Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Gaza Flotilla attack: end impunity for Israel’s crimes!

The far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman has demonstrated once more its ability to go even further than earlier Israeli governments in trampling international law and basic human decency under foot. Their murderous attack in international waters on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is a new escalation of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. It must be met with a forceful escalation in the response from the solidarity movement and world public opinion.

Thanks to the Labour Party’s presence in Netanyahu’s extremist government, the whole Zionist political establishment is complicit in this fresh outrage. Labour defence minister Ehud Barak has declared that the government knowingly accepted the consequences of its act. Knowing, that is, that the world’s governments would reflexively respond with mere words: some diplomatic communiqués, some tut-tutting at Israeli ambassadors. As usual. But this time it must be different. This time an outpouring of protest must force governments to move from words to deeds.

Already Barrack Obama and Ban Ki-mon have spoken of investigation. What is there of consequence to investigate? The Israeli government does not deny that it launched an illegal attack in international waters; it proclaims it. The Israeli army itself says that more than ten activists were killed. The Israeli military’s own spokesperson claims no more than four Israeli injuries as extenuation for the slaughter. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent on the lead boat reports that a white flag was raised, and yet the Israelis opened fire as they stormed it, without provocation. All this points to a deliberate resort, as in 2008-09, to “disproportionate force”, certainly not a case of “self-defence”.

The assault on the Freedom Flotilla was in fact a logical extension of the blockade of Gaza that the flotilla was protesting and challenging. Hardly a government on earth besides Israel’s has a word to say in defence of this blockade, a blatant case of an illegal collective punishment of a civilian population. Yet hardly a government on earth lifts a finger to stop it. And the shamelessly cynical Israeli PR operation makes light of the blockade’s effects, recommending a posh Gaza restaurant to journalists.

Surely that press statement’s author remembers that posh restaurants remained in business in the Warsaw Ghetto as Jews were starving to death in the street outside! Not that there is mass starvation today in Gaza; arbitrary and capricious as the Israeli blockade is, it has so far been calibrated to avoid that degree of devastation. It has led only to widespread malnutrition; only to the traumatization of tens of thousands of children; only to mass unemployment that has left 80 per cent of the Strip’s 1.5 million people dependent on relief; only to the helplessness of a population trying to live among the ruins left by the 2008-09 Israeli aggression, which they are denied any means of repairing; only to the deaths of 28 Palestinians waiting for permission to leave for urgently needed medical treatment.

The protests against the attack on the flotilla, coming on top of the blockade, are more than justified. The picket lines and demonstrations outside Israeli embassies and consulates should continue. But the protests must go further, targeting the governments in each of our countries that have made and are making Israeli outrages possible.

- In the United States, which under the Obama administration has remained Israel’s main backer, protests must demand and secure an immediate halt to the $3 billion in annual aid that funds the Israeli government’s crimes.

- In the countries of the European Union, which only months ago decided on closer ties with Israel, protests must demand and secure immediate invocation of the human rights clause in the Israeli-EU free trade agreement, suspending the commercial privileges that give Israel an economic lifeline.

- In the Arab countries that maintain ties with Israel, the peoples’ fury should frighten their governments into halting their complicity – and especially frighten the Egyptian government into ending its indispensable role in the criminal blockade of Gaza.

- In the Israeli state, where protests are also taking place, there should be stepped-up resistance to the far-right government.

- Everywhere where the solidarity movement is not yet strong enough to compel governments to break in practice with the Israeli state, people should take matters into their own hands with massive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns.

Finally, this new Israeli crime should lead to a new wave of discussion and reflection about the bankruptcy of the “peace process” supposedly aimed at establishing a Palestinian mini-state in the 1967 territories alongside an intact Zionist Israel. Today the Israeli government is being “punished” for its attack on the flotilla with yet another suspension of the anaemic process of indirect talks with the Palestinian Authority – a process that it obviously views as nothing more than an occasionally useful distraction from its work of establishing facts on the ground. Movements for peace and solidarity should now be spurred to more clarity and resolve about the need for an alternative, heading towards true peace, with full and unconditional Palestinian self-determination, the right of return for the 1948 refugees (who make up four-fifths of the Gaza Strip’s population), the dismantling of the Zionist state, and a political solution in which the Palestinian and Israeli Jewish peoples can live together in full equality of rights.

Bureau of the Fourth International Paris, 1st June 2010

Banning the Veil: Rights of Women, Security or Anti-Islamic Racism and Communalism?

In country after country in Europe, political forces ranging from liberals (Belgium) to the openly right wing (Sarkozy in France, the Northern League in Italy) have been initiating actions to ban Muslim women from wearing the veil, or seeking punishment for those wearing it. The Netherlands and Italy already have regional or local restrictions, as do twenty municipalities in Belgium. Now the Belgium Lower House has voted to ban the burkha in the name of protecting Muslim women as well as security. This has had immediate impact in a string of countries with Christian and white majorities – from France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands inside the European Union to Australia, with various prominent politicians calling for similar measures. Two basic arguments have been put forward in defence of such actions. The first is that the veil, in any form, is degrading to women, and Islam is contemptuous to women. The second is that the veil hides the face and obscures the public interpersonal exchange -- which is supposed to be a gain specifically of western civilization, as well as the fact that by so hiding the face it creates a security problem.

Our response to this is very clear. We are absolutely certain that Islamic fundamentalism/ communalism is repressive towards Muslim women, and not merely by seeking to impose various forms of control, by imposing social inequality, and so on. We have seen some of its horrible forms in the well publicized case of the Taliban and its rule in Afghanistan. But several very important considerations compel us to warn that the picture, if we stop at this point, is utterly false and misleading. In the first place, there are diverse views within Islam Second, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, imperialist ruling classes of North America and Europe have been busy creating a new “other”, this being Islam, which is supposed to stand against all the values of the Enlightenment, modernity, and so on, and is seeking to erase progress. It is quite true that Islamic fundamentalism is a reactionary force. But what is forgotten or suppressed is the role of the imperialist west in fostering this Islamic fundamentalism –Saudi Wahabism as a bulwark of the imperialists and a sure supplier of oil, a precious commodity ever since the early 20th century, controlled by Britain and France in West Asia till the USA managed to support Saudi Arabia and got in. Islamic fundamentalism was also supported against Arab progressive bourgeois nationalism – e.g., the Islamic Brotherhood against Nasser. Islamic fundamentalism was the chosen instrument of the USA in its proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when opposition to the ill-judged and politically illegitimate Soviet invasion was used by the imperialists to shore up fundamentalist forces, out of which grew the Taliban. Finally, it should be remembered that even in Afghanistan after its spurious liberation the anti-women laws are much in force.

This leads us to the next issue. Attacking colonial subjects for their attitude to women is not a new strategy for imperialism. British colonialism and its allies pursued this strategy throughout British rule in India, from James Mill depicting Hindus as degenerates because they ill-treated women and by implication suggesting that colonial rule was therefore necessary, in the interests of women. Attacking Muslims because of the veil is a similar strategy. It is worth noting that in Belgium, only a minority of Muslim women wear the burkha. In 2009, only 29 women were apprehended by the police in the municipalities that have already banned the burkha, while the total number of Muslims in Belgium is about 400,000.

Among those who wear the veil, there are those who do so out of choice, as well as those who are compelled by family and community pressure. Those who wear the veil out of choice do so either because they have internalized all the patriarchal, anti-women assumptions behind it, or because, as minorities, they are choosing to express their identities in that particular fashion. We disagree with their choice. We believe that ultimately, the dress code, targeting women, reflects reactionary views. In a very difficult situation, the New Anti-Capitalist Party of France, when one of its candidates, Ilham Moussaid, was targeted for wearing the headscarf, argued in a statement:

•    Ilham herself saw no contradiction between wearing a headscarf and abiding by the secular and feminist principles of the NPA
•    The NPA leadership felt that notwithstanding Ilham’s own feelings, they considered the headscarf to be an instrument of subjection of women
•    They made a distinction between the debates within the social movements over Ilham’s headscarf, and the hysteria promoted by the rightwing parties. They would engage in serious debates within the social movement. But the Right was hypocritical, considering that Sarkozy was willing to embrace the Pope, and that bourgeois parties spent millions on financing private high schools, in particular Catholic ones.
•    They also criticized the Communist Party for its opportunism, since on other occasions it too had counted women like Ilham in its list of candidates.

Like the NPA, we consider that the demand that women must cover their heads is a part of instrument of subjection of women. But, like the NPA again, we agree that if women have adopted this through choice, we need to politically discuss the issue and struggle to change the situation. In India, as in the West, the Muslim minority can be and are often targeted. We don’t hear anything when Hindu religious symbolisms are used, or when Hindu women are subjected to all manners of religious commands that make them inferiors. What seems “normal”, “civilised” for the majority community, appears different for the minorities.
In other words, we argue that every religion is historically an ideology of, among other things, gender oppression. It does not follow that calling for bans on all religions or religious customs is the correct way to fight such oppression. Classical Marxism did not require the inscription of atheism in the programme of social movements. On the contrary, in his 1874 critique of the Blanquist émigrés from the Paris Commune, Engels rejected their call to abolish religion by decree. His view has been completely confirmed by 20th Century experiences, as when he wrote that: "persecutions are the best means of promoting disliked convictions". The more minorities are persecuted for belonging to minority religions, the more they turn to so-called community heads for material and spiritual help. As a result, ghettoisation leads to the growth of minority communalism. However, classical Marxism, with essentially European and a little North American experience, had not dealt with the further complexities introduced by colonialism. Colonialism and its attendant racism means we must additionally reject persecutions of minority religions because they constitute a dimension of ethnic or racial oppression, no less than political or economic persecution and discrimination.

In most countries where Islam is the religion of the majority, religion is still the dominant form of ideology. Retrograde, more or less literal, interpretations of Islam are used to retain entire populations in submission and cultural backwardness. The first victims are the women. In such countries, struggles for socialism must involve, from the start, an ideological struggle against religion as an instrument of oppression. But while women’s liberation must in all such cases involve liberation from the headscarf or its grosser forms, to impose “freedom” by law on women would be a travesty of emancipation. Neither women wearing the hijab or the burkha, nor men wearing the beard, should have the police set upon them for that reason.

Like the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other fundamentalisms aiming to impose a puritan interpretation of religion as a code of life, if not as a mode of government, Islamic fundamentalism is a real danger to social progress and emancipatory struggles. By taking care to establish a clear distinction between religion as such and its fundamentalist interpretation, the most reactionary of all, it is necessary to fight Islamic fundamentalism ideologically and politically, as much in the Islamic countries as in the midst of the Muslim minorities in the West or elsewhere. But that cannot however constitute an argument in favour of a public prohibition of the Islamic scarf. This amounts to singling out Islamic fundamentalism while remaining silent about other religious fundamentalists. Has there been a call to ban campaigns against abortion by Christian extremists?

Turning to the argument about security, we reject this outright. This is nothing but the profiling of particular groups of people as dangerous. There is no evidence that wearing the veil in public threatens public safety, public order, health, morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. And rather than help women who are coerced into wearing the veil, a ban would limit, if not eliminate, their ability to seek advice and support. Indeed, the primary impact of legislation of this kind would be to confine these women to their homes, rather than to liberate them. Nor will the act of treating Muslim women who believe that it is pious to wear the veil as criminals help in integrating Muslims in those countries.

Our stand can therefore be summed up by saying:

•    Oppose the ban on religion or custom specific dress as a form of racism and anti-minorityism.

•    No legal sanctions for following particular religions.

•    Politically combat the oppression of women using religion as an ideology.

Statement on Suicide of Dr. Siras in AMU

Dr. Srinivas Siras, a Marathi professor at Aligarh Muslim University, was sacked after being accused of being gay. Allegedly, several AMU officials, including the proctor Jubair Khan and deputy proctor Farid Ahmed Khan, got two local television journalists to break into Siras’ home to videotape him having sex with another male person. This was submitted to the University administration, resulting in his suspension in February 2010. At the beginning of April, the Allahabad High Court ordered the University to rescind the suspension and to provide him with quarters till he retired later this year. But on April 7, less than a week after the High Court ruling, he was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his residence.

We believe that there is an urgent need to immediately dismantle India’s reactionary antigay laws, which, despite the Supreme Court judgement, are still in the statute books, and which provide legitimacy to the “morality crusaders” who take such actions as the AMU officials. There must be an immediate end to discrimination, punitive measures, and aggressive behavior on grounds of sexual orientation. The sexual relationships between two consenting adults cannot be the matter for police or any other external intervention. We are aware that social conservatism cannot be abolished by fiat, and know that a long political battle is still before us in order to ensure social legitimation of freedom of sexual orientation. But we do demand and fight for the legal protection of those who have different sexual orientations. The AMU administration gave its support to a break and entry operation into the house of Professor Siras and decided to punish him for an act that had no bearing on his performance in the University, and that did not involve any pressure against a student (the other man was an outsider). It was only after his tragic death that a local court ordered action against the six individuals implicated.

In the light of this and other instances of anti-gay attitudes and action, we demand:
•    Protection against unfair dismissal, discriminatory recruitment or failure to promote.
•    Protection against harassment on grounds of sexual orientation.

We also argue that the campaign against gays has wider implications, including holding them responsible for AIDS, and rejecting the right of the oppressed, including the sexually oppressed, to openly organize. In this context we demand:

•    Decriminalization and legalization of same sex relationships.
•    Against stigma, discrimination and isolation
•    For the right of oppressed groups to organize autonomously
•    For free and effective health care, particularly in cases of AIDS.
•    Against the super-profits of international pharmaceutical companies.

Oppose Green Hunt, condemn Maoist Politics of Glorifying Violence

Within a span of 45 days, three major operations by the CPI-Maoists have killed more than 115 police personnel and some civilians in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. Landmines were blasted followed by ambushes and firing. On 6th April, in one of the attacks, 76 CRPF personnel died. In some other states of India, viz. West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand, incidents of killings are continuous and almost a regular affair.

The recent incident of killing of more than 40 people travelling in a bus blown by a blast in Dantewada is merely a new chapter in the volumes of brutalities, being scripted in Chhattisgarh and other parts of the country in the name of ‘The Peoples’ War’ carried out by the ‘purest revolutionaries’ of the planet. On this occasion, their victims include a few civilians as well, who couldn’t even be branded of being police informers.

While we unequivocally declare that the harshest possible words of condemnation from our vocabulary are meant for the Indian state for their oppressive actions against the people of India through their capitalist and undemocratic economic, social, political, administrative, military and diplomatic practices; words of condemnation and criticism are also there for the Maoists.

We do not intend to say that revolutionary violence doesn't apply in any circumstance, nor do we deny the importance of the role of force for revolutionary changes. Nevertheless, we deny equating the violent Maoists practices, entirely by a self-proclaimed vanguard, carried on for decades, with revolutionary violence by the people in moments of mass upsurge. Maoist violence is not based on any mass politics. Even in the few cases where so-called mass involvement is claimed, especially by urban intellectual supporters of the Maoists, the reality is that gun wielding Maoist cadres dictated the violence. We strongly feel that this sordid violence would fail to bring any radical change even in remote future. All such Maoist violence across the globe, for e.g. in Peru, Philippines and in other places has been an abject failure. Any attempt to equate the experience of Chinese revolution with the experience of Indian Maoists shall be a gross distortion of history.

The Maoist analysis of the Indian state as semi-feudal is highly erroneous. They claim that the advasis/forest dwellers suffer the highest form of feudal exploitation by linking the kind of poverty prevailing there. It is pertinent to note that poverty is not limited to feudalism only. Moreover, this claim is contradicted when they also say that the locals are being displaced for the purpose of free passage to the corporate. Such displacements of people from land and livelihood are typical capitalist phenomenon, contrary to feudal characteristics. As a matter of fact, the Maoists themselves penetrated in those areas by supporting and participating in struggle for wages.

We are very clear that big corporates want free access to the forests and mineral rich areas to exploit resources for capitalist expansion. This ruthless capitalist abuse is the root cause for the present crisis that India and its people are facing. We strongly believe that the only force that can lead the struggle against capitalism in India and globally is the organized working class. However, with their current strategy, the Maoists are failing to make any impact on the class. Firstly, because they are unable to reach them (they don’t have a policy to reach them either) and secondly, the working class doesn’t approve the politics of annihilation, particularly when this class is far from identifying a need for a revolutionary social change for which they are a major force.

An illusion disseminated by the Indian state and media, in order to justify the Operation Green Hunt and to label all political dissent against neoliberalism and globalisation as terrorism and Maoism, is that the Maoists are controlling around 200 districts of the country where civil administration cannot operate. This is not true. The number is much less than that and in most cases only a part of the mentioned districts are under the control of the Maoists. These areas are thinly populated. Even, if we consider those areas as Maoist ‘liberated zones’; they are far-off from capturing the state power, its machineries, its military bases, its power centres. They have neither been able to extend nor, move beyond the inaccessible forest region, and it seems unlikely in the future as well. No matter what they say about “encirclement of the cities from the countryside” the bulk of rural India has remained totally out of their reach; forget about the cities where the bulk of the principal revolutionary force - the working class - is concentrated. Hence, the question of encircling the cities with liberated villages shall not apply with the current strategy of the Maoists. They over simplify the strength of the state.

While making such statement we do not project impossibility of proletarian revolution, but the opposite. Proletarian revolution is possible when the working class is ready to lead the movements for revolutionary social change and other exploited classes accept their leadership and when the larger section of people deny the legitimacy of this capitalist state through action, participation and support mechanism. The role of force and violence arises only then and not currently when working class is yet to identify itself as a revolutionary class.

Under these circumstances, we do not limit ourselves to a criticism of the Maoists’ strategy but also reject their practice of indiscriminate annihilation as they cross basic human values. They are as well in a process of detracting people from revolutionary classes and from socialist ideology; we condemn their call for ‘war against the state’ as their path spoil an unarmed revolutionary force simply for the sake of their adventurist and opportunist politics. Instead of linking the struggle of adivasis with the broad class movements against the state, with movements of all exploited classes, Maoists recruit young teenagers from poor adivasis and indoctrinate them to burn schools and dig roads, which further alienate them from the other forces of movement. As a result of this strategy, the capitalist state is getting legitimacy and capitalists are getting benefits. The cause of so proclaimed revolution is actually losing its justification.

Statement Condemning Repression at Jagatsinghpur

We strongly condemn the indiscriminate use of State police force by the Orissa Government on peaceful Anti-POSCO project demonstrators of Jagatsingpur District of Orrisa on 15th of May, 2010. The 15th May state offensive had inflicted injures on more than a hundred vulnerable villagers mainly comprising of farmers and fisher-folk. The Orissa State government’s repression spree comes in the wake of the local people’s struggle against the proposed POSCO Steel Plant in the Ersama Block of Jagatsinghpur District. To us it seems to be an attempt at dissipating the demonstrators who are hell bent on resisting plunder of their land by corporate interests. We consider this act to be a direct assault on the people’s right to life and livelihood and an act posing a serious threat to democracy.

In the recent past the projects introduced by the Orissa state government in the guise of fostering development have been subject to fierce opposition from the people living in the areas under the proposed project sites. The sufferers include peasants, adivasis and toiling poor who live on the margins of the society. Massive displacement of such marginalized communities from their land and livelihood is a testimony to the state’s vision of development which serves the rich by displacing the poor. The fierce opposition of the Adivasis at Kalinganagar is a burning example of mass ire directed against the Orissa state projects. Approximately three weeks back, a similar assault by the state police force on the adivasis of Kalinganagar had taken place to dissipate the Adivasis strong anti-project stand. The proposed Tata project at Kalinganagar is another Orissa Government promoted project which is bound to evict thousands of adivasis from their land and livelihood.  Orissa Government’s coercive development projects are bound to displace lakhs of people from their land and subsequently their livelihood leading to a threat to their very existence. This might stimulate anarchy fuelling further violence in the region. Also, we feel that the environmental damage which projects like POSCO Steel Project and Tata Steel Project would inflict would be huge adversely affecting the environmental balance of the region.

•    We demand an immediate enquiry into the May 15th police repression and a stern action to be taken against those found guilty.
•    We stand with the people of Jagatsinghpur and Kalingnagar and other project-affected toiling masses in the country who are victims of land grab who face an uncertain future.
•    We demand the immediate halt to work at the proposed POSCO Steel Plant a fresh enquiry in strict conformity with local people’s interests and keeping in view the environmental sustainability of such projects.

RTI shows up reality of Gujarat's governmental environment protection

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

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

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

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

He also said that no new expansion would happen.

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

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

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

Fourth International on Thailand

Repression against the Redshirts must cease immediately

Stop the assassinations! Abhisit Resign!
Fourth International


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

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

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

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

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

Bureau of the Fourth International 17th May 2010