Pan Asian Conference aimed to continue the work of the ICC's 18th Congress, and to take part in and assist the development of an emerging internationalist a milieu around the world. The central focus of the 18th Congress of the ICC - developing cooperation among internationalists - served as the focus of this Conference too.
The conference began on a sad note. It learnt of the death of comrade Jerry of our US section only two days earlier. The conference paid tribute to comrade Jerry, who has been a pillar of our section in the US and a militant of the ICC for many years, expressing its solidarity to his family and to our US section.
Reports to the Pan Asian Conference
During the Pan Asian Conference reports were presented on various international and national questions: the global economic crisis, imperialist rivalries in Asia, international class struggle, life of the ICC and of the sections including the question of culture of debate and taste for theory. In addition reports were presented on the national situation and class struggle in India and the Philippines and on the activities of different sections in Asia.
Over a period of three days, the conference passionately debated all these reports and various questions coming out of them. And yet, we were not able to sufficiently deepen and clarify all the questions put on the agenda. We will not here try to report all the discussions at the conference but only some, the more passionate or the more important ones.
Imperialist Rivalries in Asia
The main discussions during the conference focused on the weakening of the US and the rise of China as an important global power and the implications of this for the imperialist alliances and rivalries in Asia.
The conference had no doubt that despite its weakening US still remains the number one power and that China at this moment has neither the capacity nor the will to openly confront the US. The question of the pace of the rise of China and the imminence or otherwise of the latter challenging the US was the subject of a number of intervention.
An important debate was on growing militarization in Asia. Asia has now become the main armaments bazaar in the world. While China is number one spender on armaments, it is followed by other countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia. The driving factor behind militarization by China and India are their changing economic profiles and rising imperialist ambitions. One of the elements behind acceleration in militarization by Japan, South Korea and Australia is the decline of US and threat they perceive from the rise of China.
The debate underlined that US is now focused on the Af-Pak war. While it wants to stabilise Afghanistan, it is Pakistan itself which is now the main and the bigger prize for US imperialism. It was also clear to the conference that US is not going to leave Af-Pak any time soon and that even if it reduces the number of its soldiers in Afghanistan at some future date, it will continue to maintain a strong presence.
The discussion also focused on alignments and re-alignments in South Asia. The bitter and mortal conflict between India and Pakistan, which is now spilling over into a proxy war between the two in Afghanistan, is a permanent given. Although India and Pakistan do not want to start a war at this moment, given the volatility of their relations, we should remain alert to the danger of some unforeseen events, like the terrorist actions in Mumbai in 2008, provoking a military confrontation.
Last few years has seen rising tensions between India and China. As a result, India has been cultivating closer ties with the US. But given the character of the period, which is characterized by every man for himself, the relations of the two have cooled off. India is now looking toward its old allies like Russia.
The discussion also took up questions like:
The use of nationalism and national rivalries against the working class.
The relation between crisis and imperialist tensions. With decomposition and the break up of the blocs there is growing instability in international relations and increasing dominance of every man for himself.
This was one of the major discussions, which animated all the conference participants.
The presentation on class struggle posed the question of where we are in the international class struggle today.
Struggles of the working class witnessed a turning point in 2003 when class started developing its response to the bourgeoisie. But catastrophic development of the crisis in 2008 and the stunning attacks that the working class suffered due to this instilled a certain fear, hesitation and paralysis in the class. The question that was posed is what is the situation today? Has the class come out of this fear and paralysis? Does this fear have the same weight on working class in Asia as in US and Europe? Does the latest development of class struggle indicate class overcoming of this paralysis and further developing its struggles? Although the answer was not quite precise, the general view emerging out of the discussions was that the present struggles seems to denote overcoming of this disorientation. Also, the struggles developing today are international in their scope and can be seen everywhere.
At the same time the discussion stressed the slow development of class struggle and confidence within the class in the present period in contrast to 1968 and its aftermath. This slow maturation has been a characteristic of class struggle since its re-emergence in 2003. Today, this is still the case. The reason for this is the nature of what is at stake today - there is a general and correct belief in the impossibility of any improvements in the economic situation. Confronted with this, the class is taking time to digest the effects of the crisis and draw all the lessons from it.
The discussion underlined that we should not look for a mechanical link between the depth of the crises and an immediate and equal response from the class.
Still, we can already see development of class solidarity in some the struggles of the working class today in Europe, in other parts of the world as well as in India. There has also been simultaneity in some struggles that tended to pose the possibility of extension.
Also, over the years we have also seen emergence of a new generation beginning to question capitalism and searching for clarification.
There was some discussion on class struggle in Turkey and Philippines and in India, especially strike of auto workers in Gurgaon and Diamond workers in Gujarat, but there was a general feeling that this discussion needed to be deepened further. In particular the path leading toward massive fermentation of consciousness within the class and toward development of the mass strike need to be discussed and understood. This concern was concretized in a point in one of the resolutions that mandated further debate after the conference.
Questions were also posed about the specificities of conditions in India and other countries in Asia:
Weight of the propaganda of economic boom in India, China and other Asian countries;
Weight of nationalism and ethnic divisions and conflicts;
Weight of religion, castes and multiplicity of languages;
The presence of a huge peasantry.
An important question that rose during this discussion was that of intervention. This question was further discussed as part of the activities of the ICC and its different sections in Asia.
Life of the ICC
A report was presented on the life of the ICC including especially our work with a number of groups and contacts in Latin America. The ensuing discussion took up many questions - culture of debate, taste for theory, transmission of experience, the militant's activity as a human experience.
The discussion developed the idea that the internationalist milieu does not consist only of the ICC and its contacts but includes other internationalist groups from different traditions. ICC has been making efforts to strengthen this milieu and to work with different groups that are part of it. We must continue to develop this joint work in the future: for us, the strengthening of this milieu as a whole is also our strengthening.
Culture of Debate, Taste for Theory and Transmission of Experience
These discussions recalled that working class is a class of consciousness. Without developing its consciousness, without assimilating its global, historical experience, the class cannot fully develop its struggles and cannot work for the destruction of capitalism.
In this historical context and in the context of emergence of a new generation of searching elements, ICC sees its role in the transmission of experience as vital. The discussion developed the idea that the interventions of the ICC toward new generation and toward searching elements need to transmit both theoretical and organizational experience. Question of transmission is important everywhere but even more so in Asian countries where communist organizations have never existed and where leftists and nationalist forces have always masqueraded as communists.
But this transmission of experience is not a one way, pedagogic exercise. On the contrary it is a militant activity. Also, it is possible to accomplish this only by being open to the concerns of the new generation, by trying to understand and answer their questions, being open to the new problems that are posed, new ways of looking at them. Also, to transmit historical experience it is important for the ICC to develop a culture of debate within its own ranks and among the milieu around us. It is also important to develop a taste for theory as part of this process.
A number of interventions spoke of the relevance of developing a taste for theory in the revolutionary milieu and within working class.
Interventions recalled the historical experience of the revolutionary movement at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century. At this period revolutionaries not only studied the conditions of class and its struggles, but were always abreast of development of science. They constantly worked for synthesizing new scientific discoveries and ideas in the light of revolutionary theory. At this period having profound theoretical concerns was the standard practice among communists.
Today, after a long period of counter-revolution, this seems difficult. Yet, if the working class is to rise to the level of its historical task, it must be able to learn from its past.
There was an important discussion on the weight we suffer in developing a taste for theory and culture for debate. There are many obstacles to it:
the weight of the bourgeois ideology;
concern for immediatist reactions;
weight of decomposition that undermine coherent thinking;
in countries like India, weight of the feudal and caste traditions that encourage following the ‘elders' and the ‘gurus' and discourage thinking for yourself;
the weight of Maoism. Maoism, as a bourgeois current, encourages ‘follow the leader' and spread suspicion toward militants who take interest in history and theory of the working class.
Comrades with experience of Maoists recalled the Maoist ‘thesis': "the more you study the more foolish you become."
Discussion underlined the need to consciously develop a taste for theory and culture of debate as tools for transmitting experience to the new generation and its politicization.
The profoundly human character of militant activity
Another discussion that developed under the rubric of the life of the ICC was the question of militant work as a human activity. This discussion rejected any efforts at raising a wall separating social life of militants and our political practice. At the same time it rejected any idea of building islands of communism within capitalism. But it underlined that our lives cannot be in flagrant violations of our principles.
The question of women and socialists became a particular focus of this debate, especially as a concern regarding the attitude of communists toward women in general and toward those women who are part of the milieu around them. This may seem a far fetched debate for a conference of revolutionaries, but the persistence of feudal attitudes at this level is a particularly pernicious burden in countries like India, Turkey and Philippines. This discussion in fact was pushed forward by an impassioned intervention by a woman sympathizer of the ICC who pointed out the persistence of strong patriarchal attitudes even in the milieu around the ICC in India.
Due to shortage of time the conference could not develop this question. It mandated the sections to develop a discussion on this.
The Question of Intervention
The conference saluted the tremendous amount of work done by our section in the Philippines during its short existence. It is particularly impressive in the circumstances in which the section works - a condition of semi illegality, threat of repression by state and by private armies of various left and right wing factions of the bourgeoisies, economic hardship.
There was a lengthy and quite passionate debate on the question of intervention. This discussion clarified several points:
- different instruments and forms of intervention (through pamphlets, press and publications, through leaflets, discussion circles, contacts meetings, public meeting etc);
- theoretical clarification and deepening as a part and form of intervention;
- Unity between theory and practice.
Specific context of this discussion was a balance sheet of its work that our section in India presented. This balance sheet underlined that:
- in last few years, it has been particularly focused on numerical growth and building the organisation in different parts of India;
- It has developed important and fruitful intervention toward new elements emerging in different parts of India through discussion circles, contact meetings and public meetings. This has lead to spread of the influence of communist positions in India;
- It contributed to the ICC's international work.
At the same time the balance sheet underlined important weaknesses in other areas:
- Inability in developing a publication work;
- Sporadic intervention toward events and developments within capitalist society;
- Neglect of intervention in important workers strikes in India.
This last point was also raised by some close sympathizers of the ICC and was subject of an important, passionate debate.
This discussion was an inspiration both for the section and for our sympathizers, who came forward and offered their support in writing and translating texts for our press, help in its distribution as well as in interventions in class struggle.
The Pan Asian Conference of the ICC was an important moment in the life of our organisation and an important milestone in the spread of communist ideas and organizations in Asia. Though not very large, it was perhaps one of the largest gatherings of communists and internationalists held in Asia so far.
For many militants of the ICC in Asia, it was their first experience of an international meeting of the ICC. As comrades said, the Pan Asian Conference looked and worked like a mini congress of the ICC.
For the delegate from Australia and for sympathizers of the ICC invited to the Conference, it was an altogether different experience. For them it was a living experience of an organisation that is not only internationalist but is also international in its life and working. As the young comrade from Australia put it, the experience of conference changed his whole perspective on life and militant work.
Giving his impressions at the end of the conference, a sympathizer from India put it thus: "During the conference I forgot that I am in my country. Working and discussing with revolutionaries from various countries, I felt I am part of international life and struggles of the working class."
This expressed the views and sentiments of everyone present. The Pan Asian Conference of the ICC gave every participant the clarity and enthusiasm to work for building an internationalist communist movement.
Saki, 4 April 2010