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Modi will uphold democracy, so please do not oppose him unless you want to be arrested

Modi will uphold democracy, so please do not oppose him unless you want to be arrested


Kunal Chattopadhyay


Narendra Modi has many admirers. They see him as the upholder of development, dignity, Hindutva, so many different things. And they are unwilling to hear any criticism of Modi. Anyone criticising Modi is berated as a pseudo-secular, a supporter of the corruption of the Congress, a leftist who is perceived as a defender of the worst tyrannies of the Stalin era. Avbove all they are opponents of democracy and defenders of dynasty raj, according to the binary vision that is attempted to be imposed. And foremost among these Modi-lovers is not Swapan Dasgupta, or Arnab Goswami, or any other media figure, but Narendra Modi himself. And therefore, Modi, through his police, has struck at those who would dare to question development, dignity, Gujarat’s pride, Hindutva’s ascent. These people are horrible. But who are they? And why this anger of Modi?

Narendra Modi has been spending the money of the Gujarat government in massive adver4tisemnts all over India, in newspapers and in TV channels, highlighting the even more massive statue of Sardar Patel. The BJP –RSs has a fascist agenda, as we have been arguing for a long time. But in order to win power, merely sectarian politics cannot suffice. So they want to appropriate as much of Indian nationalism as is possible. Given that their direct rival for governmental position is the Congress (I),  they are on one hand trying to run down the Congress as a Nehru-Gandhi family affair, (along with other types of attacks on it) and at the same time seeking to appropriate whatever element of nationalism they can from the congress. This is particularly important for them, because in the pre-independence period, the RSS had a sorry role in the freedom movement, and therefore needs to clothe itself somehow whenever presenting its nationalist face. This is where Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel presents such a useful alternative (though, as we will see, a little flawed). Sardar Patel was a Gujarati. For the chief minister of Gujarat, who is trying to project himself as an all india figure vbased on his real or alleged achievements in Gujarat, the Patel legacy is useful. He cannot fall back upon the other illustrious Gujarati, for by no stretch of imagination can the RSS show Mohandas Gandhi in its pantheon. Patel was a traditional conservative. But Patel was also a staunch nationalist who used every means at his disposal to incorporate all erstwhile princely states in India, and who as Home Minister used ruthless force to put down left wing militancy, in Telangana as well as elsewhere. Patel, unlike Nehru, had never toyed with socialistic phrases. Patel had been a firm anti-communist who as Union Home Minister tried to take steps to curb all the radical left parties.  Even earlier, it was Patel, who controlled the Congress organisation in the 1930s, who had been instrumental in ensuring that while the left carried the burden of left of centre campaigns for the elections of 1937, the candidates would be quite right of centre, and the Congress governments at the provinces would be committed to capitalists and landlords. While this does not turn Nehru into a socialist, this does stress that the free-market right wing economic aspect of the BJP agenda, along with its utmost hostility to any idea of the working class as a class, makes it possible to appropriate Patel in a way that it cannot appropriate Nehru.

The flaw in all this is, as a Union Home Minister, Patel also displayed a rightwing, but non-communal nationalism, and he was to ban the RSS immediately after the murder of Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, an RSS member who had dropped his membership not out of principled change of heart, but because he did not want  to get the RSS involved directly in his activities.

Nonetheless, as we show above, when the BJP is seeking to win over the centre-right support base from the Congress, appropriating Patel is a sound tactical effort.

And so, Narendra Modi has been involved over the past three years in having built, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, a massive statue of Patel. There will be a 597 feet high statue, which is to be far bigger than the Statue of Liberty. The proposal is for a project involving a bridge connecting the statue on Sadhu island to the bank of the Narmada river, a memorial, visitor centre buildings, a memorial garden, a hotel, a convention centre, an amusement park, research centres and institutes. The total cost is currently estimated to be Rs 2500 crores (US $ 406.5 million). To understand the meaning of this figure we will cite just a couple more figures – Gujarat’s budget for 2013-14 shows a revenue surplus of Rs 4602 crores, while the allocation for labour and employment is Rs. 841 crores.

The problem with all this all-India, possibly global drum beating of Modi, where he is virtually seeking to put up his own statue under the shadow of the Sardar, is the opposition by locals. Villagers of Kevadia and a number of other nearby places wewre bitterly opposed to all this. Activists of Radical Socialist, trade unionists, environmental activists, and local people, have pointed out that the Kevadia Area Development Authority, a body under the government of Gujarat, had clearly projected plans to turn the place into a tourist spot. In order to do so, Sarpanches of 52 villages got letters from the KADA that they should agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else face consequences.

This is an area where six villages had been compelled to hand over their land back in the early 1960s for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House. Only recently, a few days back, Modi agreed to some of their demands, as a result of adverse publicity at a time when he was trying to showcase the Statue of Unity. Till then, these villagers were not even treated as project affected people.

Building the Statue and the project that goes along with it will deprive trival people from land, livelihood, and forest. As a result, they have been fighting Modi for a considerable time. It had been declared that today, Sardar Patel’s birthday, which Modi is seeking to appropriate by inaugurating the statue, would be observed by many such protestors in a peaceful manner. They were going to organise a day long hunger strike, after having given public notice, in a private place, not even in a public space.
 
But to stop even this, raids have been carried out on the evening of 30th October. Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatt, and Sudhir Binniwale, who are widely known radical activists of Gujarat, were travelling from Vadodara to Rajpipla. They were apprehended at Rajpipla and forcibly confined in a house without any reason being given. It has further been reported that a significant number of people have been arrested from at least seven villages. The full list of the names of the arrested is not known. However, this includes Lakhan Musafir, Dhirendra Soneji, Dipen Desai, Rameshbhai Tadvi from Indravarna village, Shaileshbai Tadvi from Vagadia village, Vikrambhai Tadvi from Kevadia.

We appeal to all socialist and democratic organisations, to protest the entire project, to support the right of adivasis to land, forest and livelihood, and to support democratic right to protest.

Please send your protests to
The Governor, Gujarat
Fax No . 079-232 31121
  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Chief Minister of Gujarat
Fax : +91 - 79 – 23222101
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Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please forward your protest mails or faxes to
Rohit Prajapati: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
and
Radical Socialist : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ten Months after Delhi: Continue fighting the Rape Culture through Independent Mobilisations, Resist the Unrelenting Sexual Violence on Women in West Bengal and Everywhere in India

Ten Months after Delhi: Continue fighting the Rape Culture through Independent Mobilisations, Resist the Unrelenting Sexual Violence on Women in West Bengal and Everywhere in India


Statement of Radical Socialist


For the Government of India, only Delhi matters, whether it is the rape of women or the price of onions. So after having sent its managers to handle the negative fall-out of the Delhi case, it has been pretending that all is now well in India.  The reality is that its handling has been narrowly political, interested only in what it perceives as immediate gains. In province after province, and indeed even in Delhi, the reality is different.

In West Bengal, the cases of sexual violence are massive indeed. Three women/girls raped within four days. In Madhyamgram a young woman gang-raped twice, the second time after she had lodged a complaint with the police. The police have gone on record, questioning whether a gang-rape had really happened a second time. In the Rajarhat case, the hospital trainee nurse or attendant (reports differ) was attacked inside a shuttle car, rendered unconscious, and taken to a house in the Sonagachhi area, where she has been gang-raped, according to the police FIR. In Burdwan, a young woman who had gone for a tuition was missing, till her disrobed dead body was found several days later. In  Malda, a ticket checker was arrested by the police for sexual violence against the wife of an army officer travelling in an air conditioned coach. Just under fifty cases of rape reported, not committed but only those reported, in West Bengal in the last sixty days. And a retired police officer goes on television, asserting that rape is not a preventable crime, since the police cannot be expected to know in advance when a woman is going to be attacked and raped.

The TMC government has been now in power for over two years, and it can no longer try and hide behind the over-used excuse of the years of CPI(M) misrule. So what the continuing violence on women show is of great significance.

In the first place, this shows that the criminally irresponsible stance of the Chief Minister and other Ministers and TMC leaders have emboldened rapists. The Park Street rape survivor, despite her strength and perseverance, is still waiting for justice since February 2012, while the main accused is still absconding.......so are the survivors of Katwa, Barasat, Katwa, Falta, Gurap, Santragachhi, Park Circus and other places throughout the province. In Kamduni, threats, constant pressure, and economic hardship have made the retention of solidarity difficult. And so, as protests die down or as the news channels feel that there is no longer much TRP to be milked out of these cases, and therefore report the continuing protests less and less, rapists are emboldened.

In the second place, the developments show that administrations and rulers have no wish to learn from past experiences. For them, rape remains simply a “law and order” problem. One still gets comments about the times when a woman should and should not go out, the issue of whether a single woman should move around at certain times, and worse. On the TV channel 24 Ghanta, an ex-cop defended the police, saying that the police face political pressure. He also argued that police do not have adequate infrastructure, and that is why they cannot tackle rape cases.

The third important point to note is, this has, in a way, started putting paid to all those who were arguing that all the elaborate arguments of the Verma Committee were marginal, and the main thing was to hang a few of the rapists. The trial of the Delhi Rape Case of 16 December was pushed through with a swiftness unheard of in the Indian judicial process, and all the adult criminals were not only convicted by the trial court, but given the death penalty. This has done absolutely nothing to prevent further cases of rape.

Rape is preventable. But prevention of rape requires a sustained political battle. No bourgeois party, nor most mainstream left parties, are willing to take on patriarchy, which is the social-cultural-ideological fountainhead of rape. Whether the BJP, or the TMC, or the Congress, have we not heard them describe the woman, ask questions about her morality, her dress, the legitimacy of her actions, in rape case after rape case? [This is of course quite apart from the political rapes on communal and caste grounds, whether in the Delhi riots of 1984, or Gujarat 2002]. Prevention of rape requires forcing the police to take every rape case, every rape complaint seriously. If rape survivors can be assaulted immediately after they dare to protest, or if people can be assaulted and abducted while travelling from or to work, then even the law and order approach has utterly failed. And by casting aspersion on the woman, the police are certainly aiding and abetting rapists who will use the threat of repeat rapes to silence victims.

To prevent rape, to force major changes in police and administrative functioning, we need a sustained battle. This calls for struggles on several levels.

First, we need a stringent implementation of law even more than law reform and the sensitisation of all arms of the state apparatus. To merely have some women’s cells of the police, or to create some all-women police stations, will do very little, as long as the bulk of the police force believes that it is legitimate to start by doubting the claim of rape, or as long as the government can think that the response to rape can be to offer compensation or Kanyashree scheme of providing scholarships to poor girl students. In the absence of security and adequate transport facilities the girl students will either face relentless sexual harassment and violence or their family will prevent them for pursuing their studies and marry them off.  As long as police, or even sections of the legal profession or the judiciary remain steeped in sexist values or patriarchal beliefs, rape will not be treated by them as a systemic issue.

An ultra-left position would say, there is no point in raising these demands within the bourgeois system at all. We disagree, because it is by fighting for concrete reforms, whether or not all of them are achieved here and now, that we can develop political consciousness, as well as a clearer picture of the kind of society we are fighting for. It is by fighting for the right of all men and women to work, to have the right to go to work without being under threat, that we can put something like the Rajarhat rape case, mentioned above, in the proper context. And while we believe that the police, the judiciary, are all parts of the bourgeois state, revolutionaries also need to understand that unless we integrate the struggle against patriarchy in our everyday struggles, it cannot become a part of the revolutionary programme. At the same time, we need to take special note of the class approach of the police and fight it. In the Malda case, they acted promptly, because the woman involved was the wife of an army officer, and was travelling upper class. In Madhyamgram, the woman is the daughter of a taxi driver, so her claim of being gang raped a second time can be safely deried by the Superintendent of police.

Second, we need therefore to build broad fronts of struggle. All women’s rights organisations, all democratic right organisations, trade unions, peasant organisations, student organisations, as well as political organisations of the radical left need to unite on a non-sectarian basis for wide and sustained mobilisations. The demand for exclusions should be treated carefully here. We agree that there can be no question of giving a clean chit to the previous regime. But the central goal of the struggle should be based on concrete demands, rather than on making lists of who to include and who to exclude from rallies, or other forms of protests.

We demand:
·    Immediate implementation of the Verma Committee Report by the Government of India
·    Abolition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and stern action against all cases of rape/sexual violence in custody.
·    That the state must provide security to everyone living in India at all times, in all places not just citizens.
·    The Government of West Bengal, especially the Home ministry, must ensure that:
·    Every rape complaint is immediately followed by a proper FIR
·    Rape survivors are given protection as well as the necessary medical and legal assistance
·    The police take proper action all the way to filing charge-sheet, starting a case, and getting convictions.
·    No to “compensation”. Provide trauma therapy instead.
·    Punish the Officer in Charge as well as the Duty Officer of any Police Station that does not follow proper procedure as laid down in several legal documents in handling rape cases.
·    Ensure that police are informed and trained in handling cases relating to women with disabilities.
·    No to political rapes
·    No to rape culture


Kolkata , 29.10.2013

Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Laboratory of Fascism: Capital, Labour and Environment in Modi’s Gujarat

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah[1]

We are caught in a false debate in which the reality is presented in an erroneous perception. Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of 2002 carnage is counter posed with Mr. Modi the “development leader”. We call it a false debate, since for us, who have lived and grown in Gujarat over the past five decades the two aspects are actually the same – that of fascist. And we use the label of fascist for Modi with utmost seriousness and with full awareness of what the term involves. Of course, we have a different situation in India today, compared to Italy or Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Then, bourgeois parliamentary democracy was not too deep-rooted in those countries. By contrast, despite the efforts of Maoists on the extreme left and fascists on the extreme right, parliamentary democracy has struck considerably greater roots. This has had implications for the far left as well as the far right. Our concern today is the far right.

Since the Sangh Parivar has been consigned by fate to operate within ‘bourgeois democracy’ for a far longer time than it had originally envisaged (in 1947-48 it had clearly planned for a fairly swift grab for power, creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ analogous to Jinnah’s plan for a ‘Islamic State’), it has been compelled to split its operations. The BJP, as the electoral arm, has to look “moderate”. Of course, it is “moderate” only if one argues that a hyena is moderate compared to a wolf-pack. One should remember that the Mr. L. K. Advani, hailed these days as a “Statesman”, was seen as aggressive as against the “moderate” Mr. Vajpayee back in 1989-1992.

So the issue is not as if there is a “fascist tendency” in the Sangh Parivar, but also a “developmental discourse”. The issue is, how is the fascism of the Sangh Parivar going to be utilised for capital? This is where the ‘Modi model’ is crucial. It is Gujarat, a rapidly industrialising province that is showing, in a small way, what the Sangh Parivar is willing to do for capital.

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

It is a shocking fact that we have never tried to arrive at even a realistic estimate of these figures but the magnitude of the loss can be guessed from some of the facts emerging from various important research works. This is just a tip of iceberg.

What the Government data shows:

In order to forestall charges that we are using tendentious data, we propose to build our case by using, in the main, data released by government sources, or data not repudiated by the regime.

The Gujarat Government claims that it has generated vast numbers of jobs. This is the first thing we wanted to investigate. Activists of the Gujarat based Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, an independent militant trade union, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Rohit Prajapati, in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action chose a close scrutiny of Government of Gujarat’s latest “Employment Effort”, the “Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week” in February/March 2012 as an instance[2]. In response to our RTI application, the Gujarat Government told us that spread over months, 489 melas were organised, and 65,000 youth were given employment through the ‘Rojgar Melas’.

In April 2012, we filed a detailed RTI application to the Chief Minister's Office of Gujarat (CMO) and Principal Secretary, Labour and Employment department, Gujarat seeking details on 18 counts.

Instead of getting collated data from the CMO or the Principal Secretary, Gujarat Labour and Employment Department, which would have given a state-wide comprehensive picture, we started getting fragmented replies from each of the ‘District Employment and Training Department' across the state.

The Employment and Training Departments in the districts were not in sync with each other, as some provided statistics in their replies of the district employment or data to some of the queries, while some did not, without giving any satisfactory reason.

Instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided based on information given by the authorities in 23 districts, totals only to 51,587. Out of that 11,172 are apprentices (30.4%). i.e. the actual figure is 40,415 and not even 51,587. But, the names of only 32,372 were provided to us.

We had sought specific information on what post, what pay and which industry and if each of them provided 'employment' in this “Rozgar Mela” would be entitled to benefits under labour and other statutory laws.

Again, we received no categorical reply about entitlement of benefits, saying the information would be best available with the concern employers. While some gave details about post employed, the employer’s name, none gave details about the pay and other legal benefits they will get.

Collating all the information, we got some important facts. Nobody had been given an ‘Appointment Letter’. What they got was a piece of paper called ‘Employment letter’, which is bad in law. Secondly, the total amount spent for these melas came to Rs 1, 87, 70,000 according to the Department of Employment and Training. This excluded the money spent on the participation of the ministers - including the Chief Minister - in these melas. The Department of Employment and Training categorically told us that it had not spent money for their participation. This money therefore came from other sources.

Thus, we get a picture that some 32,000 to 40,000 (at best) got some sort of unspecified jobs, while another 11,000 odd got apprenticeships. In Ahmedabad, 4,370 were recruited but all as apprentices. The Apprentice Act, 1961[3] under which the employers of certain factories have to recruit certain number of apprentice in their factories clearly states that they are not employees of the factories and therefore they are provided with no legal benefits but only stipend of Rs.1,490 for the 1st year, 1,700 for the 2nd year, and 1,970 for the 3rd year. In the other cases, where people did get actual jobs, those were mostly temporary in nature.

Thus, the ‘employment’ given ranged from apprenticeship to private sector employment for temporary jobs, with very few being skilled workers. The state was using its finances and officers to procure low paid workers for private capital, for example the GIDCs[4].

We leave out the fraudulent information given by the state, not because we forgive the fraud, but because that is not central to our present arguments. It is however important to note that many names have been put more than once to pump up the figures, and also that people who got jobs on their own and were already in job have found their names listed as beneficiaries of Mr. Modi. What is vital, however, is that most of the workers we could actually contact and interview stated they have low wages, high working hours (in some cases even 12 hours per day). Most of them do not get any other legal benefits like Provident Fund or leave except weekly leave.

In Anand district, 2,464 candidates were provided jobs by the Employment and Training Department. The list of Anand District shows that 621 (25.21%) graduate/post graduate/MA-B.Ed/PGDCA were given job as School Coordinator. They were promised the salary of Rs 4,500-5,000/month but they received only Rs. 3,100-3,500/month. This is less than the statutory minimum wage! With some of them, an 11 years contract was signed but they were relieved after 10-11 months.

The central picture that emerges from the foregoing is, the rhetoric of Mr. Modi is belied by the reality that his government is driving down state expenses and also the expenses on wages by private employers, using force and fraud.

Environment and Industry in Gujarat:

The Gujarat Government has charted out its roadmap clearly. It wants to take over peasants’ land at low cost, it wants to ensure that workers are paid low wages, and it will do its best to ensure that industrialisation does not confront 'stupid' hurdles like labour rights and environment protection. The then Finance Minister of Gujarat Mr. Vajubhai Vala while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’  on January 11, 2011 said  that “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.”[5] He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them.[6]

Thus, it is evident that for the Gujarat government, toiling people of any kind do not matter.

Modi's hymn singers, and today they are increasing, as so many among the privileged think they should take the “right” side before it is too late for them to get a fair share of the gravy. They will therefore contest our claims, accusing us of at least overstating our case. We will therefore make the case in further details.

GDPise Chemical State - Gujarat State does not have Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan:

Gujarat is the only state where all registered chemical factories have been identified and categorized in various hazard classes, by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health considering their hazard potential.[7] Major Accident Hazard (MAH) factories are identified as per standard norms of related laws. Gujarat state has the highest total 497 MAH Class factories which amounts 30 % of MAH factories in India. At present, 3204 ‘B’ +’C’ class hazardous chemical factories are identified in the state. Gujarat is having a total 30,310 factories registered under the Factories Act (employing directly 940567 Workers) out of which total 4,559 (15%) are hazardous chemical factories.[8]

Over a period of time, Gujarat has also succeeded in widening its industrial base. At the time of inception in 1960, the industrial development was confined only to four major cities viz. Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat and Rajkot and some isolated locations such as Mithapur and Valsad. Today, almost all the districts of the state have witnessed industrial development in varying degrees. Such a massive scale of industrial development has been possible on account of haphazard and severe exploitation of natural resources. The discovery of oil and gas in Gujarat in the decade of 1960s has played an important role in setting up of petroleum refineries, fertilizer plants and petrochemical complexes. During the same period, the state government has also established a strong institutional network. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), established industrial estates providing developed plots and ready built-up sheds to industries all across the state. Institutions were also set up to provide term finance, assistance for purchase of raw materials, plant and equipment and marketing of products. Later, District Industries Centers (DICs) were set up in all the districts to provide assistance in setting up industrial units in the form of support services. The state also developed infrastructure facilities required for industries, such as power, roads, ports, water supply and technical education institutions. The Government also introduced incentive schemes, from time to time, to promote industries. All these initiatives have made Gujarat emerge as the highly industrialized state in the country today.

Gujarat contributes more than 62% of national petrochemicals and 51% of national Chemical sector output. It leads all states in India in terms of the investments committed in the chemical and petrochemical sector. 30% of fixed capital investment is in the manufacturing of Chemical and Chemical Products. Manufacturing of chemicals and chemical products contribute to around one fifth of the total employment in state. The production capacity of major suppliers of polymers, PE/PP/PVC in Gujarat is nearly 70% of the whole country’s production. The province also has large quantity of production of basic chemicals like caustic soda, caustic potash and chloromethane. It is the largest supplier of bio-fertilizers, seeds, urea and other fertilizers.[9]

But the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), it seems, doesn't think that chemical industries have potential to cause chemical disasters in the state. Despite the Bhopal gas tragedy that took place 28 years ago, which killed at least ten thousand persons and resulted in about 500,000 more people suffering agonizing injuries with disastrous effects of the massive poisoning[10], the Gujarat government doesn't seem to have learnt anything. Replying to one of our Right to Information Application (RTI) about Chemical Emergency Plan of the Gujarat state the GSDMA stated in their replies that “A Chemical Emergency Plan is currently under consideration at the Disaster Management Authority.”[11] GSDMA further stated in their replies “In reference to your above mentioned letter where information like numbers and names of the chemical industries, chemical used, final product, pollutant generated and its impact, also information about engineered landfill site - treatment storage and disposal facility, effluent treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, etc. have been sought by you, we would like to inform you that the requested information is not available with this office.”[12]

The 'Honourable' Chief Minister is the chairman of the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority and the same authority has to implement ‘The Gujarat State Disaster Management Act, 2003. The Act clearly under clause 2(h) states that “disaster”  means an  actual or imminent  event, whether natural or otherwise  occurring in any part of the State which causes, or threatens to cause  all or any of  the following: (i)  widespread loss or damage to property, both immovable and movable; or (ii)  widespread loss of human life or injury or illness to human beings; or (iii)  damage or degradation of  environment;’[13] but the web site of Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority states ‘The GSDMA has been constituted by the Government of Gujarat by the GAD’s Resolution dated 8th February 2001. The Authority has been created as a permanent arrangement to handle the natural calamities.’[14] What about environmental disasters? There is no ‘Comprehensive Chemical Emergency Plan’ with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority. The Director, Health & Safety Department has an ‘Off Site Emergency Plan;’ but when we demanded a copy of it, we were told that it is secret.[15] A chemical emergency plan is not among the priorities in Gujarat, a state with one of the country’s highest concentration of chemical industries.

The Cases of Critically Polluted Area - Vapi and Ankleshwar:

This is another first for Gujarat, though this finds no mention in Gujarat chief minster’s speeches.

In 2009, the Ankleshwar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI[16], topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India.

In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list.

Thus Gujarat is able to top in 2009 in ‘critically polluted areas’ in India and continues to maintain its position in 2011 & 2013.

The Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi who is the BJP’s PM-designate does not comment or engages ever on this issue. We, the concerned citizens challenge him for an open discussion on this issue.

Mr. Narendra Modi in his book ‘Convenient Action: Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change’ published in 2011, on p. 132-133, has printed a photograph of Vapi’s Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) which even today does not operate as per the prescribed norms of Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). When the CETP of Vapi industrial area is not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms, what message does the CM want to convey to the country and the world by printing a two page photograph of this treatment plant? On this issue we have posed several questions to him in our review of his book but he has been unable to answer a single question.[17]

The constant advocacy by the pollution affected people and people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana etc. were declared ‘critically polluted’.

Thereafter, in several meetings of CPCB and SPCBs serious debates on the pollution status of these areas were undertaken. Even after formulation of ‘action plans’ for the said industrial area no substantial or qualitative change was observed in these industrial areas. For this reason, in 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.

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

In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial estates was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted areas’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted’ areas. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was also forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas. At that time, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and other environment protection groups had asked for a moratorium on all the 75 (43+32) polluting areas, but it was not done under pressure from the powerful industrial lobby and state governments. The mucky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ prevailed over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation.

As such the process of declaring moratorium was started from Ankleshwar in Gujarat in 2007. The industries located in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates treat their effluent in their Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and then, after giving further treatment ‘at the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) at Ankleshwar discharge the effluent into the sea. The FETP, from its inception, did not work as per the prescribed norms set by the GPCB. Even today it is not able to meet the prescribed norm. For this reason, on July 7, 2007, GPCB, on the directions of the CPCB, imposed a moratorium on the industrial areas of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia. The moratorium is in force even today, since there has been no substantial improvement in the pollution levels even after the implementation of the so-called ‘action plans’ prepared by these estates. The same plant’s disposal pipe line’s project was inaugurated by Narendra Modi on January 25, 2007. By inaugurating this plant, he was sending out the message to the investors to not to worry much about the compliance/s of environment laws in the state. Despite this moratorium being in force officially, the active connivance of the industrial lobby with the collusion of politicians along with the official machinery in Gujarat has surreptitiously lifted the moratorium from some area at different times.

Despite the “Polluter Pays” principle, common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) were highly supported by public money; 25% of the cost was state subsidy, 25% central subsidy, 30% loans from financial institute, and only 20% was directly paid by industries. In essence, half of the ’supposed’ solution to the pollution generated for private profit, was funded by the general public. As if this subsidy was not enough, the subsidy for the CETP has been increased from 25% to 50% by the Central Government.

The pipe line project of Final Effluent Treatment Plant of Ankleshwar was built with the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs. 131.43 crores, the industries paid only Rs. 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs. 109 crores) was borne by the Central Government, the Gujarat Government, and the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) - all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by general public. Can we find a better example of the privatisation of profits and the socialisation of the costs, burdens and hazards?

With no improvement in the levels of pollution being shown by the CEPI of the CPCB, the MoEF again, through its order of September 17, 2013 re-imposed a moratorium for some industrial areas.[18] However, surprisingly the same order also lifted the moratorium from some polluted areas in the name of ‘promises, presumption and assumption’ of improvement.[19] However, in our opinion the moratorium ought not to be lifted until these units bring down their CEPI to below 60.

In Gujarat, the GPCB has served repeated closure notices to several industries, which have been openly flouting environmental norms. However, the CPCB report of April 2013 has revealed no significant change in these industrial areas. Strict action needs to be taken against such industries and their ‘treatment facilities’. The CPCB report of 2009 covered 88 industrial estates, but the reports of 2011 and 2013 covered only 43 ‘critically-polluted areas’. In our opinion, the CEPI of all 88 areas should be conducted by the MoEF, CPCB and SPCBs. Other areas should also be included if the residents so wish.

Moratorium continues
    

Moratorium lifted
    

Moratorium re-imposed after having been lifted

Ankleshwar – Gujarat
    

Bhiwadi – Rajasthan
    

Vapi – Gujarat (CEPI - 85.31)

Chandrapur – Maharashtra
    

Dhanbad – Jharkhand
    

Gaziabad – UP (CEPI - 84.30)

Pali - Rajeshthan
    

Manali – Tamil Nadu
    

Singrauli – UP (CEPI - 83.24)

Vatva - Gujarat
    

Ahmedabad – Gujarat
    

Panipat – Haryana (CEPI - 81.27)

Vellore – Tamil Nadu
    

Korba – Chhatisgadh
    

Indore – MP (CEPI - 78.75)

Najafgarh – Delhi
    

Asansol, Haldia and Howrah – W. Bengal
    

Pattancheru-Bellaram – Andhra Pradesh (CEPI - 76.05)

Jodhpur – Rajasthan
    

Vishakhapatnam – Andhra Pradesh
    

Ludhiana – Punjab (CEPI - 75.72)

 
    

Kanpur – Uttar Pradesh
    

Jharsugoda – Orissa (CEPI - 73.31)

 

The mega-star Amitabh Bachhan - the brand ambassador for tourism of Gujarat - with his welcome speech, “Come and spends some days in these areas of Gujarat’’ is never heard welcoming anyone in these polluted areas.

Modi is neither uttering single word on these issues nor is he ready for any kind of dialogue or debate on this issue.

Struggle against proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant:

At Mithi Virdi, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, the Central Government, with full cooperation of the state government, is seeking to build a 6000 MW Nuclear Power Plant. Thousands of villagers are up in arms, protesting this with the slogan ‘Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world’­. The Government of Modi is perfectly aware, that Mr. Manmohan Singh is trying to dilute the Nuclear Liability Act even further, so that private profits are safeguarded even as Fukushima exemplified all over again how risky N-plants are.

Indeed, Mr. Modi is not merely silent. The agencies of the Gujarat government, in this matter, are working hand in glove with the centre. As The Hindu reported in August, CRZ clearance has been given in a remarkably slipshod way. During and before the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) for the proposed Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), villagers, local Panchayats and organisations like Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti have brought to the notice of the authorities that Engineer India Limited (EIL), the consultant of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) does not have necessary accreditations to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) for a NPP. However, in an instance of utter disregard and disrespect to the Environmental Law and the Constitution of India, NPCIL and EIL went ahead with the EIA study and the collector tried to go ahead with the illegal Public Hearing in March 2013.

On March 5, 2013, on the day of Public Hearing more than 6500 villagers, local Panchayats and Voluntary Organisation raised certain basic legal issues and sought clarification from the Chairman of the Public hearing, the then collector of Bhavnagar Mr. V. P. Patel. He had no answers to the important questions raised by them but instead tried to go ahead with the illegal hearing. The villagers were left with no choice but to walkout from the illegal, unconstitutional public hearing.

The EPH was held in a coercive and terror-filled atmosphere, in order to prevent the villagers from making free and fair representation. Not only a heavy posse of police force but also private security guards were hired at the EPH site, frisking and checking every entrant, and at places questioning villagers and participants about their antecedents. Unnecessary barricades and iron wire fencing separated the collector’s dais and the participants area, a first ever arrangement during the EPH in recent times in Gujarat. While the barricades and iron wire-fencing might have been put for “the safety and security” of the collector and officials, they created an atmosphere of coercive tactics that invoked state control and fear over the proceedings of grave public concern.

The collector allowed songs and recordings in favour of the NPCIL and benefits of nuclear power plant to be broadcast from the public address system arranged by the collectorate. These recordings continued to be played till the EPH proceedings began formally. This was a clear violation of the neutral approach that the collector should have taken on the issue and instead made clear his predisposition on behalf of the NPCIL. On the contrary, the villagers were not only prevented from making free and fair representation; their representations on procedural issues were also ignored during the EPH.

There were at least thirty odd people sitting on dais on both the sides of district collector during the EPH, whose presence and background went unaccounted with no one introduced or briefed about who they were and in what capacity they sat there. The villagers and their elected representatives on the other hand got no such chance and instead were frequently frisked and subjected to irritating queries.

The NPCIL and EIL has since then continued to resort to the illegal practices by keeping silence on the issues raised by the villagers. This is evident from its application and presentations for Costal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance to the authorities in Gujarat without submitting adequate documents and information.

Members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Krishnakant, Swati Desai, and Rohit Prajapati, environmental activists in Gujarat, wrote letters to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), alleging that the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance by the State Government was without any site visits and documentation of ground realities.

On June 11, 2013, while giving the so-called CRZ clearance/ recommendation for CRZ clearance to the NPP,  the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) stated that “The Authority deliberated the proposal of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and after detailed discussion, the Authority decided to recommend to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to grant CRZ clearance for construction of intake, outfall facilities, jetty and Desalination plant at Village: Mithi Virdi, Dist: Bhavnagar by M/S Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, only after submission of the following details to this Department : 1. Detailed note regarding the safety aspects and site selection criteria along with its advantage for this site and submit to this Department. 2. A site visit should be carried out by GCZMA Member.”

This clearly means that the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authorities is not serious about the CRZ clearance because they have casually given this clearance/recommendation for CRZ clearance without asking for and reading the note on safety aspects, site clearance report and without undertaking the site visit. GCZMA has also not taken in account the basics, for instance eventualities like population increase in the immediate vicinity of the proposed plant. What the CRZ clearance does, therefore, is to endorse the illegal and unconstitutional act of NPCIL and EIL. Activists earlier alleged that the EIL had no accreditation to conduct an environment impact assessment for a nuclear power plant. It appeared as if the GCZMA is a victim of the non-transparent and secretive approach of NPCIL, which has not attached the report dated June 28, 2007, of Site Selection Committee even in the Environment Impact Assessment document and also to the GCZMA.

NPCIL needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body's stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the readymade resolution. The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL.

This is the new way of getting the consent from the villagers by Mr. Modi’s Gujarat State.

Kevadia near Sardar Sarovar Dam: Old and New Struggles

Another hot spot Mr. Modi faces is near Sardar Sarovar Dam.

The work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam, began without necessary environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA). It is very clear if one looks closely at the letter dated March 24, 2013 written by a senior member Mr. Shekhar Singh of the ESG of NCA to its chairperson Mr. Dr V. Rajagopalan, the secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

He expressed surprise over Gujarat Government's decision to start work for the construction of the Garudeshwar weir without obtaining necessary environment clearances.

He states in his letter that “Garudeshwar weir, to be built 12 km downstream of the SSP dam with a live storage capacity of 32.9 Million Cubic Meters is a component of the Sardar Sarovar Project, as was envisaged by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979. However, as far as I recollect, the environmental and social impacts of construction and operation of Garudeshwar weir (GW) have never been brought before the ESG of NCA.”

He further states in his letter “In my estimation, the construction and operation of the GW will have significant social and environmental impacts, since it will entail a reservoir of about 12 km in length and unknown width and submergence area. The weir will have the potential of affecting the fisheries in the immediately surrounding areas and also of affecting the downstream river and its biodiversity, and other related aspects. This is especially because the weir will control the flow of water and silt downstream. However, I do not know whether there has been a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the GW and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area. And if there has been, I do not believe that this has been put up to the ESG for its approval.”

At the end of the letter, he clearly demands, “If this is correct, I find this problematic as ESG has not yet cleared the construction of this weir. Under the circumstance, I urge you to: (1) Ask the Government of Gujarat (GoG) to immediately stop construction of the GW. All other activities related to the GW should also be stopped. (2) Ask GOG/ SSNNL to submit the full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the GW to the ESG and seek clearance of the ESG for this work. (3) Ask GOG not to start any work in this regard till the ESG clears this.”

In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat Government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the Chief Executive Officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the Sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Sardar Sarovar Dam that they better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face consequences. The four-line letter dated March 6, 2013 sent to the village Sarpanches under the heading “Regarding the decision to include your villages under KADA”, threateningly states “the government has decided on development oriented work in these villages, even then you have not passed resolutions on your letter-heads agreeing to be included under KADA.” Calling the behaviour of the 52 village Panchayat “improper”, the KADA letter says, “You are requested to send your approval for the use of your villages for developmental purpose within seven days. In case you fail to do it, then – keeping that in view – we will be forced to take further steps against you.” Significantly, KADA comes directly under the Gujarat Urban Development Department and has been given the task of “developing” the area around the Sardar Sarovar Dam into a tourism spot, complete with all types of entertainment facilities, hotels and sports.

KADA Chief Executive Officer Mr. D. B. Rahewar said that his office has so far only asked consent from 54 villages to get consent of the village Panchayats for town development purpose, and the process was still at initial stage. “We have added 54 more villages under our scheme and have sought consent from the Panchayat but are yet to get their consent. We intend to develop the area under town planning scheme. The systemic development of the basic infrastructure in the region will be meant for mass service,” he said.

The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land way back in 1961-63 to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have received. In fact, they cannot even access to Sardar Sarovar Dam water for irrigation. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is only for urban and industrial use.

The view is also gaining strong among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat Government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Shri Sardar Patel by spending Rs 2,500 crores near Sardar Sarovar Dam, around which KADA’s tourism will be developed. Already, 16 villages have been brought under KADA, while the plan is to take the number to 70.

On October 2, 2013 a huge contingent of police force was mobilised by the Gujarat state police department to create an atmosphere of terror and threat among the villagers to prevent them from reaching the place of the meeting where they were to discuss and raise their grievances against KADA (Kevadia Area Development Authority) near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat. Government authorities photographed as well as video recorded the villagers who made their way to the meeting venue as a means of intimidation.

This happened a day after October 1, 2013, when the Collector, district Narmada and KADA authorities organised an urgent meeting with Sarpanches, Panchayat members and the Talati of 70 villages where they spelled out in not many words to dissuade the locals not to join the October 2 meeting. In spite of these “efforts” by the state and KADA authority, over 1500 people from the villages attended the meeting and resolved to fight back this inhuman and unconstitutional action. Protesting tribals shouted, "jaan denge, jameen nahi (we will give our life, but not our land)", "jameen rotlo aape chhe (we get food from our land)", "amaro gaam, amaro raaj (our village, our rule)," "vikas joiye chhe na ki vinas (we need development and not destruction)", among others, to register their protest against the move of the KADA to acquire land.

The Chairman, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, the Chairman & CEO, KADA and Collector, district Narmada were invited for the meeting to put forward the information, facts and figures before the villagers on October 2. Much to everyone's regret, they all chose to remain absent from the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the villagers and concerned citizens took a pledge with Narmada water in their hand.

In other words, in the Modi development model, if you are workers, dalits, adivasis, and of course Muslims, then you may expect extremes of oppression and suffering. Tie this in with the export of the Gujarat model to the rest of the country, starting with the experiments in Uttar Pradesh (Muzzaffarnagar). The BJP sent a tested criminal, Mr. Amit Shah  into UP to apply the lessons of Gujarat to the country’s biggest state, since Mr. Modi has decided that whoever wins UP wins India. In UP, Shah communalised the state or large parts of it, pitting the Jats against the Muslims. Incidents were concocted so that pogroms could be whipped up. This resulted in the mass violence. At least 48 people died, many more are still missing and huge numbers had to flee their homes. And meanwhile the thugs who fanned the flames of this cynically orchestrated violence and destroyed thousands of lives gather for a photo-op in the corridors of the UP state assembly. This is what projecting Modi as PM implies – capitalist development in the interest of the top layers of the country, mass exploitation of workers and other toilers, along with mobilisations based on extreme communal politics and the destruction of peoples’ organisations. This is precisely Indian fascism.

The authors can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

[1]  The authors are members of Radical Socialist, http://www.radicalsocialist.in/

[2]  http://www.sacw.net/article3417.html

[3]  http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/ApprenticeAct1961.pdf

[4]  Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation has been created with public money for the facilitation and establishment of private companies and corporations both domestic and international in industrial areas and industrial estates in the state. It has established 182 industrial estates, ranging from mini to mega sizes, in 25 of the 25 districts of the state. It has also developed 7 Special Economic Zones (SEZ). It is now establishing Special Investment Regions, PCPIR, Industrial areas and large sector-specific estates to attract big capital with the help of public finances.

[5]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[6]  Gobbling farm land for industry a fair game: Minister, Indian Express, 12 January 2011.

[7]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[8]  http://www.chemicalsafety.co.in/mesures.htm

[9]  http://www.vibrantgujarat.com/focus-areas/chemicals-and-petrochemicals.aspx, dated 21-9-2011

[10]http://www.bmhrc.org/Bhopal%20Gas%20Tragedy.htm

[11]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 10-8-2007

[12]Reply by GSDMA to Rohit Prajapati dated 23-8-2007

[13]http://www.gsdma.org/dmact.pdf

[14]http://www.gsdma.org/profile.htm

[15]Reply by Director, Health & Safety Department, Vadodara, to Rohit Prajapati, dated 9-9-2010

[16]   Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), is a rational number to characterize the environmental quality at a given location following the algorithm of source, pathway and receptor have been developed. The index captures the various health dimensions of environment including air, water and land.

     http://cpcb.nic.in/divisionsofheadoffice/ess/NewItem_152_Final-Book_2.pdf

[17]  Mr. Narendra Modi - ‘CONVENIENT ACTION – Gujarat’s Response To Challenges of Climate Change’ has conveniently ignored the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the State of Gujarat. - Rohit Prajapati http://www.radicalsocialist.in/articles/environment/378-narendra-modi-and-climate-change-a-response

[18]http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-reimposing-170913.pdf

[19]http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/om-ia-moratorium-lifting-170913.pdf

Brazil: Conference of Women in Struggles Movement

The I National Meeting of the Women in Struggles Movement Starts

 

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BRAZIL
Written by Raíza Rocha, Camila Chaves and Ana Cristina   

Tuesday, 08 October 2013 17:33

[From the IWL-FI (LIT-CI) website]

The opening panel reaffirms the need for a feminist and classist struggles movement.

A platform with many left organizations, and workers and feminist movements marked the official opening of the first National Meeting of the Women in Struggles Movement (MML), a classist and feminist movement affiliated to CSP-Conlutas. The opening of the national meeting, which may become an historical event for working women, took place in Belo Horizonte and gathered 500 women.

The opening platform included representatives from CSP-Conlutas, Metalworkers Union of São José dos Campos, Front for the Legalization of Abortion, March of Bitches (BH), World March of Women (MML), MTST, People’s Struggle Movement, Feminist Network, PSOL, PSTU and LER-QI. Also attending were international representatives from Argentina, the Spanish State, India, England, Germany and Syria.

Joaninha Oliveira, representative of CSP-Conlutas, said that, "this meeting reassures us that the project we discussed for CSP-Conlutas is going in the right direction." She was referring to the idea of building and boosting an organization to unite not only the unions, but the social movements and organizations that fight oppression, such as the MML.

Next, the leader of the PSTU, Vanessa Portugal, highlighted the historical character of the meeting, saying, "Perhaps younger women who are here don’t appreciate the dimension of this meeting, but we should highlight to them that this is the largest gathering of working women that has taken place in the last 20 years." She went on to criticize the theory of "women’s empowerment", because right now as this meeting is being held to discuss women’s oppression this country is for the first time ruled by a woman, President Dilma Rousseff. "While some beliefs are being destroyed, other dreams are built," she said to huge applause.

Vanessa went on to establish differences with the feminist movements that reduce the question of women to a question of gender without taking into account the issue of class, she said, "Without men you can’t fight for socialism, but neither can you without women." The women from different corners of the country  chanted, "I'm radical - I 'm fighting - I'm struggling at the National Meeting".

Laura Symbalista, from the Front for the Legalization of Abortion began saying, "this meeting is extremely important to gather and organize the feminist movement." Helena Silvestre, from the People’s Struggle Movement, which is currently leading a land occupation with more than a thousand families in Osasco (São Paulo state), highlighted the importance of the women's struggle saying that, "Historically women have suffered in many areas: in health, in education, in the family; sexism has always imposed a place for her."  She concluded that, "we need to face that imposition and show that a woman's place is in the fight and where she wants to be."

Lola Write Lola

Lola Aronovich, literature teacher at the UFC and author of a Blog ‘Write Lola Write’ - which is a reference for the feminist movement, recalled a coincidence between the birth date of her blog and the MML, both in 2009. "My blog is personal, virtual, whereas the MML is collective and social ... ... Many women have learnt about feminism by reading my blog, and I would be very happy if these women were here to find a political tool like the MML, to strengthen their fight for rights."

Lola praised the diversity present, and argued, "I think this is a fantastic women's movement because there are so many black, gay, transgender, and women workers. It is necessary for social movements and political parties to give a further voice to these women,"

Lola did not fail to criticize Dilma’s government, “Although I believe that her election was important", she said she was "very disappointed with Dilma’s government ... I expected more from the first woman in the presidency of this country."

Expectations exceeded

The preparation for the meeting had already revealed the great enthusiasm that existed, with pre-meetings in the different states, as well as many financial campaigns that were organised by women to enable the delegations to travel to Minas Gerais, and maintaining financial and political independence from the government. The pre-registration level of 2300 women which exceeded all expectations, had already confirmed the lively activities that were taking place across the regions.

The theme of violence against women opened the debate on the final day of the national MML meeting

"Do not be quiet, shout when they attack your family, be strong", says Elisabeth, widow of Amarildo.

The second and final day of the first national meeting of the MML began on Sunday with a platform to discuss violence against women. Two women whose struggle is symbolic in this sense were invited: from India Soma Marik, who fights against rape in her country, and Elisabeth Gomes da Silva, resident of the Favela Rocinha in Rio, who started a relentless search for her husband, the construction worker Amarildo, following his disappearance, torture and murder at the hands of the police.

Susana Gutierrez, coordinator of the Sepe (union of teachers in the state of Rio de Janeiro) and one of the leaders of the education strike, spoke about the largest mobilization of the education sector ever made in the state. In a speech widely applauded by the audience, Susana denounced the violence against workers by the Military Police and at the behest of Governor Sergio Cabral and Mayor Eduardo Paes.

Rape

Soma Marik, to loud applause, began her speech by expressing gratitude for the invitation and greeted the meeting. Soma is a member of an organization that fights against rape in India. She cited cases of brutal violence against women, and explained that the root of this serious problem is the violence imposed by the state.

Soma referred to cases of sexual, physical and psychological violence against the lower castes in Indian society. "When a woman is raped, the state criminalizes the victim and not the abuser," she explained that, "the state only uses the death penalty as a trump card, but it has already been proven that it does not solve the problem, instead rape has increased."

She recalled the tragic case of the young woman who was brutally raped in December 2012 which changed the situation in the country and the struggle of the social movements. "In India, an abuse is considered rape only if there is vaginal penetration. Our struggle is for rape to be considered as any aggressive touch or attitude in relation to our body,” defended Soma, "We strive to combat the idea of masculine behavior being at the expense of women's oppression. We require a changing of the law, but we are against the death penalty."

Soma concluded, "We all have a lot of hard fighting ahead, which will not be successful if a deep class point of view is not introduced into this question. Live long the feminist and classist movement."

Violence of the UPP Police

"Olê , olê , olê , olá, the Rocinha wants to know, where is Amarildo!", sung  the women when Elisabeth Gomes da Silva began her speech. Amarildo’s wife Elisabeth, started by saying that she wanted to honor all the strong women attending the meeting.

"Do not be quiet; shout out loud when they attack your children, your husbands, your family. Many people stay quiet and hide the abuses that happen in their communities by the UPP police."

Elisabeth then talked about the violence and torture that is taking place against poor community residents and she recalled how Amarildo was taken by the police without any explanation, "To me they are thugs in uniform. I am not going to rest until I see my husband's bones," she concluded "Women are strong, be strong.”

Campaign against violence against women

Following the contributions by Soma and Elisabeth, Marcela Azevedo from the MML of Pará, and Karen Capelesso from the MML of Curitiba, presented the proposal for a national campaign against violence against women to be carried on by the MML.

BELGIUM: Class trades unionism seeks political expression

BELGIUM

Class trades unionism seeks political expression

Thursday 17 October 2013, by Daniel Tanuro

[From International Viewpoint]


In the social and political history of Belgium, May 1, 2012 could perhaps mark a milestone. On that day the leaders of the Charleroi regional branch of the socialist trade union FGTB — the second biggest in the country, with 102,000 members — publicly broke with the social democratic party and called for a rallying of the left to the perspective of a new broad, anti-capitalist force to the left of the PS and the Greens. An unprecedented thunder bolt… and not without consequences.

Mayday speeches in Belgium are generally unsurprising but like all rules, this has its exceptions. On May 1, 2012, in Charleroi, a big stone was thrown in the water by Daniel Piron, the inter-professional regional secretary of the FGTB. Before stunned and furious social democratic leaders, and in the presence of several hundred enthusiastic trades unionists, Piron denounced the austerity policies with which the PS has collaborated for 25 years without a break [Belgium can only be governed by coalition governments. Between 1982 and 1987, the social democrats were out of power. Since 1987 they have participated in all the federal coalitions and also lead the Walloon regional government]]. However, the most spectacular aspect of this speech was not the denunciation of the role of the social democrats in coalition governments with the right, but rather the explicit call for the construction of an anti-capitalist political alternative, to the left of the PS and the Ecolo party.

Those who believed it was an individual outburst without consequence, or a manoeuvre to benefit the FGTB in the context of the forthcoming works council elections were wrong. Not only did Piron reiterate his call a year later, in the name of all the professional union federations of his region, but also meanwhile he and his comrades had passed into action. In two directions : the debate inside the trade union movement and the left in general, on the one hand, and the call for political regrouping of left forces on the other.

A broad echo

The appeal by Daniel Piron and his comrades had a broad echo among trades unionists. The factions of the FGTB apparatus linked to the PS and the line of the “lesser evil” have certainly abstained from any public comment, but several left union leaders have expressed themselves openly. While not completely sharing the conclusions of the Charleroi comrades, the characterisation of PS policies as neoliberal is very broadly shared. In his editorials, the president of the Francophone union federation of metalworkers, the FGTB (67, 000 members), Nico Cue, has made a speciality of denouncing these policies and the change of regime which accompanies it. During a public debate with Daniel Piron in the FGTB offices in Liege, Cue confirmed that the union movement “had a huge need of a left political alternative, a real anti-capitalist alternative”. “The left organisations should overcome their divisions”, he added [1]. .

Daniel Richard, inter-professional secretary of the Verviers regional organisation of the FGTB, adds: “It is the role of the union, and even its raison d’être, not only to defend the works at the level of the workplaces, but also to impose another policy.(…) I think that it is necessary to have, to the left of the PS and Ecolo, a more significant political force, better structured, more credible and unitary than what currently exists. And I encourage a left front, sharing and forwarding at the political level the programme of demands of the Walloon FGTB for example” [2] .

More explicit support came from the general secretary of a trade union organization of the Confédération des syndicats chrétiens (CSC – Confederation of Christian Trade Unions), the Centrale nationale des employés (CNE, 160, 000 members). Known for his anti-neoliberal positions and involvement in the European Altersummit, Felipe Van Keirsbilck told the newspaper “la Gauche” that he was “absolutely in agreement with what I believe to be the two bases of this call from the FGTB of Charleroi. (…) On the one hand, (…) without having partisan links, in the CNE we fully agree in saying that the trade unions need a political expression”. On the other hand, “it is clear that a left political force is needed (…) which is sufficiently radical to face the situation. (…) The radicalism of the austerity policies means that we need a political party which is ready to confront the Troika, the neoliberal dogmas, the single system of thought, the policies of the European Commission which are exclusively at the service of capital and the destruction of social benefits” [3]. .

From speech to deeds

”If you don’t go for what you want, you will never have it; if you don’t ask, the reply will always be no; if you don’t go forward, you will always stay in the same place”. What distinguishes the FGTB unionists in Charleroi is that they follow these three simple rules, as pertinent in politics as in love. Once the works council elections and communal elections were over, all the political organizations to the left of the PS and Ecolo held an initial meeting in January 2013. A representative of the CNE attended the meeting, mandated by their union. A support committee for the appeal of May 1, 2012 was set up. During the meetings, a first concrete project emerged: to organize in Charleroi, one year later, a day of struggle and debate on the need for a political alternative.

On April 27, 2013, 400 people responded to the invitation of the Charleroi FGTB, the CNE and the support committee. The text distributed on this occasion said notably: “This system cannot be reformed. It must disappear. But simply affirming this is not enough. We still need to give ourselves the means and political relays to concretise our objective. A political relay of a new type which is based on social resistance and strengthens it: that is what we need to build to give hope back to the world of labour, Some think that it would be possible to “weigh” on the PS and Ecolo so that they once again become parties of the left. It’s an illusion. We prefer to invite the left activists of the PS and Ecolo to join us in building an alternative together. (…) Our ambition is not to compose and dilute ourselves in power. It is to oppose until the time when we can impose an alternative worth of this name.”

The debates were launched by representatives of the two organisations, Daniel Piron and Isabelle Wanschoor. Rank and file activists then witnessed to the ravages of austerity among rail workers, teachers, and the unemployed. Finally, Piron read messages of support from Pierre Laurent (Parti de la gauche européenne), Olivier Besancenot (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, France) and director Ken Loach (“You are right, we need new parties”). The participants then broke up into working groups to exchange views in a very constructive atmosphere, and discuss the working perspectives to adopt. At the end of the day, the latter were summarised as follows by the organisers: to broaden the initiative, link up with similar initiatives outside Belgium, approach the associations, the cultural and academic world, and above all “all those who suffer today”. The support committee was charged with drawing up a plan of action, but also an emergency anti-capitalist plan, to be submitted to a subsequent meeting.

Without precedent

It was necessary to await this day of April 27, 2013 for the mass media and commentators finally to take the affair seriously. It should be said in fairness to them that the approach of the FGTB in Charleroi is unprecedented. The Belgian workers’ movement is characterised by the existence of massive trade unions (more than two million members) which leave the monopoly of political expression to their social democratic or Christian democratic “friends”. This division of labour and the under-politicisation which flows from it are the results of history. In 1898, the ancestor of the FGTB was created as the “Trade Union Commission” of the social democratic party, the POB. After the general strike of 1936, this Commission gave way to the Confédération générale du travail de Belgique (CGTB), whose affiliates were automatically members of the party. As the president of the POB, De Man, had taken a position in favour of the New Order, the social democratic grip was weakened during the Nazi occupation. Thus, in 1945, the CGTB merged with organisations of underground resistance origin. The FGTB dates from this time. It is formally independent of the PS, but its leaders sit as observers on the Party bureau and the latter controls the Action Commune Socialiste which, since 1949, groups all the social organisations of the ”socialist column” [4]. .

It isn’t the first time that trade union sectors have broken with social democracy. André Renard, leader of the Liege metalworkers, did so after the general strike of 1960-61. But Renard only created a hybrid movement, neither party nor union (the Mouvement populaire wallon), that ended up in the dead end a fight for federalism cut off from anti-capitalist demands, so that its existence was ephemeral. The appeal of the FGTB of Charleroi is the very first time that union bodies of such a level of responsibility have favoured the emergence of a political alternative, and it should be specified that they do it in an explicit rejection of ”Walloon isolationism”. This development is then qualitative and of great importance. Several factors contribute to explaining it.

Why there, why now?

First, some local specificities should be noted. Two of them are linked. The first: the local PS was up to its neck in corruption, to the point that a mayor and several deputies have been jailed. The second: social democracy has increasingly lost its ability to control the trade unions. When the old union leadership, traditionally very right wing, retired, a new generation of union cadres emerged almost simultaneously in the leadership of the professional and inter-professional federations. This generation was marked by a series of testing struggles: the fight of the steelworkers in Clabecq against closure, the long strike of AGC glassworkers against job losses (denounced by the PS as “a stain” on Wallonia), and movements of resistance against neoliberal policies in the public sector, notably in rail. A team was formed, which drew on the lessons of these experiences, notably concerning relations with social democracy: in May 2010, the FGTB in Charleroi held a congress of political orientation during which it decided to institute regular links with all the organisations of the democratic left. Since then, it has no longer participated in Action commune socialiste and organises its own Mayday demonstration every year

France, Greece, Spain: the international conjuncture has given ideas to trades unionists in Charleroi. In his speech on May 1, 2012, Daniel Piron had cited the example of the Front de gauche in France. “Yes, the example of the Front de gauche in France has inspired us. Yes, it has given our activists an extraordinary hope. Yes, we identify with the essence of the programme defended by Mélenchon”. At the time the presidential campaign of Jean-Luc Mélenchon enthused numerous Walloon trades unionists. Several hundred of them, notably in Charleroi, came to Lille to participate in his meeting on March 27, 2012. The general tonality of the Front de gauche campaign and its programme seemed in synch with the hopes of an alternative in Belgium. In his speech, the regional secretary of the Charleroi FGTB nuanced his support, however: “It is not however the case that we can apply a cut and paste in Belgium. We are concerned moreover at Mélenchon’s support for the formation freshly emerged from the ranting of Bernard Wesphael, which divide the left a little more again and all this without any anti-capitalist basis” [5]. Does this denunciation explain why Mélenchon did not respond to the invitation of the FGTB Charleroi to organize a meeting with him in the context of the communal elections?

But the basic reason for the trade union radicalisation is the exhaustion of the margins of manoeuvre of social democracy. The PS and its Flemish equivalent the Sp.a have participated in all the coalition governments with the right since 1987. It goes without saying that the policies of these governments have been neoliberal. The social democratic leaders claim that their participation allows them to limit the damage, and even to implement some trade union demands, but this is no longer credible, notably because the PS does not conceal its hostility to the mobilisations, demonstrations and strikes that the FGTB organizes against the employers and the government. That is why Daniel Piron was strongly applauded on May 1, 2012, when he said: “Today, comrades of the PS, the politics of the lesser evil will no longer impress our activists. The magic phrase “it would be worst without us” offends their intelligence”.

Social regression

Discontent has only grown since the formation of the current government, led by Elio Di Rupo. Belgium had not had a socialist prime minister since the very short (six months) reign of the Leburton government, in 1974. The trades unionists, who really believed that the PS did its utmost in the context of coalitions where it did not have the upper hand, and who thus hoped that a team led by a “socialist” would allow a certain number of advances, were quickly disillusioned. The Di Rupo government, since its formation, has led a vast offensive of social regression which sought to pay the bill for the bailing out of the banks, on the one hand, and to tie the Belgian economy to German levels of competitiveness on the other.

A wage freeze imposed by law until 2018, massive exclusions of the unemployed, lengthening of professional careers, dismantling of the status of civil servants, manipulation of the index and other painful measures contrasting sharply with the impotence displayed towards the multinationals (Mittal and Ford), or the fierce defence of the arrangements which make Belgium a tax haven for the rich (notional interest rates, banking secrecy, no registry of wealth). In fact, the attack which has continued since late 2011 has been almost as brutal as that launched by the government of the right alone in 1982-87. And, as at that time, the trade unions who do not accept the neoliberal diktats are deprived of consultation.

Crisis of the “Belgian model”

This situation tends to put the “Belgian model” in crisis. On the Francophone side, the existence of the FGTB underpins the link between the PS and its popular social base, and this link explains in turn the astonishing durability of the PS, which remains the biggest party in Francophone Belgium. More broadly, whether socialist or Christian, this mass trades unionism at a low political level, accepting the pre-eminence of the parties is a token of stability and control over the working class. But this “model” can only function if there is “social dialogue” and the parties relay effectively at least some of the trade union demands. Without that, the situation of the trade union cadres becomes untenable and leaves them at the end of the day only two possibilities: — either to accept a substantial reduction of trade union weight in society in general and in the workplaces in particular; — or to challenge the model, which would involve both breaking with the trade unionism of dialogue and seeking new political relays.

This question of political relays was approached by André Renard in the context of the post-war boom. Today, faced with the systemic crisis of globalized capital and the key role of the European Union in the offensive against social benefits, the anarcho-syndicalism of Renard is no longer relevant. The alternative must be both at the political and trade union levels. As the president of the Charleroi FGTB metalworkers, Antonio Cocciolo, has put it: “Greece is a veritable laboratory for the parties of the European right (…). We are today in Greece almost on the 37th day of the inter-professional strike (…). And (…) we are not seeing a change of political orientation. As a union leader I am obliged to analyse this kind of thing. I think that we need, today more than ever, political organisations close to the workers, to the people, capable of mobilising. On this level, the approach made by the FGTB Charleroi Sud-Hainaut on May 1, Mai 2012 is the culmination of the following analysis and reflection: political relays are needed, a political transmission belt which can help the mobilisation and capacity of union organisations to halt the demolition of social benefits. Yes to trade union organisation! Yes to a strengthening of combative trades unionism! But also on the other hand we need a political , legislative, voice, which can lead the political battle in the democratic institutions taking account of the aspirations of the working people (…)” [6].

A complex process

In the context of the crisis of the Belgian model of dialogue and integration of the workers’ movement, the Charleroi initiative can only resonate with the processes of political recomposition underway in the union movement as a whole. But the complexity of the situation and the double cleavage of FGTB/CSC, Flanders/Wallonia means a long process involving mediations as well as tactics allowing the different stages to be traversed.

On the one hand, the echo of the appeal concerns almost exclusively the Francophone part of the country. The Flemish trades unionists of the FGTB are certainly unhappy with the policies of the social democrats and 700 of them have shown this by signing an open letter to their union leadership demanding a break with the Sp.a. But this initiative has remained without consequence, notably because the FGTB is very much in the minority in Flanders in relation to the CSC (where the debate on political relays is only carried on in minority circles) and that the trade union movement as a whole in the north of the country operates in a political landscape completely hegemonized by the right and the far right.

On the other hand, the support of the CNE is important but the leaders of this union are obliged to take account of the fact that the other professional union federations of the CSC are very far from sharing their viewpoint: they cannot then allow themselves to commit like Piron and his comrades. Also, in spite of the excellent collaboration between the CNE and the FGTB of Charleroi in the organisation of April 27, an old “anti-Papist” base subsists in the socialist union, which the social democrats tend to exploit.

Discordance of the times

Trades unionists in Charleroi are highly conscious of these difficulties. That is why they insist systematically on the fact that their initiative is a long term project, which involves a fundamental debate inside the trade union organizations. To fuel this debate, they have produced a pamphlet in 10,000 copies, in which they respond to eight questions concerning their approach. Tactically, the problem for them is to continue advancing concretely towards their objective — a new left wing political force — without isolating themselves by a premature initiative, notably on the electoral level. Indeed, the question is complicated because there is a social emergency and 2014 will see three simultaneous elections (European, federal and regional) which will be decisive for presenting an anti-capitalist alternative to social democracy and attempting to break its monopoly of the parliamentary representation of the left. That will be all the more important inasmuch as the objective of the PS and Sp.a is to win over the traditional Flemish right from the liberal nationalist NVA by showing that class collaboration remains the best means of imposing austerity, and that the latter can thus be imposed more surely in the federal context than by a new state reform which would threaten the country with institutional chaos. The prize for the social democrats is hold power, for four years — for all the governments at all levels will henceforth be “de legislature” [7]..

At the same time that they give the maximum of concessions to the right, the PS and Sp.a mobilise the trade union bureaucracy to close ranks around the “useful vote” and the politics of the “lesser evil”. They feel threatened on the left by the Parti du travail de Belgique (PTB-PVDA – Worker’s Party of Belgium) and wish to avoid opposition to the neoliberal policy that they will carry out during the next legislature being expressed inside Parliament. A formation of Maoist and Stalinist origin, the PTB-PVDA has succeeded in winning election to the communal councils of some working class areas where it has set up medical centres providing free health care. Some years ago, noting that they had not succeeded in making a breakthrough, they decided to change their image, and to a certain extent their strategy, so as to appear as less “extremist” and divisive of the left. At the same time, they improved their media operations. In spite of a few slips, this has succeeded. At the communal and provincial elections of October 2012, the party did well in several big towns in Flanders and Wallonia as well as in two communes in the Brussels conurbation, In Antwerp it obtained 7.96% (four elected representatives) and beat the Open VLD list (5.57 %, two elected representatives) led by the Justice minister, Annemie Turtelboom. In the Liege region, it won four seats in Herstal, five in Seraing (where it is now the second biggest party after the PS), two in Liege and one in Flémalle. In these two provinces, in particular Liege, its scores allow it to hope to cross the threshold of eligibility at the parliamentary elections.

Articulating the short and medium term

The question is posed of articulating the medium term combat launched by the Charleroi trades unionists and the short term electoral struggle against social democracy. The PTB, because of its success, bears a major responsibility here. Only it can hope to gain parliamentary representation. But it is not sure of doing so, because the pressure for the useful vote will be enormous. The PS will dramatise to the maximum the threat of division of the country so as to establish itself as the last rampart protecting social security. In these conditions, the interests of the left and of the PTB would be that the latter makes a proposal which takes account of its legitimate concern to maintain its own existence, gains and visibility, while creating the conditions for a broad campaign, involving activists from other political currents, the associative world and the trade union left. Such a campaign would be a support to the Charleroi unionists and an encouragement to others who, while sharing their analysis, today hesitate to commit themselves. What will the PTB do? Follow the sectarian tradition which runs like a red thread through its innumerable political zigzags? Will it attempt to justify itself by reducing the appeal of the Charleroi unionists to the umpteenth attempt at unifying the “little left”? Or will it take the unprecedented opportunity to finally begin to contest social democratic hegemony at the very heart of the organised workers’ movement, in the trade union base, by contributing to restructuring the latter around an anti-capitalist axis? In the short term, that is the key question.

As Felipe Van Keirsbilck of the CNE puts it: “The PTB represents something today. We salute it! And we salute also the proof that in the electorate there is an aspiration to a policy other than the micro-nuances of neoliberalism. Now, the scenario is not fixed in advance. If the PTB can consider that the political and historical stakes posed today in Belgium and Europe justify an opening (…) then (its) electoral victory in the communal elections could accelerate the constitution of a significant left force, democratic and ecosocialist, supportive of trade union mobilisations and radical in the sense that it defends the interest of the great majority of the population (…). Now the opposite scenario is also possible. The successes of the PTB can go to its head and let it believe that its campaigns of propaganda, albeit generally very well done, can bring it from 3 % to 5 %, then one fine day from 5 % to 7 %. If that is the case, it would not take into account the historic urgency which faces us” [8].

The response to these questions is one of the major issues of the social and electoral calendar for 2013-2014.

Footnotes

[1http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index...

[2http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index...

[3http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index...

[4] We will not go into the history here of the Christian trade unions, first created with the support of the employers so as to counter the rise of socialist ideas and subsequently structured ideologically on the basis of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, issued in 1891. In the Flemish region, which is its bastion, the CSC (ACV) is organically linked to the bourgeois party CD&V, though the Mouvement ouvrier chrétien (ACW) of which it is one of the main components. In the Francophone part of the country, the MOC has organised relations with social democrats, the Greens and the social Christian party Cdh

[5] A Green deputy in the Walloon parliament, Bernard Wesphael left the ECOLO party in March 2012 after it had refused to make him president. He founded the Mouvement de gauche, to which the French Parti de gauche has given its support on several occasions. The programme of the MG is (timidly) anti-neoliberal, but to the right of the Greens on questions like the veil, law and order and so on

[6http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index...

[7] A “gouvernement de legislature” cannot be overthrown by the Chamber unless the latter votes for “a motion of constructive censure” designating an alternative government

[8http://www.lcr-lagauche.be/cm/index... and http://www.lalibre.be/actu/belgique...

Death Penalty is not the Solution: Fight all Rape Cases

Death Penalty is not the Solution: Fight all Rape Cases

Radical Socialist

For the last few days, politicians, both governmental and official opposition, and large sections of the media, have been whipping up anger and calling for the application of the death penalty against all the accused in the Delhi gang rape case.

We agree that the Delhi gang rape was a heinous crime, and we do not believe, and have at no stage argued, that it should be treated in any other way. However, we have consistently argued that specific rape cases should not be detached from the general trend of increasing brutality and sexual violence on women, should not be turned into particular “iconic” cases. When that is done, the politicians and the police are all too happy. We are asked to believe that by increasing the penalty for rape, the problem of rape will be solved. We are told that under the new law, even when the rape victim has not been murdered, there can be the death penalty. Sushil Kumar Shinde and Sushma Swaraj snarl in tandem that all the accused in the 16th December gangrape case should be hanged, or else the collective conscience of society will not be assuaged.

This kind of campaign raises important considerations. Was the 16th December gang rape the only case of rape, or gang rape?  What happens to cases like Khairlanji, Kamduni, the hundreds and thousands of cases when dalit women are gang raped? Where is the conscience of Shinde when Sikh women raped in 1984 are not yet given even the cold comfort of a few years’ of imprisonment for their torturers? Where was the conscience of Ms. Swaraj when numerous Muslim women were brutally raped and murdered in 2002 by the foot soldiers of Indian fascism? Are we to selectively pick and choose rape cases, over which it is legitimate to be aggrieved? Or are we to fight for genuinely overcoming the culture of rape?

Secondly, it is argued that hanging rapists will drastically bring down rape cases. Hanging murderers has failed to end murders. And it is well-known, that the overwhelming majority of rape cases occur because close relatives or friends are involved. It is difficult enough to even get any of those cases brought to the police station, to get the police to record FIRs, and to move them through courts. Should hanging become the standard punishment for rape, such cases will be even more completely hushed up.

In the third place, the existing evidence does not show that hanging deters rapes and murders. The last man hanged for rape and murder was Dhananjoy Chatterjee in Kolkata. West Bengal is one of the leaders in sexual violence on women.

If Indian politicians were serious about tackling rape, they should pass a law that politicians accused of rape and/or sexual violence should not be allowed to contest elections unless they are cleared of all charges, and if convicted, even in a lower court, they must quit all public office within 24 hours.

If the police were serious about tackling rape they should begin by ensuring that all existing laws and regulations about how to handle rape accusations are taught to all police personnel, and if they violate those rules, they must be punished. Thus, all such cases have to be recorded, FIRs taken, and adequate assistance given to the victim, regardless of her economic, religious, caste, ethnic, or cultural background, regardless of whether she was wearing saree or jeans, regardless of whether it was her home in mid-day or the roads at ten in the evening.

The collective conscience, i.e., the conscience of urban, middle class Delhi, was awakened because a rape had occurred in South Delhi, after the young woman and her friend had come out from a “posh” area. This is not to belittle the tremendous movement that was generated. The iconisation of the case was not done by the people who came out on the streets but by certain political parties seeking mileage, and by the media. The real protestors were attacked by the police. The government shut down the heart of Delhi so that mass protests were silenced.

By demanding death penalty for the people now being routinely identified as “gym instructor”, “bus cleaner”, “fruit seller” and “unemployed”, the media and the middle class internet campaigners, who are urging all manner of violence including public hanging, public flogging, castration, etc, are seeking to cleanse their conscience, while ignoring the reality that most rapes are by people close to victims. That is true whether the victim comes from a working class background or an upper class one. Then there are the large numbers of caste and communal rapes, where vicious right wing politics dictated the action. Moreover, when we focus on single cases, we obscure the patriarchal social order where rape is one aspect of “masculinity”.

Stop protecting rapists in uniform, including through repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Ensure that police take action in ALL cases of rape and sexual assault, not on selected ones where media takes particular interest.

Take action against elected representatives involved in rape cases

Ensure punishment of police and administrative personnel if they ignore rape cases or flout laws in rape cases

Change the electoral machinery and law so that EVMs all carry a "do not want any of the candidates" button and declare none found suitable if that gets the highest votes.

Not death penalty in selected cases but real fight to reduce and abolish sexual violence


12 September 2013

Syria-- Statement by Arab Revolutionaries in Syria and neighbouring countries

We Stand Behind the Syrian People's Revolution - No to Foreign Intervention

 

Statement by: Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) - Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) - Union of Communists (Iraq) - Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) - Socialist Forum (Lebanon) - League of the Workers' Left (Tunisia)

Published on Saturday 31 August 2013
--

Over 150 thousand were killed, hundreds of thousands injured and disabled, millions of people displaced inside and outside Syria. Cities, villages, and neighborhoods were destroyed fully or partially, using all sorts of weapons, including warplanes, scud missiles, bombs, and tanks, all paid for by the sweat and blood of the Syrian people. This was under the pretext of defending the homeland and achieving military balance with Israel (whose occupation of Syrian land is, in fact, being protected by the Syrian regime, which failed to reply to any of its continuing aggressions).

Yet, despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organization or major country – or a lesser one – felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.

The only exception was some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups were engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres against Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggressions inside areas under their control or under attack, such as the recent example of villages in the Latakia countryside.

A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people's revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people's uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.

However, this did not only provoke local brutal dictatorships, but also most of the imperialist forces seeking to perpetuate the theft of the wealth of our people, in addition to the various reactionary classes and forces throughout those areas and in surrounding countries.

As for Syria, the alliance fighting against the people's revolution comprises a host of reactionary sectarian forces, spearheaded by Iran and confessional militias in Iraq, and, to much regret, Hezbollah's strike force, which is drowning in the quagmire of defending a profoundly corrupt and criminal dictatorial regime.

This unfortunate situation has also struck a major section of the traditional Arab left with Stalinist roots, whether in Syria itself or in Lebanon, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab region – and worldwide – which is clearly biased towards the wretched alliance surrounding the Assad regime. The justification is that some see it as a "resilient" or even a "resistance" regime, despite its long history – throughout its existence in power – of protecting the Zionist occupation of the Golan Heights, its constant bloody repression of various groups resisting Israel, be it Palestinian or Lebanese (or Syrian), and remaining idle and subservient, since the October 1973 war, concerning Israel's aggressions on Syrian territories. This bias will have serious ramifications on ordinary Syrians' position regarding the left in general.

The United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, was unable to condemn the crimes of a regime, which the Syrian people rejected continuously and peacefully for more than seven months, while the bullets of the snipers and shabbiha took demonstrators one by one and day after day and while the most influential activists were being detained and subjected to the worst kinds of torture and elimination in the prisons and detention centers. All the while, the world remained completely silent and in a state of total negativity.

The situation persisted with small difference after the people in revolution decided to take up arms and the emergence of what became known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – whose command and soldiers came, to a large extent, from the regular army. This led to the horrific escalation of crimes by the regime.

Russian imperialism, the most important ally of the Baathist regime in Damascus, which provides it with all sorts of support, remains on the lookout to block any attempt to condemn those crimes in the Security Council. The United States, on the other hand, does not find a real problem in the continuation of the status quo, with all the apparent repercussions and destruction of the country. This is despite the threats and intimidation utilized by the US president, every time someone in the opposition raises the question of the use of chemical weapons by the regime, up until the latest escalation, when it was considered crossing a "red line."

It is clear that Obama, who gives the impression that he will go ahead with his threats, would have felt great embarrassment if he did not do so, since it will not only impact negatively on the president, but also on the image of the mighty and arrogant state that he leads in the eyes of subservient Arab countries and the entire world.

The imminent strike against the Syrian armed forces is led by the US in essence. However, it occurs with the understanding and cooperation of allied imperialist countries, even without rationalizing it through the usual farce, known as international legitimacy (namely the decisions of the UN, which was and remains representative of the interests of major powers, whether in conflict or in alliance, depending on the circumstances, differences, and balances among them). In other words, the strike will not wait for the Security Council due to the anticipated Russian-Chinese veto.

Unfortunately, many in the Syrian opposition are gambling on this strike and the US position in general. They believe this would create an opportunity for them to seize power, skipping over the movement and of the masses and their independent decision. It should not be a surprise, then, that the representatives of this opposition and the FSA had no reservations on providing information to the US about proposed targets for the strike.

In all cases, we agree on the following:

  • The western imperialist alliance will strike several positions and vital parts of the military and civilian infrastructure in Syria (with several casualties, as usual). However, as it was keen to announce, the strikes will not be meant to topple the regime. They are merely intended to punish, in Obama's words, the current Syrian leadership and save face for the US administration, after all the threats concerning the use of chemical weapons.
  • The US president's intentions to punish the Syrian leadership does not stem, in any way or form, from Washington's solidarity with the suffering of children who fell in the Ghouta massacres, but from its commitment to what Obama calls the vital interests of the US and its homeland security, in addition to Israel's interests and security.
  • The Syrian army and its regional allies, led by the Iranian regime, will not have enough courage, most probably, to fulfil what seemed to be threats by their senior officials that any western attack on Syria will ignite the entire region. But this option remains on the table, as a final option with catastrophic results.
  • The imminent western imperialist assault does not intend to support the Syrian revolution in any way. It will aim to push Damascus into the bargaining table and allow Bashar al-Assad to retreat from the foreground, but keeping the regime in place, while greatly improving conditions to strengthen the position of US imperialism in the future Syria against Russian imperialism.
  • The more those participating in the continuing popular mobilization – who are more aware, principled, and dedicated to the future of Syria and its people – realize these facts, their consequences, results, and act accordingly, the more this will contribute to aiding the Syrian people to successfully pick a true revolutionary leadership. In the process of a committed struggle based on the current and future interests of their people, this would produce a radical program consistent with those interests, which could be promoted and put into practice on the road to victory.

No to all forms of imperialist intervention, whether by the US or Russia.

No to all forms of reactionary sectarian interventions, whether by Iran or the Gulf countries.

No to the intervention of Hezbollah, which warrants the maximum of condemnation.

Down with all illusions about the imminent US military strike.

Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.

Victory to a free democratic Syria and down with the Assad dictatorship and all dictatorships forever.

Long live the Syrian people's revolution.

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Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) - Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) - Union of Communists (Iraq) - Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) - Socialist Forum (Lebanon) - League of the Workers' Left (Tunisia)

*Translation from Arabic done by: Ghassan Makarem

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