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.

Tribute to Raj Narayan Arya

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

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

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

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

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 In this tribute I will delve into those behind-the-scenes struggles, using unpublished documentary sources, in order to wrap context around his life and give him the credit that is his due.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

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

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

Upbringing in a traditional village

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

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

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

Glimpse of the bigger world beyond

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

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

A harrowing first experience in politics

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

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

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

An unexpected rendezvous

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

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

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

Contact with the BLPI

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

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

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

Finding his calling

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

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

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

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

First national conference of the BLPI

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

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

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

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

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

Into the slums of “Red Kanpur”

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

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

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

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

An existential crisis in the party

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

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

Call to end “this fatal step”

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

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

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

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

Initial efforts to reunify the Trotskyists

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

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

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

Defection of the old BLPI leadership

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

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

The lure of centrist regroupment

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

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

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

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

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

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

A call for unity

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

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

Contact with the Fourth International

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

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

An Indian version of “Pabloism”

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

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

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

A promising new beginning

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

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

A disastrous “Pabloist” merger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RCPI blows up

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

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

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

Struggle over future course

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

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

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

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

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

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

The departure of the Calcutta entrists

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

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

The Socialist Workers Party

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

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

The nemesis of the old Indian Trotskyists

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

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

Using the Transitional Program as his guide for trade union work

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

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

Forming a new party in Kanpur

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

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

Translating Trotsky into the vernacular

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

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

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

Personal setbacks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The rise of the far right in Nepal

B.D Bista

Far-right groups in Nepal have been gaining some momentum in the recent time. With the major political parties still lingering over the promulgation of a constitution through the constituent assembly and with the masses feeling betrayed by their leaders and with their common day to day grievances going unheard, the far-right has found the perfect time to raise its head again, after being buried by a wave of a Maoist popular revolt and a mass uprising that led to the abolition of monarchy and founding of a secular, federal democratic republic.

The monarchist party RPP Nepal has long been advocating the reinstatement of the monarchy and the Hindu state. From the first constituent assembly that failed to draft a constitution within the stipulated time period to the second constituent assembly, the party has managed to more than triple its votes from 76,864 to 252,579, an increase from a meagre 0.74% to 2.79%. Although it still is a tiny minority of votes, its influence on the people which seems to be increasing day by day, cannot be measured from their votes alone. The two major political parties Nepali Congress and CPN(UM-L) turning their backs on the previously agreed agendas and the Maoist party led by Prachanda and Baburam unable to intervene, with them slipping to being a minority from being the single largest party in the first constituent assembly and the masses feeling alienated from them, it is only helping the cause of the far-right groups.

Moreover, a faction of the Nepali Congress Party led by the notorious Khum Bahadur Khadka, who had boasted of suppressing the Maoist rebellion within weeks when it first broke out in 1996 when he was the minister for home affairs, has formed a Hindu ‘army’ and recently threatened to cut off arms of all non-Hindus in a demonstration. Just yesterday, the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala from the governing party Nepali Congress, while receiving a memorandum from.the monarchist party RPP Nepal, said that he had no idea where secularism came from, implying that his party was never in its favour, unsurprisingly, as all these agendas like abolition of monarchy, secularism etc were pushed forward by the Maoists. To add to that, the ascension of the right-wing Hindu chauvinist party BJP to power in India, which has been historically meddling with Nepali politics, has helped the far-right Hindu groups here in Nepal too. Many of the BJP leaders have openly called for reinstatement of Nepal as a Hindu state. They have been comparatively silent on the question of monarchy. But it’s no secret that they favour a comeback of a Hindu monarchy. The ex-king Gyanendra himself has been lobbying amongst the BJP leadership, including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the last time being during his visit to New Delhi a few weeks back,

The Maoists themselves are in no position to deal with the rising tide of right-wing forces. In addition to dissolving their parallel government, courts and the army, they have also dismantled their last militant force, the Young Communist League a few years back, which would have been an important force to counter the far-right. The party has split twice, recently just a few weeks back. They have drifted away from the classes they claim to represent and more importantly, they haven’t realized the gravity of the situation. If the far-right manages to gain more strength or come to power in the near future, which is not impossible, the Maoists will receive the first blow.

The faster they realize the impending danger, the better will they be prepared to face it. But given the current situation and their attitude towards this issue at hand, it’s unlikely that they will take the necessary steps.

STATEMENT ON DELHI’S SOLIDARITY DEMONSTRATION WITH FERGUSON/NYC AT THE US EMBASSY

The following statement was issued by a solidarity campaign by students in Delhi with the protestors at Fergusson, USA as written by Vincent Kelley [ link – https://www.facebook.com/vincentkelley/posts/865867286797286] . We applaud them for holding a solidarity rally in front of the US embassy at New Delhi.

After robust support from students and organizations within Jawaharlal Nehru University for the protest march on the 29th November in solidarity with the Ferguson uprisings, we, along with JNUSU, called for a demonstration today at the US embassy. From the very outset, it was evident where the allegiances of the police lay. They stopped us three times despite us having informed them of our protest beforehand; first, at R K Puram, Sector 6, where they had us wait forty-five minutes to “speak to the authorities” from the police station near the embassy. After much heated negotiation and an all-out show of outrage by protestors, they relented and said that we could proceed to a school (of all the places) half a kilometer away from the embassy, provided we agree to be escorted by them. This was when their escort vehicle tried to misdirect our bus away from the embassy to Jantar Mantar, which is a “safe spot” to dump all protests in, away from the ivory-towers of power and privilege.
We stopped on the Ring Road before Africa Avenue and blocked traffic on that side for about ten minutes, after whch the police once again conceded ground and allowed us passage towards the embassy. Soon after, we reached a bigger contingent of the police at the Chanakyapuri bridge near Leela Hotel, which tried its best to dissuade us once again from moving towards the embassy. This time they threatened us with detention, while a truck bearing a water-canon was already lurking behind our bus. After more negotiations, and consistent pressure-building by slogans, we pushed forward our final ride to Carmel Convent School near the embassy.
The police were ready in their riot-gear, brandishing lathis, and the water-canon was still behind us. Upon reaching, they barricaded the road before the school that led to the embassy. We continued chanting there, and all of us had a sit-in, as the police hovered in anticipation. American as well as Indian students spoke on the rampant militarization and white-supremacy in the US, as well as revitalized casteism and racism in the Indian context, which are connected and fed by the same neoliberal enterprise between the ruling classes of both countries.
As the US hegemony crumbles, the forceful arm of the USA operates – not just domestically in incidents such as Ferguson – but also through the police of its allied states in an effort to retain the semblance of authority. The last time we saw this was during the Indian state’s shameless silence – even ideological connivance – in Israel’s offensive on Gaza earlier this year.
We salute the resilience of those who came out and the spirit of international solidarity which we find ourselves enriched from. We will strive to forge ever greater unity in our global struggle for collective liberation.
Inquilaab Zindabaad!! We are unstoppable!! Another world is possible!!

Revolution in Burkina faso

Reposted from litci.org/en

Written by Jose Moreno Pau

Before the announcement of the amendment of the constitution by President Blaise Compaoré, by which he intended to stand for re-election next year (and certainly win), the Burkinabe angry masses took to the streets.

Tens of thousands of people protested since Tuesday 28 October, erected barricades and stormed the parliament. The revolution ignited in the capital Ouagadougou and in major cities. After an attempt to maintain power and repress protesters declaring a state of siege, Blaise Compaoré had to resign.

Campaoré’s government at the service of France and imperialism

Blaise Compaoré stayed 27 years in power after a coup d’etat against the man who had been his friend, known as the African Che Guevara, Thomas Sankara, who was killed.

Blaise Compaoré seized power in 1987 with the support of France and reversed all the progressive measures of Sankara. He returned the nationalized lands back into the hands of the landlords. He became a faithful disciple of the policies of the IMF and of loans from the World Bank. He reopened the country to the French troops who since then have in Burkina Faso a privileged basis for control of the region. As well as the U.S., whose military deployed in Burkina Faso after the creation of the AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command). The French and American military presence with their European partners in this country and in the neighbor Senegal have served for the invasion of Mali and to consolidate the control over the natural resources of these countries.

In recent years, the economic indicators exhibited a year growth of 9% (6.5% in 2013). This growth has been due to gold mining, whose share in GDP is 20% and cotton cultivation. However, this growth has not benefited the population; Burkina Faso has 17.5 million inhabitants and is one of the world’s poorest countries (181 of 187). 3 million Burkinabe migrants live in neighboring Ivory Coast. Literacy does not reach 30%. This situation is in direct relationship with the policy of the deposed President Blaise Compaoré.

Blaise Compaoré handed the gold mines to Canadian, Australian, South African, U.S. and Russian companies. Gold mining has put Burkina Faso as African fifth largest exporter of this precious mineral. The 32 tons of gold exports produces an income of only € 287 million in taxes or the country and just 5,000 jobs. Mining operations have performed environmental tragedies causing tremendous pollution and deaths of people and animals.

The other big multinational business in Burkina Faso is cotton cultivation. Monsanto signed an agreement with the government to introduce the cultivation of GM cotton. Three companies control all agricultural land and impose to farmers the purchase of their cotton.

Vacuum power and military’s role

The news that Compaoré was no longer in office filled with joy the tens of thousands of protesters. The chief of staff of the armed forces, General Honore Traoré assumed power, dissolved parliament, and said he would begin a democratic transition for the year ahead. The masses remained mobilized seeing in general Traoré a continuation of the regime.

General Traoré intends to keep power in the hands of the Army. Although one of the last proposals of former President Compaoré was to call elections in three months, General Traoré speaks of a year transition.

A few hours later the fall of Compaoré, Lieutenant Colonel Zida also proclaimed himself president. Zida, who was number two of Compaoré’s personal guard, tried to detach from the former president and claimed to be part of the people and the martyrs who rose up against his boss.

The army seemed to have finally backed the latter; however tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets again, after the call of the civilian opposition, demanding the fall of Zida as well.

The Black Spring has achieved great success

The demonstrations targeted the attempt of Campaoré perpetuation in power by means of the re-election amendment. This democratic demand sparked from the misery in which the population find themselves, due to submission to imperialism. Despite the military dictatorship serves the interests of the imperialist powers and their multinationals, spokesmen for the opposition suggest that the army should be part of the political transition. The army split over who should run the country, Traoré or Kouame Lugué, the later a retired former general who is supported by opposition sectors.

The revolutions that began in North Africa, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have reached the heart of the continent. It is important that the African masses learn what happened in Egypt, where the regime managed to survive thanks to the Army, which has continued in power and has kept the country submitted to the U.S.

Africa in fire

2 years ago the president of Senegal was overthrown by mass mobilization. But the new president, Macky Sall, continued at the service of imperialism and its international treaties. Indeed, he threw Senegal back to its former French metropolis.

In South Africa the working class is showing their strength with historic strikes and raising the need to build up independent organizations to achieve their ends.

The Burkinabe revolution meanwhile faces a regime which is product of a coup and attacks the institutions that used to endorse it, as the Parliament, and states clearly that do not want the military in power.

Breaking with imperialism, for the African unity

Toppling presidents and their cliques, who have been perpetuated in the governments of their countries for decades, protected and encouraged by the colonial powers, is the first step to achieve true independence.

And the people of Burkina Faso and the rest of Africa do not start from scratch. A few decades ago they have fought for independence and in recent years have experienced significant revolutionary processes. Recovering the legacy, with its successes and failures, of the great African leaders like Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral and Thomas Sankara, will be essential to build the revolutionary parties that the masses need to break the chains of their people.

To escape poverty African countries need to break with imperialism and its treaties. The imperialist troops must be expelled and is necessary to build a common front for the no payment of the foreign debt, which is the mechanism by which imperialism impose the neoliberal policies on their governments. The African countries need to recover their wealth and make them available to their people and stop a handful of multinationals from continuously profiting from their exploration.

The Burkinabe soldiers will face a dilemma: either they follow the orders of the generals who want to maintain Burkina Faso prostrated, but with a new face in office, or refuse to suppress the people and workers, who are those that have to govern.

The Burkinabe masses are still fighting and showing their determination not to accept new military dictatorships.

Statement on the riots at Trilokpuri New Delhi

Below we reproduce the PADS (People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism) statement on the recent communal riots in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri.

STATEMENT ON THE RECENT COMMUNAL DISTURBANCES IN TRILOKPURI
BY
PEOPLE’S ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY AND SECULARISM

NOVEMBER 2, 2014
(Members of P.A.D.S. have been interacting with and visiting residents of Trilokpuri ever since the communal disturbances started on Oct 23. Along with many other citizens they are involved in efforts to re-establish peace and in providing legal aid to those wrongfully arrested. This statement is based on their experiences.)

The inhabitants of Trilokpuri, a densely populated neighbourhood of working people in Delhi, went through a harrowing week after Diwali night on 23 October. A brawl around two places of worship turned into a full scale communal clash. Armed mobs from outside the locality are reported to have joined the rioting that involved brick throwing. Firearms were also used and two boys suffered critical bullet injuries. Inhabitants are emphatic that the police fired into the crowd. The police first denied firing at all. Its latest claim is that it fired only in self defense. One apparel show room owned by a Muslim resident was gutted. Police intervened in force only two days after the clashes started. It turned the neighbourhood into an occupied war-zone. More than fifty men and minor boys were arrested randomly, many picked up forcibly from their houses amid verbal abuse and physical violence. Road intersections were barricaded and entry and exit points were closely monitored. Drones were used in surveillance and houses systematically searched. Essential supplies were in short supply. Daily wage earners, contract workers, and self employed who could not go out lost their source of livelihood. Seriously wounded and ill had no access to medical aid. While the entire neighbourhood suffered in one form or another, inhabitants of three blocks in particular, nos 15, 27 and 28, and attached jhuggi clusters, mainly occupied by citizens who are Muslims bore the brunt of police action.

All this happened at a distance of less than ten kilometers as the crow flies from the center of state power in India’s capital. National elections five months ago were won by Mr Narendra Modi who projected a ‘strong man’ image and promised that he would provide ‘achhe din’ of decisive and effective governance. In reality, the face of the Indian state in Trilokpuri these days is ugly. First, institutions of the state, its police, bureaucracy, and all political parties associated with it failed to prevent a localised scuffle from flaring into a violent riot. And second, when the state did show up, only its authoritarian jack boots were seen on the ground. It further terrorised people already battered by rioting and public violence. It did not taken any steps to initiate dialogue between affected communities, and provided no relief or medical aid. Its social institutions like schools, anganwadis, health centers, or the police organised peace committee, etc. simply collapsed. Three fourths of the arrested people are Muslim citizens. Some of them are migrant workers. Arrested people were abused and beaten up while in police lock up. Many of them had visible injuries when presented in front of a Magistrate in the Karkardooma court on 27th October. They were not provided any medical aid or food for nearly two days.

The Trilokpuri neighbourhood has a traumatic past. It was established in the mid seventies of the last century during Emergency. It is a so-called resettlement colony, in which people forcibly displaced from inner city were settled and given land titles. The displacement and settlement process was often violent. Mr Jagmohan, the top administrator of Delhi and a close confidant of Mr Sanjay Gandhi then, later Governor of Jammu and Kashmir during insurgency there and a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, was the chief persona in the entire process. The most gruesome massacres of Sikh citizens in Delhi in 1984 took place in Trilokpuri and neighbouring Kalyanpuri.

Despite the fast economic growth and massive urbanization in the past two decades in India, settlement patterns in cities continue to be segregated by religion. Most of Trilokpuri is inhabited by Balmikis, a scheduled caste, classified as untouchables in the orthodox Hindu varna order. After the Sikhs migrated out, Muslims are the other community, who are concentrated mainly to three out of thirty blocks. Recent migrants in search of work form a significant part of the population. They are also settling along community lines. The twenty five square yard plots originally alloted have now risen to three-four storey pucca structures, providing a decent rental income to original owners. There are also occasional cars parked in narrow streets. The little prosperity that has trickled into this neighbourhood has however not brought secure peace. Residents often complain of brawls and other forms of every day violence. The area reportedly also suffers from petty crime syndicates operating under police protection. Nevertheless, for thirty years since 1984, the neighbourhood escaped communal violence. Even the weeks following demolition of Babri mosque in 1992 passed peacefully.

Recent events in Trilokpuri reveal the character of Indian society and state that do not portend well at all. All experiments in Fascism, that involved selective violence against minorities to consolidate a nation, have relied upon mass support. The India of 2014 can not be said to be impervious to such schemes. The political success of Mr Narendra Modi at the national level has emboldened the Hindutva targeting of religious minorities and aggressive mobilisation around sectarian demands.

The ex-MLA from the BJP is reported to be part of the communal organising in Trilokpuri. Communal polarisation is proving to be a successful electoral strategy for the BJP. It is exploiting economic, political, gender and caste anxieties in a fast changing society which has not developed a strong popular democratic consciousness. The tragedy of politics at the moment in India is that none of the competitors of the BJP have a clue about how to counter its dangerous mix of religion and politics with a leader enjoying mass support. The Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi had succeeded in getting the support of Muslim and Dalit voters in the last assembly elections and currently holds the Trilokpuri seat, but it is afraid to come out publicly against communal violence lest it disturbs its electoral calculations. Congress is in severe decline and absent from the scene. No mainstream political party in India has had the wisdom and ideological clarity to realise that treating society in terms of the majority- minority framework actually validates communal agenda, and that the counter to communalisation of politics is an unequivocal assertion of citizenship rights of every one.

It is also obvious that the Indian state, while seemingly democratic in some aspects, is also undemocratic in some fundamental ways. It does not consider the protection of democratic rights of its citizens as its prime responsibility. It regularly attacks rights of the poor and socially marginal, which at present also include religious minorities. Indian state still follows the colonial authoritarian policy of treating moments of deep social strife like riots as a ‘law and order’ issue, and its first action is to enforce its brutal authority over people, rather than help the victims. Further, over time the Indian state institutions have been communalised. None of the victims of communal riots in India, including the most gruesome ones, of 1984 in Delhi, 1992-3 in Mumbai and 2002 in Gujarat have received justice. Commission after commission on riots in India have found the police and administration to be authoritarian and partisan. Yet, if nothing has changed, there obviously are powerful social and political forces that wish to use this character of Indian state for their own ends.

The social ideological environment of neoliberalism has encouraged religiosity and public assertion of religious identities, while weakening mass based mobilisations against oppression and exploitation. This is happening in all communities. Right wing political forces claiming to represent specific religious communities are using the opportunity to develop new kinds of aggressive religious practices that lead to social strife and communalise the society. This is a new challenge which democratic and secular forces have to contend with. Barring a few exceptions, the media in the capital has played a partisan role during recent developments in Trilokpuri. English language newspapers and TV channels that cater essentially to consumerist aspirations of urban propertied and professionals have spread the police version of rioting, which blames Muslim residents of the neighbourhood. They are more interested in sustaining a consumerist utopia unencumbered by social disturbances, rather showing the sufferings of the marginal and the physical abuse of people arrested by the police. Many residents of Trilokpuri work as maids, drivers, security guards and provide other services to the upper middle class residents of neighbouring Mayur Vihar. Yet life in the latter went on as usual.

P.A.D.S. appeals to the citizens of Delhi to disregard aggressive sectarian demands, provocations and rumours by communal forces and defeat their plans to communalise society. Secularism of the state and society is necessary for everyone, believers of different religions and non-believers, to lead a peaceful life without discrimination and persecution. Before succumbing to calls for their so-called ‘community’ interests all citizens should ponder over what kind of society they wish to live in. The one based on hatred and violence, or the one which respects citizenship rights of everyone.

We appeal to the working people of the city, who constitute the overwhelming majority of its population, to organise and fight together against their economic exploitation, caste oppression, price rise, police extortion, and deplorable condition of public services like hospitals, schools, and transport, rather than against each other.

Long term policy changes are needed to ensure that events like Trilokpuri do not occur anywhere else in the country. People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism demands following from Delhi state administration.

1. All administrative and police officials who failed in their duty to prevent rioting, made random and wrongful arrests, and physically abused citizens should be punished.
2. All residents who suffered physical injury, mental trauma, wrongful arrest and loss of property during riots and subsequent police occupation of the neighbourhood should be adequately compensated.
3. All citizens arrested should be granted immediate bail, and cases against them settled expeditiously so that they and their families can lead a normal life as soon as possible.
4. A judicial commission of inquiry should be constituted immediately to find out culpability of state administration, and of the political leadership of any party in fanning the communal violence.
5. Immediate relief should be provided to all residents who have lost livelihood. Medical aid should be given to the injured.
6. The ‘official’ peace committee established by the police has proved completely ineffective. It should be revamped and representatives of the organisations working in the area should be included in it. Its meetings should be held regularly and publicly.

7. Many areas in Delhi are potential flash points for communal violence. There are many reports of aggressive sectarian demands made by ‘panchayats’ and ‘mahapanchayats’. All those making illegal demands and spreading false propaganda about others should be dealt with firmly, so that citizens of other parts of the city do not suffer what Trilokpuri residents are going through.

Understanding the verdict of the 2014 elections

The Indian elections of 2014 were the largest the country has witnessed in its history, with around 816 million voters involved in the process. The elections were divided into 9 phases, making it the longest elections as well. The verdict was given on the 16th of May with the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi winning a singular majority on its own. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) alliance which it leads garnered 337 seats. Thus, after 25 years we are witnessing a government founded on a solid singular majority.

The verdict however, isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface. While the NDA did win more than 3/5th of the seats in parliament, it won only 33.7% of the total votes polled. The second and third largest parties by vote share would be the Congress with 22% and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with around 4% of votes . In total, around 45% of votes were scattered among smaller regional and national parties. The regional parties like the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Jayalalitha’s party the AIDMK (All India Dravida Munetra Khazagham) won around 3.6%-3.8% of votes polled. In West Bengal and elsewhere, the Stalinist parties of the Left Front won around 3.2% of votes polled giving its worst ever performance in parliament. However, what this reality reflects is that the system even a small share in votes translates to a huge difference in seats won. Thus, over 65% of the voters who did not vote for the BJP or NDA alliance partners will go unrepresented. This is a telling feature on just how ‘representative’ India’s bourgeois ‘democracy’ is.

The implications of this result will be profound and will affect the country’s working poor as now a party of the bourgeoisie literally has absolute majority in parliament. It can wield enormous power including push forth any kind of parliamentary amendment it would like.

The dynamics of the indian elections :

We had earlier commented that this election gives no option to the working masses of India. On the one hand was the possibility of dynastic rule which would instill a ruthlessly pro-bourgeois rule in parliament, on the other hand was the possibility of a rule by a party under the influence of obscurantist reactionary forces running with a ruthlessly pro-bourgeois and anti-working class government in parliament. Between these two choices there would only be a myst of anarchy.

Till at least 2012, the verdict seemed unclear as to which party could win the elections. After the state elections in five major states, in which the BJP won all but one state election, the tide seemed clearer. The people had had enough of the misrule under the Congress, with constant attacks on the poor, mammoth corruption scams and complete failure to deliver any concrete benefit to the poor. Its promise of dynasty was hardly of any use in endearing the masses to it. As a party of the bourgeoisie, it had failed to appease the interests of any sector of the bourgeoisie to any satisfying degree, its strategy of concession and coercion hardly successful in pacifying the masses’ anger.

To this party of total misrule, the people had two alternatives, broadly speaking. One was the traditional regional parties and their front known as the third front led by the Stalinist coalition called the left front. The other was the new and rising force of the Aam Admi Party, which was forged in the heat of the anti-corruption mobilization which had shaken the foundations of the Congress rule and aroused the petty bourgeois, particularly in Delhi.

As we shall see, neither alternative were any good against the Congress and the people unsurprisingly rejected both.

On the Left Front led third front coalition, the core of this popular front alliance, the Stalinist CPM and CPIM lost in an unprecedented way in West Bengal winning hardly 8 seats. While the main reason would be the almost militarized efficiency with which rigging was conducted by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party government, it is also due to the failure of the Stalinists to wage an effective fight against this fascistic violence conducted by the TMC party. This has not only confused and demoralized the people in West Bengal but is having its impact on the party cadre as well. The only state where the CPM is holding out is Tripura which seems to be acting like a mountain refuge for an ailing political force whose future is uncertain.

Of the other regional parties, it is hardly worth mentioning, that they have degenerated a long way since their lohiite roots. They are no longer seen with the halo of a party which fought against the corruption and bonapartist attitudes of the Congress in the 60s and 70s, but as a corrupt bourgeois party no different than that of the Congress. Indeed for all their ‘secular’ posturing the regional bourgeois alternatives like the Samajwadi Party or even the BSP is hardly anything but a party for the enrichment of their respective political leaders. No doubt these parties have been sidelined as well.

In the midst of this sea of corruption and betrayal, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) seemed to stand as a real political alternative of the people. Whatever illusions people had in it, were dashed soon after its formation and meteoric rise. The AAP had recently won the elections in New Delhi and briefly took power, before relinquishing its position due to its failure to push for the appointment of a Lokpal. In course of their tenure in Delhi, they promised a lot and delivered little. Its politics of conciliation with capitalism and combining seemingly opposing social forces in its party (exemplified by its recruitment of millionaire capitalist robber barons like the Vice President of Bajaj along with anti-capitalist social activists like Medha Patkar ) only confused its supporters. Ultimately, neither the urban working class nor the urban elite supported this party. It achieved nothing but to confuse its supporters and detractors alike. After failing in Delhi, the AAP could not recover its credibility a a party of the people, unsurprisingly it hardly garnered more than 2 seats.

With such pathetic alternatives to the Congress party, one would be tempted to think that the BJP won almost by default. It wouldn’t be entirely mistaken to say so. More than anything else the people wanted to overthrow the Congress government, no matter who comes, the Congress must first go. At the same time, with hardly any national alternative in sight, the only party which could guarantee such a verdict would be the BJP. The other big national party of the Indian bourgeoisie. At once we see both a situation of social tension as well as the total lack of class consciousness among the Indian working class and poor.

How the BJP won the elections :

Much before the 2014 election campaign set in, the mood of the people were already turned against the Congress. The first decisive break was the anti-corruption movement in 2011. During the same period, a series of general strikes had been conducted in India mobilizing a historic number of workers across the country. The largest general strike in the world had occurred in February of 2013. In this period, the BJP had been a very peripheral force. Even though it made its presence felt during the anti-corruption movement. It would not have been possible for any bourgeois force to hijack and finish the whole movement if it wasn’t for the conciliatory and reformism approach of the leadership of the movement. However, the seeds of the BJP emerging as a populist force had been sown at that time.

During the elections, money power and propaganda were in full display. Supporting the BJP was large funding by the leading capitalists of india, in particular the Birla family which leads the Birla group of companies which was the leading source of funding for both the Congress and the BJP. In addition to this, was a concerted media campaign which created a personality cult around Modi. The biggest impact of this media campaign was to win over the majority of India’s urban educated middle class who have access to tv and are more prone to media propaganda. Furthermore, the BJP and its linked organization the RSS mobilized a number of their cadre to conduct a massive propaganda on social media. Not to forget is the massive presence of the RSS through its thousands of branches and almost 8 million strong cadre force spread throughout the country. This was the organizational foundations of the BJP’s strength which allowed it to take furthest advantage of the anti-Congress mood in the country.

In the run up to the elections, the BJP had succeeded in mobilizing the RSS cadre and actively promoted a divisive communal agenda focussed around the Muzaffarnagar riots. Modi’s “right hand man” Amit Shah was active in the region playing on communal sentiments of the Jat community and turning them against the muslim community of the region. The riots of Muzaffarnagar were the fruits of a sustained covert propaganda campaign by the RSS in the region. Even so, it would never have been successful if it wasn’t for the inconsistent response of the state led by the supposedly secular Samajwadi Party. Traditionally, communal forces have been tolerated by the liberal bourgeoisie so that they can implement their divide and rule policy. However, in Uttar Pradesh, they seem to have overplayed their hand, for it was not the Samajwadi Party which took advantage of the situation, but the BJP.

Throughout the election they cemented a reactionary consensus emboldened by the developments in Muzaffarnagar. Modi himself seems to have replicated his success in Gujarat, where he successfully cemented his power through the Gujarat riots of 2002, which remain one of the bloodiest riots in India. Throughout the elections, Modi was liberal in the use of hindutva symbols like choosing to campaign in Varanasi, the holiest city of Hinduism. By using symbols which fit into a hindutva schema, he succeeded in galvanizing the support of upper caste reactionary segments of society. This however, explains only the success of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Elsewhere, he was aided much more by the negative perception of the Congress than anything else.

Thus, through a cleverly constructed campaign strategy, the BJP could win over the urban young middle class as well as the more traditional sectors of the population. This constituted the constructive part of his campaign. The other was the negative/destructive part of the campaign. This involved breaking the opposition of the muslim voters.

First of all, it must be said, that if secularism has died in India, the Congress and other bourgeois parties must be the first to blame. The continuous deprivation and marginalization of the muslim community in India has occurred under the rule of the Congress over 60 years. The regional parties and Stalinists purporting to be secular have no better a record to show. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal show the worst conditions of backwardness among the community in India. In a popular talk show on CNNIBN one muslim citizen from Delhi when asked about whether he fears Modi said “We have nothing to fear from Modi, because in truth the Congress has left muslims with nothing that Modi would take away from us”. This statement summarizes the pathetic conditions of the muslims in India.

When the elections did come, the muslims were just as fed up with the Congress as they were with every other party. The result of this was that their votes ended up being divided among many smaller regional parties. The advantage of this was taken by the BJP having destroyed the idea of a “muslim votebank”. As if this weren’t enough, to cement this the BJP undertook a “muslim outreach” programme which confused sections of the muslim community, whose political consciousness was in any case destroyed by decades of Congress rule and polarity.

Thus, we must conclude that Modi’s victory is in truth the combination of various factors which worked to his advantage. Most important of them, is the failure of working class leadership, which failed to build a political alternative to the bourgeoisie and cement the position of the working class as the leading political force in the country despite having arguably one of the best political opportunity in the history of the country. The energy that was unleashed by the pre-revolutionary period in India, and the mobilizations which occurred, were thus wasted away first by misleaders like the AAP and then by the BJP which used the petty bourgeois rage and discontent to propel itself to an unprecedented position of power.

What are the consequences of Modi’s victory ?

A preview of the future of India may be seen not only in Modi’s Gujarat but in TMC ruled West Bengal as well. Both nationally and worldwide there appears to be a reactionary wave underway. The revolutions in Middle East and North Africa all appear to be fading. Europe after a rise of worker’s struggles too has calmed down, while in the Americas, the forces of counter-revolution are re-emerging with a vengeance.

India too is witnessing a reactionary wave symbolized by Modi’s rise to power, and other reactionary forces like the RSS re-emerging after being dormant for almost a decade. A popular saying goes that “What India thinks tomorrow Bengal thinks today” . This seems to have come true for the worse rather than for the better. The failure of Stalinism is what has resulted in the victory of the TMC in West Bengal today and it was the failure of Stalinism and bourgeois and petty bourgeois alternatives which has resulted in the victory of Modi. Ironically, just like in the case of the TMC the BJP too won a massive majority in these elections. The TMC dominates the seats from West Bengal in the lower house of the parliament having won 31 out of 42 seats.

Yet if West bengal is any indicator, the immediate future will see a period of great chaos and conflict. The TMC when it came to power in the state elections engaged in violently consolidating its political power within the state. It didn’t hesitate in turning on the Maoists who had hitherto acted in helping it fight the Left Front. Neither did it hesitate to turn on the Gorkha National Front which were allies to the TMC till now. Today, West Bengal is in a state of chaos with the bands of lumpen goons under the command of the TMC wreaking havoc across the bengali countryside and in the cities. The TMC oligarchs rule with impunity taking the law into their own hands and brutally crushing any opposition. The party functions in a way that borders on outright fascism with harsh laws against organization and dissent. Gujarat has had a similar story.

Upon coming to power in Gujarat, Modi first eliminated his political opponents, both from within the party and from without. Consolidating political power was the first thing Modi did when in power a part of which was to conduct riots and use that to propel him to power. Once entrenched, he went about re-creating Gujarat in the image of a special economic zone where it is notoriously difficult to organize and agitate. The marginalization of muslims starting from the great purge in 2002 has gone on unabated. His state functions on the dual pillars of communalism and brutally neo-liberal economic policies. The former is the source of his political power and the latter the outcome of his economic power. His style of governance involves tight security

While it is infinitely more difficult to implement such policies on a national scale, we can expect him to try and implement it. This will cause tremendous tension from those resisting his policies. Even within Gujarat, where Modi rules with impunity, his rule is not unchallenged. A great example of this is in Mithi Virdi where thousands are protesting against a nuclear power plant project. This is being touted as Gujarat’s “nandigram”. For those of us who may have forgotten, the peasant’s protests at Nandigram, and the subsequent reaction of the Left Front led state government is what brought down the government from power. There have also been encouraging examples of worker’s strikes in Gujarat like the recent one in the textile sector. This led to the government increasing worker’s daily wages.

The rest of the country is even more volatile. For Modi to reign in on the entirety of class struggle would require a herculean effort. Even Thatcher couldn’t survive the fight against the class conscious British working class. Her government fell after ten years of fighting the British working class and no Tory government could come to power till the present one in alliance with the liberals. The Indian working class is on the move, and it will be just as difficult to curb it. This does not mean, we take things for granted.

How must we prepare ?

What this election shows is the bankruptcy of the traditional leaderships of the working class. We must fight for a new radical leadership for the working class, one which can fight on a war footing with the new reactionary government in power. It is not that class struggle has ended, or that people actually ‘prefer’ a reactionary and autocratic leadership at the helm. It is a fact that they saw no alternative in the feeble traditional leaderships around them. The result has been the election of a reactionary government in an unprecedented position of power. The present situation will bring new challenges in organizing the working class and poor for struggle. The attacks against them will not stop, rather it will grow sharper. Like Modi has shown in Gujarat, and how Mamta has shown the way in Bengal, the state will grow more aggressive. Building a revolutionary Bolshevik Leninist party becomes the need of the hour !

For those of us who are in the process of building this party, must prepare for the worst possible scenario. State owned companies will be privatized, labor laws will become more adverse, they will attempt to crush unions, curb free speech and increase militarization of the state. To counter this, we must organize more aggressively, for their every attack, we must prepare a massive counter. To every attempt at privatization, we must mobilize the workers of state enterprises. Here again, we state that it is time to shed the bureaucratic fragmentation of the workers by the sector they work with. ALL state sector workers must unite in their struggles against privatization. When they attempt at changing labor laws or curbing militant unions, we must ready the workers for an indefinite general strike ! When they attempt to curb free speech, we must mobilize activists across the country to challenge it. It has been done before, when Binayak Sen was unlawfully imprisoned or Shaheen Dhada was being harassed, everyone showed their support. Such must be our fervor.

There are those who are pessimistic and think that Modi and the forces which support him are unchallengeable. To them we have only to show the brave textile workers in Gujarat or the thousands of peasants at Mithi Virdi who are on struggle. Modi’s british precursor, the autocratic and megalomaniac Margaret Thatcher, couldn’t withstand the working class on the move. Not to forget, Modi and the RSS’ ideological mentor, Benito Mussolini. was ignominiously lynched on a lamp post. No matter how overbearing or ruthless the class enemy may seem, they are no match for the power of the working class in struggle !

The new government is going to make life difficult for the masses and for those fighting for their interests. But it will also get rid of any illusion that they may have on bourgeois democracy. The Congress and the Stalinists have been one huge smoke screen. That has now disappeared. This is a time to fight, and we must fight hard !

Long live working class unity ! Struggle until Victory !

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!