Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Statement on India’s Revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s Autonomous Status by the Indian Government


 Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists

As the Indian government resorts to annexation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir at gunpoint, detaining its political leaders and cutting off all means of communication, we extend our solidarity to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as they struggle for their most basic rights and freedoms.

The people of Kashmir were never given the option of having their own state. Since 1947, their land has been fought over by India and Pakistan and divided between the two. At Independence in August 1947, Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh, and was given the choice to join either India or Pakistan. Since J&K was a Muslim-majority state, many expected it to join Pakistan. On the other hand, the party leading the independence struggle, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, was secular and allied to the Indian National Congress.

As the Maharaja dithered over the decision, there was a Pakistan-backed invasion of tribesmen from the west in October 1947, and Hari Singh appealed to India to help fight them. India agreed on condition that J&K accede to India, and the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession which on the Indian side was conditional on approval by the people of the state. As fighting continued, the UN Security Council passed a resolution requiring Pakistan to withdraw its forces, India to withdraw most of its forces, and a plebiscite to be held to decide whether Kashmir should join India or Pakistan. However, neither side withdrew their forces, the plebiscite was never held, and the state has remained divided to this day.

In 1952, on the Indian side, Article 370, which specified the conditions on which the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) had acceded to India, was incorporated into the Constitution of India on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1954, Article 35A was added with the agreement of the J&K Constituent Assembly. Since the Constituent Assembly dissolved itself on 25 January 1957 without recommending revocation of Article 370, it has been deemed to be permanent by the Supreme Court of India.

On 5 August 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of India revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which had given the state of J&K a considerable degree of autonomy, including having its own constitution and its own flag.

The Constitution of India does allow Article 370 to be revoked, but only with the prior approval of the Kashmiri people’s elected representatives in J&K’s constituent assembly. Even the approval of J&K’s legislative assembly was not sought because it had been dissolved in November 2018 by the BJP-appointed governor. On August 5, he fraudulently provided consent on behalf of millions of Kashmiris as they were held in captivity in their homes at gunpoint, while elected political leaders, even those who have been in coalitions with the BJP, were detained and all means of communication, including cellphones, landlines and the internet, were cut off.

The Revocation of Article 370 also involved the scrapping of Article 35A of the Indian constitution, which, crucially, reserved the right to own land and immoveable property, as well as the right to vote and contest elections, to seek government employment and obtain state welfare benefits, to permanent residents of the state. Now, J&K has been carved up into two Union Territories ruled directly from Delhi, a move designed to further humiliate the already subjugated population.

This revocation by the Indian government is the most impressive feat yet achieved in the BJP’s steady demolition of India’s democracy over the past five years. The central government’s unilateral abrogation of the terms on which Kashmir acceded to India means that the state is no longer legally linked to India, and India becomes a foreign occupying power. Previous governments have been guilty of grievous violations of Article 370 as well as human rights violations in Kashmir, but this is the first time that the Indian military occupation of Kashmir has no legal basis whatsoever.

The excuses provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for making this move – to end separatist violence and develop J&K to the level of the rest of India – make no sense. Separatist violence will not be ended by enraging even those Kashmiris who previously wanted to be part of India by demolishing their democratic rights. The economic arguments the Indian government gives are bogus too.

Far from lagging behind the rest of India, Kashmir is ahead of many states in India, including Modi’s and BJP president and government minister, Amit Shah’s home state of Gujarat. Kashmir has much lower infant and under-five mortality rates, lower percentages of underweight children and women, higher percentages of fully immunised children and girls aged 15-19 with at least 8 years of schooling, and higher life expectancy despite the ongoing conflict. Most strikingly, the poverty ratio in Kashmir is much lower than the national average. This is in large part due to Kashmir’s own constitution, under which extensive land reforms were undertaken in the 1950s, drastically reducing the landlessness and rural poverty which haunt the rest of India. Kashmir’s special status has been responsible for this reduction in poverty, both by allowing for the land reforms and by preventing non-Kashmiris from acquiring land in Kashmir.

This brings us to the real reasons, political, economic and ideological, why this drastic move has been made by India: it opens the door to a land-grab by settlers from the rest of India, which will also make it possible to change the demography of J&K. Muslim-majority Kashmir has always been a thorn in the flesh of Hindu supremacists, who in 1948 had killed and expelled hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jammu. The abrogation of Article 370 allows them to ‘integrate’ J&K into India by changing its ethnic composition. In other words, the intention is to turn Kashmir into a settler-colony like Palestine. It is not a coincidence that India, which from Independence had been a strong supporter of the Palestinian liberation struggle, has under Modi – the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel and literally embrace Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – become a staunch ally of Israel.

At the same time, Pakistan-backed Islamic fundamentalists (both armed and unarmed) who call for uniting Kashmir with Pakistan offer an ‘alternative’ that would be disastrous for women, religious minorities, and the secular majority. They have acted in tandem with the Hindu supremacists to silence progressive voices and undermine democracy in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the war hysteria whipped up by Hindu supremacists in India and Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan serves to divert attention from the abysmal failure of both these states to satisfy even the most basic needs of their people, and can lead to an escalation of the armed conflict between them. Russia backs India, China backs Pakistan, and the US calls on India and Pakistan to remain calm, while Trump’s overt racism and anti-Muslim bigotry serves to encourage the same attitudes in India.

At this moment of unprecedented trauma and repression, we, the Alliance of Middle Eastern and North African Socialists, express our whole-hearted solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir and reaffirm their fundamental right to determine their own future in their own land. At a time when support for Jammu & Kashmir’s freedom is treated as treason in both India and Pakistan, we would especially like to extend our solidarity to socialists and progressives there and their counterparts in India and Pakistan.

August 12, 2019

Alliance of Middle East Socialists

সংবিধানের ৩৭০ ও ৩৫এ ধারা বাতিল প্রসঙ্গে র‍্যাডিক্যাল সোশ্যালিস্টের অবস্থান


র‍্যাডিক্যাল সোশ্যালিস্ট দ্ব্যর্থহীন কণ্ঠে ও দৃঢ়তার সঙ্গে সংবিধানের ৩৭০ ধারার মূল লক্ষ্য ও উদ্দেশ্য কার্যত বাতিল করা এবং ৩৫এ ধারা রদ করার বিরোধিতা করে নিন্দা জানাচ্ছে। একটি অগণতান্ত্রিক ও অসাংবিধানিক আইনি মারপ্যাঁচের মাধ্যমে এবং একইসাথে কাশ্মীরের মানুষকে উদ্দেশ্যপ্রণোদিতভাবে সশস্ত্র ভীতিপ্রদর্শনের মাধ্যমে এই কাজটি করা হয়েছে। যা ঘটেছে তাকে বলা চলে অসৎ, এবং সংবিধানের উক্ত ধারাগুলির মূল লক্ষ্য এবং উদ্দেশ্যগুলির প্রতি প্রতারণা ও জালিয়াতি ।

৩৭০ ধারা বাতিল করার একমাত্র উপায় হল জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের সংবিধান সভার পুনর্গঠন এবং সেখানে এই প্রস্তাব নেওয়া। কারণ এই প্রতিষ্ঠানটি ১৯৫৭ সালে ভেঙ্গে দেওয়া হয়। কোনরকম সাংবিধানিক সংশোধন ছাড়া অবৈধভাবে একটি রাষ্ট্রপতির আদেশ জারি করে সংবিধানের ৩৬৭ ধারা বদল করে এর মাধ্যমে নির্লজ্জভাবে জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের বিধানসভার ক্ষমতা ঐ সংবিধান-সভার সমতুল্য বলে দেখানো হয়। এই শেষোক্ত প্রতিষ্ঠান অনেক বেশি সার্বভৌমিক ক্ষমতার অধিকারী। যেহেতু জম্মু-কাশ্মীরে এখন রাষ্ট্রপতির শাসন চলছে সেহেতু রাজ্যপালের সুপারিশের ভিত্তিতে রাষ্ট্রপতি সংবিধানের ৩৭০ ও ৩৫এ ধারার বিলোপ ঘটায়। তাছাড়া স্বাধীন ভারতে এই প্রথম সংসদের দুই কক্ষে একটি রাজ্য পুনর্গঠন বিল পেশ করা ও গৃহীত হয় যার মাধ্যমে একটি রাজ্যের মর্যাদা হ্রাস করে তা অবলুপ্তি ঘটিয়ে দুটি কেন্দ্র-শাসিত অঞ্চলে ভেঙ্গে দেওয়া হয়। এই কেন্দ্র-শাসিত অঞ্চলগুলির একটির – জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের - পন্ডিচেরি ও দিল্লির মতো আইনসভা থাকবে আর লাদাখ দেশের আরও পাঁচটি কেন্দ্র-শাসিত অঞ্চলের মতো এই অধিকার ভোগ করবে না। চাপের মুখে নতিস্বীকার করে বিরোধী দলগুলি বিজেপির পক্ষ না নিলে এই রাজ্য পুনর্গঠন বিল পাশ করানো যেত না।

কংগ্রেস দল (যে দল ঐতিহাসিকভাবে জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের স্বশাসনের ধারাবাহিক অবনতি ঘটিয়েছে) সরকারিভাবে বর্তমান সরকারের এই পদক্ষেপের বিরোধিতা করছে। যদিও অভিষেক সিংহভি এবং জ্যোতিরাদিত্য সিন্ধিয়ার মতো কোন কোন কংগ্রেসের নেতা এই কাজের বিরোধিতা করেন নি, শুধুমাত্র পদ্ধতির সমালোচনা করেছেন। একমাত্র বামপন্থীরাই এর বিরোধিতায় রাস্তায় নেমেছে এবং সারা ভারতে প্রতিবাদ করেছে।

আমদের কোন দ্বিধা থাকা উচিত নয় যে বিজেপি সরকার ও সঙ্ঘ পরিবারের এই নির্লজ্জ রাজনৈতিক ও সামরিক দখলদারির মূল কারণ হল ক) প্রথমত মুসলমানের প্রতি ঘৃণা, এবং যেখানে জম্মু-কাশ্মীর কার্যত দেশের একমাত্র মুসলমান প্রধান রাজ্য ছিল। খ) দ্বিতীয়ত উপত্যকার মানুষের ওপর আরও বেশি আঘাত নামানো। সেই কারণেই ৬,৫০,০০০ ফৌজির উপস্থিতি সত্ত্বেও আরও ৩৫,০০০ সৈন্য পাঠানো হয়। কাশ্মীরের রাজনৈতিক নেতাদের গৃহবন্দী করে রাখা হয়, কারফিউ জারি করা হয় এবং উপত্যকার সমস্ত যোগাযোগ ব্যবস্থা ছিন্ন করে দেওয়া হয়। গ) তৃতীয়ত হিন্দু রাষ্ট্র নির্মাণের পথে এটি একটি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ পদক্ষেপ। ঘ) চতুর্থত এর মাধ্যমে পাকিস্তান, মার্কিন যুক্তরাষ্ট্র ও অন্যান্যদের রাজনৈতিক বার্তা পাঠানো যে পাকিস্তানের সাথে দ্বিপাক্ষিকভাবে মীমাংসা করার মতো কোন "আঞ্চলিক দ্বন্দ্ব" নেই। রাষ্ট্রপুঞ্জ বা আন্তর্জাতিক স্তরে মীমাংসার কোন প্রশ্নই ওঠে না। কোনরকমের মানবিক বিবেচনার বিষয় নেই এখানে।

অদূর ও সুদূর ভবিষ্যতে কী হতে পারে


  • বিষটি সুপ্রীম কোর্টে যাবে এবং একটি সাংবিধানিক বেঞ্চ গঠন করা হবে। এই মুহুর্তে সুপ্রীম কোর্ট শাসকের ইচ্ছা ও ক্ষমতার যে পরিমাণ অধস্তন তাতে এই বেঞ্চ এই বিষয়ে চূড়ান্ত রায়প্রদানের আগে স্থগিতাদেশ জারি করে সাময়িকভাবে একে রদ করার কোন সাহস বা সততা প্রদর্শন করতে পারবে কিনা সন্দেহ আছে। এই ধারাগুলি সম্পর্কিত নির্দিষ্ট সাংবিধানিক বিধান নিয়ে তারা কতটা সৎ ও বিশ্বস্ত থাকতে পারবে একথা বলা দুষ্কর। সর্বসম্মতিতে না হলেও এই বেঞ্চ যে সম্ভবত সংখ্যাগরিষ্ঠের মতামতের ভিত্তিতে ৩৭০ ও ৩৫এ ধারার বাতিলের ওপর আইনী সীলমোহর দেবে সেই সম্ভাবনা প্রবল। রাজ্যের -- জম্মু-কাশ্মীর এবং লাদাখের মর্যাদা হ্রাসের বিপক্ষে আদালত রায় দিতে পারে, যদিও তা নিয়ে সন্দেহ আছে।
  • আগামী নির্বাচনের দিকে তাকিয়ে জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের নির্বাচনের আগে একটি আসন পুনর্গঠন কমিশন গঠন করে বিধানসভা ও লোকসভা কেন্দ্রগুলির পুনর্বিন্যাস করা হবে। চেষ্টা করা হবে জম্মু অঞ্চলে যত বেশি সম্ভব আসন রাখা যায় যাতে বিজেপি ও তার সঙ্গীরা সহজে সংখ্যাগরিষ্ঠতা পেতে পারে।
  • জম্মু-কাশ্মীরের এবং বিশেষ করে উপত্যকার জন অনুপাত বদলে দেওয়ার পদ্ধতি শুরু করার জন্য ৩৫এ ধারার বিলোপ জরুরী ছিল। চেষ্টা চলবে যাতে উপত্যকায় মুসলমানদের সংখ্যালঘু করা যায়।
  • কাশ্মীর উপত্যকায় এর বিরুদ্ধে মানুষ, বিশেষ করে যুবসমাজ, ক্ষোভ-বিক্ষোভে ফেটে পড়বে। তারা আরও বেশি করে ভারতের থেকে দূরে সরে যাবে। আরও বেশি করে জঙ্গি তৈরি হবে এবং তাদের প্রতি সাধারণ মানুষের সমর্থন আরও বাড়বে। সীমান্তের দুই পারের জঙ্গিদের সহযোগিতা বেড়ে যাবে এবং পাকিস্তান সরকার তাতে মদত যোগাবে। এই ধরণের পরিস্থিতি এবং এমন কি মানুষের অহিংস আন্দোলনকে কাজে লাগিয়ে ভারত সরকার ও সেনাবাহিনী আরও বেশি নৃশংসতা ও দমন-নিপীড়ন নামিয়ে আনবে মানুষের ওপর। ‘সন্ত্রাসবাদ’ দমনের নয়া সংশোধিত আইন এবং ‘বেআইনি কার্যকলাপ দমন আইন ২০১৯’ বা ইউএপিএ প্রয়োগের মাধ্যমে নির্বিচারে এবং সন্দেহের বশে যে কোন ব্যক্তিকে আটক, হয়রানি এবং নির্যাতন করা হবে।
  • এই অঞ্চলের উন্নয়ন কতটা আটকে ছিল এবং তা কীভাবে শুরু করা যায় – এই আলোচনার পেছনে রয়েছে সঙ্ঘ পরিবারের মূল লক্ষ্য উপত্যকার আরও বেশি ‘ভারতভুক্তির’ মাধ্যমে ওখানকার সমস্ত প্রতিরোধ পাশবিক শক্তি ও সামরিক দখলদারির মাধ্যমে গুঁড়িয়ে দেওয়া
  • পাকিস্তানের সঙ্গে সীমান্ত সঙ্ঘর্ষের সম্ভাবনা ব্যাপক বৃদ্ধি পাবে। এগুলি কোন কোন মাত্রায় প্রথাগত যুদ্ধের রূপ নিতে পারে। এর ফলে ভুলবশত বা অনিচ্ছাকৃত পারমাণবিক অস্ত্র ব্যবহারের সম্ভাবনা উড়িয়ে দেওয়া যায় না।
  • বর্তমান সরকারের এই পদক্ষেপের বিরোধিতার পরিবর্তে দেশজোড়া বিপুল সমর্থন প্রমাণ করে যে উদ্ধত, আক্রমণাত্মক পেশী-প্রদর্শনকারী হিন্দুত্বের বিষদাঁত আজ সমাজের কত গভীরে প্রবেশ করেছে এবং তা কি পরিমাণে ব্যপ্ত। কোন বিরোধী দল এমন কি মূলধারার সংসদীয় বাম দলগুলিও ধারাবাহিকভাবে এবং গুরুত্বের সাথে এই ‘শক্তিশালী’ ভারতবর্ষ নির্মাণের সাম্প্রদায়িক ও অগণতান্ত্রিক পদ্ধতির বিরোধিতা করে নি। এই আধিপত্যবাদী ভাবনার মোকাবিলা করতে এক দীর্ঘকালীন লড়াইয়ের মাধ্যমে যার জন্য প্রয়োজন এক নতুন আপসহীন বামপন্থা।

আমাদের সতর্ক করার কারণ এই যে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রীয় কাঠামো ও রাষ্ট্রের ক্ষমতার ক্ষয় আসলে হিন্দুত্ব প্রকল্পেরই একটি অংশ। যে আঞ্চলিক দলগুলি কেন্দ্রের বিজেপির সাথে অঘোষিত, অবাঞ্ছনীয় আপোষের মাধ্যমে নিজেদের শক্তি বৃদ্ধির আশা করছে, বাস্তবে তারা আসলে আরো বড় বিপদের সম্ভাবনা বহন করছে।

হিন্দুত্ব প্রকল্পের বিপদের কথা মাথায় রেখে যারা এর বিরোধিতা করছেন, সেইসব প্রগতিশীল মানুষের আছে আমাদের আহ্বান, আপনারা সকলে কাশ্মীরের মানুষের পাশে দাঁড়িয়ে সহমর্মিতা পোষণ করুন। কাশ্মীরীদের প্রতি ন্যায়বিচার ও সম্মান তাদের স্বাধীন চলাফেরা ও দ্রুত অসামরিকীকরণ দাবি করে। ইচ্ছানুসারে গণতান্ত্রিক পদ্ধতিতে ন্যায়সঙ্গত ক্ষোভের প্রকাশ ও সংগঠিত প্রতিবাদ তাদের অধিকার।

আমরা এই বেড়ে ওঠা প্রান্তিকীকরণ, জাতিগত বর্ণবৈষম্যবাদ, সামরিক জাতীয়তাবাদের তীব্র প্রতিবাদ করছি । আমরা দৃঢ়ভাবে মনে করি কাশ্মীরের নিপীড়িত মানুষের রাজনৈতিক আত্মনিয়ন্ত্রণের সম্পুর্ণ অধিকার আছে।



Radical Socialist stand on the Scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A

Radical Socialist resolutely and unequivocally oppose and condemn the effective abrogation of the fundamental meaning and purpose of Article 370 and the overturning of Article 35A. This was carried out through anti-democratic, unconstitutional legal manoeuvrings and accompanied by the deliberate armed intimidation of the people of Kashmir. What has taken place is dishonest and a fraud on both the letter and spirit of the relevant Constitutional provisions.

Abrogation of Article 370 could only have been done with the assent of a reconstituted J&K Constituent Assembly which was dissolved in 1957. So first a Presidential Order impermissibly (without a Constitutional amendment) changes Article 367 so as to shamefully equate the J&K state assembly which has representative authority to the Constituent Assembly which has a superior sovereign authority. Since there is President’s Rule in J&K, on the recommendation of the Governor, the President then acts to scrap Articles 370 and 35A. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of independent India, a Reorganisation Bill was presented and passed in the two houses of Parliament to downgrade a region having the status of a state into two bifurcated Union Territories of J&K, which like New Delhi and Puducherry will be allowed to have a legislature, while Ladakh will join the five other Union Territories that have no legislature. This Reorganisation Bill at least would not have gone through if it was not for the pusillanimity of the opposition parties which went along with the BJP.

The Congress (most responsible historically for systematically eroding J&K autonomy) formally opposed these actions by the current government but with some of its leaders (e.g., Abishek Singhvi and Jyotirmoy Scindia) and members voicing objection to the manner in which this was done but not to the outcome. Only the mainstream left parties immediately organised street protests and called for an all-India day of protest.

Let us be very clear, the main motivation for this sanctioning of a brazen political and military occupation by the BJP government and Sangh is a) first, hatred of Muslims and the fact that this was the only Muslim majority state in the country. b) Second, it expresses the determination to humiliate the Valley population hence the prior sending of 35,000 more troops beyond the more than 650,000 armed personnel already there, along with house arrests of leaders of the mainstream Kashmiri parties, curfew orders and a complete communications lockdown on the whole of the Valley population. c) Third, it is to further advance the project of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. d) Fourth, it is a way of sending a geo-political message to Pakistan, the US and the rest of the world that there is no longer any ‘regional dispute’ that must be settled bilaterally with Pakistan, let alone that it should feature in any way on the UN or international agenda, humanitarian considerations be damned!

What now to expect in the shorter and longer run

  • The issue will be taken to the Supreme Court (SC) and a Constitution bench will be set up. This bench, given how suborned the SC has now become to the will and power of the Executive, will never have the courage or integrity to even give a stay order temporarily halting and reversing what has been done till a final judgement is reached, let alone be honest and faithful to the precise constitutional provisions regarding these Articles. This bench can be fully expected to endorse by a majority, if not by consensus, the abrogation of 370 and 35A. It is possible, but still unlikely, that there will even be a ruling against the downgrading of status from state to Union Territory in either or both of the cases. 
  • A Delimitation Commission is very likely to be set up probably before forthcoming elections to the J&K legislature to gerrymander more assembly and LS seats for the Jammu region so as to enable a majority for the BJP and allies via future elections.
  • Scrapping of 35A was necessary to begin the process of changing the demography of J&K, including of the Valley, so as to eventually render Muslims living there a minority.
  • In the Valley there will be growing anger and deeper and wider public alienation from the rest of India especially among the youth. There will very likely be greater recruitment and support for, as well as collaboration with, cross-border insurgent forces themselves abetted by the Pakistan government. This, and even non-violent mass actions will be taken as an excuse by the Indian government and armed forces for the exercise of greater brutality and repression including use of the newly amended legislations on ‘terrorism’ and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA to arbitrarily and pre-emptively arrest, harass and even torture those deemed as ‘suspects’.
  • For all the talk about how development in the region was stalled and can now proceed, in actual fact the Sangh’s Hindutva project in the Valley is to ‘integrate’ it by trying to completely finish off all popular resistance through brutal force and enduring military occupation.
  • The likelihood of cross-border military skirmishes with Pakistan rises significantly as also the possibility of these turning into a conventional war of some scale and degree thereby also raising the chances of a miscalculated or inadvertent nuclear exchange breaking out.
  • The fact that this move by the current government will generate throughout the rest of the country far more public support than opposition, reflects how deep and widespread are the tentacles today of a hubristic, aggressively muscular Hindu nationalism. None of the opposition parties, including the mainstream electoral Left, have consistently or seriously opposed this anti-secular and anti-democratic way of trying to build a ‘strong’ India. This way of thinking has become largely hegemonic and requires a long term fight by a new intransigent Left.
Our Position

We warn that the erosion of federalism and state powers more generally, is very much part of the Hindutva project and carries a danger even for those regional forces who think they can grow and expand through their despicable alliances and tacit agreements with the BJP at the Centre.

We call on all progressive-minded people who recognise the Hindutva project for what it is and oppose it, to stand in solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Justice and respect for Kashmiris demands the immediate de-militarisation of the Valley and the complete freedom for them to move around, to voice their legitimate anger at how they have been treated and to democratically protest in whatever way they see fit.   

We strongly oppose the kind of exclusivist, culturally racist and militaristic nationalism that is being generated and of course reaffirm the right to full political self-determination by the oppressed people of Kashmir. 




There is no Caste discrimination in West Bengal?

By Maroona Murmu


Note by Administrator:  Dr. Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor of History, Jadavpur University, wrote an article in Bangla in Ananda Bazar Patrika, which has generated a huge debate on social media. She has been supported, as well as condemned. Condemnation and criticism has come from dominant caste Hindus claiming as usual that casteism happens only due to reservations, but also from adivasis taking a kind of adivasi purist stance. Dr. Murmu has issued the following translation on Facebook with a short preface. We are reproducing the entire thing with her permission because the article, and the subsequent debate, raises important questions about how radical politics needs to be configured in West Bengal. -- Admin, Radical Socialist


Some of you who are not acquainted with Bengali might think why my wall is flooded with my saree-clad photo. Recently I wrote a post-editorial in a popular newspaper, Anandabazar Patrika. It created a hue and cry because I have written on the prevalence of caste discrimination in West Bengal which is otherwise considered to be progressive and liberal. If you are interested in knowing the cause of tirade against me, here is a translation of the piece.
I am grateful to my friend Anirban who helped me translate a draft version of the paper earlier. This translation is mostly mine.

There is no caste discrimination in West Bengal?
Exactly like the Santhals

Recently, there was an uproar concerning caste-based abuse on the head of the Geography Department of Rabindra Bharati University, Dr. Saraswati Kerketta. She was physically and emotionally harassed citing her caste, skin tone, birthplace and gender. The incident took a political hue. As if this has never happened in West Bengal before. Due to pervasive dominance of the upper castes over political, social, economic and cultural domains, political or academic discourses dismiss caste-based dominance as an illogical and irrelevant analytical category. Ironically enough, the very fact that such dismissive generalization goes unchallenged shows up how strong or pervasive the caste system has been in practice. I am forced, as a member of the Santhal community, to expose this skillfully devised myth that caste does not exist in West Bengal.
Sometime ago, an adivasi professor of a university in Kolkata informed me about slow and steady everyday practices of social discrimination she faced from her childhood. Every time her family members carried harvested paddy over to the upper caste households, the yard would be cleansed with a paste made of cow dung and water to remove pollution caused by the entry of lower caste individuals within an upper caste household. As a standard five student, a Brahman batchmate once ordered her to touch her feet as part of her body accidentally came in contact with that of the Brahman classmate. She complained against the discriminatory practice of adivasi students being singled out for cleaning the restrooms of the residential school where she studied. The authorities retorted: How can a poor adivasi girl dare to challenge their style of operation?
How true! How audacious of an adivasi girl to even think of having the right to feel humiliated, insulted or possess a sense of honour and dignity. They are reserved for the upper castes since time immemorial and for all times to come. According to the convention, adivasi are allowed to enrol after general candidates and assigned the last roll numbers. An upper caste classmate informed her how, she, despite being a member of the upper caste, befriended a student belonging to the last few roll numbers and shared the same table at lunch, marvelling at her own generosity and progressiveness. What an accomplishment!

Later, in the college hostel, she once hurriedly turned off the faucet seeing her classmate’s water bucket overflowing. Her classmate overturned the bucket filled with water. In government propaganda, water is life. It becomes an issue of great concern if that precious life is defiled by an untouchable. The mother of her roommate in the accommodation where she previously lived nonchalantly addressed her: Hey, Santhal girl. Obviously, Santhals do not possess an identity of their own. When she applied for her passport, the same roommate asked with profound amazement – “Even you would be going abroad?”
She ‘suffered’ from a unique disqualification of possessing fair complexion. Seeing such a strange adivasi, the bhadralok observers would patronisingly greet her with a grin – “Oh! You look like us!”. She retorts – “You don’t even have the ability to understand how insulting your praise is to me”. When she was appointed as Assistant Professor in a university, the head of her Department informed her that the students did not wish to study grammar and dense theoretical papers with her. O yes, these subjects are the ancestral professional preserve of the educated elites of our society.
Going back to the past – my mother Shelley is probably the first Hindu Bengali woman in West Bengal to fall in love with an adivasi batchmate in the university and marry him subsequently. Neither the adivasi community, nor the Bengali Hindu society was willing to recognise this marriage socially. So, in my forlorn childhood, the feeling of insecurity was my sole companion. This was compounded by my existential crisis. I was made to understand early in my childhood that I was only a ‘marginal other’. The Hindu Bengali bhadralok society did neither grant me the right nor the permission to live just as a ‘human being’, an unmarked individual.

Those who believe that identity-based mobilisation makes room for divisive politics, let me tell them that the very prejudice that predisposes them to somehow tie me down to an essentialist paternal ethnicity fixes me up as an irreversible ‘other’ in societal perception. I would often be made to face my utterly marginal location, even as a child, as if I was an exhibit in a museum of strange objects. I was a second standard student when the class teacher made me stand up and asked if I belonged to the ST category. I was struck dumb. My parents never informed me that I was the holder and bearer of those two letters or what those stood for. Otherwise an alert student who promptly answered all questions, my silence had raised the eyebrows of my class teacher. I could not comprehend whether she was surprised or irritated but I did realise that I was something that the rest of the students in the class were certainly not. I was somehow fundamentally different from others.
When I was in the eighth standard, those two letters came back to haunt me yet again. There was a turmoil at home on the issue of obtaining a “ST” certificate and me getting photographed for it. My mother argued that since I was a good student, I need not apply for that certificate. But my father believed that it was a formal recognition of my ethnic identity, and therefore a highly desirable and affirmative exercise. It was after all an official recognition of my very existence as an adivasi. The disagreement ended and I became an officially certified member of the Scheduled Tribe community.
Thanks to my father Gurucharan Murmu’s government service, we were a comfortable middle-class family. My father could buy me quality education that ensured sufficient academic competence in my early years. This secured me a seat as an Honours graduate student of History in the most eminent undergraduate college in Calcutta in those times. But in this case, my lack of cultural capital cannot be wished away. Even after three years in that premier college, I had not heard of the world-famous social sciences university in Delhi, where I eventually went up for higher studies. A classmate had perchance purchased two forms for the entrance test and passed me the spare one and I incidentally got selected. I was hurt, when I came to know that my “ST” identity is the only benchmark to my friend and her family. I woke up to the reality when the father of this Brahman batchmate called my mother, enquiring if she would be interested in a groom for me. The groom had made it to the hallowed Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and was therefore eminently eligible but was not good enough for the admittedly proud Brahman family. Even the most prestigious government job in the country was not going to make him or her suitable enough for an upper caste match. Just like the admission form, the groom was in excess.
Intriguingly enough, even at that famed bastion of progressive politics and pedagogy where I continued my post-graduate studies in Delhi, my birth and ethnicity appeared as a negative influence and I was made to understand that I did not belong to the mainstream. My formal training in vocal music for over a decade and a half prompted me to carry on research in the social history of the origin and development of the Bishnupur school of classical music in the second half of eighteenth-century Bengal. But the Chairperson of the Centre replied: 'Being a tribal you want to work on high culture? You are not even an insider.’ Forever an outsider to the classical high culture of the bhadralok, it was as though my adivasi origin had permanently limited the range of what I am allowed to research.
I now teach in a five-star university in the heart of urban Kolkata. The place is well known as a nursery of protests and as a bastion of progressive politics. Yet, there too I have seen several instances of everyday casteism. Derogatory phrases like sonar chand or sonar tukro would be casually tossed around in departmental meetings. These are sarcastic Bengali phrases punning with the abbreviations of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes with the metaphorical connotation conveying ‘privileged ones.’ To several upper caste department heads, the very idea of a competent Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe professional appeared as an impossibility. The mere mention of some surnames would be enough for them to deduce that those candidates were academically worthless. They were cocksure that the ability of those candidates did not require any test. I was once told that some students felt that they did not have much to learn from my classes, presumably because I looked like an African. While taking a class on Modern Indian Political Thought, I even heard my female students admit that they would never marry a man who belonged to the ‘lower caste’ or the ‘Muslim’ community. This is frightening as many of these students are now teachers in schools and will successfully carry forward the dreadful tradition of casteism. I have heard that many among them still believe, even in this twenty-first century when Indian satellite is orbiting Mars, that there should be separate cremation grounds for dalits and adivasis. Even in death, ‘impure’ lower caste people do not lose their ability to pollute the upper castes. Times are strange indeed. The older I grow, the more I learn that logic or reason do not travel equitably.
The more genteel bhadralok society display casteism through their cultural aggression. A colleague once told me that I did not look like a typical Santhal. On being asked how a typical Santhal should look, the colleague offered a description that more or less matched with how Satyajit Ray had portrayed Duli the Santhal woman in his film Aranyer Dinratri. Ray, a filmmaker who had otherwise acquired a worldwide reputation for his meticulous attention to details, did not hesitate to transform a fair skinned Simi Garewal, with her pointed nose and large eyes into a Santhal woman with a dab of soot on her body. The Santhals continue to bear the literary or cinematic burden of such cultural stereotypes
This perception is so widespread that it is easy to draw random samples. Take for instance this new dictionary called Abhinaba Bangla Abhidhan (A Unique Bengali Dictionary) published by the Unique Book Centre. Unique indeed! Professor Debashish Dutta, defines Santhals as ‘Original residents of Santhal Pargana, an uncivilised community.’ We are proud to be ‘uncivilised’. The ‘civilised’ community has no attention to spare for the unique culture that informs our lifeworlds and livelihoods. Their most usual means of dispensing cultural patronage is to call us over for a dance performance, whether it is for government-sponsored pageantry, at an expensive private retreat or family gatherings. In no uncertain terms, I register my severest contempt for such civilised endeavours.

The victories – and continuing struggles – of women in Sudan

One of the most popular images from Sudan’s protests that led to the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir is that of Alaa Salah – a young, female university student. The image of her speaking to a crowd highlighted the presence and role women had in the uprising. [1]

One of the most popular images from Sudan’s protests that led to the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir is that of Alaa Salah – a young, female university student. The image of her speaking to a crowd highlighted the presence and role women had in the uprising. [2]

While the video challenged narratives prevalent in global media – which sometimes portray African and Muslim women as victims who lack agency – Alaa Salah’s courage is but an extension of the roles that women have played throughout Sudan’s history.

Warrior queens and queen mothers had crucial power in Sudan’s ancient kingdom of Kush and its metropolis, Meroe (circa 1069 BCE to 350 CE). [3] Women, like the poet Mihera Bit Abboud, mobilised men against the Turko-Egyptian colonial invasion of Sudan in the 1920s and Anglo-Egyptian rule in the 1950s. [4]

Women were also major actors in the opposition to Bashir’s regime throughout its 30 years of rule, which began when he led a military coup against a democratically elected government in 1989. This resistance was not unusual given the regime’s discrimination against women, in both law and practice. [5] This included the use of rape in war and also violence against women activists in youth movements. [6]

Both locally and abroad, Sudanese women led organisations to help women challenge human rights violations, build leadership skills, protest and mobilise. [7] For example, when Bashir’s government imposed austerity measures in 2013 and 2016 – causing the prices of basic commodities and medicines to soar – women mobilised civil disobedience. [8]

There were hopes that the overthrow of Bashir would lead to change in the situation of women. But there are now worries under the Transitional Military Council, which assumed power and has since violently suppressed protesters. [9] The council has created an atmosphere where it is difficult to advocate for broader participation for women, commitment to women’s human rights, or gender equality.

These become less of a priority as the situation worsens.

Lessons - good and bad

Sudan must learn from the experiences of neighbouring countries. Take Egypt. The transition to civilian rule, following the Arab Spring in 2011, was accompanied by a backlash in women’s human rights and a rise in sexual violence and harassment. [10]

I started teaching about the Uprisings in North Africa (Arab Spring) as the protests were unfolding. As with Sudan, women played a key role in the 2010 and 2011 protests. Initially, Egyptian feminists described Tahrir Square, where Egyptians camped, as a “utopia” where sexual harassment against women in public spaces, for example, disappeared. [11] Unfortunately, women later faced various forms of sexual violence and harassment in the streets. The government also attacked women’s organisations. [12]

Leaders in Egypt’s women’s movement continue to face arrest and detainment. The director of Nazra for women’s studies, Mozan Hassan, was unable to travel to New York to attend the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women this year because of a government-imposed travel ban.

It is possible, however, to also learn from partial successes in post-conflict countries on the continent. These include Rwanda and Liberia.

Rwanda has one of the highest number of women legislators in the world. The country has also introduced several laws that promote women’s rights. [13]

In Liberia, a broad and vibrant women’s peace movement played a key role in resisting the oppressive government of Charles Taylor. [14] This ended war and paved the way for Liberia to elect the first woman president in an African country. Former president Ellen J Sirleaf introduced important laws and policies to safeguard women’s rights during her presidency.

The way forward

As Sudan mourns for those who have lost their lives in recent crackdowns and massacres, there is an urgent need for immediate action – in the form of independent investigations – against human rights violations. [15] These are crucial for accountability.

Looking to the future, as I argue in my book “Gender, Race, and Sudan’s Exile Politics: Do We All Belong to this Country?”, Sudan needs to build a strong and independent women’s movement that reflects the diverse priorities, realities, and visions of Sudanese women. [16]

And as the country looks to a possible transition, the ruling transitional council must hand power over to a civilian-led government with at least 40% representation of women. It is crucial to ensure that women have meaningful participation at all levels, and that commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights permeate constitutional, legal and policy reform.

The Conversation


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[6https://www.msf.org/crushing-burden-rape-sexual-violence-darfur https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qMQ22lLoCY.












From International Viewpoint

Manila, Philippines: Alternatives to water privatization

In 1997, the Philippine government privatized the operations of its publicly-owned water service provider for Metro Manila. The aim was to reduce government’s role in the provision of public services. Two decades later, however, the goals of Philippine water privatization continue to fall short of its promises, to the detriment of consumers (See article below).

The Philippine experience is mirrored in the experiences of other countries. This has led to initiatives for alternatives to water privatization by citizens’ movements and local governments, to bring back ownership and control of water services to the public sector and guided by the principle that access to water is a human right, rather than a market transaction driven by the corporate profit motive.

The Philippine situation reflects the state of water privatization around the world. In fact, however, public delivery of water services remains a viable and sustainable form of public service. Balanya et al. (2005) document successful cases of people-centered participatory public models of water services in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the United States. Dargantes, Batistel and Manahan (2012) surveyed public sector water service delivery in Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Central Asia covering 646 listed water utilities servicing 10 million people. Kishimoto, Petitjean and Steinfort (2017) reported initiatives to reverse the privatization process in 45 countries.

The following alternatives to water privatization thus arise:

Public/nonprofit partnerships (PuNPP). In PuNPPs, “one or more public sector agency works with one or more civil society or community-based organization to deliver water services.” The joint management between local communities and the water utility is “based on equity, resource management, reduction of water consumption, improvement of reliability, and reduction in operating and maintenance costs.”

Public-Public partnerships (PuP). This involves collaboration among public sector agencies in collectively developing performance benchmarks, implementing tertiary-level treatment of wastewater and reducing demand for piped water, use of excess water, and access to other water sources such as natural springs.

Single nonprofit agencies (SiNPs). Some NGOs, acting as SiNPs, “have the capacity to develop noncommercialized water systems” by establishing water harvesting structures and check dams using an integrated water resources management approach, water system improvement, and securing dependable water supply from third-party bulk providers.

Deprivatization and/or remunicipalization. A popular alternative is deprivatization and/or remunicipalization—that is, returning public services back to government. This involves public ownership, public management and democratic control that is transparent and accountable. There have been 835 successful remunicipalization cases in 45 countries, of which 267 were in the water sector in 37 countries, benefiting more than 100 million people.

The above experiences show existing and viable public ownership of water services and success in preventing privatization. The key is cooperation between citizens’ movements, public officials, water service workers and communities, and guided by the values of participation, empowerment, equity, accountability, quality or safety, efficiency, transparency, solidarity and replicability.

Eduardo C. Tadem, Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem

• Inquirer, April 23, 2019:

Water privatization hasn’t delivered

The global economic crisis of the 1980s resulted in governments relying on privatization for economic development and the delivery of public services. This was in accordance with World Bank and International Monetary Fund conditionalities and prescriptions for loan packages that also insisted on austerity measures.

Privatization was meant to (1) reduce the extent of the government’s involvement in business; (2) promote competition, efficiency and productivity; (3) stimulate private entrepreneurship; and (4) avoid the monopolies and bureaucracies of government-run agencies.

Economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, however, maintains that the promise of privatization remains unfulfilled. Privatization has failed to stimulate private entrepreneurship and investment, as economic assets are diminished and diverted to take over state-owned enterprises. Not only do “private funds (become) less available for investing in the real economy,” he says; opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises are also crowded out.

Sundaram notes that “since a significant portion of state-run activities are public monopolies,” privatization will simply create new private-run monopolies. And since “private interests are only interested in profitable or potentially profitable enterprises… the government will be saddled with unprofitable and less profitable activities.” Long-term investments are thus sacrificed in favor of short-term profits.

Privatization also results in inequalities in the delivery of services — “one for those who can afford more costly, private — including privatized — services, and the other for those who cannot, and hence have to continue to rely on subsidized public services.” Lastly, Sundaram argues that “privatization in many developing and transition economies” frequently breed “patronage and corruption… enriching a few with strong political connections, while the public interest (is) increasingly sacrificed to such powerful private business interests.”

In August 1997, the Philippine government privatized its publicly owned water provider, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). It was the first large-scale water privatization in Asia. Two decades later, however, the goals of Philippine water privatization continue to fall short of its promises. The problems under water privatization include:

1. The rising price of water, leading to inequality and a class bias

2. Excessive profit-taking beyond allowable limits

3. Inadequate and unreliable coverage, particularly for the urban poor

4. Poor water sanitation and wastewater treatment services

5. The increase of nonrevenue water

6. Inefficient management—underspending and irregular practices

7. The noninvolvement and/or diminished role of local government units and the local community

8. Workers’ welfare and unemployment issues

9. Use of public funds for water privatization

10. General weakness of the regulatory process

Given the above, it is time to rethink the privatization policy and give back to the public sector the ownership and control of public services, particularly the provision of water services. This is premised on public management and democratic control that is transparent, accountable and participatory. The key drivers are vibrant citizens’ movements that have to work hand-in-hand with water service workers and local governments to reclaim ownership of essential public services.

Eduardo C. Tadem, Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:18 AM March 14, 2019:


• Eduardo C. Tadem, PhD, is convenor, Program on Alternative Development, University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) and retired professor of Asian Studies, University of the Philippines Diliman.

Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, PhD, is professor of political science, UP Diliman and executive director, UP CIDS. This commentary is excerpted from a research study of UP CIDS, the Department of the Interior and Local Government-National Capital Region (DILG-NCR) and the Office of the Quezon City Mayor on “The Administrative Region of the Republic of the Philippines: A Study on the Implications of Federalism in the National Capital Region and Considerations for Forming the Federal Administrative Region.” The project is funded by DILG-NCR.


From Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres


China’s rise as a world power


by Ashley Smith, Au Loong-Yu

China’s rapid rise as a new center of capital accumulation has increasingly brought it into conflict with the United States. The ISR’s Ashley Smith interviewed activist and scholar Au Loong Yu about the nature of China’s emergence as a new imperial power and what it means for the world system.

One of the most important developments in the world system over the last few decades has been the rise of China as new power in the world system. How has this happened?

China’s rise is the result of a combination of factors since it reoriented on production within global capitalism in the 1980s. First, in contrast to the Soviet bloc, China found a way to benefit in a twist of historical irony from its colonial legacy. Britain controlled Hong Kong up until 1997, Portugal controlled Macau up to 1999, and the US continues to use Taiwan as a protectorate.

These colonies and protectorates connected China to the world economy even before its full entry into the world system. In Mao’s era, Hong Kong provided about one-third of China’s foreign currency. Without Hong Kong, China would not have been able to import as much technology. After the end of the Cold War, during Deng Xiaoping’s rule, Hong Kong was very important for China’s modernization. Deng used Hong Kong to gain even more access to foreign currency, to import all sorts of things including high technology, and to take advantage of its skilled labor force, like management professionals.

China used Macau first as an ideal place for smuggling goods into mainland China, taking advantage of the island’s notoriously lax enforcement of law. And then China used the Casino City as an ideal platform for capital import and export. Taiwan was very important not only in terms of capital investments, but more importantly in the long run was its technology transfer, first and foremost in the semiconductor industry. Hong Kong and Taiwanese investors were also one of the key reasons for rapid growth of the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Fujian, Guangdong.

Secondly, China possessed what Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky called the “privilege of historical backwardness.” Mao’s Communist Party took advantage of the country’s precapitalist past. It inherited a strong absolutist state that it would retool and use for its project of national economic development. It also took advantage of an atomized precapitalist peasantry, which had been accustomed to absolutism for two thousand years, to squeeze labor out of them for so-called primitive accumulation from 1949 through the 1970s.

Later, from the 1980s on, the Chinese state drafted this labor force from the countryside into the big cities to work as cheap labor in export processing zones. They made nearly 300 million rural migrants work like slaves in sweatshops. Thus, the backwardness of China’s absolutist state and class relations offered the Chinese ruling class advantages to develop both state and private capitalism.

China’s backwardness also made it possible for it to leap over stages of development by replacing archaic means and methods of development with advanced capitalist ones. A good example of this is China’s adoption of high technology in telecommunications. Instead of following every step of more advanced capitalist societies, beginning first with using telephone lines for online communication, it installed fiber optic cable throughout the country nearly all at once.

The Chinese leadership was very keen to modernize its economy. On the one hand, for defensive reasons, they wanted to make sure that the country was not invaded and colonized as it was a hundred years ago. On the other hand, for offensive reasons, the Communist Party wants to restore its status as a great power, resuming its so-called heavenly dynasty. As a result of all these factors, China has accomplished capitalist modernization that took one hundred years in other states.

China is now the second largest economy in the world. But it is contradictory. On the one hand, lots of multinationals are responsible for its growth either directly or through subcontracting to Taiwanese and Chinese firms. On the other hand, China is rapidly developing its own industries as national champions in the state and private sector. What are its strengths and weaknesses?

In my book China’s Rise, I argue that China has two dimensions of capitalist development. One is what I call dependent accumulation. Advanced foreign capital has invested enormous sums of money over the last thirty years initially in labor-intensive industries, and more recently in capital-intensive ones. This developed China but kept it at the bottom of the global value chain, even in high tech, as the world’s sweatshop. Chinese capital collects a smaller part of the profit, most of which goes to the US, Europe, Japan, and other advanced capitalist powers and their multinationals. The best example of this is Apple’s mobile phone. China merely assembles all the parts which are mostly designed and made outside of the country.

But there is a second dimension, autonomous accumulation. From the very beginning the state has been very consciously guiding the economy, funding research and development, and maintaining indirect control over the private sector, which now accounts for more than 50 percent of the GDP. In the commanding heights of the economy, the state maintains control through the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). And the state is systematically conducting reverse engineering to copy Western technology to develop its own industries.

China has other advantages that other countries do not have; it is huge, not just in size of territory, but also in population. Since the 1990s, China has been able to have a division of labor within three parts of the country. Guangdong has a labor-intensive export processing zone. The Zhejiang delta is also export oriented, but it is much more capital extensive. Around Beijing, China has developed its high tech, communication, and aviation industry. This diversification is part of the state’s conscious strategy to develop itself as an economic power.

At the same time, China suffers from weaknesses as well. If you look at its GDP, China is the second largest in the world. But if you measure GDP per capita, it is still a middle-income country. You also see weaknesses even in areas where it is catching up to advanced capitalist powers. For instance, Huawei mobile phone, which is now a world brand, was developed not just by its own Chinese scientists, but more importantly, by hiring four hundred Japanese scientists. This shows that China was and is still heavily reliant on foreign human resources for research and development.

Another example of weakness was revealed when China’s ZTE telecom company was accused by the Trump administration of violating its trade sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Trump imposed a trade ban on the company, denying it access to American-designed software and high-tech components, threatening the company with collapse overnight. Xi and Trump eventually worked out a deal to save the company, but the crisis ZTE suffered demonstrates China’s ongoing problem of dependent development.

This is the problem that China is trying to overcome. But even in high tech, where it is intent on catching up, its semiconductor technology is two or three generations behind that of the United States. It is trying to overcome that with dramatically increased investment in research and development, but if you look closely at China’s huge number of patents, they are still mostly not in high tech but other areas. So, it still suffers from indigenous technological weakness. Where it is catching up very fast is in artificial intelligence, and this is an area that the US is very concerned about, not only in terms of economic competition, but also military, where artificial intelligence plays an increasingly central role.

On top of these economic weaknesses, China suffers from political ones. China does not have a governmental system that ensures peaceful succession of power from one ruler to the next. Deng Xiaoping had established a system of collective leadership term limits that began to overcome this problem of succession. Xi has abolished this system and reinstituted one-man rule with no term limits. This could set up more factional fights over succession, destabilizing the regime, and potentially compromising its economic rise.

Xi has dramatically shifted China’s strategy in the world system away from the cautious one pioneered by Deng Xiaoping and his successors. Why is Xi doing this and what is their program for assertion of China as a great power?

The first thing to understand is the tension in the Communist Party over its project in the world. The Chinese Communist Party is a big contradiction. On the one hand, it is a force for economic modernization. On the other hand, it has inherited a very strong element of premodern political culture. This has laid the ground work for conflicts between cliques within the regime.

Back in the early 1990s there was debate among the top echelons of the bureaucracy over which clique of rulers should have power. One clique is the so-called blue bloods, the children of the bureaucrats that ruled the state after 1949––the second red generation of bureaucrats. They are fundamentally reactionary. Since Xi has come to power, the press talks about the return to “our blood,” meaning that the old cadre’s blood has been reincarnated into the second generation.

The other clique is the new mandarins. Their fathers and mothers were not revolutionary cadres. They were intellectuals or people who did well in their education and moved up the ladder. They usually climb up the ladder through the Young Communist League. It is not accidental that Xi’s party leadership had repeatedly and publicly humiliated the League in recent years. The conflict between blue-blood nobles and the mandarins is a new version of an old pattern; these two cliques have had tension for two thousand years of absolutism and bureaucratic rule.

Among the mandarins, there are some who came from more humble backgrounds like Wen Jiabao, who ruled China from 2003 to 2013, that are a bit more “liberal.” At the end of his term, Wen actually said that China should learn from Western representative democracy, arguing that Western ideas like human rights possessed some kind of universalism. Of course, this was mostly rhetoric, but it is very different than Xi, who treats democracy and so-called “Western values” with contempt.

He won out in this struggle against the mandarins, consolidated his power, and now promises that blue-blood nobles will rule forever. His program is to strengthen the autocratic nature of the state at home, declare China a great power abroad, and assert its power in the world, sometimes in defiance of the United States.

But after the crisis over ZTE, Xi conducted a bit of a tactical retreat because that crisis exposed China’s persisting weaknesses and the danger of too quickly declaring itself a great power. In fact, there was an outburst of criticism of one of Xi’s advisors, an economist named Hu Angang, who had argued that China was already a rival to the US economically and militarily and could therefore challenge Washington for leadership in the world. ZTE proved that it’s simply not true that China is on par with the US. Since then, a lot of liberals came out to criticize Hu. Another well-known liberal scholar, Zhang Weiying, whose writings were banned last year, was allowed to have his speech officially posted on line.

There was already hot debate among diplomacy scholars. The hard-liners argued for a tougher stand in relation to the US. The liberals, however, argued that the international order is a “temple” and as long as it can accommodate China’s rise, Beijing should help build this temple rather than demolish it and build a new one. This diplomatic wing was marginalized when Xi chose to be more hard-line, but recently their voice has reemerged. Since the conflict over ZTE and the trade war, Xi has made some tactical adjustments and retreated slightly from his previously brazen proclamation of China’s great power status.

How much of this is just a temporary retreat? Also, how does China 2025 and One Belt One Road factor into Xi’s longer-term project of achieving great-power status?

Let me say clearly that Xi is a reactionary blue blood. He and the rest of his clique are determined to restore the hegemony of China’s imperial past and rebuild that so-called heavenly dynasty. Xi’s state, the Chinese academy, and the media have churned out a huge number of essays, dissertations, and articles that glorify this imperial past as part of justifying their project of becoming a great power. Their long-term strategy will not be deterred easily.

Xi’s clique is also aware that before China can achieve its imperial ambition it has to eliminate its burden of colonial legacy, i.e., take over Taiwan and accomplish the CCP’s historic task of national unification first. But this will necessarily bring it into conflict with the US sooner or later. Hence, the Taiwan issue simultaneously carries both China’s self-defense dimension (even the US acknowledges that Taiwan is “part of China”) and also an interimperialist rivalry. In order to “unify with Taiwan,” not to speak of a global ambition, Beijing must first overcome China’s persistent weaknesses especially in its technology, its economy, and its lack of international allies.

That’s where China 2025 and One Belt One Road come in. Through China 2025 they want to develop their independent technological capacities and move up the global value chain. They want to use One Belt One Road to build infrastructure throughout Eurasia in line with Chinese interests. At the same time, we should be clear that One Belt One Road is also a symptom of China’s problems of overproduction and overcapacity. They are using One Belt One Road to absorb all this excess capacity. Nevertheless, both of these projects are central in China’s imperialist project.

There has been a big debate on the international left about how to understand China’s rise. Some have argued that it is a model and ally for “third-world” development. Others see China as a subordinate state in an American informal empire that rules global neoliberal capitalism. Still others see it as a rising imperial power. What’s your viewpoint?

China cannot be a model for developing countries. Its rise is the result of very unique factors I outlined previously that other third-world countries do not possess. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that China is part of global neoliberalism especially when you see China come forward and say that it is willing to replace the US as a guardian of free-trade globalization.

But to say that China is a part of neoliberal capitalism doesn’t capture the whole picture. China is a distinctive state capitalist power and an expansionist one, which is not willing to be a second-rate partner to the US. China is thus a component part of global neoliberalism and also a state capitalist power, which stands apart from it. This peculiar combination means it simultaneously benefits from the neoliberal order and represents a challenge to it and the American state that oversees it.

Western capital is ironically responsible for this predicament. Their states and capitals came to understand the challenge of China too late. They flooded in to invest in the private sector or in joint ventures with the state companies in China. But they did not fully realize that the Chinese state is always behind even seemingly private corporations. In China, even if a corporation is a genuinely private, it must bow to the demands put to it by the state.

The Chinese state has used this private investment to develop its own state and private capacity to begin to challenge American as well as Japanese and European capital. It is therefore naïve to accuse the Chinese state and private capital for stealing intellectual property. That’s what they planned to do from the beginning.

Thus, the advance capitalist states and corporations enabled the emergence of China as a rising imperial power. Its peculiar state capitalist nature makes it particularly aggressive and intent in catching up and challenging the very powers that invested in it.

In the US there is increasingly a consensus between the two capitalist parties that China is a threat to American imperial power. And both the US and China are whipping up nationalism against each other. How would you characterize the rivalry between the US and China?

Some years ago, many commentators argued that there was a debate between two camps over whether to engage China or confront it. They called it a struggle between “panda huggers versus dragon slayers.” Today the dragon slayers are in the driver’s seat of Chinese diplomacy.

It is true that there is a growing consensus among Democrats and Republicans against China. Even prominent American liberals bash China these days. But many of these liberal politicians should be blamed for this situation in the first place. Remember that after the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre it was liberal politicians like Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in Britain that forgave the Chinese Communist Party, reopened trade relations, and encouraged massive investment flows into the country.

Of course, this was about padding the ledgers of Western multinationals, which reaped super profits from exploiting cheap labor in Chinese sweatshops. But they also genuinely, if naively, believed that increased investment would lead China to accept the rules as a subordinate state within neoliberal global capitalism, and “democratize” itself in the image of the West. This strategy has backfired, enabling the rise of China as a rival.

The two camps of panda huggers versus dragon slayers also find their theoreticians in academia. There are three main schools of the foreign policy establishment. On top of that, all three schools have their own panda huggers and dragon slayers, who could also be called optimists and pessimists. Within the optimist camp, different schools argue different perspectives. While the liberal internationalists thought that trade would democratize China, by contrast, the realists argued that even if China had its own state ambitions to challenge the US, it was still too weak to do so. The third school is social constructivism; they believe international relations are the result of ideas, values, and social interaction, and like the liberals, believe economic and social engagement would transform China.

In the past, most of the American establishment bought the optimist liberals’ case. The liberals were blinded by their own belief that trade could change China into a democratic state. China’s rise has thrown all of the optimist schools into a crisis because their predictions about China have been proven wrong. China has become a rising power that has begun catching up and challenging the US.

Now it is the pessimist camp of these three schools that is gaining ground. The pessimist liberals now believe that Chinese nationalism is much stronger than the positive influence of trade and investment. The pessimist realists believe that China is rapidly strengthening itself and that it will never compromise over Taiwan. The pessimist social constructivists believe that China is very rigid in its own values and will refuse to change.

Yet if the pessimist school is now proven right, it also suffers from a major weakness. It assumes US hegemony is justified and right, ignores the fact that the US is actually an accomplice of China’s authoritarian government and its sweatshop regime, and of course never examines how the collaboration and rivalry between the US and China occurs within a deeply contradictory and volatile global capitalism, and along with this a whole set of global class relations. This should not surprise us; the pessimists are ideologists of the American ruling class and its imperialism.

China is moving in an imperialist trajectory. I’m against the Communist Party dictatorship, its aspiration to become a great power, and its claims in the South China Sea. But I don’t think it’s correct to think that China and the US are on the same plane. China is a special case right now; there are two sides to its rise. One side is what is common between these two countries––both are capitalist and imperialist.

The other side is that China is the first imperialist country that was previously a semicolonial country. That is quite different from the US or any other imperialist country. We have to factor this into our analysis to understand how China functions in the world. For China there are always two levels of issues. One is the legitimate self-defense of a former colonial country under international law. We should not forget that even as late as the 1990s US fighter jets flew on the southern border of China and crashed into a Chinese airplane, killing its pilot. These kinds of events naturally remind Chinese people of their painful colonial past.

Britain until recently controlled Hong Kong, and international capital still exerts enormous influence there. An example of Western imperialist influence just came to light recently. A report revealed that just before Britain withdrew from Hong Kong, they disbanded their secret police and reassigned them into the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The ICAC enjoys huge popularity here as it makes Hong Kong a less corrupt place. But only the head of the Hong Kong government, formerly chosen from London and now chosen from Beijing, appoints the commissioner, while the people absolutely have no influence over it at all.

Beijing was very concerned that the ICAC could be used to discipline the Chinese state and its capitals as well. For example, in 2005 the ICAC prosecuted Liu Jinbao, the head of the Bank of China in Hong Kong. It appears that Beijing is trying hard to take control of the ICAC, but the public is kept in the dark about this power struggle. Of course, we should be happy that the ICAC goes after people like Liu Jinbao, but we must also recognize that it can be used by Western imperialism to advance its agenda. At the same time, Beijing asserting its control will mean consolidation by the Chinese state and capitalists, something that will not serve the interests of the Chinese working masses.

There are other colonial holdovers from the past. The US basically maintains Taiwan as a protectorate. We should, of course, oppose China’s threat to invade Taiwan; we should defend Taiwan’s right to self-determination. But we must also see that the US will use Taiwan as a tool to advance its interests. This is the downside of the colonial legacy that motivates the Communist Party to behave in a defensive manner against American imperialism.

China is an emerging imperialist country but one with fundamental weaknesses. I would say that the Chinese Communist Party has to overcome fundamental obstacles before it can become a stable and sustainable imperialist country. It is very important to see not just the commonality between the US and China as imperialist countries, but also China’s particularities.

Obviously for socialists in the US, our principal duty is to oppose US imperialism and build solidarity with Chinese workers. That means we have to oppose the relentless China bashing not only on the right but also among liberals and even the labor movement. But we should not fall into a campist trap of giving political support to the Chinese regime, but with the country’s workers. How do you approach this situation?

We must counter the lie used by the American right that Chinese workers have stolen American workers’ jobs. This is not true. The people who really have the power to decide are not the Chinese workers but American capital like Apple that choose to have its phones assembled in China. The Chinese workers have absolutely zero say over such decisions. Actually, they are victims, not people who should be blamed for job losses in America.

And as I said, Clinton, not China’s rulers or workers, was to blame for the export of these jobs. It was Clinton’s government that worked with China’s murderous regime after Tiananmen Square to enable big American corporations to invest in China on such a massive scale. And when jobs in the US were lost, those that appeared in China actually were not the same kind of jobs at all. The American jobs lost in auto and steel were unionized and had good pay and benefits, but those created in China are nothing but sweatshop jobs. Whatever their conflicts today, the top leaders of the US and China, not workers in either country, put today’s wretched neoliberal world order in place.

One thing we have done here in the US is help to put on tours of Chinese workers on strike so that we can build solidarity between American and Chinese workers. Are there other ideas and initiatives that we can take? There is a real danger of nationalism being whipped up in both countries against workers in the other country. It seems overcoming this is very important. What do you think?

It is important for the left in the rest of the world to recognize that China’s capitalism has a colonial legacy and that it still exists today. So, when we analyze China and US relations, we must distinguish those legitimate parts of “patriotism” from those whipped up by the Party. There is an element of common-sense patriotism among the people that is the result of the last century of imperial intervention by Japan, European powers, and the US.

It does not mean that we accommodate to this patriotism, but we must distinguish this from reactionary nationalism of the Communist Party. And Xi is certainly trying to whip up nationalism in support of his great power aspirations, just like American rulers are doing the same to cultivate popular support for their regime’s aim to keep China contained.

Among common people nationalism has been declining rather than rising because they despise the Chinese Communist Party, and more of them now don’t trust its nationalism, and hate its autocratic rule. One funny example of this is a recent opinion poll that asked if people would support China in a war with the US. Netizens’ response online was really interesting. One of them said, “Yes, I support China’s war against the US, but we first support sending the members of the Political Bureau to fight, then the Central Committee, and then the entire Chinese Communist Party. And after they either win or lose, we at least will be liberated.” The censors, of course, immediately deleted these comments, but it is an indication of the deep dissatisfaction with the regime.

That means there is the basis among Chinese workers to build international solidarity with American workers. But that requires American workers to oppose their own government’s imperialism. Only that position will build trust among Chinese workers.

American imperialism’s threats are real and known in China. The US Navy just sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait in a clear provocation to China. The American left must oppose this militarism so that Chinese people understand that you oppose the US imperialist agenda on the Taiwan question––although one should also acknowledge Taiwan’s right to purchase arms from the US. If the Chinese people hear a strong voice of anti­-imperialism from the American left, they could be won over to see our common international interests against both US and Chinese imperialism.

Source International Socialist Review ISR issue #112.