MLUPDATE 16 / 2011

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 14 No. 16 12 – 18 APRIL 2011

CPI(ML) Central Committee’s Message

to the entire Party

on the occasion of

the 42nd Anniversary of Party Foundation

Dear Comrades,

We all are aware how unbridled corruption and corporate plunder are ravaging our precious national resources while the democratic voice is being gagged systematically by the state. But every cloud has a silver lining and all around us we can see and feel a growing popular mood to punish the rulers, root out corruption and reverse the disastrous policies that have pushed the country deep into all-round crisis.

This April 22 as we observe the 42nd anniversary of the foundation of the CPI(ML), let us resolve to take all-out initiative and make every possible effort to intensify the people’s struggle and carry it forward to victory. Let us strengthen and equip our beloved Party in every way so we can rise to the occasion, fulfil the expectations of the people and carry forward the unfinished tasks of our martyrs and departed leaders.

Long live CPI(ML)!

Dare to fight, dare to win!

Victory to the brave and fighting people of India!

With warm revolutionary greetings to all Party members and sympathizers on the occasion of 42nd Anniversary of Party Foundation,

Central Committee,

Communist Party of India

(Marxist-Leninist)

Onward to a More Determined Assault on the Citadels of Corruption and Corporate Plunder

The indefinite fast launched by Anna Hazare on April 5 demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) has ended in an initial victory. The fast has been withdrawn after 98 hours following an agreement between the UPA government and some leading JLB campaigners. A 10-member drafting committee has been constituted with as many members from the government side as from the JLB campaign. The draft of the Bill will presumably be ready by June 30 and Anna Hazare says he would like to see the legislation become effective by August 15. This is surely an encouraging moment for the anti-corruption movement in the country.

The idea of a Lok Pal (ombudsman) has been discussed time and again since the 1960s. Every time corruption in high places has hit the headlines, the idea has been mooted and then shelved. Since 1968, there have been ten instances of a Lok Pal bill being introduced and then being allowed to get lapsed. The Lok Pal bill can thus be described as the oldest member of the club of long-awaited legislations like right to work, reservation for women in State Assemblies and Parliament and comprehensive legislation for agricultural labourers.

How could an idea which has been shelved for decades get ‘clinched’ in less than a week? This can be attributed primarily to two factors – the intolerably high levels of corruption and the groundswell of popular support and activism which would have surfaced much more pronouncedly if the fast were to continue any longer and if it were to move on to the subsequent phase of a countrywide ‘jail bharo’ agitation. The Indian ruling classes and the scam-studded UPA government could not possibly risk a protracted stalemate or a direct showdown on the issue, especially in view of the ongoing Assembly elections in five states and the ‘alarming’ examples of contemporary mass upsurges from Nepal to Egypt.

If the rulers have demonstrated such ‘maturity’ and corrupt leaders and corporate honchos all are now itching to wear the anti-corruption mask, activists of the anti-corruption movement and the people at large will also have to demonstrate their resolve to step up the battle and snatch bigger victories.

We must remember that behind the pleasant surprise of this quick initial victory lay the people and their growing anger against corruption. The people are not particularly concerned about the nitty-gritty of a Lok Pal or the composition of the drafting committee, what they want is rooting out of corruption and firm action against the corrupt. The Jan Lok Pal can of course be an important institutional mechanism in this context and pressure must be kept up to make sure that the country indeed gets an effective anti-corruption legislation and a functional and credible institutional mechanism to prosecute and punish the guilty.

India has not yet ratified the UN Convention against corruption and the government is taking no step either to bring back the money that has been drained out of the country or to confiscate the enormous amount of black money and ill-gotten wealth accumulated within the country. We must insist on immediate and decisive action on all these issues.

While fighting for new laws and institutions we must also realize why the existing laws and institutions are not delivering. The answer clearly lies in the growing shadow of corporate power and the obnoxious complicity between the ruling parties/coalitions and dominant corporate interests. The anti-corruption movement must therefore also take on this growing corporate power and the nexus between the governments, the corporations and US imperialism, the military flagship of global capitalism.

The corporate media, especially most 24 hour television channels, are known to treat every major issue or event as a grand spectacle. Even when they have to deal with a people’s movement, they invariably zero in on personalities – be it an Anna Hazare or a Baba Ramdev – and obliterate the people, and subject complex questions and democratic debates to a simplistic hype. But the forces of people’s movement must not get distracted and seize the moment to launch a more determined mass assault on the citadels of corruption and corporate plunder.

Press Statement

Anna Praise for Modi and Nitish Unfortunate

New Delhi, 11 April

Anna Hazare’s remark praising Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar on their rural development work is highly unfortunate and unwarranted.

Narendra Modi as Gujarat CM faces charges of having deployed state machinery to orchestrate communal genocide in 2002. Top Ministers and police officials in the state face serious charges of fake encounters which have been linked to mafia interests; the Sohrabuddin encounter being probed by the CBI currently is suspected to have been a contract killing at the behest of marble mafia. Can such a Government and CM make any pretensions to supporting the cause of the struggle against corruption?

Nitish Kumar evaded facing a CBI probe on the multi-crore treasury fraud in Bihar. The latest CAG report on the state of finances in Bihar has again indicted the Nitish Government, showing that there are no DC (detailed contingency) bills against AC (abstract contingency) withdrawal amounting Rs 15,850.41 crore. DC bills submitted hastily after the High Court ordered a CBI probe have been found to be full of discrepancies. A Government that is itself facing such serious charges of corruption and evading even a CBI probe cannot be allowed to bask in the borrowed limelight of the anti-corruption struggle.

Anna Hazare has got widespread support on the issue of corruption, and is now a member of the drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill. Statements from him seeming to legitimize NDA Chief Ministers like Modi and Nitish Kumar are not in the best interests of the anti-corruption movement. Such remarks are liable to be used by discredited rulers while undermining the spirit of the fighting people.

– CPI(ML) Central Committee

Nationwide Solidarity Initiatives by CPI(ML) in Support of

Struggle for an Effective Jan Lokpal Legislation

The CPI(ML) Liberation, extending support to the movement led by Anna Hazare for an effective Jan Lokpal Bill, held a solidarity dharna at Jantar Mantar as well as daylong solidarity fasts at several places all over the country including Patna, Ranchi and Lucknow on 8 April.

Party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya participated in the solidarity fast against corruption at Ranchi, while Comrades Rameshwar Prasad, President of the All India Agricultural Labourers’ Association (AIALA), Rajaram Singh, General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM), Comrade Saroj Chaubey, Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), Comrades Satyadev Ram, Arun Singh and Kamlesh Sharma sat on the solidarity fast at Patna.

In Uttar Pradesh dharna, hunger fast and marches were organised by CPI(ML) on 8th April in different districts including Lucknow in support of Anna Hazare’s hunger fast for Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi. In Lucknow Party activists and members sat on a dharna at the Jhulelal Park on the banks of Gomti. Dharna was organised at Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s statue in Allahabad and at Ramashray Park in Kanpur. Party members held similar programmes at Varanasi, Chandauli, Mirzapur, Sonebhadra and Lakhimpur Khiri among other places. Anti-repression and anti-corruption march was held at Jamania in Gazipur which was addressed by Party’s State Secretary.

In Delhi hundreds of students and workers under the banner of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) joined the CPI(ML)’s solidarity dharna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The dharna was led by Delhi State Secretary of the CPI(ML), Sanjay Sharma, Central Committee members Swapan Mukherjee, Prabhat Kumar and Kavita Krishnan, AISA National General Secretary Ravi Rai, AICCTU leader Santosh Ray, Girija Pathak and many others. Following this, the gathering marched through Jantar Mantar, raising slogans against corporate plunder and corporate-driven policies and distributing leaflets outlining the party’s perspective on anti-corruption struggle.

The CPI(ML) Liberation welcomed and supported the initiative for a genuine and effective Jan Lok Pal Bill taken by civil society activists. The UPA Government initially arrogantly dismissed the demand for civil society participation in drafting the Lokpal legislation had to buckle down in the face of tremendous public support for that demand. The party said that even if the UPA Govt meets this demand eventually, the struggle against corruption has to march ahead to take on the entire web of corrupt institutions and practices, mainly the privatisation policies that have opened the doors for an unprecedented scale of corruption in the shape of massive corporate loot of the country’s precious resources like land and minerals. The Radia tapes and Wikileaks have shown us that corruption has reached the extent where corporations and imperialist forces are able to get Ministers appointed and policies passed in their favour. Apart from UPA and Congress leaders, the BJP Government in Karnataka too brazenly remains in power even though it has a CM accused in land scam and Ministers who are mining mafia.

Hailing the popular awakening against corruption in the country, the CPI(ML) called for the anti-corruption movement, for which the starting point has been the agitation for Jan Lokpal legislation, to take the struggle forward to encompass the following range of demands as well:

• Blacklist and prosecute corporate houses that have been implicated in corruption or violations of law – be it Tata, Reliance, Vedanta, Dow, etc

• Make public the names of all those with black money stashed in Swiss banks, bring every rupee of black money back to the country to be used for public welfare, and plug every route (like Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with Mauritius) for the daily outflow of black money without an instant’s delay.

• Bring to trial each of the top army officials involved in Adarsh scam and other scams in defence deals and army land

• Reverse the policies of privatisation and commercialisation that has created fertile ground for corporate loot and corruption

• Review all government decisions and appointments behind which the pressure of corporate houses and imperialist forces is apparent

The CPI(ML) appealed to students, youth, workers, women, democratic citizens to resolve to carry forward the battle till corruption is rooted out!

Anti-Liquor Movement in Pithoragarh

All India Kisan Mahasabha (AIKM) has been in the news recently in Pithoragarh for its various social initiatives. On 1st April more than four hundred women under the banner of AIKM held a militant demonstration for closing of shops selling liquor. Nothing could come in the way of angry women that day as they consigned to flames belongings of liquor businesses. Police has filed charges against AIKM leader Surendra Singh Brijwal (Block President) after this protest demonstration. He was arrested at midnight on 7th April but got bail the following day. After his release the women, 250 in number, once again held a demonstration same day vowing to continue their struggle and supporting the released leader. The administration’s sense of desperation was palpable as more support from the local people poured in in the form of numerous monetary donations for the movement when the demonstrators held meeting on 8th April after AIKM leader’s release.

On the other hand, leaders of the BJP, Congress and local outfit UKD openly sided with the liquor shops and demanded arrest of Com. Brijwal. The angry women in large numbers burnt effigies of these leaders at the prominent spot in Munsyari town. People of Munsyari, meanwhile, have decided to publicly felicitate Com. Brijwal on 20 April.

Thousands of workers in the US Protest against anti-worker laws

On 4 April, thousands of workers across the US held rallies and marches in protest against attacks on their collective bargaining rights. 4 April marked the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of civil liberties crusader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, who had been shot dead in 1968 when he was participating in a strike called by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

Recently, workers at Wisconsin held a remarkable, sustained agitation against the Repblican Governor’s move to bring a law curbing their collective bargaining rights. The law was eventually passed but in the process, workers’ resistance seems to have been unleashed across the US.

In the marches held to commemorate the anniversary of King’s assassination, labour and civil rights activists held placards that read, "Stop the war on workers" and "Unions make us strong." Participating in the march at Atlanta, the son of the slain leader compared his father’s struggle for the dignity and rights of black people and workers to today’s battle over collective bargaining rights in US states including Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.

National polls have shown that most Americans support collective bargaining rights, which Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other leaders have sought to reduce or strip. Laws pushed by these leaders seek to ban public worker strikes, eliminate binding arbitration and restrict bargaining for public employees. On activist, referring to the attack on collective bargaining rights, said, “They say it’s about balancing budgets, but we know it’s about union busting.”

Working Class Carries on the Battle for Democracy in Egypt

Tens of thousands filled Tahrir Square once again on April 1, emphatically demonstrating the utter failure of prolonged attempts by Egypt’s military government to demobilize and demoralize the pro-democracy movement.

Fifteen thousand people, already attending the Friday Muslim prayers in Tahrir Square, were joined later in the afternoon by twice as many protesters jamming the central Cairo plaza. In what was called “The Friday for Rescuing the Revolution," protesters demanded bringing to trial deposed President Hosni Mubarak and his cronies, ending the official state of emergency and releasing all political prisoners.

In fact, important sections of the population continue to call for serious and fundamental democratic reforms, going far beyond the transparently shallow changes to Mubarak’s discredited constitution recently suggested by the top generals.

Nonetheless, the military did successfully cast the March 19 constitutional referendum as the best chance to stabilize the economy and to move more quickly toward civilian rule, thus producing very large voter turnout and approval.

This despite the fact that many leading democracy activists attacked the government’s amendments as a tepid rewrite of a few clauses in the dictator’s carried-over constitution, minus any additional firm guarantees of civil liberties.

The Egyptian Center for Trade Union & Worker Services (CTUWS), a leading advocate of the newly-formed Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions (EFITU), produced a leaflet urging people to vote against amendments that were the very same “previously proposed by the deposed President Mubarak….[and] to demand a new constitution that lays the foundations for a new Egypt.”

The CTUWS also organized “a ‘Vote No’” demonstration of around 3,000 students, human rights activists and trade unionists in Tahrir Square on March 27. Furthermore, the AFL-CIO-supported Solidarity Center (SC) in Washington DC pointed out that “yes” numbers were boosted significantly because separate votes were not allowed on any of the nine proposed amendments.

The opposition in Egypt actually sought a whole new alternative constitution that could be developed by a broad cross-section of the movement. But, activists felt, there was insufficient debate, and “people thought they were voting for a little bit more democracy so it passed overwhelmingly.”

Reforming the constitution while banning strikes?

Even more dangerous than this apparent constitutional deception, however, is last week’s proposal by cabinet ministers to ban strikes and protests. It includes onerous fines and gruelling prison terms for any violations. This draft legislation is now under serious consideration by the ruling Supreme Military Council.

If eventually ratified and enforced, all organized government opposition would be silenced. These ominous threats have, as a result, accelerated demands to suspend the state of emergency in effect since 1981 and under which such restrictions could legally be enacted. This was one of the central demands of those assembled on April 1.

On the one hand, the Supreme Council desperately attempts to demobilize and malign the reform movement either through malicious accusations of economic sabotage or through actual physical threats. At the same time, the ruling Council periodically concedes a number of important reform demands, many of which are prudently announced several days before major protests.

After rebellion comes confidence

In the country’s large industrial and commercial sectors, incredibly massive organized protests involved significant sections of the working class and poor. Their participation left a larger political footprint than other recent social explosions in the Middle East.

“You cannot understand events in Egypt today without understanding the absolutely critical role of the working class – both before, during and after the Tahrir Square events,” according to prominent labour lawyer Khaled Ali in a televised interview. “For example, there is absolutely no doubt that the isolation of the students and young people in the Square was ended once workers began conducting strikes and protests, about 30-40 a day throughout the country during the revolutionary Tahrir days and in the immediate days following. The role of the working class was absolutely decisive to our victory,” concluded Ali. Massive working class involvement in the rebellion has provided much-needed confidence for its participation in the next stage of the struggle.

Today, different classes, sectors and strata of society that stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir, Alexandria and in the Suez, are now quite naturally each promoting their own specific social, political and economic programs.

Democratic rights won by the revolution have allowed this immensely important debate to occur openly and the results will determine whether the gains of the people’s uprising will be limited to the business sector and upper classes or extended also to the working class and poor majority.

What next?

Judging by the large turnout and overwhelming approval numbers during the constitutional referendum, the army was successful in sidetracking discussion away from self-organization of the people and into the safer and more familiar terrain of parliamentary reforms where, as noted earlier, the traditional elite can more easily reassert themselves through their existing political parties and economic structures.

For example, the rarely-enforced minimum wage is still only a paltry $74 a month after recently seeing its first increase since 1984, where it remained at $6.50 a month for 26 years.

Millions continue to languish in poverty, forced to work several jobs in the informal sector as street vendors or in one of the Qualifying Industrial Zones, exclusively reserved for U.S. companies where wages are low, benefits non-existent and unions severely repressed.

But, on the other hand, the steady presence of independent unions is growing stronger each day. Teachers, healthcare workers, textile workers, transport workers, tax collectors and other sectors continue to form unions, breaking from the government-controlled official union and joining the independent union federation, EFITU, only just formed on March 2. “We are concentrating most on organizing the working class because we know that ultimately this is the only way to gain our share of democracy and a decent standard of living,” an activist declared. “Workers here have no experience with free and independent unions, it is all new to us. But we are very, very happy with our progress so far.”

As long as the debate on Egypt’s future continues with full participation of an organized working class and its allies among the poor, students and middle classes, so also will the uprising’s social, economic and political goals stay on track and become more possible to achieve.

(Based on a report by Carl Finamore, a US Labour activist who has made a short video on labour’s role in the Egyptian revolution [Untold Story of the Egyptian Revolution, which can be viewed at “><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frtpwNYc980%5D%5D).

Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication,
R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

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