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SYRIA Calling for an end to intervention is not nearly enough

 

Friday 7 October 2016, by Joseph Daher

The ceasefire in Syria concluded on September 9, 2016 between the US and Russia came to an end on September 19 at 7pm. It was a total failure politically, military and in humanitarian terms.

For some sections of the “left” and sections of the antiwar movement in the USA and Britain, the failure of the truce is a result of the internationalisation of the war in Syria. This is explained by British Stop the War activist Chris Nineham : “The central problem is the internationalisation of the war. Syria has for years been a theatre in which regional and global powers have been pursuing their geopolitical interests – prolonging and intensifying the conflict. This process has been gathering pace recently and in the run up to the worrying US election there are growing calls for further western escalation”.

Anyone reading the article will notice that not a single word is said about the destructive policies of the criminal and authoritarian Assad regime – the main source of nearly half a millions deaths in the country, forced displacement of millions inside and outside of Syria and destruction throughout the country. This is not a simple oversight and this is why, as I will show, simply calling an end to all interventions, putting them on the same level, to reach peace in Syria as stated in Nineham’s text is not enough and is simply wrong.

Firstly, the truce was far from being respected by the regime and its allies. Military clashes resumed violently few days before the official end of the truce, while the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged cities was done only sparingly for the vast majority, except in the case of the town of Talbiseh in Homs province to which aid was delivered on September 19 the first time since July. The convoy brought in food, water and hygiene supplies for up to 84,000 people. But most aid shipments envisaged under the truce have yet to go in besieged cities. The liberated areas of Aleppo (neither under the domination of the Assad regime nor Daech or Fateh al-Sham, former Jabhat al-Nusra), in which around 275,000 residents are again subject to a terrible siege and the military bombardment of the regime and its Russian ally after a brief interruption, have for example received no aid, while this was one of the priorities in the agreement concluded between Russia and the USA in the ceasefire.

Armed opposition forces to the Assad regime, including groups of the Free Syrian Army and various Islamic fundamentalist movements, announced a few hours before the end of the ceasefire that they were preparing to launch a new military offensive to break the siege imposed on the liberated areas of Aleppo. Syrian or Russian aircraft – it still remains to be determined who were the authors of the raid – struck an aid convoy near Aleppo between the night of September 19 and 20. According to the Syrian Arad Red Crescent (SARC), this killedaround 20 civilians”, including the head of one of its local offices, Omar Barakat, and damaged at least 18 of 31 trucks in a U.N. and SARC convoy along with an SARC warehouse. The convoy was delivering aid for 78,000 people in the hard-to-reach town of Urm al-Kubra in Aleppo Governorate. At least 36 civilians were killed in Aleppo and its province in Syrian or Russian raids on Monday night.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the deaths of 237 people, including 38 children, from air strikes on Aleppo city and the surrounding countryside between September 19, when the ceasefire ended, and 26. Of those documented deaths, 162 were in opposition held east Aleppo city.

Russia and the Syrian regime also accused the US of undermining the continuation of the ceasefire after the U.S.-led coalition bombed Assad regime forces in Deir ez-Zor of, killing more than 60 soldiers, while allowing Daech fighters of capturing Mont Thourda, which dominates the airport held by the regime. US officials said it was a mistake and apologized to the families of victims. It is interesting to note that once again Chris Niehman joined this particular version by writing “One thing is for sure, the bombing of Syrian army positions around Deir ez-Zour by western coalition forces, including the US, Britain, Denmark and Australia, which led to the deaths of 60 or more Syrian soldiers, will have been a major blow to the prospects of any ceasefire holding”.

The Assad regime ultimately announced officially on September 19 that the seven-day truce period had ended and it accused “terrorist groups,” a term the regime uses for all opposition groups, whether peaceful or armed, of exploiting the calm to rearm while violating the ceasefire 300 times, and vowed to “continue fulfilling its national duties in fighting terrorism in order to bring back security and stability”.

These accusations are attempts to hide the continuation of the war led by the forces of the Assad regime and its allies against Syrian civilians and opposition during the week of the ceasefire. Russian and Assad’s regime airstrikes took place in various areas held by the opposition during the week of the ceasefire resulting in 26 civilians killed, including 8 children. On September 18, regime airstrikes targeted the liberated districts of Aleppo killing one civilian and eleven others in the province of Deraa after dropping explosive barrels.

Meanwhile the besieged district of Waer in Homs, the last bastion of the city controlled by the opposition and in which between 60,000 and 75,000 people live, is in the process of undergoing the same fate as the town of Daraya few weeks ago. An agreement was reached with the regime to transfer some of the residents and fighters in the region of Idlib, in the hands of Fateh al-Sham (former Jabhat al-Nusra) and Ahrar Sham. Homs Governor Talal Barazi said on September 19 that the evacuation would include 22 busses transferring around 300 fighters and their families, around 1,000 people in total.

The Assad regime has several times used this strategy of local agreements with cities and / or districts besieged and continuously bombed to forcefully displaced local population opposed to the regime to leave their homes for other areas under control of the opposition. These regions such as Idlib are still suffering, from Assad’s regime and Russian airstrikes and lack often the sufficient means to welcome the newcomers, not to mention the political and social pressures sometimes imposed on them by Islamic fundamentalist movements in this area.

At the political level, this ceasefire was born to fail because it did not address the political roots of the problem in Syria: the Assad regime. The agreement provided for greater military coordination between Russia and the United States in the “war against terrorism” in Syria, targeting the jihadist groups of the Islamic State and Fateh al-Sham, by the establishment of a Joint Implementation Center. The agreement did not denounce the interventions of the Islamic republic of Iran, Hezbollah and other various Shi’a fundamentalist militias alongside the Assad regime, while it was completely silent and did not to mention any political transition to a democratic system and the departure of Assad dictator and his criminal clique. This political agreement concretely actually led to stabilization of the Assad regime under the so-called pretext of the “War against terrorism” for the political interest of the USA and Russia. That is why this agreement was rejected by large sections of the democratic opposition, whether armed or peaceful.

Meanwhile, the Turkish armed forces continued their progress in the Syrian border territories and their support to armed opposition groups (factions of the Free Syrian Army, Turkmen factions, and Islamic fundamentalist movements) to impose a form of Turkish “safe zone” cleansed of Kurdish PYD forces and Daech. In the city of Jarablus, conquered during this military intervention, the Turkish armed forces were attempting to impose a Turkmen council to govern the city, instead of another council, which has been established for two years and is recognized by the temporary government and the Aleppo province council, in addition to all Jarablus constituents, according to Mohamed al-Ali, head of the current Jarablus council.

At the same time, the great majority of the Syrian Kurdish political movements, including the PYD and Kurdish National Council, were angered by the recent transition plan, proposed by the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, as the plan did not envision any form of federalism in post-war Syria. The High Negotiations Committee for the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces proposed the principle of administrative decentralization in managing the country’s affairs. The Kurdish National Council, which is part of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces but which has failed repeatedly to recognize Kurdish rights with this latter or the previous Syrian National Council at the 2011 Tunis Conference and at subsequent conferences in Geneva and Riyadh, stated clearly that “this document is not part of a solution, but rather a danger to a democratic, pluralistic and unified Syria guaranteeing cultural, social and political rights to all its ethnic, religious and linguistic groups”. They add “Whoever reads the document notes immediately that point 1 of the “General Principles” exclusively lists the Arab culture and Islam as sources “for intellectual production and social relations”. This definition clearly excludes other cultures – be they ethnic, linguistic or religious – and sets the majority culture as the leading one. As Syrian Kurds, we feel repulsed by this narrow perception of the Syrian people. The similarities between this definition and the chauvinist policies under the Assad regime are undeniable”.

It is true that the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces has long lost any legitimacy to represent the aspirations for democracy, social justice and equality of the Syrian revolution and revolutionaries by its alliance with dictatorships and authoritarian regimes in the region, while collaborating with sectarian and reactionary forces (Jaysh Islam) or seeking more cooperation with them (Ahrar Sham and Fateh al-Sham). Just as its corruption and promotion of neoliberal policies, and rather poor consideration for democracy, in addition to its chauvinist and racist policies against Kurdish people, objectively oppose the objectives of building of a new Syria for all Syrians without discrimination. The hope for radical and positive change relies rather in the popular organisations and local councils still struggling for the initial objectives of the revolution, which we saw notably in February in the partial ceasefire, organising mass democratic and non sectarian demonstrations throughout the country. These people still exist and still struggle.

We agree with Chris Nineham’s words “The anti-war movement needs to raise its voice and demand an end to the foreign interventions that are tearing Syria apart”. All international and regional imperialist interventions occurred against the interests of the Syrian people and the objectives of the revolution for democracy, social justice and equality, while often strengthening sectarian and ethnic tensions in the country. This said, the interventions of Assad allies, notably Russia and Iran, have been much more significant and destructive at all levels. And contrary to what Nineham suggests or draws as two possible conclusions of the Deir Zor incident that “either elements in the western coalition are still conducting an unreported war against the Assad regime, or their claims about the limited nature of accidental killing as a result of their bombing are complete fantasy”.

This first claim can completely be ignored, the constant policy of the US and Western states has not been to change the Assad regime in Syria, but to maintain it as showed in previous articles. This has been done in addition to preventing any armed assistance to democratic groups of the Free Syrian Army. So we are quite far any “unreported war against the Assad regime”.

This is however not enough and responsibilities should clearly be pointed out in the war in Syria. Imperialist manoeuvers have of course to be opposed as they are against the interests of the Syrian people and have destructive consequences, but it should not be limited to this, while ignoring the role of Assad’s regime, at the risk of loosing the objectives of stopping the war. In in this context, the continuation of the war by the Assad regime and its allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, against the Syrian people make it impossible to end the war in the current conditions. One simple example of this is the campaign against medical personnel and facilities. There have been 382 attacks on medical facilities in Syria between March 2011, when the Syrian civil war began, and June 2016, according to data collected by Physicians for Human Rights. Of those strikes, at least 344 — or 90 percent — were conducted by Syrian government forces or Russian forces fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These forces have also killed over 700 medical personnel in Syria, according to the group’s statistics.

This is why any political transition to end the war and towards a democratic system must include the departure of the dictator Assad and his clique from power, otherwise the war will continue and provoke more catastrophes in terms of human lives. In this transition, all war criminals must be held accountable for their crimes, including and firstly Bachar al-Assad and his clique as they are the main force responsible for around 500,000 deaths and the forced displacements of millions of people since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011.

The end of the war is an absolute humanitarian and political necessity. The end of the war must lead to the end of the suffering of millions of people inside and outside Syria and give them the possibility to return to their homes. The end of the war is also a political objective because it is the only way for democratic and progressive forces to reorganise and once again play a leading role in the struggle for a new Syria for all without discrimination far from the dictatorship of the criminal Assad regime and the authoritarian practices of Islamic fundamentalist forces. At the same time, there is a need to empower the democratic popular movement and FSA democratic groups upholding the objectives of the revolution and uniting the various components of the Syrian people to challenge sectarianism and racism.

We should remember the action of activist Rima Dali in April 2012 who stood in front of the Syrian Parliament in Damascus holding a banner that read, “Stop the killing. We want to build a country for all Syrians”, it remains indeed a priority and very much current in the context of today.

25/09/2016

Socialist Resistance

 

http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article4728 

On The Allies We’re Not Proud Of: A Palestinian Response to Troubling Discourse on Syria

 

Friday 14 October 2016

We, the undersigned Palestinians, write to affirm our commitment to the amplification of Syrian voices as they endure slaughter and displacement at the hands of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. We are motivated by our deep belief that oppression, in all of its manifestations, should be the primary concern of anyone committed to our collective liberation. Our vision of liberation includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.

We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria.

The Syrian revolution was in fact a natural response to 40 years of authoritarian rule. The Assad regime, with the support of its foreign financial and military backers, is attempting to preserve its power at the expense of the millions of Syrians whom the regime has exiled, imprisoned, and massacred. We believe that minimizing this context in any discussion of Syria dismisses the value of Syrian self-determination and undermines the legitimacy of their uprising.

We also believe that an important consequence of all foreign interventions, including those purportedly done on behalf of the uprising, has been the setback of the original demands of revolution. The revolution is a victim, not a product, of these interventions. It is imperative for any analysis of Syria to recognize this fundamental premise. We cannot erase the agency of Syrians struggling for liberation, no matter how many players are actively working against them.

Though we maintain that the phenomenon of foreign aid demands thorough critique, we are concerned by the ways in which foreign aid has been weaponized to cast suspicion on Syrian humanitarian efforts. Foreign aid is not unique to Syria; it is prevalent in Palestine as well. We reject the notion that just because an organization is receiving foreign aid, it must follow then that that organization is partaking in some shadowy Western-backed conspiracy. Such nonsense has the effect of both undermining humanitarian efforts while simultaneously whitewashing the very crimes against humanity that necessitated the aid in the first place.

Furthermore, we object to the casual adoption of “war on terror” language. Enemies of liberation have historically used this rhetoric to target humanitarians, organizers, and community members. From Muhammad Salah to the Midwest 23 to the Holy Land Five, our community is all too familiar with the very real consequence of employing a “war on terror” framework. Therefore, we reject a discourse that perpetuates these old tactics and peddles harmful and unwarranted suspicion against Syrians.

Along these lines, it is our position that any discussion of Syria that neglects the central role of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime in the destruction of Syria directly contradicts the principles of solidarity by which we abide. We have reflected on our own tendency to heroize those who advocate on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, and we fear that some members of our community may have prioritized the celebrity status of these individuals over the respect and support we owe to those Syrians affected most directly by the war, as well as those living in the diaspora whose voices have been dismissed as they have watched their homeland be destroyed.

We will no longer entertain individuals who fail to acknowledge the immediate concerns of besieged Syrians in their analysis. Despite reaching out to some of these individuals, they have shown an unwillingness to reflect on the impact of their analysis. We regret that we have no choice left but to cease working with these activists whom we once respected.

We would like to encourage others who are guided by similar principles to do the same.

13 October 2016

Signatures: Abdul-Wahab Kayyali, Abdulla AlShamataan, Abdullah M, Abed Abou Shhadeh, Abir Kopty, Adam Akkad, Adnan abd alrahman, Adrian McAfee, Ahlam abdulrahman, Ahmad, Ahmad Al-Sholi, Ahmad Kaki, Ahmad N, Ahmed, Ahmed A, Ahmed Mousa, Aiman Abdelmajid, AJ N, Ala K, Ala’a Salem, Alexis Abuhadba, Ali A. Omar, Ali Mohammad Kabli, Amal A., Amal Ayesh, Amanda Batarseh, Amanda Michelle, Amanda N, Amani Alkowni, Ameen M, Ameen Q., Amena Elmashni, Amera AK., Amir Bey, Amira S, Amjad Hajyassin, Amr Khalifa, Anass, Andrew Kadi, Areej, Aref Nammari, Arwa Alkhawaja, Atef Khalaf, Aya Khalifeh, Aziz F Ammoura, Aziz Jamous, Azmi Bishara, Bashar Subeh, Bayan Abusneineh, Beesan Ramadan, Bilal Shreidi, Boulos Bathish, Bushra Hayati, Butheina Hamdah, Dalal Hillou, Dalia, Dalia, Dana Itayem, Dana M, Dania Barakat, Dania Mukahhal, Danielle Rabie, Dareen Mohamad, Dena E., Diana J.A., Diana Naoum, Dina A., Dina Moumin, Dina Sayedahmed, Diyala Shihadih, Dorgham Abusalim, Dr. Isam Abu Qasmieh, Ebaa Rezeq, Eman Abdelhadi, Eyad Hamid, Eyad Mohamed Alkurabi, Fadi Amireh, Farah Saeed, Faran Kharal, Faris G, Faten Awwad, Fatima El-ghazali, Fouad Halbouni, George Abraham, GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid, Gorbah Hamed, Grace Ghunaim, Hadeel Hejja, Haitham Omar, Haleemah A, Hana Khalil, Haneen Al-Ghabra, Haneen Amra, Hani Barghouthi, Hani Kharufeh, Hani Khatib, Hanin Shakrah, Hanna Alshaikh, Hareth Yousef, Hasan H., Hashem Asfour, Hassan Aboud, Hatem Hammad, Hazem Jamjoum, Heba Nimr, Helal Jwayyed, Husam El-Qoulaq, Hussain Al-Sahyuni, Ibraheem Sumaira, Ibtihal Mahmood, Ida A., Imran Salha, Iskandar Abbasi, Ism Mustaar, Iyad El-Baghdadi, Izzaddine M., Izzaddine M., Jackie Husary, Jane Tannous, Janeen Obeid, Jannine M, Jehad Abusalim, Jenien B, Jennifer Mogannam, Jennine K, Jihad Ashkar, Joey Husseini Ayoub, Jomana Abdallah, Jon Day, Jordan Robinson, Julia Hachme, Jumana Al-Qawasmi, Kareana Kee, Kareem El-Hosseiny, Kareem Samara, Karmel Sabri, Kefah Elabed, Khaled Barakat, khaled bobakri, Khalid Hijazi, Kiyan Sahyuni, Kowther Qashou, Laith H, Lama Abu Odeh, Lamees Mekkaoui, Lana Barkawi, Lara Abu Ghannam, Lara Kollab, Layan Jaber, Layanne H., Laymoor Saadat, Leena Aboutaleb, Leila Abdelrazaq, Lila Suboh, Lina Barkawi, Lina Eid, Linah Alsaafin, Linda Ereikat, Lojain Saadat, Lojayn Ottman, Loubna Qutami, Lubna H, Lubna Morrar, Magda Magdy, Mahmoud Elsheikh, Mahmoud Khalil, Mahmoud Qudaih, Mai Anwar, Mai Nasrallah, Maisa Morrar, Majed A. of Jerusalem, Majed Abuzahriyeh, Manal Abokwidir, Manal El Haj, Manal H, Maram Kamal, Marguerite Dabaie, Mariam Barghouti, Mariam Rimawi, Mariam Saleh, Marwa Fatafta, Maura Yasin, Maxine Anwaar, Mekarem E., Menat Elattma, Michael Hunt, Minem Marouf, Mira Shihadeh, Mjriam Abu Samra, Mohamad Batrawi, Mohamad Sabbah, Mohamed hassan, Mohamed Taleb, Mohammad Abou-Ghazala, Mohammad Al-Ashqar, Mohammad Horreya, Mohammed Sulaiman, Mohsin S, Mona Bibi, Mona Naser, Moureen Kaki, Msallam AbuKhalil, Muna Sharif, Muniba Hassan, Musaab Balchi, Nadeen Shaker, Nader Ihmoud, Nadia Z. Ismail, Nadia Ziadat, Nadine D, Nadine H, Naeem, NAJI EL KHATIB, Natalie Spring, Nawal Musleh, Nayef Al Smadi, Neil Fowler, Nida Khalil, Nidal Bitari, Nihal Q, Noor Gaith, Noor Qutami, Nora Abushaaban, Nour Azzouz, Nour Hamida, Nour Salman, Nusayba Hammad, Omar Coolaq, Omar Jamal, Omar Masood, Omar Zahzah, Osama Aburumuh, Osama Khawaja, Osama Mor, Raed Khartabel, Raef zreik, Rami Okasha, Ramsey K, Ramzi Issa, Rana Asad, Rana Baker, Randa MKW, Rani Allan, Rania Salem, Rasha A., Rawan A., Rawan Eewshah, Rawya Makboul, Reem J, Reem S, Reema Asia, Rena Zuabi, Renad Saadat, Riad Alarian, Riya Al-sanah, Ryah A, Sabreen Ettaher, Saeed U, Salim Salamah, Samar Azzaidani, Samar Batrawi, Sameeha Elwan, Sami J., Sami Mubarak, Sami Shahin, Samia S., Samir Hazboun, Samya Abu-Orf, Sandra Tamari, Sara Zubi, Sarah Abu., Sarah Ali, Sarah Aly, Sarah Ghouleh, Sarah Shahin, Sarah Z, Sarona Bedwan, Seham Alyan, Serena Umer Khan, Shadi H, Shady Zarka, Shafeka Hashash, Shahrazad Odeh, Shermin Ahmed, Shifa Alkhatib, Shirien D, Sima Dajani, SOAS Palestine Society, Soheir Asaad, Sonia Farsakh, Susan Al-Suqi, Susan Jenin Yaseen, Susie Abdelghafar, Tahani H., Taher Herzallah, Tala Barakat, Talal Alyan, Tamar Ghabin, Tarek Abou-Ghazala, Tareq R, Tariq Luthun, Tariq Nafi, Tasneem Abu-Hejleh, Tasneem mujahid, Tawfieq Mousa, Tawfiq Kayyali, Tsedenya Bizani, Ummi Fulani, Wajih Abousalim, Wala Salameh, Walid Shoebat, Wassim Kanaan, Yahiya Saad, Yahya Abou-Ghazala, Yahya Abu Seido, Yamila shannan, Yasir M. Tineh, Yasmeen S, yasmeensh, Yasmine Nammari, Yasser Quzz, Yazan Amro, Yazan Meqbil, Yousef Y, Yousuf Soliman, Zachariah Barghouti, Zaid Khatib, Zaid Muhammad, Zainab Alkowni, Zein Rimawi, Zeina A., Zeina Labadi, Zeyad El Omari,

Radical Socialist Statement on Kashmir

Radical Socialist condemns the continued violence against people in the Kashmir valley, where the death toll is continuously rising, making people remember 2010 all over again. Even by Government figures, in the last two decades around 40,000 people have been killed, including over 21000 real or spurious terrorists. Civil rights groups put the figure at around 100,000.

The violence this time was sparked off by state response to the public protests at the killing of Burhan Wani, described by Indian state and media as poster boy of the Hizbul Mujahideen. Wani was the latest in a series of “terrorist killed in encounter”. In many of these cases, the killings have been extremely dubious. Some reports (e.g., by the PUCL) about Wani’s killing suggest he was shot dead from a distance of four feet in a case of cold blooded murder. Two other persons accompanying Wani were also killed by a special team of the security forces. Such cold blooded killings camouflaged as “encounter” in an alleged gun-fight is unacceptable in a democracy. This followed previous such cases and sparked widespread outrage.

The response of the state has been to intensify shootings, killings, and other violence. Over forty people have been killed so far, and over 300 injured till date. The unprovoked indiscriminate firing, teargas shelling and lathi-charge on a mob gathered for Wani’s last rites, is a gross violation of the law and a human rights excess, or would be in any democratic country.

Indiscriminate repression by the Indian state is experienced by Kashmiris in their day-to-day lives. Secular and democratic forms of protest have been brutally silenced over the years. Certainly, terrorism exists in Kashmir. But unless the conversation is shifted from terrorism to the causes of terrorism, India can only go on increasing the size of the armed forces and the numbers killed, maimed, raped, without any just peace. The 22 year-old Wani, belonging to one such group became, in his death, a symbol of the Kashmiri aspiration for freedom and resistance against state oppression. Thousands of mourners gathered on the fateful weekend could relate to his death, as death of their own kin who took up arms for the cause of freedom. The eruption witnessed in the last week in the valley, unlike the portrayal in the media is not a make of any foreign power. This represents popular anger, and a refusal to put up with the military dominated national integration practiced by India.

It is important to point out that under the present regime, while the actual behavior of the military and the police has not changed the degree of ideological pressure in India to accept this has grown. Thus, television channels have been used to silence all dissent on Kashmir. The social media has been widely used to propagate not merely hatred, but slogans of annihilating the Kashmiri people, forcible population transfers to turn them into minorities in their own land, etc. Rapes and sexual violence of all sorts have become commonplaces in Kashmir. The quarter century old Kunan Poshpora rape case drags on in a far away court. It is not even allowed to be brought to the Srinagar High Court. Sexual violence in a war like context is not about sexual desire. When 125 soldiers enter a village, separate the men from the women, and sexually assault 50 women aged between 13 and 60, clearly we are seeing a military practice. But while huge numbers of rapes are claimed by women, there is not a single conviction. Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar, during the hearing of the Pathribal fake encounter at the Supreme Court in 2012, had said to armed personnel: “You go to a place in exercise of AFSPA, you commit rape, you commit murder, then where is the question of sanction? It is a normal crime which needs to be prosecuted, and that is our stand.”

But the executive and legislative wings of the state have flatly ignored this occasional intervention by the judicial win roleIndia asserts that Kashmir is an integral part of India, something proved by the fact that elections are periodically held. Residents of the Valley have lost all faith in these claims, at least since the late 1980s. Kashmir’s right to self-determination, conceded verbally in 1948, has been systematically ignored. By holding elections, India has falsely claimed that high voter turn-out during such elections is an indicator of the ebb in the demand for Kashmir’s freedom. However, the political demand for self-determination has remained deeply etched in the popular consciousness of the people. Imposing draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Power’s Act that give the impunity to state forces to kill, exposes the role of the Indian state that uses brute force to subjugate people in the valley.

Under the garb of protecting territorial integrity and national security, excesses and abuse of state power in Kashmir by the Indian state continue unabated. While, the Indian state cries foul over Pakistan’s sponsoring terror in Kashmir, it conveniently ignores the state terror that the people in the valley are subjected to.

The rise of Hindutva ideology has added another dimension. Every Kashmiri Muslim is seen as a de facto terrorist. While crocodile tears are shed about Kashmiri Pandits, they are retained in the same position, even by the BJP, because their prime value lies in responding to all criticism about AFSPA, fake encounters, etc with a one line query: “What about the Pandits?” Given that in Pakistan occupied Kashmir too, opposition to spurious governments imposed from Islamabad are met with violence, it is clear that Kashmiris see themselves as a distinct nation.

We do not find it necessary to endorse this or that particular party or leadership. Nor are the people of Kashmir waiting for endorsement, and still less guidance or direction from India. As Indians, our responsibility is to mobilize people, to demand from the Government of India:

• Repeal the Armed Forces Special Power’s Act.

• Stop all forms of violence including sexual violence.

• De-militarise Kashmir.

• Restore freedom of the press inside Kashmir.

• Conduct a thorough investigation into the excesses carried out by military, para-military and police forces.

• Exemplary punishment to those found guilty.

• Affirm the right to self determination.

• Immediate relief measures for the survivors of state violence.

July 16, 2016

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Radical Socialist Election Bulletin April 2016


This bulletin was published in Bangla in early April 2016, explaining our political stance. However, given the issues, it was felt necessary to also provide an English translation. We are grateful to Professor Chandak Sengoopta for translating it into English. The RS post-election analysis has also been published in Bangla, in the June 2016 issue of Radical, our journal. It will be translated into English and circulated through the website later. -- Administrator.


Fascism on the Rise

Trinamul Misgovernment

The Congress-Left Front Alliance

 

West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016:

Political Background and Questions of Strategy and Tactics

Radical Socialist

 

Preamble

Does bourgeois democracy offer us any advantages within an overall bourgeois system?  And if it does, then does that have a bearing on our electoral preference?  We need to answer these questions before discussing how the working classes ought to vote in the forthcoming elections for the legislative assembly and the ideological issues that may be involved.

One major feature of bourgeois democracy is the requirement for political parties to find support from the people at elections held at fixed intervals, which means that public opinion has some importance.  It is true that this “public opinion” is largely artificial, since the consciousness of the people can be easily misdirected.  It is not, however, correct to conclude that elections are entirely a farce and do not reflect the people’s “real” desires and opinions at all.  In fact, the parties of the ruling classes are compelled, up to a point, to take the people’s wishes into account and fulfil their demands.  During elections, the importance of the people naturally rises in the eyes of the parties and that creates the opportunity for different classes to obtain some advantages for themselves.

Those who are concerned solely with the interests of exploited workers and other oppressed communities cannot ignore elections; indeed, they have to take a considered position in them, because the electoral struggle can be of some assistance in obtaining some advantages, deflecting at least some ruling class oppression and in raising general social consciousness.

There can be no unchanging formula for evaluating an electoral situation or for specifying what position one must adopt.  The situation is constantly liable to change and we must avoid being entrapped by some “political puritanism.”  The economic and political realities of the nation and the state, the current balance of political and social forces, and the political goals desired by the working classes are what should determine our electoral strategy.  How we participate in this struggle will depend on the organizational strengths of our political and social forces, and of those sharing our objectives.

There are many leftist groups outside the Left Front, which are often categorized as the“revolutionary contingent” or “revolutionary communists.”  These groups are far from identical and we shall discuss them in greater detail later.  In 2011, some of these groups advocated voting for the Left Front with reservations; some put up their own candidates; some were in favour of NOTA; and some, directly or indirectly, urged voters to support the Trinamul Congress.  Even those who put up their own candidates previously cooperated, to varying extents, with Trinamul; their abrupt turn to an “independent” position was either strategic or due to Trinamul’s failure to fulfil their expectations.  The situation is different in 2016.

The Radical Socialist position in 2011 was based on our analysis of the state of the class struggle, and not on a calculation of immediate benefits and risks.  We began by arguing thatthe conviction that “they are all the same” issimplistic and characteristic of petit-bourgeois anarchists.  We clearly stated that the CPI or the CPI(M) were definitely not communist parties.  “The Communist Party of India was influenced by Stalinism from the 1930s.”  (Radical, April 2011, p.1)  “The parties constituting the Left Front, such as the CPI(M), are not themselves bourgeois parties but rather, parties that emerged from the workers’ struggle that are unable to work outside the bourgeois framework” (ibid.)

In 2011, we stated that “if we start with the interests of the working class, then we need to take a different approach to the matter.”  We do not support a vote-boycott.  A vote-boycott is appropriate in two circumstances.  When fascism has established itself openly, then participating in an election would be to confer legitimacy on fascism.  Conversely, when the working class mass movement has reached an intensity that could generate a different, better kind of democracy, a system that would allow working people to determine their own future, then the limitations of bourgeois democracy might impede the emergence of that superior democracy and better society.  A boycott would then be the correct strategy.

“In all other cases, voting could be based on principle or strategy.  The principled approach is not to vote for bourgeois parties and candidates under any circumstances.  The strategic approach would consider how the unity and confidence of the working class could be best enhanced.  If, in a constituency, there are only two (or more) bourgeois candidates, then the more working-class people abstain from voting, the more they damage the bourgeoisie and the more they reinforce their own unity.  But what if a bourgeois candidate is confronted by a revisionist/Stalinist candidate?  Here too, we shall need to find a strategic response” (ibid., p.2)  Then, comparing the CPI(M) of 1977 with the CPI(M) of 2011, we said that “if, after this, we ask the working class to vote for the Left Front simply in order to stop Trinamul, then we would be asking it to accept that its crisis could be resolved by the return of the decadent, corrupt Left Front to power.”  Based on this analysis, we urged: “instead of voting for any bourgeois party or placing any reliance on the Left Front, please support independent candidates from the working class, from oppressed groups, and from minority communities, and help build independent workers’ organizations to conduct the class struggle” (ibid., p.2)

 

The West Bengal Elections in the Present Context of Indian Politics

We must not approach the West Bengal election as a purely provincial matter.  If that were the case, then, despite considering the CPI(M) to be a revisionist party, we could have adopted the same position as we did in 2011.  But the situation has changed: a party that intends to establish fascism has come to power at the centre.

We have analyzed fascism at length in the past.  Where we differ from other left groups is our stress on examining all the characteristics of the fascist BJP-RSS and determine the nature of their relationship with the big bourgeosie. 

What is fascism?  Why do we regard the Sangh Parivar as the only fascists in India?  In a nutshell:

(1)   The essential precondition for the rise of fascism is a pervasive structural crisis in bourgeois society.  The crisis of international capitalism in generating surplus value and transforming it into profit and fresh capital led to a crisis of Indian capital and attracted the Indian big bourgeoisie to Modi and the BJP.  Since traditional approaches could no longer generate enough capital, they wanted to exercise extreme methods to maximize surplus value.

(2)   For this reason, they were ready to abandon their usual preference for bourgeois democracy.  Bourgeois democracy has certain advantages in a country like India, characterized over many years by the diverse struggles of workers, peasants, dalits and minorities.   First, people have the opportunity every few years of removing a party from power and bringing in a new one.  This is held up as the victory of the people.  Second, some economic and social concessions can be granted when needed, and these reforms can temporarily channel the class struggle into a less radical course.  For example, the Manmohan Singh government started NREGA whilst simultaneously facilitating globalization at the behest of the World Bank, IMF and the big bourgeosie.  The first 100 days’ work helped poorer people, albeit to a small extent.  Third, bourgeois democracy disseminates political power widely within the bourgeois class.  The majority of that class participates in running the state and government through political parties, the mass media, universities, chambers of commerce, bureaucracy and so forth.  But the longevity of bourgeois democracy depends on the balance of economic and social forces.  When this balance is lacking, the big bourgeoisie seeks to protect its historical interests by enhancing the power of the state and it is prepared to accept the political hegemony of a constricted minority.  Fascism stems from the growth of monopoly capital but ultimately deprives monopoly capital of any direct political power.

(3)   In contemporary societies, where the bourgeoisie is far smaller in extent than the working class, it is impossible to transform production exclusively through some form of state power, including the police or the army.  The working people in bourgeois democracies have obtained some rights by fighting for them, e.g., a minimum wage, fixed working hours, or reservations for dalits and adivasis in education and work.  Trade union rights and the right to strike were also wrested through struggle.  To deprive them of these hard-won rights requires a different kind of mass-mobilization driven by a different ideology.  The conscious sections of the working class are sought to be subdued by terror and violence perpetrated by a reactionary “mass movement.”

(4)   This kind of reactionary movement is sustained by the petit-bourgeoisie.  If they are strongly united, they can pull in the less progressive sections of the working class.  Specifically in India, fascism has been created by combining religious/communal, upper-caste and ultra-national forces.  Initially, this ideology had no place in the arsenal of the big bourgeoisie, which, over the last three decades, sought to capture power through gradual infiltration into civil society.  The RSS, from its inception, was ultra-Hindu, ultra-Brahminical and supportive of fascism.  In the 1940s, RSS supporter Anthony Elenjimittam wrote: “From the very beginning of its movement, the RSS used the saffronflag, dharma chakra and the slogan of satyameva jayate as its symbols and these patriotic ideals have governed the Sangh’s evolution.  Had the environment been more positive, then RSS youth could have been for India what the Hitler Youth was for Germany or the Fascist Youth for Italy.  If discipline, centralized organization and organic collectivism signify fascism, then the RSS is not embarrassed to call itself fascist.  We need to get rid of the stupid idea that fascism and totalitarianism are evil and the parliamentary system or British-Indian style democracy sacred” (The Philosophy and Action of the RSS for the Hind Swaraj, p.197).

 

Leaders of the RSS, such as Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, stated clearly that nationalism is not a geographical doctrine.  In other words, they are not just ultra-nationalists but consider nation-building to be a religious process based on an extreme interpretation of Hinduism.In this view, the Brahman is supreme, and the “lower castes” inferior for all time.  Whilst holding to a pseudo-egalitarian stance and calling for the end of reservations, they condemn all inter-community and inter-caste relationships.  Their support for khap panchayats is as unsurprising as the fact that Arun Shourie, a theoretician of the Sangh Parivar, once penned a malicious tract against Babasaheb Ambedkar.  Their interpretation of Hinduism is strongly anti-Muslim and anti-Christian.  The Viswa Hindu Parisad was founded with the goal to make all of India Hindu or subservient to Hindutva.  The very character of communal riots changed after the Parisad’s foundation – Muslims were warned that the “angry Hindu” has awakened and Muslims who did not follow the dictates of Hindus would pay for their disobedience.

 

In the last few years, the influence of the RSS has grown in West Bengal too, not only among unemployed and despairing sections of the petit-bourgeoisie or ideologically backward sections of the working class but also among their educated and well-established members.

 

(5)   There is a significant difference between historical fascism (Hitler, Mussolini) and contemporary fascism.  Classical fascism emerged in nations where bourgeois democracy was weak.  But in India, there was a growing demand for democracy from the 1920s and the political leaders of the Indian bourgeoisie had to accept those demands, despite making many compromises in the 1930s.  Hence, unlike Hitler in Germany, the successors of Golwalkar and Savarkar could not ignore Indian democracy.  In a nation where 60, 70 (or, even in some places, 80) per cent of people vote, there is obviously strong support for (bourgeois) democracy.  The RSS, therefore, was compelled to tailor its methods accordingly and began to infilitrate civil society.  In the 1980s, they already had thousands of sakhas across India and the number has risen since then.  Since 2014, however, there has been a qualitative change.  The BJP had previously entered government only as a member of a coalition.  This time, however, they showed their true colours and put forward Modi as leader and promoted the likes of Amit Shah.  And the big bourgeoisie accepted this.  Clearly, their economic goals – the “reform” of labour laws, the intensified exploitation of temporary labour by reforming the laws related to them, the “reform” of factory laws and so forth – are to ensure that despite the economic weakness of their situation, they can compete with the more developed economies of China and the West in accumulating capital.  Huge general strikes in 2010, 2012 and 2013 had shown that the UPA Government, although right wing in its orientation, was too weak to facilitate this.

 

Hence, the Sangh Parivar, now strongly entrenched in civil society, has been able to strike a deal with the ruling classes.  Having come to power, they are now serving the economic interests of Indian capital with great energy.  In order to do so and also because they have now been allowed to pursue their own ideology openly, they are ruthlessly seeking to stifle democracy.  It should be noted that their chief ideological opponents are not the Congress, Trinamul, Janata Dal (United), or RJD.  They have consistently attacked dalits, adivasis and leftists, and among leftists, they have not distinguished between revolutionaries and revisionists.  Of the three arrested during the attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University, one (Kanhaiya Kumar) is a leader of AISF, the student wing of the CPI, and the other two, Umar Khaled and Anirban Bhattacharya, are more-or-less aligned with the extreme left.In Allahabad, the target was a worker of the AISA, affiliated with the CPIML (Liberation).  Professor Nivedita Menon, feminist and (for the most part) subalternist, was attacked viciously.  Professor Saibaba, reportedly a Maoist, is still in jail.  Whilst it is undoubtedly important to determine the correct interpretation of Marxism, anybody talking about class or the class struggle is considered dangerous by fascists, and in need of being silenced.  And those Untermenschen, the Dalits, have to be beaten into submission.

 

Why this hatred for the Left?

We have to look beyond elections and parliamentary strength to answer this question.  The reason the bourgeosie supports fascism is because the other parties found it impossible to to enforce extreme right-wing principles by using the state’s mechanisms for repression.

 

The promise of fascism is this: they would create a reactionary mass movement among ordinary people.  Their propaganda is obsessed with beef-eating or the nature of “true” nationalism, but their main ideological adversaries are the leftists.Why?  Clearly, it has nothing to do with vote counts.  Had it been a matter of electoral strength, then Congress, Janata Dal (United), or Trinamul would have been the targets.

 

The fact that even today in India, certain issues are raised – poverty, the removal of poverty, the role of the state in education, health or transport– is not due to Sonia or Rahul Gandhi, nor to Mulayam Singh, Nitish Kumar or Lalooprasad Yadav.  Nor is it the strategy of Sitaram Yechury or D Raja.  It is because class struggle in India is still conducted in leftist terms, even though leftists do not always gain politically from it.  But the specific issues, the language in which they are discussed and the social interests in question, all reveal the influence of leftism and class struggle.  In the 2014 elections, the greatest emphasis was on the BJP securing an absolute majority and the big bourgeoisie of India had bet on it.  The BJP had promised to extirpate all the class interests of workers (from unions, salary scales and minimum wage to general strikes).  But despite bringing nationalism and Rama into the fray, they could not extinguish those class-demands.  It was seen that the trade union movement prevented the bourgeoisie from obtaining the kind of reform of labour laws that they had wanted.  And it is the AITUC and CITU that, despite all their limitations, opportunism, bureaucracy and tendency to compromise with capitalists, have unified that trade union movement and played significant roles in the repeated success of national general strikes.

 

That the discourse of agitations for democracy is also largely leftist is demonstrated by the Sangh Parivar and their supporters responding to democratic demands with the questions: Did Russia have democracy?  Did China?  We are fully conscious of the absence of democracy stretching from Stalin’s Russia to Kim Jong-Un’s North Korea. We do not even consider those regimes to be socialist.  But we know that from Marx and Engels through the Second International and up to the first period of the Communist International, the Marxist tradition was one of fighting for democracy.  In this country too, it is the leftists who, despite their many shortcomings, have been instrumental in the fight for democracy, the right to strike, or the right to form unions. 

 

Where leftist agitation – in particular, the communist mainstream – failed, the struggle was conducted by Babasaheb Ambedkar and his followers.  That struggle was for the democratic rights of the “lower castes.”  The dalit agitation remained weak for almost two decades after Dr Ambedkar’s death.  But various streams of dalit agitation began to merge from the 1970s.  Some of these were revolutionary, such as the Dalit Panthers of Maharashtra, but the larger movement also included the Backward and Minority Classes’ Employees Federation led by Kanshi Ram, from which emerged the Bahujan Samaj Party.  The Dalit Panthers and the Dalit Sangharsh Samity of Karnataka were inspired by Marxism and Ambedkar’s thought.  Kanshi Ram, on the other hand, first formed a trade union and then an electoral party.  Even he, however, admitted to being influenced by Dr Ambedkar. 

 

The Brahminical RSS found both these movements threatening.  Any kind of dalit organization is bound to offend those who consider the very idea of dalit equality to be unacceptable.  Ambedkar, consequently, was the bete noire of Hindutva ideologues.  Savarkar’s statement that in ancient India the Buddhists were treasonous elements, has to be interpreted in the light of Ambedkar’s criticism of Hinduism and the mass conversions to Buddhism that he organized.  More recently, Ambedkar was castigated by Arun Shourie.

 

But it is impossible to scorn all dalits when organizing a mass organization on the basis of Hindutva.  Hence, the Hindutva brigade is seeking to assimilate dalits on the one hand, whilst fighting progressive dalits on the other.  The reason for this is that leftist ideology is one kind of ideology.  The existence of dalits is a social fact.  Dalit ideological protests are attacked ruthlessly, whilst including dalits in “Hindu society” at times of anti-Muslim riots or to build majorities during elections.  Therefore, Tathagata Ray, a leader of the same Sangh Parivar that was responsible for the death of Shankar Guha Neogy in Central India and for the imprisonment of Dr Binayak Sen and Saibal Jana on false charges, sheds tears for (largely lower-caste) refugees from Bengal in Central India.  The institutional murder of Rohit Vemula and attacks on the Ambedkar Students Association are complemented by the infiltration of matuas in the quest to capture dalit votes.

 

But the dalits entering politics on their own?  That is unforgivable.  So, Apparao Podile is returned to the Univesity of Hyderabad.  The university is transformed into a fascist camp, with no water, electricity or internet and no access to the press. 

 

Another mainstay of fascist ideologies all over the world is gender discrimination, which, needless to say, takes different forms in different cultures.  Among the proponents of Hindutva and Brahiminism, it comprises the strict regulation of the lives of high-caste Hindu women and attacks on Muslim and dalit women.  The most extreme version of this was the mass rape and murder in the name of “resistance” in Gujarat in 2002.  But attacks on high-caste and dalit marriages and support for khap panchayats are routine.  The battle with Brahminism and Hindutva must, therefore, join forces with the struggle for gender equality.

 

Five Years of Trinamul and the Current Election

The five-year term of Trinamul must be assessed by two distinct criteria.  One is their performance in the state.  At the state-level, they have done all they could to break up mass movements, workers’ movements and strikes.  In this state plagued by unemployment, workers are being hired freely on temporary contracts for permanent government posts and one must ask how they could live on the wages they are being offered.  Simultaneously, democratic rights are under constant assault.  Repression of trade unions and student unions is routine.  The worst days of the Left Front pale into insignificance beside the election violence and fraud and the extent of police and bureaucratic cooperation with such practices.  A new element is the suicide of farmers.  The deaths of tea-garden labourers by starvation has broken all records.  Oppression of women, sexual violence and rapes are multiplying at dizzying rates.  Dismissing these incidents as “concocted” or “staged” is part of the new culture of this state.  Along with these, countless reports of corruption crowd the headlines.  Were Trinamul’s party expenses funded by the millions paid by customers of Mamata Banerjee’s paintings?  From Sarada to Narada, tales of bribery and corruption are legion.  And anybody raising these questions has been attacked as a Maoist or a CPI(M) supporter. 

Trinamul supporters as well as “leftists” blinded by their hatred of the CPI(M) would ask, “did the Left Front not nurture thugs?  Was there no corruption in the days of the Left Front?  Did the Left Front not conduct campaigns of repression?”

We have two things to say.  First, we do not admire the Left Front.After the defeat of the Left Front in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, two of our memberswrote in a nationally and internationally disseminated analysis: “Over 32 years of uninterrupted rule in West Bengal, they have brought about what one may call Stalinism in one state … as in Eastern Europe in the past, the Left Front first targeted those who might challenge its rule from the left.  The APDR and other organizations have chronicled the long-term repression of Naxalites, and this has intensified remarkably over recent years.  Massive repression has been justified by appeals to ‘Maoist danger’ and ‘secessionism’” (Kunal Chattopadhyay and Soma Marik, “The Elections of 2009 and the Prospects of Left Revival,” Indian Social Thought, 8, no 1 [April-June 2009], p. 43).

But the second of our assertions is that the Left Front and in particular the CPI(M) is a large revisionist party.  Despite occasionally talking about social change, they really wish to stay within the bourgeois system.  They dream of serving the bourgeoisie for ever, whilst at the same time assuring the working class of looking after their interests.  That is why they get so annoyed when they hear of revolutionary and alternative trade unions.  That is why they do not want to move a step beyond bourgeois democracy.  They patronized thugs, indulged in some corruption – for example, by employing people from their membership lists to government and semi-government educational institutions.  But this is where they differed from Trinamul.  In the Trinamul regime, the party does not hire lumpens.  The regime itself is run by lumpens.  Trinamul rule aims to reinforce social and economic misfortunes and despair, and to produce lumpens from the ranks of the unemployed and semi-employed, a significant number of whom are from the religious minorities.  They are subject to even greater difficulties than the rest and the Trinamul government is using them as the social basis of their rule.  They are the ones who break up mass movements, attack trade unions, and determine election results.  The CPI(M) used to impose its authority on trade unions; Trinamul seeks to destroy the trade union movement altogether.  Their role in the general strikes of 2012, 2013 and 2015 shows that they are even more extreme than Congress.  Congress was in power until the early part of 2014 but Trinamul was far more active in breaking strikes in 2012 and 2013.  As for corruption, there was a syndicate even in the days of the Left Front.  But there is no distinction between party and syndicate under Trinamul.  In higher and school education, the contributions of Trinamul are sweeping privatizations on the one hand and reductions in permanent appointments for teachers on the other.  The CPI(M) used to reject applicants more capable than their members.  For example, Teachers and Scientists against Maldevelopment published a list of 50 incompetent bootlickers of the CPI(M).  Trinamul supporters are so unqualified that they cannot even fulfil the minimal requirements.  That is why the appointment of full-time teachers has decreased at every level over five years of Trinamul rule, and their jobs are being done by temporary teachers – qualified as well as unqualified – on low pay.  In the end, therefore, there a big distinction between revisionist leftism and right-wing “populism.”

But it would be a mistake to confine our assessment of Trinamul to this level.  In their quest for long-term powerin West Bengal, Trinamul has adopted the despicable tactic of collaborating with Muslim fundamentalists.  They imagine that if they could capture the lion’s share of Muslim votes (26-27%), then they would need only some of the other votes to capture power.

And this is why the BJP has gained strength in West Bengal along with Trinamul’s rise to power.  Trinamul retained much of its strength in the last Lok Sabha elections but the Left Front vote collapsed disastrously.  The loss of the state power that the Left Front had used to shore up its strength and spread its influence over 34 years (1977-2011) was one reason for the latter.  Another was the gradual loss of the ideological strength that had once allowed the Left Front to inspire the masses with calls for struggle.  We had explained in 2014 that “since the election defeat of 2009, the CPI(M) had fallen to such a level that it was incapable of organizing any mass movement” (Radical, September 2014, p. 23).

Consequently, one portion of the CPI(M)’s mass following went over to the BJP.  Communalisms gain their strength from one another and therefore, Muslim and Hindu communalism grew simultaneously and the first beneficiary of this was Trinamul, since the BJP was cutting into CPI(M) votes. 

But the Hindutva lobby is relatively weak in West Bengal and a major ideological debate is involved here.  Hence, the BJP regards the Left, not Trinamul, as its chief adversary.  Sangh Parivar activists on the internet often put secularists, Marxists and Muslims in the same category.  This is why they revel in attacking workers of the PDSF, ISA, USDF and Radical.

Conversely, BJP and Trinamul are serving each other’s interests in different ways.  By adopting the role of a “responsible opposition,” Trinamul is shoring up the Modi government, especially in the Rajya Sabha.  And that is why the BJP has protected Trinamul in the Sarada scandal and others.

In 2011, we wrote: “She [Mamata Banerjee] has learnt the lessons of the 2004 and 2006 elections.  She realizes that it would be politically suicidal to have an alliance with the BJP in West Bengal, where many seats would be lost without Muslim votes.”  An open alliance, therefore, is out of the question.  But some of the CPI(M) votes would be allowed to go to the BJP, which would strengthen fascism.  Why should Mamata Banerjee lose any sleep over it?  Was she ever an anti-fascist?

The general state of the nation and the specific circumstances of West Bengal make it essential to remove Trinamul from power.  A large section of West Bengal’s population wants an end to their regime.

 

The Radical Socialist position on the Left Front

After the victory of Trinamul in the 2011 election, we analyzed its significance, once again stressing the character of the CPI(M) and the Left Front.  We showed why those, such as the “internal critics” of the party, who considered the CPI(M), in spite of its many errors, to be a communist party were wrong.  But even then, we distinguished between the Left Front, the constituent parties of the Front, and the Left Front Government.  We said: “The Left Front government is a reformist government in a bourgeois state.  Using bureaucratic avenues, it provided some gains for the working class on salaries and allowances, through government subsidies and licenses, maintaining a kind of balance within the state-run economy.  Those small gains for the workers were all that constituted leftism in that system” (Radical, July 2011, p.4)  We discussed how the coming of globalization made it essential to evolve a new definition of leftism and new forms of class struggle, remarking: “But these goals are unattainable where politics is based on government handouts.”

It is easy to prove that the CPI(M) is not communist but problems emerge when revolutionary-minded critics conclude that because the CPI(M) is not communist, it is bourgeois.  In an article written after the fall of the Left Front, Professor G N Saibaba called the CPI(M) a party of social fascists.  Some do not use the actual phrase “social fascism” but proceeding from similar premises, declare that there is no real difference between the CPI(M), Trinamul Congress, and the BJP. 

In truth, there is no reason to equate a working-class party with a revolutionary party.  That is why we said in 2011 that the only question about the CPI(M) was whether it was progressing toward a social democracy that was fit for the twenty-first century or whether it was content to remain within a Stalinist framework, mouthing revolutionary slogans whilst actually serving bourgeois interests” (Radical, July 2011, p.6)

So how do we differ from other “revolutionary left” or “communist left” parties?  Let us explain.  We think that the CPI(M) is an unrevolutionary workers’ party.  The Communist Party of India was under Stalinist influence since the 1930s and followed the path of class-collaboration.  But that same Stalinism also pushed them at one time toward impulsive ultra-leftism.  The principle of “socialism in one country” led communist parties of other countries to equate the interests of socialism with the interests of Soviet bureaucracy and to determine their tactics in line with the latter.  It was only after the Sino-Soviet split that the communist parties of the world gained some independence on this issue.  Meanwhile, though, decades of class-collaboration had reshaped the party’s DNA.

This politics of class collaboration, however, only works when a party’s social basis lies in the working class.  Those who criticize this standpoint argue that every political party in India creates its own trade union and one cannot say anything specific about the character of the CPI or the CPI(M) on the basis of their relationship with the AITUC or CITU.

Such views are easily countered by a deeper look at the relationship of the party with trade unions and the trade union movement.  Despite entering government, despite their countless compromises with the bourgeois system, the CPI as well as the CPI(M) need to maintain close links with workers’ movements and organizations simply in order to survive as parties and to win votes.  This does not happen with bourgeois parties.  The fascists want to smash workers’ movements out of existence.  When other bourgeois parties such as Congress or Trinamul establish trade unions, their aims and the importance of the unions in the internal politics of the party are distinct from what one finds in reformist/opportunist parties. During the 2015 General Strike, the AITUC and CITU tried to forge unity amongst all the unions; the INTUC and others did not.  Moreover, the significance of the AITUC and CITU to the CPI and CPI(M) is not matched by – or will ever match – the importance accorded to “their” unions by the Congress, Trinamul or BJP.

Therefore, we are unwilling to describe the CPI and the CPI(M) as “social fascists” or “bourgeois parties.”  We shall, of course, be asked whether we are forgetting that the murder of Khidirpur Dock Workers, the vicious police attack on the electricity workers’ movement at Santaldih, or the barbaric attacks at Marichjhapi on lower-caste/dalit refugees seeking to return to West Bengal from Central India all occurred during the rule of the Left Front.  Are we overlooking Binay Konar’s insolent threat – “they are just 13 villages; we could turn their lives into hell”?  Have we forgotten Tapasi Malik and Radharani Arhi?

No, we have not forgotten any of these.  But we do not think that resentment is the sole ingredient of class struggle.  Did Lenin forget about the murder of Rosa Luxemburg or Karl Liebknecht?  Did Lenin, Trotsky and the leaders of the Communist International forget about the betrayal of revolutions by the social democrats in 1918-20 in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy?  They did not – but they were conscious that if the liberation of the working class was to be won by the working class itself, then the majority of the working class would need to unite under the revolutionary flag, and the route to that unity might need to follow various unpredictable paths.  Hence, when the majority of workers, and even the majority of organized workers, support the reformists and revisionists, then, as a defensive manoeuvre, one might even need to form united fronts with those traitors.

Those who regard BJP-Trinamul-Congress and CPI-CPI(M) as two sides of the same coin on the basis of a few superficial similarities would do well to recall these words of Karl Marx: “…all science would be superfluous if the form of appearance of things directly coincided with their essence” (Karl Marx, Capital, vol 3, p. 956 [Penguin, 2011]).

 

Today, there is no question of forming a united front with the CPI(M), and the reasons have been explained in the essay “The Ganamancha and Us” in Radical.  But Lenin, Trotsky or Clara Zetkin called for a united front of the working class, unlike Stalin or Dimitrov who sought an understanding between the bourgeoisie and the working class.  So, they evidently regarded social democracy, in spite of all its misdeeds, as a party of the working class. 

It may be objected that this is all ancient history.  In that case, let us look at contemporary Britain.  The Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, took some extreme decisions to serve imperialist interests.  Blair was as responsible as Bush for the lies justifying the invasion of Iraq.  And yet, the resurgence of the labour movement in that same country has led to the leftist Jeremy Corbyn being elected to lead that same Labour Party.  Over the last few months, Labour is speaking with a different voice.  But the party has not thereby been transformed into a revolutionary one.  It remains social democratic.

 

So, how to vote?

The first question would be – should we vote for the left parties outside the Left Front?  Or, at least, make them our first preference?  We have stated at the very beginning that we want to use the election to assist in the class struggle.  Hence, there can be no permanent or “pure” position.

We have two long-term suggestions.  First, we want the Indian electoral system to be reformed and the introduction of proportional representation.  Elections come and go, and the party that is only slightly ahead gets into power despite receiving less than 50% of votes.  With proportional representation, different leftist combinations in various states could, if they were in the lead of the class struggle, provide some representation. 

But there is no point in discussing something that does not exist.  At this time, bearing in mind the intensity of the fascist assault, we advise voting for the Left Front.  Many have been troubled by the alliance between Congress and the Left Front for this election.  But we found this far from surprising.  In the post-independence decades, the CPI/CPI(M) and Congress have cooperated on countless occasions, including elections.  Those who are astonished by their joint campaigns and processions must be easily surprised.  Things do not stay the same for ever.  They have failed to understand the way history moves.  Although not the only possible outcome of the history of the CPI and CPI(M), this is definitely a natural culmination.  And our position is based on this interpretation.  But we would still advise voting for Left Front candidates alone, and voting against candidates from Congress or other bourgeois parties in the alliance.

The smaller leftist parties or those outside the Left Front often distinguish between the unprincipled pseudo-leftism of the Left Front and their own genuine leftism.  We reject this view and would refer our readers once again to the 2014 essay, “The Public Arena and Us.”  In 2014, we said that “in India, attempts to form a centralized workers’ party have all failed.  At this point in time, any attempt to unify organizations scattered across the country would generate only some theoretical discussion and a very limited joint programme of action.  Past experience proves that such unity is transientand the splits that follow produce more bitterness and disunity than had previously existed” (Radical, September 2014, p. 20).

Regarding these organizations, we wrote: “There is a word in English – ‘sectarian’ – that is usually translated into Bengali as sankirnatabadi (closed-minded/dogmatic) but this translation does not convey the full meaning of the English expression.  A sect is a political organization that imagines itself to be creating theory and expects the working class to dutifully follow that theory once it has been disseminated by the sect’s propaganda … Every sect wants to examine only that portion of the overall course of the class struggle that fits their own pre-determined theory.  Hence, they are uninterested in other forms of struggle and even dismiss them as bourgeois or petit-bourgeois” (ibid.)

The various left parties and combinations outside the Left Front are displaying this same tendency at this election.  They are either reluctant to describe the politics of the Sangh Parivar as fascist or even if they do so, they are unable to reach a correct analysis of the rise of fascism.  Some have seen the signs of a conspiracy to establish religious fascism in the incidents at JNU.  Astonishingly, they are evading the responsibility to clarify the connection between a genuine fascism and the bourgeoisie.  Alternatively, some are describing India as an undeveloped, agrarian country in the same breath as acknowledging the rise of fascism.

They are unable to comprehend that the rise of fascism indicates a change in the character of Indian capital.  Today, China and India are new centres for the accumulation of capital in the world market.  India, needless to say, is far behind China.  But the fact that many farmers in India are still desperately poor does not contradict assertions about the growing power of Indian capital.  It shows that since Indian capital never had any access to large colonies, it has grown by the ruthless exploitation of indigenous farmers, workers and tribal communities.  Over the years of globalization (1991-2015), wealth has been rigorously extracted from them and transmitted upward on the social scale. 

This process, however, has faced resistance.  The pace of “development” has been slowed.  The bourgeoisie, consequently, is now eager to reject all social democratic models.  This is why Indian big capital favours fascism.  And this is why fascism can be opposed only by a more intense class struggle and to complement it, by sending in as many leftist representatives as possible to Parliament and the state assemblies.  We have all failed to create alternative parties and forums.  We are conscious, however, that at the present juncture, there is no point in offering alternative candidates merely as a flag-waving gesture.  If there is indeed an area where an alternative leftist force is of significance, then it would certainly be worth putting up alternative candidates there.  It is essential to include them in the fight against fascism.

But those who call the Sangh Parivar fascist are obliged to ponder how, in this complex situation, elections can be used to fight fascism. 

For the CPI(M) and reformist parties who follow the notions of Stalin and Dimitrov, the problem is a simple one.  The Dimitrov-led “united fronts” were combinations of the working class with the so-called democratic bourgeoisie.  This path was followed in India from the time of the Dutt-Bradley thesis of 1936.  The internal debates in the CPI(M) were concerned with identifying which bourgeois parties to combine with.  The Prakash Karats wanted to create another “third force” by collaborating with the SP and the RJD, whilst the Yechuris wanted to combine with Congress.  The electoral contest in Kerala was between the Congress-led UDF and the CPI(M)-led LDF was defined as a regional tactic with no national applicability. It is clear, however, that in West Bengal, the Left Front-Congress combination, if it wins power, will do so only with the help of the bourgeois, right-wing Congress.  So, the call to bring this combination to power is not a call to arms for the working class.  Whoever forms the government, even if it is the Left-Congress combination (which seems unlikely), the working class will have to continue its struggle.  Now that fascism is in the ascendant, we are not worried about the character of the government and simply want to raise the number of reformist left representatives in Parliament and the assemblies.   

We would even say that if Suryakanta Misra were to be Chief Minister and somebody from Congress the Deputy Chief Minister, it would be simpler for the CPI(M) to attribute every neo-liberal initiative to “pressure” from Congress.  Hence, the Congress-Left Front alliance is not to be supported for the kind of government it would bring, but because a rise in the number of leftist legislators would strengthen the trade unions, the student movements and the feminist movements to some extent.  AAP, JDU, RJD, or Congress may not be remotely leftist, but when the BJP is trounced in Delhi or Bihar, the opponents of the BJP – including the revolutionary left – rejoice across the nation.  The joy is not for those who won, but at the relative weakening of fascism.  For these reasons, the Government has temporarily retreated from the Land Acquisitions Bill and other plans.  Confrontations at JNU, FTII, IIT-M, HCU and other sites have set the scene for a real struggle.

We believe that leftism, no matter how weak at the national level or how crippled in ideological terms, poses the sole obstacle to the aims of the ruling classes.  This does not apply solely to the revolutionary left but also to the CPI and CPI(M).  If leftists are relatively prominent in Parliament or the state assemblies, then it can help to some extent in strengthening the masses they seek to be supported by at the ballot box.  There won’t be a revolution in the legislative assembly if Congress and Trinamul get fewer seats and the left gets a few more than they did in 2011.  There won’t be a revolution outside the assembly either, but it would be necessary to build up movements opposing the deprivation of trade union rights, the refusal to announce salary scales, or the employment of temporary workers. 

Where the Left Front does not have a candidate, we support candidates from the ranks of “communist revolutionaries.”  We would urge the latter not to put up more than one candidate at any one constituency.  It is completely unethical for those who deny the importance of elections and representative bodies to put up multiple candidates for one seat. 

Apart from these, we would support any independent worker, dalit, tribal or minority candidate participating in specific movements, as long as we support the movement and only if the candidate and his/her organization has no connection with the bourgeois parties.

Our friends among the revolutionary communists could raise other questions.  The answer to one possible question emerges from what we have said above.  If they really belong to one camp, then why could they not unite to make class struggle central to the election?  In fact, electoral opportunism was involved in the breakdown of the Ganamancha.  When formed, it was declared that the Ganamancha would build a mass movement highlighting immediate problems and demands.  But in 2015, the Ganamancha suddenly wanted to put up candidates for the municipal elections.  We said that this was not possible until we decided on how to utilize the elections in ideological terms.  Subsequently, all the members (except us) of Ganamancha put up their candidates, sometimes running against one another.  This is what sectarianism can lead to.  Hence, voting for such organizations when they are leading a real mass movement carries a very different significance from voting for them on the basis of their theoretical assertions, especially in the situation we are in today.

It may be asked why we advocate voting for the Left Front – with the constituent parties of which we never conduct joint programmes – instead of supporting those with whom we do cooperate regularly.  But is it not contradictory or even unethical for us to urge people to vote for those leftists from whom we are politically far removed in preference to those to whom we are closer in political terms?

We are not, in fact, proceeding from the belief that these parties would not get many votes and therefore, would not be able to strengthen the battle with BJP and fascism.  Fascism can never be obstructed by electoral contests alone but only through a mass movement.  Although of late, a kind of spontaneous, defensive resistance movement against fascist assaults has developed across the country (particularly in educational institutions), the smaller revolutionary leftist parties (of which we are one) have not yet succeeded in building up a genuine mass movement with a well-thought-out programme to defeat fascism.  No organization could realistically accomplish such a goal on its own but we perceive no sincere determination to combine forces, rise above narrow self-interest and formulate a joint plan for the purpose.  That does not, however, mean that we regard the parties of the Left Front have played or are playing an effective role in the battle against fascism – not at all.  On the contrary, we hold that the decades-long reformism and bad faith of these parties, many of whom enjoy considerable support among the working class, are among the subjective reasons for the rise of fascism.  Relying on them, therefore, cannot avert the threat of fascism.  But at a time when fascism is breathing down our neck, whatever little such wavering, unreliable forces could do to weaken fascism, even in an electoral framework, is to be welcomed.  This is merely an emergency procedure.  The work of revolutionary leftists does not end, but commences with the relative strengthening of the inconstant forces of the reformist left.   If this strategy can bring about a temporary and relative breathing space, then the duty of the revolutionary left is to use that opportunity to harness its forces.  That could reverse the wavering leftists’ rightward drift – evident from their alliance with Congress – and ensure their participation in a united anti-fascist front with the revolutionary left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Class Struggles Continue in France

Valls doesn’t see the end of the tunnel

 by Léon Crémieux

The Valls government will not manage to stifle the rejection of the labour law before July 5, the date when it returns to the National Assembly for a final vote. Most likely he will not be able to avoid having recourse to article 49.3 [1], unless he really retreats on the content of the projected law.

That is the conclusion that must be drawn by Socialist leaders on the evening of June 29, after the meeting of the government with trade union leaders from the CGT and FO.

However, over the last two weeks, everything has been done to reduce the movement to silence.

After the huge demonstration on June 14 in Paris, the government mounted a very strong campaign of propaganda in all the media to create the impression that the country was ablaze, that every demonstration was becoming a battlefield of civil war. In particular, the dozen broken windows of a children’s hospital in Paris were used to support a media frenzy whose aim was to put pressure on union leaders to end the protests, and in particular the one planned for June 23. What was at stake was to break the movement by negating its main expression, the Paris demonstration. To this end, the government was trying to turn public opinion against the demonstrations by highlighting the state of exhaustion of the police, portrayed as heroes of the nation since the attacks in November 2015 and permanently placed on a war footing with the state of emergency, Euro 2016 and the social movement. Needless to say, according to Valls the only way to change the situation lay in the demonstrations, which by being stopped, would have relieved the CRS and the gendarmes.

In this logic, Valls wanted to force the trade unions to accept cancellation of the demonstration on June 23 and its replacement by a simple rally. Faced with the refusal of the Inter-union coordinating body, the Prime Minister thought he had the necessary relationship of forces to take a gamble and simply ban the Paris demonstration. The ban was announced on the morning of June 22, the day before the demonstration. In a top-level consultation, he imposed his views on Hollande against the advice of Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior.

The banning of a trade union demonstration is a rare occurrence in France. You have to go back to February 8, 1962 to find such a decision, when, during the Algerian War, the Prefect of Police of Paris, Maurice Papon, banned a demonstration of the left parties and trade unions for peace in Algeria. The attacks of the police against the protesters caused, that day, the death of eight people at the Charonne underground station in Paris.

The decision by Valls sparked a general outcry, from the trade unions and on the political level, going well beyond the radical left and ecologists. Even the CFDT protested against this decision, as did many leaders of the Socialist Party.

Olivier Besancenot was the first to announce in the media that he did not respect the ban, followed in less than an hour by representatives of the Left Party, the Communist Party, the representatives of the Inter-union coordination... and even several “dissidents” of the Socialist Party. Once again, since February, Manuel Valls had underestimated the strength of the movement, the strength of the rejection of the labour law, and he had greatly overestimated the relationship of forces that he had at his disposal. Very quickly, Hollande and Cazeneuve retreated, disavowed Valls and offered the Inter-union coordination a symbolic victory by lifting the ban and accepting a demonstration, even though it was only authorized to follow a route that was reduced to a minimum.

This episode reflects the contradictory aspects of the present situation: the movement has not the strength to block the government. There has not been, and there will not be in the coming days, a general strike capable of blocking the economy and imposing, through a direct relationship of forces, the withdrawal of the law. The activists mobilized in workplaces and localities and the activists of Nuit Debout were strong enough for that. But to succeed, it was necessary not to disperse the mobilization and that a leadership of the movement could build up a real confrontation over time. The union leaderships of the CGT and FO did not want this prolonged and offensive confrontation. Since March they have constantly accompanied the movement, without providing it with a leadership on the offensive. Workers in many sectors came out on strike over several days in March. But the movement has now exhausted its real forces mobilizing major professional sectors. If, despite this, we have reached the end of June maintaining a high level of confrontation, it is because tens of thousands of activists are still mobilized, imposing their radicalism on the trade union leaders and basing themselves on the profound discredit of Hollande, Valls, the Socialist Party and on a rejection of the labour law. The level of popularity of Holland is constantly falling (88 per cent of negative opinions in the latest poll released on June 30; Valls is on 80 per cent). Similarly, the possible use of article 49.3 is disavowed by 73 per cent of the public in another survey. That is why we have reached the end of June with continued protests and strikes in many private sector enterprises, in particular on the days of inter-union demonstrations. New strikes and demonstrations will take place on July 5 and many people are promising not to stop there, despite the summer holidays and the possible passage of the law.

These contradictions are still alive and, so to speak, the government only succeeds in wearing down the movement by wearing itself out.

The obstacle that Valls is faced with is the return of his draft law before the National Assembly on July 5. Drawing lessons from the discredit caused by the use of article 49.3 in April, the Socialist Party is trying to deactivate the internal opposition which may cause the same scenario next week, causing a deepening of the discredit of the government.

That is the explanation for the political game that led Valls to receive the CGT and FO leaders on June 29 and to give the image of a government willing to engage in dialogue. It was simply a posture, since Valls does not want to negotiate about any fundamental aspect of his law. The sole purpose was to show that he had an attitude of openness, wishing to improve the haughty and arrogant image that he has shown for several months. It is likely that the operation will have fallen flat. Although Mailly and Martinez were willing to go quite far, by not putting forward the demand for the withdrawal of the law, which is however the position of the Inter-union coordination, it will turn out to have been to no avail... Valls wants to give the image of flexibility while not wanting to give any ground. However, the leadership of the CGT had even given a sign of appeasement to the government by refusing to exercise its right of opposition to the agreements signed by the CFDT and UNSA at the SNCF. If the CGT rail workers’ federation CGT had added its voice to that of SUD Rail, those agreements would have been void, restoring momentum to the mobilization. So far this little game has failed to persuade the rebellious Socialist members of parliament to make a present of their votes to Valls and all parliamentary scenarios are still possible.

Meanwhile, despite this blockage and its growing discredit, as the days go by the government is sinking deeper into a policy of police violence, violating democratic rights. While not banned, the last two Parisian demonstrations have taken place in corridors closed by the police, each demonstrator being obliged to pass through several barriers, with body searches, and able to reach the starting point of the demonstration only by a prescribed route. Again, this is an attack that is without precedent for decades; even during the 1970s, demonstrations involved less violence and a lower level of confrontation with the police. The pressure and the provocations are ubiquitous. On June 28, more than a hundred activists were banned from demonstrating. In Paris, 2,500 police surrounded a route of 2.8 kilometers for the demonstration, weapons (teargas grenade launchers, flash balls, etc....) at the ready. Worse, the police went even further that day by searching the homes of five activists in Paris, confiscating their computers and taking them into custody. The same day, 200 activists (casually employed workers from the theatrical world, postal workers....) who had assembled in a trade-union centre before the demonstration, were blocked for several hours and de facto banned from demonstrating by CRS riot police and gendarmes. After the demonstration and the lifting of the blockade of the trade-union centre, more than 800 activists gathered there as a protest. Other cases of police brutality were seen in cities across the country, particularly in Lille, where several activists were arrested.

Such escalation by the police in the violation of basic democratic rights is easily made possible by the state of emergency and the arsenal of draconian measures that the government has implemented since the attacks of 2015.

A few days after the homophobic attack in Orlando, the government even tried unsuccessfully to cancel the Gay Pride march held in Paris on July 2. The march had already been postponed... so as not to hinder the Euro 2016 matches.

Since the beginning of the movement there have been many articles, surveys and records of police violence, signaling the use of offensive arms, the beating up of demonstrators who were already on the ground, etc... A recently released report by an independent commission of inquiry centred on journalists of the ecologist newspaper Reporterre is unfortunately eloquent. Here is a short quote from the introduction: "The report that you will read below confirms that law enforcement action in France has taken a very dangerous turn, which threatens the physical integrity of many peaceful citizens, sometimes minors and even children. The use of launchers of defensive projectiles has become a regular occurrence, whereas it should be exceptional, or indeed prohibited. Grenades being fired into crowds has become unacceptably frequent. The use of unidentifiable plainclothes police to arrest people or carry out acts of repression has become systematic. Failure to respect the right of journalists to cover demonstrations without fear has become customary ... [Among police who have been interviewed], some say that they are being manipulated and used by the government, not to restore order, but to produce images that impress our citizens, as if France was threatened by "wreckers" as violent as they are anonymous, and foreign to the body of society". [2]

An artist, Goin, recently gave a good illustration of Valls and Hollande’s policy in a mural (“The state clubbing freedom”) on display as part of the "Street Art Fest" in Grenoble, featuring Marianne, the symbol of France, bludgeoned to the ground by two CRS, one having a shield marked “49.3”. The mural caused a wave of outrage from leaders of the Right and the Socialist Party, first of all Cazeneuve. The anti-republican blasphemy was intolerable to those who were proud to support the insolence and the freedom to express themselves of the Charlie Hebdojournalists.

30 June 2016

Footnotes

[1] This article allows governments to pass laws without a vote in Parliament.

[2] See Reporterre “Violences policières : le rapport qui dit les faits”

 

Reproduced from International Viewpoint

SOCIALIST RESISTANCE STATEMENT ON THE RESULT OF THE EU REFERENDUM

Brexit vote is a disaster, but the struggle goes on

 

Saturday 25 June 2016, by Socialist Resistance


This statement was issued by Socialist Resistance, British section of the Fourth International on 24th June 2016, following the referendum.

The Brexit vote to leave the EU is a victory for the right-wing xenophobes and a disaster for the struggle against austerity in Britain. It is a victory for racism and a mandate to strengthen the borders of Britain against migration.

We say that it is a disaster not because we have the slightest illusion in for the EU or its institutions—we regard it as a neo-liberal bosses club. Nor because we have any time whatsoever for the reactionary official ‘remain’ campaign led by Cameron, who with his so-called renegotiation set out to worsen the conditions of workers in this country including migrant workers. It is because an exit from the EU at this time and in this way will push the political situation in Britain sharply to the right and weaken the struggle against austerity. It will also be a disaster for every migrant, refugee, and minority in the country.

It is interesting that Cameron said in his resignation speech that there will be no change in the status of EU citizens in this country – ‘at the present time’.

The millions who voted for Brexit did so because they accepted the argument that the worsening of living standards and public services were caused by immigration, not by austerity imposed by a Westminster government. Nor did the Remain camp blame the British banking and finance establishment for the 2008 economic crisis.

As Left Unity puts it in their statement: “This referendum came from pressure from the far right – driven by anti-immigration sentiment, fuelled by racism. This has been the most reactionary national campaign in British political history, resulting in an open emergence of the extreme right.”

They are absolutely right. The atmosphere was poisoned, hatred whipped up, and an MP assassinated by a fascist shouting ‘put Britain first’, one of the top themes of the mainstream exit campaigns.

Whilst Jo Cox’s assassination was a deeply tragic event it was also direct result of the carnival of reaction generated by the referendum campaign. Jo Cox was a defender of refugees and a supporter of the remain campaign. The filth and bile pumped out by the mainstream exit campaigns, backed by the bulk of the media and right-wing politicians, has not only taken Britain back decades in term of racism and xenophobia but it created the conditions for a far right fanatic, with links to white supremacists, to gun her down in the street.

The referendum has legitimised racism and xenophobia as never before. Vile statements with echoes of the Tory racist MP Enoch Powell have been spouted with impunity and accepted by the media as some kind of fair comment. Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech back in 1968 resulted in him being sacked by Tory leader Ted Heath and Powell being turned into a political pariah—Farage’s racist poster ‘Breaking Point’ resulted in some mild and belated criticism, entirely as a result of the assassination of Jo Cox. Similar images have been published repeatedly in the papers without comment or objection. A complaint has been made against the Daily Express on the basis that it had migration headlined on its front page for 17 days in succession.

Some sections of the left and the labour movement recognised these dangers. The launch of Another Europe is Possible was an important step. Corbyn and McDonnell, Momentum, Left Unity and Ken Loach, most Greens and especially Caroline Lucas worked hard to stem the racist bile. The majority of trade union leaders took the right view—and both UNITE and UNISON put out important material against racism and defending migrant workers. Matt Wrack of the FBU and Manuel Cortez of TSSA played particularly important roles. That is to their profound credit.

Most of the radical left, however, supported an exit vote and the so-called Lexit campaign – which had zero influence on the entire referendum. It peddled the illusion that a left exit was on offer when it was not, and falsely claimed that were Cameron to be forced out it would open up opportunities for the left. Even now, after a victory for the Farage and the Tory right, those in Lexit such as the SWP claim that it was a “revolt against the rich and powerful” and that the danger from racism “is far from inevitable”.

They failed to recognise the dangers that the mainstream exit campaigns, led by right-wing xenophobes, represented. They were oblivious the racism and hatred that would be generated by them, the reactionary impact this would have on the political situation and the balance of class forces, and dangers involved of being in any way associated with them—particularly in the case of an exit vote.

They chose to ignore (even when challenged) the damaging outcome that an exit vote would have for the 2.2m EU citizens living in this country who’s status would have been threatened as a direct result. Yet they are organisations that have opposed the racism and xenophobia for the whole of their existence. Rock Against Racism struck a massive blow against racism in the 1970s, and for which the SWP can take great credit.

Immediately the result was announced, Farage was on the media crowing about an historic victory for the liberation of Britain and outlined his reactionary vision for a new Britain. He was treated as the leader of the winning side. He said that Cameron would have to go forthwith – which he did a few hours later – and that the new Tory Prime Minister would have to be a Brexiter in order to carry out the mandate of the referendum.

A leadership election will now be triggered in the Tory Party to be completed in advance of the Tory Party conference. We can then assume a general election will be called soon after with a manifesto designed to implement what they will claim is the mandate of the referendum: a clamp-down on immigration, a strengthening of the borders, and no doubt a restricted status for EU citizens living in the country.

An election at the end of the year under conditions where the political situation is moving to the right is very dangerous. The left needs to rapidly gear up for it, and so does the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn played a principled role during the referendum campaign – calling for a vote to stay in but with no illusions in the EU or its institutions. His interview on Sky TV News in the final week, for example, was filled with opposition to xenophobia, privatisation and austerity in front of a predominantly young and engaging audience. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a radical call against austerity and racism at a large ‘Another Europe is Possible’ rally in London with Matt Wrack of the FBU, Caroline Lucas and Yannis Varoufakis.

But the mainstream media mainly presented the referendum for months as predominantly a battle between the two wings of the Conservative Party. Many Labour MPs hostile to Corbyn went along with that and they appeared on platforms as subordinates to the Tories. Thirteen years of the pro-austerity Labour government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and five years of ineffective opposition under Ed Miliband played their part in the disillusion of Labour voters. Labour councils in power for decades have failed to stand up for local populations under attack. Hostility to the lack of affordable housing, the downgrading of local health services, cuts in school budgets and so on were allowed to be deflected into the Right’s xenophobic campaign against migrants.

In some parts of the country – often where Labour and the left is best organised – the Labour vote swung to Remain: in London eg Lambeth, scene of recent frontline battles around library cuts, voted 79% for remain; in Bristol where a Corbyn supporter dramatically snatched the Mayoral role only seven weeks ago there was a Remain majority; in some of the largest northern cities – Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle – there were Remain majorities. But in the vast majority of Labour heartlands in England and Wales where local Labour Parties have been moribund for decades and where the Party machine is firmly in the hands of the right of the Party, Labour voters protested against their condition by voting Leave.

The former Labour heartlands in Scotland in opposition to Labour’s unionist position have now swung behind a more left talking Scottish National Party and every single one of the 32 local districts in Scotland voted to Remain, also creating a constitutional crisis that may lead to a second independence referendum.

Now Corbyn faces challenges from the largely hostile Labour Parliamentary Party for his alleged failure to mobilise the vote sufficiently. Yet is was the areas in which the right were in control of the Party where the Labour vote failed to be galvanised by the need for a Remain vote against austerity and xenophobia. The rank and file of the Labour Party and unions needs to fight strongly to defend Corbyn against the Parliamentary Party and any moves to remove him.

If Labour is to win an election, likely to come at the end of the year, against a Tory Party led by a newly invigorated and right-moving Boris Johnson-Michael Gove leadership with a manifesto to curb immigration and claiming the authority of the referendum, it can only do so with a radical left programme that opposes austerity in all its forms and supports the right of migrants and all workers.

If Corbyn is prepared to fight on such a platform, which we expect he would, the left should get fully behind him.

LGBTIQ POLITICS How the "bathroom bills" feed bigotry

LGBTIQ POLITICS

How the "bathroom bills" feed bigotry

by Elizabeth SchulteKeegan O’Brien

They mouth support for the victims in Orlando, but weeks earlier, many political leaders were backing anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Political leaders in Florida and across the country, Republican and Democrats alike, are expressing their horror and outrage at the unbelievable act of anti-LGBTQ violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12.

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott joined in the mourning for victims of the mass shooting that took 49 lives and injured many dozens more—a murder spree that began on the dance floor in a place they considered a refuge from bigotry in the early morning hours of June 12.

But while politicians like Scott have decried the massacre, they don’t acknowledge the connections between anti-LGBTQ violence and the discrimination that LGBTQ people face every day, often legalized by laws these politicians wrote and support.

It’s rank hypocrisy for them to stand among the families and friends of the slain at Pulse when, just a month earlier, they were opposing same-sex marriage or supporting so-called "bathroom bills." These bills have a very real effect, re-enforcing anti-LGBTQ stereotypes and consigning LGBTQ to second-class status.

After spending the first day concentrating on blaming ISIS for the massacre, and not even saying the words "gay" or "LGBT," Scott finally denounced the anti-LGBTQ attack, as he visited a memorial on Tuesday. But he obviously sees no connection with the violence at Pulse and the anti-LGBTQ scapegoating that he and other politicians use to score political points with the right.

Scott is a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage and fought hard to preserve a state ban, which was adopted by voters in 2008 but then ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in 2014. Scott appealed the court’s decision and lost. This March, he signed into law a so-called "pastor protection" bill with language that specifies clergy don’t have to marry same-sex couples.

Florida is among more than a dozen states where legislators attempted to pass discriminatory bills that bar transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity—and that restrict public bathrooms by "biological sex."

When the Obama administration announced guidelines calling on U.S. public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, conservative legislators in several states tried to get the order overturned.

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The biggest battleground for these so-called "bathroom bills" is in North Carolina.

On March 23, Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, better known as House Bill 2 (HB 2), the most far-reaching and discriminatory anti-transgender law in the country.

The law has several components. First, it prohibits city governments from passing anti-discrimination laws that override state legislation—specifically overturning a recent ordinance passed in Charlotte banning discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Second, it mandates that all public schools require people to use the bathroom that aligns with the sex indicated on their birth certificate. Third—and this has been the most overlooked feature of the bill—it prohibits cities from raising the minimum wage above the current state level.

With the Charlotte ordinance about to come into effect, Republican lawmakers rushed HB 2 into law in a special session, giving legislators and the public no time to review it. Every Republican and 11 Democrats voted in favor of the bill in the House. In protests against the GOP’s maneuvering, Senate Democrats walked off the floor, and HB 2 passed unanimously.

McCrory and his Republican colleagues have deployed a slew of vile transphobic rhetoric to justify their bigotry and discrimination, claiming that trans people are "deranged" and that anti-discrimination laws are nothing but a cover for predators to victimize women and children.

This, of course, is a total lie. There have been zero reported cases of trans people assaulting women or children in bathrooms. However, there have been countless cases of trans people being verbally harassed, physically assaulted and even killed in bathrooms.

In the most recent national Transgender Discrimination Survey report, 63 percent of respondents reported experiencing a serious act of discrimination in their lifetime, and according to a 2013 Williams Institute report, 70 percent of trans people report being denied entrance, harassed or assaulted while trying to use the restroom.

In addition to codifying discrimination and second-class citizenship, North Carolina’s bill whipped up a climate of transphobia and gave confidence to the worst forms of bigotry.

This climate has had a clear effect. Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline for transgender people in North Carolina, has reported a 150 percent increase in calls since last month when the bill passed. Many young people calling in report feeling like they have "lost hope" that things will get better for them.

Transphobia kills, and Gov. McCrory and every legislator that played a role in passing HB 2 has blood on their hands.

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Many people are asking: Why now? With the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage, the growing cultural visibility of trans people and legal victories for trans rights, North Carolina’s law seems like a relic from a bygone era. But around the country, anti-transgender laws continue to rear their ugly heads.

Lawmakers in 15 other states, including South Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Illinois and Minnesota, took up so-called bathroom bills this year, with North Dakota passing one in February that was vetoed by the governor.

On one level, these laws are an attempt by the Religious Right to create new scapegoats in a period of increasing austerity and budget cuts. Nothing makes this connection more clear than HB 2’s restriction on raising the minimum wage.

North Carolina has become a haven for companies looking for low-wage, nonunionized labor. Over the past 30 years, North Carolina has attracted businesses by implementing neoliberal economic policies that have lowered taxes on corporations and the rich, while doling out huge sums of government subsidies.

One of the ways the state has accumulated money is by remodeling the tax structure and shifting the burden onto workers and the poor in the form of an increasing sales tax. The state has also worked hand in hand with corporations to keep wages low and shut out unions, making North Carolina’s union membership rate the lowest in the country. Just 1.9 percent of wage earners in a union—meanwhile, more than 1.7 million people, or about 20 percent of the population, lives in poverty.

In a society with such extreme inequality, it’s necessary to divide working-class and poor people who would otherwise have everything in common with one another.

Scapegoating oppressed groups for society’s ills—whether it be LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, public-sector workers, Arabs and Muslims or any other marginalized group—has been a longstanding tactic of the American ruling class to maintain its rule by fragmenting the majority and redirecting class anger away from the economic and political elites responsible for engineering exploitation and oppression.

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Thankfully, HB 2 has been met with widespread opposition in North Carolina and nationally, an indication that the struggle for trans rights is at a critical turning point.

Contrary to what some on the left have argued, the legalization of marriage equality and the movement it took to win it played a big part in kicking down social prejudice and paving the way for the widespread support for trans rights taking place today.

Even Corporate America and the White House have felt the pressure to come out against HB 2. Eager to distance themselves from open bigotry—and any potential financial losses a boycott might cause—more than 120 "leading business leaders and CEOs" signed an open letter sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign in opposition to HB 2. Among the signers were Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The Obama administration’s Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against North Carolina for civil rights violations, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch pledged to stand behind trans people in their fight for progress.

This shows that the "bathroom bills" are a maneuver—and a not particularly effective one—for the Religious Right to regain ideological ground in a culture war it’s been badly losing over the past decade.

The Obama administration issued its guidelines for public school bathrooms in large part as a result of years of protest and organizing in support of LGBTQ rights, including all the federal rights that come as a result of equal marriage. The hard work of grassroots activists played a key role in changing the broader public discussion over LGBTQ rights and shifting more people in favor of equality.

The Obama administration likely would have done nothing had activists not put their feet to the fire.

The widespread support to overturn HB 2 is a watershed moment in the fight for trans equality. Overturning HB2 will be a major win for the LGBT movement, but the fight has to extend beyond North Carolina.

Trans people still lack federal protection from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations and face disproportionately high rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness and incarceration. Bathroom access is just the tip of the iceberg.

But activists can’t wait for change to come from the corporate boardroom or halls of Congress. The only remedy for overturning HB 2 and winning full equality and social justice for trans people will be through building on the solidarity and struggle on display in the streets of North Carolina and extending it nationwide.

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, we can see the devastating effects of bigotry and anti-LGBTQ scapegoating. But as thousands of people come together in vigils and gatherings to condemn the attack, we are also seeing the possibility for building solidarity and resistance in the face of this bigotry.

June 16, 2016

socialistworker.org

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