THE ASIA Social Forum (ASF), held in Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh, India, from 2-8 January 2003, attracted over 15,000 delegates from all over India and there were around 400 foreign delegates. CWI members from India and Australia present at the Forum have sent the following report. We also publish the text of a CWI leaflet distributed at the Forum.
There were delegates representing many different sectors including women, students, youth, farmers, fisher folk, tribal rights activists, daliths (‘untouchables’) and trade unionists. Peace/ anti-nuclear and environmental activists were also present. The Left parties also present included the Communist Party of India, CPI (M), with their NGO fronts and the various factions of the CPI (ML) as well as the ‘Socialist Front’ (with an average age of 70!). The tendency of non-governmental organisations to co-opt the energy of activists into activities that do not fundamentally challenge the capitalist system was very much in evidence and a wide variety of NGOs were represented.
Many different seminars, workshops and conferences were presented in parallel on a great variety of social concerns. The website of the ASF at ‘wsfindia.org’ gives a complete listing. In addition to the more formal sessions there was a variety of cultural events, including a film festival with over 100 films. There were numerous impromptu marches and street theatre performances. The main activities of the ASF took place on the campus of Nizam College and the atmosphere was very much like that of a ‘mela’ or fair. Numerous NGO organisations set up stalls and exhibitions.
The delegation representing the CWI came from the New Socialist Alternative – the Indian section of CWI – and a comrade from the Socialist Party – the Australian section of the CWI. The CWI comrades ran a high profile stall and distributed a leaflet (see the text of this leaflet below). We handed out 12,000 copies of our leaflet and several people commented that it was the only forthrightly socialist leaflet distributed at the event.
At our stall, staffed for 7 hours a day for five days, we spoke to hundreds of people and collected names and addresses of hundreds of people interested in our ideas.
Amongst those who immediately joined the CWI are one from Hyderabad, who is a bus worker, and an active trade union militant, and another from rural Tamilnadu, who is a tribal activist.
Our large banner with the slogan ‘A Socialist World is Necessary’ attracted many people to our stall. As well as people from all over India we also met people from Canada, Kyrgystan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
People were very interested in our ideas we sold almost all the literature that we brought to the event. Our pamphlets – ‘Youth fighting for a future‘ and ‘Time to change course‘ – sold very well. Many were also interested in our views on Cuba and China, which is understandable because of the strong Maoist traditions in the area.
Enough is enough! A socialist world is necessary!
Text of the New Socialist Alternative (CWI in India) leaflet distributed during the Asia Social Forum
The system of Capitalism world over stands damned. Capitalism, which came on to the scene with the objective of development of the world, has failed miserably in its primary and fundamental task. From the Americas to Zimbabwe this system of the greedy and profiteers has ruined the lives of ordinary working class people and their families. The so-called ‘sovereign countries’ have become subjects in a neo-colonial world. Imperialism has returned in a different avatar [incarnation] as the New World Order.
Global capitalism ruthlessly plunders the whole world, especially Africa, Asia and Latin America. Multinational companies, which are the main profiteers of world capitalism, account for 80% of the world industrial output and nearly 70% of the world trade. While boom periods have only increased the profits of the rich, the slumps and recession have further intensified the poverty and squalor of the working class and the poor. The fact that over half the world’s population lives in poverty and billions lack food, clean water, education and health care demonstrates the crisis of 21st century capitalism.
Global capitalism cannot find a solution to the fundamental contradictions of its system, i.e. the productive forces outstripping the framework of capitalist nation states and the private ownership of the productive forces. This eternal crisis of capitalism forces it to seek new markets. The capitalist vulture agencies such as the IMF, World Bank and WTO developed as a result of that crisis to facilitate a way out for world capitalism.
Globalisation, neo-liberalism and “reforms”, the buzzwords of the big business that we hear these days, are the latest tricks to force working people to pay for the crisis of the bosses. Capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism are not new phenomena as the capitalists try to persuade us to believe. It is the depth of exploitation and its universal application, which is a new trend in the last two decades.
We, the working people and youth, are not fooled by the jugglery of words. The enormous suffering of our brethren in the Latin American and African countries, brought upon them by the forces of imperialism through capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism, is a warning example for the entire human world.
One need not quote distant examples to explain the devastating nature of neo- liberalism. Our neighbour, Sri Lanka, is a bleeding victim of that monster. Neo-liberal policies of implementing the withdrawal of the state from essential sectors of the economy were introduced in this country not in the 1990’s, but way back in late 1970’s. The ruination of the people of Sri Lanka by this suicidal policy of neo-liberalism, is hard to believe but yet a stark reality. Thirty years ago, Sri Lanka’s human indices were the best in South Asia, in relation to education, health and nutrition, but now they have slipped to the last in the table.
Preying on India
Neither has the economic terror of neo-liberalism and capitalist globalisation spared India. Neo-liberalism, which was intensified in the early nineties, has turned India from a giant manufacturing economy in the region into a vendor economy. The spree of neo-liberalism introduced by the successive governments, from P V Narasimha Rao to Vajapayee, has taken a toll on working people both in urban and rural areas.
Backdoor privatisation in the name of disinvestments is rendering thousands of workers in the public sector jobless. The voluntary retiring schemes has effected many thousands of workers in the banking, insurance and state sectors. Since the WTO regime started to rule India nearly 500,000 thousand factories have closed in the State of Maharashtra, alone. While Bangalore boasts of being the Silicon Valley of India, more than 200,000 workers have lost jobs in the small-scale industries due to closures.
The monster of capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism is starker in rural India. Marginal and small farmers of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Karnataka are committing suicide. The fall in commodity prices and the resultant impoverishment is growing rapidly into epidemic proportions.
Over a period of struggle, the downtrodden of India, the Dalits, had earned few reforms in education and jobs. With the IMF prescription of austerity, there are overall attacks on jobs, employment, and education both at the central government level and at the state level. The Dalits hard won right of Reservations is being proved useless.
In every country, women face the sharp edge of any capitalist offensive. The WTO and American imperialism’s rules on textile quotas have proved disastrous for women employed in the garment industries. Having been uprooted from the nearby villages to the urban manufacturing ghettos, many have been forced to prostitution to eke out a life.
The smashing of the public distribution system in the name of the ‘creamy layer policy’ (all Indians who earn just Rs.2000 per month are not poor!) is the result of following the orders of the IMF bosses to cut food subsidies. This has resulted in mass scale malnutrition of children and the deaths of the oldest.
The politics of hate
The inability of the capitalist class to solve any one of their fundamental tasks is universal, but in India, it has specific features. Instead of solving the problems faced by the masses the Indian capitalist rulers have perfected the art of deception. The political lesson of ‘divide and rule’, which they learnt from their British imperialist masters, is useful to them today. The recent Gujarat pogroms and the subsequent communally charged victory of the BJP in Gujarat is a warning to the working class and its organisations. Using communal poison the BJP has tried to polarise the class on communal lines.
In this atmosphere of communal tensions many anti-working class and anti-poor laws have been passed by the parliament to please the capitalists. In the coming period, crucial laws, such as the draconian labour “reforms”, are waiting to be enacted.
The working class must defeat all the attempts of the bosses to divide them on religious, language, region and caste lines. Working class unity is the only answer to the communal cancer spread by the BJP & co.
Only an independent working class mobilisation based on a socialist programe can defeat communalism and capitalism. The working class must reject the class collaborationist politics of the so-called communists who are stuck in their wrong theories of people’s democracy and national democracy, which are nothing but fig leafs to cover their sheer opportunism. It is time that the Indian working class moves to establish a mass working class party to challenge and defeat capitalism.
Say no to war
Since the collapse of Stalinism, world imperialism, led by the American imperialism, has found a new whipping boy ‘terrorism’. The 9/11 events have further intensified the attempts of the imperialists to bully ‘errant’ countries. The war on Afghan people in the name of routing out Al-Qaeda has literally bombed Afghanistan to the Middle Ages. Workers and youth internationally have rejected the American imperialism’s theory of an ‘Axis of evil’ through mass protests against the war on Iraq
The looming war on Iraq by the American imperialism will see the further deterioration of the lives of ordinary working class people not just in Iraq but also in the entire world. It is time that we fight and defeat this world system of bosses, which breeds poverty, unemployment, violence, environmental degradation, terrorism and wars.
The process of capitalist globalisation and neo-liberalism are not unstoppable as some apologists for capitalism claim. A mass anti-globalisation movement has developed internationally over recent years, and has taken on an increasingly anti-capitalist complexion. From Seattle to Florence, protests have taken place at every economic summit of the capitalists, involving millions of young people and workers. On a world scale, capitalist globalisation is the most hated political phenomena. As long as the system of capitalism remains on the face of the earth, such draconian policies will continue to haunt humanity. Hence, it is the duty of every anti-capitalist individual to join the forces of genuine socialism to defeat capitalism on a world scale.
Socialism is the answer
When we advocate socialism we definitely do not mean the caricature of socialism in the Stalinist states of the former Soviet Union or for that matter the bureaucratic regimes of China and Cuba. What we mean by socialism is to build a society where the means of production, the giant corporations that control the lives of the majority on this planet, are owned and democratically controlled by the majority.
The CWI in South Asia
The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) is an organisation of socialists with members in 35 countries on every continent. The CWI is engaged daily in the struggle of workers, of young people, of the oppressed and of the poor, against capitalism and all its consequences. We fight for jobs for all, for a shorter working week, against privatisation, for decent pay, homes, education, health and democratic rights.
In the South-Asian region we have organisations and parties in India, Kashmir (POK), Sri Lanka and Australia. The CWI strives to channel the anger of all workers and youth against the capitalist system into a struggle for genuine socialism, as the only way to eradicate the mighty problems that capitalism has created. The time has come for a ‘system change’. A socialist world is necessary and should be made possible.