Tag Archives: neoliberalism

‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

 

Populismo – ISS Conference poster by Filipino artist Boy Dominguez, image courtesy future-agricultures.org

In an earlier post last month, I had discussed the global rise of the Right as related to the revolt of the ‘little man’ (a term I borrow from Wilhelm Reich) and his search for a ‘father-figure’ of authority. I had also argued in that post that the revolt of the little man in itself could not have led to the rise of the Right, were it not for  the ways in which Capital moved to appropriate and channelize that revolt against the Left and Left-of-Centre politics – and regimes that dominated the scene earlier. It is virtually impossible to understand this huge tectonic shift in the politics of the past few decades without understanding the conjunction of the little man and Capital – the Big Men – as it were. No less important, it is impossible to understand this shift without understanding the revolt of the liittle man in relation to the different structures of privilege that appear before us as culturally encoded power relations – as tradition, as ‘our way of doing things’, so to speak.

Continue reading ‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

Beyond pop nationalism – How neoliberalism affects the jawan: Ujithra Ponniah

Guest post by UJITHRA PONNIAH

‘7th Pay Commission: Modi government’s Diwali bonanza to armed forces! Indian soldiers to get 10% arrears’, on October 13, 2016 Zee News the current government’s pet broadcaster, tried to quell the rising disquiet within sections of the armed forces with the 7th pay commission recommendations[i]. The recommendations of the 7th pay commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur came into effect from the January 1st, 2016. The three military chiefs in an uncharacteristic move since then have written repeated letters to the government, expressing their rising unhappiness within the ranks only to be swiftly turned down. The last on the matter from the defence minister Manohar Parrikar is a promise of referring the anomalies to a higher panel, a black hole where many concerns in the past have also been lost. Along with the current serving military chiefs, 10 ex-chiefs have also written to the Prime Minister, only to be met with the selective silence that many in the country are well familiar with[ii]. So what are the military’s concerns with the current pay commission?[iii] They can be swiftly summarized around three points though the issues run deeper: an increasing disparity between the military and the civilian central government employees both in terms of pay and hike (for example a hardship allowance for an IAS officer posted in the north east is more than a soldier in Siachen); a downsizing of the disability pension in the military; and the clubbing of the military service pay (MSP) of junior commissioned officers (who rise from within the ranks of the jawans) and the jawans[iv].

Continue reading Beyond pop nationalism – How neoliberalism affects the jawan: Ujithra Ponniah

Neoliberalism, Hindutva Supremacism and Challenges before Revolutionary Movement

Dear Comrades

I feel honoured to be here to be part of the sixth conference of Human Rights Forum*. Many thanks are due to the organisers to invite a left activist like me to this deliberations and giving me an opportunity to share my ideas.

For me it was a belated realisation that the conference is taking place around sixth death anniversary of the legendary activist for human rights and for justice late K Balgopal, who played a key role in the formation of the Forum. It does not need underlining that late K Balagopal was a rare combination of a scholar – mathematician by passion and lawyer by commitment – and activist who not only broke new grounds in the discourse around civil liberties and human rights but did not hesitate to raise uncomfortable questions when the time came. One can still imagine the loss you all must have felt when he suddenly left six years ago. As rightly mentioned by the late K G Kannabiran in his obituary then, how he was ‘one in a century rights activist’ who brought on agenda ‘jurisprudence of insurgence’. Continue reading Neoliberalism, Hindutva Supremacism and Challenges before Revolutionary Movement

An Open Letter to Mr Adani on the Occasion of Onam

Dear Mr Adani

Writing to you from Thiruvananthapuram, where you recently signed an agreement with the Kerala government, undertaking the construction of the international container terminal at Vizhinjam off the Thiruvananthapuram coast.

The Malayali press went wild in their delight ; the politicians beamed in triumph (well, most of them. Some of them –guess who — could not, having discovered that they had shot themselves in the foot); the contractors and sundry middlemen in the construction sector rubbed their hands in glee. This is Onam season in Kerala, and Onam, you may know, is our national festival. You are very much in the talk here. To the contractors and our miserably corrupt and craven political class, you are Maveli reborn in flesh and blood. To the poor fisher people on what is arguably Kerala’s poorest coastal stretch, you are a newer version of evil Vamanan himself, threatening to banish them to the nether-world. There was a time when the political left in Kerala reinterpreted the Maveli myth as a vindication of the Welfare State. But since the welfare state has been almost as good as dead in the minds of Kerala’s mainstream political classes, the throne has also been conveniently empty.The mainstream press has set you up on it indirectly but definitely, and that’s pretty much evident. But Malayalees who love this land and are not blinded by hollow –false– national sentiment can see that not only are you the very opposite of Maveli, but also that this Emperor-figure has no clothes at all.

Continue reading An Open Letter to Mr Adani on the Occasion of Onam

The deadly land policies planned by Modi’s advisers and the links to Ukraine and Honduras: Aditya Velivelli

This is a guest post by ADITYA VELIVELLI

One year after the Land Acquisition Act was passed in Parliament with bipartisan support, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated that changes will be made to the Act during the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament.

The earliest indication that this would happen, came from of all people, a first-time MP and microfinance lobbyist Jayant Sinha. Sinha had mentioned in a CNBC interview right after BJP’s win that land acquisition policy was the first priority. For those wondering why CNBC interviewed Sinha and allowed Sinha to lay out the new Government’s priorities, and why Sinha has been appointed junior finance minister, they should refer – Who is guiding Modi’s economic thinking and what is their background? Continue reading The deadly land policies planned by Modi’s advisers and the links to Ukraine and Honduras: Aditya Velivelli

Looking back – and forward – from Modi’s election: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

So now the gloves are off. For the BJP, that is, whose victory in these elections gives India not only its most right-wing government, but, more to the point, a prime minister to the right of his party – more laissez faire, openly contemptuous of minorities, authoritarian in style. What the party, and Narendra Modi, will make of its – and his – comprehensive victory will soon be apparent, but the omens are far from good. Working in a coalition and under the supposedly moderate leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP between 1998 and 2004 achieved quite a lot – not just in the cultural wars that are its forte, but also in terms of putting economic “reform” on steroids. Now that it is being advised by that distinguished dispenser of received opinion and tireless self promoter, Dr Jagdish Bhagwati – an economist whose ignorance of history and the methods through which economic development was actually achieved in almost every successful industrial economy from Great Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries to South Korea in the 20th (cue: protectionism and lots of effective government intervention) is stupendous even by the low standards of the discipline – all bets are off. Continue reading Looking back – and forward – from Modi’s election: Shashank Kela

Capital, Growth and Molecular Socialism

A slightly modified version of a talk delivered at the Conference on ‘Democracy, Socialism and Visions for the 21st Century’, 7-10 March, at Hyderabad 

Today we stand at a moment of history that is very different from the conjuncture at the turn of the 1980s and onset of the 1990s, which marked the collapse of actually existing socialism and the eventual victory of neo-liberalism. ‘Capital’ looked victorious and invincible and everything that was associated with socialism stood discredited. This is no longer the case today. The struggle for a new kind of left imagination, for a re-signification of the idea of socialism, is now evident in large parts of the world. The neo-liberal emperor has been revealed to have no clothes. Many neoliberals, incidentally, still live in the 1990s, sincere in their belief that History had come to an end at that moment. Simply because twentieth century socialism stood discredited, it was assumed that that meant the end of popular struggles and challenges to capital’s domination over the world. Today, two and a half decades after the collapse of socialism and the victory of neoliberalism, the latter stands challenged as perhaps, never before. 

The difficulty however, is that while the spirit of the Left animates struggles and movements, an actual programmatic vision is still not quite in sight.  The weight of dead generations still weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Revolutionaries have long conceded defeat and accepted that capitalism is the only salvation and that they too must build capitalism wherever they are in power, even if rhetorically, they still hold on to the idea of transcending capitalism. The problem has little to do with the intentions of the revolutionaries; it is fundamentally a matter of a vision that is predicated upon the productivist and ‘progressist’ imagination of the past three centuries or more. In our contemporary everyday language, we could even call it the growth-fetishist vision – a vision that fails to differentiate between cancerous growth of capital on the social body, and the all round improvement in the lives of ordinary people. The fact that twentieth century socialists too remained captive to that vision is perhaps the reason they could not pose any serious challenge to capital.

Productivism and Progress

This productivist imagination was put in place over a few centuries through the conjunction of a range of new bodies of knowledge – moral philosophy, Lockean political theory and political economy – later economics. At one level, the twentieth century socialist imagination too partook of the fundamental assumptions that lay behind this modernist vision and sought to defeat capitalism on its own ground. That was an impossible task. It was impossible for it never radically questioned the fundamentals of the new capitalist creed, namely economics. Economics was and remains a discipline constituted by capital and ‘socialist economics’ is, strictly speaking, an oxymoron. For, apart from the ecological imperative, to which I will turn in a moment, the discipline was fundamentally hostile to all but bourgeois forms of property and production. Continue reading Capital, Growth and Molecular Socialism

Economic Democratisation in Sri Lanka

Even as there are important debates on a political solution to the national question, militarisation, Sinhala Buddhist nationalist mobilisation and authoritarianism, Sri Lanka is also going through a major neoliberal economic transformation. A recently formed Collective for Economic Democratisation has been engaging such matters through a political economic lens. Their recent editorial is on the political economy of devolution even as there is a major debate underway in Sri Lanka on the question of the powers to the provinces and a political solution. Their earlier editorial is on the rising costs of neoliberal policies in Sri Lanka. They have also published commentaries on urbanisation including on Colombo as a world-class city and the World Bank’s urbanisation policies in Sri Lanka. The website of the Collective for Economic Democratisation is also a useful resource of economic news and developments.

Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil

ImageGuest Post by M AKHIL: Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.

Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative. Continue reading Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo – Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either: M Akhil

Molecular Socialism – A Possible Future for Left Politics

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

Fuel Prices and Protesting Voices in Sri Lanka: Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Guest post by MAHENDRAN THIRUVARANGAN

The United People’s Freedom Alliance government’s inability to put forward economic policies that address the grievances of the downtrodden sections of the Sri Lankan polity, outside the frameworks of neo-liberalism, has led to chaos in the country. The government’s move to privatize the higher education sector created a major uproar in the country last year. The academic staff attached to Sri Lanka’s universities began a trade union action demanding higher wages in 2011. In the Katunayake Free Trade Zone, garment sector workers took to the streets against a pension scheme introduced by the government much against the interest of the workers. These protests have brought to light the government’s ill-conceived economic policies, and its indifference to the concerns of the working people. Financial mismanagement, corruption at the various levels of the state, the escalating expenditure on the militarization of the North and East provinces, and the government’s sheer disregard for the fundamental needs of the people have created an atmosphere of economic instability. This situation might lead to political unrest in the future, if the Sri Lankan government continues to lack the will to salvage the economy from neo-liberalism and mismanagement. The government’s move to increase the prices of fuels has aggravated this situation.

Continue reading Fuel Prices and Protesting Voices in Sri Lanka: Mahendran Thiruvarangan

Transnational Torture by Jinee Lokaneeta reviewed with Prachi Patankar

There are few books as exhilarating as one by a comrade that is intellectually engaging and speaks to the current context. I was invited by 3rd i NY to a Conversation titled ‘Torturing Democracies: Past and Present’, where Jinee and I discussed her new book at Alwan for the Arts. The conversation came to life with the audience which included many of our comrades from the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) including Prachi. After that wonderful conversation, Prachi and I decided to delve further into the book and write a review. This was an exercise very different from what we normally engage with in SASI around our solidarity campaigns, but it was also a wonderful way to see another side of Jinee. That is the theoretically rich research of someone whom we relied on as a solid activist. I feel we should be doing more of reading, writing about and debating the work of our activist friends. A shorter version of this review has been published by Himal. Perhaps some of the themes in the book can be debated here with this longer review. Continue reading Transnational Torture by Jinee Lokaneeta reviewed with Prachi Patankar

The Earthquake and Japan: Kojin Karatani

[We are posting below a piece by Japanese philosopher and literary critic Prof Kojin Karatani, sent to us by a friend. Karatani has authored a number of works, including a very important recent book Transcritique: On Kant and Marx (MIT Press 2003). In this brief but thoughtful piece, Karatani talks about the ways in which the experience of the earthquake is forcing many Japanese people to rethink the whole idea of becoming a world economic power and its concomitant idea of development. AN]

I was on the streets of Tokyo when the earthquake struck. The ground shook violently, while buildings swayed around me for a long time. It was beyond anything I had experienced before, and I sensed that something terrible had happened.  My first thought was of the Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people in 1995.  Although I did not experience the Kobe earthquake first hand, it hit the region of my hometown where many close relatives lived, and so I headed immediately to the scene of the disaster. I walked the streets where building after building had collapsed into rubble.

Clearly, the scale of the current disaster far surpasses that of the Kobe earthquake. For it also includes the damage caused by the tsunami to coastal regions across hundreds of kilometers as well as the danger of nuclear catastrophe. Yet these are not the only differences. The Kobe earthquake was completely unexpected. Aside from a small number of experts, no one had imagined the possibility of an earthquake there. The recent earthquake, on the other hand, had been anticipated. Earthquakes and tsunamis have struck the Northeastern region of Japan throughout its history, and frequent warnings had been sounded in recent years. Meanwhile, nuclear power had always given rise to strong opposition, criticism, and warnings.  Yet the scale of the earthquake went far beyond any prior anticipation.  It was not that anticipating the scale of such a disaster was impossible, just that people had purposely avoided doing so.

The full article can be read in Counterpunch.

 

“dissenting dialogues” on Egypt, Sri Lanka and other debates

The editorial and the list of articles in the dissenting dialogues Issue No 2, February 2011 are posted below. The entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf file from the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum website.

Editorial

As the second issue of dissenting dialogues goes to press, we join in worldwide celebrations of the ongoing democratic revolution in Egypt, itself sparked off by an uprising in Tunisia. The Egyptian uprising, which has tremendous regional and possibly global consequences, came against a background of simmering unrest directed at a dictator who presided over a brutal, authoritarian regime. This regime was distinguished by its incarceration and torture not only of its own dissidents but of prisoners “renditioned” to it by the CIA, the denial of basic democratic rights on the pretext of fighting Islamism, and rising youth unemployment and inflation.

Although the timing and form of Egypt’s popular revolt could not have been predicted, an examination of the recent history of Egypt contextualises the forces at work. For a start, we cannot avoid looking at the recent history of neoliberalism in Egypt, its relationship to the authoritarianism of President Hosni Mubarak’s government, and the regime’s relationship to imperialism. The post-war history of Egypt also charts and indeed defines the historical trajectory of Third World sovereignty. Egypt’s revolt has to be understood in the context of the progressive socialist, anti-colonial struggle for national self-determination of the Bandung era from the 1950s until the liberalisation of the economy in the 1970s, the International Monetary Fund’s “restructuring” in the early 1990s, and the recent capitulation to the accumulation strategy of global finance capital.
Continue reading “dissenting dialogues” on Egypt, Sri Lanka and other debates