Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Maitree Protest Against Torture of Manjari Nayek

On 12th November, Maitree, the mainly Calcutta based women’s right network, organized a protest meeting at the Hazra Road crossing from 4-00 PM to 6-00 Pm. The occasion was the torture of Manjari Nayek.  
We publish below the leaflet issued by Maitree, with some initial comments by us.

12_November_Maitree_programme_001_copyBe Vocal Against the Torture of Underage Woman Domestic

Shree Prakash Misra is a high ranking officer of the Reserve Bank of India and his wife Madhuri Das is an NGO worker. This couple lives in the posh Alipur area and Manjari Nayek used to work in their house.
On last Friday, 6th November 09, Manjari Nayek saved her life by fleeing the house of Shree Prakash and Madhuri. Shree Prakash and Madhuri have inflicted brutal physical and mental torture on Manjari. Manjari has been operated upon and we do not know whether she will live.
Manjari’s age, as it seems, is at most 15/16. This underage girl, instead of going to school, was engaged as a domestic servant in the residence of an educated and moneyed couple. In this workplace, after being tortured by her employers, Manjari’s life is in danger today. But the repressive employers are out on bail.
This is no stray incident. Over the last few months such incidents have happened repeatedly. Among those indicted are government bureaucrats and police officers too. Our question is, who is responsible for the end to which girls like Manjari are driven? Why is the government not taking firm steps to establish the right to education of underage girls? Will the law banning child labour not be able to give security to children?


Our demands:
•    Punish Shree Prakash Misra and Madhuri Das. 12_November_Maitree_programme_004
•    Ensure proper treatment of Manjari Nayek.
•    The government must take responsibility for the education and rehabilitation of Manjari Nayek.
•    The government must take steps against child labour. It must ensure that children, whether boys or girls, can go to school.
12.11. 09     Maitree
While supporting these demands, we want to point out their inadequacy. Will parents hand over children to the state for education? Or will the state be asked to provide education for all?
What does education for all mean? We have “free” schooling –i.e., no tuition fee. But books, exercise books, all cost money. If schools do not have adequate infrastructure, as numerous schools indeed do not, then schooling inevitably means private tuition. To end this, there has to be a thorough revamping of the education system. In the same way, can we legislate a ban on child labour and expect it to be implemented? Will we ask the state to arrest the poor for sending their sons and daughters to work as workers in roadside tea stalls, in the homes of the well-to-do, or in other ways? Or do we campaign for jobs for all adults, so that those who are not yet adults can go to school instead of supplementing the family


Comments on the Two Ecosocialist Manifestos

Shane Hopkinson

The first ecosocialist manifesto was an attempt to introduce the notion of ecosocialism at a time when many people were wondering how the traditional left, with its focus on material progress and higher living standards for the working class and the poor could fit with measures to tackle the environmental crisis, which to many means lower living standards and a retreat from industrialisation.

By comparison, the draft second manifesto seems almost like a declaration of war.

It opens with:

“Humanity today faces a stark choice: ecosocialism or barbarism.”

Now this locates us clearly in the socialist tradition (with “eco” added, so something different as well) but I guess only insiders would get the reference to Rosa Luxemburg, elaborating on Engels, in the Junius Pamphlet:

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” What does “regression into barbarism” mean to our lofty European civilization? Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration — a great cemetery.

Now I have no problem with this approach, but without knowing the story, I wonder how many people coming perhaps to us for the first time would read it as a sort of ultimatum: you’re with us or with the barbarians. It continues then with a somewhat apocalyptic picture.

Again, people reading this aren’t likely to be complete amateurs but I don’t think that, for most people, the “stark choice” is that clear (nor the science). There is still a lot of “patient explaining” to do and presenting it in these Manichean terms means many people will simply say that there is no hope. Most people do not feel they have much choice at all in the face of global problems and in the absence of much in the way of anti-systematic movements.

Now compare that with the first manifesto:

The twenty-first century opens on a catastrophic note, with an unprecedented degree of ecological breakdown and a chaotic world order beset with terror and clusters of low-grade, disintegrative warfare that spread like gangrene across great swathes of the planet — viz, central Africa, the Middle East, Northwestern South America — and reverberate throughout the nations. In our view, the crises of ecology and those of societal breakdown are profoundly interrelated and should be seen as different manifestations of the same structural forces.

It seems to me that says something similar re eco-catastrophe but it is concrete (rather than catastrophic) and invites the reader to look at where, we think, the solutions may lie.

I think we’d have to explain more before saying that climate change is “an act of aggression by the rich against the poor” and while I agree that it is in “capitalism’s DNA”, that needs explaining too. If this is intended for insiders then fine (tho it hardly seems necessary), for outsiders it needs to be more transitional, I think.

I think the para that begins: “In our lifetimes, these assaults on the earth have accelerated …” is much better, tho the quantitative to qualitative change is insider-speak too. Again, it and the next two paras are better.

The next section, Capitalist Strategies for Change, is back to style of the opening — surely it is a surprise for most people that capital sets the terms of the debate — and terms like the “means of production of knowledge” make it sound like insiders talking. Again, there is the sense of an ultimatum — of people serving two masters. That may be well and good when we are on the verge of the final push to end the rule of capital but now … it reads like scolding scoundrels.

To say “there is every reason to doubt” after the other claims seems like preaching to the choir.

I think references to mechanisms are too specific but just feel like by the end of page two that we have succeeded only in making despair convincing. Surely something about “balance of forces” and resistance are essential … something about the new world being born in the womb of the old … with us as midwives should be much earlier.

The final section on “the ecosocialist alternative” is where we all want readers to end up — not with a sigh of relief that there is some slim hope — but with a recognition that they are able to become part of a process to make the world a better place. Again I think the style of the first manifesto — acknowledging errors of the past, building on past movements and acknowledging the problems we all face, is more inviting. The addition of gender (while a bit token) is a big improvement on the older version. Now look at the closing paragraphs.

In the first:

“No one can read these prescriptions without thinking, first, of how many practical and theoretical questions they raise, and second and more dishearteningly, of how remote they are from the present configuration of the world, both as this is anchored in institutions and as it is registered in consciousness. We need not elaborate these points, which should be instantly recognizable to all. But we would insist that they be taken in their proper perspective. Our project is neither to lay out every step of this way nor to yield to the adversary because of the preponderance of power he [sic!] holds. It is, rather, to develop the logic of a sufficient and necessary transformation of the current order, and to begin developing the intermediate steps towards this goal. We do so in order to think more deeply into these possibilities, and at the same moment, begin the work of drawing together with all those of like mind. If there is any merit in these arguments, then it must be the case that similar thoughts, and practices to realize these thoughts, will be coordinatively germinating at innumerable points around the world. Ecosocialism will be international, and universal, or it will be nothing. The crises of our time can and must be seen as revolutionary opportunities, which it is our obligation to affirm and bring into existence.”

In the second draft:

“This Manifesto is not an academic statement, but a call to action. The entrenched ruling elites are incredibly powerful, and the forces of radical opposition are still small. But those forces are the only hope that the catastrophic course of capitalist “growth” will be halted. Walter Benjamin defined revolutions as being not the locomotive of history, but as humanity reaching for the emergency breaks of the train, before it plunges into an abyss.”

I just can’t help but feel than the framing of the former is better. Again I don’t disagree with the general line of the document but I think it needs to be more transitional and explanatory. We are a tiny fraction of a movement — and this document originates as far as I can tell from outside the existing Green movements (like the Global Greens who are presently meeting in Rio).

We have learned to become suspicious of setting up “internationals” that are not based on real movements, so we should be clear how this discussion can serve as a means of clarification for us while presenting our ideas in the most transitional way — by making hope plausible.

Second Ecosocialist Manifesto


“The world is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the disease is the capitalist development model.” — Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, September 2007

Humanity’s Choice

Humanity today faces a stark choice: ecosocialism or barbarism.
To the barbarities of the last century — 100 years of war, brutal imperialist plunder and genocide — capitalism has added new horrors. Now it is entirely possible that the air we breathe and the water we drink will be permanently poisoned and that global warming will make much of the world uninhabitable.

The science is clear and irrefutable: climate change is real, and the main cause is the use of fossil fuels, especially oil, gas, and coal. The earth today is significantly hotter than it was a few decades ago, and the rate of increase is accelerating.

Left unchecked, global warming will have catastrophic impacts on human, animal, and plant life. Crop yields will drop drastically, leading to famine on a broad scale. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by droughts in some areas and by rising ocean levels in others. Chaotic, unpredictable weather will become the norm. Epidemics of malaria, cholera and even deadlier diseases will ravage the poorest and most vulnerable members of every society.

The impact will be most devastating on those whose lives have already been ravaged by imperialism many times over — the people of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and indigenous peoples everywhere. Climate change has justifiably been called an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.

Ecological destruction is not an accidental feature of capitalism: it is built into the system’s DNA. The insatiable need to increase profits cannot be reformed away. Capitalism can no more survive limits on growth than a person can live without breathing.

Under capitalism, the only measure of growth is how much is sold every day, every week, every year – including vast quantities of products that are directly harmful to humans and nature, commodities that cannot be produced without spreading disease, destroying the forests that produce the oxygen we breathe, demolishing ecosystems, and treating our water and air as sewers for the disposal of industrial waste.
Capitalism has always been ecologically destructive. From power plants in the U.S.A. to the forests of Indonesia; from tar sands in Canada to oil wells in Nigeria, the global drive for profit has caused untold damage to nature.

In our lifetimes, these assaults on the earth have accelerated. Quantitative change is giving way to qualitative transformation, bringing the world to a tipping point, to the edge of disaster. A growing body of scientific research has identified many ways in which small temperature increases could trigger runaway effects – such as rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet or the release of methane buried in permafrost and beneath the ocean – that would make catastrophic climate change inevitable.

If capitalism remains the dominant social order, the best we can expect is unbearable climate conditions, an intensification of social crises and the spread of the most barbaric forms of class rule, as the imperialist powers fight among themselves and with the global south for continued control of the world’s diminishing resources. At worst, human life may not survive.

Capitalism is the primary enemy of nature, including humanity. Abolishing it has never been more urgent.

Capitalist Strategies for Change

The world is awash with strategies for contending with ecological ruin, including the ruin looming as a result of the reckless growth of atmospheric carbon. The great mass of these share one common feature: they are devised by and on behalf of the dominant global system, capitalism.

It should not surprise that the same system which drives the ecological crisis also sets the terms of the debate about the ecological crisis. For capital commands the means of production of knowledge as much as of atmospheric carbon. And just as it would be inconceivable for capital to awaken and turn itself into an ecologically rational system of production, so must it pretend to be able to heal the wounds it has inflicted on the earth. Accordingly, its politicians, bureaucrats, economists and professors send forth an endless stream of proposals, all variations on the theme that the world’s ecological damage can be repaired without disruption of the free market and of the system of accumulation that commands the world economy.

But a person cannot serve two masters, here, the integrity of the earth and the profitability of capitalism. One must be set aside, and since money rules our world, the needs of mere nature – and therefore of human survival — will be deferred under capital so that accumulation may continue. There is every reason, therefore, to radically doubt the established measures for checking the slide to ecological catastrophe.

And indeed, beyond a cosmetic veneer, essentially equivalent to the plantings in the atria of corporate headquarters, the reforms over the past thirty-five years have been a monstrous failure. Individual improvements do of course occur. Yet these inevitably become overwhelmed and swept away by the ruthless expansion of the system and the chaotic character of its production.

One fact can give an indication of the failure: in the first four years of the 21st Century, global carbon emissions were nearly three times as great per annum as those of the decade of the 1990s, despite the appearance of the Kyoto Protocols in 1997.
Kyoto employs two devices: the “Cap and Trade” system of trading pollution credits to reach certain reductions in emissions, and projects in the Global South--the so-called “Clean Development Mechanisms” (CDMs)--to offset emissions in the industrial nations.

These instruments all rely upon market mechanisms, which means, first of all, that atmospheric carbon directly becomes a commodity, hence under the control of the same class interest that created global warming in the first place. Capitalists are not to be compelled to reduce their carbon emissions but in effect, bribed to do so, and in this way, allowed to use their power over money to control the carbon market for their own ends, which needless to say, include the devastating exploration for yet more carbon resources. Nor is there a limit to the amount of emission credits which can be issued by compliant governments under the control of capital.

When we add to this the literal impossibility of verification or of any uniform method of evaluation of results, it can be seen that not only is this regime incapable of rationally controlling emissions, it also provides an open field for evasion and fraud of all kinds, along with the neo-colonial exploitation of indigenous people as well as their habitat. As the Wall Street Journal put it in March, 2007, emissions trading "would make money for some very large corporations, but don’t believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming." The Journal called the carbon trade "old-fashioned … making money by gaming the regulatory process."

And yet this worthless system remains the chosen path. All of the U.S. Democratic Party presidential hopefuls affirmed the Cap and Trade model in a recent debate. And in December, 2007, at the Bali interim climate meetings held to prepare the way for the replacement of Kyoto, which expires in 2012, opened the way for even worse abuses in the period ahead. Bali avoided explicit mention of the drastic goals for carbon reduction put forth by the best climate science (90% by 2050); it more or less completely abandoned the peoples of the South to the tender mercy of capital, giving jurisdiction over the process to the World Bank; and made offsetting of carbon pollution even easier. In sum, Bali was an orgy of neoliberalism, as no fewer than 300 corporations registered as NGOs in to gain access to the trough of pollution credits.
A tremendous world-wide radical response to the predatory system of climate regulation, and to all aspects of the life-threatening ecological crisis, is underway. It has made itself felt at Bali and elsewhere, with the simple, and life-affirming principle that the only rational and just solution to the climate crisis is to keep carbon in the ground in the first place.

Beyond the great range of valuable interventions proposed by this “movement of movements,” one singular and overarching perspective is beginning to be discussed: that in order to affirm and sustain our human future, a revolutionary transformation is needed, in which all particular struggles are to be seen in the light of a greater struggle against capital itself. This larger struggle cannot be merely negative. It must announce a different kind of society, and this we name ecosocialism.

Stop Capitalist Ecocide! The Ecosocialist Alternative

Capitalist attempts to solve the ecological crisis have failed: only a profound change in the very nature of civilization can save humanity from the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

The ecosocialist movement aims to stop and reverse this disastrous process. We will fight to impose every possible limit on capitalist ecocide, and to build a movement that can replace capitalism with a society in which common ownership of the means of production replaces capitalist ownership, and in which the preservation and restoration of ecosystems will be a fundamental part of all human activity.
In other words, ecosocialism is an attempt to provide a radical civilizational alternative to the capitalist/industrial system, through an economic policy founded on non-monetary criteria: social needs and ecological equilibrium. It combines a critique of both “market ecology,” which does not challenge capitalism, and of “productivist socialism,” which ignores the earth’s natural limits.

The aim of ecosocialism is a new society based on ecological rationality, democratic control, social equality, and the predominance of use-value over exchange-value. These aims require both democratic planning that will enable society to define the goals of investment and production, and a new technological structure for humanity’s productive forces. In other words: a revolutionary social and economic transformation.
Emancipation of gender is integral to ecosocialism. The degradation of women and of nature have been profoundly linked throughout history, and especially the history of capitalism, in which money has dominated life. To defend and enhance life, therefore, is not just a matter of restoring the dignity of women; it also requires defending and advancing those forms and relations of labor that care for life and have been dismissed as mere “women’s work” or “subsistence.”

In order to stop the catastrophic process of Global Warming before it is too late, we must introduce radical changes in:

1. the energy system, by replacing the fossile fuels that are responsible for the greenhouse effect (oil, coal) with clean eolic and solar, sources of power;

2.the transportation system, by drastically reducing the use of private trucks and cars, replacing them with free and efficient public transportation;

3.present consumption patterns, which are based on waste, inbuilt obsolescence, and conspicuous competition.

To avoid endangering human survival, entire sectors of industry and agriculture must be suppressed (nuclear energy, armaments, advertising), reduced (fossil fuels), or restructured (automobiles) and new ones (solar energy, ecologically-sound agriculture) must be developed, while maintaining full employment for all. Such a change is impossible without public control over the means of production and democratic planning. Democratic public decisions on investment and technological change, must replace control by banks and capitalist enterprises in order to serve society’s common good.

Far from being “despotic”, planning is the whole society’s exercise of freedom: freedom of decision, and liberation from the alienated and reified “economic laws” of the capitalist system, which has controlled individuals’ lives and death, and locked them in what Max Weber called an economic “iron cage.”

The passage to ecosocialism is an historical process, a permanent revolutionary transformation of society, culture and attitudes. This transition will lead not only to a new mode of production and an egalitarian and democratic society, but also to an alternative way of life, a new ecosocialist civilization, beyond the reign of money, beyond consumption habits artificially produced by advertising, and beyond the unlimited production of commodities that are useless and/or harmful. It is important to emphasize that such a process cannot begin without a revolutionary transformation of social and political structures based on the active support, by the vast majority of the population, of an ecosocialist program.

To dream and to struggle for a green socialism does not mean that we should not fight for concrete and urgent reforms now. Without any illusions about “clean capitalism,” we must try to win time and to impose on the powers that be — governments, corporations, international institutions — some elementary but essential changes:

• drastic and enforceable reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases,
• free public transportation
• taxation on polluting cars,
• progressive replacement of trucks by trains
• shifting of war spending to the ecological reconstruction of homes and workplaces.

These, and similar demands, are at the heart of the agenda of the Global Justice movement and the World Social Forums, a decisive new development which has promoted, since Seattle in 1999, the convergence of social and environmental movements in a common struggle against the system.

Global Warming will not be stopped in conference rooms and treaty negotiations: only mass action by the oppressed, by the victims of ecocide can make a difference. Third World and indigenous peoples are at the forefront of this struggle, fighting polluting multinationals, poisonous chemical agro-business, invasive genetically modified seeds, and so-called “bio-fuels” that put corn into car tanks, taking it away from the mouths of hungry people. Solidarity between anticapitalist ecological mobilizations in the North and the South is a strategic priority.

This Manifesto is not an academic statement, but a call to action. The entrenched ruling elites are incredibly powerful, and the forces of radical opposition are still small. But those forces are the only hope that the catastrophic course of capitalist “growth” will be halted. Walter Benjamin defined revolutions as being not the locomotive of history, but as humanity reaching for the emergency breaks of the train, before it plunges into an abyss.

An Ecosocialist Manifesto

Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy

Sept 2001


Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy launched the proposal for an Ecosocialist Manifesto


Communalism and Indian History

Kunal Chattopadhyay

Communalism is the term used in India, and more generally throughout South Asia, to denote the politics of religious sectarianism. Communal politics in India and Pakistan are premised on one fundamental assumption: that India is a society fractured into two overarching religious communities – Hindus and Muslims. These communities are not only supposed to be separate and distinct, but also irreconcilably opposed. Their cultures, values, social practices and beliefs have little in common. Their histories are histories of discord, of mutual hostility, hatred, conflict and battles for domination. The boundaries of the communities are categorically drawen by a century of mutual antagonism.


Breaking The Global Climate Impasse

India should seize the moment!
Nov 6 2009

As the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen approaches, the North is trying to shirk its responsibility for climate change and pass on a good portion of its burden on to the South’s underprivileged people.

A yawning rift has opened up in the climate negotiations just ahead of the Copenhagen conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change beginning on December 7. It centres on the twin issues of responsibility for climate change—unfolding through extreme weather events, rising sea-levels and rapid melting of ice-sheets and glaciers—, and sharing the burden to remedy it. Going by climate science, the responsibility rests primarily with the industrialised Global North for its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The North accounts for more than three-fourths of GHG concentrations in the atmosphere.

However, going by the brutal logic of power, the picture is different. The North is trying to shirk its responsibility and pass on a good portion of its burden on to the South’s underprivileged people. This is doubly unjust: it’s the South’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change. They’re already suffering its consequences through more frequent and ferocious cyclones, erratic rainfall, increased water scarcity, and growing destruction, devastation and death.

The UNFCCC negotiations are deadlocked not just over the percentages by which the North must reduce its GHG emissions, or its financial obligation to compensate the South. There’s an impasse on fundamentals—the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” enshrined in the Convention, and a clear distinction between the North’s legally binding obligations and the South’s voluntary Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), for which it must be paid.

These distinctions were written into the UNFCCC’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2007 Bali Action Plan after protracted debate. Kyoto mandated the Northern countries, called Annex 1, to cut their emissions from their 1990 levels by a modest 5.2 percent during the “first commitment period” ending 2012. The target will be missed. In the European Union, “the good boy in the climate cast”, only Germany, Britain and Sweden will achieve their targets. The worst culprit is the United States, which refused to ratify Kyoto, and has raised its emissions by 14 percent.

The US under President Obama says it’ll return to the UNFCCC process, but at a price: dismantle the Kyoto Protocol, abolish the principle of North-South (or any other) differentiation, and negotiate an altogether new agreement, which sets ineffective, sub-critical targets. Australia has developed such a draft with national “schedules” but no internationally binding commitments. If it prevails, there’ll be no Kyoto, no differentiated North-South burden-sharing, no stringent compliance or penalties. Such a single, artificially homogenous and paltry agreement won’t prevent dangerous, irreversible climate change.

No deal would be clearly preferable to such a bad deal. But so desperate are most Northern countries to bring the US on board at any cost that they’re prepared to renege on their own past commitments, including each rich country’s “comparable effort” at mitigating climate change in proportion to its responsibility and financial-technological capacity.
This poses a conundrum. The Kyoto Protocol is far from perfect; in fact, it’s full of flaws, including low emission reduction targets which aren’t firmly linked to GHG concentrations and temperatures; omission of aviation and shipping; and lack of compliance requirements and penalties. Kyoto promotes the Clean Development Mechanism under which polluting Northern corporations get generous emissions quotas. If they exceed them, they needn’t cut emissions, as would be logical. Instead, they can buy cheap carbon credits from Southern projects, which supposedly cut or avert emissions.

Most CDM projects do nothing of the sort. For instance, two-thirds of Indian credits are earned by two companies which first produce a GHG refrigerant called HFC-23, and then destroy it! Most of the dams for which credits are claimed worldwide were already under construction or completed before applying for CDM. The Corrupt Destructive Mechanism lets the North buy its way out of emissions cuts—and buy it cheap.

Kyoto needs reform.  But it does have a rational kernel. That lies in its acknowledgement of the rich countries’ historical responsibility for climate change. Kyoto imposes quantifiable emissions reduction obligations on them. It’s the only legally binding climate agreement the world has, with time-bound targets. It would be dangerous to abandon it for a loose unenforceable deal. The US wants to do just that.

The Southern countries, represented by the G-77+China bloc, have strongly defended the Protocol as “an international and legally binding treaty and the most important instrument embedding the commitment of Annex 1 parties”, collectively and individually. The proposed new agreement would “drastically water down” their commitments. Most Northern countries’ rationale for supporting it is that it might be able to include the US. However, says the G-77, going out of a binding protocol with collective and individual targets into a new agreement without internationally binding targets means “taking the international climate regime many steps backwards”. Besides, the US may not even sign the agreement.

The developed countries indeed want to dilute their commitments. Instead of the 25-40 percent emissions reductions by 2020 (over 1990), recommended by climate scientists in 2007, and the 40-45 percent needed in the light of recent scientific developments, they have only made reduction pledges of 16-23 percent, excluding the US. If the US climate bill’s target is included, the figure falls to 11-18 percent and 10-23 percent, according to different estimates. Such reductions won’t stabilise the climate. The G-77+China is right in criticising these measly offers as a breach of trust. The Climate Convention was a grand bargain, under which the North would lead in emissions reductions as part of a global cooperative effort.

India must stiffly oppose the North’s attempt to renege on that bargain. Yet, certain lobbies want India to dump the G-77 for more exclusive groupings. The G-77 represents 130-odd Southern countries, the bulk of them poor and backward, as are most of India’s people. But these lobbies want India to join the world’s High Table by signing a bad climate deal that pleases the North. Most Indian diplomats privately speak of the developing countries and Non-Alignment with contempt and antipathy. Some want India aligned with the US in the climate talks.

That’s the crux of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s leaked letter to Prime Minister Singh, in which he explicitly asks that India should “not stick with G-77 but be embedded in G-20 …” Mr Ramesh also writes: “If the Australian proposal … maintains this basic distinction … of differential obligations we should have no great theological objections.” But the Australian proposal demolishes the distinction.

This is a recipe for a confused, unprincipled climate stand, which is unworthy of a nation that aspires to global leadership. Its advocates are only concerned with the narrow interests of the Indian elite, barely one-tenth of the population, which is addicted to high-consumption lifestyles and rising emissions. The elite doesn’t want a strong climate deal because that’ll restrain its consumption. A majority of Indians, by contrast, have a stake in a strong deal because the burden of climate change which falls disproportionately on them will grow under a weak deal.

A principled approach to the climate negotiations must put the poor at the centre and acknowledge that the climate crisis and the developmental crisis—which perpetuates poverty—are integrally linked. Climate change will aggravate poverty and exacerbate inequality, undoing the right of the poor to fulfil their basic human needs and live with dignity. It’s imperative to combine developmental equity and poverty eradication with climate effectiveness. A defining criterion of a strong climate deal is that it reduces the burden on the underprivileged.

India will face hard choices at Copenhagen, where several scenarios are conceivable—from optimistic to middling outcomes, to complete collapse. The best scenario is one where the North makes deep, early emissions cuts (40 percent by 2020); the bigger Southern countries agree to 15-25 percent voluntary cuts (NAMAs); and there’s adequate funding. Under a middling scenario, there’ll be a strong agreement on fundamentals, but not on emissions cuts and finances; nevertheless, all agree to negotiate numbers within a time-bound period.

Of course, the talks may collapse because there’s no agreement on anything and some countries walk out. This would be unfortunate. But the truly nightmarish scenario is one which “greenwashes” a bad agreement: the North agrees to low and paltry cuts such as 7-15 percent by 2020, with no compliance or penalties, and only a fraction of the funding needed materialises. Such a deal will fail to stabilise the climate, but lock the world into an emissions-intensive trajectory that aggravates both climate change and the developmental crisis.

India should walk out of the talks rather than agree to such “greenwash”. In the few weeks left before Copenhagen, India should do its utmost to consolidate the G-77+China position, lobby Northern governments, including the US, when Dr Singh meets President Obama late this month, and make voluntary commitments to show that it’s more serious about combating climate change than appears—thanks to its ambivalence on Himalayan glacier melting and its lip service to poverty eradication, even while practising elitist policies. India must be flexible on transparency and generous on delivering modern energy services to its poor. But it should be hardnosed about holding the North’s feet to the fire. There must be no compromise here.

This article by Praful Bidwai was originally published on http://www.tni.org under a Creative Commons Licence http://www.tni.org/article/breaking-global-climate-impasse

Kolkata Programme in Solidarity with Irom Sharmila


A 12 hour dawn to dusk (6 am – 6pm) hunger strike was organised at Kolkata on November 5, 2009 in solidarity with Sharmila Irom Chanu. Sharmila, a poet and activist from Manipur entered the 10th year of her hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. She started the hunger strike on November 2, 2009 at the age of 28 when the Indian Army massacred ten civilians in Malom, Manipur. On 6 November 2000 she was arrested by the police and charged with attempt to commit suicide under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Her health deteriorated gradually and she did not accept even a single drop of water.
The hunger-strike was organized by various little magazines and rights groups viz. Manthan, Akinchan Patrika, Swayangnijukti Patrika, Radical, Bigyan Manosikota Bikash Kendro, Sangbadmanthan Patrika, Ahalya Patrika, Kathak Patrika, Yuba Bharat, APDR and others from Kolkata and around. Around 50 people participated at the event apart from Jiten Nandi, Bharati Das, Mohidul Mondal, Bankim, Suman Raj, Arun Bhattacharya, Alok Dutta, Shamik Sarkar, Amita Nandi, Prashanta Haldar, Pradeep Jana and Sushovan Dhar who sat for the hunger-strike the whole day. Famous poet Shankhya Ghosh, leader of Janasangharsha Samiti Dr. Sanmathanath Ghosh, Gandhian activist Dr. Krishna Sen, Secretary of Little Magazine Library and Research Center Sandip Dutta met the strikers to extend their solidarity for the cause.
In this context is important to bear in mind that the Armed Forces Special Power Act introduced in 1958 grants the Indian military special powers throughout North-East India to:
•    Arrest citizens and enter their property without warrant;
•    Shoot and kill anyone on mere ‘suspicion’;
•    Enjoy immunity against legal action.
Under the cover of the Act the Indian armed forces have indulged in killing, torture, enforced disappearances and rape, bringing great shame to India and much misery to the people of Manipur.
The people of Kolkata assembled at the event demanded the repeal of AFSPA and all other draconian laws like the UAPA and saluted the heroic struggle by Sharmila and the people of Manipur.