Category Archives: Capitalism

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.

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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.

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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