Category Archives: Capitalism

A little Biology, A little Arithmetic, A lot of Politics: Sudhanva Deshpande on Nandigram, again

Dear Sudhanva,

*A Biology Lesson*
The discussion on Nandigram is heading in interesting directions across lists and blogs, (even as the Army walks the talk in Kolkata tonight) and I find this situation of accumulating discursive intensity actually very productive. Let a hundred rejoinders blossom, and a few good schools of thought contend. So I welcome your rejoinder and criticism of my text. And I for one, stand chastised by your incisive criticism of my posts (responding to your earlier writing) on the reader-list, and on Kafila.

Continue reading A little Biology, A little Arithmetic, A lot of Politics: Sudhanva Deshpande on Nandigram, again

Two ‘Nations’ At War: The Struggle Over Forest Rights

The process towards the implementation of ‘The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006’ is entering its crucial stage. In the present political environment, charged with an electoral context, the government is bound to notify the draft rules. The original co-sponsors – majority of tribal organisations and rights groups, and left and progressive political parties – are in agreement about mobilising support for its implementation. However, similar to the time of declaration and implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the apathy and the opposition towards these rights and entitlements of the poor, is becoming shrill and shady. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) can be notified in no time in this country, but the millions of tribals and forest dwellers have to wait endlessly for anything that goes in their favour. There is a cost of action and there is a cost of inaction. The coalition government has to decide which is more expensive!

It is ironical that since the time of the discussion and the passing of the Forest Rights Act, conflicts in the forest areas have not subsided, and forced evictions and displacements continue to be a regular occurring. And this is unfolding at a time when after more than two decades of work within the UN system, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in September 2007, with India speaking in favour of it. The declaration was adopted by a vote of 143 to four with 11 abstentions. The vote was called by Australia, New Zealand and the US. Only Canada joined these three states in voting against it. The declaration recognizes the rights of indigenous people to the land, territories and natural resources that are critical to their way of life. It affirms that the rights of indigenous people are not separate from, or less than, the rights of others; they are an integral and indispensable part of a human rights system, dedicated to the rights of all. The declaration presents the Indian central and state governments a historic opportunity, which they must seize by adopting it, and entering into a new relationship with the tribal people, based on a principled commitment to the protection of their human rights. Through the Forest Rights Act, the government can work in good faith to implement their domestic law, and practice this vitally important, and long overdue, human rights instrument.

Continue reading Two ‘Nations’ At War: The Struggle Over Forest Rights

The ‘Solidarity Economy’ – Off the Beaten Track

In the beginning of this year, Ecuador became one more of the South American countries to turn Left. The new Left-wing President, Rafael Correa called, soon thereafter, for a “new socialism of the twenty-first century”. The last few months have witnessed sharp conflcits between the President, backed by a popular struggle the corrupt right-wing oligarchy that pervaded the system. We reproduce below two recent articles, one by Roger Burbach and another, in the nature of a report by Kintto Lucas, which indicate some of the fascinating new directions that Ecuador is set to now move along.

Sometime ago we had posted in Kafila, an interview of Bolivian President Evo Morales, which was remarkable for two things: (1) Morales’ reference that when he met Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the latter told him to follow Hugo Chavez and not him; that is to say, adopt the democratic road to socialist transformation. This is a commitment that many of the new regimes in the South American continent, backed by powerful mass struggles, are now displaying. The Ecuadorean struggle for and the Leftist victory in, the new Constituent Assembly is a further indication of this new direction. The second important point was Morales’ insistence that ‘we’ (the indigenous people) live in an entirely different relationship with ‘Mother Earth’. Thus: “We say the “Mother Earth,” because the earth gives us life, and neither the Mother Earth nor life can be a commodity. So we’re talking about a profound change in the economic models and systems.” Of course, this is something that neither the Indian ruling elites nor their Leftist counterparts can ever understand, drunk as they are on the heady brew of Capital and Consumption – even if that will lead the world to its rapid end. The likes of the CPM leaders – the Buddhadebs and Bimans for example – would in the end like to claim that “see we reached the end before you”, rather than dare to chart out a different path. It takes real courage – and of course the existential perspective of an ‘indigenous’ leader – to say that we want a radical break form this destructive model.

The news from Ecuador is important in both these respects. It is a different vision of ‘socialism’ – not a vision that wants capitalism to first destroy the planet before socialism can begin its work (for what?!) So, the Ecuadorean government now talks of ‘socialism’ as a shared economy and one moreover, that will be based on the protection and preservation of the oil wealth and bio-diversity of the country rather than its sale for global consumption.

ECUADOR: Support Grows for Letting Sleeping Amazon Oil Lie
By Kintto Lucas

QUITO, Aug 23 (IPS) – The innovative offer by the government of Ecuador to refrain from exploiting its largest oil reserve, in exchange for international compensation for nature conservation, is attracting increasing support. While oil prices are soaring, Quito is adopting the civil society initiative calling for the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil reserve, the country’s largest, to remain untapped. The ITT reserve is located in Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, in the Amazon region provinces of Pastaza and Napo.

Continue reading The ‘Solidarity Economy’ – Off the Beaten Track

Interview with Evo Morales

Democracy Now!

By way of Liberation News Service

[Interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales. Here he talks about some interesting question relating to the new possibilities of democratic transformation, the problems of leadership, and global warming – among other things. Some Excerpts:]

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian Supreme Court recently asked the government to start extradition proceedings for the former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who lives here in the United States in Miami. They also asked for an order for him not to be allowed to go to another country, but to be sent back to Bolivia. What is the former president guilty of and whether he thinks the United States will extradite him.

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: First of all, the United States cannot, should not receive, protect delinquents from any part of the world. It is unconscionable that the United States, a democratic country, would be protecting international criminals like Posada Carriles. The process has to do with two issues: first of all, human rights, and second of all, for economic damages done to the state. So people who massacre peoples, that violate human rights and do economic damage to countries and their economies have to go to jail. The United States shouldn’t be sitting there waiting for a process to be put into motion, but rather should kick these people out so that they can be submitted to justice.

I hope the United States respects these norms and respects the decision of our Supreme Court. But here, we have an experience. The last military dictator was sent to jail. And since that time, in Bolivia, no member of the military dares to threaten a coup d’etat. Likewise, any democratic government that violates human rights, that massacres people or that does economic damage to the state should also be subject to these sorts of processes, and their leaders should be put in jail, so that they never dare to do it again either.

Continue reading Interview with Evo Morales

Shantibangh in Lohandiguda

Finally, it was an uneven scrawl in the cryptic shorthand of a court stenographer that almost ruined Sudaram Nag’s monsoon crop. “Sudaram Nag, 50 yrs, Takraguda, Bastar. Section:107.116(b), 03-08-07.” it said; communicating to Sudaram Nag, a 50 year old rice farmer in the Bastar District of Chhattisgarh that he was hereby summoned to present himself at the Magistrate’s Court on 3 August 2007 to show cause as to why proceedings may not be initiated against him for a breach of peace under section 107.116(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) . Since early this year, more than 60 of Sudraman’s neighbours and fellow villagers have spent more time at the courts in Jagadalpur than tending to their fields and harvests. Their crime? Protesting against the blatant rigging of gram sabha hearings initiated to acquire 2161 hectares of fertile agricultural land for Tata Steel Limited’s greenfield steel plant in the district.

Continue reading Shantibangh in Lohandiguda

Slavery Exists in the UK Today: Report

Urban Britain is heading for Victorian levels of inequality
“The chasm between rich and poor seen in London today resembles the Manchester that Engels described in the 1840s” – so run the headlines of an interesting story in The Guardian by Tristram Hunt. Hunt, who is working on a new biography of Engels, finds interesting parallels of contemporary London, its social segregation and inequality with the London described by Engels in his Conditions of the Working Class in England: The poverty and and exploitation side by side with the sharp increase in middle class power on the one hand and its concentration in the hands of the filthy rich – 1 percent of the population controlling 24 percent of the national wealth. So much for the ‘trickle down’ effect. Hunt’s story itself is based on a report released last Tuesday (17 July). Some Glimpses of the report:

As the UK marks the 200th anniversary of legislation for the abolition of the slave trade, a new report shows how modern forms of slavery occur in the UK. Written by leading experts in the field, this report is the first comprehensive review of evidence about the extent of slavery in the UK today.

Contemporary slavery in the UK, produced by a joint research team from the University of Hull and Anti-Slavery International for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), examines the nature of modern slavery and the conditions under which it occurs. It also contains detailed accounts of the circumstances being faced by those enslaved….

Slavery in contemporary Britain cannot be seen in isolation. Most of those working as slaves in the UK have come from elsewhere, often legally. This makes slavery an international issue. Many relationships of enslavement trap people by withdrawing their passports or ID documents, making escape unlikely. Evidence shows that those who protest about the appalling working conditions may be beaten, abused, raped, deported or even killed.

Peasant Capitalism and The Industrialization ‘Debate’

A recent report in the Indian Express makes for an interesting reading in the context of the debate on industrialization unleashed by the ‘Nandigram effect’. This is a somewhat novel story: In the village of Avasari Khurd, about 40 kilometres off Pune, about 1500 farmers passed a unanimous resolution seeking a SEZ (Special Economic Zone) status for their village. The resolution, approved by the gram sabha has been sent for further action to both the state and central governments. The peasant/farmers of the village have formed a company by the name of ‘Avasari Khurd Industrial Development Pvt Ltd’, using 3, 500 acres of land, while the remaining will be used for agribusiness and residential purposes. All the 1500 farmers will be shareholders of the company and each of them will contribute Rs 1 lakh as initial investment. The idea of course, is that rather than let the government acquire land from them or they be forced into some highly unequal bargain with corporate sharks like Reliance, the farmers themselves become shareholders of their land and take their destiny in their own hands.

However, because the initiative for this effort has come from the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture, the vision of this plan goes in a corporate capitalist direction, with land being earmarked for the automobile, the electronic, infotech and pharmaceutical sector. One can however, easily imagine such initiative being taken in such a way that these could become the basis of an interesting new type of common ownership, something akin to an agro-industrial cooperative, which could focus on industries less ecologically destructive than some planned here (e.g. automobiles). But for such a thing to happen, radicals and Leftists of various hues need to intervene in the flow of life that is being transformed every day, every minute, rather than merely issue shrill rhetorical speeches against some far off enemy – safely away in the United States or some such place.

Continue reading Peasant Capitalism and The Industrialization ‘Debate’

PAPs – Project [A] Persons

guest post by SHVETA SARDA

Cities generate their fresh crop of what are officially named “PAPs”. The two Ps in PAP stand for project and persons. “A” is the relationship between them. The relationship “A” between “Project” and “Persons” can be generic, and there are few words in our dictionary for that. The “A” in “PAP”, the hyphen between “Project” and “Persons” could be anything – PAPs could mean project associative persons, project affective persons, project arranged persons, project augmented persons! There is in fact a world of PAPs around us. The city is a strange landscape of paps…

Now there is also something called the “PAP smear”. It’s a test to detect cancer. When a body and its cells get into an antagonism. The test determines whether this antagonism is bearable or aggressive to the body. And here we have two more PAPs – the project aggressive persons and the project antagonistic persons. However, PAP has its own designated full form in the city – it stands for Project Affected Persons. Persons – working class persons – moved, relocated, removed for new developments. The city gives them share money for new houses, or it builds houses for them which announce – Hiranandani (builders in Mumbai) building 8304 houses for project affected persons.

But the fact remains, that the contemporary is increasingly about the ingenuity and innovativeness of these PAPs, and a large creative industry can live and thrive off this.

In the wake of Nandigram via Dhruva Narayan

A call by concerned citizens

The valiant struggle of the peasantry in Nandigram against the acquisition of their land and homesteads for the proposed chemical hub SEZ has drawn nationwide attention. Despite the massacre of March 14 and the continuing reign of terror unleashed by the police and hired killers of the ruling party in the state, Nandigram has refused to surrender. On the contrary, it has sparked unprecedented mass protests across West Bengal and elsewhere. People’s movements in various parts of the country against the forcible acquisition of farmlands, forests and other natural resource base of the poor in the name of SEZ and for the so-called industrial projects have also drawn inspiration and sustenance from Nandigram. No wonder, Nandigram has become a major focus of people’s resistance against the neo-liberal agenda that seeks to establish the hegemony of global corporate capitalism.

Time is now ripe to bring all the people’s resistance movements across the country together under one coordinating network. Towards this end, we are proposing a People’s Convention, followed by a huge rally, in Kolkata on 2-3 June 2007 (before the onset of monsoon). We call upon all our friends in the people’s movements and people’s organisations, irrespective of political or ideological moorings, to come forward and actively participate in this programme. May the convention/rally become the launching pad for a united nationwide struggle against the government’s land acquisition policy for SEZ and industrial projects.

Continue reading In the wake of Nandigram via Dhruva Narayan

Learning from China

Here is an article by Aseem Shrivastava, who suggests that there is a grimmer lesson to be learnt from China than the corporate flunkies would have us believe. Turning Mumbai into Shanghai? More like turning Nandigram into Shenzen…

The Indian Predicament
SEZS: Behind the Curtain
By ASEEM SHRIVASTAVA

“Few cities anywhere have created wealth faster than Shenzhen, but the costs of its phenomenal success stare out from every corner: environmental destruction, soaring crime rates and the disillusionment and degradation of its vast force of migrant workers”

–“Chinese Success Story Chokes on Its Own Growth”

The New York Times, December 19, 2006.

Within the short span of a few decades China has become the envy of the world. Corporate managers across the globe lose sleep worrying about “the China price”. Real wages and working conditions rivaling those of industrializing, pauperizing Britain two centuries ago have enabled the country to leave far behind any global competitor who has to worry about such inconvenient matters as labor laws and environmental regulations. Thus has accelerated the inter-national race to the bottom that has generated fear since the early days of this phase of corporate globalization. The labor force in the global economy doubled overnight in the early 1990s (from 1400 to 2900 million) when China, India and the Eastern Bloc nations joined it after the fall of the Berlin Wall, under Bush I’s “New World Order.” If real wages and the share of wages in national income have fallen sharply in recent times, and if inequalities have risen dramatically at the same time, the answer to the riddle lies in this quiet accretion, cashed in on by China-based corporations who have set the pace. The logic of capital has inveigled the entire world into a race of totalitarianisms–which inevitably enrich the few and pauperize the many in

Continue reading Learning from China

Nandigram Update from Sanjay Sangvai

[CPM cadres have made it virtually impossible for any independent report to come out of Nandigram. They have not allowed even the media and political leaders to enter the area while their propaganda machinery has begun working overtime, presenting a completely false picture of the situation and the events. Meanwhile, all we have regarding the actual loss of lives is a series of speculative assessments, some of which put the death toll at an astounding 125. Given that even some Left Front partners believe that the figure could be far more than what the government is prepared to concede, this may not be an entirely unbelievable figure. At any rate, the more greviously injured included, the toll seems really high. Some of the scenes on television yesterday showed how two women trying to remove a body were attacked by the police brutally and the body snatched from them. How can they allow the bodies to accumulate and be counted? We present below the latest update on the situation by NAPM activist Sanjay Sangvai. – AN]

AN APPEAL FROM NANDIGRAM AND KOLKATA/ March 15, 2007

POLICE & CADRES KILL 125 IN NANDIGRAM
MASSACRE

As the death count of March 14 carnage in Nandigram by the W.Bengal Police and CPM cadres has reached 125, the people, organizations and activists of Nandigram and Kolkata called upon all the people, who value the democracy, human rights and equality of freedom to come to Nandigram and be with the
struggling people.

Though the cadres of the ruling Communist Party (Marxist) are blocking the way, the High Court Order on March 15, asks the government to facilitate the people to visit the area for enquiry of help. “The people must show their resolve against the Fascist ways of the so called progressive government and
party” said Samar Das, a senior activist from National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), W. Bengal.

Continue reading Nandigram Update from Sanjay Sangvai

Medha Patkar on Civil War in Nandigram

[We received this report by NAPM leader Medha Patkar two days ago. Written sometime before the second round of massacre in Nandigram on 14 March, it will show how the build had been in fact taking place. That the CPM ‘cadre’ had continuously been keeping the situation at boiling point and not allowing political activists and leaders to even enter the area without heavy police protection, is of course evident from this report. Not too forget of course, what Medha Patkar calls the ‘CPM Buttock Show’ that greeted her there.- AN]

Indomitable Struggle is on at Singur & Nandigram

The repressive state and vulgar politics continues to be challenged

Singur has not given up. Nor has Tata started its work. A wall that is being built and is already upto 2 to 3 kms in length and 10 feet in height does not seem to be of Tatas. The Tata officials and employees don’t seem to be present. People in whose name this well known conflict has been raised are not aware of either who is building the wall or where are Tata’s men. The only outsider force that is in and around is still of policemen and women.

Hundreds of the police may be tired of being on the land in the open but they are not timid. They may not have section 144 to support but the State is with them. Even without CPM cadres now entering Singur to harass and pressurize the farmers, bargadars and labourers there, the State’s presence is felt and faced by those whose land is being encroached upon, who are brutally beaten, who are trying to be lured and scared to give away their land.

Continue reading Medha Patkar on Civil War in Nandigram

Mashelkar, The Indian Express and me

I guess like many in this blog, I have a sadomasochistic relationship to the Indian Express. I hate the neo-liberal campaign strategy of the Express and cannot stand its crass advocacy of a bizarre ‘let the market decide’ logic, but, and this is important – secretly enjoy its city reporting. Its strange coverage on the Mashelkar report falls squarely in the first – neo-liberal advocacy.  A quick recap.

Some days ago activists Chan Park and Achal Prabhala ‘outed’ the report of the Mashelkar committee. Essentially the report gave a thumbs up to the international pharma industry in its recommendations. Not surprising – given the current climate, the power of lobbyists, and rule by ‘expert’ committee. (Though neo-liberal rhetoric targets the state, it works perfectly through it). Anyway Park and Prabhala showed that so eager was the committee to please the international industry that it copied verbatim a part of the submission made by Shamnad Basheer, whose own research had been supported by a consortium of multinational firms. This is what Park and Prabhala write about the Mashlekar innovations:

Continue reading Mashelkar, The Indian Express and me

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

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