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In 1917, two revolutions swept through Russia, ending centuries of imperial rule and setting in motion political and social changes that would lead to the formation of the Soviet Union. In March, growing civil unrest, coupled with chronic food shortages, erupted into an open revolt, forcing the abdication of Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar. Just months later, the newly installed provisional government was itself overthrown by the more radical revolutionary party in the former Soviet Union and another revolution broke up rapidly. The revolution was led by Vladimir Lenin and was based upon Lenin's writing on the ideas of Karl Marx, a political ideology often known as Marxism-Leninism. It marked the beginning of the spread of Communism in the 20th century. It was less sporadic than the revolution of February and came about as the result of deliberate planning and coordinated activity to that end.
The first Russian revolution of 1905 was the expression of a gigantic conflict between the growing forces of production on the one hand and reactionary, industrial and political conditions in Russia on the other. A rapidly growing capitalism demanded the freedom of the inner market, the failure of the Russian-Japanese War having made the extension of foreign markets impossible. But the home market was equally unresponsive. The predominant group among the Russian people was its peasantry, whose demands and buying power represented the basis for all further capitalistic development. They were equal, it is true, but equal in misery.
The Russian revolution of 1905 was said to be a major factor behind the revolution of 1917. The events of Bloody Sunday triggered a wave of protests. Amidst this chaos, a council of workers was convened in St. Petersburg and the beginning of a Communist political protest had begun. World War I prompted a Russian outcry directed at Tsar Nicholas II. It was another major factor that contributed to the retaliation of the Russian communists against their royal opponents. After the entry of the Ottoman Empire on the side of the central powers in October 1914, Russia was deprived of a major trade route through the Ottoman Empire. This was followed by a minor economic crisis, in which Russia became incapable of providing munitions to its army in the years leading to 1917.
However, the problems were merely administrative and not industrial as Germany was producing a considerable arsenal of munitions, while constantly fighting on two major battlefronts. The war developed awareness in the city, owing to a lack of food because of the disruption in agricultural activity. The cities were almost always short of food. At the same time, rising prices led to demands for higher wages in factories and in January and February, 1916 revolutionary propaganda, aided by German funds, led to widespread strikes. These agitations became more frequent from the middle of 1915. Working class women in St. Petersburg reportedly spent about forty hours a week in the food lines, begging, turning to prostitution or crime, tearing down wooden fences to keep stoves heated for warmth, grumbling about the rich and wondering when and how this would all come to an end.
All these factors had by 1916 given rise to a sharp loss of confidence in the regime. Nicholas was blamed for the crises and what little support he had left began to crumble. As discontent grew, the State Dumas issued a warning to Nicholas in November 1916. It stated that a terrible disaster would inevitably grip the country unless a constitutional form of government was put in place. In typical fashion, however, Nicholas ignored the warnings and Russia's Tsarist regime collapsed a few months later during the February Revolution of 1917. In the beginning of February, Petrograd workers organised demonstrations and went on strike. On 16 March, a provisional government was announced. The representatives of the provisional government agreed to "take into account the opinions of the Soviet of Worker's Deputies" though they were also determined to prevent " interference in the actions of the government", which would create "an unacceptable situation of dual power".
On 18 June, the provisional government launched an attack against Germany, an offensive that failed miserably. The soldiers refused to follow the orders of the government. The soldiers and sailors, along with Petrograd workers, took to the streets in violent protest, calling for "all power to the Soviet". In the aftermath of the turmoil Lenin fled to Finland under threat of arrest while Trotsky, among other prominent Bolsheviks, was arrested. Alexander Kerensky, a young and popular lawyer and a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP), increasingly became the central figure of the provisional government.
By October 1917, Lenin returned to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) as he became aware that the increasingly radical city posed a legal danger and also the second opportunity for revolution. Recognizing the strength of the Bolsheviks, Lenin began pressing for the immediate overthrow of the Kerensky government by the Bolsheviks. He was of the opinion that assumption of power should happen in both St. Petersburg and Moscow simultaneously, parenthetically stating that it made no difference which city rose up first, but expressing his opinion that Moscow may well rise up first. The Bolshevik Central Committee drafted a resolution, calling for the dissolution of the provisional government in favour of the Petrograd Soviet. The resolution was passed 10-2 (Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev prominently dissenting) and the November revolution began.
The Bolshevik, or the Russian Revolution, triumphed on November 7, 1917 (October 26 according to the orthodox Byzantine Calendar). Apart from the heroic episode of the Paris Commune, for the first time millions of downtrodden workers and peasants seized political power, sweeping aside the despotic rule of the capitalists and landlords. They were determined to create a socialist world order.
In the early days, the regime established by the revolution was neither bureaucratic nor totalitarian but the most democratic regime yet seen on earth. For the first time in history the success of the planned economy was demonstrated, not in the pages of Das Kapital but in an arena comprising a sixth of the planet’s surface. Not in the language of dialectics but in the language of steel, education, health care and electricity. In a gigantic and unprecedented experiment it was proved that it was possible to run society without capitalists, feudal landlords and money lenders. Despite the aggression of 21 imperialist armies, tremendous objective difficulties and obstacles, the abolition of the market mechanisms and the introduction of the planned economy revolutionized the productive forces and laid the basis for a modern economy.
Actually, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most significant events in the 20th century. It completely changed the government and outlook on life in the very large country of Russia. It had a profound impact on the entire world. It generated a new way of thinking about the economy, society, and the government. The Bolsheviks set out to cure Russia of all its injustices that are rooted in class differences. To an extent, they succeeded. The revolution marked the end of a dynasty that had reigned for 300 years and had concluded with the seizure of power by a small revolutionary group. The Tsar was replaced by a Council of People’s commissars and private ownership was abolished. The Communist movement began to expand worldwide, by which the entire capitalist world was unnerved. In spite of several difficulties, no one can deny that this unique revolution threw a very big challenge before the entire capitalist world.
The aftermath of the Soviet Revolution was far-reaching. The revolution spread a new message of hope and liberation for the toiling people all over the world and the peoples of the colonies. It was a message of liberation from all forms of exploitation -- national, social, economic and political. This was reflected in a series of declarations, legal pronouncements and diplomatic initiatives of the new Bolshevik Government. The October Revolution heralded a new era by creating a state of the workers and poor peasants whose interest was opposed to economic exploitation, war, aggressions, colonization and social discrimination. It brought into existence a socialist state that could work as a bulwark against war and imperialism. This revolution initiated the essay towards creating an alternative world socialist system based on equality and free of exploitation, renounced any form of aggression, colonization and social prejudice, as opposed to world capitalist system that is based on colonization, economic exploitation, racialism etc.
The socialist revolution was marked by the establishment of the first socialist state which till then was regarded by many as a distant dream. This is comparable to what happened in France in the 18th century. The Russian Revolution shook not only Russia, but radically changed the whole world. The world we see around today would be unthinkable without it just like the world of the 19th century would be unthinkable without the French Revolution. The British Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote: “The whole Europe is filled with the spirit of the revolution. There is a deep sense not only of discontent but of anger and revolt amongst the workmen against the pre-war conditions. The whole existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other.”
This is the 100th year of the November revolution. It is time to reflect on its contributions. In a word, it has taught us how to dream a dream. The underlying theme of the revolution was a society free from exploitation and to emancipate humankind. In the context of the November Revolution, Lenin proved that theory is grey, but life is green. It was his philosophy that attained fruition through the November Revolution. Many revolutions came and went, they wrought havoc to society, but the November Revolution was unique, unparalleled and novel in all aspects for it brought about momentous changes to all patterns of society and state policy for which the downtrodden humanity had longed for thousands of years.
April 8 & 9, 2016. The Statesman
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Friday, March 4, 2016
On 30 January, Alexander M Kadakin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India, conveyed to RS Sunder, Director of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant project, “President Vladimir Putin by his decree No. 29 dated 29 January 2016 has awarded you the Order of Friendship for your great contribution to the implementation of KKNPP project.” Sunder said in modesty, “The credit should go to Russian scientists as well.” Buoyed by the award, Sunder worked through day and night and re-started the 1,000 MW first unit of the plant, shut down since 24 June 2015 allegedly for annual maintenance, at 3 am on 31 January generating 7 MW of power which peaked to 252 MW at 11.44 pm. It worked in fits and starts for the next three days. On 4 February Sunder said the plant was generating 715 MW power and would hit the full capacity of 1,000 MW “in a day or two.” The plant went kaput at 10.34 pm the same night.
The brand new Russian plant was erected jointly by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and Atomstroyexport of Russia. It was connected to the grid on 22 October 2013 and commercial operation began on 31 December 2014. During the 800 and odd days of grid connection the reactor worked for 372 days, tripped 20 times and was off the grid for about 470 days. The actual power produced is 3,222 million units, just 18 per cent of its rated capacity. The reactor was commissioned for one year’s warranty period operation on 30 December 2014 but was shut down on 24 June 2015, much before the expiry of the warranty period.
The original agreement for two 1,000 MWe VVER reactors between India and the USSR was signed in November 1988 and a supplemental agreement with Russia was signed in June 1998. The two reactors were taken up as a single project and evaluated as such. Work on the project began in March 2002 with the construction of the twin domes and a small port on the Koodankulam sea-front. Reactor and other core equipment arrived at the site by mid-2005 and both units were to begin commercial operation in December 2007. Not much progress was made in the next four years. Although the people in general and the fishermen’s community in particular were opposed to the project right from the beginning, active public protest at Idinthakarai, adjacent to the project site, began only in August 2011 after the Fukushima disaster and lasted about 11 months. It hardly hampered the project work and cannot be blamed for the inordinate delay in commissioning the plant.
When the Atomstroyexport formally handed over the KKNPP-1 reactor to NPCIL for one-year warranty operation on 30 December 2014, there was no mention of the second unit. Construction of the two units was taken up simultaneously but because of the supply of sub-standard equipment by Russia and both the governments’ eagerness to show some result before signing an agreement for the third and fourth units, the second unit was canibalised to make the first unit work. In the process, the second unit has been virtually abandoned. The government has so far spent about Rs 25,000 crore on the first phase of KKNPP. At full capacity, the plant should have been producing 48 million units of electricity a day. The actual production so far has been less than 20 per cent of the rated capacity. If this is the result in the first year of operation of a brand new plant when production should be at its optimum, it only shows that KKNPP, besides being an ecological catastrophe, is also an economic disaster. Units 3 and 4 are estimated to cost Rs 45,000 crore.
Studies conducted by non-governmental agencies show that almost all components of the reactor were manufactured in the 1980s and rendered surplus due to post-Chernobyl cancellation of orders for more than two dozen reactors. The Russia made turbine had to be overhauled surreptitiously by a Hyderabad-based private contractor two years before its grid connection because it was found faulty. Even after the overhaul the turbine failed within hours of grid connection and kept the reactor shut for 59 days during August-September 2014. Normally a turbine is overhauled after working for five to 10 years. During the 365 days the turbine remained connected to the grid, there were 14 trips (shutdowns), two outages and one major accident in the fuel-water system which kept the reactor idle for 175 days. Non-performance of Unit 1 is causing production loss of 24 million units of electricity a day, financial loss of Rs 10 crore daily, besides the interest on the capital invested.
In an article published on 4 February, A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said, “In the Koodankulam case, there are serious flaws of one kind or other. The lack of transparency certainly raises doubts that the Department of Atomic Energy, NPCIL and the AERB together may be hiding some serious deficiencies from the public. This impression needs to be removed by honestly answering the doubts and questions raised by the public regarding the plant.” The DAE and the NPCIL have repeatedly denied the issue of sub-standard and counterfeit components in KKNPP. Gopalakrishnan said a large amount of public funds had been spent on this reactor with very little benefit to people in return. “The reactor is known to have suffered continuous and unprecedented problems during the construction, erection and commissioning phases as well during the current operational period.” Yet the NPCL serenades it as a great success and has signed for units 3 and 4, with units 5 and 6 in the pipeline. The tragedy is the AERB has approved it.
The growing travails of the nuclear power industry world-wide show that it is not the answer to India’s energy needs. While countries like France and Germany are phasing out their nuclear power plants and other advanced countries have stopped constructing nuclear power plants, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the UPA government, after signing the Indo-US nuclear agreement, set out to make India the world’s largest importer of nuclear power reactors. Without waiting for competitive bidding process, he reserved three coastal nuclear power parks for three foreign suppliers of reactors: Jaitapur in Maharashtra for Areva of France, Mithi Virdi in Gujarat for Westinghouse of the USA and Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh for GE, also of the USA, and signed Memorandum of Understanding with them. Areva is yet to build the EPR reactor contracted for which is still in the drawing board stage and the French regulator, ASN, has threatened to decline approval. How can India having an Atomic Energy Commission and AERB commit itself to a reactor that has never been built? asks Gopalakrishnan. Koodankulam has been kept for Atomstroyexport of Russia to expand it to the level of the other three nuclear parks yet to take shape. The justification for the Indo-US deal was that America would transfer nuclear technology to India which lacks expertise in enrichment of uranium. Within two months of the deal the USA informed the Nuclear Suppliers Group that uranium enrichment technology should not be shared with nations that are not party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. India which steadfastly opposed NPT found itself hoodwinked. The NDA government of Narendra Modi with its emphasis on “Make in India” policy has a golden opportunity to reconsider the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement and scrap the MoUs. With its abundant wind energy and solar power potential, India can well afford to keep Made in Russia and Made in USA reactors at bay and save the coastline for the future generations.
Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/koodankulam-kaput/124276.html#zkorcxMX4qVwgSmm.99
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Land Reforms in West Bengal & India's Agrarian Economy by Chittaranjan Das is now available.
Posted by Red Barricade at 10:35 AM