Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Pakistan: Sharia Court Launches Major Challenge to Protection of Women Act

December 23, 2010.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Sharia Court Launches Major Challenge to Protection of Women Act

On 22 December 2010, after three years and four petitions, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) of Pakistan declared several critical clauses of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act of 2006 unconstitutional. In place of this act that created protections for women, the FSC supports the reinstatement of the Hudood Ordinances VII of 1979, which were used to discriminate against, falsely convict and imprison, and otherwise destroy the lives of hundreds of women.

Although the FSC does not have the power to make or change law, Article 203DD of the Constitution does give the FSC to rule any law which is “repugnant” to Islam based on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The dangerous, potentially destabilising implications will not be legal but rather primarily social and political, as the FSC declaration will incite Islamic fundamentalists and their supporters to suppress the rights of women for fair trial which they have achieved after a long history of struggle.

The petitioners sought to diminish the Protection of Women Act and reinstate provisions of the Hudood Ordinances concerning the kidnapping, abduction, or forced induction of women for purposes of marriage; kidnapping and abduction to submit the victim to “unnatural lust”; the selling or buying of a person for prostitution; cohabitation under false pretences, such as claims of lawful marriage; and enticing or kidnapping a woman with criminal intent.

The FSC has claimed that elements of the Protection of Women Act are not consistent with Islam and thus violate Article 203DD because they conflict with the FSC’s support of the Hudood Ordinances. The sections in question, 11, 25, and 28, are those pertaining to zina (adultery, rape) and qazf (enforcement of hadd). The FSC advocates the restoration of provisions of Hudood that require women who have been raped to produce four witnesses to support her testimony—and the reestablishment of the right of police to arrest women on a charge of adultery on the basis of their report of rape.

The court also held that sections 48 and 49 of the Control of Narcotics Substances Act of 1997 and portions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 fall under the Hudood Ordinances and should not give judicial powers to the high court instead of deferring to the FSC. The court would attempt to extent the term “Hudood” to cover apostasy, human trafficking, war against the state, and the right of retaliation. The FSC stated that the provisions it states are unconstitutional should be eliminated by 22 June 2011.

The FSC does not have the legal authority to overturn these provisions of the Protection of Women Act, the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, or the Anti-Terrorism Act. The former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Qazi Anwer, stated that the FSC does not have the constitutional authority to declare laws unconstitutional. Only the high courts and the Supreme Court have that power. Meanwhile, Parliament is the only body that can make laws or amend the Constitution.

Yet the implications of the FSC declaration will be tremendous for Pakistan. Of most concern is the effect the ruling will have on Islamic fundamentalists and the likelihood of a resurgence of support for the Hudood Ordinances and the repeal of the Women’s Protection Act. Extremists may start campaigns against women’s rights and protections similar to those currently ongoing surrounding blasphemy laws. The possibility that these fundamentalists may be incited to vandalism, violence, and extrajudicial killings is very real.

Beyond civil society, conflict and insecurity could provoke the extra constitutional forces to take action to support this extreme religious group over secular opponents—and invite the involvement of external actors which would prefer an Islamic fundamentalist government in Pakistan. The effect may be the destabilization of the government as well as the erosion of authority and support for democratic and civilian rule.

What do socialists say about democracy?

We are reproducing this important article by well known revolutionary Marxist activist and author Paul Le Blanc from International Socialist Review, No. 74, November-December 2010. 

What Do Socialists Say About Democracy 


“DEMOCRACY DOES not come from the top, it comes from the bottom,” Howard Zinn tells us at the beginning of his wonderful film The People Speak. “The mutinous soldiers, the angry women, the rebellious Native Americans, the working people, the agitators, the antiwar protestors, the socialists and anarchists and dissenters of all kinds—the troublemakers, yes, the people who have given us what liberty and democracy we have.”1 This insight from Zinn provides a key to our topic—the relation between democracy and socialism, especially the socialism associated with the outlook of Karl Marx.

The great democratic ideal of our country, historically, has been that we live in a land in which there is government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all. It is worth raising a question about how much democracy—how much rule by the people—actually exists in this American republic of ours. The definition of “republic” is rule (or government) by elected representatives—not quite the same thing as government by the people. We’ll need to come back to that shortly. But certainly even an imperfect democracy is better than rule over the people by a government that decides it knows what is best for them. Many right-wingers today claim this is the goal of socialism.
That is a lie. Yet one of the tragedies of the twentieth century is that so many self-proclaimed partisans of socialism plugged themselves into that lie, leaving “rule by the people” out of the socialist equation. They defined socialism as government ownership and control of the economy, and government planning for the benefit of the people, who some day (but not yet!) would be permitted to have a decisive say in the decisions affecting their lives. This so-called socialism from above was central to the ideology of certain elitist reformers associated with the so-called moderate wing of the socialist movement, and it was also central to the Stalin dictatorship in Russia. Even down to the present day, some well-meaning folks use this logic to describe despotic regimes (such as that in North Korea) as “socialist.” Such thinking has disoriented millions of people over the years. But as the Afro-Caribbean revolutionary internationalist C. L. R. James insisted (using the word “proletarian” where many of us would say “working class”),

The struggle for socialism is the struggle for proletarian democracy. Proletarian democracy is not the crown of socialism. Socialism is the result of proletarian democracy. To the degree that the proletariat mobilizes itself and the great masses of the people, the socialist revolution is advanced. The proletariat mobilizes itself as a self-acting force through its own committees, unions, parties, and other organizations.2
Similar things were said in earlier years by the Italian Communist leader Antonio Gramsci, the Chinese dissident Communist Chen Duxiu, and the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui, to name three of many.

“Socialists should not argue with the American worker when he says he wants democracy and doesn’t want to be ruled by a dictatorship,” said James P. Cannon—a founder of both the U.S. Communist Party and U.S. Trotskyism—in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian workers’ and students’ uprising against Stalinist bureaucratic tyranny. “Rather, we should recognize [the worker’s] demand for human rights and democratic guarantees, now and in the future, is in itself progressive. The socialist task is to not to deny democracy, but to expand it and make it more complete.” Cannon stood in the revolutionary Marxist tradition of not only opposing capitalism, but also opposing oppressive bureaucracies in the labor movement throughout the world, asserting that “in the United States, the struggle for workers’ democracy is preeminently a struggle of the rank and file to gain democratic control of their own organizations.” He added that—both in Communist countries and capitalist countries—“the fight for workers’ democracy is inseparable from the fight for socialism, and is the condition for its victory.” We can find the same kinds of points being made by Eugene Victor Debs and others during an earlier heyday of American socialism in the first two decades of the twentieth century and by revolutionaries in Europe—Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and many others.3

The failure to recognize that genuine democracy and genuine socialism are absolutely inseparable is only one source of confusion. Another source of confusion has to do with the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Most of what I have to share here will actually focus on that question. A useful case study for us will be the American Revolution and its aftermath. Then we will need to touch on what some have called “the democratic breakthrough” for which Karl Marx and the labor movement with which he was associated are largely responsible. We should then consider descriptions of so-called democracy in the United States over the years by people in a position to know. We will conclude with some key insights from Lenin and Trotsky on combining the struggles for democracy and socialism.

First we should acknowledge an element of confusion that flows from a particular understanding—or misunderstanding—of Marxism. Marxist theory outlines different stages in human history based on different economic systems, first a primitive tribal communism that lasted for thousands of years, then a succession of class societies—in Europe including: ancient slave civilizations, feudalism, and then capitalism, with its immense productivity and economic surpluses that have paved the way for the possibility of a socialist society.

The misunderstanding flows from the fact that according to Marxists, the transition from feudalism to capitalism is facilitated and largely completed by something that has been termed “bourgeois democratic revolutions.” Bourgeois, of course, refers to capitalism, and the term bourgeois-democratic revolution refers to those revolutionary upheavals, involving masses of people in the so-called lower classes, that have swept aside rule by kings and domination of the economy by hereditary nobles or aristocrats, creating the basis for both the full development of capitalist economies and more or less democratic republics.4 Some Marxists, and many capitalist ideologists, have projected an intimate interrelationship between the rise of capitalism and the rise of democracy. Just as “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” in the old song, so capitalism and democracy naturally go together. But, as a number of sharp-minded historians and social scientists have argued, this notion is quite misleading. In order to clarify that, we should take a look at an aspect of our own bourgeois-democratic revolution, the American Revolution of 1775 to 1783.
The American Revolution and democracy
The big businessmen, the capitalists, the ruling elites of the thirteen North American colonies were the great merchants of the North and the great plantation owners of the South, and they did not want to be bossed around and constrained by the far-off government of an incredibly arrogant monarchy and aristocracy, combined with privileged merchants in England, who dominated the British Empire. To be able to pose an effective challenge, however, they needed to persuade a much larger percentage of their fellow colonists—small farmers, shopkeepers, artisans and craftsmen, laborers and more—to make common cause with them. It became clear that these plebian masses were particularly responsive to the kinds of revolutionary-democratic conceptions that radicals like Tom Paine put forward in incendiary bestsellers such as Common Sense. Such notions were consequently incorporated into magnificent rhetoric that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was used to rally enough support throughout the colonies—now transforming themselves into independent, united states of America—to stand up to the greatest economic and military power in the world. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” it declared, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The document went on that governments are not legitimate if they do not enjoy the consent of the governed, and that the people who are governed have a right to challenge, overturn, and replace governments not to their liking.5

Yet certain revolutionary leaders who wished to conserve the power of the wealthy minority of merchants and plantation owners were uncomfortable with the implications of such potent stuff. Early on, one such conservative, Gouvernor Morris, commented:

The mob began to think and to reason. Poor reptiles! It is with them a vernal morning; they are struggling to cast off their winter’s slough, they bask in the sunshine, and ere noon they will bite, depend upon it. The gentry begin to fear this. . . . I see, and I see it with fear and trembling, that if the disputes with Great Britain continue, we shall be under the worst of all possible dominions; we shall be under the domination of a riotous mob.

John Adams fretted that, “our struggle has loosened the bands of government everywhere. That children and apprentices were disobedient—that schools and colleges were grown turbulent—that Indians slighted their guardians and Negroes grew insolent to their masters.” Adams was dismayed by pressures to give propertyless men the right to vote (and by pressure from his own wife even to extend this right to women). He brooded: “It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions and prostrate all ranks to one common level.” He warned: “Men in general in every society, who are wholly destitute of property, are also too little acquainted with public affairs to form a right judgment, and too dependent upon other men to have a will of their own.” Alexander Hamilton, a visionary enthusiast of an industrial capitalist future, was perhaps clearest of all. “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people.” Since the “turbulent and changing” masses “seldom judge or determine right,” the wealthy elite must be given “a distinct permanent share in the government.” Or as he put it earlier, “that power which holds the purse-strings absolutely must rule.”6

Three years after the revolution was officially won, and in the wake of Shays’s Rebellion of small farmers and poor laborers in Massachusetts, General Henry Knox wrote to George Washington: “Their creed is that the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscation of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all.” Knox’s exaggeration expressed the anxiety of the well off in the early republic. “This dreadful situation has alarmed every man of principle and property in New England,” Knox continued. “Our Government must be braced, changed, or altered to secure our lives and property.” By the late 1780s, a majority of the states had given the right to vote to a minority—white male property owners. Of course, some of the property owners might be small farmers, artisans, and some shopkeepers with ties to what Hamilton called “the mass of the people.” Most of the state governments had a more representative lower house for such folk—but it was held in check by a more powerful upper house that was controlled by the rich. In addition, many powerful state and local offices were appointed from above rather than elected.7

It is likely that a great majority of the Founding Fathers who gathered to discuss and compose a new Constitution of the United States in the late 1780s saw things in the manner explained by Aristotle many centuries earlier: “The real difference between democracy and oligarchy is poverty and wealth. Wherever men rule by reason of their wealth…, that is an oligarchy, and where the poor rule, that is democracy.” The fact remained, as Ellen Meiksins Wood has commented, that “the colonial and revolutionary experience had already made it impossible to reject democracy outright, as ruling and propertied classes had been doing unashamedly for centuries and as they would continue to do for some time elsewhere.” We will look at what happened “elsewhere”—at least in Europe—in a few moments. But what happened in the early American republic at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was an attempt to fuse democracy (government by the many) with oligarchy (government by the few) in a way that would conserve the power of the wealthy. The key was the notion of representative democracy in which the laboring multitude is represented by figures from the wealthy elite. Or as Alexander Hamilton put it in No. 35 of the Federalist Papers, “an actual representation of all classes of the people by persons of each class is altogether visionary,” and, instead, workers in the skilled and manufacturing trades, thanks to “the influence and weight and superior acquirements” of the wealthy merchants, will generally “consider merchants as the natural representatives of all these classes of the community.” Ellen Wood’s paraphrase is nicely put: “Here shoemakers and blacksmiths are represented by their social superiors.” She adds, “these assumptions must be placed in the context of the Federalist view that representation is not a way of implementing but of avoiding or at least partially circumventing democracy.”8

Even the more liberal-minded Founding Father, a close associate of Thomas Jefferson’s, James Madison—in No. 10 of the Federalist Papers—observing that “the most common and durable source of factions [in society] has been the various and unequal division of property,” emphasizes: “Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.” Here again we see the laboring majority and the wealthy minority. Insisting that “a pure democracy” will enable “a majority… to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens,” Madison hailed the Constitution’s conceptualization of a republic because it “opens a different prospect and promises the cure for what we are seeking.” Madison returned to this concern in No. 51 of the Federalist Papers, and praised the Constitution for creating structures and dynamics that will fragment the majority. Among other things, the checks and balances the Constitution established are able (as he puts it) “to divide the legislature into separate branches, and to render them by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common dependence on society will admit.”

There is another element in Madison’s calculations. He reminds us: “If the majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” The solution is to ensure that, “whilst all authority [in the government] will be derived and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.” A geographically extensive republic, fragmented into states, with a “great variety of interests, parties and sects which it embraces,” will block a majority coalition that could endanger the wealthy minority.9

Even setting aside its original embrace of slavery, the design of the U.S. Constitution became a bulwark of privilege even as more and more men, and finally women as well, were able to conquer the right to vote. Three modern-day social scientists—Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Evelyne Huber Stephens, and John D. Stephens—have produced an important study entitled Capitalist Development and Democracy. They suggest it was a “constitutional or liberal oligarchy” (we could also call it an undemocratic republic) that was set up in the 1780s. They go on to trace important gains that were made in the 1820s and 1830s, in the 1860s, in 1920, and in the 1960s, to expand the right to vote and to make the government more responsive to the desires and needs of the majority.10

The expansion of voting rights was not a gift from on high, but was achieved through tenacious, protracted, and sometimes violent social struggles, spearheaded by the kinds of “troublemakers” that Howard Zinn has so lovingly described. And yet even with all this, genuine rule by the people cannot be said to have been established in our country—a reality we will explore shortly. But first we should turn our attention to what Rueschemeyer and his colleagues document as the democratic breakthrough in Europe.

The democratic breakthrough
Following, revising, and elaborating on studies of earlier social scientists such as Göran Therborn, they comment that “the bourgeoisie, which appears as the natural carrier of democracy in the accounts of orthodox Marxists, liberal social scientists and [others], hardly lived up to this role.” Throughout Europe, the men of wealth and property were generally as reluctant as their U.S. capitalist cousins to go in the direction of rule by the people, preferring some form of liberal or constitutional oligarchy, or sometimes even to cut deals with kings, aristocrats, and generals. They tell us that “it was the growth of the working class and its capacity for self-organization that was most critical for the breakthrough of democracy. The rapid industrialization experienced by western Europe in the five decades before World War I increased the size and, with varying time lags, the degree of organization [of the working class] and this changed the balance of class power in civil society to the advantage of democratic forces.” Their studies confirm “that the working class, represented by socialist parties and trade unions, was the single most important force in the majority of countries in the final push for universal male suffrage and responsible government.” (It took additional feminist ferment, generally supported by socialists, to include women into the equation.)11

Here too, genuine rule by the people cannot be said to have been established in these countries. But it is undeniable that these gains, the right to vote and to organize politically, made it easier for the laboring masses to pressure the wealthy minority. This definitely brought about meaningful improvements for millions of people.
There is one additional very key point for us here. Another social scientist, August Nimtz, embracing the work of Rueschemeyer and his colleagues, finished connecting the dots, in his very fine study Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough. Essential elements in the thrust of working-class democracy, Nimtz documents, were the intellectual and practical-political labors of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the Communist League, in the 1848 revolutionary upsurge, during the quiescent interlude that followed, and then in the years of the International Workingmen’s Association, First International, and Paris Commune. Nimtz is especially good at conveying a sense of the crucial importance of the First International in the larger political developments of the 1860s and 1870s, and particularly in the development of the labor movements of Europe and North America. He supplies extensive documentation for what he calls his “most sweeping claim”—that “Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were the leading protagonists in the democratic movement in the nineteenth century, the decisive breakthrough period in humanity’s age-old struggle for democracy.”12

And yet Marx and Engels themselves were highly critical of the so-called democracies that were coming into being in various capitalist countries, not least of all in the United States. It was not because the two men were antidemocratic, but precisely because they were fierce advocates of genuine democracy, that they were so critical. For Marx, communism (or socialism, which for him meant the same thing) was what he once called “true democracy,” which he passionately favored. He and Engels explained in The Communist Manifesto that under capitalism “the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of modern industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway,” and that “the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” Against this, they argued that workers must increasingly unite in the struggle for a better life, waged in their workplaces and communities, which would need to amount, finally, to what they called “the organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party” that would be capable of bringing about “the forcible overthrow of the bourgeoisie,” laying “the foundation for the political sway of the proletariat.” This meant that communists and all the other working-class parties must seek “the formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” The “first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy,” and then increasingly to take control of the economy in order to bring about the socialist reconstruction of society.13
Without this, genuine democracy would be impossible. In describing the first workers’ government in history—the short-lived Paris Commune of 1871, which pro-capitalist military forces soon drowned in blood—Marx commented that “instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in communes.” Twenty-two years later, Engels commented to a comrade living in the United States, “The Americans for a long time have been providing the European world with the proof that the bourgeois republic is the republic of capitalist businessmen in which politics is a business like any other.”14
The limits of bourgeois democracy.
A brilliant description of “practical politics” has been offered by one of the outstanding working-class revolutionaries of the United States, Albert Parsons, one of the Haymarket martyrs who described himself as a socialist, a communist, and an anarchist. A tireless activist and organizer, he was also editor of The Alarm, the English-language paper of the International Working People’s Association—which was a powerful force in Chicago during the 1880s.
Parsons put these comments on page one of The Alarm during the election season of 1884:
There is not one sound spot in our whole social system, industrial, political, or religious. It is rotten to the core. The whole scheme as we now have was originated by pirates, founded upon fraud, and perpetrated by force. The United States of America possesses in all its glory that sum total of all humbugs—the ballot. This country is now in the midst of its periodical craze—a presidential election. The voters are enthused by the politicians, parading with torches, bands of music and shouting for this or that nominee or party. A man can no more run for office without money than he can engage in business without capital.
The article argued that even if a poor man is nominated because of his popularity, his campaign is financed by wealthy friends in the party who expect him to “vote the right way” on particular issues; if he doesn’t do this, he is replaced by someone who will.
He takes his seat and votes to kill all legislation which would invade the “sacred rights” of the propertied class, and guards like a watch-dog the “vested rights” of those who enjoy special privileges. This is “practical politics.” The poor vote as they work, as their necessities dictate. If the workingmen organize their own party, they are counted out; besides, those who own the workshop control, as a general thing, the votes in it. It is all a question of poverty; the man without property has practically no vote. “Practical politics” means the control of the propertied class.15
Related to one of the points that Parsons makes here—regarding the workplaces where a majority of us spend our working lives (and so much of our waking lives)—it is worth taking time to reflect on the fact that, even if we don’t let our employers intimidate us into voting one way or another, as soon as we walk through the doors of the workplace, we have entered a realm of economic dictatorship—sometimes a relatively benevolent dictatorship, sometimes a totalitarian nightmare, often something somewhere in-between. But there is no democracy—no majority rule, limited freedom of expression, often—especially if there’s no union—no bill of rights. A wealthy minority rules over us in the workplaces and in the entire economy on which all of us are dependent.
There are additional realities that flow from this, and you don’t have to be a genius like Albert Einstein to figure out what they are. The fact remains, however, that Einstein did discuss the question in 1949 and expressed himself rather well, so let’s see what he had to say:
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.16
More recently, Sheldon Wolin, Professor Emeritus of Political Theory at Princeton University, updated some of Einstein’s points. To understand what he says, you need to understand Greek—so I will now give you a Greek language lesson. We got the word “democracy” from the ancient Greeks—demokratia, derived from demos (the people) and kratia (rule). Sheldon Wolin says: “It is obvious that today—in the age of communication conglomerates, media pundits, television, public opinion surveys, and political consultants—the exercise of popular will, the expression of its voice, and the framing of its needs have been emptied of all promise of autonomy.” No kidding! Noting that “American politicians and publicists claim that theirs is the world’s greatest democracy,” Wolin tells us, instead (and remember, “demos” means “the people”): “The reality is a democracy without the demos as actor. The voice is that of a ventriloquist democracy.”17 That is, “we the people” seem to be expressing ourselves politically, but really what is being expressed comes from the wealthy elites and their minions who control the economy, the larger culture, the sources of information, the shaping of opinion, and the political process as a whole.
Many anarchists, quite understandably, denounce the very concept of democracy as a swindle that should be rejected by all honest revolutionaries. Marxists argue, however, that the swindle must be rejected—but democracy should be fought for. It does seem, however, that given the many ways in which the electoral process in the United States is stacked in favor of capitalism and capitalists, a case can be made, at least in the present time, for our efforts to be concentrated outside the electoral arena. Just as politics involves much, much more than elections and electoral parties, so the struggle for democracy—as the comments of Howard Zinn suggest—can often be pursued far more effectively in workplaces, in communities, in schools, in the streets, in the larger culture through non-electoral struggles, and creative work of various kinds. The key for us is to draw more and more people into pathways of thinking and pathways of action that go in the direction of questioning established authority and giving people a meaningful say about the realities and decisions affecting their lives. That is the opposite of how so-called democracy—focused on elections—actually works in our country. This comes through brilliantly in the description of the wonderful anarchist educator Paul Goodman regarding the U.S. political system in the early 1960s:
Concretely, our system of government at present comprises the military-industrial complex, the secret paramilitary agencies, the scientific war corporations, the blimps, the horses’ asses, the police, the administrative bureaucracy, the career diplomats, the lobbies, the corporations that contribute Party funds, the underwriters and real-estate promoters that batten on urban renewal, the official press and the official opposition press, the sounding-off and jockeying for the next election, the National Unity, etc., etc. All this machine is grinding along by the momentum of the power and profit motives and style long since built into it; it cannot make decisions of a kind radically different than it does. Even if an excellent man happens to be elected to office, he will find that it is no longer a possible instrument for social change on any major issues of war and peace and the way of life of the Americans.18
Elections can sometimes be used effectively by revolutionaries to reach out to masses of people with ideas, ?information, analyses, and proposals that challenge the established order. If elected, they may also find that—aside from proposing and voting for positive, if relatively modest, social reforms—they will also be able to use elected office to help inform, mobilize, and support their constituents in non-electoral mass struggles. But the insertion of revolutionaries into the existing capitalist state will not be sufficient to bring about the “true democracy” that Marx spoke of, because they would find themselves within political structures designed to maintain the existing power relations. They would not have the power to end capitalist oppression or to transform the capitalist state into a structure permitting actual “rule by the people.” Marx and Engels themselves came to the conclusion that it would not be possible for the working class simply to use the existing state—designed by our exploiters and oppressors—to create a new society. The workers would need to smash the oppressive apparatus in order to allow for a genuinely democratic rule, through their own movements and organizations, and through new and more democratic governmental structures.
It is possible that some revolutionaries might be elected before such revolutionary change restructures the state. But they can be effective in what they actually want to do only by working in tandem with broader social movements and with non-electoral struggles. These movements and struggles must be working to empower masses of people in our economy and society, and to put increasing pressure on all politicians and government figures, and also on capitalist owners and managers, to respond to the needs and the will of the workers, of the oppressed, and of the majority of the people. Remember C. L. R. James’s comment: “To the degree that the [working class] mobilizes itself and the great masses of the people, the socialist revolution is advanced. The [working class] mobilizes itself as a self-acting force through its own committees, unions, parties, and other organizations.” These are, potentially, the seeds of the workers’ democracy—germinating in the present—that will take root and grow, challenging and displacing the undemocratic and corrupted structures associated with the so-called bourgeois democracies.
Democracy and “communism”
Before we conclude, we need to look more closely, even if briefly, at a contradiction that seems to have arisen between the notion of democracy and the realities of what came to be known as Communism. Within the tradition of twentieth-century Communism, many (in sharp contrast to Marx) came to counterpose revolution and communism to democracy as such. This can’t be justified, but it needs to be explained. Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolsheviks led a super-democratic upsurge of the laboring masses, resulting in the initial triumph of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Immediately afterward, Russia was overwhelmed by foreign military invasions, economic blockades, and a very bloody civil war nurtured by hostile foreign capitalist powers. In that horrific situation, a brutal one-party dictatorship was established to hold things together. The Bolsheviks (even comrades Lenin and Trotsky) came up with highly dubious theoretical justifications for the dictatorship, which caused Rosa Luxemburg—correctly—to sharply criticize them, even as she supported the Russian Revolution. The justifications they put forward were soon used as an ideological cover for the crystallization of a vicious bureaucratic tyranny propagated, in the name of “Communism,” by Joseph Stalin and others, ultimately miseducating millions of people throughout the world.19
Both Lenin and Trotsky, and also many others who were true to the revolutionary-democratic essence of the Bolshevik tradition, sought to push back this horrendous corruption of the Communist cause. But it was too late, and after the late 1920s such words as Communism, Marxism, and socialism became wrongly identified throughout the world with that horrendous, totalitarian, murderous corruption represented by the Stalin regime. The ideology and practices of Stalinism are close to being the opposite of classical Marxism.
And it was the classical Marxist outlook that animated Lenin for most of his life—an outlook insisting that genuine socialism and genuine democracy are inseparable. In fact, this was at the heart of the strategic orientation that led to the victory of the 1917 Revolution. It is an orientation that still makes sense for us today. Let’s see how Lenin maps that out in a 1915 polemic:
The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. . . . We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary program and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations, etc. While capitalism exists, these demands—all of them—can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism, we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms. Some of these reforms will be started before the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the course of that overthrow, and still others after it. The social revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems of economic and democratic reform, which are consummated only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. It is for the sake of this final aim that we must formulate every one of our democratic demands in a consistently revolutionary way. It is quite conceivable that the workers of some particular country will overthrow the bourgeoisie before even a single fundamental democratic reform has been fully achieved. It is, however, quite inconceivable that the proletariat, as a historical class, will be able to defeat the bourgeoisie, unless it is prepared for that by being educated in the spirit of the most consistent and resolutely revolutionary democracy.20
This uncompromising struggle for the most thoroughgoing and genuine democracy is one of the glories of the genuine Leninist tradition. It is something that can resonate with the needs, the aspirations, and the present-day consciousness of millions of people—and at the same time it leads in a revolutionary socialist direction.
In a similar manner, Leon Trotsky pushed hard against ultraleft sectarianism in the early 1930s when he insisted on the struggle both to defend “bourgeois democracy” and to push beyond it to workers’ democracy in the face of the rising tide of Hitler’s Nazism. In this he stressed the need to defend the revolutionary-democratic subculture of the workers’ movement. “Within the framework of bourgeois democracy and parallel to the incessant struggle against it,” Trotsky recounted, “the elements of proletarian democracy have formed themselves in the course of many decades: political parties, labor press, trade unions, factory committees, clubs, cooperatives, sports societies, etc. The mission of fascism is not so much to complete the destruction of bourgeois democracy as to crush the first outlines of proletarian democracy.” In opposing the fascist onslaught on democracy, the goal of revolutionaries is to defend “those elements of proletarian democracy, already created,” which will eventually be “at the foundation of the soviet system of the workers’ state.” Eventually, it will be necessary—Trotsky says—“to break the husk of bourgeois democracy and free from it the kernel of workers’ democracy.” In the face of the immediate fascist threat, “so long as we do not yet have the strength to establish the soviet system, we place ourselves on the terrain of bourgeois democracy. But at the same time we do not entertain any illusions.”21
The situation we face today is as different from that which Lenin faced in 1915 and Trotsky faced in 1933 as their situations were different from what Marx and Engels faced in 1848 and 1871. But they are not totally different. Their insights and approaches may be helpful to us in our own situation as we struggle for rule by the people, genuine democracy, as the basis for a future society of the free and the equal.
This article is based on a presentation given at Socialism 2010, held in Chicago on June 18–20, 2010. Paul Le Blanc is professor of history at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, and is author of numerous books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (Humanities Press, 1993) and the editor of Lenin:revolution, democracy, socialism (Pluto Press, 2008).

1 See Anthony Arnove, Chris Moore, and Howard Zinn, directors, The People Speak, 2009, and Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: HarperCollins, 2004).
2 C. L. R. James (with Raya Dunayevskaya and Grace Lee Boggs), “The Invading Socialist Society,” in Noel Ignatiev, ed., A New Notion: Two Works by C. L. R. James (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010), 28. Also see David Forgacs, ed., An Antonio Gramsci Reader (New York: Schocken Books, 1988), Gregor Benton, ed., Chen Duxiu’s Last Articles and Letters, 1937–1942 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998), and Michael Pearlman, ed., The Heroic and Creative Meaning of Socialism: Selected Essays of José Carlos Mariátegui (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1996).
3 James P. Cannon, “Socialism and Democracy,” in Speeches for Socialism (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971), 356, 361. Also see Jean Tussey, ed., Eugene V. Debs Speaks (New York: Pathfinder Press, 197) and Paul Le Blanc, From Marx to Gramsci: A Reader in Revolutionary Marxist Politics (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1996).
4 The controversial conception of “bourgeois revolution” is discussed and defended intelligently in Colin Mooers, The Making of Bourgeois Europe (London: Verso, 1991) and Henry Heller, The Bourgeois Revolution in France, 1789–1815 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006).
5 See Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Vintage Books, 1998).
6 I had to check on some of Morris’s words. Vernal means springtime, and casting off one’s winter slough is what snakes and other reptiles do—shedding their dead skin. For the quotes, see Gary B. Nash, The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), 100, 203, 206, 278–79, 367; Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy, Jefferson to Lincoln (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), 32.
7 Knox quoted in Diego Rivera and Bertram D. Wolfe, Portrait of America (New York: Covici Friede, 1934), 104; Wilentz, 27–28. Also see Edward Countryman, The American Revolution, revised edition (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003).
8 M. I. Finley, Democracy Ancient and Modern, revised edition (Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1985), 13; Ellen Meiksins Wood, “Demos Versus ‘We the People’: Freedom and Democracy Ancient and Modern,” in Josiah Ober and Charles Hedrick, eds., Demokratia: A Conversation on Democracies, Ancient and Modern (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 132, 122–23; Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist Papers, edited by Clinton Rossiter (New York: New American Library, 1961), 214–15.
9 Federalist Papers, 79, 81, 322–25.
10 Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Evelyne Huber Stephens, and John D. Stephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 40, 44, 122–32.
11 Ibid., 141, 140. Also see Göran Thernborn, “The Rule of Capital and the Rise of Democracy,” New Left Review 103 (May–June 1977): 3–41, and Geoff Eley, Forging Democracy, The History of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
12 August H. Nimtz, Jr., Marx and Engels: Their Contribution to the Democratic Breakthrough (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2000), vii; also see my review, “Marx and Engels: Democratic Revolutionaries,” International Viewpoint, September 2002, http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article381.
13 Phil Gasper, ed., The Communist Manifesto: A Road Map to History’s Most Important Document (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 4243, 53, 56, 59, 69. On “true democracy” being the same as communism, see Richard N. Hunt, The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels, Vol. I, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1974), 74–75, and Michael Löwy, The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 41–43.
14 Karl Marx, “The Civil War in France,” in David Fernbach, ed., The First International and After: Political Writings, Vol. 3, (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1974), 210; S. Ryzanskaya, ed., Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence revised edition, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), 452.
15 “Practical Politics,” The Alarm, October 11, 1884, 1 (microfilm).
16 Albert Einstein, “Why Socialism?” Monthly Review, May 1949, http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einstein.php.
17 Sheldon Wolin, “Transgression, Equality, and Voice,” in Ober and Hedrick, eds., Dmokratia, 87.
18 Paul Goodman, “Getting Into Power,” in Paul Goodman, ed., Seeds of Liberation (New York: George Braziller, 1964), 433.
19 On the profoundly democratic nature of the 1917 Revolution, and on the horrors of its aftermath see: Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution 1917 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), and William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, 1917–1921 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987). On the faulty theoretical justifications, see Hal Draper, The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” from Marx to Lenin (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987). On the Stalinist dictatorship, see Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed (New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1937), and Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).
20 V. I. Lenin, “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” in Paul Le Blanc, ed., Revolution, Democracy, Socialism, Selected Writings (London: Pluto Press, 2006), 233–34.
21 Leon Trotsky, “The United Front for Defense: Letter to a Social Democratic Worker,” in George Breitman and Merry Meisel, eds., The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1971), 367–68.

Greece Build to the left, quickly!



Build to the left, quickly!

Tassos AnastassiadisAndreas Sartzekis

Not so long ago the defeat of the right wing candidates in the municipal elections in the two major cities in Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki, would have been followed by scenes of popular enthusiasm in the streets throughout the night. There was nothing like that this time, when the right was defeated in cities where it had ruled for decades!


There are at least two reasons for this: the depth of the crisis and its impact on the lives of the majority of the population do not encourage enthusiasm for such “victories” and, linked to this, the fact that in the two cities, the two candidates were elected by approximately one sixth of the voters. The most visible lesson of the municipal and regional elections of November 7 and 14, notwithstanding comments from foreign newspapers on the alleged support of the population for the dominant party, was that they represented a scathing disavowal of PASOK and the right, although, despite encouraging results for the radical anti-capitalist left, a political alternative to the current governments has not yet emerged.

The crisis, ever harder

As expected, the draconian measures required by the IMF, the European Union and Bank – a sinister trio known as the “troika” here - have had only one effect: to accentuate the crisis, which sees every day more misery (the services of the Church, which in this country provide a good part of social assistance, indicate that request for help are increasing sharply). In addition, the 2009 deficit, already significant, has been revised upward, from 13.6% of GDP to 15.4%, which will result in new demands from the troika, which has long stressed anyway that the state does not bring enough money into its coffers and spends too much. A delegation from the troika which arrived in Athens on November 15 – to be welcomed by a rally and a demonstration called by the KKE (Greek Communist Party) and the radical and anti-capitalist left – made its priorities known: strengthening the attacks on the population by attacking the public sector and adopting new work contracts with less pay than that laid down in collective agreements. Already in March, they had said: “Besides the wages you must cut, you must dismiss 200,000 workers in this sector!” On November 17, European officials indicated that the state should save 4.9 billion euros next year: Obviously nobody believes Papandreou when he assures them that there will be no dismissals. The government also refers to necessary reductions in the health sector. Recent weeks have seen very violent attacks in some areas, including in commerce where, apart from the closure of many small shops, big chains are also closing down: this is the case with FNAC, which only recently triumphantly arrived in Greece, while on November 17, the ALDI supermarket chain announced its closure, with 700 employees thrown out of work.

Another sector openly in crisis is the politically influential one of the press: the major group Lambrakis, with a tradition of established cultural patronage (the opera in Athens, the “Mégaro Moussikis” was funded by them), has just closed an old publishing house, Ellinika Grammata, throwing around a hundred employees out of work, while redundancies are raining down in the newspapers, of which the best-known are “To Vima” and “Ta Nea”. We are also seeing public wealth stripping operations. Thus, a good part of the port of Piraeus has been sold to a Chinese group while an agreement is planned to sell off part of the seafront close to Athens to install casinos and luxury accommodation. So, whether or not the “Socialist” government discusses a new debt repayment schedule, what is certain is that new measures of economic strangulation of the population will not be delayed, possibly connected with the negotiation of a new memorandum.

Faced with all this, the workers try to resist, there are solidarity mobilizations, but these reactions remain very much smaller than the growing mobilization of spring. Working to connect all these struggles and prepare an overall offensive against the policies of Papandreou and the troika are matters of urgency. Since early November, it is now possible in support of this task to point to the results of the municipal and regional elections which saw, albeit in a fragmented manner, political tendencies to the left of the PASOK gaining 1.2 million votes out of approximately 6 million voters.

The issues at the elections for PASOK

Aware of its discredit, PASOK had planned to focus the campaign solely on local issues, wanting to highlight its modernism represented by its Kallikratis programme of “bringing the institutions closer to the citizen”. However, this programme, for which PASOK has spared no advertising expenses, translates notably into the merger of the 1,004 existing communes into 370 super-communes, while administrative regions have been merged into 13 “super-regions. The logic of this model plan of liberal technocracy fits in with the anti-worker measures: indeed, the management of these super-communes involves public disengagement to offload onto private companies such tasks such as cleaning, green spaces, etc. The consequences for employment are mentioned above: in general, public companies are in the firing line (with the threat of removal of 60,000 contract workers) and the principle is to not replace 4 civil servants out of 5 leaving. And it is precisely by making the link between the local and national scales that the radical and anti-capitalist left has campaigned since the spring against the Kallikratis programme which in reality concerns many more people than this current alone.

But after having attempted, unsuccessfully, to lull everybody to sleep with the refrain of strictly local elections, PASOK abruptly changed its tune: two weeks before the elections, the issues had without explanation become so national that Papandreou was simply threatening to hold parliamentary elections as soon as December if his policy was not approved, without moreover defining the requisite approval threshold percentages!

Why this blackmail? In fact, PASOK never risked coming second: they were ten points ahead of the right wing New Democracy in the parliamentary elections of 2009, so there was no suspense! The real issue was that of PASOK voter disaffection and therefore of the necessary credit to continue this policy of smashing all social gains. Late August polls gave 28.6% for PASOK (43.9% in the elections of October 2009), 21.1% for the ND (33.5%), 9% for the KKE (7.5%), and 17% for small parties or spoiled votes with 10% being don’t knows. During the campaign the disillusionment of PASOK voters was evident at meetings: thus in the PASOK stronghold of Patras (among the five biggest cities in the country) Papandreou could not start his meeting due to the low attendance! This note is also verified by the victory of a “diverse left” candidate’ (supported by Synaspismos) above the PASOK candidate in Patras.

Overnight, Papandreou therefore turned to blackmail of the “me or chaos” type, with abject populist arguments challenging the workers’ mobilization: "If the interest groups that we have affected with our reforms are saying “that’s enough!”, then I will have no other alternative than to address myself to the Greek people.” Later, he said: “I admit that some changes, imposed out of necessity, have hurt workers, who are not responsible for the crisis. Yet maturity is required also in the trade unions: the crisis must transform all of us.” (November 6, 2010 “Eleftherotypia”). A dramatisation which suddenly forgot the local issues but justified all those who had insisted for weeks on the importance of this election for beating not only PASOK and the right, but also the anti-worker policies.

PASOK and the right disowned

Because the main parties were present in all 13 regions, the regional elections constituted a good reference in relation to last year’s parliamentary elections. We should however be careful: the fare right LAOS only ran in six regions as such, SYRIZA was challenged by a right wing split, Aristeri Dimokratiki (Democratic left), and lists supported by Antarsya were present in 11 regions.

In any case what leaps out is the incredibly high abstention rates: running at 2.88 million votes in October 2009, it was for the first round of the regional elections 3.81 million out of a total of 9.81 million registered voters, with additionally 9.10% spoiled ballots. In the second round, which in the regional elections involved PASOK and the right alone, the abstention rate went from 39% to 53%, with an additional 11.6% of spoiled ballots! Nothing in these figures justifies the view of some European newspapers which saw these results as a successful gamble for Papandreou or as the Prime Minister escaping lightly!

In fact, the scale of the setback is even clearer in that PASOK, despite the blackmail of its leader, paid a heavy price: in the first round of the regional elections. PASOK lost approximately 1,150,000 votes, with the region of Attica, comprising one third of the voters and the most industrialised area, accounting for a loss of 446,000 votes (-7%). It counted on certain victory in the first round in three regions: it won two, including the fiefdom of Crete, where it won 50.3%, losing 71,000 votes, or 8.4%! In the third “safe” area, it lost 90,000 votes, or 9%, winning a total of 43%. In the Peloponnese, the PASOK candidate was a former right wing minister, supported also by LAOS and in Attica, if the candidate for PASOK was finally elected in the 2nd round, it was with an abstention rate of 58%, a total of 16% spoiled ballots and, here also, the support of LAOS. In the municipal elections, the two major defeats for the right did not mean a victory for PASOK alone: in Athens, the candidate Kaminis was in the second round also supported by the Greens, by Aristeri Dimokratia and by some right wing sectors, the same being true of Boutaris in Thessaloniki. In both cases against a background of gigantic abstention rates, about 65%. In addition, PASOK lost significant towns like the suburb of Aghia Paraskevi, the big city of Patras, in a duel to its left, as in the suburb of Elliniko, where the outgoing mayor, an activist who had led radical mobilizations, was supported by the Greens, SYRIZA, ANTARSYA and other left forces. In other popular suburbs, PASOK was beaten by left lists: Kaisariani, Keratsini, Elefsina and so on. With such results, it is clear that this is a major disavowal of PASOK.

The right is now headed by the former leader of a dissident nationalist group within the ND, who has the difficult task of restoring the fortunes of a party reeling from its heavy defeat last year as well as a series of scandals for which trials are currently underway. As with Papandreou for PASOK, Antonis Samaras sees a victory for the right in these elections. Observe: in the regional elections, the right, which could only advance after October 2009, lost 563,000 votes, 256,000 of them in Attica! Proclaiming that it wanted to win between 6 and 8 of the 13 regions, it obtained only five and, if it won Piraeus, it was more due to the internal crisis in PASOK than its own dynamic. It can only be welcomed: it is obviously paying for its share of responsibility in the crisis, and its demagoguery against the memorandum fooled nobody, since at the same time it supports the austerity measures. The crisis of the right is certainly a durable one and its luck is that in this period, the LAOS grouping, whose profile is equivalent to that of the Front National in France, is one of the biggest supporters of PASOK’s policies. This positioning of LAOS has two consequences: an electoral weakening, where it ran, as in Attica where, with 6.57%, it lost 1% and 53,500 votes, but also the freeing up of space for openly fascist currents.

One notes then a very important fact: for the first time since the beginning of the 1980s, the bipartisanship which infected Greek political life has been dramatically weakened. The results of the elections, as well as discussions in workplaces, prove that a deep political crisis has opened, not witnessed since the junta of the colonels in the years 1967-74. It has become clear that a positive outcome to this situation depends exclusively on the responses and credibility offered by the radical anti-capitalist left. And on this terrain, things may begin to evolve.

The results to the left of PASOK

The KKE was presented as the main winner of these elections and this is largely correct. It must be said that it began its campaign a long time ago since it is in fact almost permanent. Indeed, the KKE favours mobilisations as the sole solution, not hesitating to accuse workers who do not vote for it of bolstering the "plutocracy”. In this systematic electoral campaign, it utilises a discourse which is in part anti-capitalist. But in part only, since arguments about “real”" patriotism have lately been employed, and the party continues to sow division, refusing any unity of action of workers: for it, the sole unitary framework is its PAME current, framed by itself, and on the “political scene”, the KKE presents itself as alone against everyone, it being understood that the radical left defends according to this party the capitalist system!

Nevertheless, once again its campaign found an echo and the KKE was able to attract young people. Its score in the regional elections was approximately 580,000 votes, or almost 11%, with a gain of 62,600 votes and 3.5% on 2009. Yet this increase should be put into perspective. First because it was not in the most industrialised regions that the KKE advanced most: the southern Aegean Islands (+ 6,000), central Greece (+ 12,000). It even lost votes in the north Aegean (-500) and above all, its progress in Attica was very modest: certainly, it scored 14.4% but it only won 6,000 extra votes, which is very little given PASOK’s losses and the gains made in the same area by Antarsya, namely + 23,000 votes. Similarly, the KKE won only a single municipality, the popular suburb of Petroupolis. Even though it is by far the main force to the left of PASOK, we must be aware of these weaknesses, which once the official period of satisfaction is over, may facilitate internal questioning, until now fairly discreet.

One of the most urgent balance sheets to be drawn is that of Syriza: this radical reformist coalition has for several months experienced existential problems, quite simply of political identity, which hark back to the confusion related to its formation. Bringing together revolutionary or radical groups around Synaspismos, without these groups having had any common project of developing an anti-capitalist wing, Syriza has been buffeted over three years by the rhythm of the polls and actual results, which hardly exceeded those of Synaspismos alone, if we put aside the good result of Alexis Tsipras in the Athens mayoral elections four years ago (more than 10%). In recent months Syriza has divided into at least three currents: the first is that of the “renovators” of Synaspismos, who eventually left the latter and Syriza also in spring to form Dimokratiki Aristera (Democratic Left). Their electoral baptism of fire electoral was satisfactory to them: presenting alliances of variable geometry (with the Greens, with Syriza, with PASOK and so on), they got quite a number of elected representatives and their regional candidate in Attica, Grigorios Psarianos, a former MP for Syriza, won 52,500 votes, or. 3.8%. This also raises their political profile as a party of elected representatives with a discourse oscillating between radicalism and the flattest reformism.

The core of Syriza, around Synaspismos, got nearly 240,000 votes (4.5%), as against 315,000 and 4.6% in October 2009. If the decline in percentage is not huge, it is more so in votes, and even if the leadership of Synaspismos expressed satisfaction at this score, it is clear that not to advance in such a context is a setback. Moreover, before the vote two Syriza MPs and the representatives of a few currents (Kokkino, AKOA, Xekinima and so on) in the secretariat highlighted in an appeal the deep crisis of the coalition, undermined by conflicts between different projects but also by centralism and bureaucracy, and affirmed its failure to promote that which had justified its creation, namely left unity and common action of the broad forces of the radical left. Their conclusion is that after the elections, Syriza can no longer continue under the same conditions. During this time, the leadership around Alexis Tsipras imposed for the municipal elections the line of turning towards PASOK cadres in disagreement with the Papandreou line, and thus in Attica the Syriza leadership hoped that the head of the regional list would record a two digit score, attracting disappointed PASOK voters: the result was a total of 89,000 votes, representing 6.2%, down by 42,000 votes from 2009. This suggests that the youth who had voted for Syriza did not identify with such combinations, while the disappointed PASOK voters did not find it credible either.

A word on the third current in Syriza, grouped around a list represented in Attica by the former leader of Synaspismos, Alekos Alavanos. Alavanos, very much on the right when he was an MEP, now uses a very leftist language, as seen in his central leaflet for the campaign whose conclusion is: “To combat youth unemployment, we are ready to go to jail.” Alavanos’s list, in which he had high hopes, ultimately obtained 30,000 votes, 2.2% and a single elected representative. But the most serious aspect in this case is that the disagreements between the former and current leaderships of Synaspismos will tear apart the radical and revolutionary groups which are members of Syriza, with all the resentments that might leave. This relates to the absence of a joint project for these groups at the launch of Syriza.

An anti-capitalist breakthrough

This is the good news of the elections, although modest in terms of numbers, but for many observers a new element: clearly anti-capitalist lists supported by the coalition ANTARSYA (Cooperation of the anti-capitalist left for the overthrow of the system), present in 11 of the 13 regions, scored about 2% and had seven representatives elected. Its percentages varied from 1.5% to 2.6%, much better than the usual very low vote for the Greek revolutionary left! The vote increases were spectacular and was the vote that increased the most: if the KKE got 62,500 more votes, ANTARSYA got nearly 71,000 more, reaching a total of nearly 95,500 in 11 regions. In Attica, it got 31,500 votes and elected Angelos Hagios, also leader of the NAR. And ANTARSYA supported several lists in the municipal elections, as in Athens where it got 5,500 votes (2.9%) and one elected representative, Petros Konstantinou, leader of the SEK. In various suburbs, lists supported by ANTARSYA and sometimes other forces got good scores: in Piraeus, 2%, 3% and one representative elected in Peristeri, the largest of the suburbs and a working-class neighbourhood, 2.8% and one representative elected in Petroupoli, 6.5% and one representative elected in Nea Smyrni, 5% and one representative elected in Zografou, 6.3% and one representative elected in Ymittou, 10.7% and two representatives elected in Halandri, 13.8% and two representatives elected in Vrilissia. And other good scores outside Attica in Iannina with 4.1% and one representative elected or Pyrgos with 4% and one representative elected.

This significant breakthrough has at least two explanations. The first is the dynamism of the ANTARSYA grouping in which the two strongest Greek revolutionary left organizations, the NAR and SEK are involved, as well as different groups such as OKDE-SPARTAKOS, the Greek section of the Fourth International, and individual members. We saw it throughout the mobilizations of spring, when ANTARSYA helped structure rank and file unions against the line of the GSEE confederation leadership. Big contingents on demonstrations, and an activist profile helped affirm ANTARSYA’s place, with its posters and slogans present in many regions. The second reason is a vote of radicalization in favour of the only list clearly stating the need for an anti-capitalist alternative to defeat the PASOK and troika policies. In the massive vote to the left of PASOK, the vote for ANTARSYA is a bearer of hope also because sectarianism has broken down: given that outside of SYRIZA and ANTARSYA, other far-left groups called for abstention, it is clear that the Antarsya lists benefited both from the votes of voters rejecting the evolution of Syriza and those young people closer to radical proposals.

Organizing the counter-offensive

The stakes emerging from this new situation are clear: ANTARSYA is now invested with new responsibilities, huge in relation to the urgency of the situation, but also if we take into account its small size and the fact that its process of constitution, work and co-operative debates remain recent. It is first and foremost about helping, despite the obstacles, the construction of a unitary and massive response to the policies of the bourgeoisie, making all the necessary proposals along the lines of a break with capitalism. Rejecting the payment of the debt, a ban on layoffs, defence and improvement of public services, these are some urgent axes, which involve extending cooperation well beyond ANTARSYA!

But another sector is of greatest urgency: on the basis of the achievements of the anti-racist battles, to organize the broadest unitary mobilization against racism and fascism, without delay. In Athens, a neo-Nazi group, Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) has for month organized violent campaigns against immigrants in some districts and at the municipal elections they got 10,000 votes (5.3%) with one representative elected. If electorally they have had no other successes, these practitioners of the fascist salute, enjoying a disturbing indulgence from the police, are attempting to implement their racist practices in several areas, and only an anti-racist mass mobilization can neutralise them.

Two indices of the possibilities of rapid development since the second round of the elections – the meeting hastily organised by Antarsya on November 16 with more than 1,000 highly motivated participants, and the next day, the commemoration of the massacre of students at the Athens Polytechnic by the military junta in 1973 – a 50,000 strong demonstration, with a lot of youth, and several tens of thousands in Thessalonika. Reviving the hope of being able to win by actually constructing together against the policies of poverty as the only way forward, that is the crucial issue for the weeks and months to come.

.-Tassos Anastassiadis is a member of the leadership of OKDE-Spartakos, Greek section of the Fourth International, which is part of the coalition of the anti-capitalist Left, Antarsya.

-Andreas Sartzekis is a member of the leadership of OKDE-Spartakos, Greek section of the Fourth International, which is part of the coalition of the anti-capitalist Left, Antarsya. 

A Critique of Binayak Sen’s Judgment

We reproduce with courtesy Kafila, http://kafila.org/2010/12/26/a-critique-of-binayak-sen%E2%80%99s-judgment/

This note critiquing the judgement that setences Binayak Sen for life has been written by ILINIA SEN, SUDHA BHARADWAJ and KAVITA SRIVASTAVA

Raipur, 26 December, 2010

As you are aware the Second Additional District and Sessions Judge of Raipur Sh. B. P. Verma convicted Binayak Sen, Pijush Guha and Narayan Sanyal for rigorous life imprisonment on the 24 December, 2010. A ninety two page judgement was delivered by Judge BP Verma on the 24 December, 2010. What follows is a quick analysis of the facts of the case and the judgement that has finally been delivered.

Important Dates of the case

The FIR was lodged on the 6th of May, 2007, when Pijush Guha’s arrest was shown. Dr. Sen was arrested on the 14th May, 2007 from Bilaspur and Narayan Sanyal was only made an accused in July 2007, who was already an under trial detained in the Bilaspur Jail in another case. The Charge sheet was filed in August, 2007. The charges were framed on 27th December, 2007 and subsequently the trial began. The trial lasted for two years where 97prosecution witnesses and 12 defence witnesses deposed. Many of the prosecution witnesses were policemen. Three judges presided over the two year trial. They were Judge Saluja, Judge Ganpat Rao and finally Judge B P Verma (a judge awaiting confirmation in the lower judiciary). The judgement would have taken longer had it not been for the Supreme Court, which on a bail application filed by Pijush Guha ordered in October, 2010 that the trial be completed in three months.

The Analysis of the Judgement

The Second Additional Sessions Judge, Raipur B.P. Verma has sentenced human rights defender Dr. Binayak Sen, Kolkata businessman Pijush Guha and Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal for rigorous life imprisonment and shorter prison terms, to run concurrently under Sections 124A read with Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, 2005 (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act) and Section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Narayan Sanyal has been additionally sentenced under Section 20 of the UAPA Act, 1967. Briefly put Section 124A read with Section 120B of IPC pertains to sedition and conspiracy for sedition; CSPSA, 2005 makes culpable membership of, association with, and furthering the interests, financially or otherwise, of organizations notified and banned under the Act as unlawful. UAPA, 1967 seeks to penalize membership of a terrorist gang or association, holding proceeds of terrorism, or support given to a terrorist organization.

To hold the three accused guilty under the above mentioned laws, the judgment had to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were either directly indulging in seditious activities as individuals or as members of an organization, or conspiring to abet and further seditious activities of individuals or organization. Also, the judgment was to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were either members of organizations notified as unlawful under CSPSA or/ and UAPA, or conspiring to abet and further the activities of such unlawful organizations. Judge Verma’s verdict weaves a flawed legal narrative trying to establish the aforementioned links.

Judge Verma’s narrative hinges on the following points:

  • Narayan Sanyal is a member of the highest decision making body, Politburo, of CPI (Maoist) a seditious organization and notified as unlawful under the CSPSA and UAPA. As a basis for this, the judgment cites the content of certain journals purported to be organs of the CPI (Maoist) and certain cases lodged against him for Maoist activities in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand. The above-mentioned magazines have been reportedly seized from co-accused Pijush Guha who has contended that they were planted on him by the police. The judge has unquestioningly accepted the version of the police on the basis of the supposed testimony of the seizure witness Anil Singh, ignoring the objections of Pijush Guha and co-accused Binayak Sen to the effect that the seizure witness had claimed to overhear a conversation between Guha and the police in a situation where the police had Guha in their custody, and any statement made by Guha to the police in a custodial situation is inadmissible as evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It should not be forgotten that the seizure witness Anil Singh did not accompany the police when they came to apprehend and search Guha, but was supposedly a passerby, who was stopped by the police when Guha was already in their custody. The judge has held Narayan Sanyal to be a member of CPI (Maoist) on the basis of cases against him in other states in which he has not yet been pronounced guilty.
  • The central point around which the verdict’s narrative is woven is the arrest and seizure of certain articles, including the abovementioned journals and three letters supposedly written by Narayan Sanyal to his party comrades, handed over to Binayak Sen when he met Sanyal in jail, and then handed over by Sen to Pijush Guha who was supposed to pass it on to Sanyal’s party comrades. This supposedly establishes a chain binding the three in a conspiratorial relationship. According to this supposed conspiratorial chain, Narayan Sanyal is a leader of a seditious organization also notified as unlawful and as such banned; Binayak Sen conspires with Sanyal to pass on his letters to his party comrades through Guha, thus both Sen and Guha assist in the activities of a seditious and unlawful organization. In constructing this conspiratorial chain, the Judge has relied on forensic evidence testifying that the letters were indeed written by Sanyal, but for them being in possession of Pijush Guha, he has relied solely on the evidence of police officers and seizure witness Anil Singh whose versions have been contested by Guha but ignored by the Judge. Guha’s statement before the Magistrate which was recorded when he was produced on the 7th of May, 2007 says that he was arrested on 1.5.2007 from Mahindra Hotel, kept in illegal custody blindfolded for six days and finally produced before a Magistrate only on 7.5.2007. The Judge has ignored even Guha’s statement to this effect made before the Magistrate as soon as he was produced. Judge Verma has said in his verdict that Guha has failed to produce any evidence in favour of his statement, thereby putting the onus of proof on the accused and not the prosecution, which is bad in law. (Neither the CSPSA or UAPA (2004) puts the burden of proof on the accused.
  • The Judge has also ignored the contradiction between the police affidavit filed before the Supreme Court while opposing the bail application of Binayak Sen and the police version presented in the charge sheet filed in the sessions court. In the Supreme Court the police said that Guha had been arrested from Mahindra Hotel (which Guha has alleged in his testimony) but in the sessions court the police have said that Guha was arrested from Station Road where the police supposedly seized the aforementioned incriminating articles in the presence of seizure witness Anil Singh. The police’s flimsy argument, that the discrepancy was because of a typographical error in the affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, has been fully accepted by Judge Verma. Actually, the police officer responsible should be tried for either filing a false affidavit in the Apex Court, or lying in the Sessions court under oath. Accepting Guha’s testimony would have rendered the seizure witness’s statement implausible on which the Judge has centrally relied for his narrative. This would have in turn resulted in a complete collapse of the case against all the accused, especially so against Guha and Binayak Sen, against whom there was no material evidence of either being a member of CPI (Maoist) or being in conspiratorial relationship with  Narayan Sanyal, the principal Maoist character in Judge Verma’s narrative.
  • Once the central conspiratorial point and incident has been constructed in the judicial narrative, conspiratorial linkages between the three accused and their common causes and actions before the incident also needed to be established. This has been attempted in Pijush Guha’s case by a reference to his frequent visits to Raipur and a case pending in district Purulia, West Bengal. Judge Verma has ignored the fact that Guha was made an accused in the Purulia case after 6.5.2007, the date on which he is said to have been arrested in Raipur. This fact strongly generates a suspicion of afterthought by the police of the two states acting in collusion. Judge Verma’s verdict also naturally ignores the fact that Pijush Guha’s frequent visits are explained by his being a tendu leaf trader trading in the areas of Chhattisgarh.
  • Binayak Sen’s supposed conspiratorial relationship with Narayan Sanyal and his seditious Maoist causes is sought to be established by the following:

1. Testimony of the so called Landlord of Narayan Sanyal

Deepak Choubey’ in his testimony stated that he accepted Narayan Sanyal as a tenant in his house on the recommendation of Binayak Sen some time before Sanyal’s arrest.

The Judge has ignored the fact that Deepak Choubey did not own the house but acted on behalf of his brother in law. More crucially, the Judge set aside Sen’s objection that Choubey’s assertion came in response to a leading question by the Public Prosecutor. Judge Verma’s verdict makes no reference to Sen’s objections against this witness going beyond his statement under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C., and the fact that the witness admitted in cross examination that an earlier statement recorded by the police at the time when allegedly a Maoist leader was arrested from his house was not brought on record. This casts doubt as to the veracity of the statement made subsequently since the same could be manipulated so as to suit the Prosecution story.  Judge Verma rejected Sen’s contention that Choubey’s statement was made under duress because the police threatened to implicate him in context of the said arrest. It also does not take into account the contradiction with the police’s own version that Narayan Sanyal was arrested from Bhadrachalam in Andhra Pradesh to which effect police officers of Andhra Pradesh have testified.

2. Binayak Sen’s thirty three meetings in eighteen months with jailed Narayan Sanyal.

The judge without giving any reason has ignored Sen’s contention that he was merely performing his duty as a human rights activist and a physician in addressing the legal and health issues of an ailing undertrial prisoner on the request of the undertrial’s family. The Judge has not considered the documents exhibited by the defence showing that Sen had permission from the Senior Superintendent of Police for his jail visits. Instead, Judge Verma’s verdict makes a convoluted argument by holding that Sanyal’s sister-in-law’s (Bula Sanyal’s) phone calls to Binayak Sen in this regard proved a conspiratorial relationship between him and Narayan Sanyal, whereas Bula Sanyal is a housewife absolutely unconnected with any kind of Maoist/ unlawful activity. Since the prosecution failed to produce even a single jail official or any other eye witness testifying to any letter or message, oral or written, being passed by Narayan Sanyal to Binayak Sen in their jail meetings, the verdict makes much fuss about certain entries in jail registers referring to Sen being Sanyal’s relative, ignoring the defence contention that these entries were filled in by the jail officials, and not by either the visited or visitor, as apparent from the face of the record. On the contrary, all the applications Binayak Sen submitted to the jail officials, requesting a meeting with Sanyal, were written on the letterhead of his organization – PUCL (a Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights organization founded by leading Sarvodaya leader Jayprakash Narayan). These visits were duly permitted by the jail officials and transpired in their full view and hearing.

3. Binayak Sen’s relationship with the CPI (Maoists)

3.1 That Binayak Sen had a close relationship with CPI (Maoist) is sought to be established by the unsubstantiated testimonies of police officials claiming that Sen and his wife Ilina Sen had assisted alleged hard core Maoists Shankar Singh and Amita Srivastava. Sen has not disputed that Shankar was employed by Rupantar – an NGO founded by his wife Ilina. Nor has he disputed that he and Ilina knew Amita Srivastava whom the latter, on the recommendation of a friend, had helped find a job in a school. But the Judge has just accepted the police’s word, without any other testimony or material evidence whatsoever that Shankar and Amita were Maoists.

3.2 Judge Verma has also wrongly concluded, on the basis of hearsay by the police, that one Malati employed by Rupantar was the same person as Shantipriya, also using the alias Malati, a Maoist leader’s wife convicted for 10 years in a case tried in another court in Raipur. The judge has not even mentioned or verified the defence evidence put on record that the Malati employed by Rupantar was actually Malati Jadhav, whose address was provided by defence witness Prahlad Sahu.

3.3. Judge Verma’s narrative seems to have a particular fondness for police hearsay as he has blindly accepted, without any corroboration by another witness or any material evidence, wild allegations made by police officials Vijay Thakur and Sher Singh Bande, officer in charge of Konta and Chhuria police stations respectively that Binayak Sen, his wife Ilina Sen and other PUCL members and human rights activists attended the meetings of Maoists in their respective areas.  These officials have gone well beyond their Section 161 statements introducing documents not earlier annexed with the charge sheet, and all defence objections in this regard were overruled by the Judge.

3.4 But a certain planted letter, exhibit A-37, takes the cake in Judge Verma’s narrative. This unsigned letter, supposedly written by the Central Committee of CPI (Maoist) to Binayak Sen, was claimed by the police to have been seized from Sen’s house when the police ran a search there. But this letter finds no mention in the seizure list, neither has it been signed by Sen nor the investigating officers nor the search witnesses as per proper procedural requirement. The said letter was also not part of the copy of the charge sheet received by Sen in the court. But the Judge has completely overlooked this obvious planting of evidence, accepting the ridiculous explanation provided by investigating officers BS Jagrit and BBS Rajput that the Article A-37 probably stuck to another article (chipak gaya tha) and hence could not get signed by either Sen or the investigating officer or search witnesses. It is no surprise that the judge has also ignored the very valid testimonies of defence witnesses Amit Bannerji and Mahesh Mahobe in this context.

3.5 The verdict lets the cat of its ideological bias out of the bag , however, when it accepts above the Supreme Court’s wise judicial pronouncements which were brought on record in the case by Sen, the testimony of a mere district collector KR Pisda in charge of Dantewada district that Salwa Judum was a peaceful and spontaneous protest movement of the tribals against the atrocities committed by the Maoists, and not a brutal and armed vigilante operation sponsored by the state. Later in his judgment Judge Verma insinuates that Binayak Sen’s principled opposition as a human rights defender to such a non-legal, repressive, brutal vigilante operation indulging in mayhem and violence put him in the Maoist camp against whom the Salwa Judum was targeted.

Not taking into cognizance the evidence provided by the Defence

The statement made by Binayak Sen, the evidence that he brought on record as to his work as a human rights activist, and the newspaper reports which were exhibited by the defence carrying statements of the then DGP Police threatening to take human rights activists to task, which reveal prima facie malice and motive have not been taken into consideration by the Judge, who appears to have considered and relied only upon that interpretation of the evidence that supported the prosecution case without a reasoned consideration of the lacunae and contradictions therein, the objections of the defence and the evidence adduced by Sen, or even the well settled legal principles on which the defence rested its  arguments.

Using the legal provision of sedition as a political instrument

While weaving a narrative of sedition against Binayak Sen and other accused in the case, the Sessions court verdict violates a well laid judicial principle of the Supreme Court in matters of sedition. InKedarnath Singh Vs State of Bihar the Supreme Court has held that the provision of sedition in the Indian Penal Code must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the fundamental freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. In this regard the Supreme Court held that the offence of sedition, which is defined as spreading disaffection against the state, should be considered as having been committed only if the said disaffection is a direct incitement to violence or will lead to serious public disorder. No speech or deed milder than this should be considered seditious. The Sessions court verdict in the case against Binayak Sen and others fails to establish that the words or deeds of the accused were a direct incitement to violence or would lead to serious public disorder. This would be the case even if it was established beyond doubt that Binayak Sen had passed on Narayan Sanyal’s letters to Pijush Guha, or Pijush Guha was likely to pass on these letters to other members of the CPI (Maoist), or that Narayan Sanyal was a politburo member of the CPI (Maoist).


Binayak Sen Case Update

We reproduce this item, sent to us by Prof. Kavita Panjabi. This shows the real face of Operation Green Hunt.


The Binayak Sen Case Update

Five days later, on December 24, the Raipur sessions court will deliver its verdict in the Dr Binayak Sen case. Supriya Sharma in Raipur puts together the legal evidence and arguments by both the prosecution and defence on which the court will base its judgment. 

Over the last week, a battery of lawyers engaged in a marathon summation of evidence and arguments in a two-and-half year long trial, in a small square court room, with three men crammed in the dock. 

One among them was a familiar and famous face — award-winning doctor and civil rights activist Binayak Sen, whose arrest and two year incarceration had triggered headlines and protests. 

The other two — Narayan Sanyal, an old man, in his 70s, allegedly a Maoist ideologue, and Piyush Guha, a 30-year-old Kolkata-based businessman — may not have elicited much attention, remaining peripheral in the public mind, but in the case, they are as central as Sen. 

In fact, the fate of all three men is intertwined since the prime charge they face is conspiracy for war against the state and treason under Section 121A and 124A of the Indian Penal Code, apart from being members of a banned organisation. 

"There can be no direct evidence for conspiracy," contended the special public prosecutor, T C Pandya, as he made a quick wrap up of the accusations levelled by Chhattisgarh government. Binayak Sen met Narayan Sanyal in prison 33 times between May 26 and June 30, 2007, carrying out seditious letters, and passing them to Piyush Guha, who was arrested on May 6, with three of the letters. Sen, Pandya alleged, was part of an effort to establish an urban network of the banned extremist group CPI (Maoist). 

A handwriting expert verified in court that the letters were written by Sanyal. But is there evidence that they were handed over to Sen, or that he passed them onto Guha, or that Guha was indeed found carrying those letters? 

With 'no direct evidence' to present, Pandya piled inferences over circumstances, while Sen's lawyer, advocate Surinder Singh cited a Supreme Court judgement from 2009: "There is no doubt that conviction can be based on circumstantial evidence but in cases where evidence is circumstantial in nature... all facts need to be consistent with hypothesis... and no alternative hypothesis should be possible". 

Do the prosecution's inferences pass this test? Here is a brief wrap up of the prosecution's claims and inferences, and the defence's counter arguments: 

Article 37 

This is a letter purportedly written by the Maoists to Sen, that Pandya claims was seized from his house by the police. In the typewritten letter, the Maoists thank Sen for his work and ask him to take a fact-finding team to Sarguja to probe police atrocities. "It is evident from the letter that Sen was not just in correspondence with Maoists, he even acted on their behalf," said the public prosecutor. But the defence argued the letter was planted by the police. "For a letter sent more than two years ago, it is curiously fresh, without a single fold," said Surinder Singh, Sen's lawyer. 

Besides, he argued, while all other objects found during the search were noted in a seizure memo and corroborated on the spot by signatures of Sen and the investigating officers, just this letter — the most significant of all the seizures — was unsigned. As explanation, the prosecution said it perhaps got stuck to other documents and went unnoticed and unsigned. The prosecutor also claimed: "If the police had to fabricate and plant evidence, they would have planted something more incriminating". 

The Cloth Merchant 

The prosecution produced Anil Kumar Singh, a cloth merchant, as the sole independent witness for Guha's arrest. In court, he testified that he was hailed down by the police on station road on May 6, 2007, where he saw Guha being searched by the police, and the three incriminating letters being found in his bag. He said he even heard Guha confess. But the defence pointed out a contradiction: in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, BBS Rajpoot, the investigating officer, stated that Guha was picked up not from station road but from Mahindra hotel. 

The Hotel Managers 

The prosecution claimed Guha stayed in Mahindra Hotel where Sen visited him. For this, they produced the statements of Rajkumar Namdeo, the manager of the hotel, and Balram Soni, the receptionist. In court, both witnesses turned hostile. 

The Jailors 

"Binayak Sen meet Sanyal 33 times in less than 35 days," underlined the prosecution. The defence responded that Sen visited Sanyal on his brother's request, applying on a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) letterhead each time, and getting clearances by the jail and police officers. "The meetings took place in the jailor's room. Instead of talking in English or Bengali, they stuck to Hindi, so that every word could be heard and understood by the supervising officer. Where does that leave room for conspiracy or passing letters?" contended Singh, Sen's lawyer. Half a dozen jail officials appeared in court and stated that all meetings between Sanyal and Sen were strictly supervised. 

The Landlords 

Much before the meetings in jail, Sen knew Sanyal. He even helped him find a house in Raipur, stated the prosecution. To prove this, they called Deepak Choubey to court. Choubey claimed he let out his father-in-law's house in Daulat Estate to Sanyal on Sen's recommendation. He said he did not realize anything was amiss till January 2006 when he went to collect rent and was told by his neighbour 'Sharma ji' that Andhra Police had swooped down and arrested his tenant in the last days of December. The defence pointed out a contradiction: according to the testimony of a police officer, Sanyal had been arrested not in Raipur, but in Bhadrachalam. 


When a sub-inspector Prakash Soni was kidnapped, the Maoists asked for the withdrawal of CRPF from Maoist areas in return for his release. So did PUCL, claimed Pandya. "This showed PUCL is a hiteshi sangathan or sympathetic front organisation of the Maoists. It is not even a registered body," he said. Even Rupantar, the NGO run by Sen's wife Ilina, was suspect. One of its employee Shankar Singh is a hardcore Naxal who is currently absconding, added Pandya. 

The defence countered: PUCL was founded by the socialist stalwart, Jayaprakash Narayan in the post Emergency years, and has boasted a series of distinguished members, including former Justices V M Tarkunde and Rajinder Sachar. As far as Rupantar goes, there are no cases against Shankar Singh, responded the defence, adding: "the state government is funding Rupantar. Should we presume the state government is funding Naxalites? This is scandalous and defamatory". 


In two postcards seized from Sen's house, he is addressed as 'Comrade Binayak Sen'. In printouts of his computer's records, his wife Ilina Sen writes an email to 'Comrade Kusumlata'. "Comrade ussi ko kehte hai jo Maowadi hai," argued Pandya. Not true, responded the defence, even Communists use the term, it is just a takiyakalaam, a common expression. "It is a citizen's right to embrace Communism," said Singh. (Outside court, Ilina Sen clarified Comrade Kusumlata was Kusumlata Kedia of the Gandhi Institute in Varanasi). 

Jungle Meetings 

Investigating officer BBS Rajpoot claimed to have seen a video recording showing Sen meeting Naxalites inside a forest, but when questioned by the defence whether those Naxalites were armed and uniformed, he could not give a clear answer. The defence has requested the judge to watch the recording. Another police officer claimed Sen had participated in Maoist meetings in the jungle, but on cross examination, conceded it could be hearsay. 

Naxal Literature 

The objects seized from Sen's house included anti-imperialist pamphlets, postcards by jailed Maoists, and the magazine 'People's March', that the prosecution argued established Sen's sympathies for the Maoists, as well as close links. The defence pointed out that People's March was a registered publication. Invoking the freedom of speech and thought, and citing similar cases, Surinder Singh said, "reading Mao's collected speeches does not make someone a Maoist". 

More Letters 

The prosecution produced a letter that PUCL member Shoma Sen wrote to her husband, Tushar Kant Bhattacharya. Arrested in Patna and currently in Hyderabad jail, he was charged with being a Maoist. The letter said: "I am enclosing a small note from Bijoya da from jail, given to Binayak Sen". The prosecution claimed Bijoya Da is an alias for Narayan Sanyal. But the defence said it was instead a name used by Madanlal Barkhade, a jailed Maoist who had posted a note to Sen, complaining about the appalling conditions in the prison. 

As he concluded his brief, Sen's lawyer Surender Singh asked, "Do we not have the right to criticize the government?" He accused the government of "fabricating evidence by hook or crook with the sole motive of crushing Sen's voice", since Sen had been a fierce critic of Salwa Judum, the state supported anti-Maoist movement. 

These are broadly the arguments that sessions court judge B P Varma must take into account when he delivers a verdict in the case on Friday, December 24. 

Amend the Bill for Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

To introduce bills for the protection of women has been a standard device by governments intent on proving how progressive they are. This is nothing new, since even the colonial rulers did this. Yet,from the colonial imperialists to the present, such bills are very often intentionally flawed ones. The "protection" is all too often aimed only at better off sections, or is couched in such language that protection means the women are seen as inferiors. In the case at hand, the proposed bill for the protection of women against sexual harassment at the workplace, the exclusion of domestic workers, the empowerment of district officers in cases where small bodies cannot set up their own committees, and the threat of punishment to be given to the woman if the charge cannot be proved, all add up to silencing all but the most determined and/or more or less privileged women. We therefore endorse the AIDWA statement published below, and urge women's organisations, trade unions, and democratic rights organisations to all take up the issue.

Radical Socialist

AIDWA Press Statement on Bill for Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace.

AIDWA welcomes the introduction in the Lok Sabha of the Bill on the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Work place. This bill has been introduced after a consistent  struggle by  women’s organizations for several years.

However, AIDWA is deeply concerned about certain provisions in the draft. It is unfortunate that “false and malicious complaints” of sexual harassment have been made punishable in the proposed law. This is totally against the Vishaka Judgment which had clearly stated that no action should be taken against a woman for making a complaint. The entire civil law to deal with cases of sexual harassment was meant to be enacted to provide a conducive atmosphere in which women victims could make a complaint, because women employees are usually extremely hesitant to lodge a complaint for fear of reprisal. Our experience of dealing with cases and as members of complaint committees has shown us how accusations of false complaints are routinely made against the women victims. Though mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof has not been made punishable, we feel that this is not good enough. It would be highly improper for the complaints Committee to pronounce judgment on this matter. The fact that she can be proceeded against will hang like a Damocles’ sword over the victim’s head.  AIDWA demands that there should be no such clause in the Bill. Any person who feels that a false complaint has been made against him can always take recourse to the criminal or civil law in this regard relating to defamation etc.
It is also unfortunate that the proposed Bill does not apply to domestic workers. This is despite the fact that the NCW draft had specifically listed domestic work in its scheduled list of unorganized work. Leaving this vulnerable section of women workers out of the purview of this Bill is unacceptable.

The proposed Government Bill lays down that complaint committees with at least 50% women members will be set up in institutions and a local committee will be constituted by a District officer for victims of sexual harassment in very small institutions or in situations where no complaint committee is available. However since the discretion to appoint the committee rests solely with the District officer, it is liable to be exercised in an arbitrary manner. A more transparent procedure should be prescribed under the proposed law.
AIDWA has also always demanded that all recommendations of punishment of the complaint committees to the employers/District officers must be accepted and implemented and no additional inquiries should be initiated.

AIDWA demands that the changes suggested above should be incorporated in the bill and thereafter that the bill be passed without any delay.

Sudha Sundararaman                                                                  Kirti Singh
General Secretary, AIDWA                                                            Legal Convenor, AIDWA

Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace Declaration


*Fourth National Convention on the Tenth Anniversary of*

*Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP)*

* (10 – 12 December 2010)*

The Fourth National Convention of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India, was held from 10th to 12th December 2010 in Delhi. The three earlier conventions were held in Nagpur in February 2008, in Jaipur in November 2004, and in Delhi in November 2000. It may be recalled that the
CNDP was founded to give focus and direction to the anger and concerns that emerged out of the spontaneous nationwide protests against the May 1998 nuclear weapon tests conducted by India and followed by Pakistan. CNDP opposes possession of nuclear weapons by any country including India and is
wholly committed to seeking the complete elimination of the existing stockpile of nuclear weapons at the global as well as regional level. CNDP is also dedicated to championing the cause of world peace by tirelessly striving for general and complete disarmament worldwide. It is an unforgettable fact that the era of nuclear threat began with the mindless atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA on 6thand 9 th August 1945. CNDP has an unwavering duty to propagate the fervent appeal of the Hibakusha (the atomic bomb survivors), which stresses that: *“Such sufferings should never fall on anyone, anywhere in the world! Abolish nuclear weapons now! No More Hiroshimas! No More Nagasakis! No More

* *

We, the assembled delegates at this Fourth Convention of the CNDP, representing the peace movements in India and coming from various corners of the country, reaffirm our conviction in the Nagpur Declaration, the Jaipur Declaration and our Charter of 2000, which states that: *"Nuclear weapons are means of mass destruction regardless of who wields them. They are weapons of genocide. They can impose horrendous suffering on victims across generations. They destroy the ecosystem. The damage they do is lasting and
incurable. The sheer scale and character of the devastation they can cause makes them a profound and distinctive evil. For this and other reasons, the possession, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons is absolutely immoral." * We also with equal stress re-emphasize that: *“the use, threat of use, or
possession of, and even preparation for making, nuclear weapons is immoral, illegal, and politically unacceptable under any circumstances."* Not only that: "nuclear deterrence" is absolutely *"abhorrent to human sentiment since it implies that a state if required to defend its own existence will act with pitiless disregard for the consequences to its own and its adversary's people.''*

Despite much opposition from the peace movements, the rulers of India and Pakistan – two resource-starved countries – persist with their pernicious nuclear weapons programmes, which are a tragic diversion from addressing vital social needs. Although there have been no further nuclear tests since
1998, the continuing test-flights of Agni and Hatf missiles show that the mindless race between them for perfecting nuclear-weapon-tipped missiles goes on unabated.

An alarming recent *development has been the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal. *Earlier, on 01 August 2008, the IAEA had approved the safeguards agreement with India after which the U.S. approached the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver to India to commence civilian nuclear trade. The 45-nation NSG
granted the waiver to India on 06 September 2008 allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries. The implementation of this waiver makes India the only known country with nuclear
weapons, which is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world. The granting of such a waiver to a non-NPT nation shows up yet again the deep hypocrisy of the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) recognized by the NPT on the entire issue.

* *

*The nuclear deal, on the one hand, severely undermines the prospects of global nuclear disarmament by (selectively and arbitrarily) legitimizing India's nuclear status and, in the process, the possession of nuclear
weapons by the existing* NWS* – both so-called “recognized” and “unrecognized” ones – and also the aspirations of other actual and potential aspirants. On the other, it would also further intensify the arms race
between India and Pakistan – both nuclear and conventional. Pakistan, in fact, made a strong plea for a similar deal. And the brusque refusal by the U.S. would only further inflame its passions and thereby turn the dangerous  nuclear mess in South Asia all the more dangerous. Furthermore , the consequent shift in focus in favour of highly expensive nuclear power will significantly distort India's energy options at the cost of efforts to develop environmentally benign and renewable sources of energy. This deal is also an utterly reprehensible move to bring India closer to the U.S. orbit as a regional ally to facilitate execution of its global imperial ambitions. ** **The CNDP remains unwavering in its consistent and high-pitched
opposition to this deal.** *With this deeply disturbing background in mind,
the Fourth Convention of CNDP further resolves as under:

*1. Nuclear Weapons Free Region in South Asia*

*The CNDP, in active collaboration with other peace movements in the South Asian region and the Pakistan Peace Coalition in particular, will work towards a Nuclear Weapons Free Region in South Asia as well as establishing a zone of peace in South Asia. CNDP also calls on the people of Nepal who are in the process of drafting their new constitution to become the first country in the world to constitutionally declare itself as a state free of nuclear weapons. CNDP will similarly attempt to work in whatever way it can, in collaboration with the Pakistan Peace Coalition, towards creating conditions that could help the whole of erstwhile state of Kashmir, both under Indian and Pakistani control, to emerge as a zone of peace. This move is expected to provide a clear focus and strong momentum to the peace movements in the region, reinforce the forces of peace and radically bring down the nuclear danger by working on a concrete and workable action plan. A
regional convention of peace activists from the region will be convened at the earliest convenient time to work out a collective charter.

**II. Global Convention on Nuclear Disarmament***

The CNDP reiterates its commitment to upholding the essence of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s action plan *"Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order”*, which was submitted to the UN General Assembly on 09 June 1988. The CNDP also notes with deep concern the total eclipse from the agenda of the UN of the McCloy-Zorin Accords on nuclear as well as general and complete disarmament, which was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 1961. It is significant that the McCloy-Zorin Accords conformed largely to the formulations submitted in a draft resolution prepared by India and eleven other nations and unanimously adopted by the UNGA on 15 November 1960. However, it is most disheartening to note that even 50 years later, the very nations that unanimously adopted these far-reaching resolutions have refused to initiate any significant step in the direction of nuclear disarmament, let alone general and complete disarmament. Therefore, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the McCloy-Zorin Accord, the CNDP urges the global peace movements to join the CNDP in appealing to the people of all nations to exert pressure on their respective governments to support the call for a global Nuclear Weapons [Abolition] Convention. Such a path-breaking event could be the initial step towards reaching the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament worldwide. As human survival will be greatly imperiled by large-scale use of nuclear weapons also because of catastrophic climatic effects convening of such a convention has become extremely urgent.

The projected global disarmament convention would chart out a clear and unambiguous road-map towards universal, complete, verifiable and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament within a defined time-frame. This would also entail all NWS – declared and undeclared, to immediately commence progressively lowering down the operating statuses of their nuclear weapons (de-alerting), commit them to a “no-use” or at least a "no-first-strike" pledge, and also to provide negative security assurance to all non-nuclear
weapon states (NNWS).  Furthermore, the NWS would have to continue with the moratorium/ ban on all types of nuclear tests, freeze all programmes for development and production of upgraded nuclear warheads and delivery/interception systems, freeze production of fissile materials, and  credibly commit to such other measures in consonance with the goal of nuclear disarmament. NNWS could make similar relevant commitments. CNDP will proactively coordinate with all sections of global peace movements and
unwaveringly work towards this goal.

* *

*III. Intensification of Struggles against Ignoring Safety and Hazardous Impact of Nuclear Power *

*The clinching of the Indo-US nuclear deal has radically fired up the fantasies of the Indian nuclear establishment, which remains undeterred by its appalling past performance in terms of power production and safety records. It is all set to embark upon a very ambitious plan of setting up mega nuclear plants dotting the entire coastal belt and expanding uranium mining in Jharkhand and also to Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Rajasthan criminally unmindful of severely traumatic social and potentially disastrous ecological impacts and disregarding international safety standards. The CNDP, in keeping with its consistent track record and the mandates of its founding Charter, will actively collaborate with the grassroots people's movements to resist such mindless moves – singularly lacking in transparency and
democratic accountability, and provide all necessary and possible assistances in this regard while unequivocally condemning state repression against such peoples’ protests.

*IV. Demand for End of U.S. Occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, Just Resolution of the Palestine Issue to Ensure Global Peace and Facilitate Nuclear Disarmament** *

The U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are vital components of the grand project known as the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The continuing U.S. support for the apartheid Zionist regime of Israel and its inhuman oppression of the Palestinian people is just another facet of this ugly venture. Consistent with the goal of global nuclear disarmament, the CNDP demands immediate withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. The CNDP also expresses its wholehearted solidarity with the
legitimate struggles of the Palestinian people for an independent state of Palestine, for right of return to their homeland, and against Zionist occupation of their land. The CNDP consequently commits itself to actively associate, in all possible manner, with all global, regional and local movements seeking justice to achieve these goals.

*V. Other Related Issues*

The CNDP clearly recognises that the spurts in national-chauvinist, majoritarian and militarist ideologies and political practices under whatever political banner, and the state at times playing a role of an active facilitator, by their very nature pose a major threat to anti-nuclear peace movements in India. The CNDP hence rededicates itself to fight all these pernicious tendencies in all its manifestations in collaboration with other forces fighting for a just, peaceful and harmonious order. Consistent with its core values, the CNDP reiterates its demand that Indo-Pak peace process be accelerated. It also demands easing of travel restrictions all over the SAARC region to promote friendship between peoples. It furthermore demands 10% progressive cuts in the so-called "defence" budgets of all the countries in the region. While roundly condemning all acts of terrorism, the CNDP is also opposed to the manipulation of the terrorism discourse to justify attack on democratic rights and suppression of democratic struggles. The urgent need for freezing and reducing the runaway senseless global military expenditure and controlling and eliminating the insidious global arms trade are the other continuing imperatives. The CNDP commits itself to
ally itself with all global and regional efforts towards achieving these goals.