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Chinese Regime attacks LGBT+ community

LGBT+: China unleashes the moral police against what it calls an ‘abnormal’ community

Fiona Keating, Shan Williams

China has sent out the moral police. And in doing so, it has essentially designated the entire LGBT community as “abnormal”.

Online regulation

The China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) recently published regulation [1] banning images of all “abnormal” sexual behaviour online. But alongside talk of sexual violence, the list also includes images, video, documentaries, and anime of LGBT relationships. In other words, the whole gay community in China was essentially labelled “abnormal” and compared to violent criminals.

The regulation read [online translation]:

"Internet audio-visual program service-related units should adhere to the correct political orientation, value orientation and aesthetic orientation, prohibit the production and playback of the following contents of the network audio-visual programs…

(6) rendering obscene pornography and vulgar low taste…

2. Performance and display of abnormal sexual relations, sexual behavior, such as incest, homosexuality, sexual metamorphosis, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual violence…"

Social media and video upload sites would be required to employ censors to trawl through content.

Tightening online control

In 2016, US human rights group Freedom House called China the world’s “worst abuser of internet freedom” [2]. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, insists that the government has “tightened control over nongovernmental organizations, activists, media, and the internet” since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 [3].

The latest regulation is seen as another step in Chinese authorities’ efforts to tighten control over online media. Last week, for example, China’s top micro-blogging site Weibo vowed to block unlicensed videos after warnings from the government; which in turn caused its stock value to plunge.

It’s a long and winding road

Homosexuality was decriminalised in China in 1997, but it was still deemed a mental illness until 2001 [4]. And while a Chinese court recently ruled against a case of forced “conversion therapy” in an unprecedented case [5], such “compelled treatment” is reportedly not uncommon [6].

China is experiencing a growth in LGBTQ+ civil society [7] and a shift in traditionalist values. But the community is still pushing for more rights. In 2015, for example, a college student sued China’s Education Ministry over academic textbooks that described homosexuality as a ‘disorder’ [8]. And in the same year, as the US Supreme Court extended gay marriage rights nationwide, a Chinese same-sex couple demanded the same right from the Chinese government [9]; suing the Chinese registry for refusing their application to marry in December 2015.

Many scientists recognise that diverse sexuality is normal [10], and that there’s a wealth of scientific studies which show sexual orientation is determined biologically [11]. But China is far from being the only government which doesn’t appear to accept that [12]. So in China and around the world, the fight for equal rights continues.

Shan Williams

* THE CANARY. JULY 14TH, 2017:
https://www.thecanary.co/2017/07/14/chinas-internet-crackdown-abnormal-lgbt-images/


China causes outrage by banning online content of ’abnormal’ homosexual relationships

Human rights group condemns China as the ’worst abuser of internet freedom’ in the world.

New regulations issued by Bejing will prohibit portrayals of homosexuality, prostitution and drug addiction. The China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) is targeting what they consider “abnormal” sexual activity.

The rules which were issued on Friday demand that online video platforms hire at least three “professional censors”. They were ordered to view entire programmes and take down any considered not sticking to the “correct political and aesthetic standards,” according to the latest regulations.

The move is seen by human rights groups as the latest tightening of censorship in China [13]. Government officials had closed down celebrity gossip blogs that authorities claim were “catering to the public’s vulgar taste,” according to Channel News Asia [14].

Other online material deemed offensive include damaging the national image, criticising revolutionary leaders or portraying the supernatural such as “conjuring spirits”.

Those who don’t adhere to the new rules face being reported to the police for further investigation, according to Xhinua state news agency.

One of China’s most famous sexologists condemned the latest move. “First of all, from the perspective of an artist, very few countries in this world set up a censorship system that violates its citizens’ freedom to create arts,” Li wrote on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website. “Second, it also violates the rights of sexual minorities to express their sexual preference.”

In 2016, Freedom House, which promotes democracy and human rights, condemned China as the “worst abuser of internet freedom” in the world.

China has a poor record on gay rights [15]. According to a survey by Peking University, less than 15 per cent of homosexuals said they had come out to their families, and more than 50 per cent of those who had revealed their sexuality, said they had suffered discrimination as a consequence.

Homosexuality in China [16] was decriminalised in 1997 and remained on the official list of mental illnesses until 2001.

The Chinese government banned all representations of LGBT people on TV in 2016, stating that “No television drama shall show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, and so on.”

Fiona Keating

* The Independent Online. Saturday 1 July 2017 15:20 BST:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/china-gay-online-ban-homosexual-a7818166.html
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Footnotes

Socialists in Lebanon condemn attack on Syrian refugees

Lebanon

Statement of condemnation and clarification by the Socialist Forum

This statement was issued by the Socialist Forum in Lebanon on 16 July 2017.

On Friday June 30th, 2017 at dawn, a faction of the Lebanese Army raided two Syrian refugee camps (Nawar and Qareiah) in the town of Arsal, in what was officially designated as a "preventive raid" in search of "terrorists" based in the camp. 

As a result, several people were killed, amongst them a child, and several soldiers were wounded due to a suicide bombing inside the camps. This was followed by the arrest of more than 350 Syrian refugees based on their alleged potential link to "terrorist” organizations. Soon after, photos of the detained held under inhumane conditions and subject to torture and humiliation, were circulated in the press. 

A few days later, on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, the army announced that four Syrians who had been arrested during the raids on the camps on Friday (June 30th) died in detention as a result of "chronic diseases and climatic conditions." However, the images that were circulated through social media channels clearly revealed bruises, wounds and the effects of torture on the bodies of the victims.

The Army’s statement about the circumstances that led to the death of the detainees was rendered even more dubious when they exerted pressure on the families of the victims to bury the bodies immediately, without the right to a coronary or forensic examination, access to lawyers, or even photographing the deceased.  

In addition, the Military Intelligence intervened on July 7th, 2017 to disrupt a judicial decision issued by the Judge for Urgent Matters in Zahle, authorizing the examination of samples from the autopsies. Military intelligence personnel confiscated the evidence held at Hotel Dieu hospital from the lawyer granted power of attorney by the families of the victims, in a clear case of judicial obstruction by the military courts in order to withhold evidence related to civilians who were not definitively shown to have been involved with any terrorist associations. 

This attack on Syrian refugees is not the first of its kind. It indicates a dangerous escalation within the framework of an organized racist campaign against refugee populations by ruling class parties, who are using various state apparatuses in Lebanon to impose curfews, close the border to those fleeing the war in Syria and deprive them of their most basic rights, which are universally guaranteed under international law. Furthermore, the General Security has imposed impossible conditions for the renewal of residency permits since the beginning of 2015. These conditions are only aimed at turning refugees into illegal aliens, making them easier to exploit and increasing the precarity of their living conditions. This policy of limiting mobility has gone hand in had with raids, evictions and arbitrary arrests over the last two years, as well as the continuing threat of forcible repatriation to a country still embroiled in war.

Within this context, a large group of Lebanese activists gathered on July 13, 2017 to organize a solidarity rally for Syrian refugees, against racism, and against the repression that occurred following the events in Arsal. The goal was to attempt to restore, and strengthen, the relations between Lebanese and Syrians, hoping to counter the discourse of hatred and racism. The Socialist Forum called for a sit-in in solidarity with Syrian refugees to take place on Tuesday July 18th, 2017 at the Samir Kassir Square in Beirut. Three members of the organisation were in charge of getting the permit clearance from the Municipality of Beirut, following the usual legal procedures for organizing a protest in Lebanon. However, given the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that followed the widespread incitement campaign that was launched by a shady intelligence Facebook page called the “Syrian People’s Union in Lebanon”, and taking into account the numerous threats received by some of the organizers, the Socialist Forum decided to cancel the sit-in.

However, it is important for us to clarify that contrary to what is being circulated in the media and on some social media platforms, the Socialist Forum is not attempting to incite against the Lebanese Army. As per its statement on July 13, 2017, the Socialist Forum is simply asking for:

1. A transparent and independent investigation to uncover the causes of the suspects’ deaths.

2. A strict public accountability for all those involved in torture, murder, and other forms of abuse.

3. Revealing the fate of the remaining arbitrary detainees, their release and compensation.

4. The end of the exploitation of the refugee issue for political manipulation, and to stop treating it as a security threat.

5. Abolishing all racist decisions against refugees, and the end of practices that forces them to return against their will to brutal killings and massacres, as the regional and international community remains suspiciously and criminally silent.

We, at the Socialist Forum, condemn all the rumours and accusations made against our comrades in the media and through social media or social networking platforms. We strongly condemn the leaking of the protest permit request document from the Beirut Municipality which mentions the names of three comrades and their telephone numbers. We also condemn the bias media coverage and the circulation of the a names and photos (and Facebook pages) of our comrades by many of the local television channels. The circulation of this leaked document has put the three activists under serious and severe danger reaching death threats. The Socialist Forum would like to point out that Beirut Governor, Ziad Chebib, specified to the news that the protest permit request has nothing to do with the “Syrian People’s Union in Lebanon”, and that the protest request had no mention of the Lebanese Army, but was rather planned as a sit-in against racism towards the refugees, as opposed to what rumours are claiming.

Despite the fact that the Socialist Forum has organized numerous solidarity meetings with Syrian refugees over the years, this is the first time that the call for a sit-in has received so many open threats. We believe that this incitement is aimed at paving the way for an all-out war in Arsal, and imposing a deal with the Syrian regime within the framework of a settlement that would require the forcible transfer of Syrian refugees to so-called “safe-zones” within Syria.

Therefore:

1. We categorically reject any alterations to the objectives of the sit-in that puts it in the context of a confrontation against the Lebanese Army, especially that the Socialist Forum has previously condemned the bombings that targeted the Lebanese Army in Arsal on June 30, 2017. It also condemned the kidnapping of the soldiers and security forces in that region and called on the Lebanese state to take responsibility on this issue.

2. We call for the Beirut Municipality to provide an explanation for the publication of the permit request document in such a way, to cause incitement and marginalization, and we hold it responsible for any harm that might be inflicted on members of our political organization.

3. We ask media outlets to circulate a clarification containing the accurate statements and information, including the calls for the sit-in and this clarification statement.

4. The Socialist Forum shall resort to the Lebanese judiciary at any time it sees fit to prevent any bodily or physical harm on its members .

The Socialist Forum in Lebanon

Beirut

16-07-2017


From International Viewpoint

How is Leninism relevant today?

 Paul Le Blanc

 

Paul Le Blanc is the author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party and, most recently, Left Americana: The Radical Heart of U.S. History. In this speech presented in London in February at a conference about the Russian Revolution sponsored by the UK organization Counterfire, he considers the relevance of Lenin and the experience of Russia’s Bolsheviks for revolutionary socialists today.

Over the past decade, we have seen the academic-intellectual phenomenon of a striking increase in significant Lenin studies and related studies. Important contributions have come from Lars Lih, John Riddell, August Nimtz, Alan Shandro, Tamas Krausz, Antonio Negri and others.

Why is this happening? Such things would not be written or published if they did not speak to the deepening concerns of an expanding layer of potential readers. They would not be appearing if they were not—to borrow a capitalist term—marketable.

Such works are appearing in a period of ongoing economic, social and political crisis, with a decline in the quality of life generating the rise of protest and insurgency in many parts of the world. While it is hardly the case that a majority among the rising tide of rebels and activists embrace—or even have much knowledge of—Lenin, there are two essential connections.

The most elemental connection is this: At the very heart of the Bolshevik and Leninist tradition is the struggle against oppression. The proliferation of such struggles generates an atmosphere in which there is likely to be a growing interest in the revolutionary ideas and traditions associated with Lenin.

That relates to the other connection: Lenin and his comrades spoke to the most urgent concerns of those who hope to overcome oppression. Following Marx, they developed a profound understanding of the interconnection between the nature of oppression and the dynamics of capitalism, the dimensions of class struggle and the way it can develop into effective struggles for reform and revolution, and how socialists can organize themselves in a way to make this so.

Among left-wing activists in recent years, on the other hand, even the term Leninism has been seen as problematical. For the most part, socialist organizations that consciously strive to follow a Leninist model are quite small and have little influence. But striving to follow this model and actually doing so are not the same thing.

I believe would-be Leninist organizations are unable to follow this model in part because of the very different objective reality in which we are enmeshed and in part because there are fundamental misunderstandings of what Leninism means—if we are referring to the "Leninism" of Lenin, his basic orientation and political practice.

One aspect of the present capitalist reality that we must understand—as Marxists, as Leninists, as Trotskyists—is that our world is quite different from what it was in the time of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

Some things that they emphasized had to do with a very different situation than the one we face. That affects the way I have viewed the Occupy movement, in which I was quite active, the Black Lives Matter movement, and now the amazing anti-Trump upsurge.

Lenin lived in a time when there was a massive international workers’ movement animated by a very high degree of class consciousness, with a highly organized and very large socialist (later Communist) component, nourished by a very rich and substantial labor-radical subculture.

That disintegrated under the impact of fascism, the Second World War and postwar developments. Proclaiming the truths of revolutionary Marxist theory in the latter years of the 20th century—as many of us were inclined to do—in the absence of a class-conscious labor movement will have a different impact than what was true in the time of Lenin.

(In a way, the reality of our labor movement, certainly in the U.S., seems to correspond more to that of Marx’s time in the early 1860s—very undeveloped and fragmented.)

Today’s working-class movement (like the modern-day working class) has been in a process of recomposition.

The Occupy movement involved large, very broad sectors of what were, for all practical purposes, working-class youth. Their protests against the tyranny of the 1 Percent over the 99 Percent resonated powerfully among a majority of the people of the United States—who are, in fact, working class but largely self-identify as "middle class."

The inability of Occupy to cohere around a socialist program was inevitable. Those distressed by this had unrealistic expectations. Within this mass upsurge, however, socialists could be supportive, could participate, could help with practical and logistical matters and could share socialist ideas that some participants would consider further, particularly in the wake of Occupy’s inevitable collapse.

Such mass phenomena as the Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-Trump protests are part of a recomposition process of working-class protest, struggle and consciousness-building.

These are among the preconditions for the rebuilding of a working-class movement that can challenge the power of capital and, eventually, bring a socialist future. Instead of being impatient with these developments we should embrace them as part of the process which will allow for greater numbers to consider and draw strength from the insights of Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and other revolutionary comrades.

We do not have a revolutionary party in the United States, although we badly need one, and some of us want to do what we can to bring that into being.

There are groups aspiring to become a revolutionary party—and that often generates problematical dynamics which create serious obstacles to being able to help bring a revolutionary party into being. In contrast to this, there are other groups seeking to contribute to the creation of a revolutionary party, but understanding that they, by themselves, cannot become such a party.

Groups in this category realize that: one, a revolutionary party can actually come into being only when a class-consciousness layer of the working class is prepared to move in that direction; two, there must be ongoing preliminary processes that will contribute to the crystallization of such a working-class layer; and three, the group must join with revolutionaries in other groups, with radicalizing activists who are not and will not be in the existing groups, and with people who at the moment are neither radicals nor activists, and that together—in the future—we will all be helping to forge the revolutionary party we need.

For many, the question of "democratic centralism" gets at the heart of the problem of Leninism. We can define democratic centralism as freedom of discussion, unity in action. But those words can be understood and implemented in very different ways.

For a group viewing itself as the repository of Revolutionary Truth and aspiring to become the revolutionary party, democratic centralism tends to be defined in a restrictive manner. In order to preserve the group’s ability to become the unadulterated revolutionary party, a certain orthodoxy is established to which all must adhere, limiting discussion and generating a climate in which disciplinary actions and splits become all too common.

A healthy conception of democratic centralism involves a critical-mindedness, an openness, a political courage that characterized the way in which Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and other such comrades functioned.

Shades of difference and outright disagreements are normal and necessary—especially given the complexity of the realities we face. That understood, it remains a fact that revolutionary socialists need to work together, as a democratic collective, to be effective in advancing the interests of the workers and the oppressed, creating the possibility of revolutionary party, and building a mass socialist movement that can bring revolutionary change.

Understood in this way, I think democratic centralism is a necessity, but it will be very different from what passes for "democratic centralism" in groups having a stilted understanding of themselves.

In 1924, Trotsky wrote: "Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer. That is the principal lesson of the last decade [since the 1917 Russian Revolution]."

Trotsky was contrasting the failures of socialist uprisings in Germany, Finland and Hungary to the success of the revolution in Russia. But in the 90 years since these words were written, it can be asked: "Hasn’t the sheer quantity of time changed the quality of this argument? Doesn’t a century of revolutionary history discount the tradition of Bolshevism?"

The answer to this is yes and no. It is true that things clearly cannot be just the same as they were 90 or 100 years ago. But certain aspects of the Bolshevik tradition transcend the amazing changes that have taken place over nine decades.

Jean-Paul Sartre once said the continued existence of capitalism means Marxism "remains the philosophy of our time," since we have not gone beyond the circumstances that brought Marx’s analyses into being. I think similar points can be made about the Bolshevik tradition.

In our discussions and debates about "Leninism," we must never forget that the term has multiple and contradictory meanings.

Most people, of course, are not familiar with the term Leninism. Of those who have heard of it, many cannot give a definition.

Of those who could give a definition, there are some who would indicate that it is consistent with the practices and mindset of the bureaucratic-authoritarian and murderous tyranny that arose in Russia, particularly with the rule of Joseph Stalin. There are others who would associate it with the practices and perspectives of various left-wing sects proclaiming themselves to be "Leninist."

A very small number, compared to the others just mentioned, see the "Leninism" of Lenin and his co-thinkers—in contrast to Stalinism and small-group sectarianism parading under the Leninist banner—as representing something important and necessary for the workers and the oppressed.

When some sincere people on the left announce that "Leninism is finished," the "we" who constitute this small number feel compelled to say: "No, Leninism is not finished. It is unfinished." Since it is our conviction that most people do not comprehend what Leninism actually is, we have a responsibility to explain—including why its history and meaning have been partly obliterated and partly distorted.

As with anything like this, there may be information and insights that some of some of us do not have, and differences among us on how best to understand what actually happened in history. There is a collective retrieval process of this historical Leninism that is far from complete, so in this sense Leninism is "unfinished."

There is yet another way in which it is unfinished, and this relates to Lenin’s methodology.

Reality is dynamic and ceaselessly changing. There are always new things to understand, new analyses to be elaborated, revolutionary strategies that must be adapted to new situations, new tactics to be learned, and new ways to apply tried-and-true tactics. Our situation is not a duplicate of that faced by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and our efforts to do what they did can only be successful if we are critical-minded and creative in our application of their approach.

This is a point Lenin often made in discussions with comrades in the various parties that belonged to the Communist International. It is truer now than ever before. In this sense, too, Leninism is—and must be—unfinished.

I want to conclude with the words of our comrade Rosa Luxemburg. In her important critique of the Russian Revolution, she emphasized a point that resonates today and has powerful implications for tomorrow’s struggles.

"In the present period," Luxemburg wrote, "when we face decisive final struggles in all the world, the most important problem of socialism was and is the burning question of our time," involving "the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such."

In her opinion, "the party of Lenin...grasped the mandate and duty of a truly revolutionary party and...by the slogan "All power in the hands of the proletariat and peasantry" insured the continued development of the revolution. Whatever a party could offer of courage, revolutionary far-sightedness and consistency in an historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky and all the other comrades have given in good measure."

The tragic failure of later years in no way wipes out their inspiring triumph of 1917. It remains for activists of today and tomorrow to revive and complete the work that Luxemburg describes. We must push forward to actually place political power in the hands of the laboring majority, and to actually replace capitalist tyranny with socialist democracy.

The contributions of Lenin and his comrades, critically utilized and developed, will be helpful to those engaging in that task.

Socialistworker.org

The Russian Revolution: Workers in Power

 Peter Solenberger

October 1917:
Workers in Power
Fred Leplat and Alex de Jong, editors
London: Resistance Books, IIRE and Merlin Press, 2016, 256 pages, $23 paperback.

THIS YEAR IS THE centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. In February 1917, by the Russian calendar of the time, workers in Petrograd, starting with women textile workers, began a series of strikes and demonstrations demanding bread, peace and freedom.

The Petrograd garrison came over to their side, the Czar abdicated, and the revolution spread across the empire. Peasants, the large majority of the population and of the army, joined the uprising, adding their demand for land.

The February Revolution established the dual power of a Provisional Government and workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils (soviets). The Provisional Government, initially led by liberal representatives of the propertied classes and then by moderate socialists, claimed that it supported the demands of the masses but refused to meet them. The workers, soldiers and peasants took matters into their own hands as much as they could, but they needed a government of their own.

On October 25, by the calendar of the time, the Petrograd Soviet, led by the Bolsheviks and Left Social Revolutionaries, overthrew the Provisional Government. The next day the All-Russian Congress of Workers’ and Peasants’ deputies endorsed the insurrection, took power, and adopted decrees on land, peace and workers’ control. The October Revolution established the first workers’ government since the 1871 Paris Commune and the first ever to last long enough to change the social order.

October 1917: Workers in Power is a fine tribute to the Revolution, with articles by Paul LeBlanc, François Vercammen, Ernest Mandel, David Mandel (unrelated), Rosa Luxemburg, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, as well as a chronology, a list of people, places, events and organizations, and a bibliography. It should engage readers new to the subject, radical historians looking to connect their work with real life, and activists looking to connect their work with revolutionary history.

The book defends the October Revo­lution and the revolutionary tradition of October from a Trotskyist perspective, but it also critically assesses both. It asks and attempts to answer, What went right? What went wrong? And most importantly: What can we learn from the experience and apply in our own time?

Introduction

October 1917: Workers in Power takes off with Paul LeBlanc’s “Introduction: Making Sense of October 1917.” His first sentence states a truth many historians and even some activists would like to forget: “A hundred years on, the Russian Revolution of 1917 continues to be as much of a political battlefield as it ever was.” (1)

LeBlanc frames his introduction by referring to four books about the revolution by the sympathetic American observers Louise Bryant, Bessie Beatty, John Reed and Albert Rhys Williams. He moves on to Leon Trotsky’s classic History of the Russian Revolution, William H. Chamberlin’s The Russian Revolution 1917-21, and the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) Short Course, whose writing was overseen by Joseph Stalin.

The four American observers, Trotsky and Chamberlin drew a similar picture of the revolution: a workers’ upsurge and insurrection led by a mass revolutionary party with a dynamic and often conflicted internal life and many leaders, of whom Lenin and Trotsky were the most prominent. The Short Course reduced the revolutionary process to the genius of the infallible Lenin and his disciples, of whom the chief was Stalin, leading the working class to victory.

LeBlanc identifies several Cold War scholars who followed the Short Course in stressing the unity of Lenin and Stalin, from a very different political viewpoint, and then returns to two left-wing historians who understood the difference, E.H. Carr and Isaac Deutscher. Both were attacked by the Cold Warriors and Stalinists, for whom the identity of Lenin and Stalin was a central tenet. LeBlanc briefly follows the academic debate to the present.

LeBlanc’s introduction shifts from the literature to his own explication. The Russian Revolution consisted of multiple insurgencies: a democratic revolution against the autocracy, a workers’ revolution against capitalism, a peasant revolution against the landowners, a soldiers’ revolution against senseless slaughter, a revolution of oppressed nationalities against Russian domination, and a revolution of women against patriarchy.

The introduction stresses that the revolution required a revolutionary workers’ party. “Essential for the making of the Russian Revolution was interplay between the broad masses of workers and peasants, in all their variety, with an organization of revolutionary intellectuals and activists having a predominantly working-class base and a Marxist ideology. This was the Bolshevik party whose central leader was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov — known to the world as Lenin.” (13)

LeBlanc contrasts the Stalinist and Cold War versions of Lenin with the real person as described by the four American observers, Trotsky, Chamberlin, Carr, Deutscher and more recent sympathetic scholars, including Moshe Lewin, Stephen Cohen, Lars Lih and LeBlanc himself.

I was particularly interested in LeBlanc’s references to Lars Lih, author of Lenin Rediscovered: What is to Be Done? In Context. According to LeBlanc, he and Lih agree that the Bolshevik Party was an essentially democratic collectivity, not a one-man organizational dictatorship, and that Lenin’s model of the party he sought to build in the 1890s and early 1900s was the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which was certainly mass, working-class and democratic.

But LeBlanc thinks Lih goes too far when he “suggest[s] that Lenin’s outlook was basically indistinguishable from Kautsky’s prior to 1914 (after which Lenin denounced him for betraying their common revolutionary perspective). While there was certainly much overlap between Lenin and Kautsky, however, recent work by Tamás Krausz, Alan Shandro and others compellingly presents Lenin’s perspectives as having their own quite distinctive quality.” (14)

This seems to me a mild rejoinder to Lih, who in Lenin Rediscovered included LeBlanc with Tony Cliff and John Molyneux among activists who shared the “textbook view” that Lenin in his 1902 What Is to Be Done? expressed “worry about workers.” That is, they had a pessimistic view that workers naturally tend toward trade-unionist reformism and had to be led from outside by revolutionary intellectuals.

Lih contrasts this with what he sees as Kautsky’s and Lenin’s real view that the workers crave the information (“good news”) revolutionaries bring, and will become revolutionary when they have access to that information. (Lars Lih, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? In Context, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2008: 14, 18-20.)

Lih quotes nothing from LeBlanc that suggests to me “worry about workers,” Lenin’s or his own, and I see nothing in LeBlanc’s introduction along that line. I agree with LeBlanc that Lenin’s organizational perspectives had a quite distinctive quality.

I raise this point not so much to side with LeBlanc, although I do, as to emphasize that these historical questions are complicated, differences are inevitable, and the tension among opinions can be clarifying. Did the organizational differences between Lenin and Kautsky arise only in 1914? Was Luxemburg right to criticize the SPD years before? Does it matter?

(See also the exchange on the same subject between Paul LeBlanc and Charlie Post around Post’s article “Party and Class in Revolutionary Crises” in ATC 150, January-February 2011, at http://solidarity-us.org/node/3119.)

Returning to the text, LeBlanc asks, What went wrong? He places himself in the Trotskyist tradition.

“Key elements in this analysis flow from an understanding that economic democracy (socialism), allowing the free development of each person as the condition for the free development of all people (as Marx and Engels had posited in the Communist Manifesto), depends on the immense economic surplus and productivity, plus the complex of socio-economic and global relationships among people and resources, built up by the modern world capitalist economy. An attempt to build socialism in a single country with a low level of economic development cannot be successful ... Stalin’s commitment to building “socialism in one country” was a recipe for bureaucratic tyranny.” (17)

LeBlanc concludes by asking, What now? Are there things that we can learn from the past and apply fruitfully to our own time? LeBlanc doesn’t try to answer those questions, but the book itself is an answer. Yes, there is much we can learn and apply.

Stages of the Revolution

François Vercammen’s contribution fills out the earlier chronology not only with detail but also with two critical elements. The section “Parties of the revolution” lists the contending parties, the positions which set them off from each other, and some of the internal debates.

“The international counter-revolution” section canvases the revolutions of 1918 to 1923, most importantly in Germany, which could have ended the isolation of Russia and opened the way for a socialist Europe. Their failure all but guaranteed the degeneration of the Soviet Union.

Vercammen summarizes well, but one aspect of his summary seemed off to me. Vercammen writes “in March and April 1917 the growth of a new opportunist wing (Stalin-Kamenev-Zinoviev), a majority — ready to support the liberal government, to accept the continuation of the war — which was opposed by the radical theses of Lenin” and “Finally, in October, there was the debate with the right wing of the party over insurrection, a discussion which was replayed again and again, in many different keys, during subsequent years.” (31)

Vercammen’s summary is correct, but oversimplified. How could central leaders of the Russian Revolution stray so far? Why were they still included in the top levels of the Bolshevik Party and the government? The danger is that readers may accept the glib dismissal of the “opportunist wing” without thinking about the issues.

LeBlanc praises Lih for his insistence that the Bolshevik Party was a collectivity and his attempts to rehabilitate some of Lenin’s comrades, including Kamenev and Zinoviev, who have been dismissed not only by Stalinists but also by Trotskyists. “Lih even suggests (quite controversially) that Kamenev was more right than wrong in the debate over Lenin’s ‘April Theses’ of 1917, and that he essentially won the debate.” (14)

Again, I agree with LeBlanc, not Lih, but activists need to understand both sides of such debates to assess their meaning and to apply their lessons to today.

Coup d’État or Social Revolution

Ernest Mandel’s contribution was published in 1992, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in August 1991. It was an attempt to counter the campaign of denigration of the October Revolution underway both in the West and in Eastern Europe.

Mandel rejects the arguments that the revolution was a coup d’état, a bloody utopian attempt to establish socialism immediately, or the work of a party-sect of fanatics. He places the revolution in the international context of the First World War. The Bolsheviks carried out their international duty by pulling Russia from the war, clearing the way for the German Revolution of 1918, which ended the war.

The Russian Revolution could not advance to socialism because it was isolated in a backward country surrounded by capitalist enemies. That was the responsibility of the reformist workers’ parties, which had supported the imperialist war and then opposed workers’ revolution in Russia and at home. Still, the revolution brought Russian workers and peasants peace, land, food, control of their places of work, and democracy — freedom of speech, press and assembly, and the right to elect deputies to the soviets, which formed the government.

Ernest Mandel asks whether the price of the October Revolution was too high and he answers that it was not. “The choice was truly either victory of the socialist revolution or victory of a counter-revolution that would have been among the most bloody ever known, which would have brought to power a Russian Hitler still worse than the German Hitler we know.” (67)

Having defended the revolution as a necessary and correct response to the circumstances, Mandel critically analyzes Bolshevik policies. “The bureaucratic degeneration, in the 1920s and 1930s, was certainly not initiated nor fundamentally caused by the orientation of this party. It also had its roots in the objective contradictions of Soviet society and the international situation which then prevailed.”

However, mistakes also contributed to the bureaucratization. “The most serious of these mistakes was the banning of the soviet parties at the very moment that the revolutionary government had definitively won the civil war of 1918-20.” (69)

Complex Problems

The situation was, I think, more complicated. The Bolshevik Party banned factions in April 1921, but not tendencies or election to leading bodies based on platforms. The party was initiating the New Economic Policy (NEP), partly substituting markets for the requisitions of the civil war. They knew this would lead to the development of capitalist relations in agriculture and artisan production. They felt that party unity was essential to combat this.

The ban on factions was, in my view, a mistake, if an understandable one. But the banning of soviet parties, that is, parties elected to the soviets, was even more complicated. I agree with E.H. Carr’s balance:

“The fiction of a legal opposition was, however, long since dead. Its demise cannot fairly be laid at the door of one party. If it was true that the Bolshevik regime was not prepared after the first few months to tolerate an organized opposition, it was equally true that no opposition party was prepared to remain within legal limits. The premise of dictatorship was common to both sides of the argument.” (E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1985, 183)

The Bolsheviks had a dilemma. The opposition socialist parties, marginal by then, refused to remain within the legal limits. Should their transgressions be tolerated, which would strengthen the capitalist counterrevolution? Or should the parties be banned, which would strengthen the bureaucratic counterrevolution? There was no good answer.

Mandel asks, “Did the organizational conceptions of Lenin open the road to the excesses of the October Revolution and the Stalinist dictatorship?” (79) Like the other authors in this volume, he argues that they did not. “In reality, we have never seen a workers’ party with so many differences of opinion and so much freedom of expression, including in public, as the Bolshevik Party of this period — and certainly not the German or Austrian social-democratic parties even in their best moments.” (85)

Mandel concludes his article with a discussion of strategy. “The October revolution raises the key strategic question which confronts the whole of the socialist workers’ movement: how should a party, which identifies with the working class and socialism (or communism), behave in a revolutionary situation?” (90)

He rejects fatalism and voluntarism and makes the question more concrete: Should the Bolsheviks, via the soviets, have taken power in October 19177? He answers, “The revolutionary Marxists of today, like those of 1917 and the following years, remain convinced that the answer is an unreserved ‘yes.’” (93)

After reviewing the gains and losses of the revolution, Mandel concludes with a section called “Hope.” He quotes Maxim Gorky to express the historical meaning of the revolution: “’Come with us, towards the new life for which we are working. Forward to liberty and beauty of existence.’” (106)

The elephant in the room, so to speak, was that the Soviet Union had collapsed a few months before Mandel finished and published the article. Why no mention of it? I can’t answer that. But 25 years later the elephant requires a comment. Knowing that capitalism would be restored in the Soviet Union, should revolutionaries still give an unreserved “yes” to the seizure of power in 1917?

Capitalist restoration was always a possibility, even an inevitability, if the revolution didn’t spread to Western Europe. As Trotsky wrote in the 1938 Transitional Program, after the bureaucracy had consolidated power, “The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/tp-text2.htm)

Whatever the outcome, the October Revolution put workers in power long enough to show what socialism could do, as well as the mortal danger of imperialist encirclement and bureaucratic degeneration. Given the chance, the Russian workers, led by the Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries, had to try.

Factory Committees and Legitimacy

David Mandel’s essay “Economic Power and Factory Committees in the Russian Revolution” is a joy to read. It covers familiar ground, but with awe-inspiring detail.

The movement for workers’ control that arose in the wake of the February Revolution was not in the program of any socialist party. Workers organized factory committees, beyond trade unions, to ensure that production would continue despite the resistance and often sabotage of the owners.

Their initial goal was workers’ control, starting with access to information, not workers’ management. They were forced beyond control to management by the capitalists’ refusal to cooperate. The factory committees supported the soviets’ seizure of political power and sought to find their place as the economy was nationalized and militarized to preserve the revolution.

Beyond the rich detail, I found most interesting Mandel’s discussion of the tension between socialism and workers’ self-management.

“There is an obvious contradiction between centralism, an essential element of planning, and, therefore, of socialism, and self-management, also an essential ingredient of socialism, since the more power is concentrated in the centre, the less room there is for workers to participate meaningfully in managing the enterprise. This contradiction can, however, be managed (it need not be ‘antagonistic’) and can even become a positive factor, if certain conditions are present. In particular, the degree and scope of central control has to be limited and the economy must ensure the workers’ needs for material security at a minimally decent standard. In the absence of these conditions, self-management cannot be meaningful, nor can workers develop the consciousness necessary for them to willingly sacrifice local group interests to the more general class interests. In conditions of civil war, industrial collapse, and severe food shortage, the Soviet state could meet none of these conditions.“ (143)

David Mandel’s additional essay “The Legitimacy of the October Revolution,” makes the now-familiar argument that the October Revolution was a popular revolution, not a conspiracy by a small group of Marxist ideologues. Again, it covers familiar ground with awe-inspiring detail.

Apart from the detail, I was most struck by the author’s description of the subjective side of the bureaucratic degeneration: “But when the time came to make a new revolution, the working class, which had already led three revolutions, could not find the strength for a fourth.” (164)

The only place I found myself disagreeing with Mandel was his presentation of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) at the end of his factory committees essay. Mandel writes: “A 1987 Law on Enterprises provided for the election of works councils and directors. However, it was only after Gorbachev annulled this law in 1989, having decided to restore capitalism,that a genuine movement for self-management arose.” (148)

I’m sure he’s right about the genuine movement for self-management, and I’d like to learn more, since it had little coverage in the U.S. media. But in my view, even as late as 1989 Gorbachev sought to incorporate elements of bourgeois democracy (glasnost) and capitalist markets (perestroika) to revive the Soviet economy and preserve a milder version of bureaucratic rule.

Gorbachev’s policies failed, and set off a scramble of each against all leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union, capitalist restoration, the economic and human disaster of the 1990s, and the consolidation of capitalism with a strong state under Vladimir Putin.

Again, my point is not to draw out a difference, but to illustrate that differences are inevitable and often useful in assessing complex historical questions.

Luxemburg and Lenin

The inclusion of pieces by Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky gives readers a sense of what it was like to live through the October Revolution and its repercussions.

In her May 1917 article “The Old Mole” Luxemburg writes: “The outbreak of the Russian Revolution has brought an end to the historical standstill engendered by the continuation of the world war and the simultaneous failure of working-class struggle. It is as if a window had suddenly been opened in Europe whose musty air has been suffocating everyone for three years, admitting a fresh and invigorating breeze.” (166)

After a description of the effects of the invigorating breeze on German politics, she concludes “History, you old mole, you have done your work well! There now resounds through the International and the German proletariat a slogan, an admonition, only ever called up by great turning points in world history: Imperialism or Socialism! War or Revolution! There is no third way!” (171)

October 1917: Workers in Power includes two pieces by Lenin. The first is an appeal “To the Population” published on November 5, 1917, eleven days after the insurrection. The new government had as yet almost no administrative capacity. Lenin urges:

“Comrades, working people! Remember that now you yourselves are at the helm of state. No one will help you if you yourselves do not unite and take into your hands all affairs of the state. Your soviets are from now on the organs of state authority, legislative bodies with full powers.

“Rally around your Soviets. Strengthen them. Get on with the job yourselves; begin right at the bottom, do not wait for anyone. Establish the strictest revolutionary law and order, mercilessly suppress any attempts to create anarchy by drunkards, hooligans, counterrevolutionary officer cadets, Kornilovites and their like.” (173)

The second is a “Letter to American Workers” published in August 1918, five months after the civil war had begun and a month after the United States had had sent 13,000 troops as part of a great-power military intervention. Lenin denounces the imperialist war and appeals to American workers.

“The American people have a revolutionary tradition which has been adopted by the best representatives of the American proletariat, who have repeatedly expressed their complete solidarity with us Bolsheviks. That tradition is the war of liberation against the British in the eighteenth century and the Civil War in the nineteenth century...

“The American workers will not follow the bourgeoisie. They will be with us, for civil war against the bourgeoisie. The whole history of the world and of the American labour movement strengthens my conviction that this is so…

“We know that help from you will probably not come soon, comrade American workers, for the revolution is developing in different countries in different forms and at different tempos (and it cannot be otherwise). We know that although the European proletarian revolution has been maturing very rapidly lately, it may, after all, not flare up within the next few weeks. We are banking on the inevitability of the world revolution, but this does not mean that we are such fools as to bank on the revolution inevitably coming on a definite and early date...Before the world revolution breaks out a number of separate revolutions may be defeated.” (181, 185)

Revolution came to Germany three months later and ended the world war. Exhaustion from the war and sympathy for the Russian Revolution made continued imperialist military intervention impossible. The foreign armies withdrew, and the Bolshevik-led government won the civil war. But Russia remained isolated, and the October Revolution was ultimately destroyed from within.

In Defense of October — Trotsky

October 1917: Workers in Power includes “In Defense of October,” a speech to the organization of Social-Democratic students in Copenhagen in November 1932. Leon Trotsky traveled there from Turkey, where he was in exile.

Trotsky thanks the students, says forthrightly that he is a political adversary of social-democracy, and presents his defense of the revolution. He asks three questions: 1) Why and how did this revolution take place? 2) What have been the results of the October Revolution? 3) Has the October Revolution stood the test?

He starts with theoretical concepts: the materialist conception of history, the place of revolutions in history, the law of uneven development (countries are at different levels of economic development), and of combined development (countries affect each other, so that backwards Russia had some of the most advanced production in Europe and hence a very advanced working class).

He moves to Russian specifics. The advanced working class was vastly outnumbered by the peasantry, whose lack of land made the agrarian question revolutionary. Russians made up 43% of the population and dominated the other 57%, making the oppressed nationalities a second reserve of the revolution.

Russia’s uneven and combined development meant that the Russian working class could arrive at power sooner than the proletariat of more economically advanced countries. The revolution would be an uninterrupted “permanent revolution,” in the sense that it would go beyond the bourgeois revolutions of the past and bring to power a workers’ government.

The workers in power would not only establish democracy, redistribute land, allow national self-determination, and enact a shorter workweek and other measures favorable to workers; it would also expropriate the big capitalists and open the way to socialism. The revolution could not succeed, however, unless it spread to other countries more advanced than Russia.

Trotsky lists the prerequisites for October, from the conditions of Russian society to the “dress rehearsal” of the 1905 Revolution to the imperialist war. “But all these conditions, which fully sufficed for the outbreak of the Revolution, were insufficient to assure the victory of the proletariat in the Revolution. For this one more condition was necessary...The Bolshevik Party.” (200)

Trotsky acknowledges that “in the Soviet Union there is no Socialism as yet. The situation that prevails there is one of transition, full of contradictions, burdened with the heavy inheritance of the past and in addition is under the hostile pressure of the imperialist states. The October Revolution has proclaimed the principles of the new society. The Soviet Republic has shown only the first stage of its realization. Edison’s first lamp was very bad. We must learn how to discern the future.” (203)

Trotsky draws a positive balance sheet of the October Revolution and its place in history: “The October Revolution proclaimed and opened the domination of the proletariat. World capitalism suffered its first great defeat on Russian territory. The chain broke at its weakest link. But it was the chain that broke, and not only the link.” (208)

Trotsky ends his speech with a paean to the future of human society. The book continues with a valuable list of people, places, events and organizations, and a bibliography for readers who want more.

1917 and the Future

Trotsky’s speech is persuasive and moving to anyone open to its message, today as it was in 1932. I couldn’t help but think of the timing, however.

Four months later Hitler became Germany’s chancellor. Stalin and the leadership of the Communist International refused to acknowledge the defeat or to make any self-criticism. When no critical voices were raised anywhere in the International, Trotsky and his co-thinkers decided that new parties and a new International were needed. By the mid-1930s the Purge Trials in the Soviet Union showed that only another workers’ revolution could dislodge the bureaucracy.

Trotsky and his co-thinkers developed their analysis to take account of events, as revolutionaries have had to take account of events since then, including the incorporation of Eastern Europe into the Soviet Bloc; the Chinese, Vietnamese and Cuban revolutions; and the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China.
Despite all the changes, revolutionaries today have every reason to think that the mole of history keeps burrowing. Future upsurges will come. When they do, the experience and lessons of the October Revolution will inspire and inform the revolutionaries who lead those upsurges. October 1917: Workers in Power is a fine compendium of those experiences and lessons.

 

From Against The Current, No 189, July-August 2017

The unbearable burden of being an Indian farmer : shot dead for demanding debt relief-- by Sushovan Dhar

“There are reports in the media that clear instructions were issued to use maximum force against the agitating farmers”.


A nondescript district in the centre of this vast country has suddenly become a most sought after destination for politicians and media people. Lamentably, this transformation has come at the cost of human lives. Farmers in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh started their protests since June 1 demanding higher crop prices and debt relief. This was no great news since popular protests from the peasantry have erupted time and again in different parts of the country demanding crop prices and debt-relief as the country is reeling under acute agrarian distress with over 300,000 farmers committing suicides cumulatively due to debt-burden [1]. However, what turned this case different was that as the farmers’ agitation turned militant, the administration clamped curfew to snuff out their protests. Unable to do so, the police openly fired on the agitating farmers killing five of them. Another died of lathi (baton) charge. The ruthlessness is further explained by the fact that there have been 45 FIRs against protesting farmers, but not one against those who murdered 6 farmers in cold blood. There are also reports in the media that clear instructions were issued to use maximum force against the agitating farmers.

This incident is an indication of a deeper malaise plaguing the Indian agriculture. Between 2001 and 2011, nine million farmers left their ancestral homes and migrated to cities. A study suggests more than 2,000 farmers are heading to cities every day to make a living. [2] And, this is towards the most precarious work in the informal sector. It is disgraceful to note that an overwhelmingly agricultural country like India doesn’t have a proper national agricultural policy. The neo-liberal policies adopted by the successive Indian governments in the last two and a half decades promoted market forces at an unmatched rapidity. It has forced agriculture on to a purely commercial footing and integrated domestic agriculture into the world markets. The consequences have been terrible with farmers mired in huge debts and facing terrible situations that have given rise to problems at multiple levels.

 Acute distress caused by prices of crops crashing

The Mandsaur region like other parts of western Madhya Pradesh has seen prices of crop falling 60 percent below the corresponding prices for last year. In the state of Maharashtra, earlier this year, “millions of Indian farmers look set to switch from growing pulses and oilseeds after a government campaign to boost output became a victim of its own success by flooding markets with the crops.” [3] This has also been the case with most of the crops that has seen bumper harvest. Local prices for oilseeds have plunged around 40 percent between October 2016 – March 2017, while lentils have dropped by nearly a third during the corresponding period. The almost withdrawal of the procurement at Minimum Support Prices (MSP) has been catastrophic. In this case, the government plans to buy a meagre 2 million tonnes of lentils at MSP prices against a record harvest of around 22 million tonnes in the 2016/17 crop year (July-June), up 35 percent from a year earlier. [4] Moreover, the prices offered by the government is 50,500 rupees against the previous year’s average prices of 110,000 rupees. Traditionally, agricultural crisis was attributed to the failure of crops due to droughts, flood or other natural catastrophe. However, it is being increasingly observed that bumper crops are also instigating such crisis.

The period that followed the implementation of the Structural Adjust Plans (SAP) witnessed rising input costs on one hand and dwindling produce price realisation on the other. The crisis started surfacing since the government planned to dismantle the measures that was built up, in stages, from 1947 to 1992-93 to safeguard the Indian farmers from the market fluctuations. This was also done without giving any adjustment time to Indian farmers. Such protectionist mechanisms, basically built on a combination of input price subsidies and output price support was not always perfectly implemented. However, it had enabled the Indian peasantry to take up production of various crops in a comparatively stable price environment. The implementation of SAPs not only saw the government slashing subsidies on major inputs, but also the withdrawal of procurement and distribution of farm produce. Subsequently, with the prices of farm inputs going up, private players took advantage of the situation and raised prices further. This was combined with the rise in rates of interests on institutional credits, the narrow window of such credits becoming narrower, forcing huge sections of the peasantry into the grips of private usury. And all these carried on with the inability of farmers to abandon cultivation in the absence of decent alternative livelihood sources.

The impacts of economic liberalisation with the abolition of agricultural subsidies and the opening of Indian agriculture to the global market has been severe. Small and medium farmers are frequently trapped in a cycle of unbearable debt, leading many to take their lives out of sheer desperation. This is currently a major human rights issue of epic proportions in the country and has impacted the peasantry in profound ways. The lives of the small and medium peasantry are entirely ruined. Their rights to life, water, food and adequate standards of living exists under the shadow of threat by market forces. It is scandalous that the government has taken no effective measures and the minuscule relief measures do not effectively address this issue as there is no attempt to deal with the broader structural issues that is at the root of this disaster.

Moreover, the suicide numbers fail to catch the enormity of the problems as entire categories of farmers are left out of the official listing since they do not possess land titles. This mostly includes women, dalits and indigenous people. In the case of Mandsaur and other parts of western Madhya Pradesh demonetisation and other faulty policies, like import of wheat and pulses, led to this fall in prices of farm produce despite a good harvest. It is reported that post-demonetisation, traders are paying 2 percent less on cash transactions to farmers at grain mandis (markets).

 Switch over to cash crops

The post-reform period also witnessed Indian agriculture turning towards cash crops. As there was a demand for cash crops like cotton in the international market, a sizeable part of Indian agriculture saw a government promoted shift from food crop to cash crop cultivation. However, excess production soon saw prices crashing making cash crops losing viability. Input costs sharply increased over the years since but the increase in market prices lag behind a long distance. These phenomena since the mid to late 1990s saw farmers suicides being recorded on a large scale. A report produced by Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York observed that “The government has long been alerted to the cotton farmer suicide crisis, yet has done little to adequately respond. Cotton exemplifies India’s general shift toward cash crop cultivation, a shift that has contributed significantly to farmer vulnerability, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of suicides are committed by farmers in the cash crop sector. The cotton industry, like other cash crops in India, has also been dominated by foreign multinationals that promote genetically modified seeds and exert increasing control over the cost, quality, and availability of agricultural inputs.” [5]

Last year, a severe agricultural crisis took place in the South Indian state of Karnataka. The coastal and Malnad regions have been bright spots in the state’s agriculture economy for the past two decades. However, “Farmers have been shaken by a steep drop in prices of three major cash crops --- arecanut, coconut and coffee ---- which have fallen roughly by 15- 50% from the historic highs of previous years. While Karnataka is the largest producer of arecanut and coffee in India, it stands third in coconut production. The market turmoil has hit arecanut and coconut right around harvest, when supplies are most abundant and grain prices are at seasonal lows.” [6] The report by Center for Human Rights and Global Justice also observed that “(a)s a result of economic reforms, Indian cotton farmers were thrust into competition with the international market, making them extremely vulnerable to price volatility. As new economic policies integrated India into the global market, the resultant devaluation of the Indian rupee dropped prices and increased demand for Indian crops. To capitalize on this potential source of revenue, the Indian government urged farmers to switch to cash crop cultivation, and India quickly redeveloped its agricultural sector to be export-oriented. Cash crops, such as cotton, can lead to short-term revenue gain but are ultimately subject to high levels of price volatility. India’s sudden switch to cash crop cultivation led to an over-saturation of the global market with cotton exports, and, in turn, a depression of cotton prices for these farmers.” and, “(d)espite these problems, the Indian government has continued to encourage farmers to switch to cash crops. Though India is currently one of the world’s leading cotton producers and exporters, like most cash crop commodity markets, the cotton market has become dominated by a small group of multinational corporations that exert increasing control over the cost, quality, and availability of agricultural inputs. In addition, in a cotton market where a corporate middleman ferries farmers’ products to the global market even those farmers who see high crop yields may not benefit from the prices their crops eventually fetch in the market. Finally, it is important to note that, although the focus here is on cotton, the general problems described continue to be a major concern for all Indian cash crop farmers for whom “investment in agriculture has collapsed,” leading to increased “[p]redatory commercialization of the countryside.” [7]

 In lieu of conclusion

It is high time that the government declares a comprehensive National Agricultural Policy putting a halt to commercialisation of agriculture. It must also implementation of the recommendations of the officially constituted National Commission on Farmers. The agricultural policy of the country should be designed to assign farmers’ rights to decent life and livelihood at the core of government policies and programmes. Otherwise, farmer’s debt would increase in an unhindered manner pauperising a large section of the population.

Access to institutional credit for peasants must be prioritised facilities extended to all farmers including women, dalits, indigenous people irrespective of the fact whether they have land titles or not. Right to water including irrigation remains another vital issue. These combined with other social protection mechanisms could be the only way out of this insurmountable indebtedness that is plaguing the Indian peasantry in such epic proportions.

 

[1The National Crime Records Bureau statistics say 318,528 farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2015.

[3Off the pulse: India farmers switch crops as lentil prices plunge:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-farm-idUSKBN16S0RM

[4Ibid

[5Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India (New York: NYU School of Law, 2011).

[7Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights, and the Agrarian Crisis in India (New York: NYU School of Law, 2011).

The Recent British Elections -- An Assessment in Socialist Resistance, organ of British Fourth Internationalists

A stunning result for Corbyn and Labour

Protesting Theresa May's visit to Ealing, west London May 20. Photo: Steve Eason

Alan Davies argues:

The election result is a triumph for Labour. Although the party has fallen marginally short of enough seats to form a government, Jeremy Corbyn has pulled off the biggest swing from one major party to another during the span of an election campaign since 1945. The polls were predicting a Labour share of the vote of 26% or 27% but ended up on the night at 40%—which is 12.8 million votes. This is more than Tony Blair got in 2001 or in 2005.

With 649 seats declared, the Conservatives have 318 seats, down 13, Labour 261, up 29, 35 seats for the SNP, down 21, the Lib Dems up 4 to 12, Plaid Cymru remain on three, the Greens on one and UKIP wiped out. Kensington and Chelsea is yet to declare. One recount has already taken place and the count has been suspended until 6pm tonight.

The turnout is up by 2% to the highest since 1997. The turnout amongst young people was unprecedented in modern times. The UKIP vote collapsed. Nuttall, who has resigned, came a distant third in Boston and Skegness.

Labour made significant gains in both Scotland and Wales. The SNP remain the largest party in Scotland but the Conservatives have won 12 seats off them so far, Labour have won seven and the Lib Dems three. In Wales Labour took back Gower, Cardiff North, and Vale of Clwyd from the Conservatives.

Jeremy Corbyn and John MacDonnell are right to say that they are ready to form a minority government but it is clear that May will attempt to do so. The result, therefore, is not just a hung parliament, but the slimmest and most precarious of hung parliaments with effectively a coalition between a crisis ridden Tory Party and the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party – one of the most socially conservative political parties in Europe.

Its members deny climate change, oppose abortion and marriage equality and are mostly Biblical creationists. Its candidates were endorsed by the Ulster Defence Association, a sectarian murder gang which is now involved in racketeering and drug dealing.  This lash up gives the Tories a majority of  two. Even if this gets off the ground it is likely to extremely unstable and we should prepare for another election before the end of the year.

Labour’s election campaign was spectacular and had a huge impact. The outcome is a personal triumph for Jeremy Corbyn, who was vilified in the most brutal way from the start of the campaign until the end. The Tories weren’t even able to use the two horrendous terror attacks to their advantage.

The manifesto changed the politics of the election campaign the moment it hit the streets. It mobilised hundreds of thousands of young people to register to vote, join the campaign and vote in, what for many,  the first election in which they had participated. Young people how have been abused and used by successive government have struck back with a vengeance.

We are seeing tectonic shifts taking place at several levels in British politics. Labour’s anti-austerity election platform has appealed to many of the same marginalised people who were drawn towards a Brexit vote. The vote is a massive rejection of austerity—bringing about a fundamental change in British politics. There is a new generation on the scene for the first time, completely open to the kind of radical alternative Labour is putting forward. For example, it was the student vote which took Canterbury for Labour which has been Tory for ever.

Corbyn is now in a powerful position inside the party. The Labour right who have campaigned for two years to discredit and get rid of him have been politically defeated and have some decisions to make. Every one of the predictions they made about Corbynism have been proven wrong. It is time now to back Corbyn or stand aside.

In this situation the job of the radical left is clear. Join the Corbyn movement if you have not done so yet, help him to change and democratise the Labour Party. Deepen the political trajectory that he has initiated, and stand ready to fight the next election as and when it comes.

The DUP-Tory Deal: A View From Irish Revolutionaries

DUP / Conservative party deal

The future is bright, the future is Orange!

20 June 2017

A Conservative minister remarked quietly after the election that there would be many roads and hospitals built in Northern Ireland as a result of a DUP confidence and supply arrangement with his party. The assumption was that a large bribe would be paid and that it would benefit everyone in the North. Certainly there will be a bribe and it will contain some populist flourishes, but overall benefit will be slight. After all, this is a party that has just blown £500 million of public money in a corrupt “green heating” scheme. The main economic goal of this far-right party is to obtain funding for a public-private investment fund – a honey pot for failing businesses that would be open to the usual unrestrained corruption and leave the poor where they were before. The delay seems to be around the conflicting right-wing positions on Brexit and on the insistence by the DUP on sectarian concessions that are difficult for the British to openly concede on.

Almost all of the discussion in relation to re-establishing a local administration in the North of Ireland following the Westminster election is focused on political aspects - whether or not a “confidence and supply” arrangement between the Conservative party and the Democratic Unionist Party breaches the Good Friday agreement.

British neutrality

Gerry Adams told Theresa May that she is in breach. In a statement to reporters outside Downing Street on 15th June, Adams said: 
 

"We told her very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, and we itemised those matters in which she was in default in relation to that agreement."


Yet, although there are many unwelcome aspects and threats in a closer relationship between the DUP and the Conservatives, what is really remarkable is Adams’ belief that the status quo ante involved any level of neutrality on the part of the British or that the Good Friday Agreement or any of its constant redrafts in any way restricts or binds Britain as an imperialist power.

The political foundation of the Good Friday Agreement, the fiction of Britain having no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Ireland, is gone. This is made evident by the DUP pact with the Conservative government but is not the cause.  British Secretary James Brokenshire has been acting as the tribune for loyalism in a very open way, but predecessor Theresa Villiers was not far behind and the British have always acted to placate their unionist base and deflate the expectations of nationalists. British sponsorship of loyalism is what underlines the political settlement.  As Theresa May said during the election, the British government will never be neutral on Ireland.

Sinn Fein “revolt”

The dynamic of the political battle today flows from that reality. In a vice between Britain and loyalism and with Irish capitalism demanding stability, Sinn Fein have capitulated over and over again, settling for their share of the sectarian cake and accepting that there will be no real reform. The cost had been a gradual erosion of their support, until in 2016 the level of corruption and sectarian humiliation led to a revolt of their supporters and Sinn Fein were forced to change course – demanding that all the old promises that were part of the agreement and that they had let slide now be instituted if the political structures were to continue.

Sin Fein pulled the plug on the assembly, massively increased their vote, increased their vote again in the Westminster election and appealed to the British to play fair. However in a series of interviews during the March election DUP spokespeople underlined the fact that they had never agreed to reform elements of the Good Friday Agreement. Former British secretary of state Peter Hain explained that, although the British had included a section in the St. Andrews Agreement on an Irish language act, it “was not written in stone”. The DUP stood four-square against reform. British guarantees were worthless and meant only to get Sinn Fein inside the tent. The June Westminster vote saw the DUP give Sinn Fein the brush-off, a mass vote for the DUP in defence of sectarian privilege and a Conservative/DUP pact. Any hope they had of any support from Irish capitalism evaporated in days, with then sitting Minister Charlie Flanagan, supported by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, insisting that we could rely on the British to be impartial, that the Good Friday Agreement was an sanctified international treaty and that, in any case, they, the representatives of Irish capital, stood ready to step in as guarantors at the least sign of any backsliding.

DUP triumph

After a period of confusion the Democratic Unionist party have triumphed locally. The overpowering smell of corruption arising from the ongoing “cash for ash” scandal, costing £500 million and directly overseen by Arlene Foster, has not affected the outcome. Unionist groups such as Alliance looking for compromise with nationalists have been smashed. Open and public collaboration with Loyalist paramilitaries, even as one man was murdered in a loyalist feud, went unremarked. The DUP has emerged with 10 Westminster seats and close to 300,000 votes, having stood on a platform of “No surrender” and “defence of the Union.”  The campaign was overwhelmingly successful, wiping out the other unionist parties to establish the DUP as the leaders of a unionist monolith. The icing on the cake was the weakness of the Conservatives and the DUP role as queen-makers at Westminster.

The election also saw nationalist voters turn away from the decaying Social Democratic and Labour Party to increase their vote for Sinn Fein and award them 7 (abstentionist) seats at Westminster.

Yet the two votes do not cancel out. The DUP have won a vote for forthright defence of sectarian privilege. Their manifesto promises that the continuation of the Stormont assembly must meet a test of securing the union or they will embrace direct rule.  Sinn Fein, after years of decline in their vote, saw a massive uptick when they collapsed the executive. That uptick continued into the Westminster election, but their tone was much quieter and firm commitments missing, leaving the way open for post election negotiation. The DUP vote means that Sinn Fein must yet again choose between being the party of government and the party of protest. The pressure on the organisation will be all the greater as the DUP will claim that the Westminster deal will bring endless economic benefit. Adams has already remarked that extra funds should be distributed by the Executive – a difficult feat if there is no Executive! The pressure is all the greater as a position paper from the British set as a foundation for new talks makes it abundantly clear that the British will not stand over previous agreements, will abandon legacy requirements and will only reopen the Irish language on the DUP’s terms.

Onward to a united Ireland?

Gerry Adams response was: 
 

"We want into the institutions, because that is what the people desire, that is what the people voted for....but also because we think, strategically, that is the way to a united Ireland. The way forward is not to be in a vacuum, to have stagnation, the way forward is to have that forum working on the basis on which it should have been established."


Later he said that he was willing to meet the DUP half way and that the test of a new agreement would be that it was inside the terms of the Good Friday agreement, a sharp lowering of the bar from the demand that previous commitments be honoured.

What were the main demands Sinn Fein made on collapsing the executive? The demand that Arlene Foster step aside while there is an enquiry into the £500 million cash for ash scandal will have to be quietly forgotten. The demands for resolution of historic cases will have to be diverted yet again into harmless talking shops. The DUP refuse to accept that the brutal history of murder by state forces should ever be acknowledged, let alone investigated or apologised for and the Conservative party in Britain is moving firmly towards state impunity for their military. The one issue on which the DUP have indicated that they will soften their position is around an Irish Language Act and the former republicans, if an assembly is to be restored, will have to hail this as triumph despite the fact that it will be the absolute minimum needed to get the executive up and running and be surrounded by humiliating conditions requiring a bowing the of the knee to ”Orange culture.” 

At the time of writing negotiations have not concluded, but the only choices open to Sinn Fein are to be in a Stormont executive or to be campaigning for inclusion. They may conclude that it is better to wait until the chaos at Westminster dies down, but they have no alternative to Stormont. After all, the history of the institution up until the present has been one of sectarian triumphalism and corruption with Sinn Fein capitulating to unionism and grabbing their share of the spoils. Anyone who believes that the party can U-turn and fight the colonial and sectarian setup in the North, is living in dreamland and ignoring the many links connecting Sinn Fein to the interests of Irish capital.

A chaotic future

The future is chaotic. The DUP want to resurrect the executive to preserve the union with Britain, while Adams claims it is the road to a united Ireland. Neither party has a sustainable strategy. The DUP see powersharing as temporary and yearn for the old Stormont regime of the 50’s, ignoring the fact that the nationalist population is now almost equal to them in size. Sinn Fein aims to be in government in both parts of Ireland, imagining that the British will be more conciliatory at that point. Rather than adding stability, the DUP role in holding up a Conservative government will throw a spotlight on them and on their close links the loyal orders and the paramilitaries, attention they would like to avoid. Both groups are incoherent on Brexit, Sinn Fein wave their aspiration to a united Ireland. The DUP welcome a political separation that reinforces partition and reject a economic separation that will beggar their farming base.

If another settlement is put together we will be told that stability has arrived. Some years ago Gregory Campbell, from the far right of the DUP, launched a bigoted parody of the Irish language. When criticised he doubled down, ridiculing the language again at the DUP conference. A video of the audience showed uneasiness among some of the members. They understood that they had the advantage and thought it foolish to rub their opponent’s nose in it. Yet rubbing their opponent’s nose in it is a central element of loyalism. One of the first issues brought forwarded from the party’s base was that a deal with the Conservatives would allow the Orange Order to push through the nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown. This reflexive bigotry will continue to eat away at Sinn Fein and its support base. Temporary stability will be bought with further chaos ahead.

All of the institutions associated with the Good Friday Agreement live on the edge of collapse, yet that is against a background where there continues to be widespread public support for the concepts on which it is based. Equality of the two traditions is seen as a realistic way of evolving towards a better society rather than as a justification for sectarianism. Bigotry is seen as expression of culture. All of the political and civic forces reinforce this and there is no substantial opposition. The trade union movement has accepted eye-watering austerity on the grounds that workers should sacrifice themselves to save the political settlement.  Local socialists, joined at the hip to the union bureaucracy, give unconditional support to the return of the executive and argue that it can be used to deliver reforms for the workers.

Even the young nationalist voters that forced Sinn Fein out of the executive believe that the Assembly can be got to work and can deliver reforms. The new dispensation arising from the Westminster election will swiftly disabuse them. 

However the mini revolt against Stormont did happen.  For a brief period the mask slipped and the burning anger within sections of the working class was exposed. A similar desperation was shown by Bus Eireann workers in Dublin and by those facing the uncontrolled housing crisis in the South. The strongest signs of revolt are shown in Britain itself, with the gains of Jeremy Corbyn and the naked face of class warfare exposed by the massacre at Grenfell Tower.

 

At the moment Capitalist power is everywhere, but it is represented by a frantic scrabble for stability as the system jerks from crisis to crisis and capitalism itself begins to fail. Out of the crisis we look for the intervention of the working class - a class for itself, acting in its own interest and sweeping aside the oppressors who torment it.


http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentDUPConservativePartyDeal.html

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