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Archive for April 2007

One Millionaire and Millions Poor

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The Communist Party of India’s MP and veteran trade union leader Gurudas Dasgupta was at his best in the Lok Sabha on April 26, 2007, where he lambasted his party-supported government on its track record over labour issues. He in fact, asked his comrades to review their support to this “blind-to-facts” government. However, it seems he still views the anti-labour attitude as a problem of the government’s eyes being “blind to facts” or being “closed”, not a systemic symptom related to the ‘class capacity’ of the State and the government.

Following is an excerpt from his speech published in Business Standard:

Madam, we have a unique coinage — facilitator. Government is the facilitator of economic growth. Since it is the facilitator of economic growth, its eyes are blind to facts. In order to open the door for foreign capital, eyes are closed. This is the economic background of your ministry. Madam, it is being understood deliberately — I do not say by the Ministry of Labour but the Ministry of Finance — that the trade union movement is a roadblock and all the labour laws are obstacles.

Madam, what is the situation? Honourable Labour Minister must be confronted with facts. The economic figures are like this. Productivity has increased in the country. Output per unit has increased in the country. Untaxed dividend has increased in the country. You understand untaxed dividends. You never touch the dividend. Mr. Chidambaram had no political will to touch the dividend because he is friendly to investors, I do not say he is friendly to the corporates. Therefore, dividend is untaxed. There has been growth of not only millionaires but billionaires in the country.

Madam, please do not laugh at me if I say that it is easy to become a millionaire in India, but it is difficult to reduce poverty in India.

The Congress party came to power, defeating the BJP on the promise that it will do something better. Are they doing better? May I call Shri Chidambaram, Mr Failure?

Therefore, the point is that the leaders of the government are speaking of production and productivity. On how many occasions did our respected ministers including the prime minister attend the meetings of the CII and speak of production and productivity? Do they speak of violation of labour (laws)? Have we ever heard the prime minister speaking in this House about violation of labour law? Violation of labour law is not the agenda. The agenda is to clear the deck for more investment.

When the price rise is taking place, workers are not being given Dearness Allowance. Is it social justice? I would give two examples how DA is being flouted. There was a strike in West Bengal by 2.5 lakh jute workers. After prolonged two months strike they had been able to get DA up to 200 points when the DA was due to 320 points, and this was despite the attempt of the West Bengal government. The private sector just did not give the DA. What is the remedy?

I am giving a second example. Today, a strike is on at Hindustan Motors of the Birlas. What is their demand? For six years Birlas have not given any DA to the workers. The government of West Bengal is trying to help them. Last night, the meeting broke up and the management bluntly said that it would not give the DA. What is the remedy?

Trade union movement is considered to be a criminal offence. Let me give you a example. Maharashtra is under Congress rule. There was a strike in a transport company. Only a few days back, 30,000 people were retrenched in a single day. Is it a respect for democracy? Is it a respect for trade unionism? Is it a respect for human rights?

(Excerpts from CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta’s speech in the Lok Sabha on April 26 over the Demands for Grants relating to the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Sumitra Mahajan was in the Chair)

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Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 30, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Economy, India, Labour

Corporate Philanthropy?

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Why are corporate lords big philanthropists? Just now I read an article on “corporate responsibility in India”, where the author says:

The notion of corporate responsibility in India has traditionally been tied up with philanthropy and community development…“Philanthropy has been important in India since the middle of the 19th century, largely due to a strong heritage of community influence and paternalism among traders-turned-entrepreneurs,” say authors Atul Sood and Bimal Arora in “Political Economy of Corporate Responsibility in India”, a 2006 paper for the UN Research Institute for Social Development.

Philanthropy has now taken the form of foundations within companies that follow the Gandhian ideology of “giving back to society”. Such giving is the sole manifestation of corporate responsibility for many firms.

Why this desperation to “giving back to society”? Definitely, “Philanthropy” is a pre-capitalist element that capitalism has inherited – it transforms class division based on exploitation into an ideologico-ethical hierarchy. However, it additionally helps in suppressing the starkness of the fallacy that characterises capitalist ethics, which Duncan Foley calls Adam’s Fallacy –

The specific fallacy is Smith’s claim that the pursuit of self-interest, which has to be balanced against regard for others in other human interactions, can be trusted to lead to good outcomes both for oneself and others in the context of competitive market interactions.

Of course, the political economy of Aid is also there which is literally buying off the oppressed (meaning their ‘representative’) to normalise/naturalise capitalism and its exploitative nature – politically, economically, culturally, morally… Normalising Corporate Misanthropy is the Responsibility of Philanthropy. Distrust is inbuilt in philanthropic action – “give back” something or they will “take away” everything.

How true was Blake:

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody poor;
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 28, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Economy

On the logic of imperialism – US & India

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To say that the US invasion of Iraq “was not all about oil” is nothing novel. The triviality of “all about oil” argument is perhaps most clearly shown in the works of Marxists like Cyrus Bina. When neoliberal economic journalists like Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar criticise this argument, they ultimately circularly reiterate the same argument – not all about oil, but still all about oil. So he in one of his recent gems published on 10 March 2007 starts with saying:

“Many Indians, including respected foreign policy analysts, believe that the US invaded Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003 simply to grab his oilfields. “Its all about oil,” they said. Well, it’s now four years since the invasion. Yet, we see no sign of the US grabbing Iraq’s oilfields”.

And ends by:

“The US still has a strong interest… in seeing that oil production in the Persian Gulf is not disrupted or monopolised by any military power. This was one reason why the US forced Saddam out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and occupied in 1990. The US Navy has for decades patrolled the sea lanes to ensure security for oil tankers. So, oil matters. But it is somewhat ridiculous to think that oil alone matters. The US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake, but it was not “all about oil.”

That’s just “one reason”, but in Aiyar’s write-up it is the only “one reason”.

Definitely, we cannot ask him to comprehend the dialectics of abstract and concrete, essence and appearance etc – the complex relationship between economy and polity, where we cannot reduce any to the other. Also, we cannot expect him to avoid the circularity of bourgeois economics.

However the interesting aspect of his article is the details which he offers to prove his “not all about oil” argument – when he draws parallel between Indian and the US oil interests:

“Those familiar with India’s oil policy will find the Iraqi controversy over production sharing [contracts to foreign companies] mystifying, even comic. India has long signed production-sharing deals with private and foreign oil companies, and nobody regards this as a sellout.

The latest bidding round this year drew 32 domestic and 36 foreign bidders. In production-sharing deals, the foreign or private sector partner bears all exploration costs, but shares with the government any oil or gas that is found. The terms of production-sharing have varied in different rounds of bidding in India.

But typically the winning bidder whether Indian or foreign first gets enough oil to recover costs of production and exploration (called cost oil); then gets two to three times as much as profit oil; and then hands over most or all of the residual production to the government.

For instance, the government’s share in gas at Reliance’s Krishna-Godavari field starts at roughly 15% at the beginning and goes to 85% in later stages.

The most successful foreign explorer in India has been Cairn Energy, which hopes to produce 7.5 million tonnes a year from its fields in Rajasthan. British Gas has also experienced some success.

ONGC itself has entered into production-sharing contracts in no less than 15 countries, including Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, Venezuela, Canada, Brazil, Nigeria and Cuba.

Reliance Industries has also signed production-sharing deals in Yemen, Oman, East Timor and Colombia. Indeed, ONGC and Reliance have jointly signed a production-sharing deal in guess where? Northern Iraq. This is not Indian imperialism. Nor have these Indian oil companies encountered US resistance.

So, Indian foreign policy analysts who think the Iraq invasion was all about oil, need to brush up their knowledge of the oil business. They are living in the past.

There was indeed a time when the US used military power to back US oil companies. When Mossadegh in Iran nationalised oil companies, he was overthrown in a 1953 coup masterminded by Britain and the US. However, that was the last act in the history of oil imperialism.

This was shown when OPEC countries in 1974 nationalised all oilfields, converting oil multinationals from owners to just buyers of oil. Some US diplomats and politicians wanted military action to regain the fields. But the US Administration ruled that the days of oil imperialism were over, and it was time to deal with sovereign governents.

The US still has a strong interest as does India in seeing that oil production in the Persian Gulf is not disrupted or monopolised by any military power. This was one reason why the US forced Saddam out of Kuwait, which he had invaded and occupied in 1990. The US Navy has for decades patrolled the sea lanes to ensure security for oil tankers.

So, oil matters. But it is somewhat ridiculous to think that oil alone matters. The US invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake, but it was not “all about oil.”

Here Aiyar has given some facts, ignored even by leftists suffering from third worldism. They are relevant for understanding the material base of India’s expansionist, even imperialist ambitions. Private (foreign and domestic) and State capitalist production sharing is nothing new. In recent years, India’s state oil companies like ONGC have been proactively involved in satisfying the energy requirements of India’s capitalist development by their overseas exploration and operation. Aiyar also tells us that now private capitalists like Reliance are increasingly being given space in this industry, where the State had been the pioneer.

However, for Aiyar, if “this is not Indian imperialism” then there is no US “oil imperialism”. But why do we presume that there is no Indian imperialism? In fact, let’s reverse the order of the argument – if all such facts have grounded US imperialist interests in the Middle East and elsewhere (even if not just for oil, but “oil matters”), then the parallel that Aiyar draws between India and the US must tempt us to probe India’s ambitions too, without precluding their possible imperialist nature. Definitely, the export of capital is not sufficient to make a state imperialist, but what makes it so is the state’s capacity and interest in defending that export through international political intervention, of which war is just a part, as Clausewitz taught us. Maybe if “Indian oil companies [in their outward expansion in the Middle East have not] encountered US resistance”, this is just another proof that India is a part of the imperialist coalition led by the US, or the US sees it as as an ally. This would give us a key to interpret the tremendous growth in the US-India-Israel relationship too.

Of course, in capitalism collaboration does not preclude competition – there will be moments when collaborating interests would clash too. But we should not presume that if collaboration between US and India is occurring, it is a patron-client relationship. Likewise, competition too is not liberation, India’s frequent amorous passes to Russia, China and others are not necessarily anti-imperialist or anti-US.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 26, 2007 at 10:44 pm

Indian expansionism’s ugly face – Hindu Fascism

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For legitimising any imperialist and expansionist design, a State needs a particular ideology of “interests” that can mobilise opinion behind it within its territory, and also identify agencies outside which can justify its “cross-border” intervention. India with its rising economic interests beyond its territory has used all sorts of “identities” to create such diasporic homogeny under the garb of which it can operate. It is not very surprising that this expansionist tenor was firmly and vocally established by the Rightist forces. It can in fact be comfortably said that the rightists became a legitimate force in India only with the rise of neolliberalism, when Indian capital found Indianness, Hinduism etc to be effective in its “free” market consolidation and operation globally. One needs to cursorily go through the widely circulated weekly of Hindu fascists, Organiser and its chatterbox journalism to grasp the confident obscenity of Indian expansionism in its extreme. Recently it invented “The Western-Christian agenda in Kathmandu” and “the Christian leadership of the Maoists”, lamenting the threat to the “Hindu civilisation”:

“The bells are tolling, not just for the Nepalese monarchy, but also for the Hindu culture and civilisation of the nation.”

So embrace your khaki-nickers and oiled lathis to save monarchy, save Hinduism… while the Nepali resources – human and natural – are plundered by Indian interests in the name of “economics above politics”. Similarly, it was the leader of opposition, the instigator of the Babri Mosque demolition LK Advani who first petitioned the Indian government to “save Indians” in Uganda, where the Ugandan people are struggling against the Mehta group’s acquisition of Mabira forests.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Economic Astrology

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The Economic Times has a news today – IMF warns India of US economic slowdown. Something to be panicked about! However there is nothing in the report that is specifically directed to India. The IMF Deputy Director Charles Collyn has warned that

“emerging economies, including India, face the risk of protectionist pressures arising from a slowdown in the US economy. IMF deputy director Charles Collyns said capital flows to emerging markets have been strong even as corrections in these markets are getting smaller.”

However,

“In its short-term outlook, the IMF has said notwithstanding recent volatility and the US slowdown, continued robust global growth still looks the most likely outcome. However, global policy makers and financial markets need to be ready for surprises.

This is the way astrologers cheat their clients – say things which are so general and obvious, even commonsensical idiocies and contradictory, that whatever happens, you are proven right and your business thrives. If some spices are still lacking then get mainstream newspapers to write the headings…

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 21, 2007 at 12:02 am

Posted in Economy, India

A Report: “LYING RELIGIOUSLY: The Hindu Students Council and the politics of deception”

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Full Report: http://hsctruthout.stopfundinghate.org

from Prologue:

“The Hindu Students Council (HSC) is a North America based organization that publicly claims to provide a space to learn about Hindu heritage and culture and draws its membership primarily from the Indian American student community. HSC is headquartered in Houston, Texas, and is registered as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. On its website (www.hscnet.org), HSC claims to have more than 75 chapters, most of them located on university campuses across the United States and Canada. The website also states that HSC was formed to assist Hindu students in their spiritual, emotional, and identity needs, including sorting out confusions and alienation arising from being brought up Hindu in a predominantly Judeo-Christian culture. Many Indian American youth join HSC chapter on their campus and participate in its activities because of HSC’s claim to be a cultural and spiritual organization providing an independent, apolitical space to learn about Hinduism through activities, such as celebration of Hindu festivals, discussion of sacred texts, religious rituals and community service (see http://www.hscnet.org/aboutus.php).

This report challenges the above claims of HSC and provides comprehensive evidence to the contrary. It documents the findings of an investigation into the history, organization, and political links of HSC and demonstrates that it is part of the Sangh Parivar (literally, the Sangh Family), the extended network of affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the creators of Hindutva. These findings sharply contradict the public face HSC presents in the U.S. as a spiritual and religious body. The information presented in this report locates and documents the origins and institutional links of HSC, and throws light on the concealed purpose behind the creation of such an organization. This report shows that HSC has deep-rooted connections – institutional, personal, and political – with the Sangh Parivar.”

[CSFH is a collective of academics and professionals who work on monitoring the fundraising activities of the Hindutva movement in the U.S. See http://stopfundinghate.org/resources/FAQ.htm for more details.]

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 19, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Uganda and global media propaganda

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All over the world, the media projected the recent Ugandan agitation against the multinational acquisition of the country’s forest resources as racist. Indian media tout court led the wave by raising the ghost of Idi Amin. It seemed something like the Nazis’ holocaust. This is not for the first time that South Asians have raised similar metaphors. Post-1990 Hindu rightists have time and again used them to stress on the parallels between the Jews and Hindus, the uniqueness of Israel and India. Also, Indian governments have been proactively self-imposing themselves as protectors of People of Indian-origin (PIO) all over the world. World imperialism and its watchdogs which are ever ready to club Anti-globalisation movements, terrorism, fundamentalists – all their ‘evil’ enemies, “bad guys” together have found this Indian expansionism and its rising crossborder interests and concerns handy for their mission. This allows them to corner the ‘third world’ movements and regimes who pose threat to world capitalist interests.

One PIO MP in Uganda, Sanjay Tanna has clearly rebutted such propaganda. He “said it was unfortunate that the media had focused on the death of one Asian and portrayed Uganda as a racist country. He said two Ugandans lost their lives and many others were injured or lost property. He explained that Rawal’s death came from a sequence of events, which included an attempt by some Asians to drive through the demonstrators.” (New Vision, April 17 2007)

Regarding, the global imperialist usage of Indian expansionism, I wrote the following almost a year back during Bush’s India visit in February 2006 (Counterpunch), which might be relevant here too:

On the other hand, India’s mastery of ‘unreliable’, and ‘rogue’ polities, and its ability to forge indigenous clients in those polities make it a worthy partner for other global powers whose recent hyper-interventionism has reduced their own ability in this regard. Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have further attested this inability of the US hegemony, at least–political forces against which wars were waged in these countries were erstwhile US allies. These conflicts are symptomatic of the crisis of the US hegemony more than the unipolarity of the post-Cold War era. Unlike the ideology of the “Soviet threat”, the post-Cold War ideologies of human rights and non-proliferation could not form the legitimate basis for forging international alliances, since the duplicity of the “global powers” on those same accounts are too apparent. In fact, the orientalist bases of these ideologies have further curtailed the First World’s ability to directly manipulate political forces in the “third world”. At this juncture, ‘mediocre’ powers like India could become relevant interfaces between the two worlds, for perpetuating and sustaining global capitalism and its political structure.

Written by Pratyush Chandra

April 18, 2007 at 2:17 pm

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