International Situation and Our Tasks

LOGO 7TH PARTY CONGRESS1. The international situation today is marked by the heightened military offensive of US imperialism. Washington was bent upon ‘celebrating’ the first anniversary of September 11 by launching yet another massive attack on Iraq. In fact, a few days before the first anniversary, Iraq was indeed subjected to a vicious Anglo-American air attack. The danger of war has however been temporarily averted with most of Washington’s western and Arab allies rejecting unilateral US action and insisting on collective intervention under the UN banner and Iraq accepting UN-led inspection of whatever remains in its arsenal. Meanwhile, a war-ravaged Afghanistan continues to be battered by US troops stationed in the country. It was in the name of hunting down Osama bin Laden, dead or alive, that Washington had attacked Afghanistan. While Laden remains as elusive as ever, the writ of the post-Taliban Karzai government does not run beyond Kabul. Most of Afghanistan has again come to be dominated by the warlords and guerrilla attacks and terrorist threats against the American troops are intensifying.

2. While terrorist attacks like the incidents of September 11 can certainly not be condoned by any sane individual or responsible organisation, Washington’s response has been utterly hypocritical and condemnable. In the name of countering terrorism, the Bush administration is waging nothing short of a terrorist war on a global scale. It is an endless or total war, which, from the point of view of Washington is not limited by any constraints of time, geography or international law. The war has given US imperialism a blanket excuse to upgrade its mammoth military establishment and greatly enhance its global military presence, most particularly in Central Asia. This military muscle flexing is more than matched by a corresponding rise in economic plunder and political intervention. The US has now come to acquire a much bigger and more direct control over the existing oil economy as well as the untapped oil reserves and other energy resources of strategic importance which are available in abundance in the Middle-East and Central Asian region. Politically, the level of American intervention has gone up considerably with the replacement of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by a puppet regime and with countries like India and Pakistan remaining engaged in a no-holds-barred competition to win Washington’s blessings.

3. With three major war campaigns in one decade, the Gulf War, the war on Serbia and now the open-ended global war on terror, the American pursuit of a unipolar world has entered a new phase. Even before September 11, the Bush administration had adopted a policy of aggressive unilateralism in international relations, marking a shift from the Clinton-era policy of using the UN and other multilateral institutions as a cover to pursue its own imperialist interests. The unilateral US move to scrap the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with the former Soviet Union, the arrogant resumption of the aggressive National Missile Defense programme targeted particularly against China and unprecedented hikes in the US defense budget had already signalled an unmistakable intensification of Washington’s drive towards a unipolar world.

4. The shock of September 11 also created a favourable domestic climate for the Bush administration in pursuing its superpower agenda. Dismissing the boastful claim or rather lament of American policy makers that “America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad” and that “this limits the use of American power, especially its capacity for military intimidation”, the Bush presidency came up with draconian legal measures like the USA PATRIOT ACT (which in turn has inspired similar anti-terrorist legislations in a large number of countries including the notorious POTA in India). Amidst rising jingoistic clamour and racist attacks, post September 11, mainstream Western politics, American politics in particular, have undergone a rabid rightward shift. All over Europe there has been a disturbing consolidation of fascist trends, most notably in France.

5. The initial American retaliation after September 11 had the support of most governments across the world. In many countries while the people took to the streets in massive protests, their respective governments sided blatantly with the war efforts. Pakistan and India are two major cases in point, and in the case of the BJP-led NDA government of India, support was extended without even being asked for. But once the Taliban regime had been toppled and a new regime installed in Kabul, most Western powers with the sole exception of Britain gradually began distancing themselves from the US-led war campaign. Especially, Bush’s call for targeting the so-called ‘axis of evil’ comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea did not receive any significant support from any quarter. And when Israel sought to take advantage of the so-called global consensus against terrorism to mount a murderous attack on Palestine, directed specifically against Yasser Arafat, it had to face worldwide condemnation and had eventually no other option but to retreat.

6. Worldwide, there is a strong view that sees the September 11 terrorist strike and the ongoing US-led war against terrorism as a vindication of Huntington’s thesis of clash of civilisations. While reactionary Western ideologues and pro-imperialist propagandists continue to demonise Islam and talk of Islamic terrorism, many in the anti-imperialist camp also tend to view militant anti-imperialism in terms of an Islamic jihad. The post September 11 developments have however clearly shown that there is no undifferentiated and homogenous Islamic bloc. Even if some terrorist groups have strong religious beliefs, the terrorism they practice is an entirely modern phenomenon and is more intimately connected to the US foreign policy than to Islam. While the consistent American support for Israeli occupation of Palestine, the ceaseless attacks on Iraq and the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia continue to fuel tremendous resentment against the US foreign policy, the armed outfits which are channelising this resentment along terrorist lines all owe their genesis and growth to the CIA. Both Gulf War and America’s Afghanistan war rather corroborate the primacy of the contradiction between imperialism, US imperialism in particular, and the third world. Washington’s list of foreign terrorist organisations is getting longer and removal of leaders like Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat have now become a declared key objective of US foreign policy. The war is also being sought to be stretched to countries like the Philippines with Washington now including the Communist Party of Philippines and the New People’s Army in the list of foreign terrorist organisations.

7. In our Sixth Congress we had noted the objective trend towards a multipolar world. Around the same time none other than Huntington had also described the present world order as a uni-multipolar world, a state of transition from a brief unipolar moment following the collapse of the Soviet Union to an effectively multipolar world in the coming decades. The debate as to whether the world has once again been pushed back into a unipolar order has once again been revived in the wake of the ongoing US-led war. The terrorist strikes of September 11 gave an unprecedented jolt to US confidence as a global power and exposed with stunning clarity that the US too was quite vulnerable. While in the immediate aftermath of this colossal human tragedy, the whole world almost instinctively rallied around the US in sympathy, it did not take long for more and more sections of the global opinion to acknowledge the impossibility of a unipolar world. The parameters and priorities of the American foreign policy are being increasingly questioned and opinion polls conducted around the first anniversary of September 11 clearly show that the world over the US foreign policy is now seen to be the biggest factor behind the terrorist strikes.

8. It is of course true that none of the other potential poles, the European Union, China, Russia, or a China-Russia axis for that matter, has still assumed such a role. There is no other country or bloc of countries which can yet be recognised as a match to the US in terms of the latter’s combined military might, economic prowess and political clout. China’s role in world politics still remains quite limited, as China prefers her economy to do all the talking. But there can be no underestimating the growing contention between the US and China, the latter’s support to the US-led Afghan war notwithstanding. Russian power has been considerably eroded in economic and political terms, but militarily it is still capable of giving the US a run for its money. The Shanghai communiqué issued by China and Russia in August this year reiterated the two countries’ shared commitment to collective security. The European Union may have a military partnership with the US, but almost all over the third world, the US has to contend closely with the EU in terms of economic control. Politically too, France and Germany in particular often express open disagreement with the US policy of unilateralism. Indeed, US-Europe relations are marked by a growing European opposition to Washington’s ‘cowboy approach to politics where might is fight is right’ and where the world’s only superpower arrogates to itself the right to break treaties, go back on its word and overrule its allies. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s strong stand against a renewed American war on Iraq proved to be the strongest factor in his favour in the recent German elections.

9. In this context we should also take into account the shadow of crisis that now looms large over the US economy. All through the 1990s while most of the G-7 countries experienced a steady deceleration of growth, the downturn being most pronounced in the case of Japan which suffered a major banking crisis, the US had continued to enjoy a decade-long growth cycle. Of course, even this growth cycle was far weaker than previous periods of boom with the annual growth rate averaging only around 3%. More importantly, primarily a massive financial bubble and the spectacular rise of the IT-based new economy propelled this jobless growth. But two years ago the bubble burst as dramatically as it had grown and in March 2000 the US economy was officially declared to have hit a recessionary phase. The signs of recovery of the US economy are still considered quite weak and unstable by most economic commentators. Meanwhile, after a spree of mega mergers and mega acquisitions, the US economy is now saddled with a string of mega bankruptcies. The Worldcom bust in 2002 has already overshadowed the record created by the collapse of Enron in 2001. These bankruptcies have revealed the ugly face of crony capitalism in the Mecca of free market economy, with the US President and top officials of his administration colluding with business barons to plunder large sections of small investors and the working class.

10. The acute crisis of the world capitalist economy, a crisis that has been compared to the Great Depression of 1929-33 in terms of its intensity, scale and sweep, has also led to an institutional breakdown. The incredibly massive growth and mobility of finance capital has rendered the post-war Bretton Woods system of international economic and financial management almost irrelevant. In the last decade the world has witnessed drastic devaluation of certain currencies and fluctuations in share prices leading to the wiping out of unprecedented amount of paper wealth overnight. But with the increasing globalisation of finance, no economy can remain insulated for long from the cataclysmic effect of drastic devaluation of any one currency or drop in share prices in one sector or in one market. After twenty years of unchallenged supremacy, the dollar has also started losing ground, its value having gone down by 13% vis-à-vis the euro and 6% in relation to the yen. International currency traders are selling dollar assets with a vengeance, making the US potentially vulnerable to a scenario of currency turmoil. The disastrous effect of the enormous parasitic growth of speculative finance on productive investment and the real economy is becoming clearer with every passing year.

11. The rich countries are trying to overcome the present crisis by transferring their burden on the third world economies and in this context the World Trade Organisation has shot into prominence as the most effective institutional vehicle of globalisation. The purview of trade is being stretched indefinitely to obliterate the distinction between the internal and external spheres of a national economy. In the name of free trade in a free market weaker countries are being subjected to a most unequal kind of competition. Globalisation is accentuating income disparities across sectors and countries and also within every society including the societies of OECD and G-7 countries. The world’s richest 20 percent now receive 86 percent of the world’s gross domestic product while the poorest 20 percent receive only 1 percent. In 1998-99, with the world gross output per capita growing at the rate of 1.5-1.8 per cent, more than eighty countries had lower per capita incomes than they had a decade or more ago, and at least fifty-five countries have consistently declining per capita incomes.

12. The sharpening of disparities, the globalisation of economic crises and ever-growing uncertainties has also led to the globalisation of mass protests and resistance. Anti-globalisation protests have become a defining feature of the present international situation. Protests have overshadowed and in some cases even led to the cancellation of some major meetings of the WTO, IMF, World Bank, G-7 or European Union. Ever since Bush announced the National Missile Defense Programme, the protests began to take on a strong anti-US anti-imperialist character. Following September 11, if some sections of the anti-globalisation movement have indeed become confused and disorientated, most other forces ranged against globalisation have gone on to direct the movement against the war and all its attendant features like its racist offensive. While anti-Islamic racism, which had started getting intensified since the end of the Cold War got a huge boost after September 11, anti-racist movements waged primarily by communities of people of third world origin in the first world, which were a strong element in the West already, also got a fillip from the growing anti-war anti-globalisation campaign.

13. Amidst worldwide anti-globalisation protests, it is Latin America that has emerged as the most explosive theatre of action. Indeed, most of the Latin American countries have a long history of powerful mass resistance. Earlier this year Argentina witnessed repeated mass upheavals and the situation continues to remain turbulent. In Venezuela the US-backed attempt to overthrow President Hugo Chavez’s government through a reactionary coup was foiled by vigilant members of the Bolivarian Circles who promptly came out on the streets in large numbers. In countries like Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua and El Salvador leftwing resistance is gathering momentum. Neo-liberal economic policies have taken their worst toll in this region and there has been a drastic decline in living standards of the working people. The demand for reversal of these disastrous economic policies and opposition to US imperialism are common rallying points in this entire region. There is also great indignation against the US-led embargo on Cuba and tremendous moral support for the heroic resistance being put up by the Cuban people under the charismatic and inspiring leadership of Fidel Castro.

14. In our last Congress report, we had expressed serious concern about the future of Chinese socialism. Reports emanating from China indicate a continuing aggravation of social and regional disparities and serious erosion in the working and living conditions and rights of large sections of the working people. China has however retained its tempo of economic growth and if this growth rate continues, China is slated to overtake the US and emerge as the world’s number one economic power by the first quarter of the present century. More importantly, China has managed to avoid the kind of instability and wild fluctuations that overshadow most developed market economies. Manufacturing apart, China has also made rapid strides in the IT sector including the challenging field of computer software even though the domination of English language poses a major hurdle to the Chinese. In the sphere of world trade, the impact of China’s entry into the WTO still remains to be assessed. In the short term, China has surely had to pay a heavy price to enter the WTO, but the presence of a leading trade power like China within the WTO framework is bound to intensify the nascent trade war in the world economy.

Interestingly, while we remain concerned about the future of Chinese socialism, China’s ongoing experiments with a so-called socialist market economy have made China a darling of the Indian ruling classes. The same people who once used to accuse communists of being Chinese agents today uphold China as their role model in economic matters even as New Delhi echoes the Washington view of China being the number one enemy. While critically evaluating the Chinese experience, we must firmly oppose the anti-China thrust of Indian foreign policy and press for a policy of friendship and cooperation with China.

15. The situation in Nepal has taken a precarious turn following the shocking massacre of King Birendra and his family. The massacre created tremendous outrage in Nepal and the institution of monarchy has now become quite discredited in this Himalayan kingdom. The present king has declared war on the Maoists who are demanding abolition of the monarchy and the setting up of a full-fledged democratic republic. The government has turned down the Maoists’ offer for cease-fire and resumption of dialogue and they seem to have reached a crossroads in their ongoing war of attrition with the state. Reports coming from Nepal suggest that the Maoists are increasingly indulging in desperate and indiscriminate acts of violence. The US, which was always wary of growing communist influence in Nepal and the possibility of Nepal tilting closer to China, has discovered an excellent opportunity to tighten its strategic noose around Nepal and the Government of India is playing the role of a loyal collaborator. There are also reports of harassment and intimidation of Nepalese students and workers in India, including cases of forcible deportation.

The developments in Nepal mark a serious challenge not only to the fledgling parliamentary democracy and powerful communist movement in the state but to progressive forces in the whole of South Asia. The initial support extended by the CPN(UML) to the Emergency in Nepal had surprised and disappointed many well-wishers of the Nepalese Left in India. We shall continue to stand resolutely by the Nepalese people in their fight for democracy and against imperialist interference. More specifically, we shall continue to oppose any intervention of the Indian state in the internal affairs of Nepal and any harassment of Nepalese citizens in India.

16. Relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated considerably in recent times. After 21 war-free years, the two countries fought a disastrous fourth war in 1999. India had to pay a heavy price to regain Kargil and the Pakistani withdrawal happened only at Washington’s behest. This was followed by yet another bloodless coup in Pakistan when General Musharraf overthrew the government of Nawaz Sharief. The General has since stabilised his domestic position by holding a fraudulent referendum and organising a sanitised elections in which former Prime Ministers like Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharief and their parties have not been allowed to participate. He has also launched a powerful diplomatic offensive against India, playing his Afghanistan card quite deftly to effectively internationalise the Kashmir question. India’s refusal to deal directly with Pakistan on the Kashmir question has only allowed the US to deepen its intervention in the region.

Since India and Pakistan both possess nuclear weapons, there is now a growing regional as well as international concern about the danger of war between the two countries. The governments of both India and Pakistan are however locked in a disastrous arms race and tension reaches near-war level at regular intervals. We should build on the growing anti-war opinion in both Pakistan and India to press for an amicable resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries through direct, bilateral dialogue.

In this context we must remain alert against simplistic notions of peace being ensured through a balance of terror and nuclear parity or through greater American intervention in the region. That nuclear parity between India and Pakistan cannot be viewed as an absolute or infallible deterrent became clear when, after becoming nuclear powers, the two countries fought the Kargil war. Similarly, there is a liberal view, which treats increased American interest and intervention in the region as a positive factor for regional peace. So often we hear that America will not permit another war and some opposition parties even dare the BJP to defy American pressure and launch a comprehensive military offensive against Pakistan! This view is erroneous on two counts. Firstly, it misreads the implications of American involvement and interference in the region. The Bush-Blair combination has been openly fuelling the ongoing arms race between India and Pakistan and a limited war does in no way contradict US imperialism’s drive for global hegemony in a unipolar world. Secondly, it is also wrong to ignore or underestimate the relative autonomy of the Indian ruling classes. While it is true that the Indian ruling classes cannot ultimately afford to go against the wishes of US imperialism, they have considerable bargaining power and manoeuvrability at least in regional affairs. Just as the Sharon government of Israel took advantage of the post-September 11 climate to intensify its war of occupation on Palestine, the Indian state is also capable of waging a limited war on Pakistan.

17. After seven years, talks have again been resumed between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. Ever since India’s disastrous IPKF experiment in the late 1980s, India has had a minimal role in the peace process and the current deal is being brokered by Norway. The resumption of talks definitely marks a welcome step forward; especially, for the battle-fatigued Tamil population in the northern part of the island, the revived peace process has provided a much-needed breathing space. In fact, with the Sri Lankan government lifting the ban on LTTE, and the latter articulating its demands for a homeland and for self-determination while placing its demand for independent nationhood as a last resort, chances of a settlement of the nearly two-decade-old ethnic war appear to have improved considerably. A negotiated resolution of the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka would not only bring peace and stability to the island but also serve as a reference for similar insurgencies in other parts of South Asia and help reduce the danger of imperialist intervention in the entire region.

18. In neighbouring Bangladesh, the previous election again saw a change in government with Khaleda Zia returning as Prime Minister. The prevailing international climate continues to exert tremendous pressure on the domestic situation in Bangladesh. The rise of militant Hindutva in India, the bogey of Bangladeshi infiltration and continuing tension along the border has also added to the pressure. Secular and Left forces in Bangladesh however continue to prevail over the fundamentalist forces. The government of India as well as the state government of West Bengal must display a positive and friendly attitude to Bangladesh and stop bracketing Bangladesh with Pakistan and ISI. All outstanding issues between India and Bangladesh must be resolved amicably through dialogue and in a spirit of mutual accommodation.

19. The BJP’s drive for a regional hegemonic role for India under Washington’s global umbrella and the ceaseless hostility between India and Pakistan has queered the pitch for regional cooperation in South Asia. At a time when the region should have pooled together all its strength and resources to put up a concerted resistance to the imperialist offensive in the guise of globalisation, SAARC has been reduced to an increasingly irrelevant showpiece. New Delhi’s policy of supporting the military junta of Myanmar may yield some short-term economic gains but it has made a mockery of India’s much-proclaimed commitment to the cause of democracy. Similarly, the pressure being exerted on Bhutan to allow the Indian army to carry out military operations against insurgent groups within the kingdom has raised the fear of Bhutan too being eventually annexed like Sikkim. Reversal of India’s policies towards her immediate neighbours holds the key to any realisation of the prospect of enduring peace and rapid economic development in South Asia. Just as hostilities between India and Pakistan are jeopardising the prospects of SAARC, a functional framework of regional cooperation can, on the contrary, pave the way for the eventual emergence of a confederation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is the only meaningful context in which we can achieve a durable solution to the Kashmir question and free the Indian sub-continent from the divisive and disastrous legacies of Partition.

20. For the international communist movement, the present period marks a challenging phase of recovery and resistance. The demoralisation caused in the wake of the Soviet collapse has given way to a new determination among communist ranks all over the world. No example perhaps illustrates the situation better than the changes taking place in Indonesia. This is the country where thirty-seven years ago nearly a million people were butchered by the infamous Suharto dictatorship in a ‘communist cleansing campaign’. The operation formed an integral part of a sinister Anglo-American imperialist conspiracy to suppress the growing communist movement in Asia. Today, the dictatorship has been overthrown and new generations of communists are busy picking up the threads in rebuilding the movement.

Ideologically, all illusions about a peaceful and democratic capitalist future have been laid to rest by the renewed offensive of US imperialism. Amidst all claims of free trade, free market and a crisis-free new economy, the monopoly and parasitic character of imperialist finance capital and the organic relationship between imperialism and war once again stand out in bold relief. The quest for an alternative to capitalism, or to a future beyond capitalism, has again started capturing the popular imagination as illustrated by the World Social Forum motto ‘Another world is possible’.

Against this backdrop, communist parties and communist-led trade unions and other mass organisations are playing a key role in the worldwide anti-globalisation anti-imperialist movement along with a host of other anti-capitalist tendencies. We stand for developing wider links and closer cooperation with all positive forces of the international communist and anti-imperialist movement on the principled basis of proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialist solidarity.

With US imperialism rapidly increasing its intervention in the third world in general and Asia in particular, the anti-imperialist task of our revolution has now become more important than ever. In this context, we must pay special attention to developing closer ties with Left organisations in our neighbouring countries and with progressive sections of the South Asian Diaspora.