Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Naxalite Uprising

Seven hundred and fifty million Indians, about 75% of the country’s population, live in poverty while the top 5% of Indian families hold 38% of total assets. India has the third highest number of billionaires in the world, after the U.S. and China.

The Naxalite  insurgency has spread  over 40% of India’s land area, encompassing 20 of the country’s 28 states, including 223 districts (up from 55 in 2003) out of a total of 640. The seven most affected Indian states in terms of fatalities are Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, in that order.  These regions comprise the “Red Corridor.” About 10,000 people have been killed in the expanding civil war since 1980. The Maoists wield about 20,000 armed fighters and another 50,000 supporters.

The long-term objective of the  Communist Party of India (Maoist) is the armed overthrow of the Indian state and the creation of a “socialist-communist” government. The Maoists term this a “democratic revolution, which would remain directed against imperialism, feudalism, and comprador bureaucratic capitalism.” The insurgents do not consider the Indian electoral system and governments to be democratic, but rather tools that benefit the landlord and capitalist classes.
The Indian state’s response to the Maoist challenge has been to send 81,000 paramilitary troops into the affected areas in “Operation Greenhunt,” which, by attacking Adivasis, has only driven them further into the arms of the Maoists. In addition to paramilitary troops, the state has also used death squads known as Salwa Judum (SJ), meaning Purification Hunt, to spread a reign of terror and drive out Adivasis from villages for the benefit of companies. The Salwa Judum was responsible for displacing 300,000 Adivasis, killing, raping, and looting them and burning down their villages. Five hundred charges of murder, 103 of arson, and 99 of rape have been levelled by citizens against the Salwa Judum, but the Chattisgarh government has not investigated or processed a single case. According to Human Rights Watch,
“Since mid-2005, government security forces and members of the Salwa Judum have attacked villages, killed and raped villagers, and burned down huts to force people into government camps… The conflict has given rise to one of the largest internal displacement crises in India.”
. The Indian Supreme Court declared the SJ illegal in 2011 and ordered the Chattisgarh government to disband it.

The state of Jharkhand in eastern India is a main focus of the insurgency. According to one observer, corruption is rampant in Jharkhand, which is turning away from electoral politics and “slipping into the hands of the Maoists.” During the last 12 years, not a single provincial government in Jharkhand has completed its term, and there have been eight of these during this period. India’s electricity generation is mainly dependent on coal, and Jharkhand, along with four other states in which the insurgency is strongest, accounts for 85% of India’s coal deposits. Jharkhand also contains the world’s biggest iron ore deposit.  The corrupt Jharkhand government has signed 42 Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with various large iron and steel companies, including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, and Essar. The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), India’s top official investigating agency, has launched a probe into the giving of coal mines by the state to Jindal Steel and Power and other companies. Jindal has benefited greatly from a policy that gave away coal mines without auctions – a policy that may have cost the government $30 billion, according to the state auditor’s 2012 report.

 The Adivasis, the original people of India, were among the poorest people in the country to begin with, being denied basic services by the Indian state with their land being stolen by New Delhi since 1947 when the country became independent. This thievery violates the Indian Constitution itself, which protects the land rights of Adivasis. Adivasis make up 26% of Jharkhand’s population, and many depend on forests for their livelihood. These kinds of industrial projects have already ravaged the forests, and their increase will expand such damage. Jharkhand contains the Saranda forest, Asia’s largest sal tree sanctuary, for which the government has granted 19 mining licenses. Saranda is where the world’s biggest iron ore deposit is located. At present, there is one state-owned mine operating in Saranda.

According to Indian journalist Sayantan Bera:
“Saranda is to eastern India what the Amazon rainforests are to the world. Its springs feed rivers like the Karo, the Baitarani, and the Sanjay. Extensive mining operations are killing these perennial streams. Wastewater from washaries of iron ore mines on the periphery has already contaminated the groundwater aquifers. Mine workers and residents in the periphery of Saranda are dying from liver disease caused by contaminated groundwater.”

Says Indigenous activist Gladson Dungdung, convener of the Jharkhand Indigenous Peoples’ Forum: “The government has been helping in securing land, water, and minerals for the corporate giants through military operations. In Saranda in June, July, and August 2011, there were three massive operations: Operation Monsoon, Operation Bravo Boy, and Operation Anaconda. The security forces killed two Adivasis, raped several women, and tortured more than 500 Adivasis. They also disrupted the Adivasis food grain supply, destroyed the harvest, ate livestock, and destroyed all official identification papers of the Adivasis (ration cards, voter ID, land titles). The Adivasis were forced to leave their villages and they only returned after our intervention. The end result is that the the government gave mining leases to 19 mining companies in the region including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, Rungta Mines and others.” Dungdung explains, “Today, we live in the corporate Indian state, not in a welfare state. The government makes all the laws and policies in favour of the corporate houses. For example, the Jharkhand government introduced the Industrial Policy of 2012, which clearly says that 25 kilometers of both sides of the four-lane road from Kodarma to Bahragora [towns in Jharkhand] will be handed over to the corporations as a Special Economic Zone. Where can people go from here? The state is simply not bothered about its people. See the example of the state of Chattisgarh, where 644 villages were forcibly vacated by Salwa Judum and handed over to corporations.”

“It’s the genocide of the Adivasis,” says Xavier Dias about the opening of Saranda to mining companies. Dias is spokesperson for the Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee “Today Jharkhand is a fully militarized zone. There are over a hundred bases with a total of 50,000 official paramilitary troops involved in military action. There are Indian Army bases, too, but these are not involved in direct action yet. Aside from government paramilitary forces here, we also have the mining corporations’ security forces. The government claims that its troops are there to counter the Maoists, but in actuality it is the democratic movements such as people resisting land grabs or fighting police repression that are intimidated into silence. By creating this drastic panic among the people, the corporations are free to suck out the minerals and forest resources.”

 According to Dias, in Jharkhand, the insurgents also attack Adivasi villages, extort money from mining companies, and protect the ones that are grabbing land from Adivasis. He says:
“No corporate boss has so far been killed by the Maoists. When the Maoists call a general strike, those companies that pay levies to them are allowed to function and the rest are attacked. I do not believe that a mining company can function here without paying levies to the Maoists. Jharkhand is the place from where Maoists finance their operations in other states, too.” Xavier Dias, however, admits that “there are places where the Maoists are providing some good services to the Adivasis, such as Bastar [a town] in the state of Chattisgarh. He also does not think that the Maoists are corrupt, but considers them “misguided.” Dias does not see armed struggle as the way to solve India’s class and Adivasi problems.

Gladson Dungdung is critical of the Maoists, too, saying that, “As far my knowledge and experience is concerned, they are not fighting for the Adivasis [in Jharkhand]. Instead, they have created more problems for the democratic people’s movement.  It’s very easy for the government to call these democratic struggles Maoist and suppress them. I think the Maoists are part of the problem, not the solution.”

Dayamani Barla, an Adivasi activist also based in Jharkhand, says that Adivasis support the Maoists. She points out that “New Delhi’s failure to protect the interests of the tribals has led them to lend their support to the Maoists, whom they believe are fighting for their basic rights.”

According to  Al Jazeera in many of these places the insurgents have organized the Adivasis and taken up community projects to provide services the government doesn’t. In  one such village, Tholkobad in Jharkhand state, where, under the name of the ‘agrarian revolution,’ the Maoists were providing support to the villagers to improve farming methods. One village leader told Al Jazeera that the Maoists frequently visited their villages, and treated everyone equally.”

 Indian novelist Arundhati Roy referring to the Adivasis’ and Maoists’ fight against the Indian Forest Department in the Dandakaranya area, states: “Emboldened by the people’s participation in these struggles, the party decided to confront the forest department. It encouraged people to take over forest land and cultivate it. The forest department retaliated by burning new villages that came up in forest areas. In 1986, it announced a National Park in Bijapur, which meant the eviction of 60 villages. More than half of them had already been moved out, and construction of national park infrastructure had begun when the party moved in. It demolished the construction and stopped the eviction of the remaining villages. It prevented the forest department from entering the area. On a few occasions, officials were captured, tied to trees, and beaten by villagers. It was cathartic revenge for generations of exploitation. Eventually, the forest department fled. Between 1986 and 2000, the party redistributed 300,000 acres of forest land. Today, Comrade Venu says, there are no landless peasants in Dandakaranya.”

Taken from this article

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Marx v Rand

"Behind the abolition of taxation lurks the abolition of the state. The abolition of the state has meaning with the Communists, only as the necessary consequence of the abolition of classes, with which the need for the organised might of one class to keep the others down automatically disappears. In bourgeois countries the abolition of the state means that the power of the state is reduced to the level found in North America. "

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Body Count

More than one million people in America have been killed by guns since 1980.  By a conservative estimate, at least 194 children have been killed by guns in the year since the Sandy Hook tragedy last December.  In 2011 police shot more than 1,100 people, killing 607.  Shootings by police accounted for almost 10 percent of the homicides in Los Angeles County in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times. According to the FBI, 323 people were killed nationwide by rifles in 2011 — less than 4 percent of the total deaths by firearms. Nationwide, 10 percent of the killings with rifles were committed by law enforcement officers, according to the FBI.

Maryland police are protected by a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that prohibits questioning a police officer for 10 days after any incident in which he or she used deadly force. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, police between 1990 and 2001 police shot 122 people, 47 killed. Almost half of those shot were unarmed, and many had committed no crime. Among the shootings the P.G. police department ruled as justified: An unarmed construction worker was shot in the back after he was detained in a fast-food restaurant. An unarmed suspect died in a fusillade of 66 bullets as he tried to flee in a car from police. A homeless man was shot when police mistook his portable radio for a gun. And an unarmed man was killed after he pulled off the road to relieve himself.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal  in  2011 noted, “In 142 fatal police shootings in the Las Vegas Valley over a little more than the past 20 years, no coroner’s jury has returned a ruling adverse to police.” But that nonconviction rate actually convicts the entire system. “The deck is stacked in favor of police well before the case gets to the [coroner’s] jurors. That’s because the ‘neutral arbiter of the facts’ is the deputy district attorney who already believes that no crime has been committed. In a comparison of inquest transcripts, evidence files, and police reports dating to 1990, the Review-Journal found that prosecutors commonly act more like defense attorneys, shaping inquest presentations to cast officers in the most positive light.” Another problem is that, as Nevada lawyer Brent Bryson observed, “Frequently in fatal shootings, you just have officers’ testimony and no other witnesses. And most people just don’t want to believe that a police officer would behave wrongly.” Investigations of shootings by police in Las Vegas were stymied in 2010 and 2011 because “police unions balked at inquest reforms, first by advising members not to testify at the hearings and then helping officers file a lawsuit challenging the new system’s constitutionality,” according to the Review-Journal. Las Vegas is so deferential to police that, in cases “where an officer shoots but only wounds or misses entirely … the district attorney looks at the case only if the shooting subject is being prosecuted,” the Review-Journal noted.

Federal agents who kill Americans enjoy similar legal privileges. The Justice Department’s view of the untouchability of federal lawmen is clear from its action in the Idaho trial of FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. Horiuchi gained renown in 1992 after he shot and killed 42-year-old Vicki Weaver as she stood in the door of her cabin holding her 10-month-old baby. Horiuchi had shot her husband in the back moments earlier, though Randy Weaver posed no threat to federal agents at the time. The judge blamed Vicki Weaver for her own death, ruling that “it would be objectively reasonable for Mr. Horiuchi to believe that one would not expect a mother to place herself and her baby behind an open door outside the cabin after a shot had been fired and her husband had called out that he had been hit.” Thus, if an FBI agent wrongfully shoots one family member, the government somehow becomes entitled to slay the rest of the family unless they run and hide.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Immigration Rights?

Michael Huemer’s book The Problem of Political Authority,  pages 142-143:
Marvin is in need of food, without which he will suffer from malnutrition or starvation. He plans to travel to a nearby marketplace, where he will be able to trade for food. But before he can reach the marketplace, he is accosted by Sam, who does not want Marvin to trade in the marketplace, for two reasons. First, Sam’s daughter is going to be shopping in the marketplace, and Sam fears that Marvin might bid up the price of food. Some vendors might even run out of bread if too many people come to the marketplace. Second, Marvin comes from a different culture from most people presently at the marketplace, and Sam fears that Marvin might influence other people and thus alter the culture of the marketplace. Sam decides to solve the problem by force. He points his gun at Marvin and orders Marvin to turn around. The starving Marvin is thus forced to return home empty-handed. 
Sam’s reasons for coercing Marvin in this story are clearly inadequate. Furthermore, Sam will be culpable for whatever harms Marvin suffers as a result of being unable to reach the marketplace; they will be harms that Sam inflicted upon Marvin. If Marvin starves to death, then Sam will have killed him. This is true even though Sam was not responsible for Marvin’s initial situation of being hungry and out of food; it is true because Sam actively prevented Marvin from obtaining more food. If a person is starving, and you refuse to give him food, then you allow him to starve. But if you take the extra step of coercively interfering with his obtaining food from someone else, then you do no merely allow him to starve; you starve him. The same point applies to lesser harms: If, for example, Marvin merely suffers malnutrition as a result of being unable to reach the marketplace, Sam will have inflicted this harm upon him. 
The behavior of Sam in the story is analogous to that of the government of any modern country that excludes poor immigrants. Potential immigrants from developing nations come to participate in the marketplaces of wealthier countries. The governments of the wealthier countries routinely forcibly exclude these potential immigrants. As a result, many suffer greatly diminished life prospects. The government does not merely allow harms to befall these would-be immigrants. If the government merely stood by passively and refused to give aid to potential immigrants, then it would be allowing harms to occur. But it does not stand by passively; the government of every wealthy country in the world deliberately hires armed guards to forcibly exclude or expel unwanted persons. This coercive intervention constitutes an active infliction of harm upon them, just as Sam inflicts harm on Marvin in the story above. 
The most common reasons given for immigration restrictions are twofold. First, that new immigrants compete with existing Americans in the labor market, thus driving down wages for unskilled labor and making it more difficult for American workers to find jobs. Second, that if too many immigrants enter the country, they will alter the country’s culture. The first concern is analogous to Sam’s concern about Marvin’s competing with Sam’s daughter in the marketplace. It is not permissible to use force against another person simply to prevent a third party from suffering economic disadvantage through normal marketplace competition. The second concern is analogous to Sam’s concern about the culture of the marketplace. It is not permissible to use force against another person simply to prevent that person from influencing the culture of one’s society in undesired ways.