Dynamics of the left forces in Asia - Pierre Rousset

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Outline of the lecture

The situation in Asia


An immense subject : limits of the lecture and of the lecturer.

Does “Asia” as such exist?

• Its construction as viewed from Europe ( the Orient begins in … Morokko!).

• Historical diversity and the limits chosen here : from Pakistan to Korea (South Asia, South-East Asia, North-East Asia …). No other region in the world is more diverse ( Thailand and The Philippines).

• A geopolitical reality shaped by the 20th Century revolutions ( Russia, China, Vietnam…), the partition of the British Empire (1947), the big counter revolutions ( Indonesia 1965, South-Korea …) – and “frozen” by the “division of the world” in two “blocs”.

1. Asia unbalanced

An unbalanced world ruled by capitalist globalisation. Two specific factors of this unbalanced situation concern Asia specifically:

1. The disintegration of the USSR (a Eurasian power) and the end of the blocs – an internal upheaval which Asia has only in common with Eastern Europe (the map of Europe has changed …).

2. The emergence of the two main new powers : India and China which has no counterpart elsewhere.

Asia has entered a period of geostrategic imbalances … whilst being an important strategic zone ( from maritime straits to economic issues).

First example: a view from Pakistan. No more secure alliances. The afghan front breaks up the state of Pakistan whilst the Indian front united it.

Second example: China, a regional power. From Burma and Afghanistan to the Korean peninsula. Archipelagos and maritime territories (don’t forget India in South Asia).

Third example: the new Japanese nationalism

Fourth example : military redeployment of the US, including the guardianship of the Pakistani bomb, Vietnam, Mindanao, Australia, the Seventh Fleet …

Interdependence of powers ==> no wars between powers. But the military play a growing role again in the relationships of power in Asia.

==> Importance of the anti-war struggles (Pakistan/ India … Japan / Korea / Taiwan / China)

Safety seen through the eyes of the people: free all maritime territories ( reverse the tendency of modern times …), denuclearisation, struggle against the new xenophobic nationalisms

2. Some important questions

A. China

Understanding the paradoxical relationship between the success of the (1949) revolution and the success of the Chinese counter revolution.

Bureaucratic capitalism and the nationalism of power.

Corruption at the heart of the Chinese model and the beginning of a new period?

Social resistances, class consciousness … but the organisation? A political left?

B. Religious fundamentalisms and oppressions

The 1970’s. Still the golden age of communist parties and of secular nationalisms. The example of The Philippines: CNL and MNLF.

The rise of fundamentalisms in a region of the world with very different cultures: what becomes of Pakistan? Radical Hinduism in India. The Buddhist extreme right in Sri Lanka .

The State, dominant religions and internal colonisations (Sri Lanka, The Philippines).

The “nested” oppressions. Lumads and Muslims in Mindanao. Tamils and Muslims in Sri Lanka … “Indigenous peoples” and “forest people”.

The condition of women. Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto, the Taliban, wearing a veil and tribal “traditions”.

==> return to a strategic question: confronted with a divide and rule policy ( conflicts between communities …), how to unify?

C. Social disintegration and over exploitation of labour

Europe: social disintegration with a background of economic decline. Asia: also a social disintegration but caused by a brutal capitalist development.

We are not describing social formations but trying to approach the problems which must been solved.

Working class: hyper-exploitation in Pakistan. The closing of factories in The Philippines. Industrial fires ( Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, …). 40 million workers from state owned companies in China are laid off or become pensioners (replaced by migrant “undocumented” workers from the countryside).

The rights of workers (and of unions) and also fundamental human rights … The relation with and the organisation of urban poor and the organisation of the wage earners …

The magnitude of the migrations. The dominant nature of migration in globalisation (no hope). The responsibility of the movements in the countries of departure ( preparation, follow up of the families …) and of the “guest” countries ( obtained legal papers …°.

The danger of the disintegration of the village communities. Expulsed for the establishment of industrial zones. Devitalised by migration. Fragmented by the market. The return to ecologic/organic farming as a method of active resistance.

The devastating impact of wars and humanitarian catastrophes (even in Japan). The aid policy (self organisation). The fight for keeping the victims rights – and form considering themselves as entitled to those rights.

Is the instability of the popular social structures a dominant characteristic? En how do we respond to it?

3. Asia of struggles

The revolution in Nepal is the latest . A revolution, a government … and then?

Pakistan, territory of struggles and not only of wars.

Networks … from the Peoples Forum of Asia-Europe, from networks against the debt, for social protection, to antinuclear movements and IIRE-Manila …

A great political diversity in the left. The decline of the large “traditional” communist parties (West Bengal). The division and the evolution of the Maoist movements. “Anti-party” movements. The hard sectarianism of some and unitary openings of many ( The Philippines)

The unexpected fate of the F.I. in Asia. It has become the main region of the International with a big diversity of organisations.

Some results of the “fourth” radicalisation of youth in the 1970’s (Japan, Hong Kong) (the case of India).

Coming from other Trotskist currents (Sri Lanka, Pakistan), from Maoism ( The Philippines, Bangladesh, from a historical discontinuity (no-isme) (Indonesia), from pro-Moscow current ( also in Pakistan) etc.

Very different situations. Three contrasting examples: the CPB-ML (Bangladesh); the RPM-M (Mindanao); LPP and now the AWP (Pakistan).

Points of programmatic conversions ( the fight for socialism). An International who respects the identity of each national organisation ( see on the contrary the fear of the PSM in Malaysia). A common involvement in for a and networks at a global and at a regional level…

Lessons to be generalised for other sectors of the radical left in Asia.

Repression. Solidarity. Internationalism.


Questions :

1. For those who are not coming from Asia: what is common and what is different in relation to your region of the world? For the comrades from Asia: can left movements create a common a “pan-Asian consciousness”?

2. Can we (already) say that China is a capitalist power? Or even (already) an imperialist power?

3. Or you, in your countries, confronted with the instability of social environments ( instability of industries, disintegration of agrarian communities and “indigenous”, massive migrations, consequences for indebtedness … which makes it difficult to build stable social roots and stable roots in social movements? How do we deal with this problem?

4. Asia is a typical example where several “forces” are at work. Should we choose the “least” dangerous power (“campism”) or should we build the independence of social movements against all those “forces”? How would you characterise internationalism today?

Reading material