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The philosophy of praxis in the thought of Rosa Luxemburg

The spark ignites in the action - the philosophy of praxis in the thought of Rosa Luxemburg

Michael Löwy

In his presentation of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach (1845), which he published posthumously in 1888, Engels described them as “the first document in which is deposited the brilliant germ of the new world outlook”. Indeed, in this little text Marx surpasses dialectically – the celebrated Aufhebung: negation/conservation/elevation – the preceding materialism and idealism, and formulates a new theory, which we could describe as the philosophy of praxis. While the French materialists of the eighteenth century insisted on the need to change material circumstances so that human beings could change, the German idealists affirmed that, thanks to the formation of a new consciousness of individuals, society would be changed.

 

Against these two unilateral perceptions, which both led to a dead end - and the search for a “Great Teacher” or Supreme Saviour - Marx affirms in Thesis III: “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung] can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” [1]. In other words: in revolutionary practice, in collective emancipatory action, the historical subject – the oppressed classes - transforms simultaneously both material circumstances and its own consciousness. Marx returns to these problems in The German Ideology (1846), writing the following: “this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” [2]

That means that revolutionary self-emancipation is the only possible form of liberation: it is only by their own praxis, by their experience in action, that the oppressed classes can change their consciousness, at the same time as they subvert the power of capital. It is true that in later texts - for example, the celebrated 1857 Preface to the Critique of Political Economy - we find a much more deterministic version, which regards the revolution as the inevitable result of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production; however, as his principal political writings attest, the principle of the self-emancipation of the workers continued to inspire his thought and his action.

It was Antonio Gramsci, in his Prison Notebooks in the 1930s, who used, for the first time, the expression “philosophy of praxis” to refer to Marxism. Some people claim that it was simply a trick to mislead his fascist jailers, who might be wary of any reference to Marx; but that does not explain why Gramsci chose this formula, and not another, such as “rational dialectic” or “critical philosophy”. In fact, with this expression he defines, in a precise and coherent way, what distinguishes Marxism as a specific world view, and dissociates himself, in a radical fashion, from positivist and evolutionist readings of historical materialism.

Few Marxists of the twentieth century were closer to the spirit of this Marxist philosophy of praxis as Rosa Luxemburg. Admittedly, she did not write philosophical texts, and did not work out systematic theories; as Isabel Loureiro correctly observes, “her ideas, dispersed in newspaper articles, pamphlets, speeches, letters (…) are much more immediate answers to the conjuncture than a logical and internally coherent theorisation”. [3] Nevertheless: the Marxian philosophy of praxis, which she interprets in an original and creative way, is the dominant current – in the electric sense of the word - of her work and her action as a revolutionary. But her thought is far from being static: it is reflexion in movement, which enriches itself with historical experience. We will try to reconstitute the evolution of her thought through some examples.

It is true that her writings are traversed by a tension between historical determinism - the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism - and the voluntarism of emancipatory action. That applies in particular to her early works (before 1914). Reform or Revolution (1899), the book thanks to which she became known in the German and international workers’ movement, is an obvious example of this ambivalence. Against Bernstein, she proclaims that the evolution of capitalism necessarily leads towards the collapse (Zusammenbruch) of the system, and that this collapse is the historical road which leads to the realization of socialism. This amounts, in the final analysis, to a socialist variant of the ideology of inevitable progress which has dominated Western thought since the Enlightenment. What saves her argument from a fatalistic economism is the revolutionary pedagogy of action: “in the course of the long and stubborn struggles, the proletariat will acquire the degree of political maturity permitting it to obtain in time a definitive victory of the revolution.” [4]

This dialectical conception of education through struggle is also one of the main axes of her polemic with Lenin in 1904: “The proletarian army is recruited and becomes aware of its objectives in the course of the struggle itself. The activity of the party organization, the growth of the proletarians’ awareness of the objectives of the struggle and the struggle itself, are not different things separated chronologically and mechanically. They are only different aspects of the same struggle”. [5]

Of course, recognizes Rosa Luxemburg, the class can be mistaken during this combat, but, in the final analysis, “Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee”. The self-emancipation of the oppressed implies the self-transformation of the revolutionary class through its practical experience; this, in its turn, produces not only consciousness – a traditional theme of Marxism - but also will: “The international movement of the proletariat toward its complete emancipation is a process peculiar in the following respect. For the first time in the history of civilization, the people are expressing their will consciously and in opposition to all ruling classes. (…).Now the mass can only acquire and strengthen this will in the course of day-to-day struggle against the existing social order – that is, within the limits of capitalist society.” [6]

One could compare the vision of Lenin with that of Rosa Luxemburg with the following image: for Vladimir Ilyich, editor of the newspaper Iskra, the revolutionary spark is brought by the organized political vanguard, from the outside towards the interior of the spontaneous struggles of the proletariat; for the Jewish/Polish revolutionary, the spark of consciousness and revolutionary will ignites in the struggle, in the action of masses. It is true that her conception of the party as organic expression of the class corresponds more to the situation in Germany than to Russia or Poland, where already the question of the diversity of parties defining themselves as socialist was posed.

The revolutionary events of 1905 in the Tsarist Russian Empire largely confirmed Rosa Luxemburg in her conviction that the process of the development of consciousness by the working masses resulted less from the educational activity – Aufklärung – of the party than from the experience of the direct and autonomous action of the workers: “The sudden general rising of the proletariat in January under the powerful impetus of the St. Petersburg events was outwardly a political act of the revolutionary declaration of war on absolutism. But this first general direct action reacted inwardly all the more powerfully as it for the first time awoke class feeling and class-consciousness in millions upon millions, as if by an electric shock. (…) Absolutism in Russia must be overthrown by the proletariat. But in order to be able to overthrow it, the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution.” [7]

It is true that the polemical formula on “pamphlets and leaflets” seems to underestimate the importance of revolutionary theory in the process; besides, the political activity of Rosa Luxemburg, which consisted, to a considerable degree, of writing newspaper articles and pamphlets – not to mention her theoretical works in the field of political economy - shows, without any doubt, the decisive significance that she attached to theoretical work and to political polemics in the process of preparing the revolution.

In this famous pamphlet of 1906 on the mass strike, the Polish revolutionary still uses the traditional deterministic arguments: the revolution will take place “following the need for a natural law”. But her concrete vision of the revolutionary process coincides with Marx’s theory of revolution, as he presented it in The German Ideology (a work which she did not know, since it was published only after her death): revolutionary consciousness can only become generalised in the course of a “practical” movement, the “massive” transformation of the oppressed can be generalised only during the revolution itself.

The category of praxis - which is, for her as for Marx, the dialectical unity between the objective and the subjective, the mediation by which the class in itself becomes the class for itself - allows her to overcome the paralysing and metaphysical dilemma of German social democracy, between the abstract moralism of Bernstein and the mechanical economism of Kautsky: whereas, for the former, the “subjective” transformation , moral and spiritual, of “human beings” is the condition for the advent of social justice, for the latter, it is the objective economic evolution which leads “inevitably” to socialism. That enables us to better understand why Rosa Luxemburg was opposed not only to the neo-Kantian revisionists, but also, from 1905 onwards, to the strategy of the passive “wait-and-see policy” defended by what was called the “orthodox centre” of the party.

This same dialectical vision of praxis also enabled her to overcome the traditional dualism incarnated in the Erfurt Programme of the SPD, between reforms, or the “minimum programme”, and the revolution, or “the final goal”. By the strategy of the mass strike in Germany which she proposed in 1906 - against the trade-union bureaucracy - and in 1910 - against Karl Kautsky - Rosa Luxemburg outlined a road that was capable of transforming economic struggles or the battle for universal suffrage into a general revolutionary movement.

Contrary to Lenin, who distinguished “trade-union consciousness” from “social democratic (socialist) consciousness”, she suggested a distinction between latent theoretical consciousness, characteristic of the workers’ movement during periods of domination of bourgeois parliamentarism, and practical and active consciousness, which emerges during the revolutionary process, when the masses themselves - and not only members of parliament and party leaders - appear on the political stage; it is thanks to this practical-active consciousness that the least organized and most backward layers can become, in a period of revolutionary struggle, the most radical element. From this premise flows her critique of those who base their political strategy on an exaggerated estimation of the role of organization in the class struggle - which is generally accompanied by an underestimation of the unorganized proletariat - forgetting the pedagogical role of revolutionary struggle: “Six months of a revolutionary period will complete the work of the training of these as yet unorganised masses, which ten years of public demonstrations and distribution of leaflets would be unable to do”. [8]

Was Rosa Luxemburg therefore spontaneist? Not quite… In the pamphlet The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906) she insisted, referring to Germany, that the role of “the most enlightened, most class-conscious vanguard” is not to wait “in a fatalist fashion”, until the spontaneous popular movement “falls from the clouds”. On the contrary, the function of this vanguard is precisely “hasten (vorauseilen) the development of things and endeavour to accelerate events”. [9] She recognizes that the socialist party must take the political leadership of the mass strike, which consists of “informing the German proletariat of their tactics and aims in the period of coming struggle”; she goes so far as to proclaim that the socialist organization is the “vanguard of the entire body of the workers” and that “the political clarity, the strength, and the unity of the labour movement flow from this organisation”. [10]

It should be added that the Polish organization led by Rosa Luxemburg, the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), clandestine and revolutionary, resembled the Bolshevik Party much more than it resembled German social democracy… Finally, an aspect that is often ignored must be taken into account: it concerns the attitude of Rosa Luxemburg towards the International (especially after 1914), which she conceived of as a centralized and disciplined world party. It is not the least of ironies that Karl Liebknecht, in a letter to Rosa Luxemburg, criticized her conception of the International as being “too mechanically centralised”, with “too much `discipline’, not enough spontaneity”, considering the masses “too much as instruments of action, not as having their own will; as instruments of action desired by and decided on by the International, not as desiring and deciding themselves” [11].

Parallel to this activist voluntarism, the determinist (economic) optimism of the theory ofZusammenbruch, the collapse of capitalism, victim of its contradictions, does not disappear from her writings, on the contrary: it is at the very centre of her great economic work, The Accumulation of Capital (1911). It was only after 1914, in the pamphlet The Crisis of Social Democracy, written in prison in 1915 - and published in Switzerland in January 1916 under the pseudonym “Junius” - that this traditional vision of the socialist movement at the beginning of the century was to be transcended. This document, thanks to the expression “socialism or barbarism” marks a turning-point in the history of Marxist thought. Curiously, the argument of Rosa Luxemburg starts by referring to the “objective laws of historical development”; she recognizes that the action of the proletariat “contributes to determining history”, but seems to believe that it is only a question of accelerating or delaying the historical process. So far, nothing new!

But in the following lines she compares the victory of the proletariat to “a leap of humanity from the animal world into the realm of freedom”, while adding: this leap will not be possible “until the development of complex material conditions strikes the incendiary spark zündende Funke of conscious will in the great mass”. We find here the celebrated Iskra, the spark of revolutionary will which is able to make the dry powder of material conditions explode. But what does this zündende Funke produce? It is only thanks to a “long chain of violent tests of strength” that “The international proletariat under the leadership of the Social Democrats will thereby learn to try to take its history (Seine Geschichte) into its own hands…” [12]. In other words: it is in the course of practical experience that the spark of the revolutionary consciousness of the oppressed and exploited ignites.

By introducing the expression socialism or barbarism, “Junius” referred to the authority of Engels, in a writing going back “forty years” - undoubtedly a reference to Anti-Dühring (1878): “Friedrich Engels once said: ´Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism´.”[Ibid.] In fact, what Engels wrote is quite different: “both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place”. [13]

The argument of Engels - primarily economic, and not political, like that of “Junius” - is rather rhetorical, a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the need for socialism, if we want to avoid the “destruction” of modern society - a vague formula: it is not easy to see exactly what it encompasses. In fact, it is Rosa Luxemburg who invented, in the strong sense of the word, the expression “socialism or barbarism”, which was to have such a great impact in the course of the twentieth century. If she refers to Engels, it is perhaps to try to give more legitimacy to a fairly heterodox thesis. Obviously it was the world war, and the collapse of the international workers’ movement in August 1914, that ended up by shaking her conviction of the inevitable victory of socialism. In the following paragraphs “Junius” developed her innovating point of view: “Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war. This is a dilemma of world history, an either/or; the scales are wavering before the decision of the class-conscious proletariat”. [14]

We can discuss the significance of the concept of “barbarism”: it is is undoubtedly a question of a modern, “civilized” barbarism - thus the comparison with ancient Rome is not very relevant - and in this case what was affirmed in the Junius pamphlet turned out to be prophetic: German fascism, supreme demonstration of modern barbarism, could seize power thanks to the defeat of socialism. But what is most important in the formula “socialism or barbarism” is the term “or“: what is involved is the recognition that history is an open process, that the future is not yet decided - by “the laws of history” or the economy - but depends, in the final analysis, on “subjective” factors: consciousness, decision, will, initiative, action, revolutionary praxis. It is true, as Isabel Loureiro underlines in her very fine book, that even in the Junius pamphlet - as in later texts of Rosa Luxemburg - we still find references to the inevitable collapse of capitalism, the “dialectic of history” and the “historical need for socialism”. [15] But in the final analysis, the formula “socialism or barbarism” provides the foundations of another conception of the “dialectic of history”, distinct from economic determinism and the illuminist ideology of inevitable progress.

We find again the philosophy of praxis in the middle of the polemic in 1918 on the Russian Revolution - another capital text written behind bars. The essential thread of this document is well-known: on the one hand, support for the Bolsheviks, and their leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, who saved the honour of international socialism, by daring to make the October Revolution; on the other, a whole series of criticisms of which some - on the land question and the national question - are quite debatable, while others - the chapter on democracy - appear prophetic. What worries the Jewish/Polish/German revolutionary is above all the suppression, by the Bolsheviks, of democratic liberties - freedom of the press, of association, of assembly - which are precisely the guarantee of the political activity of the working masses; without them “the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable”.

The gigantic tasks of the transition to socialism “which the Bolsheviks have undertaken with courage and determination” - cannot be carried out without “the most intensive political training of the masses and the accumulation of experience”, which is not possible without democratic liberties. The construction of a new society is virgin terrain which poses “a thousand problems” that are unforeseen; however, “Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways.” Socialism is a historical product “born out of the school of its own experiences”: the whole of the popular masses (Volksmassen) must take part in this experience, otherwise “socialism will be decreed from behind a few official desks by a dozen intellectuals”. For the inevitable errors of the transition process the only remedy is revolutionary practice itself: “the only healing and purifying sun is the revolution itself and its renovating principle, the spiritual life, activity and initiative of the masses which is called into being by it and which takes the form of the broadest political freedom”. [16]

This argument is much more important than the debate on the Constituent Assembly, on which the “Leninist” objections to the text of 1918 have been concentrated. Without democratic liberties the revolutionary praxis of the masses, popular self-education through experience, the self-emancipation of the oppressed, and the exercise of power itself by the working class are impossible. Georg Lukacs, in his important essay “The Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg” (January 1921), showed with great acuity how, thanks to the unity of theory and praxis - formulated by Marx in his Theses on Feuerbach – the great revolutionary had succeeded in overcoming the dilemma of the impotence of social democratic movements, “the dilemma created by the pure laws with their fatalism and by the ethics of pure intentions”. What does this dialectical unity mean? “We have seen that the proletariat as a class can only conquer and retain a hold on class consciousness and raise itself to the level of its – objectively-given – historic task through conflict and action. It is likewise true that the party and the individual fighter can only really take possession of their theory if they are able to bring this unity into their praxis” [17].

It is therefore surprising that, hardly one year later, Lukacs wrote the essay - which would also appear in History and Class Consciousness (1923) - entitled “Critical Observations on Rosa Luxemburg’s ‘Critique of the Russian Revolution’“ (January 1922), which rejects en bloc the whole of the dissenting comments of the founder of the Spartacus League, claiming that she “imagines the proletarian revolution as having the structural forms of bourgeois revolutions” [18] - a not very credible accusation, as Isabel Loureiro demonstrates. [19] How can we explain the difference, in tone and content, between the essay of January 1921 and that of January 1922? A rapid conversion to orthodox Leninism? Perhaps, but more probably the position of Lukacs in relation to the debates within German Communism. Paul Levi, the principal leader of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany), had opposed the “March Action” of 1921, a failed attempt at a communist rising in Germany, supported with enthusiasm by Lukacs (but criticized by Lenin…); expelled from the Party, Paul Levi decided in 1922 to publish the manuscript of Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian Revolution, which the author had entrusted him with in 1918. The polemic of Lukacs with this document is also, indirectly, a settling of accounts with Paul Levi.

In fact, the chapter on democracy of this document by Luxemburg is one of the most important texts of Marxism, of communism, of critical theory and of the revolutionary thought of the twentieth century. It is difficult to imagine a refounding of socialism in the twenty-first century which does not take into account the arguments developed in these feverish pages. The most lucid representatives of Leninism and Trotskyism, such as Ernest Mandel and Daniel Bensaïd, recognized that this 1918 criticism of Bolshevism, concerning the question of democratic liberties, was in the final analysis justified. Of course, the democracy to which Rosa Luxemburg refers is that exercised by the workers in a revolutionary process, and not the “low intensity democracy” of bourgeois parliamentarism, in which the important decisions are taken by bankers, contractors, soldiers and technocrats, free from any popular control. The zündende Funke, the incendiary spark of Rosa Luxemburg, glowed one last time in December 1918, when she addressed the Founding Congress of the KPD (Spartacus League).

Admittedly, we still find in this text references to the “the law of the necessary objective development of the socialist revolution”, but it is really about “the bitter experience” that the various forces of the workers’ movement must go through before finding the revolutionary road. The last words of this memorable speech are directly inspired by the perspective of the self-emancipatory praxis of the oppressed: “The masses must learn how to use power by using power. There is no other way to teach them. Fortunately, we have gone beyond the days when it was proposed to “educate” the proletariat socialistically. Marxists of Kautsky’s school still believe in the existence of those vanished days. To educate the proletarian masses socialistically meant to deliver lectures to them, to circulate leaflets and pamphlets among them. No, the school of the socialist proletariat doesn’t need all this. The workers will learn in the school of action. (zur Tat greifen)”. Here Rosa Luxemburg refers to a famous formula of Goethe, Am Anfang war die Tat!. At the beginning of all is not the Word but the Action! In the words of the Marxist revolutionary: “Our motto is: In the beginning was the act. And the act must be that the workers’ and soldiers’ councils realize their mission and learn to become the sole public power of the whole nation”. [20] A few days later, Rosa Luxemburg would be assassinated by the paramilitary Freikorps - mobilized by the social democratic government, under the authority of the Minister Gustav Noske, against the rising of the workers of Berlin. *** Rosa Luxemburg was not infallible, she made mistakes, like any human being and any activist, and her ideas do not constitute a closed theoretical system, a dogmatic doctrine which could be applied to any place and any time. But undoubtedly her thought is an invaluable source of inspiration to try to dismantle the capitalist machine and think of radical alternatives. It is not an accident that it has become, in recent years, one of the most important references in the debate, in particular in Latin America, on a socialism of the twenty-first century, capable of going beyond the impasses of the experiences conducted in the name of socialism in the last century – both social democracy and Stalinism. Her conception of a socialism that is both revolutionary and democratic - in irreconcilable opposition to capitalism and imperialism - based on the self-emancipatory praxis of the workers, on self-education through experience and on the action of the great popular masses thus becomes strikingly topical. The socialism of the future will not be able to do without the light from this glowing spark.

Michael Löwy, a philosopher and sociologist of Brazilian origin, is a member of the New Anti-capitalist Party in France and of the Fourth International. A Fellow of the IIRE in Amsterdam and former research director of the French National Council for Scientific Research (CNRS), he has written many books, including The Marxism of Che Guevara, Marxism and Liberation Theology, Fatherland or Mother Earth? and The War of Gods: Religion and Politics in Latin America. He is joint author (with Joel Kovel) of the International Ecosocialist Manifesto. He was also one of the organizers of the first International Ecosocialist Meeting, in Paris, in 2007.

NOTES

 

[1] Karl Marx, Early Writings, p 422, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1975

] http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/index.htm

[3] Isabel Loureiro, Rosa Luxemburg. Os dilemmas da acao revolucionario Unesp, Sao Paulo, 1995, p 23

] http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1900/reform-revolution/index.htm

, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1904/questions-rsd/index.htm

[6] Ibid.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1906/mass-strike/index.htm

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Karl Liebknecht, To Rosa Luxemburg: Remarks concerning her draft these for the ´International´ group, published in French in Partisans no. 45, January 1969

] http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1915/junius/index.htm

] http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/index.htm

[14] Luxemburg, op. cit.

[15] Loureiro, op. cit., p 123

, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/index.htm

[17] Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness, Merlin Press, London, 1971, pp 39, 43

[18] Ibid. P 284

[19] Loureiro, op. cit. P 321

, http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/31.htm

Some Major Facts at Glance about Gujarat: For Anna Hazare and others

Our Presentation for 26th May 2011 meeting at Ahmedabad of Annaji, Swami Agniveshji, Arvin Kejriwalji, Kiran Bediji and others - Some Major Facts at Glance about Gujarat


Respected, Annaji, Swami Agniveshji, Arvin Kejriwalji, Kiran Bediji and others.

 

We are trying to brief you regarding the real picture of the Gujarat which is quite different than the Gujarat propagated by Government of Gujarat.

 

It is painful that the activists of Gujarat have to explain the realities because people outside Gujarat are hypnotized by the fake propaganda of the Government of Gujarat.

 

Rohit Prajapati & Trupti Shah

Activists of Gujarat

Some Major Facts at Glance about Gujarat.

 

We would like to clarify one point from the very beginning that when we are talking about the condition of the ordinary people of Gujarat is alarming that does not mean that we are trying to say that the condition of the ordinary people is good out side the Gujarat.

The Chief Minister of Gujarat is manufacturing mega events by spending cores of rupees to propagate his so called achievements. Like an echo of the highly proclaimed ‘Indira is India and India is Indira’, Mr. Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat is also trying to replicate it that ‘Modi is Gujarat and Gujarat is Modi’ and now he is crossing all limits by attempts to extend it that ‘Modi is India and India is Modi’ with clear-cut fascist tendency.

The overwhelming majority of the Fact-Finding Reports, about Carnage 2002 including that of the NHRC, were careful to place the blame of Gujarat Carnage on the Government of Gujarat, the state machinery and specific rightwing groups and not on the people of Gujarat in general. The Supreme Court’s various remarks in the various cases of carnage 2002 clearly condemn the state machinery, Government of Gujarat and religious fanatics groups. The Gujarati Community as a whole is not identified as the culprit in any reports, editorials or articles. Yet Mr. Modi constantly propagate that they have tarnished the image of Gujarat and all Guiaratis. He is taking personal credit when any one praise Gujarat but subtlety shift the blame of his crimes on the 5 crores Gujaratis to divert the point of view of the criticism.

In the midst of the euphoria created by the investment flooding in to Gujarat and lakhs of new jobs likely to be created we would like to draw the attention that this is only one side of the story. Any civil society should have ‘land use’ policy because land can not be produced and you can not produce grains and vegetables without land.

The success story of the two digit growth has masked the several digit realities of loss of livelihood, land acquisition, displacement and permanent loss of natural resources, which are treated as free goods in this process. The investment figure without the displacement and depletion of natural resources figure and the employment figure without loss of livelihood does not make sense. No wise person would talk about the income without talking the cost of acquiring that income or wealth.

The following facts expose the fake claims about the so called development in Gujarat.

  • On one hand, the quantity of groundwater in Gujarat has reached at critical stage and on the other hand, it is also being contaminated continuously. The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution. Even if we take the routine parameter like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Hardness (TS), Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and some heavy metal like Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Iron etc. the condition of the groundwater of Gujarat is very critical that requires immediate attention as the rural population is deprived of the very basic need of safe drinking water and clean water for their animals and crops.

·         Ahmedabad, Daskroi, Mehmedavad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Bardoli, Choryasi, Kamrej, Mangrol, Olpad, Palsana, Valod, Vyara, Navsari, Sanand, Dhoraji, Jetpur, Okha Mandal etc talukas are critically polluted. Amreli, Jambusar, Junagad, Mandvi, Kalol, Morvi, Upleta, Mahuva, Chorila, Dhangadhar, Limdi, Bansda, Umbergaon etc talukas are found moderately polluted. (State Environmental Action Programme - Industrial Pollution Phase III – Sectoral Report, Volume I, Gujarat Ecology Commission, April 2002) If we talk about Vatva to Vapi - Golden Corridor it is clear that 80% of the groundwater is contaminated and it has reached the irreversible level.

 

Critical pollutants in the Critically polluted talukas

Critically polluted talukas

Critical pollutants

Golden Corridor

Ahmedabad

COD, Cd

Daskroi

COD, Hg

Mehmedavad

Colour, TDS, COD, Total coliforms, E. coli, Hg

Vadodara

Colour, Hardness, NO3, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr, Fe, Pb

Ankleshwar

Colour, TDS, Hardness, Cd, Cu, Pb, Mn, Hg, POP

Bardoli

TDS, Hardness, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr

Choryasi

TDS, Hardness, Cl, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr, Fe, Mn

Kamrej, Mangrol, Valod

TDS, Hardness, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr

Olpad

TDS, Hardness, Cl, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr, Mn

Palsana

TDS, Hardness, DO, Total coliforms, E. coli, Fe

Vyara

Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr

Navsari

COD, Total coliforms, E. coli, Cr

Pardi

Hardness, COD, Total coliforms, E. coli, Hg

Other areas

 

Sanand

TDS, COD, Total coliforms, E. coli

Dhoraji

TDS, Hardness, Cl, COD

Jetpur

Colour, TDS, Hardness, COD, Cu, Pb

Okha mandal

COD, Salinity

Lakhpat

Salinity

Moderately polluted talukas

Critical pollutants

Amreli, Jambusar, Junagad, Kalol, Morvi, Upleta, Dhangadhar, Limdi, Bansda

COD

Mahuva

COD, Hardness

Chotila

NO3, COD




  • The Gulf of Khambhat has suffered severe degradation in a short span of 25-30 years resulting in rapid decline in mangrove cover. The 7.45% area of Gulf of Khambhat was salt affected in 1960 but rose to 54% in 1984, 57.6% in 1986 and 64% in 1993, now due to heavy industrial effluent discharge it about to reach 70%. Moreover, this will not just salt affected area but it will be salt + industrial pollutant affected area.
  • Development-Induced Displacement in Gujarat 1947-2004 report prepared by Dr. Lancy Lobo and Shashikant Kumar of Centre for Culture and Development clearly indicates that there are 4,00,000 households displaced and affected in Gujarat during 57 years of Independence, amounting to 5% of the total population of Gujarat from developmental projects such as water resource related, transport and communications, industries, mines, defence, sanctuaries, human resource related, government offices, tourism and so on. This report further indicates that a total of 33,00,000 hectares of land has been acquired during 1947-2004 as computed from 80,000 Gazette notifications of the government of Gujarat and from Land Acquisition Departments from 25 Collectorates through RTI Act. This figure does not include the land acquired and people affected by the most controversial project Sardar Sarovar Dam [Narmada]. This figure of displaced also does not include the people who were dependent on land for their livelihood but were not the owner of the land. Thus real figure of loss of livelihood may even cross the figure of 50,00,000.
  • Vibrant Gujarat summits are talking about huge investment but are silent on the issue of land acquisition and loss of livelihood because of the land “acquisition”.
  • The working condition of the workers is in very bad shape.
  • The health and safety is most neglected aspect of the working condition of the workers in the State.
  • As per Factory Inspectorate office negligible numbers of workers are having occupational health problems but our own small experience indicate that about 30% of the hazardous industrial workers are having occupational health problems.
  • Since 1990, the Voluntary Retirements (Retrenchment) Scheme is become part of the life of the working population of Gujarat. This VRS is nothing but Voluntary Retrenchment Scheme.
  • All most 60-70% big-medium industry has retrenched about 30-70% of the workers in the name of Compulsory Retirement Scheme.
  • The big-medium industries have about 50 to 200% more contract workers than the permanent workers. The unfortunate part is that some of the contract and casual workers are the ex-permanent workers, who were retrenched in the name of VRS.
  • There is sharp rise in the contract workers in the private and public sector also.
  • The Labor Ministry openly admits that only about 3-7% industry is implementing the labor laws with their suitable interpretation.
  • In unorganized sector, about 99% workers are not getting the minimum wages.
  • The Gujarat has more than 11% worker in Chemical industry, the minimum wages become applicable after our Public Interest Litigation from 1-5-97 but not implemented in majority of the industries till now.
  • About 96% workers were not given the Identity Card, pay slip, etc. etc.
  • Only about 2%, workers are getting the PL, SL, and CL as per the law in the unorganized sector.
  • The labor disputes has increased by 600% in last 5 years, but instead of 100% increase in the labor machinery staff the Government has reduced the staff by 40-60%.
  • The Government has officially announced that now no more new recruitment in the labor department. Whenever somebody is retired, the post is abolished.
  • In Gujarat, about 60% industries are paying late salary every month.
  • Now the order of the labor court has become piece of paper as there is no effective Contempt of the Court is applicable to the labor court judgments.
  • As on today about 80% labor court judgments are not implement by the industry and in about 50% of the case are not even challenged in the High Court because lacuna in the implementation. That has lead to situation been the judgment on labor issue is just piece of paper.
  • In major cities of Gujarat you will find 30-50% new houses empty because of the lack of purchasing power.
  • We have empty houses and food grains waiting for human beings.
  • Due to unemployment the children of the ordinary people are force to take VRS from the education.
  • Culture of the violence is going up and state is not worried.
  • Small incidents lead to communal tension between the communities.
  • During the violence 2002 in Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi and his government in collaboration with the state machinery surpassed Hitler's methods adopting a strategy which was directly and indirectly supported by the then BJP-led central government.
  • From day one, the government and the state machinery came out with a number of justifications for the carnage. In the name of spontaneous reaction, the government justified the violence and the state machinery in many places gave assurances to the mob that no action will be taken against them.
  • The open vocal support of the government and state machinery brought huge mobs on the streets that were observed for the first time in Gujarat's history of violence. Not only were houses and shops of Muslims burnt, even industries were put to fire to economically paralyse the community.
  • In many instances across the state, police officers were openly instigating the mobs, giving them a time deadline within which they were free to attack the Muslims. In the second phase of violence after 15 March 2002, wherever the mobs lead by the Hindutava forces were not able to attack the Muslims, because of their location, the police took on this role in the name of combing operations. Due to this complicity of the government, police officers were bold enough to ignore most of the complains made by the victims and even human rights activists and their organisations.
  • Women were raped, abused, pulled, dragged, and beaten mercilessly. Pregnant women were particularly attacked in several areas. In spite of their oral and written complains, supported by human rights organisation's investigative report, even FIRs were not registered against the accused.
  • The present status of almost all FIRs and charge sheets reflect the state machineries bias against the minority community. People from minority community were charged with tough and non-bailable sections of IPC while where there were actual instances of looting, burning and deaths, people from the majority community were charged with milder sections of the IPC.
  • The government did not open relief camps for the victims of the violence. Instead, it played a proactive role to forcefully close the relief camps organised by the community.
  • In the name of negotiation for rehabilitation, arranged by the state machinery, victims were forced to withdraw their complaints and accept a life at the mercy of the perpetrators of violence.
  • The First victims of the Development Project known as Sardar Sarovar Project are the Tadvi Adivasis living in the six villages of Kothi, Kevadia, Waghodia, Gora, Navagam and Limdi. The acquisition of their lands began in 1961 even before the late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for the Navagam project in 1962. Almost 70% of the total landholdings of these villages were acquired for the project colony construction which was much more than the actual land needed for the colony. Since these were thick jungle areas quite remote and interior, considering the situation in early 60’s, the lands were acquired without any compensation but a very meager compensation of Rs.80/- to Rs. 250/- per acre was offered for the standing crops. People were totally illiterate and the land title deeds were not updated and hence only about 350 title holders recognized by the government as deserving compensation. In spite of their ignorance, many families did not accept the meager compensation which was offered for the standing crops. Thus the government and the Nigam stands exposed for the forced acquisition of Adivasis lands without offering them any valid alternative. Only those who have lands in two villages or those who have more lands than what is acquired had accepted the cash compensation. For example, Waghodia village has more than 200 families (original title holders were 39) none of whom have taken cash compensation so far. But the lands under their houses as well as their farm lands are with the Nigam! Kothi village has not been acquired but those from Kothi who had lands in Kevadia village had lost them. While their lands were acquired during 1961-63, the colony construction began much later and the dam construction was cleared by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal only in 1979. The government has to admit that they have acquired more than what was necessary for the colony construction. Many of the unused lands are still being cultivated by the villagers and they demand the return of the same. The Government of India’s policy in this regard is clearly in favor of the tribals! The Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of SC/ST, Ministry of Welfare, had in its 59th report on ‘Rehabilitation of Displaced Tribals by Major projects of Madhya Pradesh’ had clearly recommended that “the surplus land of tribals compulsorily acquisitioned and lying idle with the acquiring body be returned back to the original land owners. This was communicated to the Government of Gujarat by Director, Tribal development Division, Ministry of Welfare, Government of India as early as in April 1996. The same was evoked in the case of Kevadia colony affected Adivasis PAFs and GoG was asked to work out an action plan at the behest of the GRA who had so informed NBA, then. The official letter by the Executive Engineer, NP Colony Division No 3 to the SE, NP Colony & Procurement Circle, Baroda clearly gave the details of the excess land, 200+ hectares, available. It’s obvious that the land belongs to the people and should go back to them, not to tourism, the abode for those who can afford to enjoy it, at the cost of Adivasis life and livelihood. Now with the eco-tourism project coming up, government is planning to circumvent the legal nuances to pass on the lands acquired in excess from the six villages plus fresh acquirements (about 1,400 hectares) for tourism projects like golf courses, water parks, hotels, swimming pools, parks etc, the total estimate investment of Rs.170 crores.
  • The water from Narmada was meant for the drought-affected areas of Kutch and Saurashtra but in practice number of Industries and cities were given and Government is planning to give water at the rate of Rs. 10/- per 1,000 litters. Among the five major industries that get water at throwaway prices are Apollo Tyres in Waghodia, Vadodara, General Motors in Halol, Panchmahals, power plant of Ahmedabad Electricity Company (AEC) and a GEB plant in Gandhinagar. The list is very long. Now Baroda dairy is selling the Narmada Water in bottle. Initially, around nine Million Acre Foot (MAF) water is allocated for drinking purpose, 7.94 MAF for irrigation and 0.20 for industrial use. The SSNNL has now increased the per cent of water to be supplied for industrial purpose to 1 MAF. The SSNNL project is primarily supposed to benefit districts like Saurashtra and Kutch; it is not for commodification.
  • The state claiming to have number 1 in Industrialisation is having 24th rank in case of child sex ratio. Gujarat was among the top few states (including Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh) to register the most alarming declines in the number of girls in the 0-6 years category. Gujarat is one of the DEMARU states as termed by Ashish Bose. Census data for 1961-2011 show that child sex ratio in Gujarat has declined from 955 in 1961, 946 in 1971, 947 in 1981, 928 in 1991 to 883 in 2001 and there is very marginal increase to 886 in 2011 inspite of spending crores of rupees in the name of “Beti Bachao”. Thus “Beti Bachao have remained as mere propaganda of the state government without effective implementation of PCPNDT ACT.
  • In Absolute Numbers, 4,45,964  girls were less compared to boys in 2001 Census and the gap has increased to 4,54,396 in 2011. Gujarat is among the more “developed” states is evidence of the fact that ‘development’ as a category – based on indicators such as urbanization rates, female literacy, and access to “modernization” - has failed to capture the deteriorating situation of women. Female literacy, while having a positive relationship to fertility overall, has an inverse relationship to the status of the girl-child. Total 1,05,166 incidence of violence against women have been registered by police during 2001 and 2008 in Gujarat. According to 2008 police data 359 women were raped in that year i.e. one woman is raped every day in Gujarat.

Unnatural deaths of women have increase from 4,709 in 2001 to 5,318 in 2008 i.e. 15 women die unnaturally every day in Gujarat. Total 6,093 women have registered complaints with police during 2008 i.e. 17 women are mentally and / or physically harassed every day in Gujarat.

  • Even today most Dalits live as landless laborers or own very small and uneconomic plots. Under the Agricultural Land Ceiling Act surplus lands were to be given to Dalits and Adivasis. Some 12,700 acres of land have been distributed to them but this is only on paper. According to the government records the Dalits and Adivasis own this land but in most cases they actually do not have possession of it.
  • Leaflet published by Council for Social Justice of Ahmedabad titled 'Chargesheet Against Government of Gujarat for Non-Implementation of Atrocities Act 1989', based on research of 400 judgments of cases related to atrocities on Dalits in 14 districts of Gujarat found that in 95% of the cases there is acquittal due to negligence and hostile role of government pleaders. In most of the remaining 5% cases the accused are punished under provisions of the Indian Penal Code and are acquitted under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. In many cases severe strictures are passed by courts and directions are issued for action against erring officials for negligence in cases of atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis, but instead of taking any action against them they are rewarded with promotions. In addition, Dalits and Adivasis government employees are regularly charge-sheeted on false and fabricated charges to stall their promotions. [Interview of Valjibhai Patel, Director of the Ahmedabad-based Council for Social Justice - http://www.zcommunications.org/dalits-in-gujarat-by-valjibhai-patel]

Economic Growth versus Human Development and Social indicators

In spite of ‘above average economic growth’ in terms of State Domestic Product only 48 % of the Human Development goals are achieved. The expenditure for social sector by 18 large States of India, Gujarat stands 17th. (Monthly Bulleting of Reserve Bank of India, February 2007)

Between 1996 to 2006 Gujarat is legged behind in Health and Education indicators from 6th rank to 8th and 10 ranks respectively. (www.indianexpress.com/.../modis-development-hype-hits-ngos-as-funds.../432592/)

Gujarat stands 14th in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) for 0-1 year and 13th for 0-5 years. 47% malnourishment among 0-5 years old children, 42% children reported low height than normal and 47.4% reported low weight due to malnourishment. (National Family Health Survey III 2007.)

About 67% women are anaemic and of them 80.1% of girls aged between 6 to 35 months are anaemic.

Global index on hunger reports India with 66th rank, Gujarat is ranking 69th, which is actually as low as Haiti in Africa (International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2008. see www.ifpri.org)

From the students of class 5 only 59.6% Students could read textbook of class 1, 40% could read the time in the clock and 61% could count money in rural Gujarat. This is lower than Orissa, Bihar and Rajasthan. (Annual Status of Education Report 2008 (ASER)).

Gujarat ranks the lowest on environment sustainability index, i.e. 27th; 14 out 19 districts, 14 districts have reported serious pollution level in ground water. (Environment Sustainability Index for Indian States, 2007, Centre for Development Finance Institute for Financial Management & Research, Chennai)

Gujarat ranks 14th in gender equality and 11th on patriarchal attitudes and behaviour. (Hirway Indira and Darshini Mahadevia, 2004. Gujarat Human Development Report, Gandhi Labour Institute.)

Now we do not have declared emergency but undeclared permanent emergency.

The wider the process of economic globalisation, the narrower the circle of those who benefit from it. The free, global market has begun to appear less and less free.  Both trade and investment seem to be governed by more and more complicated laws and procedures in favour of monstrously rich economic and financial corporations – the real beneficiaries of the free global market. With the passing of each day, these  unaccountable corporations, with unlimited life, size and power, are taking ever- increasing control over economies – largely to the detriment of the individual  consumer, worker, neighbor and citizen. One can find much evidence that corporate- led globalisation negatively affects the environment, financial stability, equity, security, food safety, health and cultural diversity of millions of people.

PAKISTAN: Impunity for rape and other forms of violence against women must end


PAKISTAN: Impunity for rape and other forms of violence against women must end

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Seventeenth session, Agenda Item 3, Interactive Dialogue with SR on Extra-judicial killings
A written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), a non-governmental organisation with general consultative status

The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) wishes to highlight its continuing concerns about the widespread violation of women’s rights and cases of serious violence against women, including sexual violence, in Pakistan.

The ALRC recalls that Pakistan acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 12 Mar 1996. Furthermore, during the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 8, 2008, the government accepted several recommendations concerning women’s rights and violence against women. Despite this, as will be seen below, violence and discrimination against women remains a critical issue in the country and the authorities are not taking credible or effective action to address the many grave cases of abuse that continue to take place with impunity.

Key accepted UPR recommendations made to the government of Pakistan include the following:

  • Adopt measures to ensure that victims have access to protection and redress, that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished, and that gender sensitivity training be provided to relevant officials.
  • Ensure punishment for perpetrators of all violence against women and also thoroughly investigate and punish members and leaders of illegal jirgas for their calls to violence against women.
  • Continue with appropriate measures to eradicate discrimination and violence against women including domestic violence and to strengthen existing measures to thoroughly investigate crimes related to violence against women.
  • Continue with appropriate measures to eradicate discrimination and violence against women.
  • Take measures to provide redress for crimes of honour killings, acid attacks and forced marriages.
As can be seen from the above, the issue of ensuring access to justice, effective investigation of allegations and prosecution of perpetrators are at the core of these recommendations. However, the ALRC has been deeply disappointed by developments concerning women's rights activist and gang-rape victim Mukhtaran Mai attempt to secure justice and challenge the impunity of the men who raped her some nine years ago. On April 21, 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld the verdict of the Multan bench of Lahore High Court, which had been suspended as the result of a suo motu notice by the Chief Justice in 2005. The high court had reversed a trial court’s judgment on the unjustifiable basis of “insufficient evidence and faulty police investigations” and meant that all but one of the six men allegedly responsible for Mukhtaran Mai’s gang-rape on June 22, 2002, were to be released. Only Abdul Khaliq remains in prison to serve a life sentence.

In August 2002, six of the men had been sentenced to death by the trial court - four for raping Mukhtaran Mai and two for being part of the Panchayat that ordered her to be raped as punishment for adultery that her brother had alleged committed. The Panchayat and other tribal and feudal modes of parallel justice systems exist and operate in Pakistan, in violation of the country’s constitution. Yet, this case shows how the country’s constitutional legal system is assisting in protecting the outcomes of the parallel, unconstitutional traditional justice system. The Multan bench later acquitted five of the six on appeal and converted the death sentence of Abdul Khaliq to life imprisonment. It is preposterous that only one person can be sentenced under charges of gang-rape, with the other alleged perpetrators being released.

In upholding the legally flawed Multan bench verdict, the Supreme Court has seriously disappointed all those who support justice and women’s rights. This sends the chilling message to all victims of rape in Pakistan, as Mukhtaran Mai has shown exceptional bravery in fighting for justice and accountability, yet despite her efforts and the attention the case has received in Pakistan and internationally, still impunity for the majority of the accused has been upheld. Given the social stigma, threats and dangers encountered by those who dare to pursue justice concerning rape, this ruling by the Supreme Court will only serve to dissuade victims of rape from seeking justice.

While Minister Rehman Malik stated on April 22 that he had been directed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to provide security for Mukhtaran Mai, for which the Punjab Police would be responsible, serious concerns remain for her physical integrity, notably as those thought to be responsible for her gang-rape will now be free and likely emboldened by the impunity they enjoy.

In another such case, the ALRC’s sister-organisation, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) documented the case of a 16 year old girl who was kidnapped for ransom, along with her brother, on October 14, 2010, by a group of criminals involved in land-grabbing, who are reportedly connected to the police. The girl was gang raped repeatedly during a period lasting almost one month. The girl’s father tried to register a complaint concerning the gang rape to the section A police station, Khairpur Mirs, but the police refused to record the gang rape in their report. He then filed an application in the Session court of Khairpur Mirs who ordered the police to file FIR concerning her abduction and rape.

Following untiring efforts by the girl’s father, the police eventually arrested two persons. However, they were released within two hours after bribing members of the police. The Interior Minister pledged before the Sindh provincial assembly that he would take up the case but no action from the ministry has been taken to date. The family of the victims are facing threats from the alleged perpetrators as well as members of the police to get them to drop the case – this includes threatening to subject the family’s other two children with rape.

In another case, which shows the dangers and difficulties encountered by rape victims’ attempts to seek justice, a female government health worker was allegedly raped by a notorious gangster, with the help of two police informants, on December 9, 2010. An FIR was only lodged by the police five days after the rape, in order to allow time to pass, destroying the physical evidence of rape. The police, instead of filing a rape case, filed a case of attempted rape in order to shield the perpetrators. While the alleged rapist has been arrested for attempted rape, the police informants who allegedly restrained and beat the victim continue to enjoy protection by the police. High ranking police officers have reportedly been coercing the victim into settling the case out of court. It is understood that the alleged perpetrator of this rape had been harassing the victim since 2009 and that she had reported this to the police, but they had told her to come back if and when the crime of rape had been committed, as they could not do anything until then.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre calls on the members of the Human Rights Council and the UPR Working Group to request an update from the government of Pakistan concerning its implementation of the many recommendations that it accepted as part of its review in 2008. It is important that the government provide an update on any progress made prior to its next review, in order to ensure that the second round of the review is conducted in the most informed way possible.

The ALRC calls on the government of Pakistan to go beyond lip-service to the international community and ensure swift and decisive action to implement the recommendations included in the UPR outcome concerning discrimination and violence against women. Furthermore, the government must take action to punish all persons who participate in anti-constitutional parallel justice system who aid, abet or commit violations of women’s rights, in particular acts of sexual violence such as gang-rape. The government must also take the lead in providing effective protection to victims of such abuse, in order to encourage them to come forwards and break the system of silence, suffering and injustice that currently accompanies such crimes. The government is urged to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences as well as the CEDAW Committee and ensure that it also implements all recommendations made by these mechanisms.

Understanding Civil Society Action in the Binayak Sen case

Understanding Civil Society Action in the Binayak Sen case

Ilina Sen

from http://www.freebinayaksen.org/?p=2328  

The case of Binayak Sen (by this I mean the legal case as well as the whole body of civil society reaction across national and social boundaries) is in many ways a landmark in Indian jurisprudence. Apart from the personal pain and agony that I have gone through, in being witness to Binayak’s uncalled for incarceration and unjust conviction, the case has also intellectually challenged me along with many other citizens of my country and forced so many of us to look critically at the laws and statutes that govern our lives.

It has brought into the limelight the outdated provisions of the sedition law in India, and today our Law minister has gone on record as saying that this law needs urgent revision if not scrapping, in keeping with the spirit of the times. Many of us who are not legal professionals have looked into our statute books and discovered horror chambers in sections penalizing thought / action against ‘any Asiatic Power’ in alliance with the government of India. This particular statute obviously dates from the time when the British crown and the crown in Moscow were locked into the ‘great game’ over the control of Afghanistan, and reminds us that the Afghan people have been pawned in many games but that no game player has historically succeeded in selling them down the river.

We have also been forced to look at the way our lower courts function – at the way the police and the prosecution work in tandem, at the way in which the established law of evidence is disregared, at bizarre new interpretations of established legal interpretations and positions. One’s mind begins to form a sneaking question whether the mandate of the court at this level is to support the police in keeping anyone labeled as guilty in custody for some years, and leave the finer points of the law of the land to higher courts of appeal.

One has seen countless cases of miscarriage of justice as well as the horrendous conditions in Indian jails at first hand.

However, Binayak’s case also stands as an example where the people of the world have stood up and said to governments ( their own as well those of their neighbours) that the state cannot get away with heavy handed authoritarianism and have the people accept that lying down. Ordinary citizens are never lawless people and appreciate the fact systems and legal structures keep us safe, yet when these same laws become instruments of injustice rather than justice , we all feel it is time for us to stand up and make our concern felt. Civilized democratic societies and established political structures are all products of a social contract between the people and the structures of governance, with the ultimate power resting in the will of the people. Here we have seen how in city after city – In India, Asia, Europe, Australia and America- people have stood up and said that is unacceptable for governments to exercise the power we give them in this way. I see this as a step in the re negotiation of the social and political contacts of governance, of which there are many other manifestations in our times. For me this has been the most important learning, the most important outcome of the case.

Binayak joins me in greeting all of you, many friends whom we have met, and many others whom we have not, yet who are together with us in a spirit of common good.

Sent for presentation at the UK Seminar on “‘Dr Binayak Sen and the use of ‘Sedition’ Laws to Persecute Human Rights Activists in India” on May 14, 2011.

Fukushima: Japanese government’s safety standards for children condemned


Fukushima: Japanese government’s safety standards for children condemned


Fukue Natsuko


From http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article21343

U.S. doctors hit Tokyo radiation limit for kids

Physicians for Social Responsibility, a U.S. nonprofit organization of medical experts, has condemned as “unconscionable” the Japanese government’s safety standards on radiation levels at elementary and junior high schools in nuclear disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture.

The PSR statement directly challenges Tokyo’s stance that it is safe for schoolchildren to use school playgrounds in the prefecture as long as the dose they are exposed to does not exceed 20 millisieverts over a year.

The PSR view is also in line with that voiced by Toshiso Kosako, who said Friday he would step down as an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the Fukushima nuclear crisis in protest. The University of Tokyo professor urged the government to toughen guidelines on upper limits on radiation levels the education ministry recently announced for elementary school playgrounds in Fukushima.

The U.S. group said in a statement released Friday, “Any exposure, including exposure to naturally occurring background radiation, creates an increased risk of cancer.”Children are much more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation, and fetuses are even more vulnerable," it said.

The medical experts group is part of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

“(Twenty millisieverts) for children exposes them to a 1 in 200 risk of getting cancer. And if they are exposed to this dose for two years, the risk is 1 in 100. There is no way that this level of exposure can be considered ’safe’ for children,” the statement said.

The Japan Times

* The Japan Times, Kyodo Tuesday, May 3, 2011:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-...


Protesters urge rethink of child radiation limit

Four antinuclear groups demanded Monday that the government withdraw its decision to set the annual radiation limit at 20 millisieverts for schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture, saying the standard poses a health risk.

The four groups – Friends of the Earth Japan, Green Action, Fukuro no Kai, and Mihama no Kai – said during meetings with government officials in Tokyo that 20 millisieverts is the upper ceiling of a safety standard set in 2007 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

The groups said a safer standard should be adopted for schoolchildren.

In 2007, the ICRP recommended the maximum exposure limit be set at a range between 1 and 20 milliserverts per year in the wake of an atomic crisis.

In an emergency, the ICRP recommends the maximum exposure limit be set between 20 to 100 millisieverts.

“I want the government to take measurements which protect children, the treasures of our country”, said Sachiko Sato, one of the activists, at an open Q&A session held with officials from the Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

The education ministry announced on April 19 that the annual limit for radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts for children in primary and junior high school. The limit was also approved by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, however, the government has just set the exposure limit at 3.8 microsieverts per hour for children using a school playground. This means that if a child stayed outside on the playground for 8 hours a day for an entire year, the child’s exposure could theoretically exceeed 20 millisieverts – a scenario that is unlikely, Edano said at a news conference Saturday.

But Fukushima residents are skeptical.

One resident who did not wish to be identified said the limit is too high.

“The government should take back the radiation limit of 20 millisieverts. I want to bring back Fukushima that is safe for children,” the man said.

By NATSUKO FUKUE, Staff writer, Japan Times

* Japan Times, Tuesday, May 3, 2011:
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-...

Renewable Energy can Power the World

Renewable Energy can Power the World


From Sukla Sen


http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/09/ipcc-renewable-energy-power-world

<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/09/ipcc-renewable-energy-power-world>
Renewable energy can power the world, says landmark IPCC study

UN's climate change science body says renewables supply, particularly solar power, can meet global demand


- Fiona Harvey <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/fiona-harvey> - guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>, Monday 9 May 2011 11.13
BST

Renewable energy <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/renewableenergy> could account for almost 80% of the world's energy <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/energy>supply within four decades - but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power, according to a landmark report published on Monday<http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/>
.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change <http://ipcc.ch/index.htm>, the body of the world's leading climate scientists convened by the United
Nations <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/unitednations>, said that if the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the world could keep
greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million, the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of
safety<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/dec/09/poznan-copenhagen-global-warming-targets-climate-change?INTCMP=SRCH>
beyond whichclimate change <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/climate-change> becomes catastrophic and irreversible.

Investing in renewables to the extent needed would cost only about 1% of global GDP annually, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC.

Renewable energy is already growing fast – of the 300 gigawatts of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, about
140GW came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/solarpower>, according to the report.

The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets demanded by scientists is likely to amount to about $5trn in the
next decade, rising to $7trn from 2021 to 2030.

Ramon Pichs, co-chair of one of the key IPCC working groups, said: "The report shows that it is not the availability of [renewable] resources but
the public policies that will either expand or constrain renewable energy development over the coming decades. Developing countries have an important
stake in the future – this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist
for renewable energy deployment."

Sven Teske, renewable energy director at Greenpeace International, and a lead author of the report, said: "This is an invitation to governments to
initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy centre stage. On the run up to the next major climate conference, COP17 in
South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark."

He added: "The IPCC report shows overwhelming scientific evidence that renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries,
where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy
sources. Governments have to kick start the energy revolution by implementing renewable energy laws across the globe."

The 1,000-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) marks the first time the IPCC has examined low-carbon energy in depth, and the first interim report sincethe body's comprehensive 2007 review of the science of climate
change<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/02/greenpolitics.ipcc>
.

Although the authors are optimistic about the future of renewable energy, they note that many forms of the technology are still more expensive than
fossil fuels, and find that the production of renewable energy will have to increase by as much as 20 times in order to avoid dangerous levels of global
warming. Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050, the scientists predict.

Investing in renewables can also help poor countries to develop, particularly where large numbers of people lack access to an electricity grid.

About 13% of the world's energy came from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built up their capacity
since then, with China leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at
present is burning biomass (about 10% of the total global energy supply), which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposits
of soot that accelerate global warming, and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harms health.

There was disappointment for enthusiasts of marine energy, however, as the report found that wave and tidal power were "unlikely to significantly
contribute to global energy supply before 2020". Wind power, by contrast, met about 2% of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to
more than 20% by 2050.

As with all IPCC reports, the summary for policymakers – the synopsis of the report that will be presented to governments and is likely to impact
renewable energy policy – had to be agreed line by line and word by word unanimously by all countries. This was done at Monday's meeting in Abu
Dhabi<http://ipcc.ch/scripts/_session_template.php?page=_33ipcc.htm>. This makes the process lengthy, but means that afterwards no government or
scientist represented can say that they disagree with the finished findings, which the IPCC sees as a key strength of its operations.

The launch of the report is streamed on the IPCC web site<http://ipcc.newzpoint.com/>
.

May Day Statement by the New Trade Union Initiative

Fight for Secure and Safe Jobs by Building UNION POWER Together

May Day Statement by the New Trade Union Initiative


May Day, is the opportunity to assess the state we are in today. The economy continues to grow at
close to a double digit rate each year for some years now and yet:

• Prices continue to rise at a rate faster than the rate of growth hence constantly lowering real wages,
• Income inequality is increasing across the workforce further accentuating the gender wage
disparity,
• The creation of standard jobs has declined over the years and replaced by an ever-increasing
number of casual, irregular and contract jobs along with growing self-employment,
• A very small minority of workers today work the eight hour day, for others working hours continue
to stretch, not just increasing the hours but also the work intensity,
• The cover of social security is dwindling,
• The fundamental right of workers – the right to form unions – is under severe attack.

The ferocious attack of capital has undermined hard fought gains made by the working class. The
global economic crisis has formed the pretext for granting expanded concessions to capital on one hand
and fiscal contraction on the other thereby intensifying the attack on both real wages and the social
wage. Real wages are being eroded through a sustained inflationary pressure while the social wage is
shrinking through fiscal contraction that has contributed to cuts in both social protection and social
security.

Over the last two decades, by fostering an economy driven by private investment, government has
allowed capital to pursue two objectives virtually unhindered. First, financial liberalisation resulted in
the cheapening of cost of capital allowing for the use of capital intensive technologies. As a result job
creation significantly lagged behind investment resulting in the expansion of surplus labour creating
unprecedented employment insecurity amongst workers. Capital exploited this insecurity by offering
unsafe, casual and most ubiquitously, contract jobs. Second, capital successfully altered the production
process in the direction of flexible production that has included the outsourcing of production and in
sourcing of work which have together driven down wages. As a result even in vast sections of the
formal sector, the legal minimum wage has in fact become the aspirational bargained wage to be
achieved through struggle.

Legislation protecting rights of workers and working people is being violated with impunity and being
challenged, by capital, at every step. This has undermined the collective bargaining power of the
working class. The growth of the economy has been as a result of shrinking of wages in the share of
domestic product and a rapid rise of profits but also as a result of the transfer of savings from the
working class. This has been achieved by undermining the public sector and placing it at the disposal
of the private sector to facilitate the expansion of private capital.

Over these 20 years there has also been a considerable feminisation of the workforce, which though has
brought women to the workforce but more in new sectors and regions, including in government
employment, which is almost necessarily non-standard work. From contributing a large chunk to the
domestic product in category of services as domestic workers and care givers, to being industrial
workers in sectors like garments and electronics, to singularly constituting the largest number of socalled
‘honorary’ workers who provide essential services at poverty wages for government agencies,

women workers today constitute perhaps the most exploited section of the working class.
In the period after general election of 2004 that brought the Congress to government with the critical
support of progressive and secular forces including the working class, legislations such as the NREGA,
the FRA and the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act were passed to meet the basic demands of
working people. These legislations, even with its limited scope and tardy implementation brought the
present government back in power in 2009. Today these programmes stand challenged by corporate
and large farmer lobbies opposing the NREGA, big mining firms opposing the FRA and a persistent
attempt to open the delivery of social security, especially healthcare as it exists, to the private sector.
The fate of rural workers, that still constitute the largest section of the working population, rests
critically on the fate of the sector that is in deep crisis but also on the fact that given the crisis, there is a
move towards reorganising the rural economy through a change in land use. Agricultural and forest
land is being claimed for meeting the needs of global capital. The rural working population that has
almost always been underemployed is now being rendered unemployed. This is contributing to the
reservoir of surplus workers who are willing to work for poverty wages for sustenance.

Large, dynamic and often spontaneous protests are erupting against this policy of ‘development’. The
state has come down heavily on these protests, including on those who support and extend solidarity to
them. Draconian laws, including colonial ones, are being used to crush these movements. In some
parts of the country the right to association has been rendered non-existent. Democratic dissent is
increasingly being viewed as 'anti-national'. Vibrant trade unionism has always provided a critical
support to the democratic rights movement by creating spaces for rational debate and dissent and
securing the right of the working class to representation and collective bargaining. Recent court
judgments against the right of trade unions to strike is a glaring example of the new consensus in
corridors of power, which wants to squash any process of democratisation, and views trade unionism as
a criminal activity requiring paramilitary forces for control. The trade union movement has to resist
this. We will continue to struggle for a democratic society.

And halfway across the world too this struggle goes forward. Over the last six months, democratic
struggles have gained ground in countries of West Asia and North Africa. Democracy has for far too
long been under severe threat through the combined repression of Imperialist forces and repressive
local regimes in this region. Recent developments clearly indicate that progressive change is now
irreversible and has opened the way for a just and democratic resolution to the aspirations of the
Palestinian peoples too. At the base of these movements is the enormous power of the working class in
democratic trade union formations. We salute these movements and extend our solidarity to them. As
the working class has done elsewhere at other times, the working class of West Asia and North Africa
inspires these times. And what we learn from them are the very lessons we learn from our history that a
democratic, united and militant struggle will never be defeated.

This May Day we reaffirm to Build Union Power together to win:

  • An 8 hour Workday
  • A Living Wage indexed to Inflation for all
  • Equal Value for Equal Work
  • A Right to Association
  • Recognition of Trade Unions as Collective Bargaining Agent
  • A Right to Democratic Dissent


UNITY  DEMOCRACY  MILITANCY

New Trade Union Initiative, B-137 Dayanand Colony, First Floor, Lajpat Nagar – IV, New Delhi –110024

Phone: 011-26214538/ 26486931, Fax: 011-26486931, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Website: ntui.org.in

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