Saturday, September 21, 2013

Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile

- Eden Medina

[Note: A PDF version of this longish article can be downloaded from NSI's Scribd page. Click here]

Abstract: This article presents a history of ‘Project Cybersyn’, an early computer network developed in Chile during the socialist presidency of Salvador Allende (1970–1973) to regulate the growing social property area and manage the transition of Chile’s economy from capitalism to socialism. Under the guidance of British cybernetician Stafford Beer, often lauded as the ‘father of management cybernetics’, an interdisciplinary Chilean team designed cybernetic models of factories within the nationalised sector and created a network for the rapid transmission of economic data between the government and the factory floor. The article describes the construction of this unorthodox system, examines how its structure reflected the socialist ideology of the Allende government, and documents the contributions of this technology to the Allende administration.

On 12 November 1971 British cybernetician Stafford Beer met Chilean President Salvador Allende to discuss constructing an unprecedented tool for economic management. For Beer the meeting was of the utmost importance; the project required the president’s support. During the previous ten days Beer and a small Chilean team had worked frantically to develop a plan for a new technological system capable of regulating Chile’s economic transition in a manner consistent with the socialist principles of Allende’s presidency. The project, later referred to as ‘Cybersyn’ in English and ‘Synco’ in Spanish,[1] would network every firm in the expanding nationalized sector of the economy to a central computer in Santiago, enabling the government to grasp the status of production quickly and respond to economic crises in real time. Although Allende had been briefed on the project ahead of time, Beer was charged with the task of explaining the system to the President and convincing him that the project warranted government support.

Accompanied only by his translator, a former Chilean Navy officer named Roberto Can˜ete, Beer walked to the presidential palace in La Moneda while the rest of his team waited anxiously at a hotel bar across the street. ‘A cynic could declare that I was left to sink or swim,’ Beer later remarked. ‘I received this arrangement as one of the greatest gestures of confidence that I ever received; because it was open to me to say anything at all.’[2] The meeting went quite well. Once they were sitting face to face (with Can˜ete in the middle, discreetly whispering translations in each man’s ear), Beer began to explain his work in ‘management cybernetics,’ a field he founded in the early 1950s and cultivated in his subsequent publications.[3] At the heart of Beer’s work stood the ‘viable system model’, a five-tier structure based on the human nervous system, which Beer believed existed in all stable organizations – biological, mechanical and social. Allende, having trained previously as a pathologist, immediately grasped the biological inspiration behind Beer’s cybernetic model and knowingly nodded throughout the explanation. This reaction left quite an impression on the cybernetician. ‘ I explained the whole damned plan and the whole viable system model in one single sitting ... and I 've never worked with anybody at the high level who understood a thing I was saying.’[4]

Beer acknowledged the difficulties of achieving real-time economic control, but emphasised that a system based on a firm understanding of cybernetic principles could accomplish technical feats deemed impossible in the developed world, even with Chile’s limited technological resources.

Once Allende gained a familiarity with the mechanics of Beer’s model, he began to reinforce the political aspects of the project and insisted that the system behave in a ‘decentralising, worker-participative, and anti-bureaucratic manner’.[5] When Beer finally reached the top level of his systematic hierarchy, the place in the model Beer had reserved for Allende himself, the president leaned back in his chair and said, ‘At last, el pueblo.’[6] With this succinct utterance, Allende reframed the project to reflect his ideological convictions and view of the presidential office, which often equated his political leadership with the rule of the people. By the end of the conversation, Beer had secured Allende’s blessing to continue the project.

At face value, a meeting between a British cybernetician and a Chilean president, particularly one as controversial as Allende, seems most unusual.[7] The brief presidency of the Unidad Popular (UP) has arguably inspired more historical scholarship than any other moment in Chilean history. Despite this wealth of literature, little is known about the Chilean government’s experiment with cybernetics during this period and less about its contribution to the UP’s experiment in democratic socialism.[8] The nature of the meeting between Beer and Allende suggests that writing technology into one of the most widely studied periods of Latin American history will bring to light an unstudied facet of the Chilean revolution and, in the process, demonstrate the value of this framework for analysis. In part, documenting the construction of this system provides information on the extent of Chile’s technological capabilities during the early 1970s. More importantly however, the project provides a window for viewing new tensions within the UP coalition, Chile, and the international community at large. The impressions and aspirations expressed by various project participants furthermore reveal an alternative history of the UP era grounded in technological optimism and the merging of science and politics to bring about social and economic change. This article argues that the UP experiment with cybernetics and computation constitutes another innovative, yet unexplored, feature of Chile’s democratic road to socialism. For this reason, examining this technological project promises to enrich our understanding of this complex moment in Chilean history.

Knowledge of this technological undertaking moreover contributes to the literature in the history of science and technology, particularly with respect to studies of cybernetics and the history of computing. The meeting between Beer and Allende suggests that cybernetics, an interdisciplinary science encompassing ‘the entire field of communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal’, achieved a level of importance in Chile during this period, and that Allende’s Chilean revolution was open to these cybernetic ideas and their application.[9] However, most discussions of cybernetics to date focus on the evolution of these ideas and their application within the USA and the European contexts and do not address how they migrated to other parts of the world such as Latin America. Chilean history provides a clear of example of how alternative geographical and political settings gave rise to new articulations of cybernetic ideas and innovative uses of computer technology, ultimately illustrating the importance of including Latin American experiences in these bodies of scholarship.[10] This article will first present an explanation of how cybernetics entered Chilean consciousness, attracted the attention of the nation’s president, and guided the construction of this singular technological system.

From a different angle, the meeting between Beer and Allende also illustrates the importance of both technological soundness and political ideology in Cybersyn’s construction. Although the project was technically ambitious, from the outset it could not be characterised as simply a technical endeavour to regulate the economy. From the perspective of project team members, it could help make Allende’s socialist revolution a reality – ‘ revolutionary computing’ in the truest sense. Moreover, the system had to accomplish this goal in a manner ideologically congruent with Allende’s politics. As this article will demonstrate, the tensions surrounding Cybersyn’s design and construction mirrored the struggle between centralisation and decentralisation that plagued Allende’s dream of democratic socialism. 

Throughout Allende’s presidency, Chile’s political polarisation strongly influenced the perception of the project and its role in Chilean society. The interplay of cybernetic ideas, Marxist ideology and computer technology found in the project illustrates how science and technology contributed to Chilean ideas of governance during the early 1970s and altered the possibilities for socialist transformation. Explicating this multi-faceted relationship constitutes the final focus of this article and demonstrates that studies of technology can expand our knowledge of historical and political processes within the Latin American region.

Manipur: Reactionaries Masquerading as the Left

-Soibam Haripriya

On the 13th of September 2013 an IED device was planted at a make-shift shanty next to the drain of a river in Naga Nullah, Khuyathong, Imphal. As reported in the newspapers, nine labourers killed in the explosion belonged to Assam. They were working for a Kolkata based construction company – Simplex. All of them being members of a religious minorities and migrant labourers, and therefore thought of as non-indigenous to the valley, their death has mostly been a silent affair. Up to the point of this write-up, no organisation had claimed responsibility for the act. The state as usual claims to investigate the matter, but as usual again, the politics of awarding compensation takes precedence and therefore, ex-gratia for all the victims, both dead and injured, has been promptly announced. As reported in the newspapers, the state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs. 4, 00,000 for those killed in the blast, Rs. 50,000 for each of the critically injured victims and Rs. 10,000 each for those who sustained minor injuries. The effect of this is that many people, including the affected persons, get caught up in tracing the compensation and therefore have no energy left to go on with the everyday task of following-up on the investigation. The compensation in fact seems doled out in lieu of justice. The newspaper also reports that “The government of Manipur shares the grief and pain of the bereaved family members”. This is of course grossly untrue of both the government as well as the people of the state. The targeting of non locals who were killed and injured reiterates this fact. One has to reiterate the fact that such violence happens with alarming regularity and with no tangible effort being seen from the part of the government to tackle this and the resounding silence on the part of the people.

Armed non-state combatants in battle fatigues
It is not known yet whether an armed non-state organisation is responsible for the act or not and things are getting murkier with the state government being accused of the same. It could be provisionally stated that both groups are not above suspicion, with the latter been accused of many crimes, many crimes especially against women being carried out with a strong believe in their own invincibility. However previous incidents like this also suggest that the armed non-state organisations too are not above suspicion. These groups if we decipher from their name, do at least superficially seems to show a socialist or a left leaning. It is ironic that none has bothered to identify with the migrant workers and thought of them as being deeply affected and alienated by processes of production and severely exploited by the same political and ruling classes that they are purportedly fighting. The absolute lack of identification with this class of people to the extent that they are targeted with highly simplistic right wing, oft repeated renditions of ‘they are taking away our jobs’; and more commonly ‘look at what happened to Tripura’ signals a highly lazy engagement with the ideas and ideals that these organisations at least claim to stand for. Attacks on migrant workers occur with sporadic regularity and while the government prattles on, terming such incidents like many others as “inhuman and cowardly”, such incidents will continue with their usual regularity. Representatives of the government have time and again stated that such attacks on migrant workers will be taken seriously. But one can be sure that such incidents do not bother either the government or the people much, except perhaps for one line of thinking that they provoke – that the incident might lead to retaliation which might target people from Manipur staying elsewhere, the large student community outside the state being one of the major concerns. 

No Country for Visually Challenged Persons?

- Subhash Gatade

Yesterday I got a call from Lucknow regarding an article I had penned down for a Hindi newspaper. 

The focus of the write-up was the plight of four candidates - all of them visually challenged - who had cleared the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examinations way back in 2008, scored more marks than many 'normal' students and were still waiting for appointment letters. The Commission as everybody knows is India's central agency authorised to conduct civil services and other important examinations. 

The caller said that he was one among the four and shared with me the long struggle he along with others were engaged in to get their due. Apathy exhibited by people in the higher echleons of the Commission as far as visually challenged persons are concerned is really disturbing. And it was not for the first time that it had failed to give appointment letters to such candidates. Merely three years back Ravi Prakash Gupta had to approach the highest courts of the country namely the Supreme Court to get his appointment letter. Last February it was the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) which had to intervene so that seven candidates from similar category could join their duty.

A recap of the appointments done between the period 1996 to 2008 tells us that only 15 visually challenged candidates have been recommended by UPSC, while almost 6900 vacancies were filled during this period. Among 15, 12 candidates have been recommended or upgraded after court orders. 

While officially nothing is said about the inordinate delay by the commission in this particular case, it is evident in their action that candidates from this category are unwelcome. In fact, there seems to be a deliberate attempt to restrict the entry of such candidates, at times even by, glossing over the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. e.g. A petition by the caller ( Mr Pankaj Srivastava) tells us how in the year 2008 '[t]otal 891 candidates were declared successful but only four candidates from visually challenged category were recommended by the commission, whereas it should be 9 according to the PWD act 1995.'

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Some Questions Regarding the Proposed Jawaharlal Nehru University Press!

- By Some Concerned Students of JNU

A recent news article (‘JNU, Oxford University Press tie-up on the anvil’, The Hindu, 06.09.2013) brought to light a possible tie-up between the Jawaharlala Nehru University (JNU) Press and Oxford University Press (OUP) as well as journals of international repute to publish work of students and faculty in JNU. The question of the JNU Press has featured prominently in the recent election campaign of the All India Students Association (AISA) this time and it appears to be high up on the agenda of the newly elected JNU-Students Union (JNUSU). While we wholeheartedly welcome the idea of the JNU Press and AISA’s enthusiasm about it, we would like to articulate a few concerns about the nature of this soon-to-be-revived press. 

The news of JNU’s tie up with the Oxford University Press has bothered us deeply. Of late, the Oxford University Press (along with two other publishing houses) have filed a lawsuit against a licensed photocopy shop in Delhi University, claiming that course-packs (photocopy compilations of reading material), being prepared for students of the University amounts to 'copyright infringement'. Claiming damages to the tune of 70 lakh rupees, the publishers have presently managed to obtain a stay order from High Court of Delhi on the production of course-packs, and effectively much of photocopying. Solutions are being offered in terms of licensing agreements of cartels of such international publishers which will determine the terms, costs and extent of photocopying. All of this when the Indian law, in the form of the Copyright Act, 1957 [section 52 (h), (i)] exempts reproduction done for educational purposes from the purview of copyright infringement. Further the law sets no limits on the extent and terms of photocopying. A students association (Association of Students Equitable Access to Knowledge) have organised to fight this matter in court in order to preserve the safeguards offered by law which this lawsuit seems to overlook. Many international journals also enforce similarly restrictive terms of usage and reproduction, in the name of licensing agreements, owing to which universities several universities across the world cannot afford access to them and even the likes of Harvard University have had to cancel subscriptions to many international journals which have become unaffordable even for them.

The above-mentioned tendencies of big publishing houses like Oxford University Press (OUP), Cambridge University Press (CUP) and Taylor and Francis reflect the thrust towards rising expenses of education, corporate control over knowledge, restriction of students’ (through copyright and licensing pressures) access to knowledge controlled by them, and attempts to kill knowledge that critiques global capital. Corporations like these are in fact the ones spearheading the Neo-Liberal charge in the field of knowledge production. A tie up with such publishing houses goes against students’ interests on one hand, and retreat from JNUSU’s long standing principle position against Neo-Liberalism. At the same time, we find many small publishing houses working with an avowed aim of taking forward the project of social justice and the struggle for an egalitarian society. In keeping with JNUSU’s commitment to these goals, it is only fitting that JNU Press ties up with such publishing houses/groups and works towards building a publishing collective that challenges the status-quo in general and the monopolistic tendencies of global publishing corporations in particular. While urging the JNUSU to do so, we appeal to them to make a public declaration of the agreements entered into with OUP (if any) so far, as it is a matter of grave concern for all students of JNU and for the integrity of the JNUSU’s principled Left politics. We would like to ask them, despite being aware of the oppressive nature of OUP, why they even thought of a tie-up with them, and what sort of autonomy of the JNU Press did they envisage despite this tie-up. Why is the JNUSU’s effort not directed towards strengthening the JNU Press without the 'label' of monopoly publishers? Why is their endorsement so necessary? And why is such a blind eye being turned towards the politics of monopoly publishing?

Please join a discussion on this matter: Wednesday, 5 pm, 25th September 2013, TEFLA, JNU

The Political Culture of Fascism

- Jairus Banaji

[This is the text of a talk delivered at a Gujarat Seminar organised by the Vikas Adhyan Kendra in Bombay, September 2002. We are republishing this essay keeping in mind the rising trend of fascist politics in India.]

I called this talk the political culture of Fascism because I wanted to draw attention away from the conventional emphasis in left theories of fascism to aspects that are much less emphasised or not even seen, precisely because they are so widespread. I want to do this by starting with the most doctrinaire and, unfortunately, still the most widespread of the left's theories of fascism, which is the line the Comintern officially endorsed and repeated, endlessly, throughout the late twenties and 1930s, while the tragedy of fascism was being played out in Europe. This was the Comintern's conception of fascism as what it called the "open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital". This was the Comintern's official understanding. It further states that fascism "tries to secure a mass basis (I lay emphasis on the word 'tries') for monopolist capital among the petty bourgeoisie, appealing to the peasantry, artisans, office employees and civil servants who have been thrown out of their normal course of life, particularly to the declassed elements in the big cities, also trying to penetrate into the working class" (cited Roger Griffin, Fascism, p. 262). In short, in the Comintern's line, fascism is the dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of finance capital. Now, the Nazi party described itself, formally at least, as a "workers' party". The Nazis saw themselves, at some superficial level, in terms of rhetoric anyway, as appealing for the support of workers. This suggests that there is something slightly specious about trying to explain the rise of Nazism in the twenties simply in terms of the dictatorship of capital. 

Much of the Left still subscribes to the view that fascism is primarily a product of the manipulations of capital or big business. There are several things wrong with this view. It ignores the political culture of fascism and fails to explain how and why fascist movements attract a mass following. It embodies a crude instrumentalism that conflates the financing of fascist movements by sections of business with the dynamics of fascism itself. It also views fascism in overtly pathological terms, as abnormality, thus breaking the more interesting and challenging links between fascism and 'normality'. Finally, it contains a catastrophist vision: it sees fascism as a kind of cataclysm, like some volcanic eruption or earthquake, a seismic shift in the political landscape. So far as the situation in India is concerned, this has surely demonstrated that that is not how fascism grows. In India the growth of fascism has been a gradual, step by step process where the fascist elements penetrate all sectors of society and emerge having built up that groundwork. So, if we in India have anything to contribute to a theory of fascism, part of the contribution lies in disproving the catastrophist element. This still leaves the other two perspectives, which I called 'instrumentalist' and 'pathological' respectively. Both are dangerously wrong and part of the reason why the left has failed to establish a culture of successful political resistance to fascism. 

Now in contrast to the 'official' view, there is another group of theories of fascism which also emanated from the left, although a more disorganized left, a left outside the Comintern, driven out of Germany by Nazism, and not collectively represented by any school. I have in mind two rather brilliant analyses that were developed in the 1930s against the background of German fascism; one by Wilhelm Reich who was a practising psychoanalyst. In his clinical work in Berlin in the early thirties, Reich would have come across literally hundreds of active supporters of Nazism. He was a committed socialist who fled Germany when it became impossible to live there, and died, ironically, in a US jail in 1957. 

Then there is Arthur Rosenberg, who is not very well known. He was a Communist deputy in the Reichstag in the mid twenties and would later become an important influence on Chomsky. He was a historian who wrote a brilliant essay on fascism in 1934, which we translated for the first time, in the seventies, in Bombay. That particular essay is called Fascism as a Mass Movement. Reich's book was called The Mass Psychology of Fascism and first published in 1933. Already the titles of these two works suggest to us a very different view of fascism. 

Earlier I had emphasised the term "tries to secure mass support" in the Comintern definition. This was said in 1933, after Hitler had come to power in Germany. Imagine the Comintern trying to tell the rest of the world that the fascists are "trying" to secure a mass base! There is a way of characterising this. It is called living in denial, bad faith, because if fascism has a mass base of any sort then we have to try and understand the issue in different terms. How is this mass base constructed? What allows for the construction of a mass base by radical right-wing parties? These are the questions that we need to confront, particularly if we want to confront our problems in India. To answer these questions it is not enough to have merely conjectural views on fascism, to say, 'fascism necessarily presupposes a worldwide economic crisis'; or 'fascism is a product of economic crisis'. This does not answer the question why people turn to fascism, because equally they could have turned to the left. Or why don't they become liberals instead? In short, why do they support fascism? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bajaj Auto Workers' Agitation: Withdrawal and Triumph

- Abhishek Shaw and Lina Mathias

Workers at the Bajaj Auto's Chakan unit in Pune stopped work for 50 days before unconditionally withdrawing the agitation on 13 August. The union made a controversial demand - cheap equity shares for its members. This article looks at this demand, the questions around the issue of going on strike (in the current economic atmosphere), the ability to sustain it and the lack of adequate state intervention.

Bajaj Workers on Strike. Photo: Manoj Bidkar
When 950 workers at the Chakan (Pune) plant of Bajaj Auto struck work on 25 June, among their demands for improved wages and work conditions was one that generated much controversy – the union asked for equity shares, or what is called employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), at Re 1 a share. While a number of information technology (IT) companies and a few in other fields are no strangers to ESOPs in India, this was the first time that workers from the assembly and production floor made the demand.

The demand for ESOP was dismissed in no uncertain terms. “No one, not even the chairman, has got free shares in the last 50 years, and we are not about to start now,” Rajiv Bajaj, managing director (MD) of Bajaj Auto, told the media. He added for good measure that if the workers’ demand is like that of a wayward child, the company, as a parent, had to be “fair but firm”. In another media interview, he said, “This is a public limited company, not a kirana (grocery) shop that I can handle (company) shares like that” (Gupta and Baggonkar 2013).

Bajaj also made it clear that his company did not believe in “buying the loyalty of people by throwing them shares”. ESOPs are okay for the IT industry or where capital is an issue, and even the automobile companies that issue shares do so only to the top management in their research and development (R&D) division and not to workers, he said.

Bajaj’s almost indignant response to the demand and the union’s justification for making it shows the chasm between how managements view workers’ role and how the latter see it.

Share in Profit

The Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sanghatana (VKKS), the local union that led the strike at the plant that makes the auto giant’s popular Pulsar motorcycle and has a capacity of 3,000 units a day, clarified that it was not on strike, but had “stopped work”. Dilip Pawar, president of the union, explained the reason behind the unique demand for cheap equity shares. “We are the ones producing the wealth, why should we not have a share in it? Since the management is not paying us fair wages and is refusing to review the wage agreement, we thought shares via the share dividends of the company are a fair exchange,” he said (personal interview). He clarified that the union was demanding individual, not group shares. The latter would have given the workers a stake in the management and it would not be easy to sell them off, as in the case of individual shares.

Namo Namo or Namaste Sada Vastale ...

- Subhash Gatade

It is now time for NaMo NaMo in BJP.

To quote a newspaper, Hindutva poster boy Narendra Modi has been declared candidate for Prime Minister's post by the highest body of the Party. 

As planned earlier there were celebrations at different party offices of the BJP spread over the country. It is a different matter that the party could not hide the fact that it was not a unanimous decision rather a majority decision. The ‘tallest leader’ or ‘mentor’ of the party L K Advani made his displeasure clear in a letter the very same day. And not only Advani till a day ago three members of the highest body - whose strength is 12 only - were vehemently opposing the proposal that the candidature be announced immediately and wanted it to be deferred till the assembly elections to five states were over. Two amongst them – Ms Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi - could be persuaded to join the anointment at the last moment only. 

The comical part of the whole anointment has been the gentleman who had only a week ago declared that he would like to serve the state - where he was elected CM for the third time - till 2017, had no qualms in dropping all pretensions and rush to Delhi for the coronation. While talking to reporters after his anointment, he might have said that as a loyal soldier of the Party, he has been always ready to shoulder any responsibility which had come his way, but there have been umpteenth times in the past that he had made his intentions clear - with enough theatrics - what does he want to achieve. The latest in series had been his address from a model of 'Red Fort' in Chattisgarh. Two years back he had organised Sadbhavna Fasts in different district centers of Gujarat - to package/present himself in a more amiable image – of course, at the public exchequer's expenses. 

The decision by the Party has been met with mixed reactions. Undoubtedly, the most exclusive institutions in India - namely the corporate world and its adjunct the media and the plethora of godmen/women - seem to be extremely happy with this coronation. One still remembers how the corporate honchos were declaring from rooftops since many years that NaMo is 'PM material' - thanks to the corporate friendly ambience in the state with the trade unions put under leash. It is a different matter that it was the strength of Indian democracy and the millions and millions of people participating in it, that they did not pay heed to this advice till date. It is also not difficult to know why the godwo/men had been rooting for Modi. Look at the innumerable controversies which accompany all of them, ranging from encroachment of public land, engaging in hawala transactions, murders, sexual assaults and what not and look at the fact that how the state government has been very accommodative towards them. Take the case of Asaram Bapu, who is cooling his heels in Rajasthan these days for his alleged sexual assault on an adolescent girl – thanks to the daring step taken by a Congress government - and look at the number of cases lodged against him in Gujarat itself and the government turning a blind eye towards him.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tribute to Dhabolkar from Arthur Rd Jail: A Poem

- Sachin Malli
On the edge of a footpath In a pool of blood
lies the 20th of August, 2013.

But you obscurantist messengers of darkness
from my jail cell I witness
the beginning of your defeat.

If you wanted to strike and annihilate Dhabolkar 
why didn’t you use your black magic tricks 
putting a curse on him 
by crossing out his image 
or offering a chicken sacrifice ? 

Why didn’t you organize a Mahayagya 
with 108 Brahmins at the doorstep 
of his Committee Against Blind Faith 
and reduce his rationality to ashes? 

With hands folded and eyes shut 
why didn’t you ask for a boon 
to a millionaire god somewhere? 
Why didn’t you build more mathas and ashrams 
and gather hordes of people for your “satsangs’? 
Why didn’t you denounce Dabholkar there 
and brand him the atheist demon? 

Did we stop you from doing this? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Other 9/11: Childhood Recollections of the Chilean Coup

Jorge Jorquera

[For my sons Miguel Enriquez and Inti Pablo,* on the 40th anniversary of el golpe militar.]

My only lasting memories as a young child are associated with the military coup in Chile in 1973. I remember a mixed collection of facts, experiences and emotions. All of them have in common a sense of loss, of being denied a happiness which could have been.

As a child, one of three at the time, I can’t say I knew who Allende was back then. But I do remember the first house we had of our own. It was actually two little prefabricated houses we put up with our grandparents, on some rural land in Melocoton, a small village near Santiago.

These mediaguas, as they were called, were given to many workers and poor by the Allende government. They were four walls and a roof made of heavy cardboard covered with weatherproof paint. We put ours up in Melocoton on some spare land of distant relatives.

Many other Chilean workers and their families did not have such land, but they organised themselves, sometimes armed, to take over land from wealthy landowners and landlords. My father and uncles would sometimes help with such takeovers – providing assistance to families in moving in and protection from the thugs that landlords hired to try to evict people.

I remember as a kid visiting some of these urban barrios set up by working people, when we were looking for places to live and set up our mediagua. The houses people put up in a day were always so colourful. I like to think now that these colours represented the happiness people felt when they had a little house of their own.

I remember helping my mum, dad and grandparents put up our little mediagua in Melocoton. We put it right next to a little stream, from which we ran a hose to get our water. I remember how cold it was at nights. Themediaguas did not have a floor; ours had the dirt floor we swept every day and some rugs. Mum used to cover us up in what blankets we had plus newspaper, to try to keep us warm when we slept.

Chile 1973: Lessons of the Coup

Jorge Jorquera

Dictator Augusto Pinochet
My childhood memories of Allende’s Chile, sharpened by the words, tears and suffering of the adults around me, reflect now more vividly and perhaps more bitterly than ever the tragedy of a revolution half-made.

It is difficult not to remember Allende as a tragic figure, at once both a symbol of hope and a harbinger of defeat. The Allende government provided our family the first and only home of our own: a little mediaguawe put up by ourselves on a bit of land.

Like all the reforms of the Allende administration, the political significance of handing out prefabricated homes to the working poor played out not in parliament but in the streets: families organising land takeovers and organisations like the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) and sections of the Socialist Party organising defence groups to secure the land and establishing structures of local power that substituted for those of government.

Governments of genuine social reform are a thing of the past, so it’s difficult to imagine an elected government implementing policies not drawn up in the offices of right wing think tanks and capitalist corporations. At the end of 1969 in Chile, six organisations signed the Unidad Popular Pact: the Communist Party, Socialist Party, Radical Party, Social Democratic Party, Popular Unitary Action Movement (MAPU) and Independent Popular Action.

The pact vowed to have “nothing to do with the privileged”; a Unidad Popular government would instead be a “guarantee for the overwhelming majority of the population, for the 90 percent or more”. The Unidad Popular (UP) transformed public life. Party affiliations ceased to be something hollow and became positions in the class struggle.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Modi’s ‘Vanzara’ Moment: Encounter killings as State Policy?

- Subhash Gatade


Image courtesy: Truth of Gujarat
Resignation letters of suspended officers - who are in jail under serious charges- are never a cause of concern for the powers that be. But with Dahyaji Gobarji Vanzara, suspended DIG of Gujarat police and head of its Anti Terrorist Squad, who once happened to be very close to the powers that be and has the potential of further embarrassing them, situation is entirely different. It is not for nothing that the government led by Narendra Modi has decided to reject the said resignation by not forwarding it to the Central government. 

Imagine a murder accused sitting in jail who wants to leave the government service and the state government - which has received enough opprobrium because of these murders - wants to keep the accused in service. The only logical explanation seems to be that the accused officer must be privy to secrets which the government does not want to divulge in public. It is a known fact that till his arrest, Vanzara had been privy to the entire goings on in Gujarat since 2002, which included 2002 riot investigations which were handled by the crime branch, the Pandya murder case and the Akshardham attack, apart from the fake encounters.

As a recap it need be mentioned here that it has been more than six years that Vanzara, is languishing in jail for his alleged role in the encounter killings which saw 15 deaths. All these killings followed a very similar pattern. May it be the case of Ishrat Jahan, the student from Bombay or Sameer Khan Pathan or for that matter Mr Soharabuddin, all these encounters took place at night wherein none from the police force received any injuries, despite the 'terrorists' being armed with 'latest automatic weapons' (as was announced later) and the rationale provided for these killings was that they had come to kill Mr Modi and his other colleagues from the Hindutva brigade.

Friday, September 6, 2013

IIIT-Allahabad chief Cites Illegal Amendment to Hold on to his Chair

- Akshaya Mukul

Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT)-Allahabad, a deemed to be university, is caught in a peculiar situation.

MD Tiwari, the director of the institute since its inception in 1999, whose term ended last December and six months extension got over in June has amended the Memorandum of Association (MoA) of IIIT so that he continues till the new director is appointed.

Even as the HRD ministry cries foul and the UGC says amending MoA is patently illegal, Tiwari maintains he has merely followed the law. Chancellor of IIIT-Allahabad, Goverdhan Mehta, has sent a report to the HRD ministry on the latest development. "I have taken an appropriate step. I have written in as much objective and reasonable fashion as possible," he told the TOI.

The matter came to head when Tiwari's six-month extension ended in June. HRD sources say instead of demitting the office he flashed the institute's MoA that was amended in November, 2011. It was discovered that MoA stated that the director can continue in office for six months after expiry of his tenure till a new director joins, whichever is later. The crucial change was introduction of the term 'later' instead of 'earlier.' UGC's 2010 regulation for deemed universities states that after expiry of five-year term a person can continue for six months or till the successor is appointed, whichever is earlier.

HRD ministry's additional secretary protested against the amendment and pointed out relevant portions of UGC's regulation that said no rules or bye law governing the functioning of any deemed university can be altered without UGC's prior approval.

Tiwari contests ministry's claim. He asks, "Why was ministry silent for two years? Moreover, additional secretary's protest letter against amendment has been written not as ministry official but as a member of IIIT Society." Education secretary and financial advisor of the ministry are other members of the society. He also says amendment was endorsed by 26 members of the society. But ministry sources say amendment in the MoA is illegal, and the matter would be taken to its logical end.

IIIT faculty members also blame the HRD ministry for not fast-tracking the appointment of the new director. "It has been more than eight months and a replacement could not be found. Instead, the process is mired in litigation. We are repeatedly told the process will get over soon," they allege.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peace March to US Embassy: No To War On Syria!

2 pm, 7th September, 2013
Venue: US Embassy, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
Meeting point: Odisha Bhawan, Kautilya Marg

Syria is facing a bloody civil war with tragic consequences for its people. The task before the international community is to urgently address the humanitarian crisis through peaceful means.

Instead, the USA and its cohorts are embarking on yet another suicidal war-mongering project in Syria. This cynical adventurism would have larger consequences for the West Asian region.

We join peace loving people from across the world in opposing war and calling for a just and peaceful resolution to the tragedy in Syria.

We also demand that the government of India join with other southern countries in pressing for a political dialogue and immediate ceasefire in Syria.


They say MORE WAR, We say NO MORE!!

In Solidarity,

· Act Now for Harmony and Democracy(ANHAD)
. All India Democratic Women's Association(AIDWA)
· All India Progressive Women's Association(AIPWA)
· Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
· Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
· Centre for Policy Analysis
· Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace(CNDP)
· Delhi Solidarity Group
· Delhi Forum
· Focus on the Global South
· Intercultural Resources
. India Syria Friendship Association
· Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association(JTSA)
· Jamia Students Solidarity Association
· Kerala Indepeddent Fisherworkers Forum
· Khudai Khidmatgar
· National Alliance of People's Movement
· National Fishworkers Forum
· National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
· New Trade Union Initiative(NTUI)
· New Socialist Initiative(NSI)
. Revolutionary Youth Association(RYA)
. Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP)
· Sangharsh Samvad
· Third World Network

For any details please contact 
Kumar Sundaram: 9810556134, 
Ramesh Sharma: 9818111562