Supporters of Left Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo take to the streets, image courtesy BBC and Reuters
It seems quite clear from the latest reports coming in from Peru that the Left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo is all set to win in what has been described as the most polarized election till date. With over 99 percent of the ballots counted, Castillo had taken a lead of approximately 80, 000 votes (50. 2 of the total) over his Right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori. The counting process, reports say, has already been considerably slowed down as ballots seem to be still arriving from abroad as well as from the remote rural areas. Votes of expatriates arriving from abroad are mostly right wing votes for Fujimori whereas the ones from the rural areas are likely to be overwhelmingly for Castillo. There also seem to be a huge number of contested votes that might need to be recounted, further slowing down the process.
History apparently allows freaks, whims and hypocrisy, but only temporarily. After all, Hegel as very succinctly stated, ‘History is a slaughter house’. It spares none, not excluding India’s once most powerful Leftist party in the parliamentary arena, Communist Party of India (Marxist) that once had 44 MPs in the lower house of Indian parliament, Lok Sabha. It now faces a crisis of identity and existence. Hypocrisy and falsehood in politics and ideological positions have been two main reasons for the vertical decline of party’s influence and image. Ten years ago, Indranil Chakraborty in his Master’s thesis –“The Market Odyssey: Why and How Was ‘The Market’ Discourse Incorporated in the Party Program of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) During the Days of the Communist Party of China’s ‘Market Socialism’?” referred to CPI(M)’s open criticism of ‘the development of the personality cult of Mao( Tse Tung) , and the problem of left adventurism during the Cultural Revolution. He pointed out that the criticism evaded ‘the question of the relationship between socialism and democracy, and the role of the Chinese people in deciding policy matters of the state’. He quoted Harkishan Singh Surjeet’s article in the party’s theoretical monthly, The Marxist in 1993 commemorating Mao’s birth centenary – ‘We cannot make a subjective analysis of a personality in cases where errors have been committed in the application of the theory to practice.’
The farmers’ struggle at the Delhi borders completed six months yesterday, the 26th of May. The day was observed as a Black Day all over the country, at the call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
Braving unprecedented cold, followed by rains and storm, the struggle has now moved into the cruelest part of Delhi’s summer. In the process, it has lost 470 of its people, thanks to the obstinacy of the government. If one dates the beginning of the struggle from June, when it began in Punjab, soon after the farm laws were stealthily, under cover of the pandemic, promulgated as ordinances by the Central government, the struggle has been on for ten months now. In other words, it is incorrect to go on referring to it as a protest – which we routinely do for many lost causes – for it is now a ‘do or die’ struggle. It became so from the time it shifted its venue to lay siege to Delhi.
Periodically, the government, its police and its minions in the media try and zero in on this epic struggle of the farmers for its ignoring, if not violating of Covid19 protocols. All this even as they look the other way while lakhs of people are thrown into the jaws of death, brought about by the mass murderers who have pushed populations in four states into prolonged election campaigns, played cynical games with precious oxygen and vaccine supplies and allowed all kinds of mass religious gatherings of the Hindus to take place in complete disregard of any protocol whatsoever.
While Rome never burned, Nero never played the fiddle…
Pragya Singh Thakur, the Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Bhopal, would never have imagined that the leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar would mark her return to her constituency after a 70-day gap with a sarcastic article published on its front page. The headline read, “He Digvijayi Sadhvi Pragya! Shukriya, Aap Ko Bhopal ki Yaad to Aayi—O World Conqueror, Many Thanks, You Remembered Bhopal at Last.”
The daily was giving vent to the feelings of the lakhs of citizens of the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Some had even organised a social media campaign revolving around their “missing” MP.
The last time Thakur was in the city was 2 March, to participate in a condolence meeting for a BJP leader. Thereafter, she was away from the city. The intervening period had proved extremely harsh for residents due to the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed hundreds of lives.
The anger of citizens was palpable. That is why the daily asked her, “When Bhopal was sick and desperate for help, you were not to be seen. When the city needed oxygen and Remdesivir, you were still not here.”
The absence of an elected leader belonging to the ruling dispensation when people need her the most raises a pertinent question. Was this an exception? Forget the fact that the BJP-Sangh Parivar repeatedly claim they are “disciplined soldiers”, a number of those associated with right-wing organisations have gone missing in action.
The question of federalism and Centre-State relations has been on many people’s minds lately, given that the Centre in the Modi dispensation has been hell bent on usurping the powers of the states while slyly thrusting all responsibility on to their shoulders. As a matter of fact, it was precisely during the outbreak of Covid19, when there should have been maximum cooperation between the Centre and the States, that the strains started showing in a glaring manner. Very early on, it became clear that the Centre was intent upon using the pandemic to usurp more and more powers, while riding roughshod not only on the rights of ordinary citizens but also of the States. In dealing with the pandemic, not only were the mandatory consultations with the States not held, they were in fact simply handed over decisions. The most dramatic of all these, of course, was the completely bizarre manner in which the Lockdown was declared last year, at just four hours notice. The huge tragedy that followed was totally avoidable had there been prior consultations and had the Prime Minister, just for one moment, behaved like one. As a matter of fact, the record of this government over the past seven years has been pretty consistent in this regard at least. Continue reading Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days→
Guest Post : New Socialist Initiative NSI Facebook Page
Samuel Johnson famously said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” The two prime ministers in the photograph below would claim to be patriots both. The scoundrel part should be left to your judgment, but it is obvious that both of them cannot claim to be patriots at the same time.
These two prime ministers came up with a deal a couple of days ago that no one in India is talking about. Even the Indian government, uncharacteristically, is not trumpeting about it. The UK government announced the day before yesterday that it sealed a deal with India in which Indians will make a one billion pound ($1.39 billion) investment in the UK creating 6500 British jobs. In addition India will open its market doors wider by reducing tariffs not only on British cars and British whisky but also on British apples and pears.
It looks curiouser than Alice’s Wonderland. India lost 7.25 million jobs in April alone. Actually tens of millions of Indian jobs have been lost during the pandemic and during the Modi misrule. And Indian moneybags facilitated by the Modi government are going to invest more than Rs 10 thousand crores in the UK creating highly paid British jobs! On top of that India will also hurt the interests of Indian producers of apples and pears (also of cars and whiskeys) by lowering tariffs on British goods. What is India gaining out of it?
But if you think about it, it is not so surprising. This is a government that spends tens of thousands of crores on a new central vista, a new parliament and a new house for the Prime Minister at a time when thousands are dying due to shortage of oxygen and of hospital beds. This is also a regime under which its favourite corporate houses have registered fattest profits ever during the worst humanitarian crisis that India is groaning under.
This Prime Minister not only helps corporate houses to amass mountains of wealth in an India where people are losing jobs, facing unimaginable hardships – many are on the verge of starvation; where cremations pyres are spilling on to the roads and burning 24×7. He also helps them take that money to safe houses on foreign shores – invest in rich countries and create jobs there. Can he qualify to be a patriot, even if one ignores Samuel Johnson’s reference to being a scoundrel?
How anti-national this government and this Prime Minister can become? And why is this Indo-British deal not being talked about here in India?
The severity of the second wave and the government’s unpreparedness demonstrate the limits of ‘strong’ leadership and religion-based politics.
It was 1527, and Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation, wrote a letter advising a Lutheran leader what a believer should do during an epidemic. Europe was in the deadly grip of the bubonic plague at the time. It had killed thousands of people.
Extracts of his letter are relevant even today, especially the parts where Luther talks about what to do during an epidemic: “…Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”
Tirath Singh Rawat, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, perhaps does not know of this letter or its contents. Surprisingly, he does not even seem to recall the experiences from last year. In fact, much of what happened during the Covid epidemic seems lost on him. In 2020, public places of worship and religious gatherings became super-spreaders of the virus. That is why, for the first time, religious congregations were banned everywhere from Mecca to the Vatican to arrest the spread of the pandemic.
So, it is strange that Rawat cannot recall how believers took the back seat and ceded space to science during the first wave. Indeed, he has made a specious claim that faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus, in the context of the Kumbh Mela, a gathering where tens of lakhs of people gathered earlier this month.
Whether people of the world will have to learn to live with the virus?
As India and many parts of the world seem to be engulfed by the second or third wave of the Coronavirus epidemic – which looks more dangerous – this idea is being pushed from different quarters. Newspaper articles or surveys or studies have appeared in different publications which seem to be pushing this narrative.
Sample conclusions of a study done jointly by Emory and Penn State University which say “One year after its emergence, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has become so widespread that there is little hope of elimination.” This appeared in an article in USA Today . A famous journal Nature also shared a survey which talked to Scientists and around 90 per cent of the Scientists polled talked of how Covid is likely to be endemic in pockets of the global population.(do)
Mamata Banerjee recently stirred up a fresh new controversy by accusing her former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, now adversary in the Nandigram Assembly seat as BJP candidate, of being complicit in the 14 March 2007 violence. Had it not been for the complicity of the ‘father-son duo’ (Suvendu and his father Sisir Adhikari, both in the BJP now), she claimed in the heat of the electoral campaign, the police could not have entered Nandigram. She also asked rhetorically how it came to be that these two were spared by the police? To my mind, the claims seem difficult to sustain, if only because, the CPI(M) was at the height of its power and would have had little to do with these Trinamool Congress leaders. Listening to her speak, it did seem that she was quite rattled. Who would not be – with Amit Shah and central government on one side, the aggressive BJP goons in the state, her erstwhile collaborators now on the BJP side and, to cap it all, the aggressive, misogynist, patriarchal campaign against her from the CPI(M)? One meme by people obviously linked to the CPM, for instance, portrayed her witch-like, with a haggard and wicked expression, which was counter-posed to the young beauteous CPI(M) candidate Meenakshi Mukherjee. The meme describes Meenakshi as the ‘beloved daughter of Bengal’, while Mamata is described as the ‘old hag spinster sister-in-law’. (After a lot of hue and cry, this meme was taken off though the page continues to be on Facebook).
Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman spoke online at a recent Distinguished Public Lecture at the Ashoka University (March 12, 2021), hosted by Arvind Subramaniam, Director, Ashoka Centre for Economic Policy. He spoke on “Is Labor-Intensive Exporting Still a Feasible Development Strategy?”
Kugman said that in this globalized world, for India to get into the market space vacated by the Chinese manufacturers, particularly for labour-intensive goods, it will have to be ready to do two things: First, make policy choices that are realistic and not ‘precocious’ and second, be ready to accept that rights and freedoms of labour, in particular will be sacrificed. The wise counsel of Krugman was that India will have to be prepared to negotiate the space between rights/freedoms and share in the world market of course, up to the point where “labour is not getting killed”. Continue reading Freedom in the university and outside it: Atul Sood→
This post is the English translation of an article in Punjabi by NADIA SINGH, published first in Punjabi Tribune.
In a February long ago, in 1978 to be precise, thousands of American farmers rode into Washington D.C. on their tractors, from all across America. Some travelled for days together, covering journeys of hundreds of miles. What was the mission behind their long and arduous expedition? They were demanding fair prices and an equitable model of agricultural development.
Image courtesy modernfarmer.com
In the 1970s US had initiated drastic changes in its agrarian policies under the “Get Big or Get Out” paradigm. This policy sought to replace small family run farms and consolidate them into large-scale factory farms. Policy makers in the US believed that industrial farming represented a more efficient and profitable economic model, compared to small and medium farms run independently by farmers. Continue reading When tractors marched in Washington DC: Nadia Singh→
It is interesting that though Marxism was born in Europe, it has found its most enduring habitat in the Global South, but this has meant very little in terms of its overall theoretical formation and structure. Thinking about this encounter of ‘Marxism’ and the ‘Global South’ – the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America – is a daunting task for the sheer range of experiences and questions it has thrown up. It has thrown up fundamentally new concerns as well as produced, in practice, some of the most grotesque outcomes. But the task is also daunting because despite the range of experiences that Marxism has gone through and has put us through, it has not so far given us any serious body of theoretical knowledge that reflects this experience. It has not given us anything like the way, say, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese and Sinhala Buddhism have produced their own versions of Buddhist philosophy. One could also perhaps say the same thing about Christianity in Europe, where – at least up to a point – its philosophy was elaborated and innovated or transformed by the best minds of their time.
Spot the difference between the two quotations below.
“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” – [Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848. Emphasis added]
“Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” – [Karl Marx, Capital Volume 1, Chapter 26, ‘The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’. 1867. All emphasis added]
Look closely at both, and if you have any doubts, you can return to the original texts from which these two passages have been extracted – the Communist Manifesto, by the youthful Marx and Engels, published in 1848 and Capital, Volume I, published in 1867. If the Communist Manifesto almost celebrates the ‘fact’ that capitalism has “rescued a considerable part of the population [i.e. the peasant] from the idiocy of rural life”, what does the text of Capital say? It underlines that precisely these people who had been thus ‘rescued’, “became sellers of themselves after they had been robbed of all their means of production“.
And if we take a step outside their context and read these lines in the context of contemporary India – from Singur and Nandigram to the ongoing saga of the epic farmers’ struggle – it is not difficult to see why the text of Capital insists that the history of their expropriation is written in “letters of blood and fire.” The big difference is that while literally millions perished in the storm of capitalist industrialization in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and simply disappeared into history; today, the peasants, farmers and indigenous people – all the so-called ‘pre-capitalist’ populations – are fighting back. There were no institutions of democracy, no language of struggle back then; it was the sheer exercise of naked power by the rising bourgeoisie that enforced the expropriation of agrarian and artisanal communities.
Dr Abhay Shukla, public health physician and health activist will be delivering the 8 th lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series’ on ‘Mass Psychology of Neofascism : The rationale underlying political ‘irrationality’ organised by New Socialist Initiative on Sunday, 21 st February, 2021 at 6 PM (IST)
Let me tell you what the Delhi Police knows. And I do not mean the abstract entity called Delhi Police. I mean every single IPS officer and every constable involved in carrying out the “toolkit investigation.”
They know that 22 year old Disha Ravi is not the Prime Mover along with the relatively recently formed Canada-based Poetic Justice Foundation (set up in March 2020) , in a plot to overthrow the Indian government. They know this because the IPS officers at least, can read English and a simple search would show them that the term “toolkit” in this context is basically used by organizers of street protests against autocracies the world over, for peacefully expressing mass dissent.
Here is one such article from 2013 called The Dissident’s Toolkit, in the context of the Arab Spring. The author Erica Chenoweth (soon to be honoured with an arrest warrant) explains:
Research shows, in fact, that demonstrations are just one of many tools that civil resistance movements can use to effect change. Successful movements are those that use a wide array of methods to pressure their state opponents while keeping their activists safe. The demonstration tactic we’re used to seeing is just one of many hundreds of tactics available to civilians seeking change — and successful campaigns for change must use more than just a single tactic.
When on January 26, 2016, Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar, a professor of electrical engineering from IIT Delhi, assumed office as the new Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, no one really knew who he was. Although subsequent news coverage have unearthed a short-lived and rather unsavoury notoriety in the early 2000s, his administrative experience appeared to be scant, never even having served as a head of a department in any of the institutions he has served in), so news coverage of his appointment could make mention of only his prowess in the martial arts and his aspirations to nation-building in the university (which, as was eventually revealed, boiled down largely to a somewhat macabre fascination with large military hardware).
The five years of Kumar as Vice-Chancellor of JNU have done much to lift him from the obscurity he once enjoyed, but most of his new-found fame has been singularly unflattering. Met with a sustained opposition from the JNU Students Union and the JNU Teachers Association, Kumar has far from established himself as a capable, transparent, and non-partisan administrator committed to the highest standards of academic excellence. However, the poor press that has consistently dogged him throughout his tenure appears to have done nothing to weaken the extraordinary governmental support that he enjoys. So resolute is this backing, that it not only has it been able to claim the scalp of a senior bureaucrat in the MHRD back in 2019, it has now secured Jagadesh Kumar an unusual continuation in office until “his successor is appointed”, following the indefinite postponement of a meeting for the selection of his successor on January 7, 2020. Continue reading Exclusion Arithmetics in Higher Education -JNU as the NEP 2020 Pilot: Ayesha Kidwai→
STATEMENT BY WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION
Demand the immediate release of Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar and cessation of targeting of workers and peasants by the Haryana Police!
On January 12th 2021, the Haryana Police began firing at a workers’ rally in the Kundli Industrial Area. Firing at workers demanding unpaid wages, the police claimed that their demand amounted to extortion. Following the gunfire, when the congregated workers dispersed in all directions, a 24-year-old dalit worker, Nodeep Kaur, was caught by the police and brutally beaten. She was beaten by male police officers who targeted her genitals and then dragged her to the Kundli Police Station. She was then arrested and had two FIRs filed against her, FIR 25/2021 and 26/2021; one under sections 148, 149, 186, 332, 352, 384, 379B and 307 of the Indian Penal Code and the other under sections 148, 149, 323, 452, 384 and 506 with a wide range of charges including inciting a riot, causing hurt to a public servant, assault and criminal force, extortion, trespass, criminal intimidation and attempt to murder. Most shockingly, even after being taken into custody, Nodeep Kaur was mercilessly beaten by the police. She has sustained severe injuries on her body including her genitals amounting to sexual violence and torture in custody. She has been lodged in Karnal Jail, without adequate medical care or support, barely able to speak to her sister, one of the only persons she is allowed to meet. She has spent over two weeks in judicial custody. On January 25th, she was produced in court via video conference. The court ordered a medical examination over two weeks after she was beaten in custody. The family has not been provided the medical examination report. Meanwhile, another worker and Majdoor Adhikar Sanghatan (MAS) activist Shiv Kumar has also been arrested by the Haryana Police. This comes alongside the arrest of Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist who had been extensively covering the Kisan Andolan for over two months, who covered issues of worker-peasant unity in the Kundli area and, most recently, had exposed the BJP-police nexus during the attack against the peasants at the border on January 29th 2021.
दिल्ली पहुँचने के बाद और 26 जनवरी से पहले, ऊपरी तौर पर सरकार ने किसान आन्दोलन की राह में कोई रोड़े नहीं अटकाए और किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने की रणनीति दबी-ढकी थी। परन्तु अब सरकार खुल कर किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने का प्रयास कर रही है। न केवल आन्दोलनकारियों का बिजली पानी बंद किया जा रहा है और उन पर पथराव प्रायोजित किया जा रहा है बल्कि आन्दोलन स्थल तक पहुंचने के रास्ते भी बंद किये जा रहे हैं। इन्टरनेट जो आज झूठी ख़बरों के साथ साथ जानकारी का भी मुख्य स्रोत बन चुका है, बल्कि आज जीवन की बुनियादी ज़रूरत बन चुका है उस पर भी आन्दोलन स्थलों के आसपास के इलाकों में रोक लगा दी गई है। यहाँ तक की आन्दोलनकारियों द्वारा कोई रूकावट न डाले जाने के बावजूद, रेलगाड़ियों के मार्ग परिवर्तन किये जा रहे हैं या रेल सेवा बंद की जा रही है जिस से न केवल आन्दोलनकारी किसानों या उन के समर्थकों को परेशानी हो रही है अपितु आमजन भी परेशान हो रहा है। ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि सरकार किसान आन्दोलन से बिलकुल बेपरवाह है।
At last, the Trump Presidency has crash landed and he is out of the White House. Now, we can all start dealing with ‘Trump trauma’ and shock. What did we live through over the past four years ? This is a planetary question. It is a question we are all grappling with because the world is now capitalist on a global scale and America is the leading power making that world. Post the Cold War we were all conscripted to be Americans and the ‘American Dream’ was declared the global dream. Even China bought into it in its own self interested and authoritarian way. They became so good at it that even Trump baulked. He wanted it back and declared : “Make America Great Again”. While we do not physically live in America, through the global media we are front-row spectators gazing into it, watching the theatrics of its leaders while grappling with its presence in our everyday lives. It has set the standards of ‘civilization’ by asserting a set of universals – democracy, progress, competition, individualism and free enterprise. These universals are the props of a mythic America, standing tall at the vanguard of the ‘free world’, and which reveals itself through the iconic hamburger, unthinking patriotism, voting in elections, the veneration of a masculine gun culture, Hollywood movies and mass consumption.
As media cacophony reached a delirous state, peddling the government narrative of violence and anarchy, an embedded journalist of Kargil fame even declared (on her public Faccebook page) that she was “furious and annoyed” – though she had till a few minutes ago “stood with the rights of the farmers to be heard”. She claimed that she had even “admired their protest for its generosity and dignity”. She recounted that she had spent the morning amidst a “Sea of Tirangas at #Singhu” where she had “met farmers who wore the Tricolor like a badge of joy.”
And then? “What has happened today [at Red Fort] is absolutely unacceptable”. What she saw in the morning has been seen by thousands, if not millions across the world, through the two months that the farmers have been camping at the borders of Delhi, stoically bearing the freezing cold weather and losing over 150 of their fellow farmers. So did it occur to the morally revolted journalist to ask, “what actually happened?” “How did this happen?” This incident that went contrary to how the movement had been until then – did not the journalist (any journalist) need to probe it? She did not even ask the simplest questions. So eager was she to put her support to the farmers’ agitation in the past, and jump back to her comfort zone that there was no question of doing any further investigation. It was as if the entire history of the past two months and the legitmacy of the farmers’ demands were demolished at one stroke!
So let us hear the farmers’ leaders themselves and what they have to say about how things developed, and how on that very day by 6.30 pm, the SKM had started appealing to the participants to halt the tractor march. But the real story that should have been the concern of any serious, conscientious journalist, lies behind how the same Delhi Police that was not willing to allow a tractor march on Outer Ring Road, gave virtually free passage to some selected sections. How, with Republic Day’s high security, did masses of people reach Red Fort and ITO? Let us listen to the farmers’ leaders themselves in the second video below.
But before that, let us hear Balbir Singh Rajewal here, where he explains the whole way in which things started developing, since 13 December, when a group by the name of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KSMC) was brought in, with what looks, in retrospect, like a definite plan.
My independent conversations with people also confirm that the main group involved in this jugalbandi with the regime, the KMSC, had been allowed to put up its camps on the Delhi side of the border about two weeks ago, when all the others were simply not allowed to enter. This means that effectively, for that group, there were no barricades as Balbir Singh Rajewal underlines.
By “unbiased” I mean coverage that does not allege chaos, Pakistani tweets, a few tukdas misleading innocent farmers, “Khalistani” infiltration etc.
These are farmers, they are here in their thousands, they know exactly what they are doing, and they may be our last line of defence against the devastation being wreaked by Hindutva politics and corporate capitalism on an India that we stood by and were also deeply critical of, too.
If we want to continue being critical, it’s the farmers who will ensure us our freedom to do so.