Archive for Colonialism

All cultures are not equal

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2009 by Umer

by Kenan Malik

‘I denounce European colonialism’, wrote CLR James, ‘but I respect the learning and profound discoveries of Western civilisation.’ (1)

James was one of the great radicals of the twentieth century, an anti-imperialist, a superb historian of black struggles, a Marxist who remained one even when it was no longer fashionable to be so. But today, James’ defence of ‘Western civilisation’ would probably be dismissed as Eurocentric, even racist.

To be radical today is to display disenchantment with all that is ‘Western’ – by which most mean modernism and the ideas of the Enlightenment – in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘difference’. The modernist project of pursuing a rational, scientific understanding of the natural and social world – a project that James unashamedly championed – is now widely regarded as a dangerous fantasy, even as oppressive.

‘Subjugation’, according to the philosopher David Goldberg, ‘defines the order of the Enlightenment: subjugation of nature by human intellect, colonial control through physical and cultural domination, and economic superiority through mastery of the laws of the market’ (2). The mastery of nature and the rational organisation of society, which were once seen as the basis of human emancipation, have now become the sources of human enslavement.

Enlightenment universalism, such critics argue, is racist because it seeks to impose Euro-American ideas of rationality and objectivity on other peoples. ‘The universalising discourses of modern Europe and the United States’, argues Edward Said, ‘assume the silence, willing or otherwise, of the non-European world.’ (3)

Not just for radicals, but for many mainstream liberals too, the road that began in the Enlightenment ends in savagery, even genocide. As the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues: ‘Every ingredient of the Holocaust… was normal… in the sense of being fully in keeping with everything we know about our civilisation, its guiding spirits, its priorities, its immanent vision of the world – and of the proper ways to pursue human happiness together with a perfect society.’ (4)

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Red Salute to Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2009 by Umer

Last of the Ghadar revolutionaries 

The revolutionary movement, and all Indian progressives and patriots, lost the last living link with one of the most glorious pages of India’s anti-imperialist history when Comrade Baba Bhagat Singh Bilga, popularly known as Baba Bilga, passed away on 22 May in Birmingham at the age of 102.

Baba Bilga was the last surviving member of the Ghadar Party, a revolutionary party of Indians overseas, founded in California, USA, in 1913, pledged to the liberation of India from British colonial rule by means of armed struggle.

He was born on either 1 or 2 April 1907, the same year as the great revolutionary martyr, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, in the village of Bilga in Punjab’s Jalandhar district. His village was known as a baghi (rebel) one by the British rulers and several of its young men were to join the Ghadar Party.

Not untypically, his early life was hard. His father, Hira Singh Sanghera, died when he was one year old. As he recalled in later years: “My maternal aunt took me to her village, Ajitwal in Moga district. She soon died of plague. Her husband and my maternal grandmother brought me up.”

Seeking work, Baba Bilga went to Kolkata and from there to Burma, Singapore, Hong Kong, Chile and finally to Argentina in 1931 at the age of 24. It was there that he met Ajit Singh, the uncle of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, who won him to the cause of revolution. He worked as a clerk in a railway store and became the General Secretary of the Ghadar Party in Argentina.

Revolutionary history of the Ghadar Party

The Ghadar Party’s roots lay in the struggle against discrimination faced by Indian immigrants to Canada and the USA, but its focus was on freeing India from British colonial rule. The first issue of the party paper, published in November 1913, wrote:

“Today there begins in foreign lands, but in our country’s tongue, a war against the British Raj… What is our name? Revolution. What is our work? Revolution. Where will the revolution be? In India. The time will soon come when rifles and blood will take the place of pens and ink.”

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The Baloch Question

Posted in International Affairs, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Umer

by Umer A. Chaudhry

The brutal murder of three nationalist leaders of Balochistan and the ensuing crisis has brought the issue of the Baloch national struggle to the forefront once again, only to be met with feigned surprises and arrogant dismissals by a major part of the rest of Pakistan. We in Pakistan — and particularly those of us in Punjab — love to externalize the roots of problems that irritate our sensibility. Therefore, fingers were immediately pointed at foreign involvements, scarcely any thought given to our own attitude towards one of the largest provinces of our country. The deliberate lack of introspection combined with the respect that wild conspiracy theories continue to enjoy renders it very much necessary to take a dip into the history of Balochistan, for that is where the roots of the question lie.

The roots of Baloch nationalism can be roughly traced back to the middle of the nineteenth century when the region became a victim of foreign aggression from both eastern and western sides during the decline of the Khanate of Kalat. For the expansionist British colonizers, Balochistan was a strategically important region to manage the buffer state of Afghanistan against Russia and maintain communication links with Central Asia and Persia. Starting from 1839, after the assassination of Mir Mehrab Khan in a British regiment’s attack on Kalat leading to the installation of an unpopular Khan, the British made several inroads in the Kalat State. British power was consolidated in Balochistan through a number of treaties, culminating in the treaty of 1876 through which the sovereignty of the Khan of Kalat over the region was brought under the administrative control of the British.

In the same period, the Baloch region suffered intrusion from Iran on the western side under the leadership of Qajar King Nasir-al Din Shah, with a major war fought in Kerman in 1849. With Iranian expansionism in Balochistan on the rise, the British decided to adopt the policy of appeasement towards the Iranians to dissuade them from the Russian influence. In 1871, the British agreed to the Iranian proposal for the division of Balochistan and appointed a Perso-Baloch Boundary Commission with Maj. General Goldsmith as its Chief Commissioner. The ‘Goldsmith Line’ thus arbitrarily divided the cultural, social, and economic unity of Baloch people while excluding the concerns of the people and government of Balochistan. The sovereignty of the Khanate of Kalat, which was not a part of British India, was seriously compromised, leaving behind a deep sense of injustice, discrimination, and alienation among the Baloch people. Later in 1893, the areas of Outer Seistan and Registan were handed over to Afghanistan by the’Durand Line’, further aggravating the Baloch anger.

The Baloch people have never been passive in accepting the foreign domination, interference, and arbitrary partitions. The end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century saw the rise of resistance through a number of violent revolts and rebellions as well as peaceful protests against the injustice meted out to the Baloch people by the British colonizer and the Iranian kingdom. The concerns of the Baloch were not given any due consideration and, as was typical of the colonial rule, the Baloch resistance was suppressed with a heavy hand.

The next major incident that catalyzed the Baloch national struggle was the forced annexation of British Balochistan and the Khanate of Kalat to Pakistan after the independence and partition of India. The Baloch concerns arose when the referendum in British Balochistan, which was leased to the British by the Kalat State through a treaty, was carried out despite the objections raised by the Khan of Kalat. Once again, the Baloch saw foreign powers interfering in their affairs without their permission. Later, the newly born State of Pakistan forcibly annexed the Kalat State through an armed attack on 26 March 1948, even though the Khan of Kalat had announced independence on 12 August 1947, which was his right under the British withdrawal plan for India agreed upon by all major parties. The Khan agreed to merge the Kalat State with Pakistan on 27 March 1948, and the Pakistan Army marched into the capital of Kalat on 1 April 1948 as sign of their ‘victory’.

The forcible annexation of Balochistan intensified the Baloch grievances. For the Baloch, the coerced annexation to Pakistan was another attempt to curb their right of self-determination and to decide the destiny of their nation. The aggression was not accepted with silence and Prince Abdul Karim Khan, brother of the Khan of Kalat, initiated a revolt against the Pakistan Army. This revolt was brutally crushed within a short span of time and Prince Abdul Karim Khan was arrested and imprisoned.

The second Baloch rebellion in Pakistan started in 1958 in the aftermath of the ‘One Unit’ policy that was advocated vigorously by the politically dominant bureaucratic establishment of Pakistan in 1955. Following this policy, several Baloch states were forcibly dissolved and annexed into Pakistan, leading to popular resistance. In 1958, Khan Ahmed Yar Khan, the Khan of Kalat, organized a rebellion calling for secession from Pakistan. The Khan was arrested on the charges of sedition, his palace was taken over by the army, and marital law was imposed. This led to a long resistance, lasting four years, by the Baloch people against the aggression of the center. Around the same time, another rebellion was organized by Nawab Nawroz Khan, popularly known as Babu Nawroz, fighting the forces led by Lt. Col. Tikka Khanwho became notorious as the ‘Butcher of Balochistan’ and later as the ‘Butcher of Bengal’. Nawab Nawroz Khan, who was in his 80s at that time, was lured into surrender by a false oath on Quran for amnesty. The oath was not honored. Nawab Nawroz was arrested with his followers. His sons and other leaders of his movement were executed. The life of Babu Nawroz was, however, spared because of his old age and he died in custody. Khan Ahmed Yar Khan was granted amnesty and freed.

The year 1973 saw another eruption of nationalist anger in Balochistan when the central government, led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, refused to accede to the Baloch demand for provincial autonomy. Encouraged and aided by the Shah of Iran who was weary of the possible spillage of Baloch nationalist upsurge in Iranian Balochistan, the demand for provincial autonomy was nipped in the bud in Pakistan by the planted conspiracy of the ‘London Plan’: arms and ammunition allegedly en route to Kalat were discovered at the Iraqi embassy. The Baloch political leaders were arrested on the pretext that they hatched a conspiracy against Pakistan and were arbitrarily removed from ministerial positions. The National Awami Party (NAP) was banned though a Supreme Court order and their leaders were arrested, includingAtaullah Mengal, the then elected Chief Minster of Balochistan, along with Khair Baksh Marri and Ghaus Bax Bazenjo. They were all charged with high treason, persecuted at the specially constituted Hyderabad Tribunal.

The Baloch resistance of the 1970s arose under the leadership of the left-oriented Baloch People’s Liberation Front (BPLF), which was joined by people from all across Pakistan giving the movement a very progressive color. The Pakistani government, using the military aid provided by the Shah of Iran, conducted a merciless and savage operation killing thousands of Baloch civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands. The 1973-1977 civil war became one of the most widespread and bloody civil unrests against the federal government in Pakistan after the secessionist war of liberation in Bangladesh. The Baloch movement was quelled with the coup of General Zia-ul-Haq, and nearly all the insurgents were granted amnesty. Many Baloch outfits maintained their operations in Balochistan and amongst the Baloch refugees in Afghanistan.

The next and the fourth insurgency in Balochistan started in 2005, around the same demands of provincial autonomy and control over the province’s natural resources. Instead of giving due consideration to the recurrent demands of the Baloch people, the federal government under the military dictatorship resorted to the same old colonial tactics of high-handedness and initiated a full-fledged civil war in Balochistan. The assassination of Nawab Akbar Bugti became yet another turning point in the Baloch resistance and the estrangement of Baloch population. The arrogant, nay evil, response of General Pervez Musharraf in congratulating the military commanders and intelligence services for successfully carrying out the murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti added extra fuel to the fire. The brutality as well as circumstances of the recent killing of the three Baloch nationalist leaders of Balochistan — Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Muneer Baloch, and Sher Mohammad Baloch — have further aggravated the Baloch rage towards the federal government and now increasingly, but understandably, towards the rest of the population of Pakistan who have been silent bystanders.

The objective of briefly narrating the history of the Baloch crisis is only to highlight the real causes of the current conflict in the province. The lack of respect for self-determination of the Baloch people, the denial of provincial autonomy, the highly oppressive and arbitrary manner in which their leaders have been treated, the savagely cruel conduct of the federal government in times of crisis, the refusal to let the Baloch exercise their rights over the natural resources of their province, the outright discrimination against the Baloch people in the matter of economic and social rights — these are among the important factors that have brought the conditions to what they are today. Rather than externalizing the problem, we must see it in its proper historical context. The federal government of Pakistan has to do more than make half-hearted attempts to restore confidence of the people of the province. Nothing short of provision of maximum provincial autonomy, respecting the right to self-determination of the people of Balochistan, can begin to alleviate their pains and angers.

Umer A. Chaudhry is a lawyer based in Lahore, Pakistan and a member of the Communist Workers and Peasants Party (CMKP) of Pakistan.

Beware Human Rights Fundamentalism!

Posted in International Affairs, Law with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2009 by Umer

by Mahmood Mamdani

When former South African president Thabo Mbeki makes the African case for a postponement of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, what can he say with dignity and foresight?

To begin with, he should remind his audience that nowhere in the world have rights existed outside an enabling political context. No democracy enforces a fixed standard of rights regardless of the country’s political context. Few can forget how the Bush administration diluted the Bill of Rights in the interest of pursuing Homeland Security. In the relation between law and politics, politics is always paramount. Precisely because the struggle for rights is a political struggle, enforcers of rights — and not just its violators — need to be held politically accountable lest they turn rights enforcement into a private vendetta.

Mbeki can then share with his audience the lessons Africans have learned in the struggle for peace and justice over the past several decades. Contrary to what many think, this lesson is not that there needs to be a trade-off between peace and justice. The real trade-off is between different forms of justice.This became evident with the settlement to end apartheid. That settlement was possible because the political leadership of the anti-apartheid struggle prioritised political justice over criminal justice. The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes — in plain words, immunity from prosecution — provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living.

The South African lesson has guided African practice in other difficult situations. In Mozambique Renamo sits in Parliament instead of in jail or in the dock. In South Sudan, too, there would have been neither peace nor a reform of the political system without an agreement not to pursue criminal justice.Why not in Darfur?

Mbeki would also be well advised to keep in mind that in the court of public opinion — unlike in a court of law — the accused is considered guilty until proven innocent.

The public needs to be reminded that when the justices of the ICC granted the prosecutor’s application for a warrant to arrest the president of Sudan, they were not issuing a verdict of guilty. The justices were not meant to assess the facts put before them by the prosecutor, but to ask a different question: if those facts were assumed to be true, would the president of Sudan have a case to answer? Unlike court, which took the facts for granted at the pre-trial stage, we need to ask: to what extent are these facts true? And, to the extent they are true, are they the whole truth?

The prosecutor’s case
The prosecutor’s application charged President al-Bashir with (a) polarising Darfuri tribes into two races (Arab and Zurga or Black), (b) waging a violent conflict (2003-2005) leading to the ethnic cleansing of Zurga ethnic groups from their traditional tribal lands, and (c) and planning the malnutrition, rape and torture of internally displaced persons (IDPs) so as to “slow death” in the camps — a process that the prosecutor claimed went on from 2003 to the time the application was submitted in 2008.

The racialisation of identities in Darfur had its roots in the British colonial period. As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organise two confederations in Darfur: one “Arab”, the other “Zurga” or black. Racialised identities were incorporated in the census and provided the frame for government policy and administration. In spite of official policy, Arabs never constituted a single racial group. Contemporary scholarship has shown that the Arab tribes of Sudan were not migrants from the Middle East but indigenous groups that became Arabs starting in the 18th century. This is why there can be no single history of Arab tribes of Sudan. Little unites privileged sedentary tribes of riverine Sudan and impoverished nomads of Western Sudan. Unlike the Arabs of riverine north, who have tended to identify with power, the Arabs of Darfur are the most marginalised group in a marginalised province.

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The Colonial Paths of Transition to Capitalism & Reactionary Anti-Imperialism

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Marxism, Pakistan with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by Umer

by Taimur Rahman

In order to understand the dynamics between authoritarianism and bourgeois-democracy, let us briefly look at the economic imperative for the development of bourgeois-democracy in capitalism.

Capitalist society is based on the general recognition of private property. Capitalism begins where the money capital of the bourgeois meets with the labour-power of the wage worker. This exchange is premised on the dual recognition of the private property of both parties – capital of the bourgeois and labour-power of the working-person. Thus, in capitalist society the working-person is also recognized as a property owner – the property of the working-person is labour-power. This mutual recognition of property does not distinguish the social conditions that allow one class the social power to buy labour-power and the other the conditions that compel them to sell labour-power. In relation to the market the buyer and seller of labour-power are both commodity owners and the social conditions that make one the buyer and the other the seller of labour-power do not impact the mutual recognition of the two parties as owners of property. In sum, under capitalism there is an economic imperative to recognize the labourer as a property owner.

However, does capitalist society automatically accept the working-person as a free and equal citizen on the basis of the recognition of the working-person as the owner of the commodity labour-power? On the contrary, for capitalist society to translate the economic recognition of the free labourer into the political recognition of a free citizen requires a historical process of class struggle.

For instance, take the development of civil society in Europe. Marx demonstrated that the central tenants of civil society—equality, liberty, security, and freedom of belief, association, and expression as enunciated by the Declaration of the Rights of Man 1791, 1793, and the American Constitution of 1795—were theoretically derived from the central right of private property: Security consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the conservation of his person and property; liberty consists in the right of utilizing one’s property in anyway within the law; equality before the law excludes class equality and so on (Marx, 1843). However the general recognition of these rights was only won as a result of social struggle – the French revolution, the American war of independence. Similarly, the right of freedom of association with respect to the working class (that is the formation of trade unions) can be theoretically derived from the recognition of labour-power as a commodity – since all owners of property have the right to protect and command the best possible price for their respective commodities, the owners of labour-power also have the right to form associations to command the best possible conditions of sale for labour-power. However, the social recognition of the right to form trade unions required a long and protracted social struggle by workers.

The fact is that while the principles of bourgeois-democracy can be theoretically derived from capitalist property relations, the political hegemony of these principles can only come about through social struggle. The necessity of social struggle implies that the theoretical principles are not necessarily ascendant in all forms of capitalism. Thus, the rights afforded by society in any given historical situation are contingent, not merely on the economic relations of production, but also on social struggles and the path of historical development. In other words, the form and development of the class struggle mediates the development of democratic rights.

Societies that travel the road of the colonial path have to contend not with one but with two powerful social forces against democratic development. Firstly, societies of the colonial path must contend with the surviving remnants of pre-capitalist forms of unfree labour. In third world countries millions of workers continue to be enslaved through various pre-capitalist forms of unfree labour. They are still engaged in the struggle to gain bourgeois freedom; that is, the recognition of their labour-power as their individual private property. Naturally, the exploiting classes associated with these pre-capitalist relations are powerful fetters on democratic development. This feature is, however, common to the Junkers and colonial path. Secondly, and more importantly, countries that travel the road of the colonial path must not only challenge these surviving pre-capitalist forms of bondage but must also contend with the undemocratic institutions, relations, and cultural practices of the colonial state. The colonial state, as explained previously, was set up for the extraction of surplus from the colony and in its neo-colonial form continues to act as an obstacle to democracy. Thus, the forces of democracy in colonial countries today must contend not only with pre-capitalist social forces but also with imperialism.

We see then that the configuration of class forces in colonial societies is different either from countries that of the republican or Junkers path. In the first path the bourgeoisie overthrew the feudal lords through a popular revolution (France, USA, Britain) and in the second, the feudal lords slowly transformed into capitalists (Prussia, Austo-Hungary). However, in the countries that travelled the colonial path the capitalist transformation of the state occurred under the colonial regime: That is, the colonial bourgeoisie defeated, militarily or economically, pre-capitalist social forces and captured state power. Although the colonial state is planted on pre-capitalist forms of unfree labour, it is nonetheless a capitalist state because it principally represents the social forces of the dominant foreign colonial bourgeoisie. However, the colonial state, built on the economic foundation of colonial monopoly, cannot be democratic. Thus, the democratic transition of the colonial societies is premised on decolonization and the democratic transformation of the post-colonial state. In conclusion, the democratic transition of colonial countries, ironically, occurs in struggle by indigenous bourgeois-democratic forces against an advanced foreign imperial bourgeoisie. The fact that the democratic revolution in colonial countries requires a struggle against another bourgeois class is unique to the colonial path.

The spread of markets, free labour-power, secular government, foreign capital, commoditisation, consumerism, business culture and so on – in a word, the spread of the economic, political, and cultural values of bourgeois democracy – slowly undercuts and uproots pre-capitalist society. Thus, the way of life of pre-capitalist forces in colonial countries is ground down by the onslaught of colonial capitalism. These pre-capitalist forces, in order to maintain their pre-capitalist way of life, may also rise up, from time to time, against the foreign colonial rule. Significant sections of the working population disaffected by the destructive process of colonial capitalism may join their ranks. This rebellion by pre-capitalist classes against imperialism gives rise to the phenomenon of “reactionary anti-imperialism”. It is anti-imperialist in the sense that it seeks to liberate those societies from foreign conquest or to reverse the influence of foreigners in those societies. On the other hand, it is reactionary because it struggles against the foreigners in order to restore the way of life that existed before colonialism.

Thus, as opposed to the rather simple republican or Junkers path, the colonial path is complicated by the relationship between imperialism, reactionary forces, bourgeois forces, and working classes. The combined and uneven economic development of capitalism, the economic, political, military, strategic imperatives of empires, the degree of objective and subject development of modern and reactionary classes, all these and other factors contribute to sharpening or blurring the contradictions between these forces at different historical moments and societies. History shows that a variety of class alliances leading to very different outcomes are possible within countries that experience transformation through the colonial path. These are not the only possible outcomes but they are some of the outcomes that have been observed in the twentieth century.

Nationalist outcome:

Bourgeois-democratic anti-imperialism under the hegemony of the bourgeoisie

The nationalist outcome is the product of the anti-colonial struggle in countries with a well-developed bourgeoisie progressively radicalized by colonial discrimination together with an organized working class movement. In such cases, the bourgeoisie is able to win and maintain its hegemony over the anti-colonial movement. The main enemy of the nationalist bourgeoisie is colonialism. These nationalist movements do not seek an antagonistic confrontation with reactionary classes but work to win or neutralize them. The classic examples of this case are the anti-colonial struggle of the Congress against British rule, or the African National Congress against Apartheid. To some extent the Pan-Arab movement under Gamal Abdul Nassir can also be put into this category.

National Liberation outcome:


Bourgeois-democratic anti-imperialism under the hegemony of the workers and peasants

The national liberation outcome occurs when the bourgeoisie is unable to maintain the hegemony of the mass anti-colonial movement. It may begin the anti-imperialist struggle (for instance the Nationalists in China) but owing to various historical reasons is unable to maintain this hegemony. Communist parties win the hegemony of the anti-colonial movement and organize workers and peasants against imperialism and their domestic reactionary allies transforming the nationalist movement into a national-liberation struggle. National-liberation struggles are generally opposed not only to the colonial authority but also equally to their reactionary allies. Conversely, they do not seek an antagonistic confrontation with the indigenous bourgeoisie but work to win or neutralize them. The classic case of such national liberation struggles China and Vietnam during the periods of Mao and Ho Chi Minh respectively.

Reactionary Anti-Imperialist outcome:


Anti-imperialism under the hegemony of reactionary classes

The reactionary anti-imperialist outcome occurs when reactionary classes organize and lead the struggle against colonialism or imperialism. The bourgeoisie is either economically and politically weak or reconciled to imperialism. Similarly, working classes, especially those associated with modern capitalism, may be weak, disorganized, or simply unable to exercise significant hegemony or power over the anti-imperialist movement. Reactionary anti-imperialism often relies on the ideology of religious fundamentalism and they are also strongly opposed to independent working class or bourgeois-democratic forces. To such reactionary forces, bourgeois-democratic or socialist working class forces represent another aspect of “Westernisation”. The classic case of such reactionary anti-imperialism is Iran under Khomeni. One may also consider the Mahdi of Sudan, the Khilafat movement in British India , Hamas, and the Taliban in Afghanistan today in the same category.

While the first three are outcomes of anti-imperialist struggle, the following two outcomes are a product of a victorious imperialist strategy.

Reactionary Monarchist outcome:
Based on the class alliance of reaction with imperialism

The reactionary monarchist outcome occurs in instances where historical factors bring about a strong class alliance of reactionary classes and imperialism. Such an outcome is seen to occur in countries where the strategic objectives of imperialism are not to develop any trade or production but to monopolize certain key routes, resources, or territories. Imperialism will help to consolidate and strengthen pre-capitalist reactionary forces and the development of capitalism, in such instances, remains extremely weak. Whatever bourgeoisie develops is generally extremely weak and mostly reconciled to both imperialism and reaction. Other working classes associated with modern capitalism are also under-developed and unable to spark or lead a sustained anti-imperialist movement. Such states are often ‘rentier states’ with the ideology of religious traditionalism that, although aligned with imperialism, are strongly opposed to any independent working class or bourgeois-democratic forces. To such reactionary forces, bourgeois-democratic or socialist working class forces also represent another aspect of “Westernisation”. The classic cases of such reactionary monarchies are Saudi Arabia, Jordon, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and so on.

Bourgeois Reactionary outcome:
Based on the class alliance of the bourgeoisie, reaction, and imperialism

In certain instances the contradictions between reactionary classes, the bourgeoisie and imperialism do not develop into sustained antagonistic conflicts. This outcome is also possible in circumstances where imperialism is able to manage by force and accommodation, these contradictions and they remain within a certain limited framework.

This outcome may occur in a variety of countries ranging from moderate to relatively developed third world economies. The class alliance of imperialism, the bourgeois and reaction is able to overwhelm, in such a period, the forces of change (for instance workers and peasants). The classic cases of such reactionary states are South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Pakistan and so on. One could also argue that nationalist movements, national liberation movements, or reactionary anti-imperialist movements may capitulate to imperialism to leading to a bourgeois reactionary outcome.

We can see that there are sustained periods of both reconciliation and resistance between reactionary and bourgeois democratic forces in relation to imperialism. There are also periods where bourgeois-democratic and reactionary anti-imperialist trends may merge with each other, to some degree, thereby blurring the lines of distinction between the two. These five outcomes are by no means exhaustive. For instance, this admittedly simplistic model does not take into account a situation were bourgeois, reactionary, or working class forces are split along national or ethnic lines; it does not take into account independent action by other classes such as the petty-bourgeoisie, the nomads, or tribes; it does not take into account the results of inter-imperialist rivalry or rivalry between third world states; and so on. Nonetheless, despite the simplistic nature of the model that cannot do justice to the real history, it helps one appreciate that unlike European capitalist development, the colonial path is characterized by greater complexity and a variety of outcomes determined by the modalities of class formation and class struggle.

In sum, India and the region that constitutes Pakistan became capitalist through a ‘colonial path’ with the result that the social-economic formation retains significant features of pre-capitalist relations together with a colonial capitalism.

What we are witnessing in the phenomenon of fundamentalism is a form of reactionary anti-imperialism. We must reject this path of development in favour of the path to national liberation.

The author of the note is a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and pursuing his doctral degree at SOAS.

Voice of Thunder

Posted in International Affairs, Poetry, Literature, Art with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2009 by Umer
Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, in Amritsar (1919)

Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, in Amritsar (1919)


Give me a voice of thunder
That I may hurl implications upon this cannibal
Whose gruesome hunger
Spares neither the mother nor the child

Rabindranath Tagore wrote these verses after the gruesome Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in India in 1919. The massacre of innocent civilians in Gaza is a grim reminder of the colonial brutality that was inflicted on Indians in the times of British India. Same colonial savagery is now being perpetuated in Gaza. So long it has been, but so little has this world changed.

Bodies of Palestinians killed in Gaza from the Israeli airstrike

Bodies of Palestinians killed in Gaza from the Israeli airstrike

Background of events in the DRC

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2008 by Umer

by Ahmed Khan.

Located in central Africa, the Congo is one of the largest, most populous countries in the continent. Strategically located it borders nine countries; Angola, the Congo-Brazzaville, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. Economically, the Congo is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of resources, with the western Capitalist countries obtaining seven percent of their tin, nine percent of their copper, forty nine percent of their copper, and sixty nine percent of their industrial diamonds from there in 1959.

Belgian colonialism witnessed the intense exploitation of this resource rich country, dominated by Belgian-owned firms. Apart from mining these resources, large latifundia and commercial farms produced cash crops destined for Brussels such as Cotton, rubber, coffee, tea and cocoa.

With the intensification of the freedom movement spearheaded primarily by the Mouvement Nationale Congolaise (MNC) founded and led by the leftist Patrice Lumumba, Belgium was compelled to abandon its colony in the Congo, however it reserved the right to play a major role in its subsequent history. To review the character of the major parties up to independence, the MNC was “the patriotic party enjoying most influence among the population…it stands for complete independence and unity of the country”

In alliance with it, stood the Parti Solidaire Africaine and the centre du regroupement Africaine which apart from independence called for the nationalization of plantations and industrial undertakings along with the participation of workers in the management of industry. The appeal of the MNC as opposed to its competitors can be explained largely by the fact that it was the only national party claiming to represent all Congolese whereas the other parties represented the interests of specific ethnic, tribal and regional groupings.

The largest party antagonistic to the MNC and its allies was the Association des Bakongo (ABAKO) led during the crisis by Joseph Kasavubu to represent the Bakongo ethnic group. Close to the Catholic Church, ABAKO “well known for its separatist tendencies became obedient executors of the will of the Imperialists”

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