… we are troubled that the state finds it hard to grant a woman the right to lead a life of her choice and to have custody over her child. These are hard won rights, and it has taken generations of struggle by women, many of whom are from your state, to secure both civil and legal acknowledgement for women’s rights to marriages of their choice, and for their right to motherhood, divorce, adoption and so on.Continue reading Women’s Rights are Hard Won — An Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala : V Geetha
Anupama has committed no crime. She got pregnant. She did not murder anyone. She did not rob a bank. She did not betray the nation. She committed no terroristic threats or acts. She is not a smuggler, a thief, a rapist, or a crook. She got pregnant. Getting pregnant is not a crime. She got pregnant and decided to keep her baby. This is not a crime.Continue reading Do not let the injustice drag infinitely — Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala — Dr Gayatri Devi
The strange case of ‘honour-baby-snatching”,: involving a local-level CPM leader in Thiruvananthapuram city, Peroorkkada Jayachandran is still haunting us despite every attempt by the CPM cyberwarriors to smother it. Mr Jayachandran still feels completely justified and hundreds of left supporters, including so-called progressive women, are ready to proclaim that this dastardly act is a ‘father’s right’. Mr Jayachandran’s nineteen year old daughter Anupama fell in love with a dalit man, a leader of the DYFI, got pregnant by him, and decided to keep the child. Anupama’s parents decided that there was loss of honour in this and proceeded to perpetrate unspeakable violence on the young woman, trying to force her to abort her baby, and finally by snatching away her baby days after it was born. They twisted the entire machinery of child protection and adoption and the police to give the child away without the consent of its parents.Continue reading Restore Faith in Kerala’s Progressive Legacy — Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Kerala: Prof Mohan Rao
We are in the midst of a climate emergency – and this is no longer a secret. In fact, in November 2019, 11,000 scientists declared in a signed statement, in no uncertain terms that “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” “Scientists”, they said, “have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to ‘tell it like it is’.” They noted that even 40 years after the First Climate Conference attended by over 50 scientists (in Geneva in 1979) had agreed that there were alarming trends of climate change that made it necessary to act, the situation has only worsened. “Alarming trends” have since given way to a full-on emergency. Although the 2015 Paris Agreement arrived at in COP 21 is considered a paradigm shift in that it produced a legally binding international climate treaty (adopted by 196 parties), the change since then has not been significant.Continue reading COP(OUT)26, Climate Emergency and the Indian Left
I should be forgiven for this flippant-sounding title. But it is a living reality in Kerala that gender politics is increasingly reduced to soppy sentimental drama. Honestly, if there are CPM supporters out there, especially the Delhi-elite breed who call this title mere click-bait, I don’t give a flying fuck about what you think. You are not living this nightmare, we are.Continue reading The Angry Young Woman and the Malayali (Progressive) Acchan -2 : The Second Season
This reflection has been long coming: the whole idea of women’s empowerment has been steadily deteriorating in Kerala since some years now. Actually, even from the side of the government, there is much less talk about it, even though it flowed into Kerala in the 1990s through the government, somewhat neoliberalized already, after the Beijing Conference. The national environment has of course been especially hostile with Hindu majoritarian conservatives in power whose ideas about ‘Indian culture’ do not offer any prospect of expanding the resonances and meanings of women’s empowerment — the opposite being more likely. But in Kerala too, interest in it has decidedly shrunk. Among its former constituents, especially the women’s self-help groups, it means little other than income-generation and entry into local politics.Continue reading Time to dump ’empowerment’? Feminism, women and the state in kerala today
In the recent controversy over the arrest of the travel vloggers Ebin and Libin who rode high on popularity with lakhs of subscribers through their Youtube channel E Bull Jet, it is very hard not to side with the two young men. The flamboyant pair whose hugely popular travel — or ‘van life’ — videos have a massive following especially among male adolescents and youth — are school drop-outs and have a history of rising from severe social disadvantage — literally, of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. The two young men, despite their excesses, pull at your heartstrings. Their smile, their slang, their sense of excitement on the road, the innocent gawking — all of it looks disarmingly innocent. It is also true that the crime they committed was not major; nor is justice handed out evenly. That is, such crimes around vehicles and driving are not new and it is not at all clear if the powerful who commit such crimes are tackled in the same way. Therefore the video which showed the brothers being hauled into the police van was painful for many of us (including me) — Ebin wept aloud, “adikkalle saare! Njaan onnum cheithilla … kolapaathakiyeppole enne kondupokunnu….” (don’t beat me please, sir. I didn’t do anything wrong . … I am being taken away like a murderer). That despondent wail somehow refuses to get out of my head; that is why I need to write this.Continue reading resisting the papa state? E Bull jet brothers or hadiya?
I am interested in ‘Marxism’ as a field or a force-field in the sense in which we think of electromagnetic or gravitational fields, where objects and bodies impact on other bodies and objects, and have effects, without necessarily coming into contact.
Ever since the 2008 financial crisis and the beginning of the end of the neoliberal order, when sales of Marx’s writings, of Capital in particular, went up dramatically, there have been prognostications of the ‘return of Marx’. Indeed, there has also been an attempt, for a much longer time now, especially after the collapse of Soviet-bloc socialism, of a ‘return to Marx’. Both the millennial expectation of Marx’s Second Coming and that of a ‘return to’, display a distinct theological orientation – insisting on a return to the pristine source, uncontaminated by the ‘deviations’ wrought by Leninist or Maoist-inspired practice in the underdeveloped regions of the world.Continue reading Untimely Explorations in a ‘Field’ Called ‘Marxism’
The ‘unemployment’ question, let us put it bluntly, is not just an innocent and neutral question today but a key arena of class war – the war of Capital on society at large. Capital has its plans but does “society” have one?
Enter the Post-Employment World
It was reported last week that top IT sector companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Tech Mahindra and Cognizant are likely to slash 3 million jobs by next year. With large-scale resort to Artificial Intelligence (AI) based “robot process automation” (RPA), these companies, by shedding these jobs are expecting to “save a whopping USD 100 billion, mostly in salaries, annually” says the Indian Express report linked above. Citing NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) the report tells us that the domestic IT sector employs around 16 million, of whom “around 9 million are employed in low-skill and BPO roles.”
“Of these 9 million low-skilled services and BPO roles, 30 per cent or around 3 million will be lost by 2022, principally driven by the impact of robot process automation or RPA. Roughly 0.7 million roles are expected to be replaced by RPA alone and the rest due to other technological upgrades and upskilling by the domestic IT players, while it the RPA will have the worst impact in the US with a loss of almost 1 million jobs, according to a Bank of America report on Wednesday.”Continue reading ‘Joblessness’ In The Post-Employment World – Urgent Need for Paradigm Change
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.Continue reading ‘No More Poor People In a Rich Country’ – What Will Peru’s Left Victory Mean?
Guest post by SANKAR RAY
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.’
My tribute to Kerala’s irreplaceable K R Gouri Amma. The brightest bolt of lightning that illuminated the dark skies of twentieth century Kerala.
Guest post by NAKUL SINGH SAWHNEY
Some observations and takeaways from State Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam in May 2021 – from an original Facebook post. The observations are in the form of informal reflections but they point towards certain developments that might open up new, anticipated spaces for the struggle for a democratic India.
Federalism: The Election verdicts of May 2, 2021, from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala scream ‘federalism’. The election results are so vastly different in the State Assemblies and Lok Sabha. The election outcomes of Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala are important examples of this phenomenon.
India is a country that naturally lends itself to federalism and greater state autonomy. While the Congress, by and large, didn’t allow for it, the BJP is hell-bent on a deeply centralized structure and crushing any aspiration for regional autonomy. If progressive forces don’t take up the question of federalism and state autonomy, then it runs the risk of slipping into the hands of crude chauvinists and xenophobes like Shiv Sena of yesteryears or secessionists like Khalistanis.
As close to 8.5 lakh voters spread over 35 Assembly constituencies go to vote today in the last phase of Bengal’s elections, the line from the famous jatra Nabab Siraj-Ud-Doula from which the title of this post is extracted, haunts. The original ‘jatra pala’, written by Sachin Sengupta was staged in 1938 had a dialogue that announced the dark clouds collecting at Bengal’s horizons. The lines ‘Banglar akashe aaj durjoger ghanaghata/ Taar shyamal prantore rakter alpona’ have since resounded in the many iterations of the play, over the decades. The figures of Siraj-Ud-Daula and the traitor Mir Jafar have generally become part of Bengal’s political vocabulary but this time round the sense of Bengal being under attack from ‘outsiders’ has been pervasive. Along with that other episode of political folklore – repeated attacks by the borgis or the plunderous cavalrymen of the Maratha Empire, on Bengal has been recalled often. The attacks by the borgis were followed, only a few years later, by the Battle of Plassey (Palashi), in which Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated after Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, his army commander, to betray the Nawab.
This time round too, it is widely believed, the aggression by ‘outsiders’ cannot and will not succeed but for the Mir Jafar’s who collaborate with the aggressors.
As the news of the killings of four youth in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) came in on 10 April, reactions of horror and anger became evident all around. This reaction among politically informed sections was only natural, for anybody with a little bit of common intelligence will tell you that the BJP is making an all out bid to capture power in the state. And anyone who has watched the Modi-Shah duo in action over the past few years, does not need to be told what this means. It is always ‘Heads I win; Tails you lose’ with them. It doesn’t matter what dirty trick you have to play, all is fair in this game of capturing power with them. They will form the government, no matter who wins but first, every effort has to be made to ‘win’ by any means. And that means by ANY means, ranging from killing people by engineering violent communal incidents to buying off opposition parties’ winning legislators. Despite the full battery of BJP’s star campaigners ranging from Narendra Modi and Shah to Yogi Adityanath making repeated visits to the state, their rallies have seen very low turnout and in some instances meetings had to be cancelled. So the desperation is growing. The first four of the unprecedented eight rounds in the state’s elections were to be in the areas where TMC is relatively weak. But even in these areas the reports were not very encouraging for the BJP. Thus, every child in Bengal could see what these killings meant. Except the CPI-M that is.
Soon the story of the killings was being given a typically BJP IT Cell spin: a mob of Muslim TMC people surrounded the CISF and tried to snatch their rifles. This was followed by identical tweets by a range of people describing how they could not sleep all night because of the sounds of the explosion of bombs, suggesting that things had been going on all night – and the CISF action in the morning was therefore, only justified.
Seasoned CPI-M stalwarts on Twitter apparently neither saw those tweets or more likely, jumped at them to immediately amplify the BJP narrative of provocation by TMC (Muslim mob is often implied). It is certainly not possible that anybody with a little bit of common sense would not have immediately seen this copy paste job for what it was – a BJP IT Cell operation. The CPI-M leaders and their social media warriors went on, willfully, to reinforce the ‘provocation’ narrative that was being circulated by the BJP.
Meanwhile, many people including poll analysts and former bureaucrats started asking that if there really was an irate mob attacking the CISF party, where was the footage? Was there any video evidence? No such question crossed the CPI-M leaders’ minds and from all appearances, from Biman Bose to Mohd Salim (and the pathetic Sujan Chakrabarty) pushed ahead with not-so-subtle ways of relaying the BJP narrative and indeed, it was not difficult to discern that they were in fact, gloating.Continue reading Sitalkuchi And After – A Flashback to CPI-M Rule in West Bengal
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).Continue reading Nandigram – An Introduction to Political Analysis
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.
Recently, on fieldwork in a peri-urban panchayat in Kerala devastated by illegal large-scale granite quarrying, a local resident pointed us to what looked like a hillock. It was covered with vegetation — and flowers of a pleasant lilac — which made a very pretty sight — and to the naked eye, looked as solid as any other hillock in the peripheries of the Western Ghats. “This hillock,” he clarified, “is actually just a heap. It is the earth loosened by quarrying, heaped up here over a long time. Because it is overgrown by weeds, we think it is a verdant hill.” Far from being the latter, he said, it poses a serious danger to the neighborhood. “A spell of really heavy rain can bring it down and just imagine what will happen to the houses below?”Continue reading Molehills from mountains and other stories from kerala
It is now about twenty-five years since the CPM in Kerala took the calculated risk of meeting neoliberalism half-way through an experiment in localising development. The People’s Planning Campaign drew eclectically on a range of ideologies, from Gandhian self-reliance to neoliberal self-help, not always in ways that were sufficiently self-conscious, but there can be little doubt that there was a conscious effort to build in some mechanisms, however minimal, to counter the possible ill-being that neoliberal responsibilized welfare could inflict.Continue reading A people’s planning adequate to twenty-first century kerala
Abstract : ‘Fascism, Democracy, and the Left’
With the rise of the Modi government, BJP has managed to establish a vicious grip on Indian polity. Parliamentary democracy and the constitutional vision of a secular democratic Indian republic have come under fierce attack. Instead of remaining busy with studying historical parallels we should treat the present phase as the rise of the Indian model of fascism and resist it with all our might. While we can locate the present Indian developments in the context of global economic and political trends in the post-Soviet world, there are strong roots in Indian history and society. One should revisit Ambedkar and the warnings he had issued right at the time of adoption of India’s Constitution.
The Left vision and role in politics has been historically identified with ideas and experiments of building socialism, but the challenge for socialism to offer a superior model of democracy has remained fatally neglected. In the face of a fascist offensive, the Left in India must emerge and assert as the most consistent and reliable champion of democracy.
‘The specific threat of National Socialism was obscured amid general talk of the perils of “fascists”, a term egregiously applied to Bruning, Social Democrats and all and sundry. Dogmatic catastrophist theorising led the Communists to actively underplay the Nazis: Ernst Thalman warned the KPD [Communist Party of Germany] Central Committee in February 1932 “that nothing would be more disastrous than an opportunistic overestimation of Hitler-fascism.’ – Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich – A New History, p. 136
Ernst Thalman warned his party’s Central Committee against ‘opportunistically overestimating Hitler’, literally months before Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January the following year. What is more, this statement was made at a time when the intentions of the Nazis were hidden to nobody. As Burleigh puts it, they had frequently announced their contempt for the law and ‘by 1932 were vowing to intern Communists and Social Democrat opponents in concentration camps.’ (p. 149) Thalman, we know, was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1944, eleven years after being held in captivity. Indeed, Thalman was arrested barely a year after he warned his party not to overestimate ‘Hitler-fascism’.