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Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

RTI shows up reality of Gujarat's governmental environment protection


From the Indian Express as communicated by Rohit Prajapati AND Trupti Shah  in Vadodara
Activist asked if CM knew that Ankleshwar FETP was non-compliant with GPCB norms before its inauguration, Indian Express - 22nd May 2010

AN RTI query by a city activist has left the Chief Minister's Office in a tizzy as the officials could not ascertain if the CMO was aware that the Ankleshwar effluent treatment plant was not compliant with GPCB norms. The Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) was inaugurated on 24 January, 2007, by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In a reply, the CMO said no such information is available, as the records for 2007 have been destroyed.

Rohit Prajapati had filed an RTI query on April 23 seeking information on grounds under which Modi inaugurated a 52.97-km long pipeline for Bharuch Eco Aqua Infrastructure Limited (BEAIL)’s FETP. Prajapati cited a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report, which showed that GPCB (Gujarat Pollution
Control Board) norms were violated since 2004.

In September last year, Prajapati had written to the CMO on this, and the latter had responded by directing the matter to the Forests and Environment Department. Later, on April 19, GPCB Member Secretary R G Shah replied to Prajapati, admitting that there were problems with the FETP.

He also said that no new expansion would happen.

But Prajapati says it is still  not clear if Modi knew about this non-compliance factor.  “On April 23, after sending an open letter to the CMO, I filed an RTI with the same. It was important because it creates a bad impression about the Chief Minister’s awareness ­ that he inaugurated the pipeline despite its non-compliance,” Prajapati added .

The CMO said in its reply that the records dated before January 24, 2007, but since the state government was
dissolved in December that year due to the Assembly elections, working records were disposed off.

When The Indian Express contacted the CMO, Officer on Special Duty J P Modha did not comment on the issue, saying that RTI details were not available.

Fourth International on Thailand


Repression against the Redshirts must cease immediately

Stop the assassinations! Abhisit Resign!
Fourth International

 

For 5 days the soldiers have been organizing a new “black May” in Thailand. The Abhisit Vejjajiva government has sent the troops to shoot with live ammunition at unarmed demonstrators and authorized snipers in ambush to assassinate its opponents, as in the case of general Sae Deng.

In order to justify what is unjustifiable, the government has accused some of the demonstrators of “terrorism” and organized a disgraceful blockade of the Rachaprasong district; water and electricity have been cut. Supplies cannot get through to the demonstrators. Radio and TV transmissions in the district have been stopped. These “terrorists” are thousands of men, women and children, ordinary people who are fighting against rulng class justice in Thailand and for the re-establishment of democracy. Their watchword: resignation of Abhisit who has no legitimacy because his government was put in place by the army when parliamentary alliances changed in December 2008.

If Abhisit were legitimate, he would have agreed to the request of the Redshirts to respect the verdict of the ballot boxes. Instead of that he is showing his political weakness. He is trying to silence dissident voices by censorship and repression. His only chance of staying in power lies in the ability of the army to break the Redshirts movement by violence and repression. More than 65 people have been killed since the beginning of April and the violence continues.

Abhisit must resign immediately and account to the courts for the deaths for which he is the primary person responsible. Negotiations must open with the Redshirts representatives to organize the dissolution of the Parliament and hold elections as soon as possible.

The Fourth International salutes the courage of the Redshirts who have been waging an exemplary fight for several weeks and are now suffering the attacks of the army. It stands resolutely at their side.

Bureau of the Fourth International 17th May 2010

Interview with Stavros S., OKDE militant



R.S. – Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation?

Stavros – I am a member of the leading body of the OKDE, and a trade union activist. OKDE stands for Organisation of Communist Internationalists of Greece. We are a Trotskyist organisation loyal to the principles of the United secretariat as they were during and after the unification (as opposed to some of the post-1991 lines advocated by the USFI). We are trying to apply a policy of unity of the struggles on the basis of class independence. We are trying to push forward the self organisation of the working class and also on this basis the coordination of common actions of the far left and every militant, but also in doing so, we always have in mind that in this difficult situation in which a very hard struggle is going on we will need a strong revolutionary organisations and parties to confront the state and the bosses’ attacks. So, we always have in mind the need to build such organisation.
We produce a monthly paper and its name can be translated as “Workers Struggle”. Our website is www.okde.gr. We are mainly based in Athens, in Thessalonica and some other major cities and our organisation consists mainly of workers.


R.S: What has been the reaction to the latest measures announced? Which sectors are hit the most by the new plan?


OKDE: There have been some strikes and even some calling for a general strike by the trade unions; most notably in the public sector, which in the first announcement was the most heavily attacked. Of course, this is also a problem because the policy of the trade union leadership/buerocracy has been to try to split the strikes and the mobilisation between the public and the private sector. This was the situation at the beginning of the discussion about the IMF measures; but now the measures are being directed against the whole of the working class. Today’s general strike is very huge. Some estimate that today [i.e. 5/5/10] there were about 300,000, and even 500,000 people on the streets. I think this is the most massive working class mobilisation in the last 35 years. I think that there is a social climate of resistance or even revolt - and that there is much more to come, because I think that now many more people are trying to see how to keep the struggle going, in their work places, … because they are already facing many attacks by the bosses.

R.S: What is the situation among young people?

OKDE: I believe that the situation among the youth can turn out to be very explosive, one similar to the one that we witness in December 2008 and even more explosive. There are many problems now, like the fact that they are in their exam period and this makes the mobilisation more difficult. I also think that there are some problems of how the students’ movement would react in this situation, but I think that the situation overall is one that can turn out to be very explosive, not only among the students. But also in many young people, those with precarious jobs, who are part of a new layer of the working class, who have no social gains from the welfare state, are much more ready to confront the attack of the bosses and the police apparatus.

R.S: And isd it correct that some of them are in very short-term contracts on very low salaries, between 650 or 450 euros…

OKDE: Yes, or even less money.

R.S: Who are the leaders of the student’s movement? What are the organisations? Do they have students’ unions?

OKDE: Actually, the students’ organisations in Greece are not united by a national form of organisation, like a Confederation or something like this (typically there is one, but it is virtually dead). In each faculty there is a kind of 'first level' students’ union, but all the forces – left, right, centre – intervene in it. You have to know that in the Greek students’ movement, which sometimes creates its own rank and file organisations and assembles, sometimes finds it difficult to coordinate at a national level. But the main political factor in the students’ movement is the left. There is the reformist left – which is not huge – but the far left is much more important. This sometimes pushes the movement forward but sometimes creates problems on how to deal with the current situation in the political forums, how to coordinate and how to fight, how to link the struggle with the working class, how to lead the struggle so as to ensure victory in the crisis. But I think that in the days to come the situation can prove to be very explosive with many faculty occupations, which was an important a factor in pushing the struggle forward.

R.S:  What is the role and policy of the Trade unions? i.e. ADEDY and GSEE. You have just said that the leadership is dividing the workers; separating the public sector workers from the private sector. Could you explain this to our readership and tell us what is their policy?

OKDE: Before answering that we have to make some clarification. The Greek trade unions  are not very important; in the sense that they do not usually play a central role in the way in which the class struggle is expressed in Greece, at least in its most historically important moments. There is much more of a politicised tradition. This is one thing to note. Many times the Greek movement has expressed itself through political forms of organisation rather than through the trade unions. This has to do with the history of the country and the workers’ movement. The second point is that the Greek trade union bureaucracy is not that rooted and strong, like for example in Germany or France.  In Greece it is much weaker, much less connected to the struggles which produced the workers' social gains - and also there is a very important opposition from far left currents within the trade unions. It is also one of the reasons why a certain level of democracy has been preserved in the Greek trade unions. The central leadership of the unions, most notably in the big trade unions – the transport, telecommunication industries and state sectors, etc. – are controlled by the PASOK fraction (PASKE). At the beginning of the crisis, in the private sector the president of the National Confederation (GSEE, General Confederation of Greek Trade Unions) was actually acting more like a representative of the government rather than a trade unionist. For example when the first measures against the public sector were announced, the GSEE was not calling for a common general strike. It said that it was an attack on the public sector and that the private sector would not be much affected.  Also, ADEDY, the Trade Union Confederation in the public sector, did not have any real plan to confront these measures… they are incapable of making a plan and not willing to make a plan and confronting the measures. There is some influence of the left currents in the trade unions, like the Greek Communist Party and Synaspismos . They say that they are more militant and more willing to fight, and some times they say they for want to call for more general strikes, etc, but I think…. We think that their limits are being defined by their overall reformist nature and policy, for example, the KKE is always calling for a different strikes’ assemblies and was also openly hostile to the youth revolt in December 2009. Synaspismos is also cooperating quite closely with PASKE in the trade unions.

R.S: What is the composition of the left in Greece?

OKDE: In the Greek reformist left there are two main formations. The KKE, the Greek Communist Party, they try to look like having a very "ultra" class policy but actually they are very reformist because they are trying to separate their mobilisation from the rest, and they try to translate this mobilisation into votes in the forthcoming elections.

The other main reformist formation is the party Synapsimos around which there is a more broad formation called SYRIZA, in which some far left groups participate; actually they have been satellites themselves around Synapsimos. In words, they are also calling for more struggles but actually they are quite close to the PASOK trade unionists in many cases. In many trade unions they manage the union together with PASOK. Neither do they call for a generalisation of the struggle, with a call, for example for a 48 hours general strike. They also do not want to pose any issue against the EU because they are very pro European Union and they also direct their work towards the elections.


R.S: What can you tell us about ANTARSYA?  

OKDE: We could call them a centrist formation. ANTARSYA was proclaiming for itself that this far left unity would be a decisive factor to spread and organise the struggles in an anti-capitalist direction. But the reality is very far away from this. The first thing is that in practice they do not seem able to play such a role. The second point is that it looks like this formation is also mostly electoral. The third point (issue), which is important for all the rest, is that there is quite an [important] internal division within the group, and they do not seem able to introduce the level of unity that they proclaim.
Last but not least, we estimate that there will be a period opening up for them in which their reaction towards reformist policies (usually applied under pretextes for "broad unity") will be tested . There are some signs, which look a little bit dangerous, of them taking a more reformist stand, but this is an open estimation. At an organisational level it looks like they have as a model the French NPA – which makes it difficult to have any real common intervention, even less an anticapitalist or revolutionary intervention, in the class struggle.

R.S: Going back to the General Strike. The media has been reporting that it has been massive. Could you give us an idea of the level of the general strike?

OKDE: I cannot give a very detailed picture. I think that the whole of the central sectors, ministries, state sectors, were really paralysed. In some big industries it was the same too. In the newer industries or less organised working places I think that there was an increase in the mood of resistance. This is the only way to explain this massive number [of people on the streets], but usually there has been little organised form of participating with the trade unions contigents and banners.

R.S: What about the transport, airports? We have read that all airports are closed, there are no flights and no trains.

OKDE: I think that wherever there is some level of centralised working class, yes, everything was paralysed. We have noticed quite new but less organised parts of the working class in the private sectors.

R.S: If we compare today’s general strike with the previous ones – on 24/2 and 11/3, this is one is much bigger, isn’t it?

OKDE: Yes, of course, I would say that this strike is may be 10 times bigger (the demonstration)… this was a real social explosion of the working class.  

R.S: There have been a series of struggles and strike by different sectors over the last weeks. How has been the level of struggle? Which sectors have been involved? What is the level of mobilisation of the masses and workers in Greece?

OKDE: Actually we are expecting that some struggles in various sectors and workplaces or even in some neighbourhoods, universities, etc, will strengthen or explode.  The people are confronting a massive attack by the bosses.

R.S: Who is controlling this social explosion and these partial strikes? Are they spontaneous? Who is leading them?

OKDE: This is a quite central issue for what is happening now in Greece. The first thing is that the social bloc of bourgeois power is being virtually shattered because of all these attacks on people’s rights, on petit bourgeoisie layers, and even on the working class aristocracy. This is a very central issue, and there is much agonising over what is to be done, over how are we going to control the forthcoming situation. There is no reformist apparatus (party or trade union bureaucracy) that has enough membership and influence to control or even to manage this social explosion. This is an interesting situation which provides great space for revolutionaries to work in the struggles and try to give some elements of leadership to some of them, so they can also both win and also become a centre of focus on the need to build a strong revolutionary Marxist organisation – a revolutionary party. There is a big social current exploding and saying “We don’t want these measures”, and starting to struggle even with forums and confronting the police, etc. But actually, you cannot say that there is anybody who leads or controls them. There are some efforts from the far left to play some role, but I think it is just the beginning of it. We will see what is going to be done in the next period.

R.S: Are there forums springing up in neighbourhoods?

OKDE: Not in a very clear and organised manner. There are also some forums organised at that level. Also there are many people are tempted by the anarchist current, which is understandable because of the social dissolution and chaos that is going on. They provide something that looks like a way out, but of course it is not a way out. This explains some of their influence.

R.S: What is your programme given the current situation? What policies do you think ought to be introduced in order to resolve the crisis?

OKDE: Our programme starts what with we call emergency demands or an Emergency Programme. So we are saying that we have to abolish these measures. We have to push the struggle to the point of throwing out the IMF and the EU, which have come as dictators to the Greek people. We are trying to push forward the notion of the generalised struggle, the strike to overthrow the government, but also to make people understand that we will have to strengthen the struggle in every workplace and in every sector, so that there is a real confrontation with the bosses.

We are also trying to put forward some demands like making the banks public without paying back the capitalist owners. Our central slogan is of course the abolition of the debt, so the Greek society and the working class can breathe. We also pose demands like banning the layoffs, and we are trying to promote these slogans also in everyday struggles in trade unions. And we ourselves are also trying to organise some of these struggles in the workplaces and trade unions in which we are active. And, of course, we are trying to explain that the final resolution to this crisis cannot be anything else other than a socialist way out. And that this also requires the accumulation of political and organisational force in a Marxist revolutionary organisation or even a revolutionary party. We are trying to combine all these things.

R.S: What do you think about the idea of abandoning the euro or leaving the eurozone?

OKDE: In our view, there is a need that the Greek working class movement and the Greek people break with the imperialist rule of the IMF and the EU. This is an actual need and we think that now this is becoming part of the emergency rescue programme because otherwise you cannot continue. But of course we are trying to explain that such a break, such a way out also requires very concrete anticapitalist measures like making the banks property of the state -as I explained before- and abolishing the debt. So we are trying to give a perspective not confined to the limits of the "national economy, as some stalinist and/or maoist currents do.


R.S: What would be your message to workers in other parts of the world?

OKDE: Every worker and every young person should understand that we are faced with a bankrupt system and this will cause many disasters for society, the working class and youth, even for the planet itself (ecology crisis). So, in this sense we have to fight to defend every inch of our gains and rights. This is a part of what we call the emergency programme against the crisis. But also we must reopen the discussion in the workers’ movement because capitalism is in crisis and this crisis is spreading around Europe for example, or even in the US. There can not be at the end any other solution than a socialist way out, and of course, this socialism must have nothing to do with what we have experienced in the ex Stalinist countries or Stalinist regimes.

Statement by Ekta on Massacre of Civilians by Maoist Insurgents in Chhattisgarh and State Response


We publish this statement. But as with any statement not issued specifically by Radicval Socialist, the publication does not imply our agreement with all the views expressed herein. In particular, we differ from EKTA's characterisation of the maoists as armed outlaws. It is true that they are armed and it is true that the government has outlawed them. But would one accept, during the period up to 1942, the characterisation of the CPI as "unarmed outlaws"? -- Administrators, R.S.

EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai hereby strongly condemns the lethal attack by the Maoist insurgents yesterday afternoon on a private bus at Chingavaram on the Dantewada-Sukhma road in Chhattisgarh in an overly successful bid to kill a group of traveling armed Special Police Officers (SPOSs) - adivasi youths recruited to battle Maoist insurgency in the state, with the full knowledge that the bus was carrying also a large number of unarmed civilian passengers taking no part in the ongoing armed conflicts
between the insurgents and the state. This is morally utterly repulsive. We also, on this note, strongly disapprove the brutal summary executions of unarmed civilians, including adivasis and other sections of the poor and marginalized, by the Maoists tagging them as “informer”.

At the same time, we also take note of the fact that a large group of SPOs, maybe around 20, elected to travel by a bus full of civilian passengers, plying through an area known to be prone to mine blasts and other forms of armed assaults by the Maoists, despite the fact they are engaged in an open and no holds barred war with the insurgents, killing each other at the first available opportunity. This amounts to virtually holding the civilian passengers as helpless hostage and trying to use them as human shield for their own safety. It is also just unacceptable.

While on this orgy of gory violence, the reflexive cry of Sri Chidambaram in the wake of these tragic murders for more of the same (failed measures), asking for an “expanded mandate” i.e. permission to use air strikes against the insurgents operating in an area with deep forest covers and sheltering for ages large number of adivasi inhabitants is also unacceptably disturbing. So is his vituperative verbal assault on civil society groups committed to uphold democratic values and norms so as to cover up his own dismal performance as the Union Home Minister. The fact that the detailed recommendations made by a body of recognised experts appointed by no less than the Planning Commission of India to tackle Maoist insurgency have gone completely unheeded despite persistent failures of the tried and tested repressive measures deserves close attention.
On this note, we also strongly condemn Odisha government’s armed assaults on unarmed civilian resistors protesting against proposed mega projects by the Posco, and also Tata, Vedanta etc., overriding all ecological, social, and also legal, considerations.
It seems that the state is bent upon sending the message, in unison with the insurgents, that in Indian democracy peaceful protests have no reasonable chance of being heard and the only way out is armed banditry.

At the end, we again appeal to the warring parties to immediately come to the negotiating table and eschew blood spilling violence. Obviously the “democratic” state has a greater responsibility and just cannot afford to emulate a band of armed outlaws.
The sate must also immediately have an authentic and thoughtful relook at the “strategy” being pursued hitherto by it and make serious attempts to initiate inclusive and participatory development to better the lot of the marginalised adivasi populations, in particular - the main constituency of the insurgents, to cut them off from their principal support base.
Mindless armed action will only bring in more and more tragedies it its wake. An internal disturbance fuelled by an overpowering sense of alienation felt by a significant section of the population born out of desperate poverty and cruel oppressions cannot be and must not be tackled the way a war is waged
against a clearly identified uniformed external enemy.

Public Statement on Jagatsingpur by concerned individuals


STOP POLICE ATTACKS ON PEACEFUL PROTESTORS

IN ORISSA

15 May 2010

New Delhi

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the unprovoked firing and arson carried out by the Orissa state police against a dharna of farmers and fisher folk opposed to the proposed POSCO steel project in Jagatsingpur district.

 

As per latest reports, today over 100 people have been injured and many shops and houses in Balitutha village, the site of the dharna, have been set on fire by the policemen.  Around 40 divisions of policemen were involved in the operation, which continues even now as we write this. Hundreds of villagers belonging to the PPSS (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) have been sitting in a peaceful dharna since 26 January 2010 to express their dissent against the proposed plant.

 

It is also outrageous to note that the atrocities and arson by the police at Balitutha at the moment is being led by the SP of the district while chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar is issuing statements like “We are for peaceful industrialization” to the media. Naveen Patnaik is known for his ruthless manner in which he has dealt with democratic resistances in the past 10 years in the state, in which many innocent people have lost their lives to police firing and other forms of violence perpetrated by the state.

 

Prior to today’s police action, there was already an economic blockage imposed by the state administration of the villages earmarked for land acquisition and where resistance is the strongest. There is a strong fear that any police raid on the villagers to oust them from their land will result in the loss of innocent lives in an area where thousands were already killed when the Orissa Super Cyclone hit the area just a decade ago. Nevertheless, the area is endowed with rich natural resources and has a prosperous economy of its own, and the local communities – as they have expressed it over and over again – do not want to trade their resources, economy, and cultural identities for mere corporate greed.

 

We believe that, to crush peaceful dissent in such a brutal manner can only serve to undermine Indian democracy and push large sections of the Indian population to the point of desperation. At no point, in their struggle for over five years, have the anti-POSCO protestors indulged in any violent activities and have instead set an example to the rest of the country on how to carry out a democratic struggle based solely on the mass support of ordinary men and women.

 

We appeal to all Indian political parties and concerned citizens to oppose the Orissa government’s ill-considered and draconian action against the anti-POSCO protestors and demand the immediate withdrawal of police forces from the area. It is only through peaceful negotiations that a resolution can be found and the common people’s crumbling faith in Indian democracy restored.

Yours sincerely,

 

  1. Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, New Delhi
  2. Medha Patkar, NAPM
  3. Arundhati Roy, Writer and Activist, New Delhi
  4. Sandeep Pandey, NAPM
  5. B Ramakrishna Raju, NAPM
  6. Praful Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Orissa
  7. Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata
  8. Ashok Chaudhury, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  9. Subrat Kumar Sahu, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  10. Sanjay Bosu Mallick, NFFPFW
  11. Madhumita Dutta, Vettiverr Collective, Chennai
  12. Nityanand Jayaraman, Journalist, Chennai
  13. Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring, Chennai
  14. Dr Karen Coelho, Academic, Chennai
  15. Shazia Nigar, Delhi University and NAPM, New Delhi
  16. Soumitra Ghosh, NFFPFW – North Bengal Regional Committee, Siliguri, West Bengal
  17. Mamata Dash, Researcher and Activist, NFFPFW, New Delhi
  18. Amit Sengupta, Journalist, New Delhi
  19. Satya Sivaraman, Journalist, New Delhi
  20. Ravi Hemadri, the Other Media, New Delhi
  21. Manshi Asher, Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
  22. Shalini Gera, Friends of South Asia, Delhi
  23. Shibayan Raha, New Delhi
  24. Madhu Sarin, Researcher and Activist, Chandigarh
  25. Nandini Sundar, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
  26. Saswati Swetlana
  27. Ashish Fernandes, Bangalore
  28. Amar Kanwar, Independent Filmmaker, New Delhi
  29. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad
  30. Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center
  31. Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
  32. Maj Gen (Retd) S G Vombatkere
  33. Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  34. Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
  35. Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
  36. Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  37. Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action
  38. Safreen Khan, Children Against Dow Carbide
  39. K P Sasi, Independent Filmmaker, Bangalore
  40. Anivar Aravnd, Movingrepublic, Bangalore
  41. Kanchi Kohli, Kalpavriksh, New Delhi
  42. Latha Jishnu, Journalist, New Delhi
  43. Chanda Asani, Academic, Jaipur

...and many more concerned citizens

 

Elections and Political Malpractice in Pakistan


Farooq Tariq

 

An election is taking place in Faisalabad for Punjab Assembly today. There are three more bye elections in other areas of Punjab. All are taking place after the resignations of the members of parliament due to their fake degrees of graduation submitted to Election Commission during the 2008 general election. It took two years before the Supreme Court took up the cases and several of these accused opted to resign instead of fighting their cases.

 

Two of those who resigned are contesting again. A natural division of these two is shared by the two parties of the rich, the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. Ajmal Asif contesting from Faisalabad is from PMLN and Jamshed Dasti from PPP. Both of them are allowed by the courts to contest against. What a mockery of the justice. They resigned from their seats because they had cheated the Election Commission and the people in general. The cheaters are contesting again because at present the condition for the illegibility of a candidate to be a graduate is gone.

 

This is just one aspect of these bye elections. The elections are contested every where with full state sponsorship of the candidates from the respective governing political parties. The rich candidates are violating all the code of conduct that Election Commission has laid down for candidates before the elections.

 

Prime Minister Gilani has addressed public rallies in Vihari and Muzhafar Ghar districts in support of the PPP candidates. He has announced several development schemes for those districts as part of their election strategy. The EC code of conduct prohibits a candidate or a party to announce any development scheme, subscription or donation to an individual or an institute to be announced. The Governor of Punjab, a PPP person announced several such schemes in Faisalabad. An army of provincial ministers both from PPP and PMLN are permanently based in the different constituencies where bye elections are taking place offering the locals for all sort of state benefits once they will vote for their candidate.

 

Both parties have to do this mal practice because they politics have not much to offer to people. State patronization of a particular candidate is very visible in these bye elections.

 

However, it is the general practices of  PPP and PMLN candidates that is making these elections as a farce and pretense. Winning the election at all cost is the only solution to their feudal ego. They are spending money like anything. The EC code of conduct prohibits a candidate not to spend more than 1.5 million Rupees in the case of National Assembly and less than a million Rupees for provincial elections.

I have been several times to Faisalabad to campaign for Labour party Pakistan candidate Mian Abdul Qayum. The money spent by Ajmal Asif, the fake degree holder and a candidate of PMLN is by any mean in billions and not in millions. His massive colour banners, hoardings, posters, stickers, T shirts and other advertising material have no match to the limitation of election expenditure. All of these advertising materials is not according the sizes that have been printed in the code of conduct booklet of the Election Commission.

 

But this is not his main spending. Teams of his supporters who are mainly the textile mill owners are visiting working class areas of constituencies and offering them cash amount of 3000 to 10,000 depending on votes of a family. They have Quran in their hand for an oath to be administered that they will vote for Mian Ajmal.

 

Election Commission of Pakistan has never taken any notice of over expenditure in their whole history. For them this might be a minor election irregularity, there are other massive ones to deal with. By allowing the rich candidate to use capital as the base of the vote, the Election Commission becomes a party in favour of the rich.

 

The workers of the textile factories and power looms have been threatened to loose their job if they vote for LPP candidate.  A capitalist class is acting as a class in this constituency. They know if LPP candidate gets even any reasonable votes, it will start a new era of politics in Pakistan. It seems that there is absolute no shortage of resources for this representative of PMLN for this bye elections.

 

There are over 100 gum men around him when he moves in the constituency. This is total breach of the EC code of conduct. The open exhibition of the arms is a direct threat to the peace of these elections. The gun men arms are itself an act of canvassing on behalf of the candidates of the rich parties.

 

Ajmal Asif , the PMLN candidate is a declared proclaimed offender in a murder and attempt of murder case. He was involved in killing of an industrial worker and injuring several when they tried to form a trade union in 2008. He is nominated by a political party PMLN, that has advocated a rule of law and for an independent judiciary. What a respect for judiciary, as they declare a person proclaimed offender and PMLN nominate him to contest elections on its behalf.

 

The PPP federal government has gone even further than PMLN in these violations of EC code of conduct. In almost every village, they development work to lay down the gas pipe lines has started when the lection schedule was announced. It stoped yesterday on 14 May, ad ay before poling. If you vote for PPP, the pipe line work will be completed, if you do not, the digging of soul will remain the same and dust will be every where, is the hidden message. So is the case of road constructions. It is left uncompleted and will be done if you vote. It is dirtiest game by a party that claims to be “Peoples” party. It is not “Peoples” party but a party of the crooks and schemers for the bosses.

 

The PPP activists are distributing the so-called Benazhir Income Support Scheme farms and bank cheque to poor women. The BISS aims at providing Rupees one thousand a month to the poor of the poor section. But World Bank sponsored scheme is been used every where by PPP as an election incentive.

The PPP elections campaign in Faisalabad is been supported by active participation of Faryal Talpur, sister of presedient Zardari, The governor of Punjab, the minister of natural resources and petroleum, Federal textile minister and several other ministers.

 

The capitalist democracy is been exposed in classical terms as a politics of the few for the few rich. We have been offered an election to choose who will exploit us for the next three years.

 

LPP is contesting against the two governments and not against the candidates of the two political parties. On one side, the LPP activists are sleeping on rough floors after campaigning door to door, and on the other side the supporters of PPP and PMLN are having their best lunches, dinners and rides on the most expensive luxury land crusers and other massive jeeps and cars. The LPP candidate has one car to campaign while the PPP and PMLN candidates have countless transport available both private and government one. The LPP candidate is taking care of all aspect of EC code of conduct, while the two candidates of PPP and PMLN are violating every aspect of that.

 

Whatever the results are today, the working class in Faisalabad industrials suburbs will not be the same. There is growing consciousness that there is Labour candidate in this area. Everyone knows that we are in the field. Over 10,000 workers participated in our election rallies. Countless poems have been written in praise of our election symbol Apple (Seeb). Our candidate Mian Abdul Qayum and comrades of LPP from other areas have campaigned day and night. Labour Qaumi Movement, the labour organization that Mian Qayum heads, has become a household name in Faisalabad.

 

This is not the end of the politics; it is the beginning of our new era. This is the beginning of a working class politics on a platform of working class party. Most of the Left parties and groups have supported us. They have come to campaign for us that include Workers Party of Pakistan and Awami Jamhori Forum in particular. The election results will be announced this evening and hopefully we will not be at the bottom end but among the top four out of 17 candidates.

Bolivarian Venezuela at the crossroads


Nationalization, workers’ control: achievements and limitations (PART 1)


By Eric Toussaint[1]


The economic, social and political situation in Venezuela has changed
a lot since the failure of the constitutional reform in December 2007,
which acted as a warning to the Chávez government.[2] This failure had
the effect however of reviving the debate on the need to have a
socialist perspective. The debate revolves around several key
questions: further nationalization, workers’ control, the place of the
PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), people’s participation,
etc.

On Sunday 15 February 2009, 54.36% of the country’s citizens voted
‘yes’ to the amendment to the Constitution that allows political
representatives to stand for successive mandates without any time
limit.[3] Up to then the Constitution had only allowed two successive
mandates: there had to be a break before the candidate could apply
again.[4] In 2013, at the end of his second mandate, Hugo Chávez will
have the possibility to run again for president. If he is re-elected,
his mandate will end in January 2019. This is why some Chavist
activists are now concerned about what changes may occur by then that
could consolidate the progress achieved since Chávez’s accession to
power.

Nationalization, workers’ control: achievements and limitations

In April 2008, after 15,000 workers at the SIDOR steel plant, part of
the Argentine group Techint, had been on strike for nearly two months,
Hugo Chávez announced that the company was being nationalized. The
workers' main demand was for 9,000 temporary contracts to be converted
into unlimited duration contracts. Given the employer's refusal,
nationalization was the best way for the government to guarantee that
the workers' demand was met -- a decision workers perceived as a great
victory.

SIDOR was founded as a State-owned company during the 1960s, was then
privatized and sold to foreign capital in 1997 under Rafael Caldera's
presidency. The April 2008 re-nationalization takes on particular
significance since this modern and efficient company is a production
tool that Argentinian capital, and Techint in particular, wished to
hold on to.

It should be noted that the Chavist government of the state in which
SIDOR is located had ordered the police to repress the strike as soon
as it started. In addition, the minister of Labour had done nothing to
support workers' demands. As a consequence Hugo Chávez' decision to
nationalize the company and to remove the minister was perceived as a
shift in the workers’ favour. All the more so as, at about the same
time, he announced an increase in interprofessional minimum wages and
public sector salaries as well as the nationalization of the cement
industry, which so far had been in the hands of three TNCs (Lafarge –
France, Holcim – Switzerland, and Cemex – Mexico).

In the following months and during 2009 the government made further
nationalizations in the food industry[5] (which affected both national
capital – Lacteos Los Andes – and the grain TNC Cargill). The
government justified these nationalizations as being essential for
improving the population's food supply. Finally the Bank of Venezuela,
one of the largest private banks in the Santander group (one of the
two leading banking groups in Spain) was also taken over by the State.

All these nationalizations, as well as those that had occurred earlier
(in the electricity sector, telecommunications, the Orinoco oil
fields, etc.), led to generous compensations for the former owners:
Venezuela uses part of its oil revenue to regain control of certain
strategic sectors of the economy. The main objective of such
compensation is to avoid legal penalties for not abiding by bilateral
treaties on investments signed by Venezuela. International law makes
it possible for States to nationalize companies provided they give
reasonable compensation to owners. Venezuela could proceed in a more
radical way if it withdrew its signature from bilateral treaties on
investments, left the ICSID (International Centre for the Settlement
of Investment Disputes, i.e. the World Bank's tribunal on investment
issues), and secured its liquidities and other assets abroad so as to
avoid seizure. This of course would further increase the hostility of
the establishment in industrialized countries and of the TNCs within
the country (all the major transnational oil companies are present in
Venezuela as well as General Motors, Mitsubishi, Daimler-Chrysler,
etc.).

The rather cautious way chosen by the government did not prevent a
company like ExxonMobil from trying to have 12 billion dollars
belonging to PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anónima) seized by
Dutch and British courts in 2008. This is one good reason for
Venezuela to enter into an alliance with other countries of the South
so as to repudiate bilateral treaties on investments that include
clauses that could be detrimental to the nation's interests, to
withdraw from the ICSID and WTO, and to set up a multilateral body in
the South to settle disputes –  in other words, an ICSID that would be
a Southern alternative to the World Bank’s ICSID, which serves the
interests of large private TNCs.

In 2009, further nationalizations again raised the issue of workers’
control. Left-wing trade unions and workers' collectives are in fact
demanding the implementation of control mechanisms through which
workers can control the boards of nationalized companies. They want in
this way to ensure that the original objectives of such
nationalizations will be adhered to; they also want to prevent bad
management, wastage, embezzlement, corruption, and misuse of company
assets by insisting on the opening of ledgers, transparent commercial
and industrial strategies, and the periodic submission of balance
sheets and accounts. They rightly voice their distrust of many of the
private executives who stayed on after nationalization, but also of
some new executives who look after their personal interests rather
than seek what is good for the community. Achieving and indeed
demanding control increases workers' self-confidence and their
capacity to collectively contribute to a socialistic kind of
management and labour relations on the one hand, and, on the other,
create a counter-weight within companies in the hands of private
capital.

We see instances of workers occupying private companies and demanding
their nationalization. Inevitably the issue of workers’ control will
have to be raised again in the oil industry. It first flared up during
the oil lockout (December 2002 - January 2003), when workers, who
wanted to resume production, had called an oil conference. Later Hugo
Chávez rejected the idea of workers’ control in this key industry
because of its strategic importance, whereas of course it would be a
good reason to go for it. The same applies to the production and
distribution of electricity, which were also nationalized. Workers in
this sector started demanding control in September 2009. Electricity
supply in Venezuela is critical since over 50% of its production[6] is
'lost' or diverted (meaning stolen) during distribution. Losses are
mainly due to the use of old equipment because before they were
nationalized by the Chávez government, certain companies like
Electricidad de Caracas (owned by AES, a U.S.-owned TNC) were almost
systematically deprived of the necessary investments to buy new
machines. On the other hand, large private industrial companies steal
and squander large quantities of energy. There are also unauthorized
electric hook-ups in residential areas but in the case of working
class households, which are not big consumers, such piracy is limited.
Workers in the electricity sector are in the best position to solve
the issue of supply and to fight squandering and bad management by
senior executives – and thus avoid power cuts. These are the arguments
being developed by trade union leaders to demand workers’ control.

Ángel Navas, president of the Electricity Sector Workers’ Federation
(FETRAELEC), told the media during a demonstration by some 3,000
workers in Caracas on 25 September 2009: “We the workers are in touch
with users in the neighbourhoods. We know how we can solve the
crisis... We have to change the bureaucratic structures and the
structures of capitalist management into structures with a socialist
vision. We must change production relations and do away with all this
bureaucracy which is killing the company.”[7]

During the first half of 2009 Hugo Chávez stated at a public meeting
with worker managers that he was favourable to a law on the election
of managers of nationalized companies[8], but nothing has happened
since then to put this commitment into practice.

This struggle for workers’ control of company management is essential.
Its outcome is decisive for the ongoing process in Venezuela.[9]

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle and Judith Harris, in collaboration
with Francesca Denley and Stephanie Jacquemont

Next part:  Debate and contradiction in the PSUV (United Socialist
Party of Venezuela) (Part 2)

_____________________________
__

[1] Eric Toussaint, Doctor in Political Science (University of Liege
and University of Paris VIII), is president of CADTM Belgium
(Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org ). He
is the author of A diagnosis of emerging global crisis and
alternatives, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2009, 139p; Bank of the South. An
Alternative to the IMF-World Bank, VAK, Mumbai, India, 2007; The World
Bank, A Critical Primer, Pluto Press, Between The Lines, David Philip,
London-Toronto-Cape Town 2008; Your Money or Your Life, The Tyranny of
Global Finance, Haymarket, Chicago, 2005.

[2] On 2 December 2007 51% of voters said ‘No’ to Chávez'
constitutional referendum as against 49% voting  ‘Yes’.  This is
Chávez' only electoral setback between 1998 and 2009. See Éric
Toussaint, “The failure of 2 December 2007 can be a powerful lever for
improving the process currently unfolding in Hugo Chávez’ Venezuela”,
December 2007, http://www.cadtm.org/The-failure-of-2-December-2007-can

[3] It should be remembered that article 72 provides for the
possibility of citizens recalling the President of the Republic and
all other elected officials half-way through the term of office.

[4] The campaign depicting Hugo Chávez as a “despot for life” played
on the scandalous nature of unlimited re-election. Yet several
European democracies work in the same way. This is the case in Spain,
Italy and the United Kingdom for the post of Prime Minister, and in
Germany for the post of Chancellor (in all 4 countries, it is the head
of government who really holds the reins of power). In France, up to
the adoption in July 2008 of the constitutional law on the
modernization of institutions, there was no limit on the number of
consecutive mandates. Since then, the number of consecutive mandates
is limited to two.

[5] http://voixdusud.blogspot.com/2009/03/lindustrie-alimentaire-dans-la.html

[6] We should also note, however, a very positive structural feature
in Venezuela: electricity is very largely produced from dams and
rivers. Fossil fuels are only rarely used and there are no nuclear
power plants.

[7] See a very interesting video of the demonstration with interviews
of several TU leaders on the Marea Socialista website:
http://mareasocialista.com/trabajadores-372.html

[8] This was the case on 21 May 2009 during a meeting between Hugo
Chávez and 400 delegates from the steel and aluminium industries held
in the State of Guayana. A meeting to consolidate other commitments
made during this important assembly took place on 21 August 2009 in
the context of the “Plan Guayana socialista”. See Marea socialista,
no.22, p. 3.

[9] To know more about initiatives or position statements on workers’
control in Venezuela, read issues 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the magazine
Marea Socialista, July-August 2009, which discuss the situation at
SIDOR, CorpoElec, Cadafe, cement works, Cafeaca, Alcasa,
Carbonorca…See http://mareasocialista.com/

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