All posts by Aditya Nigam

NAPM Report: To Nandigram via Singur

A Preliminary Report on the Struggle and Violence in Nandigram

[Sometime ago (28 January 2007), CPM general secretary, Prakash Karat, had written in People’s Democracy against ‘the likes of Medha Patkar’ and those whom he called ‘modern day Narodniks’, for opposing the industrialization of West Bengal. The burden of Karat’s song in that piece was that what he called ‘the single-issue crowd’, was unbale to see the big picture – the Totality, as his marxist faith would have it. It is interesting that this point has never been responded to though it continues to be part of marxist understanding for a very long time. It might be worth keeping this in mind while reading the following report. The questions raised by it link up the immediate question of land acquisition with the question of ecological impact of making a chemical hub on the rivers Haldi and Hooghly; the question of livelihoods linked to fisheries with those of a larger development paradigm. Clearly, when the impact of global warming is beginning to be seen right here, this looks certainly like a much more holistic view, in comparison to that which can see nothing but industrialization and capitalism as the only reference point. – AN]

Nandigram has come on to the country’s map within a few months old struggle as also killing and atrocities during last few days of this New Year. The people’s determination not to give away their lands full of paddy, coconut and palm trees, ponds and fisheries for the two SEZs upcoming in Midnapore was expressed through many a demonstration including the Mahasabha on December 8th 2006. The Ganaunnayan Janadhikar Sangram Committee, an alliance of 22 peoples’ organizations including Jamat–e-Ulema–Hind, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hindu Muslim Friendship and others, was formed in 2004 when 5000 acres of land, mostly of Muslim farmers, was to be acquired for the same Salim Industries in ‘Bhangad’, on the outskirts of Kolkata. The struggle is still on. The same committee, with statewide coverage took up the issue of Nandigram, about three months back, and the struggle began. A peaceful struggle in this region known for the historical contribution to the freedom movement and Tebhaga movement, picked up quite fast and with a clear perspective.

The people’s viewpoint is: ‘No destruction of agriculture based livelihoods and communities is necessary and inevitable for industrialization’; ‘no justification to set up a chemical hub on the banks of two rivers Hugli and Haldi’ and ‘no consent’ to a project undemocratically planned with impending forcible acquisition of 38,873 acres of prime land and habitats on the same’. It has helped convey the strength and unity as also a challenge to the state government of West Bengal and the SEZ approving authorities at the Center.

Continue reading NAPM Report: To Nandigram via Singur

Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

[In the current issue (28 January 2007) of the central weekly ‘organ’ of the CPM, People’s Democracy, party general secretary, Prakash Karat takes ‘the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry’ to task for opposing the historic task of industrialization. Inculded among these ‘modern day narodniks’ are ‘the likes of Medha Patkar’ and many other ‘Left intellectuals and progressive personalities’ apart from the hated naxalites, of course – all of whom have ‘ganged up’ with the Trinamool Congress, BJP and the Congress. Mr Karat is saddened by the this development but nonetheless ends up admonishing these Left intellectuals and asking them to ‘ponder on the question of why they have placed themselves in the company of the virulent anti-Communist gang in West Bengal and CPI(M)-baiters in the big business-run media’.We will reserve a more detailed comment on the series of points – alibis, to be more precise – made by the CPM leader for a later occasion. For the present pardon us for simply asking whether Karat thinks his company – that of the Tatas, the Salim group, and indeed the Ananda Bazar/Telegraph, is that of some ‘pro-communist’ philanthropists? Indeed, the tone and tenor or Mr Karat’s piece is at once pathetic and arrogant. Witness his attempts to argue that West Bengal is caught in a strange predicament and “will have the basic features of a liberalised capitalist economy” and so, “Those who believe that it can be otherwise are only deluding themselves” he admonishes. Well, Mr Karat, it is not everybody else’s problem that the CPM in West Bengal (and indeed in Kerala, if the ADB loan story is anything to go by) has painted itself into a corner.

Be that as it may, many of Karat’s points call for a longer discussion, if not for his sake, at least for that of those who are still hoping to find a way out – and such people are there in his own party – of this delightful corner. For the present, we present without comment, Karat’s definition of ‘Narodniks’ that appears in a note at the end of the article, that will provide enough food for thought, along with Buddhadeb’s letter to Sumit Sarkar and other misled Left intellectuals regarding the ‘end of history’ – without Tatas and the bourgeoisie, that is. He says:

Narodniks in late 19th century Russia believed that with the overthrow of Tsarism, a traditional village based communal system could go towards socialism. Considering capitalism and industrialisation regressive, they idealised the old peasant-village economy. Ultimately they resorted to individual terrorist actions against the Tsar and lost the sympathy of the peasants who were horrified by their actions (emphasis ours).

In the meantime, we present another story on the industrialization saga presented by Nagarik Mancha – AN]

BACKGROUND
Even as the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was ‘under-consideration’, the Government of India decided to set up five coastal nuclear power projects in the country. A 12-member Site Selection Panel, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), visited a number of coastal districts in India during November 2006. The Site Selection Panel is said to have zeroed in on sites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Based on its final report to be submitted to the Atomic Energy Commission, the Government of India will finally decide on the sites. Only after that the Central Government-owned Public Sector Undertaking, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), ‘spearheading’ India’s nuclear power programme, will undertake the job.

The NPCIL, the sole nuclear utility implementing authority, has a total of 16 operational plants with a capacity to generate around 3,900 MW, which is about 2.8% of the total electricity generated in the country. Seven more plants with a combined capacity of 3,000 MW are in advanced stages of construction, the first of which is expected to be operational by March 2007.
Continue reading Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine

Even as the CPM general secretary Prakash Karat made his astonishing statement regarding the need for a ‘scientific’ land grab policy, his party’s totalitarian lie machine has moved into action to suppress the fact that it might be facing its Waterloo – or may we say, its Stalingrad? The lie manufacturing machine is working overtime to make it appear as though the struggle in Nandigram over the imminent acquisition of 14, 500 acres of land for a new SEZ is the outcome of mere ‘rumour mongering’ by ‘outsiders’ (The Hindu 9 January 2007). It is as though there were really no plans to that effect (though none of the leaders has yet denied this so far).

One of the sinister players here is the shadowy West Bengal CPM secretary and Left Front Chairman (sic), Biman Basu. Basu went on record saying that (a) a large number of ‘outsiders’ have been entering Nandigram [and this presumably is by itself a crime, in Basu’s language] and that the police should thus ‘investigate’ it. (b) these outsiders were “responsible for stoking fears among local villagers that they were on the verge of losing their land.” To give it a more sinister ring, Basu said: “ These people are still moving about in the Nandigram area [as though they are criminals who should have been put behind bars] and held periodic meetings at a four-storied building where social activist Medha Patkar addressed a meeting on December 3.”

Continue reading ‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine

Law, Primitive Accumulation and the CPM

Reading Marx in Singur

Marx opens his discussion of primitive accumulation, in the last section of Capital, Vol.I, by asserting that the origins of capitalist private property lie in ‘conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder’, even though, ‘(i)n the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial.’

He further remarks that,

“The process…that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process that takes away from the labourer the possession of the means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers.

He goes onto add that the so-called primitive accumulation is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. Marx acknowledges that the process also embodies, alongside this enslavement and robbery, ‘their [the serfs’] emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds.’ However, unlike his later day followers, he is not content to see only one side of this process. He pours scorn over ‘our bourgeois historians’ for whom ‘this side [the emancipatory side] alone exists’. In other words, even when he sees the emancipatory dimensions of Progress and Development, his moral revulsion against the violence and injustice of this process remains apparent. It is for this reason that, contrary to the somewhat uncritically celebratory tone of the Communist Manifesto, Marx is indignant: “…this history, the history of their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.”

Continue reading Law, Primitive Accumulation and the CPM

Medha Patkar on Singur and the Subversion of Truth

[A few days ago, CPM leader Brinda Karat wrote a piece entitled “The Truth of Singur” – a somewhat sanitized version of which was published in The Hindu. In the uncensored version circulating on email, she claimed quite unabashedly, that while her party stood with the peasants, workers and sharecroppers of Singur, Ms Roy (the reference here to the demonstration at the CPM office should not be missed) “is in the companyof Ms Mamata Banerjee, George Fernandes and Rajnath Singh and a 19-party alliance led by them (Krishi Jami Raksha Committee – KJRC) and has supported their campaign of anti-communist calumny.” The problem of course is that “anti-communist calumny” here is only a displaced effect of the struggle against the Tatas and in other contexts, Reliance and others – in short, corporate robbery of peasants’ land. If the communists have decided to stand with the corporations in West Bengal then it should be the CPM’s problem – not Ms Roy’s or Ms Patkar’s (about whose “political acumen” too, Brinda K is contemptuous). Parenthetically, we might refer to the extremely sexist, patriarchal and patronizing statement of her politburo colleague Biman Bose who reportedly said that “Mamata is behaving like an adamant little girl”. And presumably criticizing that would be indulging in “anti-communist calumny” as well, Ms Karat? Meanwhile, why forget that Buddhadeb Bhattacharya also made “communist” statements like saying that Medha Patkar is an outsider who just keeps going to different places creating trouble. Would you have been able to form a single union anywhere in a single place without “outsiders” ? This is the language used by the real anti-communists – to attack political activists by calling them “outsiders” is precisely anti-communist calumny. It just happens to be used by communists in this case! Apart from the matter of Singur, the fact is that Ms Brinda K’s piece confines itself to  the issue of compensation – a whole host of other issues that arise here are left unanswered. How can she or Biman babu for that matter, answer them? Medha’s response to the West Bengal government’s report raises, once again, all the issues that we need to keep in mind. – AN]

SINGUR: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Medha Patkar

Today when the world celebrates the 58th anniversary of the UN Charter of Human Rights as the International Human Rights Day, the people of Singur or Narmada or Raigad (Maharashtra), Dadri-Bajada (UP) cannot. They cannot be out of struggle for survival, for dignity, for life even for a moment to be able to breathe freedom and enjoy rights not just as citizens but as human beings.

The struggle of people of Singur continues at various fronts, ranging from the fasting group of women and men in Singur area itself to the one in Kolkata, from the everyday small and large actions by the representatives of various people’s organisations to the solidarity fora of the academics. It has gone beyond the heated Metropolis to the various districts of North & South Bengal since the voice raised from Singur is echoed in other places, why battlegrounds, and has
also effected other mass movements against similar onslaught of the corporatised State as in Midnapur district (against 2 SEZs & 1 Nuclear power plant). The prolonged violation of human rights and postponement of free, fair and informed dialogue on Singur is startling. A dialogue with a large alliance and network of people’s organisations, beyond electoral political allies or opponents of the West Bengal Government, could have been possible by now but for the over confident attitude and arrogance expressed by the West Bengal Government. The lack of initiative coming from anyone of the Left Front allies towards taking a serious cognizance and an urgent resolution through a decisive dialogue is certainly shocking.

Continue reading Medha Patkar on Singur and the Subversion of Truth

CPM In the Service of Capital

The cynicism of power, if you will, has got the so-called Left. In a sense, this is not very new – communists in power have always been diabolic to say the least. But this one takes the cake – pressed as it is in the service of capital. How else does one explain Sitaram Yechury’s insinuation that the entire struggle against forcible land acquisition in Singur, is motivated by corporate rivalry. How else can one read his statement that “There may be some whose interests would be hurt when the Rs 1 lakh car comes out. It is for the media to find out who could be behind all this”…There is of course a sense of deja vu in this cynical attempt to de-legitimize all opposition – such were the fairy stories fed to gullible followers about the soviet empire until one day, lo and behold! it vanished from the face of the earth.

Continue reading CPM In the Service of Capital

Action Alert – Communal harmony activists arrested in Karnataka

[From Clifton from Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore]

Friends,

Most of you are aware of the Sangh Parivar’s attempts to destroy the secular fabric in Karnataka by targeting the Baba-Datta shrine on Bababudangiri near Chikmagalur, a shrine that is an example of syncretic traditions in the state, attracting people of different faiths. You are also aware of the role of this present coalition government in supporting and promoting these activities of the Sangh Parivar. Now the government has given permission to the Sangh Parivar to conduct the Shobha Yatra and about 300 activists of the Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike who reached Chikmagalur to protest this have been arrested today (02.12.2006).

Continue reading Action Alert – Communal harmony activists arrested in Karnataka

Left-wing Capitalism – a Senile Disorder

Red Carpet for Capital in West Bengal

The Marxist chief minister of West Bengal said in Kolkata day before yesterday (30 November 2006) that the West Bengal government will “do all that needs to be done” to ensure full protection to Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons, and the management and workers of Tata Motors “to stay here and start work” on the car plant at Singur, Hooghly district. Thus spake Buddhadeb and the above lines have been taken verbatim from a newspaper that is known for its sympathies with the Marxist party.

The chief minister, who also happens to be a politburo member of the CPI(M), also reportedly exclaimed in surprise “How can Mamata Banerjee stop the project” as it had the “overwhelming support of the people.” Farmers have apparently given consent letters to hand over 932 acres of land (out of the 997 required) and cheques were disbursed to them towards compensation. There have been two comments posted earlier on this blog which dealt with Medha Patkar’s response to the Indian Express on this issue. The farcical nature of cash compensations is of course well known for all who have any idea of what generally happens in such cases and has indeed happened in this one. Cash amounts are pathetic and the for most of those whom the Express correspondent “saw” queuing up to receive these cheques, this is the next best option to losing all the land at gunpoint, without compensation.

Continue reading Left-wing Capitalism – a Senile Disorder

“One Day I Cursed That Mother-Fucker God”

Warriors of Truth and the Theatre of the Absurd

Shivam’s post actually gives me the opportunity to explicate certain things at greater length, especially in relation to Chandrabhan Prasad (CBP) but also, more generally, in relation to our relationship to the political in the contemporary. Shivam’s article from Himal Southasian, though it was written in a different context and with a very different intent – that of defending OBC reservations from the attacks by upper castes – opens out to my mind all the problems that I wish to underline. The fact that Shivam has posted this article in response to my comment and Ravikant’s earlier post, indicates that his argument there has a certain larger relevance to how we understand what CBP represents.

Let me at the outset however, clarify that my reading of Chandrabhan Prasad and his stances, especially his political mode and style, do not necessarily mean that I endorse his politics. In fact, let me confess, most of the time his politics makes me quite uncomfortable – even though I have on each occasion been persuaded enough to modify my own positions in trying to confront his. Moreover, there are still large areas of his politics that, I believe are based on a somewhat deliberately partial understanding of the situation. So for instance, his adulation of ‘American society’ or US corporations like Microsoft and IBM for taking the diversity issue seriously, is to say the least, naïve. It refuses to recognize that these were gains of hard won struggles against racism which are once again being seriously challenged. One only has to look at the recent agitation in Michigan University to be able to see that the so-called liberalism of white society is in a sense not very different from modern upper caste arrogance. Note also that the language espoused by both the white opponents of affirmative action in Michigan and the upper castes in India is that of equality: “affirmative action is anti-equality” is the common refrain.

Continue reading “One Day I Cursed That Mother-Fucker God”

Dalit Betrayal and All That

Ever since Chandrabhan Prasad (CBP) embarked on his distinctive style of politics, he has really managed to annoy many self-proclaimed radicals. Ravikant’s earlier post on CBP’s recent salvo on deserting the vernacular and inhabiting the world of English language is in that sense really welcome, as it sets things in perspective.

A few years ago, when CBP called for a Dalit bourgeoisie, there was a similar sign of dismay, scandal and utter incomprehension among many friends – even those who have now started recognizing that ‘Dalits’ constitute a key component of any future radical democratic (or socialist?) transformation. What many of these friends do not recognize is that it is not enough to say that “the Dalit question is also important”: As Khairlanji or the hundreds of other earlier episodes show, there is no way in which the ‘Dalits’ can ‘also’ become part of some imagined larger unity (say the peasant unity dreamt of by communists, or the so-called ‘secular unity’ propounded by bleeding heart secular liberals). For, to take the standpoint of the Dalit is to take the standpoint of a minority in the village and to incur the anger of the majority. The effort to unite might be desirable from a longer term point of view, though I am not quite sure about that too. CBP thus also annoyed many secularists as his attack on backward caste ‘secular’ parties was seen by many as a way of justifying BSP’s alliance with the BJP.

The real point about CBPs politics that earnest radicals do not get is that irrespective of the substantive aspect/s of his argument, he is opening out a new way of enunciating a politics of the oppressed: anger and emotion are sublimated here into a performative excess, thus initiating a politics of irony and hyperbole. Ressentiment (resentment?) is not the main mode of this politics of ‘betrayal’ (which I would call the politics of fleeing) which began in a true sense with Dr Ambedkar’s flight from Hinduism. There is one critical difference from Ambedkar though. I have often told CBP that he is a deviant Ambedkarite (kujaat Ambedkarvaadi, to twist Lohia’s term): after all, “chicken, mutton, daaru aur daliton ki kuchh samasyayein” is certainly not the mode of Ambedkar’s renunciatory Buddhist politics that still remained imprisoned within the logic of ressentiment.

Sanjay Sangvai on the Great Land Robbery

Land-Grab by Rich: The Politics of SEZs in India

[This is an article written a couple of months ago by NAPM activist Sanjay Sangvai and will continue to be relevant for quite sometime to come].

The farmers in the obscure Pen tehsil in Raigad district Maharashtra are preparing for the long battle against the gigantic and powerful company – the Reliance. On June 22, a few Mumbai-based Marathi newspapers carried the news of the demonstrations of hundreds of farmers against the land acquisition by the state government for the Reliance company for a 10,120 hectare Special Economic Zone (SEZ). There was police firing on the rally as some miscreants indulged in stone throwing and damaging the property, which it was later found that, was not done by the protesting farmers.

“The Reliance company managed to create disturbance in the peaceful meeting of hundreds of farmers and our process of presenting objections to the Land Acquisition notices to the officials. The company is nervous about the growing resistance by the farmers for usurping their productive land and therefore trying to use the police to crush the movement” told Arun Shivkar, of Pen Panchkroshi Sheti Bachao Samiti (Pen area Committee for Save the farmland).

Continue reading Sanjay Sangvai on the Great Land Robbery

The Art of Fleeing, Capital and Molecular Socialism

Compared to the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries, capitalism, today has acquired an entirely new shape and character, often broadly referred to under the rubric of ‘globalization’. Among marxists of different hues there seems to be a remarkable unity in considering ‘globalization’ as a fresh assault of imperialist capital that represents a new wave of re-colonization of the third world. It is seen as a global conspiracy emanating from a single source.

Clearly this reading emanates from an understanding of capital as an all-powerful, singular, sovereign entity, virtually like God. Everything presumably is a consequence of the logic of capital. Ironically, barring a few exceptions, the votaries of ‘working class struggles’ cannot – or do not – see any role of such struggles in the way the present has shaped up, including one of its most significant effects – the apparently terminal crisis of the labour movement. Continue reading The Art of Fleeing, Capital and Molecular Socialism

Dam the Media – Give Them Land in New Harsud!

Before the ‘Battle for Truth’, Reveal Your Assets, Honourable Men and Women of the Media

Today’s Indian Express carries Medha Patkar’s response to a long continuing rant by the paper on a series of issues ranging from compensation for the displaced of Narmada valley to the whole issue of SEZs. She has thrown the gauntlet – a challenge to the newspaper to join her in a ‘Battle for Truth’. The Express has of course joined it right away in the most unbecoming way that has by now become a hallmark of its ranting style: It barely lets Medha conclude and puts in a rejoinder from its “Kolkata Bureau” – they could barely wait for her to finish and if the form did not impose the limitations, one could imagine them jumping up and down and shouting her down, booing her in the middle of her speech…

So gentlemen and women of the media, before you really join the Battle for Truth, the time has come for you, especially senior media persons – Editors and senior Commentators, the custodians of public opinion (or Truth, should we say?) – to declare your assets and their sources. You have been very vociferous about maintaining public standards and have campaigned tirelessly to see that politicians are forced to declare their incomes. Since the functions that you honourable people perform are no less public – you too must lay yourself open to public scrutiny. When the CEO of Xphatic or some secretary-general of a Corporate Association or a Chamber of Commerce writes, we know exactly where they speak from and for whom. But when “journalists”, “Editors” and political commentators  – in this and other papers and news channels – write or talk, they supposedly talk from the “objective” position of truth. Everybody in the trade of course knows that there are crores of rupees of ill-begotten wealth circulating in the media that shapes the Truth. The defence campaign of the takeover of farmers’ land for a leading corporation by most of the English media is not unrelated to the circulation of this strange thing. This is not an insinuation against any specific person/s but surely a declaration of assets should become the voluntary practice of all those who desire and fight tirelessly for probity in public life. What say you gentlemen and gentlewomen?

But what of those really innocent ones who may not be otherwise part of corrupt corporate power nexuses? Their naïveté  is so truly astonishing that it would make you gasp. These really innocent ones are products of the New Age who have taken in the new theology hook, line and sinker. Immediately after deaths in police firing on protests against takeover of tribal land in Kalinganagar by the government for a private company, a well known TV journalist demanded of the hapless tribals  – “But why are you against industrialization?” Holy shit! You are against Industrialization! Next you will turn against your own Self – Don’t you see that it is the messiah who has come to redeem you and deliver you from your hellish existence! One can hardly respond to such innocence except by saying Dam the Media for starters – and give them – all the displaced journalists some Cash Compensation. Oops! That is one thing they are not short of – How about some land in barren New Harsud town.

Beyond the Tyranny of Blueprints: WSF as Experimental Form

Published earlier in Social Action, Vol 54, April-June 2004

Shortly after the World Social Forum (Mumbai 2004) I came across an article by Cecilie Surasky, an American Jew, posted on a discussion list by a friend from Amsterdam. The article was startlingly entitled “Anti-Semitism at the World Social Forum?” and naturally invited one to read it immediately. It transpired that the author was the Communications Director of an organization called “Jewish Voice for Peace” that works for a peaceful and democratic resolution of the Palestinian problem and is therefore, also anti-Zionist. She was writing from within the specific context of a well-known but disturbing trend in Jewish politics, particularly in the US. A glimpse of this troubling context is provided by the fact that important voices among Jews, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in particular (which has been known for its important work in hunting down Nazi criminals worldwide), has been portraying the World Social Forum (WSF) “as one of the centers of the ‘new anti-Semitism'”.

Surasky further reports that “these charges have been picked up by various journalists as evidence of a dangerous new trend on the left.” The SWC had described the atmosphere at the third WSF in Brazil the previous year as “anti-Jewish”, according to her. She therefore landed up at Mumbai to check out first hand: “I have come to the WSF to be loudly and visibly Jewish…and to see for myself this purported new tidal wave of hatred of Jews from the rest of the global left.” The actual event of course, turned out to be something entirely different and if anything, Surasky ended up making some of the most moving friendships with many Arabs. Her account of these friendships in the article is quite touching in itself. What was most amazing for her, however, was that on return she found that the SWC had published an article on the WSF in the Jerusalem Post, entitled “Networking to Destroy Israel”. It further claimed that the WSF Mumbai event had been hijacked by “anti-American, anti-Israel forces”. As Surasky puts it, it became clear that many of these propagandist accounts made practically no distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism or in fact, any criticism of Israel.

The important thing about the WSF however, was that it provided a space to some one like Cecilie Surasky, a “come out” Jew, as she puts it, to meet, exchange notes and make friends with people from the Arab world. So did it to the innumerable others who have so far only known about the ‘Other’ through representations by propaganda machines like the Simon Wiesenthal Center and their Arab counterparts – or through the US media. This is of course, one small episode in the big event called the WSF. But the WSF is actually made up of literally thousands of such episodes. It was an occasion where the displaced Tibetans – supporters of the Dalai Lama – could move about prominently, distributing their literature, making friends and allies from different parts of the world. It was an occasion where the Dalit groups of India could make their voice heard before a vast gathering of people who were all fighting for their own liberation from oppressions of different kinds.

Continue reading Beyond the Tyranny of Blueprints: WSF as Experimental Form

In Search of a New Left

This is the Concept Note for a panel in the India Social Forum on “New Horizons For a Radical Democratic Politics: In search of a New Left”.

The panel is being proposed as a way of getting together activists and scholars in thinking afresh about the possibilities of a different kind of Left – a New Left, if you please – or radical democratic political practice. It is being proposed as a forum for thinking of ways of bringing together different kinds of radical urges and aspirations that have come forth in the last couple of decades. Many of these, broadly subsumed under the category of social movements, are based on sectional identities and interests. There are others that have been based on class questions but in a way quite different from conventional kinds of class politics. At the level of thinking however, most movements, despite having taken some extremely bold initiatives, have not really begun to articulate alternative theoretical positions or think through the far-reaching implications of their own practice.

Feminism, ecological movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the sexuality movements have undoubtedly made major contributions in terms of enabling us to think of democracy and ways of radicalizing it, of thinking about the good life very differently. Movements like the Dalit movement or some recent independent trade union initiatives that are inclined towards the idea of an autonomous workers’ movement have also started posing new questions for radical political practice – questions that are not always very comfortable.

Yet, the fact remains that the moment we begin to think about contemporary capitalism, we almost unthinkingly tend to lapse back into some nineteenth and early twentieth century formulations that  need to be seriously re-thought today. Much of the thinking on capitalism – influenced by Marxism of one shade or the other – has remained caught within the problematics of the state and the nation-state (both seem to us to be discrete but inter-related problematics). Even when we recognize that global capitalism at the beginning of the twenty-first century is an altogether different beast, all we get by way of theorization are tired repetitions from the Communist Manifesto (“the bourgeoisie seeks to build a world in its own image” or “the need for markets chases it all over the globe” etc). In contemporary capitalism this may tell us only a small part of the truth.

Further, in most of Left-wing discourse, nation-states continue to be posed as some sort of defense against global capital and the ultimate ground of emancipation and the state in general as the object of revolutionary politics, as that point where all transformative attention must be focused.

The panel is being proposed to explore questions connected with some of these articles of faith. As indicative of some of the questions that we could address, we list below some which we group together according to some broad themes. (To be sure, this is a tentative list): Continue reading In Search of a New Left