On the Scottish question

The following was a reply made by Comrade Choppa to a comrade from London, who was opposed in principle to Scottish independence. :

We need to ask one question right at the start. If Scotland is such a pile of useless crap as Westminster makes it out to be, why are they so determined to keep hold of it?
And why are they suddenly throwing concessions and money at it?

Asking that question and stepping away from the doomsday atmosphere created by the English media and politicians, we next need to lay out what the National Question actually is.

Why? Because no-one bloody knows. Just because it has been clarified well by Lenin and Trotsky in their work with the early 3rd International, and by Trotsky in relation to Spain, for instance (and Ukraine, for that matter), doesn’t mean it’s been resolved for ever or that the consciousness of the working masses has stayed at the level L and T were able to raise it to. T didn’t even succeed in raising the consciousness of the Catalonian revolutionaries above the nationalist level during the Civil War to any great extent. And if Trotsky couldn’t do it in such a situation, we have to be very clear to ourselves that we aren’t Trotsky, and the workers of Britain are nowhere near as politically conscious as the workers were in the Spanish state during the Civil War.

The National Question is a democratic issue, not a socialist one, and we need to spell out for our readers just exactly what this means. Explicitly, and not indirectly as we do if we point out that the present referendum is to a high degree an internal fight between different sectors of the capitalist class. In fact, there are still democratic issues that are unresolved in the most advanced imperialist states, and many of them are connected with the position of ethnic or language or cultural groups as disadvantaged and discriminated minority groups within the big state while occupying a majority identity and position locally or regionally.

And modern history shows us that democratic issues can’t be ignored by anyone – they are the most powerful social engines of change we have seen – the right to vote, gender rights, national (etc) rights. After world war 2 the imperialists (with the aid of world Stalinism) were able to curb the socialist mobilization of the working class in most of the world, and at least contain it within bureaucratic chains where the class succeeded in overthrowing capitalism. But they were completely helpless in the face of the masses rising against them in the anti-colonial revolution. They did of course succeed in diverting the revolutions into democratic nationalist channels, but only at great cost to themselves and their colonial empires and direct economic control.

India is the great example of this process, of course. with the African and Asian anti-colonial wars a close second.

But – and this is the most important thing for us – the democratic revolution grows over into the socialist revolution, the two are inseparable (except abstractly and statically). And given the way forces change their relationships over time – there are ebbs and flows – the process can proceed both forwards towards more socialism, and backwards towards less democracy – a rolling back of democratic gains.

But the social forces fuelling all this don’t roll back or ebb away… Their leaderships and mass consciousness does the ebbing and flowing, not the fundamental social foundations of life in human society. Which is to say that on the one hand the democratic revolution didn’t just end when nationalist forces gained independent power with a state of their own. And on the other, the fusion of democratic and socialist needs is growing all the time as all sections of the bourgeoisie turn away from democratic ideals to devote all their energy to salvaging what they can of the capitalist system, leaving (as we can see more and more plainly) only the working class and its most immediate social allies as champions of democratic progress.

The continuation of the democratic revolution is best seen in the eruption of North Africa and the Middle East over the past few years. And is very clear in the demands for greater rights and autonomy within the established imperialist states – Ireland, Catalonia, the Basque country, Quebec, the rights of aboriginal peoples worldwide, etc etc.

And none of these mobilizations are any respecters of established sovereign borders. The Voice article mentions the “disintegration of the old social structures) and this is seen very clearly in the disintegration of the old nation state boundaries and jurisdictions. Developing social forces (the unstoppable onward march of the productive forces) – the world market, the imperialist bourgeoisie and the international working class – are making old social containers (like nation states) as antiquated and obsolete as the feudal aristocracy and its privileges were in the 18th century.

But of course these containers don’t disappear of their own accord. Revolution – conscious human action on the level of each society and the whole world – is needed to dismantle or demolish them and replace them with new more adequate political and social structures.

Right – so where does that leave us in relation to Scotland and the referendum?

I think we need to dismiss the “either/or” approach to the referendum for a start. The Voice writes that “nothing is in the interests of the working class” and we have to start from this. It’s like the question of Free Trade versus Protectionism. Purely bourgeois concerns – okay, some of their effects impinge on us too, but the question of state and class power isn’t raised at all. It’s just a question of which capitalist faction gets most from the present capitalist society.

And we have to use Trotsky’s (the 4th International’s) Transitional method a lot more deliberately and consciously than we have before. We need to place demands before the class that are winnable, and raise its consciousness by perceptible steps during the struggle for these demands.

Which means the United Socialist States of Europe, while necessary, needs to be built up to as a power slogan. The suggestion of a federation of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is a lot more manageable.

And we have to raise the question which none of the left does about where the current consciousness of the working class stands.

If the struggle for more autonomy or even independence for Scotland can be combined with a struggle against capitalism then we can move forward to a struggle for more explicitly socialist demands. Which means less reformism which is good.

This isn’t the same as the Socialist Party’s call for a critical yes vote, which is abstract phrase-mongering since it lacks any transitional awareness of where the class is now and where it might be led during the course of the struggle.

The thing is, that our tasks are monumental regardless of how the vote goes.

As Galileo said of the earth, “Eppur si muove”, “it moves, regardless (of what you inquisitorial bastards would like to think)”. And we have to pursue our transitional Bolshevik-Leninist policies regardless of the way different capitalist governments and regimes move the goalposts every now and then.

Marx in his early years (till the 1850s roughly) leant heavily towards supporting the bourgeoisie against any other competing social force (except of course for the revolutionary working class). The bourgeoisie was the highest expression of development of the forces and relations of production over against slave-owners, feudal despots or petty tribal societies. He later saw that this was abstract and against the nature of social change, and that the cause of socialist revolution might just as well be forwarded from within some seemingly archaic social structures from pre-capitalist ages, like the Russian communal village, the mir. Or that real social mobilization against the oppressive ruling class might well move things on, regardless of obscurantist and mistaken leadership. After some slight initial hesitation due to the anarchist and inadequate leadership of the Paris Commune he nonetheless gave it his wholehearted support despite the fact that it might easily have broken up the unity of France and with it the French working class.

I think we’re at risk of being a bit abstract and anti-change ourselves if we appear to be defending the real imperialist unity of the United Kingdom while waving a very abstract banner of a Workers’ Unity to justify this when there is no concrete unified socialist consciousness to give our banner any reality.

The truth is concrete, and our way of dealing with the fluidity of concrete class realities with their ebb and flow is the transitional method.

Our problems grasping the nettle of nationalist opinion and mobilization in Britain (Wales and Scotland really – Ireland is better catered for in this respect) are largely due to our losing focus on what really agitates people and gets them mobilized rather than what we think should agitate them and get them on their feet.

Comradely

Choppam

Where we stand on the situation in Ukraine

Maidan protests and the overthrow of Yanukovich

a) What were the causes behind this ?

The Maidan protests between January to February this year was a high point of class struggle in the post-soviet history of Ukraine. If there was ever needed a proof that the working class was still a living force, despite over 70 years of Stalinist counter-revolution, it was there on the Maidan square.

The protests were aimed at the pro-Russian oligarch Yanukovich. Upon taking power he went about shaping Ukraine in the image of modern Russia, a bonapartist run gangster state which zealously (and more often than not violently) guards the interests of its corrupt leadership. While this was not new to Ukraine, which has only seen the transfer of power from one bonapartist ruler to another . The only difference was one had a pro-russia another had a pro-EU outlook.

Upon taking power Yanukovich started a series of unpopular policy measures aimed at placating both foreign power blocs (Russia and the EU).The natural gas tariffs were growing; the government launched medical reform which will eventually lead to closure of many medical institutions and to introducing the universal medical insurance instead of the unconditional coverage; they pushed through extremely unpopular pension reform (raising pension age for women) against the will of more than 90% of population; there was an attempt at passing the new Labour Code which would seriously affect workers’ rights; the railway is being corporatized; finally, they passed a new Tax Code which hit small business. Most of these measures failed only because of the pressure of the masses prevented it.

It was nearly 5 years of this corrupt and autocratic rule that proved to be the last straw for the people. The sheer force of the popular mobilization in the Maidan square and other cities around Ukraine brought down the corrupt and incompetent rule of Yanukovich. This was achieved despite some of the worst repressive measures like ordering snipers to fire on protestors, killing dozens.

However, what was and still stands as a progressive process has been hijacked and turned against the interests of the people, by right wing reactionary forces, backed openly by the likes of US imperialism.

b) What were the social and political forces at play ?

The protests at the Maidan began with its occupation by a relatively small crowd of 400 students who came out in protest against Yanukovich’s failure to sign the agreement with the EU at Brussels. However, this did not draw mass sympathy nor did it prove to affect the regime. What changed the scene was Yanukovich’s violent reaction. The attacks by the police on the Maidan proved to be his undoing as it incited the populace across the country against him. The centre of the mobilizations of course was Kiev itself.

The composition of the protests right from the beginning was overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois with significant participation from the youth. Overall, the perspectives raised were oriented towards Ukrainian nationalism and anti-Russian sentiments. Under the guidance of reactionary leaderships like the far-right Svoboda Party, this expressed itself through the language of nationalism rather than socialist class struggle. The people had very real and legitimate grievances against the regime in power.

Ultimately however, the reactionary elements held sway over the power of the popular democratic mobilizations. This was the reason why after the removal of Yanukovich, the new regime was unable to build a progressive democratic structure. Not only did it incorporate Ukrainian chauvinist forces in the government, one of the first steps that the new government took was to declare Ukrainian as the only official language in Ukraine. This was an extremely provocative measure deliberately attacking the Russian-speaking population. It is not the kind of measure any government takes if it is serious about running a unified state.

The developments after Yanukovich’s ouster showed clearly what were the worst weaknesses of the Ukrainian movement. Firstly, it was started as a ‘leaderless’ movement with multiple nationalistic political forces involved in it. This is a feature typical among most petty-bourgeois uprisings be it the anti-corruption movement in India or the mass protests in Turkey against Erdogan. Secondly, the movement failed to overcome the ethnic and cultural division within Ukraine between the Russian-speaking East and South, which are the industrial centres of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian speaking West and Central regions, which are the agrarian centres of the country.

This in particular was to have devastating consequences for the whole democratic movement which emerged around the Maidan square.

c) Conclusion of the Maidan protests – What is the character of the regime now in place

The Maidan protests achieved their first overarching objective, the ouster of president Yanukovich. This was a high mark of the movement. Thereafter, the movement was tasked with reconstructing a new regime which ought to have been founded on the democratic aspirations of the people. However, the new regime composed of a hodge-podge of pro-EU liberals and far right chauvinists was patently incapable of achieving this.

Among the first measures taken by the new government was the enforcing of Ukrainian as the only national language in Ukraine. This together with a fear among Russian speakers of possible victimization (like the long-time resident Russian nationals in Latvia, Estonia and other post-soviet states had to face) led to counter-protests in the South and East. Some provinces with a Russian majority started separatist movements, chief among them was Crimea. Seeing the opportunity in the ensuing chaos Russia decided to intervene to defend its strategic interests in Ukraine. The result was the successful secession of Crimea and joining the Russian federation after a referendum.

The smooth and bloodless secession of Crimea from Ukraine showed just how precarious the hold of the Kiev-based government was over the Russian-speaking provinces. After Crimea, other provinces with a Russian majority witnessed mass mobilizations as well. Among the most striking features of the mobilizations was the utter impotence of the government’s repressive machinery. The police and the military found themselves outgunned and surrounded every time. Reports still come out of desertions from the Ukrainian army and of garrisons being overrun, most recently in the city of Mariupol.

Meanwhile in Odessa, a Russian-speaking city in the south-west of Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, pro-Ukraine demonstrators torched the trade union building in which both pro-Russia demonstrators and “non-combatants” had taken shelter, killing dozens of people. This show of murderous violence alienated the people of Odessa from the Kiev government and its militant (often extreme rightists or active Nazis) supporters in the same way as Yanukovich’s snipers created revulsion in Kiev.

Not only has the new regime failed to win over the broad masses of Ukraine, but in the Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine it now stares at the collapse of its state power in the face of overwhelming pressure from within and without. From within from the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine and from without from the sub-imperialist great power of Russia, its military economic and political machinery at work.

Imperialist interests and their impact

a) The interests of Russian sub-imperialism (Putin’s plan)

The most dominant foreign power in Ukraine is undoubtedly Russia. Russia has multiple strategic interests in Ukraine, not in the least its massive naval base in the Crimea. First, is its geo-strategic importance owing to its access to the Black Sea and its standing as the second largest European country. Thus, for Russia, a pliable and subservient Ukraine can provide open access to the Black Sea and the European heartland. Second is its economic importance as a transit country. Several of Russia’s oil pipelines to Europe pass through Ukraine. Ukraine as such is dependent on Russian oil and gas for its energy needs. Likewise it also serves as a transit country for the supply of oil and gas to the rest of mainland Europe. Thus, Ukraine is surrounded by Russia militarily in the East at the border and in the South in the Crimea, and it is dominated economically by Russian capital. This was shown very clearly when Russia didn’t hesitate to cut off the supply of oil and gas during the winter to pressurize the then Tymoshenko government to pay its debts to the Russians.

This domination must be seen in the context of Ukraine’s history which has since the time of the Tsarist empire been treated as a strategic province of the Russian Empire. The conquest of Crimea in the late 18th century from the Ottomans increased the importance of the region for the Russians that much more, due to the access to warm water ports on the Black Sea. Russian ambitions in the Ukraine culminated in the Crimean war of 1854 which brought in the leading powers of Europe to intervene on the side of the Turks against the Russians. As a result Russia lost the major strategic holding of Sevastopol. In the long run however, Russia continued its hold of Ukraine and deepened its influence in Eastern Europe. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Ukraine along with other former colonies of the Russian empire joined the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine was affected in much the same ways as other former Soviet republics. There was rampant corruption, deindustrialization, the annihilation of life-time savings and a general collapse of living standards. Among other things, one of the consequences was the formation of a highly bureaucratized oligarchy, formed from members of the old ruling bureaucratic clique which has since dominated Ukrainian politics. However, Ukraine’s ethnic diversity and social complexity made it impossible for this bureaucracy to develop the same level of bonapartism as in Russia or Belarus. The oligarchy in Ukraine thus became divided between a more “conservative” pro-Russia clique and a pro-EU clique with support from the Central and Western regions.

Another important element of Soviet society carried over to the post-Soviet republics after 1991 along with the bureaucratic elite (the Nomenklatura) was the pulverization of working class consciousness and organization that had been accomplished by Stalinism’s murderous bureaucratic counter-revolution. No independent workers’ parties or socialist movements were able to arise like some red Phoenix from the ashes of anti-communist “Communist” Russia. First the working class would need to raise its political and social consciousness from zero, and take the first halting steps of self-organization. None of the legacy “communist” “pro-Soviet” parties or movements did any of this. In fact they did just the opposite, prolonging the anti-Bolshevik, anti-Marxist traditions of the Stalinist regime, often attempting to use the same thuggery and arrogance in the process.

With Russia re-emerging as an imperialist power, old historic trajectories of contest between a hegemonic Russia and the established powers of European imperialism seem to be returning. Russia is zealously protecting its strategic interests in Crimea while manipulating the downfall of its anti-Russian rivals. Here what is most to the advantage of Russia is the substantial Russian-speaking and ethnically Russian population within Ukraine (a legacy of the prolonged domination of the Russian empire and thereafter, of the forced russification policies under Stalin and his successors). This gives Russian sub-imperialism a powerful lever to influence the affairs of Ukraine.

Russia has the edge where military power and political clout is concerned. The West, however, in particular the EU, has the edge where economic strength is concerned.

b) The interests of EU imperialism

European imperialism today is beleaguered. It is being challenged in its own turf with crisis threatening it all across Southern Europe. The European bourgeoisie is finding itself besieged by the working class as the continent witnesses an upsurge in class struggle. Be it Britain, France, Spain, Italy or Germany, all the major powers of Europe are faced with the ire of the working class on the move.

This is in addition to the situation of impending financial doom. The EU imperialists like blood-thirsty vampires need fresh new blood to feast on. This is why they have set their sights on the ‘untapped potential’ of Europe’s underdeveloped East. Ukraine here would be the juiciest slice of meat for the EU. Since the crisis set in, we have seen Europe becoming far more aggressive and belligerent than before worldwide. France in particular is focusing on increasing its otherwise diminishing military and political clout over Africa, while Germany shows its ruthlessness in dealing with Greece. However, the interests of the Europe’s imperialists are posed now against the resurgent might of Russia which is clawing back its influence over Eastern Europe.

Thus, the EU poses itself as the chief imperialist rival against Russian hegemony over Ukraine. This is reflected in the politics of the oligarchs of Ukraine with one segment vying openly for European and another vying for Russian favours. In course of the Maidan protests, it was the former wing of the oligarchical interests which triumphed over the interests of the people at large. The new regime has thus been hard at work begging to get the EU to intervene on its side, seeing the EU as its protector. The pact signed with the IMF which brings with it stringent austerity measures should be seen in this context.

However, this plan is proving itself to be a complete failure. European imperialism today is in truth a declining power. Its passivity over Russian actions in Ukraine has proven on the one hand its military incapability in facing a great power as well as its economic dependence on Russian oil and gas, without which most of Europe would come to a standstill. Gone are the days when France and Britain could send their navies to bombard Sevastopol and drive the Russians out. Europe meekly stands by as Russia eats Ukraine. This leaves only US imperialism with both the military might and political will to challenge Russia.

c) Role of US imperialism

The role of US imperialism in Ukraine, should be seen against the background of the fall of the Soviet Union. The US had given the Soviet Union an assurance that NATO would not expand. However, the US has progressively expanded NATO and its own military pressure in East Europe, the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, in an effort to surround Russia.

This trend is continuing with the US preparing to build a missile defence system over Russia, on the pretext of defending Europe against Iran. While the US is in no way the dominant economic force in the EU or even in Ukraine itself, its role as de facto protector of capitalist Europe after the second world war continues to give it tremendous influence over European affairs. Notably, US influence is deepest in Poland.

The forces of US imperialism were present and active in the course of the Maidan protests preparing well in advance all means to hijack the process and place parties favorable to its interests in a leading position. The notorious phone conversation between the US ambassador and the far right Svoboda party reveals the connections between the chauvinist forces and US imperialism.

When the Russians intervened in Crimea, the US was quick to move in with economic sanctions. However, these have proven themselves to be toothless. Russia is simply too well entrenched and too large an economy to successfully impose sanctions against. Most European powers would shudder at the thought of Russian reprisals should they commit to these US sanctions. The US has also refrained from taking any overt military action to dislodge the Russians from Ukraine, notwithstanding the sabre rattling from its crazed right wing loons.

The Crimean question and the situation of Russian speakers

a) The nature of the protests in South-East Ukraine – popular democratic mobilizations

We declare first of all that the movement to oust Yanukovich was a progressive movement. At the same time, we declare that the movement against the regime it created is also a democratic movement. The apparently contradictory movements are in fact fundamentally identical. The protests of the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine are the result of the aggressively divisive policies of the new Kiev regime which is refusing to acknowledge the equal official status of the Russian language. This is a disturbing parallel to the right wing government in Sri Lanka which came to power after the expulsion of the British, which started pursuing chauvinist monopoly Sinhala policies and instituted an apartheid regime against the island’s Tamil minority.

The Russian population of Ukraine has the full right of self-determination against such a regime. They are currently mobilizing to defend their interests. In addition, we must consider the threat posed by the agreement with the IMF which seeks to impose vicious austerity measures. The more proletarian population of East and South Ukraine, who have already suffered considerably from the deindustrialization after the fall of the Soviet Union, are liable to be more affected than people in other regions.

The questions facing the Russian-speaking population and ethnic Russians are posed most sharply in the Crimea, which is also home to a sizeable Tatar minority.

b) The historical background of the Crimean peninsula

The Crimean peninsula was annexed to the Russian empire in the 1780s from the Crimean khanate.
From then on Crimea was subjected to colonial policies at the hands of the Russian empire which saw Russian settlers coming in large numbers and the development of Crimea as a strategic military naval base for the Russian Empire with its warm water ports. In the Soviet Union after Stalin’s counter-revolutionary take-over in the mid-1920s, the Crimean Tatars were subjected to the oppressive policies of deportation. The mass deportations which had been initiated under the Tsar’s rule were revived. Hundreds of thousands were deported to Central Asia and many died. The Tatar population was practically wiped out after the second world war. Russian settlers had already come in their hundreds of thousands under the Russian empire, and kept coming in large numbers as part of a russification drive under the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The result was a demographic shift in the population of Crimea and in general of Ukraine with a very large Russian population and an even larger share of native Russian speakers. For generations this Russian population has lived in Ukraine and made it their home, and this is where the bulk of the present Russian population has its roots. Incidentally, this pattern is not exclusive to Russia but is common among most East European states which belonged to the Soviet Union before 1991.

When the republic of Ukraine was created after the fall of the USSR in 1991­, Crimea became an autonomous region under its rule.

c) The dynamics of the Crimean referendum

The Crimean referendum has been explained by most western sources as an act of annexation. However, there are more complex dynamics at play which cannot be ignored. Firstly, the Crimean peninsula is a region with a Russian majority, where even the majority of Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. The other major minority were the Tatars who largely speak their own language.

The protests in Crimea like elsewhere in Eastern and Southern Ukraine paralyzed the infant regime in Kiev with the armed forces of the state failing at every turn. Russia already had a sizeable naval military presence in Crimea which was mobilized in support of the Crimean protestors. The referendum which was conducted eventually was done so under Russian military protection. Thus, what was a democratic process took on the appearance of a military occupation.

This was sub-imperialist Russia’s move to hijack and ultimately undermine the democratic movement evolving in Ukraine’s East and South. It is the same story in Ukraine’s East which is seeing the most intense of the protests, and where the armed forces of the state are on the verge of a complete collapse reminiscent of the crisis in Albania in the late 1990s.

Here we must view Russia’s action in the context of a developing revolutionary situation where the masses are in full mobilization. The movement to oust Yanukovich which put the new regime in power was a democratic movement, as is the movement against its arbitrary and chauvinistic policies which favour Western imperialism. The nature of this movement is being seen in its relation to the state and the reaction it’s provoking in the armed forces. We have a people’s movement that is openly challenging the state forces to the point where they are deserting their barracks. Ukraine has been left with little or no power on its eastern and southern borders.

In response to this the fascistic elements in Kiev’s ruling regime has resorted to violent attacks on Communists and leftist activists exemplified in the burning of the trade union building in Odessa which killed nearly 50 activists.

The stand we must take

In Ukraine, the forces of revolutionary bolshevism are faced with a very contradictory situation. On the one hand there was the movement to oust Yanukovich, which was essentially progressive. On the other hand, the movement against the chauvinism of the new regime is also essentially progressive.

We do not have the luxury to pick and choose which democratic struggle to support and which not to. In the tradition of revolutionary bolshevism, we support every democratic struggle with the aim of clearing the way for the socialist struggle. This is the essence of tactics based on the theory of permanent revolution. Where the bourgeoisie is incapable of fulfilling the democratic aspirations of the masses it falls to the the proletariat to resolve the questions of the democratic revolution. The proletariat does not tackle these democratic tasks as separate from the socialist struggle, but as part of it.

Thus, we supported the movement to oust Yanukovich, and we also support the movement for autonomy for Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.

We do this despite the persistent weakness of the consciousness and organization of the proletariat. Independent working-class political consciousness and organization are still hardly even embryonic, so crushingly effective was the annihilation of revolutionary socialism by the Stalinist counter-revolution. This means that the working class in its present condition is completely incapable of leading the people of Ukraine (or any other people in a similar situation) in resolving the contradictions of the democratic revolution in the direction of socialism. As in the Middle East and North Africa the proletariat will need to preserve and build on the democratic conquests that have been achieved in order to consign the bourgeois capitalist society – the root cause of all its problems – to the garbage dump of history once and for all.

Our slogans :

a) For the right of self-determination! No to chauvinist policies of any kind!

b) Unconditional support to struggles of the Russians in Ukraine!

c) No to imperialism! Neither Russia nor the West!

Interview with Dilip Pawar of the VKKS

On the 13th of May, comrade Adhiraj Bose had conducted an interview with Dilip Pawar of the VKKS (Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sangathana) which led the previous 50 day work stoppage at Bajaj and is leading the present work stoppage for an indefinite period to pressurize the management of Bajaj Auto Ltd to concede to the major demands of wage revision in Bajaj.

Q1. We have been interested in the developments around Bajaj Auto Ltd since the 50 day work stoppage you had undertaken last year, as this was a landmark in industrial worker struggles in Pune. We would like to know more about your union. What is the origin of the VKKS and how was it founded ?

The VKKS was founded in 2003. Before the VKKS the main union representing the workers in Bajaj’s Akurdi plant was the Bharatiya Kamgar Sanghathan or BKS which is affiliated to the Shiv Sena. They were a corrupted union and catered to the interests of the management. Often they would just pretend to act for the interests of workers taking token actions now and then, but nothing would result from this. In their 10 years of existence they could get only two very meagre pay rises.
The workers in general there were very discontented with this union.

Together we decided that enough was enough, and made our own new union independent of any political party. This was how the VKKS came into being in 2003. Our aim was to create a militant trade union independent of the bosses which could properly represent the interests of the workers. With our formation most of the workforce at Bajaj joined our new union. Our first action was to stage a hunger strike to get an urgent wage revision which had been pending for years that the previous union did nothing to achieve. We achieved it. The management still decided to suspend all striking workers for 4 days just to ‘save their pride’.

During this time we also built a coalition of trade unions across the industrial belt. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, was built out of militant company based unions throughout the belt. At present 112 unions are part of this coalition.

Our success had strengthened the union. Almost immediately the management’s heavy handed tactics and harassment started. Now that they had lost their pet union, they felt threatened by our existence. We thus, had to start a struggle for recognition. A court application was made at the tribunal. The rival union, BKS tried underhanded tactics like giving false affidavits to show a bloated union membership. We insisted on a physical check up to counter this. It was settled that the majority of the workforce were with us and that we had a separate existence.

The management hadn’t stopped harassing us though, the worker’s cooperative society premises within the factory was made a target. They cut off electricity and necessary infrastructure to try and break us. We had to move our office out of the factory premises to the present office building. We never stopped the struggle for recognition and finally achieved it in 2007.

Towards this time our union membership within the company had increased to around 2200.

In 2007, Bajaj had just established their new factory at Pantnagar and desired to move production over there as labor costs are much lower over there. They were also planning to close down the factory at Akurdi in Pune, which had been their main factory thus far. We were told to leave work and would go unemployed the next day. We were told “we would get paid at home”. We started a protest against this arbitrary shift of the plant. For 65 days we had gherraoed the plant with hundreds of workers sitting at the factory gates in strike. It was a massive show and a great success, we had support from all unions across the belt as well as from across the nation. 200 unions in the industrial belt alone joined our action at Bajaj as well as several social activist groups throughout the city. The result of this action was that the plant was not shifted. We made sure that none of our workers on strike were victimized.

Later on we were joined in by the Chakan unit of Bajaj as well with its 850 permanent workers who are mostly young. Now most of the production has shifted away from Akurdi to Chakan and Aurangabad. However, Pune remains their main production centre with Chakan being their best factory.

Q2. Can you tell us something about the condition of work for the workers at Bajaj factories in Pune ? What is the composition of work force in the factory like and what are the condition of work for different categories of workers like contract workers and permanent workers.

At present most of the production has been shifted away from Akurdi to other plants, most notably to Chakan. At Akurdi most of the workforce was old and aging and took voluntary retirement. The present factory workers there wouldn’t number more than 120. The majority of those who work there are company staff workers, they number around 2000.

At Chakan we have around 850 permanent workers as well as 700 contract workers. The main concern we face over there is that the wage revision has not happened in a long time. That is the core of our demand for which we are striking. The other core concern is the harassment at the hands of the management which continues.

The workforce at Akurdi gets an average wage rate of around Rs. 38,000/- while the equivalent worker at Chakan gets around Rs. 14,000/- as starting salary which rises up to Rs. 24,000/- at the third level of promotion, i.e. After 10 years’ work. The difficulties at work however, started when the total productivity methods were implemented in the factory which has led to straining the workforce with extended work hours, harsh shift timings and very little benefits.

The situation for contract worker is far worse than the permanent workers however. They are not given more than the minimum wage and their situation at the plant remain precarious due to the flexible scope of hire and fire at the plant. The same goes for so-called trainee workers who are basically students but made to work for nothing under a traineeship program from their respective colleges/institutions. The company makes liberal use of these trainee workers and contract workers as part of strike busting tactics, hiring extra workers to make up for the shortfall of permanent workers and keep production levels intact. More often than not, the police who would be called in would force them to work.

However, our union focusses only on permanent workers. It is very difficult to organize contract and temporary workers due to their temporary and precarious nature. An isolated struggle of such a workforce is bound to fail as the management can simply resort to firing them when they agitate. What can be gained then ?

However, we are concerned with the issues of contract workers and trainee workers. We have launched a legal action for this in the industrial tribunal. The issues facing the contract workers include absence of basic facilities like canteen, transportation and pathetically small wages (Rs. 150 to 200 per day, just bordering on minimum wages) .

An important point to note, is that Bajaj hires most of its workforce from out of state. There are workers from Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra etc. There are hardly any workers from Maharashtra now. The purpose is to sow divisions among the workers. One of our biggest success I believe, was to overcome this and preserve the unity of our organization.

Q3. Tell us about the upcoming action you’re taking and the background behind it. The issues are the same as the work stoppage last year isn’t it ?

The present action is being drawn along the lines of the last one. Again, it will be a work stoppage and not a ‘strike’ as such. It was supposed to start on the 28th of April but we deliberately delayed it and welcomed the management to negotiations. This was a deliberate action on our part, as the management had made preparations to curb our strike in advance.

By delaying the strike we are basically harassing them since they will have to pay for the contract and trainee workers which they will employ to curb our absence in addition to the permanent workers. Basically, this was a harassment tactic on our part. It will also give us more time to organize better for when the day does come to stop work. We will now begin our action on the 15th of May.

Like in the last work stoppage, this time too the entire industrial belt is in support of our cause. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh is active this time as well. We are again gearing up for an indefinite strike in the same vein as the one last year.

The issues are again the same. The demand for shares it should be known is only a cover for the real demands for a wage revision and an end to management harassment of workers. We have no illusions on what to expect from the management, even during negotiations they don’t talk seriously and just waste time leading every negotiation to a dead end. The management which isn’t willing to give our legitimate wage revisions won’t ever give us shares in the company. We must fight to coerce our just demands from them.


Q4. What are your expectations in terms of outside support and solidarity ? How can we help ? What has been the role of Central Trade unions in this struggle ? Have they been proactive in supporting your struggles ?

At present we have international solidarity from the IndustriAll union based in Switzerland. They have been helping us with finance and raising awareness nationally and internationally on our struggle here.

We have solidarity from the industrial workers in Pune as well. We welcome as much support as can be had nationally and internationally. What we would appreciate most is to raise awareness on the coercion tactics the management uses against us.

We would really appreciate proactive support and solidarity from Central Trade unions like the CITU and AITUC etc, but most of them don’t understand our struggle. They are taken aback by the demand for shares and just sit on the sidelines confused. They don’t seem to understand or appreciate the core of this struggle or the energetic support from the workers.

We need all the support we can get here as we are fighting alone against a very well funded and well entrenched enemy. Bajaj is getting all manner of support from the government and political parties who are beneficiaries of Bajaj. Of late there was a report of the villages supporting Bajaj as well. I would like to point out, this is only half true. It is not the whole village or ordinary village folk who are supporting the management against us in any way, it is only the elite of the village, the sarpanch in particular who are supporting the company, as they get benefits from the company by way of labor contracts and land rents. This is not a new tactics for the management, at Mahindra and Mahindra they used this tactic to break a strike there. I feel this was due mostly to the lack of leadership there. This won’t work here, because there is a solid organized leadership uniting the workers.

We are a union which believes in solidarity actions. In the recent strike actions like in Godrej and Bharat Forge we were there supporting them. We participated in their rallies and meetings.

Report of the uprising at Michoacan

– GOS, Mexico
[Originally posted in : http://litci.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2393:the-towns-of-michoacan-are-fighting-back&catid=40:mexico%5D

Sandino used to say, “liberty isn’t gained (conquered) with flowers, but with bullets…”, and that is what the people of Tierra Caliente in Michoacán decided to do after years of bearing with organized crime.
The leaders of the community guards have pointed to the state & federal government as accomplices to the gangs.
It was no coincidence that when the military or the federal police were going to begin an operation, the cartel warned then that they would leave and return when the military and police leaven the area.

Gangs picked up with Lázaro

The cartel gangs have operated in Michoacán for many years, but during the government of Lázaro Cardenas (son of Cuauhtémoc), the cartel consolidated this dominion. Afterwards, Leonel Godoy, another dark and mediocre perredista (nickname for PRD- Party of the Democratic Revolution[1]) like the first one, held the post and the situation transformed from bad to catastrophic. The gangs were overjoyed by this major complicity.
In December of 2006, Calderón[2], urged by legitimacy, chose Michoacán as the starting pointto initiate what he considered to be his revindication: the so called War on Drugs. The famous war transformed into a tragedy with millions dead and missing. Meanwhile, the gangs shook society throughout the state, like the “Pedro through his home”[3].
After the disaster that was organized by Cárdenas, Godoy and Calderón, Fausto Vallejo –a hood of drugs-accused Cocoa, the sister of Calderón –where the situation went from theatrical to pathetic.

No alternative was left

The towns began to realize that they could not count on anything- neither the municipal police, statewide, federal or nor the military. Under the suspicion that all of the corporations are accomplices to the this brutality, they decided to form their own community guards , armed with whatever: shotguns, pistols, slingshots, axes, sticks, molotov bombs, machetes, etc.

Women are part of the guards

One of the most harmed sectors is that of women, apart from suffering the same as the rest of the inhabitants, they’re objects of rape, torture, and murder by the cartel. It is because of that the guards that patrol the towns, at the checkpoints, and we also see them participating in the confrontations, are mainly young women, with slingshots ready at hand against the thugs.

The state doesn’t support the dual power

What is happening in Tierra Caliente is a situation double power. This is wherein the power of the state opposes the power of the people (town); who arm themselves, monitor and administer.
That is why, when the guards of Tepalcatepec, La Ruana, Buenavista, etc., decided to attack the operations center of the cartels in Apatzingán, the Pareo and Tancítaro, the military and the federal police, installed checkpoints in order to detain the community guards. In Uruapan, the other large center of operations in which the community guards of the region were heading towards in order to expel the thugs, the military installed checkpoints in order to detain and disarm them.
What is certain is that the political class of all ruling parties do not support the situation wherein communities have organized themselves against the gangs. What is the least of their worries is the lives of the people. For these reasons, we must demand the state allow communities to have the right to arm themselves and protect their lives.
We also must also demand that the community guards of Aquila be liberated!
___________________________
[1] The Party of the Democratic Revolution (Spanish: Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) is a social democratic political party in Mexico and one of two Mexican affiliates of the Socialist International. The PRD is a member of the Broad Progressive Front alliance.
[2] Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa is a Mexican politician who served as President of Mexico from December 1, 2006 to November 30, 2012. He is a member of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), one of the three major Mexican political parties
[3] A Mexican saying: It commonly is interpreted to means someone act like they are in their own home. In this case it refers to the cartel treating México like its own backyard.

Our stand on the Telengana agitation

Our Stand on the Telengana agitation :

One of the most significant movements of recent times in the India has been the agitation for a separate state of Telengana. The movement that started out in the 1960s with a bloody uprising of students and peasants came to a conclusion some weeks ago with the cabinet decision passed for the separation of Telengana from Andhra Pradesh, forming two separate federal states. Unsurprisingly, this has led to vigorous agitation from those who want an undivided Andhra Pradesh including the districts of Telengana. But if we only analysed the parties and groups involved in this agitation we would be using a superficial and artificial perspective on the massive movements taking place among the people, and only blind ourselves to the real dynamics beneath the surface.

The entire history of the Telengana province and of the political struggles in Andhra Pradesh reveals a continuum of failures of bourgeois political solutions for the people of both Andhra and Telengana. The present situation in Andhra is no different and only reflects this failure more glaringly. All the major parties, from the ultra-right to the Stalinist (and even the Maoist) left, have only proposed one kind of pro-capitalist solution or another. None have proposed a socialist solution calling for a government of workers and poor peasants and tribals running the region themselves in their own best interests and for their own and incidentally everyone’s benefit.

The root cause of the struggle :

The 1930s and the 1940s saw a mass awakening in the Indian sub-continent. The working class emerged as a serious political force in the affairs of India. The peninsular South was not immune from this, and the emergent bourgeoisie around Seema Andhra was drawn into the national anti-colonial movement. The workers and peasants eventually entered the stage under the communist party and the movement grew to be irresistible.

The peasants overwhelmingly supported the bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra, but this was only because they welcomed and were ready to fight for the anti-colonial and anti-feudal agenda of the pro-independence bourgeoisie (at that time led by the Congress party). The roots of the agitation were deep in this anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggle, whose highest point was probably the Telengana rebellion of 1946. The peasant rebellion was in essence anti-feudal in nature and had an agrarian agenda. The core questions of land reform and rural welfare were topmost on the agenda upon the abolition of the feudal Hyderabad Nizamat. But the defeat of the Telengana uprising by the Indian army that forced Hyderabad into the Indian union under the Congress government, destroyed any hope of the people themselves being able to resolve these burning questions of the democratic revolution. The Stalinists gave up the revolutionary struggle the moment they shunned the armed uprising in favor of a parliamentary approach within the bourgeois Indian state. Ultimately the caricature of the democratic revolution that was bourgeois Independence was replayed with equal brutality and neglect of popular needs in the provinces of Telengana and Andhra.

The merger of Telengana and Andhra arose from the demand of a united province for Telegu speaking people in which the regions of Rayalseema and Telengana would be included, both of them vastly poorer than the Seema Andhra region. The natural reaction of the people of these provinces was fear and suspicion on the domination of the bourgeoisie, and subsequent experience did not improve relations between the people of any of the provinces concerned. The capitalist model of development not only preserved the inequalities between the two provinces but exacerbated it. A nouveau-riche bourgeoisie based in Telengana soon took advantage of these sentiments and channelized them into self-interested regionalism. The Stalinists had long since become irrelevant as a relevant political force in Telengana and Andhra having failed the agrarian revolution in 1946. The bourgeoisie led by the Congress was now indisputably the chief political force and devoted itself to exploiting, misdirecting and repressing the struggles of the peasants and youth who constitute the most potent social force behind the agitation.

There is no lack of revolutionary energy among the masses of unemployed and pauperized youth and peasantry, they are ready and willing to fight and sacrifice everything for their cause. But in the absence of revolutionary leadership, their entire potential has been drawn off into a narrow regionalist agenda that is permanently and completely detached from the real interests of the people.

The political forces and their role :

The main political force in Telengana is the bourgeoisie organized around the Congress party, and their role is truly national in scale. A perspective that views the Telengana movement from the perspective of Andhra and Telengana alone cannot understand the reality of the situation in the region. The Congress party became the undisputed leading political force after militarily crushing the Communist party and remains so till today.

The decisive victory of the bourgeoisie in crushing the first Telengana rebellion and its unbroken control over the united Andhra movement ensured lasting domination. Through this time, the bourgeoisie’s power rested on its ability to secure the support of the mass of peasants and petty-bourgeois forces around a regionalist agenda where an end to backwardness and regional development were popular catch calls. Students too formed an ideological as well as material backbone of the Telengana movement, providing a strong urban force. But none of the leading bourgeois parties had an agenda that would bring about the betterment of the people they led into battle. It was never long before the mobilizations degenerated into a political game of grabbing the best spoils.

With the fall from power of the Congress party at the central level in the 1990s, the party underwent a series of splits. Bengal and Maharashtra ended up with their own regional Congress parties. Andhra was not immune to this. The internal dissidence of the Congress party leaders over the backwardness of Telengana and the need to keep a united Andhra led to splits from the Congress to create specific regional parties. In this period the Telegu Desam Party emerged as a challenger to the Congress, with the facade of championing the interests of Telegu culture. More recently the Y.S.R Congress emerged from a split within the Congress party. Likewise, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti emerged from the support given by the Indian National Congress to counter the influence of the Telegu Desam Party adding to the chaos of squabbling bourgeois opportunists and fortune-hunters.

The Congress party is ruthlessly determined to rule over both Telengana and Andhra, and the cunning way it plays off various regional interests against each other shows very clearly how little it cares for any of them. Holding aloof and vacillating between keeping the peace between its dissidents and inciting a fight between them has been a cornerstone of Congress Party policy towards Telengana. If they support statehood for Telengana today, it is not with any concern for the people, but as a strategic gambit to grab more seats in the state legislature and the national parliament. The Maoists know only too well the cunning strategy behind the vacillations, a kind of maneouvre which the centrally established bourgeois democrats have perfected in India, as they’ve been severely damaged by it. The Telengana region was a core stronghold of the Naxalite movement in India till the Congress government retook power (with the tacit help of the Maoists, intent on committing political and too often literal suicide by refusing to organize and fight on a principled class-based revolutionary set of demands). Once it was back in power, the Congress unleashed the full force of paramilitaries upon them. Presently, the left is all but exterminated from the political landscape in Andhra and Telengana. Whatever lame-duck presence the Stalinists can muster is only a token blip. This is a lethal and permanent punishment for their betrayal of the Telengana movement and the foolishness of trying to make alliances with bourgeois factions.

The chaotic situation has only gotten worse with the recent emergence of reactionary and obscurantist communal forces offering their support to the Telengana separatist movement. The BJP under Modi seems to be in an unofficial competition with the Congress to support Telengana statehood. Needless to say, this provides yet another destabilizing dynamic to the barrel of nitroglycerine that is Telengana (especially considering the substantial and cruelly victimized Muslim population of Hyderabad) and will only add more blood and agony to the already horrific record of Indian capitalism in Telengana.

The first task of any revolutionary organization in such a situation is to dispel confusion and silence the braying of the bourgeois asses, and to speak clearly on what must be done and why. In supporting the Telengana agitation and backing the creation of a separate state, we do not for a second support any of the bourgeois factions trying to round up the support of the pauperized peasantry for their own selfish ends, but we advance our own programme of demands, based on the immediate material and social needs of the working class and the poor peasantry. We put forward a socialist alternative aimed at breaking the monopoly power of the bourgeoisie (in all its forms) over social production and development.

The proletarian alternative :

The policy of the Indian bourgeoisie over the Telengana issue follows the same pattern as everywhere. Hijacking powerful class-based movements, watering down or ignoring the class-based demands that drive the mobilizations, and using the social energy generated by the masses to secure their own selfish, limited interests, often diametrically opposed to those of the masses who bring them to power, and never of any benefit to them at the very least. To this effect, almost all bourgeois parties try their best to suppress the core questions of economic disparity and general impoverishment of the populace and replace them with some vaguely defined concept of ‘identity’. The identity itself is pure opportunism as far as the bourgeoisie is concerned. It can be religious, for communalist hooligans, nationalist, for Great India chauvinists, regional, for local discontents, ethnic, gender-based. It doesn’t matter. The aim is too obvious to ignore. In Telengana, they want to give the entire movement a direction which suits the interests of each regional bourgeois leaderships. Each wants to get or keep a position of power. The mass power of the people is either corralled to this end, or defused, or derailed. To this sorry state of chaos, revolutionary bolsheviks present their own alternative based on the core interests of the people.

1)The agrarian question :

The social rage generated by the Telengana question is rooted in a more general agrarian question. The question of the land has been central, from the anti-feudal rebellions in Telengana and Andhra to the present situation, where Naxalism had till recently strong and widespread support among the most pauperized sections of the peasantry. The Indian bourgeoisie has sought to resolve this burning democratic question of land reform in an absurdly inadequate fashion. In Piecemeal ! The bourgeoisie was never consistent in its fight against the kings and princes of old, and is even less interested in the general material, social and cultural prosperity of the rural populace. We have not the slightest reason to rely on their leadership. They have patently failed us for 60 years and are still blatantly failing us today !

The most immediate and important question is the question of Land. This is a reflection of the needs of the peasantry and the countryside nationwide. It is at the heart of any real solution to India’s problems of modernization and achieving a decent life for all who live and work in India. To resolve the waste and destruction of the countryside by capitalism, we present our agrarian programme which is founded on the Nationalization of Land ! Under this scheme, power would flow to the most basic unit of authority in the villages, the gram sabhas which would collectively and cooperatively take responsibility for the land and ensure the fair and equal distribution of land to all. This goes hand in hand with a programme for Abolition of rural debt. Indebtedness is the main driver of rural poverty in the region reflected by the endemic farmer suicides. This needs an urgent answer which only a revolutionary bolshevik force can provide.

Such a solution not only eliminates disparity in the countryside, but also eradicates indebtedness and low productivity, core causes of impoverishment of the peasantry in general. Equally importantly, it seeks to eliminate the power of the land owning bourgeoisie in the major cities, primarily in Hyderabad which has been fought over like a marrow bone in a dogfight between the bourgeoisies of Andhra and Telengana, much to the detriment of its citizens.

2) The question of uneven development :

While all leading political parties have made the question of the disparity between Telengana and Andhra the main focus of the struggle, none have any viable solution for this. Indeed, no bourgeois force can resolve such a question, where their interests are inextricably linked with the preservation of capitalism and furthering their interests on the backs of the workers and peasants. Only the people of both states can settle this question, in an atmosphere of equality and cooperation.

In 1972, the Congress played the lofty arbitrator and mediated an agreement between the leaderships of Telengana and Seema Andhra resulting in the Mulki rules, which gave preference in jobs to locals from the Telengana region. This shows the general ineptitude of the bourgeoisie in resolving any of the burning questions facing the people of the state, as such a solution can only be implemented on condition of permanent acceptance of unemployment, and deprivation. To such a crippled solution revolutionary bolsheviks counterpose a programme for full employment and equal opportunities ! Guaranteed, as such a programme must be, by a plan for nationalized corporations leading the effort at generating full employment and providing opportunities for all. Something which is impossible if the biggest corporations and enterprises remain in the hands of the greedy and parasitical capitalists or their henchmen, allowing them to exploit these assets for their own greedy ends.

But this solution won’t work if it simply targets Telengana and Andhra alone. It has to be part of a national program and we consequently need a total national solution to the regional nightmares bedevilling the whole of India.

Within the regional context, we propose a programme worked out by the people in committees at all levels of the community in full democratic consultation, settled and ratified by public plebiscite to ensure the fair management of water of rivers flowing from Telengana to Andhra as well as the democratic management of electricity supply and needs of Telengana with direct people’s participation. What we propose is not a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which would have no value (we have seen how little such things mean to the bourgeoisie when it smells profits), or any kind of  skewed laws like the Mulki rules which only end up compounding the problems they seek to solve, but a concrete solution which seeks to eradicate once and for all the problems facing the people of Telengana and Seema Andhra and set them on the road to making a dignified and prosperous life for themselves.

This however, requires clarity on the overarching immediate demand of the people of Telengana as well as the interests of the oppressed classes in Seema Andhra and Rayalaseema. The merger of Andhra and Telengana in 1956 was not founded upon a popular mandate in Telengana, and was bound to result in gross inequalities between the two states. This could only result in the continuing domination of more enriched Seema Andhra based bourgeoisie. If the same be allowed to continue, the seething discontent *( which has already resulted in 300 self-immolations of youth activists and countless revolts by the people of Telengana, each met with police brutality ending in much bloodshed) would go on without any solution in sight. Not one bourgeois leader in Telengana nor Andhra has any concrete solution to offer beyond vague assurances and promises all in the nature of ‘gentleman’s agreements’ .

For a revolutionary party, the choice is stark and must be made without hesitation. The interests of the people of both Telengana and Andhra are inextricably bound with the question of statehood for Telengana and we are duty bound to give it our support. But in doing so, we do not ignore our task of providing a concrete socialist solution to the core needs of the people. The nature of the Telengana movement, is fundamentally one which aims at self-determination. Any support to a movement of self-determination can only be given on the logic of bridging the divided between the oppressed classes of the dominating and dominated states. For this it is necessary to both support the immediate demand of statehood as well as present our own independent programme against both the ambitious wannabe bourgeoisie of Telengana as well as the greedy dominating bourgeoisie of Seema Andhra. To the chaos these bourgeoisies have to offer, we provide our own programme for the betterment of the workers, peasants and youth. The programme of Permanent revolution!

ABOLISH ALL RURAL DEBT !

NATIONALIZE THE LAND ! LAND FOR THE PEOPLE !

FULL EMPLOYMENT AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES !

Perspective on the work stoppage at Bajaj

The nearly 50 day long tool down action at Bajaj’s Chakan plant was a landmark action by the workers of the Chakan industrial belt, both for it’s duration and the impact it has had in radicalizing the otherwise ‘peaceful’ situation at the Chakan industrial belt. The core issue of the struggle was over the ill-effects of the imposition of total productivity methods at Chakan modelled on the system at Maruti Suzuki and union busting tactics of the management at the Pantnagar plant.

The action at Chakan may be linked to the developments at the Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand where the workers were deliberately denied from joining the Vishwa Kamgar Kalyan Sangathana ( VKKS ). The harrassment of workers at that plant led to the union at Chakan break the old agreement and make a fresh set of demands targetting an improvement of their working condition. The union leadership however, was limited from the start, by targeting shareholding in the company for workers as a ‘lasting’ means of improving worker’s wages. The leaflet distributed by the union expressed the ideological basis for their demand for shares, the belief in trusteeship, championed by Jamnalal Bajaj. This demand more than any other was what was highlighted by the union.

There were other issues as well. During the meetings, the question of condition of work for contract workers was raised more than once. Bajaj like every other major industry prefers the hiring of contract labor to use of permanent workforce. In the slump period in the auto industry, contract labor again gave way to the use of trainee workers. This together with the total productivity methods, squeezed out the highest possible productivity out of the workers at the plant, not to mention rendered them precarious owing to the contractual nature of work and the temporary or trainee status of the workers. However, the union did not raise these questions concretely in their charter of demands. On the contrary, the allotment of shares, which was stressed by the union, would only aid the management in exploiting the workers. With shareholding, the workers are tied in to the profits and losses of the company, and consequently, hostage to the policy of the management.

At no point was the tool down action directed towards more militant forms of protests like gheraos or factory occupations, or pickets. The result was that the company had a free hand in forcing the trainee workers to work overtime to compensate for production losses due to the tool down. Even though this was illegal, the union leadership preferred a legal course to tackling this than the more militant alternative of installing a gherrao of the factory. However, the enthusiasm of the young workers at the union ( their average age being 26 ), proved to be an inspiration for other workers to join in solidarity. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh which was the umbrella body of industrial unions in the Chakan belt expressed their solidarity with the workers. However, no tool down action was taken by them.

All in all, the workers at Bajaj had to go on their own. The workers showed both determination and unity in carrying on the tool down action for more than 50 days beginning from the 25th of June till August 14th. This was all despite management tactics of harrassment and attempts to break the strike, not to mention, threats of shifting production away from the Chakan plant to neighboring Aurangabad. In the end the strike was ended ‘unconditionally’. The union leadership under has promised to ‘continue to press for the demands raised by the strike action including wage revision’.

Thus, the work stoppage action ended without any demands conceded, and a murky uncertain future awaits for the suspended workers. The management feels emboldened with its success in ending the struggle without any concessions made, and in potential for shifting production to any other plant in the country.

The unity of workers which has been building up albeit in a somewhat distorted manner since the general strike of 2010, has tremendous implications for the future of the worker’s movement. The Bajaj tool down action represents both the problems and the potential in mobilizing workers in India.

The larger picture :

Though the action at Bajaj ended without consequence, the significance of this work stoppage action can’t be ignored in the larger picture. Since the beginning of market reforms and what is generally called ‘neo-liberal’ growth, the condition of workers in India has become more and more precarious. Contractorization, casualization and rationalization of workforce in addition to privatizations of public companies have added to the burdens of the working class. The ‘boom years’ of the Indian economy also saw the birth of a new phase of class struggle, with the workers at Honda revolting. Soon after, the Gurgaon industrial belt became the scene of the most significant labor movement in recent times centered around Maruti. The rest of the country has not been immune to this. It was not too long since the workers at Mahindra’s Nasik plant struck work after the arrest of it’s union leadership there.

With worsening conditions of work, and the entry of millions upon millions of freshly proletarianized peasant populations ( people who’ve been rendered wage slaves due to loss of subsistence income from the countryside, pushed into the cities or factories to find work ), a new young working class has been created out of the most rebellious and desperate section of india’s populace. The increasing intensity of struggles, with frequent cases of workers turning violent, is an unsurprising outcome of the brutality of the system upon the lives of these populations. With shrinking stable job opportunities, owing to a stagnation of organized employment, most of these wage slaves end up with the worst kind of work in the unorganized sector, if not end up unemployed yet again.

The increase of this reserve labor has strengthened the ability of capitalists to impose their will upon the workers. It is not for no reason that the management at Bajaj could compensate the loss of man hours as easily with trainee workers. The system favored him, but the times are against him. The world crisis has affected india, and the problems of a proletarianizing economy founded on the systematic destruction of peasants and petty bourgeois, has come crashing in. Workers become more rebellious and there is an ever present danger of it becoming violent. The example of Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt stands as a warning before the greedy bourgeois.

With this new method of exploitation, there have been new movements of resistance against it. The movement for organizing contract workers for decent, secured job opportunities through their regularization, epitomizes this. The proliferation of contractorisation in Indian industry has given new impetus to the movement to organize contract workers. There is not a single major company where contractorisation has not taken roots, and consequently, there is an ever present struggle against the conditions which it brings about. This is one area which can combine the struggles of workers in private industry with those in public industry where contractorisation is emerging in a major way. Take the case of BSNL where almost 100000 workers work as ‘outsourced’ contract workers. But while the significance of the struggle seems obvious, the nature of the movement is restrained to a company specific approach. No focussed effort seems to be in place to create a movement of all workers against contractorisation uniting both public and private sector workers. Building such unity is the need of the day !

This is not unconnected with the developments in the public sector. The crisis has forced the government to aggressively target the public sector for increased privatizations. The results have been a spree of strike actions by workers against privatization. Coal India Ltd, BSNL, Neyvelli lignite have all been witness to workers protesting efforts at privatizing these companies. These have so far been successful in restraining any efforts at completing the privatizations of these companies. The question of contract workers and overall, the question of improving work conditions are not unrelated to this. Privatization brings with it a worsening of working conditions, and increasing precariousness of work. The workers of the public sector companies are essentially waging a defensive struggle against privatization and against losing the security that comes with state ownership. This stands in contrast with the actions in the private sector where existing conditions of work are being challenged.

The public sector is a fortress for the working class, and a lifeline for giving sustainable secured employment. It accounts for a majority of organized workforce in the country as well as being in the commanding height of the economy. Uniting the workers of these two sectors would strengthen the working class in their struggle against Indian capitalism. This would not be possible without the necessary political leadership.

PSTU statement on the revolt in Brazil

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

State and municipal governments recoil on the increase of fares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travelling is expensive and rough

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

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

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

“Zero fare” is possible

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

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

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

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

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

“It is not for the 20 cents alone”

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

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

Questioning the banners and raid of right bands

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

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

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

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

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

The right and the bounden duty to be there

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to keep on fighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the struggle of Brazilian people!

IS of the IWL

Sao Paulo, 25th June, 2013

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

On the question of the united front tactic

In short the policy of united front-ism is one of ‘march separately but strike together’ . This in itself does not however, explain the various possible variations of the united front depending on the objective strength of forces involved. In principle the party of the working class creates united fronts where there is a need for joint interventions around shared interests. The most notable example of a united front at work was the united front of the Bolsheviks with the menshevik government to save the provincial government of Kerensky from Kornilov’s reaction.

In this instance, the party engaged in united front retained it’s own independent organizational existence even while siding with hostile forces. The overarching importance of the most urgent democratic tasks was realized which formed the basis for a united front. It was to save the february revolution that the Bolsheviks made an alliance with Kerensky against Kornilov, all the while knowing the reactionary nature of both forces involved. But it was the necessity for such a united front that compelled the formation of the united front tactic, one where the bolsheviks could fight off the forces of reaction.

A Bolshevist united front and Stalinist popular front :

The foremost consideration for any successful united front is the independence of the revolutionary force with the parties it is in a united front with. This is contrasted with the policy of a popular front where class compromise is sought around an opportunistic premise for advancing the organizational interest at hand. Stalinism presents before the working class the prospect of certain defeat through the popular front where it’s power is diluted into that of the national bourgeoisie. When Lenin joined hands with the government of Kerensky, the Bolsheviks did not dissolve themselves into the government, nor dilute their revolutionary programme for the sake of the alliance. It was over a particular agenda of defeating the reaction led by Kornilov that the cooperation was forged. However, when Stalin and the troika had ordered the Chinese communists to align with Chiang Kai Shek in the revolutionary upsurge of the mid-1920s, they dissolved themselves for sake of keeping that alliance intact.

It must be born in mind that numerical or organizational dimensions were secondary to the success of the united front. The Bolsheviks were in an inferior position of power in relation to their respective allies when they engaged in the united front. However, the reactionary regime was on the verge of collapse under pressure of war. Most importantly, the regime was fast losing or had already lost mass support. At the same time, the forces of revolution were gaining influence. In such a situation revolutionary help extended to bourgeois-democratic reactionaries ( like Kerensky ) would be like using a rope to hold up a dying man!

The successes of these actions have important lessons for us today when revolutionary bolsheviks seek to engage in a united front.

Few basic principles :

Before any united front is undertaken two key questions must be asked :

a) For what is there a need for a united front ? What benefits will it bring ?

b) What is the strength of our own forces ?

The answer to the first question will lay the ground for forging any united front with other organizations whether we agree on fundamental questions of theory or not. The answer to the second will help us understand how to approach the united front and how deeply we should commit our resources to it. Only once a clear understanding is reached by balancing between both these questions, can a revolutionary organization approach a united front with a firm footing. A united front based on light and weak foundations will end in a failure.

Once the basic questions have been answered, the next question must be that of particulars of engagement. :

a) Whom do we align with ?

b) To what extent to we align ?

Of course, it is impossible to answer these two questions without first answering the basic questions of the united front. In chapter 4 of the Communist Manifesto Marx laid the foundation for such an alliance as support for democratic struggles world over. For this purpose the communists would be willing to align with any force that is fighting for a democratic revolution. In saying this however, Marx never compromised the need for maintaining an independent character of the communist movement. This brings us to the second question on the extent of our engagement. That again depends primarily on two factors :

a) The class character of our allies

b) Our own objective(organizational) and subjective(theoretical) strength.

An important third factor in this of course would be the objective we intend to achieve through this united front. The nature of intervention whether it’s military or civil in nature, or whether we intend to in future to merge with a group if there are fundamental programmatic agreements, or whether we intend to wage a defensive struggle where the entire interests of the class are under jeopardy ( as would be with the case of a fascist threat ) . Each instance will come with its own imperatives and will determine the tactics of the united front in action.

Flexibility in tactics :

One of the hallmarks of Leninist thought has been the flexibility of its tactics in class struggle. Lenin characterized class war as a war fundamentally more complex than any other war hitherto fought, and not without reason. From this conclusion, he states in his work on guerrilla warfare that Marxists must be open to the use of the most varied tactics as the situation demands. Thus, revolutionaries must be prepared to go underground when faced with a emergency situation. When democratic organizing becomes impossible it is naive to retain any pretense of absolute internal democracy, a centralized organization with strict discipline becomes indispensable.

Such a flexibility must be shown in approaching the question of the united front as well. The working masses will not always possess revolutionary consciousness. Right up until the decisive eruption of revolution, we will be dealing with a population which albeit rebellious and militant may continue to harbor every possible illusion in the machinations of the bourgeois state. In such a situation revolutionaries must refrain from a sectarian attitude towards the organizations of the class. While sharply criticizing every opportunistic step which they may take to harm the interests of the class, the revolutionary force must be ready to work with these organizations whenever and wherever the interests of the class struggle are involved.

Here we are faced with a dialectical question. How to retain independence in perspective, discipline and organization while engaging in work with organizations whose character is decidedly non-revolutionary ? The whole success or failure of the united front for the revolutionary party is contingent on this question being answered correctly. There are no black and white alternatives given beforehand, since the issue is one of balance between forces involved.

Variations of the united front :

We may either enter a united front with a similar organization or express unity in action. This choice depends much on whom we plan on aligning with. The difference between these two variations can be demonstrated using the example of our tactics towards the forces involved in the Afghan war and our tasks in that country.

The foremost task of the present Afghan struggle much like China at the time of the Japanese invasion rested on the expulsion of the imperialist forces attempting to subjugate and exploit that country’s resources. The problem we face in pursuing this overarching goal, is that we will be sharing our battles with the most vile, most corrupt and reactionary of armies in the Afghan Taliban. Their agenda is to establish a repressive islamic state, which would perhaps in the long run make just as bad an agreement with world imperialism as the present quisling Karzai government. But the core tasks of bolsheviks is not to speculate idly on what possible future may befall Afghanistan, the core task is to understand the democratic tasks to fight for and chart the road for the socialist revolution in South Asia.

It is as obvious as daylight that there cannot be even the remotest of agreements with the Taliban on long term agenda. Given the chance, they would be as committed to the evisceration of the revolutionary party as the imperialists. However, our first commitment is towards fighting for the liberation of Afghanistan from the ongoing imperialist occupation. For this we are fighting the same enemy as the Taliban. Here we call for unity in action with the Taliban on the point of agreement over the fight against foreign imperialism. Our troops in the field would coordinate their attacks against ISAF troops and proxy Afghan National Army troops with the troops of the Taliban. However, we keep not only our own discipline in fighting, but retain our own propaganda, our own programmatic agenda for the future of Afghanistan as well as our long term hostility towards the idea of theocracy.

Of course, given the reality of our peripheral existence in the world and undoubtedly in Afghanistan, it would be next to impossible to build such an alliance even one only restricted to ‘unity in action’. Our actions must therefore, be oriented towards propaganda activities primarily and the cornerstone of this is the attack on imperialism. We would thus continue to work on the united front principle and express a ‘unity in action’ with the Taliban. At the same time, we warn the Afghan people of the dangers of allowing the Taliban to lead the anti-imperial struggle and condemn any agreement they make with any imperial force.

The same principles may not apply when and if we engage in a united front effort with an organization who share fundamental agreements in regard to programme. If we unite with organizations of the working class, with whom differences are of a peripheral nature but agreements are fundamental *( if we agree on the Socialist revolution and its path ), incidental differences on tactics and strategies to combat imperialism are secondary in nature. Here we engage in joint work with a view towards possible merger of forces over a common party building agenda on the basis of a programme for revolution. This would be a deep united front which may go beyond simply working together around single issues.

Conclusion:

The united front tactic gives a Bolshevik-Leninist force its power. Despite smaller numbers and organizational weakness, we can multiply our forces in conjunction with the resources of another force in conducting our intervention. Using this approach we retain our own discipline and our own political character and use the power of bolshevik theory to build our strength in the class struggle. Care must be taken however, that we never weaken the effort by compromising our stance even and especially with respect to those we align with. Our alignments with deeply hostile forces which are against our ideals are necessarily only be temporary and issue-specific. Once a front with such forces has accomplished its core objectives, we must be prepared with our own organizational strength to fight against them and stake our own claim to power.

Report on the General strike

The All India General strike of the 20th and 21st was the third such strike in the last 3 years. The strike evoked a massive response much in the same manner as the last two strikes preceding it. In each instance over a 100 million workers affiliated to the 11 central trade unions and supporting regional and local unions joined in the strike actions. This time as well, the strike garnered the support of roughly 120 million workers across the country in practically every sector of industry and service. Despite a greater intensity, and larger turnout, we can’t ignore the shortcomings of the perspectives of the trade unions and the shortcomings in organizing for the strike.

 
The context of the strike :

 

While dealing with the instant strike action, we can’t ignore the political, economical and social context in which the strike has occurred. The past year had been a year of worldwide upheavals and India was not immune from this wave. The mobilizations first around the anti-corruption issue, then around the anti-rape agitations each left it’s mark on the social spectrum of the country. Added to this, we have been witness to an upswing in the worker’s movement. The inspiring struggle in Maruti for union recognition, the successes of public sector workers at preventing privatization in telecom and banking sectors, are all indicators of a rise in class struggle in india and the strengthening of the working class. Together with this we find a deepening of the world crisis and a concerted effort by the ruling classes to preserve the rule of capital at all costs.

The burden of this crisis is being transferred onto the shoulders of the workers and peasants of India. Whilst in europe the attacks have assumed the form of austerity, in india they have assumed the form of deliberate inflation, and aggressive investment policies along with concerted attacks on public sector companies. Indeed in some parts of the country the attacks on the peasantry have assumed near warlike conditions. The response to these attacks while strong have not been decisive. The chief factor behind this had been the role of the political leadership behind the strike, blunting it’s edge and reducing it’s impact.

The organization of the strike and demands :

The 2013 general strike can be distinguished from both the 2012 and 2010 strikes in terms of length and care put behind propaganda and organization. The call for strike was made on the 4th of September, where all the central trade union bodies came together in a national conference and adopted the charter of 10 demands. From that time till the days of action, the central trade unions and their local and regional allies undertook several mass efforts at propagating the demands for the strike, and raising awareness. One of the high points of this preparatory phase was the mass mobilization of the workers in a ‘jail bharo’ action where workers courted arrest for supporting the 10 charter demands. The mobilizations did not stop there, till the 19th of February, one day before the days of strike, there were mobilizations carried out especially by leftist trade unions in the major cities of Kolkata and Mumbai in which hundreds of thousands of workers and activists participated.

With these preparations the strike itself was expected to be one which would be met with enthusiasm and it would have a big impact. Whilst the turnout was indeed substantial on the days of the strike, the impact of the strike was in fact uneven. Not every segment of the working class joined the strike due to various reasons. Workers of the transport sector for instance were conspicuous by their absence in the strike, with a few notable exceptions in Bangalore and Delhi where taxis and busses did not ply the roads. The rail workers as usual did not go on strike along with other workers. Their concerns too were not incorporated into the charter demands. Along similar lines the workers at Pune municipal corporation did not go on strike with the industrial and service sector workers who responded well in Pune.

In the state of Haryana, the strike had a particularly intense response with workers going on the aggressive. In Noida there were clashes between workers and policemen who attempted to prevent the marches through the city, while in Ambala tensions arose when a transport worker was killed by a moving bus while attempting to stop traffic. No doubt, this aggressive stance is the direct result of the radicalization of workers in that region as a result of the Maruti struggle. However, the biggest impact of the strike was expectedly in the states of Kerala and West Bengal where the unions have strong political support in the Stalinist parties present in these states. Here the strike call was supported by a total closure of all economical activity in a ‘bandh’.

The rallying point of the strike was the charter of 10 demands which the trade unions had jointly developed for the agitation. The 10 demands were :

1) Take Concrete measures for price rise

2) Take concrete measures for linkage of employment protection with the concession/incentive package offered to the entrepreneurs.

3) Ensure strict enforcement of all basic labor laws without any exception or exemption and stringent punitive measures for violation of any labor laws.

4) Universal social security coverage for the unorganized sector workers without any restriction and the creation of a national social security fund with adequate resources in line with the recommendation of the NCEUS and parliamentary standing committee on labor.

5) Stoppage of disinvestment in Central and State PSUs.

6) No contractorisation of work of permanent nature and payment of wages and benefits to the contract workers at the same rate as available to the regular workers of the industry / establishment.

7) Amendment of the minimum wages act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of the schedules and fixation of statutory minimum wage of not less than 10,000 rupees.

8) Remove all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus payment, provident fund and increase the quantum of gratuity.

9) Assured statutory pension for all.

10) Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days and immediate ratification of ILO conventions no. 87 and 98 on the right to organize.

When we begin to analyze these demands, we understand that firstly they are pegged to the a compromise with the existing ruling structure. To the extent that many of the aforesaid demands point towards the bourgeoisie’s own laws and simply call for their more effective implementation, be it in calling for implementation of ILO conventions or implementing governmental committee recommendations. Where the charter does challenge the interests of the capitalists it only does so in a defensive manner for example, “no contractorization” or “stoppage of divestment” instead of Nationalize the major private companies or abolish contractorization of work. In general, these demands reflect the trend in worker’s consciousness at the present level and are reflective of most if not all struggles they are presently involved in. The main factor in creating these conditions have been the leadership of the worker’s movement itself which has taken every care to dim the strength of the struggle in India. Of particular importance has been the dominating role of Stalinism and it’s progressive degeneration in the left movement in India and the world.

These deformities reflect not only in the charter of demands, but also in the tactics of organization which were used throughout the preparations. Though the organization of this strike showed a decisive improvement over the preceding strikes, thanks largely to greater care taken to mass propaganda activity before the days of strike, the methods of organizing the rank and file retained it’s bureaucratic approach. There was still no fundamental difference in approach towards mobilizing rank and file. The strike was still following a bureaucratic method of mobilization which drew success only because of the worker’s own weakened consciousness and the anger which every average worker has towards the system of capitalism generally and in particular the ruling class.

The choice of dates for the strike itself showed a strong streak of opportunism in it. The 21st of February was international language day, and in order to placate a rising trend of bengali linguistic chauvinism, the trade unions in west bengal refused to go on strike. This as well as the nature of mobilizations contributed to blunting the impact of the strike. After the massive mobilizations which preceded the strike, one would expect that the strike itself would have lived up to radical expectations. It is outright criminal in our opinion for the trade unions to have weakened the strike action so.

 

Lessons to be learnt :

 

We acknowledge the role of the present general strike as well as the strikes preceding this one in the larger picture of class struggle in india. There is no denying the change in the condition the repeated mass mobilizations of workers have achieved in india. That being said, we must also caution ourselves with the realization that a way forward must emerge from here. The re-emergence of the working class in the centre of indian political and social life has deep consequences and demands deep and profound questions.

Firstly, we must pose directly the question of leadership in the worker’s movement. It is the direction shown by the leadership of the working class in india, which is chiefly dominated by Stalinism, which has led the working class to it’s present situation. If we consider the framework in which this strike was conducted and the organizational tactics adopted, we see some clear signs of Stalinism at work. The opportunism in deciding the date of strikes, the dilution of the potential impact it could have had and the bureaucratic methods adopted in directing the rank and file of the union all contributed to weakening the potentially greater impact of the strike action. To mention nothing of the purely economical nature of the demands made despite the strike action having clear potential to make a strong political impact !

What lay at the roots of this compromising approach of the political and trade union leadership in the working class? The Stalinist parties and the trade unions under their influence, both share a capitulationist attitude towards the bourgeoisie as a whole. This is particularly true in parliamentary democracies like India. The major Stalinist formations in India, namely the CPIM and CPM have long since made peace with the bourgeoisie in power and they would not dare take any measure which would unsettle this balance. The working class in advance of course, forces them to take up a more militant stance against the bourgeoisie. However, such actions are carefully conducted so as to retain the dominating positions of the party and trade union bureaucracy. The prime motivation of the leadership is not to struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeois state, but simply to to carve out a stronger position for themselves within the existing framework of social and political relations. Having made peace with the Indian bourgeoisie the leaders of Stalinism have by extension made a pact with democratic reaction. They effectively drain the militant potential of the working class and it’s allies into the dead end of parliamentary politics. The fate of the strike actions in the long term would remain bound to defeat and capitulation at the gates of parliament, as long as Stalinism continues to excersize it’s hold over the working class. But this in itself is not the end.

The answer to democratic reaction is permanent mobilization. We have only begun to see the faint flickers of this in the form of ‘sangharsh jathas’ conducted in various parts of the country in support of the strike demands. Whether this will succeed in forcing the government to accede to the demands of the striking workers or not, is a question that can only be answered after the budget session on the 28th of February. What is needed are more militant actions conducted with a view to push forward ever higher levels of actions with a clear view towards seizure of power by the working class. This means adopting a transitional approach which stems from the present level of consciousness of the masses and moves towards a higher level of socialist consciousness. This reflects in the form of transitional demands made by a revolutionary force. Of course, we cannot hope for the present political leadership of the working class to adopt such views, neither the from the Stalinist ‘left’ parties and definitely not the right wing bourgeois formations. What is needed is an independent revolutionary party of the working class with a perspective towards seizure of power and the establishment of a worker’s state in India.

Conclusion :

The strike has shown both the power of the working class and the weaknesses plaguing it. The complex dialectic attached to this has created conditions where a revolutionary party can emerge. This party must build itself in class struggle and on the rock solid foundation of a Bolshevik Leninist programme. We understand that the struggle of the workers may be national in form but international in essence. International solidarity around the fight of the Indian working class is more necessary now than ever before especially in this critical period where the class is in revival of it’s strength. Building the revolutionary leadership in the form of the 4th international and the Bolshevik Leninist Party has become a most necessary task of our time.

 

On the question of the revolutionary party

We are re-publishing this article written by comrade Jonas Potyguar on the question of the revolutionary party and it’s organization. The article lays bare the critical importance of organizing the party on the principles of democratic centralism and with a distinct emphasis of recruiting workers as its grassroots.

 

88 years without lenin: A revolutionary leninist party, or a party of affiliated sympathizers ? 

– Jonas Potyguar

The topic of construction of a revolutionary party and the discussion hinging round this pivot abound among socialists. The character of a Leninist party has been attacked from all kinds of angles.

It has even been said – and not altogether wrong – that Lenin’s main contribution to Marxism has been the theory and practise of the organisation of a revolutionary party. This is so, because Lenin regarded organisation as a fundamental issue among all the other tasks, whether agitation or propaganda.

He has even stated that the task of organisation is more important than that of the use of revolutionary violence in the revolution and that is what he said in 1919, at the funeral of Sverdlov, the greatest organiser the Bolshevik party has ever had:

“Comrades, people who judge by what they see on the surface, the numerous enemies of our revolution, and those who to this day vacillate between the revolution and its opponents, consider the most striking feature of our revolution to be the determined and relentlessly firm way it has dealt with the exploiters and the enemies of the working people. There is no doubt that without this, without revolutionary violence, the proletariat could not have triumphed. Nor can there be any doubt that revolutionary violence was a necessary and legitimate weapon of the revolution only at definite stages of its development, only under definite and special conditions, and that a far more profound and permanent feature of this revolution and condition of its victory was, and remains, the organisation of the proletarian masses, the organisation of the working people.”1

And he tops this reasoning “…the main task of the proletarian revolution is precisely the task of organisation.”2

That is why, unlike reformists, Marxists wish to exert power together with the organised masses and that is not a feat of some great parliamentary “leaders”. The most serious symptom of capitulation to the apparatuses – whether reformist or bourgeois parliamentary – and the most frequent way in which this is expressed is the abandonment of the organisation of the toiling masses – or the pushing back of this task to second-best position (in their own organisations) – and of the vanguard in the revolutionary party. The most appealing task normally are those that imply audience, where is possible to test out very soon and in front of people one’s own individual aptitudes. The simple “grey” task of organising, recruiting and spreading the orientation of the party through the press, for example, is much more difficult and tedious. But pushing the task of organisation to the second-rate level means to yield to the pressure of the bourgeoisie and to capitulate to the apparatuses where a few leaders “substitute” the labour of the masses and of the advance guard.

 

This is so important that taking it as priority and building the revolutionary party in Russia was the reason for the victory in Russia and the opposite, considering this a secondary task, led to the defeat of the revolution in Germany in 1918.

The secret of the Bolshevik party and their most important lesson on how to build revolutionary parties all over the world was that, understanding the importance of the organisation, they leaned on a tripod that could (and can) ensure strength and invincibility to any revolutionary party: the use of Marxist theory, a close link with the International and their insertion in the workers’ movement.

“Only relying on Marxist revolutionary theory and on the experience of the international social democracy we can merge our revolutionary trend with the workers’ movement…”3

Using this tripod, Bolshevism gets organised in a new type of party, reflecting not only the specificity of the Tsarist Russia but also the new historic epoch of wars and revolutions. It is from his analysis of imperialism that Lenin draws his vision of a new type of party, fighting, for action, for the seizure of power.

“Imperialism is a stage of capitalism in which, after having done all it could have done, it now revolves towards decadence… There may be many similar wars… To fulfil this new task, the proletarian party may need organisations of a totally new type. It is difficult to foretell what the new form of organisation should be in correspondence with this phase.”4

In 1900, defending a party built around a hard core, basically by professional revolutionaries, he said,

“We must prepare men who would not dedicate only their free afternoons to the revolution, but their entire lives…” 5

He asserts that the party must have a flexible structure to define when a frontal combat is required and when it is necessary to retreat properly. He asserts that unconditional centralisation and the most severe discipline of the proletariat inside their party is one of the fundamental conditions for victory over bourgeoisie.

He draws on the norm that the grassroots of the party be active militants, where all the members, without any exception, take part in the struggle, in the movement and in the everyday life of the toiling masses.

After power has been seized, discipline and centralisation are even more important:

“The strictest centralisation and discipline are required within the political party of the proletariat in order to counteract this, in order that the organisational role of the proletariat (and that is its principal role) may be exercised correctly, successfully and victoriously. The dictatorship of the proletariat means a persistent struggle – bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative – against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit in millions and tens of millions is a most formidable force. Without a party of iron that has been tempered in the struggle, a party enjoying the confidence of all honest people in the class in question, a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, such a struggle cannot be waged successfully.” 6

For the Bolshevik party, right from the beginning, even when it consisted of a tiny group of intellectuals who acted in hiding, the insertion in the industrial working class was priority. This orientation is based on the Marxist vision, on the Marxist standpoint on the central character of the industrial working class and the very experience of Marx and Engels who did their best to take socialist ideas to the real movement of working class. As early as 1893, Lenin gets in contact with advanced workers of Saint Petersburg and in 1902 he said:

“Our work is aimed, first of all and above all, at factory workers of the cities. Russian social democracy must not disperse its strength, but concentrate its activity on industrial proletariat… we do not deem it wise to orient our strength towards craftsmen and farmhand…”7

Later on, when the party was no longer small, Lenin oriented it towards other sectors without, however, forsaking that priority. Having defined this priority to social advance guard sectors proved correct, for in 1917 Lenin defended the seizure of power when he achieves majority of soviets in two most important working class cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. We must add that in those days the Russian working class counted 3 millions souls densely concentrated in big factories among 150 million inhabitants. They achieved the miracle of leading dozens and dozens of millions because they were a power inside the industrial proletariat.

Lenin attached an enormous importance to the press of the party. In his famous book What to do? he spreads a vision of a party newspaper as an organizational and political centraliser for the whole party. Thus, in 1912, faced with the first signs of struggle of the working class, he launches a legal newspaper, the Pravda, whose launching was preceded by a several-month-long campaign asking factory workers for their financial support. Contributions came in tens of thousands and there was also a subscription campaign. Pravda had the backing of tens and hundreds of workers, who – with their modest contributions – ensured its publication.

Reflecting directly the situation of class struggle, the ups and downs, victories and defeats, and also the different phases of the construction of the party, there were great wavering as far as the number of militants goes. A party of a few tens of militant cadres in 1901 and of hundreds in 1903 was a founding group, as Lenin put it; “a communist nucleus whose central task was to insert themselves among the masses of workers.” In 1905, at the beginning of the revolution, an advance-guard party with 8 000 militants, most of them inserted in industrial centres, a party in “transition from communist propaganda and agitation to action”. In 1907, at the congress of reunification with the Mensheviks, 77 000 militants with a slight majority of Bolsheviks, the party was already in the period of “mass party” whose essential task was, as Lenin used to say, “take the initiative in massive actions”. At a time of a slump in the struggles, of defeats, in 1910, in most regions the party disintegrated and just a few dozen militants remained. In 1916 the new ascent began and the Bolshevik party had at most 5 000 members and a few cadres. When the revolution began, thousands and thousands of workers joined the political battle and left-wing parties and by April 1917 the party could already boast 79 000 members and by July the figure reaches 170 000, 250 000 by March 1919, 610 000 in March’20 and 730 000 in March 1921.

Bolshevism combined a great inflexibility as far as principles are concerned and a great flexibility at the time of using tactics (forms of struggle) of the most varied type. For example, the defence of using parliament and then boycott, the defence of participating in all the workers’ organisations (trade unions) but censuring the yellow trade unions; the use of terrorism (and also guerrilla) but in a compulsory manner using it only in the service of the working class and as part of the workers’ struggle.

This is absolutely essential in the building of revolutionary parties because to fall into opportunism or ultra-leftism is to give priority to an only procedure, isolate it and turn it into an absolute (for example the use of the parliament). It is just like this popular saying goes: “anything in excess is poison”.

This is how Lenin expresses this vision: “On the other hand, Bolshevism, which had arisen on this granite foundation of theory, went through fifteen years of practical history (1903-17) unequalled anywhere in the world in its wealth of experience… During those fifteen years, no other country knew anything even approximating to that revolutionary experience, that rapid and varied succession of different forms of the movement—legal and illegal, peaceful and stormy, underground and open, local circles and mass movements, and parliamentary and terrorist forms”. 8

If Bolshevism could triumph in the revolution it is because they knew how to expose the opportunists in Russia and in II International; this was one of the causes of victory.

A party of active militants based on professional militants made the building of a mass party for combat and seizure of power possible. This was expressed, for example, in the way Barmin, a young Bolshevik leader, recruited new members in the factories: “Join the party that does not promise advantages or privileges. If we achieve victory, we shall build a new world. If we are defeated, we shall fight to the last man.”

But in order to build a party that can resist the pressure of the bourgeoisie and the defeat it is necessary to mould a party and leaders capable of learning from their errors.

“A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification – that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses. By failing to fulfil this duty and give the utmost attention and consideration to the study of their patent error, the “Lefts” in Germany (and in Holland) have proved that they are not a party of a class, but a circle, not a party of the masses, but a group of intellectualists and of a few workers who ape the worst features of intellectualism.” 9

But he was not satisfied with just identifying the error but reasoned in a Marxist way that is to say, with the understanding that the pressures inside the party reflected the pressures existing in the bourgeois society and he always tried to propose concrete measures within the scope of the organisation of the party to correct the existing deviation or problem.

That is how in the early 1905, in the middle of the revolution, as he saw a lot of hesitations among the leaders of his faction, he proposed clear steps: that the committees of the party should have a majority of workers. (“eight workers for every two intellectuals, for workers have class instinct) He lost when the votes were taken. But in November 1905 in the middle of the revolutionary crisis, he was requesting one intellectual for several hundreds of workers.

After the seizure of power and by the end of the civil war, climbers were flooding the party. Lenin proposed:

“…I should advise the most rigorous admission to the party: a three-year period as candidate for workers (considering a worker one who has worked at least 10 years in the great industry as a simple salaried worker and has now been working for at least 2 or 3 years); for peasants and combatants of the Red Army, 4 years and for everybody else, 5 years.”10

When the danger of bureaucratisation of the USSR emerges, in his last writings he insists that:

“Inclusion of many workers to the CC will help workers to improve our administrative body… The workers who will become part of the CC should be mainly not those who have been acting for a long time in the Soviets… for they have been soaked in with certain traditions and prejudices that we wish to fight against.”11

What a difference between this party and the German party! The latter, held on to legal (parliamentary) intervention, with affiliates who did not have an everyday active participation in the life of the party and workers’ struggles. This “giant” party had, on the eve of the war, a million members, 90 daily papers and had reached 4 million votes in the elections to the parliament. It had magazines, schools, universities, 2.5 million workers were organised in trade unions led by social democrats. When the war broke out it split to pieces like crystal receiving the first bullet. But this routine in the form of organisation was so deep that this lax and rusty structure affected also the Spartaquists, whose leader was Rose Luxemburg, who in 1914 publicly split away from the reformists but did not split away, or took a long time to do so, with their forms of organisation. And that proved deadly for the German revolution. Rose Luxemburg failed to understand that the new epoch required a new type of party. Her organisation had to form itself in the middle of the war and in totally clandestine conditions, had no time to grow up: its members had no discipline and most militants, reacting in an ultra-leftist fashion to the opportunist capitulation of the social democrats, refused to take part in elections or trade unions. Later on Lenin reflected that the main error of German communists was that they did not split away from the social democrats early enough, even before the war.

In 1921 he was to say:

“it is necessary to expose in full details what is it that does not exist in most of the legal parties in the West. There is no everyday work (revolutionary work) done by each and every one member of the party.”12

Nowadays, there is a great discussion in the workers’ movement about the characteristics and the structure of a revolutionary party. Most people point blank refuse to have “Leninist” Democratic Centralism which is regarded as antidemocratic and the form of “affiliated” members, a lax form that admits “ample democracy” for the grassroots, is regarded as preferable.

The discussion on centralisation or non-centralisation of a revolutionary party depends on the purpose it is being built for.

If it is for the seizure of power and to install the dictatorship of the proletariat and overcome the resistance of imperialism by force, the organisation of the party will necessarily have to be centralised, where the 100% of the militants are active and committed militants of workers’ cause. History has proved that without such a type of party victory is always in jeopardy.

On the other hand, if we want to have a party centred hinging round parliamentary activity, elections, a trade union activity now and again (strictly legal) so as to achieve more votes and reach power through elections, there is no need for any democratic centralism. The structure of social democratic parties is good enough for that.

But it is deceitful to tell simple people who do not understand politics that the structure of “affiliates” is more democratic: this is simply a lie! In this type of parties, it is the opportunist leadership who decide everything, and more often than not they are members of parliament, governors, presidents, trade union bureaucrats and the affiliates are simply informed via TV about the guideline of the party, just the way it keeps on happening in Brazilian PT: it turned neoliberal without consulting the hundreds of thousand of affiliated workers.

On the contrary, the Leninist structure of democratic centralism, with the active militants, who participate in the everyday struggle of the workers and party life, discuss everything freely inside the party with the most absolute democracy and then, in a centralised way, everybody, from the freshest to the oldest, have to defend the guideline voted by majority.

This is the only way in which workers can impede that their leader be corrupted by the bourgeoisie.

“And if the workers’ party is really revolutionary, if it is really workers’ (that is to say: linked to the masses, to most workers, to the grassroots of the proletariat and not only to the upper crust sector), if it is really a party, that is: if it is the organisation of the revolutionary advance guard, strong and consistent, capable of doing the revolutionary task among the masses by any possible means, then there is no doubt that this party will be able to hold its members of parliament back…” 13

“The more outstanding the scabs are (meaning Kamenev and Zinoviev) the more compulsory it is to punish them at once with expulsion. The only way to heal a workers’ party is to purge a dozen pusillanimous petty intellectuals, to huddle together the revolutionary rank and file, march together with revolutionary workers.” 14

By means of thousands of negative examples, history has proved the absolute necessity of a Leninist party and today the loss of many revolutions happens just because proletariat does not have a tool of this type and is trapped by the demagogic socialist and “democratic” leaders.

The United Secretariat of the IV International has long forsaken the democratic centralist structure of the organisation of their parties and of the International. But now they take another step forward and make a call to unite all the anticapitalist left, a call that has been passed at the XV Congress of the LCR (France) to:

“… build a new political force, ample and pluralist, radically anticapitalist and resolutely democratic. This grouping in a united party is necessary and urgent to act together along the major guidelines that may, in our opinion, be summed up in a few points: opposition to imperialism, to the war, to the capitalist globalisation… the perspective of a breach with capitalism.”15

This resolution is a “jewel” of opportunism in every field. It would be necessary to write an entire book to expose the venom it contains.

To begin with the expression “opposition to imperialism”. “Opposition” is a parliamentary term. Anybody, down to the blind man in the doorway of a church is “opposition to imperialism”. “Opposition to the war”, yes, of course we are all against the war and the imperialist invasion of Iraq. But are we for the anticolonial war that the Iraqi resistance is carrying out now, and even if necessary, for sending them weapons?

Let us go on to the “perspective” of breach with the capitalism. This just does not commit anybody to anything and left for the future it is something that even Rosseto (Minister of Land Reform in Lula administration) might sign. And the break away from capitalism is to replace it with…. what? That is not said. In this way, anyone can fit into the party, any anti-neoliberal democrat, like the ones who head the World Social Forum and claim that “another world is possible” even in the imperialist system or claim for “unlimited” democracy – and this is something everybody likes – especially imperialism and their companies that exploit and govern the world in an “unlimited way”.

To enter the kingdom of democracy it is not necessary to have a disciplined party of determined and toughened proletarians, ready to die for their class; all you need for that is “to be ample and pluralist”. That is so, because obviously what is needed here is not a party to lead an insurrection and a revolution but to form “potential socialist ministers” for the parliament who would dedicate themselves to diminish the poverty of the “excluded” by means of “compensatory measures” and to guarantee a “law” that would demand from the capital that it should share out its profit and to yell from the parliamentary tribunal against capitalism. What is the use of a centralised party, organised and educated for the seizure of power if it is all about civilised “opposition” to her majesty the bourgeoisie? It is far more convenient to make an “ample and plural” party with members of parliament, consultants, trade union leaders, where liberty would prevail so far that it would even be possible to become a minister in a capitalist government!

Whether to be part of an “anticapitalist” party or not is not a point of principles. Very often revolutionaries are compelled to be there in order to fight reformists who are there. But USec defends the dissolution of their organisations in such parties making the frontiers between revolutionaries and reformists blurred.

Be that as it may, what matters is not what is said but what is done, for words are often gone with the wind and what stays are the bourgeois laws defending the large Brazilian estates applied against the poor of the countryside by a “Trotskyist” minister (in reference to minister Rosseto, member of the USec). It is a disgrace for the IV International. Those who accept such treason are accomplices in the blemishing of the banner of the IV International, of Leninism and revolutionary Marxism.

Notes:

1 Lenin, C.W. tome 38, page 158

2 Lenin, C.W. tome 7, page 59

3 Lenin, C.W. tome 26, page 30

4 Lenin, C.W. tome 4 page 396

5 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

6 Lenin, C.W. tome 2, page 486

7 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

8 Lenin, Lef-wing communism, an infantile disorder

9 Lenin, C.W. tome 45, page 7

10 Lenin, C.W. tome 45, page 363

11 Lenin, C.W. tome 44, page 14

12 Lenin, C.W. tome 39, page 173

13 Lenin, C.W. tome 34, page 439

14 Lenin, C.W. tome 34, page 439

15 Rouge, 21/11/2003