Corporate Sabotage and AAP’s Chavez Moment

Even as the new AAP government was preparing to take oath of office, the news came of an unprecedented hike in the price of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) – a hike of Rs 5.15 per kg. In principle, there is nothing wrong with a price-hike that is supposedly necessitated by the need to reduce supplies to metropolitan centres in order to ensure a more equitable distribution to other towns. However, knowing the way the Congress Party functions, the timing of this hike gives rise to legitimate suspicion that the intention is mala fide. At the very least, the decision could have waited till the new government assumed office and some consultation with the new government was carried out. This move shows up the nature of what can be expected from Congress and its ‘outside support’ to the new government.

Expectedly, auto-rickshaw drivers have started making noises about going on strike if fares are not commensurately hiked. If auto fares are raised, it hits the middle class, and if they are not, it alienates the auto-drivers.This clearly throws any new government into a quandary.

Such instances of intervention by vested interests to sabotage impending policy changes, are not new in history. The CNG price affair may well be the more benign of the spate of actions that will follow in the near future.

Rumours are rife in journalistic/ media circles in the capital, of impending blackouts and power outages, as the new government takes office and moves towards the promised audit of power distribution companies and changing of the new, post-privatization meters. Coming against the background of the CNG price-hike, these rumours do not sound outlandish at all.

In the history of twentieth century politics, this is not new. Latin America of course, has faced the worst of this kind of sabotage, where US corporations and the US government in tandem have intervened to obstruct and overthrow democratically elected inconvenient regimes.

As one analyst,Gerald Caplan, underlines:

It is a phenomenon rarely noted that virtually every left-wing government since the Second World War, almost all of them elected, has faced vicious, sometimes violent, obstruction by its enemies both internal and foreign. Many were overthrown. As Henry Kissinger explained just before the American-backed coup against Salvador Allende in Chile, “The issues are too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

One of the earliest such instances dates back to Guatemala in 1954, when a CIA-organized coup overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz. It is widely recognized that the coup was consequent to the pressure of United Fruit Company, a US multinational whose land had been taken over by Arbenz as part of its land reforms programme, as is evident from this report of a ‘Canadian intelligence publication and consultancy‘. Here is what the report says:

The real reason for U.S. involvement came from pressure from the United Fruit Company, whose land was expropriated by Arbenz’s progressive land reforms. The CIA action took a form that became the mold for CIA intervention in Latin America: The bribery of military officers and a propaganda campaign against the leftist government that included the resurrection of oppositional radio stations, the mass distribution of anti-government leaflets, and the anonymous submission of articles to newspapers painting the Arbenz government as communist.

This last part is crucial. It is necessary to label a popular regime ‘communist’ (these days it might be enough to call it ‘socialist’), before launching the offensive. Such was also the case with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela who election upset the political and economic vested interests to such an extent that, to quote once again from Caplan:

Working closely with the U.S. embassy, and following the Kissinger Commandment, the elite organized a coup that the U.S. endorsed, an oil strike to undermine the country’s economy, a recall election, and a ferocious propaganda campaign by the powerful local elite-owned media to delegitimize and destabilize Chavez and his government.

In fact, Chavez was anything but a leftist radical in the standard sense, when he came to power in 1998. He was at best a patriotic military officer with a strong sense of loyalty to his people. But he too had to be similarly branded before the coup of 2002 was carried out. Of course, it was a coup that could barely last a couple of days and Chavez had to be brought back in the face of a massive popular upsurge. The economic warfare continues and more recently, in early December 2013, days before the scheduled municipal elections, the regime of the new President Nicolas Maduro was faced with massive blackouts across the country, leading to widespread speculations about sabotage. That this was not the first power breakdown and has been preceded by many such outages in recent months gives credence to Maduro’s accusations of sabotage which have, however been ridiculed by dominant sections of the international and Venezuelan corporate media. But here is an extract from another report by Eva Golinger (Znet), which refers to a document prepared in June that was recently unearthed:

Just weeks ago, Venezuelan authorities detained various individuals involved in sabotaging the electrical system and at the end of September, President Maduro expelled three US diplomats from the US Embassy in Caracas for their alleged role in destabilization plans against the state.

In the section labeled “Actions”, the authors of the document detail their next steps to undermine the Venezuelan government. In addition to “Perfecting the confrontational discourse of Henrique Capriles”, the opposition candidate who lost to Maduro in April’s presidential elections, they also talk of “Generating emotion with short messages that reach the largest quantity of people and emphasize social problems, provoking social discontent. Increase problems with supply of basic consumer products”

In India, things have been more benign and we have for various reasons been spared the military coups that are routinely carried out in the US’ backyard. Here, it looks like the Congress government at the Centre will ably perform the task of supporting corporate sabotage, for the nexus between the two is deep and entrenched, and has been further fortified with the glue of neoliberal theology that believes that capital is God. In this belief system, it is sacrilegious to  even entertain the idea that there can be something wrong with corporate capital or that there are people who think it is possible to live outside its divine shadow. People who believe in such ideas are called ‘socialists’ in this lexicon – irrespective of whether they think of themselves as socialists.

Unsurprisingly, campaigns about the ‘socialism’ of AAP have begun and it will be interesting to see how far right-wing commentators in the media are prepared to push this line of propaganda. Many of the campaigners, of course, still live in the 1990s, when socialism became a bad word, associated with the worst of statist politics and economics and in opposition to which the ‘virtues of the free market seemed’ to be almost self-evident, in no need of any justification. Unbeknownst to these media commentators and economists, the world has changed radically over the past few years and if ‘socialism’ is not fashionable, nor is ‘free market’ any more so. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, it is in fact, being widely recognized that some degree of regulation of private capital – in terms of ensuring its public accountability – is absolutely essential and cannot be subordinated to any so-called ‘economic law’. Private capital will have to learn that its profit is not the sole thing that will govern or can govern how economic decisions are made.

This is a battle that had been all but abdicated by all political parties across the spectrum but the question has now been opened up. It has been opened up, not by doctrinaire socialists or communists but by those who believe that the economy and government must be concerned, first and foremost, with the welfare of common people. Much like the reviled populists of South America, it is the populists here who have shown the courage to take on the powerful corporations in the power sector. What direction the battle takes in the weeks to come remains to be seen but one thing is clear: an opening has been provided for a drastic rethinking of economic and related policies.

8 thoughts on “Corporate Sabotage and AAP’s Chavez Moment”

  1. I dont think a majority of people in India believe that socialism is a dirty word; the middle class perhaps yes, but they are the victims of corporate propoganda. Socialism is a part of our constitution and i think every party needs to call itself socialist to be registered as a political party.

  2. While a writer has tried pronounce all kind of idealism to “AAP’, like, socialism, AAP itself is crying hoarse to say- they have none; they are pragmatic and not dogmatic in there approach, not against any kind of Privatization ; WTO. Making parallel of AAP with left wing movement or Chavez is something even AAP won’t agree off

  3. A balanced article, however chances that such kind of sabotage will work is doubtful. India has history of just opposite. AAP govt will, no doubt, be judged more minutely both by public and media/corporate etc.

  4. Indian corporations, who thrive on making money out of natural resources with the blessings of all the political parties including BJP, will definitely float various balloons to test the patience of the people and if people fail to react adequately then they will go for the kill.

    AAP is considered as enemy by all the political parties and nobody wants AAP to be around when the Lok Sabha elections are held.

    What will be their game plan, we will know soon. Well know, however, to all Indians is saam, daam, bhed or dand (SDBD) technique.

    Step one: Saam (pacify) has been used as a trap for AAP to form a minority government.
    Both Congress and BJP used this bait.

    Daam (lure), Bhed (divide) and Dand (violence) is yet to be used.

    First round of winning Saam goes to AAP and Congress. Reconciled to the defeat in round one, Congress is unlikely to weaken AAP as they want to use them nationally as a shield against Modi. AAP’s Yogendra Yadav should welcome it as a piggyback ride provided free of cost by the Congress.

    In any context SDBD always works. This time though it is the wish and hope of a substantial section of the society that somehow AAP should succeed.

    What kind of tactical moves AAP makes will be interesting to watch.

    National elections

    Unlike other political parties, it has no baggage in terms of ideology or history. It is a sort of coalition of activists who understand technology, have ideals and realistic goals to achieve and are action persons. A sort of new-age political party which is the need of the hour.

    If they have to succeed on the national scene, they don’t have to have too many goals.

    Their manifesto should have a clear focus on very few points and prove their antecedents as a party of doers rather than thinkers or glib talkers.

    May be these five points can provide food for thought or action.

    1. The major focus should be on producing wealth and ways to ensure the wealth goes to hitherto neglected sections of society. Money is today’s God because world has adopted to consumption-driven economics model. Young people all over the world are its major worshippers.

    2. Equitable distribution of wealth is a goal impossible to achieve but the state should provide free health and education facilities of good standards to at least 80% of the population.

    3. As long as the Rule of the Law is not achieved, the privileged class can’t be controlled.
    It might lie low for the time being but will vanquish idealist parties like AAP sooner or the later. The political, administrative, justice and media is extensively infected with corrupt people who are in majority. Effort should be made to name and shame them by recognizing non-corrupt people.

    Those in the law-enforcement and justice delivery departments should compulsorily be retired with pay (in order not to cause upheaval in the society) and replaced with fresh blood.

    4. Government should be lean and should not rely on direct taxation as a major source of income. It should go for indirect taxation without having big establishment and collection costs. It should explore ways to maximise revenue from natural resources and abolish free-hold ownership and convert into lease-hold land so that every year government revenue can be collected. Not to be confused with Municipal taxes which are used for providing water and sanitation services.

    5. Citizen Charter: It has to be implemented without any delay and digital technology should be used profusely as it is cost-effective in controlling most of the low-level bureaucracy corruption.

  5. Boy, this is some “heavy-handed” response/defence against the hints of “sabotage” – marshalling as many Latin American examples as possible! Interesting to see Chavez’s example making news – earlier, Surjit Singh Bhalla. him of Oxus Investments, writing in the Indian Express, compared AAP’s “populism” to that of the “populist of the century,” Hugo Chavez…

  6. the writer has not mentioned that an internal report of the aam admi party itself has shown that many in the lower rung want to see modi at the helm of the country…

    Comparison with Chavez is wrong…Chavez may not have been a doctrinaire socialist but he certainly was bound by the Bolivian project and ideology…(with which socialist may have difference , but no quarrel)…Chavez incidentally also moved towards socialism, whereas the AAP leadership and more importantly its intellectual face (Yogendra Yadav) are hostile to socialism…In his recent interview to IE, Yadav he speaks about transcending the right and left divide…One wonders if this is not a “return to the JP” moment where alliance between Gandhian socialists and his assassinator (Jana sangh) was built to fight tthe emergency…What was the end result? Socialists became weaker and Janasangh metamorphosed into BJP…

  7. While the timing is uncanny, India unlike Venezuela isn’t a hydrocarbon surplus country. An complex, worst of all worlds pricing regime has resulted in gross underinvestment in oil prospecting. Instead of the market determining pricing, or an independent regulatory body, the govt sets prices sporadically. If AAP and its sympathisers really wanted to change, they would look to overturning the structural issues , not simply attributing conspiracies.

  8. An old video of Arvind Kejriwal talking about the fight against the privatization of water in Delhi. I like the way he simply describes the corruption involved in the whole process, avoiding any superfluous rhetoric the mainstream left-parties often indulge in. Is there any surprise that the multinational corporations will be against the AAP government?

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