Published fortnightly from Kolkata
Vol. 54 No. 7 November 15 2020
Electronic version Print copy not available
In this issue
REMEMBERING THE TEACHINGS OF GREAT ENGELS ON HIS BICENTENARY
What a torch of reason ceased to burn, What a heart has ceased to beat! — V I Lenin
ONGOING PEOPLE’S PROTEST IN THAILAND
DECLARATION OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTION (Online) of CENTRAL TRADE UNIONS
A FEW POINTS THAT ARISE OUT OF ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT RULING AGAINST CONVERSION
MEDIA SAY SO — 70% prisoners are held without trial
Successful Strike of Migrant workers in Puducherry
Growing Misery of Handloom Workers
75% of Russians Say Soviet Era Was ‘Greatest Time’ in Country’s History – Poll
AIUTUC Protests Conversion of passenger trains into express trains
REMEMBERING THE TEACHINGS OF GREAT ENGELS ON HIS BICENTENARY
‘‘The slave is sold once and for all, the proletarian has to sell himself by the day and by the hour. The slave is the property of one master and for that very reason has a guaranteed subsistence, however wretched it may be. The proletarian is, so to speak, the slave of the entire bourgeois class, not of one master, and therefore has no guaranteed subsistence, since nobody buys his labour if he does not need it. The slave is accounted a thing and not a member of civil society. The proletarian is recognised as a person, as a member of civil society. The slave may, therefore, have a better subsistence than the proletarian but the latter stands at a higher stage of development. The slave frees himself by becoming a proletarian, abolishing from the totality of property relationships only the relationship of slavery. The proletarian can free himself only by abolishing property in general.’’
(Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith, 9, June 1847)
What a torch of reason ceased to burn, What a heart has ceased to beat!
V I Lenin
[On the occasion of bicentenary of great Engels, outstanding leader of the proletariat, we publish this tribute paid by great Lenin, worthy continuer of Marx-Engels]
On August 5 (new style), 1895, Frederick Engels died in London. After his friend Karl Marx (who died in 1883), Engels was the finest scholar and teacher of the modern proletariat in the whole civilised world. From the time that fate brought Karl Marx and Frederick Engels together, the two friends devoted their life’s work to a common cause. And so to understand what Frederick Engels has done for the proletariat, one must have a clear idea of the significance of Marx’s teaching and work for the development of the contemporary working-class movement. Marx and Engels were the first to show that the working class and its demands are a necessary outcome of the present economic system, which together with the bourgeoisie inevitably creates and organises the proletariat. They showed that it is not the well-meaning efforts of noble-minded individuals, but the class struggle of the organised proletariat that will deliver humanity from the evils which now oppress it. In their scientific works, Marx and Engels were the first to explain that socialism is not the invention of dreamers, but the final aim and necessary result of the development of the productive forces in modern society. All recorded history hitherto has been a history of class struggle, of the succession of the rule and victory of certain social classes over others. And this will continue until the foundations of class struggle and of class domination – private property and anarchic social production – disappear. The interests of the proletariat demand the destruction of these foundations, and therefore the conscious class struggle of the organised workers must be directed against them. And every class struggle is a political struggle.
These views of Marx and Engels have now been adopted by all proletarians who are fighting for their emancipation. But when in the forties the two friends took part in the socialist literature and the social movements of their time, they were absolutely novel. There were then many people, talented and without talent, honest and dishonest, who, absorbed in the struggle for political freedom, in the struggle against the despotism of kings, police and priests, failed to observe the antagonism between the interests of the bourgeoisie and those of the proletariat. These people would not entertain the idea of the workers acting as an independent social force. On the other hand, there were many dreamers, some of them geniuses, who thought that it was only necessary to convince the rulers and the governing classes of the injustice of the contemporary social order, and it would then be easy to establish peace and general well-being on earth. They dreamt of a socialism without struggle. Lastly, nearly all the socialists of that time and the friends of the working class generally regarded the proletariat only as an ulcer, and observed with horror how it grew with the growth of industry. They all, therefore, sought for a means to stop the development of industry and of the proletariat, to stop the “wheel of history.” Marx and Engels did not share the general fear of the development of the proletariat; on the contrary, they placed all their hopes on its continued growth. The more proletarians there are, the greater is their strength as a revolutionary class, and the nearer and more possible does socialism become. The services rendered by Marx and Engels to the working class may be expressed in a few words thus: they taught the working class to know itself and be conscious of itself, and they substituted science for dreams. That is why the name and life of Engels should be known to every worker. That is why in this collection of articles, the aim of which, as of all our publications, is to awaken class-consciousness in the Russian workers, we must give a sketch of the life and work of Frederick Engels, one of the two great teachers of the modern proletariat.
Engels was born in 1820 in Barmen, in the Rhine Province of the kingdom of Prussia. His father was a manufacturer. In 1838 Engels, without having completed his high-school studies, was forced by family circumstances to enter a commercial house in Bremen as a clerk. Commercial affairs did not prevent Engels from pursuing his scientific and political education. He had come to hate autocracy and the tyranny of bureaucrats while still at high school. The study of philosophy led him further. At that time Hegel’s teaching dominated German philosophy, and Engels became his follower. Although Hegel himself was an admirer of the autocratic Prussian state, in whose service he was as a professor at Berlin University, Hegel’s teachings were revolutionary. Hegel’s faith in human reason and its rights, and the fundamental thesis of Hegelian philosophy that the universe is undergoing a constant process of change and development, led some of the disciples of the Berlin philosopher – those who refused to accept the existing situation – to the idea that the struggle against this situation, the struggle against existing wrong and prevalent evil, is also rooted in the universal law of eternal development. If all things develop, if institutions of one kind give place to others, why should the autocracy of the Prussian king or of the Russian tsar, the enrichment of an insignificant minority at the expense of the vast majority, or the domination of the bourgeoisie over the people, continue for ever? Hegel’s philosophy spoke of the development of the mind and of ideas; it was idealistic. From the development of the mind, it deduced the development of nature, of man, and of human, social relations. While retaining Hegel’s idea of the eternal process of development, Marx and Engels rejected the preconceived idealist view; turning to life, they saw that it is not the development of mind that explains the development of nature but that, on the contrary, the explanation of mind must be derived from nature, from matter…. Unlike Hegel and the other Hegelians, Marx and Engels were materialists. Regarding the world and humanity materialistically, they perceived that just as material causes underlie all natural phenomena, so the development of human society is conditioned by the development of material forces, the productive forces. On the development of the productive forces depend the relations into which men enter with one another in the production of the things required for the satisfaction of human needs. And in these relations lies the explanation of all the phenomena of social life, human aspirations, ideas and laws. The development of the productive forces creates social relations based upon private property, but now we see that this same development of the productive forces deprives the majority of their property and concentrates it in the hands of an insignificant minority. It abolishes property, the basis of the modern social order, it itself strives towards the very aim which the socialists have set themselves. All the socialists have to do is to realise which social force, owing to its position in modern society, is interested in bringing socialism about, and to impart to this force the consciousness of its interests and of its historical task. This force is the proletariat. Engels got to know the proletariat in England, in the centre of English industry, Manchester, where he settled in 1842, entering the service of a commercial firm of which his father was a shareholder. Here Engels not only sat in the factory office but wandered about the slums in which the workers were cooped up, and saw their poverty and misery with his own eyes. But he did not confine himself to personal observations. He read all that had been revealed before him about the condition of the British working class and carefully studied all the official documents he could lay his hands on. The fruit of these studies and observations was the book which appeared in 1845: The Condition of the Working Class in England. We have already mentioned what was the chief service rendered by Engels in writing The Condition of the Working Class in England. Even before Engels, many people had described the sufferings of the proletariat and had pointed to the necessity of helping it. Engels was the first to say that the proletariat is not only a suffering class; that it is, in fact, the disgraceful economic condition of the proletariat that drives it irresistibly forward and compels it to fight for its ultimate emancipation. And the fighting proletariat will help itself. The political movement of the working class will inevitably lead the workers to realise that their only salvation lies in socialism. On the other hand, socialism will become a force only when it becomes the aim of the political struggle of the working class. Such are the main ideas of Engels’ book on the condition of the working class in England, ideas which have now been adopted by all thinking and fighting proletarians, but which at that time were entirely new. These ideas were set out in a book written in absorbing style and filled with most authentic and shocking pictures of the misery of the English proletariat. The book was a terrible indictment of capitalism and the bourgeoisie and created a profound impression. Engels’ book began to be quoted everywhere as presenting the best picture of the condition of the modern proletariat. And, in fact, neither before 1845 nor after has there appeared so striking and truthful a picture of the misery of the working class.
It was not until he came to England that Engels became a socialist. In Manchester, he established contacts with people active in the English labour movement at the time and began to write for English socialist publications. In 1844, while on his way back to Germany, he became acquainted in Paris with Marx, with whom he had already started to correspond. In Paris, under the influence of the French socialists and French life, Marx had also become a socialist. Here the friends jointly wrote a book entitled The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Critique. This book, which appeared a year before The Condition of the Working Class in England, and the greater part of which was written by Marx, contains the foundations of revolutionary materialist socialism, the main ideas of which we have expounded above. “The holy family” is a facetious nickname for the Bauer brothers, the philosophers, and their followers. These gentlemen preached a criticism which stood above all reality, above parties and politics, which rejected all practical activity, and which only “critically” contemplated the surrounding world and the events going on within it. These gentlemen, the Bauers, looked down on the proletariat as an uncritical mass. Marx and Engels vigorously opposed this absurd and harmful tendency. In the name of a real, human person – the worker, trampled down by the ruling classes and the state – they demanded, not contemplation, but a struggle for a better order of society. They, of course, regarded the proletariat as the force that is capable of waging this struggle and that is interested in it. Even before the appearance of The Holy Family, Engels had published in Marx’s and Ruge’s Deutsch-Franz\”osische Jahrb\”ucher” his “Critical Essays on Political Economy,” in which he examined the principal phenomena of the contemporary economic order from a socialist standpoint, regarding them as necessary consequences of the rule of private property. Contact with Engels was undoubtedly a factor in Marx’s decision to study political economy, the science in which his works have produced a veritable revolution.
From 1845 to 1847 Engels lived in Brussels and Paris, combining scientific work with practical activities among the German workers in Brussels and Paris. Here Marx and Engels established contact with the secret German Communist League, which commissioned them to expound the main principles of the socialism they had worked out. Thus arose the famous Manifesto of the Communist Party of Marx and Engels, published in 1848. This little booklet is worth whole volumes: to this day its spirit inspires and guides the entire organised and fighting proletariat of the civilised world.
The revolution of 1848, which broke out first in France and then spread to other West-European countries, brought Marx and Engels back to their native country. Here, in Rhenish Prussia, they took charge of the democratic Neue Rheinische Zeitung published in Cologne. The two friends were the heart and soul of all revolutionary-democratic aspirations in Rhenish Prussia. They fought to the last ditch in defence of freedom and of the interests of the people against the forces of reaction. The latter, as we know, gained the upper hand. The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed. Marx, who during his exile had lost his Prussian citizenship, was deported; Engels took part in the armed popular uprising, fought for liberty in three battles, and after the defeat of the rebels fled, via Switzerland, to London.
Marx also settled in London. Engels soon became a clerk again, and then a shareholder, in the Manchester commercial firm in which he had worked in the forties. Until 1870 he lived in Manchester, while Marx lived in London, but this did not prevent their maintaining a most lively interchange of ideas: they corresponded almost daily. In this correspondence the two friends exchanged views and discoveries and continued to collaborate in working out scientific socialism. In 1870 Engels moved to London, and their joint intellectual life, of the most strenuous nature, continued until 1883, when Marx died. Its fruit was, on Marx’s side, Capital, the greatest work on political economy of our age, and on Engels’ side, a number of works both large and small. Marx worked on the analysis of the complex phenomena of capitalist economy. Engels, in simply written works, often of a polemical character, dealt with more general scientific problems and with diverse phenomena of the past and present in the spirit of the materialist conception of history and Marx’s economic theory. Of Engels’ works we shall mention: the polemical work against Duhring (analysing highly important problems in the domain of philosophy, natural science and the social sciences), The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (translated into Russian, published in St. Petersburg, 3rd ea., 1895), Ludwig Feuerbach (Russian translation and notes by G. Plekhanov, Geneva, 1892), an article on the foreign policy of the Russian Government (translated into Russian in the Geneva Social-Demokrat, Nos. 1 and 2), splendid articles on the housing question, and finally, two small but very valuable articles on Russia’s economic development (Frederick Engels on Russia, translated into Russian by Zasulich, Geneva, 1894). Marx died before he could put the final touches to his vast work on capital. The draft, however, was already finished, and after the death of his friend, Engels undertook the onerous task of preparing and publishing the second and the third volumes of Capital. He published Volume II in 1885 and Volume III in 1894 (his death prevented the preparation of Volume IV). These two volumes entailed a vast amount of labour. Adler, the Austrian Social-Democrat, has rightly remarked that by publishing volumes II and III of Capital, Engels erected a majestic monument to the genius who had been his friend, a monument on which, without intending it, he indelibly carved his own name. Indeed these two volumes of Capital are the work of two men: Marx and Engels. Old legends contain various moving instances of friendship. The European proletariat may say that its science was created by two scholars and fighters, whose relationship to each other surpasses the most moving stories of the ancients about human friendship. Engels always – and, on the whole, quite justly – placed himself after Marx. “In Marx’s lifetime,” he wrote to an old friend, “I played second fiddle.” His love for the living Marx, and his reverence for the memory of the dead Marx were boundless. This stern fighter and austere thinker possessed a deeply loving soul.
After the movement of 1848-49, Marx and Engels in exile did not confine themselves to scientific research. In 1864 Marx founded the International Working Men’s Association, and led this society for a whole decade. Engels also took an active part in its affairs. The work of the International Association, which, in accordance with Marx’s idea, united proletarians of all countries, was of tremendous significance in the development of the working-class movement. But even with the closing down of the International Association in the seventies, the unifying role of Marx and Engels did not cease. On the contrary, it may be said that their importance as the spiritual leaders of the working-class movement grew continuously, because the movement itself grew uninterruptedly. After the death of Marx, Engels continued alone as the counsellor and leader of the European socialists. His advice and directions were sought for equally by the German socialists, whose strength, despite government persecution, grew rapidly and steadily, and by representatives of backward countries, such as the Spaniards, Rumanians and Russians, who were obliged to ponder and weigh their first steps. They all drew on the rich store of knowledge and experience of Engels in his old age.
Marx and Engels, who both knew Russian and read Russian books, took a lively interest in the country, followed the Russian revolutionary movement with sympathy and maintained contact with Russian revolutionaries. They both became socialists after being democrats, and the democratic feeling of hatred for political despotism was exceedingly strong in them. This direct political feeling, combined with a profound theoretical understanding of the connection between political despotism and economic oppression, and also their rich experience of life, made Marx and Engels uncommonly responsive politically. That is why the heroic struggle of the handful of Russian revolutionaries against the mighty tsarist government evoked a most sympathetic echo in the hearts of these tried revolutionaries. On the other hand, the tendency, for the sake of illusory economic advantages, to turn away from the most immediate and important task of the Russian socialists, namely, the winning of political freedom, naturally appeared suspicious to them and was even regarded by them as a direct betrayal of the great cause of the social revolution. “The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself” – Marx and Engels constantly taught. But in order to fight for its economic emancipation, the proletariat must win itself certain political rights. Moreover, Marx and Engels clearly saw that a political revolution in Russia would be of tremendous significance to the West-European working-class movement as well. Autocratic Russia had always been a bulwark of European reaction in general. The extraordinarily favourable international position enjoyed by Russia as a result of the war of 1870, which for a long time sowed discord between Germany and France, of course only enhanced the importance of autocratic Russia as a reactionary force. Only a free Russia, a Russia that had no need either to oppress the Poles, Finns, Germans, Armenians or any other small nations, or constantly to set France and Germany at loggerheads, would enable modern Europe, rid of the burden of war, to breathe freely, would weaken all the reactionary elements in Europe and strengthen the European working class. That was why Engels ardently desired the establishment of political freedom in Russia for the sake of the progress of the working-class movement in the West as well. In him the Russian revolutionaries have lost their best friend.
Let us always honour the memory of Frederick Engels, a great fighter and teacher of the proletariat! (CW, Vol 2)
ONGOING PEOPLE’S PROTEST IN THAILAND
A new wave of anti-government demonstrations is rocking Thailand since mid-October 2020. Defying ban on gatherings, tens of thousands of youth, mostly students, have been on the streets in Thailand as a part of anti-government protests. They are demanding immediate resignation of Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha as well as reformations in the constitutional monarchy set-up of the country. The protests started last year when the courts banned opposition for being critical of the government led by prime minister Prayuth. The Thai youth has been protesting since then against the oppressive measures of the government. Thailand has a long history of political unrest and protest. Although there has been dissatisfaction building against Thailand’s government in recent years, the initial trigger for the current protests was the dissolution of the pro-democracy Future Forward party in February 2020 by a court order. The movement was halted for some time earlier this year because of Covid 19 restrictions but was resumed around mid-July when a prominent pro-democracy activist went missing in an incident which is thought to have been orchestrated by Thai authorities. Since then, things heated up again. This time, high-school students have also joined the protests. The protests in Thailand are not only about democratic reforms but also about overhauling the education sector, economy and arbitrary arrests of activists under draconian emergency laws. Concretely they are demanding to control the amount of taxpayers’ money funding the privileged lifestyle of the royal family. The present king Vajiralongkorn is one of the richest monarchs in the world with net worth around 40 billion dollars. On the other side the plight of the common people is becoming miserable day by day. The unemployment rate in Thailand surged to 1.9 percent in August of 2020 from 1 percent in the corresponding month the previous year.
Pattern of governance in Thailand
It bears recall that the political system in Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy. It has seen multiple coups and periods of military dictatorships. With 22 coups in the last 100 years, it tops the list of countries in this regard. In 1932, after the Siamese revolution, rule of a constitutional monarchy in place of absolute monarchy was established. The erstwhile power of the King was diluted. He could no more make laws, though bills passed in the parliament were mandated to get royal consent before becoming laws. The king’s role was supposed to be symbolic and ceremonial. Yet the king is even today not only the head of the state but also the protector of Buddhism and upholder of religion. As per draconian Lèse-majesté (“to do wrong to majesty”) laws in force, Thai citizens are not allowed to criticize him or the royal family. Violation stipulates imprisonment up to 15 years. Thailand’s political tradition of military coups overthrowing democratically elected governments, on some pretext or the other, always receives the support of the monarchy. There is an “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” relationship between the monarchy and army. Thailand’s latest authoritarian turn began with a coup in 2006. As usual the military was unable to contain its rule. So general elections were held in 2007 and a new government was formed. Again in 2010 people’s movement surged forth in which thousands of protesters including women, children and elderly people assembled on the streets of the capital Bangkok, demanding democracy and end of inequality. They also demanded removal of the then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was known for his undemocratic, oppressive rule without any concern for the poor and common people.
In the aftermath of 2014
In 2014, Thailand’s army has seized power in a coup after months of political turmoil. The military declared it had taken control of the government and suspended the constitution in order to restore order and enact political reforms. The government had since then been led by army commander Prayuth Chan-o-cha. After the 2014 coup, laws were changed in favour of the military and the opponents of government faced harassment, persecution, suppression and prosecution. Between the 2014 coup and early 2018, at least 98 Lèse majesté charges were filed, according to a legal database by Thai watchdog iLaw. Many more were charged under other laws such as those against sedition and computer crimes. In March 2019, Thailand people saw the first elections since the military seized power in 2014. For many young people and first-time voters, it was seen as a chance for change after years of military rule. But the military had taken steps to entrench its political role, and the election saw Prayuth Chan-o-cha re-installed as prime minister.
Now, the brewing discontent has burst forth. Hitherto, Thai press usually censored anything even mildly critical of the monarchy. Yet, with the explosion in social media and smart phone use in recent years, the efficacy of this censorship has been eroded. Thailand’s mainstream media has been bypassed, and a number of Twitter users and Facebook groups are now able to frequently disseminate information criticizing of the monarchy. The signs held by the protesting Thai people said: “No god, no kings, only man.” On Twitter in Thailand, hashtags like “Why Do We Need a King” are also making rounds. Clearly, this a defiance of the autocratic fiats.
Thai rulers shifting allegiance
from US to China
It is also necessary to note here another development. Earlier, Thai rulers were close allies of US imperialism. For decades, the relationship with USA served Thai interests – each saw the other as a bulwark against Chinese and Vietnamese influence in Southeast Asia. Among other things, interest of US imperialist rulers in Thailand was the Utapao airbase which has so far been an important logistics hub for US military in the Indo-Pacific. But after 2014 coup, US cut $4.7 million in financing for arms. Immediately China, now an imperialist force after counter-revolution, stepped into the void, offering an array of major weapons systems on cheap terms and without any conditionality. In 2018, the Thai rulers launched a 10-year military modernization programme in which China played a key role in supplying sophisticated arms and artillery and the two countries have agreed to establish a weapons assembly and repair facility in north-eastern Thailand for Chinese land-based systems. In 2019, when the Mekong was at its lowest levels ever threatening Thai food security, China had not only released intermittently water but sought to continue building 13 dams. In reciprocation, Thai rulers have been quick to join the new Chinese economic initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Belt and Road Initiative as well as acquiescing to a greater Chinese military presence in the region. Since the military-backed Thai rulers are now having a closer ties with China and considering it as their largest economic partner and an ally in their fight against forces demanding democracy in Thailand, they incurred displeasure of the US imperialists. That is why outgoing US President Trump was found to be critical about the Thai government. While the bourgeois rulers governing the country under a constitutional monarchical system are making fortunes by alternatively shifting to this or that imperialist power, the common toiling Thai people find their economic-political-social oppression mounting with every passing day. Hence they are justifiably asking for remedy. In fact, they staged demonstrations on 24 June to mark the anniversary of the 1932 Siamese revolution which overthrew Thailand’s absolute monarchy. –a bloodless uprising that overthrew absolute monarchy and succeeded in establishing a constitutional monarchy thereby changing the system of governance towards some semblance of democracy. This very observance indicates the mood and aspiration of oppressed Thai citizens.
Sad dissolution of
Communist Party of Thailand
However, we are not aware if there is any correct revolutionary leadership to organize and consolidate the surging people’s protest and channelize it along right track. So far we know, there is no communist party in Thailand as of now. In 1927, being inspired by Russian revolution and the revolutionary struggles in China, some progressive activities officially founded The Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) (initially known as the Communist Party of Siam), on 1 December 1942.. In the 1960s, the CPT membership began swelling and by the early 1970s it was the second largest communist party in mainland Southeast Asia after Vietnam. The party launched a guerrilla war against the then Thai government in 1965. The party blindly copied the strategy of Chinese revolution and announced the line of marching forward from the countryside and encircle the cities to capture power. The inevitable consequence of mechanical understanding of the creative science of Marxism-Leninism which stipulates concretization in the concrete situation of a country to deduce strategy of revolution, did happen. Following a series of internal party disputes, coupled with the division of international communist movement following pursuit of revisionist line by the Khrushchevite leadership of Soviet Union, a large number of the party activists surrendered to the counter-insurgency policies of the Thai government and sought amnesty. Thereafter, following sad dismantling of socialism in Soviet Union and other countries in the 1990s, the CPT disappeared from the political scene.
Only correct revolutionary leadership
can illumine the path
In fact, when the country was in 2010 rocked by a people’s movement in which hundreds of thousand protesters, mostly urban and rural poor, including women, children and elderly people assembled on the streets of the capital Bangkok, in demand of democracy, end of inequality and removal of the then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, we had in our analysis in the pages of Proletarian Era dated 1 July 2010 stated : “The present people’s movement in Thailand bore in it the strength, zeal, militancy that could have helped people realize their just and immediate demands, making them aware, as well of the necessity of overthrowing capitalism. However, having been led by forces and individuals that only hankered after power and pelf within the system itself the movement under their leadership ended in tragic futility. Hence along with the unnumbered dead bodies of freedom-loving common poorer people of that country left on the streets deserted by the leaders, Thailand people’s movement has indelibly left the lesson that with all its potentialities the movement could not reach its desired end as it did not have the proper revolutionary leadership to guide it through.” The same analysis holds good in the present situation as well. Struggling Thai people must imbibe this truth and take initiative to build up a correct communist party on the soil fulfilling all necessary conditions so as to be able to find a rudder to take their movement to its logical culmination. And in today’s context, the most developed and enriched understanding of Marxism-Leninism today lies in the thoughts of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Founder General Secretary of the SUCI(C), worthy continuer of great Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin-Mao Zedong and an outstanding Marxist thinker of the era. So, building a correct communist party fulfilling all necessary conditions ought to be based on Marxism-Leninism-Shibdas Ghosh Thought.
(Source: The Diplomat-04-07-11, Frontline-07-03-14, warontherocks.com 02-01-20, dw.com 24-06-20, BBC 22-05-14, 24-05-14, 01-08-20, The Statesman-06-03-14, 01-06-14, 09-11-14, 10-08-20, Yahoo news 16-10-20, New Indian Express 31-10-20)
DECLARATION OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTION (Online) of CENTRAL TRADE UNIONS
The declaration of the National Convention of Workers, organized online by the Central Trade Unions and independent Federations/Associations on 2nd October 2020 strongly condemned the onslaught on the basic democratic and constitutional rights of the workers, farmers and common people of our country by Modi-led BJP government at the Centre as well as by BJP-led State Governments.
The declaration mentioned, inter alia, that While all indicators pointed to economy drastically slowing down due to lack of demand, the Government continued to steer their policies in the name of “ease of doing business” aggravating widespread impoverishment and deepening the crisis further. In the process, besides reducing corporate taxes, they have got the three anti-labour codes passed in Parliament most undemocratically, when the opposition parties were absent. These labour Codes are designed to impose conditions of virtual slavery on the workers, making formation of unions difficult and virtually taking away the right to strike, keeping large sections of unorganised sector workers, such as street vendors, domestic workers, mid-day meal workers, homebased workers, beedi workers, construction workers, rickshaw-pullers and other daily wagers etc. out of their ambit. In a similar way and in violation of all parliamentary and constitutional procedure, they have passed three farm bills and curbed the Essential Commodities Act, without legally guaranteeing minimum support price for farm produce, thus promoting corporate and contract farming, big food processing and retail monopolies, both foreign and domestic, and also endangering country’s food security. The Government has gone further: Without even placing the Electricity(Amendment) Bill,2020 in the Parliament, it has started privatising electricity distribution network ignoring opposing views.
Faulty formulation and policy on GST and the sliding economy has put Government finances in difficulty, consequently drying up States’ finances. RBI, LIC and various PSEs are being used as ATMs, only leading to further frenzy of privatisation of PSUs through auctions and 100% FDI: be it railway routes, railway stations, railway production units, airports, Port & Docks, profit making Government Departments, coal mines, cash rich PSEs like BPCL, 41 Ordnance Factories, BSNL, Air India, road transports and so on. All these destructive measures are being hastily pushed through when the country is reeling under Covid-19 pandemic. Even the so-called “Frontline Warriors” – Doctors, Nurses, Paramedical Staff, Sanitation Workers, Anganwadi, ASHA workers, who are being forced to carry out locality surveys at the risk to their own lives, were treated shabbily, not paying them promised monetary and insurance benefits! And the known crony capitalists are making headlines for increasing their market worth by crores of rupees every day of the pandemic!
The divisive machinations being played out, to tear up the secular fabric of our society, by implicating and accusing all intellectual opponents of CAA for conspiring and instigating North-East Delhi riots, and not even filing FIRs for hate speeches by BJP leaders by using Delhi Police has been condemned all around. The subversion of the Supreme Court is alarming. In this traumatic condition, New Education Policy has been introduced, which is wholesale privatisation of education, that will discriminate against poor people. In short, the Constitution is sidelined with impunity.
A FEW POINTS THAT ARISE OUT OF ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT RULING AGAINST CONVERSION
Of late, the Allahabad High Court has dismissed a writ petition filed by a married couple seeking police protection and in its judgement observed that religious conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable. The Court further held that if the conversion is not “inspired by religion feeling” and is done “with the object of creating a ground for some claim of right…the conversion shall not be bona fide”.(scroll.in 31-10-20)The judgement was delivered when a Muslim woman having converted to Hinduism before being married knocked at the door of judiciary to get a legal protection. It is believed that the verdict has been pronounced to approve religious conversion if it is out of volition and not by coercion or any other material benefit. But some aspects in regard to inter-faith marriages do surface in this context. So, those need to be focussed on.
Crimes to infringe upon
right to marry as per choice
Any right-thinking person would agree that be it for matrimony or for any other reason it is definitely an offence to resort to forced religious conversion. Similarly, the right to marry as per choice can also not be curbed under any pretext whatsoever since it is tantamount to infringement on individual freedom. But in ‘democratic ‘ India, such offences are committed with impunity and such rights are denied at will by those who wield power or are plunged in the dungeon of obscurantist bigoted thoughts. We often find that not only inter-religious marriages but even so called inter-caste marriages or marriages within the same gotra (lineage) are perceived to be ‘unpardonable a crime’ so much so that not only is the couple separated forcibly, but the boy or the girl or both are subjected to inhuman torture, humiliation in public like parading naked with faces smeared in black, and also killed straightway. Even so called village headmen deriving autocratic authority from their self-styled superiority in social hierarchy or power of being a panchayat executive openly issue such tormenting fiats. A term “honour killing” has already found place in the parlance of such social injustice. Over and above, the arch reactionary religious fundamentalists, fanatics and communalists have been arrogating to themselves the licence to “punish” anyone and in any way if, according to them, the person concerned is entering into an inter-faith relationship, let alone marriage. “Honour killing” is witnessed not only in case of inter-faith marriages but love relationship and marriages among out-of-caste, even same caste, in or out of caste-lineages or between so called upper and lower caste couples. In our country, this has become a common practice under active patronage of the protagonists of Hindutva just like the way the Islamic fundamentalists are doing elsewhere. So the Hindutva zealots have coined a phrase “love jihad” and meting out savage punishment to any Muslim boy or girl who finds his or her love in a partner professing Hindu religion or are raising the bogey of religious conversion. But they themselves, however, are eulogizing forced conversion from Islam to Hinduism under the garb of gharwapsi (returning home). And unfortunately these bigots enjoy backing from the power that be for committing such criminal offences.
Earlier, we had seen that the Supreme Court came down heavily on the self-appointed “khap panchayats”, asking how they could become guardians of the law and categorically ruled that marriages between two adults would not have any third party interference, neither from the parents nor the state. (India Today 05-02-18)Even such a ruling from the apex court has not restrained the evildoers. In February last, a ‘khap panchayat’ ordered a young couple to consume dung and urine as a form of punishment for marrying outside their respective caste. (mirrornownews 9-2-20 )
“Honour killing” and persecution in the name of containing “Love jihad”
Both “honour killing” as well as victimization, including assassination of identified sinner, of “love jihad” have been continuing unabated. Now, distorting the essence of the pronouncement by the Allahabad High Court, the Hindutva brigade of RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar, are out to buttress their anti-Muslim rabid communal agenda more vigorously by tagging all Hindu-Muslim marriages as “love jihad” and hence liable to be prosecuted. Earlier, on 28 August, the BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh had directed the home department to prepare an action plan “to bring an end to love jihad.”(The Wire 14-09-20) Recently the well-known jewellery chain ‘Tanishq’ had faced vandalism at one of their showrooms in Gujarat, their offence being that they had put up a jewellery ad depicting a Hindu-Muslim marriage to promote communal harmony! The communal hype was brought to such a crescendo that the ad had to be withdrawn. Similar communal fury was witnessed centring on a few films. Anything which goes against the doctrine of Hindutva is branded as ‘unlawful’, ‘illegitimate’, ‘anti-national’, ‘non-patriotic’ and so forth.
When such is the situation, wielding governmental power, the BJP leaders have not been hesitating to flaunt the self-declared ‘righteousness’ of their fundamentalist-communal intent, regarding “love jihad”, “honour killing”, “ghar wapsi” and so forth. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, followed by his counterpart in Haryana, Assam, etc. has declared that laws would be made to curb “love jihad”. These leaders also claim to end ‘marriages by deception’ in their respective states, alleging that Muslim boys are purposefully lying about their religion to marry Hindu girls. Akhara Parishad – again a Saffron offshoot – has let out a menacing cry-“Give death for Love Jihad.” Now, a distorted interpretation of the Court Verdict is used by the UP Chief Minister to declare: “We will make an impactful legislation to stop ‘love jihad’. I warn those who conceal their identity and play with our sisters’ respect. If you don’t mend your ways, your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin.” (scroll.in 31-10-20). The fact that the chant referred by him is associated with Hindu funerals means the Chief Minister himself has issued a life threat to the non-Hindu boys, particularly the Muslims. Incidentally, so called evil customs, what are often extolled by the power-centric lobbies as parampara (tradition) do not spare Hindu boys also. A 15-year-old boy committed suicide two hours after he was forced to marry his widowed sister-in-law, 10 years older than him, in south Bihar’s Gaya district. (Hindustan Times-13-12-17) Such is the bane of living upto so called parampara. Now, if any legislation against “love jihad” actually gets enacted as threatened, would that not even criminalize any kind of social interactions and association between different communities? Just a few days back, Allahabad High Court held that UP cow slaughter law is being misused against innocent. (Indian Express-27-10-20). What is the guarantee that the recent judgment of Allahabad High Court regarding religious conversion for the sake of marriage would not be misused in similar manner? With those seated in power bearing down or criminalising certain social interactions, would not such legislations pose serious danger to social life which, in democracy, ought not to be imperilled by using state power to put a leash on free mixing, social relationship and amity among various sections of people? One can find an eerie similarity with what Hitler did in Germany in 1935. “In September, the Fuehrer attended the Party’s rally at Nuremberg. …The Reichstag was summoned to Nuremberg for a special session, and Hitler presented for its unanimous approval the Nuremberg Laws directed against the Jews, the first depriving Germans of Jewish blood of their citizenship, the second – the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour – forbidding marriages between Germans and Jews and the employment of German servants by Jews. These laws, Hitler declared, ‘repay the debt of gratitude to the movement under whose symbol [the swastika, now adopted as the national emblem] Germany has recovered her freedom’. (Quoted from the book “Hitler, a study in tyranny” by Alan Bullock. p. 339)
Women are the worst victims
Also important to note is the fact that it is the women who, more often than not, are brutally victimized and face more of the social ostracism and repression in such regressive practices like “honour killing and “love jihad”. The UP Chief Minister has warned against “playing with sisters’ respect”. Obviously, this has not been expressed by him out of any genuine concern for maintaining dignity and honour of women but for spewing anti-Muslim venom as if only the Muslim boys are out to outrage modesty of Hindu women and forcing them to embrace religious conversion with a view to solemnising interfaith marriages. So, is he, like other RSS-BJP leaders, really concerned about upholding “sisters’ respect”? Can he deny that as per latest figures released by National Crime Record Bureau, Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of cases of crime against women in terms of absolute number? (Indian Express 30-09-20) Is it not that crime rate in India registered per lakh population is steadily going up under the BJP rule? (Economic Times 30-09-20) Has not UP recorded the highest number of hate crimes including “honour killing” especially against marginalized groups like the dalits for the third consecutive year? (First Post 06-03-19) Was not Kulpdeep Singh Senegar, a BJP legislator, jailed in a rape case? Is it not that after the recent Hathras and Balrampur gangrape cases, another such case has been reported from Uttar Pradesh, where a BJP leader was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Prayagraj? (India Today 04-10-20) So, “playing with sisters’ respect”, as stated by the UP Chief Minister, has become a commonplace feature in capitalist India with a BJP government in place. Even now, well into the 21st century, it is reported that bride trafficking has been a booming business in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and other parts in western and northern India. In some pockets, families take to buying young girls for marriage to older men. According to the 2016 National Crime Records Bureau, 33,855 women were kidnapped or abducted for the purpose of marriage. Half were under the age of 18. A door-to-door survey by an organization called ‘Empower People’ found 1,352 trafficked wives living with their buyers in 85 villages in north India in 2014. A UN Office on Drug and Crime report published in 2013 highlighted that women trafficked for forced marriage are “exploited, denied basic rights, duplicated as maids and eventually abandoned”. Many of these women are resold on the whim of their buyers. Thousands of other women and girls are lost to their families and trapped in lives of sexual and domestic slavery as paros – meaning those who have been purchased or sold.(global post-19-11-12 and The Guardian 07-03-18) We referred to this aspect because the “love jihad’ and “honour killing” bogies are no less a negation of women’s respect, dignity and equality. These cruel practices treat women as gullible, defenceless participants in relationships in male-dominated society and existing penal laws are hardly being invoked with vigour by the government-administration to prevent such heinous offences. Instead of securing the honour and dignity of women, both the BJP-led governments of UP and Haryana are reported to be mulling bringing a new law to forbid a phantom crime like “love jihad”. Focussing solely on the divisive inter-faith dimension while neglecting the gender aspect could not only be more vindictive against male “love jihad” candidates but condemn more women as well.
Attempts to exacerbate precipitated
social divide must be thwarted
The valid point should be that forced conversion by anyone for any reason whatsoever has to be condemned. As stated earlier, any adult citizen has constitutional right to marry a person of his or her own choice and no one can interfere in the matter. This had been also upheld by the stalwarts of our Renaissance movement who had the desire to rid the society of the old obsolete feudal practices, rituals and injunctions that stood in the way of progress. It has to be realized that attempts by the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar to raise crusade against “love jihad” or hold brief in favour of “honour killing” simply work for intensifying communal-casteist divides. More aggravated are such orchestrated divides, more would be polarization of the people along religious-casteist lines in absence of necessary political consciousness. More the social ambience teems in all kinds of bigoted, regressive and obscure practices, less would be the probability of appropriate socio-political consciousness dawning on the common toiling people. Secondly, in any country, advocates of majority fundamentalism-communalism only gain by such artificially created polarization. Religion and fundamentalism are not same. When religion is used or abused for reaping narrow sectarian political benefits, it is called fundamentalism. So in India, the arch Hindu communal RSS-BJP stand to gain if the atmosphere is surcharged with communal tension and religious divide. Also, the intent of the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar is to sustain and nurture all backward, outmoded thoughts and customs and foment alongside all kinds of divisive mentalities, including communalism-fundamentalism-casteism, because such divisive mentality is warranted by the ruling oppressive monopolists, their masters and patrons, to provide extra lease of life to the decadent moribund reactionary capitalist order. So, the need of the hour is for all democratic minded people to come forward and building up effective united resistance against such dangerous divisive fascist agenda.
MEDIA SAY SO
70% prisoners are held without trial
Out of the total 4.66 lakh people now in jail, almost 70% (3.3 lakhs) are without trial. Most of these imprisoned suspects are either illiterate or are not pass-outs from the school. 28% are totally illiterate and 42% have not completed secondary school examination. Almost all of whom now in prison are stated to be without trial belong to poor families. Not only that. As per National Crime Bureau report 2019, 21% of the prisoners without trial are dalits, 11% tribals and 19% Muslims. 28 persons out of one lakh population are such prisoners awaiting trials. Of them, 42, 41 and 45 % people belong to the dalit, tribal and Muslim communities, respectively. Does it mean that people from these communities are prone to committing crimes since birth? Some privileged group of people presume that tribals like the Lodhas in West Bengal are “all thieves who are thriving on misdeeds like stealing and roguery”. As if these people are thieves by profession. And all Muslims clad in their own dress are blindly pronounced as “terrorists”. While they are put behind the bar simply on the basis of suspicion, the state arrogates to itself justification of meting out any kind of treatment to them. They are huddled together in a short space (117 people are kept in a space allotted for 100 prisoners). Judged from the kind of food, healthcare and other facilities, it is difficult to say that they receive a treatment which can be called human. Is there any semblance of justice in imprisoning thousands of people without trial? 89% of such prisoners are of age below 50, 55% below 30. Would they get back all these precious years of their life? Already powerful section are committing a mega offence by depriving such people of the right to education, health, work and above all, right to live. These deprived people do not expect any judicial trial for such offence. But do they not have any escape from being jailed without trial? (Piyali Paul in Ananada Bazar Patrika 14-11-20)
Successful Strike of Migrant workers in Puducherry
Migrant workers strike organized under the auspices of the chapter of All India Migrant Workers Association led by AIUTUC in Puducherry became successful. These workers numbering twenty were the employees of ATC chemicals Pvt. Ltd. company. On the plea of Covid 19 spread during the first lockdown period the company had terminated them from service while keeping the non-migrant workers in service. Immediately AIUTUC responded by lodging a complaint with the Labour Commissioner. Other unions supported our struggle. Meanwhile the management illegally appointed new workers and continued its operations. However the workers led by AIUTUC and other unions went on strike in the last week of October by serving proper notice the demands being wage revision and bonus. Management refused to negotiate. Responding to the representation of AIUTUC the labour commissioner had to pass an order to rectify the illegal appointments done during the period of the ongoing legal strike. As the management ignored the order, the commissioner was about to issue a show cause notice to initiate action against the management by sending the Inspector for Factories. Then the management came down for negotiations with the AITUC which is representing the regularly appointed workmen as well as the retrenched migrant workmen. Management agreed to reinstate all the retrenched migrant workers and pay one month total wages as bonus and Rs.15/-per day as interim relief. Further negation on the pending demands like regularization, wage revision etc., is fixed to be on 7 December 2020. An agreement on all these points was signed in the midnight of 7 November 2020.
This prolonged legitimate struggle and the resultant agreement will enthuse the migrant workers in Pondicherry and elsewhere to fight for their rights.
Growing Misery of Handloom Workers
Latest findings on handloom sector has further corroborated that. The Fourth All India Handloom Census, 2019-20, released by the Ministry of Textiles in August 2019, exposed the government’s dubious claims about its achievements in uplifting handloom weavers, and to provide a nuanced understanding of the sector. Handloom weaving is still predominantly a rural activity, as 88.7% weaver-households are located in villages. Nearly 72% handloom weavers in the country are female.
The inherent contradictions in the census report has been obvious. The report claims that the number of households engaged in handloom activities in the country has gone up to 31.5 lakhs from 27.83 lakhs and the government attributes the rise in the number of households engaged in handloom weaving to the success of its numerous policies targeting handloom weavers. But the same report also points out that as many as 66% of handloom weavers in the country earn less than Rs 5,000 per month. Therefore, one has to take the claim of effective implementation of welfare policies with a pinch of salt. Secondly, the production of fabric in the handloom sector fell from 7,104 million square metres in 2013-14 to 5,134 million square metres in 2017-18, as per the Annual Report of the Textile Ministry, 2017-18. Even if we were to concede that the number of weavers is increasing, why do we witness a dip in the cloth production? For 2014-15 fiscal year, the budgetary allocation for handloom weaving sector was Rs 621.51 crore. However, it was slashed to Rs 386.09 crore for the 2018-19 fiscal year. It is puzzling to note that, on the one hand, the government is claiming an increase in the number of handloom weavers over the years and, on the other, meagre incomes, decreasing cloth production, and falling budgetary allocations mark the sector. This dichotomy raises serious questions regarding the government claims and the veracity of the data.
Even if we accept the claim of increasing number of handloom weavers, this does not mean everything is fine with the sector. In fact, it only points to the distress in the economy. First, it could be read as the migration of the rural population to alternative employment opportunities owing to the impact of the economic slowdown. A portion of this population may be moving towards handloom weaving as employment opportunities in the villages are minimal. Second, the rising number of handloom weavers also bears testimony to the fact that decent job creation is not taking place, especially in rural India. Therefore, people are ready to join any profession even if generates meagre income. Various empirical studies have shown that weavers with lower skill levels, who weave coarser fabrics, are earning extremely meagre incomes. So, the point here is that even if the unemployed flock to the handloom sector without having higher skill level one cannot generate a decent income. Assertion regarding the empowerment of women engaged in handloom weaving is also dubious. Although it is true that women participate in handloom weaving in large numbers, yet, they hardly make enough money, and mostly remain invisible ghost workers. Women mainly take part in the preparatory activities before weaving and rarely receive any monetary compensation. The latest findings and the government’s claim should be understood in this backdrop.
Moreover, though the government asserts that various developmental schemes rolled out by it have increased the income of handloom weavers, the report points out that more than 65% of handloom weavers are unaware of welfare schemes. In complete contrast to its claims, the government has either downgraded or done away with existing welfare schemes for handloom weavers. One of the flagship programmes of the Narendra Modi government has been to offer loans to small business enterprises at relatively low interest rates under the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA). Handloom weavers are also eligible for MUDRA loans. But, only 23.3% of the weavers across the country possess bank accounts, as per the latest census report. In effect, a large pool of weavers cannot avail MUDRA loans, because the scheme is envisaged as a direct cash transfer to the beneficiary bank accounts. Further, the report does not provide any year-on-year data of weavers who have benefitted from MUDRA loans.
‘Had there not been whatever little of rice is available through ration system , there was no other alternative but to commit suicide’, commented one handloom weaver of West Bengal of late. This itself shows what disaster has struck the already calamitous small scale workers in the most unplanned Covid-19 pandemic. Who knows what more misery is awaiting them!
(Source: M R Bhowmick’s articles in Economic and Political Weekly dated 14-12-19 and ABP 27-10-20)
75% of Russians Say Soviet Era Was
‘Greatest Time’ in Country’s History – Poll
Three out of four Russians think the Soviet era was the best time in their country’s history, according to a survey published by the independent Levada Center pollster on Tuesday.
Russians have expressed increasingly positive opinions about the Soviet Union over the years, with nostalgia toward the U.S.S.R. and approval of Stalin hitting record highs in the past year or so.
Just 18% of Russian respondents said they disagree with the idea that the Soviet Union was the best time in their country’s history, Levada said.
Despite this, only 28% of respondents said they would want to “return to the path that the Soviet Union was following.” Fifty-eight said they support Russia’s “own, special way” and 10% said they preferred the European path of development.
When asked to name the things they associate with the Soviet era, 16% of respondents pointed to “future stability and confidence” and 15% said they associated it with “a good life in the country.” Eleven percent said they associate the Soviet era with personal memories from their childhood or youth.
Only a small portion of those surveyed said they had negative associations with the Soviet Union. The economic deficit, long lines and coupons were named by 4% of respondents each, while the Iron Curtain, economic stagnation and political repressions were named by 1% each, the Levada Center said.
Levada sociologist Karina Pipiya told the Vedomosti business daily that while Russians tend to view the Soviet era in a mostly positive light, their personal memories of that time have largely been replaced by a general image of social stability, confidence in the future and a good life during that time.
According to Pipiya, nostalgia for the Soviet Union is more common among older generations, but it exists among younger people as well. The so-called romanticization of the Soviet past doesn’t necessarily equal a wish for the Soviet system’s return, Vedomosti quoted Pipia as saying.
Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior associate at the Carnegie Center Moscow think tank, told Vedomosti that the poll’s results are a reflection of the public’s sentiments toward Russia’s current reality.
“The Soviet era may not be seen as a time of high living standards, but as a time of justice. Today’s state capitalism is viewed as unfair: the injustice is in distribution, access to goods and infrastructure. And this feeling is growing stronger,” Vedomosti quoted Kolesnikov as saying. (The Moscow Times 24-03-20)
AIUTUC Protests Conversion
of passenger trains into express trains
In a statement issued on 2 November 2020, AIUTUC vehemently opposed the anti-people move on the part of the central government to convert more than 600 passenger trains into Express trains which would push up the passenger fare by three to four times. Moreover, express trains would have limited stoppages skipping the stations hitherto covered by the passenger trains.
This would seriously imperil the interest of the poor people and daily passengers who now travel in passenger trains. AIUTUC demanded immediate abandonment of the move which is first step towards heinous privatization plan and introduction of more local and passenger trains.