Monthly Archives: August 2008

Dipankar Gupta’s solipsism

Dipankar Gupta’s cynical article in The Times of India (Aug 30, 2008) is itself an expression of middle-class disenchantments, which he talks about. And Buddhadeb is undoubtedly in his brigade. In his anti-communist verbosity Gupta does exactly what he criticises. For him “the poor has never revolted”; it is the leadership, which everywhere rises in her name. Ironically, even to deny that the poor has ever revolted, it is a middle class intellectual like Gupta who has the privilege to proclaim this! Obviously in his discourse “they” will remain as “they” – “Why They Don’t Revolt”. So why should we accept his privileged denial about the poor(wo)man’s revolt, if he censures us for accepting the socialists’ claim that s/he does revolt, on the ground that they are elites?

According to Gupta, since the leaders came from the middle class or elite families the revolutions couldn’t be popular. This shows his ignorance about political processes, including class processes. Obviously he cannot be faulted for this, the disciplinarian divide that characterises the bourgeois academia does not require him to see things holistically (that’s the job of a generaliser, not an expert’s) – he is after all a sociologist! How can he understand that revolts/revolutions are conjunctural – their character is not simply determined by the membership of their leadership rather by the societal stage in which they occur? How can he understand that the process of class-ification, not the fixed descriptive sociological classificatory pigeonholes, allows revolutionary intellectual organicity to individuals from diverse backgrounds? How can he understand that revolution is not only a moment but also a process which comprises many “guerrilla fights” against “the encroachments of capital” before and after the “revolutionary moment” passes away? This was Marx’s understanding of the “revolution in permanence” or Mao’s notion of a “continuous revolution” or Lenin’s “uninterrupted revolution”.

Obviously within the commonsensical notion of revolution, for which the OMs (Official Marxists, as Kosambi characterised them) are most responsible, the 1949 event in China paints into insignificance the Hunan peasants’ self-organisation and struggle (as marvellously described by Mao in his Hunan Report) or the processes that constituted “Fanshen”, “Shenfan” and the Cultural Revolution. Within this framework a revolution loses its processual character, and is reduced to a moment and even a few elite figures. But why should we expect Dipankar Gupta to go beyond common sense? After all he is a “middle class” solipsist who sees the world made in his image – his class dominating everywhere, doing everything.

In fact, we can find a deep resonance between Gupta’s analysis and India’s chief security advisor MK Narayanan’s McCarthyist indictment of intellectuals. Both experts (in their respective fields) attempt to reduce movements to agencies, however the former does it as an expression of his academic cynicism, while MK Narayanan to find scapegoats. But both converge at a dangerous moment.

“When Nepal finds its voice”

ET has published a good editorial on the changing tenor of Indo-Nepal relationship:

Fortunes have a propensity to swiftly change sides. And what seems to be the given order of things can swiftly come to be transformed. Witness the heartburn in India when news emerged that the new Nepali Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was headed to Beijing instead of paying obeisance to New Delhi first.

If there’s one thing we haven’t yet gotten used to in our neighbourhood, it’s the sudden and complete transformation within Nepal. We were quite happy while we could treat Nepal like a province, a wee bit like a colony, and while their leaders would first and foremost be careful about our big brotherly concerns.

It was quite all right as long as the image of ordinary Nepalis only meant thinking of a pliable servant at home. Things were just fine as long as we could head up there without any restriction and virtually run the economy. Until the Maoists came along.

It is as if Nepal has discovered a new identity, an ability to stand up and speak for itself. After dumping the monarchy, which again irked us as the kings were quite part of our own royal families, the new Nepal now seems like it wants to talk on equal terms.

This could be a painful process, since as old habits die hard. And then, we were quite used to, say, a certain degree of extra attention. Now, when a Nepalese official ‘reassures’ us that India should not worry about the Nepali PM’s China visit since his nation will now pursue a policy of ‘equidistance’ with its two neighbours, it doesn’t cause much assurance.

Indeed, there’s a certain galling element to the whole notion of not being preferentially treated. And this could well reflect in ‘new’ issues being talked about when officials of the two nations meet. Already, Nepal is speaking of tricky issues like the thousands of Bhutanese refugees in its territory. What it will be like when it comes to stomach-churning things like water-sharing can only be surmised. Sigh! But for the good old days.

“an alibi”

Whoever has written today’s ET editorial on communal tensions in Orissa has rightly pointed out the McCarthyite tactics of the repressive state:

The allegation against the Maoists gives the BJD-BJP government an alibi to step up its ongoing, and under-reported, project of repressing various grassroots movements in tribal areas in the name of containing Maoism“.

NHRC has its own style

Should we be surprised by the National Human Rights Commission’s submission to the Supreme Court regarding Salwa Judum’s atrocities leaked by the Economic Times? The official human rights body “found that many of the allegations [against Salwa Judum] were based on rumours and hearsay, and devoid of facts. Again, many of the villagers whose names figured in the column comprising victims of Salwa Judum or the security forces were actually found to have been killed by Naxalites. FIRs had been registered in most of these cases and the state government had also doled out compensation to relatives of those killed. NHRC teams also discovered many of the villagers whose names figured in the list were actually Naxalites who had been killed in encounters with the security forces. A few other villagers were found to have died of natural causes, while yet another group of villagers whose names figured in the list of dead were actually found to be alive” (2). NHRC’s arguments here are quite clear and very logical –

if Salwa Judum or the security forces killed somebody, (s)he must be a naxalite; if (s)he was not a naxalite, then it’s obvious that (s)he was killed by the naxalites.

Time is not any dog

Avtar Singh Sandhu ‘Pash’

If not Frontier, read Tribune
If not Calcutta, talk about Dacca
Bring the clippings from
Organiser and Punjab Kesari
And tell me
Where are these eagles flying?
Who has died?
Time is not any dog
That can be chained and driven wherever you like
You tell us
Mao says this and Mao says that
I ask you, who is Mao to say anything?

For the complete poem, click here.

McCarthyism in India

Being the only “policeman” who “has ever risen to so much influence in India”, Indian National Security Adviser MK Narayanan seldom minces words in revealing the designs of the Indian State for “national security”. He recently pronounced the focus of the state’s strategy against leftist militancy in the country. In an interview to The Straits Times, he clearly emphasised that it is the intellectual appeal of the Maoists that is letting down the Indian state in its fight against the Maoists. “…[W]e haven’t been able to break their intellectual appeal that they seem to still have”.

Narayanan further adds that “large numbers of the intellectual elite and civil liberties bodies provide a backup to the movement in terms of agitprop and other activities”. The fact that the Maoists “are still able to get support of intellectual classes is disturbing. Unless we can divorce the two … [defeating the Maoists] is not that easy”.

When asked if the Maoists are getting outside support, he said, “we have not seen any kind of infusion of arms or ammunition”. However it is the “educated elite…that gives them a connection to the outside world”. Evidently, it is that “connection” which needs to be broken.

In order to sever this “connection”, the Indian state must find intellectual scapegoats (like the Americans had the Rosenbergs and others) to terrorise the “educated elite”. Hence, we have Binayak Sen, Ajay TG… And the list is daily growing.

The future of Afghanistan

The verdict of history is that buffer states have never been able to form themselves into great political units. So was the case with Syria – a buffer state between the Empire of Rome and that of the Persians. It seems difficult to forecast the future of Afghanistan.

Arguably the greatest philosopher-poet of India and Pakistan at the dawn of the last century, Allama Iqbal wrote this in 1910.

The hi-story of Afghanistan is the story of that difficulty.

India is among “big brothers” of WTO: Pascal Lamy

The WTO Chief seems to know perfectly well what phrases would attract his audience in India today. This way they feel themselves to be in the company of global abusers.

    “Among the big brothers (in WTO) are the big developing countries. China, India and Brazil (are the) three big brothers,” Lamy told reporters.

    He said the three countries, along with key players like Australia, EU and the US constitute the world of today.

Krugman’s “great illusion”

Economist Paul Krugman in his latest column in NY Times (Aug 15, 2008) entitled “The Great Illusion” expresses his concern at the possibility that “the second great age of globalization may share the fate of the first”. And it is the recent Russia-Georgia conflict that makes him say so. To be more explicit he goes on to explain that “our grandfathers lived in a world of largely self-sufficient, inward-looking national economies — but our great-great grandfathers lived, as we do, in a world of large-scale international trade and investment, a world destroyed by nationalism.”

Krugman’s above statement clearly shows his lack of any historical sense. When was that “world of large-scale international trade and investment” free of (militarist) nationalism – a mechanism to protect that “large-scaleness”? And much of the “nationalism” which destroyed that world was in fact a revolt against that “large-scale” militarism. Yes, it destroyed the Pax Britannica – it was a war against the war monopoly.

On the one hand, Krugman seems to tell that national self-sufficiency at least with regard to “the current food crisis” is at last clearly shown to be not “an outmoded concept”. But he is in fact accusing nationalism of “many governments” for “leaving food-importing countries in dire straits”. He further finds that there is a rise of “militarism and imperialism” as “it does mark the end of the Pax Americana — the era in which the United States more or less maintained a monopoly on the use of military force. And that raises some real questions about the future of globalization”. Obviously, for him, “Russian energy” and Chinese big economy are the real threats as they have the capacity to manipulate world polities and economies to submission.

Then what is the Pax Americana? Is it not militarism, imperialism and manipulation, that we witnessed throughout the 1990s and afterwards? When did war-mongering and militarist build-up end during the “Pax Americana”? Increasing manipulative capacities of other countries and their political economy at the most demonstrate a globalization of “militarism and imperialism”.

Krugman rightly questions those analysts who “tell us not to worry: global economic integration itself protects us against war, they argue, because successful trading economies won’t risk their prosperity by engaging in military adventurism”. He thinks “the foundations of the second global economy” are solid than those of the first only “in some ways”, “[f]or example, war among the nations of Western Europe really does seem inconceivable now, not so much because of economic ties as because of shared democratic values”. So euro-centric Krugman, like Stiglitz, ultimately thinks the West not to be adventurist because of its democracy, but ah! “much of the world, however, including nations that play a key role in the global economy, doesn’t share those values”. So does he think the Pax Americana to which the West has submitted is about peace and democracy, which is now being threatened by the despotic Orient?

Krugman rightly concludes that “the belief that economic rationality always prevents war is an equally great illusion”. But like any other ordinary bourgeois he thinks economic rationality can prevent war when coupled with “democratic” values of the West. Obviously he can’t see the fact that economic rationality is about competition, representative democracy is about competition, and a war is competition par excellence. They are all ultimately the same – diverse moments in the life of “social capital”(1). Krugman refuses to recognize that capital whether protected by democratic regimes or not is at constant war against labour – which needs to be divided and controlled if it is to be exploited – and Western xenophobic megalomaniac nationalisms have always been nurtured for this reason. Where is the country in the West free from state-sponsored Ku-klux-klanesque policies and activism against migrants and “the other”? The neo-capitalist regimes have learned their lessons properly – obviously at the cost of threatening the established monopolies. It is not an end of globalization, as Krugman prognosticates, but a new stage – and a more barbaric stage – of capitalist globalization.


(1) “Here social capital is not just the total capital of society: it is not the simple sum of individual capitals. It is the whole process of socialization of capitalist production: it is capital itself that becomes uncovered, at a certain level of its development, as social power”. (Mario Tronti (1971), Social Capital)

Has “the ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism” grown up?

Writing in 1949 N.V. Sovani in his ECONOMIC RELATIONS OF INDIA WITH SOUTH-EAST ASIA AND THE FAR EAST (OUP and Indian Council of World Affairs) talked about the “ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism”:

Indian migration to Ceylon, Burma and Malaya, as explained above, was largely under the aegis of the British. It could take the form it did only under the circumstances that British imperialism created. The withdrawal of British imperialism from these areas – though only half way through in Malaya – has changed the entire background. Indians abroad are likely to encounter increasing opposition. The Indian trading and commercial interests in these countries have evoked stronger and more bitter resentment, and it is likely that more and more restrictions will be placed on their activities. This is not an isolated phenomenon. Foreign elements all over South-East Asia are experiencing a similar fate. The reaction against the Chinese in Siam and lately in the Philippines are cases in point. Such a development is but natural during the transition from a colonial to a national economy. Realizing the new set-up of things the problem of Indians will have to be continuously handled in such a manner as to lay the ghost of an incipient Indian imperialism./page 68/

Now sixty years after, the Indian neoliberalisers and their western promoters are unabashedly boasting about “reverse imperialism”.