Saturday, October 30, 2010

Twenty Years Ago...

...this week in the New Worker

SIX MONTHS ago Hayes Shellcast in Stourbridge, West Midlands, sacked the entire workforce of 130 workers, most of them Asian, after they took strike action to stop a wage cut of up to £100 a week.
Many employers saw the current recession coming. Whatever the Government media says about pay deals reaching ten percent, in reality, employers have maintained a tight grip on wages and jobs.
Management tried to impose wage cuts and when the workers fought back the company sacked all 130 of them. There are still 80 of them outside the gates, fighting for their jobs.
Many of them have worked years for the company and say they helped it survive the slaughter of West Midlands industry.
Job centres and the Department of Social Security have deliberately helped the company by using actively seeking work rules to force unemployed workers to scab.


THE BONN regime’s police and justice department is taking an active role in the current all-German election campaign. For the second time in eight days police have ransacked Rosa-Luxembourg House, headquarters of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), in a midnight raid in Berlin last week.
The PDS, successor to the GDR’s former ruling Socialist Unity Party is accused of transferring 107 million DM abroad to escape the jurisdiction of the future united German authorities.
Even after the supposed discrediting of socialism and the expected victory of the right-wing CDU/CSU bloc lead by led by Chancellor Kohl in the 2nd December polls, it seems that Bonn cannot tolerate the existence of a party such as the PDS and will go to any lengths to obliterate it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Badges from the Miners' struggle

PAST PIXELS was launched last year to make images of working class struggle more widely available and it kicked off with a haunting collection of cards to mark the 25th anniversary of the last great miners’ struggle. Now it’s returned with another tribute to the miners by producing 18 greeting cards depicting the enamel badges of the NUM, many from the miners’ strike of 1984/5.
There is a long tradition of trade unions producing badges but there was an explosion of designs during the miners strike. They were used for a variety of purposes, including the identification of pickets, fund raising and to signify solidarity during the year-long strike.
Brian Witts, ex-Littleton Power Group NUM, produced the majestic “Enamel Badges of the National Union of Mineworkers” in 2008, which lists and illustrates over 1,200 badges. Past Pixels, with the permission of the NUM and the assistance of Brian, have reproduced this first collection of greeting cards.
These high-quality, enlarged colour images of the original badges convey much of the epic scale of the struggle of the mining communities and their supporters to defend an industry, jobs and communities.
A proportion of the price of these cards is donated to the National Justice Mineworkers Campaign (NJMC), which continues to pursue the interests of sacked miners as well as assist them with funds. Twenty five years on from the strike and ex-mineworkers and their families still receive financial help from NJMC.

The first collection of cards can be seen at A set of five greeting cards (one of each image) costs £4.00 including post and packaging. Make cheques payable to “Past Pixels” and send to Past Pixels, PO Box 798, Worcester WR4 4BW.
photo: Martin Shakeshaft

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Review: Red Sun: Travels in a Naxalite Country

By Peter Hendy

RED SUN: Travels in a Naxalite Country : Sudeep Chakravati
Penguin Books India 2009

A revolutionary war is being fought by the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (CPI-Maoist) against the Indian state. A ‘Red Corridor’ exists down a swathe of central India from Nepal in the north to Karnatka in the South covering more than a quarter of India’s land mass.
India’s Maoist movement, known as Naxalites, after a district in Naxalbari in West Bengal where they staged a peasant uprising in 1967, is now spread over fifteen of its twenty eight states and controls vast chunks of territory.
In Red Sun Chakravati provides a fascinating and detailed account of his travels into those areas most affected by the Naxalites. The purpose of his journey is to promote an understanding of a ‘phenomena’ or the spectre of revolution haunting India.
The book is directed toward the urban middle classes whom he considers to be in a state of denial and suffering from ‘mall stupor’. The journey appears potentially very dangerous and he is clearly adept at negotiating his way through mistrust and suspicion on both sides.
Chakravati is an intrepid journalist and his excellent research provides a shocking context to the war. The statistics are shocking and make for grim reading. He solemnly writes that when the statistics begin to hit the millions they almost become meaningless. Half the children in India are malnourished, one fifth of the population go hungry and three quarters don’t have access to drinking water or sanitation. Two million cases of atrocities against lower caste people are currently pending. This is in a country of 1.12 billion people. Chakravati not only exposes but is very critical of the abysmal failure of India’s political institutions and subsequent creation of an explosive political vacuum.
Gross poverty, landless peasantry, crushing exploitation, rampant corruption, injustice, inherent caste issues and nepotism are factors that fuel the upsurge in revolutionary violence and explain the emergence of liberated zones.
Chakravati has tracked India’s massive economic growth of 8 per cent but is deeply concerned about the economic, political and social disconnection that leaves the mass population of peasantry and workers India no better off than feudal sub-Saharan Africa.
He visits dirt poor villages in the mosquito filled forests of Chhattisgarah, West Bengal, Andra Pradesh, Bihar and Jarkland and attempts to interview those at the epicentre of the conflict. He meets senior police and government officials, paramilitaries, local people, those involved in self help groups and some revolutionaries. Thus he meets some intriguing individuals who express some disturbing views.
Chakravati details the historical splits, mergers and alignments of the Naxalite movement and its increasing sophistication, audacity and ingenuity. This is particularly useful given the plethora of political parties and organisations that exist in India. He is particularly disturbed by the precise details of Naxalite documents. These relate to developments in ideology, strategy, tactics and organisation as the conflict escalates and spreads to include targeted urban areas swelled by those displaced from the countryside.
He reports on the states brutal response to the revolutionary war and powers to arrest, incarcerate and kill with impunity anyone suspected of revolutionary activity. He interviews a special policeman involved in Salwa Judum, a state sponsored vigilante paramilitary organisation set up to stem and halt the armed struggle. This shadowy lawless organisation is responsible for murder, torture, rape, looting beatings, forcible displacement and marginalisation. He visits Salwa Judum villages created to remove those potentially drawn to the struggle and is repulsed. Slums smelling of, ‘...garbage, urine and faeces overpowering the aroma of cooking fires and boiled rice.’
The book contains some detailed maps that illustrate the surge of CPI (Maoist) activity over recent years and the appendix provides some contemporary documents which give a direct insight into their strategies, tactics and objectives.
However, there are some criticisms of the book. Chakravati is not a Communist and his attempt to remain objective, independent and impartial fail. He is not hostile to the Maoists but critical and dismissive of socialism. Ultimately, he believes that the only solution to India’s failings are for efficient governance, policing, justice and administration. He has his own sociological theory on how he sees India’s future. A theory involving massive gated city states ‘In-Land’ places of food and commerce and ‘Out-land’ areas of lawlessness and potential warlordism. There maybe some partial truth in this analysis but one that ignores the complexity of political power, the state and class conflict.
Chakravati is a man with a conscience and evidently is very uncomfortable with what he hears and experiences. Reference is made to the bourgeois notion of ‘governance’ and how this needs to be developed. but his ideas appear nothing but hollow, abstract and devoid of any substance. He can see clearly the anger felt by the population aligning itself with the Naxalites but remains very uncomfortable and critical of the strategies adopted. He can offer a commentary but only up to a point because he remains unpoliticised. Chakravati’s social background and no doubt privileged existence can on occasions be detected in his tone that reflects an unconscious aloofness and distance from those he is interviewing. Thus, opportunities to ask significant questions and to pursue meaningful lines of enquiry are lost.
Failure to interview Naxals or Maoist revolutionaries ‘deep’ in Naxal zones and to instead concentrate on those not directly involved like former elderly insurgents from the movement’s beginning or individuals from rival revolutionary organisations is a significant criticism.
For those without an extremely detailed geographical knowledge of India the journey can be frustrating and confusing. A few maps to aid the reader would have been helpful.
The major strength of the book lie in Chakravati’s attempt to convey this political conflict to a wider audience where reporting in the bourgeois media is often non-existent. A recommended read for those wanting to understand the revolutionary political situation and realities of life in war torn India.