The end of the twentieth century saw the collapse of soviet-style state-socialism and the beginning of neo-liberalism’s triumphal march, which has ravaged the planet in a little over two decades. The destruction of the earth has proceeded with renewed vigour since, as has the dispossession of the poor. Cities have been re-made for the luxury living of the rich and the upwardly mobile middle classes. And for their luxury, for their ‘free movement’ across the city and beyond, settlements of the poor have had to make way, as shopping malls, freeways and expressways began defining the new imagination of the city.
If it took soviet-style socialism close to six-seven decades to finally face mass rejection, the neoliberal order has taken far less time. Faced with major opposition movements across the Western world, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Indignados in Spain and Greece and powerful new political formations in many parts of South America, the neoliberal order no longer seems as unchallengeable as it used to till just some time ago. Its advent on the horizon came as a new kind of theology that brooked no dissent. It came to us apparently telling us some elementary truths about ourselves and the world we inhabit. And it was quite amazing to see the speed with which the new religion gained converts in those early years. Continue reading Molecular Socialism – A Possible Future for Left Politics
“Do you eat piglets?” he asked as our car moved through the long road from Lucknow, via Barabanki, Faizabad, Akbarpur towards Azamgarh. “We can have roast piglets and whiskey when we end our day’s work” This was our ‘tour sponsor’, Chandra Bhan Prasad, well known now as the maverick intellectual who celebrates capitalism, consumption and globalization and who was the first to advocate a Dalit-Brahmin alliance against the Sudra (OBC) castes. Thus it was to be. We were to spend our first night in the poorvanchal on 4 June 2008, eating and drinking.
When we arrived at his village at about 8 pm, it was dark. All of Uttar Pradesh only has electricity for about seven or eight hours every day. And this was a village. That too, the dakkhin tola (the generic name for the Dalit settlement, given that, by and large, it is supposed to be situated at the southern end of the village). But true to the line that Prasad has been trying to convince us of for sometime now – and which actually occasioned this trip – within minutes, the generator started purring and the place lit up. We were in front of a fairly large pucca building that happens to be Prasad’s family house. The preparations were soon made for the feast that was awaiting us – the cooler was put on and other arrangements were made. Prasad has been at pains to underline to us, over and over again, that over the last twenty years, hunger and humiliation have disappeared from the lives of the Dalits in this area. Not that they are not poor and oppressed any more. But their lives have changed decisively.
Continue reading Flight to Freedom: Travel Through Dalit Villages