties, CPI and CPI-M from the Leninist principle of self-determination of nationalities.
(3) Manoranjan Mohanty (personal communication). I have added what is in square brackets.

“The Ultimate Contradiction of the Revolution”

Pratyush Chandra

Published as Afterword in Ron Ridenour’s book “Sounds of Venezuela”, New Century Book House, Chennai, 2011. This article tries to address some questions that have been raised by many Tamil comrades regarding the foreign policy of the Venezuelan State, especially in the context of state repression against the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the Venezuelan and other ALBA states’ support to the Sri Lankan government in international forums.

The narrative Ron Ridenour has woven here in these pages provides a glimpse of the Venezuelan reality, which exposes not only the significance of the Bolivarian revolutionary processes, but also their contradictions. Obviously, these contradictions are the source of much anxiety among the friends of the Bolivarian revolution throughout the globe. But is it not true that a revolution is as much about hope as it is about apprehensions and dangers? A revolution is always unsettling. You cannot ever pronounce the final judgement about the event called revolution. That is why what famous Marxist historian George Rudé said about the French Revolution is true for all revolutions—”the Revolution remains an ever-open field of enquiry.”(1)


Nothing remains settled in the revolutionary process—otherwise how can it be called a revolution? We need to understand that this process is constituted by conflicts among various ever-new possibilities that emerge at every moment therein. Ideological struggles are nothing but representations of these conflicts; expressed in political programmatic language, these possibilities constitute the various lines within the revolutionary movement. These conflicts are what determine the course of the revolution.

To be more specific, there is always an impulse internal to the revolutionary process that seeks to control or limit the pace and extent of the revolution—to make things settled. It can have a positive implication to the extent that it compels the revolutionaries to be conscious of the course of the revolution and to be vigilant enough to differentiate between the forces of reaction and revolution that are internally germinating. The ‘faces’ of these forces do not remain the same—what seems revolutionary at one moment might dawn as reactionary at another. The conservative impulse we are talking about lies somewhere in the interstices of the moments of movement and consolidation, trying to break the simultaneity of these moments. When it is able to break this simultaneity, it morphs into a Thermidorian form with the apparent task of consolidating the revolutionary achievements and protecting them from the enemies. This Thermidorian power externalises all problems of revolution—it tries to cleanse the revolution of these problems so thoroughly that what emerges out of this deadly bath is a revolution sans revolution—sanitised of all contradictions.

The formalisation or institutionalisation of the achievements cannot be avoided. However, this is what gives birth to a new status quo, which tries to guard itself against revolutionary impermanence. It is a conflict like this that could be understood as a two-line struggle—between the emerging headquarters and the forces of continuous revolution. This struggle is in fact the revolutionary truth which cannot be avoided. No moment in the revolutionary movement is devoid of the forces of conservation, which have the potentiality of turning into a full-scale centrism or even reaction depending on the balance of class forces.

With regard to the revolutionary processes in Venezuela, it has been regularly emphasized that “the ultimate contradiction of the (Bolivarian) revolution” is the struggle internal to Chavism—”between the ‘endogenous right’ and the masses who have been mobilised.” Chávez himself frequently describes the Venezuelan reality in Gramscian terms—”The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” However, as Gramsci said, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear—which appear in Venezuela (alongside the continued existence of the old oligarchy, latifundistas, monopoly capitalists and US imperialism) in the form of the new ‘boli-bourgeoisie,’ the military-civil bureaucracy, and ‘the party functionaries and nomenklatura’ who seek to thwart the class and mass initiatives from below.(2) These are the material forces, which with their dispassionate mannerisms try to conserve a pragmatic and ‘realistic’ Bolivarian future against the erratic spontaneism of grass roots initiatives. These are the Bolivarian headquarters.


As is well-known, historically there has been a systematic erosion of productive sectors in Venezuela which are not allied to operations of the oil industry. Since 1998, there has been a consistent endeavour to rebuild these other sectors of production and infrastructure around them. In order to achieve this, many steps both backwards and forward have been taken. Many bureaucratic, intermediary and petty bourgeois interests have not just been tolerated but even encouraged and promoted to compete with old oligarchies and corporate interests. Incentives to ‘native bourgeoisie’ and petty bourgeoisie have been an interim strategy of the Bolivarian regime to fragment the corporate unity of capital, while helping in diversifying the Venezuelan economy. In fact, the imperative to create an ‘alternative social bloc’ against corporate hegemony has forced a vision under which “capitalist sectors whose business activity entered into an objective contradiction with transnational capital” are not considered unapproachable.(3)

However, the radical supporters of the Venezuelan transformation have cautioned that the pragmatic need to neutralise private capitalist interests in order to develop a broader bloc against immediate enemies, like transnational capital and imperialist interests, must not scuttle the anti-capitalist nature of the transformation. It has been shown how “‘incentives’ to private capitalists in order to increase productivity” fail generally because they tend to strengthen the historically nurtured rentierist character of Venezuela’s native bourgeoisie. For example, incentives in agriculture without having a fundamental structural transformation have cost the Chávez government heavily, both politically and economically, as “the big landowner (latifundist) recipients of the Government’s generous agricultural credits and grants are not investing in agricultural production, in raising cattle, purchasing new seeds, new machinery, and new dairy animals. They are transferring Government funding into real estate, Government bonds, banking and speculative investment funds or overseas.”(4) These latifundistas have successfully used to their own advantage the Bolivarian government’s urgency to ensure domestic food security and agricultural productivity amidst volatile international relations by bargaining protection from the upsurge of peasants and landless organisations demanding radical land reforms. However, there has been an increasing realisation within the Bolivarian circles about the futility of such compromises with the rentierist forces.

The emergence of the Bolivarians at the helm of the existing political economic institutions has, of course, intensified the internal class struggle leading to a tremendous crisis for the status quo. But there still exists a considerable space for the consolidation of powerful economic interests because these institutions were essentially built for this purpose. The most recent case of their successful manoeuvrings has been exposed by WikiLeaks, which narrates how a radical Chavista, “Eduardo Saman was replaced as commerce minister following pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to protect old patent legislation and their profits.”(5)

There is a massive danger of the containment of the revolutionary pace and agenda, if the revolutionary forces are not vigilant enough with regard to the activities of those social classes that are crowding the institutions of revolution for incentives and patronage. The new intermediate interests that have emerged close to the state structure, along with the old ones, have resisted every popular attack on private capital. They have attempted to thwart endeavours to institute workers’ control over economic activities. Even within the oil and other ‘monopolistic’ industries, these interests have not conceded any substantial move beyond nationalisation, as state monopoly allows them to use their own proximity to the state machinery for intermediary profiteering. There has been a consistent resistance to the attempts to institute co-management,(6) not just from the side of corporate interests, but also from economistic trade unionism (especially in the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA), which cannot envisage a system of workers’ control that questions the institutional hierarchy and labour aristocracy.

As long as there is a popular movement which questions and subverts the norms and everydayness of the bourgeois state in Venezuela, with the resoluteness to build ‘a new state from below’ with the novel institutions of protagonistic democracy and communal councils, there is a hope for the Bolivarian Revolution. Or else, “it will lapse into a new variety of capitalism with populist characteristics.”(7) That is why there has been a growing need to envisage the alternative bloc and class alliances which are subservient to the exigencies of “an overall system of socialized production.”(8) The accommodation of capitalist interests in any form (state or private), even when they are in consonance with the immediate interests of the revolutionary transformation at a particular juncture, is fraught with risks of the reassertion of ‘the logic of capital,’ and “there will be a constant struggle to see who will defeat whom.”(9) It is this logic and its constitutive representatives, who try to consolidate their position through the so-called ‘endogenous right’ of the revolution.


The emergence of headquarters in a revolution is linked with the question of state, state power and hegemony. During a revolutionary period the state returns to its elements—it emerges as a naked instrument of suppression—of holding down adversaries. The proletarian dictatorship too will not allow its enemies to have a free play. Revolution is a period when class struggles begin to explode the barriers of the existing state order and point beyond them. On the one hand, there are “struggles for state power; on the other, the state itself is simultaneously forced to participate openly in them. There is not only a struggle against the state; the state itself is exposed as a weapon of class struggle, as one of the most important instruments for the maintenance of class rule.”(10)

The global division of labour and the US hegemony reduced the Venezuelan economy to mere accumulation of oil rents, thus making proximity to the state the only viable route to economic success. In such an economy, the statist tendencies are bound to be very strong and entrenched in every layer of society. To complicate the matter, revolutionaries in Venezuela found themselves at the helm of the bourgeois state by following its rules, not by any insurrection. In such a situation, reformist tendencies will definitely be stronger among the ranks of the Bolivarians, who find revolutionary measures futile and even adventurist. These tendencies did suffer a temporary setback during the attempted coup of 2002, but as time elapses the cautious self-critical forces begin to find safe-play, gradualism and tactical compromises essential to consolidate power and achievements and to pre-empt any such drastic attack by counter-revolutionaries in future.

The left Chavistas, on the other hand, stress on the task of smashing the bourgeois state from within while positing a new state from below based on co-management of social and economic life. Like the ‘endogenous right’ they understand the need to consolidate, but for them consolidation is not separate from the destruction of the existing state form. Like Russian revolutionaries, they emphasize the development and independence of the working classes and their organs of self-activity, because only in this way can the workers protect their state, while protecting themselves from it! The defeat of the 2002 coup also demonstrates the impact of the unleashing of popular energy and self-activity and what that could achieve. Moreover, unlike in Russia, the state in Venezuela remains a bourgeois parliamentary state, which is alienated from the everyday life of the revolutionary masses.


Among several valuable insights that Ron Ridenour’s text provides regarding the nature of contradictions that pervade the revolutionary transition in Venezuela, there is an important point on the Venezuelan state’s approach to the struggles of the Colombian guerrillas, the FARC. Ridenour hints at the vacillation in this approach. However, such anomalies are numerous, especially when it comes to international relations. Throughout the globe, post-1998 developments in Latin America have been watched very intently, with a lot of hope and expectation. The consistent defiance of US hegemony by the Chávez regime has been a source of inspiration for various progressive movements everywhere. At least with regard to its position on the American manoeuvrings globally, nobody can fault the Venezuelan state—it never wasted any time to decry the imperialist interventions anywhere in the world.

But this has led to a genuine rise of expectations for support from progressive Latin American regimes (if not materially, at least through statements) for local movements against their particular oppressive states, even when there is no direct western backing to these states. In recent years, with many states lining up to define their own ‘war against terrorism’ in order to crush local critical voices and movements against them, the stance of the Venezuelan and Cuban states has not been supportive of the oppressed. In fact, any official voice from the West critical of the local states has many a time provoked statements from the progressive Latin American regimes that are supportive of the southern states like Iran, Libya, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka even when these are highly oppressive. This has greatly frustrated the solidarity movements—some even going to the extent of calling the Latin American revolutionary processes ephemeral.

However, one must understand that the revolutionary process is not linear and smooth. It is not something homogeneous, and its targets are not just external. The intensification of revolution is the heightening of contradictions that constitute it. In fact, these constitutive contradictions internalise the so-called external elements—’alien’ class interests, the vestiges of old regimes, etc. Any attempt to avoid contradictions is a conservative attempt from the ‘endogenous right’ to homogenise the revolutionary voices behind the new institutions, alienating them from their organic roots in class struggle, thus giving birth to new bureaucracies—the agencies of the new order. It is the ‘endogeneity’ of this tendency that forces the revolutionary leadership to reassess the coordinates of the contradictions time and again. A fine discrimination of these coordinates in the revolutionary process gives an insight into the apparent anomalies. It was not for nothing that the 20th century revolutionaries time and again stressed the need to differentiate between the state (which even well into the first phase of communist society safeguards the bourgeois law) and the revolutionary masses. An understanding of this aspect is crucial in order to comprehend the problems and prospects of policy designs under a revolutionary regime, including its foreign policy and international relations.

It must be noted that revolutionary internationalism of the working class is an important weapon with which a revolution generalizes itself and resists its degeneration into nationalist statism by not allowing ‘revolutionary passion’ to die out. But it is not simply a subjective aspiration to generalize that gives birth to internationalism. Rather, it “is a necessity arising out of the fact that the capitalist class, which rules over the workers, does not limit its rule to one country.”(11) Thus, internationalism is a result of the class struggle going global—it is an endeavour to thwart the capitalist strategy of intensifying capitalist accumulation by segmenting the working class and its consciousness. It is in this regard that a revolution can be termed as international both at the levels of its causes and impact. It represents a crisis for the capitalist system.

Solidarity efforts in support of revolution beyond the immediate location of its occurrence, along with ‘indigenous’ revolutionaries’ support for movements beyond their location are crucial even for the survival of the revolution as a revolution. It can survive as such only by constantly asserting its international character, its inseparability from international class struggle. Otherwise, it will implode or be reduced to a mere regime change.

It is interesting to see how revolutionaries have time and again talked about the foreign policy of a revolution, not just that of the state. And this has been assessed by the revolution’s galvanising effect on the struggles of the working class and the oppressed in other locations. While criticizing the foreign policy of the Provisional Government (that emerged after the February Revolution of 1917) for conducting it with the capitalists, Lenin remarked:

Yet 1905 showed what the Russian revolution’s foreign policy should be like. It is an indisputable fact that October 17, 1905, was followed by mass unrest and barricade-building in the streets of Vienna and Prague. After 1905 came 1908 in Turkey, 1909 in Persia and 1910 in China. If, instead of compromising with the capitalists, you call on the truly revolutionary democrats, the working class, the oppressed, you will have as allies the oppressed classes instead of the oppressors, and the nationalities which are now being rent to pieces instead of the nationalities in which the oppressing classes now temporarily predominate.(12)

It is in this regard that many struggling peoples across the globe find the foreign policies of the progressive regimes in Latin America wanting. Especially, Cuba and Venezuela, the countries which are in the leadership of the anti-imperialist realignment in the post-Cold War era, have been criticized for not standing against the oppressive regimes of the Global South. They have been chastised for their frequent open support to these regimes, whenever they are attacked by the so-called international community.

The genuineness of these criticisms can hardly be questioned; however, they must go further and explain these stances in terms of their material foundation, rather than locating them in some sort of ideological and personality-oriented tendencies as many have done, who reduce the Chávez phenomenon to populist demagoguery and the Cuban regime to Stalinism. The existential anxiety of these regimes in the face of a strong imperialist unity against them is definitely one reason that must be considered. This makes them wary of any interventionist strategy on the part of the ‘international community’ against any regime. Further, the existentialist need to have an oppositional bloc in the international forums puts them in the company of strange allies.

However, we will have to make a fine distinction between the revolutionary process itself and the institutions, states and individuals that come up during this process. We cannot reduce the revolutions to their particular passing moments. We will have to recognize and accept that these revolutions are marked by intense internal contradictions, whose astute descriptions we find in Ridenour’s travelogue. The states in themselves have a conservative agenda, even when they are deeply embedded in the revolutionary process. They have the task to defend what has been achieved, and in mounting this defence they frequently fail to differentiate between the actual enemies of the revolution and the revolutionaries who are aware of the dilemma, of which Rosa Luxemburg talked about:

“Either the revolution must advance at a rapid, stormy, resolute tempo, break down all barriers with an iron hand and place its goals ever farther ahead, or it is quite soon thrown backward behind its feeble point of departure and suppressed by counter-revolution. To stand still, to mark time on one spot, to be contented with the first goal it happens to reach, is never possible in revolution.”(13)


1. George Rudé: Revolutionary Europe 1783-1815. Fontana/Collins, 1964.
2. Michael Lebowitz: The Spectre of Socialism for the 21st Century (2008). Available online at:
3. Marta Harnecker: Rebuilding the Left. Monthly Review Press & Daanish, 2007, p. 35.
4. James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer: What’s Left in Latin America? Regime Change in New Times. Ashgate: 2009, pp. 192-3.
5. Tamara Pearson: “Venezuelans to Debate Patenting Laws after Revelation that Companies Conspired in Firing of Radical Minister,” (September 15, 2011).
6. The system of co-management envisages social control against any competitive congealment of sectionalist interests over economic activities. Under this system the economic sectors are co-managed by workers with the community at large.
7. Michael Lebowitz: Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century. Monthly Review Press & Daanish, 2006, p. 116.
8. Petras and Veltmeyer, op cit, p. 234
9. Marta Harnecker, op cit, p. 36.
10. Georg Lukacs: Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought. Verso, 1970.
11. V.I. Lenin: Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party (1895-96). Collected Works, Vol. 2, p. 109.
12. V.I. Lenin: Speeches at First All Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (June-July 1917). Collected Works, Vol. 25.
13. Rosa Luxemburg: The Russian Revolution (1918). Available at

Cuba-ALBA lands are Tamils’ natural allies

Following is the text of Ron Ridenour’s talk in Chennai (November 12, 2011). Ron is in India for the launching of the Indian edition of his books “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”.

Greetings and appreciation to the Latin American Friendship Association of Chennai, India for inspiring me to become aware of the oppression of the Tamil people by the Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka, and for encouraging me to remind our comrade governments of Cuba and other ALBA country governments of their strong commitment to international solidarity to oppressed people everywhere.

Also I extend my appreciation to New Century Book House for publishing “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka”, “Sounds of Venezuela”, and “Cuba: Revolution in Action”. Thank you Amarantha for your translation of the Venezuela book; Dhanapal Kumar for your translation of the Cuba book; and Thiagu for your translation-in-progress of the Tamil Nation book.

I start from the premise that Martin Luther King expressed: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”. In the country of my birth, The Devil’s Own Country, I experienced similar injustice committed against the native peoples and the black people as Tamils suffer, especially in Sri Lanka where they are subjugated to Shinalese chauvinism. I joined with millions of brothers and sisters of all colours to fight racism, to struggle for equal rights, for education and health care for all, even the basic right to vote.

Europeans invaded the Americans and stole the lands and wealth held by native peoples for thousands of years. They enslaved black Africans who they held as slaves and even after slavery ended they kept them as second-class citizens.

Black people developed various forms of struggle including civil disobedience, sit-ins, pickets, mass rallies, propaganda, and voting for equality where possible. Another form of struggle was the Black Panther Party’s armed self-defence when attacked by Ku Klux Klan and the ruling class’ police. Another form was the Gravey Movement that called for separation from the United States, demanding territory in the south. Very much like the Tamils after the 1976 Vattukottai resolution.

In the United States millions of blacks and whites fought this racist discrimination for over a century and eventually won most basic rights but not before millions were arrested, imprisoned for long times, and many murdered. Many thousands of black people were lynched, burned alive, mutilated, tortured to death until the 1980s.

Fidel Castro: “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are out enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.” “To be internationalist is to settle our debt with humanity.”

Che Guevara from “Socialism and Man”: “The revolutionary is the ideological motor force of the revolution. If he forgets his proletarian internationalism, the revolution, which he heads will cease to be an inspiring force and he will sink into a comfortable lethargy, which imperialism, our irreconcilable enemy, will utilize well. Proletarian internationalism is a duty, but it is also a revolutionary necessity. So we educate our people.”

I believe that these principles apply to the Tamils of Sri Lanka. I believe Che would agree with your struggle for equality and when not possible to achieve within the Sri Lankan chauvinist context, he would understand your fight for your own nationhood.

I think this is also what Lenin meant in his 1916 thesis, “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Victorious socialism must necessarily establish a full democracy and, consequently, not only introduce full equality of nations but also realize the right of the oppressed nations to self-determination, that is, the right to free political separation.”

I am hurt and deeply disappointed that the government of Cuba—where I have lived and worked side by side with the people and government for eight years—as well as the socialist-progressive governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments have not understood that those principles must apply to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. I got involved in solidarity with your people’s struggle because you have been so brutally treated, and because of these righteous principles expressed by Lenin, Fidel and Che. I have written critically about these governments siding with the Sinhalese governments of Sri Lanka while it denies the Tamil people those basic principles and rights, and commits genocide.

Perhaps Cuba+ have not understood the history of struggle that Tamils have undergone to win full equal rights before taking up arms. For 30 years you fought peacefully but you were met with brutal force, with pogroms/massacres of hundreds and thousands of people—even worse than that used against blacks in the US, and against Palestinians by Israelis. And, unfortunately, it was not only the governments that have done this against Tamils but also misguided Buddhist monks who betray the peaceful, coexistence values of Buddhism.

Your people’s organizations must meet and discuss these realities with the communist and socialist parties and with people’s grass roots and indigenous organizations in Latin America and elsewhere. You must explain to them your history, why you had to take up arms and fight for separation, for an independent nation. They have to hear of your suffering, of your struggles, why Tamil Eelam is a NECESSITY. You must remind them what they say about international solidarity, about what Lenin meant about political separation when the ruling powers will not grant a people their basic democratic and equal rights.

The progressive governments have won majority votes for new constitutions in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Venezuela that grant equal rights to their indigenous peoples. In Bolivia, for instance, under the new constitution there are four official national languages, three of them are indigenous ones as well as Spanish. The same equalitarian development is happening in several progressive-pro socialist governments in Latin America. If these people could know you simply want these same rights, they would listen to you and stop backing Sri Lanka. But they have been misguided because when they hear the worst terrorist in the world—The United States of America government—raise a little finger of possible criticism that maybe the Sri Lanka government should investigate itself to find some official scapegoat for violating human rights, Cuba+ react against this hypocrisy. But they must know that in this case the Sri Lanka government is a terrible violator of human rights, and not just against the Tamils, but also against Muslims, the indigenous tribes, and it also exploits Sinhalese workers and the poor, and castes.

We must understand that Cuba, and so many governments and peoples, has been victimized by the United States false accusation that it commits “human rights abuse”. Cuba has been blockaded by the US since its victory in 1959. The US tried to overthrow the new revolution in April 1961. It brought the entire world to the brink of a nuclear war in October 1962. The US has sabotaged Cuba, murdered and handicapped thousands of its citizens; it even infiltrated bacteriological diseases in its livestock, its grains and sugar cane.

What has Cuba done to “deserve” this murderous aggression? It has done what Big Capital does not do, what imperialists will not do. It has introduced full and free education and health care. It has assured every citizen food and shelter. No one starves. 80% of its people own their own homes after paying the state simply what it actually costs to build them.

It has organized an excellent system of disaster management in which people and their animals are evacuated before hurricanes hit the island nation. And more often than not no one is killed, and their livestock is saved. That is not what happens in the United States especially in the areas where blacks and poor people live and are struck by natural disasters.

Cuba came to the aid of Angola when attacked by apartheid South Africa. Cuba, alongside with the new Venezuela, comes to the aid of tens of millions of people in scores of land around the world with their medical care, curing even blindness, and educating people to read and write, offering sports and technical assistance. Cuba has more doctors serving the international arena than is offered by all the governments in the United Nations. Cuba does not export war and torture, disease and starvation. It exports “human capital”.

Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka Tamil refugees here and in the Diaspora should not rely on the greatest terrorist in the world to help them. The Yankees offer no help without humiliating costs. We must be aware that since World War 11, the US has invaded/intervened militarily 160 times in 66 countries. We must understand that now with a black-faced puppet president of Big Capital, the imperialists are at war in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and now Uganda. They kill tens of millions; they torture hundreds of thousands; they starve hundreds of millions.

US’s staunch ally, Zionist Israel commits genocide against the Palestinian people. It offered Mossad intelligence, great amounts of weaponry, killer aircraft and even pilots to Sri Lanka, in order to murder the Tamils. After the end of the war, May 2009, Sri Lanka sent its military chief-of-staff, Donald Perera, to Israel as its ambassador, a reward for Zionist assistance. He told the largest Zionist daily, Yedioth Abornoth,: “I consider your country a partner in the war against terror,” thus coupling terrorism with the Palestinians’ struggle for their homeland and the Tamils’ simple right to exist in peace and equality.

Perera spoke proudly of having “a great relationship with your military industries and with Israel Aerospace industries.”

Perera spoke about the murder, on May 31, 2010, of nine Turkish solidarity activists bound for Gaza with survival supplies: “I can understand that Israel had to protect itself.”

Perhaps because of the complexity of geo-politics, the history of standing for sovereignty of the member nations of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM), the leaders of Cuba and ALBA lands (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America) cannot support the goal of a separate nation within Sri Lanka. But they could be convinced to chastise the Sri Lankan government for its atrocities against the Tamil people, and the other oppressed people under the chauvinist Sinhalese leadership. They could see within the context of their moral ideology that it is only right that Tamils must have equality and the basic right to exist without fear of murder and takeovers of their homes and lands. Your peoples’ organizations should remind these pro-Palestinian governments that it is only Israel that supports the US blockade against Cuba; that it is the US and Israel that lead the tiny opposition to Palestine’s right to be a member of the United Nations.

Regardless of whether Cuba has achieved socialism—it is a long process after all and there is so much destruction and subversion coming from the Yankee imperialists—the Cuban people and the government are still worthy of our love and support. They have conducted no wars or torture against any people and they have helped many millions. It is now time that they are approached by all your organizations and become convinced to come to the aid of their natural brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka—the oppressed Tamil people.

We have wandered over the deserts and the seas. We have been hungry and thirsty. We have been murdered and tortured. We are of the working class, of the castes; we are many races and nationalities. We share a common vision: freedom and equality; bread and water on the table; a shelter over our heads. We must fight together to live in peace and harmony.

We must unite around the world and struggle for an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sri Lanka government leaders.

We must call for a worldwide BOYCOTT of Sri Lanka.
CHE GUEVARA would be on our side today!

July 26: Cuba’s Revolution, Morality and Solidarity

Ron Ridenour

Fifty-eight years ago, on July 26, 1953, 160 Cuban rebels attacked Moncada Barracks near Santiago de Cuba. Had the rebels been able to take the fort with 1,000 troops—a good possibility—it would have started a revolution that might well have defeated the dictatorial regime of Fulgencio Batista within a short time.

Fidel leading the revolutionaries

Fidel, the leader

The main cause for failure was a missing vehicle with their heavy weaponry. Nevertheless they were able to cause three times the numbers of casualties that they suffered. Nearly one-half of the rebels were killed but most of them died under or following torture.

After being held for 76 days in isolation without access to reading material, Fidel Castro, the 26-year old leader, came into a courtroom filled with 100 soldiers. He gave a rousing defense of the need for revolution to topple the dictator and change the corrupt and brutal socio-economic system so that all could be fed, obtain education and health care, so that farmers could own land and all have a voice.


Fidel leads the revolutionaries

In his five-hour speech, Fidel said,

“The right of rebellion against tyranny, Honorable Judges, has been recognized from the most ancient times to the present day by men of all creeds, ideas and doctrines.”

Instead of asking for acquittal, he demanded to be with his brother and sister rebels in prison. “Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me!”

Fidel Castro considers ethics and morality to be essential for revolutions. In My Life: Fidel Castro, the 2006 interview book with Ignacio Ramonet, Fidel speaks of these highest principles on numerous occasions. He asserts that “especially ethics” is what he learned most from the national liberation hero, José Martí.

After following liberated Cuba for half-a-century, having lived and worked there for eight years, I find that during its guerrilla struggle, from December 2, 1956 to January 1, 1959 the revolutionaries acted in a moral manner. Cuba’s revolutionary armed struggle was exceptional in this way. As Fidel told Ramonet, “We did not kill any prisoners”, “not even one blow” was dealt. That is “our principle”; “All revolutionary thought begins with a bit of ethics.”

Che in Congo

Che Guevara in Congo

I think that is also the key reason why so many millions of people the world over love and respect Che Guevara: his moral stance, his example as a just revolutionary leader. This from “Socialism and Man:”

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love…Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize this love of the people, the most sacred cause, and make it one and indivisible…one must have a great deal of humanity and a strong sense of justice and truth in order not to fall into extreme dogmatism and cold scholasticism, into an isolation from the masses. We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.”

I agree with Fidel and Che. Revolutionaries must be ethical in vision and use morality in practice, both at home and in solidarity with the oppressed everywhere. As Fidel told Lee Lockwood in Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel:

“Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.”

I define ethics in this way: Life shall not be abused or destroyed by our conscious hand—without being attacked or oppressed beyond limits of toleration. A moral person, organization, political party or government acts in daily life and in the struggle for justice with that ethic in mind. These are my thoughts on morality:

1. We act so that no one person, race or ethnic group is either over or under another.

2. In combat against oppressors and invaders, we do not kill non-combatant civilians nor forcefully recruit them, or use them as hostages.

3. We struggle to create equality for all.

4. We abolish all profit-making based upon the exploitation of labor or the oppression of any person, group of people, class or caste. Instead, we build an economy based upon principles of justice and equality, one in which no one goes hungry, sharing equitably our resources and production.

5. We struggle to create a political system based upon participation where all have a voice in decision-making about vital matters with relation to local, national and international policies.

6. We struggle to eliminate alienation in each of us.

Ethics and Sri Lanka Tamils

True, solidarity activists have no choice. We must support a people under attack by aggressors wherever in the world. That is what I see as our task as anti-war activists concerning Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine…just as we did in the wars against Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia and the South Africans…

For us solidarity activists, and governments viewing themselves as progressive-socialist-communist-revolutionary, I believe our task must be to press for the very lives and rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka where governments have systematically oppressed and repressed them for half-a-century.

As a solidarity activist—who advocates the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to change oppressive governments from terrorizing us—I denounce all perpetrators of terrorism, no matter the party or cause, and demand they change tactics to ones that are morally in accordance with our ideology embracing fellowship with justice and equality.

Tamil Rebels

Tamil Tigers

I find that most armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror in the long course of warfare. This has sometimes been the case with the Colombian FARC and Palestinian PFLP, for instance. But I support them in their righteous struggle. They are up against much greater military and economic forces that practice state terror endemically. The ANC in South Africa’s war for liberation also committed horrendous acts of ‘terrorism’.

Most of the dozens of Tamil groups that took up arms, at one time or another, considered themselves Marxists, and many looked up to Che Guevara and Cuba’s revolution as an ideal. But they nearly all became terrorists in much of their actions. Hear what Che Guevara meant about the use of violence.

“There are always laggards who remain behind but our function is not to liquidate them, to crush them and force them to bow to an armed vanguard, but to educate them by leading them forward and getting them to follow us because of our example, or as Fidel called it ‘moral compulsion.’” (Speech “From somewhere in the world”)

This Sri Lanka Tamil ‘story’ is a tragedy especially for the Tamils; also for the world of humanity. Most people not directly involved, however, do not react because they don’t know what they can do. There are so many tragedies going on at the same time. Cynical brutality is constantly unleashed by major capitalist enterprises and their governments in the ‘first’ world, much of the former ‘second’ world as well as by national capitalists in the ‘third’ world. We live in what I call the Permanent War Age. Brutality—surveillance—suffering is the norm.

In those countries where there is little brutality, in comparison, and no aggressive war-making (I speak here of the governments of Cuba and other ALBA—Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America—countries) the leaders see the necessity of having political ties with some war criminal governments, such as Sri Lanka. I gather that this leads them to ignore their moral solidarity principles and abandon the oppressed Tamils.

On this July 26 day of celebration, I call upon the Cuban government, as well as all members of the ALBA alliance, to return to the moral principles expressed by Fidel and Che and do the right thing by the Tamil people. Call for an independent international investigation into the war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government, and use your moral clout, your revolutionary record to demand an end to the genocide against this people.

If morality does not become integral to our struggles, I’m afraid we are headed for a worldwide moral collapse, which is already underway due to the intrinsic immorality of capitalism and its imperialism; the foundering of contemporary socialism; and the rise of fascism throughout much of the world.

The Arup Bhuyan Verdict – A Departure?

Rahul Choudhary

The Supreme Court’s verdict of February 03 in Arup Bhuyan vs State of Assam is significant at the time when the Indian state seems to be on the prowl looking for victims to assert its exceptional sovereignty. On the one hand, it rekindles the ‘liberal’ hope which wanes every time Sen-s are put behind the bars. In fact, by raising this hope, such judicial correctives help, in an inverted manner, in consensual containment of protests that might add up to form a threat to the state’s sovereignty. But on the other hand, they give an opportunity to consolidate critical voices within, strengthening the struggle for showing the limits of the present system and providing a relief to the struggling masses.

In this particular case in review, the appellant disputes the allegation of his association with ULFA, which was made on the basis of his confession before the police, in which he identified the house of a deceased. Such non-judicial confessions are generally not valid because of the involvement of tortures etc, but in TADA cases they are considered admissible. Going with the convention of rejecting such confessional statements before the police, the court has questioned their admissibility even in these ‘exceptional’ cases. It says, “in the absence of corroborative material, the courts must be hesitant before they accept such extra-judicial confessional statements.”

However, the major portion of the verdict is directed against the TADA Court’s conviction of the appellant under Section 3(5) of the TADA which makes mere membership of a banned organisation criminal.

Here, Justices Katju and Misra have simply extended their own arguments presented in another recent case – State of Kerala Vs Raneef, 2011 (1) SCALE 8. The accused was asking for bail in this case where he was booked for giving medical treatment to one of the assailants. The accused person’s association with an Islamic organisation was taken as incriminating evidence. The judges opined that as that particular organisation was not a terrorist organisation, the accused could not be penalised for his membership. However, what makes this verdict consequential for the Feb 3 judgement is its clear opinion against the doctrine of “guilty by association”, which has become the cornerstone of recent criminal legislations and anti-terrorist measures. The judges in the previous verdict concurred with three famous American judgements:

1) Scales vs. United States 367 U.S. 203 where Mr. Justice Harlan of the U.S. Supreme Court observed:

“The clause does not make criminal all association with an organization which has been shown to engage in illegal activity. A person may be foolish, deluded, or perhaps mere optimistic, but he is not by this statute made a criminal. There must be clear proof that the defendant specifically intends to accomplish the aims of the organization by resort to violence.”

2) In Elfbrandt vs. Russell 384 US 17-19 (1966) Justice Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court observed:

“Those who join an organization but do not share its unlawful purpose and who do not participate in its unlawful activities surely pose no threat, either as citizens or as public employees. A law which applies to membership without the `specific intent’ to further the illegal aims of the organization infringes unnecessarily on protected freedoms. It rests on the doctrine of `guilt by association’ which has no place here.”

3) In Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee vs. McGrath 341 US 123 at 174 (1951) Mr. Justice Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court observed :

“In days of great tension when feelings run high, it is a temptation to take shortcuts by borrowing from the totalitarian techniques of our opponents. But when we do, we set in motion a subversive influence of our own design that destroys us from within.”

The judges thus summarises their views on the doctrine of ‘guilty by association’ that they presented in State of Kerala Vs. Raneef:

“Mere membership of a banned organisation will not incriminate a person unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or does an act intended to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence (See : also the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court in Kedar Nath Vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SCC 955 para 26).

In the present Arup Bhuyan judgement, the judges have continued exploring the international cases. The following para is crucial in this regard:

In Clarence Brandenburg Vs. State of Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) the U.S. Supreme Court went further and held that mere “advocacy or teaching the duty, necessity, or propriety” of violence as a means of accomplishing political or industrial reform, or publishing or circulating or displaying any book or paper containing such advocacy, or justifying the commission of violent acts with intent to exemplify, spread or advocate the propriety of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism, or to voluntarily assemble with a group formed “to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism” is not per se illegal. It will become illegal only if it incites to imminent lawless action. (emphasis mine)

The judges conclude:

“We respectfully agree with the above decisions, and are of the opinion that they apply to India too, as our fundamental rights are similar to the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. In our opinion, Section 3(5) cannot be read literally otherwise it will violate Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution. It has to be read in the light of our observations made above. Hence, mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence.”

The importance of these two judgements lies in the fact that through them the Supreme Court has initiated a significant departure from the tenor set by the two earlier landmark cases which were fully in consonance with the policing needs of the neoliberal policy makers – Kartar Singh’s case, 1994(3) SCC569 (which upheld the TADA Act) and PUCL Vs Union of India, 2005 SCC(Crl)1905 (which upheld the POTA provisions).

In his book published in 2008, one of the doyens of the Indian judicial system, Justice Chinnappa Reddy wrote:

“The Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 14, 21, and 22 are undoubtedly negated by some of the provisions of the new POTA as well as the provisions of TADA which are capable of much mischief. It is to be hoped that very soon the Supreme Court will take a second view at any new enactment containing similar provisions.”

Considering their views in these two recent cases, Justices Katju and Misra have definitely taken a second view at the old enactments and case laws.

Press Release: On State Terrorism in Dandakaranya

“Yes, I am a traitor, if you are a patriot”: Nazim Hikmet

from Traitor

Yes, I am a traitor, if you are a patriot, if you are a defender of our homeland,
I am a traitor to my homeland, I am a traitor to my country.
If patriotism is your farms,
if the valuables in your safes and your bank accounts is patriotism,
if patriotism is dying from hunger by the side of the road,
if patriotism is trembling in the cold like a cur and shivering from malaria in the summer,
if sucking our scarlet blood in your factories is patriotism,
if patriotism is the claws of your village lords,
if patriotism is the catechism, if patriotism is the police club,
if your allocations and your salaries are patriotism,
if patriotism is American bases, American bombs, and American missiles,
if patriotism is not escaping from our stinking black-minded ignorance,
then I am a traitor.
Write it over three columns, in a pitch-black screaming streamer,
Nazim Hikmet is continuing to be a traitor, STILL!

July 1962

Courtesy: Eleven Eleven Journal