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The character of the Indian state – Choppam

The following explanation on the character of the Indian state was written around 2010, however we feel the basic principles laid out here are still valid. 

What kind of state is India, and why does it matter?

Why does it matter what kind of state India is?

For a workers movement in struggle, the character of the demands put forward is crucial. Transitional demands urging the movement forward need above all a clear objective towards which the transition is taking place. As well as a clear starting point from which the transition is departing.

The character of a state determines both the starting point and the objective of the transition. And this means it determines the priorities for revolutionary action. Are they historical (e.g. getting rid of feudalism), or national (e.g. emancipation from colonial rule)? In this case they are bourgeois democratic priorities. Are they rural (e.g. land reform)? This is a democratic priority directly challenging the landowning bourgeoisie. Or are they urban (e.g. working conditions, employment, etc)? In this case they are directly socialist.

The different priorities posit different potential alliances – sometimes cross-class when bourgeois democratic objectives are concerned. Sometimes firmly class-based where working class objectives are concerned.

To gain the confidence of the working class and win the leadership of the proletariat, revolutionary priorities need to be visible always and everywhere. And if they are off-target in any way, working class confidence will suffer.

The Indian state – alternative characterizations

India can be characterized in a number of different ways, with each alternative representing a point or node of development in an historical spectrum. Broadly speaking, the spectrum covers two stages. The first is national oppression – from colonial exploitation (the old imperialism) by way of national liberation to semi-colonial exploitation (the new imperialism). The second is class oppression – from the exploitation of the working class in a relatively autonomous bourgeois state to the exploitation of the working class on an international scale by an imperialist state. It is important to remember that imperialist oppression is qualitatively greater and more devastating for both dependent nations and dependent classes. The degree of exploitation and the repressive measures employed are more deadly and more far-reaching.

The main alternatives with respect to India are:

  • Transitional Post-Colonial: the main tasks here are both historical and national, and comprise the uprooting of social, political and economic strongholds of feudalism and colonialism.

  • Semi-Colonial: here finance, trade, manufacturing and services are predominantly in the hands of foreign capital in general ie at the mercy of imperialist states. Imperialist oppression in general has replaced the despotic oppression of a single colonial power. This alternative puts both national and social emancipation on the agenda, with national issues appearing more immediate to the masses.

  • Independent Bourgeois: here class oppression is the major determining characteristic. The national bourgeoisie and its state machinery are in control of the economy and the armed force needed to preserve this relative autonomy. Foreign capital is present but not able to dictate its own terms. Imperialist states are kept at bay. The major tasks are social, aiming at class emancipation. The exploitation and repression are those of advanced capitalism “at home”. The defensive attitude towards other bourgeois states adds an element of national sovereignty to the tasks, but this is subordinate to the interests of the working class and the democratic issue of national self-determination can be handled better by the working class than by the bourgeoisie.

  • Imperialist: this alternative combines the task of working class emancipation in the imperialist state with that of fighting to liberate the working classes of other countries subject to the exploitation and repression of the imperialist state – including where necessary the national emancipation of these countries.

The character of India in relation to these alternatives will emerge in the examination of important aspects of the Indian situation.

Historical aspects

There is an ancient imperial tradition in India including both home-grown and foreign systems. In an historical perspective the British arrived late and took over a lot of “pre-packaged” administrative, geographical and economic features from former empires. What they did achieve – apart from unprecedented levels of exploitation and death – was the unification of the subcontinent, the development of a native bourgeoisie and native strata of technical specialists, professionals and bureaucrats.

They also made sure they preserved and amplified features of the old Indian civilization that served their interests. Feudal relics were employed as “native princes” to ensure tribute without requiring expensive colonial intervention. The caste system was encouraged and utilized to stratify and split the population. Religious differences were exploited to divide and rule – most successfully to cripple and castrate the subcontinent on independence by making sure it split along religious lines – hindu vs muslim. (Although failure to handle religion correctly led to the potentially lethal threat to British rule posed by the Indian Mutiny.)

In all, the British took over all the developed features of former states that were to their benefit, while demoting the former rulers and making them into tools of British domination, along with relics of the past like feudalism, caste and religion.

And when they left they made sure that the new rulers of independent India were in a far weaker position than they need have been, bequeathing them a knot of highly toxic snakes that they were ill-fitted to handle, unravel and dispose of.

However, they also left behind a large and skilled cadre of political, administrative, professional and technical Indians, who were united in their hatred for British rule even while they were seduced by British culture (e.g. education and sport) and fractured into contradictory and self-destructive special interests.

Economic and class aspects

Although much of India remained static under a form of Oriental Despotism (in the sense developed by Marx in the Grundrisse), the former empires brought a dynamic element into the subcontinent in the great trading and manufacturing cities that the British weren’t slow to turn to their own advantage. The developing financial, mercantile and manufacturing bourgeoisies grew under colonialist rule and were very well placed to take independent India into an era of undisputed market-driven capitalist development. They were aided in this of course by the protective and fostering services of the independent bourgeois Indian state.

The question of whether the Indian bourgeoisie after liberation was independent or merely comprador is not hard to answer. Comprador bourgeoisies are spineless and obsequious in relation to their foreign masters, although they now and then vomit on their shoes. Neither the India state nor the Indian bourgeoisie taken as a whole have ever been spineless or obsequious towards the British or any other potential imperialist overlord. They have played imperialist states off against each other, and played these off against the Soviet Union. They have leveraged the strategic fears of the imperialists (the Soviet Union and China) to obtain nuclear weapons, and exploited the desire of the Soviet Union to neutralize imperialist influence in the subcontinent in order to widen their network of trading partners and suppliers of arms and technology, so as to lessen dependence on any single great power. No enslaved post-colonial state could manage this.

Perhaps the most important question in regard to the character of India looking at the bourgeoisie is “who owns what?” Can it be said that the Indian bourgeoisie owns the forces of production in India both in its own right and via the state? Considering the clout of huge groups like Tata and Reliance, and the thoroughly bourgeois character of the fundamental laws of land and property ownership, and of production and exchange, and the way state ownership and investment is subservient to the needs of the bourgeoisie rather than the nation as a productive entity (in a similar manner to state ownership and investment under the Welfare State in postwar Britain) – bearing all this in mind along with the decidedly subordinate (if still powerful) role of foreign capital in India, it can be argued that the Indian bourgeoisie owns and controls the forces of production in India. The alternatives are ownership and control by foreign capital, on the one hand, or ownership and control by the state (as in China, where the state owns the forces of production both in its own right and via the bourgeoisie), on the other. The first alternative is patently false, and the falsity of the second is clear enough if the investment and military priorities of the Indian state are taken into account. The very prominent role of the state in India is necessary to enable it to look after the interests of the bourgeois class as a whole, fostering and protecting domestic capital against competing foreign capitals.

The most important issue in regard to the working class and its position in India is connected with the overwhelming social pressure of the land question. On the one hand the huge rural population comprises a mass base with the potential for irresistible revolutionary mobilization. The countless masses of landless labourers are not merely class allies of the urban working class, but a colossal and integral force within the Indian working class in general. In addition to these millions of rural labourers owning nothing but their labour power, there are further millions of close and natural class allies of the working class, namely the poor peasants engaged in subsistence farming or compelled by debt or violence to produce crops for big farmers, powerful landowners, or agribusiness, rather than for their use and sale in their own interest.

The dynamics of the land question in India are the same as those in all countries where subsistence farming has been the main occupation for hundreds if not thousands of years. Marx describes the ravages of the invasion of the land by capitalism and the market in Capital, in chapters on the displacement of poor crofters in Scotland by sheep bred for profit and on the effects of increasingly brutal legislation in England from before the English Revolution aimed at driving poor farmers off the land along with their dependents farmhands.

This invasion had two effects that accelerated the growth both of the bourgeoisie and the working class. One was the take-over of most land by large market-driven farming operations, which transformed the landowners from a feudal class to a relatively autonomous branch of the bourgeoisie at the same time as it created a new stratum of the bourgeoisie in the shape of medium and large-scale farmers. The other was the forced migration of the rural poor into the cities. This process created the first great modern cities dominated by the manufacturing and commercial bourgeoisie and populated by a swelling mass of dispossessed and desperately poor proletarians, living in appalling conditions. The Manchester described by Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 is a typical city of this kind.

In India (and all other countries with the same dynamic) the invasion of the land by capital and the conquest of production by market forces began much later than in England, but surpassed the horrors of the English process many times over.

The bourgeois academic world euphemistically refers to this process, which accelerated enormously after World War 2, as “urbanization”. As if the location of the final destination was the most important thing. Once we call the process by its correct name, however – proletarianization – it is easy to see its fundamental importance in the development of modern bourgeois nations worldwide.

By appropriating the land to produce for profit, the bourgeoisie increases its own power and correspondingly weakens the rural population. Starvation drives the dispossessed rural population into overpopulated cities where they barely survive in filthy slums or in the streets, or in precarious employment in brutal conditions surrounded by desperate unemployed people competing ruthlessly for the few miserable jobs available.

India is perhaps the most terrifying example of this process. Untold millions of poverty-stricken rural “refugees” have fled and are fleeing the destruction of their livelihood by capital. These millions are urban proletarians and have no choice in the matter. But they are still rural laborers or peasants at heart. Which means that Indian cities are teeming with uprooted country people who Lenin (in similar circumstances in late 19th century Russia) called “peasant-workers”. The implications of this for the Indian revolution are huge.

The undeniable scope and social and political impact of these processes make nonsense of any attempt to claim that India today is in any real sense a feudal or caste-driven or colonial country.

The scale of these processes generating on the one hand great concentrations of bourgeois power and wealth and on the other great concentrations of proletarian impoverishment and powerlessness create a social situation in which class tensions are intolerable and visibly approaching breaking point. Rural resistance to these processes has already led to a state of civil war in large parts of India, for instance.

Political aspects

The fundamental political question is “who represses who, and for whose benefit?” The role of the bourgeois fraud Mahatma Gandhi gives a very clear answer to this for India. He inspired both the Congress Party in India, and the African National Congress in South Africa. The goal of both movements from the perspective of their leaders (Gandhi and Mandela) was national liberation with as little disturbance of the bourgeois character of the country as possible. In both cases the leaderships diverted and demobilized and disarmed the movements as much as they could without defeating the whole project of bourgeois national liberation. And of course both these executioners of some of the most powerful revolutionary movements in the modern world are canonized as saints by bourgeois public opinion.

So after liberation the national bourgeoisie, with a great deal of help from imperialism, began repressing the working and poor masses through a state of its own creation. And they did this for their own benefit at the expense of the working class. Some of their new-found wealth was naturally siphoned off as tribute to the imperialists until the growth of the domestic bourgeoisie made this no longer necessary.

In class terms this means that repression in India is carried out by the Indian bourgeoisie against the urban and rural proletariat. Not by foreign capital, and not against the whole nation. It is class against class, with no elements of colonial or semi-colonial national oppression, and with no great bourgeois democratic tasks remaining to be fulfilled. A thoroughly modern class war in a relatively autonomous bourgeois state.

In fact, far from India being subject to foreign oppression, it is extending its power beyond internal exploitation to the exploitation of workers in other countries, with the presence of its capital in many parts of Asia and Africa.

As already mentioned, civil war has broken out between the rural proletariat along with the poor peasantry and the landowners, usurping capital, and the state, in large parts of India. The dynamics of this armed revolt are not fully understood by its leadership, as it does not have a correct class analysis of the causes or of the forces in conflict, which leads to false priorities including a debilitating rejection of the crucial role of the urban working class and the proletarian revolution in resolving questions of rural exploitation and repression. The central issue of expropriation is a good example of this strategic weakness. Who should expropriate the oppressors, and on what political basis, and at what level should the land taken over be owned and worked? The leaders of the rebellion have no satisfactory answers to these questions.

India’s geo-strategic position in an imperialist world

On the basis of what has been said so far, the character of the Indian state is beginning to emerge quite clearly. India’s geo-strategic position removes any remaining doubts. In an imperialist world, India is not owned or controlled by any other country – in fact, it is hardly even threatened in these respects, and if it was threatened it would be able to mobilize its largely home-equipped military and its nuclear weapons against the potential aggressor. And any potential aggressor would destroy itself if it attempted to invade India, or if it launched a nuclear attack.

So it is at the very least an autonomous bourgeois state, and one with considerably larger resources than most European imperialist states.

Looking at the strategic situation on a continental scale it becomes clear that India is a power in its own right in Asia. Its only conceivable competitors at this level for Asian-based domination in Asia are China and Russia. Because of the greater competition on a world scale represented by US and European and Japanese imperialisms taken together, these three countries are performing a strange dance for three — part minuet, and part war-dance. There is cooperation a-plenty, in trade, arms, resources and mutual support against the current imperialist superpowers. And there’s even a name for this community of interests (including Brazil, in a similar kind of position in Latin America) – the BRIC countries.

But in an imperialist world all countries are dragged into cut-throat competition willy-nilly, and this is as clear as day when it comes to the struggle between India and China for command of South Asia and South-East Asia. Billion-dollar trade agreements are made with countries like Burma to build and get favorable access to strategic positions on the rim of the Indian Ocean. China is so far winning this particular battle, but Burma is naturally playing the two big neighbors off against each other, so India has considerable presence, too. China is successfully keeping India out of South-East Asia in spite of India’s efforts to increase its presence and influence there, Whereas India is far ahead of China with its stakes in Afghanistan, in Central Asia and in Iran and the Persian Gulf states. Africa, on the western rim of the Indian Ocean is to some extent being divided up between India and China, where there isn’t sufficient great power imperialist presence to keep them out.

It goes without saying that Bangladesh is India’s economic and military hinterland, with few if any strings attached. It is obvious who is the domineering party in relation to Pakistan, even though Pakistan is hostile to India and fights bitterly to keep India at a distance. Among other things by selling itself as a base for US imperialist aggression in the region and obtaining nuclear weapons that it is politically and economically incompetent to control. However, Pakistan has been thrashed more than once in wars with India.

Russia is present in the Asian framework, but so far more as a looming cloud than an actual hurricane. But its interests in Central Asia are undeniable, and it has a border with China that practically bisects the Asian continent if you include Mongolia. Not only does it exert powerful pressure on Europe, but it is also closer to both Japan and the United States than China is.

The major strategic aspect of the three-way competition between India, China and (to a lesser extent) Russia, is that all these countries are attempting to expand their economic and military influence in Asia. Like pre-war Germany, they need Lebensraum – “room to breathe”. And like pre-war Germany, if they don’t get it then internal pressure will build up until the boiler explodes.

The most important factor keeping them tightly locked within their own borders is blindingly obvious when we move from an Asian perspective to a worldwide perspective. It is the domination of every corner of the world by the current great power imperialisms – every corner, that is, except where states of exceptional economic and military power are able to keep them out. So there is a terrible tension building up as current imperialisms keep India, China and Russia locked within their own borders, and these countries are developing their forces of production as much as they can, producing an equal and opposite pressure to keep these imperialist interests out.

There are close historical similarities between India, Russia and China today and Germany and Japan before World War 2. These two countries were also expanding their forces of production so powerfully that they were able not only to keep out world imperialism but challenge it directly in war. They fought the war to grab more of the world for themselves at the expense of the established imperialisms of the day.

At the moment India, Russia and China are only engaged in small-scale military aggression, so the main expression of their expansionist drive is economic.

For our characterization of the Indian state it is valuable to remember a crucial difference between it and Germany and Japan after World War 2. Defeated in war, both countries were nonetheless recognized by western imperialism to be absolutely necessary barriers to the pressure being exerted in the world economy by the workers’ states of the Soviet Union and (after 1949) China. To be as useful as possible as buffer states they had to be both encouraged to feel autonomous and to be discouraged from getting out of line from the point of view of US and European imperialism. Hence the effort put into reviving their national economies and national bourgeoisies while transforming both countries into military bases for trans-Atlantic imperialism – the Marshall Plan being one such effort.

In this way Germany, Japan (and South Korea, too) were deployed as relatively autonomous but very effective buffer states, containing both the Soviet Union and China. This was proof, if such was needed, of the growing primacy of political considerations over economic ones in the postwar world. The US fostered potentially powerful competitors for the greater strategic good of binding China and the Soviet Union.

The difference between this process and India’s situation is very simple. India was never fostered or revived by imperialism after defeat in war, or deployed by it as a subordinate and crippled buffer state. After throwing off the British yoke, India has been its own master and grown on its own terms. It is an autonomous bourgeois state with no built-in strategic fetters. It is only constrained by external pressure from the imperialist world, not internally crippled like Japan and Germany.

A final political-economic point that has to be made is the qualitative differences between the three states of India, Russia, and China. India is bourgeois from roots to crown, Russia is perhaps the ideal embodiment of State Capitalism – with the centralized state apparatus and economic structures inherited from the Soviet Union, while ownership is in the hands of fabulously rich capitalists. The state is based on domestic capital and supports the capitalists, as long as they don’t disagree with the state. In the first two decades of post-Soviet Russia the ousting of serious competition by foreign capital has more or less been completed, and “oligarchs” refusing to toe the state line have been deposed or driven into exile. And China is a workers state, on a non-capitalist socio-economic foundation, albeit an extremely deformed one.

The struggle for a greater share of the world’s wealth between these three states is practically a laboratory experiment in the relative strengths of three different state formations – 1) India, a purely bourgeois state, 2) Russia, state capitalist (capitalist but directed and to a large extent owned by a powerful but clearly bourgeois state), and 3) China, a non-capitalist state.

And the indisputable fact of this trial of strength, and the fear it induces in the current imperialist great powers, also indicates that not only are they autonomous and expanding against the interests of these powers, but that they are well on the way to becoming serious political and economic challengers or even equals to these powers. In other words (ignoring for the moment the special case of China as a deformed workers state) they are challenging for imperialist status, although they haven’t fully acquired it yet.

Revolutionary perspectives

First of all a negative point has to be made. There is no popular agitation in India demanding the expulsion of the IMF, or the repudiation of India’s foreign debt. These features of foreign imperialist domination are just not present in India.

The hottest struggle currently taking place concerns the land, as is to be expected. A large-scale armed revolt of poor peasants and the rural poor is in full swing and has been going on for years.

In the city regions a rising tide of strikes is taking place, some of them involving tens of thousands of workers, even if they are only regional – as in the recent strike of sugar factory workers in Maharashtra to get the back pay they have been owed for years. Others involving a few hundred workers show that a strategic strike can paralyze a big city – as was the case in the motormen’s strike in Bombay earlier this year.

The scope of the strikes is extending nation-wide with calls for and the organizing of general strikes.

These struggles are not for democratic demands. The rural struggles are not just for land reform parceling out the land of absentee or brutal landlords. They aim for expropriation of the land. And the strikes (naturally) are for workers demands such as pay, conditions, employment and access to health and education regardless of personal wealth.

In fact democratic demands as such represent a reactionary line dragging the struggle back by decades.

There is no way a democratic state of workers and peasants would solve any of India’s biggest problems, and there is not even a ghost of a chance of such a state materializing, regardless of the number of banners or leaflets demanding it as the slogan for power. The national question has been transformed into an international question, not one of freeing India from a foreign yoke, but of freeing other countries from the Indian yoke. Questions of language, ethnicity and religion are still inflammatory, but they can be handled within the framework of the current state. A new, more democratic bourgeois state would not further the interests of oppressed groups more effectively than today’s state.

International questions such as war, infrastructural conflicts (a general strike of dock workers and/or other workers involved in international transport, for instance), etc, are purely a class question, involving class solidarity both at home and abroad. The question of war brings to the fore the special case of China as a deformed workers state in relation to the classic Indian bourgeois state. The Indian proletariat has no serious class choice open to it but to agitate for the defeat of its own bourgeoisie, which in this light it would be not at all misleading to call sub-imperialist. The Chinese proletariat, however, despite all the distortions of the state and the grotesque concessions made to foreign and even domestic capital, must defend its class state against foreign aggression. In both cases however, the rulers need to be thrown aside if a healthy proto-socialist workers state is to be set up.

Conclusions

The conclusions to be drawn from this analysis of the character of the Indian state have already been indicated in the main part of the text.

The solution to the all-important question of the land and how a revolutionary proletarian leadership should approach it is rooted in the character of the land reform being demanded both by urban and rural proletariats. As mentioned above, a “negative” perspective – the removal of oligarchic, absentee, brutal landlords and the parceling out of their land is completely inadequate. It opens the door to the growth of a new class of rich peasants who will gradually drive the poorer peasants off the land in a new iteration of the old process. This is a bourgeois democratic approach, and it is also fatal for the urban working class in that it doesn’t address for one second the question of who owns the real estate in the cities, and urban landlords are an invisible cancer eating away the productive forces of society. A “positive” approach is needed, calling for complete expropriation of the land, both in the countryside and in cities, and the control of its use by and for the benefit of those who use it for productive and socially useful labor.

The question of war – especially one involving China – must be tackled with a perspective of “the enemy is at home”. The sub-imperialist Indian bourgeoisie is an implacable enemy both of the Indian working class it exploits and uses as cannon fodder, and of the working class in countries it attacks.

The perspective needed to focus these demands into a coherent programme is that of the Permanent Revolution underpinning Bolshevik-Leninism, as it is laid out in the Transitional Programme of the Fourth International.

The fundamental issue here is that of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, which must have the formation of a revolutionary workers state as its overriding objective. In order to reach this objective, bourgeois democratic demands (such as national liberation, electoral rights, equality before the law etc) have to be realized in passing, as part of the struggle for revolutionary class-based demands. The demands raised in concrete struggle, in agitation among the masses, must be transitional in that they cover both the immediate demands being raised around the issue involved, and point forward to a more general solution to this and other similar issues for the benefit of the whole working class in a society run in the interests of the working class.

The mass leaderships of the labor movement and the left since the hijacking of the Soviet Union by the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy have shown themselves time and again to be mass misleaders of the working class and its class allies. Social Democracy is committed to capitalism and the bourgeois state. It is no longer even reformist. National democrats have often succeeded in liberating their countries from a colonial yoke, but have not been able to secure the country from imperialist exploitation and depredation. The only possible way of securing a country against imperialism is by expropriating the bourgeoisie – as the trajectory of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Cuba showed. And in fact the same was the case in China after the Red Army had driven the Kuomintang into exile (accompanied by the Soviet embassy!). Chavez in Venezuela is now at an historical crossroads of this kind.

Mass leaderships of the working class rooted in the success of an anti-capitalist revolution, but that usurped the revolution and pursued counter-revolutionary policies, ie Stalinism and Maoism, have led the class into an endless series of deadly and demoralizing defeats. And the non-Social Democratic, non-Stalinist left leaderships have been riven by the twin forces of opportunism and sectarianism.

It is necessary to evaluate the lessons of these failures of leadership and propose policies that lead to a healthy workers revolution rather than botching it or annihilating it.

And finally, one of the ways in which India’s revolutionary project could be botched up badly would be to raise as power demands the slogans of National Independence and a Constituent Assembly. If the working class and its allies are in a position to raise slogans this direct in agitation for taking over the state, they are in a position to raise slogans for their own class rather than these obsolete slogans of bourgeois democracy.

Class power demands in a state like India will have to call for power to the soviets and the expropriation of all capitalist property.

Petition from HCU

We are reproducing the petition produced by the students of HCU calling for support for the agitation. We request others to sign the petition and share it widely.

Dr. C. Rangarajan

Chancellor

University of Hyderabad

Dear Dr. Rangarajan,

We have learnt with dismay about the attack by the police on students at the University of Hyderabad on 22 March, 2016. We understand that there may have been acts of destruction by some of the students, and we strongly condemn such acts. It is arguable whether it wasnecessary to call the police to deal with the students. However, having called the police, the administration of the University should have ensured that the police force did not make a brutal assault on the students. The Vice Chancellor and the administration of the University failed in this respect, as the ensuing heavy-handed police action proves. We strongly condemn the attack

by the police, and the failure of the administration of the University to prevent it.

We would like to make the following points about the immediate repercussions of the events

of the 22nd:

1. Several students and two members of the faculty of the University have been detained by the police. We request you, and the administration of the University, to take every possible measure to secure their release, and to get them back to the University at the earliest.

2. Some students were injured in the police action, and have been receiving medical treatment at the University’s Health Centre, and in private clinics and hospitals. We urge that all available help be extended to these students, and we request you to ensure their well-being.

3. We understand that some students who have been protesting are worried about their future in the university, and fear retribution from the administration. It is imperative that their fears be assuaged, and that students are not penalised for legitimately voicing their political opinions, or for challenging the University establishment.

4. There was no food or water in the student hostels, and the connection between the University campus to the Internet was closed down, for two days after the 22nd. This is a form of collective punishment. We condemn it, and ask the administration of the University to see that such acts of punishment do not recur.

We have the following points to make in the general context of the stormy events at the University:

1. The direct cause of the events on the 22nd was the resumption of office by P. Appa Rao, the Vice Chancellor of the University. A judicial enquiry has been initiated by the Ministryof Human Resource Development, Government of India, into the events around Rohith Vemula’s suicide, and Prof. Appa Rao is one of the central figures in those events. There is a case against him under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, and another under the laws relating to abetting a suicide. In these circumstances, it is utterly inappropriate for him to occupy the office of the Vice Chancellor of the University, and we demand that he relinquish that office forthwith.

2. There has been almost no progress in the police cases against Prof. Appa Rao, whereas the police have been quick to act on the protesting students. We demand that this imbalance be redressed, and that the cases against Prof. Appa Rao be speedily brought to their logical conclusion.

3. The protest by the students on the 22nd grew out of the events that led to Mr. Vemula’s suicide. Issues of systematic injustice against Dalits, and of attempts by certain groups of students of the University to disrupt the activities of students whose opinions they oppose, have repeatedly surfaced in the discourse following Mr. Vemula’s suicide. We ask the administration of the University to seriously address these issues.

4. A troubling feature of the events at the University is the frequent reliance of the administration of the University on the police apparatus. We feel that the police have no place in an academic campus, and should be called upon only in rare circumstances. We, therefore, request you to have the police removed from the campus of the University.

The University of Hyderabad is one of the important educational centres of the country.

For that reason, we hope that you, and the administration of the University, will do every-
thing to provide the students of the University the freedom, and the consideration, that are a distinguishing feature of a great academic institution.

Yours sincerely,

1. Dileep Jatkar, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

2. N. Raghavendra, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

3. Partho Sarothi Ray, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, Faculty

4. Rahul Siddharthan, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty

5. Saikat Ghosh, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Faculty

6. Srikant Sastry, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Faculty

7. Sugata Ray, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Faculty

8. Sumathi Rao, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

9. Suvrat Raju, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Faculty

The signatories are listed in the alphabetical order of their names. Institutional affiliations

of the signatories are given only for purposes of identification, and do not indicate the official

positions of these organisations.

 

The petition is initiated by a few Indian academics, and Indian academics are encouraged to sign this petition as well.
If you would like to endorse this statement please send your name and institutional affiliation (if any) to academgp@gmail.com 

https://mail.google.com/_/scs/mail-static/_/js/k=gmail.main.en.kVXjxTAhWFY.O/m=m_i,t,it/am=PiMeCZj_e38wrjMEoJU-UGHe-89xS8rOnHu4_94EiNQrgP-b_T-A_4O9aQsF/rt=h/d=1/rs=AHGWq9ARy_sr19nPw64vficSenb1MqgXnwhttps://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=ohhl4rw8mbn4https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&view=bsp&ver=ohhl4rw8mbn4

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AttachmentsMar 28 (9 days ago)

to me, Minakshee, battini
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Avishek Konar <bantikonar@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Mar 27, 2016 at 3:11 PM
Subject: Please sign petition in solidarity with HCU
To: Pranav Jani <pranavjani@gmail.com>, Tithi Bhattacharya <tbhattac@gmail.com>, Snehal Shingavi <snehal100@hotmail.com>, Nagesh Rao <nagesh123@gmail.com>, Kunal Chattopadhyay <kunal.chattopadhyay@gmail.com>, Soma Marik <mariksoma@hotmail.com>, Bodhisatwa Ray <bodhisatwa.ray@gmail.com>, Sushovan Dhar <dhar.sushovan@gmail.com>, Mihir Bhosale <yearn4change@gmail.com>, pradipta chattopadhyay <elomeloeka@gmail.com>, Saumendra Basu <saumenbasu@yahoo.co.in>, Pratip Nag <nagpratip@gmail.com>, wilfred d <willyindia@gmail.com>, achin vanaik <achin.vanaik@gmail.com>, achin vanaik <achinvanaik@gmail.com>, Chirag Suvarna <chirag.suvarna@gmail.com>, toa dasgupta <aparajita.dasgupta@email.ucr.edu>, Srestha Banerjee <sresthab@gmail.com>, Jhuma Sen <sen.jhuma@gmail.com>, Ashokankur Datta <ashokankur@gmail.com>, Arka Roy Chaudhuri <gabuisi@gmail.com>, shampa bhattacharjee <shampaisi@gmail.com>, Amlan DG <pela202@gmail.com>, soumendu sarkar <sarkarsoumendu@gmail.com>, Sridipta G <sridipta.ghatak@gmail.com>, sayan dasgupta <dasgupta.sayan@gmail.com>, Anup Gampa <anup.gampa@gmail.com>, Samantha Agarwal <samsnomadicheart@gmail.com>, Sirisha Naidu <sirishacnaidu@gmail.com>, “T. Manolakos” <ptmanolakos@gmail.com>, partho <psray40@yahoo.com>, Sugata Ray <sugataray2006@gmail.com>, Vikas Gampa <vikasgampa@gmail.com>, Rajeev Ravisankar <rajeevravisankar@gmail.com>, Nachiket Deshpande <ndeshpande.30@gmail.com>, Sudipto Banerjee <sudipto.bnrjee@gmail.com>, Raili Roy <raili.roy@gmail.com>, Prasenjit Bose <boseprasenjit@gmail.com>, subhanil@idsk.edu.in, Sougata Kerr <sougatakerr@yahoo.com>, Minakshee Rode <minakshirode@gmail.com>, Anirban Kar <kar.anirban@gmail.com>, deepankar <dbasu@econs.umass.edu>, Gargi Banerjee <gargib.91@gmail.com>, Subhadeep Sinhamahapatra <dr.puchu@gmail.com>, Sukruta Alluri <sukruta.alluri@gmail.com>,kislay.ftii@gmail.com, Ritwik Banerjee <Ritwik4@gmail.com>, Sriparna pathak <sriparnapathak@gmail.com>, Natasha Sharma <natashasharma.uoc@gmail.com>, arjun sengupta <sengupta.arjun@gmail.com>, Puja Bhattacharya <bhattacharya.puja@gmail.com>, abrez mondal <abrez86@gmail.com>, Atindriyo Chakrabarty <driyo88@gmail.com>, Pushkin Égalité <karl10marx@gmail.com>

Dear Friends and Comrades
There was an outpouring of support when an attack came down on JNU, and rightly so. But, we also need to show similar solidarity with HCU, to counter the lack of reporting from the mainstream media.
There are two petitions linked in this email. Please consider in signing on to both (if applicable) or one.
(i) The first one is initiated by academics, students and activists in the US. Anyone can sign it. Over 300 academicians, activists, artists and writers, including Noam Chomsky, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Barbara Hariss-White, Gillian Hart, Michael Davis, Michael Yates, Sugata Roy, Tithi Bhattacharya, Jens Lerche, Pranav Jani, Kavita Krishnan, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, condemn the state violence and unlawful detention of faculty and student protesters of the University of Hyderabad.
If you would like to endorse this statement please send your name and institutional affiliation (if any) to justiceforhcu@gmail.com 
(ii) The second one (see attached document) is initiated by a few Indian academics, and Indian academics are encouraged to sign this petition as well.
If you would like to endorse this statement please send your name and institutional affiliation (if any) to academgp@gmail.com 
 
Please circulate this widely. Sign, share and urge others to do the same. 
Thank you,
Avishek Konar
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26 March, 2016

Dr. C. Rangarajan

Chancellor

University of Hyderabad

Dear Dr. Rangarajan,

We have learnt with dismay about the attack by the police on students at the University of

Hyderabad on 22 March, 2016. We understand that there may have been acts of destruction

by some of the students, and we strongly condemn such acts. It is arguable whether it was

necessary to call the police to deal with the students. However, having called the police, the

administration of the University should have ensured that the police force did not make a brutal

assault on the students. The Vice Chancellor and the administration of the University failed in

this respect, as the ensuing heavy-handed police action proves. We strongly condemn the attack

by the police, and the failure of the administration of the University to prevent it.

We would like to make the following points about the immediate repercussions of the events

of the 22nd:

1. Several students and two members of the faculty of the University have been detained by

the police. We request you, and the administration of the University, to take every possible

measure to secure their release, and to get them back to the University at the earliest.

2. Some students were injured in the police action, and have been receiving medical treatment

at the University’s Health Centre, and in private clinics and hospitals. We urge that all

available help be extended to these students, and we request you to ensure their well-being.

3. We understand that some students who have been protesting are worried about their

future in the university, and fear retribution from the administration. It is imperative that

their fears be assuaged, and that students are not penalised for legitimately voicing their

political opinions, or for challenging the University establishment.

4. There was no food or water in the student hostels, and the connection between the Univer- sity campus to the Internet was closed down, for two days after the 22nd. This is a form

of collective punishment. We condemn it, and ask the administration of the University to

see that such acts of punishment do not recur.

We have the following points to make in the general context of the stormy events at the

University:

1. The direct cause of the events on the 22nd was the resumption of office by P. Appa Rao, the

Vice Chancellor of the University. A judicial enquiry has been initiated by the Ministry

of Human Resource Development, Government of India, into the events around Rohith

Vemula’s suicide, and Prof. Appa Rao is one of the central figures in those events. There

is a case against him under the SC/ST Atrocities Act, and another under the laws relating

to abetting a suicide. In these circumstances, it is utterly inappropriate for him to occupy

the office of the Vice Chancellor of the University, and we demand that he relinquish that

office forthwith.

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2. There has been almost no progress in the police cases against Prof. Appa Rao, whereas the

police have been quick to act on the protesting students. We demand that this imbalance

be redressed, and that the cases against Prof. Appa Rao be speedily brought to their logical

conclusion.

3. The protest by the students on the 22nd grew out of the events that led to Mr. Vemula’s

suicide. Issues of systematic injustice against Dalits, and of attempts by certain groups of

students of the University to disrupt the activities of students whose opinions they oppose,

have repeatedly surfaced in the discourse following Mr. Vemula’s suicide. We ask the

administration of the University to seriously address these issues.

4. A troubling feature of the events at the University is the frequent reliance of the adminis- tration of the University on the police apparatus. We feel that the police have no place in

an academic campus, and should be called upon only in rare circumstances. We, therefore,

request you to have the police removed from the campus of the University.

The University of Hyderabad is one of the important educational centres of the country.

For that reason, we hope that you, and the administration of the University, will do every- thing to provide the students of the University the freedom, and the consideration, that are a

distinguishing feature of a great academic institution.

Yours sincerely,

1. Dileep Jatkar, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

2. N. Raghavendra, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

3. Partho Sarothi Ray, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, Faculty

4. Rahul Siddharthan, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Faculty

5. Saikat Ghosh, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Faculty

6. Srikant Sastry, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Faculty

7. Sugata Ray, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Faculty

8. Sumathi Rao, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Faculty

9. Suvrat Raju, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, Faculty

The signatories are listed in the alphabetical order of their names. Institutional affiliations

of the signatories are given only for purposes of identification, and do not indicate the official

positions of these organisations.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015.

On the General strike of 2nd September 2015

Background of current strike  –

In May 2014, the general elections brought the right wing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party/Indian people’s party) led coalition to power. The previous government was not defeated because of a defeat of struggles, it was not reaction that brought down a supposedly progressive government, but public anger at the relentless attacks on the working poor. Rampant inflation, privatization, increased contractorization and casualization of labor, increased exploitation, land grabbing, deprivation, corruption, all reached their zenith under the previous administration, as did the people’s anger at it.

Modi came to power promising “Achhe din” (Good days), it was hoped that corruption, inflation, unemployment, and exploitation would end. Those who voted for the BJP, voted with the hope that the new government would at least lessen the suffering they endured in the past regime, but more importantly, to vent out their anger and choosing to punish the last government for following pro-capitalist policies.

It has been 16 months since the Modi regime came into power, in this time, the one thing it has proved more than anything else, is that it is in every way just as bad and in some ways worse than the preceding government. This government has been more brazenly pro-capitalist, more reactionary in its attacks on democratic values (like secularism and gender equality), and just as hopeless in its ability to provide for the masses. If Modi  and the BJP has proven one thing it is that in India’s so-called democracy, democracy stops dead the moment the ruling party wins the elections.

Within a short while of coming to power, three very noticeable changes happened in India. The first change, was that there was an increase in communalism (religion-based politics), with riots and communal polarization on religious lines happening throughout the country. Discrimination against Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities was bad enough earlier, but grew much worse under the BJP and this too in a very short span of time ! It has barely been a year since the BJP came to power and Modi became Prime Minister and communal (Hindu-Muslim) violence has increased exponentially !

The second change, was that in a very brief time, a slurry of anti-peasant enactments were attempted. Most notably, the Land Ordinance which sought to reverse the Land Act and all the safeguards conceded to the peasantry by the previous government. Of course, these concessions were achieved through relentless struggle forcing the government to amend the original Land Acquisition Act which was formulated in colonial times.

The third change, which has also caused much agitation in recent months, was an accumulation of anti-worker legislation which sought to increase work hours, take away welfarist concessions and give employers unprecedented power over their employees. It is these anti-worker enactments, which are now being protested in the general strike of 2nd September. Nearly all central trade union federations  and their affiliated bodies have backed the strike call. At the very last moment however, the right wing affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (Indian worker’s association) walked out of the strike action.

The Indian bourgeoisie was euphoric about the coming of the new Modi government, they celebrated Modi and his unabashedly exploitative pro-capitalist model in Gujarat, today the bourgeoisie is beginning to bewail the ‘lost sheen’ of the Modi government.

Demands raised –

The leading union federations at their national conference in July agreed on a 12 point charter of demands and a strategy for building the general strike. The 12 points in the charter are –

1. Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalization of the public distribution system and a ban on speculative trading in the commodity market.

2. Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation.

3. Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exceptions or exemptions and stringent punitive measures for any violations of labour laws.

4. Universal social security cover for all workers.

5. Minimum wages of not less than Rs. 15,000/- per month with indexation.

6. Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs. 3000/- p.m. for the entire working population.

7. Stopping disinvestment in Central/State PSUs.

8. Stopping contractorization of permanent perennial work and payment of the same wages and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for the same and similar work.

9. Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility for bonuses or provident funds.

10. Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting applications; and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98.

11. Against Labour Law Amendments.

12. Against FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence.

What stands out in this charter, is that the demands this time around are more radical and transitional in nature than in previous strikes. They can serve as a foundation to further the struggle in a socialist direction and challenge the rule of capital. Beneath all the surface confusion and bureaucratic reformism, the workers are seeking an alternative to the system that exists now and the unions are feeling the pressure of this desire for change.

Of course, such a change will not come from union action alone, that goes without saying. A change in a socialist direction necessarily requires political leadership. This means we must build a revolutionary party able to take the reins in the class struggle and lead the wave of mobilizations towards a socialist change and the abolition of the capitalist system.

Who is participating ? –

Eleven central trade union federations are participating in the strike action. The organization and build up of the strike has been in much the same vein as earlier general strikes last year and the years before. In other words, it was done by bureaucratic means. While mass meetings were held, strike committees at the local level haven’t been formed.

Central Trade Union Federations
Almost all central trade union federations are participating in the strike including unions linked with bourgeois parties. The INTUC for instance, the second largest union is participating in the strike, is linked with the Congress party. CITU and AITUC (with different CP links) as well as other leading leftist trade unions, such as HMS and NTUI are taking a leading role in the organization of the strike.

Initially, the BMS, aligned with the governing party, was supportive of the strike action, but on the 30th of August the union backed out on receiving government assurances of an increase in bonuses and a wage hike. This shows the fickle backstabbing nature of the union and the shallowness of its commitment. This action of the BMS will make government repression of the striking workers much easier now that their own affiliate union isn’t participating.

Public Sector Unions

The public sector is the bastion of regular employment in India. It is the area in which workers have won the greatest concessions. Together all public sector state owned corporations employ almost 20 million workers. While this may be only a small section of the Indian working class, it is a very  powerful one, running industries as vital as rail transport, coal mining and power. They are also the best organized among the workers.

In the last several general strikes the public sector workers have been among the most enthusiastic participants, and this time too, we can expect the same high level of participation.

The public sector has a lot to fight for with this strike action. Since the “liberalization” of the economy, the public sector has come under one vicious attack after another. The bourgeoisie have been busy withering away every gain the working class has won over the six decades since Independence. Nowhere more is this attack more evident than in the treatment of contract workers and of the process of contractorization of the workforce in the public sector. Partial privatizations and the rise of so-called ‘public private partnerships’ have made it even easier to attack the public sector workers.

In the realm of the public sector the fight for improved working conditions goes hand in hand with the fight against privatization and the need to secure welfare.

Port and DockWorkers

Port and dock workers are known for their militant history. They constitute one of the most vital and internationalist sectors of the working class. They have been at the forefront of the sharpest struggles in Indian history, and played a splendid part in the great naval uprising of 1946.

Port workers have suffered from the corporatization of ports which has led to massive job losses and increasingly precarious employment. In the last ten years alone, the number of dock workers has declined from over 100,000 to 60,000.

Contractorization, privatization, impoverishment and marginalization is what the dockers are fighting against and this strike will give them an opportunity to link with the struggles of other transportation workers who have been facing similar problems.

Road Transport Workers

Road transport workers will be participating in the strike. After the very successful countrywide strike of road transport workers on 30th April, when workers from state government enterprises, the private sector and even self employed sections participated, this is already yet another large scale strike action by road transport workers.

The problems facing the road transport workers are not uncommon in other transport sectors. Here too there is contractorization leading to increased exploitation. The pressures of rapidly changing oil prices have caused a domino effect where the burden of costs are being shifted to the road transport workers and they have to bear the disproportionate burden of road taxation and harassing enforcement measures.

Petroleum Workers

Refined Petroleum in India is provided chiefly by state corporations and a handful of private mega-corporations. As such they hold the reins to a key industry. If they go on strike, the most vital source of fuel runs out.

Telecom Workers

Since the corporatization of BSNL arising from the de-merger of Department of Telecom, it has suffered in various ways under successive neo-liberal regimes. To begin with, its sister company MTNL, was privatized and bought out by the giant capitalist Tata group, reversing most safeguards which public sector workers enjoyed. Thereafter, successive managements have overseen the decline of BSNL as the leading telecom company in India. It has been losing out progressively to private companies, mainly Idea mobile, Vodafone, Tata and especially Airtel and Reliance.

Along with corporatization came discrimination. BSNL has always been treated like a foster child by the government which was more than eager to roll the red carpet for the leading private capitalist firms in the telecom sector. The continuance of these attacks on BSNL has resulted in the company declining and becoming a loss-making company. It has suffered from both contractorization of its workforce and massive retrenchments. The number of employees in the company has declined from nearly 600,000 to around 200,000 today of which more than half (almost 100,000) are employed as contract workers.

The contract workers of BSNL who perform a range of tasks from office maintenance to line maintenance are denied most rights which accrue to regular workers, be it minimum wage, fixed working hours, or provident fund payments. A long and brilliant struggle has been waged by contract workers in BSNL which provide a stellar example for other contract workers to follow. Especially good example of struggles are how the fight against the management at BSNL’s Kerala branch was conducted.

Electricity Workers
The National Co-ordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) has been mounting country wide campaigns against the new Electricity Bill, which will in effect sound a death knell for the demands for electricity as a human right. Affordable and quality energy to domestic consumers will come to an end if the new bill is passed. NCCOEEE had decided to go on a countrywide strike if the new Bill is introduced in parliament. Though it was listed, it could not be introduced in the Monsoon Session. Now, the unions have decided to concentrate on the 2nd September strike.

Other vital sectors
Also participating in the strike are defence sector employees and government scheme workers. The workers employed in the defence sector have to deal with governmental restrictions and high-handedness, while scheme workers have suffered the worst sort of discrimination and exploitation.

Anganwadi employment scheme workers who have shown the greatest enthusiasm for participating in the strike are also among the most exploited layer of the workforce. Theirs is a fight for respect and recognition as much as improved conditions.

Potential impact

Among other things, the strike will be potentially crippling to Indian capital. Practically every sector of the Indian economy is affected by the strike and as has been seen before, the scale and sheer numbers of workers involved makes such general strikes a dangerous affair for the bourgeoisie concerned above all else with its profits. The more absolute the strike is, the greater will be its destructive potential against the interests of the capitalists.

As important as the immediate impact of the strike may be, its longer-term subjective impact will be even more significant. This strike will boost the confidence of the working class and it ought to be a learning experience and a preparation for future confrontations. It will also bring together different sections of workers and give an opportunity to further cooperation and coordination among them. Most significantly, it gives an opportunity to bring together different public sector workers and transport workers together.

Preceding the strike action there have been huge mobilizations in Kolkata by peasants’ organizations involving nearly 200,000 participants. Very recently, the peasantry has won an important political victory by defeating the anti-peasant Land Ordinance Bill, forcing the government to let it lapse. The general strike organizers have reached out to the peasantry, and the solidarity emerging from this could have a tremendous long term impact for the future of the class struggle in India.

Lessons of previous strikes

Between 1991 and 2015 there have been nearly 16 general strikes at a rate of nearly one a year. Between 2010 and 2014 there have been 5 such strikes organized and led chiefly by central trade union federations. They were organized around demands which were reformist in nature, but they brought vital questions facing the working class to the fore. The strikes between 2010 and 2013 were among the largest strikes in history mobilizing up to 100 million workers! Whilst these mobilizations showed the strength and enthusiasm of the working class, and served to increase militant consciousness, they failed to extract the concessions that were aimed for. The bourgeoisie recovered rapidly after the initial shocks and brushed off the impact of the strike quite easily returning to business as usual.

The experience of these strikes must be assimilated to prepare for this strike as well as the planned indefinite strike for November 23rd. The objective of the strike after all, is to force the government to withdraw its anti-worker labor law amendments and to bring in much needed changes in the interests of the working class. The class must make the bourgeoisie feel its strength to win its demands, it would be a mistake to expect the enemy to be “reasonable” and compromise with them hoping for them to act in a rational or humane manner. Calls to do so are only traps to keep the working class exploited and perhaps increasing its exploitation. Let us not forget how in colonial times the British used the Round Table Conferences to repeatedly stymie the great mass mobilizations of Indians, and how Gandhi repeatedly swallowed this bait and let entire nation-wide mobilizations fizzle out into nothing. The Indian bourgeoisie uses the same tactics to deceive and pacify the Indian masses in our time.

Need for solidarity

The working class in India is now marching ahead, and it is coming face to face with the machinations of the Indian bourgeois-capitalist state. The Indian working class is huge and powerful, but so is its enemy. The key to success against the Indian bourgeoisie is to win the support of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie which together are more numerous than the working class in India today. Numbers won’t win this struggle, political energy and good leadership of the masses in India will.

Added to this must be international solidarity. Appeals must be made to trade unions across South Asia, the gulf region and South East Asia to support and align their struggles with those of the Indian working class to concentrate and amplify the energy of the struggles of the workers in this region. Support from workers of every major nation, the US, the UK too must be achieved.

Now is a most critical time in the trajectory of class struggle in India and decisive struggles are about to be waged.

DOWN WITH CAPITALISM ! DOWN WITH MODI !

THE WORKERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED !

Report on the brutal lathi charge against contract workers and students in Delhi

The following report was written by Abhinav Sinha, editor “Mazdoor bigul” magazine and ‘Muktrikami Chhatron-yuvaon ka Aahwan’, Writer of blog ‘Red Polemique’ and Research Scholar in History Department, Delhi University.

On 25th March, we witnessed one of the most brutal, probably the most brutal lathi charge on workers in Delhi in at least last 2 decades.

It is noteworthy that this lathi-charge was ordered directly by Arvind Kejriwal, as some Police personnel casually mentioned when I was in Police custody.

It might seem surprising to some people because formally the Delhi Police is under the Central Government.

However, when I asked this question to the Police, they told me that for day-to-day law and order maintenance, the Police is obliged to follow the directives from the CM of Delhi, unless and until it is in contradiction with some directive/order of the Central Government.

The AAP government is now in a fix as it cannot fulfill the promises made to the working class of Delhi.

And the working class of Delhi has been refusing to forget the promises made to them by the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal.

As is known, on February 17, the students of School of Open Learning, DU went in sizeable numbers to submit their memorandum to the CM.

Again, on March 3, hundreds of DMRC contract employees went to submit their memorandum to the Kejriwal government and were lathi-charged.

From the beginning of this month, various workers’ organizations, unions, women’s organizations, student and youth organizations have been running ‘WADA NA TODO ABHIYAN’, which aims at reminding and then compelling the Kejriwal government to fulfill its promises to the working poor of Delhi, like the abolition of contract system in perennial nature of work, free education till class 12th, filling 55 thousand vacant seats in the Delhi government, recruiting 17 thousand new teachers, making all the housekeepers and contract teachers as permanent, etc.

The Kejriwal government and the Police administration had already been intimated about the demonstration of 25th March and the Police had not given any prior prohibitory order.

However, what happened on 25th March was horrendous and as I was part of the activists who were attacked, threatened and arrested by the Police, I would like to give an account of what happened on March 25, why did scores of workers, women and students go to the Delhi Secretariat, what treatment was meted out to them and how the majority of the mainstream media channels and newspapers conveniently blacked out the brutal repression of wokers, women and students.

Why did thousands of workers, women and student go to the Delhi Secretariat on March 25?

As mentioned earlier, a number of workers’ organizations have been running ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’ for last one month in Delhi to remind Arvind Kejriwal of the promises he and his party made to the working people of Delhi.

These promises include the abolition of contract system on work of perennial nature; filling 55 thousand vacant posts of Delhi government; recruiting 17 thousand new teachers and making the contract teachers as permanent; making all contract safai karamcharis as permanent; making school education till 12th free; these are the promises that could be fulfilled immediately.

We know it will take time to build houses for all jhuggi dwellers; however, a roadmap must be presented before the people of Delhi. Similarly, we know that providing 20 new colleges will take time; however, Mr. Kejriwal had told the media that some individuals have donated land for two colleges and he must tell now where are those lands and when is the state government going to start the construction of these colleges.

It is not as if Kejriwal government did not fulfill any of its promises. It fulfilled the promises made to the factory owners and shop-keepers of Delhi immediately!

And what did he do for the contract workers? Nothing, except a sham interim order pertaining to contract workers in the government departments only, which ordered that no contract employee in government departments/corporations shall be terminated till further notice.

However, newspapers reported a few days later that dozens of home guards were terminated just a few days after this sham interim order!

That simply means that the interim order was just a facade to fool the contract workers in the government departments and people of Delhi at large.

These are the factors that led to a suspicion among the working people of Delhi and consequently various trade unions, women’s organizations, student organizations began to think about a campaign to remind Mr. Kejriwal of the promises made to the common working people of Delhi.

Consequently, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) was initiated on March 3 with a demonstration of contract workers of DMRC. At the same day, the Kejriwal government was informally informed about the demonstration of 25th March and later an official intimation was given to the Police administration.

The Police did not give any prior prohibitory notice to the organizers before the demonstration.

However, as soon as the demonstrators reached Kisan Ghat, they were arbitrarily told to leave!

The police refused to allow them to submit their memorandum and charter of demands to the Government, which is their fundamental constitutional right, i.e., the right to be heard, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to express.

What really happened on March 25 ?

Around 1:30 PM, nearly 3500 people had gathered at the Kisan Ghat. RAF and CRPF had been deployed there right since the morning. Consequently, the workers moved peacefully towards the Delhi Secretariat in the form of a procession. They were stopped at the first barricade and the police told them to go away.

The protesters insisted on seeing a government representative and submit their memorandum to them. The protesters tried to move towards the Delhi Secretariat.

Then the police without any further warning started a brutal lathi-charge and began to chase protesters.

Some women workers and activists were seriously injured in this first round of lathi-charge and hundreds of workers were chased away by the Police.

However, a large number of workers stayed at the barricade and started their ‘Mazdoor Satyagraha’ on the spot.

Though, the police succeeded to chase away a number of workers, yet, almost 1300 workers were still there and they continued their satyagraha.

Almost 700 contract teachers were at the other side of the Secretariat, who had come to join this demonstration.

They were not allowed by the police to join the demonstration. So they continued their protest at the other side of the Secretariat.

The organizers repeatedly asked the Police officers to let them go to the Secretariat and submit their memorandum. The Police flatly refused.

Then the organizers reminded the police that it is their constitutional right to give their memorandum and the government is obliged to accept the memorandum. Still, the police did not let the protesters go the Secretariat and submit their memorandum.

The workers after waiting for almost one and a half hours gave an ultimatum of half an hour to the Police before trying to move towards the Secretariat again. When the Police did not let them go to the Secretariat to submit their memorandum after half an hour, then the police again started lathi charge. This time it was even more brutal.

I have been active in the student movement and working class movement of Delhi for last 16 years and I can certainly say that I have not seen such Police brutality in Delhi against any demonstration.

Women workers and activists and the workers’ leaders were especially targetted.

Male police personnel brutally beat up women, dragged them on streets by their hair, tore their clothes, molested them and harrassed them.

It was absolutely shocking to see how several police personnel were holding and beating women workers and activists.

Some of the women activists were beaten till the lathis broke or the women fainted.

Tear gas was used on the workers. Hundreds of workers lied down on the ground to continue their peaceful Satyagraha. However, the police continued to brutally beat them. Finally, the workers tried to continue their protest at the Rajghat but the Police and RAF continued to hunt them down. 18 activists and workers were arrested by the Police including me.

One of my comrades, Anant, a young activist was beaten brutally even after being taken in custody in front of me. The police abused him in the worst way. Similar treatment was meted out to other activists and workers in custody. Almost all of the persons taken in custody were injured and some of them were seriously injured.

Four women activists Shivani, Varsha, Varuni and Vrishali were taken into custody and particularly targeted. Vrishali’s fingers got fractured, Varsha’s legs were brutally attacked, Shivani was attacked repeatedly on the back by several police personnel and also sustained a head injury and Varuni also was brutally beaten up..

The extent of injuries can be gauged by the fact that Varuni and Varsha had to be admitted again to the Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital on 27th March, when they were out on bail. Women activists were constantly abused by the police.

The police personnel hurled sexist remarks and abuses on the women activists, that I cannot mention here. It was part of the old conventional strategy of the Police to crush the dignity of the activists and protesters.

The 13 arrested male activists were also injured and five of them were seriously injured. However, they were made to wait, two of them bleeding, for more than 8 hours for medical treatment. During our stay in the Police station, we were repeatedly told by a number of police personnel that the order to lathi charge the protesters was given directly from the CM’s office.

Also, the intent of the Police was clear from the very beginning: to brutalize the protestors. They told us that the plan was to teach a lesson
.
The next day four women comrades were granted bail and 13 male activists were granted conditional bail for 2 days. The IP Estate Police station was asked to verify the addresses of the sureties. The police was demanding 14 days police custody for the arrested activists. The intent of the administration is clear: brutalizing the activists again.

The police is constantly trying to arrest us again and slap false charges on us.

As is the convention of the police administration now, anyone who raises their voice against the injustice perpetrated by the system is branded as “Maoists”, “Naxalite”, “terrorists”, etc.

In this case too, this intent of the police is clear.

This only shows how Indian capitalist democracy functions. Especially in the times of political and economic crisis, it can only survive by stifling any kind of resistance from the working people of India against the naked brutality of the system.

The events of 25th March stands witness to this fact.

What happens next?

It is a common mistake of the rulers to assume that brutalizing the struggling women, workers and students would silence the voices of dissent. They commit this mistake again and again. Here too, they are grossly mistaken.

The police brutality of March 25 was an attempt of the Kejriwal Government to convey a message to the working poor of Delhi and this message was simply this: if you raise your voice against the betrayal of the Kejriwal Government against the poor of Delhi, you will be dealt with in the most brutal fashion.

Our wounds are still fresh, many of us have swollen legs, fractured fingers, head injuries and with every move we can feel the pain.

However, our resolve to fight against this injustice and expose the slimy fraud that is Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP has become even stronger.

The trade unions, women organizations and student organizations and thousands of workers have refused to give up. They have refused to give in. They are already running exposure campaigns around Delhi, though most of their activists are still injured and some of us can barely walk.

Kejriwal government has committed a disgusting betrayal against the working people of Delhi who had reposed a lot of faith in AAP.

The working people of Delhi will not forgive the fraud committed by the Aam Admi Party.

I think the Fascism of Aam Aadmi Party is even more dangerous than the mainstream Fascist party like the BJP, at least in the short run, and I myself witnessed it on March 25!

And there is a reason for it: just like small capital is much more exploitative and oppressive as compared to big capital at least immediately, similarly, the regime of small capital is much more oppressive as compared to regime of big capital, at least in the short run!

And the AAP government represents the right-wing populist dictatorship of small capital, of course, with a shadow of jingoistic Fascism. This fact has been clearly demonstrated by the events of 25th March.

Apparently enough, Kejriwal is scared and has run out of ideas and that is why his government is resorting to such measures that are exposing him and his party completely.

He knows that he cannot fulfill the promises made to the working poor of the Delhi, especially, abolition of contract system on perennial nature work because if he even tries to do so, he will lose his social and economic base among the traders, factory owners, contractors and petty middlemen of Delhi.

This is the peculiarity of AAP’s agenda: it is an aggregative agenda (a ostensibly class collaborationist agenda) which ostensibly includes the demands of petty traders, contracters, rich shopkeepers, middlemen and other sections professional/self-employed petty bourgeoisie as well as jhuggi-dwellers, workers, etc.

It can not fulfill all the demands mentioned in the agenda, because the demands of these disparate social groups are diametrically opposite.

The real partisanship of the AAP is with the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie of Delhi which is already apparent in the one-and-a-half-month rule of AAP. AAP actually and politically belongs to these parasitic neo-rich classes. The rhetoric of ‘aam admi’ was just to make good of the opportunity created by the complete disillusionment of the people with the Congress and the BJP. This rhetoric was useful as long as the elections were there.

As soon as, the people voted for the AAP en masse, in the absence of any alternative, the real ugly Fascist face of Arvind Kejriwal has become exposed.

Even internally, the AAP politics has been exposed due to the current dog-eat-dog fight for power between the Kejriwal faction and the Yadav faction.

This is not to say that had Yadav faction been at the the helm of affairs, things would have been any different for the working class of Delhi.

This ugly inner fight only shows the real character of AAP and helps a lot of people realize that AAP is not an alternative and it is no more different from the parties like the Congrees, BJP, SP, BSP, CPM, etc. Particularly, the workers of Delhi are understanding this truth.

That is the reason why the workers of Hedgewar Hospital spontaneously went on strike against the police brutality and the Kejriwal government on the evening of March 25 itself.

Anger is simmering among the DMRC workers, contract workers of other hospitals, contract teachers, jhuggi-dwellers and the poor students and unemployed youth of Delhi.

The working class of Delhi has begun to organize to win their rights and oblige the Kejriwal government to fulfill its promises; the desperate attempt of the Kejriwal government to repress the workers will definitely backfire.

Workers’, students’ and women organizations have begun their exposure campaign in different working class and poorer neighbourhoods of Delhi. If the AAP government fails to fulfill its promises made to the working poor of Delhi and fails to apologize the disgusting and barbaric attack on thousands of women, workers and students of Delhi, it will face a boycott from the working poor of Delhi.

Each and every of the wounds inflicted on us, the workers, women and youth of Delhi on March 25 will prove to be a fatal mistake of the present government.

On Bhagat Singh’s day of martyrdom

[On this occassion we are publishing the text of the statement of Bhagat Singh before the Lahore High Court bench. Copyright: © Shahidbhagatsingh.org. Published originally on MIA with the permission of Shahidbhagatsingh.org and Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee.]

MY LORDS,

We are neither lawyers nor masters of English language, nor holders of degrees. Therefore, please do not expect any oratorial speech from us. We therefore pray that instead of going into the language mistakes of our statement Your Lordships will try to understand the real sense of it.

Leaving other points to our lawyers, I will confine myself to one point only. The point is very important in this case. The point is as to what were our intentions sand to what extent we are guilty. This is a very complicated question and no one will be able to express before you that height to mental elevation which inspired us to think and act in a particular manner. We want that this should be kept in mind while assessing our intentions our offence. According to the famous jurist Solomon, one should not be punished for his criminal offence if his aim is not against law.

We had submitted a written statement in the Sessions Court. That statement explains our aim and, as such, explains our intentions also. But the leaned judge dismissed it with one stroke of pen, saying that “generally the operation of law is not affected by how or why one committed the offence. In this country the aim of the offence is very rarely mentioned in legal commentaries.”

My Lords, our contention is that under the circumstances the learned judge ought to have judged us either by the result of our action or on the basis of the psychological part of our statement. But he did not take any of these factors into consideration.

The point to be considered is that the two bombs we threw in the Assembly did not harm anybody physically or economically. As such the punishment awarded to us is not only very harsh but revengeful also. Moreover, the motive knowing his psychology. And no one can do justice to anybody without taking his motive into consideration. If we ignore the motive, the biggest general of the words will appear like ordinary murderers; revenue officers will look like thieves and cheats. Even judges will be accused of murder. This way the entire social system and the civilization will be reduced to murders, thefts and cheating. If we ignore the motive, the government will have no right to expect sacrifice from its people and its officials. Ignore the motive and every religious preacher will be dubbed as a preacher of falsehoods, and every prophet will be charged of misguiding crores of simple and ignorant people.

If we set aside the motive, then Jessus Christ will appear to be a man responsible for creating disturbances, breaking peace and preaching revolt, and will be considered to be a “dangerous personality” in the language of the law. But we worship him. He commands great respect in our hearts and his image creates vibrations of spiritualism amongst us. Why? Because the inspiration behind his actions was that of a high ideal. The rulers of that age could not recognize that high idealism. They only saw his outward actions. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. Have we not progressed during this period? Shall we repeat that mistake again? It that be so, then we shall have to admit that all the sacrifices of the mankind and all the efforts of the great martyrs were useless and it would appear as if we are still at the same place where we stood twenty centuries back.

From the legal point of view also, the question of motive is of special importance. Take the example of General Dyer. He resorted to firing and killed hundreds of innocent and unarmed people. But the military court did not order him to be shot. It gave him lakhs of rupees as award. Take another example. Shri Kharag Bahadur Singh, a young Gurkha, Killed a Marwari in Calcutta. If the motive be set aside, then Kharag Bahadur Singh ought to have been hanged. But he was awarded a mild sentence of a few years only. He was even released much before the expiry of his sentence. Was there any loophole in the law that he escaped capital punishment? Or, was the charge of murder not proved against him? Like us, he also accepted the full responsibility of his action, but he escaped death. He is free today. I ask Your Lordship, why was he not awarded capital punishment? His action was well calculated and well planned. From the motive end, his action was more serious and fatal than ours. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intentions were good. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intention were good. He saved the society from a dirty leach who had sucked the life-blood of so many pretty young girls. Kharag Singh was given a mild punishment just to uphold the formalities of the law.

This principle (that the law does not take motive into consideration – ed.) is quite absurd. This is against the basic principles of the law which declares that “the law is for man and not man for the law”. As such, why the same norms are not being applied to us also? It is quite clear that while convicting Kharag Singh his motive was kept in mind, otherwise a murderer can never escape the hangman’s noose. Are we being deprived of the ordinary advantage of the law because our offence is against the government, or because our action has a political importance?

My Lords, under these circumstances, please permit us to assert that a government which seeks shelter behind such mean methods has no right to exist. If it is exists, it is for the time being only, and that too with the blood of thousands of people on its head. If the law does not see the motive there can be no justice, nor can there be stable peace.

Mixing of arsenic (poison) in the flour will not be considered to be a crime, provided its purpose is to kill rats. But if the purpose is to kill a man, it becomes a crime of murder. Therefore, such laws which do not stand the test of reason and which are against the principle of justice, should be abolished. Because of such unjust laws, many great intellectuals had to adopt the path of revolt.

The facts regarding our case are very simple. We threw two bombs in the legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929. As a result of the explosion, a few persons received minor scratches. There was pandemonium in the chamber, hundreds of visitors and members of the Assembly ran out. Only my friend B.K. Dutt and myself remained seated in the visitors gallery and offered ourselves for arrest. We were tried for attempt to murder, and convicted for life. As mentioned above, as a result of the bomb explosion, only four or five persons were slightly injured and one bench got damaged. We offered ourselves for arrest without any resistance. The Sessions Judge admitted that we could have very easily escaped, had we had any intention like that. We accepted our offence and gave a statement explaining our position. We are not afraid of punishment. But we do not want that we should be wrongly understood. The judge remover a few paragraphs from our statement. This we consider to be harmful for our real position.

A proper study of the full text of our statement will make it clear that, according to us, our country is passing through a delicate phase. We saw the coming catastrophe and thought it proper to give a timely warning with a loud voice, and we gave the warning in the manner we thought proper. We may be wrong. Our line of thinking and that of the learned judge may be different, but that does not bean that we be deprived of the permission to express our ideas, and wrong things be propagated in our name.

In our statement we explained in detail what we mean by “Long Live Revolution” and “Down With Imperialism”. That formed the crux of our ideas. That portion was removed from our statement. Generally a wrong meaning is attributed to the word revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas. This is what we wanted to emphasize. By revolution we mean the end of the miseries of capitalist wars. It was not proper to pronounce judgment without understanding our aims and objects and the process of achieving them. To associate wrong ideas with our names is out and out injustice.

It was very necessary to give the timely warning that the unrest of the people is increasing and that the malady may take a serious turn, if not treated in time and properly. If our warning is not heeded, no human power will be able to stop it. We took this step to give proper direction to the storm. We are serious students of history. We believe that, had the ruling powers acted correctly at the proper time, there would have been no bloody revolutions in France and Russia. Several big power of the world tried to check the storm of ideas and were sunk in the atmosphere of bloodshed. The ruling people cannot change the flow of the current. We wanted to give the first warning. Had we aimed at killing some important personalities, we would have failed in the attainment of our aim.

My Lords, this was the aim and the spirit behind our action, and the result of the action corroborates our statement. There is one more point which needs elucidation, and that is regarding the strength of the bombs. Had we had no idea of the strength of the bombs, there would have been no question of our throwing them in the presence of our respected national leader like Pandit Motilal Nehru, Shri Kelkar, Shri Jayaker and Shri Jinnah. How could we have risked the lives of our leaders? After all we are not mad and, had we been so, we would have certainly been sent to the lunatic asylum, instead of being put in jail. We had full knowledge about the strength of the bombs and that is why we acted with so much confidence. It was very easy to have thrown the bombs on the occupied benches, but it was difficult to have thrown them on unoccupied seats. Had we not of saner mind or had we been mentally unbalanced, the bombs would have fallen on occupied benches and not in empty places. Therefore I would say that we should be rewarded for the courage we showed in carefully selecting the empty places. Under these conditions, My Lords, we think we have not been understood, My Lords, we think we have not been understood properly. We have not come before you to get our sentences reduced. We have come here to clarify our position. We want that we should not be given any unjust treatment, nor should any unjust opinion be pronounced about us. The question of punishment is of secondary importance before us.

Tribute to Raj Narayan Arya

This tribute of comrade Raj Narayan Arya, was written by the eminent historian of the Trotskyist movement in India, Charles Wes Ervin. We publish this, in remembrance of comrade Raj Narayan, a veteran of the BLPI, and a prominent labor leader in North India. Lal Salaam comrade !

RAJ NARAYAN ARYA, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement of India, passed away in
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, on June 9, 2014 at the age of 88. Born in a little rural village, he
joined the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI), the first all-India Trotskyist party, when he
was 18, and he remained committed to revolutionary Marxism for the rest of his life. When he
was just 20, he pioneered the BLPI’s trade-union work in industrial Kanpur. He earned the
respect of the workers through his leadership of several jute and textile unions and his role in
major strikes, including an 80-day general strike in 1955. He was elected secretary of the
federation of textile unions in Kanpur.

Raj Narayan was only 22 when the BLPI merged with the Socialist Party of India (SP), an
ill-conceived and botched experiment in “entryism.” Raj Narayan was one of the first of the
former BLPI cadres to call for an exit from the SP. When his appeals to the Trotskyist leaders
went unheeded, he left the SP on his own in 1950. Though isolated in Kanpur, with no
resources, he resolved to start rebuilding a party.

That proved to be a long, hard struggle. He had to fight comrades who proposed opportunist schemes that required a watering down of the Trotskyist program. He became the standard bearer of “orthodox Trotskyism” in the Indian party.

Raj Narayan matured into a Trotskyist leader through these internal party struggles. He played a key role in ensuring the survival of the Trotskyist program and party in India – an achievement that has never been duly acknowledged. In this tribute I will delve into those behind-the-scenes struggles, using unpublished documentary sources, in order to wrap context around his life and give him the credit that is his due.
Although largely a self-taught Marxist, Raj Narayan made significant contributions to the Marxist understanding of India, particularly on the national question and role of caste. He produced a Trotskyist newspaper, Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, for ten years and published books and pamphlets. In the 1980s he started to translate Trotsky’s writings into Hindi. He authored and published a three-volume biography of Trotsky, the first of its kind in Hindi.

I met Raj Narayan Arya in 1974, during a yearlong sojourn in India, when I was researching the history of Indian Trotskyism. He invited me to come to his home in Kanpur. What I had anticipated would be a single interview turned into three days of discussions. He was a warm, soft-spoken, reflective man who was always fair in his assessments, even when talking about those who had led the movement astray. He had a large archive of party documents, which he invited me to peruse. I stayed up late every night, copying extracts from the letters and internal party documents longhand into
my notebook, as photocopy services were virtually non-existent in India in those days except in a few major cities.

After I returned to the US, we corresponded regularly. When I was writing my book on the BLPI in the 1990s, I sought his input often. He always answered my questions, corrected errors in my drafts, challenged some of my interpretations, and filled in gaps that no one else could.
When his health started to fail, I urged him to write his memoirs. He demurred. “My work for the movement was not that important.” That was Raj Narayan – always modest to a fault. He finally relented and sent me two long, handwritten letters with his life’s story. All the quotes in this tribute, unless noted otherwise, are from those letters.

Upbringing in a traditional village

Raj Narayan was born in a small village in the Ghazipur District of the United Provinces, about 30 miles northeast of Varanasi, near where the Gomati flows into the Ganges. His father, Sri Prayag Lal Srivastava, was a junior clerk for the District judge at Gorakhpur. As his name indicates, the family was Kayastha (upper-caste). In the ancient Hindu social order Srivastavas were literate scribes who worked for the government as record keepers. But his parents followed the teachings of the Arya Samaj, one of the Hindu reform movements that rejected the caste system.

“The Arya Samaj had a very deep influence on my life from childhood. Most of the people of my village were poor, lower-caste farmers, but my family treated them as equals. I had no notion of caste hierarchy.” Growing up in this typical village, Raj Narayan was oblivious to politics. Although the Arya Samajists tended to be nationalists, his father and uncles, being government employees, were loyal to the Raj. “Even the upper castes, in daily contact with cities and government officials, did not attach much importance to Congress, which was spearheading the freedom movement.”

He went to the village school, where instruction was in the local vernacular languages. In 1939 he graduated at the head of his class. His parents wanted him to continue at an English-medium school, since that was the ticket to a government job. They sent him to live with an uncle in Gonda, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he attended the Government High School.

Glimpse of the bigger world beyond

In high school he was exposed to politics for the first time. “I was befriended by two classmates whose families were regular readers of English newspapers. In the mid-day recess I listened eagerly to their talk about recent events.” Like so many youth at the time, they worshipped Subhas Chandra Bose, the radical nationalist leader who had upstaged Gandhi and became President of the Congress in 1938. Bose saw the onset of the war in Europe as a golden opportunity to launch an all-out war for freedom. “I agreed with Subhas. I felt that satyagraha [Gandhian non-violent resistance] was ineffective. I no longer supported Gandhi.”

In 1940 Raj Narayan first heard about Trotsky from the newspaper reports of his assassination in Mexico: “The papers gave details of the cooperation of Lenin and Trotsky, and how Stalin seized power after Lenin, exiled Trotsky, and eliminated all of Lenin’s comrades in the ‘thirties. At that time I was interested only in the Indian struggle for independence. But these seeds were planted in my mind.”
In March, 1941 he attended a meeting of the Arya Samaj in Gonda. “Being disgusted with caste names, I dropped my caste name, Srivastava, and adopted the general name ‘Arya’ used by the Arya Samajists. Thus, I rejected idolworship, caste hierarchy, and male supremacy much before I became a Marxist.”

A harrowing first experience in politics

After graduating from high school with honors in 1942, he was admitted to the Kali Prasad Intermediate College in Allahabad on a scholarship. But his parents couldn’t afford the room and board. An uncle secured a place for him at the Kulbhaskar Ashram, which provided free room and board for boys from poor families. The ashram was connected to the Arya Samaj and was a beehive of political discussion.

In August, 1942 the Congress passed the historic “Quit India” resolution, calling for mass civil disobedience with the goal of getting the British to set a date for independence. The government arrested Gandhi and most of Congress high command. Street protests erupted in Bombay the next day. Hearing the news, the student union in Allahabad called for a protest march to the District Magistrate’s office. Raj Narayan decided to participate.

“As we approached the District Magistrate’s office, I saw the District Magistrate and the Superintendant of Police on horseback facing us. A dozen policemen had their guns pointed at us. There was a bang. A student fell just in front of me. I saw blood. The student leaders shouted ‘Lie down!’ But the boy at the front [of the march] who was holding the Congress flag remained standing. The District Magistrate rode towards him with revolver in hand and shot him dead. That was my first experience in politics.”

An unexpected rendezvous

A few days later a classmate, Keshava Prasad Lal (1925-2006), asked Raj Narayan if he wanted to meet “my leader.” He led Raj Narayan to the rendezvous. There he met Onkarnath Shastri (1908-2000), one of the first Trotskyists in India and a founder-leader of the BLPI. Raj Narayan had never met a Communist, much less a Trotskyist. “Shastri gave me a leaflet, titled ‘Turn this imperialist war into civil war!’ I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘civil war’ but I liked the fact that Trotskyists supported the Quit India movement, while the Communists didn’t.”

As the protests spread and intensified, the schools and colleges were closed indefinitely. Raj Narayan had to return to his village. When he arrived, he was astonished to find that his family, who had never taken any interest in politics, wanted to join the “Quit India” struggle. “We had a railway line near the village. We went there and cut the telegraph wire that ran along the tracks.” They were all caught. His father and uncle were sentenced to 18 months in jail. “I was tried, but given my youth, I got whipped with a cane and released.”

When he returned to college, he didn’t know how to contact the BLPI. Onkarnath Shastri had been arrested. Raj Narayan joined the student wing of the Congress Socialist Party at the college. In June, 1944 he graduated with high marks in chemistry and physics and entered Allahabad University.

Contact with the BLPI

Shortly later, he got an unexpected visit from a young BLPI member, Sitanshu Das (1926-2010), who had been jailed for distributing subversive flyers in Jamalpur (Bihar).

He had heard about Raj Narayan from another young Trotskyist who landed in the same jail. “He told us more about Trotskyism and gave us pamphlets that the Calcutta BLPI comrades had published. I read them eagerly.” Not long after that, two leaders of the BLPI – the Ceylonese expatriates Colvin de Silva (1907-89) and Leslie Goonewardene (1909-83) – visited Raj Narayan and his comrade-classmate. In July, 1945 the BLPI center in Calcutta dispatched Hector Abhayavardhana (1919-2012), another Ceylonese expat, to train the two new recruits and guide their work in the Congress Socialist student group at the university. They recruited an influential student leader who helped form a BLPI group on campus. Keshava Prasad was then dispatched to Kanpur to start a BLPI group there.

And so when Abhayavardhana left three months later, Raj Narayan was left pretty much on his own.
Raj Narayan received literature from the BLPI in Calcutta from time to time – leaflets and the party’s journal, Permanent Revolution. But that was his only link to the party. So, while he was learning his Trotskyism at a literary level, he had no real training in Leninist party organization and functioning. I have absolutely no doubt that he would have matured faster and risen to greater heights if he had the experience of working in a party organization.

Finding his calling

After earning his BSc in 1946, Raj Narayan wanted to pursue an MSc in zoology, but he couldn’t get the financial support he needed from his parents. “I decided to go to Kanpur and work with the workers.” He got a job as a lab technician at the Royal Ordnance Factory on the outskirts of Kanpur. “I was not in touch with the party center in Calcutta.” At that point the BLPI didn’t have the financial or organizational resources to send reinforcements to Kanpur or maintain a regular internal bulletin.

In 1947 the Ordnance union called a strike against layoffs. At dawn on April 8th Raj Narayan joined the picket line at the factory gate. He was one of the first to be arrested.
“In the jail I started introducing myself to all the workers. I came upon two workers, one a Socialist, the other a Communist, debating the August [Quit India] struggle. The Socialist was supporting the August Struggle, the Communist was defending the CPI for supporting the government. I asked the Communist worker how that support actually benefitted the Soviet Union. He was nonplussed. The union leaders, who were sitting nearby, wondered who I was. The Communist union leader said, ‘Oh, he must be a Trotskyist.’ So, for fun, he started calling me ‘Trotsky’. The workers in the jail spread the word that ‘the Ordnance Factory workers are following Trotsky’.”

When the strike ended, he went to the factory gates twice a day to talk to workers as they were arriving and leaving.

“I took up residence in the [factory workers] housing colony at Armapur Estate and began to take part in meetings of the union. I recruited several Bengali workers in my group.” When the British factory managers tried to get him thrown out, the union ranks rallied to the defense of “Trotsky.” He was elected to a new committee that the union had established to organize and mobilize the unemployed ordnance workers. The BLPI newspaper reported his successes.
Raj Narayan was a born leader. Totally lacking caste and class prejudices, he could mingle and talk freely with anyone. At age 21 he had found his calling.

First national conference of the BLPI

When Raj Narayan was released from jail after the Ordnance strike, he learned that the BLPI was preparing to hold its first national conference two weeks later. Though he hadn’t seen any of the pre-conference discussion bulletins, he packed his bag and took the train to Bombay to represent the Kanpur unit of the party.

Raj Narayan had never been to a party meeting before, much less a national gathering. For the next four days he listened to the party’s top leaders debate critical issues facing the party. It was exhilarating but also intimidating; “I was then still raw politically.” According to the minutes of the conference, he spoke only a few times and abstained on several votes. When he did vote, he followed the majority line.

The “biggest test” of his life Just one week after he returned home from the conference, the whole political situation changed dramatically. Mountbatten announced on June 3, 1947 that India would be partitioned and the “transfer of power” would occur in ten weeks, not in twelve months, as formerly announced. The announcement triggered panic and more pogroms. “The biggest test that I ever had to face as a Marxist was the communal madness.”

The communal poison was infecting the labor movement. In Kanpur Raj Narayan could see the ominous change at his factory. Local Hindu communalists were inciting the Hindu workers against the Muslims, saying that any Muslim worker who supported Pakistan should be expelled.

“I decided to intervene and take a public stand of class solidarity. I approached the president of the union, who was a Muslim, and got a notice signed for a public meeting at the factory gate. The Hindu communalists threatened to attack me if I held that meeting. On that day, the Muslim workers gathered around me and we walked to the gate together. I told the meeting that the Muslims who had opted for Pakistan had done nothing wrong. ‘They are welcome to live with us as long as they want. Let us say good-bye to them when they go.’ I reminded all the workers of our slogan, ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’ I said that workers everywhere are our brothers. This stand of mine calmed down the workers in the factory.”

Into the slums of “Red Kanpur”

In 1948 the BLPI asked Raj Narayan to leave his job at the Ordnance Factory and move into the city to work with a group of party contacts at the J. K. Jute Mills in Darshanpurwa. He took a teacher’s training course and got a job teaching science at a school, where was given a small place to live on the grounds. Every day, after he finished teaching, Raj Narayan went to the jute mill and held Marxist study classes.

The Congress ran the union. As an outsider, he couldn’t intervene in the factory committee. He took a bold step. “I suggested to the workers in the mill committee that they leave the INTUC [the Congress federation] and get their committee registered as an independent union under the Trade Union Act. They did that, and I was able to start working with this committee.”

After a while his father paid him a visit. He was upset that his son was spending all his time and money on political work and wasn’t interested in getting married.

“My father insisted that I marry, and so one month later I married the village girl that he had chosen for me. Her name was Kamala. She was 13 years old. He thought that with a wife, I would no longer be spending my pay on the party. He never realized the importance or significance of my political activity.” Their life was frugal. “We lived in a simple house without flush toilet facility.” True to his Arya Samaj upbringing, he treated his wife as his equal. With his support, she went to school and became a nurse.

An existential crisis in the party

In 1948 Raj Narayan attended the BLPI’s second national conference as delegate from Kanpur. The party was facing a new era. The mass anti-imperialist struggle was over, and the Socialist Party (SP) was pulling out of the Congress in opposition to the Nehru government. A faction in the BLPI argued that the Trotskyists should enter the SP, win over the radical workers to their program, and then exit and re-form the BLPI stronger than before.

Raj Narayan supported this proposal, known as the “entry tactic.” The SP leaders, not being babes in the woods, told the BLPI that they were “suspicious of this unity move.” They said the SP would not tolerate any factional activities. Reporting back to the party, the BLPI leaders reassured the ranks
that they would “form a secret nucleus in Bombay to guide us at every step, and if anything went wrong, they’d pull us out of the SP.” And so the BLPI folded its tent and the members joined the SP as individuals with no clear plan of action.

Call to end “this fatal step”

When he joined the SP in Kanpur, he found no signs of radicalization in the ranks. In fact, he found very little political activity at all. “There was not much to do.” As for guidance from the secret “nucleus” in Bombay, “I never heard from them.” So he improvised. “I wrote a pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Why we should have a revolutionary program,’ and gave it to the Socialist activists, but I failed to get a response.”

In 1950 he sent a confidential letter to the BLPI leaders in Bombay:

“It is fatal to build the SP and to create a rival…Occasional murmurs and discontents [in the SP ranks] cannot justify this fatal step. I have also mentioned the dangers of remaining within an alien class party, especially in a period of lull and for a long period…We are going to expose ourselves to the full blast of an alien class influence.”

Unbeknownst to him, a group of former BLPI members in Calcutta also had called for an exit from the SP. But the senior Trotskyist leaders refused to reconsider, insisting that “the struggle inside the SP will ultimately arise. In 1950 Raj Narayan resigned from the SP. About the same time the Calcutta dissidents – a group of about 20 cadres, including a number of trade unionists – also left the SP. The majority of former BLPI members, however, remained inside the SP in various stages of activity and inactivity.

Initial efforts to reunify the Trotskyists

At that point there were three Trotskyist groups functioning in India: the Calcutta group, which had just left the SP, and two small groups in Bombay. Raj Narayan decided to visit each one – a big commitment, given that he had a job, a 15- year old wife, growing trade-union responsibilities, and little money to spend on party work.

In June, 1950 he went to Calcutta for a month. He stayed with Keshav Bhattacharyya (1925-2013), one of the brainy Marxist leaders of the group of about 20 ex-BLPI members. They had revived the BLPI’s newspaper, Inquilab [Revolution]. They were very good at Marxist theory but terrible when it came to the practical tasks of party building, like holding regular meetings and conducting study groups for their contacts. They were basically a discussion group. They didn’t have even one full-time party organizer.

Raj Narayan next went to Bombay, where he met the leaders of the Mazdoor [Workers] Trotskyist Party and the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party. The former had never been part of the BLPI; the later was a splinter. They were already working towards Trotskyist unity. In June, 1952 Raj Narayan participated in the conference where they merged to form the Mazdoor Communist Party (MCP). He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the Policy Statement. The MCP revived the BLPI newspaper, New Spark, and declared in the first issue, “Only the program of revolutionary Marxism – the Fourth International program – can provide the basis for the development of a party.”

Defection of the old BLPI leadership

The Socialists went into the 1952 general elections with sky-high hopes. They were buried in the Congress landslide victory. Stunned, the SP leaders merged with a breakaway party of Congressmen. The Trotskyists in the SP were now free to hoist their own flag. Instead, they resolved to “hold aloft the banner of the Socialist Party” and “rebuild the party of Democratic Socialism in India.”
Why would Trotskyists pledge to rebuild a reformist party? Evidently, they couldn’t bring themselves to abandon “entryism.” The leaders of the Fourth International didn’t help matters; the British, American, and Ceylonese Trotskyists applauded their decision to rebuild the old SP.

This was a symptom of how they were beginning to deviate from the course that Leon Trotsky had set for the Fourth International. In 1953 Raj Narayan went to the conference of the rump Socialist Party that was in the hands of the former BLPI leaders. He was astonished to find out that most had themselves become reformists.“To my surprise, I found that our leaders had become non-defencist. They ridiculed the idea of the defense of
the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. They had lost faith in the world revolution. So there was a struggle, and they were expelled.” After the Shachtmanites departed, the remaining Trotskyists cast off the cloak of social democracy and renamed their group, “Socialist Party (Marxist).” Raj Narayan joined the SP(M) and took a place on its Executive Committee.

The lure of centrist regroupment

After the stunning Congress victory in the 1952 elections, the two largest parties to the left of the CPI – the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) – attributed their defeats to “left disunity” and issued a joint statement calling for a merger of all “non-Stalinist and non-Socialist parties” on the basis of “the tenets of Marxism Leninism.” A number of smaller parties jumped on the “left unity” bandwagon.

Raj Narayan wanted to press ahead with a Trotskyist unification. But his comrades in Bombay and Calcutta found this merger prospect enticing. “There appears in our comrades a craze for getting into some big party,” he wrote. “Even if there were only two of us [Trotskyists], we should call ourselves a party and work towards that goal.”16 Unfortunately, his comrades diverted their energies into this PWP-RSP merger initiative.The PWP and RSP staged a Marxist Unity Conference in January, 1955. 17 The Bombay Trotskyists (MCP), the Calcutta group (now called the Communist League), and the SP(M) participated, and Trotskyists were given six seats on the 20-member Provisional Central Committee, tasked with “evolving a procedure for bringing about a merger of the separate parties and groups represented in the conference.”

Raj Narayan didn’t get directly involved. At that point the textile mill owners in Kanpur were demanding greater productivity. The political parties that controlled the unions were at odds. Raj Narayan teamed with a senior local labor leader to bring all the textile unions into a single union – the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. Raj Narayan was elected secretary. “The new union – the Sabha – called a strike for May 1st , 1955. The leaders were arrested and sent to jail. I, too, was jailed.” The strike lasted 80 days and blocked, for the moment, the employer offensive.

Meanwhile, the Left Unity initiative stalled. The Provisional Central Committee spent the next two years trying to draft a program that would satisfy all the motley parties. In a letter to his comrades Raj Narayan argued:

“The different parties were yet not clear about Stalinism fully, and even while criticizing Stalinism formally, followed its politics of the Government of Democratic Unity…they found large areas of agreement with the Social Democrat and the Stalinist opinions on Kashmir, Goa, Five Year Plans, India’s Foreign Policy and T.U. [trade union] and peasants’ movements.”

As the 1957 elections approached, the PWP and RSP decided to field their own candidates. The merger was put on hold. The Trotskyists had wasted more than two years trying to broker what could only have been an unprincipled lashup of centrist parties. Worse still, they had lost cadres and strength in the process. In Bombay, for example, while the Trotskyists were naively working for the merger, their “partners” were undermining them in the labor movement. “The cadre of the old MCP,” one leader lamented bitterly, “has been decimated, isolated and destroyed.”

A call for unity

At this point Raj Narayan stepped forward again and appealed to his comrades:
“Let us finally make up our minds that no bigger merger is possible in the foreseeable future and hence we shall no more run after mirages…Let us tell them [the rest of the Left] that instead of running after illusions of half-baked unity just now, we are consolidating Trotskyists to contribute in clarifying our stand and laying a sound basis of Left unity if it ever comes about. Our emphasis, therefore, should not be on agitation for bigger merger but on political discussions and clarifications of our stand and opposing our policies to that of the Congress and other Lefts. We should aim at promoting understanding and not unity.”
Initially the Bombay and Calcutta groups were reluctant to give up on a centrist merger.
But when nothing materialized, they resumed the process of Trotskyist unity. Raj Narayan attended the meeting in Calcutta in November, 1957, where the representatives of the three groups – the Bombay MCP, the Calcutta Communist League, and Raj Narayan for the SP(M) – agreed to form a new party, the Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI). He was elected Convenor of the Provisional Coordinating Committee, which would prepare for a unity conference in March, 1958.

At this meeting there was a debate over whether the new party should be called Trotskyist. Raj Narayan and the Bombay group were strongly in favor, while the Calcutta group was opposed. According to the minutes, “While the Committee accepted in principle the need to associate the party openly with international Trotskyist movement, it was decided to postpone the issue till the merger conference.”
In the interim Raj Narayan was authorized to contact the Fourth International, which was then divided into two camps – the majority, following the line of the International Secretariat in Paris (IS), headed by Michel Pablo, and a minority, calling themselves the International Committee (IC).

Contact with the Fourth International

In March, 1958 Raj Narayan sent a letter to the IS, with a copy to the British section of the IC, setting forth the position of the Provisional Coordinating Committee:
“We deeply regret the split in the World Trotskyist movement and we shall try our best to prevent the Indian Trotskyist movement from splitting in its wake. We shall keep most friendly contact with each wing of the Trotskyist movement, individually and collectively, and we shall allow supporters of both wings within us. The merged party [RWPI] shall follow the line of either of these wings on its merit – according to its own majority view. We shall discuss the question of affiliation in due course amongst ourselves and whatever the result, we shall not allow the unity of the Indian Trotskyists to be broken up on this question.”

Two months later he sent another formal statement to the first international conference of the IC:
“Indian comrades shall never hesitate to express their opinion on all the points of controversy, but they are not prepared to divide themselves on such points. They consider that the differences are not so fundamental that separate existence of the two wings is necessary. I, therefore, appeal to this gathering on behalf of the Indian comrades to seriously consider and find out ways and means to heal up this wound and democratic organizational safety for future.”

An Indian version of “Pabloism”

In January, 1958, while Raj Narayan was making preparations for the unity conference, the Calcutta group dropped a bombshell. They wanted to postpone the unification. They claimed they had just reached “complete agreement” on merger with a “political front” of left parties in West Bengal, and “we would not like our own unity to stand in the way of this bigger unity.”26 Raj Narayan fired back: “We must not postpone the actual integration of the Trotskyist parties.

We must start functioning as one party, with a united centre, a united program, and a united organization.” The Calcutta group then insisted on having an internal discussion of “party perspectives.” The Calcutta comrades ridiculed the idea that only a Trotskyist party, fighting for the program of the Fourth International, can make a revolution.
“The course of events, especially the international events, will more and more compel the more conscious elements [in other left parties] as well as the different honest revolutionary groupings to adopt a fundamentally Trotskyist position…let us not close the door against them by insisting that they must openly swear by Trotskyism here and now….to swallow the whole thing hook, line and sinker. …On the contrary, by making unreasonable demands in the initial period we will be spoiling these excellent opportunities and in reality, hampering the growth of a vigorous and healthy Trotskyist movement in India.”

In other words Trotskyists should water down their program, get into a big centrist party, and eventually the objective forces of History will take care of the rest. That is pretty much what Pablo had been saying since 1950. After four months of tortuous exchanges in the internal bulletin, Raj Narayan and the Bombay group told the Calcutta comrades that they were going ahead with or without them. The Calcutta group offered a compromise: if the new party accepts “the principle of a bigger unity,” then they would “leave it to the new party to define the exact basis on
which unity with such elements may be attempted in future.” Raj Narayan agreed.

A promising new beginning

The Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI) was launched in May, 1958. The Statement of Policy declared that the RWP “takes its stand wholly and unreservedly” upon “Leninism-Trotskyism,” but also will work for “the consolidation of all Marxist forces in India” on a three-point “basic program.” 30
The IS in Paris sent a congratulatory message to the conference, urging the RWPI to act as “part and parcel of the World Party of Socialist Revolution which is our Fourth International.” The delegates weren’t ready to reciprocate. Based on his previous communications with the IS and IC, Raj Narayan proposed that the RWPI not “align ourselves with either wing [of the Fourth International] organizationally and denounce or the other. We should rather be out of
both and help in uniting the two wings.”
Ernest Mandel of the IS wrote to Raj Narayan: “Your analysis of the split and its aftermath seems to me rather heavily weighted in favor of the International Committee and strongly one-sided.”32 Raj Narayan replied: “We feel that real unity can proceed only when the differences have been thoroughly discussed as within a single organization. To break the present stalemate it is necessary to create a third force to start a thinking uninfluenced by the accidental association and subjectivity…The Indians are in agreement with the SWP’s Militant, and not the IS, on the questions of Kerala, Tibet and the Sino-Indian border dispute. [However], no Indian comrade, including myself, has yet taken a stand on the split [of 1953].”

The RWPI got off to a good start. Many former cadres scattered around India rallied enthusiastically. Party branches were formed in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Calcutta, Nadia, Murshidabad, Barrackpur, Madras, Sholavandan, Madurai, Thevaram, Tuticorin and Kerala. The Bombay branch produced the party’s newspaper, The Militant, and political journal, New Perspectives, and staffed the small central office on Cleveland Road in Bombay. Raj Narayan contributed seminal articles on the national question in India and authored what became the party’s line on the Chinese incursion into Tibet.

A disastrous “Pabloist” merger

Shortly after the founding conference the Calcutta group informed the Central Committee that they had reached “basic agreement” with the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI). Given the background of this party, Raj Narayan was skeptical. The RCPI had originated in the late 1930s as a dissident Communist party that criticized aspects of Stalinism while rejecting the program of the Fourth International, in particular the Trotskyist analysis of the USSR. In 1948 the party split when a faction started what was a disastrous armed uprising in Bengal and Assam. This group, led by Sudhindra Nath Kumar, continued to use the name RCPI. This was the RCPI remnant that the Calcutta group said
was in “basic agreement” with Trotskyism.

Raj Narayan suspected that the Calcutta comrades, in their eagerness for merger, were downplaying the differences:

“We were very much dependent on the reports of our own comrades of Bengal on whether there would be an openminded discussion on the question of the USSR.”

In August, 1958 a delegation from the RWPI met with the RCPI in Calcutta. The RCPI proposed immediate unity;

the RWPI declined, stating that the differences on the USSR would have to be overcome first. The Calcutta comrades continued the discussions. A year later the RWPI Central Secretariat noted that “attitude toward the Soviet Union” still remained a bloc to merger.

In December, 1959 the RWPI and RCPI announced that they had reached agreement on a unity program.37 Raj Narayan, who had not been involved in the discussions, suspected that the Calcutta group had pushed through this deal. Whether or not that was the case, the IS in Paris hailed this unity of “revolutionary Marxists.” That is not surprising.

The unity program could have been written by Pablo himself. On the key question of Stalinism, the unity program pledged to support “those efforts of the leading parties of the Workers States” that were “ensuring continued better living conditions and wider democracy for the masses, wider socialization and complete elimination of bureaucracy.” That was a call for Khrushchevite reform, not political revolution to oust the Khruschchevs in Moscow, Peking, and Belgrade.

The RCPI blows up

The merged RCPI was an unstable bloc between the two sides. The Trotskyists kept their newspaper, the Militant, while the RCPI continued Janasadharan [Common People]. The Militant talked about permanent revolution; Janasadharan talked about “peaceful co-existence with capitalism” and “socialism in one country.” Before long the RCPI majority in the Political Bureau demanded that the Militant stop being a mouthpiece for Trotskyism.

The differences came to a head during the India-China border war in 1962. The Nehru government whipped up jingoist feelings towards the “aggressor” China. The Militant came out solidly for the defense of People’s China. The principal historic leader of the RCPI publicly supported the Nehru government. The Trotskyists demanded that the RCPI Political Bureau repudiate his stand. When they refused to do so, the Trotskyists protested and resigned. This merger was an unmitigated disaster. The Trotskyists hadn’t recruited anyone from the RCPI ranks and ended up losing a number of their own cadres. “They [the Indian Trotskyists] were disorganized,” Raj Narayan later wrote.

“They maintained contacts among themselves but they had no formal organization.”

Struggle over future course

In June, 1964 a meeting of Trotskyists was held in Bombay “to evolve the future organizational perspective.” Raj Narayan stood for the immediate formation of a full-fledged Trotskyist party. The majority of Trotskyists who participated in the conference took the same position.
Despite the fiasco with the RCPI, the Bengal Trotskyists wanted to continue entryism. This time around they set their sights on the new pro-Peking faction in the Communist Party, which they claimed was going to either “crystallize as a whole into a genuine revolutionary party or provide the necessary cadres for forging such an organization.” Therefore, they called for “total entry into the CP” and integration with this faction.

Raj Narayan rejected the Calcutta proposal: “once the two groups [in the CPI] split, they will become homogenous again and only the fools can think of making entry.” 43 But he also differed with those comrades “who put the blame for the failure of the Trotskyist movement in India on the entry tactic,” which is “one of the great contributions of Trotsky to Marxism.” Raj Narayan urged his comrades to re-think why the Trotskyist movement had made such little progress. In his view they had failed to apply the approach that Trotsky had set forth in the foundational document of the Fourth International – the “Transitional Program.”

“At the best, we put this item [transitional demands] in our party programs and let it remain there as a piece of adornment. Those of us who engaged in mass fronts and organizations busied themselves with day-to-day economic problems and struggles. Our trade unionists also contested cases of dismissal, permanency, promotion, bonus, wage increase and the like or led struggles on these issues. All that they can claim for themselves is that they were more militant, less compromising, and carried on their activity in a spirit of class struggle rather than that of class collaboration…

We preached Trotskyism, pure Marxism, and presented brilliant analyses of national and international
situations, and in this also we were nothing different from the rest. Here also we followed the traditional political practice. We did nothing by way of organizing movements on the basis of the Transitional Program.

The result was, as visualized by the founders of the Fourth International, a complete failure. We failed because we had not grasped the essence of Trotskyism…

We can grow only through mass movements and the only movements which can grow today are movements
based on Transitional demands…and such movements can be organized only when we act as an independent
group.”

The departure of the Calcutta entrists

While this debate was bubbling, the Communist Party split, and the pro-Peking faction became the CP(Marxist). The Paris secretariat of the Fourth International (the two wings had reunited in 1963) thought the CP(M) was more “left” than the official CP. They dispatched a senior representative to India. His advice: “all comrades who can do it should, in my view, enter the Left CP. The Left CP will be the real force in the left for a whole period, and we should make all our best [efforts] to work in it, or to associate or build it where it does not exist.”

With that stab in the back, the Bombay group, with the support of Raj Narayan, issued a call for a Trotskyist unity conference one month later. The Calcutta group bid them farewell and applied for membership in the CP(M). The CP(M) leaders, being savvy Stalinists, admitted only the Trotskyist trade unionists, who had mass bases in Titagarh and Baranagar. Left hanging, the remaining Trotskyist intellectuals started a journal, Jana Ganatantra (“Peoples Democracy”), in an attempt to influence the CP(M) and later the Maoist split. The group soon became moribund.

The Socialist Workers Party

Raj Narayan attended the founding conference of the Socialist Workers Party of India (SWPI) in August 1965. He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the new program, which was based on the original BLPI program of 1942.

He started to contribute regularly to the SWP’s new journal, Marxist Outlook.
At the founding conference the delegates voted to seek affiliation with the newly re-united Fourth International. Raj Narayan supported that decision but on the condition that the SWP also call for an international discussion and resolution of all those issues that had separated the two wings since 1953, i.e., the policy of “deep entryism,” the supposed “decline” of Stalinism, the Sino-Soviet split, the lessons of Algeria, the character of the Cuban revolution, etc. The result was a five-page letter to the United Secretariat that read more like a polemic than an application. The new FI leadership, however, preferred to sweep all the “old differences” under the rug. So, as Raj Narayan
realized, the seeds for future discord were there from the start. In affiliating to the United Secretariat the SWP was opening itself up to revisionist neo-Pabloist politics and renewed factionalism that would corrupt and eventually destroy the organization.

The nemesis of the old Indian Trotskyists

In 1967 the SWP recruited an energetic former youth leader of the CP(M), Magan Desai, who had a following in Baroda (Gujarat). He became the SWP’s first and only full-time party worker. “At the next national conference of the SWP, Kolpe made the mistake of making him [Magan Desai] the General Secretary. He had not been in the party long enough to be known well. Then he started to take over the
party. He forced out Murlidhar Parija, who had been the general secretary first of the RWPI then the SWPI. He moved the party office from Bombay to Baroda. He took control of Marxist Outlook and then applied to the government authorities in Baroda to change the name to Red Spark under his ownership. He insisted on changing the party name to Communist League. He then started a vilification campaign against Kolpe. He [Kolpe] left the party. The older members of the party began to doubt his bona fides.

I met Magan Desai in Baroda in 1973 and can attest to this assessment. Desai denigrated veteran cadres like Raj Narayan as “worn out” and “parasites.”50 He was completely enamored with the American SWP. As I looked around his party headquarters, I could see that there was more than politics involved in this relationship. The SWP was sending large quantities of books, pamphlets, and newspapers for him to sell. Desai was using the proceeds to support himself and finance the party. In a party with a meager dues base these funds gave him power. Raj Narayan subsequently saw for himself: “I was persuaded to attend a party conference in Baroda in 1976, where I witnessed his cliquish ways.” The following year, “I too was expelled.”

Using the Transitional Program as his guide for trade union work

In 1978 Raj Narayan took a leading role in another landmark strike. The workers at the Swadeshi Cotton Mill were agitating for payment of overdue wages. About 150 were arrested, and the management closed the mill. The union leaders at the mill refused to organize support for the families of the jailed workers. “I mobilized worker activists of all political parties and unions of the Swadeshi Mill and organized a committee. In this work I was pitted against the entire trade union bureaucracy. But they could not find even a dozen workers to stand against our Mill Committee. We not only provided relief to the families, we also led delegations to the state and Central government offices demanding that the mill be re-opened and all the mills of that employer be nationalized.”

Raj Narayan, following the Transitional Program, organized democratic workers committees. “In my functioning as a trade unionist, I always went beyond the Executive Committee and discussed every question publically in open meetings, to which all activists, even ordinary workers, were invited.”
During this time, he earned a doctorate so he could teach at a higher level. He wrote his dissertation on “Marxist Critics of Shakespeare (1950-75)”. He subsequently became a senior lecturer in English at the Pandit Prithi Nath College, which was affiliated to Kanpur University.

Forming a new party in Kanpur

In 1980 he joined the Kanpur branch of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. He had good working relationships with these militants going as far back as 1946. He joined on the condition that he could freely voice his Trotskyist views and still publish the Mazdoor Kisan Kranti. He contributed articles to the RSP paper, Krantiyug [Revolutionary Age]. He eventually won over the local RSP leader and most of the cadres.

In 1991, when the RSP gave electoral support to the Janata Dal, a bourgeois party, he and his recruits split and took the name RSP(Marxist). They took an openly Trotskyist position. The RSP(M) functioned for ten years but folded when its local leader of longstanding died.

Translating Trotsky into the vernacular

In 1984 Raj Narayan embarked on an ambitious new project – translating Trotsky’s key writings into Hindi. He wrapped up Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, retired from his teaching job at the P. P. N. College, and resigned from the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. He started a publishing house, Socialist Prakashan, to publish these in Hindi and Urdu.

Raj Narayan produced a three-volume biography of Trotsky in Hindi – the first of its kind – modeled after the classic trilogy by Isaac Deutscher. He also wrote a history of the Russian Revolution and a summary of the first four congresses of the Comintern in Hindi.

In this period he delved deeply into the origins and role of the caste system – a subject that had interested him since his youth. “In the 1980s I got a book by the Marxist historian, Ram Sharam Sharma, who documented the formation of the castes in ancient India. Later still, I found a thesis of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern on the Negro question and my view on the caste system became final.” He subsequently published two studies: Caste System Through History and Present Tasks: A Marxist View (1997) and Brahmin and Brahmanism: A Historical Survey (2001).

Personal setbacks.

In 1997 his wife died from cancer. It was a huge emotional blow. He wrote and published a book of poems in her memory. Then, in December, 2001 he had to return to Allahabad for a medical operation.
In 2003 Raj Narayan reached out to an old Trotskyist comrade, Somendra Kumar (1926-2006), who lived in
Samastipur (Bihar) and had developed his own local Trotskyist group. Together they started a newsletter, News and Views. But enthusiasm and dedication don’t deter Father Time. In 2007 he wrote, “I am almost 82 and almost immobile.” Somendra Kumar died that same year.

As his health continued to deteriorate, he moved in with his younger son, Sunil Kumar Srivastava, in Allahabad. Unfortunately, he had to jettison his archive – an irreplaceable loss of documentary history. Raj Narayan spent what energy he had on mentoring several younger trade-union militants in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “I am trying to catch younger people to pass on my experience. Anyway, we have to begin anew…I am trying to form a Coordination Committee of Trotskyists. The move is entirely in the hands of the younger generation. I am acting as a guide.” Raj Narayan sent them all his unpublished books and articles in Hindi with hopes that they’d publish them.

In 2011 he wrote, “I am nearly a physical wreck. I can’t read even old and familiar books, nor write a few pages.” By 2013 he was lamenting, “It is not possible for me now either to read something for an hour or write anything, even one page.” When he could no longer hold a pen, he started dictating his letters to his grandson, who keyed them into email messages to me. Modern capitalist technology had come to our rescue!

Despite all his infirmaries and political setbacks, his messages always were positive. He liked to say, “Hum honge kamyab ek din!” [We will succeed some day!]. “I hope the tender plant will grow strong” In March of last year I received what turned out to be his last email.
“I am not well. Very freezing cold since December 13th, right up to the first week of March. I developed chest congestion, dry cough, shook me badly for three weeks. I am weak both physically and mentally.”

Then, in his typical way, he changed the subject and spoke hopefully of the trade-union militants he had been mentoring.
“I have tried to train and educate these young men on a firm political basis. They have already published my Hindi translation of Trotsky’s Transitional Program for the Fourth International. I hope the tender plant will grow strong.”

In his letters he had always used the old Indian communist salutation, “Lal Salaam” (Red Salute). This is my Lal Salaam to a remarkable man who dedicated his life to the working class and the fight for a socialist revolution.

[Citation/reproduction of the content in this article:
citation: “Charles Wesley Ervin, “Raj Narayan Arya (1926-2014)” ]

Appeal to the Indian migrant workers in the Arab world

The New Wave (Bolshevik-Leninist)

The situation in the Arab world today and the Indian migrant workers there:

The Arab world today is in the throes of a revolutionary situation. Whilst world attention has been mainly focused on the popular mass of demonstrators and protestors driving the popular national revolutions everywhere, a vital section of the masses – the migrant working class – has been completely neglected. Today there are over 12 million migrant workers in the eastern gulf. 8.4 million of them are from the sub-continent. In the eastern gulf region (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait) the mostly Indian migrant workers constitute the bulk of the working class population. In North Africa they constitute a significant segment of the population numbering 5.4 million.

These migrant workers have long been denied their rights as workers. Taking advantage of their position as migrant workers, the regimes of the Arab countries have exploited…

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Death in the air – A recent rebellion in Udyog Vihar

Note: The article has been written by Akash Bhattacharya on the basis of the findings of a Labour Solidarity Forum (LSF) team and an independent fact-finding visit by Amit Chakraborty. The LSF team comprised of Dheeraj Anand, Leila Gautham, Parag Bannerji, Pratik Ali, Santosh Kumar and Sthira Bhattacharya, besides Akash Bhattacharya.

11 February 2015. Shamichand, a thirty-two year-old worker at Gaurav International – a garment factory at Udyog Vihar in Gurgaon – reported ten minutes late for the second shift that starts around 1:30 p.m. The guard at the factory gate stopped him and an altercation ensued. Shamichand was brutally beaten up. Within an hour news spread that he had died. Workers of Gaurav International and its sister concern Richa Global, indignant at the atrocity, attacked and damaged the buildings and vehicles of the two concerns in the vicinity. Within a day English and Hindi newspapers reported that workers had “gone on the rampage” and “vandalized” the factories upon mere rumours of a death.
Shamichand had not died; and the workers’ acts of “vandalism” were not merely about his suspected death. Few in fact seemed to have accurate information about the incident. They had mutinied against the conditions that make death probable. They work, earn and reproduce amidst oppression, degradation and fear. “If one person stands up, he will be dismissed [from the factory] and everyone will be too scared to do anything” claims Rachna, a female worker in Udyog Vihar. Fear surrounds their homes too in the shape of exploitative landlords and contractors. Sita’s brother-in-law had committed suicide some months ago under suspicious circumstances and the police had refused to accept a First Investigation Report (FIR). She suspects foul play by the maliks (either factory owners or the landlord).
The need for a pliant and flexible labour force for “development” requires their lives and deaths to be rendered invisible. The simmering anger sometimes boils over creating minor but threatening ripples on the tranquil surface of a comfortably ignorant society.
Insignificant Lives
Two days after the incident, a fact-finding team that reached Udyog Vihar was greeted with some suspicion. Outsiders – often upper class people – are correctly deemed unlikely to side with workers. Besides, the police had already filed FIR against two hundred rebellious workers and were looking to arrest them. Knowledge was therefore to be carefully circulated; largely preserved within a subterranean information society. At Kapashera, the border between Delhi and Gurgaon, we were welcomed by a banner with a smiling Arvind Kejriwal thanking all citizens of Delhi for delivering the historic election verdict in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party. Across the border is Udyog Vihar – the industrial area – while the worker’s colonies saturate the lanes on the side of Delhi. They aren’t however the “citizens” that Kejriwal was thanking.
Mostly migrants from agricultural districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal, the workers face acute social and political isolation. Shamichand for instance hails from Gorakhpur. Neither are they allowed to unionize themselves nor are most of them voters at the site of their exploitation. In fact the latest wikipedia entry for Gurgaon denies their existence altogether: only the bustling Information Technology sector features under the “economic activities” section. Spatially locked away in the by-lanes near the border, their existence is sometimes trivialized as chhotamota – meager, inconsequential – by more privileged local residents.
Garment workers, numbering over lakhs in Udyog Vihar, are paid miserably low salaries. A permanent worker earns between Rs. 5000/- to Rs. 7000/- per month for 8 hours of work per day, which rises to around Rs. 9000/- with the addition of overtime pay. Unlike the automobile sector along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), salaries and employment security are similar for permanent and contract workers. Permanent workers better leave facilities and social security benefits on paper. The deduction of money for Provident Fund from an already meager salary however adds to their hardships in the present.
We began by asking street peddlers, fruit and vegetable vendors about the incident. Some denied any knowledge of the incident, nevertheless calling it “usual”. A rickshaw puller felt that a fine would have sufficed for coming late; the thrashing was unwarranted and unjust. Some did not seem to bother too much about it: we merely come there and sell our stuff to earn a living, what do we know of such incidents? Some said that they had noticed workers running towards the border as the police chased them: a rare instance of rebellious workers leaving a mark in the social space beyond their factory/home. Traffic was blocked along the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, IFFCO Chowk, MG Road and Signature Tower too; not due to a workers’ invasion but police efforts to insulate the privileged from the insurgents.
What the Workers Say
Strikingly many workers and other respondents on the streets continue to believe that Shamichand died or that he is fighting for his life. Unsurprising, as death-at-work is a common occurrence here. On 28th March 2014 Sunil Pushkar, a worker in the tailoring department of a garment factory, suddenly collapsed on his seat in front of the electronic sewing machine. He uttered hum ko bacha lo (please save me) to a relative before passing away on the way to the hospital. While the postmortem report claimed that it was a heart attack his colleagues suspected electrocution and blamed the factory management for inadequate safety measures.[i]
Sunil Pushkar’s relatives were fortunate to receive his mortal remains at least. We heard stories of workers disappearing, of dead bodies vanishing; to ensure that no compensation could be claimed and no subversive narratives weaved by the dead. Some workers in Udyog Vihar were not only convinced that Shamichand had died but also concerned about whether his mortal remains were ever going to be found.
Many women – industrial workers and house-workers – also believe that Shamichand is dead. They sympathized with his wife who worked at the same factory as her husband. She was suddenly told before 2 p.m. that day that someone was calling her outside. She rushed out to see her husband lying on the ground. His brutalized body, no longer fit to work, had been discarded. She, along with her brother-in-law, took him to Safdarjung Hospital where he was treated and discharged in a few hours. He later had to be admitted to the Employees’ State Insurance Commission (ESIC) Hospital in Gurgaon.
Indignation at Shamichand’s condition was palpable among women in the residential quarters even as they spoke of their unique difficulties which their men did not always sympathize with: double burden of industrial work to supplement family income and housework. Rachna works eleven hours a day in Udyog Vihar for a paltry Rs. 5000/- a month to finance her child’s education. A poster on the outer walls of Gaurav International celebrates the education of girl children even as the industry denies the finances to its workers to do so.
The outer limit of tolerance was not the same in all workers; though a sense of rage pervaded. Some said that while fines and reprimands were permissible, “We won’t tolerate slaps”. Some felt that the factory manager was responsible; for others, managers are decent people and it is the staff that mistreats workers. Either way the act was not to be condoned. Some accepted that it was wrong for Shamichand to have arrived late, for his job – quality checking – required on-time attendance though the punishment meted out had been disproportionate. Others said that it was unacceptable that workers be taken to task for arriving late whereas mangers and staff could take their own time. Many were angered by the suggestion that the ensuing violence was the work of outsiders, “union people from Haryana”, as an official at Richa Global claimed. They were proud that their colleagues could take such prompt and brave action. “The management was going overboard, something had to happen. Now they know how not to treat us”, several workers claimed. The lack of dignity at work seemed to pinch them as much as low salaries and hard living.

Of Rumours and Fabulous Tales
Amardeep Dagar, the Human Resource General Manager of Gaurav International provides a different account of the incident. According to him the guard had asked Shamichand to speak to his senior before entering the factory, upon which he slapped the guard. An altercation ensued and far from being grievously injured he went to the police to file an FIR. The police themselves shifted him to Safdarjung where he was treated and discharged. He had been asked to join work the following day but instead he let himself be instigated by outsiders and demanded 10 lakh rupees as compensation. On being denied, he lied to doctors to get himself admitted at the ESI Hospital. The next day his wife and brother brought around one hundred and fifty hooligans, pelted stones, burnt files, injured four members of the factory staff and damaged eight-eight vehicles. The police arrived and promptly stopped the arson. The Station House Officer at Udyog Vihar police station claimed that the police had accepted FIR from both sides and that there had been no injury to anyone.
Despite variations in the workers’ accounts of the incident one does notice a pattern in them. All of them claim that the guard beat the worker and not the other way round, that his colleagues retaliated in response, and that the police had sided entirely with the factory management. Their side of the story is eminently believable, for it has been repeated across scores of factories along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor over the past few years. The police, law and the labor welfare departments have taken the side of neo-liberal capital during unrests at Maruti-Suzuki, Munjal Kiriu, Asti (all in Manesar, Haryana), Autofit (Dharuhera, Haryana), Daikin Air Conditioning (Neemrana, Rajasthan) to name a few.[ii]
Beyond the core set of facts that is repeated by every worker, discrepancies surface. Some claim Shamichand was beaten by the guard alone, some say it involved bouncers. Some say he was beaten inside, some say outside. Not many know who took him to the hospital and what exact condition he is in right now. Some claim that it wasn’t workers who started the violence: it was a response to stone-pelting by the police. Discrepancies are partly deliberate, as none wants to be identified as a participant in the violence. The management has submitted the available CCTV footage to the police and the arrest of some workers is imminent. Four are already behind bars. The camera is rumoured to have been damaged in the violence and the entire footage is possibly unavailable.
The incongruities in the accounts emerging out of the subterranean information society point to the irrelevance of some details. Within the grand-narrative of neo-liberal “development” workers are destined for miserable lives and unceremonious deaths. Even if Shamichand did not die, someone did some weeks back and more will in the coming weeks. Rumours of death, so trivialized in many a report on the incident, are true; even if not in the immediate sense. To say that they are false would amount to a greater lie.
In the light of the great truth regarding the ugly underbelly of industrializing India many fabulous tales take root. In the varying accounts of the Shamichand incident, his brother emerges as a magic figure. Amardeep Dagar identifies him as the conspirator-in-chief: the man who instigated Shamichand to demand a compensation of ten lakhs instead of getting back to work. A landlady in the by lanes of Kapashera told us that he worked in the air-force; that he had managed to get the phone number of the vidhayak (parliamentarian) from a television channel, called him up and got him to send a police force! She however shed no light on what role that force was supposed to play. Several workers believe that he has greater financial power than the factory management and can pose a serious challenge to their machinations. Above all, being bade aadmi (big man) he is not going to take his brother’s plight lying down.
In reality, Shamichand’s brother, Shekhar, is no more powerful than a garment worker. A few workers speculated that the powerful one could be some second brother though we did not come to know of a brother other than Shekhar. He too worked at Gaurav International for seven years and changed his job barely a month ago. He has been running around in vain to file an FIR against the management for beating his brother to pulp. As the workers desperately hang on to their lives and dignity, fabulous stories surrounding materially powerful people rather than god-men aid their emotional sustenance. In the face of a severe crisis in the material world even God’s power is reduced to the material means at his disposal.