Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kali Akuno: Are We Free Yet?

The following article originally appeared on Kali akuno's blog Navigating the Storm

Barack Obama & the New Afrikan “National Question”

Are We Free Yet?

by Kali Akuno

May 24th, 2008

In Honor of the 83rd Birthday of Malcolm X and the clarity he brought to the New Afrikan[1] revolutionary movement.

Since the stunning Iowa victory of Senator Barack Obama in January, a great deal has been said and written about the declining or ongoing significance of “race” and “racial prejudice” in US society and the prospect of a person of Afrikan descent being its President as proof of its substantive social transformation. While this discussion must be regarded as an advance over the conservative moralistic and race-coded discussions that have dominated political debate in the US since the 1980’s, we must acknowledge its critical limitations.

In the main, these discussions individualize the issues and only engage the behavioral and subjective aspects of inequality and oppression. What is fundamentally missing is a critical discussion of the structural and systemic nature of oppression and exploitation within the US and how the Obama campaign “phenomenon” relates to these structures and dynamics.

This paper seeks to investigate the strategic relationship of the Obama campaign to the structural dynamics of oppression and exploitation within the US. In particular, it will focus on the question of New Afrikan or Black national oppression within the US and how the Obama campaign addresses this oppression. It also seeks to address certain strategic questions that progressive forces within the national liberation and multi-national working class movements must struggle with over the course of the next six months in order to ensure that our demands and interests are advanced – regardless of whether Obama wins or loses the Presidential election in November.

Some of the strategic questions this paper seeks to address are:

1. What is Obama’s organic relationship to the New Afrikan or Black nation?
2. What class position, alignment and program does Obama represent?
3. How does Obama’s campaign strategy and program relate to the historic interests and demands of the Black nation?

What is the “National Question”?

In summary, from a dialectical materialist framework, the “national question” refers to a) the unequal structural relationship of colonized and oppressed peoples to international capital, oppressor nations, imperialism, and white supremacy and b) to the historic struggles of colonized and oppressed peoples to liberate themselves from these oppressive systems and forces, either in whole or in part (as not all of these “peoples” or “national liberation” struggles have sought to remove themselves from capitalist relations of production).

The inequalities between peoples produced by capitalism are historic. They are rooted in the development of the capitalist world system through the colonization and/or subjugation of the globe and its non-European peoples by the ruling classes of the western European states (i.e. Portugal, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Italy) beginning in the 15th century.

In order to facilitate the process of capital accumulation they initiated on a world scale, the ruling classes of Europe developed a social system and ideology that divided world production along several lines, some of which predated capitalism, some of which developed specifically to suite capitals historic needs. The pre-capitalist social divisions that were exploited were religion, ethnicity, nationality and patriarchy. The new and fundamentally principal divisions developed by and with capitalism are race and state-bound nationality.

The purpose of exploiting and/or developing these inequalities is a) to facilitate the control of the land, labor, and (material and immaterial) resources of the subject and oppressed peoples and b) to foster competition between and amongst these peoples for the material and social rewards conferred by this exploitative and alienating system.

In the United States the “national question” specifically addresses the structural relationship of colonized, oppressed, and subject peoples to the European settler-colonial project and the imperial national-state apparatus that reinforces it. This project is premised on the genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples (the First Nations); the enslavement and colonial subjugation of Afrikan peoples and their descendents; and the dispossession and colonial subjugation of Xicanas/os.

The New Afrikan National Question

Throughout the history of the US settler-colonial project New Afrikans have fundamentally been concentrated in the southeastern portion of the projects possessions. The foundation of this concentration was historically premised on the utilization of enslaved Afrikan labor to produce cash-crops like tobacco, cotton, rice, dyes, and sugar, for international consumption. During the early mercantile stages of capitalist development the climatic conditions, soil quality, and strategic location of these possessions facilitated them being incorporated into the world-capitalist system as a zone of mono-crop commodity production. This population concentration and the relations of production exercised in this zone facilitated the formation of the New Afrikan people as a colonized diasporic Afrikan nation subject to will of the European settler-colonial project and its capitalist-imperialist regime between 1619 and 1865.

The mechanization of agriculture in the Southeastern portion of the settler-colonial state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, combined with an intense program of labor control and repression during this period, displaced millions of New Afrikans. In the search for refuge and jobs, displaced New Afrikans re-concentrated in the urban industrial centers of the East Coast, Mid-West, and West Coast between the 1910’s – 1960’s. In the process of this resettlement, millions of New Afrikans joined the ranks of the industrial working class. However, they did so fundamentally on an unequal structural basis. Exploiting the subject status of New Afrikan people, capital, the labor bureaucracy, and the various European settler communities relegated New Afrikans to the lowest strata’s of the working class, where they were concentrated in the lowest paid and most hazardous occupations that restricted their ability to earn and accumulate. This process of development established the social and economic terms of New Afrikan national oppression throughout the entire expanse of the US settler-colonial project.

Simultaneously, the vast majority of New Afrikans who remained in the New Afrikan national territory (i.e. the Southeastern portion of the settler-colonial project) became subject to a new regime of accumulation and distorted national development. Reacting to the gains made in the industrial “north” by the multi-national working class movement between the 1930’s – 50’s, industrial capital “outsourced” production to New Afrika to exploit the subjugated status of the New Afrikan working class. Although the New Afrikan working class was kept from effectively organizing itself into labor unions, this development did expand the overall circuit of capital within the New Afrikan nation, which helped stimulate the rise of the civil rights movement and its petit bourgeois program of civil inclusion within the legalistic confines of the settler-colonial project.

The limited social and economic gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements set the present terms of national development for the New Afrikan nation. New Afrika, like all nations and nationalities, is a class stratified social formation. Like all the peoples and nations subjugated and colonized by the European colonial powers, capital and capitalist social relations have articulated New Afrika’s social development. Throughout it’s nearly 400 years of development, the overwhelming majority of New Afrikans have been and are members of the working classes (either as chattel slaves, peasants, or proletarians). However, a very limited New Afrikan bourgeoisie has existed since at least the mid-19th century. Throughout much of New Afrikan history, this extremely small, typically service based petit-bourgeoisie has tended politically to be more progressive than reactionary in its political outlook and program. In the main this bourgeois class has provided leadership to and support for the primary historical demands of the New Afrikan national liberation movement. In summary these demands have been and are:

1. Land for self-determining or autonomous development and accumulation.
2. Equal treatment before the law of the settler-colonial state.
3. Equitable distribution of the social surplus distributed throughout the settler- colonial state.
4. Self-determining political power.
5. Self-reliant and self-sustaining economic development.
6. Reparations.

However, the accumulation gains (meager as they were) of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements combined with major shifts in the relations of production on a worldwide scale, transformed the relationship of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie to the whole of the New Afrikan nation from the 1970’s to the present. The two dominant features of this process of transformation are a) the phenomenal rise of the comprador bourgeoisie in the 1970’s and 80’s, and b) the rapid transformation of this comprador bourgeoisie into a trans-national bourgeoisie from the 1980’s to the present. As will be argued throughout this paper, this transformation not only changed the overall structural composition of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie, it has forever altered its political worldview and program.

Part 1 – The Interrogations

Interrogating the “National” Question

Barack Obama has asserted on several occasions a) that race doesn’t matter and b) that there is only “one” America.

The implication of these statements, even if only stated for strategic affect, is that the national contradictions within the US settler-colonial project have been negated and resolved. Even a cursory glance at the socio-economic inequalities between the various nationalities in the US reveals that these assertions are blatantly false. However, the unprecedented success of Obama’s campaign and the ground it has broken as it relates to a “Black” candidate appealing to white voters on a national level reveals that something qualitative has changed in this country. The question is what is it?

I argue that the source of the qualitative change lies in the changing composition of class throughout the US settler-colonial project. The advance of global capital and its transformation of production and accumulation throughout the capitalist world-system generated this compositional shift. I posit that the process of transformation popularly called “globalization” has created a trans-national bourgeoisie and growing multi-national or “cosmopolitan” trans-national service and working classes. It is my position that Barack Obama is a member of and represents the political and economic interests of the trans-national bourgeoisie and the social interests of the growing trans-national classes. More specifically, Barack Obama is a product of the New Afrikan trans-national bourgeoisie, which emerged in the main from the comprador or neo-colonial sector of the New Afrikan bourgeois class between the 1970’s to the present.

The fundamental question regarding this new class composition for progressive and revolutionary forces within the New Afrikan national liberation movement is how to strategically relate to Barack Obama and this trans-national bourgeois class? Is this class (or class fraction) a friend or a foe of the New Afrikan national liberation movement? I argue three things:

1. That the material basis for the traditional class collaboration theory of the united and/or national liberation front strategy of oppressed peoples and nations in general, and of its historic application to the New Afrikan national liberation movement in particular, no longer applies.
2. That the left has not developed a general or particular theory of how to strategically relate to these new class forces.
3. As a result, we are presently ill equipped theoretically and programmatically to address the Obama phenomenon and seize the historic opportunities it presents to advance the interests of the national liberation and multi-national working class movements.

How does the trans-national bourgeoisie differ from other bourgeoisie classes, particularly amongst oppressed nations like the New Afrikan nation? The general theory of national liberation maintains that there are two primary fractions of the capitalist or bourgeois class (that is the class that owns and controls the means of production). These are 1) the national, progressive, or “anti-imperialist” bourgeoisie and 2) the comprador or “sell-out”, “Uncle Tom”, or neo-colonial bourgeoisie.

The national or anti-imperialist bourgeoisie is theoretically a progressive force drawn from the organic, inner driven life of the oppressed nation that is materially compelled to promote the development of the productive forces of the nation for its own self-interests and to resist the incursion of imperialism and its suppression of this autonomous national development for these self-same interests.

The comprador or sell-out bourgeoisie is theoretically a reactionary force also drawn from the organic, inner driven life of the oppressed nation, which is conversely compelled to collaborate with imperialism to retard the autonomous or self-determining development of the oppressed nation.

The fundamental difference between these two bourgeois fractions and the transnational fraction is their organic relationship to the oppressed nation. The national and comprador bourgeoisies are dependent upon relations of production within the social and political life of the oppressed nation. Meaning they are both dependent on the working masses of the oppressed nation for their very existence, and hence can be held accountable to the working classes within it in various ways. The trans-national bourgeoisie on the other hand, even though it emerged primarily from the comprador fraction in New Afrika and elsewhere, is not dependent for its existence upon the oppressed nation and its relations of production. The trans-national bourgeoisie, as its name implies, is not a national or national-state bound entity. Its basis for existence lies in exploiting the peoples and working classes of the globe, and it is generally only accountable to or held in check by its fractional partners and rivals (largely through their financial control of various capital markets as exhibited by their deflation of various national-state markets like Mexico in the early-1990’s; Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea in the late 1990’s; and Brazil and Argentina at the turn of this century).

Now, while I posit that this understanding of Obama’s positioning helps us to understand his relationship with the New Afrikan nation and its historic demands, I argue that we still do not completely understand at this point, how it relates to his mass appeal to white voters in many instances who are not part of this trans-national formation. This I argue, we as progressives and revolutionaries, have to interrogate further to gain a deeper understanding of its strategic potential.

Interrogating the Campaign

Despite what one may personally think of Obama and the principle merits of his campaign, what we have to acknowledge is that his actions and his campaign are deeply rooted in a particular analysis of how to address national oppression in the US. This analysis is rooted in the “integrationist” and “beloved community” narratives of the New Afrikan petit bourgeois leadership of the Civil Rights Movement and its white liberal bourgeois patrons. The strategy behind this narrative appeal is to highlight the commonalities between the oppressor and oppressed peoples, rather than address their contradictions and differences.

This strategy is rooted in the reality that the road to victory goes through the white electorate and its sheer numerical strength. Based on this reality, I argue there are two historical dynamics that have fundamentally shaped the Obama campaign and its strategy.

1. No Democratic candidate has won a majority of white voters since 1964. For a Democratic candidate to win, they are going to have to win a sizeable portion of, if not the majority of, the white settler vote.
2. The Jesse Jackson campaigns of 1984 and 1988. These two campaigns serve as the primary negative examples for the Obama campaign. They illustrate what NOT to do as an Afrikan candidate running for President, which has determined key aspects of his strategy, particularly his methods of appeal to white and Jewish voters in particular.

Based on these realities, the Obama campaign made a deliberate and strategic choice NOT to base his candidacy in the institutions (like the Black church, civic organizations, unions, and the media) or historic demands (see demands) of the New Afrikan nation. In order to give himself the opportunity to win, Obama must avoid being viewed as a “Black” candidate by any and all means. This explains in part, why he has distanced himself from the likes of Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Jeremiah Wright – the “traditional” representatives of the “progressive” New Afrikan bourgeoisie.

However, his campaign has also relied upon the staunch support of the Democratic Party by New Afrikan people. New Afrikans have been the most consistent base of support for the Democratic Party since the 1964 election of Lydon B. Johnson. In fact, New Afrikans have voted consistently for Democratic Presidential candidates in the range of 80 – 90% since 1956. This fact however, should not be surprising. Democratic candidates can and do take the New Afrikan vote for granted because in the main, New Afrikans have no other
genuine political option to represent their interests. Knowing this, Obama and his campaign know that they have to make few special appeals to New Afrikans and most of the other oppressed peoples within the “traditional” Democratic Party coalition to garner their votes (certain “Latino” populations it can be argued might constitute exceptions).

Interrogating the Popular Forces

Regardless of how marginalized New Afrikan demands and institutions are to the Obama campaign, the fact is that since Obama’s Iowa victory in January, New Afrikans have turned out in near record numbers to support his campaign for the Democratic nomination. How do we explain this outpouring of support despite his lack of engagement with New Afrikan demands and institutions?

Further, how do we explain his victories in states like Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Nebraska, Vermont, and Wyoming where the vast majority of the electorate are white settlers who are not substantively incorporated into the trans-national nexus of production?

Part of the answer I believe lies in the trans-national class developments spoken of earlier. The other part of the answer I believe lies in the popular response to the last 7 years of the Bush regime. As a direct result of the failed occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the accumulation of unprecedented debt, the partisan management of the economy, the exposed lies and deceit, and the hostile, belligerent, and dictatorial “style” of management, this election is in many ways serving as a popular anti-Bush referendum.

The popular, multi-national, multi-class forces engaging the Obama campaign are clearly clamoring for a change of management. This was first evidenced in the elections of 2006 and has been further illustrated in several off-term Congressional elections in Illinois, Louisiana, and Mississippi where Democrats took elections in long-held Republican districts. Barack Obama, for reasons of personal history (including his newness to Capital Hill), style (particularly his cultivated charisma and flair for the optimal, however programmatically empty it may be), and strategy (including a tacit exploitation of cultural stereotypes about New Afrikan people being good listeners and empathizers) has thus far demonstrated that he would be a profoundly different manager than either of his remaining Democrat or Republican rivals.

What I think progressives and revolutionaries have to be clear on in relating to these popular forces is that a clamoring for a change of management does not equate to a clamoring for a fundamental change of program. It is on the question of program that I would argue that the national question strongly reenters the fry and could perhaps fracture the broad multi-national, multi-class alliance thus far mobilized by the Obama campaign.

For instance, the historic demands of New Afrikan people are not going to go away without a revolutionary transformation of the US settler-colonial state. In fact, as the mortgage crisis deepens over the course of the next 2 to 4 years, some of the demands, like economic development and reparations perhaps, are only going to become stronger.

Likewise, the trans-national capital interests supporting Obama’s campaign have no intentions of stopping their accumulation mission. Rather, they are trying to expand it through the application of a friendlier management approach of their primary regulating instruments – namely the US military, treasury, and Federal Reserve Bank. And further, many of the white service and working class voters who are supporting Obama are not demanding an end to imperialism and globalization, but a return to the high standards of living they are accustomed and feel entitled to as settlers, i.e. “Americans”.

Interrogating the Moment

This is an extremely unique moment in human history, one that should not be slept on by progressives and revolutionaries anywhere, let alone in the US.

There are three general things that make this moment particularly unique:

1. The rapid collapse of the ecological systems that support human civilization as a direct consequence of the capitalist world-systems need for constant growth and expansion and its dependence on a petro-chemical driven system of mass industrial production to stimulate and sustain this growth.
2. The declining hegemony (in both its geo-political and Gramscian connotations) of the US imperial state and the shift to a multi-polar geo-political world order.
3. The comparative weakening of the US national economy and the deepening of trans-national production and accumulation.

In order to be properly contextualized, the Obama campaign and corresponding “phenomenon” must be situated as a direct response to this unique moment in history. As has been argued earlier, his campaign is clearly a factional response, one fundamentally serving the interests of the trans-national bourgeoisie and its means and instruments of accumulation and rule. The two fundamental questions stemming from this assessment are, 1) is this class and the alliance of forces it has amassed strong enough to contain the contradictions it has unleashed and 2) can it continue its accumulation program and political project without a major transformation away from petro-chemical dependent

I argue that the answer to both questions is emphatically, NO. Returning to our focus of analyzing the Obama campaign in relation to the New Afrikan national question, there are several examples that clearly illustrate why.

The trans-national program of accumulation is fundamentally driven by a finance driven post-Fordist, intelligence dominated system of production. The intense mechanization of this production regime is rapidly dislocating millions, if not billions, of workers, worldwide. The New Afrikan working class was one of the first and most devastated sectors of the international proletariat hit by this accumulation regime. Since the 1970’s, millions of New Afrikans have been economically dislocated and physically displaced by this transformation, which is only set to worsen with the crisis of finance (witnessed with the mortgage crisis that robbed millions of New Afrikans of their merge capital equity) and the deepening of global production. What is also clear is that the options of absorbing this surplus labor into the low-wage service economy or warehousing (i.e. incarcerating) it, is reaching its political and financial limits. The likely outcomes of the escalating crisis are:

1. More intense economic dislocation
2. More intense physical displacement and forced relocation (New Orleans being a clear precedent)
3. More intense and concentrated New Afrikan resistance
4. An escalation of the demands made on the state and capital by New Afrikans

As a representative of the trans-national bourgeoisie, its production regime, and the US imperial state, how would Obama be compelled to address these contradictions? I argue that he would fundamentally have to exercise the Nixon option as it related to the New Afrikan nation (and other oppressed nations within and beyond US national-state boarders). Plainly stated the Nixon option is the calculated employment of “carrot and the stick” stratagems. Obama’s carrot would be to ameliorate or buy off a sectors of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie and working class by offering a set of concessions, primarily in the realm of loan forgiveness (for the mortgage crisis) and job training programs (more than likely for “Green Jobs” and the like). The stick would be the strategic application of state repression against resistant and non-compliant forces within the New Afrikan working class. The purpose of the Nixon option now, as during his Presidency in the late 60’s and early 70’s, would be to fracture the political unity of the New Afrikan nation against the trans-national bourgeoisie and its program.

Staying with our analysis, it is also clear that the Green transformation option is a dead end for the trans-national bourgeoisie and its program. Although elements of the trans-national bourgeoisie are clearly leading the charge for the development of “green” capitalism, it is not, and in fact cannot, advocate for the transformation of scale needed to curb the production of greenhouse gases to stall or reverse climate change without bankrupting itself. As a result, it cannot and will not generate enough “Green Jobs” to reincorporate the millions of New Afrikans that have been economically dislocated by trans-national production.

Yet in still, what we can posit with confidence at this moment is that capital is going to go to extreme lengths to extend its life and barbaric domination over human civilization. Conversely, as the events of the last 7 years have illustrated, we should also expect to see an escalation and diversification of resistance.

Part 2 - Outlining a Framework to Seize the Moment

So, how should the New Afrikan and multi-national liberation and working class movements strategically engage this historic campaign and critical moment?

One of the first priorities of engagement is theoretical development. One of the principle things the New Afrikan and multi-national left movements must figure out is how to engage the trans-national bourgeoisie. As stated earlier, as of now, our movements do not have a general, let alone united, perspective on this question. In fact, I would argue that most of our forces are still utilizing the traditional united or national liberation front theory to determine their positions and courses of action.

I argue that because the trans-national bourgeoisie cannot be easily pressured by the national liberation and working class movements within the US settler-colonial project, these movements should not invest the majority of their time and energy engaging an “inside” strategy of critical engagement with the Obama campaign. I argue that thinking strategically, these forces should concentrate their energy on building autonomous political movements and institutions (like the Reconstruction Party) within the US national-state that seek to build a broad multi-national united front of oppressed peoples and workers that makes a principle of building strategic links and alliances with the autonomous national liberation, international working class, global justice, and environmental movements throughout the world. As the trans-national bourgeoisie thinks and acts globally, we must also think and act globally to advance our own interests.

However, as the vast majority of our peoples and forces are going to support the Obama campaign and potential Presidency, in the short-term we tactically have to invest a critical degree of time and energy engaging them, if only to try and win a considerable portion of these forces to a left perspective and program. And it is here that we need theoretical clarity. How do we offer a radical critique of Obama, his class position, interests, and program without alienating ourselves from the popular masses? How do we move these forces to engage in autonomous self-determining action outside of the Democratic Party? How do we educate and move the white settler forces mobilized by Obama to actively
engage an anti-racist, anti-imperialist perspective and program?

To these ends, a hard-pressed counter campaign against Obama I would argue is not the most effective or productive way to engage these popular forces from this point forward. Rather, I think the multi-national left must seek to highlight the contradictions of Obama’s campaign and program through a combined “outside-inside” strategy that seeks to advance a coherent set of principle demands and push him and the forces he has mobilized sharply to the left. Again, I think the formation of an autonomous “outside” political force should be primary. However, what is perhaps most tactically critical is that both the “outside” and “inside” forces aggressively promote and propagate these common demands; vigorously dialogue and debate in a principled, non-sectarian manner; and openly communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever possible.

Some of the primary strategic demands that must be raised are drawn from the historic demands of oppressed peoples, particularly New Afrikans, combined with the demands of the multi-national working class, women’s, and environmental justice movements. The combination of these demands will expose not only the limits of the trans-national bourgeoisie and its production regime, but of US imperialism itself and its inability to make good on its democratic promises, either at “home” or abroad. Some of the most critical of these demands include2:

1. The full and immediately ending of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. The full and unqualified support for Palestinian self-determination and the Right to Return.
3. The full and immediate Right of Return for the more than 250,000 New Afrikans displaced from their homelands in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
4. The repeal of the “war on drugs” and mandatory minimum sentencing that has resulted in the imprisonment of more than 2.5 million people, the vast majority of whom are New Afrikans.
5. The full support for the rights of women and the LGBTQ communities, including full support for initiatives like the Equal Rights Amendment and “gay” marriage.
6. The full and immediate repeal of the various Patriot Acts and other undemocratic anti-terror laws and Executive Orders.
7. The full, complete, and unconditional amnesty for the millions of migrant and displaced workers in the US.
8. The full and unqualified commitment to reduce the carbon imprint of the US by 80% or more by 2016 to stem the production of climate changing greenhouse gases.
9. The commitment to the public financing of alternative solar, wind, aquatic, and organic energy to sustain the economy, and the elimination of all nuclear energy and hard metal extraction.

By Way of Conclusion

Although the road ahead may not be clear, and the outcome of our actions far from certain, the New Afrikan national liberation movement, and the movements of all oppressed and exploited peoples, must seize this critical moment. The survival of humanity demands that we must act, and act in our own interests. Barack Obama nor any other bourgeois messiah is going to liberate us. We must liberate ourselves.

Footnote 1: A New Afrikan is a person of Afrikan descent, particularly those historically enslaved and colonized in the Southeastern portion of the North American continent, that presently live under the colonial subjugation of the United States government. New Afrikan is the connotation of the national identity of this Afrikan people that recognizes their political aspirations for self-determination and independence.

Footnote 2: See also the demands articulated in the “Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party” by the National Organizing Committee for a Reconstruction Party and “Hillary and McCain: the White Block that must be stopped” by Eric Mann. 10. Reparations for Indigenous, New Afrikan, Xicano, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian and other peoples and nations colonized by the US (including Guam, Alaskan natives, etc.).

Reference Materials and Resources

1. “The New Imperialism: Crisis and Contradictions in North/South Relations”, by Robert Biel. Zed Books, 2000.
2. “Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice”, by Christopher Alan Bracey. Beacon Press, 2008.
3. “We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century”, by Rod Bush. New York University Press, 1999.
4. “Locked in Place: State-building and late industrialization in India”, by Vivek Chibber. Princeton University Press, 2003.
5. “Reviving the Developmental State? The Myth of the ‘National Bourgeoisie’”, by Vivek Chibber. Printed in Socialist Register 2005, edited by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys. Published by Monthly Review Press, 2004.
6. “A Brief History of Neoliberalism”, by David Harvey. Oxford University Press, 2005.
7. “Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics”, by Cedric Johnson. University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
8. “Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and the New American Century”, by Clarence Lusane. Praeger Press, 2006.
9. “The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World”, by Vijay Prashad. The New York Press, 2007.
10. “A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World”, by William I. Robinson. John Hopkins University Press, 2004.
11. “Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change, and Globalization”, by William I. Robinson. Published by Verso, 2003.
12. “Global Capitalism: the New Leviathan”, by Robert J. S. Ross and Kent C. Trachte. State University of New York Press, 1990.
13. “The Transnational Capitalist Class”, by Leslie Sklair. Blackwell Publishers, 2001.
14. “Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy”, by J. Phillip Thompson, III. Oxford University Press, 2006.
15. “A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics”, by Komozi Woodard. University of North Carolina Press, 1999

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History

Howard Zinn, one of the greatest intellectuals and historian died the other day. its unbelievable how our media ignored this legend's death. Anyway i post this article for my readers here. It was written by Dave Zirin and appeared in The Nation

Howard Zinn, my hero, teacher, and friend died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 87. With his death, we lose a man who did nothing less than rewrite the narrative of the United States. We lose a historian who also made history.

Anyone who believes that the United States is immune to radical politics never attended a lecture by Howard Zinn. The rooms would be packed to the rafters, as entire families, black, white and brown, would arrive to hear their own history made humorous as well as heroic. “What matters is not who’s sitting in the White House. What matters is who’s sitting in!” he would say with a mischievous grin. After this casual suggestion of civil disobedience, the crowd would burst into laughter and applause.

Only Howard could pull that off because he was entirely authentic. When he spoke against poverty it was from the perspective of someone who had to work in the shipyards during the Great Depression. When he spoke against war, it was from the perspective of someone who flew as a bombardier during World War II, and was forever changed by the experience. When he spoke against racism it was from the perspective of someone who taught at Spelman College during the civil rights movement and was arrested sitting in with his students.

And of course, when he spoke about history, it was from the perspective of having written A People’s History of the United States, a book that has sold more than two million copies and changed the lives of countless people. Count me among them. When I was 17 and picked up a dog-eared copy of Zinn’s book, I thought history was about learning that the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. I couldn’t tell you what the Magna Carta was, but I knew it was signed in 1215. Howard took this history of great men in powdered wigs and turned it on its pompous head.

In Howard’s book, the central actors were the runaway slaves, the labor radicals, the masses and the misfits. It was history writ by Robin Hood, speaking to a desire so many share: to actually make history instead of being history’s victim. His book came alive in December with the debut of The People Speak on the History Channel as actors, musicians, and poets, brought Zinn’s book alive.

Howard was asked once whether his praise of dissent and protest was divisive. He answered beautifully: “Yes, dissent and protest are divisive, but in a good way, because they represent accurately the real divisions in society. Those divisions exist – the rich, the poor – whether there is dissent or not, but when there is no dissent, there is no change. The dissent has the possibility not of ending the division in society, but of changing the reality of the division. Changing the balance of power on behalf of the poor and the oppressed.”

Words like this made Howard my hero. I never thought we would also become friends. But through our mutual cohort, Anthony Arnove, Howard read my sports writing and then gave his blessing to a book project we called A People’s History of Sports in the United States.

We also did a series of meetings together where I would interview Howard on stage. Even at 87, he still had his sharp wit, strong voice, and matinee-idol white hair. But his body had become frail. Despite this physical weakness, Howard would stay and sign hundreds of books until his hand would shake with the effort.

At our event in Madison, Wisconsin, Howard issued a challenge to the audience. He said, “Our job as citizens is to honestly assess what Obama is doing. Not measured just against Bush, because against Bush, everybody looks good. But look honestly at what Obama’s doing and act as engaged and vigorous citizens.”

He also had no fear to express his political convictions loudly and proudly. I asked him about the prospects today for radical politics and he said,

“Let’s talk about socialism. … I think it’s very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name in this country. Socialism had Eugene Debs. It had Clarence Darrow. It had Mother Jones. It had Emma Goldman. It had several million people reading socialist newspapers around the country… Socialism basically said, hey, let’s have a kinder, gentler society. Let’s share things. Let’s have an economic system that produces things not because they’re profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism.”

Howard Zinn taught millions of us a simple lesson: Agitate. Agitate. Agitate. But never lose your sense of humor in the process. It’s a beautiful legacy and however much it hurts to lose him, we should strive to build on Howard’s work and go out and make some history.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

74 Members of Human Rights Organizations Arrested on Way to Lalgarh

The Statesman

Members of Rights body held on way to Lalgarh

MIDNAPORE: About 74 members of seven Kolkata-based human rights organisations were arrested at Kharagpur railway station this morning. Members of Association for Democratic Rights (APDR), Suraksha Samiti, West Bengal Bandi Mukti Manch, Lalgarh Manch, and Legal Service Centre, were on their way to Lalgarh when they were arrested. About 15 students of Presidency College were also in the visiting team.

Soon after they boarded the train at Kharagpur, they were called out and taken to the police station on the plea that prohibitory orders are in force in Lalgarh. The members of the human rights organisations have been booked under Section 143, 186, 188 and 511 of the Indian Penal Code. They will move court protesting against the dubious role of the police, the APDR leader told reporters.

Renowned social activist Ms Medha Patkar and several other members of the cultural world from Mumbai proceeding to Lalgarh had to face a similar ordeal last year. The APDR state secretary, Mr Debiprasad Roy Chowdhury, who was among the arrested, expressed surprise over the incident particularly when Section 144 of the CrPC was not in force in Kharagpur station.

“The railway minister and Trinamul chief Miss Mamata Banerjee was allowed to hold her rally at Jhargram town recently by slackening prohibitory orders. Then why such double standard on the part of police,” he asked. The West Midnapore SP, Mr Manoj Verma, however, was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, the Bhursa village in Salboni wore a deserted look today as most of the inhabitants fled their homes in the aftermath of a long gunbattle between the suspected Maoist cadres and the CPI-M gunmen yesterday in which three Maoist cadres were killed

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus Guides Their Bullets


Secret "Jesus" Bible codes inscribed on American military weapons

ABC News reports that high-powered rifle sights provided to the US Army and Marines by Michigan weapons maker Trijicon include coded references to Bible passages about Jesus Christ:
The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Philippines: 3,000 Attend CPP Anniversary Celebration in Mindanao

This article appeared in the January 7, 2010 issue of Ang Bayan (The People).

Comrades hold successful CPP anniversary celebration in Mindanao

The main celebration in Mindanao of the Party’s 41st anniversary led by Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos was a success despite brazen violations by the AFP of its own ceasefire declaration that was supposed to have been in force from December 24 to 26. Up to 3,000 people attended the colorful celebration, including people from different provinces, towns and barrios, 39 media workers and local politicians.

Ka Oris called for the allout implementation of tasks by the revolutionary forces in the next five years with the objective of raising the level of people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.

He called for the intensification of armed struggle. He said that 90% of more than 300 high-powered firearms added to the NPA arsenal in Mindanao in 2009 alone came from tactical offensives against military and police elements. Hundreds of thousands of peasants also benefited from the fruits of agrarian revolution in Mindanao island. Areas of operations expanded in Northeastern Mindanao Region (NEMR) as well as other parts of the island.

Among the highlights of the Party celebration was a tribute to media workers who were cold-bloodedly murdered in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on November 23. After reading the tribute, Ka Oris mentioned all the names of the 31 media workers who fell victim to the Maguindanao massacre. Meanwhile, NDF-NEMR spokesperson Ka Maria Malaya and the journalist guests led a candle lighting ceremony dedicated to the martyrs from the media sector.

AFP violations of the ceasefire

Meanwhile, Ka Oris reported attempts by the AFP to disrupt the main celebration of NDF-Mindanao. Elements of the 58th IB and the 41st DRC put up checkpoints in Barangay Ganayon and Diatagon in Lianga, Barangay Poblacion and Buhisan in San Agustin and Barangay Amontay in Marihatag on December 25 to harass people, allies and friends who intended to join the celebration. They also intimidated some motorcycle drivers to extract information on the actual site of the celebration.

A day after the celebration, a company from these military units, along with two armored personnel carriers, a military tank, a military jeep and a military pick up entered the site of the Party celebration in Barangay Mahaba, Marihatag, but by then, the guerrilla forces had already left the area after the invited guests from the media and other sectors had safely exited. The guerrillas closely monitored the enemy’s movements. They were under strict orders to refrain from firing at the military units in deference to the local residents’ observance of the new year.

On the other hand, all vehicles leaving Marihatag were stopped at checkpoints and searched while videos were taken of the passengers. The media people and the masses courageously confronted these forms of harassment and intimidation. The media workers also took videos of such harassment and aired the footage on television.

Also on December 25, the 58th IB set up a tactical command post near the site of the Party anniversary celebration of Front 30 along Tago River, San Manuel, Surigao del Sur. The following day, military forces took position to prepare for an attack. As a consequence, the committee overseeing the celebration decided not to push through with the other parts of the program and transferred the guerrilla forces and the masses to safer ground. But the AFP continued to advance, resulting in a clash on the morning of December 27 between an AFP unit and an NPA unit, wounding several soldiers. The military retaliated by firing 105 mm howitzer shells that missed their target. The next day, the AFP sent two helicopters to evacuate their casualties.

Indian Ambassador Threatens Prachanda, Wines and Dines Nepali Journalists

This article was published in Telegraph Nepal.

We will make Prachanda’s fate akin to Gyanendra: Indian Ambassador

This particular incident took place some two weeks back.

Some selected and ‘very few’ journalists were invited at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. And, they were served lavish dinner- obviously at the cost of teeming poverty stricken Indian nationals. The Embassy staffers took special care in that the invitation would not go into wrong hands. The fear factor continues to haunt the Indian Embassy clerical officials.

The “sole mission” of the dinner was to provide special instructions to those salaried journalists who are considered as ‘very close’ to the Indian embassy. Money matters after all!

What was the training cum instructions then coming from the India House? Sources say that the objective of the dinner was to assign befitting roles to the Nepali journalists during the visits of Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna followed by Indian Army Chief Deepak Kapoor. Krishna has already left and Kapoor is still in Nepal. This means that this dinner was served much ahead of Krishna’s Nepal trip.

Rakesh Sood, the Indian ambassador-the host of the ceremony and the real administrator of this unfortunate country, who looked beaming that night talked to each and every “India friendly” journalists. He instructed them one by one-much similar to how a teacher does to his student in the primary school, and told them all not to prepare any reports that gave the impression to the public that India was interfering in Nepali matters. Naughty Ambassador.

He also told them not to cover any news or favor write-ups criticizing Indian role in Nepal. He also informed them that in order to foil the ongoing Unified Maoists’ Party Led agitation for National Independence such a strategy should work perfectly.

As the night began falling slowly and slowly the intimacy between the journalists and the Ambassador began increasing. Naughty Alcohol! The journalists thus began asking various questions. Is New Delhi planning to restore monarchy in Nepal? Why Gyanendra is being laid red carpet in New Delhi? How dare Maoists’ open up new front against India? Why is India silent? Several questions were posed to the Ambassador…however he had just an answer to all those questions.

Sood summed up stating this. “Prachanda Ko Bhi Gyanendra Banadengey- we will make Prachanda’s fate similar to Gyanendra.” “Bas itna hi kafi hai-this much is enough”.

Sources reveal finally, all the attending journalists who had enough booze that night returned home happy.

Kishenji: “Without Expansion, We Can’t Retain our Existing Bases”

This article was posted on Hindustan Times on January 21, 2010.

Guns and poses

Maoists are eyeing areas beyond their forest and rural strongholds and speaking in a language that would do opposition political parties proud. This strategy, which has also seen the Left-wing extremists surface in a new, media-savvy avatar, comes even as Maoist violence has increased in the country.

The ultimate goal of the banned CPI (Maoist) — the rebel outfit’s writ runs across large swathes of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal — remains “seizure of power at the Centre to change the constitution and establish new democracy”.

But strategically, Maoists feel the need to expand their base to newer areas, since this would also keep security forces diverted, and speak on issues that resonate with voters. “Without expansion, we can’t retain our existing bases,” CPI (Maoist) politburo member and eastern operations in-charge, Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, told Hindustan Times.

The need for an urban base has made the Maoists behave more like a mainstream political party, if recent events in West Bengal and other rebel-affected states are anything to go by.

The various issues Maoists have recently spoken about include price rise; industrial pollution; coal theft; daily working hours and wages in factories; hike in education fees and municipal taxes; protection of national wealth and corruption in the political system and bureaucracy.

But there has been no let-up in violence: there were more than 2,000 incidents of violence involving Maoists last year, up from 1,591 incidents in 2008, according to the Union Home Ministry. Yet, the Maoists are trying to give the impression that they are playing a proactive role in the issues of the state, a senior bureaucrat in Kolkata said.

Kishenji even commented on the Copenhagen climate summit and its fallout. He raised a storm of sorts by calling up the West Bengal environment secretary M.L. Meena in December to “discuss” environmental issues.

Director General of West Bengal Police Bhupinder Singh said it was evident from the Maoists’ media interactions that they were trying to address the urban and semi-urban populations. “This is the largest target audience of the media so Maoists are trying to portray themselves as good people fighting for just causes,” he said.

Maoists have also shown willingness to father movements jointly with mainstream parties on common issues. “These forums help them build contacts and expand the strength of cadres,” Singh said. “Students in urban areas are soft targets.”

Kishenji reportedly called up several leaders fighting for the cause of Telangana’s statehood to chalk out a joint action plan. In Jharkhand and Orissa, the rebels are attempting to build a mass movement with other parties against polluting sponge iron factories. In November, Maoists supported a Bengal bandh called by the Socialist Unity Centre of India to protest price rise. Kishenji called up Forward Bloc central committee member Hafiz Alam Sairani during the party’s meet in December, proposing a joint movement against price hike and SEZs.

Police reports say Maoists send “political observers” to places of unrest in urban and semi-urban areas

In Andhra Pradesh, though about a dozen small Maoist groups operate besides the CPI (Maoist), their influence is limited to small pockets. Of these, two groups — CPI-ML (Janashakti) and CPI-ML (New Democracy) — have participated in elections in the past. In Jharkhand, Maoists are not only influencing polls, but also fighting elections in a big way.

Polush. S, a “commander” of a CPI (Maoist) breakaway faction, defeated Koche Munda of the BJP from Torpa assembly seat in Khunti district sparking celebrations in the Simdega jail, where Polush was lodged.

In Chhattisgarh, the police had “dismantled the urban network” of the rebels but “their urban connections and groups have again expanded”, state police spokesman RK Vij said.

Overall, as the pressure on the rebels increases in their hideouts across the country — with Home Minister P. Chidambaram taking a tough line against them and several senior politburo members behind bars — the Maoists are trying to make inroads into urban areas and simultaneously gain political ground.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hisila Yami on the Dialectics of Struggle in Nepal and India

This OpEd piece appeared in The Kathmandu Post on January 16, 2010.

Hisila Yami [Yami is a member of the Polit Bureau of the UCPN (Maoist)]

It is often observed that not only children but even adults are taught that this world is simple, straightforward and sunny. However, often it is complex, topsy-turvy and murky. The first tendency makes one project positivity and the second negativity on the world. The truth is that both exist side by side. It is by fighting against the negative tendencies that one moves ahead and gains positive results. In short, contradiction is behind all the movements, thus making it the salt of dialectics.

In Nepali politics, there seem to be wrangling between new and old systems, between visionary leaders and power hungry leaders. Those who are fighting for new system are struggling to gain power, maturity and credibility at both national and international level. And those who want to stick to old system are similarly trying hard to retain power, credibility, and reliability at both national and international level. Similarly, those leaders who have power do not seem to have vision. They are using power as an end. And those leaders who have the vision do not have power to translate their vision into action. This is seen in almost all the political parties in Nepal.

At the world level, this tendency persists in different ways. Generally the developed countries are seen to be so consumer-oriented that they seem to lose political vision. The leaders from developed countries tend to find technical solutions to political problems in the Third World countries by bombing here and there and by erecting military bases. In the process, they are alienating themselves more and more from the Third World countries.

And the Third World countries are much too laden with politics because they lack power and they lack stable system to translate their vision into practice. They sound more and more strident against the First World for not giving them the freedom to solve their own problems with the consequence that they are distancing themselves from the developed countries.

At the micro level, it is important to understand the psychology of poor people. They have to face adversities at every step, hence are rebellious, militant and ruthless by nature. Their natural tendency is to be ultra leftist. The rich people, because of their abundance of comforts which are inversely proportional to the work they perform, are reluctant to change. Their natural tendency is ultra-rightist. In the end, too many changes too soon is as bad as too much stability for too long. Between the dialectics of change and stability, it is the change which should lead the period of stability, preparing the base for higher level of changes.

It is also important to know the dialectics between whole and part, particularly when Nepal is going to transform into a federal state from a unitary state. The whole should lead the parts. It is important that those fighting for autonomous regions on the ground of nationality keep the unity of the whole country in perspective while carving out their autonomous regions. It is equally important that the central government respect the aspirations of people of all nationalities for autonomous states. However, what is even more important is that the centre, at least in the beginning, be strong enough to be able to keep together all the autonomous states democratically.

There is also contradiction between big and powerful countries and small and powerless countries. Small and powerless countries always feel dwarfed by the big and powerful countries. The big and the powerful countries tend to assume they have answers to all the problems of small and powerless countries. It is important to note that in the globalised world, all countries are becoming more and more interdependent, both in positive and negative aspects, irrespective of their sizes and international clout.

At this juncture, it might be worthwhile to understand the dynamics of Indian politics as it has overwhelming effect in Nepal.

India is full of contradictions; along with countless challenges it has many opportunities as well which enables it to lead the region. It has all the geographical features: hills, mountains, Himalayas, flat plain, seas, rivers, desert, which present myriad possibilities and as many challenges. Politically, it has all sorts of movements: The Dalit movement spearheaded by Mayawati, the regional movement in the North East, the separatist movement in Kashmir, the religious Hindu movement spearheaded by Bharatiya Janta Party, the revolutionary class movement led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the reformist communist movement under Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the comprador bourgeois movement of Indian Congress Party. 

Alongside these big-scale political movements, there are innumerable smaller movements led by environmentalists, women activists, green peace activists, social activists, educationists, scientists, anarchists, etc often complimenting and contradicting the mainstream movements.

There is also contradiction between the centre and federal states and among federal states when it comes to power sharing. There are newly assertive nationalities fighting for statehood. In the economic field, India has remnants of tribal economy, feudal economy, capitalist economy to the monopoly capitalist economy within various states. There is a big gap between haves and haves-not. In the cultural realm, you have various forms of matriarchal and patriarchal systems. It has almost all the religions present in the world. Linguistically, the whole country is divided into Hindi speaking North and non-Hindi speaking South. Even the countries surrounding it have different political systems. 

In the North, it has tightly guarded border with unitary communist state of China. It has open border with Nepali state which is a nascent republic and monarchical Bhutan. In the West, it has the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, almost in a state of war. In the East it has Bangladesh, another Islamic state and Burma, a military state. And in the South it has the president-ruled Sri Lanka which has recently emerged from a civil war.

India is competing with China for global economic supremacy, but at the same time it is also facing all-encompassing movement of CPI (Maoist) which is gradually spreading all over India.

You need a bit of everything in politics, but ultimately it is the scientific vision and ideology which should lead all these tendencies. India has bits of everything; the challenge is to lead it, both nationally and in the international arena, with scientific vision. Nepal-India ties must also be seen in the context of the regional dialectics. There are bound to be ebbs and flows in the relationship. The two countries, being part of this globalised world, must learn to co-exit with each other meaningfully.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The After Kill Of Narayanpatna

This article was published in Tehelka on January 18, 2010

The bloodshed may have halted, but violence, fear and the possibility of starvation still haunt. SANJANA reports from the remote Orissa town where police killed two Adivasis last month

THE VOICE at the other end of the line is weak and tired. It’s past 8 pm. “We are on our way to the village,” he says. “We walk six hours every day – three hours at daybreak from our village into the forest and three hours at sundown back to the village. We hide in the jungles during the day and come to the village at night. We don’t want to be arrested by the police who come to our villages during the day,” says the 24-yearold. A few minutes of conversation later, he asks if his name and village can be kept anonymous. “If the police read the report, they may come to our village and hunt us down,” he says. Nothing you say can dislodge the fear.

Three weeks after a police firing, Narayanpatna in Orissa continues to resemble a war zone – with near-empty villages. The 24-year-old Adivasi that TEHELKA spoke with is only one of several hundred families who live in constant fear.

On 20 November 2009, two Adivasis died in the paramilitary forces’ firing at the Narayanpatna police station. Both the Adivasis were part of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh – an Adivasi organisation in the region that is fighting for the last 15 years for the Adivasis’ right over land – and were part of a 150 strong group that had gathered at the police station to protest over continued police harassment. Last week, in the story ‘A zone of twisted law’ (issue 50 dated 19 December, 2009) TEHELKA had detailed attempts by the state to derail the CMAS and other Adivasi organisations working in the area by equating them directly with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) active in the region

The Special Operations Group unit of the police and paramilitary forces, such as the Indian Reserve Battalion and the COBRA force stationed at Narayanpatna, continue with their search-and-combing operations in their attempts to arrest absconding leaders of CMAS. Arrests from the villages continue – unconfirmed reports talk of three more Adivasis being arrested on 14 December 2009 – even as the security forces seek to arrest key CMAS leader Nachika Linga.

Currently, 70 people have been arrested and lodged in the Koraput district jail. Though all the arrests have taken place after 20 November, not all of them are related to the protest on the day. Says Gupteswar Panigrahy, a Koraputbased advocate who has stepped forward to represent the arrested CMAS members: “Of the 70 people arrested, only 20 have been charged with cases related to the protest on 20 November 2009. The charges range from voluntarily causing hurt to rioting armed with deadly weapons to criminal conspiracy. The police have also levelled charges under the Indian Arms Act. As for the rest of the people, they have been arrested for cases that are several months old. By arresting all of them now, we believe that the police are unnecessarily attempting to create a climate of fear in the villages.”

Panigrahy is one of three advocates who has been allowed access to the undertrial prisoners. He categorically details the injuries sustained by those arrested while in custody. On 14 December 2009, when the jail authorities brought some of the undertrial prisoners before the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) at Lakshmipur, 4 Adivasis – Mahua Champa, Champiya Jama, Prasanna Maleka and Mandangi Subbarao – complained of injuries and asked the magistrate for medical treatment. Ask Panigrahy how many of those arrested have been injured and he speaks of the pathetic condition that he found some of them in. “Visible body injuries aside, I have heard that some of the Adivasi women have been raped in custody. I have not been able to confirm these reports yet. I also found one minor amongst those arrested. A school student, aged around 14 years, has been lodged in the same jail since the police authorities have recorded his age as 18 years. There is a lot the police have to answer for,” he says quietly.

Yet another question Panigrahy and his team lay out is the presentation of arms at a press conference held by the Superintendent of Police, Deepak Kumar, in Koraput on 29 November 2009. The arms had been seized, the police claimed, during raids a day earlier. The place of weapons seizure falls under the Lakshimpur JMFC jurisdiction and according to procedure should have been deposited with the court. Moving it out of the court for presentation at a press conference would then require the authorisation of the court. “Even at the time of hearing on 14 December, the police had not even provided the court with a list of the seized weapons, leave alone the question of depositing them,” points out Panigrahy. It was only after Panigrahy pointed this out that the court directed the police to provide them with the list. “Procedures have been laid out to ensure there is no manipulation by the police. What is to stop them from adding weapons to the seized list now?” asks Panigrahy. When TEHELKA contacted SP Deepak Kumar to speak about the heavy police deployment and reports of police high handedness, he refused to answer questions, only offering the comment that “the police were doing their duty” and that there was no further discussion necessary.

THE HIGH-HANDEDNESS of the security forces in Narayanpatna is not limited to what appears as indiscriminate arrests of Adivasis or their subsequent treatment. In the villages that TEHELKA visited in Narayanpatna block, including Palaput and Bhaliaput, the few Adivasis who had remained behind talked uneasily of the threats issued by the security forces if they harvested the crops from the lands they had been cultivating. Consider the context in which threats against crop harvesting have been issued and the high-handedness of the security forces becomes apparent. Across Narayanpatna block, over the years, reclamation of land grabbed from the Adivasis was one of the central rallying points for the CMAS. Gananath Patra, or GP as he is called, a key CMAS leader, told TEHELKA that before the struggle for land reclamation was launched a year ago, Adivasi land possession had dropped to less than 5 percent in the block. “In an area where Adivasi population is around 90 percent (the 2001 census confirms these figures), this meant serious land-grabbing by non-tribals who had migrated to the region less than 15 years ago. Over the years, before CMAS gained ground, Adivasis were dispossessed of their land using liquor as an incentive. Most of the people who took away Adivasi land were liquour vendors and traders,” says GP. The veteran leader talks of how the first struggle that CMAS launched was to stop manufacture and sale of liquour in the villages followed by attempts to establish Adivasi claims over their land.

Nachika Linga, the now absconding CMAS leader, in a previously published interview talked of the effort and the patience the Adivasis exhibited while attempting to recover the land through legal procedures. “For years we followed legal procedures, filed application after application since the law, The Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Regulation, recognises Adivasis’ right over paternal land. We would file and wait. For Adivasis who are mostly illiterate and have no knowledge of the laws, this was a huge exercise in itself,” Linga is reported to have said. When filing applications yielded no result, CMAS launched a forceful takeover of land from the non-tribal liquour vendors and the traders. In the clashes that erupted in May 2009 between the nontribals and the CMAS, one person died and several non-tribal families fled – leaving their lands and houses. Since May 2009, Adivasis have cultivated the fields, growing their staple crops of paddy and millets – crops that are now ready for harvesting.

Following the firing on 20 November, security forces – accompanied often by non-tribals – have issued warnings to Adivasis to desist from harvesting crops from these lands. In Palaput village, Adivasis told TEHELKA that the non-tribal families who had fled the village had returned a week after the firing to warn the Adivasis of arrests if crops were harvested. “They told us that they would be back with the police to make us harvest the crops and hand them over. If we went into the fields before that, we were told that we would be beaten up and arrested,” says Hiko Kalati, an Adivasi resident of Palaput. “We cultivated the land, it is our sweat and blood that has tended the crops,” asks Kalati. “If our leaders were around, we would have gone ahead and cut the crops before they came. But now what can we do but watch?” he says before looking away. In village after village, voices subdued by fear ask the same question. In Bhaliaput, as part of the search-and-combing operations, the security forces had destroyed the foodgrains Adivasis had stored from a previous harvest. With destruction of stored foodgrains and a warning to not harvest crops, what would be the source of food in the months to come? The Adivasis of Bhaliaput had only blank faces to offer as answers.

Outside the villages, pose the question to the non-tribals who are eagerly awaiting police protection to proceed with crop harvesting and there are ready answers available. Anand Kirsani, a trader who has emerged as the voice of the non-tribals opposing the CMAS in Narayanpatna, is very vocal about the issue. “Why didn’t they think of this before they took away our lands? First, they threatened us, forcibly took over our lands and when we turned to the police for protection, turned on the police and attacked them. They only have themselves to blame for their present situation,” says Kirsani. He goes on to explain how they (the non-tribals) have gone on to organise themselves – an organisation called Koraput District Nagarik Surakhya and Shanti Committee has been floated. In the past three months the committee has held several protests condemning the CMAS and the land reclamation process it has started in the region. A minute of conversation with Kirsani and the vehemence in obvious – the CMAS are Maoists and deserve stringent punishment – a fact that the police have thankfully woken up to, he says. Are the police helping them to harvest the crops? There is not a moment of hesitation as he answers in the affirmative

Officially, Koraput Sub-Collector Rajesh Patil has announced that the harvests will be monitored by the district administration and that there will be a 50-50 share accorded to the Adivasis and the original land owners. While questions remain about the monitoring and implementation of this arrangement, there are several advocates who point to the illegality of such an announcement by the district administration. Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, a special advocate under the state government’s Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihood Programme, says it is a clear violation of the settled principle of law. “The law recognises the rights of a trespasser if he has a settled possession of the property – in this case, the Adivasis’ rights as trespassers is established since they have been cultivating the land. If the crops are not handed over to the Adivasis, there is danger of starvation in the area in addition to the existing lawlessness,” says Koraput-based Patnaik. A few weeks is all there is to determine the possession of the harvests – before the crops rot and become useless for both the Adivasis and the non-tribals.

IN THE ordinary course of events, both the issues of possible starvation and continued repression of Adivasis in the villages of Narayanpatna would warrant an independent assessment. But in the war zone that is Narayanpatna, this is a remote possibility. When a team of nine women from various civil rights organisations attempted to travel to the region on 9 December 2009, they were severely abused and assaulted by the police and armed youth. A press statement issued by the team a day later provided a detailed account of how the team members were strangled, beaten up and assaulted repeatedly – even right outside the Narayanpatna police station. They were ultimately forced to return – without having travelled to the villages.

In a democracy, citizens are allowed to travel freely across the country. War zones are, of course, excluded. Has Narayanpatna in Orissa then become a war zone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Prachanda: India’s Meddling in Nepal’s Affairs is a Barrier to Integration


UPCN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on Sunday charged that the incumbent ruling coalition and neighbouring India are bidding to derail the peace process by standing against the army integration.

Speaking at the inaugural of a youth festival in Diktel of eastern hilly district Khotang, the former Prime Minister said the fact that statements of ruling parties and the ministers, and the chief of Indian Army regarding the army integration were identical cannot be a mere coincidence. Dahal arrived in Diktel from Kathmandu today itself boarding a chopper.

According to him, his party resorted to the movement for national sovereignty as foreign countries like India intervened in the internal affairs including implementation of civilian supremancy.

The Maoist Chairman accused New Delhi of toppling the Maoist-led government and helping the UML, which he said was rejected by the people, for the fulfillment of its ulterior motives. He said India of striving against international missions like UNMIN, European Union, which have played vital role in the peace process, through Nepal government and its ministers.

Dahal further said his party began the agitation for national sovereignty and civilian supremacy by holding interaction and discussion across the national as the current government was Indian agent. The Maoist leader spent much of his time on criticising the government and India.

Nepal Army Runs 80 Truckloads of Indian Arms Across the Border

This article published by Nepal News on January 16, 2010 clearly shows how Indian expansionist aspirations are working in Nepal

UCPN (Maoist) claims NA imported arms; NA refutes

The Unified CPN (Maoist) has claimed Nepal Army (NA) brought a large quantity of arms and ammunition from India through the Sunauli border Thursday night. NA has refuted the Maoist claim saying the vehicles, brought with Indian support, were empty.

Bam Dev Chhetri, UCPN (Maoist) central committee member and sub-incharge its Awadh Madhes Rajya Samiti, organised a press conference in Butwal, Friday and accused the government of breaching the Comprehensive Peace Agreement by importing the arms.

Chhetri said 30 trucks loaded with INSAS Rifles and bullets, 50 trucks and eight Jeeps with green (allocated for tourism related industry) unmarked number plates, four Mahindra Jeeps, two ambulances, one fire brigade and one crane have entered Nepal through Sunauli border Thursday night and are kept at the no. 22 Brigade of Nepal Army in Butwal.

Army officers have said, they received the vehicles from India as part of military aid, but none of them contained guns and bullets. We had already informed the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC) on arms and army about the vehicles, said Major Ashok Gurung of NA’s Public Relations Department. 
The JMCC also includes representative from the Maoists.

[The question remains: Why would the Nepal Army run a convoy of 80 empty trucks from India to Nepal?]

Monday, January 18, 2010

Breaking news! Youngest Maoist nabbed!


Check out the murderous rage on his face!

Check out the hand that has bludgeoned many heads!

Check out the strained forehead that explain his years committed to bloodshed!

When Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh referred to Maoists as being the “single largest threat to the nation”, did he mean this child, whose fingers were brutally chopped off while his family was massacred?

Now, even before this 'Maoist' could be sent in for a narco-analysis, let's understand where he comes from.

Name: Madvi Mukesh

Age: Two years old

: Muria

Residence: Gompad village, police station Konta, district Dantewada (on the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border)

: Maternal grandfather Madvi Barjar (50) – dead; grandmother Madvi Subhi (45) – dead; mother Kartam Kunni (20) – dead; maternal aunt Madi Mooti (8) – dead; father (21).

Mukesh was with his family on the morning of October 1, 2009, when something unusual happened. Several men wearing military fatigues – SPOs (special police officers), police and other security forces – pointed their guns at these 'Maoists' and shot at them. Mukesh's neigbours were killed – Muchaki Handa, Markam Deva, Tomra Mutta, newly-married couple Soyma Subba and Soyam Jogi.

Mukesh's family was wiped out. He was found to be crying near a pool of blood, oozing from the chopped body of his aunt. His wails were uncontrollable – did he understand the meaning of the loss of his family, or was it because his three fingers were chopped during the carnage?

His 'Maoist' father wasn't at home at that time. He was saved.

Houses were burnt down. Paddy, pulses, brass pots, poultry and cash were taken away. In all, the villagers found that 10 of their people were dead. Some youths were missing. Mukesh Madvi, the 'Maoist', disappeared into the jungles with his father.

About 200 kms north of Gompad, news about an encounter was being circulated in the press. Operation Green Hunt had officially begun on October 1, 2009, and it was declared that some Maoists were killed near the Andhra border. When questions were raised by some sceptical journalists about the bodies of the Maoists, they were told that the villagers had disposed them off.

On January 3, 2010, when I met Amresh Mishra, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Dantewada, and had asked him about the Gompad massacre, he clarified that it wasn't a massacre. “There was only a firing from both the sides. There was no casualty; only some explosives were found.”

January 7, 2010, would have been the day when, like Mukesh, many other 'Maoists' would have come to Dantewada for a Jan Sunwai (public hearing), so that they could put forth their case. Home Minister P Chidambaram had promised Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who had planned the Jan Sunwai, that he would be present to hear the unending woes of the people. However, the Governor of Chhattisgarh ESL Narasimhan prevented the Home Minister from making that visit. The Jan Sunwai was bound to have opened a can of worms before the national media, if the Home Minister had attended the meeting.

Mukesh did arrive for the Jan Sunwai along with his father, and several other optimists, on January 5. They were about 25 of them. No sooner did they arrive at Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, they were surrounded by SPOs. About 30 minutes later, they were all packed into three Boleros which bore no number plates.

It has been 10 days since those 'Maoists' were taken to an undisclosed location and there has been no news about them.

So that is the government's definition of a 'Maoist', whom I encountered personally – the tribal carrying logs of firewood who starts walking through jungles since 3 am, and reaches the nearest town by 7 am, to sell the firewood for Rs 60. The tribal who walks about 50 kms to reach the police station, to complain that the forces stationed in his village killed the only hen that he had, is a Maoist for the government. The two-year-old Mukesh is a Maoist for the government.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kishenji Says Maoists Support People’s Struggles in the Northeast, Kashmir and Telangana

This article was published in the January 17, 2010 edition of The Week.

ULFA should trust us


By Sarbari Bhaumik

A wily fox has many exits to his lair. So also with Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, national chief of the People’s Liberation Army and politburo member of the CPI (Maoist). Media-savvy, he often speaks to the press, but on his own terms. His call would come out of the blue and he would hang up immediately after giving his sound bite. Long phone calls, he knows, will give away his location. But in an interview with THE WEEK, Kishenji spoke at length on a wide range of issues, including Telangana, Kashmir and the northeast. Excerpts:

What is your response to the decision to form Telangana?
The demand for Telangana is very old and we support it. Though Delhi has announced its intention to form Telangana, I doubt their sincerity. Many rich and powerful Telugus have illegal land in Hyderabad and have invested millions there. There are powerful people in the UPA who are linked to these vested interests. They will create roadblocks.

But will a separate state help? Jhar-khand’s tribal leaders are as corrupt as those who ran Bihar.
Creation of Jharkhand was the first step towards fulfilling aspirations of tribals who were neglected in Bihar. It will not solve all problems, but it is the first victory. Now they will have to fight corruption within their society. It is because tribal leaders like Shibu Soren and Madhu Koda betrayed them that tribals have turned to us. But the fight for a separate state where they are masters of their destiny is the first step of revolutionary mobilisation for deprived people.

So you would also support the Gorkhaland movement?
Of course. In fact, the undivided Communist Party, the old CPI, had called for this soon after Independence. The demand first came from CPI legislator Ratanlal Brahmin, a leader of the hill people. There is a CPI resolution supporting the demand for a Gorkha state. The CPI(M) emerged from the CPI, but they are now pandering to Bengali chauvinism.
And strangely, there is no difference between [Congress leader]Pranab Mukherjee, [Trinamool Congress chief] Mamata Banerjee and [West Bengal Chief Minister] Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. They are all trying to capitalise on the Bengali sentiment against a division. This is cheap politics. These politicians have done nothing for the people of West Bengal, but now want to divide the Nepalis and Bengalis. We want the poor on both sides to maintain their unity and foil evil designs of bourgeois politicians.

Will the Gorkhas get a separate state?
Not by going on hunger strikes and tripartite talks. These methods do not get you anywhere in India. You have to fight.

An armed fight? But Telangana came out of hunger strikes.
Telangana is still a long way off. We Maoists believe in a combination of armed struggle and mass mobilisation. After all, Telangana or Gorkhaland are not separatist demands. They want to remain in India.

But your party has also supported separatism. The CPI (Maoist) has an agreement with the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur. Your party supports the Manipuris’ right to self-determination.
That is not supporting separation! The people of the northeast and Kashmir have a right to self-determination and we wholeheartedly support their struggle for it. Theirs is a just demand and we want to tell them that the struggling poor of India are with them in their fight against the exploitative Indian state.
But self-determination only means that they can decide if they want to stay in India or become independent. We are against India imposing itself on these people who have developed independently for a long time.
Our understanding with the Revolutionary People's Front of Manipur [PLA is its military wing] is based on our recognition of Manipur’s right to self-determination and their commitment not to attack the Indian proletariat. That is the first step towards a revolutionary front of the struggling people of India and of Manipur.

ULFA attacks poor Biharis in Assam, despite your talking to them.
We unconditionally support ULFA’s struggle for self-determination in Assam. We only want them to stop attacking the Indian proletariat. We will continue to engage with ULFA on this issue.

The PLA has traditionally accepted its commitment to the Indian revolution, but ULFA has never agreed to carry that ideological baggage. They talk of building socialism on a nationalist base.
ULFA cannot ignore the revolutionary struggle of Indians and our enormous goodwill for their struggle. It has gained nothing by trusting neighbouring countries like Bhutan and Bangladesh, where puppet governments of India rule. They have betrayed ULFA under Indian pressure or when it suited them. Look how many ULFA leaders have been handed over by Bangladesh in recent weeks. ULFA cannot trust these governments. They have to trust us.

But don’t you see the tendency of many of these ethnic armed movements to get co-opted by the Indian state?
I know what you are talking about. We are not dealing with movements which have made deals with India or are ready to do so. ULFA is still fighting, despite many reverses. ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa was handed over to India, but Home Secretary G.K. Pillai lied that he had surrendered. Typical Indian divide-and-rule policy. They want Rajkhowa and ULFA’s military chief Paresh Barua to fight.

Have you ever discussed these issues with Barua? He is the one who orders attacks on Biharis in Assam, isn’t he?
We have engaged with him. I met him under the party name of Pradip, that is my identity for him. He does not know me as Koteswara Rao or Kishenji. I wish to speak to him again. I sincerely want ULFA, the PLA and other such groups fighting for separate homelands or for self-determination to fight the exploitative Indian state alongside us.
We do not want to impose the model of our struggle on them, as they know how to fight best under their own circumstances. But we want them to attack the enemies of the people, and not the poor, wherever they come from.

Are you not being ambitious? The Burmese Communist Party tried to rope in ethnic separatist movements like the Kachins and Karens into their fold but failed because the Wa and Kokang tribes, who formed the majority of their armed soldiers, deserted.
We do not want to bring any of these self-determination struggles into our fold. We do not want to absorb them. We respect the right to self-determination. But they must realise we have a common enemy—the oppressive government in Delhi. They cannot fight Delhi alone.

So you are supporting them for tactical reasons?
Not at all. We want them to be part of a broad front so that we can co-ordinate our struggles. But this should be based on sound politics, not mere tactics. So we have come out in political support for the movements of self-determination. We now want to unite their struggles with the nationality movements. This is the next stage of the Indian revolution.

You support Kashmir’s right of self-determination?
We do. But only if it is a genuine struggle. If Kashmir wants independence, so be it. But that should cover the whole of Kashmir. We have no patience for religious radicalism. If the Taliban attacks India, we will be the first to fight them. But we cannot deny Kashmir’s aspirations for self-determination. That is a secular aspiration focused on Kashmiriyat, not a Taliban-style religious fanaticism.