a reponse to yechury's article on WSF

this article has been written in reponse to 'CPI(m) and WSF' - an article by Sitaram Yechury, politburo member of CPI(M)

During the Asian Social Forum at Hyderabad, I had the opportunity of listening to Sitaram Yechury twice - once outside the boundaries of the ASF at a programme organised by the 'seven party alliance' and again inside ASF (though I didn't quite understand in what capacity he was participating in ASF as political parties are supposedly not allowed to be participants at ASF). Anyway, on both occasions, Yechury spoke almost the same thing - however much the people's movements resist and the protest the implementation of liberal economic policies in India, changes can only be brought about only through legislations and not by millions of people on the streets. So, according to him, the need was for electing to the parliament those forces which can lobby for the changes.This was an election campaign and nothing else. To drive home his point, Yechury referred to the victory of 'his friend' Lula in Brazil and pointed out that Brazilian people's movements can expect their demands to be met and their aspirations to be translated to adequate legislations. More than a year has passed since then. The world has seen how Lula has walked on the same path as his neo-liberal predecessors and rolled out the red carpet to the Bretton Woods guys - all in the name of 'development'. May be that is why Yechury in his article skirts away from the Lula issue, labeling the workers party as social democrats. Will the same thing happen if Yechury's party comes to power (in fact they are already in power in a couple of states in India - West Bengal and Tripura)?

Yechury is very upset that the Left Front government in West Bengal has been singled out for its role in supporting liberalisation and globalisation. The Left Front government is supposed to be a people's government - to look after the people's needs and to draft policies accordingly. What does the chief minister have to say regarding this? "We are not building socialism, we are only trying to implement an alternative programme for the benefit of the toiling masses, for the poor farmers. Ninety-four percent of our farmers are poor and marginal." So it is quite clear that the LF govt. in West Bengal doesn't have the socialist project in its agenda - rather, we would say, that they are more concerned with a peaceful cohabitation within the capitalist framework. The second question to ask is Whether the government has had a definete programme which benefits the toiling masses. Let us look at a few incidents to understand the situation - today militant people's struggles have started in adivasi belts in West Bengal, the condition of the workers in the tea-gardens & jute mills are terrible with widespread discontent and occasional flare-ups, there is alienation among people in North Bengal, healthcare conditions are in dire straits, primary education is yet to reach each and everyone. How has such a condition evolved in the last five decades if the govt. is so concerned about the toiling masses. Let us now look at globalisation vis-a-vis the economic policies of LF govt. There has been much hue and cry on the involvement of the McKinsey - the American finance consultants - on redrafting the agricultural policy in West Bengal. The result of this intervention of the agents of imperialist policies in the farming sector was the proposal for contract farming.

The 'New Left' Chief Minister has been talking a lot about the govt's plans of involving companies like Pepsi in agro-based industries. In fact, the Chief Minister has categorically stated that the emphasis of the new industrial policy and the new mineral policy is the opening up of these sectors to private players. There has also been a concerted attempt to discipline the working class through its trade union - in fact, the CITU leadership in the state has been changed to suit the 'needs' of the Chief Ministers economic plans. Adding more to this, Yechury's party has advised elected panchayat functionaries from the party «not to be hesitant about accepting foreign money» to develop the infrastructure in the health and education sectors. Whatever has been stated till now are clear indications to prove that the LF govt is toing the very policies of neo-liberalism that Yechury claims to criticise through WSF.

The sad thing is that Yechury makes a very wishywashy analysis of the growth of WSF. Everyone knows about Seattle, Prague and Genoa. Everyone knows how people from different walks of life came together to express their anger at the planners of globalisation. The question is whether WSF as a platform is channelising that anger in an appropriate manner. Or whether it is a platform, subtly protected and funded by the imperialist powers themselves, to keep a check on the anti-globalisation movement.

Yechury, after quoting from the WSF charter, writes - 'WSF, therefore is both an open space and contending space.' Is it so? Let us first ask the question whether it is open or not.It is certainly open, but only to those whom the organisers of WSF consider fit to be. For example, it is a known fact that FARC has been waging a battle against American imperialism-backed Colombian government for decades. For the second and third WSF, FARC representatives were not allowed to register as delegates.Even Fidel Castro was not invited to the WSF because a majority of the members of the organising committee opposed his invitation. is this what is defined as 'open'? In fact, as per the charter, anyone who is waging armed struggle against imperialism becomes a non-participant in the forum. This is so much for the 'openness' of WSF. Now let us consider whether it is a contending space or not. Yes, it is a contending space but for only those who wish to be contained - contained by the designs of IMF-WorldBank-WEF-UN to reign in the anti-globalisation protetsts. The UN, World Bank, European Union's enthusiasm for the WSF is a testimony of the fact that the path WSF is taking is acceptable to these organisation - the sponsors and protectors of global capitalism. Is this what anti-imperialist movement should be all about?

It makes me wonder what is all this contention is for? Are there any ideologies in contention? To us, all the forces within the boundaries of WSF - whether the NGO-s on one hand or the social-deomocrats/communists on another hand - represent the trend that wants to reform the process of globalisation.All of them are in favour of a gradual change in the system and for them a rupture with the existing order is an anathema. In fact, many of us, feel that it is the latter position which only brings all these forces together.

It has been more than a year since ASF has happened. there have been umpteen meetings to decide/discuss on the programmes for WSF2004. Sadly, the constituents of ASF have not come together to organise a single public protest of any worth against globalisation in the last one year. Is this result of all the discussions and debates that we have been hearing of ever since ASF was mooted? Close to Hyderabad, the venue of ASF, is Karnataka - hundreds of farmers have committed suicide - the cause of which can be found in new agricultural policies of the neoliberal era. Why is that ASF (or whatever SF) gathered together the aggrieved farmers to build up a strong farmers movement? Tamil Nadu is virtually a police state - again it is close to Hyderabad - and it also saw the repression on the govt. employees by the TN govt. Some of the constituents of ASF were party to the strike called by the employees but they have been thoroughly exposed by their meek submission to the TN govt and the judiciary. Let us not talk about Andhra - it IS the lab of World Bank in India. have we seen in the past one year the constituents on the streets vehemently protesting against Naidu govt.

So this is the story of past one year.

If ASF cannot take up the causes of the workers and the peasantry in a relentless battle against globalisation, which globalisation or which agents of globalisation are they fighting against? May be some one or two contituents (including the ones close to Mr. Yechury's party) have expressed their anger, protested or brought out rallies.But that is not all that they should be doing in the post-ASF period. What is needed are joint struggles against imperialism - where all the constituents of WSF come out with actions and programs to fight globalisation. The lack of such an united action in the post-ASF period only questions the purpose of such gatherings.

ASF or WSF are big events that happen once a year or may be two years. So, is that all that we should do to fight globalisation when it is attacking people's lives day in and day out. Obviously not. The need of the hour are struggles at the grassroots, at the microlevels where people are facing the onslaught of globalisation. To fight legislations at macro-level is just one part of the ongoing struggles. To organise people at the grassroots, to bring them together, to raise their awareness on neo-liberal economic policies, to protest unitedly at the microlevels, to instill in them a belief that better days lie ahead - these are some of the tasks of a platform where organisations have come together fight globalisation. Where is it happening? Nothing that we can see or hear of.

There is no denial that thousands of people are trying to find some avenue for expressing their discontent at the state of world affairs in the era of globalisation. The important question to ask is whether the 'communist' component within WSF, as Mr. Yechury would like us describe the bloc that his party represents, has been able to provide a direction to these people and more importantly to the anti-imperialist movement at large. What is also important is to ask whether the view that socialism is an alternative has been provided by this bloc to the struggling masses. We have not yet seen any signs of such except many strong anti-communist statements by many of the constituents of WSF. The need of the hour is a platform that clearly states that socialism is the alternative and the only alternative to the mess that capitalism is leading all of us to. What would be the program for a socialist world is something for us to discuss, debate and work on. However, on what there should be a consensus is that the socialist project should not be a project that slowly evolves from the present capitalist system but should be a process that occurs with the smashing of the present economic edifices in third world countries which are now deeply intertwined with the global finance capital. What is desired is an economic programme based on the principle of self-reliance and not dependent on the western capital. And so, rather than gesticulating from the sidelines, many of us are participating in a separate gathering (MR2004) to clearly state the alternative and discuss the actions for the future. May be we will not get all our answers there but at least it is a beginning in our quest for an united struggle against imperialism.

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