Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Da’esh - Golem is turning against its creator

From International Viewpoint

Tuesday 14 October 2014, by Michel Warschawski

The United States is once more experiencing the reality of this old Jewish saying. Supporting the most fundamentalist Muslims in Afghanistan in the hope of putting and end to Soviet influence, finding itself a few years later confronted with a total war against al-Qaida and its cloudy international, and whose result will be far from being a victory. In the background is the, always mistaken, idea that the enemies of my enemies are my friends. Back in the 1930s, the “democratic” countries thought that Hitler could be an ally against the communist danger. We know what happened then…

The State of Israel has also played this game, encouraging in the 1980s the growth of the Hamas Islamists against the nationalists of the PLO. We know what happened then as well. Today it is with Da’esh (IS, ISIS or ISIL) that the USA and their allies are having the same experience: this by-product of al-Qaida has taken on an importance which has surprised the Pentagon strategists and CIA experts, and is threatening to destroy the architecture of the Middle-East, put in place almost a century ago, by Messrs Sykes and Picot, at the time when the Ottoman Empire had become the “sick man of Europe”.

It is important to underline that it as Saudi Arabia, great ally of the United States in the Middle East, that created al-Qaida – and thus, indirectly, Da’esh – in its war against increasing Iranian influence in the Middle-East. Its radically fundamentalist Wahhabist Islam was the ideological school of this movement. The Golem has now turned against its creators.

Recently on the far left in Europe, I have heard expressions of support for Da’esh. There again, the enemy of my enemy (USA) supposedly would be my ally. A serious mistake: there is nothing progressive in Da’esh, even when they are fighting against the United States and their allies. It is a barbarian invasion that not only sows death and the destruction, but commits itself publicly and openly to imposing an Islamic regime, in its most rigorous interpretation, with all that that implies in terms of public freedoms, women’s rights and non-observance of the rights of minorities.

Political combat is not a football game, where one must support a team because one does not like the other one. There are cases where we are facing two plagues, of which neither is better than the other.

The United States stop carrying out their dirty wars in the Middle East, the international community stops being an accessory to Israel’s colonial policy, and Da’esh will lose the popular support it has in certain layers of the Muslim world. It is as simple as that .

Published in the Courrier de Genève (October 2014)

Making sense of postcolonial theory: a response to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Making sense of postcolonial theory: a response to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Vivek Chibber

(Originally in Cambridge Review of International Affairs online 3 Oct. 2014)

I will respond as best I can to Gayatri Spivak’s criticisms of Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital (Chibber 2013) (hereafter PTSC), though, as I will suggest below, the task is not an easy one, owing to Spivak’s peculiar style of

Spivak begins by castigating me for focusing narrowly on Subaltern Studies, even while I claim to critique postcolonial theory. Why do I leave out so much of what has been produced in the field? In reality, I offered an explanation in the book’s opening chapter, but, since Spivak does not address my reasons, please allow me to repeat them. The decision to focus on Subaltern Studies was not arbitrary. I was fully aware that postcolonial studies has generated a wide and varied universe of scholarship, expanding across many disciplines. My goal was to assess its contributions in the more empirically oriented fields such as history and anthropology, where it has exercised considerable influence. Hence, right at the outset, I signalled that the focus of the book was a somewhat delimited portion of what the field has to offer. I chose to focus on these areas because my interest
was in what postcolonial scholarship has to say about the social structure, politics, and historical evolution of the Global South, since its claims about these phenomena are of considerable interest, and they have been extremely influential across the academic universe.
To examine postcolonial studies in the empirical disciplines, the next challenge was to locate a central cluster of arguments that are associated with it and could be taken to embody a theory, or a research programme. In other words, I had to see if
postcolonial studies has generated a theory that explains the specific dynamics and evolution of colonial societies, or of the Global South more generally. The arguments I would focus upon not only had to have some theoretical and empirical content, but also had to have two other characteristics, if the project was to succeed—they would have to resonate with the claims being made in the wider field, even in cultural studies, and they would have to be arguments that wielded actual influence in scholarly work. Hence, focusing on arguments that had little influence, or which could not prove their bona fides as genuinely ‘postcolonial’, would undermine the project right at the outset. On these criteria, there can be little doubt that Subaltern Studies was not only a legitimate target for my project, but the most natural one.

First, it is recognized as a legitimate, even central, current of scholarship within postcolonial studies. Works by its founding members are included or discussed in the most widely used textbooks on postcolonial studies, and, just as importantly,
its members routinely describe their work as belonging to the field. Secondly, Subaltern Studies has remained committed to a stable and remarkably coherent set of propositions about the dynamics of the (post-)colonial world, its evolution over time, and the ways in which that part of the globe differs in its structure and culture from the West. In other words, it has generated a core set of arguments that can be taken as a theory and a research programme. While it is conventional to mark a break of sorts between the ‘early’ volumes in the series and the later ones, this distinction is misleading in some ways. The real core of the programme—the idea of the bourgeoisie’s failure to speak for the nation and hence of the subaltern sphere remaining a domain separate from elite culture—was announced famously in the very first volume, and has continued to serve as the foundation for the rest of the project. Much of the subsequent evolution of Subaltern Studies can be understood as a very
ambitious project to tease out the consequences of this momentous fact about colonial history.
Thirdly, the arguments associated with the Subalterns do in fact resonate with much of the larger field. Some of these are: .
An insistence on locating the specificity of the East and on examining how and why its evolution differs from that of the West.
A focus on culture and forms of consciousness as objects of study and a source of historical difference. The insistence that subaltern groups in the East operate with their own political calculus and forms of consciousness, different from that of elite
groups and from what is projected on to them by Western theory. The insistence on purging social theory of its Eurocentric bias and the claim that Western theories are heavily imbued with this bias, Marxism included.
A boilerplate scepticism towards universalizing discourse, and hence towards many of the theories emanating from the Enlightenment tradition. Scepticism towards modernizing discourses, and their defence of rationality, science, objectivity, etc.
These are all absolutely central themes for Subaltern Studies, and they are also at the very heart of postcolonial studies more generally. Indeed, the Subalternists have probably done the most of any group to give real historical and sociological
ballast to postcolonial studies. Rather than just asserting that there is an ontological divide of some kind dividing East from West, they try to provide real historical arguments for its plausibility. And the arguments they have developed have been enormously influential, especially since the late 1990s. By the turn of this century, the Subalternists were widely recognized as being the most influential of all the empirically oriented streams within the field—to the point that many of their arguments achieved the status of being encapsulated in new buzzwords, instantly recognizable—nationalism as a ‘derivative discourse’,
rescuing ‘the fragment’, the task of ‘provincializing Europe’. One could even hazard a guess that certain key concepts, which they borrowed from others, like ‘subaltern’ or ‘dominance without hegemony’, are as much associated with them as with the terms’ originators.2

In sum, while Subaltern Studies does not itself comprise postcolonial theory, it is one of the best exemplars of the latter’s core arguments. In other words, while it does not exhaust the field, it is very much representative of it. Indeed, it is more than that. I did not randomly select Subaltern Studies as but one of many exemplars of postcolonial theory. I settled on it because it is actually better argued, more coherent and more consistent than much of the rest. Thus, it is hard to find more careful arguments in postcolonial studies explicating why capitalism, and hence modernity, in the East is taken to be fundamentally different from the West, or for why the claims of universalizing theories ought to be resisted.

All this was in the introductory chapter of PTSC. Spivak may object to my reasoning, but the decision was not arbitrary, as Spivak seems to suggest. If she feels that it lacked warrant, then she is obliged to at least offer some reason for this
judgement, which she does not. The reader is left with a sense that I closed my eyes and plucked a random assortment of theorists out of the basket.

Ranajit Guha and the status of primary texts

A most significant contribution of Subaltern Studies to the development of postcolonial theory is its historical argument for why the political culture of the East is fundamentally different from that of the West. I argue that Ranajit Guha’s work is the pivot on which this argument turns, and Spivak seems to agree with my placement of him. Guha argues, famously, that the source of East – West divergence can be found in the divergent characters of the bourgeoisie in the two settings. In the paradigmatic Western experience of England and France, the bourgeoisie led a successful project to capture state power and then create an
encompassing, inclusive political culture based on the consent of the dominated classes—it strove, in his words, to ‘speak on behalf of all the nation’. In the East, however, it abandoned any such ambitions and chose to sustain its rule by political coercion, perpetuating the division between the elite and subaltern spheres. This historic failure on the part of the bourgeoisie signalled a structural mutation in capitalism as it left Western shores—a stalling of its universalizing drive. Capitalism in the colonial world failed to properly universalize, evidenced in its failure to create a consensual, liberal political order. Other Subalternists derive from this their famous conclusion that this break in capital’s universalizing drive is why theories built on the assumption of that universalization—liberalism and Marxism—cannot find purchase in the (post-)colonial world.
The argument for capital’s failed universalization is the foundation on which much of the Subalternist project rests. I show in some detail in PTSC—over the course of five chapters—that it is deeply flawed and cannot be sustained in any form. Partha Chatterjee (2013) has responded to my arguments with a quite brazen falsehood—that Guha simply does not say what I attribute to him, even though Guha makes it clear in the first 25 pages of his book that this is exactly what he is arguing, and then confirms it throughout the course of his text.3 Spivak now joins the fray with an even more novel stratagem, one that I could never have anticipated—she censures my criticism of Guha not because it is mistaken but because Guha’s work has the status of a ‘primary text’, and one does not criticize primary texts.

I read and carefully re-read Spivak’s argument here, because it seems impossible to imagine that anyone could believe what she so cavalierly announces. But there is no other way to interpret her—Spivak thinks that there is a class of scholarship, which she calls ‘primary texts’, whose members are to be are to be memorialized and interpreted, but never assessed. The task of criticism is to be reserved for something called ‘secondary texts’. What the difference is between them we are never told. But, whatever it is, Guha falls on the protected side of it. To drive the point home, Spivak asks us rhetorically, ‘Would Chibber
correct Rosa Luxemburg and DD Kosambi? No, because he knows they are primary texts’ (Spivak 2014, 190). I am not sure what to say here. Not only would I feel free to criticize Luxemburg and Kosambi, but I would be obligated to do so if their theories or their scholarship were flawed. And not only would I respect this obligation, but so have generations of scholars and activists the world over. The distinction that Spivak urges upon us, and the attitude to it endorsed by her, would shut down most of the academy. It is an essentially theological mindset, properly belonging in a church or temple, not a university.

Spivak does propose one other justification for why my criticisms of Guha are misplaced, which needs to be taken seriously. She suggests that my criticism rests on a category mistake. I criticize Guha’s argument for being empirically and theoretically flawed—his historical account of the bourgeois revolutions is unsustainable, and his understanding of capital’s universalizing mission is mistaken. Because of this, his explanation for the colonial world’s political dynamics also largely fails. Spivak offers that this is like criticizing Du Bois for calling the exodus of slaves a ‘general strike’, or criticizing Aristotle’s Poetics as
‘illogical’ (2014, 186). The Aristotle example suggests that certain kinds of criticisms are misplaced because they misunderstand the very nature of the text they interrogate. The text is not vulnerable to the criticism being levelled at it
because of the nature of its project. Spivak i right that criticism of this kind is jejune. But it should be self-evident that such is not the case in my treatment of  Guha. Guha’s arguments are eminently subject to both empirical and theoretical assessment, because they are claims about how the world works, and about the character of historical events. Hence, this defence is no more successful than the call for deference to primary texts.

Capital and capitalism, bourgeoisie and capitalists

Spivak further contends that my criticism of Guha elides the difference between capital and capitalism, and erroneously equates capitalists with the bourgeoisie. Let me start with the claim that capitalists cannot be identified with ‘the
bourgeoisie’. This is the same argument that Partha Chatterjee used in his riposte, and I will respond to it only briefly, referring the interested reader to my fuller treatment of his argument elsewhere (Chibber 2014a; 2014b).
Here is what is at stake. Guha castigates the Indian bourgeoisie for failing to integrate the subaltern domain with that of the elites, and, in this, falling short of the historic achievements of the bourgeoisie in Western Europe. I show that the
bourgeoise in England and France never aspired to, or strove for, the goals that Guha ascribes to them, and that, in fact, they were as contemptuous of subaltern interests as their later Indian counterparts. The question here is: what does Guha
mean by ‘bourgeoisie’? I show in PTSC that he means ‘capitalists’, and I offer more evidence for this in subsequent work (Chibber 2014a). Spivak now claims that ‘bourgeoisie’ means lawyers, and intellectuals, not capitalists. But, however
Spivak may wish to define the concept, it is abundantly clear that when Guha uses it he simply refers to capitalists. Spivak is creating an entirely fictitious Guha here, one who only exists in her imagination.

As to my elision of the difference between capital and capitalism, let me start by cautioning the reader that, pace Spivak, there is no established convention regarding the distinction. Usually, ‘capital’ is taken to mean ‘capitalists’, people whose actions propel the accumulation process, whereas ‘capitalism’ is used to denote the properties of the social structure in which these actors are located. But there is plenty of room for theorists to take some licence with how they use these terms. So when scholars intend to deploy the two as distinct concepts, they usually alert the reader to what each one is supposed to convey. Otherwise, one usually has to glean the intention of the writer by more indirect means, attending to the context, the apparent intention, the place of the argument, etc. It is not uncommon for the two to be used interchangeably.
Guha nowhere introduces the distinction in a systematic way and hence never tells us what he means by the two terms. The reader has to infer their meaning by attending to the context. What we do know is that the entity that is supposed to have had its universalizing mission derailed is ‘capital’. But, depending on the context, this expression can mean either capitalists or capitalism. So, for example, it can mean, ‘When capitalists came to India they did not pursue the same goals as they did in England’; or it can mean, ‘The capitalism that took root in India did not expand in the same way that it had in England.’ Guha usually has in mind the first claim when he makes his argument—he is usually referring to political or economic aspirations of the capitalist class. But sometimes he means the second. More importantly, since the two are closely related, the gap between them is not
that large. None of this is either very deep or mysterious. If Spivak feels that I have misunderstood Guha because I elide the distinction, she needs to show that such is the case. In normal academic discourse, when such an accusation is made, the critic offers some evidence to substantiate it by adducing key passages that have been misunderstood, showing how the
argument has been distorted through the elision. Spivak clearly acknowledges that I am aware of the distinction between capital and capitalism, so she cannot think that I am blind to it (2014, 191). Which of its subtleties, then, do I miss? I
confess that her argument here is almost impossible to understand. The only clear instance she adduces of an apparent elision is when she quotes me as asking: what does capitalism universalize? She then quotes me answering it with reference to
capital, not capitalism (Spivak 2014, 187). So apparently I have substituted one for the other. But I am not doing any such thing. What I say is: capitalism imposes a certain logic upon capital, and by ‘capital’ I mean capitalists. Hence, the structural
location of certain actors forces a particular strategy of economic reproduction upon them. I am not ignoring a distinction here; I am in fact utilizing it. The only confusion here is on Spivak’s part.

‘Little Britain Marxism’

Spivak’s only other significant accusation is that my book is a defence of a narrow, boxed-set kind of Marxism which refuses to budge from its orthodoxies. This has become a quite common refrain from postcolonial critics of the book. It is not
unusual to see my case against the Subalternists as being that they ‘are not Marxist enough’, or that they are wrong because they have the ‘wrong kind of Marxism’. The idea is that I simply hold up their arguments to a fixed set of orthodoxies, and
in instances where they deviate from the latter I reject them out of hand. So the battle is apparently between open-ended, creative Subalternists, trying to expand received theory to make sense of a complex reality, and the stolid, unyielding
Marxists who cast out anyone who dares to question Holy Writ. But the accusation is nonsense. In PTSC, I do not make a single criticism of the Subalternists on the grounds that their work is a deviation from Marxist orthodoxy. Nor do I defend any of my own by proving its closer fidelity to Marx. Each and every argument I make—whether against the Subalternists or in defence
of my own views—is defended on independent grounds, whether empirical or conceptual. There is only one chapter that takes up Marx directly, chapter 6, where I take up the question of abstract labour. Even in this case, I apologize for having to
descend into Marxology (see Chibber 2013, 130), and then try to show that it is worthwhile, not because it was developed by Marx, but because it captures some interesting facts about capitalism. The only other instance in which I bring up
Marxology is in chapter 4, where I criticize Marx for his credulousness towards liberal historiography. Every other argument I make is developed by reference to facts about the world, or conceptual clarification. And every criticism of the Subalternists issues from the same criteria. The arguments offered by Subaltern
Studies are to be rejected because they are wrong, not because they stray from
Spivak knows this, and it is why she is worried enough to write her long attack. If the book had just been a Marxist screed against the heretics, it would have died a quiet death. The reason it has attracted attention is precisely because it is not the ‘Little Britain Marxism’ that Spivak accuses it of being, but an examination of Subalternist arguments on their own terms—by attending to the empirical and theoretical strength of their claims. As for Marxism, there is in fact plenty in the received orthodoxy that is either mistaken or questionable. To give some examples: .
The orthodox theory of historical materialism is almost certainly wrong (Chibber 2011).
The labour theory of value may very well be wrong, and if it is not, it can only be defended in modified form.
The traditional theory of bourgeois revolutions is definitely wrong, as I explain in great detail in PTSC.
Marxism still has a poorly developed moral theory, though that situation is now greatly remedied.
There is quite an extensive literature on these subjects, and I have contributed to some of it, all of which acknowledges and seeks to remedy deep flaws in orthodox formulation. There are plenty of other weaknesses in the theory but I have listed
these only because they are considered to be at the very heart of Marxist orthodoxy. So it is not that Marxist theory is not in need of serious modification, or that it does not have severe weaknesses. It is just that, whatever weaknesses it has, they are not the ones targeted by postcolonial theorists. The biggest problem with postcolonial theory is that it seeks to undermine the very areas of Marxist theory that ought to be retained, that are in fact its strengths—the reality of capitalist constraints, regardless of culture; the reality of human nature; the centrality of certain universal aspirations on the part of the oppressed, which issue from this human nature; the need for abstract, universal concepts that are valid across cultures; the necessity of rational, reasoned discourse, etc. And the reason these propositions need to be defended is not that they comprise a doctrine that Marxists seek to uphold, but because they are defensible on their own merits. It has long been a tactic of postcolonial theorists to offer their framework as not only a direct lineal descendant of Marxist theory— which it is not—but also as the only sustainable version of Marxism—which it is emphatically not. Any criticism of their arguments is thereby impugned as an
unthinking adherence to orthodoxy, or a search for doctrinal purity. Spivak’s characterization of PTSC as ‘Little Britain Marxism’ is but the latest incarnation of this, and readers should not be misled by it.


The sad fact is that, apart from the few points that I have taken up above, there is very little in Spivak’s essay to which one can respond. To be sure, there is no shortage of accusations, some pertaining to exegesis, others to logic or theory. Spivak certainly seems to feel strongly that PTSC is guilty of many sins. But this makes it all the more curious that she expends little or no effort doing what any honest critic would do—taking the time to read the text carefully, locate its flaws, demonstrate to the reader that the argument is indeed guilty of the mistakes of which it is accused.
Indeed, what stands out most about the essay is how it eschews the normal protocols of scholarship in favour of other, less savoury tactics. And I would be remiss to say nothing about it, since it is so egregious. There is a very powerful authoritarian thrust in Spivak’s essay. It is not just the deferential attitude that one is supposed to display towards certain texts and authorities. It is not just the exalted status of ‘primary texts’. A required genuflection to authority pervades the text. It is surprising to find repeated references to someone’s age—the fact that Guha is 90 years old—or to their storied past, or to their fame in the intellectual world, or to their social work during the summer. These are not random facts that Spivak offers the reader; they are bits of information doled out to contrast the worthiness of some people—Guha and Spivak in this case—in contrast to the
brash, ‘boyish’ critic who is obsessed with ‘correcting everybody’, a ‘correct-fetishist’, as she refers to me. Spivak seems genuinely perturbed, not by the substance of my criticism, but by the very act of it. I am upbraided for not being reviews
sufficiently awestruck by the distinction of those whom I have targeted for criticism. The imperious tone, the constant reminder of status, whether based on age or of academic and social standing, is quite shocking to witness in an academic paper. The only place I have ever seen it before was while growing up in India, where it was used with servants and children to remind them of their place in the order of things.

Perhaps this may explain why Spivak does not bother to base her arguments on evidence or logic. Evidence matters if you are trying to persuade someone through argument, not appeals to authority. Spivak, however, writes in the manner of someone long accustomed to treating those around her as supplicants, not colleagues. One would not be much concerned with this, were it not for the fact that at least two generations of students have been socialized into this kind of practice. I doubt that Spivak’s style of engagement would be tolerated in any other discipline. So much the worse for postcolonial studies.


Chatterjee, Partha (2013) ‘Subaltern studies and capital’, Economic and Political Weekly, 14 September, 69 – 75
Chibber, Vivek (2011) ‘What is living and what is dead in the Marxist theory of history’, Historical Materialism, 19:2, 60 – 91
Chibber, Vivek (2013) Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital (New York: Verso)
Chibber, Vivek (2014a) ‘Revisiting postcolonial studies’, Economic and Political Weekly, 9 March 2014, 82 – 85
Chibber, Vivek (2014b) ‘Subaltern studies revisited—a (longer) reply to Partha Chatterjee’, ,http://sociology.fas.nyu.edu/object/vivekchibber.html., accessed 9 June 2014
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorti (2014) ‘Review of Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 27:1, 184– 198
Vivek Chibber q 2014 New York University
Notes on contributor
Vivek Chibber (PhD, University of Wisconsin) is a professor of sociology at New York University, and the author of Postcolonial theory and the specter of capital (Verso, 2013).


1 This essay is a author response to a review previously published by this journal (Spivak 2014, 184– 198).

2 Both concepts originate in Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks.

3 See Chatterjee (2013). For a rebuttal of Chatterjee, see Chibber (2014a) and especially
Chibber (2014b), where I provide detailed textual evidence against his claims

Hong Kong Massive rally “Citizens Stand Against Violence/Peaceful Resistance” called in Admiralty

Hong Kong

Massive rally “Citizens Stand Against Violence/Peaceful Resistance” called in Admiralty

Protesters are still continuing to occupy the streets in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay

Sunday 5 October 2014, by Bai Ruixue

After the attacks of yesterday and further threats by anti-Occupy groups to attack the protesters, large numbers have still turned out today undeterred. One pro-Beijing group, Caring Hong Kong Power, had earlier put out a call to its members to again go to Mong Kok. The message says that the use of violence against the protesters is necessary and that if necessary the PLA (People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese Army) should be mobilised.

Despite yesterday, however, protesters are still continuing to occupy the streets in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. Furthermore tens of thousands were once again in Admiralty this evening, where a rally “Citizens Stand Against Violence/Peaceful Resistance” had been called. At the rally there were speeches from protesters who were attacked yesterday, as well as other students, lawyers, teachers, performers and Occupy Central leaders. Some performers also sang songs.

Meanwhile this evening the Hong Kong Students Federation have also issue another statement saying that it would meet to discuss with the government, provided the government meet two conditions: Firstly that the government promise to investigate the enforcement of the law over the last few days concerning the thugs (who attacked the protest), and secondly that they will only meet with the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, and not Chief Executive CY Leung who has only continued to ignore public opinion and use the police to violently suppress the peaceful demonstrators.

I was only able to attend part of the rally, but below is a summary of some of what was said when we were there:

One lawyer, who was attacked yesterday in Mong Kok, said that when peaceful protesters are attacked by pepper spray or when a mob attack protesters it is an insult to the rule of law. He also reported how a friend was pushed to the ground in a supermarket for wearing a yellow ribbon. He said that he has never seen anything like this before in Hong Kong and that he was previously proud of Hong Kong for having the rule of law and giving high priority to civic values.

Another lawyer spoke of how on learning of yesterday’s attack, lawyers lit 800 candles and held a vigil to symbolise how the light of democracy could not be blown away by any violence. He said that lawyers will continue to defend the students who are attacked and arrested and called on everyone to come out and defend the students.

Meanwhile a third lawyer appealed to the international media and described what we are seeing tonight as “the purest form of courage that you will ever see on this planet.” He said that the presence of the media was extremely important in keeping the Chinese government from harming the students.

Academic Wong Wai-gwok read out a statement signed by a group of academics, condemning yesterday’s attack. We want to tell the police that they shouldn’t just fold their arms and we demand that the government respond to the citizens’ aspirations for democracy. Only this can solve the crisis.

Chua Hoi-wai, the head of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services, said that he was moved by all the people who were there sharing their experiences. Yesterday when he watched TV he was distressed about what he saw happening in Mong Kok. He thinks that we should condemn the violence. However he then went on to appeal to the Hong Kong Federation of Students to review their decision not to talk to the government anymore. He said that leading a social movement is not easy as not everybody has the same idea, however he appealed to the protesters to follow the decisions and advice of Occupy Central, HKFS and Scholarism even if they decide it is time to call off the action.

A film director commented on how while there are lots of people in the performance arts who support the students but there are also those who are against their actions. He reported on how he had heard someone remark that it would be easy to get rid of the occupiers. All that would be required is to ask the communications companies to cut off their connections. He has also heard another actor express how he thought it would be good if the protesters were adversely affected by the weather, while another had complained about the occupation having a negative effect on the economy. He reported how he had felt very emotional when he heard this as they are his friends. However he then reported on a forth actress who had said that even if it seems useless to fight for democracy, we should still do this anyway.

A teacher, who said that she hasn’t taught any classes recently as her students are boycotting classes, spoke about the two Hong Kongs that she has seen in the last few days; the beautiful Hong Kong, where everything is clean and tidy, there are poems written on protesters’ banners, posters written in different languages, where educated people are sitting here and technically breaking the law by blocking the road, and the very ugly Hong Kong witnessed yesterday in the attacks.

One speaker spoke of how the road to democracy is very long and winding, but that the number of those who are awakening are huge and growing. “Now with so many people coming out we fear no more. I think the awakened citizens, young and old, should hold our hands together and confront the government.”

Another speaker, who said that he had been at Admiralty since the early morning after hearing that the protesters might be attacked again, made the comment that in 1989 Zhao Ziyang had come out to meet the students but how today none of the high officials have ever greeted the students.

Amongst several singers who had come to perform songs at the rally, one commented on how they wanted to pay tribute to the young people who are not afraid to sacrifice their future careers to fight for the people. Despite foreseeing bigger difficulties in the future they appealed for the protesters not to be afraid. “Now there is lots of discussion about whether we should retreat or not. But in the long run there are still many tasks for us to do together. The silent majority, including my family do not understand. I want to abandon all the language used by the mainstream media, academia and politicians and instead use human language. It is simple. The present package is evil. If we use simple language then everybody can understand more easily.”

4 October 2014

Solidarity with Kobanê – an urgent task

Solidarity with Kobanê – an urgent task

Tuesday 7 October 2014, by Sarah Parker

Latest reports are that ISIS fighters are entering Kobanê. The Guardian.


The situation in Kobane is getting tougher by the hour – fierce fighting around the outside and in the outskirts between the defenders of the Kurdish town and ISIS forces. Protesters are still contesting the border held by the Turkish army, the Kurdish leadership has called for millions of Kurds from Turkey to go to the border. Kurds are protesting all over Europe. [1]

People on the net keep predicting the fall of Kobane –of course Kobane might fall quickly, but the resistance has been astonishing so far, and there must be quite a few thousand fighters in there, plus the whole remaining population is mobilised. They are preparing to fight street by street, ISIS won’t find it easy.

So it is very important for us not to take the fall of Kobane as a foregone conclusion, but to keep making protesting and demanding weapons for the defenders. The more protests there are, the more pressure there is on the coalition to restrain Turkey and provide effective military assistance to Kobane, and the longer it goes on, the more people support the Kurds and understand how disgusting the coalition tolerance of Turkey’s behaviour is, so the higher the price the coalition countries will pay whatever the upshot in Kobane. Foreign Minister Davutoglu has said they don’t want Kobane to fall (not) – but nothing is being done to stop that by Turkey or its allies, in fact the opposite, as Turkey is more and more blatantly supporting ISIS, moving in new weapons, treating wounded fighters in Turkish hospitals.

Millions of people are seeing the battle on TV – anyone who has Hotbird satellite can watch it. If there is a terrible massacre, millions of people will know that this has been tolerated by the coalition because they politically support Turkey against people who want independence. Six months ago nobody had heard of Kobane, but now half the world is watching and seeing that the coalition is doing nothing to assist Kobane against ISIS. This will not be forgotten, by the Kurds or by other people. If you don’t have Hotbird, you can find footage on the Kurdish TV websites – Google Med Nuce, Sterk, Ronahi, Newroz. The BBC and Al Jazeera can get live stream and pictures from the Kurdish channels that are there, even if there are no foreign correspondents there.

People should be joining Kurdish demos, posting stuff, as you are, writing to MPs and councillors, whatever is possible. There are thousands of people in Kobane, and if the town fell, who is to say that Turkey wouldn’t also fall back a bit and let ISIS loose among displaced people and refugees who are inside Turkey and not far from the border. Anything to justify Turkish army action when it suits them.

Today’s news is that PYD leader Salih Muslim was in Ankara for talks with security officials and requested that Turkey open the border to allow the passage of Kurdish fighters and weapons into Kobane – quite a good move since it puts Turkey and the coalition and indeed the South Kurdistan peshmerga forces on the spot. Presumably he is asking for PKK, KDP and PUK forces to be allowed to come through – hard to imagine Turkey will agree to PKK, but KDP and PUK have been feebly saying they would send people but cannot because of the security situation. It would give them a chance to put their money where their mouth is and, in the case of the KDP, recover a bit from the disgrace of telling people in Shangal and the Plain of Mosul that they would protect them and then abandoning them to ISIS.

Lastly, if Kobane falls, ISIS will be free up more forces to take more of Syria and Iraq; while doubtless leaving Assad free to reassert control of Aleppo.

6 October 2014 Socialist Resistance

The city of Kobanê in Aleppo province, northern Syria, is being heroically defended against ISIS by local people and by the People’s Protection Units (still mainly Kurdish but including Arabs and Assyrians). A high proportion of the fighters are women, mainly young but also middle-aged, and some Free Syrian Army forces who have moved to Kobanê are also fighting there, but the defenders have no heavy artillery and only a few home-made armoured vehicles, while ISIS have all the heavy weaponry and vehicles they captured in the summer from the Iraqi army and possibly from the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), as well as weapons and vehicles given them by their sponsors. ISIS is able to shell heavily from great distances, and have concentrated most of their Syrian forces round Kobanê, so for some days the situation has been critical, although the defenders are very determined and seem to be just about coping.

Since 15 September ISIS has been staging its heaviest attack so far on 3 sides of Kobanê, one of the Kurdish three autonomous regions in Syria (the fourth side is partly covered by Turkish army). ISIS is receiving ever more blatant assistance from Turkey, which the US and its allies seem to be doing nothing effective to hinder. Recent More than 100 and villages in the enclave have had to be evacuated to reduce the number of civilian casualties and to allow the self-defence forces a clear run and by now more than 130,000 non-combatants have fled into Turkey. The remaining population, normally 200,000 but doubled in size by refugees from Sinjar and Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria are at risk of massacre if Kobanê falls.

Mass protests by Kurds on the border at Kobanê have been taking place, and sometimes people have managed to rush the border at Pirsus /Suruç to go into Kobanê to aid the defence effort. One report from villagers who came through to Kobanê said that they had seen about 3000 men escorted over the border into Syria in the middle of the night by Turkish soldiers, presumably to reinforce ISIS. This follows previous reports that the old Berlin-Baghdad railway line is being used by the Turkish army to resupply ISIS. Protesters, some having travelled from distant parts of Turkey, are patrolling the border, watching out for Turkish soldiers helping ISIS recruits to cross the border. Some clashes have broken out, including near the Iraqi/Turkish border in Kurdistan. So the Turkish army does not have full control of the border, which means there is some hope that people can get in with ammunition and more weapons.

YPG forces from the next autonomous canton along to the east, Jazira, are also fighting ISIS around Serekani to try to get through to the west relieve the siege of Kobanê. On 30 September news agencies reported fighting around Rabia in Northern Iraq; it sounds as if peshmergas and YPG (Kurdish People’s Defence Forces) have jointly driven ISIS out of Rabia, which in theory will make it easier to clear ISIS out of the rest of Shengal and to allow Kurdish fighters to go from Iraq to Syria, into the Jazira autonomous area. This will allow reinforcements to Jazira, which will make the task of breaking through to the west more likely.

Public and diplomatic pressure on Turkey is key to restraining its actions around Kobanê. Far left leaders from Turkey including leaders of ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party), EMEP (Labour Party) and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) visited a couple of days ago. Kurdish politicians from Turkey have visited several times. The Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) leaders in Syria, in the Qandil mountains in Iraq, and in Turkey are calling for actions to demand that NATO restrain Turkey from helping ISIS in Kobanê. Kurds have been stepping up their demonstrations throughout Turkey and all over Europe, including occupying Schipol and Franfurt airports, and increasing numbers of hunger strikes, including outside the European Parliament, where Salih Müslim, co-chair of the PYD in Syria, is holding meetings with European politicians this week to ask them to put effective pressure on their governments to push Turkey to change its lethal support for ISIS. We need to support the Kurdish actions, as the situation in Kobanê is extremely serious, and predictably a deafening silence is coming from governments and most politicians around the coalition, as Turkey is a key ally, and imperialism does not like the radicalism of YPG in Syria or its ally PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).

1 October 2014 Socialist Resistance


[1] Oxford Circus was closed this afternoon by Kurdish protestors demanding assistance for Kobane:Huffington Post.



Against the proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi in collaboration with Westinghouse

People’s struggle against proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at

Mithi Virdi planned with American company -Westinghouse Electric



Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant and Trupti Shah

Activists of Gujarat

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25 September 2014


The affected villagers of proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi – Jaspara are planning to organise a protest in their villages on 28 September 2014 during the USA visit of Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister of India.

The Central and State Governments, now both led by Modi Government, are seeking to build a 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi – Jaspara, Bhavnagar district of Gujarat State. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) signed an Early Works Agreement (EWA) with the American company, Westinghouse Electric Corporation for installation of a six 1000 mw (AP 1000) nuclear reactors. There are total 152 villages with a population of more than 200,000within 30 Kms radius of the proposed nuclear power plant. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. The rich alluvial soil here supports, crops like Ground Nut, Wheat, Bajra, Cotton, etc and fruits like Mangoes (Mangoes from Sosiya are very famous across the India and they are also exported), Chickoos, Coconut, etc. This area also grows and supplies vegetables like Onion, Brinjal, Gourd, Tomatoes, Drumsticks, etc. The agriculture department has found the climate and soil also suitable for cashew nuts.

Thousands of villagers have been consistently opposing the Nuclear Power Plant with the slogan Not Heresince 2007. Subsequently they have resolved Not Here, Not Anywhere; Not in Any Country in the World. Yet the previous UPA Government and now Mr. Modi’s upcoming USA visit (25-30 September 2014) is all set to mortgage the environment & labour laws and also to dilute the Nuclear Liability Act even further, so that private profits are safeguarded even as Fukushima exemplified all over again how risky Nuclear Power Plants are.

Here we outline unconstitutional and illegal actions and means adopted by the Government of India and Government of Gujarat to push the nuclear power plant through since its inception.

Environment Impact Assessment prepared by an agency lacking necessary accreditation:

The ‘Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited’ (NPCIL) claiming to be taking utmost care for safety measures had nominated Engineers India Limited (EIL), Delhi, as consultant for preparing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi. The said agency, EIL however does not have necessary accreditation to conduct EIA for Nuclear Power Plants. This has been clearly acknowledged by EIL itself in their EIA report on page no 387-389 volume – I. The EIA report clearly states

“12.0 DISCLOSURE OF CONSULTANTS: … For “Nuclear Power projects and processing of nuclear fuel” sector EIL’s application along with other consultants are still pending at NABET. However, till date NABET has not cleared any application related to nuclear sector.”

This clearly reflects the carelessness of the Government of India and NPCIL about the Nuclear Power Plant. Given this basic challenge to the legitimacy of the EIA report, it should not be the basis of an Environmental Public Hearing. How could concerned authorities the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board allow the Environmental Public Hearing for Nuclear Power Plant to take place when there are grave concerns involving security of the lakhs of people and life on earth is at risk?

Inspite of this the Environmental Public Hearing was conducted on 5 March 2013 in which following crucial issues were raised.

Detailed risk assessments are lacking in the report. The terms of reference granted by the MoEF for the EIA (TOR item number 34 on page 15 of volume I) clearly states that “Detailed risk assessment and disaster management plan should be given,” and the report states that “Detailed risk assessment and disaster management plan is mentioned in Chapter - 7.” However, in chapter 7, there is only a vague discussion on what needs to be included in the disaster management plan, but no real plan is given. In addition, volume I of EIA states “The manual on Off-site Emergency Response Plans would be issued by State Level Emergency Response Committee [p 314]”. However, no such plans are available.

The EIA report mentions (on page 319 of volume I) that “7.4.9 VOLUME-II: PROCEDURE FOR OFF-SITE EMERGENCY: This volume will provide guidelines for handling off-site emergency at Mithi Virdi NPP and deals with emergency management organization, emergency equipment and facilities for handling the situation up to 16 km radius.” One look at the index of Volume II shows that there is no discussion of Off-site emergency in that volume. This is a clear violation of the TOR.

The Terms of Reference for the MoEF at point no. 7 clearly mention that “The study area should cover an area of 10 km radius around the proposed site for conventional pollutants and 30 km radius for radiological parameters.” Instead the EIA report categorically mentions that 30 Kms for radiological areas of the study will be undertaken in future, the radiological survey is yet to be carried out for 30 Kms area and have not been carried out as stipulated by MoEF in the Terms of Reference (TOR).

No villager/village Panchayats in the 10-30 kms radius has been informed or served notice for the public hearing as the rules stipulate by the concerned authorities.

The proposed plant site is falling under irrigation command area identified by Gujarat State Irrigation Department. An application for seeking no objection certificate for development of the proposed project is submitted to irrigation department, Government of Gujarat. Yet again copy of a no-objection certificate to develop the project in an irrigation command area application are not to be found in the EIA report as required by TOR of MoEF.

Even the basic information like the copy of the “Site Selection Committee” was not attached with the EIA and relevant information about the committee was not provided and discussed in the EIA. We were only able to obtain the incomplete copy of the “Site Selection Committee” through an application under Right to Information Act.

The Site Selection Committee – 2005 of Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India clearly states that “Lignite mining is being carried at a distance of 5 kms. towards South. The famous ship-braking yard ALANG is at distance of 20 kms. on the Southern side of the site. The site is about 30 kms. from the Bhavnagar. On the southern side a small check Dam has been constructed to arrest rain water before flowing in to sea. There is hillock after the check dam. The Kalpsar Project, a multi utility concrete dam across Gulf of Khambat is being planned just 18 kms. upstream of the site which may have bearing on the design of intake and outfall structure for the plant.” The report further states that “Lignite mining is carried out nearby but as informed by state government the lignite is of poor grade and mining will be stopped if Nuclear power plant is located in the region. […] Government of Gujarat had informed that there is proposal to develop Mithi Virdi as a port. Gujarat Maritime Board has agreed to shift the proposed port at least five km from the central line of reactor. […] Kalpsar Project Authorities proposes a Dam of 65 Kms. in length and top width of 35 m across Gulf of Khambat of 18 kms north the Chhaya (Mithi Virdi) site. This will have following effects on the Nuclear Power Plant. Sedimentation and effect on intake and out fall of plant, Flooding due to dam break, Aspects of reservoir induced seismicity. […] This Ship Breaking Yard is touching the exclusion zone boundary of the plant. As per AERB Code, within sterilized zone upto 5 Km natural growth is permitted but planned expansion of activities, which will lead to an enhanced population growth are not allowed by administrative measures. These aspects have been brought to the notice, Government of Gujarat who submitted a Technical report in this regard to state the process of ship breaking and enforcement of necessary Regulatory mechanism in each stages of ship breaking.” This crucial information is not mentioned neither dealt in detail in the EIA report.

This report further states that “A detailed Seismotectonic Study 300 kms radius around site is to be carried out for the assessment of seismic hazards leading to determination of design basis ground motion parameters during design state. Seismotectonic status of off shore region will be included in this study in order to ascertain and offshore existence and extensions of lineaments and faults. Micro- seismic survey of the surrounding area will generate useful data for this purpose. In addition effect if any due to Kalpsar on seismicity (RIS) should be taken into account at site evaluation stage.” The present EIA is hiding such crucial information and there is no mention how they are going to dealt with these crucial issues.

We do not agree with many points of the report. Yet to reinforce what this very report states in the end:

“4.14. RECOMMENDATIONS: […] 3) It is recommended that a detailed study be conducted to examine the effect of Kalpsar dam in the upstream of NPP site on the flooding of the proposed site due to breaking of dam in the event of an earthquake of very high magnitude as the Kalpsar dam is located over deep sited fault. 4) As regards the Ship Breaking Yard Sosiya presently located at outskirt of the plant boundary 2 Km away from the centre of the 6th reactor building, the restriction of the growth of population in this sterilized zone (5 Kms) is required to be maintained by administrative action. 5) As regards Lignite Mining, surface mining as done in Kudankulam project can be permissible up to the start of plan construction in case of deep surface mining being taken up by the mining authorities any time permission will not be given without ascertaining its impact on the plant safety.” These crucial recommendations made in the report of the Site Selection Committee are not adequately discussed or addressed in the EIA report.

We strongly feel that the report of the site selection committee provides crucial information, it should have been annexed with the EIA report, and its major points should have been addressed by the EIA. This again shows the inadequacy of the EIA report. We strongly feel that the EIA report is superficial, unscientific, technically not sound and misleading.

Unconstitutional and Illegal Environment Public Hearing conducted in the Atmosphere of Terror for the Nuclear Power Plant:

The “Environment Public Hearing Committee” of the Bhavnagar District had not followed the bare minimum basic procedural norms while conducting the EPH on March 5, 2013 at Navagam (Nana) for the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant.

Just prior to the EPH proceedings, Mr A. V. Shah, the member secretary of “Environment Public Hearing Committee” of Bhavnagar District had reassured activists that the Sarpanchs of ten villages [Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Paniyali, Khadarpar, Mandva, Sosiya, Navagam (Nana), Goriyali, Rampar (Garibpura), Bharapara] would be allowed to raise procedural issues after the opening remarks by the collector and the GPCB’s.

The Sarpanchs had already prepared a written submission documenting procedural lapses in the EPH hearing as directed by the authorities. But when the EPH proceedings started, the first violation of the procedures happened, when authorities reneged on their assurances to the Sarpanchs of the affected villages.

Jaspara village Sarpanch Mr. Shaktisinh Gohil started making the point on procedural lapses soon after the opening remarks, but was prevented by the collector Mr. V. P. Patel himself saying that Mr. Shaktisinh Gohil could hold the floor only after the NPCIL presentation.

The main points of the written submission of the Sarpanchs were “The EIA Report for NPCIL has been prepared by Engineers India Limited. According to EIL's own admission it does not have the requisite Ministry of Environment and Forest accreditation to undertake the Environmental Impact Assessment. The EIA Report is therefore illegal.

The EIA Report has not been prepared as per the Terms of Reference (TORs) determined by MoEF. The EIA Report is therefore incomplete. Any public hearing based on such incomplete report would be illegal.

Only 24 villages in a radius of 10 km. from the project have been considered “affected” by the project. A total of 128 villages falling in the 10 to 30 km. radius have not been considered “affected”. The public hearing therefore cannot be construed to be legal.

The High Court judgement dated 28th May 2010 in the matter WP (C) No. 9317 of 2009 and Supreme Court Order of 2011 stipulate that all citizens, including those not directly affected by a project should be allowed to participate in environmental public hearings. Therefore your opinion that such citizens cannot be allowed to speak at public hearings would be a violation of the Honourable Supreme Court and High Court orders.”

This was the second violation because the collector should have first read the written submission on the procedural lapse and opined on it before proceeding with the hearing. About 6000 villagers present in the EPH, left with no choice but to leave the venue and keep them away from such illegal and unconstitutional Environment Public Hearing.

The entire exercise of the illegal EPH was further rendered futile as the collector did not even go through the basics of the procedural norms and did not give ear to democratic representations. The NPCIL presentation should have been held only after the collector had read the Sarpanch’s representation, opined on it, and not otherwise.

The third violation happened with the collector’s complete disregard for the Delhi High Court Judgement, about which he was informed through Mr A. V. Shah in oral discussions. This is in clear violation of the Delhi High Court order in the case of Samarth Trust and Other v Union of India & Others W.P. (C) 9317 of 2009, where it has opined that “….Prima facie, that so far as a public hearing is concerned, its scope is limited and confined to those locally affected persons residing in the close proximity of the project site. However, in our opinion, the Notification does not preclude or prohibit persons not living in the close proximity of the project site from participating in the public hearing – they too are permitted to participate and express their views for or against the project.”

The fourth violation happened when the collector did not again read the Sarpanches’ written submission on procedural lapses, which included the Delhi High Court judgement during the entire EPH, even after the villagers’ walkout, and neither did he express any opinion on it. The collector thus ignored the Delhi High Court judgement, which was a vital point in Sarpanchs’ representation during the entire EPH.

The EPH environment was coercive and terror-filled. Villagers were prevented from making free and fair representation. Not only was there a heavy posse of police force but also private security guards were hired at the EPH site, frisking and checking every entrant, and at places questioning villagers and participants about their antecedents.

There were unnecessary barricades and iron wire fencing between the collector’s dais and the participants area, a first-ever arrangement during the EPH in recent times in Gujarat. The authorities had created an atmosphere of coercive tactics that invoked state control and fear over the proceedings of grave public concern.

Also, the collector allowed songs and recordings in favour of the NPCIL and benefits of nuclear power plant to be broadcast from the public address system arranged by the collectorate. These recordings continued to be played till the EPH proceedings began formally. This is a clear violation of the neutral approach that the collector should have taken on the issue and instead made clear his predisposition on behalf of the NPCIL. On the contrary, the villagers were not only prevented from making free and fair representation; their representations on procedural issues were also ignored during the EPH.

Also, the NPCIL made an audio-visual pre-recorded presentation during the EPH, with no NPCIL official making any opening remarks officially except for switching on computer and other accessories.

Also, there were at least thirty odd people sitting on dais on both the sides of district collector during the EPH, whose presence and background went unaccounted with no one introduced or briefed about who they were and in what capacity they sat there. Their presences are not even marked in the minutes of the EPH. It is also a crucial issue that there be transparency regarding which capacities they were sitting on dais. The villagers and their elected representatives on the other hand got no such chance and instead were frequently frisked and subjected to irritating queries. The villagers were sitting behind the iron barricade at a long distance of the dais.

The additional district collector was sitting on dais next to the Bhavnagar district collector who had convened the EPH, which is strictly against the rules. Additional district collector can sit on dais and chair the EPH if the collector deputes him/her in his absence. The fact that the additional district collector was sitting sharing the dais with the district collector is also not mentioned in the minutes of the EPH.

The EPH was illegal to begin with as it was held based on incomplete, illegal EIA report, prepared by non-accredited company, the procedural lapses point out that the manner in which it was conducted is also illegal and unconstitutional.

The collector, the chairperson of EPH, GPCB regional officers, the member secretary of EPH, the additional collector as well as those on dais who were overseeing the proceedings and representations is responsible for these illegalities by violating environment laws and the Constitution of India.

As this was not enough On 11 June 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance /  recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP,  the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department :

1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department.

2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance because they have casually given this clearance / recommendation for CRZ clearance without asking for and reading the note on safety aspects, site clearance report and without undertaking the site visit. GCZMA has not taken in account the basics, for instance eventualities like population increase in the immediate vicinity of the proposed plant.

It is unclear if the GCZMA is a victim of the non-transparent and secretive approach of NPCIL, which has not attached the report dated 28 June 2007 of Site Selection Committee even in the EIA document.

People’s Movement demanded that the Ministry of Environment and Forest should reject and review the non-serious so-called CRZ clearance / recommendation for CRZ clearance given to the proposed NPP of Mithi Virdi by the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA).

Indeed, the then Chief Minister Mr. Modi was also not merely silent on the unconstitutional and illegal act on the part of concerned authorities; the agencies of the Gujarat government, in this matter, were working hand in glove with the centre. As The Hindu reported in August 2013, CRZ clearance has been given in a remarkably slipshod way. During and before the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) for the proposed Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), villagers, local Panchayats and organisations like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti have brought to the notice of the authorities that Engineer India Limited (EIL), the consultant of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) does not have necessary accreditations to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a NPP. However, in an instance of utter disregard and disrespect to the Environmental Law and the Constitution of India, NPCIL and EIL went ahead with the EIA study and the collector tried to go ahead with the illegal Public Hearing in March 2013.

The NPCIL and EIL has since then continued to resort to the illegal practices by keeping silent on the issues raised by the villagers. This is evident from its application and presentations for Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the authorities in Gujarat without submitting adequate documents and information. 

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body's stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. This is the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by the then Chief Minister Mr. Modi.

The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to the NPCIL. 

Struggle against Proposed Nuclear Power Plant: Some of Recent Protest by the villagers

Since 2007 villagers have been protesting against the proposed Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. Many rallies, protests, debates and press conferences were organised by the villagers with facts and figures against the Nuclear Power Plant.

On 23 September 2013 despite heavy rains, people from the villages affected by the proposed Mithi Virdi nuclear power plant took out a rally from village Jaspara. The rally consisted of 69 tractors, tempos and cars and 50 motorcycles and comprising of nearly 2,500 men, women, youths and children.  People shouted slogans like “let it go, let it go, let the nuclear power plant go”, “allow us to eat our hard earned rotlo”, “we will give up our lives, not our land”, “let bajra and cotton grow, allow the greenery to flourish”, and “not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world”.

The rally traversed the 40 km stretch to Bhavnagar, meeting the people in the villages falling on the route. The rally was welcomed at Talaja Jakat Naka by the people of Bhavnagar, and terminated at AV School cricket ground, where it turned into a public meeting. A representative group comprising the leaders of the affected villages presented the memorandum to the then PM Mr. Manmohan Singh through the district Collector.

On 23 September 2013 in an open letter to the then Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh, Sarpanches of several villages in Bhavnagar district had taken strong exception to the Government of India’s proposal for the 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant. Asking the Prime Minister to refrain from signing any agreement with the US government or other corporations and agencies on the proposed N-plant during his visit to the US, the letter stated, "The Government of India has reportedly initiated moves to further dilute the Nuclear Liability Act to seal the nuclear deal with the US government. Intervention of the Cabinet Committee on security is being sought to override nuclear liability for Westinghouse."

Saying that this kind of move to give concession to Westinghouse, the company which proposes to give nuclear reactors to the plant, and seal "a nuclear agreement with US corporations during your visit to Washington will undermine all democratic and sovereign institutions of India", the letter says, this is extremely "worrying". Strangely, "the dilution of the Nuclear Liability Act is being touted as a 'gift' to the US government and international nuclear corporations."

Registering strong protest, the letter says, "We strongly condemn this brazen contempt for an Act enacted by the sovereign parliament of India. To assure the US government and nuclear industry that the Government of India will make sure that the operator (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) will not use its ‘right of recourse’ against suppliers of defective equipment is a shameless sell out of Indian peoples’ lives".

The letter adds, "To offer a liability-less playing field to the international nuclear corporations, whose constant decline has been greatly exacerbated by the setback after the Fukushima catastrophe, actually amounts to selling off Indian people’s lives and safety for nuclear profits. We have not forgotten the criminal record of Union Carbide, now Dow Chemicals, in the Bhopal gas tragedy and the shameless episode of Indian politicians letting the culprits go scot-free: both physically and in terms of adequate liability for the horrendous disaster."

Pointing out that the Indian government is "risking citizens' lives even as the crisis in Fukushima has further deepened over last few weeks", the letter says, "While Japan has been forced to switch off all its reactors and countries like Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, etc. have decided to go nuclear free, it is unfortunate that Indian government is choosing to miss the historic opportunity to go for sustainable, renewable, decentralised and equitable forms of energy and shun nuclear power which contributes less than three per cent of its electricity production".

Declaring "strong protest" against any further dilution of the Nuclear Liability Act and endangering the lives of common people of India, the letter says. Villagers from  Mithi Virdi, Jaspara, Khadarpar, Mandva, Paniyali, Sosiya, Kantala, Chayya, Navagam (nana), Bhankal, Goriyali, Bhavinapara, Kukkad, Lakhanka, Morchand, Odarka, Garibpura, Thalsar, Khadsaliya, Alang, Manar (CT), Bhadbhadiya, Hathab, Gundi, Badi, Alapar, Sanodar, Padva, Vavdi, Sankhadasar, Rajpara, Trapaj, Kathava, Bapada, Sathara, Bharapara, Koliyak, Mathavda, Juna Ratanpar, Kuda, Bhumbhali, Thordi etc. signed the memorandum and sent it to the PM via the Bhavnagar district collector.

The letter was handed over by Shaktisinh Gohil -Sarpanch Jaspara village, Samjuben Dabhi - Sarpanch Mithivirdi village, Vilasba Gohil - Sarpanch Mandva village, Pruthvirajsinh Gohil - Sarpanch Khadarpar village, Bhagwatsinh Gohil, - Sarpanch Sonsiya village, Dayalbhai Jambucha - Sarpanch Paniyali village, and Jikuben Dihora - Sarpanch Chayya village.

281 farmers and farm workers who would be directly affected by losing land and livelihood have expressed their dissent on oath by submitting affidavits.

The affidavit says "In this area, following a nuclear deal Indian government, the US government and US-based Westinghouse Company, the NPCIL proposes to set up a nuclear power plant. I strongly protest the land acquisition of my farm land mentioned above", it says, adding, "I solemnly affirm that I refuse to sell my above mentioned land at any price to the Government of Gujarat, Government of India or NPCIL”. A similar affidavit has been signed by those working labourers in the farms associated with the villages, saying these farmlands are their only source of livelihood. 

Village Panchayat’ meeting turns Mithi Virdi-Jaspara area into Nuclear Free Zone:

On 9 March 2014 the gram panchayats of five villages have passed a resolution declaring the entire “Mithi Virdi-Jaspara region as Nuclear Free Zone.” The resolution to declare the region Nuclear Free Zone was passed “unanimously”, and a copy of the resolution was sent to President of India Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, the then Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, and secretary-general, United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

The resolution clearly states “Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithivirdi-Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. At a time when Special Investment Region has become the most lobbied term in the state of Gujarat, this region too should be announced as SAR (special agricultural region) for agricultural purpose.”

The resolution added, “Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one would assume that the land is barren and un-inhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions. It is perhaps from this mistaken presumption that the proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land must have taken place.”
The statement further said, “Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithivirdi, Khadarpar, and Mandva stand 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra, cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown year round due to irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar's vegetable basket -- a reason, why local villagers who stand to lose not only their land and livelihood but also a potential environmental risk if the nuclear power plant were to come up here.”

The resolution suggests “people’s desire to keep the neighbourhood nuclear power free.” The resolution is significant, in view of the fact that the environmental public hearing of the proposed nuclear plant ran into controversy, as it was held on the basis of an illegal, incomplete environmental impact assessment study by an unaccredited agency, inviting strong protests from the local community.

Important salient points of the resolution are:

  • The production of nuclear weapons or of nuclear power shall not be allowed in the city/ village/ municipality. No facility, equipment, components, supplies or substance used for the production of nuclear weapons or nuclear power shall be allowed in the city/ village/ municipality.
  • No person, corporation, university, laboratory, institution or other entity in the city/village/municipality knowingly and intentionally engaged in the production of nuclear weapons or with respect to nuclear electricity generation shall commence any such work within the city/ village/ municipality after adoption of this chapter.
  • Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit or regulate the research and application of nuclear medicine or the use of fissionable materials for smoke detectors, light-emitting watches and clocks and other applications where the purpose is unrelated to the production of nuclear weapons or nuclear power. 
  • Nothing in this chapter shall be interpreted to infringe upon the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

The statement concludes, “We are opposed to all aspects and parts of the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and expressly forbids the production of nuclear energy, the presence of any equipment and materials related to the carrying out of any part of the fuel cycle and opposes any storage of nuclear waste.”

One more resolution: We will do all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds.

The protesters feared that recent efforts of Modi Government to water down the new Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 might only aggravate the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd’s move to acquire land near Mithi Virdi.

In a meeting on 14 August 2014, the villagers gathered to take a pledge that they wished to “ensure clean air, potable water, fertile lands, nutritious, uncontaminated food and secure life for the future generations”, adding, they will do “all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds.”

The pledge said, “We today on August 14, 2014 take the pledge, 

To ensure clean air, potable water, fertile lands, nutritious, uncontaminated food and secure life for the future generations. 

We will do all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds. 

We will stop all industries and nuclear power plants that pose risk to our food, health and environment. 

We will protest against the genetically modified crops and the resulting contamination of the natural seeds through them. 

We will continue our consistent struggle against the so-called development policy that contaminate agriculture, land and water while seeking GDP growth. 

We will strive to save the society from all companies - national and multinationals that seeks profits at any cost. 

We will strive to ensure the deserving amendments to The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We register our opposition and resolve to fight against the present government's move to dilute this act to make it anti-farmer to ensure pro industrial growth.”

Condemn the Police Violence on the Students’ Agitation in Jadavpur University: Uphold the Right to a Campus Free of Sexual Harassment and State Terror

Condemn the Police Violence on the Students’ Agitation in Jadavpur University: Uphold the Right to a Campus Free of Sexual Harassment and State Terror

Radical Socialist strongly condemns the massive police crackdown on the peaceful protest of the Jadavpur University students after the midnight of 16-17th September 2014.The students were agitating peacefully since the last week of August 2014 after a the sexual assault of a woman student by some hostel students in the campus at the night of 28 August 2014. The assaulters apparently took upon themselves the task of moral policing and also beat up her companion who was not a JU student.

The students, from the very beginning, were demanding a fair and speedy investigation, especially when two women members of the Internal Complaints’ Cell (ICC) reportedly visited the girl’s home and asked her about the details of that night along with what dress she was wearing or whether she was in an inebriated state. Moreover the student was advised by the Vice Chancellor not to come to the campus for a fortnight.
As per the decisions of several General Body meets of the students across political affiliations or independents, the students started sit-in-demonstration in front of the administrative building of the University. They demanded an impartial transparent probe with the induction of a gender right activist, a psychiatrist and a former judge in the ICC. Instead of getting patient hearing the repeated student deputations received verbal threats of police action to break their protest, from the VC.
Despite that, the students continued their sit-in-demonstration with songs and recitations. Their demand was to get a public assurance from the VC and Executive Council (EC) members and about the investigation and its present status. These simple demands were met with violent police operation after 2 am of 17 September, 2014, which coincided with the switching off the lights in the area around the administrative building. All norms of arrest and operation were violated. There were only a few woman cops and the main operation was carried out by the male cops and the thugs without uniforms. They did not, as usual, hesitate to trample over the students, dragging them by their hair and sexually assault the girl students deliberately hitting their breasts.

While many of the injured students were in trauma and pain, the VC was escorted by the security forces helped by the goons so that he could safely enter his car. Most of the EC members, too did not stop to talk to the students many of whom had to be admitted into the adjacent KPC hospital and two of them were critically injured. 37 students were arrested and taken to Lalbazar Police Head Quarter, where they were further intimidated and detained for hours. Later they were released after issuing PR bonds.

The VC with a solid support from the State Education Minister, kept on peddling lies about the aggression of the students. The Commissioner of Police too talked about ‘outsiders’ and ‘arms’ hidden by the agitating students. As reported by the students, there is a veiled threat of clamping a ‘code of conduct’ to browbeat any agitation or dissent against the authority.

In view of the foregoing the Radical Socialist:
• Unequivocally condemns the University-government-terror nexus and police violence on the peaceful agitation of the students
• Strongly condemns the physical and sexual assault by the police
• Demands immediate investigation into the police atrocities and punishment of the guilty police officers
• Demands the immediate resignation of the Vice Chancellor who has lost any moral authority to continue his office
• Demands public apology from the Executive Council members who as yet did not issue any statement of clarification
• Demands the immediate dismantling of the existing ICC and its reconstitution as per law, University regulations and the suggestion of the students
• Demands adequate measures to ensure the safety and the right to free mobility of the students and university staff
• Opposes any imposition of code of conduct and surveillance system inside the campus in the name of disciplinary action or in the name of maintaining law and order
• Support the spontaneous agitation of the Jadavpur University students under the banner of ‘Independent Students' Movement for Justice, Equality and Freedom’

Radical Socialist also appeals to all the Rights groups and democratically-minded citizens to come into the support and solidarity of the agitation being continued by the Jadavpur University students and joined by students all over India.
We also urge the all the college and universities’ teaching, non-teaching and officers' associations to oppose all forms of government control in the campuses and to demand immediate establishment of sexual harassment cells in all educational institutions so that an atmosphere of confidence can prevail among the students and staff both inside and outside the campuses.
Radical Socialist
19 September 2014

Scottish Independence: Yes? No?



Introduction by Radical Socialist




Within the next week, Scotland goes to vote, in a referendum that will decide whether this region will remain a part of the United Kingdom, or whether it will become an independent country. The Yes campaign has been led mainly by the Scottish National Party (SNP), while the main campaigner for the No vote has been the Labour Party. The Conservative and Unionist Party has been extremely weak in Scotland in recent times, and it did not undertake much of a campaign in the North. In England, the campaign was initially not taken too seriously, with the assumption that a defeat of the SNP was a foregone conclusion. Only in the last couple of weeks did it become evident that the battle was going to be a close run thing. Pressure mounted, with finance institutions and government spokespersons making threatening noises, while Labour promised greater devolution if the vote was No. New York Times wrote in an editorial that people from Quebec to Kurdistan are watching the Scottish referendum keenly.


The Left in Britain and internationally are divided. We publish below two articles, one by Terry Conway of Socialist Resistance, and the other a statement by Socialist Democracy.




Why the left should support a yes vote for Scottish independence


On 18 September 2014 one of the most important votes in the history of the British state will take place when people living in Scotland have the opportunity to vote on whether the country should become independent from the rest of Britain. The article below was written by Terry Conway for International Viewpoint on September 4 and is therefore aimed at an international audience.


In the context of the current panic that the strength of the Yes campaign has awakened amongst Unionist politicians in Britain as a whole with Cameron, Clegg and Milliband rushing up to Scotland to preach the gospel of unity – and the creeping realisation that what ever happens politics in Britain will never be the same, we republish it here:


The polls currently suggest that those who wish to maintain the Union will probably win a narrow majority, but the reality is that the result is probably too close to call [1] following two high profile TV debates between the pro-independence Scottish National Party leader (SNP) and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, and pro-union Labour MP and former Cabinet member Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign. [2]


The campaign around the referendum, particularly that organising for a yes vote, has reshaped politics in Scotland. Mass canvasses including on working class housing estates and packed public meetings have been organised not only by the official Yes campaign dominated by the ruling SNP, but by more radical groups such as the Radical Independence Campaign and Women for Independence which have involved huge numbers in every part of Scotland in political discussions – in a context where mass abstention from the political process has been growing across Britain in election after election. Even the Better Together campaign has been forced to emulate these so-called old-fashioned methods, while both sides have used social media to the full as well.


There has been a huge and successful campaign of voter registration. Everyone predicts that the turnout will be much higher than in other elections and the media is forced to concede that the Yes campaign has far more troops on the ground.


Even if the yes campaign is not successful on 18 September there can be no doubt that the dynamic of the campaign and the mass politicisation it has brought about will have an enduring effect and it will certainly not be the end of demands for Scottish independence. On the other hand, if the yes campaign is victorious the left in the rest of Britain will need to ensure that the British state does not act to put further blocks on the right of the people of Scotland to exercise self-determination.


The back story


Scotland has had its own parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh since 1999, following a referendum in 1997 in which 74% of the population of Scotland voted in favour of this step and 64% voted for the parliament to have tax-raising powers. This achievement was itself the result of a vigorous campaign which brought a new generation of activists into politics. While the SNP was an important part of that campaign, it was by no means hegemonic and the process of fighting for the re-establishment of the Parliament was a central part of what led to the formation of the Scottish Socialist Party .


The fact that the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher had used Scotland as a testing ground for the introduction of their hated poll tax [3], introducing it in 1989, a year earlier than in England and Wales, gave the campaign for the Scottish Parliament important impetus. This was also the issue which saw the long term undermining of the electoral support of the Scottish Conservative Party. [4]


Further financial powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament in 2012 in an attempt to undercut the yes campaign in the forthcoming independence referendum. Nevertheless key matters, including all foreign policy and overall economic policy, remain the preserve of the Westminster parliament and this reality is a key impetus for the yes campaign. The appeal of more democracy is very potent in practice – again undercutting those who argue that the reason for growing political disinterestedness is apathy rather than disdain for processes which have become so hollowed out by corruption and centralisation.


During the first two terms of the Holyrood parliament in Edinburgh, the Labour Party in Scotland was in government and the Scottish National Party in opposition. In 2007 the SNP won a majority of seats and formed a minority government. In 2011 the SNP won a landslide victory, taking 69 out of 129 seats and forming a majority government.


When the first election took place for Holyrood, Tony Blair and New Labour were in government in Westminster, implementing neo-liberal policies south of the border with fierce determination as well as going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair was then succeeded as party leader by Gordon Brown who won the 2007 election. In 2010 David Cameron’s Conservative and Unionist Party won the Westminster election.




The SNP victory of 2011 was a key turning point for a number of reasons. The SNP, founded in 1934, did not win its first MP in Westminster until 1967 but of course the Scottish Parliament was always better terrain for it than Westminster. [5]


The SNP is itself a political formation with a contradictory political programme and practice. At one level using the traditional characterisation that it is a petty bourgeois nationalist party is perfectly accurate – the problem is that the description does not actually tell you much of what you need to know.


In policy terms for example, the party has always been in favour of the retention of the British monarch as head of state in an independent Scotland! Not very radical then? Certainly one of the reasons why historically many, especially Labour members in Scotland referred to the SNP as Tartan Tories.


For 30 years the SNP had a policy of opposition to NATO – an important stance which put it to the left of the other mainstream parties in the country – but at its Perth conference in October 2012 it reversed this position. This was a turn to the right too far for two of its MSPs who resigned from the party in disgust.


While the SNP currently remains committed to getting rid of Britain’s nuclear submarine Trident, currently located at Faslane in the west of Scotland, which is why Scottish CND campaigns for a Yes vote, it is clear that this amongst many other things will remain a contested question in practice after September 18.


There is a general consensus in Scotland against the presence of nuclear weapons in the country because they are immoral, they are incredibly expensive and almost useless in terms of protecting against the most significant threats to national security. [6]


On social matters, where Holyrood has devolved power, the situation is often different from that in the rest of Britain. For example the Scottish government under Salmond has decided to end the right of council tenants to buy their homes, a policy brought in by Thatcher, which has seen the significant depletion of council homes available for rent, as well as acting as a key ideological lever against the idea of collective provision of basic social needs. Scottish students do not pay tuition fees if they study in Scotland – a policy introduced by Scottish Labour but strongly backed by the SNP. Similarly the Scottish government did not introduce charges for personal care for the elderly when they were introduced in the rest of Britain. The SNP abolished prescription charges for medicines in 2011.


But despite these positive moves in a world of neo-liberalism, there are deep limitations to the SNPs approach. Ralph Blake explains here why we need to be sharply critical of Salmond’s economic strategy, explaining amongst other things why an independent Scotland needs an independent currency.


The No campaign’s relentless focus on the formal question of whether Scotland needs permission to continue to use the pound sterling has probably backfired on them – with people pointing out that there are many countries that use the currency of another. But there has been less debate – at least south of the border – on what this says about Salmond’s overall economic approach and the extent to which he and his party, let alone their friends and supporters in big business, are interested in a real break with the economic orthodoxy of the market. On this question, as on all the others, what will determine the outcome is the extent to which the radical forces that have grown through the yes campaign can maintain a real pressure on the SNP afterwards.


The electoral system under which elections to the Scottish Parliament take place – a combination of 73 constituency seats where MPS are elected on a first past the post basis plus 56 seats allocated to eight regions elected on the D’Hondt [7] system – was deliberately crafted to prevent the SNP ever gaining a majority. The SNP itself, since as far back as 2002 when it adopted its seminal document, A Constitution for a Free Scotland, has campaigned for full proportional representation .


The key election pledge of the SNP in standing in 2011 was that it would demand a referendum on independence. But exit polls made it clear that many who voted for the SNP last May did not do so on the basis of support for independence. Rather, they saw the SNP as being to the left of the other main parties on offer – the Tories, the Lib Dems and also Scottish Labour.


So part of the battle around the referendum has been to convince those same voters that it is only by voting yes that these gains can be protected. The message of those fighting for a Yes vote to the left of the SNP is of course of a different emphasis – that the best conditions to defend and extend the social gains achieved since 1999 are to vote yes – but also to remain mobilised to ensure that these gains can be protected.


Constitutional crisis?


British Prime Minister David Cameron’s position would be very seriously undermined by a Yes vote. The state that was established by the Act of Union of 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain, would hear its death knell at the hands of a democratic vote by the people of Scotland – though independence itself would not take place until March 2016. The Union flag – generally referred to as the Union Jack – would have its future in doubt with the withdrawal of Scotland’s Saltire. [8]


The whole constitutional situation would be up for grabs. The first past the post voting system by which Members of Parliament are elected to Westminster is an archaic undemocratic model which hardly exists anywhere else on the globe. Campaigning against this should be a higher priority for the left across Britain.


The fact that other voting systems are used to vote for the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly should give some impetus to this. [9]


The New Statesman in February 2014 gave the lie to the argument which, like arguments against proportional representation, are used by some in the Labour Party and trade unions on what can only be seen as a tribal basis – that if Scotland goes independent we are consigned to a Conservative government at Westminster on a permanent basis.


In fact it states “on no occasion since 1945 would independence have changed the identity of the winning party and on only two occasions would it have converted a Labour majority into a hung parliament (1964 and October 1974). Without Scotland, Labour would still have won in 1945 (with a majority of 143, down from 146), in 1966 (75, down from 98), in 1997 (137, down from 179), in 2001 (127, down from 166) and in 2005 (43, down from 66)”.


The fact that the Scottish referendum will be the first time that young people from the age of 16 will be able to vote in Britain must open up a debate about extending the franchise to younger voters in other elections. In a situation where turn out in many elections is low, where the expenses scandal has further undermined confidence in mainstream politicians, this extension of democracy is again something that the left should trumpet.


Over the last several decades we have seen the closing down of democracy in England at the same time as the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Local government across Britain has been gutted of meaning not only by the cuts imposed by both Labour and Tory governments but also by legislation which limits what local authorities can do – for example in terms of deciding to build council housing.


The development of cabinet control of councils which completely marginalises backbench councillors (those who work for a living) has combined with the introduction of populist measures such as directly elected mayors and Police Commissioners.


The left in Britain has had very little discussion about its position on regional government, partly because of the defensive position we have been in during the period that these issues have begun to be discussed, but also because such democratic issues have tended to be way down the list of priorities.


The Scottish referendum has further stimulated discussion on these questions and, if a yes vote were to be achieved, this would be even more the case. But while it is clear that the left needs to campaign for PR (hough this is not uncontentious – there remarkably are still people who defend first part the post) and for reform of the existing tiers of local government to give them real power, the debate about whether regional assembles are something that should be argued for has barely started.


So a Prime Minister in Westminster who presided over this disaster for his class would have some real explaining to do, particularly given the drubbing his party had the European elections at the hands of the right wing anti-European party, UKIP.


The Tories introduction of fixed-term parliaments means that for the first time in British history we know the next General Election will take place in May 2015, which gives Cameron some protection against the prospect of being removed as party leader. However the fact that a prominent Conservative MP has resigned his seat in recent days to fight a parliamentary bye-election as a UKIP candidate means the pressure on him is ratcheting up even before the referendum.


This combines with the fact that an increasing number of Conservative MPs are arguing [10] that if the outcome of the referendum were to be a yes the General Election should be postponed. This would require the repeal of the Fixed–term Parliament Act passed in 2011 which would have to be agreed by by both Houses of Parliament in London – not at all a certain prospect. Their argument is that with independence itself not set to take effect until March 2016 you would otherwise have the situation where MPs for the Westminster Parliament would be elected in 2015 but would continue to hold their seats for 4 years beyond independence. This is of particular concern to Conservatives because few if any of them are likely to hold such seats.


Not romantic


Support for a yes vote does not mean romanticising Scotland or the SNP and its programme. There have been forces in Scotland before and after 1707 that have supported British imperialism. The Scottish ruling class in its majority has rallied support for imperialist wars and the Scottish military has fought under the bloody flag of the union in many conflicts.


In terms of the colonisation of Ireland, settlers from Scotland were central to the organised plantation in the seventeenth century – before the Act of Union between Scotland and England – a historical fact which is not irrelevant in understanding the support the vicious and reactionary Orange order still attracts in parts of Scotland today.


It is perfectly possible to be more than a little critical of all or some of Alex Salmond’s programme and still believe that this campaign is key for socialists.


Indeed while romanticism and uncritical support for Salmond is a stick used to beat supporters of a yes vote by their opponents both in Scotland and England in fact a rather worse romanticism permeates many of their arguments.


In his speech on Scottish independence in Edinburgh in February 2014 [11] , Cameron said he was “a Unionist head, heart and soul”, and acknowledged that the Conservatives were not “currently Scotland’s most influential political movement”.


But he ducked speculating about what a Yes vote would mean for Tories either north or south of the border – never mind for his own leadership of the party. Of course the main reason for that is that by contemplating such a defeat he fears to make it more likely – but the fact that the Westminster media gives him an easier time on the question of Scottish independence than in debating the politics of UKIP is also a factor.


New Labour’s tribalism


And it is not only the Conservative and Unionist Party who know that a victory for the Scottish independence campaign would be a problem for them – the New Labour leadership is central to the “Better Together” campaign. They are all too aware that independence for Scotland would mean more independence from New Labour – in the sense of relying on working class people’s votes even when you put forward policies and act in practice in a way which consistently kicks those very supporters in the teeth.


It is not surprising then that when Darling says that a yes vote is “as bad for the city as the banking crisis” he is roundly attacked – pointing out his own role in that crisis. Gordon Brown, who had previously kept clear of the Better Together campaign needed to pile in with a speech attacking the so-called pensions’ hole that he claims independence will lead to. Brown has not become more media savvy since he left Downing Street but he is not a member of the Edinburgh elite like Darling. New Labour is aware that key to delivering a no vote in the referendum will be convincing working class voters to stick with the Union – a battle they seem increasingly to be losing.


The Better Together campaign is deeply committed to downplaying the role of British imperialism – claiming that Britain has played a positive role in world politics! Whether it is to prettify the role of British (and Scottish) troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or to pretend that the role of neo-colonialism was driven forward by selfless moral imperatives rather than the greed for profit it is all a lie to defend the Union.


There are sections of the left that support a no vote in the referendum – objectively supporting the union though of course they do not say so. They do not argue on the same lines as the New Labour leadership, but they too tend to imply that there are no divisions within the working class and that support for independence would introduce such alien divisions from the outside. The reality is much more complex than that.


Workers across the globe are divided by racism, by sexism, by homophobia. Working people often believe that some politician of a mainstream party will carry through their promises – despite much evidence to the contrary. Unity of the working class is a dynamic not a static concept – it has to be built and fought for – and it has ebbs and flows.


In terms of the precise relationship between Scotland and England, Allan Armstrong in his article for Left Unity explains that different trade unions in Britain and Ireland have different models of organising. For example, there is a Scottish version of the National Union of Teachers, the Educational Institute of Scotland, which organises only in Scotland, while UNITE, Britain’s biggest union, organises across the whole of Britain and Ireland.


Workers in the public sector face different situations in different industries – for example health is a devolved responsibility in both Scotland and Wales (and in the North of Ireland). In the private sector – and indeed in the public sector with privatisation – solidarity action across national boundaries is key to defending jobs and conditions in many situations.


Also central to this discourse, and again little noticed in the rest of Britain, is the shift that the Unionist parties have had to make on the question of devolution for Scotland. When the campaign to create the Scottish Parliament was in full swing the Tories were opposed to any form of devolution and the majority of New Labour in Scotland was extremely mealy mouthed.


But over time they have been forced to concede more. The Scotland Act of 2012 gave Holyrood more revenue raising powers. Unionist politicians of all hues have dangled a new package of devolution [12] in front of the people of Scotland to persuade them there is no need to vote for independence.


This is what David Cameron said when he addressed the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in March 2014:


Let me be absolutely clear: a vote for No is not a vote for ’no change’. We are committed to making devolution work better still, not because we want to give Alex Salmond a consolation prize if Scotland votes No but because it is the right thing to do.


Giving the Scottish Parliament greater responsibility for raising more of the money it spends, that’s what [Scottish party leader] Ruth Davidson believes and I believe it too.” [13]


Davidson has subsequently put more flesh on these bones here;. But as we approach the vote it seems increasingly that such pleas are falling on deaf ears. But a yes vote will awaken expectations amongst the many who make their mark believing that Salmond can be trusted as well as those that do not. That’s one of the reasons why the British elite are throwing so much time and money into campaigning to defend the Union.


And as Ralph Blake argues here, a victory for the yes campaign can open up a dynamic political process in Scotland around a campaign for a constituent assembly – one of the ways in which discussions in Scotland relate to debates in Catalonia. Socialists across the world have nothing to lose and much to gain by aligning ourselves with such a dynamic movement for radical change.


[1] BBC.
[2] Darling is a Labour Member of Parliament at the Westminster Parliament for a Scottish constituency, Edinburgh South West. He has held many positions in the British Cabinet including Chancellor of the Exchequer.
[3] Formally called the Community Charge – an extremely regressive tax imposed on every adult replacing a tax based on the value of property.
[4] Only one Conservative MP was returned to Westminster for a Scottish constituency at the general elections of 2001, 2005 and 2010. In the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Conservatives currently hold 15 of the 129 seats.
[5] Wikipedia entry Scottish National Party.
[6] For more arguments seee here.
[7] For more explanation see here.
[8] The flag of Scotland is known as the Saltire and is currently part of the Union Jack, forming the white diagonal cross on a blue background, see here.
[9] The Welsh Assembly came into being at the same time as the Scottish Parliament but has far fewer powers. Today Plaid Cymru – more radical than its Scottish counterpart – is the majority party in Wales and supports the yes campaign in Scotland.
[10] See here.
[11] New statement.
[12] referred to as devo max
[13] Spectator blog.






Socialist Democracy statement


Scotland: Independence and the Working class


September 2014


On September 18 the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on whether the country should become an independent state.  While the outcome of that vote will have its most immediate effect in Scotland its repercussions will be felt across the whole of Europe.  As the region/nation where the movement for greater autonomy or outright independence from existing European states has advanced most the outcome of the independence referendum in Scotland will provide a significant boost or setback to a broader political trend.  There is no doubt that regional movements within Spain, Italy and Belgium are looking to Scotland to provide a justification for their own projects.  In this regard the independence referendum could potentially alter the structure of states within the European Union.  


For socialists the Scottish independence referendum is important because of its potential to alter the current framework in which the labour movement operates in Britain and across Europe and the consequences this would have for the development of a unified workers movement.  It is also important because it has created a division in the socialist left with many groups coming out in support of independence for Scotland and other regions within Europe.  It has a particular importance for Irish socialists given Scotland’s close proximity to Ireland, the long history of interaction between the two nations,  and the promotion of the Irish state as a model for an independent Scotland.




When it comes to determining a socialist position on the questions of national independence there are a number of principles that should be applied. The first is the democratic principle of the right of self-determination – that nations should be free to determine their own future.  If that right is denied by another state then that nation can be said to be oppressed.  Any struggle for national rights is therefore a struggle against oppression and against imperialism. As socialists we are against all forms of oppression and such struggles, even if they are nationalistic in character, should be supported unconditionally.


The second principle, and the one which is absolute, is the advance of the workers movement and the struggle for socialism. So we are for democracy and against oppression not just because we are democrats or humanitarians but because we believe victories or defeats in these struggles are bound up with the struggle for socialism. We recognise that within struggles against national oppression there is an anti-capitalist dynamic – that the success of such struggles can weaken imperialism and open up the possibilities for the advance of working class politics within both the oppressed and oppressor nations. While this may not always be realised the potential is there.  The question is whether such potential and possibilities exist in regard to Scotland. 




An oppressed nation? 


Very few of the left advocates for Scottish independence base their arguments on the claim that Scotland is oppressed as a nation.  No doubt they are aware of the weakness of such a proposition.  The history of Scotland in the capitalist era, both before and since the establishment of the Union and the modern British state, has not been one of an oppressed nation. Rather, it has been one of relative privilege.  Capitalism had been developing in Scotland prior to the Union to the extent that there had even been an attempt at a colonial project.  It was the failure of this project, and the desire of the Scottish capitalist class to again access to overseas colonies, that spurred the partnership with England.  


Scotland was an equal partner within the British state and the British Empire.  Indeed, given the relative size of Scotland to England, Scots played a disproportionate role in the running of the state and the Empire.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Scotland was one of the most advanced capitalist countries in the world both economically and ideologically.  It was no coincidence that Scottish intellectuals were the pioneers of the European Enlightenment that would inspire the French and American revolutions.  From the inception of the Union to the present day Scots have been an integral part of British state and the British ruling class.  The relationship of Scotland to the British state is qualitatively different to that of Ireland.  In the case of Ireland there was a colonial relationship under which Irish people were denied the right to self determination - Ireland was an oppressed nation.  Moreover, despite the formal ending of colonialism, Ireland continues to be an oppressed nation - it remains a country dominated by imperialism where the right of self determination is denied through the maintenance of partition. 


In contrast, Scotland as a nation has been in a privileged position, and through British imperialism has played a role in the oppression of other nations.  This is not to not to say that that people in Scotland were not oppressed and do not continue to be oppressed .  There is no shortage of oppression in terms of class, race, gender etc.  However no-one is being oppressed because of their Scottish nationality.   While the pro-independence left dismiss the question of national oppression as a distraction or an attempt to set up a straw man argument it actually goes to the heart of issue.  For if Scotland is not an oppressed nation, and the movement for independence is not part of a struggle against oppression, on what basis can independence be advocated by socialists as a mechanism for advancing the interests of the workers?      


A progressive nation?


Probably the main argument of the left supporters of independence is that Scotland as a nation is more progressive than other parts of Britain and that independence will lift a barrier to the country moving in a more radical direction.  This idea is summed up in Radical Independence Campaign’s slogan;  “Britain is for the rich, Scotland can be for all of us”.  


But there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.  Public surveys have shown that in terms of social attitudes and views on government polices the Scots are no more left wing than people in England.  Moreover, during the period of devolution support for reformist policies in Scotland has actually declined.  Such a trend does not suggest that independence will spur a revival of social democracy let alone socialism.   


The traditional dominance of the Labour Party in Scotland has also been cited as evidence as a more progressive viewpoint.  Yet the extent of such dominance has been exaggerated.  For example, in the first half of the 20th century it was the Conservative Party that dominated Scottish politics, to the degree that it remains that only party to achieve a majority of the votes in the country in a general election.  That this is attributed to an “Orange Vote” highlights the sectarian element in Scottish society (an element still visible today) casting more doubt on the “progressive” character of the nation.  Over the last decade the nationalist SNP has supplanted Labour as the governing party in Scotland.  


Scottish nationalism 


The only way the notion of Scotland as a progressive nation can be sustained is by characterising the SNP as left wing and the rise of Scottish nationalism as having a potentially radical dynamic.  However, there is nothing in the SNP’s history, its record in government or its vision of a independent Scotland, that would lend any support to this contention.  The SNP has always been a thoroughly bourgeois party that has based itself on that section of the Scottish capitalist class that sees its interests better served outside of the Union.  It has never had an orientation towards the working class nor adopted a programme that could even be described as radical or populist.  While claiming to be promoting a Scottish version of social democracy its record in government since 2007 has been one of adherence to the capitalist consensus.  On some issues, such as student tuition fees, renewable energy and classroom sizes, it has positioned itself a fraction to the left of Labour, but the main thrust of its programme is conservative.  During the period of economic crisis and austerity it has not hesitated in imposing the cuts demanded by Westminster. Under the SNP, public spending has fallen by 24 per cent in Scotland, with only the variations of the Barnett funding formula that distributes funds to the various regions delaying the 30 percent cut imposed across England and Wales.  The impact of some of the worst elements of welfare reform, such as the bedroom tax, may have been mitigated but this is a thin veneer on an essentially neo-liberal programme.




The neo-liberal orientation of the SNP becomes even clearer when we examine its vision for a independent Scotland.  Its White Paper on Independence identifies the “prize” of independence as the opportunity to create one of the “most competitive and attractive economies in Europe” for investment.  To this end the first priority of an independent Scotland would be to cut corporation tax to a rate 3 per cent below that of Britain.   Here we see the dynamic of a future rivalry between Scotland and Britain as each state attempts to make itself the preferred location for capital.  Of course reducing costs for capital will not just mean lowering taxes - it will also involve lowering labour costs through reducing the wage share of the economy and making working conditions ever more flexible.   Unsurprisingly the White Paper does not highlight this element, but it does point to the mechanism through which it could be achieved.  Described as a“National Convention on Employment and Labour Relations, involving employers and trade unions,”  this is a “social partnership” model in which the state, trade union leadership and employers act in concert to impose the demands of capitalism upon the working class.  The experience of Ireland, where this arrangement has been established for decades, should stand as a warning.  In Ireland, as in Scotland, social partnership was initially put forward as a means to shield workers from the worst of the neo-liberal offensive - but what it actually produced was the imposition of the harshest austerity with the least resistance. Today Irish trade unions have almost ceased to exist as independent organisations of the working class.  Any doubts that such a scenario could unfold in an independent Scotland should be dispelled by the recent assault on trade union organisation at the Grangemouth oil refinery and the role played by the SNP and the leadership of UNITE.


The SNP has also committed itself to the institutional bulwarks of neo-liberal orthodoxy in the form of the Bank of England and the European Union.  By far the biggest portion of the mainstream debate on independence has centred on the determination of the SNP to retain sterling as Scotland’s currency.  But this has only raised the question of what scope there would be for an alternative economic strategy in a state that doesn’t even control its own monetary policy. The Bank of England’s record in bailing out financial institutions and pursuing polices, such as quantitative easing and ultra low interest rates, that have served to depress workers living standards, can only serve to reinforce these doubts.  


A second pillar of neo-liberalism in an independent Scotland would be the European Union.  The SNP’s draft constitution states clearly that Scotland would be subordinated to the rules and regulations of the EU, going so far to declare that Scottish laws that conflict with those of the EU will be deemed invalid.  While this is put in terms of adherence to human rights legislation in practice it would set the framework for whole of government policy - imposing limits on spending and deficits and opening up every area of society to market forces.  That the EU is a vehicle for neo-liberalism has been shown clearly in the harsh austerity measures that have accompanied the financial “bailouts” of states such as Ireland and Greece. 




And it is not just in the area of economic policy that the SNP has willingly accepted severe limitations.  It has also made a number of political commitments that would bind an independent Scotland closely to imperialism.  Scotland would part of the EU’s military structures and adhere to the Union’s common defence and foreign policy.  It would also remain a member of NATO - supporting the organisation’s political objectives and contributing to its military capacity.  This would involve hosting NATO facilities within its national territory. While the SNP has said this would not include nuclear armed submarines it has also made clear that there would no objection to the transit of such weapons in Scottish waters.  In response to claims that Scottish independence could weaken NATO the SNP has forcefully asserted that is not the case and that Scotland will remain a firm ally of US led imperialism. 


Left supporters of independence have cited the potential weakening of British imperialism as a justification for their stance.  Yet much of this is speculative and also ignores the fact that a weakening of the British state does not mean a weakening of imperialism in general.  A more convincing argument is that the relative decline of British imperialism, and its diminished political and economic weight in the world, has spurred a section of the Scottish capitalist class to seek a closer and more direct alignment with the EU and the US.  In this schema Scottish nationalism is a vehicle that is more likely to strengthen the hold of imperialism on Scotland rather than weaken it. 


The alignment of Scottish nationalism to imperialism is consistent with its character as a movement that is seeking privileges rather than liberation.  In this it is similar to the regional/national movements that have gained support within Europe during the recent period of capitalist crisis.  Based in regions that are relatively advanced in terms of industry or natural resources the core message of this type of nationalism is that the people of these regions can do better on their own.  This is often accompanied by claims that they are subsidising poorer parts of the state.  In Scotland much of the nationalist argument centres on claims that “Scottish” oil revenues are going to London.  Such arguments are thoroughly reactionary even by the standards of capitalism.  Historically, the capitalist state has sought to reduce regional disparities, all be it in a very limited way, through financial transfers and national public services.  In Britain this is represented in such things as the Barnett funding formula, the welfare state and the NHS.  A consequence of Scottish independence would be to bring these mechanisms for smoothing out regional disparities to an end and deepen regional inequalities even further.  Scottish independence could also act a spur for further regional antagonisms as disputes arise over how assets and liabilities should be divided.  


One the worst indictments of the privilege seeking nature of Scottish nationalism is the SNP’s plan to retain the British monarchy - the historic institution and ideology that justifies all the other inequalities.  This is not just a question of symbolism - the existence of the monarchy and the unlimited powers of the “royal prerogative” would put severe restraints on democratic rights in an independent Scotland.  It makes a mockery of the claim in the draft constitution that sovereignty resides in the Scottish people.    


The working class 


If the Union created the political framework for the development of capitalism in Britain it also provided the framework for the development of the working class.  As the first, and for most of its history, the world’s leading industrialised nation, Britain has the oldest working class in the world.  Its labour traditions in terms of organisations and politics stretch back over 200 years.  British working class history has witnessed epic struggles such as the Chartist movement, the 1926 general strike and the trade union militancy of the 1970’s.  The working class has played a key role in every social and democratic advance that has taken place in the country.  While they may be reformist in nature, the trade unions and Labour party are a reflection of unity of the working class.  At various times the political consciousness of Scottish workers may have been in advance or lagged behind that of their English counterparts but their struggles have never been uniquely Scottish.  


What has given rise to nationalism, and its advance into a sections of the Scottish working class, has been the defeats suffered by the labour movement and the collapse of social democracy in the recent period.  That Scottish nationalism has risen on the back of defeats for labour is another indication of its essentially conservative character.


The left


This working class retreat is also reflected in the changing position of the various left groups on Scottish independence.  Thirty years they would have completely dismissed it but now most of them are in full support despite offering no convincing expatiation for their turnabout.  The foremost example of the pro-independence left is the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) - an early adapter to Scottish nationalism and now an affiliate of the official yes campaign.  In the early part of the century it was promoted as the model of the new left party.  Like all these parties it was distinguished by an attempt to bypass the difficulties posed by the retreat of the working class and the collapse of traditional leaderships, seeking instead to identify a radical short-cut to socialism.  In the case of the SSP this short cut was Scottish nationalism.   However, this proved to be a fatal weakness when it completely collapsed into nationalism and what support it had won was hoovered up by the SNP.  In reality the short-cut to socialism turned out to be a short cut to nationalism.  That most of the left groups should continue to support nationalism even after the disastrous experience of the SSP demonstrates the degree to which they have lost faith in the revolutionary potential of the working class.  For most left groups in the YES campaign the effect of their activity is to provide a left cover for the reactionary politics of the SNP.


Socialism and independence


Despite the reversals the working class has suffered in the recent period and the current low level of political consciousness it remains the only class that can bring about revolutionary change in society.  The idea that this can be achieved through a form of nationalism divorced from any struggle against national oppression, particularly of the type represented by the likes of the SNP, is a dangerous illusion.  In Britain a division of the working class along national lines would be a huge step backwards for the workers movement, even from the weakened state it is currently in.  For though class struggle is at a very low level, those struggles that have taken place, including in Scotland, have arisen out of Britain wide disputes.  The creation of an independent Scotland would break that unity and make the task of advancing the workers movement more difficult.


As socialists we support the right of Scotland to self determination, but we reject the idea that Scottish nationalism represents a way of advancing the interests of the working class.  Scotland is not an oppressed nation and the movement for independence is in no way part of a struggle against oppression.  There is no basis for socialists to be advocates of Scottish independence.  All the arguments for independence are in essence nationalist and pro capitalist whatever the left gloss than is placed on them. 


Our opposition to independence is not support for the status quo but for the unity of the working class in Britain and across Europe.  We do not believe for a moment that the current structures of Europe can be used to advance the interests of workers. We do believe that the way forward is through struggling against those structures and counterpoising a united socialist states of Europe. The workers movement would be weakened by a process where regional capitalist classes try to corner local resources and win the workers to a reactionary and divisive nationalism - a process that would inevitably receive a boost from a Yes vote in Scotland.  


The task for socialists in all countries, whether that be Scotland, Britain or Ireland, is indeed independence - not of nations or of regions but of the working class. Where national oppression continues we support self-determination both on its own terms and on the grounds that, in its absence, there cannot be genuine unity of the working class in the oppressed and oppressor nations.  This class independence, in terms of politics and organisation, is the very foundation of the struggle for socialism.  It is because Scottish nationalism and the call for independence throw up yet more barriers to this unity that we urge workers in Scotland to register a resounding No vote in the upcoming referendum.