Further reports were given by CWI representatives in Asia.
Reports from Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India
Comrade Ravie from CWI-Malaysia opened the discussion with a report of our first year of work in this important south-east Asian country. The 2008 general election rejected the politics of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO)/National Front government. It lost its two-thirds majority and four state governments were won by the opposition. The Badawi government failed to live up to expectations and has faced criticism within UMNO. As a result, he will be stepping down next year.
He is to be replaced by Najib the current finance minister and deputy prime minister. The economic crisis is already having an effect in Malaysia and redundancies are taking place. The coming period will be another turning point in Malaysian politics. The economic crisis could further discredit the Najib government when he comes to power. There is the possibility that big business could switch its support to the opposition leader and former UMNO deputy prime minister Anwar.
However, it should be noted that there are no fundamental differences in the policies of states run by opposition coalitions from those of the UMNO government. It should be noted that Obama’s victory affected the minority populations of Malaysia; they believe now a prime minister could come from the Chinese or Indian populations. Yet under Malaysian laws this would be very difficult as the leaders of the communal parties in the National Front government have acted to strengthen the position of the Malay elite over decades.
Comrade Dhammika of the United Socialist Party (USP) commented on the difficult situation facing our party today in Sri Lanka . There is an economic and political crisis, and the government is pushing to defeat the Tamil Tigers in the 25-year long civil war.
The rate of inflation is high and wages do not last long as prices have doubled or tripled in the recent period. For many, there is abject poverty; the only posiibilities for youth are either to join the army or accept a form of slavery.
The government claims winning the war is the way to solve all the problems and there seems to be no opposition as every other party puts forward communalist policies. In despair, even large sections of workers think the war needs to be won to get stability.
It is very difficult for the USP to engage in public activities due to the dangerous situation in country. Comrade Siri (who was unable to attend the IEC following visits to several Asian countries for the CWI in the recent period) still gets publicity for our party and the party is in the forefront of a campaign against the suppression of the media. Indeed, one newspaper claimed Siri was more dangerous than the Tigers’ leaders! This indicates how the bosses fear our policies would gain the ear of large swathes of workers given the economic crisis and more favourable conditions.
The war has been stepped up as the government wants to smash the Tigers. The government has slashed public services to finance the war and this has meant, amongst other things, that a large number of schools have been closed down.
Even now, when we still have relatively small forces, workers expect so much from us to lead campaigns on the issues that concern them. At the moment though, we cannot sell our paper publicly on the streets due to threats from Sinhalese thugs who oppose our defence of Tamil workers. We can still sell outside factories and workplaces where we are known. Our party and Siri’s name are known as the only left party with a clean banner.
In Tamil areas we can sell the paper easily; on a recent visit to the hill country areas, we sold 200 papers in two towns in two hours! We have formed a new union of plantation workers and are already leading struggles.
The Tamil national question is so intense that it will not be solved by the army merely taking ground. The government has no other plan. However, the Tigers cannot be defeated by a militarily offensive alone.
The army prevented the USP from giivng out its literature in certain areas during elections earlier this year in Eastern province. Nevetheless, we came third or fourth in some areas. In this difficult situation, the provincial governor, a Tiger renegade, attacked us during the election campaign.
We are determined to stand in elections next year - workers are demanding that we do - but it will be very difficult if we cannot campaign and we need to stand against both the major capitalist parties. Despite this situation, this year the USP celebrated its 10th anniversary and commemorated the 125th anniversary of Karl Marx’s death.
Comrade Jagadish of New Socialist Alternative gave the report from India. Just a few weeks ago, the Indian captains of industry were basking in 9% annual growth. Now the bolt from the blue of recession has hit them hard.
While the elite few rake in undreamed of wealth, 836 million people in India earn just 20 Rupees (0.33 euro) a day in India even before the recession hits hard. The government classification of ’middle class’ is a misnomer - if you have two meals a day, government statistics call you middle class! Even in West Bengal after 30 years of a so-called ’Marxist’ government, there is still great poverty. That is the reality of India today. One would struggle to explain how the Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in West Bengal has survived so long given such poverty. These so-called Marxists are neoliberal to the core.
Given these conditions, what are the perspectives for the growth of genuine Marxism? We have made links with CPI(M) members disgusted with the leadership of their party and who are following our organisation and International. We have published an Indian edition of ’Marxism in Today’s World’ and this has sold well, particularly in universities.
We now have a campaigning branch in Chennai (Madras), as well as our national base in Bangalore and branches in smaller towns of Tamil Nadu. Comrade Jagadish feels very confident of the ideas and the possibilities for growth of our Indian section. The ’Asian century’ has seen the capitalists’ bubble burst but the time for rapid growth of the CWI has arrived.
Comrade Clare Doyle of the International Secretariat said this session had been a very important discussion - it was both inspiring and sobering to hear the reports and helps those comrades campaigning in less difficult circumstances to do our work. She said that help from other CWI members is important. Financial support is always welcome and we need to exploit opportunities that present themselves. Comrades should take up solidarity campaigns; for example, against the attacks on journalists. The most difficult days for the CWI in Asia are behind us and new forces will be propelled towards our International by events.