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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

 

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.

 

Footnotes
[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.

 

Principles 

 

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. 

 

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.

 

Neo-liberalism 

 

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. 

 

Imperialism

 

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. 
 

 

 

 

Mr. Modi's doublespeak

Mr. Modi's doublespeak - the self-proclaimed PS's lip-service to populist governance is nothing but empty words with contradictory action.

Rohit Prajapati

 

16 August 2014

In his first address as the Prime Minister on India’s Independence Day, Mr. Modi declared: “I am present amidst you not as the Prime Minister, but as the Prime Servant.[1]” This was one of many clever uses of populist rhetoric to appeal to the heart of his audience on 15 August 2014. While it may be the duty of the PM to represent the aspirations of all the people of India, Mr. Modi’s actions and those of his government’s demonstrate that in actuality he is committed to serving only the capitalist class for the sake of the GDP. Alongside his “development” agenda, Mr. Modi also serves Hindutva, as is very well-known. He reminded the nation of this when he stated, “My dear countryman, a national festival is an occasion to refine and rebuild the national character.” Through the election campaign, we are aware what Mr. Modi and his BJP mean by the “national character” -- the nation-strident rightwing hindutva at the cost of the rest.

The contradictions between Mr. Modi’s political record and his speech were numerous. In an instance of blatant flattery for political ends, Mr. Modi stated “My dear countrymen, this nation has neither been built by political leaders nor by rulers nor by governments. This nation has been built by our farmers, our workers, our mothers and sisters, our youth.” This recognition of the importance of farmers and common people stands in stark contrast to the Modi Government’s recent moves, which are anti-small-marginal-farmers, anti-working class and anti-people in general. Instead of going for more deserving amendments in ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’, the Modi Government  is planning to dilute the act to get rid of almost all major progressive provisions by way of amendments to allow for more land-grabbing. The Modi Government has begun the process to amend present labour laws to make them more investment-friendly so that industries have free reign as promised in the election.

The Modi Government is internationally famous for espousing a business climate for the profit and prosperity of mega industries - the government’s patrons - and not for ordinary people. Mr. Modi was clear in his Election Manifesto: “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.”  It is thus all the more ironic when Mr. Modi rhetorically asked, “Brothers and sisters, can someone please tell me as to whether he or she has ever introspected in the evening after a full day’s work as to whether his or her acts have helped the poor of the country or not, whether his or her actions have resulted in safeguarding the interest of the country or not, whether the actions have been directed in country’s welfare or not? Whether it should not be the motto of one and a quarter billion countrymen that every step in life should be in the country’s interests?” His loyalty to building an “environment for investment” leaves people in the lurch. This is a question, that Modi instead of posing to the nation, should first ask himself and his party cohorts. The Modi Government is busy in building up the environment for the profit and prosperity of its patrons and not for ordinary people. Mr. Modi Government’s almost all actions are “honestly” in this direction. For Mr. Modi word ‘Environment’ means “Environment for Investment” [2].

Mr. Modi astutely observed, “Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. People come out with different arguments, someone indulges in psycho analysis, but brothers and sisters, today from this platform, I want to ask those parents, I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years age, you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking where are you going, when would you come back, inform immediately after you reach. Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going. If every parent decides to impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.”  But an appeal to the people to combat rape-culture from the inside - as autonomous feminist groups and other movements have been doing since years- is not sufficient action on the part of PM/PS of India. Mr. Modi must go beyond tokenism and sloganism to earn credibility on this issue. He must show political will and allocate sufficient resources, by way of budget and staff, to implement “The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act2013.” etc. Although as Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr. Modi failed to provide the necessary political support and resources to seriously implement laws that protect women from these injustices, I hope that the people will hold him to putting his money and action where his mouth is on this issue in his new national position of power.  

In yet another bizarrely ironic statement, Mr. Modi said “Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?” Nobody should know the beneficiaries of communal tensions better than Mr. Modi. His role as the architect of communal divide garnered him immense political capital: first bolstering him to the position of chairman of the central campaign committee of BJP, then the PM Candidate of BJP, then the PM Candidate of NDA, and ultimately the PM of the country. His political career peaked only after carnage 2002 in Gujarat.

Mr. Modi said “Therefore, I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts, let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for ten years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions.” This is welcome advice, from a most unexpected source: we hope that his party leaders & members and members of the all affiliates organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP’s electoral allies were listening. I have a question for Mr. Modi: why only for 10 years? What happens when his 10 years moratorium on communal violence is over and you are asking whom (all those peopleto implement this? Mr. Modi, can you eradicate the caste system without challenging the Hindu religion?

Mr. Modi appeal again when he stated, “Have we ever thought what the sex ratio in the country is like? 940 girls are born against per thousand boys. Who is causing this imbalance in the society? Certainly not God. I request the doctors not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets.  I advise mothers and sisters not to sacrifice daughters in the hope of son.” I wish to remind Mr. Modi that he has not even attempted to implement, ‘The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, in Gujarat and only used government money for the rhetoric of “Beti Bachao” while promoting the ideology behind dowry through the schemes like “Mangal Sutra” and “Kunwarbai Nu Mameru”[3].  Mr. Modi, the negative sex ratio is just a symptom of a major decease called patriarchy and you have to challenge the patriarchy with short term and long term programmes[4].

Mr. Modi said ‘Therefore, an account holder under ‘Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana‘ will be given a debit card. An insurance of One Lakh Rupees will be guaranteed with that debit card for each poor family, so that such families are covered with the insurance of One Lakh Rupees in case of any crisis in their lives.” Mr. Modi, people want the “Right to Work” for fair and living wages, along with all the social securities. And if the government is unable to provide the work, the government should pay an “Unemployment Dole.” With their earning, people may have a chance to open the bank account and can also opt for insurance as additional social security with government further assistance for that. The Government should not withdraw from its social responsibly like education, health care, housing, food, etc.

Mr. Modi says “If we have to promote the development of our country then our mission has to be ‘skill development’ and ‘skilled India’. Millions and Millions of Indian youth should go for acquisition of skills and there should be a network across the country for this and not the archaic systems.”  Mr. Modi should understand that present and the past Government has deskilled the people at large through almost complete privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of education has in practice given a voluntary retirement from the education to the children of the ordinary people. Now a day the policies of the past and present governments mean knowledge and education for the students of IIT, NIT and so-called, well-known universities & colleges and so-called skill development for ITI & dropout students.

Mr. Modi said “The economics of the world have changed and, therefore, we will have to act accordingly.” Mr. Modi, be bold and admit that you are a proponent of liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation, FDI, less and less government and out sourcing of all major policy decisions to private and multinational companies; “Swadeshi” is just a political slogan when the nation’s masses are tuned into the television. The Modi Government is moving ahead with the economic reforms by taking firm decisions in the cabinet like raising of FDI limit in defence and insurance sector from 26 percent to 49 percent, and fully 100 percent in the railway. The Modi Government has started making changes in environment clearance policy to make it simpler for industries to get environment clearance, so that mere submission of the paperwork is sufficient for clearance regardless of the environmental merit.

Modi said “Therefore I want to appeal all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here.” Obviously, first world and giant corporate will be sceptical of this appeal, but what about all other small countries and their indigenous industries? Are we interested as a nation to tell other small countries that they become our economic colonies and they should only import from us and not export from their country to our country?

Tourism has brought alienation of local communities through gross violation of human rights. Yet Mr. Modi said “Brothers and sisters, we want to promote tourism. Tourism provides employment to the poorest of the poor. Gram seller earns something, auto-rickshaw driver earns something, pakoda seller earns something and tea seller also earns something. When there is talk of tea seller, I feel a sense of belongingness. Tourism provide employment to the poorest of the poor.” In reality tourism had lead to forced land acquisition, large scale displacement, loss of dignity and traditional source of livelihood, lack of accessibility to public spaces are quite visible. These costs of tourism are not the concern for Mr. Modi, however - filthiness is a barrier.

Mr. Modi said “But there is a big obstacle in promoting tourism and in our national character and that is – the filthiness all around us. Whether after independence, after so many years of independence, when we stand at the threshold of one and half decade of 21st century, we still want to live in filthiness? The first work I started here after formation of Government is of cleanliness.” Mr. Modi’s main worry is tourism industries and not the people of India.

Modi said “Cleanliness is very big work. Whether our country can not be clean? If one hundred and twenty five crores countrymen decide that they will never spread filthiness, which power in the world has ability to spread filthiness in our cities and villages? Can’t we resolve this much?” Modi Government should know basic facts revealed in the ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy’ dated 12 May 2014 by Planning Commission of India. This report states that “As per CPCB report 2012 - 13 municipal areas in the country generate 1, 33,760 metric tonnes per day of MSW, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776  hectare of precious land  per year.[5]

Mr. Modi, things are not as simple as you say. This waste generation figure covers only 31.15% population of India. Considering the waste generation figures of all of India, these figures will be even more daunting. The Planning Commission (which Mr. Modi wishes to abolish) of India’s report further states “A study, of the status of implementation of the MSW Rules 2000 by the mandated deadline by the States, was carried out in class 1 cities of the country. It revealed that in 128 cities except for street sweeping and transportation, compliance was less than 50% and in respect of disposal compliance was a dismal 1.4 %.” What about the government’s major roll in policy making for the reduction of waste and implementation of ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000’? Your tract record in the implementation of these rules in the Gujarat is worst.

The consistent follow up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’. In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’[6] and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas.

As the very first step after assuming power as the PM, Instead of improving the environment of these 88 industrial clusters and taking the remedial measure in these area for clean up after moving to the Capital, Mr. Modi Government instead started lifted of the moratorium of industrial cluster like Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (M.P.), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru – Bollaram (A.P.), Singrauli (UP & MP) and Vapi (Gujarat) as a first order of business on 10 June 2014. Mr. Modi Vapi’s track record demand more ‘stringent action’ against the polluting industries of Vapi & concerned officers of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and definitely not lifting of moratorium from Vapi.[7]

Mr. Modi said “However, today I am going to announce a scheme on behalf of the Member of Parliament- ‘Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana’. We shall fix some parameters. I urge upon the Members of Parliament to select any one of the villages having population of three to five thousand in your constituency. The parameters will be according to the time, space and situation of that locality. It will include the conditions of health, cleanliness, atmosphere, greenery, cordiality etc. On the basis of those parameters, each of our MPs should make one village of his or her constituency a Model Village by 2016.” Mr. Modi, we want you to first spell out what do you mean by ‘Aadarsh Gram’ because your policies and action program in Gujarat when you were the chief minister of Gujarat for ‘Aadarsh Gram’ were neither acceptable nor ideal to local people. Why you, Mr. Modi do not want local Panchayat to work for their village? Let me remind Mr. Modi about the struggle which is going on against proposed nuclear power plant with the slogan “Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world” – with these slogans the farmers and other villagers affected by the proposed 6000 MW nuclear power plant at village Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Gujarat are protesting.[8] Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi - Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. 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. The proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land is planned. Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, and Mandva stand more than 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. Recently on 13 August 2014 the villagers took a pledge that “We today on August 13, 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.” These villagers want to make their villages as Aadarsh Village. Will Mr. Modi allow them to do so?

We saw, however, in Gujarat that following the will of the villagers was not a priority for Mr. Modi. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. 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 ready-made resolution. 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 be handed over the NPCIL. Will Mr. Modi respect the decision of the Gramsabha?

Mr. Modi said “Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the planning commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of state governments seeking development, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.” We do have a problem with present planning commission of India, but in the name of “public-private partnership” Modi Government is planning to outsource the planning to private interests. We had seen Mr. Modi use to take all major policy decisions and use to announce in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

In sum, Mr. Modi gave a populist speech in which he doled out advice to the people, yet hardly acknowledged his and his government’s responsibility in policy decisions to resolve these problems. On the issue of development, one only needs to look to his record in Gujarat to understand the emptiness of his “pro-poor”, “pro-farmer”, “pro women” rhetoric.

While listening to the speech it reminds me that Adolf Hitler once said “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” Mr. Hitler also said “Kill, Destroy, Sack, Tell lie; how much you want after victory nobody asks why?”

_______________________



[1] Text of PM’s speech at Red Fort, August 15, 2014  http://www.narendramodi.in/text-of-pms-speech-at-red-fort/

[2] For “Modi-Festo” Word ‘Environment’ means “Environment for Investment”. - Rohit Prajapati, 8 April 2014 - http://www.sacw.net/article8260.html

[3] ‘Kunwarbai Nu Mameru’ is a scheme by the Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Government of Gujarat for families below the poverty line. Scheme provides, at the time of marriage, Rs. 2000/- to parents and Narmada bonds worth Rs. 3000/- to girls belonging to SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward castes. ‘Mameru’ is a variant of the practice of dowry. Kunwarbai was daughter of the fifteenth century bhakti poet Narsinh Mehta. Legend has it that when Narsinh Mehta was unable to raise dowry for his daughter’s marriage, Lord Krishna appeared in the form of a merchant and provided the dowry to save him from social stigma. The tile of the programme casts the state as divine benefactor. The irony is that dowry was not traditionally practiced by most of SC, ST, and Socially and Educationally Backward castes.

[4] Juvenile Sex Ratio in Gujarat: A Deadly Combination of Patriarchy and Globalised Capitalist Development, by Shah Trupti, 2014.

[5] Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy (Volume II) (In the context of Integrated MSW Management) -http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/genrep/rep_wte1205.pdf

[6] As per the agreed upon measures, industrial areas with a CEPI of 70 and above are considered ‘critically polluted’ areas while those with a CEPI between 60-70 are considered ‘severely polluted’ areas. In our opinion, those industrial areas with CEPI between 40-60 ought to be labelled as ‘polluted areas’.

[7] The Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar decision to lift the moratorium of 8 critically polluted clusters of the country is inexplicable. The ministry took the decision on June 10 2014 but announced it publicly on July 24 2014 – Rohit Prajapati - http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/industrys-behest

[8] Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat by Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah - http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/national-situation/579-laboratory-of-fascism-capital-labour-and-environment-in-modi-s-gujarat

 

Resolution adopted at Ganamancha Convention, Kolkata 7 august

গণতন্ত্র, ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা ও মেহনতি মানুষের অধিকার রক্ষার 
গণমঞ্চ আয়োজিত কনভেনশন
৭ আগস্ট, ২০১৪
ফণিভূষণ মঞ্চ (বাগবাজার, কলকাতা)

প্রস্তাবনা

রাজ্য তথা দেশের জনগণের পক্ষে আশঙ্কাজনক এক সামাজিক, অর্থনৈতিক এবং রাজনৈতিক পরিস্থিতিতে আমরা একটি আন্দোলনমুখী মঞ্চ গঠন করেছি। "গণতন্ত্র, ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা ও মেহনতি মানুষের অধিকার রক্ষার গণমঞ্চ” - সংক্ষিপ্ত ভাবে “গনমঞ্চ”। আমরা যে সম্মিলিত মঞ্চে একত্রিত হয়েছি তা নিম্নলিখিত রাজনৈতিক অবস্থানের প্রতি দায়বদ্ধ:

• গণতন্ত্র ও গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকার রক্ষা
• ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা ও সাম্প্রদায়িক সম্প্রীতি
• নব-উদারবাদী, বৃহৎ কর্পোরেট-মুখী আর্থিক নীতি, যা সামাজিক বৈষম্যের এবং সার্বজনীন সম্পদ লুটের জন্ম দেয়, তার বিরোধিতা
• নারী, দলিত, আদিবাসী, সংখ্যালঘু ও অন্যান্য সামাজিকভাবে বঞ্চিত মানুষের সামাজিক ন্যায়ের দাবী
• দুনিয়া জুড়ে প্রগতিশীল ও গনতান্ত্রিক নীতির প্রতি সমর্থন এবং যুদ্ধ ও আধিপত্যবাদের বিরোধীতা

যে সমস্ত প্রগতিশীল, গণতান্ত্রিক, ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ ও বামপন্থী রাজনৈতিক দল, সংগঠন, গ্রুপ ও ব্যক্তি উপোরক্ত রাজনৈতিক অবস্থানের সাথে একমত ও এই বিষয়গুলি নিয়ে লড়াই আন্দোলন করতে প্রস্তুত, আমরা তাঁদের সবাইকে আহ্বান জানাচ্ছি হাতে হাত মিলিয়ে এই মঞ্চে যোগ দিয়ে তাকে আরো শক্তিশালী করতে।

নির্বাচনী প্রচারের সময় বিজেপি কেন্দ্রে ক্ষমতায় এলে ‘আচ্ছে দিন’ আনার প্রতিশ্রুতি দিয়েছিল। সরকার গঠনের পর কিন্তু প্রধানমন্ত্রী নরেন্দ্র মোদীর গলায় অন্য সুর - তিনি এখন মানুষকে 'তেতো দাওয়াই' দেওয়ার কথা বলছেন। ব্যপক হারে রেলভাড়া বৃদ্ধি এবং পেট্রল ডিজেলের নিয়মিত দাম বাড়ানো দেখলে বুঝতে অসুবিধা হয় না যে এই বিজেপি সরকার পূর্ববর্তী কংগ্রেসী সরকারের মতোই জনবিরোধী নীতি আরো উৎসাহের সঙ্গে প্রণয়ন করবে। এর সাথে বাড়বে আরএসএস-বিজেপির সাম্প্রদায়িক রাজনীতির বিপদও।

পশ্চিমবঙ্গে তৃণমূল সরকারের ভূমিকায় দিনকে দিন পরিস্থিতির আরো অবনতি হচ্ছে - তোলাবাজি, খুন এবং রাজনীতির দুর্বৃত্তায়ন ভয়াবহ আকার ধারণ করেছে। জনসাধারণের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকারের ওপর তৃণমূল আশ্রিত দুষ্কৃতীদের আঘাত, সরকারি মদতে বিরোধীদের ওপর হামলা এবং মহিলাদের ওপর অত্যাচারের ঘটনা প্রতিদিনই ঘটে চলেছে। একে একে বন্ধ হচ্ছে জেশপ, হিন্দমোটর, ডানলপ, শালিমারের মতো পুরোনো কারখানা। পুনরুজ্জীবনের কথা ঘোষণা করেও ইলেকট্রমেডিক্যালের মতন সরকারী সংস্থাগুলিকে বন্ধ করে দেওয়ার চেষ্টা চলছে। বন্ধ কলকারখানা খোলার নির্বাচনী প্রতিশ্রুতি আপাতত ঠান্ডাঘরে ঠাঁই পেয়েছে!

তৃণমূল সরকারের অগণতান্ত্রিক শাসন ও রাজ্যের প্রধান বিরোধী দল সিপিআইএম নেতৃত্বাধীন বামফ্রন্টের ক্রমাগত ব্যর্থতায় রাজ্যে বিজেপি’র সমর্থন বাড়ছে। বিজেপি’র উত্থান সাম্প্রদায়িক মেরুকরণ ঘটিয়ে শ্রমজীবী মানুষকে বিভাজিত করার রাজনীতিকে আরো শক্তিশালী এবং রাজ্যের ধর্মনিরপেক্ষ ও প্রগতিশীল ঐতিহ্যকে ধ্বংস করবে।

রাজ্য রাজনীতির এই প্রেক্ষাপটে গনমঞ্চ একটি ব্যাপক গণআন্দোলন গড়ে তোলার লক্ষে কাজ করবে। মেহনতী জনগণের যে আশু সমস্যা এবং দাবিসমূহগুলিকে অগ্রাধিকার দেওয়া হবে তা হল:

১. জেসপ, হিন্দমোটর, ডানলপ, শালিমার, বিভিন্ন চটকল ইত্যাদি বন্ধ হয়ে যাওয়া কারখানা অবিলম্বে খোলার জন্য রাজ্য ও কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারকে উদ্যোগ নিতে হবে; উত্তরবঙ্গের চা বাগানে শ্রমিকদের অনাহারে মৃত্যু বন্ধ করতে বিশেষ ভাতাদানের মতো কার্যকরী পদক্ষেপ নিতে হবে; অসংগঠিত ক্ষেত্রে ন্যুনতম মজুরি মাসে ১৫০০০ টাকা করতে হবে

২. লাগামছাড়া মূল্যবৃদ্ধি রুখতে মজুতদারী-কালোবাজারীর বিরুদ্ধে রাজ্য সরকারকে পদক্ষেপ গ্রহণ করতে হবে এবং খাদ্য সুরক্ষার স্বার্থে কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারকে সার্বজনীন গণবন্টন ব্যবস্থার মাধ্যমে সস্তা দামে নিত্যপ্রয়োজনীয় সামগ্রী সরবরাহ করতে হবে

৩. কৃষিক্ষেত্রে সার-বীজ-কীটনাশক ও বিদ্যুতের ক্ষেত্রে মূল্যবৃদ্ধির সাপেক্ষে সরকারকে কার্যকরী সহায়তা দিতে হবে ও কৃষকদের ফসলের ন্যায্য দাম সুনিশ্চিত করতে হবে

৪. দলিত, আদিবাসী ও মুসলিম সংখ্যালঘুদের সামাজিক ন্যায়বিচারের জন্য নির্দিষ্ট পদক্ষেপ গ্রহণ করতে হবে; সাচার কমিটি ও রঙ্গনাথ মিশ্র কমিশনের সুপারিশগুলির বাস্তবায়ন চাই; বনাঞ্চল আইন ২০০৬–কে কার্যকরীভাবে লাগু করে অরণ্যবাসীদের জঙ্গলের অধিকার সুনিশ্চিত করতে হবে

৫. অবিলম্বে নারী নির্যাতন, ধর্ষণের বিরুদ্ধে কড়া পদক্ষেপ গ্রহণ করতে হবে; কামদুনি, মধ্যমগ্রাম, কোন্নগরের মতন মহিলাদের বিরুদ্ধে যে কোনো অত্যাচারের ঘটনার ক্ষেত্রে বিশেষ আদালতে দ্রুততার সাথে বিচার সুনিশ্চিত করতে হবে

৬. পশ্চিমবঙ্গে তৃনমূল কংগ্রেস সরকারের প্রত্যক্ষ মদতে রাজনৈতিক হিংসা এবং মানুষের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকারের উপর আক্রমন অবিলম্বে বন্ধ করতে হবে; রাজনৈতিক হিংসা এবং সারদা, টেট ইত্যাদি দুর্নীতির মামলায় অভিযুক্ত শাসক দলের সাংসদ-বিধায়ক-নেতাদের অবিলম্বে গ্রেপ্তার করতে হবে

এই দাবিগুলিকে নিয়ে আগামীদিনে গণমঞ্চ সুনির্দিষ্ট আন্দোলনের কর্মসূচি গ্রহণ করবে।

অভিনন্দনসহ,

গণমঞ্চের আহ্বায়কবৃন্দ:

আব্দুর রেজ্জাক মোল্লা, সামাজিক ন্যায় বিচার মঞ্চ 
আভাস মুন্সী, মজদুর ক্রান্তি পরিষদ 
কুনাল চট্টোপাধ্যায়, র‍্যাডিকাল সোশালিস্ট 
পার্থ ঘোষ, সিপিআই এম-এল লিবারেশন 
প্রসেনজিৎ বসু, লেফট কালেক্টিভ

 

Solidarity with Gaza/Palestine. Resist Zionist aggression

Resolution adopted at founding meeting of Forum for Solidarity with Gaza and Campaign for Human Rights on July 28, 2014

 

The Israeli attacks on Palestinians are being portrayed by the Western media as defensive actions. It is claimed that had Hamas not been an Islamic fundamentalist organisation dedicated to the destruction of Israel, such things would not have happened.
The following facts therefore bear understanding:

1. The state of Israel was created by the United Nations at a time when the Palestinian Arabs had no voice in the UN. Once oil was discovered in West Asia and North Africa, the western imperialist powers were determined to keep a stranglehold on the region. Britain’s Balfour's declaration of 1917 supported the creation of a Zionist state, at a time when very few people globally supported Zionism. Subsequently the UN, dominated by Europeans and North Americans, decided that the genocide on Jews in Europe should be expiated by creating a “Homeland” for the Jews, who had been living in Europe all this while, in West Asia, by carving out a territory. The Zionist movement’s slogan had been, “A land without a people for a people without land”, thereby effectively saying that Arabs were cattle, rather than human beings.
2. In 1948 the state of Israel was finally created through a monstrous crime – the expulsion of nearly a million Palestinians from their homes. This violence is known to Palestinians as the Nakba – the Arabic word for “catastrophe”. It was followed by a second humanitarian disaster in 1967 when Israel seized the whole of Jerusalem and the entirety of historic Palestine – leading to over 40 years of military occupation and successive waves of killings in defence of the Zionist state: in the twenty-first century these have included Operations Summer Rains (June 2006), Autumn Clouds (November 2006), Hot Winter (February 2008), Cast Lead (2008-9), Returning Echo (March 2012), Pillar of Defence (November 2012) and now Protective Edge, just to name a few.
3. Between 1948 and 1967, Israel attacked and took over further land, dispossessing the Palestinians, who became refugees. The UN Partition plan gave the Jews 55% of the land of Palestine, at a time when they actually owned less than 7% of the land and constituted less than one third of the population. By 1949, after one wave of wars, Arab areas had shrunk to 23%. 418 Arab villages (531 according to other estimates) had been depopulated and erased from the map. By September 1949 there were 726,000 Arab refugees outside the Armistice lines, plus a further 32,000 internal refugees within the Armistice lines – according to the UN itself. In 1967, the UNRWA estimates a further 3,55,000 Arabs became refugees as a result of a further war by Israel, which resulted in the occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
4. The Israeli state invaded Lebanon and this resulted, in 1982, in the further displacement of 600,000 people, both Lebanese and Palestinians.
5. By 1991 there were some four and a half million people of Palestinian origin who were refugees or displaced persons, including those born as refugees.
6. The Palestine Liberation Organisation had been created to resist these continuous violations of the most basic human rights of the Palestinians. And it had been led for a long time by relatively secular, moderate and even conservative forces. By contrast, it was Israel that was a self proclaimed religious exclusionist state. It claimed to be a state of the Jews. Any Jew from anywhere in the world had a supposed right to return. And Palestinians repeatedly thrown out are denied the right to return.
7. It is this sheer provocation, through the use of the armed forces, as well as in other ways, that creates the conditions for Palestinian reactions. The rise of Hamas represents the extreme moderation, and dependence on Arab oligarchies, of the old PLO. To focus on the rise and role of Hamas, in addition, is to ignore the fact that Israel is a religious state that systematically discriminates against non Jews, and has been globally condemned as an apartheid state.
8. We are aware of the Israeli state mechanisms' attempts to legitimize their oppression of the Palestinian people and their denial of the right of Palestinians to self-determination through positioning themselves as the only democratic and liberal state in the region. One of the primary ways in which this is achieved is through 'pinkwashing', that is, promoting Israel as a LGBTQ friendly state and thereby downplaying its role in occupying Palestine and through this co-opting LGBTQ populations outside the region.
Nonetheless, we believe that acts of individual terror do not advance the Palestinian cause, not because of any false moralism that equates the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor, but because we believe that this is counterproductive under the current situation, where it enables Israel, backed by the “democracies”, to carry out brutal, sustained and ruthless terrorism. But we refuse to condemn such acts at par with Israel’s state terrorism.
That three young people were killed is certainly condemnable. However, Israel, knowing they were dead, pretended to go through the motions of searching, in order to intensify terror. They have named two persons for these killings, and even though no trial has been completed and nobody has been found guilty even by the Israeli courts, they have also informed the families of the suspects that their homes in Hebron are to be demolished. They have then launched a war by another name, killing about 1000 already. And the murderer Netanyahu tells the world and the bourgeois media parrots after him, that it is Israel that is under threat of Hamas rocket attacks, and defends the sustained violence. The form of “collective punishment” the Israeli authorities are carrying out, is reminiscent of similar “collective punishment” cases by all colonial powers and shows the hollowness of the Israeli claim to high moral ground.
Every ceasefire agreement has been violated by Israel. It is slowly but surely killing the entire population of Gaza, numbering close to 1.8 million. In November 2012, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip [by] land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.” Hamas asked that Israel should abide by this. Israel has rejected this, instead demanding new terms which amount to further violation of basic rights of Palestinians.
However, our protest against Zionist apartheid politics is in no way anti-Jew. We oppose the exclusionary, apartheid politics of Zionism, not the democratic rights of human beings, regardless of their religious or ethnic identity. We have no support for any anti-Semitic protest.
• We support the right of Palestinians to a homeland, returned to them from the seizures carried out over 67 years.
• Accordingly, we demand UN recognition of full statehood for Palestine.
• We demand immediate end to all violence including defensive violence.
• We condemn the continuous repression and murder of the Palestinians.
• We urge the Government of Egypt to open the Rafa border.
• We demand the trial of all Israeli politicians and other state personnel and individuals involved in the killings and torture, as war criminals, by organisations like the ICC (International Criminal Court).
• We call on all our fellow citizens to take part in the growing international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This once helped put pressure on the racist South African regime. This is a peaceful, yet powerful weapon that can compel the apartheid regime of Israel to accept that Palestinians have rights which must be respected.
• We demand that the Government of India and all state governments must snap economic ties with Israel. We demand that institutions and corporate bodies who have stable ties with Israel sever them.

Supporting the Palestinian people is legitimate; the government will not silence us!

Statement by NPA, France

 

This morning our comrade Alain Pojolat, who had filed on behalf of all the organizers, including the NPA, the declaration to the prefecture of the demonstrations which were subsequently banned, was charged and will appear before the Paris District Court on October 22, 2014.

The Israeli offensive has already caused more than 1,100 deaths, mostly civilians and many of them children, and more than 6,000 people have been injured. The "open air prison" that was Gaza has been turned into rubble, leading to demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinian people all over the world, including in Tel Aviv. For the Hollande-Valls government the urgent task is not to make every effort to stop the massacre, but to attempt to prohibit demonstrations in Paris, to criminalize the solidarity movement and thus to affirm its support for the criminal policy of the State of Israel.

The NPA is proud to take responsibility for its participation in the two demonstrations on 19 and 26 July, which despite being banned mobilized thousands of people to denounce the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and the alignment of the French government on the extreme right-wing government of Netanyahu.

The NPA calls on all democratic forces, associations, unions, parties and all those who are committed to freedom of expression to react against this attempt at intimidation. That begins by a massive response to the call to demonstrate on Saturday, August 2 in Paris: still determined to voice our solidarity with the Palestinian people, to demand an end to the offensive and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

July 29

Chinese ambitions - An imperialism in formation

Chinese ambitions - An imperialism in formation

 
Pierre Rousset

 

6 June 2014

 


 

China is not an “emerging country” but a power that has emerged. It is not a “sub-imperialism” ensuring order in its own region, but an imperialism “in formation.” The new Chinese bourgeoisie is aiming to play in the big league. The success of its enterprise is still far from assured, but this ambition determines its international policies, both economic and military.

 

 

The new “emerging powers” are often grouped together under the acronym BRICS; namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

These states are in fact trying to form a bloc in the international arena, organizing “summits”; the Fifth of them took place in Durban (South Africa) in 2013 and the next one is due to take place shortly in Fortaleza (Brazil). They have announced the creation of an international development bank under their control, an alternative to the World Bank. They are engaged in competition with the traditional imperialisms for access to resources, especially on the African continent. The results of this venture have proved for the moment to be mediocre, but there remains the temptation to formulate a “common critical analysis” of the BRICS in order, in particular, to strengthen the capacity of popular “South-South resistance and solidarity”, counterposing the “brics-from-below” to the “BRICS-from-above” [1].

Patrick Bond, an influential activist in the global justice movement and a politically committed university professor in South Africa [2] develops his analysis in a recent article in Pambazuka [3]. Although for the “more radical proponents” supporters of the BRICSs bloc, there is an “anti-imperialist potential”, there are “far greater dangers”: to see these countries playing “a ‘sub-imperialist’ role’ in contributing to neoliberal regime maintenance ”. Bond’s analysis is nuanced and he takes into account the different situations in the various countries concerned, even raising the possibility of seeing some of them being part of”inter-imperialist“conflicts, as Russia is attempting to do in Ukraine/Crimea. But he still comes back to the use of the concept of sub-imperialism for all of the components of the”bloc" - China included.

As noted by Bond, the notion of sub-imperialist countries has a long history: it was invoked by Ruy Mauro Marini in 1965 to describe the role of the Brazilian dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere and “then repeatedly applied during the 1970s.” This is where things become problematic. “Sub-imperialisms” really do exist today, but the conditions for the emergence of Chinese power are so different from the countries we were talking about then that it is doubtful whether the same term enables us to understand this specificity.

The present Chinese regime has certainly helped to extend (massively!) The sphere of international accumulation of capital; it has been integrated into globalization and economic financialisation; it has legitimized the dominant order by joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is opposed by all progressive social movements; it has provided transnational companies with a labour force that has no rights and can be exploited at will (the rural migrants from the interior of the country) - all things that are part of the role traditionally assigned to sub-imperialisms. In doing so, China could have once again become a dominated country like the others, under the yoke of the traditional imperialist powers. This possibility was perceptible in the early 2000s, but the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the new Chinese bureaucratic capitalism decided otherwise. They had the ability to do so thanks to the legacy of the Maoist revolution: the relationships of dependency with regard to imperialism had been broken, which is not true of any other member of the BRICS except Russia - and unlike the latter, the ruling party has been able to control continuously the process of capitalist transition, profoundly transforming the class structure of the country. [4]

This is not to say that the other countries that are more or less characterized as sub-imperialism (from Brazil to Saudi Arabia, from South Africa to Israel) are only pawns in the hands of Washington. But the logic within which the international policy of Beijing is situated is qualitatively different. When Brazil sent troops to Haiti and India sent troops to Sri Lanka, they were playing the role of regional gendarmes of the world order. In East Asia, China has engaged in a standoff with Japan - which is not at all the same thing - and by doing so it is launching a challenge to the United States: already a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an official possessor of nuclear weapons, it is postulating the status of a first-rank power.
 

 Economy and Strategy

To serve its new ambitions, Beijing has an economic base that is much superior to that of Russia, which depends more exclusively on its military capabilities. China’s place in the global economy has grown in a rapid and impressive fashion. How far will this rising power go? For Bruno Jetin, in this area many uncertainties remain [5].

In absolute terms, China has had since 2010 the second biggest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, behind the United States, but ahead of Japan and Germany. If current trends continue China could on this level take first place in a few years. [6] The important thing here is not the accuracy of the calculations or the prognostics, but the trend.

China also represents the second biggest market, one of the principal lenders and the biggest “workshop” in the world; a position that competition from other Asian countries with very low labour costs cannot easily threaten because the country also possesses a number of non-salary advantages. It is more difficult to measure the extent to which the Chinese economy is moving up market in the field of technological innovation. Because, once again, of its position of independence with regard to the traditional imperialisms, the regime can negotiate significant transfers of technology, but it has not yet made a leap forward in terms of radical indigenous innovations [7]. The CCP leadership has fixed for itself the objective of overcoming this limit in the future (including through the acquisition of Western companies).

Affirming its weight on a new terrain, China has just for the first time intervened as an “international gendarme” of competition, blocking a multinational rapprochement (in this case European) in which none of its own businesses was directly concerned: the link-up between the world leaders in maritime transport, Maersk (Danish), MSC (Swiss-Italian) and CMA-CGM (French), which had however already been approved by Brussels and Washington. [8] The choice of sector - shipping – for this surprise intervention was no accident: China is the largest exporter in the world.

The question remains: is the “Chinese model” of capitalist development sustainable? It is not sure that it can withstand the bursting of speculative bubbles (as in real estate) and a major social crisis; a new global recession, the outbreak of conflict in East Asia or acute tensions with the transnational Chinese capital. It has given birth to a particularly unequal social formation, similar to those of Latin American countries and far from those of Western countries - even though the United States is also highly unequal and some European countries are on the road to “ThirdWorldization”. Corruption is poisoning the country to the point of jeopardizing the implementation of economic policies. More and more very wealthy families - including those belonging to the upper echelons of the regime - engage in speculation and use tax havens to escape official controls. The coherence of “bureaucratic capitalism” is under pressure with the rise of private capitalists and is also undermined from within by the individualism of the “red princes”, children of dignitaries. However, it is this core of the present ruling class which controls the strategic project of creation of the new imperialism, which gives it its strength; if it breaks up, how will the conversion be carried through?

That having been said, for the moment Chinese international economic policy does not only aim to make profits: it also aims to lay the foundations of a superpower. In terms of raw materials, China lacks or will lack almost everything; it is buying on a massive scale agricultural and mining land (oil, gas, rare metals ...) all over the world and is taking control of multinationals [9]. It guarantees direct control over production by monopolizing the management of its businesses, but also by exporting Chinese labour (Africa ...) or by recruiting by preference citizens of other countries who speak Chinese (Vietnam ...). Correlatively, it seeks to ensure secure channels of intercontinental communication by buying ports [10] and airports, investing in merchant shipping and gradually deploying its military fleet on the occasion, particularly, of operations against piracy on the high seas.

Purchases of sovereign debt or banking institutions, diversification of its foreign exchange reserves, creating renminbi clearing banks in London and Frankfurt following on Singapore - and soon Paris ... China is strengthening its position in international finance, having made very good use of Hong Kong for this purpose. In October 2013, the Chinese renminbi supplanted the euro as the second currency in the financing of international trade, even though it is not yet fully convertible. [11]

Admittedly, for international financial transactions as a whole, the renminbi is still the seventh currency in the world (far behind the euro) and the supremacy of the dollar is not about to be challenged; but Beijing can take advantage of the concern caused by the way the United States demands a right to inspect accounts in dollars all over the world and to impose its laws outside its own borders on all commercial transactions denominated in its currency, as shown in the case of BNP Paribas, literally placed under U.S. supervision. [12]. In these conditions, the search for an alternative currency will gain strength.

China is also becoming more influential in another sector dominated by the traditional imperialisms. According to the latest report from SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) for the first time since the end of the Cold War, China ranks among the five largest arms exporters, a “top five” that had up till then only comprised the United States and Europeans. [13] With 6 per cent of sales, it ranks in fourth place just behind Germany (7 per cent), ahead of France (5 per cent) and the United Kingdom (4 per cent) which slips back to sixth place. [14]
 

 The maritime conflict in East Asia

It is in East Asia that tensions between China, its neighbouring states and the USA are the sharpest. This is not something new. Washington deployed enormous resources to stem the tide of revolution that began in the region around the Second World War. After the conquest of power by the Maoist forces in 1949, a network of military bases was formed in an arc from South Korea to Thailand via Japan (Okinawa) and the Philippines. The outbreak of the Sino-Soviet conflict, when Moscow made a nuclear deal with Washington and placed China before a fait accompli, reinforced the encirclement syndrome in Beijing. What has changed, however, is the social nature of the Chinese state and, correspondingly, the policies that it implements in order to break the threat of physical isolation of which it fears it is the object [15].

This policy has today an economic dimension related to the massive export of capital that is one of the marks of the emergence of a new and very conquering Chinese capitalism, and to the explosive growth of trade relations. Beijing is creating a double dependency in countries of the region: through the importance of the Chinese market to their economies and through the growth of its investments in many of its neighbours. Thus, the CCP no longer hesitates to bypass the North Korean regime in order to strengthen directly its relations with South Korea.

Beijing is dangling the offer of a pax sinica that would consolidate these relations of economic dependency - but this policy also provokes growing social and national resistance where populations are victims of commercial dumping and unequal cross-border trade (Thailand ...), are threatened by huge infrastructure projects such as giant dams (a project aborted in Vietnam, another in Myanmar suspended ...), suffer too harsh working conditions in Chinese companies (Vietnam ...) or are driven from their lands which have been acquired by China (Philippines ...).

The implosion of the USSR and the end of the period known as the Cold War between blocs has made the geopolitics of East Asia very unstable, with multiple “hot spots” – festering crises that have been unresolved for decades. In this context, Beijing seeks to establish itself as a key player in the international diplomatic manœuvres. This was obviously the case for the Korean peninsula, but China is now also present in Afghanistan.

This all-out regional policy has also a very aggressive military and territorial component that highlights how far this pax sinica would be unequal. To pander to the great-power nationalism that is filling the ideological vacuum left by the collapse of Maoism, to give legitimacy to the regime, to appropriate marine wealth, but also to ensure access for its fleet to the Pacific Ocean and the straits of Southeast Asia, Beijing has claimed sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea (a claim that is obviously rejected by the other countries that border these waters). It grants itself rights that apply in principle to an inland sea, not to an international shipping route. It in fact imposes its demands by building various military structures on uninhabited archipelagos, islets, rocks and reefs which are claimed or possessed by other countries in the region - it invites its citizens to fish everywhere under the protection of its coastguards and to engage in prospecting for oil, with the installation on May 2 of a drilling platform off the coast of Vietnam.

Against Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan, Beijing takes possession of or demands the entirety of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, the Scarborough Reef, the Senkaku /Diaoyu Islands; and it is extending its own territorial waters to point of leaving virtually nothing for the other countries of Southeast Asia. Points of military friction have emerged to the west with Vietnam and to the east with Japan. Although in the first case very violent incidents have taken place, it is in the second that a “controlled” escalation has raised the stakes very high since Tokyo “nationalized” in September 2012 the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands [16] - to such an extent that last November, China declared an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) including this small archipelago.

No power today wants to start a war in East Asia, but from provocation to counter-provocation, dangerous slippages cannot be excluded. And we are in the most nuclearized region of the planet where - as shown by the Korean crisis - China, Russia, the United States and Japan find themselves face to face. In a region that is also marked by the rise of xenophobic nationalisms and maritime militarization (where the biggest and the third and fourth biggest fleets in the world manœuvre). The United States has been constantly announcing its grand return to Asia and the Japanese right wants to free itself from the pacifist clauses of its Constitution: despite the opposition of a majority of the population, the Japanese cabinet of Prime Minister Abe has adopted a new “interpretation” of this Constitution, which should facilitate the participation of its army in military operations abroad ... [17]

The end of blocs as a result of the implosion of the USSR and capitalist globalization has created a situation of great instability, and not just interdependence (the United States dependent on Chinese capital and China dependent on the U.S. market). Washington cannot police the world alone and some regional “sub-imperialisms” are not enough to help it: it would need imperialist allies, even if they were “secondary”; but the European Union is conspicuous by its impotence and Japan cannot yet stand on its own two feet. For the moment, Beijing is taking advantage of this situation, on both the economic and military levels. But if (if!) the constitution of the new Chinese imperialism continues without major regime crisis, it will be accompanied by rising geopolitical tensions.

East Asia is certainly not the only region of the world marked by instability and by a rise in armed conflicts - the Middle East remains from this point of view by far the “hottest” region! But it is in Asia that the confrontation between all the major powers takes the most direct form.



 

 

Notes

[1] Patrick Bond, “Which way forward for the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) in Africa, a year after the Durban summit?”Pambazuka No. 673: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/categor... Available on ESSF (item 31676).

[2] University of KwaZulu-Natal

[3] Patrick Bond, “BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa]) and the tendency to sub-imperialism”, Pambazuka No. 673: http://pambazuka.org/en/category/fe ... available on ESSF (item 31709).

[4] See on this process Pierre Rousset, “D’où surgit le nouveau capitalisme chinois ? « Bourgeoisification » de la bureaucratie et mondialisation” of the bureaucracy and globalization”,
ESSF (article 31179):
http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spi...

[5] See Bruno Jetin, “China: unavoidable rise or possible decline?” in Au Loong Yu, China’s Rise: Strength and Fragility, Merlin Press, Pontypool, 2013. Much of the following data are taken from this chapter. For a historic overview of the rise of Chinese capitalism in the international arena, see in the same book, the chapter by Au Loong Yu, “China Going Global.”

[6] According to IMF calculations, which use data whose reliability is questionable, such as that concerning exchange rates.

[7] For example, in the car industry... http://www.autoactu.com/les-dangers...

[8] Denis Cosnard, Le Monde, 19 June 2014.

[9] This has been the case for example in the dairy sector since 2010, with capital acquisitions by food giants controlled by the Chinese government such as Bright Food; New Zealand was the first target (the country is the world’s largest exporter of dairy products), followed by offensives in the United States and Europe, and recently in Israel. It is a question at the same time of securing the importation of products, ingredients or technologies in a very sensitive sector, following on the repeated health scandals concerning especially powdered milk for babies. Still in the food industry, a similar movement is underway in the meat sector, notably with WH Group taking control in 2013 of the pork processing enterprise Smithfield, which was the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese group.

[10] Quite recently, the Chinese Premier visited Athens to negotiate, in particular, the extension of its interests in the port of Piraeus, put up for sale by the Greek government.

[11] Isabelle Chaperon, Le Monde, 29-30 June 2014.

[12] The big French bank BNP Paribas was sentenced to a record fine of nearly $9 billion (among other sanctions) for having traded in U.S. currency with countries subject to American embargo, even though such operations were conducted in Switzerland. It is surprising that the bank, warned of the risks it was running, persisted; but the bottom line is that any transaction must be recorded in dollars in a bank in the United States, which provides an opportunity for the American judicial system to intervene.
Furthermore, it is the New York branch of BNP Paribas which will monitor all flows in dollars; it must also create a “Financial Security” department - still in New York - to ensure that operations worldwide respect American regulations: the largest French bank thus finds itself subjected closely to U.S. authorities.

[13] http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2013/...

[14] http://books.sipri.org/product_info... The two biggest exporters are obviously the United States (29 per cent) and Russia (27 per cent).

[15] It is not possible within the scope of this article to revisit the complex history of the Asian policy of Beijing in the Maoist era.

[16] Pierre Rousset, “Asie du Nord-Est: bruits de bottes pour une poignée d’îlots inhabités”, ESSF (article 26587)

[17] This article focuses on the rise of Chinese power. An article about the geopolitical situation of East Asia should obviously develop the specific roles of the “traditional” imperialisms, the USA and Japan.

 

* Translation International Viewpoint. http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/

Legitimate support of the Palestinians has no common ground with anti-semitism

France:

Legitimate support of the Palestinians has no common ground with anti-semitism

Wednesday 23 July 2014, by NPA

François Hollande et his prime minister, Manuel Valls have chosen to outrageously link the struggle for the rights of the Palestinian people to anti-Semitism. Today, because of their bans on pro-Palestinian demonstrations, they are principally responsible for any incidents which may happen on the fringes of such protests.

The NPA condemns, as it has always done, all anti-Semitic acts and ideas, whether they come from the far right Front National, people like Soral and Dieudonné, or any other dangerous and irresponsible people who would make a mockery of legitimate solidarity with the Palestinians.

Neither the NPA, nor the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people, confuse the Jewish population, here or in Israel, believers and non-believers, with the defence of the colonial policy of the Israeli state. This is in contrast to those who claim that all Jews in France support Israel, such as Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions) or the Ligue de Défense Juive (Jewish Defence League) which is calling for pro-Israel demonstrations in front of synagogues. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a religious one, it’s an entirely political one.

Given the bloody balance sheet of recent days (with more than 500 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians and large numbers of women and children) it is urgent that we demand that the Israeli state end its land offensive and bombardment of the Gaza Strip. We also demand that it end the blockade of Gaza; respect United Nations resolutions and the rights of the Palestinian people.

The NPA calls on all political, trade union and community organisations to support these demands by demonstrating next Wednesday at 6.30pm at Denfert-Rochereau and to join other such events across the whole of France.

Montreuil, 21/07/2014


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