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Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Constitution of Radical Socialist

Article I; Radical Socialist (RS) is a group that sees itself as a component body that can contribute through its own development and expansion to the formation of a revolutionary proletarian political vanguard organisation based on and of the working classes, urban and rural. Our intention is to fight against all social oppressions and exploitations, and recruit from all the oppressed.

 

Article II: Guiding Principles

(i)              RS will be guided by the best of the corpus of classical Marxism, notably the perspectives of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Bhagat Singh, Saumyendranath Tagore and other revolutionary socialists committed to the development of a socialist democracy far superior to anything achievable within the capitalist framework. This mean the adoption of a resolutely anti-Stalinist framework of theory and practice, critical appreciation of the documents of the first four Congresses of the Third International, the Transitional Programme, subsequent developments and contributions based on this tradition of anti-capitalist socialist democracy as well as incorporation of the later advances and insights that have emerged in the course of struggles against all forms of oppression---racial, gender, ethnic, religious, caste, national---and for environmental sustainability and environmental justice.

(ii)            (ii) RS will also draw lessons from progressive social reformers and emancipatory fighters who have made marks in the struggles of the oppressed.

(iii)          The Code of Conduct in its mandatory provisions must be obeyed. There will be a Coordination Committee that will adjudicate on claims concerning its violations and if necessary will set up an impartial investigative body if required.

Article III: Membership:

Membership of RS is open to those who:

i.                 Agree with the programme of the RS (What We Stand For), the Constitution and the Code of Conduct [all are available on our website]

ii.               Participate in the Group’s activities

iii.             Pay dues regularly as per laid down procedures.

 

Article IV: Organisational Principles

(i) Maximum internal democracy compatible with the discipline required of any group having to collectively make effective, disciplined and coherent interventions in practical activity.

(ii) Decisions are arrived at after adequate participatory discussion and by majority vote. Those disagreeing with majority viewpoints can take their disagreements outside the group only if this explicitly allowed for by prior decision in the appropriate forum, local or national, and in accord with the general principles already laid down. Endorsement by the Coordination Committee may be required where there is uncertainty as to whether to make such an allowance or not.

(ii) Minorities will not be forced to represent the organisation in public to defend decisions that they are opposed to in principle but nor can they work against them outside the group as in on the ground movement-building and recruitment. Greater flexibility can be shown, i.e., allowances made for purely counter-propaganda by minorities outside the group. This sanction can be given through a laid down procedure e.g., assent from a majority of the group members other than the minorities or by a majority in the Coordination Committee.

Article V: Organisational Structure

Given what we are today, our structure must necessarily be a modest one very different from those of a party.

1.     The key decision-making body should be an annual All-India Conference (AIC) which must be attended in all its sessions by all existing members. Any absence must be on legitimate and exceptional grounds such as a family emergency, grave sickness, etc. Sympathisers who are not actual members may be invited to attend any open session that may be declared as such.

2.     Apart from this All-India Conference there will be

a) local units whose geographical demarcations will be related to membership numbers present and their territorial proximity to the proposed unit. These local units have autonomy to conduct their affairs  but in accordance with the basic political-organizational perspectives of RS as a whole.

b) Representation at the All-India Conference shall be from the local units based on larger territorial geographical demarcations (for example state, a zone comprising several states, etc).

c) Primary units shall consist of around twenty members at most. If units grow larger they will be split int smaller units based on local considerations (workplace, geographic etc) to ensure proper functioning and proper participation of all comrades.

d) The All India Conference will decide on the size and composition of the Coordination Committee. Its composition will keep in mind the need to respect geographical diversity. This Committee will be responsible for:

(i) Finalization of any RS Statements brought on contemporary issues Indian or international. Other members can suggest the need for a particular statement and can also prepare a draft of such a statement once the committee has accepted and conveyed the need for such a statement.

(ii) Will also be, if necessary, the mediating body in respect of any disputes arising among RS members or units that is otherwise not sorted out.

(iii) The Committee should meet periodically on or offline so as to enable sharing and spreading of experiences of different local units.

(iv)           The Committee will decide after due consultation with RS members on the dates of the next All India Conference.

 

3.     All members of RS must pay monthly dues. Collection shall be by local unit, and 20% of the funds shall be transferred to the CC for its work. One person can be the treasurer for the whole of RS to which those dues not going directly to full-timers can be sent. Or else we can have each unit organizing its own treasurer and arranging for dues to be collected locally.

4.     Sympathisers are those who generally are in tune with the politics and practices of RS and agree to contribute to the activities, perspectives or funds of the RS. Currently the minimum annual contribution is fixed at Rs. 600/-. Sympathisers should have a basic appreciation of the spirit and content of our Constitution and Code of Conduct. Suggestions regarding our documents, positions and practices are always welcome. If required, sympathisers should be willing to publicly declare themselves as such.

5.     The All India Conference will decide the composition of the Editorial Board of the RS Newsletter, the Website Team and the Social Media Team. The All India Conference will decide the composition of a Gender Sensitization Committee as well as appointing an all-India Treasurer.

 

Radical Socialist (RS) Positions on Important National and International Issues

[Adopted at the All-India Conference, Delhi, May27-29, 2022]

 

1.     Russia and China are bureaucratised authoritarian capitalist states which are also imperialist powers.

2.     We support the application of the principle of the 'right to political self-determination' of historically oppressed nationalities or regional groups not only in India but in all countries including Russia and China.

3.     (i) Cuba is not a capitalist state, certainly not socialist but a non-capitalist society under one-party rule. Significant and remarkable gains in popular welfare have certainly been made in Cuba. There is, however, a tendency towards bureaucratic dominance and little space for the maturing and development of working class power. We unconditionally condemn US Imperialism vis-a-vis Cuba and its brutal embargo. We also recognise the generally progressive role played internationally by Cuba which was earlier motivated by a wider public sense of revolutionary internationalism but for some time now has been driven primarily by the progressive elements of the Cuban state. Moreover, current economic policies favouring greater development and entry of private capital  and market-based production and exchange along with the absence of greater democratisation and efforts towards workers' control, means both the orientation of the regime and rebellion against the one-party bureaucracy can lead towards a restoration of capitalism.

(ii) North Korea is not a capitalist state and certainly not socialist, but a highly authoritarian form of one-party rule with tremendous bureaucratic control of economic and social life. There is little that is redeeming about the North Korean leadership who have created a cult of personality and a highly centralised form of rule. While we categorically oppose American imperialist designs on North Korea, and call for both the normalisation of relations between North and South Korea (without US stipulated pre-conditions) as well as a formal peace treaty between the US and North Korea, we also look forward to the overthrow of the North Korean regime by the North Korean proletariat.

4.     RS supports Ukraine's right to self-determination and independence and therefore unequivocally condemn Russia's brutal invasion. We call for Russia's complete military withdrawal and for it to pay full reparations. We have always called for the complete dismantlement of NATO and opposed its expansionist efforts. But this cannot be made an excuse to justify or rationalise the invasion. Russia under the Putin government is an ambitious imperialist power seeking to expand its own regional dominance through its own arrangements such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) to shore up repressive allied regimes. The Russian government is a declared anti-communist one which explicitly repudiates Lenin's legacy and its own anti-capitalist past. We support Ukraine's right to obtain arms for its self-defence from wherever it can and through its struggle achieve a just settlement and an honourable end to the war. We, of course, remain free and willing to criticise the anti-democratic, anti-socialist and anti-left/progressive policies and practices of the current Ukraine government. 

5.     India is a capitalist aspiring regional hegemon.

6.     We support, in the name of building a more robust and democratic Indian federalism, greater devolution of power to the states.

7.     We call for Indian de-recognition of Israel which is a settler-colonial and apartheid state and therefore an end to all diplomatic, political, military and economic relations between the two countries. We also support the global BDS campaign against Israel and call for India severing all government to government diplomatic, economic and military relations.

8.     We support all efforts to establish a South Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) covering India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka as a regional disarmament measure along with all efforts to promote other regional and global nuclear restraint and disarmament measures.

9.     (i) We oppose the strategic partnership between India and the US in all its forms including the Quad arrangement.

(ii) We support the pursuit of a final border settlement between India and China on the basis of territorial give-and-take. This can become a realistic solution if India rejects a strategic partnership with the US and its allies.

10.  We want very substantial cuts in India's defence budget so that funds can be diverted and used for setting up a much stronger free, high-quality and universal public welfare system especially in the domains of health, education, social security and housing. There must be a strategic shift away from the current and fairly longstanding policy of military power projection regionally or globally (with its always escalating costs) towards a much more modest strategic policy perspective that confines itself to securing and maintaining the military means for adequate /appropriate territorial defence.

11.  We reject the strategy of "Protracted Peoples War" as the working class road to power and socialist transformation.

 

12.  We reject all two-stage theories of revolutionary change. Our struggle is to transcend capitalism and bring about a post-capitalist order moving towards socialism. In this respect we believe the leading socio-political force for bringing this about is the working class in the broadest sense, namely those who in order to materially survive, i.e., secure their means of subsistence, are decisively dependent on their wages/salaries (the proletariat in rural and urban India) for this and do not belong to the upper rungs of the managerial category. Important allies of this working class include the small and marginal farmers as well as lower rungs of self-employed small-assets holders such as hawkers, skilled and semi-skilled artisans who hire themselves out to companies and/or customers on a task-based or time-based manner.

 

13.  We are open to United Fronts with left forces (social democratic or further left). Tactical agreements with bourgeois forces on a specific issue/demand or a set of demands in the framework of extra-parliamentary campaigns is possible under exceptional circumstances. In the case of UFs, there is 'unity and outflanking' but more importance and weight is to be given to the former than the latter for the sake of sustaining the UF for fulfilment of its tasks. In the second case the general principle is 'march separately strike together'.

 14. We are totally opposed to nuclear energy in India calling for it to rapidly shut down with alternative public sector employment for workers displaced.

15. We support gender just laws which will be inclusive and for an optional common gender just code alongside reform of all personal laws for gender justice. Abolish HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) and de-criminalise Triple Talaq.

16. Withdrawal of existing 'freedom of religion' laws in states that unjustifiably make conversion difficult or somehow dependent on authorisation by some higher body. The only basis for opposing conversion is force--NOT 'fraud' nor 'allurement'. It is not for others apart from those converting, to judge their grounds for doing so or to decide whether to remain or not in that religion. This principle applies to a) freedom of marriage by personal choice; b) freedom of exit from a religious community.

17. We demand a constitutional amendment to add to the goals stated in the Directive Principles the abolition of the caste system itself. This does not mean doing away with affirmative active policies, which must be retained.

18. An end to and repudiation of all laws everywhere on buffalo and cow-slaughter. There should be full freedom to eat or not eat beef whenever people wish.

19. There must be no restriction on wearing of hijab in educational institutions. There should be a law against the forced imposition of dress codes of any kind on adults over 18, whether by their families or otherwise, wanting to discard that form of dress.

20. No government aid, even partial, to educational institutions controlled by any religious body and imparting religious instruction. Even in such institutions attendance in such classes cannot be made compulsory for any student. These classes are distinct from the study or discussion of religion in social science studies or syllabi which of course is acceptable.

21. Unconditional release of all Undertrials who have been incarcerated beyond a certain designated period, itself short and clearly specified in law.

22. The Constitution must be amended whereby laws on sedition, special anti-terrorism laws that move cases to special courts, those giving  special powers that abrogate the fundamental rights of people are all nullified. 

What We Stand For

Earlier this year (2022), Radical Socialist held an All India Conference. This conference adopted a series of important documents, including  a revision of the programme, a constitution, a code of conduct, and a set of position papers. We are publishing the documents here. This programme replaces the 2008 document What We Stand For, uploaded in the Radical Socialist website in 2009. --Administrator, Radical Socialist website for the Coordinating Committee of Radical Socialist

 

Who are we?

We are socialists who stand proudly in the tradition of revolutionary Marxism as
developed and exemplified by Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky, and by all the workers and militants who have fought for, enriched and reaffirmed that tradition.

The International Situation:

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the restoration of capitalism in the form of state capitalism in China, the restoration  of capitalism in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the East European bureaucratically degenerated workers states, and the collapse of Keynesian welfare state model and its replacement by neoliberalism, amply assisted by state violence, beginning with Reagan breaking up the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike, heralded a major transformation of the international situation. We still live under its shadow. Imperialism and world capitalism have regained much of what they had lost in the earlier periods, and a period of widening gap between capitalist exploiters and their hangers on at the top, and the workers (urban and rural), poor peasant, the urban population in uncertain earnings, and even middle peasants and the petty bourgeoisie, has continued. This has not meant any stability, as imperialists have continuously fought wars. The economic trend to neoliberal globalisation has been complemented by a growing worldwide tendency to cultural-ethnic-racist-religious exclusivity. Together, these have also meant an increasing decline of both the old style Social Democracy, which relied on Keynesian policies for the reformist measures it pushed; and the Moscow or Beijing oriented Stalinist parties, which in their reformist version combined the same Keynesian welfarism along with upholding the Soviet Union or China as the models of socialist construction, and which in their more militant versions stressed a party-centred model of revolution. While there have come recurrent cases of worker-peasant resistance in different countries, these have not generally come close to the development of a proletarian revolutionary consciousness and mass proletarian organisation building that would take on capitalism directly. The programme we develop here is therefore one that looks at the period and cannot be taken as one that will remain unchanged for all times.

The Indian State and the Present Situation:

India is a capitalist state with a certain degree of autonomous accumulation of capital. The assumption of Marxists, that no countries will be able to develop out of colonial underdevelopment, had been based on the expectation of early revolutions. For historical reasons, these did not happen in the heartland of developed capitalism. However, the manner in which capitalism developed in India involved a combined and uneven development, whereby the capitalist system did not destroy the older exploitative forms. Instead, capitalism in India has grown by intensifying the exploitation and oppression of peasants, who remain a large component of the Indian population, the exploitation and oppression of Dalits and Adivasis, by co-opting reactionary ideologies and systems of oppression like racism, xenophobia (super-exploitation of immigrants), and gender oppression.

Our Commitment to Working Class Self Emancipation and Workers’ Democracy:

We believe that the working class, which comprises the majority of the world's population, is the one social force that can provide the leadership in struggles to bring down capitalism and replace it with a just, humane and truly democratic society: socialism. A democratically planned society has the potential to progressively reduce the burden of work allowing greater and greater participation in the running of society by those that create its wealth through their labour. Such a society will not be a utopia, but a society where humans will gain the freedom to develop themselves. Such a socialist society will develop through our own struggles, and through theoretical reflections on the struggles, not through blue-prints imposed from above. Socialism is not a dogma created by self-proclaimed vanguards. The crisis of capitalism throws up new challenges all the time, and the struggle for socialism must address all of them.

In order to formulate and defend the ideas of working class liberation and to promote the revolutionary organisation of the working class it is necessary to organise the most class-conscious members of the oppressed into a political party that can combat all the  parties of the oppressor classes. The revolutionary workers party must fight for the allegiance of the working class and seek by its activity to represent the interests of the whole class. It must therefore reject all divisions and reject turning itself into a sect that defends only some particular theory or tactic which it seeks to impose on the real workers movement. It must learn from the bureaucratisation of earlier worker's parties and defend the democratic functioning of its internal life. This includes the right to free and open debate inside the party and also in front of the whole class. It means the right of party members to form tendencies and factions within the party to promote the debate on party policy and action. Democracy is advanced by all members of the party joining together to implement the policies of the majority so that their ideas may be subjected to the judgement of real practice. Equally, it is advanced by guaranteeing real autonomy of mass working class organisations instead of seeking to turn them into adjuncts of the party.

In the same way, the historical lessons show that the working class is divided, and the process of building revolutionary class unity involves recognising the reality of such divisions and special oppressions. Structurally, the capitalist market itself constantly creates competition and creates heterogeneity. Neoliberalism has increased the competition, because the reserve army of the proletariat has grown. The changes in the economy, the coming of lean production, the extension of the service sector, have created a new situation which intensifies the divisions. The strength of a proletarian revolutionary movement lies in unity of the class, which has to be fought for. In addition, social-historical conditions have created differences and oppressions of special types.We therefore see dalit, adivasis, women workers as specially oppressed groups, and reject the notion that “general class goals” are defined by an imposed norm that sees special oppression as issues to be treated as marginal and to be resolved after the revolution. Such an approach makes the revolutionary class an abstraction, and ultimately reinforces patriarchal, oppressor  caste, and other dominant group norms and contributes to a weakening of genuine class unity and class consciousness.

At the present stage, we are not, and do not claim to be, a revolutionary working class party. We are a grouping aiming to build a revolutionary working class party.

Our allies and enemies:

We oppose caste and racial oppression, the oppression of women, the oppression of immigrants and the oppression of lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals. We take part in the struggles of these groups against their oppression, and fight for their right to organize independently. We need class unity, but in order to have genuine class unity based on equality, we call for support to the rights of all marginalised groups within the class. Such oppression, which does not fit into a purely capital and labour relationship, is real, and cannot be ignored or downplayed as ‘identity’. Resistance to such oppression requires a recognition of autonomous organizations and struggles. Class struggle and class unity can be strengthened only by supporting such struggles. However, we affirm at the same time that these struggles can only achieve their complete goals and class unity can be built up only by such organizations and struggles moving in an anti-capitalist direction. Radical Socialist intends to play a role in fighting with these movements and in assisting such an orientation. We fight for secularism. We also stand for linguistic-cultural equality.

We oppose national oppression and support oppressed nations' right to self-determination. At the same time, we recognize that nationalism, even when a positive sentiment among the oppressed, cannot lead to real solutions leading to abolition of oppression. We therefore stand for internationalism based on equality. We believe that real solutions to national oppression call for full equality, democratic rights, cultural autonomy, and multi-ethnic community building. In the light of twentieth century experiences of building socialism and revolutionary parties, we need to redefine socialism and the socialist struggle. In particular, we affirm that socialism today must be committed to feminism, to abolition of racial and caste oppression, and to socially oriented eco-friendly development models.

Capitalism cannot be reformed. It is a social system founded on exploitation and brutality through all its history. We believe that the state and its institutions are instruments of the ruling class, and that therefore they cannot be used as tools of the working class. The bureaucratic and repressive instruments have to be smashed, and even the legal-judicial and electoral mechanisms thoroughly reworked. However, the electoral terrain is not an adequate space for preparing the broader class vanguard or effecting social transformation. That is why we fight for revolution, instead of seeking to merely reform or work within the system. When we fight for specific reforms we do so only with the understanding that in the final analysis real social change can only come about with the overthrow of capitalism, and the establishment of a workers' government. The historic experience of the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe shows that the establishment of dictatorial party-states do not assist working class self-emancipation. These were bureaucratically degenerated/deformed workers’ states whose rulers ultimately brought about capitalist restoration.

Imperialism is capitalism's ugliest and most brutal expression. We oppose it in all its manifestations, including the occupations of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan (now ended); the Russian assault on Ukraine; US threats against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea and Syria, regardless of our assessment of the regimes in those countries. We oppose imperialism whether it acts openly or in the guise of international organizations, such as the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations or in military alliances such as NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) dominated and supervised by the US and Russia respectively. Nor do we let other countries guilty of regional imperialist/hegemonist ambitions and behaviour such as China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel off the hook either.

A Revolutionary Strategy for India

In the Indian context, we recognize that there are crucial allies whom the working class must win over for it to really become the "national class" as the communist manifesto said. They include the exploited poor peasants, the dalits and adivasis. Class unity in India is impossible to achieve unless caste and communal divisions are consistently fought against. We support, in the current situation, the struggle of peasants to retain control over their land against multinationals and Indian big business, both equally rapacious, trying take over such land in the name of development. We oppose land grabbing in the name of development by all forces, including the Stalinist-turned social-liberal left when it is in power.

We oppose the fascist forces with their Hindutva ideology, but we reject the class collaborationist idea that strategic alliances with other bourgeois parties can in any way be a method of stopping fascism. Recognizing the divisions that exist on the left and within the workers' movement, as well as the low level of class consciousness that exists among many workers, we seek to form united fronts, and united front type organizations, around specific issues where various groups have agreement with us. In this way we seek to maximize our impact and the number of forces that can be mobilized around a given issue, demonstrate the power and effectiveness of mass action as opposed to symbolic small-scale and individual actions, and expose others on the left and the workers' movement to our method of functioning and our political program. We also see this as the way of achieving meaningful revolutionary regroupment – because it allows different groups to work together and see whether or not they have significant political convergence. It should also be said that while we support the tactic of the united front of the oppressed, we are opposed to popular fronts – multi-class alliances that subordinate the interests of workers to that of a wing of the capitalist class. It is possible that grass-roots struggles at different places will see the participation of bourgeois forces seeking to establish hegemony, and we cannot be sectarian and abstain from struggles using the presence of the bourgeois forces as a plea. But we cannot subordinate the class interests of the workers and the other exploited to the bourgeoisie. Electoral support to bourgeois parties as so-called lesser evils can do precisely that. Our aim is to use the electoral terrain as well as any other terrain to build the independence of the exploited from the exploiters.

The historical experience of struggles for socialism have shown that all talk of revolution by stages, where the first stage will supposedly involve an alliance with progressive sections of the capitalist class, only damage the independent struggles of the working class and other toiling masses and lead to their defeats.

The twentieth century experience has also shown very clearly that socialism cannot be achieved in one country but must embrace every country of the world. There are vital problems, which are problems for human existence itself, but which have a specific impact on the proletariat and the other exploited peoples. These cross the barriers between countries. From this perspective, we fight for environmental issues from a working class perspective, which of necessity must also be resolutely internationalist. For the same reason, we are opposed to nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. The correct struggle is to wage the struggle against the ruling class in one’s own country, but also to coordinate worldwide.From this flows the necessity of international organisation both for Marxists and the working class. At the present stage of building revolutionary parties and organisations across the world, the numerically small size of such organisations make the idea of a democratically centralised International non-viable. As mass revolutionary workers’ parties grow, however, such a transformation is also necessary, without turning it into the bureaucratic caricature that occurred with the Communist International after 1923-24. For the foregoing reasons, and due to our broad political perspectives, Radical Socialist seeks the closest ties with a democratic revolutionary International.

The politics of Radical Socialist will be expressed in the public domain through journals, websites, and other appropriate forms, as part of our work of seeking to build a revolutionary party along these principles.

Sri Lanka’s Crisis is Endgame for Rajapaksas

B. SKANTHAKUMAR

 

Sri Lanka’s citizens’ movement known as the Janatha Aragalaya (‘Peoples’ Struggle’), notched its most significant victory yet, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced through the Speaker of Parliament that he would quit on 13 July, mid-way through his presidency. His admission of surrender, after resisting for months the central demand of public protests — #GotaGoHome — in the political fallout of the island’s devastating economic crisis [1], followed mass protests on 9 July.

Symbols of State

These demonstrations across Sri Lanka, were capped spectacularly in Colombo, by the occupation of three symbols of state authority: the President’s office (under siege by protestors for three months); his official residence (which he fled the hours before to reportedly take refuge on a naval ship); as well as the Prime Minister’s official residence (unoccupied since early May but heavily fortified), breaking through metal barricades and iron fencing, and state security personnel. [2]

More than 100,000 people, cutting across class, gender, ethnicity, age, religious and political beliefs, converged on the commercial capital, overcoming through sheer numbers and resolve, at least 20,000 military and armed police who fired tear gas, shot water cannon, and unleashed live rounds and physical violence, which left three protestors critically injured with gunshot wounds and at least 105 hospitalised.

Later that night, the Prime Minister’s private residence was gutted through arson under suspicious circumstances. An enraged mob surrounded it, likely provoked by social media alerts and live broadcast of brutal assaults by paramilitary police on journalists filming peaceful protests near his home. The Prime Minister had resisted demands for his resignation. He believed he could secure his position or even assume the Presidency following Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s removal. Wily as he is, he miscalculated.

UNP Leader

Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader-for-life of the opposition United National Party (UNP) and its sole parliamentarian after a humiliating wipe-out in 2019, was appointed Prime Minister by Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 12 May, despite lacking majority support in the legislature — controlled by the President’s party — and more importantly, popular legitimacy.

This manoeuvre followed the resignation of the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa (the President’s older sibling and two-time President), and political instability within the government, as realisation dawned on governing party parliamentarians of the deep-seated economic crisis and the growing unpopularity of the President’s family (four of whom were Cabinet Ministers).

Mahinda Rajapaksa had summoned his supporters to Colombo on 9th May for a show of support to secure his position as Prime Minister, during a period of emergency rule. These local agents of parliamentarians were mobilised to physically attack the protestors camped for weeks outside the Prime Minister’s official residence (‘Temple Trees’) and the President’s office (‘Secretariat’).

There was immediate outrage and solidarity from the public, who spontaneously flocked to fight back against the thugs as the latter began leaving the city to return to their towns and villages. This localised counter-violence soon spread across the country, as the homes and other property of 78 pro-Rajapaksa parliamentarians, provincial and local government representatives, were set ablaze. Ten people were killed including a ruling party legislator, while over 200 were injured.

During the violence on the afternoon and night of 9th May, the security forces passively watched the assaults and destruction but subsequently, over 2,500 persons were arrested including non-party affiliated protestors and cadre of the left-wing Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP—Peoples Liberation Front), simply from name lists furnished to the local police force by the President’s aggrieved partymen.

Ranil Wickremesinghe’s astonishing ascension to the post of Prime Minister, which he had occupied five times until then since 1993, was denounced by the core of the citizens’ movement as well as the parliamentary opposition, for deflecting the campaign to oust the President and be rid of his family.

Sections of the middle-class, big business, liberal and right-wing civil society, diplomats, and donors, hailed Wickremesinghe as Sri Lanka’s ‘saviour’, bringing the missing “political stability” and credentials to carry forward deferred neoliberal economic measures; conduct negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for reprieve from the foreign exchange crisis; and begin ‘restructuring’ external debt with private and bilateral creditors posed by Sri Lanka’s first post-independence sovereign default on 12 April. [3]

The misgivings by the citizens’ movement were entirely justified. There was a decline in the scale and intensity of daily public protests. The protests were presented as having run their course, and turning detrimental to “economic stability”, that requires order and social peace to reassure international creditors and incoming tourists and investors. There were several attempts to co-opt sections among the protestors and to publicise dialogue with those claiming to represent what is an amorphous group independent of political parties and charismatic personalities.

Instead of paving the way for the early removal of the President, Wickremesinghe appeared content to govern alongside him for the foreseeable future. He secured defections from opposition parties to bolster his new Cabinet headed by the President. He did not introduce the constitutional changes demanded by the people to drastically limit the executive powers of Gotabaya Rajapaksa so long as he remained in office, as an interim measure towards abolition of the all-powerful Executive Presidency. Neither could he ease the misery of the common people, whose livelihoods and lives are being hammered by an economic crisis of unfamiliar proportions and pain. [4]

Political Advantage

The events of 9 July have succeeded in regaining the political advantage from the short-lived Gotabaya Rajapaksa-Ranil Wickremesinghe dyarchy.

The massive crowds overcame many obstacles. The Police Department warned of a possible terrorist attack in the run-up to the mobilisation, aiming to sow fear among the public. The Inspector-General of Police unlawfully slapped an indefinite curfew banning public movement on the night of 8th July but was forced to rescind it within hours on the following morning, in response to denunciations from opposition politicians and lawyers’ groups. However, the intended damage was done as trains and public buses were cancelled from operation, denying protestors those modes of transport. Meanwhile, the only fuel company with stock-in-hand suspended distribution, also with the intention of disrupting mobility.

In a remarkable demonstration of will, people made their own way from the deep south, the central hills, and along the western coastline. Those who had gathered at railway stations in Avissawella, Galle, Kandy and Matara commandeered available trains, adorning the front with anti-government banners, for travel. Others found any private bus, truck, tractor, van, or other vehicles that still had diesel or petrol, that they could squeeze into. A large number cycled in the blazing heat while others walked for tens of kilometres throughout the 9th of July to somehow make their way to Colombo. They came dressed in black, waving the national flag, holding home-made posters, and chanting anti-government slogans and messages that have travelled far and wide.

The day before, students from state universities were mobilised to travel to Colombo by the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), sleeping in the rough overnight. The protests on the 9th were not restricted to Colombo. In every major town and many smaller places, people took to the street, beating pots and pans, waving flags, and voicing their anger and demand for political change, from Sinhala-speaking majority Galle in the South to Tamil-speaking majority Jaffna in the North and Batticaloa in the East. There were also solidarity demonstrations of the Sri Lankan diaspora (mostly from the Sinhala community but also Muslims and lesser numbers of Tamils, reflecting fractures and distrust) in Australia, New Zealand, North America and Western Europe, on the same day.

Unthinkable

How to register what was unthinkable even a few short months ago: the toxicity of the Rajapaksas? What is the character of the citizens’ movement, and the place within it of organised labour and the Left? What are cleavages and contradictions that colour the responsiveness of the Tamil nation and the Muslim ethno-religious community towards the Janatha Aragalaya? What happens now, if and when, the President and Prime Minister do indeed make their exit?

What has been achieved by the citizens’ movement in a matter of months, prolonged and exhausting as it feels to those who have passed through it, needs to sink in. It was unimaginable last year that Gotabaya Rajapaksa would not complete his full term as president, nor that his successor if he did not contest (and likely win) again, would not be another Rajapaksa. Neither was it conceivable that at least for another generation, the Rajapaksas are substantially damaged and unable to directly make a bid for power anytime soon. The deep fear attached to criticism of the first family, and its extra-legal methods of dealing with dissidents, has dissipated.

Since Mahinda Rajapaksa’s first presidential victory in 2005, mega-infrastructure projects financed by foreign borrowing, defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 concluding 26 years of protracted internal war, and consolidation of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism which has been the state ideology since independence after 443 years of European colonialism, he has been beloved within the Sinhala nation (comprising almost 75% of the nearly 22 million population).

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, though lacking in his older brother’s magnetism and shrewdness, was associated with these achievements as unofficial Defence Minister and the bureaucrat in charge of resettlement of the urban poor, and the ‘beautification’ of Colombo through their removal, and the development of commercial and leisure spaces. His profile as an outsider to party politics and a no-nonsense ‘doer’ endeared him to the business community, professional groups, the middle class and public officials fed-up of inept politicians profiting from their office and meddling in state administration.

When the novice candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa won election to the presidency with over 52% of the popular vote (6.9 million) in November 2019; the only question to be asked was by how large a margin the recently founded Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP—Peoples Front) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa would win in parliamentary polls in August 2020. In fact, the SLPP scooped 59% of votes cast, winning 145 seats in the 225-member legislature, just short of the 2/3 majority that it sought to effect constitutional changes to strengthen the powers of the President. This amendment did follow, with the support of allies, weakening the independence of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet as well as that of oversight institutions.

However, his record in office coinciding with the COVID19 pandemic, has sorely disappointed his core constituencies. Although Sri Lanka’s vaccination drive was successful within the region, his reliance on serving and ex-military men (of whom he is one) to manage civilian functions antagonised career civil servants. His inability or unwillingness to curb the venality of governing party legislators including from his own extended family disappointed the public. Above all, his mismanagement of the economy – including a ban on chemical inputs in agriculture [5] – aggravating a crisis in the making for decades, has punctured the myth of technocratic efficiency cultivated by his erstwhile backers.

Citizens’ Movement

What is the nature and identity of the citizens’ movement that knows itself, and is known in society, as the Janatha Aragalaya? It is extremely vigilant in being recognised as ‘non-party’ (nirpakshika), that is unaffiliated to any political party or indeed ideology. This is novel in a society where political parties across the ideological spectrum have been vehicles of social protest or quick to appropriate such protests. In fact, its point d ’honneur is that it rejects all parties represented in parliament, as to blame for lost opportunities over 74 years since decolonisation in 1948. It takes pride in being non-violent (samakami) – not insignificant in terms of popular acceptance when Sri Lanka has thrice experienced armed youth uprisings since 1971. From the beginning there have been clear messages of opposition to racism, understood belatedly and still incompletely, as having been used by the ruling class to divide people on the basis of their ethnicity (Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim) and religion (Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian).

It has no dominant leader or identifiable spokesperson, coalescing a variety of backgrounds and interest groups bound by their distaste for Gotabaya (‘Gota’) Rajapaksa and his family; but also their determination to effect what they call “system change” – correcting structural defects in the political system including the concentration and centralisation of power in the presidency; the nomination and election of political representatives; and a new constitution to replace the 1978 one based on vesting executive powers in the office of the president.

It is neither critic nor advocate of capitalism or even neoliberalism. At most, there is attachment to the free health and education services and social programmes that are what remains of Sri Lanka’s welfare state. But mostly, the movement mirrors the mainstream in its adaptation to, and normalisation of economic liberalisation: deregulated markets, prices fixed by cartels, privatisation, foreign capital, and export-driven growth.

Often described as ‘middle-class’ and of ‘youth’ – and not positively – these categories are not exact in their application in Sri Lanka, nor accurate in all contexts. The social composition of the main permanent site of protest known as ‘GotaGoGama’ (‘GotaGoVillage’) adjacent to the President’s Office) is largely Sinhala and Buddhist, their ages ranging in the main from the early 20s to the early 40s, and drawn from the self-employed and aspiring professionals, but also working-class youth and students from lower middle-class homes. It is mostly male but with better representation and visibility of women than is to be found in trade unions and on the Left. Volunteers and visitors are drawn from all ethnic communities, genders, sexualities, and faiths, and older people including long-time activists energised by this unique and unprecedented movement.

This citizens’ movement does not begin and end where it is most concentrated and visible at Galle Face Green in the heart of British colonial-era Colombo. There are also permanent encampments in other cities and towns: Anuradhapura, Badulla, Galle, Gampola, Jaela, Kandy, Kurunegala, Matara, Monaragala, Negombo and Ratnapura. Beyond these, this movement includes the way in which it began: small scale protests by people who gather every evening or weekly in their neighbourhoods to hold placards, wave the national flag, and chant anti-government slogans. In each place, the crowd varies by class, ethnic and religious origin.

Its beginnings are from late February, when a handful of co-workers and friends in a suburb of Colombo, fed-up by lengthening power-cuts and shortages of essentials, staged small silent candle-lit vigils for an hour or two each evening. Inspired by this example and looking for ways of expressing their frustration with the government, more people from around Colombo joined this action. They were encouraged to begin similar ones in their own neighbourhoods.

By late March, there were many such vigils taking place, attracting media attention, and following the same format of holding candles or flashing torchlights to symbolise the darkness in homes from power outages; and with self-made placards blaming the government and especially then Finance Minister (and younger brother to the President) Basil Rajapaksa as well as then Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal for their mismanagement of the economy.

One of the most consistent demands has been to ‘Give Back Our Stolen Money’, directed mainly at the Rajapaksas who are believed to have accumulated considerable wealth while in government that is secreted away overseas, as the state treasury began to run dry in 2022 limiting imports including coal and diesel for electricity.

In plusher parts of Colombo, some held signs that read “Go to the IMF”. Since last year, there has been a groundswell among economists, business associations and the upper middle class, that only the International Monetary Fund (IMF) can ‘bail-out’ the economy, institute necessary policy reforms, and facilitate Sri Lanka’s access to new borrowing from the international money market. This belief that recourse to the IMF is not only unavoidable but even desirable has become common-sense within political and civil society. There has been no serious debate on how Sri Lanka fell into a debt-trap (USD51 billion in a USD80 billion economy); nor whether those debts should be repudiated as illegitimate. It is only recently that stray voices calling for an audit of the debt have been heard.

The turning-point for the movement came on 31 March when a routine genteel protest near the President’s private residence in a middle-class Colombo suburb, spontaneously swelled with youth and others angered by power-cuts increasing from 10 to 13 hours, shortages of fuel and medicines, and spiking food prices. Violence ensued, as the police defended the President’s home. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had been evacuated earlier, was shifted by his security detail to his fortified official residence where he was to stay with no public interaction until another hasty departure last week – in the first reversal of his fortunes.

Far from discrediting the citizens’ movement, the viciousness of the police and attempt by governing politicians to liken it to the ‘Arab Spring’ triggered a wave of public sympathy. More people began taking to the streets on subsequent days and new sites of protest emerged across the island. To bring together these disparate actions, some organisers began coordinating with each other through online meeting and messaging platforms, but without structure or form. Preparations began for a massive march to converge and amplify their protest.

As they could not get near the President, they opted to march upon his office. The Presidential Secretariat faces the Indian Ocean – where ships in the distance wait to dock at Colombo’s harbour – and the Chinese-built ‘Colombo International Financial City’ rises from the sea, as a zone of exception for global capital free from taxation and regulation of money flows.

The demonstration on 9th April exceeded all expectations in size and militancy. Some of the youth participants decided to make their protest continuous (#OccupyGalleFace) by refusing to leave the site. Others contributed by providing tents for shelter, distributing cooked food and drinks, sourcing sound equipment to broadcast their anger. Soon, a small community began developing with its own kitchen and drinking water supply, toilets and first aid, library, and solar-powered mobile phone charging facility, later joined by a cinema and multiple performance and teach-out areas for drama, dance, music and spoken word.

As the physical site (#GotaGoGama) like the citizens’ movement is an open space to all who share the same core demand for the removal of the President and his family, diverse groups began staking space at the same site ranging from the deaf community to disabled ex-military, Buddhist monks and Christian clergy, the victims of the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, good governance campaigners, human rights defenders, and many more.

The organised Left, principally the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP—Peoples Liberation Front) and its breakaway Peratugami Samajawadi Pakshaya (PSP—Frontline Socialist Party) is also present but strategically not through party organisations but rather their youth (Socialist Youth Union and Youth for CHEnge respectively) and student (Socialist Students Union and Revolutionary Students Union respectively) wings. Another consistent presence in the movement on the Left has been the Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF), once controlled by the JVP but now non-affiliated though perceived as influenced by the PSP. Throughout the course of this struggle, it has electrified the movement through regular mobilisation of students in demonstrations and rallies, political intransigence, and bold actions such as blockading the Parliament in Kotte and the Presidential mansion in Colombo, braving police batons, tear gas and water cannon and court orders.

In the early months of 2022, the passivity of the working class was palpable. There appeared no appetite for confrontation with employers and the state, despite the pressure on their living standards from the economic crisis. For the daily-waged, the restrictions and lockdowns over the preceding two years of the pandemic have been unbearable on their incomes and survival. There have been sectoral struggles these past few years of plantation workers, export processing zone workers, schoolteachers, health workers, farmers, and the like, but isolated and uneven. Trade union density is low and declining except in the public sector. Working class consciousness is also fragmented and diluted by decades of defensive struggles often ending in defeat, the weight of market ideology, Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and racism, the experience of state terror during the war and the second JVP-led insurrection, and the inability to forge durable trade union coordination.

The major private sector trade unions, like their public sector counterparts historically linked to mainstream political parties, were initially suspicious of the citizens’ movement, which is seen as anarchic and inchoate. Smaller independent and left-wing unions such as the Ceylon Bank Employees (CBEU) and the Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers (CMU), along with the Ceylon Teachers (CTU) and others were more sympathetic, joining the demonstrations and engaging with the protests.

As the momentum grew over April, ad-hoc coalitions of trade unions and other organisations spanning the public and private sectors and including the JVP’s National Trade Union Centre as well as the La Via Campesina affiliate, the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR), conducted two highly successful national shutdowns: the hartal (stayaway and shutdown) of 28 April and the first general strike since the stunning rout of July 1980, on 6 May. [6]

The government was shaken by these actions which achieved widespread support from public sector workers in the administrative, health, transport, and postal service – usually loyal to the government of the day – as well as small business operators and workers, rural traders, farmers and fishers, and women workers from the export processing zones. The power of the working class to cripple commercial activity and disrupt normalcy, was a greater immediate threat to the state than the occupy protests. Its response was to impose emergency law and slap essential service orders to make strike action illegal. However, this did not daunt the unions nor dent success.

Where are the Tamils?

Both those sympathetic to, and critical of, the citizens’ movement, have raised concerns as to its inclusivity and limited resonance – outside of urbanised and Sinhala majority regions in the island – and especially in relation to Sri Lanka’s Tamil nation that has historically inhabited the North and East of the island. This is fair. The core demands of the Aragalaya and its assimilation of the origins and contours of the crisis are bounded by the identity and consciousness of the Sinhala nation.

Within the citizens’ movement, outside of small pockets and spaces, there has been no reckoning with the systemic roots of Sinhala supremacism, nor the historic injustices meted to Tamils. It is beyond difficult for the Sinhala majority to acknowledge that they were not the primary victims of the war. There is no generalised recognition, even 12 years later, of the continuing hurt of family and friends who are not allowed to publicly mourn and memorialise those who did not survive, and those who were ‘disappeared’ and are still counted as missing, including combatants; of their dispossession from arable and residential land under occupation by the military; of the oppressive presence of the military and its intervention in civilian affairs in the war-affected region; of ongoing attempts to unsettle Tamil (and Muslim) claims to land and sea and their religious sites; and of the ever-present threat of the Prevention of Terrorism Act against critics of the state.

It is not that Tamil people in the North and East are indifferent to the aragalaya. How could they be when they have consistently voted for the main opposition candidate to the Rajapaksas in every presidential election since 2005? For many, there is little or no empathy with the Sinhala nation which is perceived as having created the monster that it now wishes to destroy. Is it only because of power-cuts and shortages of fuel and medicines, that there is opposition to the Rajapaksas now, they ask? These scarcities are not unfamiliar to those who lived through the economic blockade on the North during the years of war. They did not see their suffering, which includes but is also beyond socio-economic deprivation, represented in this citizens’ movement.

However, a struggle of substance invariably alters the consciousness of its protagonists. In the course of only a few months since the aragalaya took off and began taking shape, as rights activist Ambika Satkunanathan has observed: “… there is growing awareness and space to speak of issues previously thought not possible. Militarisation, war crimes, the Channel 4 documentary [video evidence of crimes against humanity by Sri Lankan security forces in the final stages of the war in 2009], racism. One hears people say, ‘if they are doing this in the South, imagine what they must have done in the North and East’.” [7]

None of this would have been possible without the formative experience of this movement, which includes the patient efforts of progressive Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil activists to inform, educate and reason for attention to grievances and goals of citizens from the minorities. In fact, among the most recent demands (on July 9th) of well-known activists of the movement are the release of ‘political prisoners’ (which is a reference to LTTE suspects in detention since before and after the end of the war); and justice for families of victims of extra-judicial killings and disappearances (which includes Tamil political and civil representatives, journalists and human rights workers, and LTTE cadre). [8]

And it is not that non-Sinhala peoples are absent from the agitations outside of the North and East. Muslims, who define themselves in Sri Lanka as an ethnic and not only religious community, have been at the receiving end of Islamaphobia following the conclusion of the war in 2009. In addition to periodic violence against their homes, businesses and places of worship and education; they were collectively targeted following the 2019 Easter Sunday terrorist violence; and underwent the agony of forced cremation of COVID19 deaths, against their religious practices. In the initial stages of the citizens’ movement, they were cautious in their participation, fearing racism from protestors or repression from the state. But since April, they are visible and vocal. Meanwhile Tamils resident in the populous Western Sri Lanka, whether of Northern or Eastern or Hill Country origin, also participate in the aragalaya. There has been increased visibility of the Tamil language in the banners, placards, and signage of the movement, even if it is not heard much in slogans, chants and speeches.

What now?

At time of writing, Sri Lanka swirls with rumours of attempted flight by Gotabaya Rajapaksa before he is due to formally resign on the 13th. [9] Meanwhile, Ranil Wickremesinghe attempts to salvage a political future for himself, ideally in the Presidency which he has long coveted. Formal discussions and backroom meetings are feverishly underway among parliamentarians and fixers. What comes next will be a transitional arrangement: another cohabitation between the parties that were formerly in government and those that are presently in the opposition. How long it will last is uncertain.

The demand of the Janatha Aragalaya has consistently been for the formation of an all-party government, after the resignation of the President and Prime Minister, which should focus on providing economic relief to the people and to enacting a new constitution that abolishes the presidential system of government. There is no certainty that this will be respected by politicians, which is why activists have proposed the creation of a ‘Peoples Council’ drawn from its number, to co-govern with Parliament. In some quarters there is anxiety whether there will be a putsch by the military: in concert with or autonomous from parts of the ancien régime. Much is murky. The need is to remain vigilant and mobilised. The Rajapaksas have tumbled. The system that spawned them has not.

Colombo – 11 July 2022

P.S.

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FOOTNOTES

[1Ahilan Kadirgamar, “Rethinking Sri Lanka’s economic crisis”, Himal Southasian, 28 February 2022, https://www.himalmag.com/rethinking-sri-lankas-economic-crisis-interview-ahilan-kadirgamar-2022/

[2For visuals and comment see Amalini De Sayrah’s twitter thread https://twitter.com/Amaliniii/status/1545609072128405504 and handle more generally.

[3Eric Toussaint, “Sri Lanka: No agreement with the IMF!” CADTM, 15 April 2022, https://www.cadtm.org/Sri-Lanka-No-agreement-with-the-IMF

[4Andrew Fidel Fernando, “Sri Lanka Crisis: Daily heartbreak of life in a country gone bankrupt”, BBC News, o8 July 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-62077109

[5Meera Srinivasan, “Sri Lanka’s ‘organic only’ policy | Sowing the seeds of a disaster”, The Hindu, 18 December 2021, http://europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article60495.

[6Devana Senanayake, ‘First in four decades’: Why Sri Lanka general strike matters’, Al Jazeera English, 29 April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/29/first-in-four-decades-why-sri-lanka-general-strike-matters

[7Ambika Satkunanathan, “The Tamil Struggle, the Aragalaya and Sri Lankan Identity”, Groundviews, 15 May 2022, https://groundviews.org/2022/05/15/the-tamil-struggle-the-aragalaya-and-sri-lankan-identity/

[8“GotaGoGama activists issue 6 immediate demands”, Daily FT, 11 July 2022, https://www.ft.lk/news/GotaGoGama-activists-issue-6-immediate-demands/56-737317

[9Rajapaksa left the country on 12 July, The Guardian 13 July “Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa flees the country”.

 

From International Viewpoint, 13 July 2022

Towards a new permanent global war? NATO’s “new strategic concept”

After the costly and patriarchal spectacle of this summit held for the greater glory of US President Joseph Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the main conclusion to be drawn is that NATO has formalised a new leap forward in its old project of establishing itself as a global gendarme at the service of the Western capitalist bloc. Indeed, its "new strategic concept" constitutes a much wider redefinition of its enemies and threats than the concept that led to its birth in 1949, or what was understood during what was known as the "second cold war" in the 1980s.

Now, not only is there a continuation of the global war on “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” waged in the wake of 9/11 , but, after the 2010 hiatus, Russia is once again presented as ’the most significant and direct threat to security’. China is considered a “strategic competitor” in all areas in the medium and long term (as it represents “systemic challenges” to “our security, interests and values”). Most seriously, ’illegal immigration’ is described as a “threat” to the ’sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of NATO member states. A list, by the way, to which the new candidates, Finland and Sweden, are added, provided they accept the demands of the Turkish regime, another winner at this summit, to the detriment of Kurdish residents in their own countries.

As if all this were not enough, the document is full of mentions of “authoritarian actors”, “strategic competitors” and “potential adversaries” resorting to “hybrid warfare strategies” - including “disinformation campaigns, the instrumentalisation of immigration, the manipulation of energy supplies and the use of economic coercion”. We read that “conflicts, fragility and instability in Africa and the Middle East directly affect our security and that of our partners”.

The document does not shy away from acknowledging that its alleged "defensive" character is mere rhetoric. "While NATO is a defensive Alliance, no one should doubt our strength and determination to defend every inch of Allied territory, to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Allies and to prevail against any aggressor". All this, moreover, based on the reaffirmation of nuclear weapons as NATO’s "supreme security guarantee".

In the service of this general militarisation, in addition to the European space being particularly privileged with the reinforcement of the US presence in the East and the growth of NATO rapid reaction forces from 40,000 to 300,000 military personnel, the commitment by all member states to increase their military spending to at least 2% of GDP now appears only as "a floor, not a ceiling", as the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, has assured us. These proposals, therefore, will serve to increase the profits of the old military-industrial complex that former US President Eisenhower denounced and to relaunch the arms race, including the nuclear arms race, on a global scale.

In short, using the alibi of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US has managed to make the effects of the defeat suffered in Afghanistan be forgotten very quickly. Washington has thwarted any hint of EU autonomy and has turned the vast majority of European countries into faithful servants of the project of recomposing its hegemony against its main strategic enemies. That means Russia in the short term and China in the medium and long term - but also anything and anyone that might represent a threat to the EU and its geo-economic and political interests anywhere in the world. This approach is closely associated with the defence of Western white supremacism.

In the case of Spain, this new warmongering scenario is euphorically ratified by Pedro Sánchez, who has rushed to once again show his servility to his American friend by means of the “joint declaration between the Kingdom of Spain and the United States of America”. In this declartion, alongside proclamations about the "defence of democracy", the two leaders reaffirm themselves as "allies, strategic partners and friends" and agree to "the permanent stationing of US warships” in Spain’s Rota naval base, increasing the number of US warships from 4 to 6. They also affirm their common willingness to collaborate in the "management of irregular migratory flows", or, to put it another way, in migratory necropolitics. They immediately delegate this task to their common friend, the Moroccan regime, recently responsible for the brutal massacre in Melilla that has violated the most basic human rights. Let us not forget that the USA and Spain are complicit in Morocco’s illegal occupation of the Western Sahara.

Towards a more militarised and insecure global (dis)order

This unabashed proclamation of NATO as an offensive force, in the East and the South and looking further towards the key geopolitical area of Asia-Pacific, is not new. But this latest affirmation takes place in the general context of a definitive crisis of capitalist globalization, and increased inter-imperialist competition in almost all areas, with the tendency to form new commercial and military blocs.

We are thus witnessing a transition towards a new multipolar and asymmetrical global (dis)order that challenges the centrality of the West, even though the West is determined to maintain its dominant position by all means at its disposal, including with greater recourse to military force. This new phase is taking place in the context of a ’polycrisis’ involving multiple challenges that have been accelerated and aggravated by the war in Ukraine. These include the climate and energy crisis, the food crises in a growing number of countries and the resulting migratory movements, stagflation and the threat of recession, the prospect of a new global debt crisis, the hypothesis of a new wave of pandemics and health and care crises, and, last but not least, the risk of military escalation leading to nuclear war.

This set of crises will contribute to strengthening the current authoritarian neoliberalisms. among which the border between liberals and illiberals will become blurred. Turkey, Hungary and Poland continue to be the key reference points. There will be protests and revolts of different types, under the pressure of a far right now able to setting the agenda in many influential countries. For these reasons, we should not be fooled by the reemergence of the fallacious propaganda of those who, thanks to Putin, pretend to present NATO as a bulwark of democracy against authoritarianism, trying to make us forget the very history of this military organisation and, above all, of the United States.

With its "new strategic concept", NATO is only increasing and aggravating multiple crises and inequalities of all kinds, that we were already facing before Russia’s unjustifiable and reprehensible war of occupation of Ukraine. With this new concept, NATO inserts these crisis into an indefinite list of enemies and threats, as a framework for the increasing threat of recourse to military force.

For an internationalist and solidarity-based anti-imperialism

[*"The European nuclear disarmament movement does not offer to appease anyone, nor does it want to forget anything. Its offer is to oppose the militarisation of both blocs".*] Edward P. Thompson, Zero Option, 1983: 139).

Although we are today going against the mainstream of Western public opinion and much of the institutional left, there is every reason for the alternative left to denounce outright the new Western imperialist strategy agreed at the Madrid summit and the real threat it poses to the peoples of the world. This denunciation does not have to be in contradiction with our condemnation of the Russian invasion and our support for the Ukrainian people in their legitimate right to defend themselves, with and without weapons, and without having to identify with the Atlanticist discourse of President Zelenski.

Beyond the neo-campism of some and the neo-Atlanticism of others, our task should always be to foreground support for the peoples under attack, for all those who claim their right to refuge and asylum or, simply, their right to a dignified life, whatever their origin or condition. Only in this way can we build a transnational movement capable of confronting NATO and all imperialisms - be they major or minor - and forging an alternative to the militaristic conception of security that they all share and apply in the various geopolitical areas in which each of them seeks to extend its domination. Against this narrow vision at the service of the different interests of these imperialists, we should advocate for a multidimensional idea of global security, capable of responding to the set of crises mentioned above. We place the defence of life and public and common goods at the centre ,in the face of the chronic global emergency. Of course, we know that this incompatible with the survival of capitalism under any of its versions, be it Western, Eastern or Southern.

And the left?

To conclude, I do not think it is necessary to say much about the implications of all this for Spain, but one thing does seem obvious: Pedro Sánchez’s alignment with the leader of the USA and his warmongering discourse now knows no bounds. This has been amply verified at this summit with Sánchez’s commitment to double Spain’s military budget and his acceptance of the reinforcement of the Rota military-naval base. These decisions come after other outrageous behaviour of the Prime Minister, towards the Sahrawi people or, more recently, his complicity in the massacre of people from Sudan, Chad and other African countries attempting to cross the Spanish border in Melilla.

There can therefore be little doubt that the PSOE is becoming more right-wing in its open dispute with the Partido Popular (PP) of Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s. Both mainstream parties are promoting an increasingly neoliberal, racist and militarist agenda, in their competition for the ‘extreme centre’ of Spanish politics. Faced with this drift and the growing social unrest it could generate, it is likely that disaffection towards politics will increase among the popular classes. But it is also likely that a new mobilising discontent could burst onto the scene. The question is to foresee in what direction the new protests that might emerge might evolve, bearing in mind the definitive exhaustion of the 15M-Podemos cycle and the enormous political vacuum that exists to the left of the PSOE, at least at the national level. It is therefore urgent to open a process of recomposition of an alternative and autonomous left in opposition to this government and in permanent confrontation with the right. A left that is ready to promote, together with the most active sectors of the social movements, a new wave of mobilisations and to contribute to giving them an anti-neoliberal and radically democratic meaning.

Source: ‘El “nuevo concepto estratégico” de la OTAN ¿Hacia una nueva guerra global permanente?’
Translated by Adam Novak for ESSF.

From International Viewpoint

  • Jaime Pastor

    Jaime Pastor, professor of political science, member of Anticapitalistas (section of the Fourth International in the Spanish state), is the managing editor of the magazine Viento Sur. He was a signatory to the first appeal "Change gear: transform indignation into political change" in January 2014, which would launch the Podemos movement, to which he belongs.

On basic principles regarding the war in Ukraine and Socialist Action (US)

The Executive Bureau of the Fourth International adopted this public statement of political disagreement with the positions of Socialist Action (USA) concerning the war in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is of central concern for socialists across the world. Internationalists worldwide have condemned the invasion and expressed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Statements by the US organization Socialist Action however contradict basic principles of the Fourth International and of the socialist movement in general.

On 24 February, the Russian army invaded Ukraine. Four months later, the death toll is in the tens of thousands. Entire cities have been devastated and the invaders have committed large scale atrocities. And the killing and destruction has far from ended. From the beginning of the war, the Fourth International condemned the Russian invasion. Since the attack began, the Bureau of the Fourth International has made two statements, one on 1 March, and one on 24 May. [1] We call for support to the Ukrainian resistance in defence of the right to self-determination and for solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. Our comrades are organizing solidarity with the Ukrainian people and working class through aid convoys, fundraising and mobilizations as well as support for Russian anti-war activists.

Common to all our work is the rejection of all imperialism. As such, the Fourth International opposes all imperialist blocks and opposes NATO and Russian-led CSTO expansionism and interventions. Our opposition to imperialism and expansionism results in basic positions that include:

• condemnation of the Russian invasion and the demand that Russian troops leave Ukraine
• recognition of the right to self-determination of Ukraine
• solidarity with Russian anti-war activists

We note that Socialist Action defends none of these three positions, even though it claims to have “fraternal relations” with the Fourth International. Its most recent statement on the war [2] does not reject the Russian invasion, nor does it declare support for Russian anti-war activists. Their statement presents a distorted version of Ukrainian history. It attempts to instrumentalize declarations made by Fourth International comrades by referring to only part of what our comrades have to say and ignoring their assessment of the current war. Socialist Action obfuscates its position on the right of self-determination of Ukraine by calling only for independence of a hypothetical socialist Ukraine. Socialist Action is part of the United National Antiwar Coalition which has issued statements along similar lines; no rejection of the Russian invasion, no recognition of the right of self-determination of Ukraine and a refusal to stand in solidarity with Russian anti-war activists. [3]

Within the Fourth International, there is an ongoing political debate on how to shape our solidarity and on what slogans and demands need to be adopted by national organizations in their specific contexts. Our website International Viewpoint provides space for discussion on this as well as for criticisms of the statements issued by the Bureau, such as that written by the Greek section of the Fourth International, OKDE-Spartakos. [4] However, all share the same socialist principles and support for the three positions outlined above. Our differences with Socialist Action are of a different nature. Despite repeated requests from the Bureau of the Fourth International, Socialist Action has not declared its support for the three positions outlined above.

Executive Bureau of the Fourth International

26 June 2022

FOOTNOTES

 

Radical Socialist Statement: The Arrest of Teesta Setalvad

Radical Socialist strongly condemns the manner and the purpose behind the latest action taken against  the courageous and longstanding human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and her organisation, the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). It is no coincidence that this action immediately followed the shocking Supreme Court judgement (unsigned by a three judge bench) that not only rejected the appeal for an investigation into the high-level conspiratorial circumstances surrounding the 2002 Gujarat pogrom but effectively directed the authorities to "bring to book" those upholding the Ehsan Jafri cause.

            First, an Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) from Gujarat was deployed to pick up Setalvad from her home in Mumbai, Maharashtra although the charges made in its First Information Report (FIR) in no way come under the brief of the ATS or justify its deployment. Second, she was whisked away without a necessary warrant. Third, she was roughed up and bruised in her home and three mobile phones were illegally seized. Fourth, in the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Magistrate's Court when no such order had been passed, the proceedings were nevertheless held "in camera", keeping  the media and interested and concerned members of the public out. Crime branch cops were posted to ensure this by intimidating onlookers.

            The detention and arrest of Teesta Setalvad (along with the indictment of the former Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP), R.B. Sreekumar and of the police officer Sanjiv Bhatt since both had earlier testified to Modi's involvement in promoting the riots) serves specific and more general purposes. The motivation for now setting up a Gujarat controlled Special Investigation Team (SIT) is to go after the CJP and crush it as well as to make a case against Setalvad's presumed 'political masters'. This would fit in with the larger political ambition of the BJP to eliminate or subordinate all opposing political parties.

            In reality this is an act of sheer revenge by Modi, Shah and other cohorts in the Gujarat government of 2002 and after, to punish Setalvad et al for their steady and continuous pursuit of justice for the victims of that pogrom which had helped to criminally indict some wrong doers and to highlight the negligence and worse of that Gujarat government.

            Clearly, a message is being sent out to other civil liberties groups and activists resisting the communal behaviour and ideology of the Sangh Parivar and this BJP government that you had better watch out! An active and justice-loving citizenry willing to carry out independent fact-finding on any issue that may expose the iniquities and brutalities of state or central authorities will not be tolerated.

WE MUST STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE CJP AND CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUPS AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS ACROSS INDIA

WE MUST CONTINUE OUR WORK TO EXPOSE THE INJUSTICES PERPETRATED BY THIS GOVERNMENT AND STAND AGAINST THE SANGH PARIVAR'S RACIST AND FASCISTIC PROJECT OF CREATING A HINDU RASHTRA.

WE REMAIN UNBOWED!

28/06/2022

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