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IN what is perhaps the first direct electoral fight between the CPI(M) led Left Front and the Ultra Right in the country, the BJP’s aggressive ‘chalo paltai (let’s flip it)’ campaign in Tripura has managed to seduce the state’s sizeable young electorate with the promise of jobs, free smart phones and ‘poriborton (change)’. In spite of massive campaign by BJP it is difficult to predict the result of the elections to the assembly held on 18th February in which almost 80% voted, the result of which to be announced on 3rd March. Tripura has 3.6 million people spread across 60 constituencies, with growing population of literate but unemployed youth. Ironically, it tops the list of Indian states in both literacy and unemployment rates. In multiple interviews with The Wire across the state, many young and first-time voters said that they have seen CPI(M) rule all their lives and are willing to give the BJP a chance, while many others appreciated chief minister Manik Sarkar for maintaining peace in the state and ensuring at least basic social security for all.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have attacked Sarkar for failing to adequately tackle poverty and unemployment; 19.7% of people in Tripura are unemployed. As is the story in most of the region, the government is the largest employer but jobs created fall way short of demand. The Left Front government has been in power in the state for the past 25 years and BJP is trying to focus on just the possibility of a change exciting to many young people.

There have been widespread allegations of favouritism in government jobs and the state is yet to fully implement the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations. Apart from this, MGNREGA jobs have failed to create rural assets, and private jobs are scarce as there are no major industries in the state. The government’s promotion of rubber plantations in rural Tripura and agricultural subsidies have significantly increased household incomes in the region, but agro-based industries have not been encouraged. The Sarkar government’s own economic review for 2015-16 has described the challenges: “The state’s economy is characterized by high incidence of poverty, low per capita income, low capital formation, inadequate infrastructural facilities and geographical isolation and communication bottleneck, low progress in industrial field as well as high un-employment problem. On the other hand, low availability of infra-structure has made the process of economic development extremely difficult in the backward state of Tripura.” Finding it very difficult to communalize the polls as in UP or elsewhere, BJP is trying to focus on these economic issues to seek a change.

But the real loser in this election is going to be Congress which was the number 2 force behind CPI(M) since 1977, when the latter replaced it. This time it is going to become a distant third force. As far BJP is concerned it had only 1.5% votes in 2013 assembly elections which increased to more than 5.5 % in 2014 and is expected to increase sizably this time, since in spite of the clean image of Sarkar and the absence of Singur, Nandigram like agitations as happened in Bengal, the main challenge faced by the CPI(M) is that it has no alternative model to project against the neo-liberal model of Congress and BJP. 

KASGANJ : THE FACTS AND NOT THE HYPE

Muslims of Kasganj were celebrating Republic Day on January 26 by hoisting the Indian national flag hoisting program at Veer Abdul Hamid Tri-Crossing. Veer Abdul Hamid incidentally, is the Paramveer Chakra decorated martyr from Ghazipur, UP, who demolished several Pakistani Patton Tanks during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. This tri-crossing is located at the heart of a locality where Muslims and Hindus have been living peacefully for generations. While Muslims were hoisting the tri-colour flag in a small ceremony with chairs and guests, , a group of boys suddenly appeared on foot and bikes to disrupt the event. These boys were not carrying out a tiranga yatra. You can see in the picture and the video, that these men, ostensibly from the Akhil Bharatiya Yuva Parishad, were carrying a saffron flag.

Muslims requested these boys to join their program and celebrate Republic Day together. They asked them not to disrupt the flag hositing and to join it together But the boys insisted that the ceremony be stopped, and uprooted the stand on which the Muslims had hoisted the tri-colour. The Muslims tried to reason with the boys even then, who were all not from the locality and outsiders. The boys wanted the Muslims to hoist the RSS-saffron flag. When the Muslims protested, the boys got violence, They slapped an elderly Muslim.

A scurffle ensued. The boys raised dirty abusive slogans against the Muslims. One of these being, “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan, K****Bhago Pakistan.” The youth then left the place, so as per all reports violence did NOT take place at the Veer Abudl Hamid Tri-Crossing beyond what has been stated above. Instead another group joined the initial youth in another part of Kasgang, and this mob moved attacking thelas pf Muslims, torching trucks at Bilram Crossing. They attacked and looted Muslim shops. They had arms and were firing in the air, according to eyewitnesses. It was at this point that one Chandan Gupta was hit by a bullet.

Preparation for trouble had begun earlier, with a Muslim man driving from Aligarh to Kasganj being brutally attacked by a mob. The saffron flag which the group was trying to hoist, is still there at Veer Abdul Hamid Chowk.

Amaresh Mishra n
FORMER Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has claimed capitalism is coming to an end because it is making itself obsolete. This former economics professor says rise of artificial intelligence will spell end of neoliberal system. He told an audience at University College London that the rise of giant technology corporations and artificial intelligence will cause the current economic system to undermine itself. Mr Varoufakis, who took on EU institutions over Greek debt repayments in 2015, said companies such as Google and Facebook, for the first time ever, are having their capital bought and produced by consumers.

“Firstly the technologies were funded by some government grant; secondly every time you search for something on Google, you contribute to Google’s capital,” he said. “And who gets the returns from capital? Google, not you. “So now there is no doubt capital is being socially produced, and the returns are being privatised. This with artificial intelligence is going to be the end of capitalism.”

Warning Karl Marx ”will have his revenge”, the 56-year-old said for the first time since capitalism started, new technology “is going to destroy a lot more jobs than it creates”.

He added: “Capitalism is going to undermine capitalism, because they are producing all these technologies that will make corporations and the private means of production obsolete.

“And then what happens? I have no idea.” Describing the present economic situation as “unsustainable” and fearing the rise of “toxic nationalism”, Mr Varoufakis said governments needed to prepare for post-capitalism by introducing redistributive wealth policies. He suggested one effective policy would be for 10 per cent of all future issue of shares to be put into a “common welfare fund” owned by the people. Out of this a “universal basic dividend” could be paid to every citizen.

(The Independent) 

ON BIGGEST-EVER BUBBLE BURST OF CAPITALISM

THE biggest-ever fall in stock market crash in capitalist history plunging the Dow Jones Index by more than 1800 points in two consecutive days followed by collapse in all leading world stock exchanges, that too just within a few days of the corporate euphoria created at the Davos Summit has already sent shock waves through the spines of world’s neoliberal CEOs ranging from Trump in the US to his junior partner Modi in India who have been citing record-breaking sky-rocketing stock indices as proof of the success of their ultra-rightwing policies. It underscores that the stock market crash of 1987, Asian financial crisis of 1997 and global meltdown of 2008 were not temporary aberrations but are inherent in the capitalist accumulation process based on pure speculation. It has now become evident that the boosting of the bubble or financialisation by corporate thugs was made possible solely because of the pumping of trillions of funds from government treasury and cheap money from banks in to the coffers of the most reactionary financial elite under the euphemism of quantitative easing. Now imperialist and comprador ruling regimes confronting unmanageable levels of public debts are thinking of winding up the so called ‘quantitative easing’ coupled with a reversal of the low interest rate-based ultra-cheap monetary policy. This is the immediate cause of the bursting of the bubble.

It is common knowledge that leading corporate monopolies are solely specializing in financialisation or the ballooning of the financial sphere which has nothing to do with production or employment generation, but are extracting surplus value from the working class and real producers through a whole set of newer and newer financial instruments backed by digitization. All over the world, working class and toiling masses losing jobs and declining living standards after realizing this fact have started rising up against the system in various ways. The extreme protectionist and militarist policies of Trump coupled with the unfolding internal ruling class crisis in the US and the consequent geopolitical tensions across “hot spots” of the world have imparted serious doubts to the financial parasites about the continued availability of cheap money and sustainability of the bubble. No doubt, neoliberal corporatization has its inherent limits and the world is on the threshold of unprecedented social and political tensions. The political repercussions of this unprecedented stock market crash in capitalist history have just begun and yet to unravel. 

BHANGAR: MARTYRDOM OF MOFFISSUL AND AAMGIR

ON 17 January we observed the Martyrdom of Moffissul and Alamgir, the two young soldiers of the war against imperialist paradigm of development in Bhangor. The people from different parts of the country renewed their pledge to continue the struggle they fought for till the withdrawal of the anti people Power Grid Project from Notunhat, Bhangor, West Bengal, a highly fertile and densely populated area. Young lives do not matter. Especially rebellious young lives. In fact, the voice of rebellious youth causes our governments such acute discomfort that it is gagged mercilessly. Sometimes, chillingly often, the voice is not just gagged, but silenced forever.

January 17, 2016: The suicide of Rohith Vemula, which was actually institutional caste murder. January 17, 2017: The murder of Bhangor anti powergrid protesters Mafijul Khan and Alamgir Molla, by the unholy nexus of police and TMC hooligans. On January 17, 2018, let us all defiantly pledge to avenge the martyrdom of Rohith, Mafijul and Alamgir by decimating the powers of discrimination, injustice and autocracy.

Sharmistha Choudhury

NOTE ON BHANGAR MOVEMENT

THE latest developments in Bhangar happened as the TMC government continued to refuse any talks with the Committee leading the movement against the Power Grid. Instead in the last week of December the chief minister exhorted the TMC factions to join hands to suppress the agitating villagers in view of the impending local bodies elections. Once again, on 28th December, the TMC hoodlums with bombs and guns and police support started attacks on the villages and injured three seriously, one with bullet injury. The villagers were forced to strengthen their resistance to these attacks, barricading the villages.

Meanwhile the application for permission to hold a mass rally at Kolkata was rejected. It is then the Bhangar Committee reiterated its decision to contest the coming local bodies elections in its banner and to hold the mass rally at Bhangar on 4th January. The TMC goons intensified the attacks to thwart it and to terrorize people from attending it. So the attention was to defeat the preparations for the rally by all means. As the Bhangar Solidarity Committee called for Bhangar Chalo, all attemps were made to defeat this move.

Comrade Raju singh of Revolutionary Youth Federation of India (RYFI) and 11 comrades of Anti Power Grid Movement, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (KMSS) Assam, were taken in to custody at Belghoria, Kolkata, on 4th January morning when they were proceeding to Bhangar to participate in the mass mobilization against the state terror unleashed to suppress the more than a year old anti Power Grid movement. This action by the State Task Force of the West Bengal police marked further intensification of the state terror and terror unleashed by the TMC goons against the agitating villagers and their supporters.

TMC goons were attacking Bhangar villages and people were resisting; Kolkata comrades gave the slogan: Bhangar Chalo on 4th January. When the mobilization was planned; A call was given by Red Star to organize solidarity actions on 4th January wherever possible at all India level.

Tension was mounted around Bhangar and nearby villages as hundreds of TMC goons with police forces were mobilized to attack the villagers using bombs and guns. The motor bike rally on 28th December to campaign for the Kolkata rally was attacked by the goons injuring three villagers. On 29th hundreds of villagers demonstrated against these attacks. Chief minister Mamta Banerjee called on her forces to stop internal strife and to unitedly suppress the Bhangar movement. On 30th the TMC organized a flopped public meeting in nearby area in which TMC spokesperson announced that compensation shall be given to farmers through whose areas the Grid Line passes. Though the central and state governments have not issued any orders to this effect, this announcement itself is a by-product of the people’s movement. While welcoming such an enactment by the central government, the Bhangar Committee declared that its demand is that the Grid Line through the thickly populated and cultivated area should be repealed. Until such a declaration is not there and an agreement is signed, the affected peasants are not compensated, their land is not returned and all cases are not withdrawn the movement shall continue.

Following this, the WB chief minister has threatened to arrest comrade Alik Chakraborty and all other activists. Targeting CPI(ML) Red Star a campaign was organized by TMC in South and North 24 Parganas districts. In this situation on 4th January successful mobilization was held at Bhangar. Already the martyrs’ day fund collection was disturbed in the area. The TMC leadership was threatening against the proposed mobilization on 17th January martyrs’ day also. In spite of all these provocations, the Bhangar Committee, the Red Star WB state committee and all the progressive forces supporting the movement have repeated their determination to carry forward the movement with full vigour at any cost.

This challenging situation called for all out support and solidarity actions from all party committees and friends and sympathizers of the Bhangar movement, which is still continuing for more than one year demanding the repeal of the anti-people Grid Line, creating new example of people’s resistance against the terror and encirclement by the TMC goons and police. The Central Committee of CPI(ML) Red Star appealed to all friends and comrades for contributing generously to the Rs. 10 lakh martyrs’ fund and for observing the January 17th Martyrs’ Day as Bhangar Solidarity Day wherever possible.

In spite of gun wielding, bomb throwing TMC goons, in spite of the police in numerous attires, in spite of detaining Raju and the 11 comrades from Assam, in spite of detaining the democrats who went to join the protest rally in the villages, in spite of all sabre rattling by Mamta and her chelas, thousands of villagers gathered on 4th January to affirm that they shall continue the year long struggle, declaring that they shall overcome all obstacles to achieve their demands! At Kolkata comrades worked tirelessly to mount resistance against draconian police actions. The rally was successfully concluded and comrade Raju along with Assam comrades and the democratic forces of Bengal are released. All comrades, not only those in WB but also in other states who came out in solidarity played their role for 4th January becoming a success.

Let us continue the struggle tomorrow, and in coming days till victory! Meanwhile there is good news about more struggles breaking out against Power Grid Projects from different parts of the state and at all India level, imposed forcefully against people’s wishes. Yes, it should develop in to a much bigger movement for people oriented development paradigm and people’s power at all levels! 
IN a major revelation, a top report by an international non-profit organization, World Inequity Lab, the total per adult income among the top 0.001% of India’s population rose by a whopping 3,083% between 1980 and 2016, compared to just about 235% in the world. In Europe it rose just by 120% and in US-Canada by 629%.

Titled “The World Inequality Report 2018”, the report says, as against this, the average income of India’s “full population” rose by 223%, of “bottom” 50% by a mere 107%, and of “middle” 40% by 112%. In a further breakup, the report says, the income of top 10% since 1980 rose by 469%, of top 1% rose by 857%, of top 0.1% by 1,295%, and of top 0.01% by 2,078%.

The report comments, whether it is North America, China, India or Russia, ever since 1980, “From a broad historical perspective, this increase in inequality marks the end of a postwar egalitarian regime which took different forms in these regions”. In India, it adds, because of the implementation of what it calls “socialist policies after gaining its independence”, inequalities were reduced to some extent.

Giving absolute figures, the report says, despite such a sharp rise in income at the very top, the average pre-tax national income per adult within the top 1% is “similar in India and China” (Euros 131000 versus Euros 157000, respectively), which is much lower, say, than in “Brazil (Euros 436000) and in the United States (Euros 990000).”

The report says, “Inequality has risen substantially from the 1980s onwards, following profound transformations in the economy that centred on the implementation of deregulation and opening-up reforms. Since the beginning of deregulation policies in the 1980s, the top 0.1% earners have captured more growth than all of those in the bottom 50% combined.”

Noting that “the middle 40% have also seen relatively little growth in their incomes”, the report says, “This rising inequality trend is in contrast to the thirty years that followed the country’s independence in 1947, when income inequality was widely reduced and the incomes of the bottom 50% grew at a faster rate than the national average.”

“Over the past four decades”, the report says, “The Indian economy has undergone profound evolutions. In the late seventies, India was recognized as a highly regulated, centralized economy with socialist planning. But from the 1980s onwards, a large set of liberalization and deregulation reforms were implemented.”

Thus, it says, “Liberalization and trade openness became recurrent themes among Indian policymakers, epitomized by the Seventh Plan (1985-90) led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (1984-89). That plan promoted the relaxation of market regulation, with increased external borrowing and increased imports.”

It adds, “These free-market policy themes were then further embedded in the conditions attached to the International Monetary Fund’s assistance to India in its balance of payment crisis in the early 1990s, which pushed further structural reforms for deregulation and liberalization.”

“This period also saw the tax system undergo gradual transformation, with top marginal income tax rates falling from as high as 97.5% in the 1970s to 50% in the mid-1980s”, the report says, adding, “The structural changes to the economy along with changes in tax regulation, appear to have had significant impact on income inequality in India since the 1980s.”

“In 1983, the share of national income accruing to top earners was the lowest since tax records started in 1922”, the report says, adding, “The top 1% captured approximately 6% of national income, the top 10% earned 30% of national income, the bottom 50% earned approximately 24% of national income and the middle 40% just over 46%.”

“But”, the report says, “By 1990, these shares had changed notably with the share of the top 10% growing approximately 4 percentage points to 34% from 1983, while the shares of the middle 40% and bottom 50% both fell by 2 percentage points to around 44% and 22%, respectively.”

Recalling that “reforms were implemented both by the Congress government and its Conservative successors”, the report says, most reforms were “concomitant with a dramatic rise in Indian income inequality by 2000. The top 10% had increased its share of national income to 40%, roughly the same as that attributable to the middle 40%, while the share of the bottom 50% had fallen to around 20%.”

“These pro-market reforms were prolonged after 2000”, the report says, adding, “Inequality trends continued on an upward trajectory throughout the 2000s and by 2014 the richest 10% of the adult population shared around 56% of the national income. This left the middle 40% with 32% of total income and the bottom 50%, with around half of that, at just over 16%.” 

NOTE ON UNORGANISED SECTOR LABOUR

MY understanding of revolution is that the objective conditions are ripe but the subjective conditions are not. Taking a leaf from Lenin, Trade Unions are the school of politics for the working class i.e., political conciousness developed through developing struggles for concrete demands of the working class. This note on unorganised sector labour is prepared by Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha/KSS. We would like to highlight the issue of identity (women, dalit , tribal, religious etc). Our stand on this is that while this is important, there are other dimensions related to Class identity as well and hence ABMKSS is in the process of discussing with like-minded organisations how this can be brought to bear on organisational development. Recently many like-mined organisations have got together to create Adivasi Bharat Mahasabha. The National Convention of ABM is being held from 2-4 February at Raipur –Viren Lobo

Unorganised sector labour emerged as a by product of Capital’s attempt to usurp the product of labour of the masses. Agriculture and other labour organised in clans was able to help guild labour develop. These were directly controlled by the producers or indirectly through the village and associations. In England, the enclosure movement, displaced this form of organisation of labour and threw many into the market place for survival. Many of these were herded into factory production.

This form of organised production, led to the creation of Unions to protect the interest of labour. However to circumvent the need to bargain with Unions, various forms of labour were organised by capital through the means of intermediaries like contractors. In India, British policy relating to promotion of market forces (tax and levies on agriculture and forest produce) destroyed the traditional barter economy and forced artisans and others to sell their labour in the market place. The caste system on which traditional labour was organised was destroyed (as a production unit) without freeing people from the caste mindsets. So the process of destroying the existing form of production in the feudal set up did not bring with it a corresponding cry of liberty, freedom and equality, the Slogan of the French revolution. Hence various forms of dependencies and structures were created to deny the genuine rights of labour.

With Independence, the Industrial thrust given by Nehru under the so called banner of Socialist production in the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy actually led to the Capitalist class (fledgling at that time), to consolidate itself with tariff walls of one hand and a number of incentives to acquire land, grow and prosper on the other. However this could only absorb 8-9% of the labour. The rest had to fend for themselves in various forms.

Liberalization dismantled many barriers to the unfettered production of Capital on one hand and strengthened Capital’s hand in terms of conditions of labour (hiring and firing). The result, despite large scale expansion of Capital, the organised sector contracted to around 6%. Self employment tooted as an alternative is actually more insecure and heavily dependent on capital for its survival. For eg;. with the freeing of conditions in the Telecom sector, many STD booths sprung up to take advantage of ‘unpaid home labour’. With the onset of the mobile, this once flourishing business came crashing down. In Agriculture and allied sectors (animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry) the influx of capital, provided a ‘free’ labour market, to the pools of labour that depended on the infrastructure, services etc.

In the wake of these developments, we notice that unorganised sector labour is organising itself trade wise (construction, agriculture labour, mining workers, fish workers etc) as also coming together as a whole on the following demands: a) Identity, b) Social security - Old age pension, MGNREGA, accident insurance, housing, education, and c) Demand for minimum wage based on cost of living.

With the threat of displacement from ‘development’ from projects like Sagar Mala, Corridors etc, there is increasing unity in the demands of unorganised sector labour and those belonging to specific trades like agriculture, fisheries, pastoral-ism etc. While the specific trades have their own specificity which need to be addressed, the possibility of coming together as a unified whole exists. We call on all like-minded organisations to come together so that we can unitedly fight the menace looming large before us. 
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The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.