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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Russia proposes U.N. resolution on Syria; U.S. hopes to work with Moscow on draft

Russia on Thursday proposed a Security Council resolution on the Syrian crisis as international fears over the violence in the country grew, Al Arabiya reported.

As a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia has tried to head off Security Council intervention in the Syrian crisis. With China, it vetoed a council resolution proposed by European nations in October condemning Assad’s crackdown on protests which the U.N. says has left 5,000 dead.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States hopes it can work with Russia on the draft resolution it proposed to the U.N. Security Council on the Syria crisis.

Though Clinton indicated Washington had differences with Moscow on the draft, the chief U.S. diplomat said it was the “first time” that Russia has recognized the violence in Syria needs to be taken up by the Security Council.

“There are some issues in it that we would not be able to support. There's unfortunately a seeming parity between the government and peaceful protesters,” said Clinton, who blames the Syrian regime alone for the violence.

“We are going to study the draft carefully ... Hopefully we can work with the Russians,” Clinton told reporters, according to AFP. “We hope to be able to work with them.”

Russia called emergency talks of the 15 nation body on Syria however to propose the new resolution which western diplomats said they did not find acceptable but could be negotiated on.

“We did address the situation in Syria and we started out by noting that there are two things united members of Security Council regarding the situation in Syria. First one is our concern regarding the developing crisis and the second is the feeling that the Security Council can’t play a useful and constructive role in trying to resolve this crisis,” Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the U.N. told reporters.

“As far as Russia is concerned, our attitude to deal with crisis is reflected with the statement of Aug. 3, which is a consensus document adopted by the Security Council, and also in the Russian-Chinese draft resolution on Syria, which was introduced to the Security Council a few months ago,” he said.

Churkin said that Russia updated the previous draft and proposed to the Security Council a new version which takes into account the development of the past few months which strengthened all aspects of previous text, “with regards to need to stop violence, with regards to the need to uphold human rights and with regard expediting reforms and especially we believe it’s important to give strong message to all that we encourage them to continue their efforts, and working together with government of Syria and to carry out its plan to deploy monitoring mission in Syria.”

“We all believe that the Security Council must do something. The role of the Security Council should not be not to exacerbate crisis but to bring end to crisis,” Churkin said.

The Russian ambassador to the U.N. said: “We made no secret of fact that we call on violence to be stopped on all sides. We are concerned about weapons smuggling and the armed groups operating in Syria. Our assessment of situation that various violent groups taking advantage of peaceful protesters to pursue their agenda. Those concerns are reflected in the draft resolution.”

When asked whether Russia has condemned the smuggling of weapons into Syria, he said “this is something which is incorporated in the draft resolution, comments about that but we’ll leave it till later.”

The French envoy to the United Nations welcomed the resolution proposed by Russia on the Syrian crisis, saying it was “an extraordinary event.”

“Russia has decided to move on the resolution project... We think that it is because Russia has felt the pressure of the international community,” France’s envoy to the U.N., Gerard Araud, told journalists.

We “need to show that the violence has come from the Syrian regime which has shot down thousands of demonstrators... Primary responsible of the violence is the behavior of armed forces and secondly the refusal of Syrian regime to engage in genuine reform.”

Meanwhile, the German ambassador Peter Wittig said that the silent on Syria was unbearable. “We are discussing the situation in Syria in serious manner.” He described the Syrian situation as “dramatic.”

“We are engaging the resolution by Russia and there is opportunity to bridge gaps, and break silence of the Security Council. We need to embrace what Human Rights council has said and take up what Pillay has told us,” Wittig told reporters. “It’s time for the Security Council to send strong messages to Syria and Syrian authorities.”

“Accountability is what we want to see in this kind of resolution, that’s why we have to think of the Security Council mandated independent investigation commission. Accountability is key element of any resolution,” added Wittig.

A leading Syrian human rights activist earlier on Thursday urged the international community to cut diplomatic ties with Damascus and up pressure on Russia to stop blocking U.N. action against the regime there.

“So far 5,000 people have been killed in Syria, among them are 277 children, 159 women and a lot of people were killed under torture. All this is happening in cold blood and the international community is watching and doing nothing,” Rami Abdurrahman, founder of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on the sidelines of a European Union conference in Warsaw, AFP reported.

“Russia’s support, that is the main problem,” he said but stressed Syrians did not want the West to engage in any military action similar to the NATO air strikes which played a key role in toppling the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, he said.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Athens:The 13th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties was held in Athens on 9-11 December 2011 with theme:

The international situation and the experience of the communists 20 years after the counterrevolution in the USSR. The tasks for the development of the class struggle in conditions of capitalist crisis, imperialist wars, of the current popular struggles and uprisings, for working class-popular rights, the strengthening of proletarian internationalism and the anti-imperialist front, for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism”.

The meeting was attended by representatives from 78 Parties from 59 countries. A number of parties that did not manage to take part for reasons beyond their control sent written messages. We salute from Athens the growing popular struggles releasing huge emancipatory potential against imperialism, against capitalist exploitation and oppression, and for the social, labour and social security rights of workers’ all over the world.

The meeting was held in critical conditions in which the deep and prolonged capitalist crisis continues to prevail in the international situation, accompanied by the escalation of the aggressiveness of imperialism which is expressed in the decisions of the Lisbon Summit for the new NATO strategy. This reality confirms the analyses outlined in the statements of the 10th, 11th, 12th, International Meetings that took place in Brazil (Sao Paolo) in 2008, India (New Delhi) in 2009 and South Africa (Tshwane) in 2010.

It becomes increasingly obvious for millions of working people that the crisis is a crisis of the system. It is not faults within the system but the system itself that is faulty, generating regular and periodic crises. It results from the sharpening of the main contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private capitalist appropriation and not from any version of the management policy of the system or from any aberration based on the greed of some bankers or other capitalists or from the lack of effective regulatory mechanisms. It highlights the historical boundaries of capitalism and the need to strengthen the struggles for anti-monopoly anti-capitalist ruptures, the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

In the USA, Japan, the EU, and in other capitalist economies the impasses of the various versions of the bourgeois management are being demonstrated. On the one hand the restrictive political line leads to a prolonged and deep recession; on the other, the expansionist political management, with large state support packages to the monopoly groups, finance capital, and the banks, intensifies inflation and leads to the swelling of the public debt. Capitalism converts corporate insolvencies into sovereign insolvencies. Capitalism has no other response to the crisis beyond the mass destruction of productive forces, resources, mass dismissals, factory closures, and the comprehensive attack on workers and trade union rights, on wages, pensions, social security, the reduction in people’s income, the huge increase in unemployment and poverty.

The anti-people offensive is strengthening which is manifested with particular intensity in certain regions. The concentration and centralization of monopoly capital is intensifying the reactionary character of economic and political power. Capitalist restructuring and privatisations are being promoted, aiming at competitiveness and maximisation of profit of capital, at ensuring a cheaper labour force and the regression of decades in terms of social and labour rights.

The intensity of the crisis, its global synchronisation, the prospect of the slow, weak recovery intensify the difficulties of the bourgeois forces in managing the crisis, leading to the sharpening of the inter-imperialist contradictions and rivalries while the danger of imperialist wars is being strengthened.

The attacks on democratic rights and sovereignty are intensifying in many countries. Political systems become more reactionary. Anti-communism is being reinforced. There are generalised measures against the activity of the communist and workers’ parties, against the trade union, political and democratic freedoms The ruling classes develop a multi faceted attempt to trap the people’s discontent through changes in the political systems, through the utilisation of a series of pro-imperialist NGOs and other organizations, through attempts to channel the people’s discontent into movements with allegedly non-political or even with reactionary characteristics.

We salute the people’s and workers extensive struggles and uprisings, for democratic, social and political rights against the anti-people regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, namely in Tunisia and Egypt. Despite the contradictions which the current situation manifests, it constitutes a significant experience that the communist movement should study and utilise. Simultaneously we strongly condemn the imperialist war of NATO and the EU against the Libyan people and the threats and interference in the internal affairs of Syria and Iran, as well as of any other country. We consider that every foreign intervention against Iran under whatever pretext attacks the interests of the Iranian workers and their struggles for democratic freedoms, social justice and social rights.

These developments confirm the necessity of strengthening the Communist and Workers’ Parties in order to play their historical role, to further strengthen the workers and people’s struggle in defence of their rights and aspirations, to utilise the contradictions of the system and the inter-imperialist contradictions for an overthrow at the level of power and economy, for the satisfaction of people’s needs. Without the leading role of the communist and workers parties and the vanguard class, the working class, the peoples will be vulnerable to confusion, assimilation and manipulation by the political forces that represent the monopolies, finance capital and imperialism.

Significant realignments in the international correlation of forces are under way. There is the on-going relative weakening of the position of the USA, the general productive stagnation in the most advanced capitalist economies and the emergence of new global economic powers, notably China. The tendency for the increase of contradictions is strengthening, between the imperialist centres, and of these with the so-called emerging economies.

Imperialist aggressiveness intensifies. There are already several regional points of tension and wars and they are multiplying: in Asia and Africa, in the Middle East with the increasing aggressiveness of Israel particularly against the Palestinian people. At the same time we note the rising of neo Nazi and xenophobic forces in Europe, the multifaceted interventions, threats and the offensive against the people’s movements and the progressive political forces in Latin America. Militarization is being reinforced. The risk for a general conflagration at a regional level becomes even greater. In this sense the expansion and strengthening of the anti-imperialist social and political front and the struggles for peace in the direction of eradicating the causes of imperialist wars are fundamental.

There are two paths of development:
- the capitalist path, the path of the exploitation of the peoples which creates great dangers for imperialist wars, for workers’, people’s democratic rights
- and the path of liberation with immense possibilities for the promotion of the interests of the workers and the peoples, for the achievement of social justice, people’s sovereignty, peace and progress. The path of the workers’ and people’s struggles, the path of socialism and communism, which is historically necessary.

Thanks to the decisive contribution of the communists and the class oriented trade-union movement the workers’ struggles in Europe and all over the world were further strengthened. Imperialist aggressiveness continues to meet resolute popular resistance in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. This fact, along with experience accumulated so far especially in Latin America, the struggles and the processes that take place demonstrate the possibilities of resistance, of class struggle, in order for the peoples to make steps forward, to gain ground inflicting blows to imperialism when they have as their goal the overthrow of imperialist barbarity.

We salute the workers’ and people’s struggles and note the need to further strengthen them. The conditions demand the intensification of the class struggle, of the ideological, political, mass struggle in order to impede the anti-people measures and promote goals of struggle that meet the contemporary people’s needs; demand an organized workers’ counterattack for anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist ruptures, for the overthrow of capitalism putting an end to the exploitation of man by man.

Today the conditions are ripe for the construction of wide social anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist alliances, capable of defeating the multifaceted imperialist offensive and aggression and of fighting for power and promoting deep, radical, revolutionary changes. Working class unity, the organisation and the class orientation of the labour movement are fundamental factors in ensuring the construction of effective social alliances with the peasantry, the urban middle class strata, the women’s movement and youth movement.

In this struggle the role of the communist and workers’ parties at national, regional and international level and the strengthening of their cooperation are indispensable. The joint coordinated activity of the Communist and Workers’ Parties, of the communist youth organizations and the anti-imperialist organizations in which the communists have an important contribution constitutes one of the most reliable elements for the expansion of the anti-imperialist struggle and the strengthening of the anti-imperialist front.

The ideological struggle of the communist movement is of vital importance in order to defend and develop scientific socialism, to repulse contemporary anti-communism, to confront bourgeois ideology, anti-scientific theories and opportunist currents which reject the class struggle; combat the role of social democratic forces that defend and implement anti-people and pro-imperialist policies by supporting the strategy of capital and imperialism. The understanding of the unified character of the duties of the struggle for social, national and class emancipation, for the distinct promotion of the socialist alternative requires the ideological counteroffensive of the communist movement.

The overthrow of capitalism and the construction of socialism constitute an imperative need for the peoples. In view of the capitalist crisis and its consequences the international experiences and practice of the socialist construction prove the superiority of socialism. We underline our solidarity with the peoples who struggle for socialism and are involved in the construction of socialism.

Only socialism can create the conditions for the eradication of wars, unemployment, hunger, misery, illiteracy, the uncertainty of hundreds of millions of people, the destruction of the environment. Only socialism creates the conditions for development according to the contemporary needs of the workers.

Working people, farmers, urban and rural workers, women, young people, we call on you to struggle together to put an end to this capitalist barbarity. There is hope, there is a prospect. The future belongs to socialism.


Monday, December 12, 2011

FDI in retail — UPA ‘retired hurt’ - P. Sainath

Here's the wonderful thing about the FDI-in-retail debate: never have struggling Indian farmers found so many champions. They've been crawling out of the woodwork.

Foreign direct investment in retail may be on hold, but Hillary Clinton can stop worrying about Anand Sharma and Pranab Mukherjee.

“How does (Commerce Minister) Sharma view India's current Foreign Direct Investment guidelines? Which sectors does he plan to open further? Why is he reluctant to open multi-brand retail?” Those were among the questions U.S. Secretary of State Clinton posed in a cable to her embassy in New Delhi in September 2009, some months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his second term. (See: Hillary checks out Pranab, and the competition, from The Hindu-Wikileaks India Cables series: March 18, 2011).

Note her pointed query on opening up ‘multi-brand retail.' She had other worries, too. “Why was (Pranab) Mukherjee chosen for the finance portfolio over Montek Singh Ahluwalia? How do Mukherjee and Ahluwalia get along?” And “does Sharma get along with Mukherjee and Prime Minister Singh?” They get along fine, Hillary, and they're all in it together, as a team.

Hillary has reason to be concerned about FDI in retail. There's the tens of thousands of dollars she earned from serving as a director on Walmart's board. And the other thousands of dollars contributed to her 2007-08 campaign by Walmart executives and lobbyists. An ABC News report on that in 2008 also observed that as a director, Hillary Clinton remained “a loyal company woman” (Clinton remained silent as Wal-Mart fought unions: ABC News, January 31, 2008).

And she surely knows the UPA's FDI retreat is tactical. Pranab Mukherjee put it with disarming candour: we don't want mid-term polls. Hillary too had flip-flopped during her election campaign, going by the ABC News report. (While on its Board of Directors, she had said: “I'm always proud of Walmart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else” — June 1990.)

Yet, Hillary's campaign website of 2007-08, points out the ABC News report, omitted “any reference to her role at Walmart in its detailed biography of her.” As the race heated up, she recanted: “Now I know that Walmart's policies do not reflect the best way of doing business and the values that I think are important in America.”

Perhaps Hillary's FDI concerns are loftier. She must be worried about the poor Indian farmer. The wonderful thing about the FDI-in-retail debate is the explosion of concern for agriculturists. Never have struggling Indian farmers found so many champions. They've been crawling out of the woodwork ever since the FDI announcement. From Deepak Parekh to Ratan Tata, they've suffered sleepless nights, agonising over the small farmer.

They might want to take a look at the American farm population. At their family farms, especially smaller ones, wrecked by corporate monopolies at every level, from giant agri-businesses to mammoth retail chains. Presently less than one million Americans claim farming as their occupation. That figure was over 25 million in the 1950s.

With what credibility does our regime, on whose watch farm suicides crossed the quarter-of-a-million mark, speak of helping farmers? Who knows what windfalls the deals struck with retail giants have brought to individuals in this most corrupt government in our history? We need to embrace that old journalistic principle: Follow the money. (Hillary does, though in a very different way.) Meanwhile, look at our government's claims.

Who it affects

Doing away with the ‘middleman': The first to be devastated will be that poor ‘middlewoman' — the vendor who daily provides our towns and cities with fresh produce. She did not push up the prices and has her modest margin squeezed each time they rise. That woman carrying that huge basket to your doorstep, on her feet 14-16 hours a day to feed her family. She's the first ‘middleman' target.

The more exploitative middlemen in the chain will be co-opted by giant retail which needs collectors and contractors, though not so many. It will slash their numbers after a while. This is The Mob taking over from the little guys on the block. You're looking at massive displacement in the agricultural supply chain. Only, the new ‘middlemen' will be Cardin-clad and Gucci-shod, with better access to government than the farmers everyone's dying to save.

That poor woman vendor, whose life we need to improve, not destroy, brings you fresh produce. She has to, or she can't sell it. (Tip: big retail operators pasting the words ‘natural' or ‘fresh' against their names are selling you stuff that could have been refrigerated, even frozen, for days).

Ten million jobs: Try not to die laughing. This comes from a school of economics that has gifted the world jobless growth for three decades now. We worked hard for two of those, making a big expansion of jobs impossible within our policy framework.

From the early 1990s, fantastic claims have been made of small farmers gaining from neo-liberal globalisation. For instance: farm incomes would rise 25 per cent if Indian prices were aligned to global prices; purchasing power would shoot up.

Many steps were taken on such claims, including 100 per cent FDI in sectors like seed. All achieved the opposite. These moves helped double the indebtedness of the peasantry and further spurred the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides. Apart from which we've seen seven-and-a-half million people abandon agriculture in a decade, many driven out by policies to ‘benefit the farmer.' Now we should believe that FDI in retail will undo all the damage that these policies — from the very same authors — caused? And these guys predict 10 million jobs within a year?

The UPA wants to open up a sector that for all its awful flaws and hardships presently employs 44 million people and has total sales of close to $400 billion. (That's about 20 times the number Walmart employs on roughly the same turnover.) And gives some sustenance to many millions more if you think families. Small shops and ‘big box retail' can co-exist, so croons the corporate choir. Sure, after wiping out countless thousands of tiny shops, the survivors can ‘co-exist' with the big guys, who might even have minor errands for them to run. India's powerful will run the more important errands. That was clear from 2005 when then Walmart International Division chief John Menzer told his company's annual meeting: “In our six government meetings, we created a very positive image [of Wal-Mart]…” And: “We've energized the FDI lobby and preempted the anti-FDI lobby in India.” (Wal-Mart's Hot in India, CNNMONEY.COM, June 6, 2005)

Efficiency: The giant chains can never match the efficiency of farmers' markets selling food produced locally or nearby. Their sourcing of produce from all over the world, central warehousing systems, giant transport operations — all these are hugely energy intensive. Which means a lot of what you get is old and much-refrigerated or frozen. Know the other costs of what you pay for.

Benefitting farmers: Here's a paradox. Just when we march determinedly towards super markets, people in the homeland of Big Retail are buying more and more from “farmers' markets.” That is, the oldest form of direct marketing by small producers. More and more Americans seek decent produce not drowned in chemicals, pesticides and preservatives. Growing numbers of that nation's small and family farms are selling through farmers' markets each year. In India, every market was once a farmers' market. Over time, farmers have lost control of such markets to traders and moneylenders. Now comes the coup de grace.

The coming of Big Retail is not simply about shops in the towns of over one million. It brings a radical restructuring of the entire agri-supply chain. The kind of investments — above $100 million — will obviously not go towards labour-intensive operations. The new structures that will confront farmers are stronger than any they have ever known. As a paper on the “U.S. Farm Crisis” from the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Oklahoma, puts it: “large corporations have in recent years moved to curtail farmer independence through production contracts and other forms of vertical integration. These moves have included establishment of huge corporate-owned Confined Animal Feeding Operations, where animals are raised without farmers.”

The new middlemen the government welcomes have no regard for village and community. Maximising their own profit is their sole concern. As the number of buyers shrinks to a handful of corporations, farmers will have fewer places to sell their produce. What kind of bargaining power will they have against these mega-middlemen, some of whose worth would place them, if treated as nations, amongst the top ten economies in the world? The “contracts” in the new dispensation will reflect that power equation. The National Commission for Farmers headed by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan had observed that rushing into contract farming without ensuring the needs, safety and bargaining power of the farmer would result in major displacement in the sector. But not to worry, Hillary, your team is still out there batting. Only retired hurt for the moment.

The Hindu