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Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

On basic principles regarding the war in Ukraine and Socialist Action (US)

The Executive Bureau of the Fourth International adopted this public statement of political disagreement with the positions of Socialist Action (USA) concerning the war in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is of central concern for socialists across the world. Internationalists worldwide have condemned the invasion and expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Statements by the US organization Socialist Action however contradict basic principles of the Fourth International and of the socialist movement in general.

On 24 February, the Russian army invaded Ukraine. Four months later, the death toll is in the tens of thousands. Entire cities have been devastated and the invaders have committed large scale atrocities. And the killing and destruction has far from ended. From the beginning of the war, the Fourth International condemned the Russian invasion. Since the attack began, the Bureau of the Fourth International has made two statements, one on 1 March, and one on 24 May. [1] We call for support to the Ukrainian resistance in defence of the right to self-determination and for solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. Our comrades are organizing solidarity with the Ukrainian people and working class through aid convoys, fundraising and mobilizations as well as support for Russian anti-war activists.

Common to all our work is the rejection of all imperialism. As such, the Fourth International opposes all imperialist blocks and opposes NATO and Russian-led CSTO expansionism and interventions. Our opposition to imperialism and expansionism results in basic positions that include:

• condemnation of the Russian invasion and the demand that Russian troops leave Ukraine
• recognition of the right to self-determination of Ukraine
• solidarity with Russian anti-war activists

We note that Socialist Action defends none of these three positions, even though it claims to have “fraternal relations” with the Fourth International. Its most recent statement on the war [2] does not reject the Russian invasion, nor does it declare support for Russian anti-war activists. Their statement presents a distorted version of Ukrainian history. It attempts to instrumentalize declarations made by Fourth International comrades by referring to only part of what our comrades have to say and ignoring their assessment of the current war. Socialist Action obfuscates its position on the right of self-determination of Ukraine by calling only for independence of a hypothetical socialist Ukraine. Socialist Action is part of the United National Antiwar Coalition which has issued statements along similar lines; no rejection of the Russian invasion, no recognition of the right of self-determination of Ukraine and a refusal to stand in solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. [3]

Within the Fourth International, there is an ongoing political debate on how to shape our solidarity and on what slogans and demands need to be adopted by national organizations in their specific contexts. Our website International Viewpoint provides space for discussion on this as well as for criticisms of the statements issued by the Bureau, such as that written by the Greek section of the Fourth International, OKDE-Spartakos. [4] However, all share the same socialist principles and support for the three positions outlined above. Our differences with Socialist Action are of a different nature. Despite repeated requests from the Bureau of the Fourth International, Socialist Action has not declared its support for the three positions outlined above.

Executive Bureau of the Fourth International

26 June 2022

FOOTNOTES

 

Radical Socialist Statement: The Arrest of Teesta Setalvad

Radical Socialist strongly condemns the manner and the purpose behind the latest action taken against  the courageous and longstanding human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and her organisation, the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). It is no coincidence that this action immediately followed the shocking Supreme Court judgement (unsigned by a three judge bench) that not only rejected the appeal for an investigation into the high-level conspiratorial circumstances surrounding the 2002 Gujarat pogrom but effectively directed the authorities to "bring to book" those upholding the Ehsan Jafri cause.

            First, an Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) from Gujarat was deployed to pick up Setalvad from her home in Mumbai, Maharashtra although the charges made in its First Information Report (FIR) in no way come under the brief of the ATS or justify its deployment. Second, she was whisked away without a necessary warrant. Third, she was roughed up and bruised in her home and three mobile phones were illegally seized. Fourth, in the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate's Court when no such order had been passed, the proceedings were nevertheless held "in camera", keeping  the media and interested and concerned members of the public out. Crime branch cops were posted to ensure this by intimidating onlookers.

            The detention and arrest of Teesta Setalvad (along with the indictment of the former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP), R.B. Sreekumar and of the police officer Sanjiv Bhatt since both had earlier testified to Modi's involvement in promoting the riots) serves specific and more general purposes. The motivation for now setting up a Gujarat controlled Special Investigation Team (SIT) is to go after the CJP and crush it as well as to make a case against Setalvad's presumed 'political masters'. This would fit in with the larger political ambition of the BJP to eliminate or subordinate all opposing political parties.

            In reality this is an act of sheer revenge by Modi, Shah and other cohorts in the Gujarat government of 2002 and after, to punish Setalvad et al for their steady and continuous pursuit of justice for the victims of that pogrom which had helped to criminally indict some wrong doers and to highlight the negligence and worse of that Gujarat government.

            Clearly, a message is being sent out to other civil liberties groups and activists resisting the communal behaviour and ideology of the Sangh Parivar and this BJP government that you had better watch out! An active and justice-loving citizenry willing to carry out independent fact-finding on any issue that may expose the iniquities and brutalities of state or central authorities will not be tolerated.

WE MUST STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE CJP AND CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS ACROSS INDIA

WE MUST CONTINUE OUR WORK TO EXPOSE THE INJUSTICES PERPETRATED BY THIS GOVERNMENT AND STAND AGAINST THE SANGH PARIVAR'S RACIST AND FASCISTIC PROJECT OF CREATING A HINDU RASHTRA.

WE REMAIN UNBOWED!

28/06/2022

Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire by Caroline Elkins review – the brutal truth about Britain’s past

by Tim Adams

 

In shocking, meticulous detail, an acclaimed American historian uses ‘lost’ records from 37 former colonies to reveal the barbarity of the British empire and the hubris that fuelled it

Caroline Elkins made front-page headlines a decade ago when her research into Britain’s brutal suppression of the Mau Mau movement in Kenya in the 1950s resulted in a high court case and, uniquely, reparations to 5,228 surviving Kenyans who, the British government accepted, had been subject to years of systematic torture and abuse. That case relied on evidence uncovered in Elkins’s 2005 book, Britain’s Gulag, which had argued that up to 320,000 Kenyan Kikuyu people had been held in British detention camps as part of a campaign of terror that “left tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, dead” and untold numbers of lives ruined by forced labour, starvation, torture and rape.

When Elkins’s book came out, her findings – partly based on the testimony of Kikuyu survivors – were widely dismissed as, at best, exaggerations by a generation of historians wedded to stubborn ideas of Britain’s “enlightened” and “benign empire”. Her history was dramatically vindicated, however, when an unknown cache of 240,000 top secret colonial files, removed from Nairobi at the time of Kenyan independence in 1963, were disclosed on the eve of the 2011 trial. The files had been stored in a high security foreign office depository at Hanslope Park, near Northampton. At the time of that high court victory, Elkins noted that she had for years put on hold a wider inquiry into the methods of British colonial governance in the years after the second world war, in order to substantiate the survivors’ case, research that would now be illuminated by the fact that the secret document store also held “lost” records from 37 other former colonies. She was both vindicated and outraged by the discovery: “After all these years of being roasted over the coals, they’ve been sitting on the evidence? Are you frickin’ kidding me? This almost destroyed my career.”

This book, a decade on, is that wider history that Elkins had postponed. Partly resting on the Hanslope Park files, it argues that the sadistic methods that marked the last acts of empire in Kenya were not an anomalous aberration but learned behaviours of imperial power. Her detailing of this reality involves a deconstruction not only of the self-delusion, seductive mythology and doublespeak of the largest empire in human history, but also the deliberate official destruction of large parts of its historical record.

She coins the term ‘legalised lawlessness’ to describe how Britain spread the rule of law

As a result of her work on Kenya, Elkins, 53, a native of New Jersey, is now not only professor of history and African and African American studies at Harvard, and founding director of its Center for African Studies, she is also the subject of a proposed Erin Brockovich-style film. There is nothing about her work that suggests any of the easier of Hollywood narratives, however. Legacy of Violence is a formidable piece of research that sets itself the ambition of identifying the character of British power over the course of two centuries and four continents. Elkins, perhaps minded of her previous brush with controversy, sometimes approaches her task with the meticulous doggedness of a trial lawyer rather than a storyteller in search of an audience. Examining the Boer war, the Irish war of independence, the uprisings in India, Iraq and Palestine, as well as British rule in Cyprus, Malaya and Kenya, she insists that such appalling acts as the Amritsar massacre, far from being – as Churchill argued in parliament – “an event that stands in singular and sinister isolation” were much closer to being a default position.

This often gruesome history is bookended by two trials. The Mau Mau court case and the trial of Warren Hastings, the first governor of Bengal, more than 200 years earlier. Hastings was impeached by the Whig MP Edmund Burke on charges of extortion, embezzlement and unlawful killing, from all of which he was ultimately exonerated. Elkins identifies that seven-year legal proceeding as the moment when the British government and its elite intellectual culture convinced itself of the principle that guided future conquests: that the means of sustaining power always justified the end.

Elkins coins the term “legalised lawlessness” to describe the self-serving methods by which Britain spread the rule of law and then viciously bent it to serve imperial ends. The first half of her book examines how this hypocrisy was rooted in the supremacist underpinnings of classical liberalism, the pervasive idea that “backward” societies would be transformed by the violent application of free trade and religious education. As David Livingstone’s rallying cry had it, as he hacked through far-off jungles with that trusty machete labelled “paternal despotism”: “Christianity, commerce and civilisation!”

Elkins has scant interest in the familiar ‘contextual’ narratives of the ‘white man’s burden’

The blood-red thread through all of that history, in Elkins’s persuasive reading, is a strain of moralising superiority that convinced successive generations of politicians, from Benjamin Disraeli to Clement Attlee, that restive subject populations must be periodically taught a lesson in the realities of “civilised” power. “The moral effect of immediate mass destruction,” as Elkins describes it. She painstakingly traces how the personnel and methodologies of suppression and torture were passed between territories, at the same time that sentimental propaganda campaigns told a different story of those conquests: from the Nobel laureateship of Kipling to the Boy’s Own potboilers of George Alfred Henty (25m copies of whose books remained in circulation in the 1950s).

Her history shows how the barbarity behind imperial pomp and civilising mission statements was perfected in the long tail of empire after the first world war, an account that begins with Arthur “Bomber” Harris serving his apprenticeship wiping out villages in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1923. In making this case, Elkins stops short of suggesting that the outcomes of imperial ambition were uniformly hellish – “the British empire and totalitarian regimes were not the same thing, even if some eyewitnesses reported striking similarities” – but she has scant interest in the familiar “contextual” narratives of the “white man’s burden”. She writes with a distrust of the kinds of dramatic or emotional set pieces that threaten to sentimentalise this sweep of history. (It is telling that in the 50 close-typed pages of her bibliography she refers to only one volume of Jan Morris’s Pax Britannica trilogy, the books that most persuasively look for a balance between imperial ambition and brutal devastation.)

In many ways, of course, this long history could not be more timely. Elkins offers an open and shut case for those who believe that Rhodes must fall. Her book should, you hope, also find its way into the hands of at least some of that 60% of the nation who, when polled in 2014, thought the British empire was, in general, “something to be proud of”.

 

From the ESSF site

http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article62992

Railworkers' Strike in Britain: The Class Struggle Heats Up On Our Side

THE RMT’S DEMANDS ARE THE LEAST OF WHAT WORKERS DESERVE.

By AARON BASTANI

The biggest wave of strikes on Britain’s rail network since 1989. That’s what the UK faces this week as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) stages three days of national action, plus a one-day shut down of the London Underground. [1]

As each strike encompasses a 24-hour period, overnight work won’t take place either, meaning a later start and fewer services even on days when daytime staff are present. In short, Britain’s railway network will either shut down, or be severely disrupted, for a week.

Britain’s billionaire-owned papers and Partridge-esque TV hosts are depicting the strikes as selfish. [2] Yet what the RMT is demanding is the bare minimum for any union worth its salt. Alongside no compulsory redundancies – which is absolutely necessary if the government is serious about increasing passenger numbers – it’s asking for an 11% pay increase. In other words, the RMT wants wages to keep up with inflation so workers don’t become poorer in real terms.

This is all the more justified given that RMT members swallowed a pay freeze last year. According to the union’s calculations, a worker earning £35k has already lost spending power equivalent to £3,150. If there’s another freeze for 2022, that will rise to £7,788.

The current cost of living crisis means we can expect these kinds of setbacks for workers across much of the wider economy. The difference is that in the rail industry, workers are sufficiently organised to push back. While this makes them a target for Britain’s reactionary media, for the rest of us, they offer the template for a high wage economy.

With 2022 expected to see the biggest hit to living standards since 1956, it should come as no surprise that the RMT’s response prefigures events elsewhere. From 20 June to 11 July, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) will ballot more than 6,000 of its members at Network Rail. This comes after the union already announced strike ballots among members at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands and West Midlands Trains. Meanwhile, members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) are striking later this month at Hull Trains, Greater Anglia and Croydon Tramlink. [3]

The strength of feeling among ASLEF members, who have historically been more hesitant to strike, is no different to that of the RMT. Indeed, 99% of the union’s members on the Croydon Tramlink voted to strike next week, on a turnout of 86%. While politicians might lambast the ‘militancy’ of trade unions and their failure to reflect members’ interests, not a single MP enjoys this level of democratic legitimacy.

While rail workers are expected to see the value of their wages fall by at least 10% this year, industry fat cats are rolling in it. The chief executive for Network Rail, Andrew Haines – who recently said the strikes would make a pay increase harder – earns more than £585k a year (before bonuses). Jeremy Westlake, the organisation’s chief financial officer, earns £415k. Network Rail’s seven managing and group directors each earn around £330k – roughly twice the prime minister’s salary. Anit Chandarana, until last month Haines’ chief of staff, made £160k – twice what Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, earns. Among all the anti-union slander, you will struggle to find this mentioned by The Sun, Times or Telegraph.

Private operators are no better. Patrick Verwer, boss of perennially crisis-stricken Southern Rail, took home £482k in 2019. Matthew Gregory, the CEO of First Group PLC which operates several lines across the UK, received a basic salary of £635k in 2018, and can earn as much as £1m in additional bonuses. A private business can pay what it likes, you might say – but that fails to wash when firms are administering public services with taxpayer subsidies.

While demanding pay restraint and threatening job cuts, it’s unclear what the government actually wants. Central to Tory plans for ‘levelling up’ at the last election were proposals to expand the rail network. Indeed, they even went as far as to claim they would “restore many of the Beeching lines”. It’s hard to reconcile opening services closed for 60 years with laying off staff.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, appeared to admit as much when he recently claimed that “unlike the past 25 years, when rising passenger demand year after year was taken for granted […] today the railway is in a fight.” With passenger numbers temporarily down, the government spies an opportunity to bully unions with diminished leverage. Yet when Shapps announced the creation of Great British Rail last year, he declared how “growing the network and getting more people travelling” was a “core aim”.

And while passenger numbers are below their pre-Covid highs, they are recovering: the industry generated £5.9bn in ticket sales in the year to March – nearly three times that of the previous year. What’s more, statistics from the Department for Transport show passenger numbers were 90% of pre-Covid levels by Thursday 19 May, rising to 92% over the following three days. If the Tories are actually serious about growing rail use, then even the work from home revolution shouldn’t mean job cuts.

Real wages in the UK have been stagnant for more than a decade. Now, in the shadow of Covid and a spike in inflation following the war in Ukraine, this will only get worse. Anyone who wants Britain to become a high wage economy, values public services and wants to address the climate crisis should support these strikes. Industrial action is the step ladder to a more prosperous and equal society.

21 June 2022

 

From International Viewpoint, 24 June 2022

 

A Recall to Basic Principles: Radical Socialist Statement on United Opposition Presidential Candidate

The old Nehruvian hegemony is gone. It has been replaced by a Sanghi Hindutva and Neoliberal hegemony. And by selecting Yashwant Sinha the Vajpayee acolyte and minister as united opposition candidate, the bourgeois opposition has revealed its inability to even present a secular  bourgeois democratic face, and its subordination to that very Sanghi hegemony. And three General Secretaries of three alleged Communist Parties took part in this charade. Thereby they showed a total opposition to any class direction. 
Any independent working class politics, and of course any revolutionary socialist politics, has to have an election outlook that strengthens class independence. Even Nehruvian hegemony with its talk of democracy and development with state support was actually aimed at ideological disarming of the working class. The present Hindutva hegemony denies trade union rights, wants to push women into housework and domesticity, wants to impose caste hierarchy and of course exclude religious minorities from active citizenship. Yashwant Sinha participated in the Vajpayee Government and is only a Modi dissident. Support to him is a total betrayal of the exploited and oppressed masses. Resist this. Cadres of the left parties should ask for explanations from their leaders and demand a reversal of policy, because every rotten compromise with Saffron politics, every deal to fight aggressive Hindutva with soft Hindutva, will just strengthen and legitimize Sangh politics within left and working class forces. 
It is better to be defeated fighting for principles, for a revival will come, than to betray principles in the name of a practical politics that leads us into bourgeois right-wing sewers.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The Restless Traveler

 

Ali Shehzad Zaidi

 

THE REVOLUTIONARY URDU poetry of Faiz
Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) retains its transformational power. Recently, Faiz’s
 
“We Will See” became a rallying cry during student protests in India against the
 
2019 Citizenship Amendment Act which grants a path to citizenship only to non-
 
Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.The act also
 
denies citizenship to those Indian Muslims who, lacking the means to acquire
 
identity papers and birth certificates, are subjected to disenfranchisement,
 
deportation, and imprisonment even if they were born in India.Faiz wrote “We
 
Will See” in defiance of Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship (1977-88). Its title,
 
which evokes Judgment Day, is taken from a refrain in the Qur’an (Singh):
We will see.
Certainly we, too, will see
That promised day —
That day ordained
When these colossal mountains
Of tyranny and oppression
Will explode into wisps of hay —
The day when the earth under our feet
Will quake and throb
And over the heads of despots
Swords of lightning will flash —
The day when all the idols
Will be removed from this sacred world
And we, the destitute and the despised,
Will, at last, be granted respect —
The day when crowns
Will be tossed into the air
And all the thrones utterly destroyed.
Only the name of God will remain
Who is both absent and present —
Both the seen and the seer.
The cry “I am Truth” will rend the skies
Which means you, I, and all of us.
And sovereignty will belong to the people
Which means you, I, and all of us.
(Faiz in English 24-25)
The poem deposes the idols of money, power, and prestige while seeking
 
meaning in collective existence. The words “I am Truth” are those uttered by the
 
Persian Sufi mystic Mansour Hallaj who was executed in the early 10th century.
 
They affirm the unity of all creation, heightening the paradox of God existing,
 
seemingly at once, everywhere and nowhere. Even before the partition of India,
 
Faiz had become a literary sensation with the publication of his first collection of
 
poetry Naqsh-i-Faryadi (The Lamenting Image) in 1941. After Pakistan’s
 
independence in 1947, Faiz became the chief editor of The Pakistan Times.In
 
1951, Faiz came further into national prominence during the Rawalpindi
 
Conspiracy Case, in which he and many of his associates were imprisoned,
 
blacklisted, or forced underground. Among them was Sajjad Zaheer, the General
 
Secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) who, like Faiz, spent four
 
years in jail.In 1954, while Zaheer was still imprisoned, the CPP, repressed since
 
its inception, was banned outright. After his release from jail in 1955, Zaheer
 
went into exile in India. In his memoir The Light, written in prison, Zaheer
 
affirms:“History is witness to the fact that conservative rulers and unlawful
 
governments have always tried to put down the voice of truth with force and
 
violence. If they have not been able to buy off or intimidate an independent
 
mind, a truthful tongue, or a bold pen, they have used the iron chair, the poison
 
cup, or the executioner’s sword to achieve their end. But history also proves that
 
the free spirit of man can never be confined. No true scholar, poet, or artist,
 
whose work reflects the evolving reality of his times, can be suppressed. Even if
 
he is forcibly silenced, the very reality that is denied free expression bursts forth
 
like clear springs from the hearts of millions of the common people.” (The
 
Light 72)Faiz was released from prison the same year as Zaheer and went into
 
exile in London. As had been imprisonment, exile proved to be a seminal and
 
defining experience for Faiz, as in “Resolution”:
My heart, my restless traveler:
again it has been decreed
that you and I be banished
from this our beloved land.
We will construct our poems
in foreign towns
and bear our contempt for oppressors
from door to door.
(Faiz in English 28)
Travel would remain a constant for Faiz. Late in life, Faiz wrote two memoirs
 
of his visits to socialist countries: Cuban Travelogue (1973) and Months and
 
Years of Friendship: Recollections (1981), which concerns his impressions of 
 
 the Soviet Union.

Exile, Return and War

After co-founding the Afro-Asian Writers Movement at the 1958 conference in
 
Tashkent, Faiz returned to Pakistan but was arrested upon arrival. He spent two
 
years in prison and, after his sentence was commuted, again went into exile in
 
London.Faiz returned to Pakistan in 1964 to become the principal of Abdullah
 
Haroon College in the working-class neighborhood of Lyari in Karachi. During
 
his exile, the regime of General Ayub Khan had consolidated power through its
 
Inter-Services Intelligence agency.Ayub won the 1965 presidential election
 
despite losing the popular vote to Fatima Jinnah, sister of Pakistan’s founder,
 
Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In a tainted indirect election, Ayub claimed victory with
 
the support of more than 62% of the electors. Two years later, Fatima Jinnah,
 
who had become a symbol of resistance to the military regime, died in her home
 
under suspicious circumstances.In 1968, the student protests that were sweeping
 
Paris, New York, Mexico City, and other major cities, spread to Pakistan.
 
Popular support for the demonstrations and strikes against the military
 
dictatorship forced Ayub to resign in March 1969. Ayub was succeeded as
 
president by the Army Chief of Staff, General Yahya Khan.Although he allowed
 
direct elections to be held in 1970, Yahya refused to yield power to the winner of
 
those elections, namely, the Awami League, which had pledged autonomy for
 
East Pakistan. In March 1971, Yahya suspended the constitution and dissolved
 
the National Assembly, causing the leader of the Awami League, Sheikh
 
Mujibur  Rahman, to call for the independence of Bangladesh. The Pakistani
 
Army massacred Bengali nationalists and intellectuals, including students and
 
professors at Dhaka University. Meanwhile, Bengali mobs and the separatist
 
guerillas known as the Mukti Bahini were massacring Biharis and other Urdu-
 
speaking Pakistanis.War between India and Pakistan began in December 1971,
 
ending that month in the surrender of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan and
 
the creation of Bangladesh. In this excerpt from “Return from Dhaka,” Faiz
 
mourns the communal madness that had transpired:
Twisted brass bangles
and laughter
slit from ear to ear.
On every tree
a crucified nightingale.
The river reflects the sky
and the sky is the growl
of a tiger.
Will the monsoons restore
colour to the earth?
How long
will the fuel of pain
burn?
(The unicorn and the dancing girl 96)
The image of the tiger recalls the tigers that roam the Sundarbans, the mangrove
 
forests of Bangladesh, as well as the ferocity of the cataclysmic events taking
 
place there. The sky’s reflection in the river awakens the memory of the
 
monsoons during the seventies that resulted in floods as well mass famine in
 
Bangladesh in 1974.In a speech about the classical Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, Faiz
 
said that the mark of a poet’s greatness is the ability to encompass the world’s
 
pain in one’s art (Hashmi 100-101). This ability, a measure of Faiz’s own
 
greatness, is on full display in “Return from Dhaka.”

Theme for a Poet

Through his alchemic imagination, Faiz turned pain into something beautiful and
 
lasting, as in “Theme for a Poet.”
Imagine roses blooming
in a limestone quarry
and wine squeezed out of
desert thorns.
Mountain stream
cleaved in two
by a dark boulder.
Fear and hope.*
(Faiz in English 31)
Roses connote love, passion, and divine contemplation. The image of limestone,
 
which has healing properties, conveys the poet’s quest to transmute suffering in
 
the parched spiritual wilderness evoked by the desert thorns. Wine symbolizes
 
initiation into mystical knowledge and joyous communion which can be realized
 
even amidst desolation.The mountain stream is an image that combines water,
 
the source of life, with the mountain, representing spiritual ascension and stature.
 
Although a dark boulder blocks the mountain stream’s path, water, to take the
 
long view, will eventually find its way. The temporarily thwarted progress
 
towards justice awakens both fear and hope.According to the Urdu poet N. M.
 
Rashed, Faiz was influenced by the Romantic poets, especially Keats and
 
Shelley (8). Faiz found in the 19th-century composer Chopin a kindred romantic
 
soul. In “Chopin’s music,” Faiz summons a bitter-sweet world of destruction and
 
creation:
Rain-spears and the night a sieve.
Weeping walls, houses sunk in silence
And freshly-bathed plants.
Winds in the lanes and alleys.
Chopin’s music is being played.
The moon’s pallor
On the face of a wistful girl.
Blood on the snow
And every drop a leaping flame.
Chopin’s music is being played.
Lovers of freedom ambushed by
the enemy.
A few escaped.
Others were slaughtered.
They will always be remembered.
Chopin’s music is being played.
A crane covers her eyes with her wings
And weeps alone
In the sky’s blue wilderness.
A hawk pounces on her.
Chopin’s music is being played.
Grief has petrified a father’s face.
The mother sobs as she kisses
The forehead of her dead son.
Chopin’s music is being played.
The season of flowers has returned
And lovers rejoice.
Everywhere there is the dance of water.
Neither clouds nor rain.
Chopin’s music is being played.
(Faiz in English 59)
The image of rain-spears evokes tears and piercing pain. In China, the crane
 
symbolizes longevity and its migratory flight heralds the arrival of spring
 
besides evoking the soul’s immortality. In India, the crane is associated with
 
treachery (Chevalier and Gheerbrant 240-241), which can be seen in the crane’s
 
fate in “Chopin’s Music.”The moon’s pallor recalls Percy Shelley’s “To the
 
Moon” in which the moon is a disconsolate pilgrim of history:
Art though pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth, —
and ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
(Shelley 1081-1082)
These poignant images in “Chopin’s Music” beckon us to, if not to intervene in
 
the world, at the very least to bear witness. To invest an unjust world with
 
feeling is to become its heart and conscience.

Works Cited

Chevalier, Jean and Alain Gheerbrant. Dictionary of Symbols. Tr. John Buchanan-Brown. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
 
Dubrow, Jennifer. “Singing the Revolution” India’s Anti-CAA Protests and Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge.” Eikon.
 
Faiz, Faiz Ahmed. Faiz in English. Tr. Daud Kamal. Karachi: Pakistan Publishing House, 1984.
 
Faiz, Faiz Ahmed. The unicorn and the dancing girl. Ed. Khalid Hasan. New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1988.
 
Hasan, Khalid. “Introduction.” Flower on a Grave. By Ahmed Nadeem Qasimi. Tr. Daud Kamal. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2008: ix-x.
 
Hashmi, Ali Madeeh. Love and Revolution: Faiz Ahmed Faiz: The Authorized Biography. New Delhi: Rupa 2016.
 
Rashed. N. M. “Interview with N. M. Rashed.” Mahfil 7.1-2 (Spring – Summer 1971): 1-20.
 
Shelley, Percy. “To the Moon.” The Book of Georgian Verse. Ed. William Stanley Braithwaite. New York: Brentano’s, 1909: 1081-1082.
 
Singh, Sushant. “The story of Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge – from Pakistan to India,
 
 
Zaheer, Sajjad. The Light. Tr. Amina Azfar. Karachi: Oxford UP, 2006.*The above text of “Theme for a Poet” is Kamal’s revision of the original version in Faiz in English. The second half of the poem formerly read:
fear and hope.
Mountain stream cleaved in two
By a dark boulder
Hunger is the wild dog.
(Faiz in English 31)

May-June 2022, ATC 218

 

From  Against the Current

Radical Socialist Statement on Agnipath Scheme and its Fallout

 

As large parts of India see violent eruptions for several days running, it is necessary for revolutionary socialists to take a clear stand on the Agnipath scheme, its political meaning, and develop a response to the mass anger that avoids both petty bourgeois populism and purist sectarianism.

India like all hegemonistic powers spends unnecessarily and unjustifiably huge amounts of money on its armed forces because it wants to “power project” and not merely to territorially protect itself. “Power Projection” and having a “Sphere of Influence” or being “Naturally Pre-eminent in the Region” are all euphemisms for wanting to dominate, and when desired, bully weaker countries in the neighbourhood and beyond. India has the second largest armed forces in the world; its annual defence budget is the world’s third largest; and it ranks fourth largest as an importer of arms. It is also desperate to build up a huge public-private military-industrial complex. In addition, the Indian army has been used massively for suppression of internal dissent.

India also has the largest number of under-nourished and mal-nourished people as compared to any other country in the world. Official statistics that are publicised seriously underestimate the proportion of people below the poverty line as well as the size of the those “vulnerable” and at constant risk of falling below or near that poverty line which in any case does not cover minimum levels of “basic needs” such as health, education, housing, social security, etc. In short, its public welfare systems are a longstanding and enduring disgrace! This BJP central government, like previous ones, is not in the least interested in shifting financial resources from the defence sector to address these areas. Rather, under the BJP dispensation, privatization of healthcare, of education, contractisation of jobs, the growth of joblessness have skyrocketted. And this has happened  hand in hand with the growth in  wealth of the top (approximately) 325000 households to above Rs 10 crores. Thus, it is the current regime that has done most to augment disparities beyond its predecessors.

It is within this overall political-strategical framework of pursuing regional hegemonistic ambitions, strengthening nuclear and non-nuclear military capacities, and communalising the whole coercive apparatus of the armed forces, the paramilitaries and the police, along with a steeply right-wing economic policy, that we must understand its latest measures, namely widening the pool from which the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is to be selected as well as Agnipath.

Widening the pool for CDS selection means destroying the principle of prioritising seniority and making sure that the CDS chosen is solidly pro-Hindutva as well as becoming even more subordinate to Modi’s PMO. The Agnipath policy has two key purposes. First, by creating greater competition for a more restricted number of full-time recruits, make it clear that those willing to support Hindutva ideology and practice will be favoured. Those with the four-year ‘tour duty’ experience (through which they would have learned to use sophisticated arms) can then become part of other paramilitary forces or form private militias for control by Hindutva forces operating through and outside state and central governments. Secondly, yes, there is an economic purpose---to shift expense burdens from paying pensions but NOT to promote public welfare or to create more decent and secure jobs. It is to release more resources for technologically strengthening and streamlining the military war-fighting capabilities. Around 60% of India’s defence budget currently is spent on salaries and pensions whereas in China it is only one-third.

Why has there been a public outcry and protest actions in various places by youth including those who in some way lean towards Hindutva? The reason is obvious---in a country where unemployment is rising to unprecedented levels and where insecure forms of employment at miserable wages are rampant and routine, one sure avenue of decent existence, albeit very small, indeed tiny in the overall scheme of things---some 60,000 recruits annually---is now being cut by three-fourths and more. A look at the recruitment patterns of JCOs and other ranks in the army show a preponderance of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan – some of the core areas of Hindutva militant cadre recruitment, as well as scenes of recent violence.  Caste and community data is not openly given as the army professes to be above caste and community, but sufficient data exists to show preferences. For example, the President’s Guard, considered an elite regiment, is dominated by Rajputs, Hindu Jats and Sikh Jats. A CNN-IBN report of 2014 suggested that out of India’s huge army, only about 29,000 were Muslims, though at the officer level India has had eight Muslim Major Generals till the same period. Clearly, the trends do suggest that the same population that has been voting heavily for the ideological stance of the RSS, ignoring other socio-economic issues like rising prices, destruction of health care, or complete dismantling of the public sector, is also the biggest force going into the army.

The Agnipath scheme is a cynical move. When huge masses see joining the army as a principal road to economic security, the propaganda about soldiers being in the army for patriotic reasons is blown up.

Instead of welcoming the move, as the rulers had thought, large masses of their supporters have temporarily deserted them and have taken to the streets. Trained in violence over the previous years, aware that the state will be far softer on violence committed by Hindu upper and intermediate caste young men, they have been blocking roads, attacking government buildings, occasionally attacking MLAs and ministers, and setting fire to all manner of things, including trains.

The response of considerable sections of the left, while not totally unanticipated, has still been deeply disappointing. It is astonishing that the Indian Left of CPI/CPM/CPI-ML Liberation while attacking this policy are doing so for all the wrong reasons that do not challenge but feed into the overall project of this Hindutva government; that ignore the need to oppose anti-poor neoliberal priorities as well as opposing the hegemonist ambitions of the ruling class and its ideological drumbeaters

Our stand on these are based on the following principled positions:

1.    We stand for reduction of military spending for power display

2.    We oppose the glamourization of the armed forces in the name of national security and justifying military spending under that banner.

3.    We condemn and oppose the extensive use of the armed forces for suppression of domestic dissent by the reactionary Indian state.

4.    We believe that the best way to achieve security with neighbouring countries is through diplomacy, and settlement of all disputes through peaceful negotiations and mutual give and take.

5.    We oppose India’s massive military hardware imports, and also the build up of nuclear weapons for military power play.

 

Accordingly, in the current situation

NO TO AGNIPATH

NO TO COMMUNALISATION OF ARMED FORCES AND SOCIETY

NO TO HEGEMONIST AMBITIONS AND BEHAVIOUR

YES TO MASSIVE DIVERSION OF FUNDS TOWARDS PUBLIC WELFARE AND JOB CREATION

NO TO ANY SUPPORT FOR EXPANSION OF FULL TIME PROFESSIONAL ARMY IN THE NAME OF MORE JOBS FOR THE NEEDY

 

Radical Socialist 18 June 2022

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