[Marxism] ML International Newsletter: November-December 2005 (plain text)

CPI (ML) Intl Liaison Office cpiml_elo at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 29 19:10:02 MDT 2005


ML International Newsletter
November-December 2005

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An update on news and ideas from the revolutionary
left in India. 
Produced by: Communist Party of India
(Marxist-Leninist) Liberation international team 
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Website: www.cpiml.org
Email: cpimllib at bol.net.in and cpiml_elo at yahoo.com

Table of Contents

1)	Successful All-India Workers’ Strike 
2)	Gate Gourmet Struggle: Fighting Multinationals,
Racism and Anti-Union Laws
3)	Stop this Deadly Farce of Ceasefire
4)	Pakistan and India Earthquake: Kashmir Shaken,
Government Unstirred
5)	Pakistan and India Earthquake: Solidarity Message
6)	Hurricane Katrina: A Natural Disaster or a Disaster
that is the Capitalist State
7)	Ecuador: “Popular government is the only way
forward”
8)	Appeal to Health Care Professionals

Workers’ Struggle in India

Successful All-India Strike on September 29

- Rajiv Dimri

The September 29 All-India strike by the working class
called by the left trade unions including the
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
[CPI(ML)]-led All India Central Council of Trade
Unions (AICCTU) to demand a reversal of the United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's
pro-privatisation and anti-labour policies. This was a
historic success due to widespread support it received
from the people of India. This was the first action on
such a massive scale against the anti-people policies
of the UPA government at the Centre. These policies
are nothing but a continuation of the previous
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime's policies
and the success of the strike is also a continuation
of people's resentment expressed against the NDA in
the last general elections. This strike also exposed
the Congress' slogan of 'reform with a human face' and
sent a strong message that the working class in the
country will never tolerate the tilt in the policies
of the Congress towards Ambanis and America. 

The strike was total in all important states, as well
as all industrial establishments and financial
institutions. Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal,
Maharashtra, Kerala, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry
and many other states observed a total bandh. The
strike also received huge response from Central and
State government employees and employees of public
sector undertakings in coal, petroleum, banking,
insurance, airports, Post and Telegraph, Bharat
Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and health sectors. There
was a good participation from various unorganised
sectors like agricultural workers, tea garden workers,
construction workers, powerloom and handloom workers.
It was also a huge success in Gurgaon, which recently
witnessed barbaric police repression on Honda factory
workers. Let September 29 make it clear to the Indian
rulers and their imperialist bosses that India cannot
be steamrolled into neo-colonial subjugation. The
writing on the wall should be clear and bold enough
for the UPA government which is following in the
footsteps of the ousted NDA regime.

AICCTU's Role in the Strike – Some Details 
Assam: AICCTU unions played the leading role in
closure of tea gardens and oil sector enterprises in
Bardoloi and Margereta. Several AICCTU comrades were
arrested at several places including 100 in Guwahati.
Leaders and activists of AICCTU including AICCTU State
President Biren Kalita, Assistant Secretary Pankaj
Das, City Secretary Janik Barman, hundreds of Tea
workers and AISA State Secretary Balindra Saikia were
arrested at different places including Guwahati,
Nagaon, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tinsukia. Assam State
Power Workers Union took active part in the general
strike and leaders and activists including Working
President Ajoy Rajkonwar and Vice-President Gojen Das
were arrested. In support of General Strike 'Asom
Sangrami Chah Shramik Sangh' (ASCSS) affiliated to
AICCTU called a Garden Bandh and many tea gardens in
the state remained closed. At some places, joint
programmes with other left unions took place. Assam
witnessed a bandh-like situation with all the major
sectors including govt. employees and transport
workers going on strike. 
Bihar: The strike call was a success as banks,
insurance, income tax and other offices remained
closed. Bihar Non-Gazetted Employees Association (Gope
wing) took out a torch-light procession on the eve of
the strike. AICCTU also held processions in Patna,
Nalanda, Gaya, Bhagalpur, Hazipur, etc. and AICCTU
affiliated unions participated in the strike with full
vigour. Beedi workers in Nalanda and construction
workers in Biharsharif took part in the strike. 
Delhi: In Delhi, AICCTU organized rallies in a
decentralized manner in the different industrial areas
of Delhi. AICCTU also organised successful dharnas at
Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) headquarters and
Indraprastha Estate. Hundreds of workers under the
banner of AICCTU and CPI (ML) gathered at the
Patparganj Industrial Area early in the morning,
picketing and demonstrating against the anti-people
policies of the UPA government. The demonstration was
led by the All India Progressive Women's Association
General Secretary Kumudini Pati, All India General
Kamgar Union (AIGKU) General Secretary V.K.S. Gautam
and CPI (ML) East Delhi, District Secretary, Amar Nath
Tewari. In the Jhilmil Industrial Area, hundreds of
AICCTU activists blocked the streets for hours. The
rally was led by AICCTU area secretary Ram Abhilash.
In the Narela Industrial Area, hundreds of workers
under the leadership of Surendra Panchal, AICCTU State
Committee member gathered near the Narela Police
Station and marched towards the industrial area. The
militant picketing and demonstration continued for
hours. In the Okhla Industrial Area, workers from the
various industries joined the rally led by AICCTU,
AIGKU, DTC Workers' Unity Centre and IPSS Mazdoor
Union. The procession started from Kalkaji DTC Depot
and proceeded to the Okhla Industrial Area. The Rally
was led by Mr. N.M.Thomas (State President AICCTU),
Mr. Santosh Roy (State Secretary, AICCTU), Mr.
Roopnarayan (Vice-President, AIGKU), Mr. Premchand
(Area Secretary, CPIML) and others. At DTC
headquarters hundreds of DTC workers under the banner
of DTC Workers' Unity Centre held a protest dharna. 
Jharkhand: Led by the AICCTU General Secretary Com.
Swapan Mukherjee, the union affiliated to AICCTU in
the coal sector organised complete strike in BCCL and
ECL subsidiaries. Rail roko at Kumardhubi station for
3 hours and G.T. Road blockade for 6 hours were
organised. Demonstrators including Com. Swapan were
arrested. Effigies of Manmohan and Bush were burnt.
Hazaribagh and Ranchi observed bandh with the
participation of state govt. employees. 
Maharashtra: Our comrades from Lal Nishan Party(L),
under the banner of Maharashtra Rajya Sarvashramik
Mahasangha, went all out to organise strike in their
strongholds like Pune, Mumbai, Aurangabad and
Kolhapur, involving sectors like corporation
employees, transport, factories, mills, agricultural
workers etc. The strike was very successful in
general. 
Pondicherry: Successful strike was organized in
industries of our work like Hindustan lever, Indian
Oil Bottling Plant and LPG delivery unit. Rail roko
and road blockade were organised  and 150 comrades
were arrested. There was a complete bandh in
Pondicherry. 
Punjab: In Punjab, rail track was blocked in Mansa by
agrarian workers and peasants in support of the
strike. This was led by CPI(ML) State Secretary
Rajwinder Rana and BKU(Ekta) leader Ruldu Singh.
Later, other left organisations came to join the
blockade. 
Tamil Nadu: Workers under AICCTU leadership went
around for imposing the strike and in process were
arrested in hundreds at several places like
Kumarapallayam, Pallipallayam, Salem, Chennai,
Trinulvelli, Kanchipuram.etc. The powerloom,
construction and industrial workers came out in large
numbers. 
Rajasthan: In Jaipur, a joint rally of around 1000
workers was held. 
Uttranchal: In Haldwani, the employees of bank and
insurance companies were on strike and took out a
march which was addressed by CPI (ML) Com. Raja
Bahuguna and Bahadur Singh Jangi. 
Uttar Pradesh: A rally of around 700 workers was
organized in Lucknow by AICCTU and it was addressed by
Coms. Chandrabhan, Ajanta Lohit, Tahira Hassan and
Shobha Singh. In Kanpur, the strike was organised in
industrial areas like Dada Nagar, Panki and Jajmau. A
rally was held too. Rallies were held in Allahabad and
Varanasi and Anpara (Robertsganj). A sit-in was held
in Sonebhadra industrial area. In Obra and Anpara,
AICCTU and CPI (ML) held a dharna to highlight the
electricity privatisation in UP. A dharna in
Sonebhadra industrial area was also organised besides
block level demonstrations in the district. In
Pilibhit, around 500 CPI (ML) activists joined the
rally of bank and insurance employees and medical
representatives and organised a chakka-jam. Nearly
thirty activists were arrested. A road blockade was
organised in Gazipur and marches were held at
Chandauli, Mirzapur and Unnao. 
West Bengal: A general bandh was held. Our comrades
did picketing at several places including 24 Parganas,
Siliguri, Hooghly, and Kolkata.


Gate Gourmet Struggle

Fighting Multinationals, Racism and Anti-Union Laws

- Amrit Wilson

On the bank of a motorway known as Beacon Hill, in the
no-man’s land of warehouses, factories and tunnels
surrounding Heathrow airport’s Terminal 4 building,
about 200 South Asian women and men mostly in their
40s and 50s – sacked workers of the Gate Gourmet
factory – are gathered in the first mass picket in 4
weeks. Hailed by the more progressive sections of the
British press as a particularly inspiring industrial
struggle, the dispute vanished from the headlines
after their union, the Transport and General Workers
Union (TGWU) announced on 27 September that a deal had
been agreed. However the deal though presented as a
victory was no such thing. Of 670 workers locked out,
144 were forcibly made redundant and 7 were to remain
sacked with no compensation. On Beacon Hill today, a
month later, no one has any further information, ‘none
of us’ the protesters say bitterly ‘knows who is to be
offered their jobs back, who will face compulsory
redundancy and who will be simply sacked. Meanwhile we
and our families have to survive on £50 a week’ (the
meagre statutory minimum hardship money provided by
the union).   

Meanwhile Gate Gourmet is back in business using cheap
non-unionised labour though output has had to be
slightly reduced. An American company with its
headquarters in Switzerland, Gate Gourmet is the
world’s largest supplier of in-flight meals and
operates in over 29 countries. Although the company
has been showing a loss in its UK branch, and using
this to justify its attacks on workers’ rights,
internationally the company has been making profits of
£1.05bn and has assets of £15 billion. In 2002 it was
taken over by the Texas Pacific group, which owns
Burger King. David Segal, the owner and chairman of
Gate Gourmet worldwide has a history of trying to
smash unions in Texas. 

Although the British press has commented ad nauseum on
the ‘unusual sight of women in saris in primary
colours’ on Beacon Hill, the Gate Gourmet dispute is
the latest in a long series of struggles waged by
Asian women workers in Britain. The best known was the
1978 Grunwick strike in which thousands of supporters
flocked to the picket line from across the country
only for it to be betrayed by the union leadership. It
was followed by Thatcher’s notorious anti-union laws
banning sympathy strikes and mass pickets. These laws,
unique in the EU, have remained in place despite the
fact that they have been condemned by the
International Labour Organization (ILO). They have
meant that few industrial struggles particularly those
of low paid workers in small workplaces have been
winnable.

The Gate Gourmet dispute is a first in this respect.
1000 British Airways workers went on a one-day
sympathy strike in support of their colleagues in Gate
Gourmet bringing the airport to a standstill. Three of
these workers too are currently suspended. On Beacon
Hill the women, many of them mothers and grandmothers
who are the sole wage earners of their families,
recount their experiences at Gate Gourmet. Many of
them had worked for Gate Gourmet for seven years or
more. Their wages were on average between £6.00 and
£7.00 an hour. 

In January this year the management, who had awarded
themselves a 30% pay rise told them that they were
planning to make 670 people redundant because they
were ‘surplus’. Despite the management’s claims that
they had ‘surplus’ workers, on 9 August they were told
that 130 agency workers were to be employed from the
next day onwards. At 9 am on 10 August, when these
agency workers were brought in, they stopped work and
went to the canteen for a union meeting. The
management told them they had five minutes to go back
to work otherwise they would be dismissed. When they
said they would wait for their union officials,
dismissal letters in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati
and English, obviously prepared in advance, were
thrown on to the tables at which they were sitting.  

Meanwhile, about two hundred and fifty security guards
and armed police, including a van load with police
dogs had entered the premises. The doors of the
canteen were locked and no one was allowed to leave.
They were not allowed any food or water or access to
toilets for the next six hours. They were surrounded
by police and security guards who stood linking arms.
Several of them were physically dragged out by
security guards leading to injuries to their backs and
necks, others suffered panic attacks when security
guards tried to grab their ID cards and locker keys.

Their experiences demonstrate the shape of struggles
to come - the brutality of the management and its
total confidence that it can break established
practices and basic laws as well as the effects of the
fragmentation of the airport workforce who may have
once all had the same employer but are now divided
among a variety of multinational corporations. There
is however continuity in the racism and sexism and the
contempt for low-paid workers displayed not only by
the management but by the well-heeled union officials
– Tony Woodley the £80,000 a year head of the TGWU
announced back in September that he was anxious to
close a deal and end a dispute which was
inconveniencing British Airways.

But the dispute also demonstrates the possibilities
for international solidarity – workers at the US
branch of Gate Gourmet and supporters across the world
have collected huge sums of money for the British
workers in dispute. Sadly this – paid into the TGWU
hardship funds is now nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile
the trade union leadership have at last called for a
repeal of the anti-union laws banning sympathy strikes
and secondary actions. Is this mere rhetoric, played
out in fruitless negotiations with the Labour Party or
will it be put into action by a workers movement? What
is not in doubt is the fighting spirit of the workers
themselves. Having braved several weeks on Beacon Hill
they are now broadening their support base and
planning a demonstration on Tony Blair’s doorstep.

Karbi Anglong Struggle

Stop this Deadly Farce of Ceasefire

- Liberation, November, 2005.

The present round of clashes had already been going on
for nearly a month, but it took the horrifying 17
October killing of nearly 40 innocent people for New
Delhi to take notice and pull up the State government.
 Even then the latter did little beyond taking routine
administrative steps like imposition of curfew and
deployment of the army. By that time, according to
official estimates, more than 1000 houses were burned
down in 43 villages in Karbi Anglong district, and a
total of 77 people had lost their lives with hundreds
more maimed. While both the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD)
and the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS)
have engaged in arson and killings and both
communities have suffered, mainly the Karbis are on
the receiving end.  Around 50,000 Karbi men, women and
children have been crammed together in 49 refugee
camps that are being maintained mainly by CPI (ML)
cadres in the face of utter official apathy. 

The scale of criminal callousness of the Indian state
becomes all the more glaring when one remembers the
backdrop to the recent bloodletting.  This is the
third such inter-tribal group clash in the region in
30 months since April 2003. Dimasa-Hmar bloody
conflict which was followed by Karbi-Kuki clashes, and
yet, even after both the DHD and the UPDS openly
declared war against each other in press conferences
early this month, the State government remained a mute
spectator.  So did the joint monitoring group –
comprising top officials from the State as well as
central governments – that was set up precisely to
keep a constant vigil and prevent such incidents.

But is it simply a case of failure on the part of the
governments? Or is there a deliberate political
design? The question arises because the armed outfits
on collision course are not even semi-underground
ones. Their leaders stay in known residences and meet
ministers.  Their armed cadres operate brick kilns and
other businesses, move about in vehicles, go to banks
and wherever they wish to and indulge in extortions
with impunity, even though the ceasefire agreements
stipulate that they must stay in the designated camps.
 They are allowed to move freely even during curfew
hours, as the Assam governor saw for himself in a
surprise visit to one of the camps very recently. 
This was a clear and impermissible violation of the
ceasefire ground rules, he declared. 

Not to allow such violation was and remains a
necessity, but more is needed.  There must be an
immediate and thorough revision of the "ground rules",
through democratic consultations, in the light of
nearly four years of experience that is far from
satisfactory.  Only one designated camp should be
allowed for each outfit (not more, as at present) and
that too only in the core area for the concerned
tribe, i.e., the area exclusively or densely populated
by them.  This will help reduce mutual antagonism and
chances of confrontation; and also make monitoring
easier. 

However, these are but urgent interim measures to be
adopted during ceasefire, which by definition can only
be a short-term arrangement pending a real long-term
solution.  Ceasefire, when stretched indefinitely,
only invites more fire.  What the people of Karbi
Anglong and NC Hills really need is a time-bound plan
for the fulfillment of their democratic aspirations
and political demands. And the best way to ensure that
is to honour the national commitment given to them way
back in 1969 in the shape of Article 244A of the
constitution, i.e., to constitute an autonomous State
within the State of Assam. But this, or any other
political solution for that matter, is the last thing
the rulers in Dispur and Delhi are prepared to
concede.  The ruling parties, having little foothold
in the region, have been using the militant outfits
from the very beginning for electoral gains and other
political ends. They would continue to do so as long
as they can.  Worst of all, the State government has
started raising the bogey of a 'red army' allegedly
led by CPI (ML) leader and ex-MP Jayant Rongpi.  This
is a heinous attempt by a failed and discredited chief
minister to pass off the blame to the party and the
people's leader that have long symbolised the
fraternal unity of Karbi, Dimasa and other tribes – a
party and a leader that have been leading the mass
movement for the attainment of their cherished aim of
autonomous state in the most democratic, peaceful way.
More, this is a nasty design to further destabilise
the entire region to serve the vested interests.  It
is the bounden duty of all lovers of peace and
democracy throughout the country to crush this
conspiracy and stand by our bleeding brothers and
sisters in this hour of man made crisis.
Pakistan and India Earthquake

Kashmir Shaken, Government Unstirred

– Sundaram

For half a century two of the poorest countries in the
world have fought four wars, spent billions of dollars
on sophisticated arms and even engaged in a
potentially catastrophic nuclear weapons race. All
this, over the tormented land of Kashmir. 

And yet on October 8, when a terrible 7.6 magnitude
earthquake killed over 79,000 (and still counting)
Kashmiris on both sides of the disputed border neither
the Indian nor Pakistani governments could muster the
basic equipment, people or political will to save
lives and treat the wounded.

All of a sudden it has become very clear that Kashmir,
hitherto painted by both countries as an issue of
national honour and integrity, is not about Kashmiris
at all. It is a property dispute between the elites
who run Delhi and Islamabad and the tenants who live
on the real estate be damned. If they all die of
conflict, natural disasters and neglect so be it! 

Even as I write right now there are over 3 million
homeless people stranded out there in the cold,
mourning their lost ones, hungry and without shelter
or help. In a couple of weeks, many parts of this
mountainous territory, already cut off by landslides
triggered by the quake will become unapproachable due
to severe winter with horrendous consequences for the
people. 

Aid workers who have reached some of the remote
villages and towns in Kashmir report a complete
absence of any aid or relief to affected people some
of whom are yet to bury their dead a full two weeks
after the disaster. 

Aid workers fear casualties will rise because
communities without adequate food, shelter or health
care will soon face the harsh Himalayan winter. Snow
already has begun to fall in high mountains, and some
villages already have freezing temperatures at night. 

The U.N. Children's Fund said as many as 120,000
children remained without access to aid and warned
that 10,000 could die from hypothermia, hunger and
disease in coming weeks if no relief reached them 
So far the US government, fighting its illegal,
occupational war against the Taliban in Afghanistan,
has dispatched a mere 8 helicopters to help with the
rescue and relief efforts. NATO too has troops in
Afghanistan and if it chooses to can send them over to
help with what is already being described as the
world's toughest post-disaster relief challenge. 

But before one seeks help from either the US or NATO
nobody seems to be asking the question about what ever
happened to all those fantastic flying objects that
India and Pakistan have been buying all these years?
Just in March this year the United States finally
cleared for sale two dozen F-16 fighter jet planes
that Pakistan had paid for over US$600 million long
ago but was denied delivery due to its pursuit of
nuclear arms. And when the Indians got upset over it
the world's lonely superpower coolly made an offer to
sell the same to them also-at a very cheap US$50
million a plane.

And yet when the prestigious Margalla Towers in
central Islamabad collapsed in the recent quake they
could not find even an earthmover to clear the rubble
for the first three hours! One can imagine what the
relief operations must be like in the tough,
inaccessible and mountainous terrain of Kashmir on
both sides of the border. 

Both India and Pakistan are among the biggest spenders
on arms in the world and the excuse both have
essentially for such indulgence is the 'Kashmir
dispute'. India has the third largest defense budget
on the planet, calculated in terms of the purchasing
power of its currency and currently spends more than
US$100 billion on defense every year. 

Much of the recent increase in India's military
spending is attributable to highly expensive weapons
systems, including an aircraft carrier, submarines,
multiple rocket launchers, airplane-based radar
systems, mid-air refuellers, light helicopters, and
artillery guns. 

Pakistan's defense spending, though smaller in total
terms, is bigger per capita and as a share of its
economy, making it the fifteenth-biggest defense
spender in the world. 

Needless to say, both countries also rank extremely
low globally in terms of how much they spend on the
welfare of their populations. The United Nations
Development Program's 2004 Human Development Report
places India at number 127 out of a total of 177
nations, while Pakistan is at an even more dismal 142.

The unwillingness of both the Indian and Pakistani
governments to use all their resources to save the
tragedy struck people of Kashmir in their greatest
hour of need clearly exposes the fact that the
'nation' for them does not mean living people but only
dead money and property. Both governments have made
much of their 'noble intentions' in opening up the
Line of Control to Kashmiris crossing borders to help
their brethren but this is a pitifully inadequate
gimmick in the face of the enormous effort that is
required to save the Kashmiri people. 

It is time for the citizens of both countries to wake
up to the horrible designs of their rulers and give
them a fitting response that will change the face of
the subcontinent forever. 

Pakistan and India Earthquake

Solidarity Message

The General Secretary,
The Labour Party of Pakistan &
The General Secretary,
Communist Party of Pakistan.
 
Comrades,
 
The biggest natural disaster of South Asia has
paralyzed the entire Kashmir region. The massive
earthquake has caused very high loss of lives and
enormous damage in both Pakistan and India as well as
across the sub-continent, including Afghanistan. Its
death toll is the highest in Pakistan, Kashmir and
North West Frontier Province (NWFP). It has destroyed
villages and towns leaving several thousand dead and
injured.
 
We express our condolences to those who lost their
beloved and express our wishes for early recovery of
the injured.
 
Together with you, we feel the grief as well as the
common responsibility and we do share the agony of the
peoples of Pakistan and the divided Kashmir. And also
their anger against the governments of both India and
Pakistan for their irresponsibility and insensitivity
towards the peoples' lives expressed in the inability
to provide urgent and adequate relief and
rehabilitation.
 
On behalf of the entire membership of our Party and
the people of India, the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
wholeheartedly offers fullest cooperation and extends
all possible help to carry out the mission of rescue,
relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and prevention
of epidemic diseases promptly.
 
We firmly believe that turning the grief into
determination, the courageous peoples of Pakistan and
the whole of Kashmir shall overcome this great tragedy
unitedly and win the war against death, disease and
destruction with international people’s solidarity and
support.
 
Comradely yours,
 
P.V.Srinivas 
For the Central Committee
CPI (ML) Liberation
Hurricane Katrina

A Natural Disaster or a Disaster that is the
Capitalist State

- PB  

Hurricane Katrina struck the USA’s Gulf coast on
August 29 flooding and decimating houses and
destroying infrastructure in the states of Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama. The city of New Orleans was
deluged. Two weeks later, the death toll was estimated
to be in thousands and 2, 500 children were missing.
Approximately, 140,000-160,000 houses have been
submerged or ruined [1] and initial loss estimates
could reach $125 billion, with insured losses of
between $40 billion and $60 billion [2]. 

For 4 days after the hurricane the government had not
provided almost any assistance to the people. While
President Bush was raising money from the wealthy,
Vice President Cheney was on vacation, and Secretary
of State Rice was buying $ 7000/pair shoes, thousands
of people were suffering and dying. The President of
Jefferson Parish in Louisiana broke down into tears
during a live interview and said, "The aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of
the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil
ever in US history." Paradoxically the corporate
media, for a few days, showed startling images and
reports and statements such as “US handles the crisis
like a third world country.” This shook the ruling
elite as the ratings for the President reached the
lowest ever and the US consumer confidence plummeted
to a 10 year low. 

The Capitalist State is Failing the People 
Bush has said that the destruction of New Orleans
could not be anticipated. Lies! For years federal
emergency management agency (FEMA) had categorized New
Orleans as a top three potential catastrophe. In 2001
the Scientific American wrote, “New Orleans is a
disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea
level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake
Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River
to the south and west. And because of a damning
confluence of factors, the city is sinking further,
putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor
storms.” The oil, gas and shipping industries along
with the government had been “levying rivers, draining
wetlands, dredging channels and cutting canals through
marshes” [3]. Since the “1950s [army] engineers have
also cut more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometres) of
canals through the marsh for petroleum exploration and
ship traffic” [4]. Property developers also
contributed to the destruction of 1 million acres of
coastal marshland, the natural protection against
flooding, around New Orleans [5]. The levees that
protected New Orleans were in a state of disrepair
because of the major funding cuts. What was also known
was that New Orleans had a 67% African-American
population with the average adult income in some city
parishes under $8,000 a year while the average
national income being $33,000. In total, 27% of the
population lived below the poverty line in New
Orleans. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast making
landfall very close to New Orleans, the socio-economic
and environmental factors exacerbated the impact. The
levees burst flooding the city in 20 ft of water. As
the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Trapped between three
cascades of water were the neighbourhoods of the Lower
Ninth Ward, where nearly 14,000 African Americans
lived, a third of whom owned no vehicle and a third of
whom had physical disabilities.” “To the north, water
poured through Black and Vietnamese neighborhoods
closer to Lake Pontchartrain, where another 96,000
people lived ... large numbers of those people had not
evacuated” [6]. According to reports, 100, 000
Mexicans and 200, 000 migrants from Central America
were in the area. The poor, immigrants, infirm, and
people without cars were the worst affected as in New
Orleans, 24% of adults were disabled and 50,000
households did not have cars [7]. Since the government
hardly helped people with transportation and the
vulnerable lacked the means to evacuate from the city,
they took the brunt of the storm induced flooding.    

The people who were lucky to survive and escape to the
convention centre or the Superdome were subjected to
racism. They were packed like cattle and in interviews
they asked, "why are we being treated like animals?"
Even the financial press admitted, “Katrina laid bare
America’s class divide, as better-off residents
escaped New Orleans while poor blacks suffered in the
city’s stinking Superdome” [8]. In the absence of
food, water and medicine, and surrounded by sewage and
cadaver filled waters, when people were forced to
break into stores they were labeled as looters. Now
almost the entire city of New Orleans has been
evacuated and it is estimated that about 1 million
people will be homeless for months or more. 

The most predicted disaster turned into a catastrophe
because of government’s minimal and haphazard
evacuation despite a precise forecast 56 hours before
the hurricane struck. The state’s hands were also tied
because 40% of the Louisiana National Guard is in
Iraq. Cuba, whose offer to send 1156 doctors was
rejected, on the other hand had in 2004 evacuated 1.5
million people. Its hurricane evacuation of about 10%
of its population without a single death had been
possible because of neighborhood committees and
Communist cadres [9]. This comparison is quite
telling.   

The Vultures are Feasting
The national outrage that followed the Gulf Coast
catastrophe forced Bush to give $ 62.3 billion, which
is estimated to increase to $ 200 billion, to
‘rebuild’ the area. Soon after the announcement the
Army Corps of Engineers received 6, 300 calls from
contractors. For the capitalist vultures who feed on
human suffering another feast has begun. With most
people evacuated the Gulf Coast now has around 70, 000
troops. Firms close to Homeland Security and Pentagon
have already received hundreds of millions of no-bid
contracts. Blackwater Security, the private militia
which is also ‘helping’ in Iraq, is patrolling the
streets of New Orleans while the likes of Halliburton
enjoy the feast. Bush also issued an executive order
that suspended the depression era Davis-Bacon Act,
which led to higher wages on all federal contracts,
making the deal sweeter for these corporations [10]. 

The government was surprised to see that the normally
compliant media was stating the facts for a few days.
Tony Blair was shocked that BBC’s coverage of the
hurricane was “full of hatred of America.” Bush and
Blair are ensuring that the media is back to its job
of building consent amongst the US public. 

The People are Resisting
The failure of the capitalist state in preventing the
loss of life and suffering in New Orleans has once
again unmasked its true nature. When a small country
with a 45 year embargo like Cuba can evacuate more
than a million people without a single casualty, then
how can the richest and most powerful country not
defend its own people? The outrage is not just
national but international. Numerous protests have
been organized by the International Action Center and
other organizations with the theme of ‘Bush Lies—New
Orleans Dies—Money for Our Cities, Not for War’ and
‘Stop the War on Immigrants and the Poor.’  

As the US population gets more and more revulsed by
the imperial war abroad and war on the people’s
livelihood at home, nationwide protests are planned
for the coming months. In September, Troops Out Now
Coalition, ANSWER coalition and United for Peace and
Justice (UFPJ) have jointly called for a march on
Washington on September 24th. The Million Worker March
Movement has endorsed a call for the Million More
March in Washington in October. The people’s hurricane
opposing the imperialist wars and the war on the
working people is getting stronger. Are the rulers
ready for Hurricane People? 

References
1.	The Economist, “The way of Babylon?” September 8,
2005.
2.	The Financial Times, “Louisiana set for an epic
legal fight,” September 11, 2005.
3.	Fischetti, M., “Drowning New Orleans,” Scientific
American, October, 2001.
4.	Bourne, J. K., “Gone with the Water,” National
Geographic, October 2004. 
5.	The Economist, “A City Silenced,”  September 3,
2005. 
6.	As quoted in Goldstein, F., “Drowning New Orleans:
The putrid waters of capitalist politics,” Workers
World, September 11, 2005.
7.	The New York Times, “A Delicate Balance Is Undone
in a Flash, and a Battered City Waits,” September 4,
2005.
8.	The Economist, “Seeking a Cure for the Hurricane
Hangover,” September 16, 2005.
9.	Parenti, M, “How the Free Market Killed New
Orleans,” ZNet, September 3, 2005.
10.	Neidenberg, M., “Profiting from Pain: Corporate
gold-diggers head to Gulf region,” Workers World,
September 13, 2005.

Interview

Ecuador: “Popular government is the only way forward”

- Sundaram

In mid-April this year the Ecuadorian President Lucio
Gutirrez was ousted from power following days of
protest in the streets of the country’s major cities
and towns. Ironically, Gutirrez rode to power three
years ago on the back of a similar popular uprising
protesting against his predecessor’s neo-liberal
economic policies that have resulted in the
impoverishment of large sections of the population in
this oil and natural resources-rich country. Prior to
his election Gutirrez was even compared to Venezuela’s
Hugo Chavez and expected to implement pro-people
policies but to the horror of popular movements he
turned out to be a closet supporter of US Imperialism
and in his first act in office was to visit George
Bush Jr. at the White House! 

Following his removal from office by the Ecuadorian
parliament on popular demand (the third President to
be ousted in five years) Ecuador once again finds
itself with a transitional government, headed now by
Alfredo Palacio, a former health minister who broke
early with Gutirrez over differences in views over the
latter’s policies.

Sundaram interviewed Jose Izquierdo, a senior member
of the Communist Party of Ecuador (Marxist-Leninist)
[PCMLE] to talk about the future of Ecuadorian
politics as well as the interesting events under Hugo
Chavez in neighbouring Venezuela. Some excerpts:

The Movement against Lucio Gutirrez:
There was a mix of forces involved in the movement
against Lucio Gutirrez, including right-wing elements
who wanted to preserve the current system. They were
against Gutirrez government because of its failure to
counter the influence of left forces on popular
opinion and sentiments. 

Nevertheless, the overall social composition of the
anti-Gutirrez was dominated by democratic and
progressive elements. Our forces were present against
Gutirrez and we used the slogan of ‘Out Lucio-In
Popular Government’ which had a great deal of support
with the Ecuadorian population. This is because of the
past experience of the people that when unpopular
governments fall others replace them who are very
similar. 

In this context we proposed a general change to the
political system that found sympathy among a large
part of the public. But we also think that until mass
movements grow more there will still be this
phenomenon of governments changing within the rules
set by the bourgeoisie. 

We need to consider the participation of the army and
the US embassy, which were the principal supporters of
Gutirrez but who abandoned him as the crisis deepened.
They were more interested to demonstrate that the
constitutional system works and did not want anything
that would break it. 

On the new Ecuadorian government:
The new government is weak. They don't have
parliamentary bloc and very little support. The people
within the parliament who fought against Gutirrez did
so because they found him unable to serve their
purpose and not because of any pro-people outlook. 

Initially the Palacio government tried to gain popular
support and proposed a complete overhaul of the
previous government’s policies. For example they said
they are opposed to signing of a Free Trade Agreement
with the US, the setting up of a US army base at Manta
(in Ecuador) and are against Plan Colombia (a US
operation to fumigate large parts of forests along the
Ecuador-Colombia border ostensibly in the war against
narcotics but actually aimed at Marxist rebel groups
hiding in the forests). 

They have said that all these will be considered only
after popular consultation. The new President has also
taken positions against the rightwing government in
Colombia, called for closer relations with Hugo Chavez
and criticized US actions in Latin America. 

But under US pressure they have gone back on this
position and have been forced to submit to US
dictates. A very senior US government functionary
threatened to press for the derecognition of the new
Ecuadorian government by the Organisation of American
States (OAS) and very soon the Palacio adminstration
had to appease Washington.

Inside the country the new regime is still promoting
neo-liberal policies like the privatisation of
electricity. 

The role of the left forces:
We have called on the people to continue with their
movement to establish a popular government. We have
explained that the current government is linked to the
old oligarchy of Ecuador and to international capital.


We continue to fight against specific policies of the
government that are anti-people. Recently for example
they announced a new decree that prevents people from
accessing the money in their social security fund.
This money is being used by the government to cover
its financial deficit and we are mobilizing people
against this move.

We have insisted strongly on the need for a united
front of left and democratic forces against the
government. There are difficulties however because
CONAIE (an umbrella group of indigenous peoples
organizations) is quite weak right now and trade
unions are also divided on several issues. But we are
confident that step-by-step we can build unity among
various opposition forces.

Popular government: 
We have proposed the constitution of a popular
government that includes all the peoples movements
that ousted Lucio Gutirrez. These include
representatives of workers, indigenous people,
teachers unions, democratic elements like sections of
the Church that preach Liberation Theology and even
progressive sections of the military. 

The axis of the popular government will be its defence
of national sovereignty in all its aspects. It will
also work for democratic rights, participation of
people in governance and an economic programme that
will solve the problems of the poor. 

The popular government we are proposing is not a
revolutionary government to change the entire system.
This will be a democratic government with an
anti-imperialist agenda.

On the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela:
We think that the Venezuelan government has taken very
important positions on a number of issues. They have
given political attention to popular demands like
health and education and taken measures that affect
the landlords, ruling classes and foreign
multinational interests.

This is a government of open opposition to the US. We
don't think of it as a revolutionary government but as
a popular and democratic one. It is however in the
process of getting more radicalized through mass
participation. 

Chavez’s weakness lies in his political party, the
Movement for a Fifth Republic (MVR) which has elements
that range from the left and social-democratic forces
to even those with right wing positions. But there are
plenty of people still there with leftist positions. 

We have expressed our solidarity with the people and
government of Venezuela. Chavez wants to promote his
Bolivarian movement for unity in Latin America and has
organized the Bolivarian Congress of groups from
around the region. Though there is no unified
ideological axis in this Congress we nevertheless take
part in it. 

Chavez is now saying that socialism is the only
alternative and wants to create a Latin American
socialism, which is patriotic and anti-capitalist. 

On replication of the Venezuelan experience elsewhere:
Historically the Venezuelan military has had an
important influence on the people and some measure of
popular support. This is army is very special in all
of Latin America as it has always had some patriotic
and democratic elements within its ranks. This has not
been true anywhere else in Latin America. 

Chavez could come up with a democratic program and the
population supported him because the crisis of the
bourgeois parties was very deep. People were
completely disgusted with the two main bourgeois
parties and Chavez emerged as a great, popular leader
in conditions where the traditional left movement was
extremely weak. We don't see any other country with
similar conditions for a repetition of the Chavez
phenomenon.

Appeal to Health Care Professionals

Dear Comrades,

First let us introduce ourselves – we are medical
professionals and activists working with the CPI [ML]
Liberation. Though we are associated with a political
party, many of us might like to serve the people
primarily through our medical profession. We, along
with many of our like-minded friends, though small in
number, would like to work as a nucleus of a
progressive people’s health movement in the country
that will link with the other struggles of working
people in the country.

There has been an increased assault on working people
and health care professionals in the last two decades
with globalization. The TRIPS agreement under the WTO
has landed our drug industry within the stranglehold
of the multinationals and made many life-saving drugs
beyond the reach of common people. The Union and State
governments of all hues, busy in their neo-liberal
privatization spree, have drastically cut back public
funds to government hospitals, forcing patients to go
to multi-star private hospitals. 

Recently doctors, who have treated alleged Nepali
Maoists, have been charged with sedition in Bettiah
and Muzzafarpur in Bihar. This is a dangerous trend
and reflects the increasing repressive measures by the
government. The doctors have been penalised for merely
carrying out their Hippocratic Oath. There is an
urgent need for unity amongst health care
professionals who are trying to work for the
oppressed.  

In discussions on topics like privatization of medical
care, rural health services, pharmaceutical industries
etc., we have had very healthy discussions with
several comrades belonging to various progressive
political parties and also those working
independently. This cooperation has extended to
arranging treatment facilities to comrades of
different groups. In our medical practice for the past
so many years, we have had opportunities to work with
colleagues with a left and democratic outlook, whether
they belonged to any political formation or not. At a
personal level, our relationships with these comrades
have always been very pleasant and cordial. Though we
may have serious differences on key issues pertaining
to our political work, we find that our interactions
in the field of medicine have always benefited each
other immensely.

We feel that this sort of informal relationship
between medical workers from a left and democratic
background should evolve to a higher level. It would
be nice if all of us could get together for a day or
two to discuss issues of mutual interest, respecting
each other’s political stands. We will find very few
differences of opinion on questions such as
privatization of health care system in India. Our
meeting proposes to achieve 4 objectives:

1.	To get medical professionals and health activists
from left and democratic backgrounds to know each
other and find ways of working together for advancing
the cause of peoples’ health.
2.	To help each other in coordinating medical
treatment of our comrades. This becomes important as
good, correct and affordable medical treatment has
become such a rare commodity thanks to the systematic
commercialization of medicine more so in tertiary
medical care.
3.	To consider organizing joint efforts on issues
relating to health – organizing workers in the health
care industry and organizing campaigns for universal
free, accessible and quality health care.
4.	To coordinate efforts in cases of disasters, such
as floods and earthquakes, when they affect people in
different parts of the country. 
5.	To meet at least once a year. In between
communicate on a regular basis regarding our work
through a newsletter and a list serve/website.

We conceive this as a progressive political forum. We
invite the views of medical professionals – doctors,
nurses, and other medical workers, as well as health
activists. As things stand, we propose to organize the
meeting sometime in early 2006.

We request you to send in your views and critical
comments. We also welcome suggestions towards an
agenda for the proposed meeting.

Please contact: doctors_for_people at yahoo.co.in






		
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