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Marx, Class Struggle and Women's Oppression

 

 

Soma Marik

 

DOES KARL MARX have any relevance for today’s struggles for women’s liberation? Do his theories of society and revolutionary transformation present us with tools that in any way continue to be useful?

 

These and related questions come up repeatedly — as I will argue — for two very different reasons. I will exclude here the arguments, if they can be called that, of the extreme right, which are opposed to human liberation in any form, from class exploitation, from racial, gender and sexual oppression and discrimination. Rather, my focus is on forces and ideas within what we can call the center and the left.

 

With the worldwide collapse of older, organized, often large Marxist (or socialist) working class parties, a left-liberal segment became more influential even within the old left. We think of the left’s orientation to the Democratic Party in the USA (where no mass workers’ party has existed for some 80 years now) — or the example of India where the left, in order to halt the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) [extreme Hindu nationalist — ed.], sees no option but to rely on the rightwing liberal Indian National Congress.

 

One consequence has been the acceptance of intellectual currents that reject Marxism’s contributions to the principles of emancipation. Another consequence of the collapse of class politics is the rise of an ideology that conceives of the struggle for liberation as separate for each gender, race or other “identity”-based segments of the population. These separate oppressions at best forge moral alliances, rather than an objectively rooted unity.

 

A secondary but not unimportant reason lies in the creation of an opposite ideological claim that Marxism indeed promotes women’s liberation, Dalit [lower caste — ed.] and other oppressed people’s emancipation, but must be hostile to feminism, Dalit (or Ambedkarite) politics, etc. as all being variants of “bourgeois/petty-bourgeois politics.”

 

In India in particular, in the name of putting the working class first, this second current is widely present within both the old mainstream left and considerable parts of the far left. We can call this a sort of Marxist Antifeminism. It has both indigenous and international influences.

 

Marxist Antifeminism in India

 

Kanak Mukherjee, one of the first woman members of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Bengal and a leader of the Communist-led mass women’s movement from the end of the 1930s. She later became a key figure in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) and its women’s front, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), needs to be cited in this connection.

 

Mukherjee, belonging to an older generation of activists, dismissed feminist ideas and movements for autonomy in many of her writings. Her focus was on fighting the Congress as well as the CPI (after the party split in 1964 and she went to join the CPIM), defending the Left Front government in West Bengal from 1977. However, a few remarks scattered through her political essays show Marxist Antifeminism at work. She saw feminism as a homogeneous category, and a movement that set women against men rather than class against class. In Women’s Emancipation Movement in India (1989), she wrote:

 

“Now the imperialists are also throwing a challenge to the healthy democratic women’s movement. They are propagating the misleading Western ‘feminist’ ideology to misdirect and confuse women of the villages and cities…. As against Marxist ideology and its analysis of the women’s emancipation movement as an integral part of the people’s revolutionary movement and the class struggles of the proletariat, these agencies advocate “party-less” or ‘above party’ ‘feminist’ theories to confuse and disrupt the democratic women’s movement. (103)

 

In the next paragraph, she sets forth the theoretical positions of the feminist movement as she sees it.

 

“These feminists, though of various views, pose the woman’s question as opposed to men’s and hold the patriarchal system of society responsible for the exploitation of women. Thus, they try to divert the class struggle into a struggle between men and women. This breeds hatred in the family, conjugal life and social life, and leads to the isolation of the women’s movement from the mainstream of the people’s movements…. Some of the leaders of these action groups pose as leftists and criticise the teachings of Marx-Engels-Lenin on women’s questions.” (Ibid).

 

Younger activists, who had to build their organizations while in regular dialogue with the left wing of the feminists, such as Brinda Karat, for many years General Secretary of the AIDWA and now a member of the CPI(M) Politbureau, took a somewhat more nuanced position, but explained the persistence of patriarchal families as a hangover from the ruling class, with no material roots within the toiling people. (Karat, Survival and Emancipation, 36-39)

 

One of the major influences from abroad has been “classist” (class reductionist) forces in the West, especially their material available in English. Here, I do not propose to look at all dimensions, but to mention the example of Tony Cliff’s book Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation. Cliff took the most conservative trends in feminism as representing the norm, then debunked all feminists as some kind of homogeneous force, and went back to Marx, Zetkin, Lenin and others as evidence that he stood with the Marxist tradition.

 

Cliff’s argument against the feminists, taken up in the mid-to late 1980s by some activists in India having connection with the British Socialist Workers Party, included the stance that feminists are wrong in differentiating between men and women even when looking at women’s oppression:

 

“This is not to deny, however, that men behave in certain ways which are oppressive to women…. But the blame should be placed squarely on class society, not on its individual agents. Women’s oppression damages the interests of both working women and men.” (Cliff, 229)

 

Elsewhere, Cliff lumps theoretical disputes around violence against women as minor, or issues that divide women from men.

 

“Many women in the women’s liberation movement have consistently focussed on the areas where men and women are at odds — rape, battered women, wages for housework — while ignoring or playing down the areas of struggle where women are more likely to win the support of men — such as opposition to the cuts in hospitals and schools, the right to abortion, and battles at work for equal pay or the right to join a trade union….(T)he women’s liberation movement has come to concentrate on where women are weakest. (177-8)
This implies that fighting too seriously for an end to rape and violence against women should take a very low priority in the agenda of a Marxist party or a Marxist-led women’s movement — an especially appalling position in the context of violence against women in India!” (My own response to Cliff’s harnessing of Zetkin to his narrow position appears in my essay “German Socialism and Women’s Liberation,” 2003.)

 

Marxist Antifeminism vs. the Real Tradition

 

To make sense of Kanak Mukherjee’s attacks, it is worth looking at one of her earlier essays, published in a Bengali collection of her writings, Nari Andoloner Nana Katha, titled “Patitar Paap.” Originally published in 1958 in the women’s association journal Ghare Baire, it deals with prostitution.

 

The title sums up her attitude, for Patita means “the fallen woman,” and paap is “sin.” Apparently, back in the 1950s there was already some agitation among prostitutes for organizing, to demand better conditions. The essay looks at Engels, at Lenin’s dialogue with Zetkin, and at real or supposed achievements in the USSR and China, and discusses existing laws to eradicate prostitution in India.

 

About the prostitutes themselves and their demands there is a brief statement: “What the fallen women themselves are saying or doing is not important. … The first demand of the fallen woman is the demand for freedom from her fallen life. What they want is unimportant, the real issue is what we want for them and what we are doing about it.”

 

Rather than a long polemic over this, I want to move to Marx, at a very young age, provides with a different approach. In The Holy Family, there is a considerable discussion of gender in the context of Marx’s critique of Szeliga’s analysis of the French socialist Eugene Sue’s novel The Mysteries of Paris.

 

For Sue, the emphasis is on a questionable altruism shown  by the German Prince Rudolph. In Marx’s discussion, we find an examination of Fleur de Marie, a Paris prostitute, and Louise Morel, a sexually exploited servant of a bourgeois man. Marx’s description of Fleur de Marie rejects the specious philanthropy of Sue, which later affects the attitude of Mukherjee.

 

“We meet Marie surrounded by criminals, as a prostitute in bondage to the proprietress of the criminals’ tavern. In this debasement she preserves a human nobleness of soul, a human unaffectedness and a human beauty that impresses those around her, raise her to the level of a poetical flower of the criminal world and win for her the name of Fleur de Marie.” (The Holy Family, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 4, 168)

 

It is not an abstract moralism by which Marx judges Fleur de Marie, but by how her actions affect herself and others. Pointing to the hardships of working class women and girls, Marx rejects the priest’s description of Fleur de Marie as sinful. “The priest had made up his mind concerning Marie’s penance; in his own mind he has already condemned her.” (172)

 

As members of the proletariat have no way to survive but to sell their labour power, when there is not enough other work the women are forced to sell their bodies to survive. Marx sees her entering the nunnery as an illusory consolation which focuses on the mind at the expense of the body. Christian values forced her to focus on supposed crimes that she had committed, ignoring her reality.

 

Marx’s sharp remark is: “Convent life does not suit Marie’s individuality — she dies. Christianity consoles her only in imagination, or rather her Christian consolation is precisely the annihilation of her real life and essence — her death.” (176)

 

It could be argued that Kanak Mukherjee did not ask that all prostitutes be made to enter convents, whether by persuasion a la Rudolph or by the force of law. However, this is precisely the point — that her condemnation of the prostitutes as “fallen women” willy nilly pushes her in the same direction as Sue and Szeliga.

 

It is the moral degradation of the prostitute, not the society that has produced her, that Mukherjee’s article ends up stressing. Marx’s view of what she had done is put in other terms:

 

“The memory of the catastrophe of her life — her selling herself to the proprietress of the criminals’ tavern — puts her in a melancholy mood. It is the first time since her childhood that she has recalled these events…. Finally, contrary to Christian repentance, she pronounces on the past the human sentence, at once Stoic and Epicurean, of a free and strong nature: ‘Enfin ce qui est fait, est fait.’” [“In the end, what is done is done.” — ed.] (MECW v. 4, 169)

 

Coming from Marx, the identification Epicurean needs to be understood as “materialist.” And selling herself is caused by her need to survive. So she “considers her situation not as one she has freely created, not as the expression of her own personality, but as a fate she has not deserved.” (169)

 

The voice of Fleur de Marie should be given due attention: instead of a sweeping assertion that what she wants does not matter, what matters is what “we” (the liberators from above) want to do to her. It is ironic that a fictional Prince Rudolph is to appear in a Marxist garb over a century after Marx wrote.

 

Marx’s attitude to the issue is clear. He is not glorifying the initial condition of Fleur de Marie, when she certainly did not voluntarily choose to become a prostitute. But the alternative life she was given was far worse, as Marx saw it, for she was made to atone for something for which she was not responsible. To treat the prostitute as a fallen woman is to put the spotlight on her, and not on the social system that repressed her.

 

Marx and Engels on the Family

 

It is also worth looking at both The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, for the way Marx and Engels look at the family. Rejecting the possibility of looking at the family as a unit through the ages, they stressed (this was of course a joint work) that one has to look at the historical context, particularly the social relations involved in production.

 

“One cannot speak of the family ‘as such.’ Historically, the bourgeois gives the family the character of the bourgeois family, in which boredom and money are the binding link, and which also includes the bourgeois dissolution of the family, which does not prevent the family itself from always continuing to exist. … Where the family is actually abolished, as with the proletariat…the concept of the family does not exist at all, but here and there family affection based on extremely real relations is certainly to be found. In the eighteenth century the concept of the family was abolished by the philosophers, because the actual family was already in process of dissolution at the highest pinnacles of civilisation. The internal family bond, the separate components constituting the concept of the family were dissolved, for example obedience, piety, fidelity in marriage, etc; but the real body of the family, the property relation, the exclusive attitude in relation to other families, forced cohabitation … (MECW v. 5, 180-81)

 

The argument is repeated, with more rhetorical sweep, in The Communist Manifesto: “On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.”

 

As with much of the Manifesto, there is a compression involved. What they seem to be arguing is that the family in bourgeois society needs to be viewed distinctly from pre-capitalist families. This family, in its ideal form, existed among the bourgeoisie, while the absence of ownership of the means of production meant that in practice such a family  tended to be absent in the working class.

 

In the later writings of Marx we can certainly see that he recognized the existence of families among workers in practice. But there is no idealization of the family. There is no need to argue that Marx had arrived at positions developed by feminists. There is certainly no elaboration of the concept of patriarchy. What I am getting at is that Marx is simply pointing out that there is no universal form of family across time.

 

The German Ideology also provides some evidence of a much more complex attitude to women’s supposed inferiority. The discussion on the gender division of labour points out that the natural division that exists due to women’s different biology turns into something social, with wife and child being described as the first slaves of the husband.

 

Since this original “natural” division is seen in societies that have underdeveloped productive forces, social and productive development would render the division no longer necessary. At the same time, since women are “enslaved” (whether this was based on Marx’s class analysis and/or whether it was a linguistic turn of phrase), this suggests that technological improvement alone would not lead to women’s improvement. Rather, a suggestion exists that they would have to fight for their emancipation.

 

In an essay of 1846, to which Michael Löwy draws attention in his The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx, Marx looks at family-based and other “private” oppressions. Löwy argues that the essay “amounts to a passionate protest against patriarchy, the enslavement of women, including bourgeois women, and the oppressive nature of the bourgeois family.” Löwy adds that there are few things like this in Marx’s later writings.

 

Talking about the French Revolution and its aftermath, Marx wrote:

 

“The revolution has not overthrown all tyrannies; the evils of which the arbitrary authorities were accused persist in the family, where they cause crises analogous to those of revolutions.” (MECW v.4: 604)

 

Marx and Feminism

 

This is not to argue that Marx had prefigured every progressive step made by feminism. However, it suggests that Marx’s ideas very often put him closer to many feminist arguments and in opposition to Marxist Antifeminism. The argument that a political and economic revolution might not automatically mean the overthrow of all other oppressions, including particularly gender oppression, is one that would be made by socialist-feminists and Marxist-feminists about the Russian and other revolutions.

 

Kanak Mukherjee’s book Women’s Emancipation Movement in India ends with a quotation from Lenin. It is in fact a good argument that Lenin makes, since he talks about the communist women’s movement as a mass movement, not only of the proletariat, but of all the exploited and oppressed. (Mukherjee, 107-8)

 

What Mukherjee does not say, and what Karat would hesitantly admit in her book, is that the overthrow of capitalism did not mean gender equality. “With the general erosion of the commitment to socialist theory by ruling communist parties in many of these countries over a period of time, the conscious ideological and cultural struggle against patriarchal attitudes, which were the hallmark of the early years of the Bolshevik revolution, all but disappeared.” (Karat, 44).

 

The problem, however, was not simply the absence of “ideological and cultural struggles,” but the failure to understand the material roots of sexism. This is where in recent times Marxist-feminists have taken important strides forward, but basing themselves firmly on Marx.

 

Identity, Intersectionality and Class Struggle

 

Anti-Marxist arguments sometime come from those who claim identity politics, regarding each kind of oppression in itself as a distinct entity. My argument is that each of these oppressions are real. But they cannot be solved (a) within capitalist society, or (b) each on its own as if there were no connections. Thus, Dalit caste and gender are both real classifications. As the #MeToo campaign in India has thrown up, sexual harassment of Dalit women is rarely acknowledged.

 

Ruth Manorama, speaking at a meeting in late October, stressed the need to speak about the sexual harassment of Dalit women, which has been ignored for hundreds of years. Cynthia Stephen, writing about NGOs in Tamil Nadu, points out that when she protested against an abuser (who had abused another person, not herself) she was thrown out. She notes:

 

“Information was shared by others, not by me, to the funders of the organisation where I worked about the various wrongdoings of the executive director and the board members. But as far as I know, they did nothing to intervene at the time or maybe they chose to believe his lies and nobody asked me for my side of the story. Was it because I was seen as a Dalit woman and therefore one whose opinion did not matter?” (https://bit.ly/2Tg1Ugn)

 

One way of dealing with these problems is to create a hierarchy, deciding that certain oppressions take priority. This is what Antifeminist Marxism does in a way, arguing about class first, others later. Reversing the signs, this is what is sometimes done by anti-Marxist critics.

 

Marxist-feminists have been in the forefront of a new analysis. From Lise Vogel and a small number of others to Tithi Bhattacharya in recent times, a line of argument has been developed, stressing that Marx’s analytical tools and his own discussions in Capital and elsewhere can be extended.

 

Workers are sustained their paid and unpaid labor, which includes the care of workers, themselves as well as the care of the non-working members of the working-class family (the elderly, the children, the sick). Their survival ensures the replacement of their generation of workers by the next. This has been called social reproduction theory.

 

In the essay “How Not to Skip Class,” Tithi Bhattacharya writes: “Instead of the complex understanding of class historically proposed by Marxist theory, which discloses a vision of insurgent working class power capable of transcending sectional categories, today’s critics rely on a highly narrow vision of a ‘working class’ in which a worker is simply a person who has a specific kind of job.”

 

Bhattacharya follows closely Marx’s analysis of capitalism, and stresses, not that he had made all the connections, but that within his analysis there is scope for its expansion to a full-fledged social reproduction theory. Bhattacharya points out that workplace struggles are not the sole form in which class struggles are fought out.

 

“Workplace struggles thus have two irreplaceable advantages: one, they have clear goals and targets; two, workers are concentrated at those points in capital’s own circuit of reproduction and have the collective power to shut down certain parts of the operation. . . . But let us rethink the theoretical import of extra-workplace struggles, such as those for cleaner air, for better schools, against water privatization, against climate change, or for fairer housing policies. These reflect, I submit, those social needs of the working class that are essential for its social reproduction. They also are an effort by the class to demand its ‘share of civilization.’ In this, they are also class struggles.” (Viewpointmag.com, October 31, 2015.)

 

Bhattacharya, as well as David McNally in “Intersections and Dialectics: Critical Reconstructions in Social Reproduction Theory,” his essay in a volume Social Reproduction Theory (2017) edited by Bhattacharya, both argue that intersectionality theory leaves unexplained the potential for a unified theory of oppression and exploitation.

 

Nonetheless, whether we look at the context of intersectionality theory in the USA where Black Feminism arose as a response to exclusions, or to its current applications in India where both Dalit women and Queer activists have been talking about it as a response to their exclusions from the “mainstream,” I would argue that we cannot treat intersectionality as a failed framework.

 

Patricia Hill Collins had argued that oppressions should be seen as a single, historically created system. There do indeed exist multiple layers of oppression, and unless the specially oppressed and their conditions are understood and they have their own voice, one can collapse into the Cliff-type position where those points where men are “willing” to help must be foregrounded, while uncomfortable issues like rape and assault should be pushed to the rear.

 

Intersectional politics of oppressed social groups is not necessarily revolutionary. But neither is it reactionary. What is called “identity politics” involves struggles of different social groups. Intersectional identity politics is a step to recognising that it is possible to be oppressed in one context and privileged/oppressor in another.

 

Dalit women in recent times have challenged the #MeToo campaign in India, not because they are misogynists but because they feel it is focussing excessively, or even solely, on upper caste, comfortably placed women, ignoring much more systematic sexual harassment and sexual violence perpetrated on Dalit women.

 

When recently one queer activist made a Facebook post expressing happiness that the #MeToo campaign was showing that heterosexual women could also be facing trouble, most other queer activists took strong exception.

 

Intersectionality is therefore an awareness that there is not one homogeneous, simplified exploiter beating in the same way upon all the downtrodden. And it is an attempt to raise the awareness that unless the struggle for social progress consciously incorporates all the oppressions, they can never be overcome in some automatic manner. The struggle for empowerment and representation of one oppressed group can even further the oppression of another oppressed group if it does not act self-critically with regard to its own tactics and rhetoric.

 

Intersectionality may not lead to revolutionary directions. But the concept of the proletariat as a “universal class” in Marx suggests how Marx also provides a possible link between class struggle and intersectionality. If the emancipation of the proletariat is not possible without the emancipation of all the oppressed, this needs to be understood, not as an automatic function of an ideal proletarian revolution, but as the process where multiple oppressions are seen, addressed, and given proper representation.

 

For example, it might mean the need for building mass working class organizations where women, Dalits, Dalit women, queers, are represented in the program, in the organization, and in the leadership in increasingly growing numbers.

 

So we need to see that Marx’s method provides us with the tools to integrate different oppressions and shows how capitalism binds them together. Intersectionality shows us that these distinct oppressions do have autonomous dimensions. Today we find that a (re)turn to Marx has a lot to do with the pressure of concrete struggles.

 

If we did not acknowledge this, we might again turn to a wooden Marxism that would reduce class to abstract, casteless, raceless, genderless humans who simply sell their labor power at the marketplace. Marxist theory and practice must move forward, not back.

 

References:

 

Brinda Karat, Survival and Emancipation, Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2005.

 

Heather A. Brown, Marx on Gender and the Family, Haymarket, Chicago, 2013.

 

Michael Löwy, The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx (Historical Materialism book), Haymarket paperback, 2005; Brill hardcover, 2016.

 

Kanak Mukherjee, Women’s Emancipation Movement in India, National Book Centre, New Delhi, 1989.

 

Kanak Mukhopadhyay, Nari Andolaner Nana Katha, National Book Agency, Kolkata, 2001.

 

Kanak Mukhopadhyay, Marxbad O Narimukti, Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samiti, Kolkata, 2001.

 

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, vol.4, 1975.

 

Karl Marx, “Peuchet: On Suicide,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, vol.4, 1975.

 

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, vol.5, 1976.

 

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, vol.6, 1976.

 

Lise Vogel, Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory (with an introduction by Susan Ferguson and David McNally), Haymarket, Chicago, 2013.

 

Soma Marik, “German Socialism and Women’s Liberation,” in Anuradha Chanda, Mahua Sarkar and Kunal Chattopadhyay (Eds), Women in History, Progressive Publishers, Kolkata, 2003.

 

Tithi Bhattacharya (Ed), Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression, Pluto Press, London, 2017.

Tony Cliff, Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation, Bookmarks, Second Printing, London, 1987

 

Reproduced from Against the Current March-April 2019

The feminist strike extends across Europe

 

Wednesday 6 March 2019, by Laia Facet

In 2016 Polish feminists went on a feminist strike to defend the decriminalization of abortion and in defense of reproductive rights; months later the Argentines stopped the country in protest against femicides and went on to call months later for the first international women’s strike. The contagion is spreading. Already in 2018, the feminist strike in the Spanish State was the great surprise of the day and this year the strike has broken through into Europe.

This feminist incursion comes after a decade of austerity policies that have revealed and exacerbated social and economic inequalities. Of course, these have a clear gender impact. The struggles against the processes of privatization and cuts to the public sector of the previous cycle are taken up by the feminist movements in recent years particularly in health, education and social services, as well as the struggles in highly feminized labour sectors such as cleaning or care.

However, the crisis has had a particularly acute impact among migrant women who carry the bulk of reproductive and care burdens throughout Europe, filling the increasing gaps left by cuts and privatisation of state provision. With different intensities in each country, the presence in the feminist debate of migrant women is already an indisputable and indispensable fact. From one country to another, from the Spanish State to Belgium, demands for the right to have rights are central. With the threatening boom of the most authoritarian and reactionary right, feminism must necessarily shout loudly in an antiracist fashion. This involves taking part and building the organisations of migrant and racialized women that exist in Europe.

Precisely that same authoritarian boom began an attack on the rights and freedoms of women, trans people and the LGTBI + collective as a whole in recent years. Attacks that have consequently generated a reaction, politicization and mobilization of these same sectors. Among these struggles, we can highlight the struggle for abortion and reproductive rights in Poland or Ireland, to give examples of the most important mobilization.

Evidently, the fight against sexist violence has been a vector of radicalization on a world scale, including in Europe. This conflict has precipitated the entry of a whole new generation into feminism. Among the changes that are demanded the central one concerns the collective and structural nature of violence. After decades of a mantra in which violence was considered an intimate, personal, family problem ... this feminist cycle has exposed the systematic, structural and political character of violence. This fight is repeated in practically all European countries from Italy to Denmark, passing through Germany and France. Feminist movements in Europe are planning mobilizations and defending concrete demands.

The response to the strike call on this 8M will be a snapshot although always imprecise, of the state of feminist movements in Europe. We can affirm that, despite the unequal development of the movement in the whole of the continent, this year more countries will organize on the day of feminist strike. Feminists have launched a strike call for March 8 2019 in places including Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland or Germany where a new layer of women is getting involved and revitalizing the feminist struggle. This spreading of the call to different European countries plays a key role in the expectations we have in the Spanish State for the success of the feminist strike.

This year there will be elections to the European Parliament and, therefore, to extend and nurture the autonomous feminist movement will be fundamental to build the necessary networks to face the authoritarian offensive that can be expected with the growth of the extreme right. Perhaps this 8M, Europe trembles before the advance of feminists.

Iran: What happened after March 8 1979

 

Thursday 7 March 2019

An interview by Shirin Shalkooi.

Can you introduce yourself ?

I’m Fariba, I’m a communist women and a member of the 8 March Women’s Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) [1] . It is an independent and democratic organisation with a revolutionary approach. By « democratic », we mean that women from different ideology and backgrounds can be a member of our organisation. « Independent » means that we are separate from the men and from political parties or governmental institutions. Women of Afghanistan are the most oppressed women in Iran, they are not considered as citizens in the country so a lot of Afghan women living in Iran won’t call themselves Iranian.

The statistics show that violence against women is increasing. In 2014, there were a series of acid attacks in the city of Isfahan by men who judged that women didn’t wear the hijab properly. By then, we understood that we needed to build a coalition with other women to act in the long run and not just occasionally. Two years ago, we started to work in a campaign named Karzar (#kaarzaar) [2] to fight state, social and domestic violence against women in Iran. The campaign involved women from the 8 March organisation but also other activists, women’s organisations and leftists.

For us, revealing the link between the three different forms of violence – social, domestic and state - is really essential. If we use only the term « violence against women », leftists often focus only on the violence of the state and ignore domestic violence. When you speak about social violence (that is violence in public spaces) or domestic violence, some feminists have a tendency to downplay state violence. We argue that there are different spheres of violence that work together and reinforce each other and that we have to fight them all.

Another important political position of Karzar is that we all agree that there is no possibility that women’s situation can improve without overthrowing the Islamic regime of Iran. There are other political organisations are in the opposition of the regime such as the People’s Mujaheddin (National Council of Resistance of Iran) who are pro-imperialist or the Monarchists, but we are totally different from them too. Karzar is a coalition in exile, most of the women live in Belgium, England, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Turkey and Sweden. Some women in Iran do follow us but we don’t make any official contact because it is too dangerous for them.

What are the key points of the situation in Iran ?

After the takeover of the Islamic regime in February 1979, we always had resistance in the society. But, last year, in Dey mah [3] there was a major class uprising that changed the whole political atmosphere. Before that, the hegemony of the political ideology of opposition was reformism. If you wanted to do something, everyone was answering you “we need time”, “we can change something with another President”... We changed some faces like Moussavi, Khatami or Rohani but it didn’t change anything in our political situation because all of them defend the interests of the ruling class.

The Dey protests were really important because nobody could believe the huge anger of the people who shouted that they didn’t want the Islamic regime anymore. Poor people, ethnic minorities, women and men, took to the streets in hundred of cities and villages that, as a political activist, I didn’t even know existed. It was a snub to the reformists who spread the idea that the working class and less educated people support the regime. Since the Dey protests, the reformists lost some power and it is the best moment to talk about changes and alternatives.

This year, 2019, is the 40th anniversary of the takeover of the Revolution by the Islamic regime. At that time, the Islamic fundamentalists took the power but the revolution wasn’t made by them. It started with leftist, communist and secular organisations. The leftists did a big mistake by thinking that they could go hand in hand with the Islamists against the Shah [4] and the imperialist powers. Because most Iranian people are religious, they thought that they could use Khomeini [5] as an Islamic ideological leader for the revolution and that they will be able to change the society after it. But Khomeini had his own plans, he wanted to build an Islamic State and the Hezbollah party [6].

After two years of political freedom just after the revolution, the regime began to forbid all other political parties. Over 7 years, they arrested and killed thousands and thousands of activists and political opponents. We lost them physically but we also lost their experiences, this is a big loss for the young generations who have lived only under the hegemony of the Islamic regime. Most of the rest of the « generation of the revolution » is either in exile, or not politically active anymore. In the nineties, the regime started to give some freedom for reformist parties to be built but not parties built by the people, they were parties, organizations and unions built by the reformist part of the government, parties built from the top and controlled by the regime. They made fake « trade unions » and fake « organisations » to control and profile activists.

Ten years ago, before the «Iranian green movement» in 2009, we had a movement of students, workers, teachers and women. After the uprising of December 2017, all those movements and especially the environmentalist, the women, the drivers, the nurses and the teachers, became more radical. For example, there are new unofficial trade unions trying to stay independent from the state like the workers struggle of the sugar refinery of Haft Tapeh.

This radicalism doesn’t come from nowhere. During the last ten years, the Iranian regime had to establish more and more relationship with western advanced capitalist countries. They call themselves anti-imperialist but this is just varnish. They had the illusion that those relationship will help them overcome the effects of the worldwide capitalist crisis.

Rohani signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the P5+1 (America, Russia, China, United-Kingdom, France and Germany) which brought more capital and enabled them to sign official contracts with the cartels. But, in every country, neoliberal policies increase the gap between the rich and the poor. In May 2018, Trump announced the withdrawal of US from the agreement and re-established strong economic sanctions. Almost overnight, the prices of essential goods tripled. Can you imagine that? You cannot find products imported from the west like Pampers [7] or women’s sanitary products anymore.

Some workers didn’t get paid for one year (one or two months pay during the year is the best anyone can expect). This affects both the public and the private sectors and in fact it is really difficult to make a distinction between them in Iran. For example, numerous guards of Sepah-e Pasdaran, the paramilitary army of the regime, are the owners of so-called «private» companies. A lot of small companies had to close down and a lot of people are jobless for years. We see situations that we never faced, some people sleep in empty graves in the cemeteries because they don’t have other shelter.

The climate and environmental questions are also important. Scientists say that many parts of Iran will soon become uninhabitable. The situations in the countryside is generally worse because some people don’t have access to water. Water wars have started in Iran. In Isfahan last week, we could see that they had water again in the famous Zayendeh river but it is mostly for the tourism. The decision makers bring water from other cities and villages, mostly from the areas of Iran where Arabs live. The environmental problem mixes with the national question because the water is taken from poor region where people of the minorities don’t have any rights. Isfahan is a good example because it has many steel plants which need a lot of water but the city is in the middle of the desert. Can you imagine? It is really crazy.

The Shah wanted to build industries for the prestige of the city, to bring power in the center. Now, on the one hand (for example in Haft-Tappe) if they want to keep the industries, it takes all the water. And in the other hand, if they close them, there are five thousand workers who lose their job. These are some examples of the conflicts between the needs and welfare of people and the neoliberal agenda of the Islamic regime.

The crisis that capitalism has brought upon in Iran is not just economic, it is also political. There are contradictions inside the Iranian regime but also between the Iranian regime and western countries and between the Iranian regime and other powers in the Middle East. Inside the regime itself, the government don’t know how to solve the crisis and there is no unity as there were 30 years ago. Historically, there are two main political positions. There are the ones who think that we need to reinforce the ideologic varnish of the Islamic regime and keep allies like Russia and China against « imperialism » because the opposition against America is important for the supporters and sympathisers of the Islamic regime. On the other hand, there is the “Rohani part” who think we have to develop more relations with the west to fulfil the neoliberal agenda of the regime: to fit themselves into the global market by providing a cheap labor source as well as providing a big market of consumers.

After Trump’s last move, both positions are in crisis. We fear a war with America but it is not easy to predict. I think we are already at war, not inside Iran but in Syria, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Palestine, in Lebanon. Everywhere the Iranian regime makes war to strengthen its front against America and its allies, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and sometimes Turkey. There is a strong nationalist tendency in Iran and a lot of Iranians are racist against Arabs, Afghans and other people from ethnic minorities. However, the regime does not acknowledge these complexities: for the Iranian regime, either you are with them or you are with America. This dynamic is really important both for the Iranian and the American regime because it prevents people thinking about alternatives.

About anti-imperialism, one of the biggest mistakes of the communists was that they didn’t understand that the essence of imperialism is based on relations of production. Some communists think imperialism is only the USA, because it is the world’s first military power and they attack everywhere. But imperialism is relations of production and the Iranian regime was never anti-imperialist. From the very beginning, they had the exact same interests in international economic relationships as defined by imperialism. Some parties like PTB [8] and other currents make that mistake, but they didn’t experience the kind of revolution we did.

The Iranian regime reproduces imperialistic economical relationships with its neighbours, for example in Syria. So, they cannot call themselves “anti-imperialist”. For that, they would need to be socialist, which Iran has never been so far. It’s a very big mistake of some parts of the Western left to support this regime and consider Iranian regime to be an anti-imperialist regime based on its fake facade. Another common mistaken approach towards regimes like Iran is the argument of cultural relativism and arguing that “Iranians are not ready for socialism, or anti-capitalism, or women’s liberation”. But it’s not true!

Can you talk about the situation of the women and why March is an important month for the women’s movement in Iran ?

The problem of the economic and class gap firstly and directly affects women. Women are the first to be under economic pressure, the first victims of poverty, as everywhere. Poverty and the prolétariat are feminine. In Iran, it’s the same.

In most Third World countries, we still have a mix between slavery, feudalism and the modern capitalist wage system. Also, the Islamic State uses religion as an ideological tool of power and domination. The Iranian Islamic regime was the first to build an Islamic State with God as the ultimate leader. All these relationships support and feed the subordination of women that we call the patriarchal oppression. The Imams updated the tenets of Islam from thousands of years ago to use it in a “modern” capitalist state but a lot of the Sharia laws are still based on slavery and feudalism. For example, a father has the right to kill his wife or daughter if he suspects of having sexual relations (with a man?).

Women are trapped in a contradiction because the wage system and neoliberalism give them more right to leave home, to go to work or to study. But, on the other hand Islamic fundamentalist ideology considers their place is to stay at home. That is why the regime imposes the hijab, so that women have to show that when they go out of their husband or father’s home, they are still under their control, the control of the state and the control of God. The hijab functions as a portable prison for women.

It is not easy to be a woman under these contradictions. Some revolutionary communists don’t understand that laws have a real impact on people’s lives. If women want to resist and fight the Islamic regime, they firstly need some basic minimum bourgeois democratic rights to be full citizens. In Iran, when someone kills somebody, he has to pay an amount of money (called Diya– blood money). This money is halved when the victim is a woman. If a woman gives testimony in court, her words has half of the value of a man’s words. This means that you are officially considered as half of a man. You don’t have the right to study, to work or to travel without your father or your husband permission. Of course, a lot of women do it, especially women from the big cities, but men potentially have the right to control women and prevent them from doing any of those things. They also have the right to rape and to beat them. If a stranger does rape you, he can easily use the argument that you were not wearing your hijab properly or that you didn’t have permission to go out. If a woman is married, it is likely that having a relationship with another man would lead to sentencing to death by stoning.

Two weeks after Khomeini came to power, the first reactionary sign was that women were forced to cover themselves in public. All over the world, the very first attacks of the reactionary forces primarily target women. It is the case in Afghanistan with the Taliban, in Iraq with Daesh (ISIS), in America with Trump.

In Iran, it was in March 1979. During six days, thousands of women went out in the streets to protest against the Ayatollah’s fatwa. Compared to the other demonstrations during the revolution, this one was not the biggest but it was mostly women. They were attacked by Islamic militants with acid, guns and razor blades. We call this women’s demonstration “the birth of the new women’s movement” because it was the first time in the history of the country that women went in the streets to fight for gender issues.

Women went in the streets for the revolution, for economic reasons, against the war and over many other social questions, but against gender oppression. They were really, really, brave to oppose Khomeini at that time because almost everyone accepted him as a leader and almost all the parties considered him as a progressive anti-imperialist leader. Women were the first to understand that the regime was reactionary and they had a famous slogan: “we didn’t make revolution to go backward, we made revolution to go forward”.

This history is poorly known and not properly conveyed. We try to keep it alive with the women’s movement. There are some books, articles, interviews and also the small movie “Année zéro” [9] made by the French Movement for Women’s Liberation (MLF). The women’s political role at that moment was not recognised by the communist, socialist and secular people. Unfortunately, back then, in some leaflets of political forces and even leftists, women were called “bourgeois”, “monarchist”, “sympathisers of the Shah family, Ashraf or Farah”, “bitch”. After the attacks on the women, the regime starts to attack ethnic minorities; Turkman, Kurds, Arab, gay people, and other minority groups. And then, after all that, left parties. As told by a German poet “first they came for … then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me”.

As women, we have to resist against many things and fight for everything: for what we want to wear, to eat, to say, for the way we want to be or to act, for the right to go to school, to come home late, to play sport,... From first thing in the morning, you start “against my father, my brother, my husband”. The regime controls your bed, your privacy: “with whom you are, why, how long and what is the result?”. When you resist everything, you are like a soldier who is permanently on-call. Women fight in their own creative ways to survive in our daily life and also to go forward, to change their condition. Step by step. 60 percent of the students in university are women which means that they want to be in the public spaces. Dey mah was important because when the whole society is against the regime, it gives you more driving force, power and place to show that you refuse the control of your body.

The women who took off their scarves in public places did so not only to have a photograph taken but to stay there, to fight, to convey a message. These are women who want to overthrow the regime. For me, as a revolutionary woman whose concern is women’s emancipation, acquiring the right to wear what we like is not the goal, though it is a very basic right that everybody should have. Our fight against compulsory Hijab is not limited to the right to control what we wear , but to choose our clothing has another, deeper level and that is the concept of Hijab. The hijab has a special function, it is the flag of the Islamic regime on women’s body. It is the symbol of women subordination, treating women as a commodity and as sex objects. The patriarchal oppression in the capitalist system of exploitation needs to control women’s body as a tool for reproduction. It is not just a question of religion and ideology, it has actual material basis. If we get a secular regime it will not automatically mean that the control of women’s body will stop.

Why do you think we need an international struggle?

We need to learn from each other, not to copy. We can’t dictate our way of fighting to the others but we need to learn from our respective achievements. With Karzar, it is really important for us to strengthen our voices. We don’t support either the Iranian Islamic regime, or the imperialist intervention.

I don’t want Belgian women to fight against the Iranian regime in Iran, we can do that. I do want them to fight against their own regime in Belgium, that is their role. If they fight well, it will be easier for us to fight there. Imperialism works because anti-imperialist movements in western countries are weak. If the women’s movement has a revolutionary face in Belgium, not a reformist one, of course we will get more victories in Iran. For me, that is the meaning of internationalism. I don’t fight only for the freedom of the Iranian people. If we overthrow the Iranian regime in a revolutionary way, we open a window for the people of many Middle Eastern and islamic fundamentalist countries to fight against their regimes.

We have a lot to teach feminist women in the western countries. If they learn the lessons about the reactionary forces in Iran, they can understand the danger of the far-right. Internationalism is not begging western feminist to come to our demonstrations and make speeches for us. Of course, it is nice and it shows support, but we need more than that. We need a united comprehensive international fight against the patriarchal class systems all over the world.

Support : join the rally in Brussels in front of the Iranian embassy, Friday 8 March at 2.30pm here

Further readings :

Dominique Lerouge, ESSF (article 43456), Iran : 39 ans après le 8 mars 1979 : http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article43456

Frieda Afary, ESSF (article 47941), Iran: Ongoing Labor Strikes, Women’s Protests and Ideas for International Solidarity : http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article47941

Alliance of Middle East Socialists https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/womens-emancipation-gender-and-sexual-minorities/

Footnotes

[1] www.8mars.com .

[2] karzar means campaign in farsi

[3] During December 2017.

[4] The then monarch of Iran.

[5] He was the first Ayatollah (Supreme leader) of Iran.

[6] The party of God.

[7] a major brand of disposable nappies.

[8] Parti de Travailleurs Belgique, the Belgian Worker’s Party.

[9] year zero

 

From International Viewpoint

PULWAMA “END THE PERNICIOUS CYCLE”!

Radical Socialist statement

 

Terrorism is not a reference to any category of persons but refers to a particular method, technique or tactic that involves the killing or injuring of innocent civilians or, outside of a battle or war zone, of even soldiers who by virtue of the distinctive nature of the attack are rendered completely defenceless. Precisely because terrorism is an act of this kind it can be and is carried out by the individual, a group, or larger collectivities like the apparatuses of the state. The car bomb attack that has killed 40 CRPF soldiers is just such an act and deserves the strongest condemnation. As in all cases of terrorism our sympathies and condolences are with the loved ones, families, relatives and friends of the victims. The perpetration was a lone Kashmiri youth Adil Ahmad Dar, while responsibility for preparing and training him was publicly claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group that has been sponsored and supported by important sections of the Pakistan Establishment. Given that this is the case what should be the course of justice for the immediate as well as the longer term that we should demand?

  • The golden rule of justice is to seek punishment for those identified as guilty. Given that JeM has announced its responsibility there is little reason to doubt its culpability. Nevertheless, the Indian government should publicly disclose all evidence pointing to and confirming this if for no other reason than to fully persuade the peoples of Pakistan, India and the rest of the world of who the guilty ones are and thereby not only build pressure from all quarters for their indictment; but by doing so also counter false and motivated conspiracy theories of all sorts. Yes, the Pakistan government must in any case be pressured to take action against the JeM given its past history. As it is, Pakistan has also suffered from terrorist attacks against its people and institutions but there are those in the wider governing Establishment who make a hypocritical and self-serving distinction between those agents who are ‘ours’ and others.

  • There is indirect state sponsorship and support for agents who have the autonomy to decide when, where and how terrorist acts are to be carried out; and there is direct state execution of such terrorist across country borders (the greatest and most pernicious of such states being the US which since 1945 has killed more civilians outside its territory than all the rest of the world’s countries put together have done). Sponsorship abets an act of international terrorism even if it is not the embodiment of such an act. But there is still between the two a very important qualitative difference politically and in respect of international law. The latter carried out as it were by the official armed forces of a country is an act of war, declared or undeclared. A non-state actor, even when abetted in preparations by a government, no matter how reprehensible this is, is not an act of war. Which is why, for the Modi government to declare that the attack in Pulwama is just such an act of war is not only wrong but it is politically speaking extremely dangerous since it raises the military-political stakes so much higher. That this government should nevertheless resort to such jingoistic rhetoric raises suspicions that the BJP is planning to use this encounter to generate greater communal tensions for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The aim is to whip up public anger against the people and government of Pakistan on one hand and against the people of Kashmir on the other hand – yet another example of a thinly disguised politics of anti-Muslimness that has always been central to the fascistic ideology and politics of the Sangh Parivar.

  • An attack by the Indian Army across the border against Pakistani soldiers, let alone against civilians, will not be a ‘revenge’ because it will cause injuries and deaths to those who have nothing to do with what has happened in Pulwama. This will only cause widespread anger and bitterness among a Pakistan public about the injustice being done to its soldiers and/or civilians and help rally domestic support for their own government including for those sections which are behind such cross-border assaults, when in fact everything should be done to isolate and undermine these sections within the country. Any hopes of moving towards greater democratization within Pakistan and an end to, or cumulative reduction of, military domination will be seriously undermined by Indian actions that push the Pakistani public to support that military in the name of their own form of belligerent nationalism. All progressives in Pakistan working to democratize that society understand this fully (and much more than progressives in India) realize that progress internally in this regard is directly and intimately connected to greater sobriety, balance and moderation in the ties between the two countries. Religious extremism on both sides, however, feeds on generating greater hatred and hostility between the two countries and peoples.

  • Terrorism always has a specific political context. In this case, as in so many other examples of unwarranted violence by non-state and state actors (including by the Indian government), the context is Kashmir! The fundamental diagnosis is clear. While the Pakistan government since the late 1980s has fished in the ‘troubled waters’ of turbulence and alienation in Kashmir those ‘troubled waters’ have been created by successive Indian governments with the current Central government adding a distinctive anti-Muslim attitude and practice to its involvement in Kashmir. Even in the initial decades from independence to the late 1980s when serious levels of domestic violent activism arose, there has been betrayal after betrayal of the commitments made to respect the state’s autonomy even as the province as suffered more frequently from the imposition of President’s Rule than any other Indian state.

There are over 650,000 troops of all kinds primarily in the Valley making the proportion of armed personnel to civilians the worst in the world when according to New Delhi the number of militants or designated ‘terrorists’ in recent years is not more than a few hundred or so. This huge presence of troops is required primarily to monitor and subdue a general population whose alienation and anger against New Delhi has spreader wider and deeper than ever before. Among Kashmiri Muslims this has been further exacerbated by this government which has justified the firing on stone-pelters, excused the occasional firing on bystanders as well as condoning the generally humiliating treatment of the populace, not to forget the use of pellet guns injuring and maiming hundreds of unarmed demonstrators. Given this reality it is extraordinary that the Indian army is now saying that they will shoot on sight anyone carrying a gun who does not immediately surrender. All this has not lessened the willingness of Kashmiri youth to get training from the all too willing providers like the JeM across the border; or to carry out their own ‘martyrdom’ through suicide bombings to make their personal statement against the injustices done to them.

 The path to reducing and finally eliminating attacks such as in Pulwama does not lie in belligerent posturing or ‘surgical strikes’ across the border let alone in escalating military tensions and actions between the two nuclearly-armed neighbours. It lies above all in addressing the political context of Kashmir and in ensuring justice to all in the province especially in the Valley, be they resident Muslims or Hindu Pandits wanting to live there with peace and amity once again restored. It is not the Indian government’s actions against Pakistan but its behavior in Kashmir that will be decisive for shaping the future. Will alienation there further deepen making it a continuing breeding ground for the cycle of on one side non-state terrorism (aided or otherwise from across the border) and on the other side the state terrorism of the Indian armed forces? Or will we work to end that pernicious cycle altogether?


February 20. 2019.

Appeal for Solidarity from Nicaraguan Activists

Nicaragua

Urgent Communiqué: Nicaraguan government attacks human rights groups, NGOs, media

Wednesday 19 December 2018, by Articulación de Movimientos Sociales,

Alert and Request for International Condemnation: Nicaraguan Government Raids the offices of the principal human rights, non-governmental and media organizations.

The following statement is from the Articulación de Movimientos Sociales, the coalition of social movements in Nicaragua. Alert and Request for International Condemnation: Nicaraguan Government Raids the offices of the principal human rights, non-governmental and media organizations.

Acting as virtual armed bandits and stealing anything valuable in sight, Nicaraguan police this morning raided the office of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the country’s most emblematic human rights organization, along with the offices of seven other civil society organizations: Popol Na, the Segovias Leadership Institute (ILS), Fundación del Rio, the Communication Research Center (CINCO), the Institute for the Promotion of Democracy (IPADE), the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP) and the Center for Health Information and Services (CISAS), where they seized assets including vehicles, cash, personal property and registries. They also sacked the office of one of the country’s main independent news outlets, Confidencial, as well as the offices of Esta Semana, Esta Noche and Onda Local, stealing all computers and television editing equipment, and raided the offices of two other businesses on Confidencial’s premises.

During the raids, paramilitary and uniformed officers, who arrived without warrants or other legal justification, also beat and kidnapped the mothers of political prisoners who were staying at the Popol Na premises. At least three guards at the different facilities were attacked and kidnapped according to the organizations. Confidencial editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro qualified the raid as an attack on freedom of expression, part of the growing harassment that independent media has suffered from the government in recent months. Chamorro also heads CINCO, but the groups offices are in a separate location. Inspecting the premises, Jose Adan Aguerri, of the Private Enterprise Council (COSEP), called the raid an assault on private sector entities. The targeted organizations — including CINCO, but not Confidencial — were among those whose legal standing was removed in the last few days.

Yesterday, the National Assembly cancelled the legal recognition of five groups, bringing the total to nine civil society organizations shut down within two weeks. The cancellations mean that the groups cannot have bank accounts, receive funding, or carry out projects, and that their property is subject to confiscation. Authorities allege the organizations, which include some of the country’s most respected human rights groups, were working to destabilize the government. But local and international human rights groups denounced that the move is aimed at silencing organizations that have reported on widespread and ongoing human rights violations.

These latest acts are part of the systematic violence and intimidation against Nicaraguan civil society which reached a critical level on April 18th of this year. The social, political and economic crisis over the last 8 months includes over 300 people killed, over 2,000 wounded and with over 600 political prisoners. These latest acts also aggravate the "state of exception" in Nicaragua (a country devoid of rule of law, as declared by the head of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission on the situation in Nicaragua) where arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and people critical of the government continues constantly. In this moment of extreme attacks and intimidation, the Nicaraguan Platform for Social Movements and Civil Society Organizations calls for solidarity from social movements and political and human rights groups worldwide. The Platform also calls upon governments and organizations to denounce such actions and demand that the government account, nationally and internationally, for its criminal behavior.

We make a particularly strong call to organizations and governments that have remained silent until now, choosing instead to not pressure the regime in case it may have a “change of heart”. This strategy has been naïve and harmful. During their silence, the repression has gotten worse by the day and the regime’s legitimacy has been completely lost, with levels of repression that have led civil society to legitimately demand the resignation of the President and Vice-President that are responsible for the attacks.

The voice of those organizations matter, and they must use them to protect human rights. Nicaraguan civil society groups are working tirelessly to stand firm and demand respect for the basic human rights of all Nicaraguans. Yet, the larger international community to which we belong, made up of institutions and people that work against violence and abuse of power, and in favor people’s capacity to live in peace and with basic rights, must speak up now, when we most need them.

We call on these individuals and institutions to show solidarity by denouncing the state’s repression publicly and formally; to protest directly at Nicaraguan consulates and embassies worldwide through calls and visits; to pressure their own governments to formally demand an end to the attacks; and to demand that all international organizations that work in Nicaragua speak out against these abuses, including those members of the UN system with offices in Nicaragua that have remained silent on these issues.

“Only the People can Save the People”—Solo el Pueblo salva al Pueblo”

Nicaraguan Platform for Social Movements and Civil Society Organizations US at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

#AltoalaRepresiónNic #LibertadparaPresosPoliticosNic #JusticiaporlosasesinadosNic #SOSNicaragua

December 15, 2018


From International Viewpoint

Resist the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018

Statement of Radical Socialist, 23 December 2018

 

Radical Socialist affirms, first of all,

1. Sexuality generally is an important political issue. The oppression faced by Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender people (LGBTs), is real.

2. We fight for a combination between the left and working class movement and the Queer movement (also movements of all other oppressed), without calling for the subordination of LGBT movement to any other movements.

3. We believe, though it may not be obvious, that the elimination of oppressions of LGBTs, like any other oppressed groups is necessarily linked with elimination of class society based on private ownership over means of production and the elimination of the exploitative and oppressive state, which can be summarised as elimination of capitalism. The vast majority of transgenders are of the working class. So working class unity necessarily requires struggling against all forms of oppression within this working class; including consciousness by relatively less oppressed layers of workers about special or multiple oppression; while every oppressed section within the working class must also be part of the common collective struggle against class oppression, i.e. against capitalism.

Our stand on the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 is based on the struggles of the Transgender community and organisations within it. The long struggles of the Transgender community saw one significant achievement, when the NALSA judgement came. This was a Supreme Court judgement which made acknowledging the self-definition of identity important.

Part of the judgement read:

Gender identity refers to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body which may involve a freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or functions by medical, surgical or other means and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms. Gender identity, therefore, refers to an individual’s self-identification as a man, woman, transgender or other identified category.”

The NALSA judgement also ends with a demand from the Supreme Court that the central and the state governments uphold the right of transgender persons to decide their self-identified gender; and pursuant to this, be granted full legal recognition towards the same. This judgement was an important one, in a way too good to be true in a country where patriarchy and homophobia are so deeply entrenched. The parliamentary reaction under the Hindutva forces shows the backlash by the elite to the judgement.

Self-declaration versus regulation by bureaucracy:

 The importance of self-declaration is that it avoids any filter that any kind of legislation is likely to set up. The transgender community is a minority group that has borne a history of incessant discrimination, state sanctioned violence and systemic marginalisation. The inclusion and acceptance of the diversity of experiences under the umbrella of "transgender" can be realised fully only when there is a liberty to each individual to claim their identity and be legally recognised for it. The proposal in the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018 is to set up a two-tier screening process to determine gender identity. If a Transgender person wants to get legal acknowledgement for the chosen identity, and applies for a “third gender” identity then the District Magistrate will have to be the person to whom application is submitted. A District Screening Committee will look into the application. It will include psychologists, medical officers, etc. Their certification is essential. If the wish is not for a “third gender” identity, but for the “opposite” gender, that is, if it is a cis-man asking for recognition as woman, or the reverse, then they have to get a certification from a committee, along with having Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) and submitting its evidence to the District Magistrate. This flies in the face of the NALSA judgement which asserted that any insistence for SRS for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal.

Anti Transgender Features of the Bill:

 The Bill also criminalizes begging by making it an offense. Given the long history of the Hijras, the inclusion of this clause in this particular bill has to be seen as something pointed against them. In a country where so many are jobless, where begging in general is so widespread in all the big cities, to target begging in a bill devoted to Transgender Persons is so palpably a hostile act, that not just socialists and members of the LGBT+ community, but anyone claiming to be a democrat, has to oppose this.

The bill provides for a lower punishment for sexual violence against transgender persons (maximum two years) as opposed to the law punishing sexual violence against cis-women, which is up to seven years.

The bill treats transgender persons not as equal humans, empowered subjects, but as victims who require protection.

The bill attempts to compel transgender persons to return to the families in which they were born. The real situation is, in many cases they have left those families because of patriarchal and anti-trans oppression/violence. Thus, the bill effectively ignores domestic violence when the violence is directed against transgender persons.

The bill ignores the Supreme Court suggestion that transgenders be seen as a Backward Class/Community and reservations be made for them.

Under the circumstances, we condemn the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018.

We demand:                                                      

 

  • ·         A Law that follows the NALSA verdict

    ·          A law that is made in consultation with wide sections of transgender organisations across India

    ·         Reservation for Transgender persons in accordance with the NALSA verdict

    ·          An end to the criminalization of the profession of Hijras

    ·          A recognition of the alternative family/social networking of the transgender people which they have chosen, instead of forcing them to return to their families of birth.

 

 

We urge all transgender and other queer activists to recognise the necessity of unity of all sectors of the oppressed and exploited. This should not be seen as a rhetorical remark. Specific demands, such as the call for reservation, while perfectly just, will be used by the elite to divide the poor, as they already do. Unless the necessary links between different segments of the exploited and oppressed are worked out and organisational links forged, each struggle will remain isolated, and be easier to defeat. We may mobilise, and win some legal victories, but neither the law on minimum wages nor the law on self-identification will mean anything unless we have the united force to snatch from the rulers what we need.

 

১৯১৭ সালের কৃষক বিপ্লব

 

 

 

সারা ব্যাডকক


১৯১৭ সালে, রাশিয়াতে সাধারণ গ্রামীণ মানুষ নিজেদের দুনিয়া পাল্টে নেবেন বলে

প্রত্যক্ষ সংগ্রামের পথ ধরেছিলেন।

প্রাক বিপ্লব রুশ কৃষক

 

১৯১৭ সালে রাজনৈতিক খেলাটা পাল্টে গেল শেষমেষ কৃষকদের জন্য।সশস্ত্র, ঊর্দী পরা কৃষকরা সৈনিকের কাজ করতেন, ফলে রাজনৈতিক ক্ষমতা গড়া ও ভাঙ্গার কাজ তাঁরা করতেন। নগর রাশিয়ার বাসিন্দাদের বড় অংশ হিসেবে তাঁরা শহরগুলিতে অভ্যুত্থানেও বড় ভূমিকা পালন করেছিলেন।  কিন্তু আমরা যখন কৃষকের বিপ্লবের কথা বলি, তখন সাধারণত আমরা উল্লেখ করি জমি ব্যবহার ও মালিকানার লড়াইয়ের কথার।  আর, যদিও রাশিয়ার মানুষের ৮০ শতাংশের বেশী ১৯১৭ সালে শহর না, এমন জায়গাতেই বাস করতেন, তবু, বহু সময়ে গবেষকরা রুশ বিপ্লবে কৃষকদের অংশগ্রহণ ও অভিজ্ঞতাকে প্রান্তিক স্তরে রেখে জোর দেন নিছক শহুরে শ্রমিক এবং বুদ্ধিজীবীদের উপর।

গ্রামাঞ্চলের অভ্যুথানগুলির বহুত্ব, তাদের জটিলতা, কৃষক আন্দোলন সম্পর্কে আমাদের সরলীকৃত ধারণাদের দূর করে দেবে। তারা আরও দেখায়, বিপ্লবের অনন্যসাধারণ সৃজনশীলতা এবং রূপান্তরের ক্ষমতা।

কৃষক অভ্যুত্থানের কোনো সহজ সংজ্ঞা হয় না। ১৯১৭ সালে তারা কাল এবং ভৌগোলিক দিক থেকে যত ছড়িয়ে পড়েছিল, ততই রুশ সাম্রাজ্যের বিশাল আয়তনে ছড়িয়ে থাকা বৈচিত্রের অনুসরণে বিচিত্র রূপ ধারণ করেছিল। অনেক সময়ে, জমির ধরণ এবং স্থানীয় সংস্কৃতি অভ্যুত্থানগুলির চেহারা ঠিক করে দিয়েছিল। অধিকাংশ লোক মনে করে কৃষি বিপ্লব মানেই জমির মালিকদের উপর হিংস্র আক্রমণ এবং গায়ের জোরে তাদের এস্টেট দখল করা। কিন্তু বহু গ্রামীণ সংগ্রাম শান্তিপূর্ণভাবে এগিয়েছিল। হিংসাত্মক ও মুখোমুখি লড়াই সবচেয়ে বেশী নজর কাড়ে, কিন্তু তাতে যাঁরা অংশ নেন তাঁদের ঝুঁকি থাকে বিপুল। রাশিয়ার কৃষকদের অধিকাংশ নীরবে, কিন্তু মেপে পা ফেলেছিলেন, যদিও যারা সম্পত্তি হারাল তারা হয়তো তেমন বোধ করে নি।  

 কিছু কৃষক চুপিসাড়ে বিদ্রোহ শুরু করেন শুধু একটা গেট খুলে দিয়ে গ্রামের গরু-ছাগলকে জমিদারের মাঠে ঘাস খেতে পাঠিয়ে। কিছু ক্ষেত্রে স্থানীয় সমাজের পক্ষ থেকে বেশ সরকারী দেখতে দলিল তৈরী করা হল, যাতে বলা হল যে তারা স্থানীয় সম্পদকে চিরকাল ব্যবহার করতে পারবে। আরো সাহসী অভ্যুত্থানের ক্ষেত্রে দেখা গেল যে কৃষকরা হাত মিলিয়ে নিকটবর্তী বন থেকে গাছ কেটেছেন। গ্রামীণ শ্রমজীবীরা ঐ বিপ্লবী বছরে যতরকমভাবে বিদ্রোহ করেছিলেন আমাদের কাছে তার পূর্ণ বিবরণ নেই।  আমরা যতটুকু জানি, তা দেখায় রণকৌশল, সক্রিয় ব্যক্তিত্ব, লক্ষ্য, এ সবের কত প্রশস্ত একটা ক্ষেত্র ছিল, যেটা বিপ্লব-পরবর্তী রাশিয়ার রাষ্ট্রে একটা নির্ণায়ক ভূমিকা পালন করবে।   

আধুনিকতার আগমন

কৃষক বলতে বোঝায় সেই সব মানুষ যারা গ্রামাঞ্চলে থেকেন ও কাজ করেন তাদের। কিন্তু রাশিয়াতে কৃষক ছিল এর উপর একটা আইনী গোষ্ঠী বা সোস্লভি, যা এমনকি একজনের পাসপোর্টেও লেখা থাকত।[1] অর্থাৎ রাশিয়াতে কৃষক অনেক ক্ষেত্রে শহরে বাস করতেন, শ্রমিক বা ব্যবসায়ী হিসেবে জীবন ধারণ করতেন, বা সেনাবাহিনীতে কাজ করতেন।     

বিংশ শতাব্দীর গোড়ার দিকে আধুনিকতা হাজির হল রাশিয়াতে, কিন্তু সে সহবাস করল ও ধীরে রূপান্তর ঘটাল কৃষক জীবনের পরম্পরাগত উপাদানগুলির, যেগুলির সংজ্ঞার্থ নির্মিত হয়েছিল পিতৃতন্ত্র, ধর্মীয় গোঁড়ামি এবং সংঘবদ্ধ গ্রামজীবন দিয়ে। পিতৃতান্ত্রিক ক্ষমতাবিন্যাস নিশ্চিত করত যে বয়স্করা পরিবারে ও গ্রামসমাজে, দু’জায়গাতেই প্রাধান্য রাখবে। রুশ অর্থোডক্স ধর্ম বহু বাসিন্দার সামাজিক, সাংস্কৃতিক ও আত্মিক জীবনে এক গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ভূমিকা পালন করেছিল। বহু এলাকাতে জমি তদারকী হত যৌথভাবে, ফলে সম্পদের যৌথ ব্যবহার করা সম্ভব হত, এবং পিতৃতান্ত্রিক সমাজ কাঠামো মজবুত হত। এই সব চারিত্রিক বৈশিষ্ট্যের ফলে রুশ গ্রামাঞ্চলে একরকম সংকীর্ণতা ছিল, এবং রাজনীতিতে জাতীয় প্রসঙ্গের তুলনায় অগ্রাধিকার পেত স্থানীয় প্রসঙ্গ। 

আধুনিকতা এই পরম্পরাগত ধাঁচগুলিকে নানা ভাবে আক্রমণের মুখে ফেলল। ১৮৬১ সালে ভূমিদাসদের মুক্তির পর, গ্রামাঞ্চলে প্রাথমিক শিক্ষাবিস্তার ত্বরান্বিত হল,  এবং নবীন প্রজন্মের কাছে সাক্ষরতা নিয়ে এল। ইতিমধ্যে, লাখে লাখে মানুষ বছরের এক একটা সময়ে শহরাঞ্চলে যেতে থাকে, এবং গ্রামে ফিরে আসে শহুরে ধারণা ও আদব-কায়দা নিয়ে, যার মধ্যে আবার পড়ে ধর্মনিরপেক্ষতা এবং ভোগকেন্দ্রীক সংস্কৃতি। নির্বাচিত স্থানীয় স্বায়ত্ত্বশাসন সংস্থা ও স্থানীয় আদালত গ্রামের মানুষকে রাষ্ট্রের সঙ্গে কথা বলার নতুন পন্থা দিল, যেটা তারা সানন্দে জড়িয়ে ধরলেন। ১৯০৫এর বিপ্লবের পর কৃষকরা জাতীয় স্তরে নির্বাচনের জন্যও দলে দলে এগিয়ে আসেন ও তাদের স্থানীয় প্রতিনিধিদের কাছে সরবে দাবী পেশ করতে থাকেন।

সবশেষে, ১৯১৪ সালে যুদ্ধের জন্য প্রস্তুতির ফলে, গ্রামের পুরুষদের যারা অস্ত্র হাতে নিলেন তাদের মধ্যে তাৎপর্যপূর্ণ পরিবর্তন হল – কারো মনে দেখা দিল দেশপ্রেমিক বোধ, কেউ বা গভীর আপত্তি অনুভব করলেন। কিন্তু সকলকেই বিশাল সাম্রাজ্যের মধ্যে অনেক দূরে দূরে যেতে হল।  নিজেদের ছোট্ট গ্রামের বাইরের জগতের সঙ্গে এই সংযোগের ফলে ১৯১৭-র মধ্যে কৃষকরা আর প্রাক-আধুনিকতা পর্বের নিঃসঙ্গতায় থাকছিলেন না। তাঁরা রাষ্ট্র ও জাতির সঙ্গে বহুবিধভাবে সম্পর্কিত হচ্ছিলেন। সাক্ষরতার হার বাড়ার ফলে কৃষকরা জাতীয় এবং আঞ্চলিক রাজনৈতিক প্রসঙ্গে জড়িয়ে পতে পারছিলেন, আর শহরের অভিজ্ঞতার ফলে নবীনরা প্রবীণ পুরুষদের পিতৃতান্ত্রিক প্রাধান্যকে চ্যালেঞ্জ করতে পারছিলেন।

বিপ্লবী আঙ্গিক

“জল আপনাদের, আলো আপনাদের, জমি আপনাদের, বন আপনাদের”।

এই কথাগুলি বলেছিলেন ১৯১৭র জুন মাসে, কাজানের এক সভাতে একজন নাবিক। এই কথাগুলি বিপ্লবী কৃষক আকাংখ্যার সবচেয়ে মৌলিক উপাদানগুলিকে ধরে রেখেছে। এই স্পষ্ট কথা, যে বাতাস ও জলের মতই, জমি ও বনাঞ্চল তাদের হবে, যাদের প্রয়োজন সবচেয়ে বেশী, এটা বিপ্লবের বছর জুড়ে ও তার পরে বারে বারে উচ্চারিত হয়েছে।

যে সব জায়গাতে একদা ভূমিদাসপ্রথার প্রাধান্য ছিল, সেখানের প্রাক্তন ভূমিদাসদের বুকে মুক্তির শর্তাবলীর অসাম্য সম্পর্কে গভীর ক্ষোভ জমে ছিল। যেসব জায়গাতে কৃষকদের সঙ্গে স্থানীয় জমিদারদের বৈর সম্পর্ক ছিল, সেখানেই জমি দখল সবচেয়ে হিংস্র রূপ নেওয়ার সম্ভাবনা ছিল। আমরা গ্রামাঞ্চলে বিপ্লবের চরিত্র ও তীব্রতা সম্পর্কে যা জানি তার তথ্য এসেছে প্রধানত জমিদারদের অভিযোগের ভিত্তিতে তৈরী তথাকথিত গন্ডগোলের রিপোর্ট থেকে। এই রিপোর্টগুলি আমাদের বলে যে রাশিয়ের যে সব অঞ্চলে সবচেয়ে ঊর্বর জমি ছিল সেখানেই সবচেয়ে বেশী গোলযোগ হয়েছে। এগুলি আরও জানায় যে ভূমিদাস যে সব অঞ্চলে বেশী ছিল, সেই সব অঞ্চলেই বেশী অস্থিরতা, ব্যক্তি জমিদারদের উপর তীব্র আক্রমণ বঙ্গ জমিদারী জোর করে দখলের ঘটনা বেশী ঘটেছিল। এই পরিসংখ্যান থেকে গ্রামাঞ্চলের অভ্যুত্থানের সার্বিক ছবি পাওয়া যায় না, কারণ এগুলি কেবল এক ধরণের লড়াইকেই লিপিবদ্ধ করেছে।  

যদিও হিংসাশ্রয়ী আক্রমণ এবং জোর করে জমি বন্টনকেই কৃষিবিপ্লবের নজীর হিসেবে তুলে ধরা হয়, বাস্তবে সেগুলি সব জায়গাতে ঘটে নি। বস্তুত, ১৯১৭র মধ্যে, জমিদারদের হাতে কৃষিযোগ্য জমির একটা ছোট অংশই ছিল। কোনো কোনো জায়গাতে, যেমন ভায়াটকাতে, অভিজাত জমিদার এবং জমির ক্ষুধা, দুটোই ছিল প্রায় অনুপস্থিত। ফেব্রুয়ারী বিপ্লব কৃষকদের চাহিদা এবং লড়াইয়ের পতাকা দুটোই ক্রমান্বয়ে মেলে ধরল, কিন্তু গ্রমাঞ্চলের বিপ্লবীরা কীভাবে সমতার জন্য লড়াই করেছিলেন তা নির্ভর করেছিল তাঁদের এলাকাতে জমির মালিকানা ও ব্যবহারের উপরে। অধিকাংশ লড়াই হিংসাশ্রয়ী বা বলপূর্বক জমি দখলের ধারা দেখায় নি। বরং গ্রামসমাজ ব্যক্তি মালিকানার আইন লঙ্ঘন করল, কিন্তু সম্ভাব্য দমনপীড়ন থেকে নিজেদের বাঁচিয়ে রাখার চেষ্টা করে।   

যেমন, আরিষ্কাদঝা গ্রামের কৃষকরা ঘোষণা করলেন, তাঁরা শীতের ফসলের জন্য স্থানীয় জমিদারের জমি চাষ করএন, এবং তার ভাড়া করা লোকেদের একদিন দেওয়া হল জমি ছেড়ে চলে যেতে। মজুরেরা চলে যায়, এবং গ্রামবাসিরা চাষ করেন।

উপরন্তু, আমাদের এই গ্রামীণ বিপ্লবকে শ্রেণীভিত্তিক ঘটনা বলে মনে করা ঠিক হবে না, কারণ কৃষক কোনো একটা শ্রেণী না। তবে কৃষকরা প্রশস্ত অর্থে নিজেদের গ্রামীণ শ্রমজীবী মানুষ বলে দেখতেন, এবং এটাই তাদের বিশ্বদিশা এবং তাদের কাজের ভিত্তি ছিল। কিছু কৃষক বিপ্লবে দেখা গেল গ্রামীণ সম্প্রদায় ভূস্বামীদের বিরুদ্ধে যৌথভাবে লড়াই করছে, যেন শ্রেণীভিত্তিক অভ্যুত্থানের মত, শোষকের বিরুদ্ধে শোষিতের লড়াইয়ের মত। কিন্তু অন্য অনেক ক্ষেত্রে লড়াইটা দেখায় যেন জমি ব্যবহার নিয়ে দুই প্রতিবেশী সম্প্রদায়ের মধ্যে, বা দুই ব্যক্তির মধ্যে দ্বন্দ্বের মত।

যেমন, গ্রামবাসীরা অনেক সময়ে সেইসব কৃষকদের উপর আক্রমণ করেন, যারা মীর বা যৌথ জমিতে কাজ না করে নিজস্ব জমিতে চাষ করতেন, এবং জোর করে তাদের যৌথ চাষে ফিরিয়ে আনেন। এই ধরণের আক্রমণ করত গোটা গ্রাম, ব্যক্তিস্বাতন্ত্রবাদী কৃষককে এবং তার জমিকে সামাজিক জমিতে মিলিয়ে নতে চাইত। গ্রামবাসীদের নানা স্তরের সম্পদ ও প্রভাব ছিল, কিন্তু সেটা স্থায়ী হত না। লোকে উপরেও উঠত, নীচেও নামত।

ইতিমধ্যে, কেন্দ্রীয় সরকার জমিদারদের অভিযোগকে সমর্থন করে,এবং গ্রামীণ সম্প্রদায়দের নির্দেশ দেয় ব্যক্তি মালিকানার প্রতি সম্মান জানাতে। কিন্তু এই নির্দেশ বলবৎ করার মত ক্ষমতা তাদের ছিল না, ফলে ১৯১৭ সালে দেখা গেল ব্যক্তিগত সম্পত্তির উপর ক্রমবর্ধমান হস্তক্ষেপ।

গ্রামাঞ্চলে বিপ্লবের নেতৃত্ব কে দিয়েছিল?

কৃষক বিপ্লবের নেতৃত্বদায়ীব্যক্তি ও গোষ্ঠীদের সম্পর্কে আমাদের হাতে আছে খুবই খন্ডিত তথ্য। বহু গ্রামে কমিটি, কৃষক সোভিয়েত, এবং ইউনিয়নরা নেতৃত্বে আসে। তারা জমি ব্যবহার এবং পরিচালন সম্পর্কে নির্দেশ জারি করে। এই সংগঠনগুলি কৃষকদের রাজনৈতিক কাজের একটা প্রাতিষ্ঠানিক ভিত্তি দিয়েছিল।  

এদের কেউ কেউ, যেমন কৃষক প্রতিনিধিদের সোভিয়েত, আঞ্চলিক এবং জাতীয় জোটের মধ্যে পড়েছিল, এবং অস্থায়ী সরকার জমি ও রদ কমিটি প্রতিষ্ঠা করেছিল। কিন্তু স্থানীয় প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলি নিয়ন্ত্রণ রেখেছিল কেবল নির্বাচকদের দাবী মেনে চললে। সটনুর্স্ক গ্রাম কমিটি যেমন আঞ্চলিক কর্তৃপক্ষকে সাফ মনে করিয়ে দিয়েছিল – “আমরা তোমাদের নির্বাচিত করেছি! তোমাদের কাজ আমাদের কথা শোনা!”

নানা ধরণের সাক্ষ্য-প্রমাণ দেখায় যে ক্ষমতা নিয়েছিলেন কেবল কৃষক সম্প্রদায়ের অন্তর্ভুক্ত মানুষরাই । তথাকথিত গ্রামীণ বুদ্ধিজীবীবর্গ – শিক্ষক, ডাক্তার, কৃষিবিশারদ, এবং যাজকদের – নির্বাচিত পদ থেকে একেবারে নিয়মমাফিক বাদ দেওয়া হয়েছিল। গ্রামীণ বিপ্লবের বিবরণে সাধারণভাবে এদের নামও আসে না। নির্বাআচনের রেকর্ড দেখায় গ্রামবাসীরা পছন্দ করতেন এমন সব শিক্ষিত, ঠান্ডা মাথা, এবং বিশ্বস্ত প্রার্থীদের, যারা কৃষক সমাজের অন্তর্ভুক্ত ছিলেন। কিন্তু কৃষক বিপ্লবের বৈচিত্রের ফলে, আমাদের পক্ষে তাদের নেতাদের চরিত্র এক ছাঁচে ফেলা সম্ভব নয়। কোনো গ্রামীণ বিপ্লব গোটা গ্রামকেই টেনে নিয়েছিল, কোথাও মেয়েরা নেতৃত্ব দিয়েছিলেন, অন্যত্র অল্পসংখ্যক বিত্তবান কৃষক বাকিদের উপর নেতৃত্ব কায়েম করেছিলেন।   

ফেরুয়ারী বিপ্লব সাধারণ সৈনিকদের মর্যাদা ও ক্ষমতার রূপান্তর ঘটিয়েছিল। তাঁরা পরিণত হলেন আন্দোলনের সশস্ত্র রক্ষাকর্তায়। সেনাবাহিনী ছেড়ে পলাতকরা, ছুটিতে দেশে আসা সৈনিকরা, এবং ছাউনীর সৈনিকরা, সকলেই গ্রামের রাজনীতিতে সক্রিয় ভূমিকা পালন করেন। যদি এদের বহিরাগত বলা যায় তবে এরাই একমাত্র বহিরাগত যারা কৃষক বিদ্রোহে নেতৃত্ব দেওয়ার কাছে আসতে পেরেছিলেন।  সৈন্যরা যেহেতু হিংসার জন্য তালিম পায় এবং তার জন্য অস্ত্রে সজ্জিত হয়, তাই সৈনিকরা অংশ নিলে বিপ্লবী লড়াই অনেক বেশী হিংস্র হওয়ার সম্ভাবনা ছিল। অনেক সময়ে গোটা সম্প্রদায় এই আক্রমণে অংশ নিত। যেমন, ১৯১৭র মে মাসে একদল সৈনিকের সঙ্গে গ্রামের মেয়েরা ও তাদের বাচ্চারা গিয়ে নাতালিয়া নেরাতোভাকে তার জমি থেকে উচ্ছেদ করেছিল।

বিপ্লবের গোড়ায় দলীয় রাজনীতি কৃষকদের কাজে খুবই প্রান্তিক ভূমিকা পালন করেছিল। ভিক্টর চের্নভের সমাজতন্ত্রী বিপ্লবী দল গ্রামাঞ্চলে একটা শক্তিশালী সমর্থনের ভিত্তি গড়ে তুলেছিল, বিশেষ করে রাশিয়ার কেন্দ্রীয় অঞ্চলে, যেটা দেখা গেল নভেম্বর মাসের সংবিধান সভা নির্বাচনে। জাতীয় স্তরে এই দল পেয়েছিল ৩৭ শতাংশ ভোট, যেখানে বলশেভিকরা পায় ২৩ শতাংশ। কিন্তু উত্তরাঞ্চলে তারা পেয়েছিল ৭৬ শতাংশ, আর কেন্দ্রীয় কৃষ্ণ মৃত্তিকা অঞ্চলে ৭৫ শতাংশ। কৃষকের দল বলে তাদের যে পরিচিতি, সেটার উপরে তারা ভর করেছিল। তাতে তারা নির্বাচনী সমর্থন পেয়েছিল। কিন্তু তারা গ্রামের বিপ্লবের নেতৃত্ব দেয় নি। গ্রামে পার্টির কর্মীরা নেতৃত্ব তখনই দিয়েছিলেন, যখন তাঁরা গ্রামসমাজের চাহিদা ও আকাংখ্যাকে আপন করে নিয়েছিলেন।

গ্রাম-শহর বিভাজন

গ্রামের বিপ্লব জাতীয় এবং আঞ্চলিক কর্তৃপক্ষের ক্ষমতাহীনতা তুলে ধরেছিল। না পেত্রোগ্রাদ সোভিয়েত না অস্থায়ী সরকার কৃষকের সমস্যা বা দাবীদাওয়া নিয়ে কথা বলেছিল। তাঁরা গ্রামের মানুষকে শুধু ধৈর্য্য ধরতে বলেছিল, সংবিধান সভা এসে ভূমি বন্টনের আইন পাশ করবে বলে। কৃষকরা মোটামুটিভাবে এই আবেদন অগ্রাহ্য করেছিলেন। আর কেন্দ্রীয় সরকার তাদের বাধা দিতে পারে নি।  আঞ্চলিক কর্তৃপক্ষরা ১৯১৭ সালে শুরু করেছিলেন এই বিশ্বাস নিয়ে যে গ্রামের বিপ্লবের কারণ ভুল বোঝাবুঝি, এবং মনে করেছিলেন যে সমঝোতা এবং শিক্ষা গন্ডগোল বন্ধ করে দেবে। গ্রীষ্মকালের মধ্যে, গ্রাম সমাজের সচেতন সক্রিয়তা এবং কেন্দ্রীয় পরিকল্পনা না মেনে নিজেদের বিপ্লব করার প্রবণতা এই বিশ্বাসে ক্ষয় ধরিয়েছিল।

আঞ্চলিক কর্তৃপক্ষরা উত্তরোত্তর সশস্ত্র ফৌজ নির্ভর হয়ে পড়লেন, গ্রামাঞ্চলকে নিয়ন্ত্রণে আনার জন্য। অল্প কিছু নেতা, যারা বেশী দূরদর্শী ছিলেন, তাঁরা ব্যক্তি মালিকানাধীন জমি স্থানীয় কমিটিদের হাতে তুলে দিয়ে কৃষকদের বাগে আনতে চেষ্টা করেন। কিন্তু কোনো কেন্দ্রীয় বা প্রাদেশিক শক্তি কোনো স্থির নীতি লাগু করতে না পারায়, অভ্যুত্থানগুলি চলতেই থাকে।

অক্টোবর ১৯১৭ তে বলশেভিকরা ক্ষমতা দখলের পর, লেনিন দ্রুত জমি সংক্রাং দিক্রী প্রস্তাব করলেন, যা সব ব্যক্তি মালিকানাধীন জমিকে কৃষকদের ব্যবহারের জন্য হস্তান্তরিত করল। বস্তুত, এই ডিক্রী কেন্দ্রীয় সরকারের অক্ষমতা দেখাল, কারণ অক্টোবরের মধ্যে কৃষকরা প্রায় সব ব্যক্তি মালিকান্ধীন জমি দখল করে নিয়েছিলেন। গ্রামীণ রাশিয়ার অর্থনীতি নিয়ন্ত্রণের যে লড়াই আসন্ন গৃহযুদ্ধের এক প্রধান বৈশিষ্ট্য হয়ে উঠেছিল, লেনিনের ডিক্রী তার পূর্বনির্দেশ করেছিল।

রাশিয়ার গ্রামীণ বিপ্লবের ইতিহাস এখনও আবিষ্কৃত হচ্ছে, এবং আমরা যতটুকু জানি তা ১৯১৭র ইতিহাসকে আরো সমৃদ্ধ করছে।



রুশ জারতন্ত্র প্রজাদের গতিবিধি নিয়ন্ত্রণে রাখতে চাইত। এই কারণে প্রতিটি মানুষ নিজের গ্রাম ও জেলার বাইরে যেতে গেলেই তাঁকে একরকম দেশের ভিতরে ব্যবহারের পাসপোর্ট নিতে হত।

 

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