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.

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.

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.

Appeal for solidarity from ASTI workers

We are reproducing the appeal for solidarity by contract workers at ASTI who have been on a hunger strike opposing the conditions of work at the factory of ASTI at Gurgaon. We request all our readers and followers to help –

An appeal by ASTI Theka Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, Manesar, Gurgaon
3rd December 2014
We the contract workers of ASTI Electronics factory at IMT Manesar, Gurgaon are on Dharna from 3rd November and 7 of us continue fast-unto-death from 25th November with our just demands against contractualisation, illegal lay off, and exploitation.

We had a tripartite meeting with the management and labour department day before and yesterday 2nd December. The management of ASTI continued with their adamant anti-worker attitude, and spoke through the contractors in the meeting. The DLC (Deputy Labour Commissioner) of Gurgaon, J.C. Mann also spoke in the management’s language, and told us off that there is no work so we have been laid off. We did not buy their false arguments and said that most of us have been working in the factory for the last 4-5 years in perennial nature of work in the assembly line. We should rather be made permanent by law and the contract itself is a sham contract. There was no resolution in the tripartite meetings, and the DLC rather than giving us any concrete promise has now passed on the case to the ALC (Asst. Labour Commissioner) Gurgaon.

Anti-social elements instigated by the management have been continuing to harass us, to inform which, a team of workers also met the Police Commissioner Gurgaon yesterday, but no concrete steps have been taken by the police other than forming barricades from the management’s side in front of the factory.

The health of 5 women and 2 male workers on fast-unto-death from 25th November is deteriorating, and ketone body has been found in the blood samples. But the Gurgaon administration has not even sent a single doctor or any medical assistance to the dharna site till date. A team of workers from ASTI Theka Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti also met the DC (Deputy Commissioner) Gurgaon to tell the administration to remind them of their responsibility but to no heed. We shall go to meet the DC Gurgaon again tomorrow 4th December at 11am and we appeal to pro-worker individuals and forces to come in solidarity in the meeting with the DC Gurgaon.

We are enthused to have received solidarity from workers in industrial belt. But at present, we are continuing with our struggle in the face of severe odds of anti-worker management-administration-police nexus. We are faced with a severe financial crisis which is becoming a hurdle in sustaining our struggle. We appeal to all pro-worker forces and individuals to come to our dharna site and also to contribute financially to our struggle.

Please send in your contributions to:
Raghuvendra Pratap
State Bank of India,
Sector 10A, Gurgaon Branch,
Account No. 34189662682
CIF No. 87673860011
Contact for further details: Shivani and Raghuvendra
(ASTI Theka Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti):
09555671885; 9654553194, 9971735073

Message of solidarity to the metro workers of Sao Paolo Brazil

To metro workers in Sao Paulo Brazil,

The New Wave Bolshevik Leninist, on behalf of the working masses of India greet you. We are a revolutionary organization in India struggling to rebuild the Bolshevik Leninist party in South Asia and the fourth international globally.

We express our solidarity with the strike action which you have decided to take. At the time when the world is watching the developments in Brazil around the Fifa World Cup, your strike action sends a strong message both to the capitalists in Brazil and capitalists worldwide. A message that they cannot take the lives of the working class and poor for granted ! That we won’t be pacified with shows of glory ! That the masses can and will fight for what is our just needs.

In this endeavour, we stand in solidarity with you and all the struggling people of Brazil.

In India too, we have seen the arrogance and intransigence of the capitalists during the Commonwealth games. Billions were squandered in scams and wasted over gaudy construction projects all to make the rich richer while the poor stayed poor. Hundreds of workers even died during the mega construction projects like the stadium in New Delhi where bonded labor was used for construction (despite it being illegal!) but the government turned a blind eye to this reality. That government has been justifiably thrown out of power, but the capitalists remain.

Should you succeed in your struggle, it will be an inspiration for the workers here fighting against capitalists who are just as corrupt, just as ruthless and just as brutal.

Long live international Solidarity !

Long live working class unity !

Why I did not stand for the National Anthem

[The following post was written and published in late 2009, by Adhiraj Bose in the earlier New Wave blog when New Wave Bolshevik Leninist was united with its Delhi section. The sentiments presented here are still relevant now.]

This day the 15th of August has a significance unparalleled for Indians. This supposedly is the day of India’s independence. When I woke up this morning my mother turned on the television and there was on my screen the national anthem being played as the national flag was being unfurled. Both my parents stood up to pay their respects. The initial kneejerk reaction from me was to do the same. But just before I was about to stand a thought gripped my mind. In India today, 80% of her citizens live on $2 a day barely able to scrape a living under the adverse conditions of a world financial crisis. At least 60 % of the country’s population who are directly dependant on agriculture will have to deal with drought as 1/4th of India is being declared as hit by drought.

The people of Bihar and Bengal have yet to ameliorate the disastrous impacts of cyclone Alia and the massive floods last year. As I pondered upon these issues plaguing our country I wondered as to how these men and children of India would celebrate the day of independence. What would they say when we tell them “you are free, now celebrate your freedom”, what would India’s common man say ? “freedom ?!! What freedom ? The drought has made sure crops would fail this year and I have yet to repay my debt to the village money lender ! My entire life is in his hands and you say I am free ? No I am not free !” . “Freedom ?!! What freedom ? My lands were taken away by the state and sold off to a corporate who set up his factory there. I have received compensation but how far would that go ? My livelihood has been taken from me and you say that I am free ? No I am not free !” . ” Freedom ?!! What freedom ? We live under the shadow of terror from the state which purports to give us freedom !! Freedom ! yes perhaps for those who kill our sons and rape our daughters with impunity you can say they have freedom ! But me the commoner who merely searches for decent work and security ! To talk of freedom ? No I am not free ! “. ” Freedom ?!! What freedom pray can a man have with barely 200 rupees at the end of the day ? I live in a chawl where there is barely any space to live with a family of 5. I have a wife and two children to support and work for 8 hours a day in a factory that hardly provides for any security ! With such conditions what man can be free ? and you say I am free ? no I am not free !”.

Indeed what freedom has this day brought us ? Yes there are the two great bourgeois freedoms we have , The freedom to own property and the farcical freedom to “vote”. The freedom to own property has guaranteed less freedom to the masses and more freedom to the exploiting capitalists to deprive entire populations of this very right. The freedom to vote ? Vote for whom ? and for what ? 300 out of 543 members in the parliament are multi millionaires. That great “sacred institution of bourgeois democracy” has been literally bought out by the Indian bourgeoisie. And what will our supposedly “chosen” leaders do with our votes ? But of course uncompromisingly serve the interests of the class they represent the great Indian bourgeoisie. Hence people continue to lose land , get deprived of their livelihoods, continue to live under poverty and we are told to celebrate our freedom !!! Do 47% of India’s malnutrition affected people have even enough energy to stand let alone stand to respect the national anthem ? And while my countrymen starve what right do I have to stand and respect such “freedom” ? On this day I chose to sit .To stand for the anthem of such false partial freedoms would be insult to the starving millions who can barely afford a morsel of rice to suffice their hunger. I will reserve my respect for the forgotten martyrs who fought for a freedom that was far better than this nightmare.

I will keep forever in my heart respect for the martyred comrades of the BLPI , of Bhagat Singh and countless unknown martyrs who fought and died for the cause of Socialist revolution. I will reserve my stand for the day when our national anthem stops singing the praise of this illusory freedom and would sing instead for the glory of a socialist revolution. Until then I won’t vote, nor act as a cheerleader to the Indian bourgeois and stand for its false freedom. Until the day of revolution I fight for the real freedom. The freedom of the masses. The freedom from Capitalism!

Polemic on Syria; Alan Woods : Defend the revolution or contribute to its defeat

The following is a polemical article written by comrades J.M Pau and Juan P of the International Worker’s League – Fourth International. The original text may be found here :

http://litci.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2342:alan-woods-defend-the-revolution-till-the-end-or-contribute-to-its-defeat&catid=41:world&Itemid=113

The following article is important not only because it exposes the reactionary politics of the IMT over Syria but also because it deals with the vital question of revolutionary leadership. We repost this article on our blog expressing full agreement with the positions expressed herein :

The positionof Alan Woods and his international political organization on the Syrian Revolution.

Alan Woods wrote last June an extensive article on Syria, to which we will respond with this text.

Many articles have been written on Syria on these years of revolution and civil war. Most of the left, starting with the Castro brothers and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, openly stood beside the dictator Bashar al Assad and his regime. Alan Woods (who supports Chavez and Chavists governments, and appeared as Chavez’ left adviser) – who runs the IMT on an international level -, changed hispositions, on the assumption that previously he had placed himself in favor of the Syrian Revolution. [1]

Below, we summarize the arguments used by Alan Woods to justify his position with quotationsfrom his own article:

1. The movement in Syria began as a popular revolution with mass support. If that movement had been armed with a genuinely revolutionary programme, it could have succeeded in winning over those sections of society that backed Assad for fear of the alternative. However, in the absence of clear leadership, the movement was hijacked by reactionary elements and pushed in a sectarian direction.

2. America’s regional allies, those bulwarks of reaction, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been pouring in money, weapons and mercenaries into Syria from day one. Their objective was not at all to help the rebels who were fighting for change in Syria, but on the contrary, to crush the revolutionary elements and transform what began as a popular uprising into a civil war with sectarian connotations.

3. To the degree that the whole thing became militarised, the struggle was deprived of any revolutionary content. Those who controlled the money and arms were able to dictate terms. The counterrevolutionary Salafists and Jihadis, lavishly backed with money and arms from their billionaire paymasters in Riyadh and Doha, seized control. That determined the nature of the so-called opposition.

Based on these arguments, the conclusion drawn is: “The truth is that the Syrian Revolution has suffered defeat,”and everything now would sum up to an imperialist intervention against the country through its allies. In other words, according to Alan Woods, it does not matter which side wins the war: the immediate task of the revolutionaries in Syria would be only to wait for better days.

The truth is that after reading these paragraphs there is no more doubts that Alan Woods or his political current have never supported the Syrian Revolution. But for us, who know his trajectory, it is not surprising that they have gotten to this point, although on this occasion they have been forced to beat around the bush and to tailor some of their positions over time, hiding and changing others to finally have arguments to continue supportingthe ones they regard as their guides for the international revolution: Chavismo without Chavez.

Let us see, at first, Alan Woods’ arguments on the Syria situation.

The article begins by stating that the Western press (let’s say pro-imperialist) only mentions the government’s actions, concealing the Jihadists and Salafists’ brutality. This is not true, because we have all seen the pictures of a Salafist militiaman plucking and eating the heart of a dead soldier of the regime.

Alan Woods, however, does not say a single word about what the Western press did not publish on this macabre fact. On the internet it can be found statements of Abu Sakkar (the militiaman who ate the soldier’s heart) saying that he did it because when they (the rebels) captured that soldiers they watched the videos that were recorded on their cell phones where they (the regime soldiers) showed how they raped rebel women or murdered children.

According toWoods, the Western media only covers the government atrocities, when in fact, what happens is that the media works to amplify the Salafists and Jihadists’ actions, causing civil war looks like a sectarian war, in which the medicine can be worse than the disease itself. And every day, further and further pieces of news appear in this regard: on the financing of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, on the front Al Nusra which states to be linked to Al Qaeda. In other words, Western media does the same advertising job as Alan Woods.

The process of the Syrian Revolution and the Salafists

In March 2011, large demonstrations were held calling for the fall of al Assad’s regime. After eight months of brutal repression, the Revolution began to arm itself and ended up provoking a civil war that still lingers in the country which is now divided into zones controlled by the regime and liberated zones. Alan Woods says that because of its militarization, the revolution has suffered a defeat, after being dominated by the Salafists. This assessment, in our opinion, is flatly wrong.

Firstly, it is necessary to analyze who is actually fighting on the ground. The largest rebel military force in Syria is the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a group of militiamen and battalions relatively heterogeneous, but who keep a common standard. The estimated current soldiers of FSA areof 80,000 men. The largest Salafist group is JabhatAl Nusra, which has about 7,500 troops. As we can see, despite the Salafists progress in recent months (thanks to the international support they have, against the isolation of the FSA), the non-sectarian forces are largely dominant in the military rebel field.

Secondly, in the liberated areas with a major presence of Salafist forces there have been frequent confrontations of the population against them. Lately, even armed clashes have occurred in the city of al Dana or in the Kurdish areas. The Salafists murdered a FSA’s battalion chief and the Local Coordination Committees have spoken against them. In Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib (the most important liberated zones), there have been streets demonstrations for the same reasons. The Syrian people are far from joyfully accepting the Salafist guardianship, and there is a vivid struggle in the rebel field against the enforcement of the fanatic precepts of these currents.

Third, every Friday demonstrations keep happening throughout Syria. Although they do not count on as many participants as at the beginning, due to the forcible exile, people continue to occupy the streets every week. For instance, on July 19, the Independent Syrian Center for Statistics recorded 73 Syrian demonstrations.

Finally, we want to highlight that organizations which were created by the Syrian masses as from their mobilization, still exist, just as at the beginning. For instance, the extensive network of the Local Committees – the organizations that began coordinating the demonstrations – also took the tasks of supplying the people’s needs (and even being the government in the liberated areas). There is also the Union of Free Students of Syria, dozens of newspapers, many initiatives of the press giving to the world insights of what goes on inside Syria, humanitarian assistance through professional doctors, nurses, psychologists and volunteers, cultural initiatives, etc…

Among the arguments used by Allan Woods, one is worth mentioning:

“To the degree that the whole thing became militarised, the struggle was deprived of any revolutionary content. Those who controlled the money and arms were able to dictate terms. The counterrevolutionary Salafists and Jihadis, lavishly backed with money and arms from their billionaire paymasters in Riyadh and Doha, seized control. That determined the nature of the so-called opposition.”

It is the first time that we read that when a revolution is militarized, it loses its revolutionary content. We revolutionaries believe that it is precisely the opposite: to destroy a regime it is necessary to destroy the key support of the Bourgeois State, which are itsArmed Forces. To achieve this feat, the masses arm themselves or manage to get the Army troops to come over to the revolution side and thus fight the regime with their arms. Therefore, a revolution that manages to destroy the regime’s Army challenges the very Capitalist State. On the other hand, a revolution which leaves intact the Army cannot be more than a “democratic revolution” which, if stalled at this point, will not be able to move to a social revolution.

With all of this, we want to conclude that the Syrian revolution is alive, and that the Salafists are a minority faction from all points of view. To say, as Alan Woods does, that the money and the weapons are in the hands of the Salafists and therefore the efforts of the revolutionaries have been in vain is the greatest contempt of someone who claim to be a Marxist could send to the poor masses and exploited people of the whole world. It is clear that without money and weapons it is more difficult, but if it was the decisive factor there would never have been any revolution in the world, for money and weapons have always been in the hands of the minority, the bourgeois.

Would Assad be”secular” or “progressive”?

AlanWoods acknowledges in his text that the Syrian government commits atrocities. In previous articles of his own organization, Assad was denounced as a capitalist government that implements neoliberal plans. However, in the latter article, when criticizing the Muslim rebels, Woods slips and unveils the characterization that the Syrian regime is “progressive”, and that “the victory of the Jihadis would represent reaction in its blackest and most vicious form. It would signify the liquidation of all the gains of the last 50 years, pushing what was a civilized and decent country back into barbarism. It would mean a savage bloodbath of ethnic cleansing of Alawites, Christians and secular people. The slogan “Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut!” gives us fair warning as to the character and intentions of the jihadis. Their aim is to provoke a Sunni/Shia war of extermination.”

We have already responded to one of the main arguments which is the base for those who argue that the Syrian revolution would be a reactionary process for being “under the control” of Salafists. Now we want to give the question back: What about the government side? Would it be “secular” or “progressive”?

Although apart of the left spread this regime’s image, the answer is categorically No. Assad and his regime are not progressive nor in the content, and they do not even worry about hiding it in the form. And the proof of that was the fatwa read by the Mufti [2] of the Republic on television, calling a jihad to defend the regime. Further proof can be seen in the way the Army generals call upon the Syrian youth to enlist to fight “on behalf of Hussein” (son of Ali, the central figure of Shiite Islam). We can also mention the fact that after the conquest of Qusayr, the first thing that the regime troops did was to unfurl an offensive flag on a Sunni mosque. And finally: the government’s bombardments had already destroyed at least 800 mosques in April, to sow fear, but above all sectarian hatred.

Someone could say that this occurs because of the war and as a reaction to the Salafists’ actions, but the Syrian regime could not be characterized as “secular” even before the war.

The Syrian regime is not a secular state where wouldn’tmatter the religion a particular person professes. Religious leaders play a major role in the Syrian regime. The regime has fostered the splitting and has leaned on one of the Muslim factions, the Alawites (10% of the population) in order to control the Army and State institutions. Civil marriage is prohibited and those who want to get married can do it only if they profess the same religion. Syrian Kurds were massacred and discriminated for decades, and only with the beginning of the revolution the citizenship was provided to them, in order to neutralize them.

If any doubt remained about al Assad’s regime, simply look at their allies to dismiss it completely. On the battlefield, the Hezbollah troops serve as the regime ground troops. And the word Hezbollah, literally translated, means “Party of God”.

On the international stage, al Assad’s main support is the Islamic Republic of Iran and its Ayatollah (which translated means “sign of God”) as “the supreme leader”.

It is ridiculous to try to justify the support to Bashar’s dictatorship for being a “secular” regime fighting against “reactionary Islamists”. In fact, it is the regime that makes more efforts to convert the Revolution in a sectarian fighting, in order to weaken it.

Nor does Bashar hesitate to promote massacres against the Palestinians in Syria (which stem from the 1948 refugees. All his speeches in support of Palestine were definitely thrown into the dustbin of history when it started the bombing on the Yarmuk neighborhood (originated from a refugee camp), where more than 150,000 people live, including Palestinians and Syrians. Palestinians in Syria are part of the revolution, because they suffer the same misery and lack of freedoms that affect the entire population.

50 years of accomplishments?

This is the second statement that stands out most in the arguments of Alan Woods: why is it that the Syrian people rose up massively against the regime, if the country had, according to Alan Woods, 50 years of accomplishments, being a ‘civilized’ country in which there were acceptable living conditions?

A few months earlier, on March 1st, 2013, Fred Weston, also of Alan Woods’ current, explained in an article the nature of Al Assad’sregime, showing the unemployment growth, especially among youth, the dominant role ofthe private industry and the fall in the purchasing power of the population, in other words, a situation similar to the rest of the countries in the region.

“The truth, however, is very concrete: there is not a single gram of anti-imperialism in al Assad regime. There is nothing of progressive in which he could somehow justify a possible support from the socialists, including the most critical of the ‘critical support’ “. [3]

If Alan Woods had a minimum of seriousness he would have, before beautifying the regime which his Bolivarian friends support, to say that his own comrade was mistaken, and demonstrate, if possible, where are the “50 years of accomplishments.” Let us remember that they are 50 years of military dictatorship, during which Bashar al Assad’s father held massacres in which thousands of people died. The current dictator “inherited” from his father the country presidency.

The lack of a revolutionary leadership in accordance with the standards required by Alan Woods

It is typical of the propagandists to criticize the masses for not doing whattheir schemes determine, beforehand. That’s exactly what Alan Woods does in his article, even though we have already seen this phenomenon in other texts by his current about the Syrian Revolution.

The above mentioned article starts as it follows:

“The movement in Syria began as a popular revolution with mass support. If that movement had been armed with a genuinely revolutionary programme, it could have succeeded in winning over those sections of society that backed Assad for fear of the alternative. However, in the absence of clear leadership, the movement was hijacked by reactionary elements and pushed in a sectarian direction.”

In at least one point we agree: there is not a revolutionary leadership in Syria whose program aims at the socialist revolution. However, for sure the Syrian masses have a revolutionary program: to overthrow the bloody regime of Bashar al Assad. It is lacking the program of the social revolution and it is lacking the building up a revolutionary party to defend this program, but this can only be built in the trenches of the revolution, as it happens in reality.

Indeed, a good part of the Syrian revolutionaries can be considered politically as “moderate Islamists”. How could we ask the masses to be on the “leftist” side if most of the worldwide “left” has been supporting the capitalist dictatorship which is promoting massacres against the masses? Much of the blame of the Salafists’ progress or the advance of political Islamism is of that very “left” who condemns the revolution just for this reason. How can Woods be so hypocritical to the point of accusing the Syrians of not following the direction he proposes, when his own current collaborated with the late President Chavez, the known friend and collaborator of the Syrian dictatorship?

Revolutions are as they are: they do not follow a predetermined pattern. It is necessary to look at them objectively, to see how they develop in practice in the real world. The Syrian masses rose up peacefully first, however, seeing themselves repressed and murdered, they took up arms to defend themselves and wipe out the regime. The Syrian people could not build a revolutionary leadership to the taste of some and others. This leadership has to be built in the midst of the government bombings and in a scenario in which there are many interests at stake. And amid all of this the Syrian people have been building their own bodies of power, with all its strengths and weaknesses: local committees, the Free Syrian Army, their Free Students organizations…. It is therefore a living process which should be known and supported by all the workers and peoples of the world.

The anti-imperialism of Alan Woods

We leave for the end what isthe justification of the text we criticize: Obama’s statements saying that U.S.would directly subsidize the Syrian opposition with weapons and resources. There are several statements that have not been fulfilled. However, for Alan Woods this is a scandal, because it would mean an imperialist intervention.

We denounce precisely the opposite. The imperialism has long been intervening in Syrian conflict and has done it mostly in favor of the regime. The arms embargo has benefited so far only the Syrian dictatorship, which continues to be armed by countries such as Russia and Iran, through subsidized fuel from Venezuela and the economic support from China, as well as a true foreign intervention, that of the Hezbollah. This is because the imperialism’s policy, which has not yet been changed, is of forcing a deal between the opposition and the regime, to make a transition that would leave intact the current regime foundations, but without the presence of Bashar al Assad. What worries the imperialism the most is the instability of the region. This stability, which Assad had been ensured for the past 40 years, along with the Egyptian regime, has been one of the mainstays of the State of Israel survival.

On the other hand, the imperialism most direct “allies” (as they are defined by Alan Woods) in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been financing the Islamist factions with the clear objective of perverting the revolution and weakening the Syrian masses. Incidentally, neither Qatar nor Saudi Arabia have never sent heavy weapons to the militias they support, which demonstrates that their real intention is far from the prompt and effective overthrow of the regime.

And why wouldn’t the Syrian rebels have the right to receive weapons from the U.S. or Europe? The Syrian masses have the right to arm themselves, no matter where the weapons come from. Let us remember that during the Civil War or the Spanish Revolution, all the left demanded an end to the arms embargo that had been decreed by the “democracies” of Europe. The government of the Spanish Republic requested arms fromFrance and fromEngland. The Syrian people have the same right, otherwise the ones who will be armed to the teeth will be only the military dictatorship and, to a lesser extent, the Salafist militias – and that is what is actually happening.

That “left”ends up by playing the same role as the imperialism in order to isolate the revolution, echoing the U.S. propaganda when they (the U.S.) declare that they will arm the rebels, but disregarding the fact that these statements are never carried out.

A curious omission in all texts of Alan Woods and his current

In March, Fred Weston denounced the Communist parties for giving support to Bashar al Assad’s regime, when he quoted a statement by the Israeli Communist Party who said that Assad was preferable to a rebels’ triumph. As said above, Alan Woods’ collaborator explained that the regime of Bashar al Assad was at all, nor anti-imperialist nor progressive. Eventually he denounced the Communist parties, but never mentioned either the Castro brothers, of the Cuban regime, or the Venezuelan Chavez or his heir, Mr. Maduro.

However, supposing that Alan Woods is right and that the revolution is defeated, we should ask him what were the role of the left in this process, and especially the role of the government he so much defends. Why does Alan Woods say nothing about the role of Chavez and of the Castro regime in the Syrian Revolution?

Both governments have declared themselves friends of Bashar al Assad and Venezuela sends directly the fuel that moves the Syrian tanks and its air force. Both governments are the ones who led the toxic ideological campaign on the Syrian Revolution. These two governments have supported the thesis that the demonstrations and the revolution were an imperialism conspiracy. This is the “left” which declares Bashar as anti-imperialist, as a defender of the Palestinian people and as an enemy of Israel and even as “socialist” and “humanistic”. These are the figures of whom Alan Woods and his friends have forgotten, who helped the isolation of the Syrian revolution on an international basis, isolation that led to the lack of support by the workers and peoples of the world, as happened with Tunisia or Egypt. These two governments are also responsible for the fact that the Syrian people look suspiciously the left because they have seen the way large part of the “left” has supported and continues to support the dictatorship.

We do not condemn Allan Woods and his current for changing their position. Everyone has the right to do so, if convinced by the arguments, and especially if the reality proves that the point of view they previously advocated is wrong. What is not correct is to try to show up as a revolution supporter and then do everything possible to demoralize it, using precisely the arguments of the imperialism, and demoralize the revolutionary summoning them implicitly to accept the “defeat”.

Alan Woods has once again demonstrated that he has abandoned Marxism, which he claims to defend. We, who are Marxists, on the contrary, as it should be, we support the revolution, we are unconditionally with the Syrian people, for the defeat of the dictatorship and we will do whatever is possible, no matter how humble our own possibilities are, to surround them in internationalist solidarity.

__________________________________________

[1] For those who have not read Alan Woods’ article, the full text can be found at the link:

http://www.marxist.com/no-to-imperialist-intervention-in-syria.htm

[2] Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, referred to as”The Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic.” “Mufti” is a state-religious or academic authority, responsible for interpreting the Islamic law (Sharia) and to issue official statements (fatwas) on controversial issues.

[3] Available at: http://www.luchadeclases.org/internacional/oriente-medio/1181-regimen-de-al-assad-que-se-ha-convertido.html

PSTU statement on the revolt in Brazil

[Here we are reposting the statement from the PSTU, the Brazilian section of the International Worker’s League – Fourth International. The revolt in Brazil is one of the most significant events to occur in Latin America in recent times and represents a re-emergence of radicalization in Brazilian society after a prolonged period of consolidation of bourgeois power. The revolts also present an interesting continuum of popular national upheavals. In this it stands together with the uprising in India against corruption and rape, the uprising in Turkey against the Erdogan government and to an extent bears resemblence to the Egyptian uprising in terms of the class composition of the protests. The role and importance of a direct intervention in the movement under a revolutionary leadership has been recognized by the PSTU and is reflected in this statement, which gives it a special importance. We welcome the encouraging developments in Brazil and give our fullest support to the struggle of the Brazilian people against their capitalist enemies.]

State and municipal governments recoil on the increase of fares

The demonstrations against the increase of fares on public transport (trains, underground and buses) that broke out several days ago and spread all across the country (Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, many state capitals and important inland cities have just obtained the first important triumph: state and municipal governments have reversed and annulled the recent increase. Having participated actively in this process, in which hundreds of thousands of people walked out into the streets, the PSTU and the IWL greeted this first triumph joyfully.

Neither is this the only triumph. In an event unprecedented in these last years, Brazilian Congress will hold special sessions during this winter recess to deal with an agenda proposed in an impassioned speech delivered by Chairman Renan Calheiros (of the PMDB, a right party, allied with the PT in the government. To begin with, an overwhelming majority rejected the PEC 37[1] proposed by the government, one of the strongest demands of the demonstrators; a sample of the power of demonstrations and the policy of granting concessions to try and hush them up.

Demonstration began and swelled in a seemingly unforeseeable manner in a country seemed so “calm” and, to judge by appearances, out of the world process of mobilization and struggle. What we have witnessed was a great process of mobilisation, so far essentially of youth and popular sectors. This is a new generation that joins the struggle and begins writing their part of history. Polls show that for over 75% of the demonstrators this was their first experience; 94% of them did not belong to any political party. At present the demonstrations seem to be spreading to the poorer and more peripheral neighbourhoods of the great cities.

Evidently, something has changed in Brazil, after nearly two decades of “peace and quiet”. This is not only due to the massive character of de demonstrations, but also because they defeated the “sacred entente” between the governments, parties and the bourgeois and forced them to recoil. It will not be until within the forthcoming months that we shall be able to assess just how deep this change is and what its impact will be in the future. Especially there is the question regarding whether the organised working class will join the process fully or not. The greatest depletion and political cost had to be so far borne by the governors (such as the Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB (nation-wide right opposition) and the mayors such as Fernando Haddad of the PT (Workers’ Party) in the Sao Paulo city who applied the increase and ordered the repression. But the Dilma Rousseff of the PT administration was booed at the opening night of the Confederation (football) Cup. So far she seemed to be just as “armoured” as her predecessor Lula was against the effects of economic crisis, inflation or constant corruption scandals. Today, the first “holes” appear in this “armour”. Also the first clear symptoms of splits in the bourgeoisie in the bourgeois milieu regarding the manner to cope with this ascent even if all the bourgeois sectors – as we have seen – consider granting concessions as a starting point.

From the criminalisation of the protest to withdrawal and cries for “peace”

Initially, the different governments and the bourgeois press chose the policy of attacking the movement in order to justify the very tough police repression. They called the demonstrators “vandals” and demanded “severe treatment” for them. This was what the powerful Globo TV Network did or the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo who editorialised, “It is time we said enough” to demonstrators.

However, as crowds kept moving and spreading, it became evident that they had the support of most of the population, so authorities had to change their position. The live broadcasting of the demonstrations and the evidence that it was the military police (depending on the state administrations) that were causing violence (including mugging journalists) turned against the authorities and increased popular support for the protesters.

There even have been some journalists, such as Jose Luis Datena, right-wing host of a popular TV programme who switched from launching quizzes against demonstrators to openly giving them his support when the ample margin of popular support for their demands could no longer be concealed.

In the same way, the governments coming from different political parties switched from the repressive course of action to bewilderment and to summons for “dialogue” and finally to recoiling from the increase of fares. Even the very Dilma administration, who swung away from a statement issued by her Minister of Justice to the effect that Federal Government would make all efforts to make sure that state administrations could control the situation (i.e.: send repressive forces the way she did in Mina Gerais) and concluded by saying that she was “all for democratic demonstrations and would hear their demands”. (Sic)

Travelling is expensive and rough

It was the increase of fares for public transport what triggered off the whole process in the entire country. The increase was very small really (20 cents of real or 9 cents of a dollar). But this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Public transport in Brazil is among the most expensive ones in the world. Even before the latest increase the price of a trip in Sao Paulo by bus or by underground is $1.40 (a combined trip costs 2.11). This represents a total monthly expenditure of about $100 dollars (more than 40% of a minimum wage and between 15 and 20% of the income of those who collect twice or three times as much, which is the case of most of the population of the country. Of course if there is nobody else to spend the same amount. On the other hand, the price of ticket has been increasing far above the rate of inflation. That is why, according to Institute of Research of Applied Economy, there are 37 million people who cannot afford to pay for a trip in public transport and are forced to cover long distance on foot or to ride their bicycles.

But the quality of travelling is getting worse and worse because urbanisation and the growth of the great cities have not been paralleled by equal investment in transport that would satisfy the demand. Public transport comes hand-in-hand with precariousness and rising prices of all the remaining public services. Trains and buses are overcrowded, and accidents are frequent and are part of a tough routine that is repeated twice a day. The extreme slowness of traffic in towns and cities more and more full of cars as an outcome of the impulse given to car production in detriment of development of the much cheaper and much more efficient railways and subways.

“Zero fare” is possible

The metro and the commuter trains in Sao Paulo belong to the State- Buses are under concession to private companies and represent a huge source of income highly coveted by sectors in alliance with the public power.

This profitable business produces an important daily income of ready cash. Buses transport an average of 42 million passengers and collect $180 a month (data from April 2013) for tickets. Apart from that, in 2913 the municipality will pay grants for nearly $600 million a year. Apart from these direct subsidies, the companies also enjoy benefits recently announced by the Federal Government such as tax and social contribution exemptions.

Mayor Haddad estimated that free public transport in the city (“Zero fare”) would cost require just over $2 700 million a year in financing. This figure, according to the spokespeople of Free Pass Movement (MPL) coincides with the increase of the takings estimated by the municipality for this year.

In 1990, a project presented by the very same PT presented by Luiza Erundina who was mayor at that time established “zero fare”. This proposal simply represented to cover the costs of transport by progressive increase of taxes: the richest should pay for this service. The project was filed in the Municipal Chamber and the PT never spoke about that again.

Far from being Utopian, “Fare zero” is totally possible if transport is treated as what it really is: a right of the people and an obligation of the State that cannot be left in the hands of a few entrepreneurs. That is why the PSTU defends the stratification of public transport and free tickets; if this proposal were carried out it would spell great improvement in the level of life of millions of people.

“It is not for the 20 cents alone”

The main demand referred to the annulment of the increase of fares but the demonstrations reflected a much deeper process: “It is not for the 20 cents alone” many posters claimed. A great boiler of popular dissatisfaction exploded against the dismal situation of public health service and education as well as repudiation of the deep corruption of the political system and its representatives.

The great amount of money spent on football stadiums and the organisation of the football (soccer) World Cup in 2014 that the PT administration and the other political parties intended to capitalize politically by showing off a “First World Brazil” in the midst of an orgy of corruption and profit for entrepreneurs friends of the government (like Eike Batista) and even the “privatisation” of the administration of these stadiums built with public money. This lavishness collided against a reality of everyday life of most Brazilians. In a country that loves football, the World Cup was repudiated in and out of the stadiums during the Confederations Cup, a rehearsal of the forthcoming World Cup that popular humour has already re-baptised as the “Cup of the Demonstrations”.

Questioning the banners and raid of right bands

During the demonstrations there was a strong questioning by a sector of the participants against the participation of left parties and other organisation, such as trade unions and the presence of their flags.

Because of the importance of the issue, it is necessary to stop and talk it over. The “apartidism” of many of the participants expresses a very positive aspect: the split with the old parties of the system (the bourgeois and the reformists) responsible for the current situation. Together with this split there is an element of confusion when PT, currently the ruling party, is identified with the “red flags” and the left as a whole failing to tell the difference between those who are fighting against the government and those who are part of it.

Riding on the crest of this feeling, during the demonstrations on Thursday 20th of June, organised groups of neo-Nazis attacked columns of the left, especially those of PSTU in several cities causing clashes that caused several people to be wounded. There was nothing spontaneous about these aggressions: they were boosted by such characters as the retired military man and member of Parliament of the extreme right, Jair Bolsonaro and divers media and sites that called to “defend the non-partisan character” of the demonstrations (and to evict the left organisations) and that the Brazilian flag was to be “the only one present”.

The neo-Nazis and the bourgeois sectors that boost them tried to gain support from this “non-partisan” feeling to carry out aggressions clearly organised and intended to divide the struggle and try and prevent the PSTU (the party left to PT and with the best location for this purpose) from disputing the leadership of this movement and of the ascent that was just budding and in this way give an answer “on the positive” to the crisis of the great parties of the system. This is so, because many of the demands posed by the protesters are part of the programme that this party has been posing for years e.g.: 10% of the GDP is to go for education or free transport. We ought to mention that a few days before a free TV programme of the party exposed that “There is money for the Cup but none for health and education” and this has been one of the central demands of the entire movement.

Coming back to this attempt by the extreme right, if we are to defeat the neo-Nazis we must respond with the strongest unity in the media and in the streets and not only of the left organisations but also of all the honest fighters of the process even if they are “apartisan”. That is why the statements issued by several spokespeople of the MPL (Free Pass Movement) vindicating the participation of left organisations and especially of the PSTU as very positive.

The right and the bounden duty to be there

But apart from that it is necessary to make headway in the dialogue with those who do not agree with the aggressions but who still do believe that left-wingers’ flags (and the left organisations in general) harm or are detrimental for the type of process that they regard as ideal. We understand and we share their repudiation of the parties of the system. We also understand their repudiation of PT and their role as the main party of the system in this last decade. But it is necessary to differentiate the fake red flags from the real ones, those who are fighting arm-in-arm with the demonstrators.

In the first place, the presence of the PSTU flags can mean anything but opportunism. These flags have been with every progressive struggle in the entire country in these last decades, whether against the dictatorship or elected administrations. The PSTU has never been part of a government that implemented bourgeois plans; we have always been clear and steady opposition to them, even if they claimed to be “left”. Furthermore the general demands of these demonstrations coincide with proposed items of our programme launched long before the demonstrations began, and are i.e.: cut down the price of bus, trains and metro fares, 10% of GDP for education or when we expose the character of the World Cup. From this point of view, the banners have a right and an obligation of being there. And that is where we have been right from the very beginning of the demonstrations, even before they became massive.

Secondly, saying “no to parties” everything gets mixed up: the parties against whom we are fighting (like PT or PSDB) and those are support or boost these struggles. The demonstrators as well as people in general must know which parties are on this side in the struggle and which are on the opposite side.

Thirdly, the proposal of “no to the parties” is anti-democratic: everybody ought to have the right how they will participate in the demonstrations: individually, as part of a non-partisan collective or integrated to a party, etc. Nobody can make anybody else to join a party or be part his or her column. But at the same time nobody can refuse anyone else the right to be organised or make him or her abstain from doing so.

And last, let us say that it is divisionism and goes against the very process of mobilisation. This became very clear when the neo-Nazis, concealed behind their costume of “nationalists” and camouflaged with Brazilian flag, attacked PSTU yelling precisely, “no to parties”. This evidenced that, when all is said and done, this a-partisan ideology serves the interests of the bourgeoisie and the establishment.

It is clear that this debate will not be solved soon: the diverse positions respond to deep and varied experiences. What we do propose to all those honest a-partisan activists is to open a dialogue and a debate on the best ways of organising the struggles knowing for sure that we are together fighting in the same trench against the injustice of capitalism and against the governments that maintain these injustices.

How to keep on fighting

As we have already mentioned above, the programme that began to take shape during this process is much more ample than the mere annulment of the 20-cent increase of fares. How to find a solution to the precarious situation of public health service and education? How to cope with the problem of inflation and food shortage? How can we fight against privatisation of e.g.: airports or football stadiums that will only aggravate the situation in benefit of the same ever-privileged entrepreneurs and bankers? How do we contend with criminalisation of struggles and social movements or against the aggressions of the extreme right?

To begin with, for this purpose we need to formulate a common programme of demands and boost the massive entrance of the working class with its methods of struggle and organisation. Consequently, among these demands we must incorporate those that are most felt by workers and by the impoverished toiling masses so that the movement can broaden its bases and increase its fighting capacity. Ze Maria de Almeida, Chairman of the PSTU, expressed it in a recent article,

To begin with, it is necessary for all the organisations of the working class to undertake this challenge and this task. The CSP-Conlutas is participating in this process and is trying to mobilise its grassroots in this direction- The great trade union centrals should really summon for a general strike right now. At this moment what we all need is that everybody should join the struggle. No working class organisation can propose anything less than that.

With this in mind, CSP-Conlutas has launched a proposal of holding a nation-wide day of united struggle for next Thursday, 27th June. The agreement of CSP-Conlutas with Forca Sindical and other centrals to call for a day of paralysation for next 11th July is also very important.

While we are boosting the concrete struggle and participating in it and knowing that triumphs can be achieved we must say that all these unjustness and curses that affect Brazilian toiling masses are the outcome of a country plundered by imperialism associated with great national tycoons in a semi-colonial manner and to the administrations of the establishment whether right wingers or the fake left. That is why any radical solution of our problems needs a socialist revolution precisely to change this semi-colonial structure. In this process, it is essential to build tools of organisation for proletarian struggle and of the toiling masses in general. We also need a revolutionary party determined to be consistent and conscious leader of the process. The PSTU is the most advanced project of that leadership. As we have already said, things have changed in Brazil. Now the central task is to prepare proletarian and responses, mass organisations and the party to fight for this revolution and so make the PSTU chant come true: “neither right nor PT, I want to see workers in power”.

On the other hand, IWL-FI has made a commitment to boost international solidarity and that is why, our organisations in other countries are actively participating in all the demonstrations in solidarity that have already taken place and those that are now taking place or about to take place.

Long live the struggle of Brazilian people!

IS of the IWL

Sao Paulo, 25th June, 2013

[1]PEC 37 (proposal of Constitutional amendment) disallowed the so-called Public Ministry (a kind of official independent prosecution) from investigating cases of corruption and passed this capacity to military and civilian police. This was regarded as an attempt to cushion these investigations.

Lenin’s May Day Leaflet

 

The Workers Holiday — May First

Comrades! Let us look carefully into the conditions of our life; let us observe that environment wherein we pass our days. What do we see? We work hard; we create unlimited wealth, gold and rich fabrics, brocade and velvet; we dig iron and coal from the bowels of the earth; we build machines, ships, castles, railways. All the wealth of the world is created by our hands, is obtained by our sweat and blood. And what reward do we receive for our hard labor? In justice we should live in fine houses, wear good clothing, and in any case not want for our daily bread. But we all know very well that our wages scarcely suffice for a bare existence. Our bosses lower the wage-rates, force us to work over-time, unjustly fine us. In a word, they oppress us in every way, and, in case of dissatisfaction on our part, they promptly discharge us. We time and time again discover that those to whom we turn for protection are friends and lackeys of our bosses. We, the workers are kept in ignorance, education is denied us, that we may not learn to struggle to improve our conditions. They hold us in bondage, discharge us on the slightest pretext, arrest and exile anyone offering resistance to oppression, forbid us to struggle. Ignorance and bondage — these are the means by which the capitalists and the Government, always at their service, keep us in subjection.

What means do we have to improve our conditions, to raise our wages, to shorten our working day, to protect ourselves from abuse, to read intelligent and useful books Everybody is against us — the bosses (since the worse off we are, the better they live), and all their lackeys, all those who live off the bounty of the capitalists and who, at their bidding, keep us in ignorance and bandage. We can look to no one for aid; we can rely only upon ourselves. Our strength lies in union; our salvation in united, stubborn, and energetic resistance to our exploiters. They have long understood wherein lay our strength, and have attempted in all manner of ways to keep us divided, and not to let us understand that we workers have interests in common. They cut wages, not everybody’s at once, but one at a time. They put foremen over us, they introduce piece work; and, laughing up their sleeves at how we workers toil at our work, lower our wages little by little. But it’s a long lane that has no turning. There is a limit to endurance. During the past year the Russian workers have shown their bosses that slavish submission can be transformed into the staunch courage of men who will not submit to the insolence of capitalists greedy for unpaid labor.

In various towns strikes have broken out; in Yaroslavl, Taikovo, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Belostok, Vilna, Minsk, Kiev, Moscow and other towns. The majority of the strikes ended successfully for the workers, but even unsuccessful strikes are only apparently unsuccessful. In reality they frighten the bosses terribly, cause them great losses, and force them to grant concessions for fear of a new strike. The factory inspectors also begin to get busy and notice the beams in the capitalists’ eyes. They are blind until their eyes are opened by the workers calling a strike. When in fact do the factory inspectors notice mismanagement in the factories of such influential personages as Mr. Tornton or the stockholders of the Putilov factory.

In St. Petersburg, too, we have made trouble for the bosses. The strike of the weavers at Tornton’s factory, of the cigarette workers at the Laferm and Lebedev factories, of the workers at the shoe factory, the agitation among the workers at the Kenig and Varonin factories, and among the dock workers, and finally the recent disturbances in Sestroretsk have proven that we have ceased to be submissive martyrs, and have taken up the struggle. As is well known, the workers from many factories and shops have organized the “Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class,” with the aim of exposing all abuses, of eradicating mismanagement, of fighting against the insolent oppressions of our conscienceless exploiters, and of achieving full liberation from their power. The “Union” distributes leaflets, at the sight of which the bosses and their faithful lackeys tremble in their boots. It is not the leaflets themselves which frighten them, but the possibility of our united resistance, of an exhibition of our mighty power, which we have shown them more than once. We workers of St. Petersburg, members of the “Union” invite the rest of our fellow workers to join our “Union” and to further the great cause of uniting the workers for a struggle for their own interests. It is high time for us Russian workers to break the chains with which the capitalists and the Government have bound us in order to keep us in subjection. It is high time for us to join the struggle of our brothers, the workers in other lands, to stand with them under a common flag upon which is inscribed: Workers of the World, Unite!

In France, Great Britain, Germany, and other countries, where the workers have already united in strong unions and have won many rights, they have established the 19th of April (the First of May abroad) [Before the October Revolution the Russian calendar was 13 days behind the West-European] as a general Labor holiday.

Forsaking the stuffy factories, they march in solid ranks, with bands and banners along the main streets of the towns; showing the bosses the whole might of their growing power, they gather in numerous large meetings, where speeches are delivered recounting the victories over the bosses in the preceding year, and indicating the plans for struggle in the future. Through fear of a strike, not a single factory owner fines the workers for absence from work on this day. On this day the workers also remind the bosses of their chief demand: the eight-hour working day — 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, and 8 hours rest. This is what the workers of other countries are now demanding. There was a time, and not so long ago, when they, like we now, did not have the right to make known their needs. They, too, were crushed by want and lacked unity just as we now. But they, by stubborn struggle and heavy sacrifices, have won for themselves the right to discuss together the problems of the workers’ cause. We send our best wishes to our brothers in other lands that their struggle should quickly lead them to the desired victory, to the time when there shall be neither masters nor slaves, neither workers nor capitalists, but all alike will work and all alike enjoy life.

Comrades! If we will energetically and wholeheartedly strive to unite, the time will not be far distant when we, having joined our forces in solid ranks, will be able openly to unite in this common struggle of the workers of all lands, without distinction of race or creed, against the capitalists of the whole world. And our sinewy arm will be lifted on high and the infamous chains of bondage will fall asunder. The workers of Russia will arise, and the capitalists and the Government, which always zealously serves and aids the capitalists, will be stricken with terror!

April 19, 1896.

Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class