A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 19, No. 27, 28 JUNE – 04 JULY 2016
Implications of the Brexit Referendum in the UK
fter a viciously xenophobic and violent campaign that even saw the unprecedented killing of a popular Labour MP, Jo Cox, the Brexit (Britain plus exit) camp has secured a surprise victory in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union. 52 per cent (of the 72 per cent who voted in the referendum) have chosen to end the UK's 43-year-old association with the European Union (erstwhile European Economic Community). In the wake of this Brexit verdict, Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned to remain in the EU, has announced his decision to resign, the British Pound has plummeted quite sharply and the share market has experienced a rude downward pull.
The result has exposed a sharply divided Britain, geographically as well as generationally. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London had voted overwhelmingly in favour of remain. Scotland, which had narrowly agreed to remain with the UK in another recent referendum, obviously feels quite unhappy with the verdict, and another referendum leading to an independent Scotland as a member of EU is now a distinct possibility. The question of independence of Northern Ireland and unification with the Irish Republic (an EU member) is also likely to assume renewed political relevance. In generational terms, the young clearly preferred to remain in the EU with 72 percent voters in the 18-24 age group voting 'Remain' as opposed to the 60 percent 'Leave' vote among pensioners. There is also a divide between cosmopolitan multi-cultural cities of Britain opting for European affiliation and the less ethnically diverse smaller towns, many of which are in regions of industrial decline, where the Leave' message found fertile ground.
Politically, the result was achieved then through the right's opportunistic mobilization of widespread anger and frustration over austerity, and its appeal to deep-seated racism and jingoistic nationalism. The rabidly rightwing, racist and xenophobic UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by the rabble-rouser Nigel Farage, alongside the Conservative pro-Leave faction led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, had built up the Brexit campaign with its virulent anti-immigrant anti-refugee rhetoric, effectively turning the vote into a referendum on immigration. It made more explicit what the mainstream parties had been doing for years - blaming migrants and refugees for the effects of austerity policies, unemployment, low pay, and the housing crisis with a toxic campaign which spread the falsehood that EU membership forces Britain to take in large numbers of refugees and migrants (in fact numbers of non-European refugees and migrants entering the UK - the real focus of UKIP's hate campaign - have remained far lower than for other EU countries).
It is perhaps no coincidence that on the morning of the day that a supporter of the far-right Britain First group murdered the MP Jo Cox, who was an advocate for refugee rights, Nigel Farage had unveiled his new poster campaign which showed a long line of Syrian refugees with the slogan 'Breaking Point'. Tapping into the popular anger over years of austerity which have eroded the welfare state, most notably the National Health Service (NHS), another of the Leave campaign's most successful slogans was the lie that freedom from the EU would enable Britain to increase National Health Service (NHS) funding by £350m, a claim which was immediately retracted by Farage, Johnson et al on the day after the referendum, when its purpose had been served. By and large, Labour supporters voted for 'Remain'. A section of voters who voted Leave are however already publicly regretting their decision, and millions of voters have raised the demand for a second referendum since the result was so close.
David Cameron called the referendum in a self-serving and, as it turned out, spectacularly ill-judged attempt to pacify the Eurosceptic sections of his own Conservative Party and prevent them from defecting to UKIP. These pro-Brexit Tories, like Boris Johnson and the much derided former Education Secretary Michael Gove, having used the referendum to further their own political careers, have little plan for what to do next, and there is already speculation that invoking Article 50 which triggers exit from the EU within a two-year time frame, may be indefinitely delayed.
Arguably however there are powerful reasons for a section of the ruling class embracing Brexit. One is the growing economic crisis and insecurity and the consequent quest for reclaiming economic sovereignty from the EU stranglehold. Unlike Greece and Spain which with strong left forces, aspired for freedom from the European debt burden and to pursue economic policies to suit their own interests and priorities, Britain however hopes to regain its lost economic might along the very trajectory of neo-liberalism which has already weakened the economy and eroded its once comprehensive welfare framework. Already, Boris Johnson has suggested that EU trade agreements like the free market fundamentalist Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), one of the main reasons why certain sections of the British Left supported Brexit, will be retained even after leaving the EU.
The other factor is the Euroscepticism inherent in Britain's foreign policy and self-perception. When the end of World War II heralded the downfall of the British colonial empire, British foreign policy had to reinvent itself in the post-colonial world. But instead of forging ties with the rest of Europe, Britain preferred to rely primarily on her special relationship with the US and unequal and paternalistic ties with former British colonies as institutionalized in the Commonwealth. It was only in 1973 that Britain finally entered the European community. Even after joining the European Union, Britain retained its own pound sterling as the preferred British currency and did not fall for the charm of the Euro.
Within Britain, Brexit has emboldened the rabid rightwing spectrum ranging from various racist, chauvinistic fringe outfits to an ascendant UKIP and the aggressively neo-liberal Conservatives. Within the Labour Party too, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the best thing to have happened within the Labour camp, marking a clear rupture with and reversal of the pro-market war-mongering Blairite New Labour trend, is now faced with renewed rightwing challenges, as Blairite MPs use the result as a pretext for an attempt to oust Corbyn, despite his unprecedented mandate from members and supporters, ahead of the release of the Chilcot Report which is likely to indict Tony Blair for his role in the Iraq War.
While immigrants from various EU countries, especially from the erstwhile East European bloc, face an uncertain future, British Asian and Black communities are having to deal with heightened racism and Islamophobia, with a huge rise in racist attacks even in the few days since the referendum. And across the Atlantic, it is the vicious anti-immigrant anti-Islam politics of Donald Trump which feels pumped up by the Brexit victory. Whether in the US or the UK, it is clear that only building a strong grassroots movement which offers a real alternative to austerity and neoliberalism, with anti-racism and solidarity with migrants and refugees at its heart, can counter these rising forces.
Joint Left Initiatives
Left parties CPI, CPI-M, CPI (ML), and SUCI (C) organized a joint "Save Democracy" convention in Gwalior on 15 June against the footsteps of fascism. The convention was held in the backdrop of Section 144 and Section 133 being clamped all over Madhya Pradesh for the past several months, to muzzle people's protests against the Government's callousness to price rise and drought, against the "Vyapam" scam and large scale privatization of transport and power. Subsequently on 20 June, the Left parties organized a joint rally in Bhopal.
These six Left parties held a 'Save Democracy' Convention in Lucknow at the Ganga Prasad Memorial Hall on 20 June. Presenting the motion for discussion, CPI State Secretary, Com. Girish Sharma said that the objective behind attacking the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, especially the right to freedom of speech and expression, is to crush the voices of dissent. Supporting the motion, CPI-M State Secretarial Board Member Com. SP Kashyap called to resist the anti-people economic policies as well as the communal forces. Addressing the convention, CPI (ML) State Secretary and PB member Com. Ramji Rai said that a state moving towards fascism exhibits two symptoms: first, an "enemy within" is discovered; and second, the ruling powers and corporate capital become bosom friends. He warned against the BJP's attempt at communal polarisation in Kairana towards UP elections.
AIPWA Vice President Tahira Hasan, Comrades Vijaypal Singh of the Forward Bloc, Bechan Ali of the SUCI (C), Arvind Raj Swarup of the CPI, Dinanath Singh of the CPI-M and others also expressed their views. The convention resolved to hold regional level conventions in Varanasi, Mathura, Faizabad, Muradabad and Muzaffarnagar.
CPI(ML) (Liberation), CPI, CPI(M) and SUCI (C), jointly organized a jatha on people's issues against the Congress government in the state. A month long campaign culminated in a massive rally in Bangalore on 6 June. The idea was to propagate a Left alterative in Karnataka which was otherwise dominated by BJP, Congress and JD(S).
Strict implementation of MNREGA, sincere and immediate action to stall increasing suicides by farmers, increase in minimum wages for workers, land titles to the tillers of 'bagairhukum' (unregulated government lands), strengthening Lokayukta instead of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), were the major issues of the campaign.
The culmination rally at Bangalore was addressed by Comrades Swapan Mukherjee, PBM of CPI(ML) (Liberation), Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of CPI(M), Sudhakar Reddy, General Secretary of CPI and Krishna Chakrabarthy of SUCI (C). Com. Swapan Mukherjee saluted the courage and militancy of young women garment workers of Bangalore who were successful in forcing the Modi government to withdraw the controversial notification on PF withdrawal only after retirement. He called upon people to build struggles against the appeasement to communal forces by the so-called 'secular' Congress government in Karnataka.
Prior to the rally in Bangalore, conventions and rallies were jointly organized in several places in the state including Davanagere, Mysore, and Koppal, by district committees of Left parties. Similar programmes were also held at other district headquarters in the state
Save Democracy Rally in Sitapur
Addressing a huge 'Save Democracy' rally on 17 June at Hargaon in Sitapur district, UP, CPI (ML) General Secretary Com. Dipankar Bhattacharya hailed people's resistance to the Modi Government's offensive on all sections of society. Comrade Dipankar asked how Modi can claim faith in Ambedkar when the Sangh is inspired and run by Manuwadi ideology, whereas Babasaheb was for the annihilation of caste? Ambedkar said, "Educate, organize, agitate". The Sangh and BJP are not allowing the people to be educated and if people get organized, but today, education, struggle and agitation are being termed anti-national and students and youth are being thrown in jail. Now the students, youth, and intellectuals of this country must come to a resolution and give a fitting reply to BJP's attempts to spread communal hatred, strengthen casteism, and crush struggles; this can be opposed only by walking the path of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar.
The meeting was conducted by RYA State President Com. Rakesh Singh. Through his address on the occasion of the Party's 2-day meeting in Hargaon, Com. Dipankar launched the CPI (ML)'s campaign for the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
CPI (ML) Protests against 100% FDI in 15 key sectors
From the claims of being 'opposed to FDI till last breath' while UPA was in power, the Modi government made a complete U-turn as it announced Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reforms by relaxing norms across 15 sectors including defence, banking, pharmaceuticals, construction, broadcasting and civil aviation. Condemning this unabashed sell out of the country's interests, CPI (ML) organised protests at many places.
In Delhi, AISA, AICCTU, RYA and CPI (ML) protested at Jantar Mantar on 22 June. The protestors held placards that read- "India is not for sale" and "Take back FDI (Final Death to India)". In Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, hundreds of people joined the anti-FDI protest in Tenali. On 25 June, protests were held in Siliguri. In Bindukhatta, a protest was held at Car Road Chowk on 24 June. The protestors also burnt the effigy of the Modi government.
Contract and Honorarium Workers' State Convention in Patna
A State level convention was organized on 20 June 2016 in Patna by the Bihar Rajya Anubandh-Maandeya-Niyojit Sewakarmi Sanyukt Morcha (joint platform of incentive-honorarium-based workers in Bihar) in which school mid-day meal cooks participated in large numbers. The Convention was addressed by AICCTU State General Secretary, Com. RN Thakur. Sanyukt Morcha General Secretary, Com. Shivshankar Prasad read out a manifesto of struggle. AICCTU National Secretary Com. Anil Verma called to make the 2 September All India Strike a success. Bihar State Vidyalaya Rasoiya Sangh President Com. Saroj Chaube condemned the proposed privatization of the midday meal scheme, the attack on educational institutions, and the corruption in the Bihar education system. The convention passed a resolution demanding a rollback of the decision to hand over the midday meal scheme to NGOs and absorbing the workers of Mahila Samakhya societies (which have been closed down) into other departments, and appealing for the total success of the 2 September countrywide strike.
CPI (ML)'s Initiatives in Drought-Affected
7 districts- Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Banda, Mahoba and Hamirpur of Jhansi and Chitrakootdham divisions in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh are severely drought-affected and farmers' suicides are on the increase with the grave agrarian crisis.
A team of representatives from left parties including CPI (ML) visited the affected areas in the region on 9-10 May to take stock of the situation. A report was prepared and appointment was sought from the Chief Minister of UP, Akhilesh Yadav so that the report could be shared with him, but a meeting with CM was denied. CPI (ML) thereafter decided to go ahead and take the following initiatives:
A 2-day hunger strike led by CPI (ML) Bundelkhand in-charge, Com. Ramesh Sengar was organized at the Chitrakootdham Block HQ (Banda) on 8 and 9 June against the continuing farmers' suicides and the government's apathy and non-accountability in the matter. Several other Party leaders and activists also sat on hunger strike during the protest. It was resolved that on 12 July large numbers of farmers would submit a loan-waiver application to the Prime Minister through the Collector.
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha held a fortnight-long campaign among farmers of Jalaun district in Jhansi Mandal to focus on the following issues: loan waiver; crop loss compensation; crop insurance payment; registration of sharecroppers; incentive amounts for sowing the coming kharif and rabi crops; stopping illegal mining; need to spend 50% of revenue from minerals on Bundelkhand; construction of a dam on River Panchnada; Antyodaya and BPL cards and free food grains to be provided to all poor; and provision for MNREGA work as per needs and immediate payment of wages. A farmers' 'Hunkar conference' was held on 4 June in Muswariya village in Mahewa block. It was declared at the conference that farmers in thousands would submit a loan waiver petition to the Prime Minister through the District Collector.
A determined struggle by midday meal workers in Jharkhand
Jharkhand Pradesh Vidyalaya Rasoiya Sanyojika Sangh have been holding an indefinite dharna protest since 8 June 2016 in front of the Raj Bhavan with a 36 point charter of demands. Some of the main demands are: revoking of the Jharkhand government's decision to hand over midday meal arrangements to private companies; monthly salary for all midday meal workers at the rate of Rs 235 per day; and immediate payment of one year's arrears due to them. The current honorarium Rs 1500 but they are being paid only Rs 1000. The protestors are demanding that these arrears be paid without delay after proper enquiry and that the honorarium amount be increased in view of spiraling prices. Midday meal workers should also get free medical treatment and maternity leave.
The dharna was started on 8 June by over 1000 midday meal workers from 7 blocks in Hazaribagh district, 4 blocks in Ramgarh district, and 5 blocks in Ranchi district, after which large groups continued to join the dharnas daily from several blocks in various districts. Till 16 June, around 20,000 workers had joined the dharna from 13 districts.
In 2014 and 2015 CPI (ML) MLA Rajkumar Yadav addressed their protests twice and raised the issue of their demands in the Assembly with some positive results; they got reassurances every time, and in 2015 there was an announcement of increase in honorarium, though it has not yet been implemented.
On 17 June talks were held between the Director (midday meal scheme) and a 5-member delegation representing the union. Though the talks remained unproductive, the delegation was told that there are no plans to privatize the midday meal arrangements. They said that apart from plans to hand over the arrangements to private companies in a few selected schools in Ranchi and Bokaro, the present system would continue in all other districts and rural zones. However, the talks failed to yield any results on the union's demands. Thereafter it was decided to stage road jams in about 10 places in Ranchi city on 22 June to build pressure on the administration and the government. By the night of 21 June, thousands of workers had reached Ranchi. CPI (ML) Ranchi unit made joint preparations with the agitators for the road jam. At about 11 pm on 21 June, a proposal for talks with the State Education Secretary at 9 am on 22 June was sent through the SDO. Administration sensed that the scene was set for a spirited and challenging agitation, and hence, positive talks could be held. The gist of the assurances given by the Education Secretary are as follows: as of now, the Cabinet decision to privatize the midday meals would not be implemented, and status quo would be maintained in the jobs of Rasoiyas, Sanyojikas and Adhyakshs; Rs 1500 honorarium for Rasoiyas would be implemented without delay; all possible efforts would be made to meet the other demands and the question of increasing wages and making them equal to those in Karnataka would be considered.
Observed in Gwalior
To mark the 41st anniversary of imposition of emergency by the Congress government headed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, a one day anti-emergency dharna was organized in Gwalior on 26 June. The dharna called through the initiative taken by CPI (ML) saw the participation of several leaders from various left parties. The leaders also pointed out the attacks on democracy which were being unleashed regularly by the BJP led government at the centre and the state. The attacks on people's freedom, right to dissent and their struggles today are also indicative of an undeclared emergency. Among others, CPI (ML) leaders Com. Vinod Rawat and Com. Gurudutt Sharma also addressed the joint left dharna.
CPI (ML)'s initiatives demanding compensation after five people get crushed under dump truck in Bagodar
Seven persons, of whom five were from the same family, were crushed to death by a dump truck on the night of 19 June at Chiknibad in Birni block of the Bagodar Assembly constituency. On hearing the news, former MLA from CPI (ML), Com. Vinod Kumar Singh (who is currently out of Jharkhand) spoke to officials including the Deputy Commissioner of Giridih and the Chief Minister demanding that this incident should not be classed as an ordinary accident but should be recognized as a disaster and the families of the victims compensated accordingly. Subsequently, the advisor to the Chief Minister called the former MLA and told him that the government would give Rs 1 lakh as compensation to the dependents of each victim. After the incident, CPI (ML) leader and other local leaders remained at the spot and were joined in a road jam the next morning by Rajdhanwar CPI (ML) Com. MLA Rajkumar Yadav and other party leaders. They put pressure on the administration and made them agree to an additional Rs 20,000 as compensation above the 1 lakh announced and also allotment of houses under the Indira Awas Yojana for the victims' families. It is unfortunate that even after such a big accident, the Bagodar MLA Nagendra Mahto did not visit the spot. The CPI (ML) will also agitate to secure compensation for the victims' families from the owner of the dump truck and demand that the administration takes adequate steps to ensure safety in this rural area.
Com. Jamuna Prasad Aatreya
Com. Jamuna Prasad Aatreya from Chhapra (Bihar) passed away on 4 June 2016 at the age of 95. He was a Class IV government employee and a dedicated activist and leader of workers' struggles. He was first with the CPI-M. He joined the CPI (ML) in 1988 and remained lifelong a dedicated and spirited Party activist. After retirement from government service he worked as the CPI (ML) Chhapra district Party in-charge from 1995 to 2000. Activists from the CPI (ML) and the Karmchari Mahasangh attended his last rites in large numbers. Red Salute to Com. Jamuna Prasad!
Red Salute to Comrade Madhavi Sarkar
Communist leader Comrade Madhavi Sarkar passed away on 14th June after a tough illness.
Madhavi was born on 10 October 1957. Her father Comrade Harendra Bose was a freedom fighter and one of the founders of the Communist Party in Purnea. Brought up from childhood in a family of Communists, her dedication to the red flag was boundless. She also played an important role in bringing Comrade Ajit Sarkar (who had been in the Youth Congress) into the communist movement. Comrade Ajit Sarkar, a CPIM MLA, was martyred on 14 June 1998 by the local landlord-criminal-political nexus led by Pappu Yadav.
Com. Madhavi was a teacher. The CPI-M fielded her as their candidate when by-elections were held in Purnea after the martyrdom of Comrade Ajit Sarkar; she won the by-election and became the MLA from Purnea Sadar. She lost the general election.
Her seriousness in pursuing the cause of justice for Comrade Ajit Sarkar drew her towards the CPI (ML). She joined the Party in 2004, was fielded as a CPI (ML) candidate from the Purnea Lok Sabha seat. She fought the 2005 Assembly elections and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as a CPI (ML) candidate.
In the 2010 Assembly election Com. Madhavi's son Amit Sarkar stood from Purnea as the CPI-M candidate, and the CPI(ML) gave him unconditional support.
She breathed her last on the 18th anniversary of Com. Ajit Sarkar's death, 14 June 2016. She is survived by her two daughters and her son.
Com. Madhavi was a spirited and fearless Communist leader dedicated to the poor. Red salute to Comrade Madhavi!
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org