ML UPDATE 21/2011

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 14, No. 21, 17 – 23 MAY 2011

The May 13 Mandate: Lessons for the Left

Eection outcomes in India continue to surprise poll analysts. Even though most exit polls and post-poll surveys had quite accurately predicted the landslide against the CPI(M) in West Bengal, nobody had predicted that Tamil Nadu would witness an even bigger landslide against the DMK-Congress alliance or that the UDF would come to power in Kerala with the slenderest of margins, or for that matter the Congress would have such a smooth sailing in a most fragmented and diverse polity like the one in Assam.

The Congress would like us to believe that the May 13 mandate is a big yes for the Congress and the UPA government at the Centre, and the opposition should now allow the UPA to complete the remaining three years of its present term without any hindrance. This is a most fanciful and distorted reading of the May 13 mandate. Tamil Nadu was the biggest theatre of the 2G scam and the Congress model of coalition politics, and there the DMK-Congress alliance has suffered a total rout. In neighbouring Kerala, the UDF has won power with the barest of margins and that too thanks to the good showing of Congress allies like the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress.

In Puducherry, the Congress-DMK alliance has been voted out by the NRC-AIADMK combine. And as if this was not enough, the Congress tasted humiliating defeats in the Andhra by-elections where the widow and son of YSR have posed a challenge to the Congress that could well assume the proportions of the NTR era when the TDP emerged victorious by pitting Telugu pride against the dictatorial domination of the Congress High Command. It is only in Assam where the Congress has really won a big victory and that too because instead of pursuing the typical Congress strategy of Operation Greenhunt or the AFSPA regime as witnessed in Manipur and Kashmir, the Congress in Assam is playing the Gogoi card of ‘politics of peace’.

Contrary to what the Congress claims, the May 13 mandate has served a serious warning to the Congress and exposed its utter vulnerability on the two most explosive issues of the day – price-rise and corruption in high places.

The BJP had little direct stake in these elections except perhaps in Assam. The outcome shows the BJP has lost out badly in Assam and its attempt to forge a stronger presence has also failed in the remaining states. Yet the BJP is quite jubilant primarily because the CPI(M) has been routed in West Bengal. According to BJP ideologues, the ouster of the CPI(M)-led government in West Bengal after 34 long years is a sure proof of the irrelevance of Left ideology! Moreover, the BJP believes that with the weakening of the CPI(M) the ‘third front’ phenomenon will fade away leaving the electoral arena increasingly bipolar where the BJP-led coalition will emerge as the exclusive or principal beneficiary of any decline in the electoral fortunes of the Congress and its allies!

Regardless of how the Congress and the BJP interpret the May 13 mandate, Left activists and well-wishers all over the country will surely have to make sense of the poll outcome in West Bengal. The writing on Bengal walls was clear to the entire country except perhaps the CPI(M) leadership in Alimuddin Street and AKG Bhawan. Since the 2009 Lok Sabha debacle, the CPI(M) has been talking of a vague ‘rectification’ leading to a sure ‘turnaround’, but the truth of both ‘rectification’ and ‘turnaround’ has been exposed mercilessly in West Bengal. In Kerala, if the CPI(M) managed to put up a creditable performance, it was clearly because of the credibility and goodwill enjoyed by VS Achuthanandan thanks to his image of a crusader both within and outside the CPI(M). In West Bengal, it is Mamata Banerjee who has developed this image while the CPI(M) leaders, in stark contrast, appear to be completely cut off from the reality of the state and the mood of the people, their anger and aspirations. The arrogance displayed by most CPI(M) leaders in the course of the election campaign and even after this huge defeat can only be attributed to their growing disconnect from everything that stands for the glorious legacy of the communist movement in this country.

After the Singur episode, there were two strands of critical opinion within the CPI(M) in West Bengal. One strand saw Singur as an administrative failure and pitted the success of the Rajarhat model against the failure of the Singur misadventure. Rajarhat is a new township developed on the outskirt of Kolkata where land acquisition took place gradually and surreptitiously, suppressing every opposition with brute force and taking most opposition parties on board, thereby manufacturing consent through complicity. The architect of this model was Gautam Dev, the arrogant propaganda bomb unleashed by the CPI(M) in the 2011 elections, whose aggressive propaganda blitzkrieg may have galvanized a few camp-followers but surely put off many more, driving more and more people towards the TMC camp. Dev has been a huge failure and the loudest liability of the CPI(M) in the 2011 elections.

The other critical voice which remained suppressed all through was that of the land reforms minister Abdur Razzak Molla who had been consistently critical of the Left Front government’s attempts to subvert the land ceiling legislation and push for mega industrialization through forcible land acquisition. It is interesting to note that while most CPI(M) ministers have been trounced in these elections, Abdur Razzak Molla has been a rare exception who has retained his seat. Indeed, for all the CPI(M)’s brave rhetoric of land reforms, land reforms ministers had remained the most marginalised and suppressed in the Left Front cabinets and provided some of the most authentic critical voices from within the CPI(M). The late Benoy Chowdhury, the former land reforms minister, was the first to publicly slam the growth of the contractor syndrome under Left rule, and now Abdur Razzak Molla has come out openly against the CPI(M)’s subservience to big capital at the cost of its rural support base.

Some people have begun to liken the ouster of the Left Front government in West Bengal with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mamata Banerjee and her colleagues are already talking about a second independence of West Bengal! By all indications, the parties of the ruling classes and the dominant media are gunning for a fierce all-out campaign against the Left. This campaign must be resisted and defeated. And the best way to do this is by reviving the Left movement both within West Bengal and beyond. In 1977 the CPI(M) had come to power on the plank of democracy and it had consolidated its rule with the help of a package of rural reforms. More than three decades later, the CPI(M) finds itself defeated and discredited precisely because of its renegacy on the question of democracy, progressive rural reforms and people’s struggles.

If the CPI(M) has suffered such a humiliating defeat in West Bengal, it is certainly not because of the CPI(M)’s adherence to any ‘outdated Left dogma’. The CPI(M) in West Bengal had embraced the neo-liberal policies without any qualms, the Chief Minister telling the whole world that his brief was to build corporate capitalism in West Bengal. The CPI(M) has had to pay the electoral price for championing the neoliberal ‘development’ model and abandoning the agenda of land reforms halfway. However much anti-communist propagandists and communist detractors may try and paint the West Bengal verdict as a mass rejection of Left ideology, the fact remains that the people in West Bengal have just voted out an arrogant regime that had begun to trample upon the people’s basic democratic rights in the name of ‘rapid development’ and ‘mega industrialisation’. No matter how the CPI(M) reviews this defeat and what lessons it draws from this debacle, Left activists will surely draw on this experience and learn the right lessons to carry forward the Left movement with renewed strength and resolve.

CPI(ML) In Solidarity With Agitating Farmers in UP

The UP Government has gone all out to forcibly acquire land for the Yamuna Expressway Project, firing on protesting farmers, cordoning off the affected villages and clamping down on all protests across the state. Farmers of the Bhatta and Parsaul villages in Greater Noida have alleged that the land sold to a corporate house for the project had not even been formally acquired from the farmers. The farmers are demanding proper compensation at 80% of land cost at prevailing market rates as well as return of 50% of the acquired land after development. They have also demanded fit compensation and share in development for the landless whose livelihood will be affected.

Police firing has claimed several lives in Bhatta Parsaul (the exact number is difficult to verify because access to the village has been restricted). There are allegations of rape and murder too. Yet peasants’ groups, people’s movement representatives and so on have not been allowed to meet the people and ascertain the facts.

A team comprising of AIKM Vice President Prem Singh Gehlawat, peasant leaders from UP Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha as well as Rohtas Bharti, along with CPI(ML) State Secretary Sanjay Sharma, and other CPI(ML) activists Srikant, Kapil Sharma, and Shyam Kishore went to Bhatta Parsaul on 12 May to meet the affected villagers. This team was prevented by the police from entering into the Bhatta village.

In the wake of Bhatta incident, the district administration imposed 144 in whole of the Gautam Budhh Nagar district, and even a pre-scheduled protest 40 km away from Bhatta by the CPI(ML) in NOIDA, for BPL cards and housing etc. was not allowed to be held. The city magistrate handed over a notice citing a six year old SC order as a pretext to ban the protest, claiming it was necessary to maintain peace and order. The same situation prevails all over UP.

The CPI(ML) has held protests in Lucknow as well as other parts of UP against the brutal repression on farmers as well as the clampdown on democratic protests. Highlighting the life sentence for two BSP MLAs in crimes relating to violence on women, kidnapping and murder, as well as the undeclared Emergency imposed in the state, the party has demanded resignation of the Mayawati Government.

The CPI(ML) has also called upon people to expose the Congress’ politics and hypocrisy on the issue of land acquisition and repression. Rahul Gandhi is posing as a supporter of the farmers’ struggle in Bhatta Parsaul. Not long ago Rahul had similarly claimed to be a ‘soldier’ of the tribals at Niyamgiri. But what happened to Rahul’s promises and poses when the UPA Government has recently given clearance to the POSCO project, in spite of the evidence of rampant violations of the Forest Rights law, people’s fierce protests and severe repression?

Moreover the UPA Government’s much-touted Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill continues to allow ample leeway for corporate land grab. This Bill allows even mining to come under the definition of ‘public purpose’ for which land can be forcibly acquired. It also allows state governments to acquire land for private interests.

The CPI(ML) stands in solidarity with the farmers’ protests against land grab and repression, and demands an immediate end to the clampdown on democracy in UP, withdrawal of the cases against the Bhatta Parsaul villagers, punishment for the police officials responsible for firing at Bhatta Parsaul, a stop to all forcible land acquisition, and proper compensation and share in development as demanded by the agitating farmers.

CPI(ML) Calls Upon to Resist Steep Hike in Petrol Prices

New Delhi, 15 May 2010. Further increasing the burden of price hike on the people, the UPA Government has instituted a steep Rs 5 hike in petrol prices. This is the eighth hike in fuel prices since the deregulation of fuel prices in June last year. Further increased in diesel and cooking gas are said to be on the cards.

International oil prices are subject to enormous speculative manipulations – by deregulating petrol price the government has exposed the Indian people to the speculative manipulations of the international market.

The fact that the oil companies waited till Assembly poll results were out before announcing this latest and steepest hike shows that the hike, and its timing, were surely political decisions for which the UPA Government is responsible. Such cynical opportunism in the timing of the hike will only add fuel to the fire of public anger against the relentless rise in prices.

The CPI(ML) calls upon people all over the country to protest the steep increase in petrol prices and demand a rollback of deregulation of fuel prices.

Protests against Hike in Petrol Prices

Tamilnadu: A Protest demonstration against steep price rise of petrol was held in Virudhachalam of Cuddalore dist. S.Rajasankar state committee member of AISA conducted the proceedings of the demonstration. Thenmozhi, State President of AIPWA, Dhanaval, dist. organizer of RYA of Cuddlaore, S.Ammaiappan, Dist. Secretary and SCM of CPIML and others spoke. CPI(ML) State Secretary, Comrade Balasundaram, addressing the demonstration severely condemned the steep rise in the price of petrol and warned against the decision to hike the prices of diesel and cooking gas. He criticized the New Chief Minister for not condemning the price rise and warned against hobnobbing with the Congress against the people’s mandate. This was the first public protest activity after the May 13 election results.

Uttar Pradesh: Dharnas and demonstrations were organised on 16 May in different districts including Gorakhpur, Sikandarpur in Ballia, Dist. HQ, Saidpur and Bhadaura in Ghazipur. Effigy of UPA Govt. Was burnt at some places. Memorandums were also sent from some districts to Central Govt for rolling back the hike.

Demonstrations and protests in various forms have also been held in Bihar, Jharkhand and other states of Party’s work.

CPIML’s Participation in Assembly Polls

In West Bengal, the party’s election campaign had targeted the coalitions ruling in both Kolkata and Delhi, and called for a resurrection of the fighting Left. Our campaign had highlighted the demands for repeal of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894; SEZ Act; UAPA (Amendment) Act; immediate withdrawal of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ and atrocities on people’s struggles; return of land to the peasants at Singur; as well as other demands related to BPL/MNREGA etc. The party fielded 37 candidates in West Bengal who polled 71249 votes in all – this is our maximum vote in West Bengal till date.

In Assam, our election campaign had highlighted corruption, price rise, extremely tardy implementation of welfare schemes, unresolved border problems with neighbouring states, acute unemployment and abysmally low wages, loot in tribal welfare schemes and rejection of the demand of tribal autonomy, and construction of a highly dangerous mega dam. We had fielded 8 candidates, polling nearly 25,000 votes including 12784 votes in Bihali in Sonitpur district where we finished third.

In TN, our election campaign focused on exposing the hollowness of the freebies competitively announced by the rival DMK/AIADMK, and had instead highlighted the demands for land reform, right to employment and the rights of workers including trade union collective bargaining rights. We had 11 candidates in all, and polled a total of 8477 votes.

In Kerala, we contested a single seat – Nenmara in Palakkad District – where we polled 735 votes, and our campaign highlighted the demand for reversal of liberalisation policies and takeover of lands from corporate houses. LCC comrades polled more than 10,000 votes in one constituency.

The party had also contested three seats in Puducherry, highlighting the demands of the working poor and homeless people, polling 528 votes in all.

“Challenges to anti-corruption Movement today”

Seminar in Patna

A seminar on the above mentioned topic was organised by AISA and RYA in Patna’s AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences on 8th May. The seminar hall was packed with progressive intellectuals and social activists of Patna as well as activists and cadres from rural areas along with the students and youth.

The speakers included Razi Ahmad, Director of the Gandhi Museum, Prof. Bharti S Kumar of the Dept. Of History of Patna University, Prem Kumar Mani, Legislative Councillor from JD(U), Jansatta’s senior journalist Ganga Prasad who mentioned of the form of corruption prevalent at the higher levels in print media where the greed of newspaper owners for fatter profits has made the print media a saleable commodity and Govts and capitalists have come to dominate that sector, well known social activist Arshad Ajmal, Professors Daizy Narayan and Vinay Kanth, Prof. Naval Kishore Chaudhary of Economics Dept. At Patna University and CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya as the last speaker.

Comrade DIpankar underlined the characteristic features of corruption today as compared with those of 70’s and 80’s. He said that today legislative, executive, judiciary, armed forces, media and big names are involved in corruption, each instance of which is hundred times bigger or even more than those against which anti-corruption movement of ’74 and ’89 took shape. Gates to economic policy in this country has been fully opened for corporates and their intervention has been made virtually legitimate. Still, the huge companies are not satisfied with favourable policies alone, they want persons of their choice at the helm of power to establish their monopoly and for this they are authoring bigger and bigger scams. Spectrum scam is one example of this. Referring the mining sector as second biggest area of loot he used the example of how the foreign TNCs are selling the same iron ore at Rs.4000/tonne in international markets that they buy here in our country at Rs.400/tonne. To run unhindered this machine of national resource loot, corruption is used as lubricant. He said that when the people lose faith in all big ruling parties, in such situation of a kind of a “political vacuum” the role of ‘civil society’ becomes prominent. Lokpal Bill may be a good beginning where CBI and CVC have been made toothless, but limiting the anti-corruption movement to Lokball Bill is neither necessary nor a compulsion. The reach of anti-corruption movement must spread to poor-peasants-workers and this must be led by students and youth. The political leadership of this should be in the hands of democratic forces and communist forces being the most consistent democratic force will naturally remain in the forefront of this struggle.

AISA’s State Secretary Abhyuday introduced the topic and RYA’s General Secretary Kamlesh Sharma gave the vote of thanks.

In Memory of Comrade J Shankaran

In memory of Com. J Shankaran, former party state secretary of Karnataka, a meeting was held at Bangalore on 15th May to commemorate his death. The modest gathering that covered various cross sections including Tamil cultural and social groups, workers, party members, friends and few ML organizations fondly recollected the social and political life of Com. Shankaran spanning four decades, which was brimming with commitment to the Marxist ideology, dedication to the people’s cause, strong ties with working masses and ample instances of personal sacrifices.

Dr. Lakshminarayana, Karnataka state convenor of Indian Institute of Marxist Studies (IIMS), recalled Com. Shankaran’s role in publishing ‘Flames of War in Bhojpur’ in Kannada and in party building and developing new contacts in a situation of heightened state repression. Dr Rati Rao, VP of AIPWA, recalled his humane qualities and his contributions in evolving party work. Poet Irayadian said that Shankaran was a people’s poet in his youth, whose literary potential was not fully exploited. Com. V Shankar, CCM, said that the process of transformation from being a fighter for the emancipation of Tamil masses to the position of a communist fighting for the emancipation of the Indian people as a whole is something to be learnt from the life and struggles of Com. Shankaran. He underlined the role of Com. Shankaran in establishing contacts with the central party after its reorganization in late ‘70s for Karnataka comrades. Further, he emphasized Shankaran’s life as a model that explains how a revolutionary is indeed a great humanist. Com Gopal, another former state secretary, who presided over the meeting stated that Com Shankaran lived as a communist till his death and will live forever in our memories as a cherished communist leader.

Other speakers in the memorial meeting included V Sekar, former state secretary of the party, who carried the baton from Com. Shankaran, Appanna, District president of AICCTU, C Rajan, Karnataka Tamil Makkal Iyakkam, poet Maruthu, Prof. Manivannan, editor Vedhakumar, Manohar, Anbumani, CP Mani and Alphonse.

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: 22442790, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

MLU-14-21.pdf

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