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Nuclear Energy Loses Cost Advantage




Nuclear Energy Loses Cost Advantage

DIANA S. POWERS

PARIS — Solar photovoltaic systems have long been painted as a clean way to
generate electricity, but expensive compared with other alternatives to oil,
like nuclear power. No longer. In a “historic crossover,” the costs of solar
photovoltaic systems have declined to the point where they are lower than
the rising projected costs of new nuclear plants, according to a paper
published this month.

“Solar photovoltaics have joined the ranks of lower-cost alternatives to new
nuclear plants,” John O. Blackburn, a professor of economics at Duke
University<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/d/duke_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
in North Carolina, and Sam Cunningham, a graduate student, wrote in the
paper, “Solar and Nuclear Costs — The Historic Crossover.”

This crossover occurred at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, they said.

While solar power<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/solar_energy/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
costs
have been declining, the costs of nuclear power have been rising inexorably
over the past eight years, said Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic
analysis at the University of Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and
Environment.

Estimates of construction costs — about $3 billion per reactor in 2002 —
have been regularly revised upward to an average of about $10 billion per
reactor, and the estimates are likely to keep rising, said Mr. Cooper, an
analyst specializing in tracking nuclear power costs.

Identifying the real costs of competing energy technologies is complicated
by the wide range of subsidies and tax breaks involved. As a result, U.S.
taxpayers and utility users could end up spending hundreds of billions, even
trillions of dollars more than necessary to achieve an ample low-carbon
energy supply, if legislative proposals before the U.S. Congress lead to
adoption of an ambitious nuclear development program, Mr. Cooper said in a
report last November.

The report, “All Risk, No Reward for Taxpayers and Ratepayers,” was a
response to a legislative wish list developed by the Nuclear Energy
Institute, an industry group. The institute has called for a mix of U.S.
subsidies, tax credits, loan guarantees, procedural simplifications and
institutional support on a large scale.

At the state level, the industry has also pressed the case for “construction
work in progress,” a financing system that requires electricity users to pay
for the cost of new reactors during their construction and sometimes before
construction starts. With long construction periods and frequent delays,
this can mean that electricity users start to pay higher prices as much as
12 years before the plants produce electricity.

The institute’s Web site says the financing system “reduces the cost
ratepayers will pay for power from the plant when it goes into commercial
operation,” by lowering interest payments on capital costs and spreading the
costs over time.

“The utilities insist that the construction work in progress charged to
ratepayers also include the return on equity that the utilities normally
earn by taking the risk of building the plant — even though they have
shifted the risk to the ratepayers,” Mr. Cooper said. “If the plant is not
built or suffers cost overruns, the ratepayers will bear the burden.”

History suggests that the risk of this is not negligible. In 1985, Forbes
magazine dubbed the construction of the first generation of U.S. nuclear
plants “the largest managerial disaster in business history.”

The first round of plants resulted in write-offs through bankruptcies and
“stranded costs” — investments in existing power plants made uncompetitive
by deregulation — which essentially transferred nearly $100 billion in
liabilities to electricity users, said Doug Koplow, an economist and founder
of Earth Track, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which campaigns against
subsidies it considers environmentally harmful. “Although the industry
frequently points to its low operating costs as evidence of its market
competitiveness, this economic structure is an artifact of large subsidies
to capital, historical write-offs of capital, and ongoing subsidies to
operating costs,” Mr. Koplow said.

From 1943 to 1999 the U.S. government paid nearly $151 billion, in 1999
dollars, in subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power, Marshall Goldberg
of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a research organization in
Washington, wrote in a July 2000 report. Of this total, 96.3 percent went to
nuclear power, the report said.

Still, these costs pale in comparison with the financial risks and subsidies
that are likely to accompany the next wave of nuclear plant construction,
Mr. Cooper said.

A November 2009 research report by
Citigroup<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/citigroup_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
Global
Markets termed the construction risks, power price risks, and operational
risks “so large and variable that individually they could each bring even
the largest utility to its knees.”

Those risks were mentioned in a 2009 report by the credit rating
agency<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/credit_rating_agencies/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
Moody’s<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/moodys_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org>.
“Moody’s is considering taking a more negative view for those issuers
seeking to build new nuclear power plants,” the report said. “Historically,
most nuclear-building utilities suffered ratings downgrades — and sometimes
several — while building these facilities. Political and policy conditions
are spurring applications for new nuclear power generation for the first
time in years. Nevertheless, most utilities now seeking to build nuclear
generation do not appear to be adjusting their financial policies, a credit
negative.”

Adding to the risks facing any reactor construction program, only one of
five proposed designs under consideration by U.S. utilities has ever been
built, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/nuclear_regulatory_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
said.

“No one has ever built a contemporary reactor to contemporary standards, so
no one has the experience to state with confidence what it will cost,” said
Stephen Maloney, a utilities management consultant. “We see cost escalations
as companies come up the learning curve.”

Market risk has been heightened by the recent
recession<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/recession_and_depression/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>.
“The current crisis has decreased energy demand even more than the 1970s oil
price shocks,” Mr. Cooper said. The recession “appears to have caused a
fundamental shift in consumption patterns that will lower the long-term
growth rate of electricity demand.”

Meanwhile, most of the projects that have created the increase of license
applications to the regulatory commission have already experienced
difficulties. “About half of the projects that have been put forward at the
start of the next generation of reactors have been delayed or canceled,” Mr.
Cooper said. “Those that have moved forward have suffered substantial cost
escalation and several have received negative financial reviews.

“Of the 19 applications at the N.R.C., 90 percent have had some type of
delay or cancellation, run into a design problem, suffered cost increases
and/or had the utility bond rating downgraded by Wall Street.”

Despite the economic challenges, the nuclear power industry remains unfazed.

“This is not a hospitable environment in which to commission any large
base-load power plant,” said Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive of
the Nuclear Energy Institute, in a briefing to the financial community.
Still, he said: “Fortunately new nuclear plants won’t be in service until
2016 or later, so today’s market conditions are not entirely relevant.”

Mr. Cooper said the industry’s equanimity was based, at least partially, on
the supportive cushion provided by loan guarantees and work-in-progress
financing. “With such financing the utility is making a one-way bet,
allowing it to make a profit even when the project fails,” he said. “The
people bear the risks and costs; the nuclear utilities take the profits.
Without loan guarantees and guaranteed construction work in progress, these
reactors will simply not be built, because the capital markets will not
finance them.”

Without public guarantees, nuclear projects often cannot get financing.
AmerenUE, the Missouri utility, suspended in April 2009 plans to build a $6
billion, 1,600-megawatt reactor at its Callaway County nuclear site, after
trying unsuccessfully to get the State Legislature to repeal a longstanding
ban on work-in-progress financing. The continued existence of the ban “makes
financing a new plant in the current economic environment impossible,” the
utility said.

Similarly, Florida Power and
Light<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/fpl_group_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
said
in January that it would not proceed beyond licensing with plans to build
two new reactors at its Turkey Point site, after the FloridaPublic Service
Commission<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/public_service_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
rejected
its request to pass on a $1.27 billion cost increase to its users.

Yet, despite episodic resistance at the local level, financial support for
the industry at the U.S. government level has been increasingly evident in
successive versions of climate and energy bills before the U.S. Congress,
including the most recent, the American Power Act, which is delayed in the
Senate until after the summer recess.

Nuclear subsidies in the Senate proposal include five-year accelerated
depreciation; tax credits for investments and production and eligibility for
the advanced energy tax credit; an increase in government insurance against
regulatory delays; access to private activity bonds; and a $36 billion
increase in loan guarantees, bringing the total to $56 billion.

That remains less than the Nuclear Energy Institute’s goal of $100 billion,
an amount it describes as “a minimal acceptable loan volume.” Still, Mr.
Fertel said in his financial briefing that “‘strong political support’
understates our position.”

Federal loan guarantees cut nuclear construction financing costs by allowing
the utilities to sell bonds at a lower interest rate. But at the same time
the guarantee means that “the U.S.
Treasury<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/t/treasury_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
and therefore the taxpayers, are on the hook for the value of the loans
should they go bad,” Mr. Cooper said.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability
Office<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/g/government_accountability_office/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
the average risk of default for such Department of Energy loan guarantees is
about 50 percent, which is the historic rate for the nuclear industry.

Mr. Koplow of Earth Track said two of the other subsidies in the Senate
bill, the investment tax credit and five-year accelerated depreciation,
would together “be worth between $1.3 billion and nearly $3 billion on a net
present value basis per new reactor.

“This is equivalent to between 15 and 20 percent of the total all-in cost of
the reactors, as projected by industry.”

Over all, Mr. Koplow said, the proposed subsidy package would undermine the
equity requirements of the nuclear loan guarantee program, designed to
ensure that investors have a strong interest in the long-term success of the
venture. “Although investors will get all the profit if the reactor project
is successful, they will bear virtually none of the financial risk if the
project fails,” he said. “This is a disastrous incentive structure.”

By distorting energy markets, these subsidies would “effectively make the
government the chooser of which energy technologies will be winners and
which will lose,” he said. The American Power Act “does not build a neutral
policy platform on which all energy technologies must compete.”

The tax breaks for nuclear would “greatly impede market access for competing
energy sources,” Mr. Koplow said.

He said handing out huge subsidies would also cloud the transparency of
decision-making. “This approach,” he said, “which replaces price signals
with decisions by a handful of often unnamed individuals within the U.S.
Department of Energy<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/energy_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
plays to none of the inherent strengths of the U.S. market system to spur
innovation and effectively allocate risks and rewards. Further, the basis,
and sometimes scale, of these subsidy decisions is largely hidden from the
public view.”

For Mr. Cooper, the core issue at stake is one of opportunity cost. “While
the cost estimates of nuclear power continue to rise, the potential for
energy efficiency measures to reduce the need for energy are far cheaper,”
he said.

Lower-cost, low-carbon technologies are already available, and cost trends
for several others indicate that a combination of efficiency and renewable
technologies could meet projected power needs while also achieving
aggressive carbon-reduction targets, Mr. Cooper said.

In a June 2009 report drawing on several earlier studies, Mr. Cooper said
that energy efficiency, cogeneration and renewable sources could meet power
needs at an average cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with a cost
of 12 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power.

Choosing the nuclear route, and constructing 100 new reactors, would
translate into an extra cost to taxpayers and electricity users of $1.9
trillion to $4.4 trillion over the 40-year life of the reactors, compared
with the costs of developing energy efficiency and renewable sources, the
report said.

Mr. Cooper said it would make sense for policy makers, standing in the place
of the market, to choose the least costly alternatives first.

“In an attempt to circumvent the sound judgment of the capital markets,
nuclear advocates erroneously claim that subsidies lower the financing costs
for nuclear reactors and so are good for consumers,” he said. “But shifting
risk does not eliminate it. Furthermore, subsidies induce utilities and
regulators to take greater risks that will cost the taxpayers and the
ratepayers dearly.

“The risks that have dismayed Wall Street should be taken seriously by
policy makers because they would cost not just hundreds of billions of
dollars in losses on reactors that are canceled, but also trillions in
excess costs for ratepayers when reactors are brought to completion by
utilities that fail to pursue the lower-cost, less risky options that are
available.

“The frantic effort of the nuclear industry to increase federal loan
guarantees and secure ratepayer funding of construction work in progress
from state legislatures is an admission that the technology is so totally
uneconomic that the industry will forever be a ward of state, resulting in a
uniquely American form of nuclear socialism.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/business/global/27iht-renuke.html?_r=1

Statement by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti on Murder of Amit Jethva


Press Release

Date: 22nd July 2010
We the activists of PARYAVARAN SURAKSHA SAMITI are horrified at the gruesome murder of Mr. Amit Jethva, President  of Gir Nature Youth Club, Khambha, District Amreli who had been raising the issue of illegal mining and other environmental issues in Junagadh area.

More shocking is the fact that the murder took place not only in a big, busy city but very close to Gujarat High Court and not very far from the seat of power in 'peaceful Gujarat. Perhaps the location of the crime spot explains who might be behind it as suspected by his immediate family.

The possible reasons and motive of the crime may never be properly investigated given the influence and reach of those alleged to be behind it but it is absolutely essential that civil society condemns this unequivocally and exerts sufficient pressure on the Police and higher authorities to carry out a fair and impartial inquiry, and trial of those guilty.

It has to be realised by one and all that settling disputes in this manner should not go unpunished. Even the powerful pay a heavy price for such acts in the medium and long run.


Anand Mazgaonkar        Michael Mazgaonkar               Swati Desai
Rajnibhai Dave               Rohit Prajapati                         Krishnakant
Trupti Shah                      Ambrish Brahmbhatt               Kantibhai Mistry
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

Fourth International Debates Party-Building Strategy


Jeff Mackler  /  July 2010

 

More than 200 delegates, observers, and invited guests from some 45 countries attended the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International (FI), Feb. 23-28 in Belgium. The FI is the world socialist organization founded in 1938 by Leon Trotsky with the help of cothinkers worldwide, including James P. Cannon, the pioneer of American Trotskyism.

The draft reports prepared by the FI leadership to initiate the pre-World Congress on-line discussion appear in the International Viewpoint website under “Documents of the FI.” A critical assessment of these texts, entitled, “Socialist Action USA: A contribution to the pre-World Congress discussion,” appears in the same place.

Three main resolutions were presented for discussion and debate. The first two, on “The World Political Situation” and on “Capitalist Climate Change and Our Tasks” were accepted with little dissent and accompanied by a generally rich and productive discussion.

But there were sharp disagreements with regard to the third report on “The Role and Tasks of the FI.” Socialist Action cast its fraternal vote in favor of the first two resolutions and against the “Role and Tasks” text. Reactionary U.S. legislation bars Socialist Action’s formal membership in the FI. Its delegates therefore participate in a fraternal capacity only.

“The World Political Report” contained a description of the terrible effects on the world’s working classes due to the international capitalist economic crisis, a crisis that was properly judged as flowing from fundamental structural flaws in the capitalist system itself.

The second resolution and reports on the world climate crisis represented an important theoretical advance, as well as an important contribution to the world workers’ movement more generally. The text on climate change combined a thoroughgoing Marxist analysis with the science of ecology, a wealth of factual material, a rejection of a “productivist” (capitalist or Stalinist) way out, a series of transitional and immediate demands, proposals for united mass actions, and a broad appreciation of the magnitude and importance of the climate crisis issue.

The resolution began with a clear and unequivocal statement of the magnitude and importance of the issue: “The climate change that is underway is not the product of human activity in general but of the productivist paradigm developed by capitalism and imitated by other systems that claim to be alternatives to the former. Faced with the danger of a social and ecological catastrophe which is without precedent and is irreversible on a human timescale, the system, incapable of calling into question its fundamental logic of accumulation, is engaged in a dangerous technological forward flight from which there is no way out.”

Debate on “Tasks” resolution

The third resolution debated at the World Congress, “The Role and Tasks of the Fourth International,” drew serious criticism from a number of delegates. The text expressed the view that the priority of the FI today must be the construction of “broad anti-capitalist parties” everywhere—as well as a “new international based on such parties.”

The FI’s primary objective since its founding has been to build mass revolutionary Leninist parties worldwide aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies among the oppressed to take political power and construct socialist societies. Unclear in the resolution was whether its call for “broad anti-capitalist parties” was meant to supplant the FI’s historic party-building strategy.

The debate also concerned the role of FI parties that would participate in these “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Were they to organize as a tendency, caucus, or some such formation designed to win new FI members to a clear revolutionary program and party—or were they to become absorbed into such parties without a clear revolutionary program and Trotskyist identity?

This issue was particularly relevant in light of last year’s dissolution of the French section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Communist League, into the New Anti-Capitalist Party, and the absence of any organized FI current within the organization. Was the NPA to be the new model for revolutionaries as opposed to building a Leninist party?

The text had been prepared by the FI’s International Committee after deliberations over the course of more than a year. Some 72 comrades took the floor to express a wide range of views on the resolution.

As the discussion proceeded, it became obvious that there was little agreement among the delegates as to the meaning and purpose of “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Neither the ambiguous language of the text nor the reporter explained whether these parties were envisioned as an alternative to building revolutionary parties based on the historic program of the FI or even whether these parties were to be socialist at all.

In Socialist Action’s view, a tactical decision as to what kind of formations revolutionary socialists participate in must be subordinate to our strategic objective—the construction of revolutionary parties aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies in the struggle for socialism. Of course, party-building can take many forms, from participation in reformist or social-democratic parties, to principled fusions, or unifications with currents with whom we find major programmatic agreement and with whom we find ourselves working together toward the same goals in the mass movement.

Indeed, the struggle to unify the working class in united-front mass actions that challenge specific polices of the capitalist class (such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or attacks on immigrant rights) is a central tool of revolutionaries throughout the world to advance our common cause and simultaneously win the best fighters to socialist politics.

Build the Fourth International!

While the “Role and Tasks” text was approved by the great majority of the delegates, the vote was not without major reservations and also reflected a view that the discussion would be continued.

It was clear from the concluding remarks of the reporter for “The Role and Tasks of the FI” text that the sharp World Congress debates had an important impact on the FI leadership. The reporter essentially accepted an amendment to the text indicating that the disparate views were far from resolved and that the debate would continue at future FI meetings.

A significant number of World Congress participants were enthusiastic, serious, and well-informed youth, an indication that FI sections have been able to assemble a layer of young fighters to replace the older cadre in the years ahead.

The World Congress took place at a difficult time for revolutionaries throughout the world—a time when the attacks on the world’s working classes have taken a great toll while resistance has been generally limited. These defeats undoubtedly weighed heavily on the Congress deliberations, leading some to look for shortcut solutions that ignore the rich lessons of the past.

It became increasingly evident during the World Congress that the critical need to build the Fourth International, based on the construction of revolutionary socialist parties of the Leninist type, will remain central to the FI’s future discussions and debates.

Lynne Stewart sentenced to ten years in prison

JEFF MACKLER

(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.)

The full force of the U.S. criminal “justice” system came down on innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.

In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical tour de force designed to give
legitimacy to a reactionary ruling Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Koeltl recommended that Stewart serve her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut's minimum security prison. A final decision will be made by the Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart will remain in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for 60 days to prepare an appeal.

The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne's family and friends were stunned – tears flowing down the stricken and somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt badly because she had “let them down,” a reference to the massive outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime characteristic of Lynne’s long fight for freedom.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl’s sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a “bubble”
protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up
client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with conspiracy to
damage New York state buildings.

Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart’s sentence, "breathtakingly low" in view
of Stewart's "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct" deemed the Second Circuit’s majority opinion “substantively unreasonable.” Walker essentially sought to impose or demand a 30-year sentence.

The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language
demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the “terrorism enhancement” aspects of the law. A
cowardly Koeltl, who didn't need this argument to dramatically increase Stewart's sentence, asserted that he had already taken it under consideration in his original deliberations.

Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had submitted a 155-page
memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how
twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.

Stewart’s attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart’s actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the “law” had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was "dramatically unreasonable,” “overstated the seriousness" of Stewart’s conduct” and had already been factored into Koeltl’s decision.

Stewart's attorneys also argued convincingly in their brief that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the
established practice of Stewart’s experienced and mentoring co-counsels– former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the media with no government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl’s courtroom. When he testified in support of Lynne during her trial one overzealous prosecutor suggested that he too be subject to the conspiracy charges. The more discreet team of government lawyers quietly dropped the matter.

As worst in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorneys client visiting rights until an agreement on a contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. This was the case with Stewart and her visiting rights were eventually restored with no punishment or further action. Indeed, when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.

But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the SAM during her trial.

Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words she uttered in front of a bevy of media outlets when she joyfully alighted from the courthouse following the judge’s original 28-month sentence. Said Stewart at that time, “I can do 28 months standing on my head.” A few moments earlier Stewart, with
nothing but a plastic bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence her to a 30-year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne, aged 70, a diabetic and recovering breast cancer victim in less than excellent health.

Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that Stewart’s remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her “crime.” Lynne’s defense was that while she fully understood that 28 months behind bars, separating from her “family, friends and comrades,” as she proudly stated, was a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless “relieved” that she would not die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at
Lynne’s head and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she expressed it
to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a good portion of the nation’s media.

The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the 28-month jail term, that Lynne was
“a credit to her profession and to the nation,” clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. “Show no mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment” in capitalist America.

Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” could trigger terrible consequences.

On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his “light” sentence of Stewart, he bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm his original decision. The “law” allowed him to do so. He could have permitted Lynne to
leave prison in less than two years, recover her health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence, unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne’s demise behind bars – a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.

Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political climate and pressed forward by the rise of mass social protest movements, there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge capitalist prerogatives and power.

Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne’s expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!

Write to Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054

MCC-NY 2-S

150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

For further information call Lynne’s husband, Ralph Poynter, leader of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee 718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Send contributions payable to:

Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216

The Struggle in Kashmir: Not Crushed, Merely Ignored

The Government of India, including all the shades of parliamentary oppositionists, would like to pretend that the world must say nothing about Kashmir, except to parrot the Indian line that whatever happens is an internal matter of India. Progressive voices all over the world need to fight to break this Indian effort at silencing the protests by Kashmiris. We are pleased to reproduce, from the London Review of Books, Vol 32, No. 14, 22 July 2010, an article by the noted Pakistan born marxist activist Tariq Ali. We thank the LRB and Tariq Ali for permitting us to reproduce the essay. It was originally carried in http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n14/tariq-ali/not-crushed-merely-ignored as an online article, with the title that is given below.
For the LRB as a whole, readers can check out its website http://www.lrb.co.uk/

--Administrator, R.S.

Not Crushed, Merely Ignored


Tariq Ali on the recent killings in Kashmir


A Kashmiri lawyer rang me last week in an agitated state. Had I heard about the latest tragedies in Kashmir? I had not. He was stunned. So was I when he told me in detail what had been taking place there over the last three weeks. As far as I could see, none of the British daily papers or TV news bulletins had covered the story; after I met him I rescued two emails from Kashmir informing me of the horrors from my spam box. I was truly shamed. The next day I scoured the press again. Nothing. The only story in the Guardian from the paper’s Delhi correspondent – a full half-page – was headlined: ‘Model’s death brings new claims of dark side to India’s fashion industry’. Accompanying the story was a fetching photograph of the ill-fated woman. The deaths of (at that point) 11 young men between the ages of 15 and 27, shot by Indian security forces in Kashmir, weren’t mentioned. Later I discovered that a short report had appeared in the New York Times on 28 June and one the day after in the Guardian; there has been no substantial follow-up. When it comes to reporting crimes committed by states considered friendly to the West, atrocity fatigue rapidly kicks in. A few facts have begun to percolate through, but they are likely to be read in Europe and the US as just another example of Muslims causing trouble, with the Indian security forces merely doing their duty, if in a high-handed fashion. The failure to report on the deaths in Kashmir contrasts strangely with the overheated coverage of even the most minor unrest in Tibet, leave alone Tehran.

On 11 June this year, the Indian paramilitaries known as the Central Reserve Police Force fired tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who were themselves protesting about earlier killings. One of the canisters hit 17-year-old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo on the head. It blew out his brains. After a photograph was published in the Kashmiri press, thousands defied the police and joined his funeral procession the next day, chanting angry slogans and pledging revenge. The photograph was ignored by the mainstream Indian press and the country’s celebrity-trivia-obsessed TV channels. As I write, the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, and several other towns are under strict military curfew. Whenever it is lifted, however briefly, young men pour out onto the streets to protest and are greeted with tear gas. In most of the province there has been an effective general strike for more than three weeks. All shops are closed.

An ugly anti-Muslim chauvinism accompanies India’s violence. It has been open season on Muslims since 9/11, when the liberation struggle in Kashmir was conveniently subsumed under the war on terror and Israeli military officers were invited to visit Akhnur military base in the province and advise on counter-terrorism measures. The website India Defence noted in September 2008 that ‘Maj-Gen Avi Mizrahi paid an unscheduled visit to the disputed state of Kashmir last week to get an up-close look at the challenges the Indian military faces in its fight against Islamic insurgents. Mizrahi was in India for three days of meetings with the country’s military brass and to discuss a plan the IDF is drafting for Israeli commandos to train Indian counterterror forces.’ Their advice was straightforward: do as we do in Palestine and buy our weapons. In the six years since 2002 New Delhi had purchased $5 billion-worth of weaponry from the Israelis, to good effect.

Demonstrations against Indian security forces escalated in early June this year when it was revealed in the extra-alert Kashmiri press that three young men – Mohammed Shafi, Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Riyaz Ahmad – had been executed in April by Indian army officers. A colonel and a major were suspended from duty, a rare enough event, suggesting that their superiors knew exactly what had taken place. The colonel claimed that the young men were separatist militants who had been killed in an ‘encounter’ near the Line of Control (the border between Indian-controlled and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir). This account is regarded by local police as pure fiction.

An Amnesty International letter to the Indian prime minister in 2008 listed his country’s human rights abuses in Kashmir and called for an independent inquiry, claiming that ‘grave sites are believed to contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses which occurred in the context of armed conflict persisting in the state since 1989. The graves of at least 940 persons have reportedly been found in 18 villages in Uri district alone.’ A local NGO, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK), states that extrajudicial killings and torture are a commonplace in the valley and that Western institutions don’t even try to do anything about this for fear of damaging relations with New Delhi. The figures provided by the IPTK are startling. It claims that the Indian military occupation of Kashmir ‘between 1989-2009 has resulted in 70,000+ deaths’. The report disputes claims that these killings are aberrations. On the contrary, they are part of the occupation process, considered as ‘acts of service’, and leading to promotion and financial reward (bounty is paid after claims made by officers are verified). In this dirty and enduring conflict, more than half a million ‘military and paramilitary personnel [more than the number of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan combined] continue to act with impunity to regulate movement, law and order across Kashmir. The Indian state itself, through its legal, political and military actions, has demonstrated the existence of a state of continuing conflict within Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.’

Public opinion in India is mute. The parties of the left prefer to avoid the subject for fear that political rivals will question their patriotism. Kashmir is never spoken of, and has never been allowed to speak. With its Muslim majority it wasn’t permitted a referendum in 1947 to determine which of the two countries it wished to be part of. In 1984, when Indira Gandhi was the Indian prime minister, I asked her why she had not taken advantage of the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 (when Kashmiris had watched with horror how the Pakistan army treated their coreligionists) and allowed a referendum. She remained silent. I pointed out that even Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of Kashmir, was convinced that India would win if a democratic election were held. Her face had clouded. ‘He’s completely untrustworthy.’ I had to agree, but her refusal to contemplate the Kashmiri self-determination promised by her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was troubling. These days the very suggestion seems utopian.

The Abdullah dynasty continues to hold power in Kashmir and is keen to collaborate with New Delhi and enrich itself. I rang a journalist in Srinagar and asked him about the current chief minister, Omar Abdullah, a callow and callous youth whose only claim to office is dynastic. ‘Farooq Abdullah,’ he told me, ‘is our Asif Ali Zardari when it comes to corruption. Now he’s made his son chief minister so that he can concentrate on managing his various businesses.’ The opposition isn’t much better. Some Kashmiris, the journalist said, call Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the effective leader of the opposition, and his cronies ‘double agents. That is, they are taking money from Pakistan and India.’ He is the 12th ‘mirwaiz’, the self-appointed spiritual leaders of the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, and is adept at playing both sides. ‘Mirwaiz’s security outside his house is provided by the Indian state,’ a friend in Srinagar told me, ‘his wife is Kashmiri American, he lives very comfortably (without any source of income) and he is engaged in secret talks with India, news of which is constantly leaked. Furthermore, he also makes an annual pilgrimage to Pakistan to keep that channel open as well. He hangs out with “separatists” in Kashmir who are open to being used by both India and Pakistan, for a good price of course. The Indian authorities do not have to do much to crush Kashmiris while there are people like Mirwaiz. So, all in all, our leadership is working against us. India has always used this to its advantage.’

The Zardari government is silent on the issue of Kashmir and there has been little media reaction in Pakistan to the recent killings. For the ruling elite Kashmir is just a bargaining counter. ‘Give us Afghanistan and you can have Kashmir’ is the message currently emanating from the bunker in Islamabad. Zardari, it’s worth recalling, is the only Pakistani leader whose effigy has been burned in public in Indian Kashmir (soon after becoming president he had seriously downplayed Kashmiri aspirations). The Pakistani president and his ministers are more interested in business deals than in Kashmir. At the moment this suits Washington perfectly, since India is regarded as a major ally in the region and the US doesn’t want to have to justify its actions in Kashmir. Pakistan’s indifference also suggests that Indian allegations that recent events in Kashmir were triggered by Pakistan are baseless. Pakistan virtually dismantled the jihadi networks it had set up in Kashmir after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan not long after 9/11. Islamabad, high on the victory in Kabul, had stupidly assumed that they could repeat the trick in Kashmir. Those sent to infiltrate Indian Kashmir were brutal and mindless fanatics who harmed the Kashmiri case for self-determination, though some young people, tired of the patience exhibited by their elders, embraced the jihad, hoping it would bring them freedom. They were wrong.

As Indian politicians stood on the battlements of the Red Fort in Delhi to celebrate Independence Day in August 2008, Kashmiris began a mass campaign of civil disobedience. More than a hundred thousand people marched peacefully to the UN office in Srinagar. They burned effigies, chanted ‘Azadi, azadi’ (‘freedom’) and appealed to India to leave Kashmir. The movement was not crushed. It was merely ignored. Nothing changed. Now a new generation of Kashmiri youth is on the march. They fight, like the young Palestinians, with stones. Many have lost their fear of death and will not surrender. Ignored by politicians at home, abandoned by Pakistan, they are developing the independence of spirit that comes with isolation and it will not be easily quelled. It’s unlikely, however, that the prime minister of India and his colleagues will pay any attention to them. And just to show who’s master, the Indian army flag-marched through the streets of Srinagar on 7 July in an awesome show of strength.

8 July

The dead are:

11 June: Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, 17, killed in teargas fire in Srinagar.

19 June: Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo, 27, beaten by members of the Central Reserve Police Force near his home in old Srinagar on 12 June, died of his injuries.

20 June: Javed Ahmad Malla, 26, died when mourners, returning from Bangroo’s burial, attacked a CRPF bunker, causing its occupants to open fire.

25 June: Shakeel Ganai, 17, and Firdous Khan, 18, killed when the CRPF fired at protesters in Sopore.

27 June: Bilal Ahmad Wani, 22, died following CRPF fire in Sopore.

28 June: Tajamul Bashir, 20, killed in Delina; Tauqeer Rather, 15, killed in Sopore.

29 June: Ishtiyaq Ahmed, 15, Imtiyaz Ahmed Itoo, 17, and Shujaat-ul-Islam, 17, died after being shot by police in southern Anantnag.

5 July: Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, 17, died in CRPF custody in Srinagar.

6 July: Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 18, shot by the CRPF during Bhat’s funeral procession in Srinagar; Fancy Jan, 25, the first woman to die, killed when a bullet hit her as she watched events from a window in her house; Abrah Ahmad Khan, 16, killed during protests over Wani’s death.


An Appeal to join in the Candle Light Protest in Kolkata from Concerned Citizens for Kashmir

Tufail Mattoo (17)  
Javid Ahmad Maila (18) 
Shakeel Ahmad Ganai (14) 
Firdous Ahmad Kakroo (17) 
Asif Hassan Rather (9) 
Ishteyaque Ahmad Khanday (15) 
Imtiyaz Ahmad Itoo (17) 
Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat (17) 
Abrar Ahmad (17) 

These are some of the twenty or so civilians killed by the security forces in the past month. The home minister has come out with statements like: Parents should ensure that their children remain indoors. It is the responsibility of parents,” He further said that the purpose of moving in the Army was to “serve as a deterrent.” The Army would be in Kashmir “as long as it is necessary” to deal with the situation there. Fingers have been pointed at terrorist groups as well as the half-hearted attempts of the ruling NC state government to control the situation. But it is increasingly clear that spaces for civil dissent in Kashmir are few and continually shrinking. The armed forces have been used to crush all forms of civilian dissent in Kashmir and the protests and protesters in the valley are always criminalised more than anywhere else in the country.

No one from the central government has come out with a statement expressing grief at the loss of so many young lives and consoling the bereaved families. And all the while the civilian death-toll is mounting and will continue to do so as long as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA)—which gives army officers the power to open fire on protesters and anyone else they decide is a potential lawbreaker whilst granting all personnel impunity from prosecution under civil law—remains in force in Kashmir.

Whatever our separate and individual takes on azaadi and armed insurgency, there cannot be any doubt that these killings of unarmed civilians—mostly angry teenagers—by the armed forces in Kashmir are gross violations of human rights and civil liberties. We must come together to

  1. express our solidarity with the families of those who have been killed in the recent events and also with those who are protesting against the continued presence and the misconducts of the armed forces in the valley
  2. strongly condemn the violence and the role of the security forces
  3. insist that the Government of India and the state government take immediate action to prevent further loss of life and property and initiate an impartial investigation into the recent killings
  4. demand the immediate repeal of the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA)
  5. demand  immediate steps for the gradual demilitarization of the valley with troops confined to the border areas


A candle light protest will be held on July 24, 2010 in front of Academy of Fine Arts between 5pm and 8 pm to protest and denounce the killings and human rights violation in Kashmir in the past weeks. We invite you to come and join the vigil and voice your protest. Please forward this appeal to others. We are also sorry about crosspostings, if there are any.

We would also request you to get in touch with us by July 16, 2010 to let us know if you would like to support and participate in the vigil.

 

Thanks,

Aniruddha, Debjani, Madhura, Parjanya

(on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Kashmir)

Contacts: Aniruddha: 9836412779
Debjani: 9674063020
Madhura: (0)9582318323

CONCLAT: an undeniable setback


Ernesto Herrera *

It was a stirring call. The Working Class Congress (CONCLAT) in Brazil proposed to unify, in a new classist centre the trade-union, student and popular currents; all that are resisting the Lula government’s and the bosses’ offensive. And, at the same time, confront the trade-union centres (CUT, Força Sindical, etc.) that have yielded to the government and the capitalist order.

The CONCLAT was held on 5 and 6 June in the city of Santos in Brazil.   The massive turnout reflected the expectations created: 4,000 participants and 3,200 delegates, about 350 unions, associations, movements and associations representing, according to organisers, more than 3 million workers. In the previous months, 926 grass-root assemblies had gathered around 20,000 workers to discuss the various documents, to make proposals and to choose delegates.

Numerous foreign delegations turned up from 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, United States, Europe and Japan. They brought in to CONCLAT the essential international dimensions. Particularly moving, was the presence of Sotiris Martalis from the teachers’ union in Greece, belonging to the ADEY (Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions), who recounted the struggle of the Greek workers challenging the brutal capitalist attack on wages, employment, and retirements.

Power relations
For the thousands of participants involved with the unification, the CONCLAT was a kind of synthesis of their diverse experiences. It was an act of translating these experiences to an organisational and programmatic level and the beginning of a trade union and popular restructuring. Albeit in a defensive situation, it is built from an opposition to the neoliberal agenda of the employers’ government headed by Lula. It expressed, on the other hand, efforts to unify the struggles, wage demands and seek consensus on issues that divided the class-conscious and anti-capitalist camp.

Although still a vanguard phenomenon, a minority of the whole working class and without the presence of a crucial sector of the exploited, such as landless peasants (mostly organized in the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sim Farm Terra-MST), this process of unification reflected the social energy accumulated in the significant layers of the popular movement.

In fact, the CONCLAT expressed at a certain level, the emergence of a new unionism. A trade union which, in turn, binds more concrete demands of the working masses in all the mobilisations of the exploited and oppressed by an anti-capitalist perspective. Hence, the emergence of CONCLAT initiated the possibility (and only that) for an alternative to contest the global power relations.
Since it attempted to build an instrument to modify (or to endeavour to modify) the power relations between class-conscious trade-union camp and the trade-union councils subordinated (politically and materially) to the capitalist state apparatus.   On Thursday June 3, a note in the daily Folha de Sao Paulo revealed the scandalous price of this subordination: the trade unions allied with the government, had received since 2008, the sum of 228 million reais ($ 126.3 million) as “reimbursement” of the “union tax.”  
The CONCLAT faced the challenge to overcome – in the benefit of the working classes and oppressed - the “bankruptcy of militant and independent left-wing union project,” that started with the major workers’ strikes in the years 1978-1980 and the establishment of the CUT (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores). Therefore, the challenge demanded a development of the construction of a class-conscious alternative with decisive impact on key sectors of the working class. One delegate, from the education sector, summed up the feelings of the common activists: “refound class unionism.”

However, this opportunity was diluted by the events of the Congress. What weighed much more, for the Intersindical and Conlutas union apparatus was the “rightness” of their arguments and the “victory” of their proposals. They incited their troops. They heard nothing. They imposed - from the gallery and discussion groups – the logic of competition. They gave priority to the dispute over the balance of power within the CONCLAT....

Unfortunately, the CONCLAT failed to secure the path of unity. In contrast, it ended up producing a serious rupture. And this “interruption of the process of unification” - that was growing from the World Social Forum of Belem (January 2009) - is, from every point of view, a heavy setback. Unable to conceal or disguise, it was enough to see the bitter, desolate and angry expressions of workers and popular social activists - who came with thousand sacrifices from throughout the country - to perceive the consequences of failure. Suddenly, the contagious hope of the previous days had gone.

Majority leaderless
The call to CONCLAT sparkled in the flags and T-shirts: “Let’s unite to strengthen the fight.”  This simple slogan raised the tasks: the Congress to overcome the fragmentation of the trade union left, the new centre as a tool to organize the struggle against capital.

The different documents submitted  at the Congress contained significant convergence and divergence, for example, on the future functioning of the centre, proportionality, integration and powers of leadership. The same could be said about the analysis of the national situation: there was an “underlying tension” marked by the election campaign. In the Congress, the rivalry became apparent between those who supported the candidacy of Ze Maria of PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado) and those who supported Plinio de Arruda Sampaio-PSOL (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade) as two distinctly different ways  to express the struggle and the interests of workers against the two bourgeois parties (PSDB and PT). The claim of “responsibilities” around the non-realisation of the Left Front was a constant during the Congress.

Obviously, a candidature presented under the slogan of the Left Front, would have created better conditions for altering the false “centre-left/centre- right” polarisation. The sociologist Ricardo Antunes described this as a danger of “Americanisation” of the Brazilian political system.

Anyway, there was a basic consensus on the situation of trade union and popular struggles, especially regarding the program that further encouraged the possibility of unification.

There was no agreement on two central questions: 1) the nature of the centre, 2) the name of the new centre. In eleven meetings of the Commission for the Reorganisation / Coordination of the Centre these differences were not resolved. They agreed to go by the criterion of “workers’ democracy”, i.e. voting in Congress. All of us now know the outcome of that decision. Apparently very democratic indeed.

A clear majority of delegates voted in favour of the Conlutas proposal: a trade union, peoples’ and student centre. Undoubtedly, a winning formula in tune with the plurality of social groups involved in the trade-union and popular reorganisation. Intersindical proposed a trade union that articulated in a National Forum with the student movement. Following the proposal from Conlutas, the same majority voted for the integration of students in the leadership of the new centre.

As for the name, a thin majority (impossible to quantify the extent as the votes were not counted), forced the name “Conlutas-Intersindical/Trade –Union and Popular Centre.” The delegates from Intersindical (who already denied the use of their name in the name of the new centre), MAS  and Unidos pra Lutar  rebelled against the “outrage” and left the Congress. The unification process was “interrupted.”

The “restoration” of Congress - after the withdrawal of the delegates from Intersindical / Unidos/ MAS deepened the split. The majority that finally formed the “new trade union confederation is mainly Conlutas. Other currents to accompany were Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sim Teto (MTST) Terra Livre (Popular Movement of the cities and the villages); Movimento Popular pela Reforma Agrária (MPRA) and, surprisingly, the Movimento Terra, Trabalho e Liberdade (MTL), an organisation that integrates an opportunistic fraction of PSOL.  

The formalities say that the Congress decided. There was a majority (which is not disputed) and a minority. There was a “democratic legitimacy.” Already without the atmosphere of enthusiasm and with little more than half the delegates in the hall, the formation of the new centre was announced and the integration of a “Provisional National Executive Secretariat” of 21 members agreed by consensus with ample pre-eminence of Conlutas.  It shall be responsible for “routing decisions” and to re-establish relations with the section who walked out of the Congress.

The main forces have commented on the result. According to Conlutas: “What could have been a great victory for the reorganisation process, unfortunately, turned into a defeat by the decision of the Intersindical/Unidos/MAS walking-out from the Congress after losing the vote on the name of the new entity.” For Intersindical: “Unfortunately, we did not want what happened! We had to interrupt the process of setting up the centre. The debate over the construction of the new centre (nature, politics and name) revealed the utter lack of willingness on the part of most Conlutas, to build a synthesis of divergent views. It preferred to carry out the opinion of the majority (small and casual) of delegates in Congress to impose a single vision.”

Almost everyone agrees to continue exploring ways of unity. Although the prevailing idea is that the break is “irreversible” if the majority maintained their positions and the methods, which led to ultimate failure. It is attributed, of course, to the “responsibility” of Conlutas and the political force that hegemonises it: the PSTU.
One does not discover anything new to say that the PSTU have a decisive bearing on Conlutas and in many social struggles. It is impossible to understand the genesis and development of Conlutas without considering the boldness and the active engagement of activists and union leaders PSTU in this process. Therefore, the majority in Conlutas adheres to PSTU and it has unquestionable political legitimacy.

It is also true that there is a responsibility of Conlutas/PSTU in the CONCLAT failure. Because of the “abuse” of its majority? Because of the “knocking down” of the minority? It would be too unilateral and sectarian explanation. The drama lies in not being able to exercise leadership over anyone else apart from the majority obtained in CONCLAT. A leadership that transcended the borders of Conlutas / PSTU, i.e. beyond its defined field of membership and influence already achieved. A Leadership that, ultimately, promote and ensure both the agreements and consensus. Essential in any process of unification - as it opened the CONCLAT- involving very different forces, traditions, and practices; a process which should secure the maturity and credibility of a leadership, a capability that, in addition, came under consideration of broad sections of the society which came to meet in the CONCLAT.

The big mistake was not mended and the attempt was not to be a true leader. since from the beginning of Congress there were sniffs of a climate of rupture in the various tendencies of Intersindical (which in turn responded to the fractions of PSOL) that feared being “annexed” by Conlutas and landing into the orbit of PSTU (after votes on the nature and the name of the new centre, there was a stampede of delegates from Intersindical, forcing its leadership to withdraw). Also, because it was well-known that major sections of Intersindical (not involved in the CONCLAT) were negative to unification with Conlutas: why “close the doors” to left-wing currents in the CUT, which are critical of the subordination to the Lula government.
“Political autism“, as one grassroots delegate said? Difficult to judge for a foreign “observer”. However, there is the perception that the “Staff” of Conlutas / PSTU should not force the vote on the name of the new centre. Not only because it did not reflect the trade-union and popular reorganisation process, but because they did not respect the sensitivities and pluralities represented in the CONCLAT.

Before the CONCLAT (3 and 4 June) there was the Conlutas Congress. It was supposed to be a Congress of their “dissolution”. But it was not. The 1,800 delegates, who participated intensely, both in discussions and vote, ended up self-affirming the continuity of Conlutas. Was there a final mandate in defence of “identity?” Two days later, at the time of breaking the impasse in the CONCLAT, there was neither a consensus, nor were there “concessions.” The leadership of Conlutas / PSTU took refuge in a closed centralism for a reorganization process that went beyond their militant forces and their field of influences.
The efforts and last-minute negotiations were unsuccessful. After the vote, hundreds of delegates left the Congress. Mostly Intersindical and many of Conlutas with the feeling that they had lost an invaluable opportunity.

* Member of the Colectivo Militante  (Uruguay), editor of Correspondencia de Prensa.

Notes

i. The CONCLAT was convened and organized by Conlutas (National Coordinaçào Lutas), Intersindical, MAS (Movimento Avançando Sindical)); MTST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sim Teto) MTL (Movimento Terra, Trabalho e Liberdade) and the Pastoral worker ( PO - Metropolitana de Sao Paulo).
ii.  The notable foreign trade union delegations were: SUD-Solidaires, unitaire et démocratique (France), National Union of Railway Companies (Japan) Labor Notes (USA) and the, Classist, Unitary, Revolutionary and Autonomous Current (Venezuela). Among the international political organisations were: Batay Ouvriye (Haiti); New Anti-Capitalist Party (France) Red Stream (Spanish State) and the Movement for Socialism (Switzerland). In addition, there were numerous groups in Latin America and the Caribbean. On Monday June 7, foreign delegations held a meeting to coordinate Intersindicalnational solidarity campaigns.
iii.  The six trade unions legally receive state funds. All of them are campaigning for Dilma Rousseff, the PT presidential candidate. CUT (trade union wing of the PT) and Força Sindical (divided PCB bureaucracy and recycled during his time by Collor de Mello to curb the “wild unionism” of the CUT) are those that have most members.
iv. The “union tax” was created by the government of Getulio Vargas in 1940. Today is mandatory and is paid by all workers, whether unionized or not. It is the equivalent of a day’s wage and is deducted every March. It is also charged to employers. The two central majorities CUT and Força Sindical received a sum of 50 million reais (approximately $ 29 million) in 2010 only. The “union tax” that the government collects, is distributed among the central trade union federations and business associations since 2008. It is currently the main source of income for the unions. CUT denounces it as a “spurious resource”, but it collects the same nevertheless.
v.  All these are available at sites and Intersindical Conlutas: http://www.conlutas.org.br/site1/default.aspwww.Intersindicalsindical.inf.br
vi.  The student representation in the CONCLAT was in charge of ANEL (Asambleia Nacional dos Estudantes – Livre), composed mostly of young militants of PSTU who broke with UNE (União Nacional dos Estudantes) dominated by political forces supporting the Lula government, mainly PCdoB and PT.
vii.  The MAS (Movimento Avançando Sindical), of Stalinist origins, is motivated by the Luís Carlos Prestes Communist Current.
viii.  Unidos pra Lutar is the trade union front of the Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores (TSA), a Trotskyist organization integrated in PSOL. Until CONCLAT was part of Conlutas. Its own document in some issues was opposed to the majority Conlutas proposals, particularly with regard to the character and the name of the new centre.
ix. This fraction of PSOL is composed of the Movimento Terra, Trabalho e Liberdade (MTL), Movimento Socialista Esquerda (MES) and former senator Heloisa Helena. This fraction is proposing that the PSOL support the presidential candidacy of Marina Silva (Green Party). They did not support the choice of Plinio de Arruda Sampaio, PSOL presidential candidate. It accepts the “donations” from private companies in election campaigns.
x. The Provisional National Executive Secretariat consists of three militants of Terra Livre, three from MTL, 3 from MTST and 12 from Conlutas.
xi.  The full version of the two statements (in Portuguese) is in Conlutas and Intersindical websites.

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