Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit…Our words, our song and our cry is so that the dead will no longer die. We fight so that they may live. We sing so that they may love. – Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1996), Zapatista National Liberation Army. Cited as epigraph in Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.
The New Grave-Diggers of Capital?
‘The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’. This neatly sums up the idea of the ‘pluriverse’. Reading it, I was reminded of an interview of ‘Subcommandante Marcos’, ‘leader’ of the Zapatistas, some years ago. In that interview, Subcommandante Marcos (then anonymous) recounted that he and his colleagues at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, who joined him in the Chiapas mountains in 1984, were Marxists and had basically gone there to organize the indigenous people. And for Marxists that bascially meant to ‘raise their awareness’ about capitalism and exploitation.
On October 16th the Climate Justice Charter will be taken to South Africa’s national parliament, together with the climate science future document, with the demand it be adopted as per section 234 of the South African constitution, which provides for charters to be adopted. All political parties will be invited to a debate on the Charter and will be asked to champion its adoption, based on the current consensus climate science which highlights that South Africa and Southern Africa are heating at twice the global average.
The South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and allies have been leading the building of a mass based climate justice movement for the past six years, during the worst drought in the history of the country. Their mass driven resistance has included a hunger tribunal, drought speak outs, a national bread march, food sovereignty festivals, the development of their own Food Sovereignty Act which they took to parliament and several government departments, protest action against food corporations, the media, the stock exchange and the second largest carbon emitter in the country called SASOL. In the context of 2019 deep dialogues were held with drought affected communities, the media, labour unions, children/youth and social and environmental justice organisations. All this work of resistance, dialogue and learning produced a draft climate justice charter, out of a national conference in November 2019. Since then the document has received online input, including from a children/youth led online assembly on June 16th and then finally the document was launched on August 28th.
We in India can learn from, build on and connect to such initiatives globally, especially from the global South.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, goes an old Chinese saying. In the present context, that single step – and an absolutely essential step – for reclaiming the soul of India, is the coimng together of the social movements, non-party groups and the political parties – and this was accomplished in the six-day Janta Parliament held from 16-21 August as an online event. Organized by Jan Sarokar – a forum of 31 organizations and loose platforms ranging from Left aligned women’s organizations, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, to loose networks like Not In My Name – the people’s parliament managed to bring together many political parties together as well in the event. As a kind of base paper, Jan Sarokar had prepared a comprehensive 75-page document entitled ‘People’s Policy for Post-COVID 19Times‘ covering important and urgent policy initiatives on practically every aspect of economic and social life. Attended by representatives of the Congress, the Left parties, the RJD and AAP among others, the people’s parliament session ended with the representatives of the parties present affirming support to the perspectives emerging out the resolutions adopted, which they felt could form the basis for a Common Minimum Programme not only for the political parties but also between parties and social / people’s movements. Continue reading The ‘Ecopolitical’ Imperative and the Janta Parliament→
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare some of the most significant and deep-rooted fault lines of society, whether it is attacks on Indians from the North-east part of the country including racial slurs, holding returning migrants responsible for the spread of the virus or even downright Islamophobia leading to a hashtag #CoronaJihad going viral on social media. Sections of the hyper-vocal, privileged Indian middle-class, along with frenzied nationalist media houses let no opportunity pass to demonize its minorities.
However, what came as a surprise was that along with the stigmatization of migrant workers, ethnic minorities and Muslims, health care workers too faced intense hostility worldwide. Already facing a severe lack of resources including no or few Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) making them even more vulnerable to infection, they are now facing the additional hazard of being labelled as agents of the pandemic.
While on the one hand, medical workers are being labelled as ‘warriors’ and ‘super heroes’ with orchestrated events to show gratitude, on the other hand, they are being hunted down, mobbed, and evicted from their homes. India went a step further, and did a grandiose display of felicitating health care workers by having the armed forces fly past fighter jets, shower flower petals aerially and have their military bands perform outside state hospitals.
This article focuses specifically on the gendering of the organization of the health care sector, which reflects wider binaries of masculine/feminine, cure/care, science/affect.
Guest post by MANISH THAKUR and NABANIPA BHATTACHARJEE
Much has already been said and written about the plight of the migrants during the lockdown necessitated by the current Covid-19 outbreak in India. The visual images of their endless walk – which reminds us of the flight of Partition refugees – in their desperate bid to reach home in the scorching summer heat on almost empty stomachs with throats parched (women in tow with the children on men’s shoulders and their meagre belongings on the heads) is heart-wrenching to say the least. Whatever be the cause, it is a living testimony to the entrenched structures of poor governance that define our polity. It is also revealing of the class character of the Indian state, a term that has for long left the public discourse of our republic. One need not invoke Marx or be a communist to see the glaring contrast in the ways say, for instance, state functionaries conduct themselves at airports in Delhi or Kochi and railway stations at Barkakana in Jharkhand or Bapu Dham, Motihari in Bihar.
कोरोना से हमारा वास्ता अभी लम्बे समय तक चलने वाला है. काफिला पर छपे पिछले आलेखों में (यहाँ एवं यहाँ) में हम ने इस के सही और गलत, दोनों तरह के सबकों की चर्चा की थी पर भारत की करोना नीति की समीक्षा नहीं की थी. आपदा और युद्ध काल में एक कहा-अनकहा दबाव रहता है कि सरकार को पूरा समर्थन दिया जाए और उस की आलोचना न की जाय पर कोरोना के मुकाबले के लिए भारत में अपनाई गई रणनीति की समीक्षा ज़रूरी है; यह समीक्षा लम्बे समय तक चलने वाली इस आपदा में रणनीति में सुधार का मौका दे सकती है. कोरोना से कैसे निपटना चाहिए इस में निश्चित तौर पर सब से बड़ी भूमिका तो कोरोना वायरस की प्रकृति की है- ये गर्मी में मरेगा या सर्दी में या नहीं ही मरेगा; बूढों को ज्यादा मारेगा या बच्चों को, इन तथ्यों का इस से निपटने की रणनीति तय करने में सब से बड़ी भूमिका है. इस लिए भारत में कोरोना की लड़ाई के मूल्यांकन से पहले हमें वायरस की प्रकृति के बारे में उपलब्ध जानकारी को रेखांकित करना होगा.
कोरोना वायरस के नए स्वरूप की बुनियादी प्रकृति
कोरोना किस्म के वायरस वैज्ञानिकों के लिए नए नहीं हैं. ये पहले भी उभरते रहे हैं और वैज्ञानिक इन का लगातार अध्ययन करते रहे हैं. परन्तु हाल में कोरोना किस्म के वायरस का एक नया स्वरूप सामने आया है, जिस से उत्पन्न होने वाली नयी बीमारी को कोविड नाम दिया गया है. इस लिए कोरोना के इस नए वायरस के बारे में अभी सब कुछ पक्के तौर पर नहीं कहा जा सकता. अभी इस की पड़ताल चल रही है. फिर भी दुनिया भर के वैज्ञानिकों के मिले जुले काम से और कोरोना के पहले से उपलब्ध वायरसों के जीवन चक्र को ध्यान में रखते हुए कुछ बाते काफी हद तक स्पष्ट हैं. इन के बारे में आम तौर पर वैज्ञानिकों में सर्वानुमति है. हालाँकि विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन को सर्वज्ञानी तो नहीं माना जा सकता परन्तु काफी हद तक इस द्वारा प्रदत जानकारी पर भरोसा किया जा सकता है.
In this final instalment of the series, I want to discuss the vexed question of employment and what can be called the ’employment mindset’. The mindset has dominated politics and the discipline of economics for the last century and a half for sure. Before that youthful capitalism simply put people uprooted from their habitats and traditional occupations (the artisans and peasants) into ‘poor houses’ and enacted the most vicious laws to force the dispossessed poor work for it. Marxists give this violent pillage the scientific- sounding name of ‘primitive accumulation’ (or primary accumulation). ‘Scientific’ because it was seen by Marx as the ‘historical process of the separation of producer from “his” means of production’ – as if it was an objective process that was in some sense inevitable. Marx’s chapter on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital Vol I, certainly shows that he was revolted by the plunder and robbery that this phenomenon entailed but in a manner of speaking, by giving it an aura of historical inevitability, he could displace the solution to some future. There is also no doubt that the sections of Capital where Marx deals with the enactment of Poor Laws in Britain are full of passion and anger at what capitalism was doing – but then, what can you do with a process that is historically inevitable? Remember too that it was the same logic of ‘objectivity’ of ‘historical inevitability’ that was used to justify colonialism as the ‘unconscious tool of history’. The British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson wrote of precisely these populations that perished in ‘the storm of industrialization’. He was so moved by their predicament that he wanted to ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Yet, Thompson believed, like a good Marxist, that the artisan or the handloom weaver that he was writing about were ‘obsolete’ (Thompson’s term). Thus, he wrote, Continue reading Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV→
This essay emerged as a response to the following question that was raised during a Q&A session that I had run on social media:
“How does one tackle people who amalgamate veganism with upper caste vegetarianism?”
The immediate answer to this is that veganism avoids all animal products and all forms of animal ab/use, and hence cannot be amalgamated with vegetarianism and its caste baggage.
Such an answer, however, ignores crucial cultural issues that determine how Animal Rights (AR) and veganism are perceived, co-opted or taken forward in Indian society.
Vegetarians, contrary to what Right wing Hindutva will have us believe, comprise less than 40% of the country’s population. Jains, most Sikhs and Brahmins and some rich urban forward castes make up the vegetarians in India1. Vegetarianism in India is connected to social power and caste hegemony, unlike its counterpart in the West, where it is an ethical lifestyle and a social justice movement.
One of the effects of the pandemic in Kerala, like in most other parts of the world, is that the government’s narrative muffles all other narratives, and this is not just about the containment of the pandemic. Here the government’s narrative about the pandemic enjoys far greater legitimacy than elsewhere, and with good reason. It is true that Kerala’s greater successes in dealing with the pandemic are unique and commendable; however, to think that therefore, the government is right on everything else is probably a huge mistake. Continue reading The Limits of Public Health Management: Time to Rethink Development in Kerala→
पिछले दिनों हम ने ‘करोना के कुछ ज़रूरी सबक़’ पर चर्चा की थी. पर बड़ी संभावना यह है कि करोना के आधे अधूरे या गलत सबक निकाले जाएँ. इस के लिए भी हमें तैयार रहना चाहिए.
बिलकुल गलत सबकों पर आने से पहले, कुछ संभावित आधे अधूरे सबकों की चर्चा कर लें. निश्चित तौर पर करोना के बाद की दुनिया में वैश्वीकरण ढलान पर होगा; अब आर्थिक वैश्वीकरण बढ़ने के स्थान पर घटेगा. विशेष तौर पर दवाइयों और स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं से जुड़ी वस्तुओं के मामले में राष्ट्र आत्मनिर्भर होने की कोशिश करेंगे; करनी भी चाहिए पर यह अधूरा निष्कर्ष होगा. केवल स्वास्थ्य सम्बन्धी मामलों में ही नहीं, बल्कि जहाँ तक संभव हो हर मामले में आत्मनिर्भर होने की कोशिश होनी चाहिए. इस से भी आगे बढ़ कर यह आत्मनिर्भरता केवल राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर न हो कर स्थानीय स्तर पर भी होनी चाहिए.
In the previous instalment of this article in Parapolitics, I had discussed the situation arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic in terms of the possible implications of the global lockdown and ‘quarantine of consumption’, for post-capitalist futures. In this part, I will discuss (a) the conditions that make such futures not just imaginable but possible and (b) indicate certain directions that such futures are already taking – for the paths that we tread now are the ones that lead to the future.
Theory/ Concept/ Discourse
Since all talk of post-capitalist futures only sounds outlandishly utopian and out of sync with what we see around us with the ‘naked eye’ as it were, it is necessary to first clear our field of vision a little. And, let us be very clear here that this ‘clearing of the field of vision’ is not, in the first instance, about practices on the ground but about the field of knowledge – and theory in general. And before any hard-boiled hysterical-materialist tries to tell us that all this is idealism and that the ‘real’ stuff is materiality and things only happen in practice, I want to make three general points here. First, for the more theologically oriented: it was Lenin who said repeatedly that ‘without revolutionary theory, there cannot be any revolutionary movement.’ (What is to be Done?) Not only that, he also insisted (after Kautsky) that left to its own, the working class movement could only produce ‘trade union consciousness’ and that ‘socialist theory’ had to be imported from outside (basically bourgeois intellectuals) into the working class movement. This understanding was to lead to all kinds of problems including vanguardism but we will let that be for now.
एक छोटे से वाइरस ने तीन बाते दोबारा याद दिला दी हैं. सब से पहली तो यह कि इन्सान कुदरत का एक छोटा हिस्सा ही है. भले ही यह बहुत प्रभावी हिस्सा है; कुदरत को तोड़ मरोड़ सकता है, मरुस्थल को हराभरा कर सकता है. फिर भी यह कुदरत से ऊपर नहीं है, उस का मालिक नहीं है; यहे हरे भरे को मरुस्थल भी बना सकता है. कई वैज्ञानिकों के अनुसार घटते जंगलों और बढ़ती इंसानी बस्ती के चलते ही हमें करोना सरीखे वाइरस का इतना बड़ा डंक लगा है. भले ही आज सब का ध्यान करोना के कहर पर केन्द्रित है, और आशा है देर-सवेर उस का इलाज भी ढूंढ लेंगे, टीका बना लेंगे, पर जलवायु परिवर्तन और तेज़ी से ख़त्म होते पेट्रोल सरीखे नवीनीकरण-अयोग्य संसाधनों को भी न भूलें. यह भी न भूलें सारी वैज्ञानिक प्रगति के बावज़ूद प्रदूषण से बचने के लिए वाहनों पर सम-विषम का नियम लगा कर बनी हुई कार को चलाने पर रोक लगानी पड़ती है, संयम अपनाना पड़ता है. उद्योग और निर्माण गतिविधि पर रोक लगानी पड़ती है.
Most of the people in Delhi, like in rest of India (according to official estimates, 92 per cent of India’s work force comprises of informal labour) earn their living from working in the informal sector. There is extensive academic literature on this subject. Typically, informal economy is that which does not find mention in official data, is not formally registered and regulated and falls outside the tax regulation.
The concept of informality became current in economic and social thought in the early 1970’s. It has since been re-considered and re-interpreted. The idea that the informal sector presented a liminal space for workers waiting to be absorbed by the formal sector, has been negated. Instead, current trends suggest that a majority of the Indian work force (approx.92%) labour under short-term informal contracts. Well-known labour historian Jan Bremen has somewhere written that the fact the informal economy is not officially regulated does not imply a complete absence of regulation. There are many unofficial means of regulation. Quite often activities that do not possess registration and legal sanction get denoted as informal or ‘underground’. This practice results in the official erasure of the economic value of the goods and services produced therein. It also serves the purpose of masking the over-exploitation and socially-levered extortion to which the most unprotected and vulnerable members of the working class are subjected.
‘It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful. The impact of the virus will be cultural and crucial to building an alternative and profoundly different world.’ – Li Edelkoort, trend forecaster and fashion advisor
As large parts of the world reel under the impact of a lockdown that has prompted several people to recall the great lockdowns during the early twentieth century Spanisht flu and even the 14th centry plague, my thoughts in fact strayed in another direction. With international and national air traffic down to the barest minimum, with arenas of conspicuous consumption shut down, zillions of cars of the roads and construction activity to a halt, I was suddenly struck by a not-so-crazy thought: with all the suffering that a lockdown necessarily entails for the poorer sections of the population in particular, there might still be a silver lining here. Perhaps the temperature of the earth will have come down a few notches by the time we are done with this crisis and what is more, it might initiate a different mode of being in the world. It might give the world an opportunity to see what is continuously being denied by climate-deniers (as Naomi Klein recorded, backed by huge funds from right-wing US based foundations and corporations). It might – it just might – reconnect us with what we have long left behind and have been longing for – a different pace of life where slow is beautiful, as it were.
Amidst the bustle of talk and announcements on stage, there is a surprise at Shaheen Bagh. A young, slim girl student in ankle length boots, dark pants and shirt is invited to take the podium. She begins her speech by saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has put her in a dilemma. She studies in Jharkhand where many of her close friends are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. Their opinions matter to her personally. At the same time, when she comes to Shaheen Bagh she is gripped by the dangers and stakes involved in the CAA.
As authoritarian right-wing populist leaders across the world unleash a reign of tyranny and hate, there is a need to think together about everyday strategies of survival. As an individual, it can get a bit overwhelming. Everything could look pointless. Many friends talk about how they find it impossible to write or work in an atmosphere of hate and violence. However, it is important to remember that what might look invincible today may not last for even half a decade. But while it lasts, how does one live under tyranny and what are the ways of building non-violent resistance? Continue reading Everyday Tips for Surviving Tyranny: Anonymous→
Two massive calamities, tremendous losses, continuing signs of serious ecological destruction impending — yet all we Malayalis seem to have produced in response: two reports, and even more frenzied strategic calculation. There is little doubt that the disasters happened in the first place at least partially because of the latter, but there seems to be no rethinking. Instead, we have strategic agents refurbishing their strategies to the new circumstances.
What else explains the Kerala government’s Rebuilding Kerala Development Programme Report (RKDPR)? It popped up all of a sudden around the end of last year, after the UN-led Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report (PDNAR), and even members of the Chief Minister’s Advisory Council were caught unawares. The economist K P Kannan, whose life’s work has been focused on Kerala’s economy, a member of the Council, remarked in a recent interview in the Sastragathy that they did not know of it until the third meeting of the council. None knew who put it together, and there is no mention of this in the report itself. It draws heavily but selectively on the PDNAR, but also perhaps on the projects that were prepared for World Bank funding – and Kannan reaffirms this impression. The draft report was made available online for comments but there is no clear idea about these experts or the public consultations.Continue reading Two Reports and Many Strategic Agents: Post-Disaster Thinking in Kerala→
I guess bad habits in development take a very long time to unlearn. Even in the face of the direst of warnings.
I know that last year, when taken completely by surprise, Kerala rose to the occasion. It appeared that a new civil society had come to being around the flood rescue and relief work, and that promised a new lease of life for our flagging-if-still-working project of people’s planning and political decentralization. It appeared that there was a real chance to stop the bureaucratic-technocratic coterie from shoving this ecologically-fragile area down the path of utterly destructive infrastructure-obsessed growth. It seemed that we could now seriously expose the depredations of the predatory capitalists, especially in the construction sector. Continue reading After Kavalappara: Is the Future that of Ecological Patriotism?→
After the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many consigned ideologies and alternatives to the rubble of history. The end of the cold war was explained as the victory, not just of liberal ethos and individual freedom, but of dynamic, market-driven capitalism championed by likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Manmohan Singh. India’s left also embraced this belief in practice, promoting foreign and national capitals and capitalist-led industrialization. They hoped market miracles would generate employment and wealth. Women such as MedhaPatkar, a social activist and a fierce opponent of the globalized developmental model and Sudha Bhardwaj, a trade union activist in Chhattisgarh seemed as thoroughly on the wrong side of the history as it was possible to be. Continue reading Alternative Futures – India Unshackled→
While the earlier post covered the basic science of global warming, the roots of the problem, and how inequality relates to climate change, this part focuses on key impacts of climate change in India, on humans and other species, and the reasons for urgency in tackling the problem.
Before we consider impacts in India and elsewhere, a few things are useful to keep in mind:
– Unlike most other forms of pollution, the source of carbon dioxide and where its effects are felt can be very far apart. Carbon dioxide generated in the United States affects people on the Orissa coast.
– A significant portion of carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere for centuries, influencing future climates.
– Even after the world ceases to emit carbon, higher average temperatures are “largely irreversible for a thousand years” because the gains of lesser radiation being trapped gets offset by the reduced loss of heat to the oceans. Hence, climate change is the new ‘normal’.
Till just the other day, they were committing suicide, while some of them were demonstrating in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, humiliating themselves by disrobing and eating rats, trying in vain to draw the attention of the political establishment to their plight. And to pour salt on their wounds, BJP leaders were saying that committing suicide had become a fashion among farmers! Today they are out on the streets, demanding, among other things, that their own debts be written off, not of the powerful and predatory capitalists. (See the Charter of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee below). This is, in all probability, the sign of a decisive shift, for today the charter relseased by the Coordination Committee declares loud and clear that
Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world.