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News aggregator

  • user warning: Table './web69_db1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '1:20091e1166140a38cde6200e0cacee21' in /var/www/web69/web/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172.
  • user warning: Table './web69_db1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: LOCK TABLES cache_filter WRITE in /var/www/web69/web/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172.
  • user warning: Table './web69_db1/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p><a href=\"http://www.vedegylet.hu\">Védegylet</a><br />\n<a href=\"http://www.glopolis.org\">Glopolis</a></p>\n', created = 1511354706, expire = 1511441106, headers = '' WHERE cid = '1:20091e1166140a38cde6200e0cacee21' in /var/www/web69/web/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172.

Praxisbeispiele sozial verantwortlicher IT-Beschaffung

WEED - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 23:00
12.12.2017:
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Freedom of Press and Expression Needs to be Restored in Balochistan

Alternatives International - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 16:04

Lahore: November 20, 2017: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over the prevailing situation in Balochistan in terms of curbs on freedom of expression and a persisting climate of intimidation.

In a statement the Commission said: “HRCP calls upon the government and separatist groups in Balochistan to ensure that the media is allowed to operate freely and that newspapers and journalists remain free from any threats or violence.” It also reiterated that, “a free press is vital to any democratic dispensation and allows for coverage of all prevailing viewpoints, however disparate. The stifling of press directly impinges upon freedom of expression. “

“It is now close to a month that newspapers distribution in Balochistan remains suspended and around 15 press clubs remain closed, due to threats by militant organizations. Earlier these groups attacked the Hub Press Club and a shop selling newspapers in Turbat, with grenades. They also slashed the tyres of a delivery wagon in the Awaran area and set fire to newspapers. Conversely, the Balochistan government has stopped advertisement to three local newspapers; Daily Inthekhab, Balochitan Express and Daily Azadi.”

“In an already coercive environment where there are numerous restraints and threats to freedom of expression, the current suspension of newspapers only further exacerbates the situation. It is incumbent upon the government to allow for a free press in expressing opposing views, without any compulsion, financial or otherwise. Also threats to the press by the militants only further exclude reporting of their perspective.”

“In the prevailing circumstances HRCP calls on all sides to immediately desist for any activities that directly threaten journalists, newspaper employees and hawkers and their livelihoods. HRCP also call upon the security forces, deployed in province to ensure a safe environment, for those engaged in the newspaper business. The suspension of newspapers and threats to its employees will only add to further curbing freedom of expression and parallel degradation in the security situation in the province, causing further polarization.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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After One Hundred Years Of The Russian Revolution, Where Does The Left Stand?

Alternatives International - Sun, 11/19/2017 - 19:37

The history of the 1917 Russian Revolution and its aftermath, can be divided into four phases – (i) the historical circumstances surrounding the 1917 revolution that led to the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks; (ii) the post-revolution experiments in setting up a socialist system in Russia under the leadership of Lenin in the 1920s, and by Stalin from the 1930s onwards; (iii) the disillusionment among Communists all over the world, following the disclosure by Khrushchev in his speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party about atrocities under Stalin's regime; and (iv) the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the light of the above experiences, there is a need for a three-pronged strategy for the future – (i) reformulation of the goal of a new socialist society and political system in the post-Soviet era, and reshaping of the tactics to reach that goal; (ii) re-orientation of the Indian Communist movement towards a programme of embracing not only the industrial proletariat and rural poor, but also vast sections of oppressed dalits, adivasis, and ethnic and religious minorities; and finally (iii) rooting this struggle for a new socialist state and society to a firm commitment by the Communist revolutionaries to respect democratic and human rights of common citizens.

Let me elaborate on the points made above. First, the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution was made possible not solely by an uprising of the industrial proletariat (as envisaged by Marx in the past), but mainly by the increasing disgruntlement of the Russian soldiers (who came from peasant families) with a futile and destructive Tsarist-led war, whom the Bolsheviks could persuade to join their programme of capturing power. This is not to undermine the Marxist ideology of socialism that inspired Lenin and other Russian Bolshevik leaders to undertake the insurrection in October/November 1917 (which had been recorded vividly by the American journalist John Reed in his famous `Ten Days That Shook the World,' that came out in 1919 with Lenin's introduction.

To come to the second point, the post-revolution Soviet regime implemented some reforms – however limited – like equitable distribution of resources, spread of education, health care, housing and other social benefits for the poor, and recognized the right of self-determination and secession for the people of the former Tzarist colonies.

These experiments not only earned appreciation from eminent humanist intellectuals from all over the world (e.g. Romain Rolland, Rabindranath Tagore, and British Fabians like Sydney and Beatrice Webb), but also impacted on the social democratic parties of the West (traditionally opposed to the Bolsheviks) which began to put pressures on their governments to carry out such hitherto neglected reforms. Beyond the West, India among other colonies, received news of the revolutionary and egalitarian reforms that were being carried out by the Bolsheviks in Russia. Indian revolutionary freedom-fighters were drawn to their ideology, and began to form political organizations among the industrial workers and peasants in the 1920s – giving birth to the Communist movement in India. The 1917 Revolution thus acted as a catalytic agent to change the minds and practices of people at various socio-economic levels – all over the world.

But while delving on this period of 1920-30, we need to remember the trials and tribulations suffered by the fledgling Soviet government. It had to face a civil war instigated by Western capitalist states which also hatched plots of subversion within Russia to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. A meticulously documented history of these nefarious plans is available from the book `The Great Conspiracy Against Russia' written by Michael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn published in 1946.

As for the third point, Khrushchev's speech at the 20th Congress revealed that behind such popular reforms under the Bolshevik regime, there lurked the surveillance of the secret police (under Stalin's dictates) which violated the human rights of Russian citizens (as well as killed veteran Bolshevik revolutionaries). Soon after Khrushchev's revelations, the veteran American journalist Anna Louis Strong (who had spent years in the Soviet Union during Stalin's regime) came out with a book entitled ‘The Stalin Era' (1956) that described the background that led to the atrocities under his regime, which she described as `The Great Madness.'

On the fourth point, we may consider whether the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused by the backlash of policies followed by successive governments – authoritarianism that provoked popular resentment, failure of the economy due to mismanagement and corruption by the party bureaucracy, and finally the military invasion of Afghanistan (which drove the nail into the coffin of the USSR). It is an irony of history that the same Russian soldiers who brought the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 and fought courageously the Nazi army in the 1940s to protect and save the Soviet Union, and yet their descendants in the Red Army in the 1980s had to face an ignominious defeat in Afghanistan.

As for the three-pronged strategy suggested earlier, in the post-Soviet era of the 21st century, there is a need for a new vision of socialism. Instead of following a hegemonistic model of revolution and a uniform model of post-revolutionary societies (whether the Soviet or the Chinese model), we must recognize the new strategies and tactics that are being shaped in different parts of the world for bringing about a socialist transformation of society and governance – that would suit different countries according to their respective levels of economic development and popular political demands.

In the present Indian context, Communists (ranging from the parliamentary Left to the armed revolutionaries) who are commemorating the 1917 Russian Revolution, can pay the best tribute to that Revolution by reviving its spirit. How can that spirit of a revolutionary change be revived ? By scripting a new agenda for socialist transformation, and formulating a new set of strategy and tactics to meet the demands of our oppressed and struggling masses at different levels of society. There is an urgent need for both the parliamentary and armed Communists to link up themselves with the on going popular social movements (e.g. rural agitations against dams, nuclear projects, industrial encroachment on forests; dalit and tribal protests against upper caste exploitation; campaigns in support of women's rights and recognition of transgender community).

In this new agenda for socialist transformation, it is important to include, and prioritize the issue of human rights – an issue which had been trampled upon by Communist parties and states all these years. From the time of Stalin in the Soviet Union, to Mao-tse-tung in China and his present successors who claim to inherit the tradition of the 1917 Russian revolution, Communist rulers had continued to follow a path of suppressing dissidents (from among their own Marxist followers and ideologues), and imprisoning human rights activists (from civil society). This had scarred the image of socialism and reputation of socialist regimes). Similarly, today's Indian Maoist leaders and guerilla squads who are operating in Chhattisgarh and other areas in central and eastern India, show little respect for the human rights of the common tribal inhabitants.

The next generation of Communists will have to discard this notorious tradition of suppression of democratic rights, and open up space for both dissent within their ranks, and for open debate with their opponents.

Sumanta Banerjee is a political commentator and writer, is the author of In The Wake of Naxalbari' (1980 and 2008); The Parlour and the Streets: Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (1989) and ‘Memoirs of Roads: Calcutta from Colonial Urbanization to Global Modernization.' (2016). He is based in Hyderabad.

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Protest gegen "Entfesselungspaket" der Landesregierung NRW

WEED - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:00
15.11.2017: Die Landesregierung NRW hält Sonntagsreden zu Nachhaltigkeit beim Klimagipfel und höhlt zugleich im Landtag globale Menschenrechte aus
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Neue Kampagne FAIRBESSER BERLIN

WEED - Tue, 11/14/2017 - 23:00
15.11.2017: Berlin geht für uns shoppen: Rund 5 Milliarden Euro an öffentlichen Geldern gibt die Stadt im Jahr für Waren, Bau- und Dienstleistungen aus. Ob da schon alles fair ist im Einkaufskorb?
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Keine Offenlegung der wahren Firmeneigentümer in der EU? Verhandlungen über die 5. Anti-Geldwäsche-Richtlinie drohen zu scheitern

WEED - Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:00
13.11.2017: Pressemitteilung - Transparency International Deutschland e.V., Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit, Tax Justice Network, WEED e.V.
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Concern for Life of a Disabled Political Prisoner

Alternatives International - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:59

G.N. Saibaba, Professor of English at Delhi University and convener of an open organisation called Revolutionary Democratic Front, was arrested from the Indian capital, Delhi, on 9 May 2014 and imprisoned in a jail in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Although he is 90 per cent physically handicapped, the state opposed his bail repeatedly claiming he would pose a grave danger to its security. He got a “temporary bail” from the Bombay High Court on 30 June 2015 on health grounds but had to surrender in December and was sent back to jail. The Supreme Court of India gave him an unconditional bail in April 2016. But his trial continued and finally, he was convicted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli. His co-accused, student activist Hem Mishta, journalist Prashant Rahi and tribal activists Mahesh Tirke and Pandu Narote also received life sentences. Another tribal activist, Vijay Tirke, got a 10-year imprisonment. All of them were accused of being Maoists.

G.N. Saibaba is disabled from the waist down from an attack of polio which he had suffered early in life. He cannot move without a wheelchair. But it was not provided to him in jail for several months. He was kept in an “anda” (egg-shaped) cell isolated from other prisoners. Later, seeing his suffering, some of the prisoners tried to attend to his needs as far as possible. But the prolonged incarceration without proper medical care made him the target of a number of ailments. He now has diseases in his heart, kidneys and gall bladder. Worse still, he can hardly move his left hand, which was all right before he went to jail.

In a letter to his wife Vasantha Kumari dated 17 October received on 25 October 2017, Saibaba writes:

"I am frightened to think of coming winter. Already I am shivering with continuous fever. I do not have a blanket. I do not have a sweater/jacket. As temperature goes down excruciating pain continuously in my legs and left hand increases. It is impossible for me to survive here during the winter that starts from November. I am living here like an animal taking its last breaths. Somehow 8 months I managed to survive. But I am not going to survive in the coming winter. I am sure. It is of no use to write about my health any longer."

We are deeply concerned about the life of G.N. Saibaba and call upon you to appeal for his release so that he can receive the much needed medical attention and facilities that a disabled person like him deserves. We also urge you to demand the release of all his co-accused, who, even if we accept the charges brought by the prosecution, have committed no crime other than believing in an ideology.

Please mail your appeals to:

Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi: narendramodi1234@gmail.com

Send letters of solidarity to: Ms Vasantha Kumari
With a copy to: secretary@apdrwb.in

In solidarity

Dhiraj Sengupta, General Secretary, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), India

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Paradise Papers: Regierung hat Pläne seit letztem Skandal noch lange nicht umgesetzt

WEED - Wed, 11/08/2017 - 23:00
09.11.2017: Pressemeldung Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit Deutschland und Tax Justice Network
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Neue Enthüllungen über Schattenfinanzplätze: Endlich Eigentümer/innen und Steuerdaten von Unternehmen veröffentlichen

WEED - Mon, 11/06/2017 - 23:00
07.11.2017: Pressemeldung Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit und Tax Justice Network
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Die Umsetzung der Positionslimits aus der EU-Richtlinie über Märkte für Finanzinstrumente (MiFID II) - aktueller Stand

WEED - Wed, 11/01/2017 - 23:00
02.11.2017: Die Analyse von WEED im Auftrag von Foodwatch zeigt, dass die neuen Regeln für Nahrungsmittelspekulation in der endgültigen Umsetzung verwässert wurden
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Communiqué on the Situation in Catalonia Anticapitalistas

Alternatives International - Wed, 11/01/2017 - 14:07

Following the Catalan Parliament's declaration of independence on October 27, Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias tweeted: “We are against repression and for a negotiated referendum [which the Madrid government refused to Catalonia] but the declaration of independence is illegitimate and favours the strategy of the PP [People's Party, headed by Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy].”

However, the Anticapitalistas current in Podemos (spokepersons MEP Miguel Urban and Podemos Andalusia general secretary Teresa Rodriguez) issued the following statement recognizing the result of the October 1 referendum.
— Richard Fidler

1. On 27 October, in fulfilment of the mandate of the referendum of 1 October in which despite police repression more than two million people participated, the Catalan Parliament proclaimed the Catalan Republic. In a Spain with a monarchy that is a direct successor of the dictator Franco, a Republic that opens up a constituent process is without doubt a proposal that breaks with the 1978 regime, with its political consensus and with a constitutional order that serves the elites. This proclamation occurs in a context of constant threats to apply article 155 and impose an authoritarian outcome on a conflict that demands an eminently political and democratic solution. In fact, in recent days the application of 155 had come to be threatened no matter what happened. We call for the application of article 155 to be rejected and for democratic, peaceful and disobedient defence of the will of the Catalan people and of their right to decide.

2. In these times of exacerbation of patriotic passions it is important to correctly define those responsible for events. The People's Party, spurred on by Citizens and with the support of the PSOE and under pressure from the state apparatus, had decided to apply article 155 of the Constitution. The goal of this measure was to prevent a dialogue between Catalunya and the rest of the State, criminalising the Catalan people, refusing to entertain the solution of a negotiated referendum and justifying the use of force to solve a political problem. An irresponsible operation, which seeks to reorganise the unity of the State along authoritarian lines.

3. We are aware that many unknowns and uncertainties now opening up. To dope the people with easy slogans is typical of a conception of politics that shies away from democratic debate and considers itself lead actor in a story that is actually the work of ordinary people. The new Catalan Republic faces internal challenges that cannot be ignored in a country where a significant section of the population does not feel represented by the pro-independence movement. The first challenge for the process is to work to overcome this division, integrating the popular sectors not supportive of independence into a project for the country, avoiding the social confrontation that only benefits the forces of reaction while at the same time organising a movement capable of resisting the repression of the State. The constituent process must be a instrument operating in that direction, integrating the demands of the popular classes that go beyond the national question, putting social issues in the centre and radically democratising Catalonia.

4. In the Spanish State, we are living through a complex wave of reaction. Many people, including people on the left, feel hurt and torn by events in Catalonia. While it is true that a good part of this feeling is channeled into a Catalanaphobic reaction, heir of the worst sentiments of the Franco regime, and also into the violent expressions of the extreme right on the street, a large section of the population is honestly concerned about what is happening in Catalonia and puts its trust in dialogue and negotiation, in a return to politics.

From our point of view, what is fundamentally at stake is the possibility of people deciding their future. If the Catalan people suffers defeat and is crushed by the PP and its accomplices, when a territory, a town council, a community or a social sector decide to commit itself to a position on any issue it will be crushed with the same logic with which today the PP and the state are seeking to crush Catalonia. This is the central issue, which goes beyond the national question and puts the issue of popular sovereignty front and centre: it is the people who have the right to decide – such is the basis of democracy—and the law must be at the service of democracy and not vice versa.

On the other hand, there are other solutions and forms of relationship between peoples that go beyond those traditionally imposed in the Spanish State. The strategy of opening constituent processes has as its central idea developing a project for society that is carried out by the working and popular classes, by women, by migrants, by all the people who do not have political and economic power but who are indispensable. But it can also be a method to solve the historical problems of the Spanish State on the national level: a way of re-articulating relations between the peoples on the basis of equality, where the goal – out of respect for the right to decide and its outcomes – is to build bridges that the current top-down and authoritarian relationship of the central state destroys, developing from below forms of cooperation and dialogue among the people in order to build an alternative society to that of political and economic elites. An opportunity to build a new framework of fraternal coexistence that allows us to aspire not only to recover but also to conquer new social and democratic rights for the popular classes.

5. We know that ours is a difficult position in a context like this. That is why it seems to us fundamental to debate, to maintain dialogue among different democratic positions, but also to oppose the authoritarian regression that the State plans with the excuse of the Catalan question (it could have been any other excuse). Defending the Catalan people who will suffer the brutal application of article 155 not only means defending pro-independence forces, but also standing with that 80% of the Catalan population that has been demanding a referendum and a democratic solution to its demands and the other 20% that is going to lose its self-government. This is the time to defend the possibility of a democratic solution to the diktats of the State. It is time to (re)start the patient construction of a project that goes beyond the 1978 regime and is capable of building fraternal relations between the different peoples of the Spanish State. The elites have proven incapable of solving the problems of the Spanish State; today more than ever, it is urgent to recover the leading role of politics for those below.

MEP Miguel Urban and Podemos Andalusia general secretary Teresa Rodriguez.

Text translated by Dick Nichols, published on his live blog from Barcelona.

Source: http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1505.php#continue

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They Dared: The Legacy of the October Revolution

Alternatives International - Tue, 10/31/2017 - 15:56

A hundred years later, the question of the historical legacy of the October Revolution is not an easy one for socialists, given that Stalinism took root within less than a decade after that revolution and the restoration of capitalism seventy years later met little popular resistance. One can, of course, point to the central role of the Red Army in the victory over fascism, or to the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the capitalist world that broadened the space for anti-imperialist struggles, or to the moderating effect on capitalist appetites of the existence of a major nationalized, planned economy. Yet, even in these areas, the legacy is far from unambiguous.

But the main legacy of the October Revolution for the left today is, in fact, the least ambiguous. It can be summed up in two words: “They dared.” By that, I mean that the Bolsheviks, in organizing the revolutionary seizure of political and economic power and its defence from the propertied classes, were true to their mission as a workers' party: they provided the workers – and peasants too – with the leadership that they needed and wanted.

It is more than ironic, therefore, that many historians, and following them, popular opinion, have viewed October as a terrible crime, motivated by the ideologically-inspired project to build a socialist utopia. According to this view, October was an arbitrary act that diverted Russia from its normal path of development toward a capitalist democracy. October was, moreover, the cause of the civil war that devastated Russia for almost three years.

A modified version of that view is espoused even by some on the left, who reject “Leninism” (or what they believe to have been Lenin's strategy), because of the authoritarian dynamic that a revolutionary seizure of power and a civil war unleash.

Concrete Solutions

What strikes one most, however, when one studies the revolution “from below,”[1] is how little, in fact, the Bolsheviks, and the workers who supported them, were motivated by “ideology,” in the sense of theirs being some sort of chiliastic movement with socialism as its goal. In reality, and above all, October was a practical response to very serious and concrete, social and political problems confronting the popular classes. That, of course, was also Marx and Engel's approach to socialism – not as a utopia to be constructed according to some preconceived design, but a set of concrete solutions to the real conditions of workers under capitalism. That is why Marx obstinately refused to offer “recipes for the cook-shops of the future.”[2]

The immediate and the main goal of the October insurrection was to forestall a counterrevolution, supported by the bourgeoisie's policy of economic sabotage, which would have wiped out the democratic gains and promises of the February Revolution and kept Russia involved in the imperialist slaughter of the world war. A victorious counterrevolution – and that was the only real alternative to October – would likely have given the world its first experience of a fascist state, anticipating by several years the somewhat belated responses of the Italian and German bourgeoisies to similarly failed revolutionary upsurges.

The Bolsheviks, and most urbanized industrial workers in Russia, were, of course, socialists. But all currents of Russian Marxism considered that Russia lacked the political and economic conditions for socialism. There was, to be sure, hope that the revolutionary seizure of power in Russia would encourage workers in more developed countries to the west to rise up too against the war and against capitalism and open broader perspectives for Russia's revolution. That was indeed a hope, but it was far from a certainty. And October would have happened without it.

Facing the Threat of Civil War

In my historical work, I present documented, and to my view, convincing, support for that view of October and I will not attempt to summarize the evidence here. I want rather to explain how painfully aware the Bolsheviks, and the workers that supported them – the party was overwhelmingly working-class in composition – were of the threat of civil war; how much they tried to avoid it, and, failing that, to minimize its severity. In doing so, I want to put into sharper focus the meaning of “they dared,” as October's legacy.

The desire to avert civil war was why most Bolsheviks, along with most workers, supported “dual power” in the early period of the revolution. Under that arrangement, executive authority was wielded by a provisional government, initially composed exclusively of liberal politicians, representatives of the propertied classes. At the same time the soviets, political organizations elected by the workers and soldiers, were to monitor the government, ensuring its loyalty to the revolution's programme. That programme consisted of four main elements: a democratic republic, land reform, the eight-hour workday, and an energetic diplomacy aimed at securing a rapid, democratic end to the war. There was nothing of itself that was socialist in that programme.

Support for dual power marked a radical break with the party's longstanding rejection of the bourgeoisie as a potential ally in the fight against the autocracy. That rejection had been the very foundation of Bolshevism as a workers' party. It was the reason the party acquired hegemonic status in the workers' movement during the pre-war years of labour upsurge. That rejection of the bourgeoisie (which was, at the same time, a rejection of Menshevism) had its roots in the workers' long and painful experience of the bourgeoisie's intimate collaboration with the autocratic state against their democratic and social aspirations.

The initial support for dual power reflected a willingness to give the liberals a chance, since the propertied classes (the liberal Constitutional-Democratic (Kadet) Party became their principal political representative in 1917) had, albeit rather belatedly, rallied to the revolution, or so it appeared. Their adherence to the revolution greatly facilitated its bloodless victory across the vast territory of Russia and at the front. The assumption of power by the soviets in February would have alienated the propertied classes from the revolution, raising the specter of civil war. Besides, workers were not prepared to assume direct responsibility for running the state and the economy.

Their later rejection of dual power and their demand to transfer of power to the soviets were by no means an automatic response to Lenin's return to Russia and publication of his April theses. Fundamentally, the theses were a recall to the party's traditional position, but in conditions of world war and a victorious democratic revolution. If Lenin's position came to prevail, it was because it had become increasingly clear that the propertied classes and their liberal representatives in the government were hostile to the revolution's goals and wanted, in fact, to reverse the revolution.

As early as the middle of April, the liberal government made clear its support for the war and its imperialist aims. And even before that, the bourgeois press put an end to the brief honeymoon of national unity with its campaign against the workers' alleged egoism in pursuing their narrow economic interests at the expense of war production. The clear intention was to undermine the worker-soldier alliance that had made the revolution possible.

Not unrelated was the growing suspicion among workers of a creeping lockout, masked as supply difficulties, a suspicion that was amplified by the industrialists' adamant rejection of government regulation of the faltering economy. Lockouts had long been a favourite weapon of the factory owners. In only the six months preceding the outbreak of war, the capital's industrialists, in concert with the administration of the state-owned factories, organized no less than three generalized lockouts, in the course of which a total of 300,000 workers were fired. And ten years earlier, in November and December 1905, two general lockouts in the capital had dealt a mortal blow to Russia's first revolution.

By the late spring and early summer of 1917, prominent personalities of “census society” (the propertied classes) were calling for suppression of the soviets and receiving standing ovations from assemblies of their class. Then in mid-June, under strong pressure from the allies, the provisional government launched a military offensive, putting an end to the de facto cease-fire that had reigned on the eastern front since February.

And so by June, a majority of the capital's workers had already embraced the Bolsheviks' demand to free government policy from the influence of the propertied classes. That, in essence, was the meaning of “all power to the soviets”: a government responsible uniquely to the workers and peasants. To that extent, the Bolsheviks, along with most of the capital's workers, had come to accept the inevitability of civil war.

Defeat of the “July Days”: Way Forward Blocked

But that in itself was not so frightening, since the workers and peasants (the soldiers were overwhelmingly young peasants) were the great majority of the population. Much more worrying was the prospect of civil war within the ranks of the popular classes, within “revolutionary democracy.” For the moderate socialists, the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), dominated most of the soviets outside the capital, as well as the Central Executive Committee (TsIK) of soviets and the peasant Executive Committee. And they supported the liberals, to the extent of delegating their leaders to a coalition government, in an effort to shore up the latter's weak popular authority.

The threat of a civil war within revolutionary democracy was forcefully driven home at the beginning of July, when, together with units of the garrison, the capital's workers demonstrated massively in order to press the TsIK to take power on its own. They not only failed in that aim, but their demonstrations were marked by the first serious bloodshed of the revolution, followed by a wave of government repressive measures against the left that were condoned by the moderate socialists.

The July Days thus left the Bolsheviks and their worker supporters without a clear way forward. Formally, the party adopted a new slogan that Lenin proposed: power to a “government of workers and the poorest peasants” – with no mention of the soviets, as they were dominated outside the capital by the moderate socialists. Lenin meant that as a call to prepare an insurrection, one that would bypass the soviets, and, if it came to that, even be directed against them. But the slogan was not accepted in practice either by the party or by the capital's workers, since it meant going against the popular masses who still supported the moderates – and so, civil war within revolutionary democracy.

A particular concern was the attitude of the socialist, that is, left-leaning, intelligentsia, itself a minority of the educated. For the left intelligentsia almost universally supported the moderate socialists. The Bolsheviks were an overwhelmingly plebeian party, and the same was true of the Left Social Revolutionaries, who split off from the SRs (Russia's peasant party) in September 1917 and formed a coalition soviet government with the Bolsheviks in November. The prospect of having to run the state, and probably also the economy, without the support of educated people was deeply worrying, and in particular to the activists of the factory-committees, overwhelmingly Bolsheviks.

The Party Base Pushes the Leadership to Insurrection

General Kornilov's abortive uprising at the end of August, which had the enthusiastic support of the propertied classes, appeared initially to open a way out of the impasse. In face of the obvious, the moderate socialists seemed to accept the necessity of a break with the liberals. (The liberal ministers had resigned on the eve of the uprising). The workers reacted to news of Kornilov's march on Petrograd with a curious mixture of relief and alarm. They were relieved that they could at last take action against the advancing counterrevolution – and they did so with great energy – in unison with, and not against, the rest of revolutionary democracy. Lenin, following Kornilov's defeat, offered the TsIK his party's support, to the extent of acting as a loyal opposition, if it would take power.

But after some brief wavering, the moderate socialists refused to break with the propertied classes. They allowed Kerensky to form a new coalition government, which included some particularly odious bourgeois personalities, such as industrialist S.A. Smirnov, who had only recently locked out the workers of his textile mills.

But by the end of September, the Bolsheviks already had majorities in most of the soviets throughout Russia and so could count on a majority at the Congress of Soviets, grudgingly set by the TsIK for October 25. Still in hiding from an arrest order, Lenin demanded that his party's central committee prepare an insurrection. But the central committee's majority hesitated, preferring to await a constituent assembly. And one can understand their hesitation. After all, an insurrection would unleash the still largely latent civil war. It was a terrifying leap into the unknown that would place on the party the responsibility for governing in conditions of deep economic and political crisis. On the other hand, the hope that a constituent assembly could overcome the profound polarization that characterized Russian society or that the propertied classes would accept its verdict, if it went against them, was certainly an illusion. And in the meanwhile, industrial collapse and mass hunger were fast approaching.

If the Bolshevik leadership decided to organize an insurrection, it was not because of Lenin's personal authority, but rather under pressure from the middle and lower ranks of the party, to whom Lenin had been appealing. The party organization in Petrograd numbered 43,000 members in October 1917, of whom 28,000 were workers (in a total industrial work force of some 420,000), and 6000 were soldiers. And these workers were ready to act.

The mood among the mass of workers outside the party, was, however, more complex. They strongly supported the demand to transfer power to the soviets. But they were not about to take the initiative themselves. This was a marked reversal from the first five months of the revolution, when the worker rank and file had held the initiative and compelled the party to follow. It had been so in the February Revolution, in the April protests against the government's war policy, in the movement for workers' control, aimed at forestalling a creeping lockout, and in the July demonstrations aimed at pressuring the TsIK to take power.

But the bloodshed in the July Days and the repression that followed had changed things. True, the political situation had since evolved, to the point that the Bolsheviks almost everywhere stood at the head of the soviets. But in the days preceding the insurrection, the entire non-Bolshevik press was confidently predicting an even bloodier defeat of an insurrection than the workers had suffered in the July Days.

Another source of the workers' hesitation was the looming specter of mass unemployment. The advancing industrial collapse was the most potent argument in favour of immediate action. But it was also a source of insecurity that made workers hesitate.

The initiative, therefore, fell to the party. And it was not as if Bolshevik workers were themselves free of doubt. But they had certain qualities, forged over the years of intense struggle against the autocracy and the industrialists, that allowed them to overcome it. One of these qualities was their aspiration to class independence from the bourgeoisie, which was also the defining trait of Bolshevism as a workers' movement. In the pre-revolutionary years that aspiration had expressed itself in these workers' insistence that their organizations, be they political, economic or cultural, remain free of the influence of the propertied classes.

Closely related to that was these workers' strong sense of dignity, both as individuals and as members of the working class. The concept of a “conscious worker” in Russia embraced an entire world view and moral code that were separate from, and largely opposed to, those of census society. The sense of dignity manifested itself, among other ways, in the demand for “polite address,” that invariably figured in lists of workers' strike demands. It was a demand to be addressed by management in the polite second person plural, rather than the informal singular, reserved for close friends, children and underlings. In its compilation of strike statistics, the Tsarist Ministry of Internal Affairs put “polite address” in the column of political demands, presumably because it implied a rejection of the workers' subordinate position in society. In 1917, resolutions of factory meetings in 1917 often referred to the provisional government's policies as a “mockery” of the working class. And in October, when the workers' red guards refused to bend over while running or to fight lying down, since they considered that a display of cowardice and a disgrace for revolutionary workers, the soldiers had to explain to them that there is no honour in offering one's forehead to the enemy. But if the sense of class honour was a military liability, it is unlikely there would have been an October Revolution without it.

October-A Popular Revolution

Although the initiative fell largely to the party members in October, the insurrection was welcomed by virtually all the workers, even by most of the printers, traditionally supporters of the Mensheviks. But the question of the composition of the new government arose at once. All the workers' organization, by then headed by Bolsheviks, and the Bolshevik party organization itself, called for a coalition government of all the socialist parties.

Once again, this expressed the concern for unity of revolutionary democracy and the desire to avoid civil war within its ranks. In the Bolshevik central committee, Lenin and Trotsky were opposed to including the moderate socialists (but not the Left SRs and Menshevik-Internationalists), considering that they would paralyze the government's action. But they stood aside, while the negotiations proceeded.

That coalition, however, was not to be. Talks soon broke down over the issue of soviet power: the Bolsheviks, and the vast majority of workers, wanted the government to be responsible to the soviets – that is, a popular government free of the influence of the propertied classes. The moderate socialists, however, considered the soviets too narrow a basis for a viable government. They continued to insist, albeit in somewhat masked form, on the inclusion of representatives of the propertied classes, or, at least, of the “intermediate strata” not represented in the soviets. But Russian society was deeply divided, and the latter, including most of the intelligentsia, were aligned with the propertied classes. More to the point, the moderates refused any government with a Bolshevik majority, even though the Bolsheviks had been the majority at the Congress of Soviets that voted to take power. In essence, the moderates were demanding to annul the October insurrection.

Once that became clear, the workers' support for a broad coalition evaporated. Soon afterwards, the Left SRs, who reached the same conclusion as the workers, formed a coalition government with the Bolsheviks. Toward the end of November, a national peasant congress, in which the Left SRs dominated, decided to merge its executive committee with the TsIK of workers' and solders' deputies, a decision that was met with relief and jubilation in the Bolshevik party and by workers generally: unity had been achieved, at least from below, although without the left intelligentsia, aligned in its majority with the moderate socialists. (It should be noted, however, that the Mensheviks, unlike the SRs, did not take up arms against the soviet government.)

This, then, is the meaning of “they dared,” as the legacy of October. The Bolsheviks, as a genuine workers' party, acted according to the maxim “Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra” (Do what one must; happen what will), which, in Trotsky's view, should guide revolutionaries in all great struggles of principle.[3] But I have tried to show that the challenge was not accepted lightly. The Bolsheviks were not adventurists. They feared civil war, tried to avoid it, and, if that was not possible, at least to limit its severity and improve the odds.

The Responsibility of Those Who Refuse to Dare

In an essay written in 1923, the Menshevik leader, Fedor Dan, explained his party's refusal to break with the propertied classes even after Kornilov's uprising. It was because the “middle strata,” that part of “democracy” not represented in the soviets (Dan mentions a teacher, a co-operator, the mayor of Moscow...) would not countenance a break with the propertied classes – they were convinced that the country could not be governed without them. And they would not even consider participating in a government with Bolsheviks. Dan continued:

“Then – theoretically! – there remained only one path for an immediate break with the coalition [with representatives of the propertied classes]: the formation of a government with Bolsheviks – one not together with ‘non-soviet' democracy [the ‘middle strata'], but against it. We considered that path unacceptable, given the position that the Bolsheviks were adopting by the time. We understood clearly that to enter onto that path meant to enter onto the path of terror and civil war, to do everything that the Bolsheviks were, in fact, later forced to do. None of us felt it possible to assume responsibility for such a policy of a non-coalition government.”[4]

Dan's position can be contrasted with that of another moderate socialist, the SR V.B. Stankevich, a rare figure in his party (who had been a commissar at the front under the provisional government). In a letter from February 1918 to his party comrades, he wrote:

“We have to see that by this time the forces of the popular movement are on the side of the new regime ...

“There are two paths open to them [the moderate socialists]: pursue their irreconcilable struggle against the government, or peaceful, creative work as a loyal opposition ...

“Can the former ruling parties say that they have by now become so experienced that they can manage the task of running the country, a task that has become not easier, but harder? For, in essence, they have no programme to oppose to that of the Bolsheviks. And a struggle without a programme is nothing better than the adventures of Mexican generals. And even if the possibility of creating a programme existed, you have to understand that you don't have the forces to carry it out. For to overthrow Bolshevism you need, if not formally, then at least in fact, the united efforts of everyone, from the SRs to the extreme right. But even in those conditions, the Bolsheviks are stronger...

“There is but one path: the path of a united popular front, united national work, common creativity...

“And so what tomorrow? To continue the pointless, meaningless and in essence adventurist attempts to seize power? Or to work together with the people in realistic efforts to help it to deal with the problems that face Russia, problems that are linked to the peaceful struggle for eternal political principles, for genuinely democratic bases for governing the country!”[5]

I will let the reader decide which position, Dan's or Stankevich's, had more merit. But one can make a convincing argument that the moderate socialists' refusal “to dare” contributed to the outcome that they claimed so to fear.

History since October 1917 is replete with examples of left parties that did not dare, when they should have. One can mention, among others, the German Social Democrats in 1918, the Italian Socialists in 1920, the Spanish left in 1936, the French and Italian Communists in 1945 and 1968-69, the Chilean Unidad Popular in 1970-73, most recently Syriza in Greece. The point, of course, is not that they failed to organize an insurrection at some particular moment, but rather that they refused from the very outset to adopt a strategy whose goal was to wrest economic and political power from the bourgeoisie, a strategy that necessarily requires, at some point, a revolutionary break with the capitalist state.

Today, when the alternatives facing humanity are so deeply polarized, when, more than ever, the only real options are socialism or barbarism, when the future of civilized society itself is at stake, the left should take inspiration from October. That means, despite the historic defeat suffered by the working class and allied social forces over the past decades, to reject as illusory the goal of restoring the Keynesian welfare-state, a return to “genuine social democracy.” For such a programme in contemporary capitalism is bound to fail and further demobilize. To dare today means to develop a strategy whose end-goal is socialism and to accept that that goal will necessarily involve, at one point or another, a revolutionary break with the economic and political power of the bourgeoisie, and so with the capitalist state.

David Mandel teaches political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal and has been involved in labour education in the Ukraine for many years.

Endnotes:

1. This article is based in large part on my The Petrograd Workers in the Russian Revolution, Brill-Haymarket, Leiden and Boston, 2017.
2. K. Marx, “Afterword to the Second Edition” of Capital vol. I, International Publishers, N.Y., 1967, p. 17.
3. Trotsky, L., My Life, Scribner, N.Y., 1930, p. 418.
4. F. I., Dan, “K istorii poslednykh dnei Vremennogo pravitel'stva,” Letopis' Russkoi Revolyutsii, vol. 1, Berlin, 1923.
5. I. B. Orlov, “Dva puti stoyat perednimi ...” Istoricheskii Arkhiv, 4, 1997, p. 79.

Source: http://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1504.php#continue

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Destruction City

Alternatives International - Mon, 10/30/2017 - 15:34

The construction of Port City by the Western coast of Sri Lanka has been raising a number of issues since the release of its first plan. The fishing community is rallying in different protests to show their anger at the government and expressed concerns the dredging will affect the livelihoods of the fisherfolks and the sustainability of the shore's ecosystem.

Port City is part of the Megapolis development project, and aims at creating an artificial island by the Galle Face, on the western coast of Sri Lanka. According to the plan, Port City would be composed of an international island, a living island, a central park, a financial district, and a marina. Port City is described as “the most livable city in South Asia” “built on sustainable values [and] a healthy environment”.

Far from becoming a haven for environmentally friendly folks, as it pretends to be, the project threatens the ecosystem of not only the Negombo Lagoon but the entire coastal area between Kerawalapitiya and Negombo, and thus threatens to break the balance between the sea and the lagoon, which would result in a mix of salt water and fresh water. Environment experts even say the consequences of this destruction would be ten times worse than the ones of Uma Oya.

The construction of port city allows the Chinese company in charge to mine sand from some of the coastal areas, including the Negombo – Basiyawatta area. This mining risks not only killing the ecosystem necessary for prongs and coral reefs, but also causes rapid erosion, which comes to destroy the homes in its proximity.

The erosion of the coast is worsened by the fact that the mining company goes beyond its allowed territory. A year ago, the fishermen communities were told the mining would only be permitted as far as 10 kilometers from the shore. However, recently taken photos show that the company is now three kilometers away from the coast, damaging the environment as well as the livelihoods of fishermen. While no official information confirms this change in distance, it is clear the mining has moved closer to the shore.

The People's Movement Against Port City (PMAPC) has since submitted a complaint to the Coast Conservation Department, whom then called for a detailed report by the Megapolis Ministry, in charge of all urban expansion.

In order to represent the fishing communities, NAFSO is now planning a 5-day long awareness campaign during which members will go door to door, anchorage point to anchorage point in the affected villages to gather signatures for a people' Memorandum as well as educate the villagers on the consequences the construction of Port City will have on their livelihoods.

This first round of the campaign will start on October 31st and end on November 5th, 2017. NAFSO encourages people to sign its petition next week, and to engage in the movement against Port City as much as they can.

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Global PPP Manifesto

WEED - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 22:00
27.10.2017: A new campaign aimed at reversing the dangerous rush to promote expensive and high-risk public-private partnerships (PPPs) was launched by civil society organisations from all over the globe.
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Pakistan: 285 Turkish Teachers And Families Risk Forcible Deportation And Persecution

Alternatives International - Thu, 10/26/2017 - 14:04

Lahore, Paris, 26 October 2017: Pakistan must protect 285 Turkish nationals from forcible repatriation, arbitrary arrest, and other human rights abuses, FIDH and its member organization Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said today. This call follows the deportation of a Turkish family of four on 14 October 2017.

“The Pakistani government's deportation of a Turkish family should set off alarm bells. The Pakistani government must ensure the protection of the other 285 individuals who risk being deported to Turkey and put an end to the blatant disregard of its international obligations,”said FIDH President Dimitris Christopolous.

The 285 Turkish nationals, who are teachers associated with the Pak-Turk schools and their families, have been facing deportation to Turkey since November 2016. The 285 now live in fear of raids carried out by the Pakistani police and intelligence services in Pakistan. Should they be deported to Turkey, they are at high risk of arbitrary arrest, judicial harassment, and detention upon arrival. Such detention may be accompanied by torture and other forms of ill-treatment. This occurs in the context of the Turkish government's crackdown on teachers, journalists, academics, and human rights defenders in the aftermath of the July 2016 failed coup d'état in Turkey. Turkey has already succeeded in obtaining the forcible repatriation of teachers linked to the Pak-Turk schools from Malaysia, Myanmar, and Saudi Arabia.

On 27 September 2017, the former head of the Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan, Mr Mesut Kacmaz, was abducted along with his wife and their two children. On 14 October 2017, the Kacmaz family was handed over to Turkish policemen and forcibly repatriated to Turkey in a plane sent by the Turkish government. Since their arrival in Turkey, they have been under police custody. This forcible repatriation occurred despite statements made by Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister Khawaja Asif during a visit to the US in early October 2017 that the Turkish teachers and their families would only be deported once delays granted by the Pakistani courts and protection afforded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had expired.

The Pakistani government's initial deportation order for the Turkish teachers to leave Pakistan by 20 November 2016 has been suspended by several Pakistani high courts. Further, ‘Asylum Seeker Certificates' granted by the UNHCR specifically state that the Turkish nationals should be protected from forcible return to a country where they claim they could face threats to their life or freedom. While these certificates have now been extended until 11 October 2018, dozens face broader challenges concerning their status: 85 people have new-born children without passports; others have passports that have expired; and members of one family have been stripped of Turkish citizenship.

The forcible repatriation of the Kacmaz family and the risk of deportation faced by the remaining 285 Turkish nationals are in violation of Pakistan's obligations under international law. In particular, they are in breach of Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which stipulates that “[n]o State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” The abduction of Mr Kacmaz's two daughters is also in breach of Pakistan's obligations under Articles 22 and 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Pakistan is a state party.[1]

“By forcibly repatriating the Turkish family, Pakistan flouted its international obligations simply to appease the Turkish government. It must reverse this approach with respect to the 285 Turkish nationals who still face deportation and ensure that it puts their human rights first,”said HRCP Chair Mehdi Hasan.

FIDH and HRCP condemn in the strongest terms the deportation of the Kacmaz family to Turkey and call on the Pakistani authorities to respect the rights of the 285 Turkish nationals remaining in Pakistan - in particular their right to non-refoulement - in accordance with international law. The two organizations also call on the Pakistani authorities to respect the asylum seeker status granted by the UNHCR until October 2018, and to uphold orders by the domestic courts.

Press contacts
Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
Ms. Audrey Couprie (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris)

FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization in Pakistan
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

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The Rohingya: Rejected by the Country they Call Home and Unwanted by its Neighbours

Alternatives International - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 15:40

Rejected by the country they call home and unwanted by its neighbours, the Rohingya are impoverished, virtually stateless and have been fleeing Myanmar in droves and for decades.

Current Situation

The ticking bomb of Rohingya statelessness has exploded. Since, August 25, 2017 within less than two months, more than half a million Rohingya Muslims and Hindus, women, children and men have had to flee from their homes in the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma) as the Myanmar (Burma) army and gangs of Burmese Buddhist let lose a reign of mass rape, killing, torture and systematically burning down their villages. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are nearly a million one million Rohingya refugees are now being sheltered in overcrowded camps and makeshift shelters inside Bangladesh.

Since August this year (2017) Myanmar (Burma) security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children during a systematic campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims, Amnesty International has said in a new report. As on October 14, 2017 the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has registered 537,000 new arrivals in Bangladesh since 25 August, when Myanmar security forces began a campaign against Rohingya Muslims. The violence against the Muslim Rohingya by the Buddhist majority of Myanmar, has a long history. The Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants by the Myanmar government, despite evidence that the Rohingya have inhabited Myanmar continuously for hundreds of years prior to colonial rule.

While the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that it was a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismisses numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as “fake rape”. The Burman and Buddhist dominated leadership of the country has long treated them as illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators. In addition, the Rohingya “Muslim” identity has injected into their situation of humanitarian distress a globalized Islamophobic dimension. The 969 campaign led by Burmese Buddhist monks, which proposes to defeat Islamic expansionism in Buddhist Myanmar is a virulent, Islamophobic campaign led by extremist Buddhist monks.

Myanmar's government has said it was responding to attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) a Muslim insurgent organisation. The ARSA, had come into existence in 2012 in response to the rampant anti-Muslim violence. Myanmar government claims that ARSA is linked with international Islamic terrorist groups. A 2016 report by International Crisis Group (ICG) linked ARSA with Saudi Arabia and identified Ata Ullah a Pakistan born Rohingya, as its leader. ARSA denies that it is connected with any international Islamic Jihadi organisation. Security analysts have said that there are no credible links between the ARSA and any known terrorist organisations. Some analysts see them as a “paper tiger that… will only prove a justification… for more severe military operations”.

The United Nations and others have said the military response of Myanmar government was disproportionate. Amnesty International has accused Aung San Suu Kyi and her government of telling "untruths" over what it described as ethnic cleansing of minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. According to a report in the Washington Post on September 11, 2017, “ARSA probably has a only a few hundred fighters. There is little evidence foreigners have joined the fight.” The Burmese government has rejected the unilateral ceasefire offered by ARSA and refused to enter into talks with them.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries of the world, has perhaps the world's worst land-man ratio. The country needs to be praised and thanked by the world community for sheltering nearly a million refugees, particularly in these days when the rich countries of Europe and the USA have slammed their doors on the hapless refugees from Syria and Iraq. For Bangladesh, the human catastrophe is a nightmare. Yet the country has courageously stepped up to deal with the unprecedented crisis. Medicines, water and food are in short supply, and the UNHCR has sent out an appeal for help.

Bangladesh has backed the call for a Commission of Enquiry by Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, on the same lines as those set up for Syria among others. As Dhaka struggles with a growing crisis, aid on the ground has been provided by Malaysia and Denmark. India has sent about 700 tons of relief for distribution among the refugees.

Divided International Response

Unfortunately, the international community's response to the violence against the Rohingya people has been woefully inadequate. The UN, the United States, and the Organisation of Islamic Countries have issued standard condemnations and Muslim-majority Indonesia has been the most active, sending their foreign minister for urgent talks with Myanmar.

While many Western governments have condemned Myanmar military's action against the Rohingya Muslim people, the UK government is continuing to provide military training to troops in, Myanmar, despite the troops being involved massive violence that has left hundreds dead, thousands of homes burned, and tens of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh. Britain's government has been criticised for continuing to fund the Burmese military, despite it being accused of ethnic cleansing. Sir Michael Fallon, the Secretary of Defence of the UK has refused to review training provided for Myanmar's military, despite calls to suspend the programme from 157 MPs and peers.

India and China are close neighbours of Myanmar and they are also the key regional powers. It is unfortunate that both have acted unsympathetically towards the Rohingya. China and Myanmar have closes economic and diplomatic ties. In the United Nations Security Council, China has used its veto to block attempts to substantially address the issue of abusive treatment of the Rohingya by Myanmar army. Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, that China supports efforts by the Myanmar government to protect its national security and opposes recent violent attacks in the country's Rakhine state. Wang emphasised that China “understands and supports” Myanmar's efforts to protect its security in Rakhine. China is advocating that “Myanmar and Bangladesh resolving the problem via dialogue and consultation.”

South Asia

India, which is expanding its military engagement with Myanmar has announced its support for Myanmar in its fight against Muslim terrorist who are trying to establish an independent Rohingya state, by destroying Myanmar's territorial integrity. India has also said that it will deport 40,000 Rohingya who have fled to India for asylum. The Indian Government claims that the Rohingya refugees are connected with “terrorist” organisations. The government claims that it is in possession of secret intelligence information showing Rohingya links to ISIS and Pakistani militants. It also claimed that the Rohingyas were involved in plots by ISIS and other "extremist groups" to ignite communal and sectarian violence in India. However, the government is yet to produce any concrete evidence of the involvement of Rohingya refugees with international Islamic terrorist organisations or their participation in any kind of terrorist activities in India.

It appears that Indian authorities are concerned about ARSA's reported links with Pakistani groups. It is also concerned that some of the activists of ARSA were “trained in Afghanistan”. India is also worried that Pakistan's ISI could use the Rohingya refugees in promoting terrorist activities in India. It would seem that the growing influence of Russia and China on Myanmar is a matter of worry for India, which is preventing it from supporting Bangladesh's call for a Commission of Enquiry. Many Indian and international analysts believe that Indian government's treatment of the Rohingya stems from the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP's) “Islamophobia” as well as domestic political calculations that a tough line on Muslim refugees will play well with the party's Hindu nationalist base. India is aspiring to be global power, yet it seems that its diplomatic policy is guided by fear of China increasing its influence on Myanmar and the possibility of Pakistan's intelligence agencies using the Rohingya refugees to commit acts of terror in its territory. It is sad that while a consensus is finally being developed around the fact that there is genocide taking place in Myanmar, India the most populous democracy in the world is seemly more concerned with “terrorist threat” these desperate men and women might pose.

The Indian move to deport the Rohingya refugees is a clear violation of international law. The principle of non-refoulement is a part of customary international law .It expressly prohibits states from returning a refugee to a territory where they will be subject to persecution. The international community should decisively condemn the actions of India and exert pressure on the state to comply with their legal obligations.

In Sri Lanka, the Rohingya Muslim refugees are facing an uncertain future as Buddhist monks belonging to an extremist Sri Lankan nationalist organisation attacked the houses of the Rohingya refugees in September this year. The monks forced the police to arrest the Rohingya refugees as “illegal immigrants”. The 31 refugees, including women and children, were sent away to the detention camp at Boosa, primarily meant for terror suspects, in South Sri Lanka. Then, Sri Lankan government has said that the Rohingya refugees were being kept in Boosa detention camp for their “safety” and their stay there would be temporary.

Pakistan, is home to about 250,000 Rohingyas. Most of those these people live in an area called Arakanabad in the outskirts of Karachi. They have been in Pakistan for more than 35 years, having fled earlier bouts of conflict and violence, with some arriving as far back as the 1960s. The Rohingyas in Pakistan are stateless persons as according to Pakistani policy, the Rohingya do not qualify as asylum seekers or refugees. But since the government has not specifically explained what rights stateless people have, the future of the Rohingya in the country remains in flux.

A small number of Rohingya refugees has managed to reach Nepal's capital Kathmandu. Unfortunately, despite their claims for asylum and the reports of atrocities by Myanmar's forces, Nepal government has not recognized them as refugees. The recent August attacks and widespread global news about Rohingyas has brought Kathmandu's media attention to the miniscule Rohingya presence in the country. And not all of it has been welcoming. The AP1, a conservative Nepali TV channel, has been misrepresenting the situation of Rohingya refugees in Nepal in their stories, providing a sensationalised narrative by citing uncorroborated and false figures on the apparent increased influx of Rohingya Muslims. The channel has also been airing footage on a press statement issued by an Indian junior minister, Kiren Rijju that India has resolved to deport 40,000 Rohingya living in India in an attempt to drum up fears that these 40,000 may then attempt to come into Nepal. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kathmandu has verified 147 Rohingya in Nepal. Around 100 others have applied for asylum.

The plight of the Rohingya in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, where they are being hounded and facing deportation and the non-threatening but coldhearted attitude of Pakistan highlights the difficulty the international community faces finding them a long-term home.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Since 2014 an estimated 94,000 Rohingya asylum seekers have fled to neighbouring countries in South East Asia risking deadly sea journeys. The commonly preferred destination was Malaysia, which hosts approximately 142,000 people. Indonesia currently has approximately 1,000 Rohingya refugees, excluding unregistered asylum seekers, mainly based in Aceh.

There is no existing legal framework in ASEAN to deal with refugees and forced migration. In the Southeast Asian region, only the Philippines, Cambodia and Timor Leste are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention. ASEAN prefers to focus on its economic functions, while avoiding to engage with more pressing political and human rights issue in the countries of the region.

Indonesia, ASEAN's largest Muslim-majority country, has taken a quieter approach, sending its foreign minister to Myanmar several times. During a visit last week she told Channel News Asia that Indonesia preferred “constructive engagement”. Last year, the Indonesian government had entered an-ad hoc agreement with Myanmar, to allow a one-year transit for Rohingya refugees, who were supported by various NGOs, the local government, and the local community, with the expectation of a speedy resettlement in a host country. Indonesia's foreign minister, Retno L.P. Marsudi, had visited Rakhine to make a donation to schools there. At his invitation a Myanmar delegation consisting of Myanmar cabinet members and Rohingya Muslim leaders visited Indonesia to study its history of communal conflict resolution. So far, Jakarta has not tried to initiate a regionally united response towards Myanmar.

On January 19, 2017, Malaysia convened a special meeting of the 51 Organization of Islamic Cooperation member governments during which Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak lambasted Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya and the “appalling deaths” and “atrocities” they faced. Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Aye Aye Soe welcomed Indonesia's approach, but rejected Malaysia's and other harsh international criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi's handling of the Rakhine crisis. Malaysia's initiative was criticized for breaking ASEAN's tradition of non-interference in domestic affairs had angered Myanmar.

The Bali Process

The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) was initiated in 2002. It was set up with the objective of raising regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. It is a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and practical cooperation to help the region address these challenges. The Bali Process, an international high-level forum on people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crimes co-chaired by Indonesia, resulted in the Regional Cooperation Framework (RCF), which aimed to push for more practical arrangements between its 45 member states, including the implementation of burden-sharing and collective-responsibility principles. While the framework was seen as a much-welcomed step forwards, it is non-binding and stipulates no consequences for non-adherence.

The Bali Process was started to deal with the problem of refugees and migrants being smuggled by traffickers on boats. It has 48 member countries and international organisations including the UN Refugee Agency, was founded in 2002 to develop strategies on people smuggling, human trafficking and transnational crime. Though it was set up with the objective of developing comprehensive long term strategies to address the crimes of people smuggling and human trafficking as well as reducing migrant exploitation by expanding safe, legal and affordable migration pathways, it has failed to address the issue. Indonesia and Australasia have been at loggerheads on the issue of accepting Rohingya refugees escaping by boat through the Andaman Sea. The most promising developments was the creation in 2016 of an ASEAN Regional Trust Fund to support victims of human trafficking, and the adoption in November 2015 of the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Person, Especially Women and Children. The lack of success of the Bali Process underlines the fact that so long as human rights violations in countries of origin and the root causes of forced migration are not solved, the flight and plight of those people will continue.

ASEAN's principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states needs re-evaluating now that the Rohingya crisis has directly impacted ASEAN member states. Clearly, members of ASEAN have to do more than appeasing Myanmar through friendly gestures. It is no longer sufficient or morally justifiable for ASEAN to cite its non-interference principle as a buffer to shirk its responsibilities. It will have to step up pressure on the Myanmar government to stop the persecution of and discrimination against the Rohingya people through persistent diplomacy. A stronger diplomacy is also needed to allow and ensure the admission of humanitarian aid agencies into the Rohingya area. Furthermore, a legal system to deal with the refugee issue in the region should be put into place.

Dire Situation of Aid

IOM's latest Needs and Population Monitoring Report of October 18, 2017, estimated that over half of the 582,000 new arrivals are women and girls. The report noted that of the total population, 33,542 (4 per cent) were registered and living in two UNHCR refugee camps. The remaining 96 per cent (761,116) were living in makeshift settlements, spontaneous sites and host communities. Based on sampling techniques across the sites, the assessment identified lactating mothers (9.2 per cent) and pregnant woman (4.9 per cent) as the two highest number of vulnerable groups within the population. An estimated 3.6 per cent of the total number of households were female-headed and 2.2 per cent headed by elderly persons.

According to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of now about US $ 434 million are required to provide the necessary care for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. At a recent meeting in Geneva, the international donor community announced pledges for more than US$344 million to augment the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh. The conference was co-organised by the UN Migration Agency (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) along with Kuwait and the European Union as co-hosts. This is a great improvement in the international response, which till now has been woefully inadequate. So far only about 27% of the funds have been committed by the international governments.

These very generous pledges must now quickly translate into life-saving relief for the vulnerable refugees and support to host communities who have been stretched to the limit. In Bangladesh, aid agencies are worried they do not have the capacity to deal with the huge influx of refugees, most of whom are arriving hungry and without clothes or supplies. Mark Pierce, Bangladesh country director for the Save the Children Fund, has said that, “many people are arriving hungry, exhausted and with no food or water”. The aid agencies have pointed out that the demand for food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support is not being met due to the sheer number of people in need. If the basic needs are not met, the suffering will get even worse and lives could be lost.”

Creation of Statelessness

Understandably, in the face of such a colossal humanitarian crisis, the global attention is focused on refugees. However, we know from experience since the end of the Second World War, that despite the massive efforts made by the UNHCR and the global humanitarian community to help and assist the victims of forced eviction, through relief, rehabilitation, integration in host country and third-country resettlement, the problem has not gone away, rather it has increased. By 2011 the number of refugees who were outside their home countries had increased to nearly 43 million of which about 12 million were stateless persons. The plight of the Rohingyas demonstrate that they did not have to cross international borders to become refugees. They had become “refugees” in their homes when they were stripped of their citizenship and rendered “stateless”.

Statelessness has emerged as a serious issue in the region of South and South East Asia. Myanmar, Bangladesh and India have a shared colonial past that has shaped their present borders and histories to a great extent. The colonial and post-colonial history of this region, starting with the Treaty of Peace between the British and the King of Ava in 1826, and nearly two hundred years' history of repeated fixing of both internal and external boundaries between different units of the country and as borders with outside regions have left the people of the region divided on ethnic, religious and cultural lines.

Not just Myanmar, the citizenship laws of the postcolonial states of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were highly influenced by the self-perception of the “majority” who claimed to constitute the “nation”. Ethnic bias, cultural, linguistic, religious prejudices, gender discrimination and political concerns of the emerging ruling elite shaped the policy for granting as well as denying citizenship. South Asia hosts the fourth largest concentration of refugees in the world. Nongovernmental and semi-governmental agencies, working with refugees and the displaced claim that the number of persons living in refugee-like situations in the region is much higher than the official estimate. Large number of the displaced who have crossed international borders in this region, are treated as undesirable aliens or illegal immigrants by host governments. South and South East Asian states have no national laws which define or distinguish refugees from others who cross the borders. Moreover, none of the governments have signed the 1951 UN Convention Concerning the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

The international community's engagement with the problem of statelessness is rather recent. The UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons of 1954 and Convention of Reduction of Statelessness of 1961 exclusively deal with the issue of statelessness. These two legal instruments explain statelessness mainly in two ways de jure and de facto. A stateless person as defined by the 1954 convention is generally equated with the term de jure statelessness. Besides, the Convention also refers to the category of de facto stateless persons – “who remain outside the country of their nationality and hence are unable, or, for valid reasons, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country”. International law requires that States establish safeguards in legislation to address statelessness occurring at birth or later in life, acquisition and loss of nationality and to standards of treatment of stateless persons.

The major weakness of international protection mechanism for the stateless persons is non-applicability of international law within the sovereign jurisdiction of sates, where the majority of stateless persons live. The states control their borders, frame the immigration policies and decide who should be allowed to enter its territory and who should be rejected. The present immigration laws, policies and practices of most states do not make a distinction between the stateless persons and other migrants.

Stateless persons cannot return to the country which has taken away their citizenship. The increasing use of immigration detention for punitive purposes, criminalisation of irregular migration and pushing them back into states from where they are escaping or into the sea by a growing number of states, is a matter of serious concern. In the light of the massive violation of human rights of the Rohingya people and the resultant humanitarian crisis there is an urgent need for states to recognise the special characteristics and the circumstances of the stateless persons. The fact that the stateless Rohingyas have no country to return to needs poses a serious political crisis for the entire region. The states and the civil society of South and South East Asia need to address the issue of creation of statelessness urgently in the interest of peace, prosperity and political stability of the region.

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Catalonia — Not Yet Independent

Alternatives International - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:02

Developments in Spain and Catalonia may be distant, but the manner in which this conflict plays out has a relevance far beyond Europe, specially for their Kashmiri and Kurd compatriots.

In Catalonia's latest stance on its independence move, the political leadership in Catalonia has demonstrated admirable maturity in dealing with the Spanish central government's opposition to Catalonia's demand for independence. Catalonia's parliament in its specially convened session on October 10 put on formal record that the referendum on independence organised by Catalonia's government on October 1 had 93% of voters voting for independence. The President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont declared on that basis that Catalonia was an independent and sovereign state but then displayed remarkable political skill in not opting for immediate implementation of that declaration of independence. Instead, it opted for moving further with dialogue, deescalating tension and building consensus. In making this move, it scored a moral victory over Spain's central leadership which had chosen the path of confrontation by using heavy handed methods in opposing the referendum vote on October 1 and still failing to prevent the vote.

Catalonia morally right

If the Spanish government now retaliates by removing the existing regional autonomy of Catalonia and putting it directly under Spanish central rule, it will further weaken its moral case, even if it is formally right in legal and constitutional terms. Politically, such retaliation would prove even more costly because it will push even the reluctant nationalists among Catalonians in the camp of committed Catalan nationalism.

The sober and dialogue seeking decision by the Catalan leadership to put on hold its independence agenda, even if temporary, may disappoint some impatient elements in the independence movement but it is in tune with the growing global trend of resolving secessionist disputes through democratic means in the current era of democracy.

Conflicts in nations cause of new states

Many of the nation states in the developing world are products of the termination of European colonial empires after the World War II, but the new nation states that are emerging or are struggling to emerge both within the developing world and the developed world are now the products of nationalist conflicts within the existing nation states. In some cases, the boundaries of the existing nation states that were drawn by the retreating colonial powers were extremely unfair to some nationalist identities.

The Kurdish people splintered into four nation states — Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey — constitute perhaps the most unfortunate nation as a result ofthe arbitrary division of the Middle East by colonial powers. The Kurdish people have been waging armed struggle to carve up a unified Kurdish nation state for several decades but they are now moving towards a strategy of making use of democratic methods. The recent independence referendum organised by the administration in the Kurdish controlled region in Iraq is a clear step in that direction of seeking democratic legitimacy for their nationalist aspiration.

Movements for independence

The wider politico-economic macro environment that has given push to the movements for independence is paradoxically the result of globalisation which in the context of Europe manifests itself in the widening of the European Union. The economic dimension of globalisation and Europeanisation is the weakening of the geographical barriers of nation states in the unhindered pursuit of the mobility of capital, labour, technology, commodities and life styles. This process of globalisation may be viewed, legitimately to some extent, as leading to internationalisation and weakening of appeal to nationalism.

However, this process also carries within it the threat of global homogenisation which is perceived and experienced as a threat by minority cultures and identities. This threat, in turn, provides impetus to the strengthening of aspirations for national sovereignty to protect minority nationalist identities. The globalisation of economic transactions and the development of information technologyprovidefurther strength to smaller geographical spaces as nations because the economic viability in the global economic arena is no longer dependent on the geographical or population size of a nation state. For example, Scotland by withdrawing from the union with the UK or Catalan by seceding from Spain can still be a part of the European Union and thus remain economically viable.

Referendums settling disputes

What has dramatically changed the political landscape for independence movements is the method followed in the French-speaking Quebec province's aspiration for independence from Canada and Scotland's aspiration for independence from England. In both cases, the central government reached an agreement with the regional government to hold a referendum to settle the dispute about whether that region would gain independence or remain a part of the larger union. In both cases, the respective governments agreed to abide by the result of the referendum. In both cases, the vote went by a small margin against secession. The regional governments and political parties accepted the verdict and, in turn, the central governments in both cases did not insist that there could not be future referendum vote which might go in favour of secession. What was remarkable was the consensus that any such dispute need to be resolved through the democratic means of a vote and not either by armed rebellion by the independentists against the central governmentor by armed suppression of the independentists by the centralists.

The Catalan's regional government seems to have realised that there was one serious flaw with their referendum vote on October 1 in spite of massive support in Catalan for the right to vote which was endorsed even by those who were opposed to Catalan's independence from Spain.

This flaw was that this referendum vote was not organised by mutual consultation and agreement with the central government in Madrid. As a result, this did not have legal legitimacy. The Spanishgovernment too erred in not taking a lesson from the Canadian and British experience of following the consensual path and used repressive methods to thwart the vote. Those methods, or even more brutal than those, which are commonly used by most governments in the developing world are not compatible with the developed democratic culture of Europe with higher standards of human rights. That has landed the Spanish government in a weak spot- morally and politically. It will weaken itself further if it now spurns the Catalan offer of dialogue and abrogates the current autonomy Catalan enjoys by imposing central rule there.

Given the present impasse, the mediation by European Union is the only way forward to agree the negotiated path to resolve this dispute. The resolution may turn out to be neither complete independence for Catalan nor more centralised control from Madrid, but converting Spain into a confederation with increased internal economic, political and cultural autonomy to Catalan and perhaps to other regions too such as Basque and Galicia. The manner in which this conflict is resolved or not resolved is likely to be of significance far beyond Spain and Europe.

The writer is Professor of Economics at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford

Source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/catalonia-not-yet-independent/482677.html

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Death Penalty: HRCP For Urgent Safeguards To Comply With State Obligations

Alternatives International - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 17:00

Lahore, October 10, 2017: On the World Day against the Death Penalty on October 10, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the government to urgently institute safeguards to ensure that a generalised resumption of executions does not violate Pakistan's human rights obligations.

In a statement issued to the media, the Commission said: “As we observe the 15th World Day against the Death Penalty, HRCP calls upon the government to take stock of the pressing issues that have arisen ever since it terminated the moratorium in December 2014.

“In addition to the various and well-documented challenges that a generalised recourse to capital punishment presents, there is an urgent need to introduce safeguards in instances where the age of the convict or his or her mental or physical ability is in question.”

Furthermore, the socio-economic status of a convict tends to be directly proportional to their risk of being sentenced to death and execution. This year the World Day against Death Penalty is bringing into focus the link between poverty and capital punishment.

“While HRCP calls upon the government to suspend the death penalty in the country as a first step towards abolition, it demands that these new issues should be urgently addressed through a conscious policy and not merely through last minute action in response to pleas from civil society in individual cases.”

Dr Mehdi Hasan
Chairperson

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Rohingyas Near End: 'Terror There Is, But It's Of The Burmese Regime'

Alternatives International - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 14:06

The Burmese government is pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya, who are being driven out of the country. Never has the persecution of this Muslim minority reached such a level of violence. The nature of the Burmese regime, the policy of land grabbing and the geopolitical stakes are largely responsible for the paroxysmal nature of this humanitarian crisis.

The Rohingya constitute one of the main stateless populations in the world. This has not always been the case. The Burmese authorities have gradually deprived them of previously recognized rights, imposed increasing restrictions on economic activity, marriage, access to education, and have violently repressed them to reach the point of this wave of terror that resembles a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing: the Rohingya must die or leave to never return.

Rohingya means “inhabitants of the Rohang”, a name formerly given by this largely Muslim population to the Arakan – “inhabitants of the Arakan”, therefore. The current Burmese authorities deny them the right to call themselves so, since they consider them foreigners.

Burma is composed of fourteen states and administrative regions. The official name of the Arakan is Rakhine State. It is located in the centre-west of the country, bordering the Gulf of Bengal, and shares a short border with Bangladesh. The Rakhine is also inhabited by a Buddhist population, itself marginalized and discriminated against: it is indeed the poorest state in the country. There do not seem to have been any particularly violent conflicts between the two communities in the past.

The history of the Rohingya is poorly known, and has become the subject of political controversy. However, the presence of Rohingya in Arakan goes back a long way in the past. On the other hand, a wave of immigration took place in the late 19th and early 20th century, during the reign of the British - which the Burmese nationalists reproach the Rohingya for.

The question of citizenship is complex in Burma: it does not automatically grant the same rights to everyone. The Kam (Muslims) are thus recognized, but their freedom of action remains strictly controlled. The Rohingya have in the past had identity cards and the right to vote in certain elections.

Creating stateless persons

In 2012, the Burmese regime published a list of 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. It did not include the Rohingya who are thus without any citizenship whatsoever. Under the pressure of the Buddhist nationalists, the regime has imposed increasingly discriminatory measures on the Rohingya: they can no longer vote or run for elections. They must be registered as Bengalis (while Bangladesh does not recognize them). The prohibitions are multiplied on the economic level (they cannot open a shop and trade with Buddhists) and socially: restrictions in access to care, education, marriage (placed under administrative control), children they may have, travel and so on. The separation of communities in Rakhine State has become strict.

The anti-Muslim campaigns have become increasingly aggressive. In 2012, following a rape rumour, Buddhist nationalists burned houses, killing more than 280 Rohingya, causing thousands of people to flee, many by boat. They were often denied refuge by neighbouring countries. A small armed incident caused by an unknown group was used by the army and police to systematically occupy Muslim territory.

The final offensive?

Faced with such a situation, activists formed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) opposed to fundamentalism and presenting itself as a movement of self-defence and liberation. Many ethnic minorities are armed in Burma and have been able to resist government forces for decades. This was not the case for the Rohingya and it still is not. Indeed, the ARSA has only extremely rudimentary weaponry. In August 2017, it attacked positions of the police or the army. The fighting killed more than 100 people - including a dozen police officers, all the other victims being the attackers.

On the “military” side, ARSA is a very minor problem for the Burmese authorities, who have seen others and who know how to negotiate when they want - however, in this case, they do not want to. The entire Rohingya community has been criminalized (“Bengali terrorists”"). Terror there is indeed, but it is that of the regime.

We are witnessing a vast operation of ethnic cleansing, with systematic massacre of civilians, villages burned one by one, a hunt for fugitives and so on. Already more than 400,000 Rohingya have crossed the border (at the risk of their lives) to take refuge in Bangladesh, but also in Malaysia, Thailand and even in Indonesia, finding themselves totally deprived and exhausted, with many orphaned children.

Prior to these events, in Rakhine State, the Rohingya population was estimated at 1.1 million. Exodus phases have existed in the past. Since the late 1970s, a million people have already fled persecution. The conditions in the host countries are often deplorable.

Stateless they had become, stateless they remain. International institutions are launching important aid programs; unfortunately, experience shows their limits or, in the long run, their perverse effects when the conditions for a collective taking charge of their future by the refugees themselves are not met.

Isolation

Combatant ethnic minorities in Burma have in the past received support from foreign governments (including China). Nothing of the sort for the Rohingya, even from Bangladesh, whose border guards have too often harassed and repulsed refugees fleeing the massacres.

In Burma itself, no significant force has defended them – no other ethnic minorities, and not Aung San Suu Kyi, historical opponent of the military junta, Nobel Peace Prize winner and now Head of State. She adopts the discourse of Burmese nationalism rather than that of human rights.

On 19 September 2017, Aung San Suu Kyi, for the first time, acknowledged the problem (without admitting its gravity) and declared that the return of the refugees would be organized after verifying their citizenship (which has been withdrawn!). We will see what happens. Until now, however, with her spokesperson, she had firmly stood by the army, even denouncing the UN aid agencies as “accomplices of the terrorists”. She has demanded that the United States stop using the term Rohingya. She asserted that all the noise made about the situation in Rakhine State was only a disinformation campaign.

One may fear that Aung San Suu Kyi's posture will reveal how her vision is traditionally “Burmese”" and her lack of empathy towards the Rohingya. However, it also reflects the reality of power relations in Burma. Even though the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the 2015 legislative elections, the army still holds decisive powers. The Constitution grants them three key ministries: Interior, Defence and Borders and guarantees them 25% of the seats in Parliament (i.e. the right of veto on any constitutional amendment).

It has the upper hand on everything concerning national security - and therefore on the Muslim territories. It is backed up by the police and by extreme right-wing Buddhist militias. An influential far right Buddhist movement has formed behind the figure of the monk U Wirathu, racist and xenophobic, for whom Buddhism authorizes (or even preaches) the killing of the Rohingya.

Ashin Wirathu was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003 for inciting racial hatred, but he was amnestied in 2010. He formed the movement 969 targeting Muslims (some 4% of the population of the country!) The latter are said to threaten Burmese “identity” and “race”, based on Buddhism, and aim to Islamize Burma by marrying Burmese youth.

Wirathu's sermons contributed to the inter-communal violence of 2012. After the banning of the 969 movement, he created Ma Ba Tha, the association for the protection of the Race and Religion; then the Philanthropic Buddha Dhamma Foundation. The latter is largely composed of laymen, which allows him to circumvent the successive prohibitions of his hierarchy. Wirathu uses social networks to pour out his hate speech.

The influence of this extreme Buddhist right is felt even in the decisions taken by the regime. For example, in 2015, the government adopted “laws on race and religion”", which include limiting the number of children Muslim couples may have (not just Rohingya) and “protecting” Buddhist women marrying Muslim men, especially by forbidding them to convert to the religion of their spouse.

A crisis that culminates

A sign of the times, the victory of the NLD did not trigger a real process of democratization; we live in a period where regimes tend to become increasingly authoritarian and not the reverse. The army has managed to perpetuate its rule. The Rohingya crisis has culminated in an affirmation of its hegemony and this is not by chance. It also exacerbates Burmese nationalism and, for the regime's clientele or the transnationals, it allows the seizure of the lands of those Muslims massacred or driven out without hope of return.

The ethnic cleansing suffered by the Rohingya is the extreme expression of a general process of dispossession in Burma of the popular strata. There are many forced displacements of the population. The green light was given by the government to land grabbing for the benefit of large investors. The country has long been on the margins of the “development” of capitalist globalization. It is now opening to foreign capital. It has become a “new frontier”.

Burma is the focus of intense geopolitical competition. India has financed and built, for example, the port of Sittwe (the capital of Rakhine!), to connect the (Indian) state of Mizoram to the Bay of Bengal. The Chinese government has many investments in ethnic minority areas and is continuing the construction of a pipeline between Sittwe and Kunming in China. As for the United States, they consider it essential to counterbalance the growing influence of Beijing in this pivotal country.

Political manœuvres, economic interests and geopolitics have a great deal to do with the violence with which the Burmese authorities now settle the “Rohingya question”". The complexity of ethnic and religious relations in Burma is obviously a factor to be taken into account, but their exasperation is due to causes that have nothing “spiritual” about them.

This also explains why, beyond the verbal protests, the European Union and the United States are so close to the Burmese regime. The cessation of the policy of terror and ethnic cleansing is not considered a priority.

(Pierre Rousset is a reputed French scholar with Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF))

Thursday, October 05,2017

Source: http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/1/11908/Rohingyas-Near-End-Terror-There-Is-But-Its-Of-The-Burmese-Regime

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The Left and Catalonia

Alternatives International - Fri, 09/29/2017 - 14:27

The Catalonia referendum this Sunday will become part of the history of Europe, possibly for the worst of reasons. I will not discuss here the substantive questions, which can be interpreted as being historical, territorial, respecting internal colonialism or self-determination. These are the most important questions, without which it is impossible to understand the current situation. My opinion on them is unassuming. Actually, many will consider my opinion irrelevant for, being Portuguese, I do tend to feel particularly solidary with Catalonia. In the same year that Portugal got rid of the Phillipes (1640) Catalonia failed the same objective. Of course, Portugal was a very different case, being a country that had been independent for more than four centuries and ruling an empire spread out through every continent. Nonetheless, the objectives had some affinity, Portugal's success and Catalonia's failure being more related than it may at first seem. Perhaps we should remember that the Spanish crown only acknowledged the “unilateral declaration of independence” of Portugal twenty-six years later.

The truth is, however, that even if these are indeed the most important questions, unfortunately they are not the most urgent ones at the moment. The most urgent questions have to do with legality and democracy. I engage with them here because they concern all democrats in Europe and the world. As decreed, the referendum is illegal in the light of the Constitution of the Spanish State. As such, in a democracy it can have no juridical effect. In and of itself, it cannot have the effect that is its direct objective, i.e. to decide whether the future of Catalonia is within or outside Spain. The party Podemos is right in asserting that “a unilateral declaration of independence is not to be accepted.” But the complexity emerges when the relation

between the juridical and the political is reduced to the previous interpretation. In the capitalist and asymmetrical societies in which we live there is always more than one reading of the relations between the juridical and the political. What is different about such readings is what distinguishes a Left from a Right position regarding a unilateral declaration of independence. A Left position on the relations between the juridical and the political would be grounded on the following assumptions.

First, the relationship between law and democracy is dialectical and not mechanical. Much of what we consider democratic legality in a given historical moment started as illegality, as an aspiration to a better and broader democracy. It is therefore imperative to evaluate the political processes in terms of their overall historical dynamics. In no case can they be reduced to conformity with the laws of the day.

Second, the rightist governments, above all those led by the neoliberal Right, have no democratic legitimacy when they declare themselves as strict defenders of legality because their practices consist in often systematic violations of the law. I am not solely referring to endemic corruption. I am referring, in the case of Spain, to the violations of the law of memory (referring to the crimes committed by the Franco dictatorship), to the recurrent violation of the statutory regions' autonomy concerning financial transfers, for instance, to the violation of constitutional guarantees such as the right to decent housing or to the implementation of repressive measures of exception without the constitutional declaration of the state of exception. The Left must be careful enough to show no complicity with this conception of legality.

Third, civil and political disobedience is an inalienable patrimony of the Left. Without it, for example, the movement of the Indignados and the public turmoil it provoked a few years ago would not have been possible.

From a Left perspective, civil and political disobedience must also be conceived of in dialectical terms, not in terms of what it means under today's legal frameworks, but rather in terms of what it means as an aspiration of a better future. This evaluation has to be made not only by those who disobey (and who usually pay a dear price for it) but also by those who can benefit from such an act in the future. In other words, the question to be asked is the following one: can it be hoped that the dynamics of disobedience will lead to an overall more inclusive and more democratic political community in its totality?

Fourth, the Catalonia referendum represents an act of civil and political disobedience and, as such, it cannot produce directly the political results it intends. Which is not to say that it cannot have other legitimate political results. It may well be the conditio sine qua non to reach in the future the intended objectives after the necessary political and legal mediations have been put in place. The Indignados movement was unable to fulfil its objectives of “real democracy now!,” but there is no doubt that, thanks to it, Spain is today a more democratic country. The emergence of the Left party Podemos and many other Left autonomic parties in the regions, as well as the Mareas (citizens' movements) are, among others, the proof of this.

Given the aforementioned assumptions, a Left position regarding the Catalonia referendum could present itself as follows. First, stating unequivocally that the referendum is illegal and cannot yield the effect it intends (such statement was made). Second, stating that being illegal does not prevent the referendum from being a legitimate act of civil disobedience and that, even without juridical effects, Catalonians have every right to demonstrate freely in the referendum. Moreover it is a political democratic action of great importance in the current circumstances (such statement was omitted). This latter statement is what would distinguish a Left from a Right position, with the following implications.

The Left would denounce the government before the European institutions and sue it judicially in the European courts for violating the Constitution by applying measures of the state of exception without formally declaring it. The Left knows that the complicity of Brussels with the central government is solely due to the fact that the Spanish government is ruled by the neoliberal Right. It also knows that simply to uphold the law is moralistic and useless, since, as I mentioned above, the neoliberal Right only respects the law (and democracy) when it serves its interests. The Left would get organized to travel en masse from the different regions of Spain to Catalonia this Sunday in order to support, with their presence, the Catalonians' right peacefully to exert their referendum, as well as to be actual witnesses to eventual repressive violence on the part of the Spanish government. It would request the solidarity of all European Left parties and organizations by inviting them to come to Barcelona and be informal observers of the referendum and of repressive violence, should it occur. The Left would thus demonstrate peacefully and, I would emphasize, like true Indignados, for the right of the Catalonians to a peaceful and democratic public gesture. It would document in detail all the illegalities by repressive forces and sue the prevaricators in court. If the referendum were to be violently prevented, it would be clear that it had happened with no complicity on the part of the Left.

The day after the referendum, with no juridical effect and whatever the result, the Left would be in a privileged position to play a unique role in the ensuing political discussion. Independence? More autonomy? A Plurinational Federal State? A Free Associated State as distinct from the caricature that Puerto Rico is? Every position would be on the table and

Catalonians would know that they would not need the local forces on the Right, which historically have always colluded with the Spanish government against the popular classes of Catalonia, to make prevail the position that the majority deemed better. That is to say, Catalonians, Europeans and democrats worldwide would learn about a new possibility of being Left in a plurinational democratic society. It would be a contribution of the peoples and nations of Spain to democratizing democracy in the whole world.

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