Updates

Articles

Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Cynicism of colour-blind equal opportunity racism

 

 

The horrible atrocity of Charlie Hebdo shooting, resulting in the death of 12, has aroused indignation across the world and has given rise to the twitter campaign ‘Je suis Charlie’ (meaning ‘I am Charlie’). The anger and revulsion, that an atrocity like this generates, is understandable. People want to show solidarity with the victims and also stand up for the principle of free speech. Some have claimed that ‘Muslims’ need to apologize, and ‘Muslim leaders’ are not doing enough to fight terrorism. This public outcry brings out a few questions which have been largely ignored in the reporting of the corporate media and in the general public discussion: the fact that we do not live in a vacuum but instead in a society fraught with Islamophobia (and other forms of racism); while we defend an abstract principle of free speech we also have to remember that there is a difference between free speech and hate speech; and the origin of political Islam – imperialism.

 

Islamophobia

 

It should be said at the very outset, to avoid any misunderstanding, the attacks were horrible, and need to be mourned and condemned. Who would not? But, we need to be careful of the repercussions of such denouncements (the backlash that Muslims, Arabs and other people of colour faced in the aftermath of 9-11, and the ideological backing a discourse of Islamophobia provided for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).

 

We need to remember that it is the Muslims who have had to bear the brunt of fundamentalist Islam to begin with. It is the ordinary people in Pakistan who have been at the receiving end of school shootings in Peshawar1. Huge majority of Muslims are opposed to the ideas espoused by groups like the IS (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda, and the people fighting IS on the ground today are Muslims. Yet, too often we find that the public denunciations have linked the atrocities to ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslims’, and talk about a ‘clash of civilizations’ leading to a further increase in Islamophobic discourse.

 

Islamophobic attacks are nothing new in France. According to one estimate, there have been 110 instances of Islamophobic violence from January to September 20142. Hence expectedly, within the first 24 hours of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, more than a dozen attacks were carried out against Muslims3. More than 50 attacks against Muslims have been reported since then, including gunshots, grenades, firebombs, carcass of pigs strewn across mosques, threats of violence via letters and insults4. This is similar to the backlash that Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis and other people of colour faced in the US in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. Immediately, people have been identified, on the basis of a particular piece of clothing, skin colour or the kind of religious place they visit, to be against free speech and desirous of inflicting murder on unsuspecting victims. According to a survey done by Ipsos in 2013, 74% of French respondents feel that Islam is incompatible with French society5. Thus, these attacks or the backlash against Muslims in the wake of Charlie Hebdo attacks, are not happening in a vacuum. There is a long history of Islamophobia and non-inclusion of immigrant Muslims in French society, for which French colonialism in North Africa is to be blamed in no small measure. But, all we hear is about ‘clash of civilization’ narrative, where the West with all its history of colonialism and empire are the good guys and on a ‘civilizing’ mission.

 

Empire

 

It needs to be identified that the cause of what we see in the Middle East in general and in the Islamic countries, and the rise of political Islam is a direct consequence of imperialism. Britain and France had divided the Middle East amongst themselves. The egregious history of colonialism and empire, at the time, was defended by a large number of western philosophers in the name of ‘enlightenment’, ‘civilization’, ‘reason’, ‘rationality’ etc. The United States of America inherited the burden to ‘civilize’, and bring ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to the rest of humanity from Britain and France after World War II. Since the world had transformed from being based on coal to being based on oil, suddenly the vast oil reserves in the Middle East were an enormous source of wealth and power. The United States now considered the Middle East region as 'the most strategically important area of the world' and 'one of the greatest material prizes in world history'6. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to a British Ambassador in 1944:

 

Persian oil ... is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours.’7

 

It was absolutely vital for any country that wished to be the super power to have control over those territories, not just for directly using the oil reserves (surely that) but also to decide who gets access, how that is decided and so on. The US strived forward to do so by crushing, not only any communist aspirations in the region (as elsewhere), but also all secular Arab nationalistic aspirations. It carried out coups, and toppled democratically elected governments across the Middle East, including in Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan8.

 

Its most dependable allies in the region were Israel and Saudi Arabia. The former, a settler colonial apartheid state, and the latter espouses the most regressive interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, and have spent billions of dollars spreading this toxic ideology across the globe. The US State department website (updated on August 23, 2013) reads the following:

 

The United States and Saudi Arabia established full diplomatic relations in 1940. Saudi Arabia's unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States.9

 

The price for imperial chess game played by the US had to be borne by ordinary working class people of the region. At the same time, the corporate media had maintained that the people in the Middle East (read Muslims) are so medieval and regressive that they do not want democracy or are not ready for democracy. This idea was proved to be untrue by the Arab Springs movements. While the peace loving USA in its commitment to promote ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ continued to support the Egyptian dictator10 and provide them with teargas canisters11, the medieval and backward Muslims took to the streets to fight brutal regimes in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. The more recent of the US interventions is the war on Iraq, carried out on fabricated evidence of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. Some estimates count the number of Iraqis killed to over a million12.

 

The recent occupation of Iraq followed an earlier regime of harsh economic sanctions, which led Denis J. Halliday, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq from September 1997 until 1998, to resign. He characterised the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq as 'genocide' and said the following:

 

I was driven to resignation because I refused to continue to take Security Council orders, the same Security Council that had imposed and sustained genocidal sanctions on the innocent of Iraq. I did not want to be complicit. I wanted to be free to speak out publicly about this crime.

 

And above all, my innate sense of justice was and still is outraged by the violence that UN sanctions have brought upon, and continues to bring upon, the lives of children, families – the extended families, the loved ones of Iraq. There is no justification for killing the young people of Iraq, not the aged, not the sick, not the rich, not the poor.

 

Some will tell you that the leadership is punishing the Iraqi people. That is not my perception, or experience from living in Baghdad. And were that to be the case – how can that possibly justify further punishment, in fact collective punishment, by the United Nations? I don’t think so. And international law has no provision for the disproportionate and murderous consequences of the ongoing UN embargo – for well over 12 long years.’13

 

Democrat Senator Madeline Albright when asked about the death of half a million Iraqi children, said that they were worth the price for US policy objectives14. The renowned linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky speaks of the 2004 Fallujah attack as a war crime, where men aged between 15 to 45 were not allowed to flee the conflict zone, and the ground offensive included the attack on Fallujah General Hospital, where patients were restrained on the ground15 (what would clearly constitute war crimes). The recent Senate Committee report describe in detail some of the inhumane methods, like rectal feeding, used to torture prisoners16. The US government called it enhanced interrogation tactics. That is the civilized white man’s word for torture. This could be satire too, one which water-boarded medieval Muslims would not understand.

 

This is the backdrop for radicalization of a generation of young people—occupation and foreign intervention, and ideological indoctrination to the most regressive interpretation of Islam, funded by Saudi Arabia, a close US ally. Not to forget that France has had a particularly violent history of colonialism and occupation of Algeria and other North African countries. No coincidence that the two brothers carrying out the Charlie Hebdo shootings were of Algerian descent. This is not a defence of the killing of 10 cartoonists. This is an attempt to understand what drives people to murder cartoonists. Some people have asked all ‘Muslims’ to apologize for this atrocity, committed by a group of unelected minority claiming to be acting on behalf of a community. No such calls for apology by all Americans for droning of wedding parties, using depleted uranium, agent orange and white phosphorus, all authorized by elected representatives who were voted to power by ordinary Americans. No twitter campaign decrying the using of rectal feeding. Because the civilized and enlightened do not apologize17. They don’t count every nose they ‘schwack’ either18.

 

Free Speech

 

An estimated crowd of 3.7 million people were joined by many world leader including Netanyahu and General Sisi among others in Paris displaying signs reading ‘Je suis Charlie’ and proclaiming the inviolability of the right to free speech19. We should ask ourselves this question: what kind of free speech movement would allow people like Benjamin Netanyahu, General Sisi and US president Obama to be participants? In the summer of 2014, Israel launched a genocidal campaign on Gaza, where among others they killed 17 journalists in one instance20. Mohammad Saba'aneh, an acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist, was sentenced to five months in prison in Israel for contacting the publisher of a book about Palestinian prisoners' rights21. The situation for journalists have significantly worsened under General Sisi as described in a report prepared by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)22, and most notably 16 journalists, including three from Al-Jazeera, have been held since December 2013 for 'spreading false news' and 'membership of a terrorist organisation'23.

 

President Obama championed the cause of free speech and said the following of the Charlie Hebdo killings:

 

The fact that this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press, also underscores that these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press

 

Yet, it is this Obama who had personally called Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and 'expressed concern' over the release of a well-known and independent journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye (effectively asking the journalist to be held in prison).24 According to a report from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Leonard Downie Jr. and Sara Rafsky25, President Barack Obama has the worst record when it comes to freedom of journalists, ranked lower than George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon. Obama administration's treatment of Edward Snowden and Chelsey Manning has not been anything less than vicious26.

 

France, on the other hand, is the first country to have banned protests against the settler colonial apartheid state of Israel27. France banned the usage of face covering in public places, which prohibited Muslim women to wear the burqa or niqab in public places. One reported incident records the miscarriage of a baby when a pregnant Muslim woman was attacked and kicked in the stomach for wearing a veil28. In 2005, France passed the act ‘French law on colonialism’, repealed in 2006, to teach the positive values of French colonialism in schools. Free speech indeed. This is true satire. This would be funny if the subject was not so grim. Jeremy Scahill would call this ‘a circus of hypocrisy’29.

 

But Charlie Hebdo and their supporters have claimed that they are equal opportunity racists – meaning they have ridiculed and hurt all religious sentiments and that they have been racists towards black people. For example Teju Cole writes the following:

 

Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.’30

 

They claim to have a proud history of attempting to be anti-Semitic, except, once in 2009, Charlie Hebdo ended up firing a cartoonist for anti-Semitism31. So much for equal opportunity racism and free speech. Commentators have pointed out that Charlie Hebdo in the recent past (last 5-6 years) have become Islamophobic and have unfairly targeted Muslims in France. Olivier Cyran, a previous employee of Charlie Hebdo, wrote an article about the Islamophobic nature of their cartoons back in 201332.

 

So the question arises: what would be satire, and what is hate speech? Are we allowed to use the N-word referring to blacks and say it was just a joke? Can we portray stereotypes most commonly associated with Jews (hooked nose, all Jews are bankers etc.) and say this just for good fun? Or is there anything called hate speech? It is important for us to recognize that while we would want to defend the principle of free speech, given our politics, we are opposed to all forms of hate speech, especially when directed against the socially disenfranchised. Thus, we cannot celebrate the magazine which depicts the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb instead of a turban in his head, buttressing the stereotype that Islam is based on violence or all Muslims are of violent disposition etc., just as we would not defend a magazine depicting a hooked nose Jew counting money. And yet, we would not want anyone to be physically harmed because someone drew an anti-semitic/racist/sexist/islamophobic cartoon. We would want to fight their ideas politically. This is precisely the reason why we deplore the Islamophobia of Charlie Hebdo as we mourn the deaths of their cartoonists.

 

Furthermore, there is something to be said about the difference between free speech from bullying. The politics of mocking, at best, is limited. But the politics of mocking when directed to the socially disenfranchised, towards the weak, becomes the politics of bullying. While those who mock the weak should not be attacked physically, we need not valorise them to be heroes either, in fact our responsibility is to contest their ideas politically. Muslims are yet to have equal citizenship in practice in France. When cartoonists and free speech defenders proclaim that freedom of speech is a peculiarly French trait, they do not include Muslim French citizens, they mean it to be a non-Muslim French trait. So mocking Muslims in France, USA and elsewhere, is not the same as mocking Obama, Netanyahu, Hollande and Sisi for their ‘circus of hypocrisy’.

 

A true show of international solidarity would be a position of anti-war and anti-imperialism, which recognizes the nature and origin of fundamentalist violence and locates it in imperialism. We need to show solidarity with secular aspirations in all these nations, fighting imperialism. One way would be to build an anti-war, anti-imperialist movement which would not only challenge theocratic governments in their own country but also challenge the role played by USA and other western nations, cynically supporting vicious dictators with money and military training against the general will of the people of the region. Such a movement would never find amongst them people who sit down every Tuesday to decide who would be the target of their next drone strikes33, or would not find amongst their midst who call ‘incremental ethnic cleansing’ ‘mowing the lawn’34. We need to elevate the level of our politics and criticisms for this to be a true solidarity worth upholding. And let us be honest, this was not about free speech, if it had been, France would not have curbed free speech in order to defend it35. But, maybe this is irony or satire I would not understand as a brown person bereft of civilizational values. - By Kolpona, January 24, 2015.

 

1 (22 December 2014) Pakistan school massacre: Who are the dead? BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-30508689 (Last accessed Jan 23, 2014)

 

2 (13 January, 2014) Anti-Muslim acts escalate after Paris terrorist attacks. France 24. Retrieved from http://www.france24.com/en/20150113-france-anti-muslim-acts-spread-charlie-hebdo-terrorist-attacks-islam-mosques/ (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

3 Fisher, M. (January 10, 2015). This map shows every attack on French Muslims since Charlie Hebdo. http://www.vox.com/2015/1/10/7524731/french-muslims-attacks-charlie-hebdo

 

4 (13 January, 2014) Anti-Muslim acts escalate after Paris terrorist attacks. France 24. Retrieved from http://www.france24.com/en/20150113-france-anti-muslim-acts-spread-charlie-hebdo-terrorist-attacks-islam-mosques/ (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

5 Scheller, A. and Diehm, J. (10 January 2015). Anti-Muslim Attacks After Charlie Hebdo Highlight France's Long History Of Islamophobia. The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/09/islamophobia-in-france_n_6445064.html?ir=India (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

6 Chomsky, Noam (January/February 2005) "Imperial Presidency", Canadian Dimension, Vol. 39, No. 1 p. 8

 

7 Yergin, D (1991) The Prize: The Epic quest for Oil, Money and Power New York: Simon and Schuster p 401

 

8 We confine ourselves only to the Middle East. Besides this, USA has carried out similar policies across Latin America, Vietnam etc.

 

9 http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3584.htm (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

10 Hillary Clinton considered the Hosni Mubarak, the brutal dictator of Egypt, a family friend (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/01/secretary-clinton-in-2009-i-really-consider-president-and-mrs-mubarak-to-be-friends-of-my-family/), until it was embarrassing to admit it.

 

11 Lennard, N. (23 February, 2013) Egypt imports 140,000 tear gas canisters from U.S. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/02/22/egypt_imports_140000_tear_gas_canisters_from_u_s/ (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

12 A September 14, 2007, estimate by Opinion Research Business (ORB), an independent British polling agency, suggests that the total Iraqi violent death toll due to the Iraq War since the U.S.-led invasion is in excess of 1.2 million (1,220,580), confirming the earlier count of a Lancet study. On January 28, 2008, ORB published an update based on additional work carried out in rural areas of Iraq. Some 600 additional interviews were undertaken and as a result of this the death estimate was revised to 1,033,000 with a given range of 946,000 to 1,120,000. A more conservative estimate on MIT's website claims that approximately 600,000 people have been killed in the violence of the war that began with the U.S. invasion in March 2003 (The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study 2002-2006 http://web.mit.edu/humancostiraq/reports/human-cost-war-101106.pdf)

 

13 Halliday, Denis. "2003 Gandhi International Peace Award Acceptance Speech". http://gandhifoundation.org/2003/01/30/2003-peace-award-denis-halliday-2/ (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

14 Madeline Albright, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time, said on CBS's 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996) in reply to Lesley Stahl's question "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" :'I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.' Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbIX1CP9qr4 (Last accessed Jan 23, 2015)

 

15 Chomsky, N. (April 4, 2006). Noam Chomsky on War Crimes in Iraq. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/73753/

 

16 Snyder, J. (Dec 10, 2014) CIA Detainees Dragged Naked Down Corridors, Force-Fed Rectally. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-09/detainees-held-in-cold-cells-force-fed-rectally-in-cia-program.html

 

17 "I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." - said then Vice President of the United States, George Bush, on Aug 2, 1988, after a civilian aircraft carrying 290 passengers, 66 of which were children, was shot down by the reckless USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988.

 

18 "[W]e don't have the ability to -- to count every nose that we schwack." said Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby, when asked about the number of Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS) fighters killed in ongoing coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria. http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/pentagon-isis-deaths-we-cant-count-every-nose-we-schwack_823287.html

 

19 Fantz, A. (January 12, 2015) Array of world leaders joins 3.7 million in France to defy terrorism. CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/11/world/charlie-hebdo-paris-march/

 

20 (August 29, 2014) These 17 Journalists Were Killed by Israel In Gaza. http://countercurrentnews.com/2014/08/these-17-journalists-were-killed-by-israel-in-gaza/

(November 19, 2012) Israeli spokesperson admits to targeting journalists in Gaza. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/charlotte-silver/israeli-spokesperson-admits-targeting-journalists-gaza

 

21 Robbins, A. (April 12, 2013). Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh sentenced to 5 months in prison http://mondoweiss.net/2013/04/palestinian-cartoonist-sentenced

 

22 Mansour, S. (August 14, 2013) On the Divide: Press Freedom at Risk in Egypt. https://cpj.org/reports/2013/08/on-divide-egypt-press-freedom-military.php

 

23 Tran, M. (January 11, 2015) Presence at Paris rally of leaders with poor free press records is condemned. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/11/paris-rally-charlie-hebdo-free-press-reports-without-borders

Radsch, Courtney C. (June 3, 2014) Press freedom is now el-Sisi's choice. https://cpj.org/blog/2014/06/egypts-newly-elected-leader-abdel-fattah.php

 

24 Scahill, J. (March 13, 2012). Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen? http://www.thenation.com/article/166757/why-president-obama-keeping-journalist-prison-yemen

Abdulelah Haider Shaye's case is covered in Jeremy Scahill's documentary Dirty Wars which was nominated for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

 

25 Downie Jr., L. and Rafsky, S. (October 10, 2013). The Obama Administration and the Press. http://www.cpj.org/reports/2013/10/obama-and-the-press-us-leaks-surveillance-post-911.php

 

26 Colson, N. (October 17, 2013). High-risk journalism http://socialistworker.org/2013/10/17/high-risk-journalism

 

27 Allen, P. (July 19, 2014). Outrage as France become first country in world to ban pro-Palestine demos. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2697194/Outrage-France-country-world-ban-pro-Palestine-demos.html

 

28 Nelson, Sara C. (June 19, 2013). Pregnant Muslim Woman 'Miscarries Baby After Veil Attack'. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/19/pregnant-muslim-woman-miscarries-baby-veil-attack_n_3464409.html

 

29 (January 12, 2015) "Circus of Hypocrisy": Jeremy Scahill on How World Leaders at Paris March Oppose Press Freedom. http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/12/circus_of_hypocrisy_jeremy_scahill_on

 

30 Cole, T. (January 9, 2015). Unmournable Bodies. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies

 

31 Samuel, H. (Jan 2009). French cartoonist Sine on trial on charges of anti-Semitism over Sarkozy jibe. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/4351672/French-cartoonist-Sine-on-trial-on-charges-of-anti-Semitism-over-Sarkozy-jibe.html

 

32 Cyran, O. (5 December, 2013) “Charlie Hebdo”, not racist? If you say so…. http://posthypnotic.randomstatic.net/charliehebdo/Charlie_Hebdo_article%2011.htm

 

33 Obama decides who to drone every Tuesday

 

34 Israel’s term for intermittent ‘incremental genocide’ (term used by eminent historian Ilaan Pappe) of Palestinians in Gaza

 

35 Abunimah, A. (January 19, 2015). France begins jailing people for ironic comments. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/france-begins-jailing-people-ironic-comments

Greenwald, G. (January 14, 2015) France arrests a comedian for his facebook comments, showing the sham of the West's “Free Speech” celebration https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/14/days-hosting-massive-free-speech-march-france-arrests-comedian-facebook-comments/

 

Statement on the Police-party Axis and violence on Women in West Bengal

Statement on the Police-party Axis and violence on Women in West Bengal

 

The incidence of police torture on a woman at Kalamadanga village under Budbud police station in Bardhaman district of West Bengal, is a grim reminder that the “normalisation” of state violence, including, or better to say particularly, violence on women, has continued unabated regardless of which political party has been in power.

The incidence is a straightforward case of politically motivated violence targetting women. A man named Sheikh Mithun, of the Parui region, is reported to have switched from the TMC to the BJP. As part of the threat to wipe out the BJP from the Parui area, he was injured due to bomb throwing on the part of alleged TMC goondas. Treated in a hospital in Bardhaman, he was released on the 17th of January, 2015. Thereafter, police, accompanied by TMC people, turned up at the paternal home of Mithun’s aunt, which is in the Budbud area of Bardhaman. She was asked about his whereabouts, and dragged to a forest area, tied to a tree, beaten, with a blade used on her body, stripped and otherwise tortured.

The TMC has jumped to the defence of the police, claiming that nothing wrong was done. The police has accepted that some wrong was done, but the role of senior police officer, SDPO Amlan Kusum Ghosh, has been ignored. In a typical move, the internal police report has been trying to pick holes or inconsistencies in the torture victim’s claims, questioning whether a blade was indeed used and so on. The Calcutta High court had asked the police to provide protection to the woman, yet in subsequent developments the father and brothers of the woman were attacked by TMC leaders with journalists being chased away. The survivor claimed that they are under constant threat to withdraw the case and even the threat of rape dangles on her which the police think will compel Sheikh Mithun to surrender.

Without diluting in any way our condemnation of the police and the ruling party, and while fully supporting the woman concerned, we would however also point out that the media hype today is because this is a conflict between two rightwing bourgeois parties. When it is a case of women being accused of belonging to left forces, or of being relatives of male left wing activists, in particular the radical left, the media often plays a far less vocal role. We therefore urge all women’s rights activists to relate the Budbud case to all cases of police and party led violence on women, instead of treating it in isolation.

Radical Socialist:

·         condemn the police violence

·         condemn use of woman’s body as a pressure tactic to arrest the target of the police

·         demand an end to police protection of political parties whenever they are in power

·         demand a speedy independent enquiry and punishment of the guilty

·         demand an interim suspension of the OC and the SDPO during the inquiry

·         demand that the government should take the responsibility of the safety of the woman and her family and should also bear the responsibility for the medical expenses

Radical Socialist 28 January 2015

Farmers across Gujarat being Detained


Red carpet for National and International Corporate Honchos, iron fist at Farmers

 

While the Government of Gujarat is splurging on the jamboree called Vibrant Gujarat it is a crime to raise the issue of farmers' suicides and low cotton prices. The totally non-political ‘Sanyukta Khedut Sangharsh Samiti’ had planned to make a peaceful representation before Gujarat Government on 11th Januaray, 2015. Farmers were setting out for the Action spot in their thousands. In a wanton display of its paranoia as well as dictatorial tendencies the Government first tried to scare away bus and other transporters. They attempted to force them to cancel farmers' bookings. Farmers demonstrated their resolve by finding other means to reach the appointed spot. Thousands of farmers are being detained in tens of places across Gujarat. First, Mr Shivlal Vekaria (ex-MP) and Chandulal Shingala were detained in Rajkot. Hundreds of farmers started being detained in various districts. In the dead of the night - around 12.30 am - Sagar Rabari and Lakhan Musafir were arrested. Other prominent farmers being detained include Mansukhbhai (Rajkot), Pradyumansinh and Ramdevsinh Chudasma (Dholera), Mahendrasinh Karmariya, Nipul Patel, Yakub Gurji (Bharuch), Lalji Desai (Becharaji-Mandal). The Mansa MLA Mr. Amitbhai, Dehgam MLA Kaminiben and Jashubhai Rana of Gandhinagar have also been arrested.

 

The farmers' demands were simple and basic.

1) Support Price for Cotton at 1200 / 20  kg, and Rs. 1000 / 20 kg for groundnut.

2) No de-commanding of Narmada waters and diverting it to industries.

3) Repeal of draconian anti-farmer laws such as Special Invest Region Act, and Gujarat Irrigation Act.

4) Immediate withdrawal of the Ordinance making the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act meaningless.

 

It has become the standard practice for the Government of Gujarat to clamp down on demands of the poor and toiling people of Gujarat rather than addressing. This Government believes in ruling via Ordinances on the one hand, and organising public relations jamboorees - all at Tax Payers' expense.

 

SARKAR HAMSE DARTI HAI POLICE KO AAGE KARTI HAI

 

Persis Ginwala                       Rajni Dave                 Anand Mazgaonkar

FRANCE :Barbaric and reactionary madness

FRANCE

Barbaric and reactionary madness

Wednesday 7 January 2015, by NPA

Statement by the NPA on the attack against Charlie Hebdo which has resulted in the deaths of 10 journalists, including the editor and well-known cartoonists, and two police. The offices were under armed police guard since the affair of the "Mohamed cartoons".

The attack on the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has provoked indignation and anger against such blind and murderous violence against journalists and employees. This violence aims at sowing terror, against freedom of expression and press freedom, in the name of reactionary and obscurantist prejudices.

We have often found ourselves debating, even in quite a polemical way, with the cartoonists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo, and we have engaged in common struggles with them.

The NPA addresses its solidarity to the friends and families of the victims, to the journalists and the employees of Charlie Hebdo.

But we will not be part of any national union with the sorcerer’s apprentices who play with racism, stir up hatred against foreigners and in particular Muslims, or make use of this event to introduce new repressive laws. They have a heavy responsibility for the xenophobic and poisonous climate in which we live today.

Both sides are enemies of democracy, of freedom; they are enemies of the workers, popular classes; the enemies of a world of solidarity.

The NPA calls to demonstrate solidarity with Charlie Hebdo at 5pm today, Place de la République, Paris.

Montreuil, 7 January 2015.

Is Africa rising? A critical perspective (2)

 

Monday 29 December 2014, by Jean Nanga

The narrative about Africa in the international media, in particular the economic press, as well as in academic journals, is changing. It is no longer dominated by what is frequently labelled “afro-pessimism”, which allows development NGOs especially to dedicate themselves to the civilising, neo-colonial mission in Africa. Now we are faced with “afro-optimism”, which has a strong tendency to supplant the “afro-pessimist” discourse, based on the roughly 5 per cent average GDP growth rate for all of Africa over the past 10 years. By bourgeois economic logic, this effectively makes it the world’s second economic driving force after Asia, at a time when a significant number of economies in the traditional capitalist centres oscillate between an end to recession and fears of a fall back into one.

Among additional signs of Africa’s economic awakening is the growing visibility of African billionaires and millionaires, as well as the growth of the African middle class, which is deemed to be exponential. According to the African Bank for Development (ABfD), one out of three Africans currently belongs to the middle class. We are told this will only get better with time, and the “trickle down effect” will eventually take care of the poor. This “afro-optimism” even veers into “afro-enthusiasm”: How can we not rejoice at the imminent emancipation of Africa?

Of course, despite these perceptible changes in virtually all African societies, this much-lauded growth is far from being the path that leads to such emancipation. On the contrary, it resembles instead a makeover of the mechanisms of domination and social injustice.

There is no denying the average growth of Africa’s GDP, including even double-digit figures for some countries, which cannot be found anywhere in the centres of capitalism at present. However, the growth of Burkina Faso’s GDP (7,9 per cent in 2010, 4,2 per cent in 2011, 9 per cent in 2012, 7 per cent in 2013) or Ethiopia’s (12,6 per cent, 11,2 per cent, 8,7 per cent, 10,4 per cent over the same period), for example, does not, in terms of (social) “development” allow for comparison, let alone comes close to growth figures in Denmark (1,4 per cent, 1,1 per cent, -0,4 per cent, 0,4 per cent) or Switzerland (3 per cent, 1,8 per cent, 1 per cent, 1,9 per cent).

The current praise African growth receives from the praise singers of capitalism essentially lauds the profitability of investments no matter their source. Africa is considered to be a “leading space” for returns on investment. Such growth, sometimes involving African capital, indeed benefits mostly transnationals that primarily invest in extractivism, which is still the continent’s main driving force of growth – an old ‘specialisation” inherited from colonial times.

In Ghana, oil extraction nearly doubled GDP growth in a few months after its initiation: from 7,7 per cent in 2010 to 14,4 per cent in 2011. Leaving aside its contribution to global warming, this boom has left workers behind, and Ghanaian oil workers were recently on strike over the meagre salaries they receive compared to their “expat” colleagues.

The new capitalist land grabbers who benefit from this growth – among them some local bourgeois – effectively push hundreds of thousands of farmers not towards the middle class – said to be in extraordinary expansion – but into an over-exploited agricultural proletariat, working land that yields mainly for export. This includes children such as those in West Ethiopia who are thus deprived of primary education. This pattern reinforces traditional food dependence, which continues to grow, costing Africa at least USD30 billion even in these times of GDP growth. In the meantime, local small-scale production is choked, which will worsen with ratification of Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU.

Meanwhile, seed transnationals promote Africa’s greater dependence on patented seeds, whether genetically modified or “pirated” from communal heritage. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the African Bank for Development (ABfD) are the main puppets of this harmful business conducted by these seed transnationals, such as Monsanto. One of the major stockholders is none other than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which, in the name of philanthropy, develops its influence on supposedly African elites, in charge of relaying its propaganda.

Profits are repatriated from Africa on a massive scale, by legal or illegal means, with the complicity of African governments. This explains the attempt by sub-regional godfather of FrançAfrique, Blaise Compaoré, to tamper with the constitution and cling to power – but for each Compaoré swept away by a popular movement, how many similar individuals are on the lookout, hoping to succeed where he failed? The autocratic and plutocratic Robert Mugabe prepares his dynastic electoral succession through his wife Grace Mugabe. Another, in Congo, does not hesitate to stir the spectre of a blood bath in case of objections to his tampering. Africa is a fertile ground for capitalist vampirism as the South Sudanese factions, under the spell of the petro dollars, prove. A further case in point is the massacre of miners in Marikana, South Africa, seemingly encouraged by a former trade union leader turned billionaire.

The current celebration of GDP growth in Africa is in fact the celebration of the on-going project that neoliberal imperialism had concocted for Africa. It had started with the Structural Adjustment Programmes, imposed as a cure-all to the public debt crisis in which states of the so-called ”Third World” found themselves – with “help” from the international financial system.

Even while entertaining economic relations with African states that differ from the imperialist tradition in Africa, these emerging powers are in no way opposed to the advancement and consolidation of global capitalism. They want to gain better positions in the hierarchical structure, including taking over positions of traditional powers, allied and rival at the same time. “south-South relations” with Africa are an asset on the road towards realising this ambition. Due to its wealth of natural resources, Africa proves to be a prerequisite destination for consolidated and emerging powers.

African capitalists, billionaires and millionaires, increasingly coming “out of the woods”, certainly benefit from this growth and are by no means less criminal than the others. Meanwhile, it is not very beneficial to the African people in general and wage earners in particular. Let us not speak about the youth, affected by very high unemployment, leading to such outcomes as, for example, joining the criminal sect Boko Haram. In the CAR, with its 3 per cent growth rate preceding the political crisis, juvenile poverty divided itself along confessional lines, split between Seleka and anti-Balaka militias. Guinean societies organised alongside an actual general interest, the improvement of the lives of peoples, with their sovereign participation, would not have furthered the Ebola tragedy in Guinea, Liberia, and in Sierra Leone. The latter two cases also illustrate the meaninglessness in human terms of double digit growth rates: in Liberia: 15,7 per cent, 10,5 per cent, 13,8 per cent, 10,2 per cent, and 11,3 per cent GDP growth in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and in 2013; in Sierra Leone: 15,2 per cent and 20,1 per cent in 2012 and 2013. All of this without positive effect on the poor and the public health services.

A new middle class, associated with jobs in computer sciences, finance and business is indeed emerging. Its key quality for the praise singers of neoliberal growth lies in its boundless, stupid consumerism. However, it merely constitutes a minority of the middle class, its “superior” bracket, according to the African Bank for Development. The percentage of the African population within this “superior” bracket, added to the so-called “low” bracket of the middle class, is not more significant than prior to the imposition of neoliberal Structural Adjustment Programmes – characterised by the freezing of wages, liquidation of enterprises, redundancies, etc. The bracket is labelled “floating” – that is to say, always in danger of falling back into poverty – still very prevalent in African societies – which constitutes the majority of the so-called “middle class”.

The living standards of a big part of the middle class today, in Cape Town like in Cairo, in Accra and elsewhere, is hit by the increase – imposed by local governments – of fuel prices, which has led to a rise of other basic commodities. Worse, this so-called increase of the middle class does not go hand in hand with the capturing of serious social data collection. It is more like pure and simple disinformation. However we can believe the African Bank for Development, and other similar types of dispensaries, when they affirm that African economic growth comes with growing inequalities and estimate that the poor still make up nearly or more than half of the African population. And thus it will be for decades to come, following this criminal socio-economic logic.

It is, however, not a fatality. It is far more necessary now than in the past, to put an end to Africa’s status as a springboard to accumulate capitalist power, even if it were for the future foundation of Africa as a capitalist power. No real emancipation can derive from the exploitation, the domination or oppression of others, part of progressing ecocide. Having to take a seat in the cockpit of that crazy vehicle driving capitalist growth should not be a requirement. Today, far more than yesterday, at the risk of being too late tomorrow, a change of mode of transport is required towards another destination than the capitalist development of African societies, which is fiercely non- egalitarian, unjust, oppressive, harbinger of wars, ecocides.

Those who are exploited, oppressed and opposed to the ecocide will unite in local and regional struggles for the emancipation of Africa, in solidarity with those facing similar struggles elsewhere. Nobody will emancipate them in their stead – certainly not the partisans of capitalism, be they from Africa or elsewhere, from the North or the South, and even if they wear the trade union mask, or that of the glorious struggles of the past.

  • Jean Nanga is a Congolese revolutionary Marxist.

Reproduced from International Viewpoint

Is Africa rising? A critical perspective (1)

Africa

 

Monday 29 December 2014, by Firoze Manji

The popular idea of “Africa Rising” is based on claims of GDP growth rates of 5-6 per cent. But much of this is due to soaring primary commodity prices, especially in the extractive industries. Oil, for example, rose from $20 a barrel in 1999 to $145 in 2008. Although the price has fallen since, it remains way above the levels prevailing in the 1990s.

There have been significant increases in prices of other minerals and grain. Africa is one of the richest continents: it has 10 per cent of the world’s reserves of oil, 40 per cent of gold, and 80-90 per cent of chromium and platinum.

Natural resource extraction and associated state expenditure account for more than 30 per cent of Africa’s GDP growth since 2000. The primary contributors to the growth in GDP have been a small number of the oil and gas exporters (Algeria, Angola, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria), which have the highest GDP on the continent but are also the least diversified economies.

International capital sees the possibilities of major profits to be gained from oil, natural gas, minerals, land grabbing and the like. Transnational corporations court African governments to implement policies that include the massive privatisation of state-owned enterprises, low or no taxation of corporate profits and opening markets to a flood of manufactured commodities.

All of these measures have had a devastating impact on the ability of local manufacturing to survive. It is hardly surprising that, according to a McKinsey report, the “annual flow of foreign direct investment into Africa increased from $9 billion in 2000 to $62 billion in 2008 – relative to GDP, almost as large as the flow into China”. Most of this investment has been into the extractive industries.

So how has Africa benefitted from this? According to Carlos Lopes, the executive secretary of UNECA, “Average net profits for the top 40 mining companies grew by 156 per cent in 2010 whereas the take for governments grew by only 60 per cent, most of which was accounted for by Australia and Canada.”

He points out that the profit made by the same set of mining companies in 2010 was $110 billion, which was equivalent to the merchandise exports of all African LDCs in the same year. To make matters worse, as I have pointed out elsewhere, mining of non-renewable resources is equivalent to amputation: far from contributing to anything that could be called “development”, it constitutes the depletion of the riches of the continent with little or no gain for its people, except for a tiny minority that enriches itself at the expense of the majority.

The GDP growth rates that proponents of the idea of “Africa Rising” rely on disguises the fact that across the continent there has been a decline in the manufacturing sectors, caused primarily by the neoliberal policies that opened up the economies to manufactured goods from the industrialised countries.

As pointed out by Rick Rowden in his analysis of the 2011 UNCTAD report, the share of manufacturing value added (MVA) in Africa’s GDP “fell from 12.8 per cent in 2000 to 10.5 per cent in 2008”, while in developing Asia it rose from 22 per cent to 35 per cent over the same period: “There has also been a decline in the importance of manufacturing in Africa’s exports, with the share of manufactures in Africa’s total exports having fallen from 43 per cent in 2000 to 39 per cent in 2008. In terms of manufacturing growth, while most have stagnated, 23 African countries had negative MVA per capita growth during the period 1990 - 2010, and only five countries achieved an MVA per capita growth above 4 per cent”. The trend of the declining contribution of manufacturing is confirmed once again by the 2014 UNCTAD report on LDCs.

So while their “Africa Rising” means salivating over rising GDP and the profits to be made by transnational corporations, the reality is that in Africa we have rising unemployment, rising amputation of natural and non-renewable resources, rising dispossessions of land, rising profits of the transnational corporations, rising landlessness, rising inequality, rising food prices, and rising pauperisation of the majority.

As a recent report highlights, the rest of the world is draining Africa of resources. “While $134 billion flows into the continent each year, predominantly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid; $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies, tax dodging and the costs of adapting to climate change. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58 billion a year.”

Rising discontent

But another aspect of the idea of “Africa Rising” that gives us hope in the future and potential for self-determination of the people of the continent needs to be given greater attention: that is, risings of people across the continent, which I have highlighted elsewhere.

In addition to the outbreak of revolutionary situations in Tunisia and Egypt that resulted in the ousting of Ben Ali and Mubarak (respectively), there have been popular uprisings in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe.

More recently, we have witnessed uprisings in a number of other countries including Nigeria and Chad. Most recently, uprisings in Burkina Faso have led to the deposing of Blaise Campaore, the murderer of the Burkinabé revolutionary, Thomas Sankara.

Each of these uprisings has been fuelled by decades of dispossessions and pauperisation that accompanied the latest phase of capitalism, popularly referred to as “neoliberalism”. They were fuelled also by reversals of the gains of independence that established universal education, access to health care, social welfare, water, power and a wide range of social infrastructure.

But in the period before neoliberalism, the South chalked up significant achievements that are frequently forgotten by media, academia and the “development” industry alike. According to a UN/WIDER report produced by Surendra Patel, over the 40 years from 1950-1990, countries of the South, whose population is ten times larger than that of the developed world, sustained an average annual growth rate of over 5 per cent.

The period saw significant levels of industrialisation and an increasing share of manufacturing in exports; an increase in the rates of savings and investment; and an unprecedented expansion of social development, including health and education, dramatic improvements in life-expectancy (from 35 to over 60 years), literacy and an unprecedented expansion of education.

However, all across the continent Africa has experienced not merely material dispossessions, but also a rising political dispossession. Our governments have become more accountable to the transnational corporations, international financial institutions, banks and the imperialist states than they are to the citizens who elected them (or at least the citizens over whom they exercise political control).

The uprisings we have witnessed have begun to challenge the authority of these governments to some extent, but have as yet to bring about transformations in existing power relations.

Transforming the existing power relations will require us to go beyond the fetishisation of the ballot box. Citizens are allowed to vote (if they are lucky) every four to five years, but capital votes every day, every hour, every second on the stock exchanges. Capital’s “vote” has a direct impact on people’s lives, even on the price of food. African countries need to regain control over their destinies and dignity. The question is: how can we democratise our societies?

What kind of processes do we need to allow us to democratise every aspect of our lives? Who determines what is produced, how it is produced, how much, by whom, and for whom? Who decides how the surplus is used, and how do they make those decisions? These questions also apply to other sectors: health, education, social welfare, telecommunications, agriculture, the use of natural resources, and so on.

Africa is rising. But not in the way the popular media would have it.

Amandla No 37/38 December 2014

Reproduced from International Viewpoint

NUMSA Responds to Slanders

South Africa: NUMSA rejects dirty tricks campaign, bogus document

[For more on NUMSA, click HERE. For more on South Africa, click HERE.]

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) responds to the "Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize South Africa" document

December 3, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Over the last 10-days, a document that alleges that NUMSA leaders are involved in an underground plot to destabilise South Africa has been doing its rounds. The document which is entitled "Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize [sic] South Africa" names two elected national officer bearers of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Irvin Jim and Karl Cloete as the kingpins of the plot (see here in PDF).

In their plan to effect "regime change" in the country the two office bearers are joined by two union officials Dinga Sikwebu and Azwell Banda. Assisting what the document characterises as "rogue elements within the NUMSA leadership" are four professors: Chris Malikane, Noor Nieftagodien, Patrick Bond, Peter Jordi; former South Africa's Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils; political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki; and Brian Ashley, who is the director of the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC).

What does the document claim?

Claiming to be authored by "concerned members within NUMSA" the "secret regime change plot" document outlines what it describes as a plan of the "plotters" to destabilise South Africa. Among the strategies of the plotters are the following:

  • instigation of widespread violence, land grabs and instability;
  • establishment of "their own" intelligence structures in collaboration with foreign governments and international companies;
  • destabilisation of the mining sector;
  • the formation of a political party, the United Front (UF);
  • the recruitment of other political parties to support the regime change agenda.

To achieve their objectives, it is alleged that the "plotters" use socialism and socialist rhetoric as a "quick fix" solution to the country's challenges. Up the sleeve of the "plotters" is an insidious plan to exploit institutions of higher learning to confuse communities and to indoctrinate the ‘fallible' through use of "socialist philosophy".

In all their strategies, "the rogue elements within NUMSA's leadership" and their South African collaborators; have a team of 12 foreigners from Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India Uruguay, Philippines, Venezuela that endorse the regime change efforts in our country. These "foreign-players", it is claimed attended NUMSA's symposium of left parties and movements held on 07-10 August 2014 in South Africa.

Objectives of the so-called exposé

We have no doubt that the circulation of this document and its nefarious accusations is part of a well-orchestrated plan to destroy NUMSA and deter from its chosen path. We also have no doubt that prompting all these dastardly and desperate acts are our December 2013 Special National Congress (SNC) resolution:

  • To call on COSATU to break from its alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

     

  • To lead in the formation of a United Front that brings workers and communities together.
  • To explore the establishment of a socialist political organisation or Movement for Socialism.
Now that our resolutions are finding traction, there is panic all over. Even the president of the ANC Jacob Zuma had to admit at the aborted ANC Youth League conference that not only the youth is in crisis but the parent body was in dire straits.

 

The plan to deal with NUMSA has many prongs. Amongst these are:

  • To expel NUMSA from COSATU.

     

  • To delay the registration of the amendments that the Special National Congress effected to our union's constitution.
  • To openly support for a rival union in the sectors that NUMSA organises in.
The "dirty tricks" document is part of this well-orchestrated plan. This intervention aims to criminalise and demonise NUMSA. The strategy is to cast aspersion on what our agenda is and separate the union's leadership from its base.

Let us upfront say what we are unapologetic about.

First, NUMSA is a socialist union and believes the crisis facing our people can only be finally resolved under socialism. There is nothing criminal or subversive about this. Socialism is one of NUMSA's founding principles. By the way COSATU has socialism as its founding principle. We propagate it and we discuss it with our members.

Second, our Special National Congress mandated us to call for the union federation's break from the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance. We are continuing with that mandate.

Third, the Special National Congress resolved wtoe build a United Front and to explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism. We are busy with that.

Like many in the country, we think that the ANC has taken the nearest off-ramp from its mandated position. We are not apologetic about that.

Before anyone else made the call, our Special National Congress said that President Jacob Zuma must step down. Many people are being convinced of this position.

Rebutting the ludicrous accusations

The first thing that we need to point out is that no NUMSA member could have written the document. In NUMSA we do not have a Secretary-General (SG) or Deputy Secretary-General (DSG). These are titles and a vocabulary of the African National Congress (ANC). In NUMSA, we have a General Secretary (GS) and Deputy General-Secretary (DGS).

Our preliminary investigation shows that the document was lodged in John Myburg's dropbox which contains only one document; the ludicrous exposé. The document's properties indicate that it was written by John Carelse who claims to be an official of NUMSA. Our membership system reflects no member by the name of John Myburg nor do we have a staff member called John Carelse.

Second, those who penned the so-called exposé could not have been at the NUMSA symposium. Orange Lopez from the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), the general secretary of Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina (CTA) Pablo Micheli and international relations secretariat of Bolivia's Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) Leonilda Zurita were not at the symposium.

Although the three had been invited and had accepted our invitation, due to unforeseen circumstances they pulled out. Their absence was explained at the symposium. Clearly, those who wrote "the regime change" document sat with an old draft programme. The fact that there were changes to the programme did not matter to the writers of the irresponsible document.

Third, what is interesting is the similarity in the jargon in the so-called exposé and in the statement that came out of the South African Communist Party's (SACP) augmented Central Committee held on 28-30 November 2014.

The clarion call of the SACP and the first line in its statement is: expose the regime-change agenda! According to the communist party in the aftermath of the African National Congress (ANC) victory in the May 2014 elections, there has been an intensification of an "anti-majoritarian regime-change agenda emanating from disparate quarters". Like the "secret regime change plot" document, the SACP accuses those who are behind plans to overthrow the government -"neoliberals and pseudo-left populists alike" - of exploiting the persistence of the crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality to further their aims.

Similar to the so- called exposé, the SACP warns metalworkers against what is their union's resolution to explore the formation of an alternative political party. The communist party pleads with union members "not follow a leadership clique within NUMSA that is diverting union resources into its personal agenda of launching a political party".

Fourth, the document has all the hallmarks of documents that recently emanated from apparatuses and individuals linked to the State Security Agency (SSA). A feature of these documents is to accuse all and sundry of being involved in attempts to overthrow the South African government.

Those accused are alleged to be working with foreign agencies or on the payroll of foreign donors. The recent example of this rogue activity is the intelligence report that surfaced last year and accused the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi of being part of an advisory committee that Mamphela Ramphele led to set up a political party.

The US agencies National Endowment for Democracy (NED), World Movement for Democracy (WMD) and wealthy Belgian business people were purported as funders of the project. The bogus intelligence report also reported on the Associated Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa reporting on talks he was having with Irvin Jim to destabilise the mining sector.

A pattern is emerging

The emergence of the "secret regime change plot" document is not an isolated event. Since the Special National Congress of NUMSA in December 2013, what we suspect as Sate Security Agency (SSA) agents have been trying to recruit our shopstewards and activists in Ekurhuleni and Eastern Cape to spy on the union's activities on the proposed United Front. We have evidence of this and affidavits from these shopstewards.

We also experienced what looked like intelligence work when we convened the international symposium of left parties and movements in August 2014. Our national spokesperson received a phone call from the French Embassy asking for names of French citizens that were to attend the symposium. The embassy explicitly said that they had been reliably informed that the symposium was subversive. Three international delegates to the symposium were for various reasons turned back as they made their way to South Africa. The delegate from the French's Left Front Christophe Aguiton was held overnight in holding cell when he arrived at O.R. Tambo International and put back on the next Air France flight back to Paris.

In recent weeks, cars of our officials have been followed, broken into and laptops stolen. On Friday 28 November 2014, suspicious-looking convoy followed the car of NUMSA's General Secretary; jumping red traffic lights as he tried to shake the tail behind him.

But as we all know, this has not been directed only at NUMSA. It happens to activists in social movements involved in ‘service delivery protests'. It happens to investigative journalists digging up all the rot on corruption. It happens to all those who are critical of the status quo. There is a pattern where intelligence forces are used to deal with legitimate and lawful struggles and campaigns. It is a sign of creeping authoritarianism.

What are going to do?

The first thing that we want to assert is that what we are involved in is lawful political activity which is consistent with the rights of citizens to engage in lawful political activity and to freely associate with political parties/movements of their choice. Our decisions to lead in the formation of a United Front and to explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism are above board and lawful. We will not be deterred from pursuing what our members mandated us to do. We will also pursue these noble goals with whoever we feel as NUMSA are likeminded people, here and abroad.

Second, it is our belief that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa requires that intelligence and counter-intelligence activities of the country's agencies are in compliance with the Constitution and legislative frameworks of South Africa. It is for this reason that one of the first pieces of legislation in the new democratic dispensation was the Intelligence Services Oversight Act of 1994; that created the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence to play a civilian oversight role over our intelligence services.

As NUMSA and all of those accused of being involved in the "regime change plot", we intend to file a formal grievance and complaint with the Inspector- General of Intelligence, Advocate Faith Doreen Radebe. We will ask her:

  • To investigate the source of the document that is maligning us and our union.

     

  • To ascertain whether there is any surveillance of NUMSA office bearers, leading officials and a range of "friends of NUMSA".
  • To establish whether there is any interception of voice or electronic messages from NUMSA office bearers, leading officials and a range of "friends of NUMSA".
In this regard, we will provide the Inspector- General of Intelligence with a dossier with affidavits detailing what we have outlined above as well as a list of people who she must establish whether they any form of surveillance or not. As a union we will also seek an urgent meeting with the Minister of State Security David Mahlobo to demand that no legal union and political work is criminalised.

Third, as a union we plan to mobilise human rights organisations, organisations campaigning for press freedom, human rights lawyers and other social movements to call on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate through public hearings any possible abuses or infringements of the rights to privacy, freedom and security by intelligence operatives and other securocrats.

The mandate of the Human Rights Commission is clearly outlined in the constitution. The Commission has the duty to promote and protect human rights. The Constitution enjoins the Commission to investigate, monitor and assess the observance of human rights. According to the Constitution, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has the power "to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated".

As indicated above the incidents directed at NUMSA currently are not isolated. It is not the first time that intelligence operatives are interfering in the exercise of hum rights in our Constitution. We need a public investigation on the abuses of power by securocrats. South African Human Rights Commission must do its work!

Fourth, as NUMSA we believe that in the final analysis our members and communities are our forest and the best form of defence for the organisation and rights of our people. We commit ourselves to inform our members and their communities about what is happening as well as explain to them what the real agenda behind the recent shenanigans.

While we are serious about approaching the Inspector- General of Intelligence, the Minister of State Security and the South African Human Rights Commission; we will not fold our arms while our rights are being violated and our activities. We will therefore have a discussion at NUMSA's Central Committee that meets on 08 to 12 December 2014 about the forms of campaigns that we need to take in defence of our organisation. Such discussion will include marching to the Department of State Security or the Department of Labour that is delaying the registration of the amendments of NUMSA's constitution.

Conclusion

It is our firm belief that after many states seized on the events of 09/11 to call for greater ‘national security' and to blur lawful and unlawful activities of their citizenry, peddling documents such as "Exposed: Secret Regime Change Plot to Distabilize [sic] South Africa" not only puts in danger the lives of many activists fighting for social justice in South Africa, but threatens our international allies in their work in their own countries and in their travels.

As NUMSA, we have informed those listed as being part of the manufactured plot about the sinister document and are working with them to determine an appropriate response. We have assured them that no one will choose who NUMSA's friends are. Those in the so-called exposé remain our allies and comrades and we will share whatever we do politically in the country to expose the real source of the document with them.

As a union, we are determined to continue on the path that we have chosen politically and organisationally. There will be no going back on our December 2013 Special National Congress. As the workers who established NUMSA's predecessors in 1973 and on whose footsteps we march, our slogan is loud and clear: Asijiki! Enough is enough! There is no turning back!

 

From Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Subcategories