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Any erosion in the people’s confidence in the fairness of the ECI has very grave consequences for the future of our democracy.” In a letter addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of bureaucrats have bemoaned the ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The letter points to various violations of the model code of conduct and illustrates how the EC took little action, if any, on most of the complaints that have been filed with it.

In the letter, which has also been sent to the Chief Election Commissioner and other Elections Commissioners, the Concerned Group of Citizens ask the EC to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned and to firmly exercise the extensive mandate given to it under Article 324 of the Constitution of India to ensure that the Indian voter is able to exercise her/his franchise without fear or favour”.

The bureaucrats give several examples of violations where the EC has not taken the proper steps – from Yogi Adityanath’s ‘Modiji ke sena’ speech, to NaMo TV, a channel dedicated to all things Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It also brings up the prime minister’s speech after India conducted an anti-satellite test as well as a TV show, Modi: A Common Man’s Journey, about Modi that has five episode

It also ask why the EC has so far only sought a report about the prime minister’s divisive speech at Wardha, where he had said: “The Congress insulted Hindus. People have decided to punish it in the election. Leaders of that party are now scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by the majority population. That is why they are forced to take refuge in places where the majority is a minority.”

The retired civil servants also bring up the EC’s “obdurate conduct and its reluctance to undertake a proper VVPAT audit”. n

As apprehended, according to reports, the first phase of elections on 11th April witnessed widespread malfunctioning of the EVMs in many places where elections took place. The second phase of elections on 18th April also proved that EVMs are faulty and they cannot be relied on. For the last one decade CPI(ML) Red Star is demanding that EVMS should be replaced with the ballot system as done in vast majority of the countries. It is a good sign that all the opposition parties are also upholding this view now. But the Election Commission is adamant to persist with them and was not ready even to increase the number of VVPATs till the Supreme Court intervened. Still the demand to use 50% VVPATS is not accepted. There are reports that this system is also malfunctioning in many areas delaying the election process. The common feature is that everywhere EVMs are favouring BJP, that is even when button is pressed for a non-BJP party, vote goes to Lotus symbol! It itself shows the extent of malpractice and that it favours the ruling party. In our Election Manifesto we have demanded that:”Since the possibility of insertion of malicious software in EVMs and manipulation of voting preferences being already proved, immediately we should return to the ballot system”. In view of widespread complaints about EVMs, CPI(ML) Red Star reiterates this demand. n

Look away from the Bharatiya Janata Party versus Congress battles for a moment and there are still a number of fascinating questions that arise from India’s upcoming general elections. Who will capture the political imagination of Tamil Nadu? Will film star Pawan Kalyan make a dent in Andhra Pradesh? Does Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar still have a strong base?  We’ll try and get to these questions and others in the Election Fix. Today, we look at another one: what will happen to the Left?

Although India’s various communist parties, associations and trade unions still have a presence across the country, as a political force they have for the most part been confined to three states: Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Even in these three, the party has experienced major setbacks. In 2018, after nearly three decades of communist rule, Tripura got a Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister. In West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress and a recently assertive BJP have combined to turn the Left Front, a coalition of communist parties, into what seems like a bit player in a state it once ruled for three decades.

It is only in Kerala that the Left Front is actually in power. But here too, there are fears that the anti-incumbency factor could work against it. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s decision to contest from a second seat in Kerala, in addition to his current constituency of Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi, complicates this further. Gandhi will be contesting from Wayanad, where he will be going up against the Left. The constituency sits on the corner of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and the Congress hopes that its leader’s decision to contest from there will boost its chances across these three states.

But that means cutting further into the Left’s base in Kerala. In an election that is supposedly built around the idea of Opposition parties working together to “save democracy” by defeating the BJP, this decision presents a different picture: one where the Congress is pragmatically building its own base, which we discussed on the Election Fix a few weeks ago. So where does that leave the Left Front? Not in a great place. Opinion polls in West Bengal suggest the communist parties will be left with no seats at all.

Shoaib Daniyal, reporting from West Bengal, offers this snippet to give you a sense of what is happening to the Left: “Habibpur is an adivasi-reserved Assembly seat in the Malda district of West Bengal. Incredibly, the communists have held this seat since 1962 – with only one gap from 1967-’69, when it lost to the Congress. For the past three terms, the seat has been held by veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Khagen Murmu.

But in March, Murmu jumped ship to join the BJP. The prize? He was made the Hindutva party’s Lok Sabha candidate for Malda North. The CPI(M) itself can scarcely be found in the villages of Habibpur anymore, as saffron blots out red. The communists once considered Bengal their fort. Now they cannot even hold on to their pocket boroughs.” In Kerala too polls are weighed against the Left, so Gandhi’s decision to contest from Wayanad will no doubt have an impact.

The big two Left Front parties, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), put out their manifestos this week, with promises that included Rs 9,000 per month in pensions, more guaranteed employment and data privacy. But the Left’s ability to influence policy will depend, to some extent on its political fortunes. And those, at the moment, do not look promising.

[From the Election Fix published by the www.Scroll.in]

A Response from CPI(ML) Red Star to the Above Comment

The above report on future of the left in India in the context of the 17th Lok Sabha elections. Of course, if you reduce the communist movement in India to CPI and CPI(M) and the Left Front and the index of the strength of the communist movement only as its strength in the elected bodies, this evaluation may be correct. And this negative picture can be extended to global scene also with all former socialist countries including China and Vietnam degenerating to capitalist states though they still use red flags.

But generally very little serious study is made to analyse the reasons for this set back. Or to see whether there are forces who are making serious rectifications, developing the Marxist perspective according to present conditions, and trying to build socialist alternative to present crises including the ecological catastrophe.

Marxism calls for overthrow of the capitalist system and replacing it with communism through a long socialist transition period. Under the leadership of Lenin when Russian revolution became victorious, Soviet Union was formed, and when it took up socialist transition it had become the future hope of mankind. Communist parties took birth in most of the countries, Soviet Union played leading role in defeating the Nazi fascist offensive, a dozen more countries took socialist path, and by early 1950s it looked like the socialist wave shall submerge the capitalist imperialist forces.

At this time, the imperialist camp led by US, in order to beat back the socialist offensive, replaced colonial (direct) domination with neo-colonial (indirect) domination by transferring power to big capitalist-big landlord classes in the colonies and launched social welfare measures and state capitalist policies, while maintaining their hegemony through export of finance capital, market system and technology and through arms trade. On the one hand military blocs were formed, and on the other IMF-World Bank and later WTO along with UN and its various agencies, for strengthening the neocolonial control.

What the communists did? By and large they could not correctly evaluate this new imperialist offensive. They saw it as weakening of imperialism. So the post-Stalin Soviet leadership called for peaceful coexistence and competition with imperialism and peaceful transition to socialism, abandoning the path of class struggle. It opened the floodgates to the capitalist roaders in the socialist countries who degenerated these countries in the course of next two decades.

In India, the CPI leadership started abandoning the revolutionary path by 1957, believing that through parliamentary path socialist transformation can take place. Against this there was inner party struggle, CPI splitted, and in 1964 CPI(M) was formed. But soon they also took to the path of parliamentarism. In 1967 both of them came together, formed broad based class collaborationist fronts and came to power in Kerala and W Bengal. Though they had promed  implementation of land to the tiller like slogans, once in power, instead of using it for advancing class struggle, they soon compromised with the ruling rightist state system. Against this, there was revolt in Naxalbari in May 1967. But due to left adventurism, it could not take the movement back to the path of democratic revolution.

During this time the rightist Congress was degenerating fast and getting alienated from people. The space lost by it could be captured by the CPI(M) led Left Front, though for decades it was to power for decades in Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, as it continued to implement the ruling class policies and could not put forward an alternative path of development when the neoliberal policies were imposed by Narasimha Rao govt in 1991. It had lost the socialist narrative and naturally Singur, Nandigram happened degenerating and alienating them from the people fast. And the the space lost by the Congress and this institutionalized Left Front is now occupied by the autocratic TMC and the ultra left, regional, casteist parties. In spite of the setbacks in Bengal and Tripura, since the CPI(M) led LDF in Kerala is pursuing the very same corporate policies, it is bound to face setbacks there also. It reflects the fact that social democratic parties like CPI(M) are bound to fade out.

But it cannot be evaluated as the end for the left, it is incorrect. The revolutionary left is already on the path of overcoming this setback, not only in India, but all over the world. We are not talking about the CPI(Maoist) which is led by middle class’ utopian anarchist views, We are talking about CPI(ML) Red Star like forces who are leading Bhangar like people’s movements, who are trying to develop Marxist world view according to present conditions, and using all forms of struggle including parliamentary struggles to capture political power.

The hitherto history after the advent of capitalist system shows that only socialism can provide an alternative to present global turmoil created by the capitalist imperialist system, including the ecological catastrophe. So, learning from past mistakes, challenging and throwing out the present offensive of ultra right, neo-fascist forces at global level and in India, the socialist forces led by the revolutionary communists shall come to the centre stage as the people’s alternative in the coming days.

KN Ramachandran

The 15th March skipping of classes by millions of school students across the world demanding action on climate change by the governments is one of the significant events of recent years. Greta Tunberg, the 15 year old girl from Sweden spearheading the movement asked the corporate and government heads assembled at Davos: “Why should we be studying for a future that soon will be no more?”. They were telling the corporate world that you have no right to destroy our future. Presently the consequences of climate change are experienced practically every day in all countries. India is no exception. After a severe winter, now 42% of the land is facing draught. Water scarcity is mounting. A bleak monsoon is predicted. Still, almost all ‘main stream parties’ are deaf to the call for urgent action to rescue the humankind from extinction as a result of ecological catastrophe. It is in this context, an initiative was taken by us to convene a meeting of concerned sections for an informal discussion on how the question of threats to Life Sustaining Ecological Support & Climate Justice can find ways into larger political /electoral discourse. Though the meeting took place in the second week of February, except Red Star and few environmentalists, no political parties/groups attended it. This negative attitude is reflected in the manifestos or statements for the 17th Lok Sabha elections of not only the ruling class parties, but of most of the left parties also; this vital aspect, this growing contradiction between capital and nature is seldom  mentioned, or just for names sake.

The seriousness and the extent of climate change demands that such a critical social issue should be brought to larger political dialogue in the general elections, particularly at this crucial time.  As we are seeing more and more frequently, climate and ecological de-stabilization are taking increasing toll on society, hitting the more vulnerable sections harder.  The crisis of marginal and small farmers is only a case in point, where even the demands have been limited to (necessary but not systemic) loan waivers and prices, without addressing the questions of the very sustainability of small holder farming under the existing system. Artisans and workers are worse off, barring those few in the circle of elite fashion-chains.  Most other nature-dependent ways of lives and natural systems are now on the verge of collapse in the next few decades.

Despite the severe ecological /climate impacts now being felt increasingly frequently and more strongly, the political discourse hardly takes cognizance of this.  The many issues of ecological / climate justice - that are critical to the sustenance of marginalized communities as well as the “silent life”  around —  which were at least discussed earlier in some circles, are getting reduced to only local and immediate demands in many cases.  These local issues are no doubt important, but the larger social-political debates seem to have gone under.

This is a grave situation.  In the present corporate world, as the ultra right/neo-fascist coalition of religious fundamentalism and market fundamentalism is in ascendance, there should be efforts to consider whether we can collectively take some effort to at least introduce some of the above discourses in the larger political discussion soon.  We appeal to all concerned scientists, environmentalists and all the organizations active in this field to see the environmental question as a basically political question linked to the whole gamut of development and democratization perspective. We appeal to all struggling left, democratic forces, people’s movements, and organizations of the workers, peasantry and oppressed classes/sections to come together to wage the political struggle for people oriented, egalitarian and sustainable development paradigm and for democratization of all fields leading to achieving people’s power in all spheres. n

The allegation of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) by a dismissed staffer, a woman, against the CJI, is now turning into a crisis of credibility, not just for the CJI but for the judiciary as well as the constitutional scheme of government as a whole. Without prejudice the veracity of the allegations should have been investigated to find the truth, including allegations of conspiracy raised by the CJI to defame him. But the Supreme Court, the CJI and the government have prejudged the matter. The affidavit containing lot of information can easily be verified or disproved. The complainant did not hold press conference or took any public route. The petition seeks protection and justice. Along with the petition, all conspiracy theories and counter allegations also can be investigated. But instead, the Court and the government have themselves added fuel to the fire of conspiratorial thinking.It shows the extent of degeneration of the judicial system even at the topmost levels. One can imagine the extent of its rot at the lower levels with lower level judges openly getting corrupt and serving the neo-fascist forces. Under Modi rule, like all other institutions, the judiciary has also become more rotten than ever. n

MODI GOVT VIOLATED RIGHT TO LIFE OF TRIBALS

The Narendra Modi government violated the fundamental right to life of tribals by not defending their interests before the Supreme Court during the hearings of a controversial case that will most certainly lead to the displacement of at least 10 lakh forest dwellers, senior lawyer and former legal consultant to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) Shomona Khanna said.  Khanna, who was a legal consultant to the MoTA and worked on this case as well as multiple other matters from July 2013 till July 2017, told HuffPost India that the case pertains to a law that enforces the fundamental right to life of millions of forest dwellers in the country.

The state, she feels, violates such rights in two ways: through acts of commission and acts of omission. “In this case, I feel, what the Ministry Of Tribal Affairs and the Central government have done, is an act of omission. Not turning up in court, not arguing the matter is an act of omission and is equally reprehensible. It is a very old legal principle. When you are duty bound to do something and you don’t do it, that’s an act of omission,” she explained.  …..

In an order passed on February 13, the Apex Court directed twenty one states to evict tribals and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims over land titles under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, better known as the Forest Rights Act, were rejected. The landmark Act, passed in 2006 to undo the “historic injustice” to the tribals and other traditional forest dwellers, recognises their rights over forest land and other resources which have been a source of their livelihood for centuries….. the February 13 order, the text of which was uploaded on the Supreme Court website only on 20th February, shows the issue has now become one of encroachment on forest land by people whose claims to the pattas (land parcels) have been denied by the forest department.

“Where has this issue come from? How is it that in a writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the act you are suddenly coming into the implementation (of the law itself)?” Khanna wondered.

She also had a strong criticism about the SC order. “This order is completely incorrect in law because it proceeds on the basis that an order of rejection of the forest rights claim is somehow an eviction order; it conflates the two.” She cited Article 300 A of the Indian Constitution according to which no person can be deprived of their property without due process established by law. “If you listen to it carefully, it reflects the language of Article 21 which is the Right To Life. Right To Life provision also uses the same language that no person shall be deprived of their right to life without due process of law,” Khanna argued.

Excerpts from Hindustan Times report n

Modi government in its latest orders has empowered the Assam Rifles deployed all over North-East to arrest anyone, search any place like total control along with AFSPA, in fact further militarizing the region. This fascist action is imposed in view of the growing opposition of the people to Citizenship (Amendment) Act which the Modi rule tried to bulldozer. Many more such autocratic steps can be expected in coming days to suppress people’s dissent, to influence the coming elections. It should be opposed. n

The Indian authorities have delayed investigating a wave of vigilante-style murders of religious minorities, with many instead working to justify the attacks or file charges against some of the victims’ families, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch.

The 104-page report said that since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party took power in 2014, attacks led by so-called cow protection groups have jumped sharply. Between May 2015 and December 2018, at least 44 people have been killed, Human Rights Watch found. Most of the victims were Muslims accused of storing beef or transporting cows for slaughter, a crime in most Indian states. Many Hindus, who form about 80 percent of India’s population, consider cows sacred.

Data cited in the report from FactChecker.in, an Indian organization that tracks reports of violence, found that as many as 90 percent of religion-based hate crimes in the last decade occurred after Mr. Modi took office. Mobs hung victims from trees, frequently mutilated victims and burned bodies. In almost all of these attacks, victims’ families faced significant pushback when they pressed for justice. The police “initially stalled investigations, ignored procedures, or even played a complicit role in the killings and cover-up of crimes,” the report said.

“Indian police investigations into mob attacks are almost as likely to accuse the minority victims of a crime as they are to pursue vigilantes with government connections,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch. Released ahead of national elections this April and May, the report, called “Violent Cow Protection in India: Vigilante Groups Attack Minorities,” also looks at the government’s response to 11 recent attacks that killed 14 people.

According to a survey from NDTV cited by Human Rights Watch, “communally divisive language” in speeches by elected officials shot up nearly 500 percent between 2014 and 2018, compared with the five years before the B.J.P. came to power. Ninety percent of those speeches were from the B.J.P., which has ties to far-right Hindu nationalist groups. “We will hang those who kill cows,” Raman Singh, a member of the B.J.P. and the former chief minister of Chhattisgarh state, said in 2017. The report said this sort of rhetoric, paired with the profusion of stricter cow protection laws, had emboldened mob attacks. They included assaults of Muslim men and women in trains; the stripping and beating of lower-caste Dalits in western India; the force-feeding of cow dung and urine to two men in northern India; the rape of two women and the killing of two men in the state of Haryana for allegedly eating beef at home.

Some of the attacks were filmed, suggesting that the mobs did not fear retribution for their actions, said Harsh Mander, an Indian social worker and writer. “You won’t put your face on video committing a crime if you’re bothered about being punished,” he said. “You’re assured that you’ll be protected and treated like a hero.” Last year, India’s Supreme Court introduced “preventive, remedial and punitive” measures to stem mob violence, noting that false rumors spread on messaging applications like WhatsApp had worsened the problem. And in August, after a long silence, Mr. Modi spoke out against the attacks, saying, “I want to make it clear that mob lynching is a crime, no matter the motive.”

But Mr. Mander said these denouncements were too soft. And he added that changing a culture of “fear” among minorities would take much more than just voting the B.J.P. out of power. “They’ve created an enabling and supportive environment for people to act out their hate,” he said of the government. “Once you let the genie out of the bottle, it’s not going to obey you and just go back in.”

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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.