Bush’s Ports Affair


Countercurrents

Finally Dubai Ports World has decided to transfer US ports business to a “US entity”. Bush must have felt relieved along with his colleagues (both for and against the ports deal). They must have patted each other for effectively creating a drama around the deal that achieved two ends – it has homogenised and ‘jingoised’ the American opinion to a certain degree, while giving a softening touch to the warrior image of Bush.

Full Text: click COUNTERCURRENTS

Dinner with George and Manmohan: Bush in India


COUNTERPUNCH

The Joint US-India statement issued after the meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Singh on March 2 clearly reflects the Indian approval of the principles on which the US hegemony is established globally. The five sections, in which the statement is divided, to summarize the broad areas of cooperation, enumerate the basic concerns of the US hegemony, and India’s willingness to cooperate.

Full Text: http://counterpunch.org/chandra03032006.html

Recent Developments in Nepal: Problems and Prospects


Pratyush Chandra

ML INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER, MARCH-APRIL 2005

Nepal is in a state of continuous flux. On February 1, Gyanendra celebrated the first anniversary of his “royal coup”, while democratic forces denounced it with ever greater strength and unity among themselves. Since the beginning of this year, there has been a tremendous expression and repression of democratic voices; arrests, police vandalism, demonstrations, strikes and street fights have become a daily routine; elections to local bodies turned out to be farcical (“hollow”, as the US Department of State prefers to call them), because of the boycott by the democratic parties reinforced by a general strike imposed by the Maoists… What exact shape this fluidity will take is still unclear, however one can trace the pattern.

The Naked King and the Imperial Dilemma

The Maoists withdrew their unilateral 3+1 month ceasefire on January 2 this year. Since then we have seen curfews, elections, boycotts and a general strike, which provided us the opportunity to assess the relative strength of monarchy and the democratic forces. The King tried to block rallies and demonstrations, but his brutality could not match the tide of the democratic aspirations of the Nepalese people. Immediately, the strength of the opposition forces too was tested. The King planned an institutionalised demonstration of his strength with the Panchayat (local bodies) elections. The popular defiance reinforced by a general strike called by the only concrete people’s power existing in Nepal fizzled out the charm of the royal fanfare, and there he found himself naked before the whole world – this way they knew him and he knew himself!!!

The US and India wailed. Not for the fate of the Nepalese royalty, but for being forced into an impossible situation, to make an impossible choice. Their inability to convince the King of his “illegitimate” games and their consequences has been stark. They are afraid of making any clear choice, since the two clear choices available before them will bring crisis to the global imperial regime.

They know that supporting monarchy, on the one hand, will de-legitimise the post-Cold War ideology of ‘democracy propagation’, which they cannot afford to do just for Nepal and South Asia. On the other hand, at least for India, which is presently the newest member in the US-led imperialist consortium, this choice is devastating as the unpredictable nature of the Nepalese monarchy is not at all beneficial for its political economic interests.

But a clear-cut support to republican democracy too is equally untenable for them, if not more. Because of the level of political consciousness among the oppressed and exploited masses of Nepal, any free leverage to them will sweep away the Nepalese dependence. Further, the imperialists are aware of the limited capacity, reach and influence of the ‘democratic’ political elites in Nepal. These elites are under constant pressure from their own mass base, which has been in direct interaction with the revolutionary forces in the country. This fact considerably reduces the manoeuvring capacities of the Nepalese parliamentary forces in comparison to the elites in other democracies. Hence, the global imperial strategy is stuck.

The Ceasefire, 12-point Agreement and Democracy from Below

The political elites in Nepal have traditionally been nurtured through global aid politics in its aided pedagogical institutions. Aid has been a major post-World War II instrument of finance capital geared towards “creating an extraordinarily dense and widespread network of relationships and connections which subordinates not only the small and medium, but also the very small capitalists and small masters” (1). In the 1990s, through a quasi-democratic exercise, the Nepalese neo-rich and petty bourgeois clienteles and contractors could choose their own delegates for official negotiations with the global corporate regime.

The petty bourgeois democrats’ relationship with the institution of monarchy has always been of awe and reverence, but it instantly led to hatred whenever they tried to get near it. They were forced to feel their own smallness before the arrogant royalty and its indifference. Throughout the history of post-1990 Nepal, and more intensively after Gyanendra’s enthronement, various sections of democrats competed for the royal affection finding themselves more and more isolated and divided. The February coup of 2005 marked a decisive break in this relationship.

The faithful lower-rank leadership directly dealing with the grassroots of the democratic parties were already disillusioned by the opportunism of the upper-rank party bureaucracies. The coup consolidated this disillusionment. These democratic aspirations of the radicalised sections of the petty bourgeoisie and the urban proletarians opened the dialogic avenue with the ongoing-armed class struggle in the countryside and beyond Kathmandu.

The Maoists, on the other hand, have always been resilient to these dialogues. In fact, deaf ears to their own innumerable calls for democratic unity have not discouraged them. They have understood through their experience what Mao told, while criticising Stalin: “the main blow of the revolution should be directed at the chief enemy and to isolate him, whereas with the middle forces, a policy of both uniting with them and struggling against them should be adopted, so that they are at least neutralized; and as circumstances permit, efforts should be made to shift them from their position of neutrality to one of alliance with us in order to facilitate the development of the revolution.” (2)

In return to these genuine calls the Maoists as a proof for their commitment announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months. This ceasefire along with pressure from their own mass base forced the democratic parties and their leaders to seal a historic alliance with the Maoists – the 12-point agreement. And the Maoists extended their ceasefire for another month.

Imperialist Forces Operating in Tandem

This ceasefire humbled all the poles of global imperialism, who faced a danger to their own credibility if they continued supporting the royalty in all its arrogant, repressive and intransigent gymnastics. However, the US and India remained persistent in their efforts to call for the isolation of the Maoists and thought that the King eventually would come to his mind. They kept on advising him and the parliamentary forces to re-establish the harmony between the “constitutional forces”. As indicated earlier, this persistence came from their need to have a full grip over the Nepalese political economy. This control is dependent upon their ability to moderate the royal and status quoist intransigence with the help of various nodes in the commercialised and monetised political economy of Nepal, while negating the ‘anarchy’ of the latter by the overseeing authority of the royalty. Of course, the February coup and later, the alliance between the Maoists and 7-parliamentary parties posed a definite crisis in this regard, but the imperialist forces have been consistently trying to rebuild a situation amenable for themselves. And in this task, they have shown remarkable mutual coordination, both in deeds and words. The striking similarity between the American and Indian messages in this regard is unprecedented.

For example, on the end of the ceasefire none of these two countries asked why this ceasefire remained unilateral. Instead, for Indians its normal expiry was “an unfortunate decision” and they passed their moral judgement on the Maoists’ “path of violence and terror”(3). Similarly, the US too moralised saying that it has “consistently called upon the Maoists to abandon violence and rejoin the political mainstream. The end of the ceasefire at this time is unhelpful and contrary to that goal. There can be no excuse for the resumption of violence” (4).

Again, on January 19, 2006 after the royal crackdown over democratic leaders, the US called for “a dialogue between the King and the parties and a return to democracy” in order to effectively “address the Maoist insurgency in Nepal”, without taking note of the fact that the parties are already in agreement with the Maoists (5). Similarly, the UK asked the King “urgently to release those arrested, and to find ways to resume dialogue with the political parties.”(6) And India regretted that its “wish to see the constitutional forces in Nepal working together to achieve peace and stability in the country” remains unfulfilled.(7) Taking into consideration their mutual understanding in other international affairs, it is definite that these imperial states are pronouncing all these decisions and opinions in tandem. Even the press releases of one seem to be mere paraphrasing of others’.

The Danger

The humiliation of the King in his own Panchayat elections is a big blow to his self-confidence, and the confidence of the interventionist forces in him and their own capacity to manoeuvre. The US is forced to admit that the elections “represented a hollow attempt to legitimize his power”. But we will have to wait in order to see the full implications of these results.

The moral boost to republican sentiments is evident. The imperialists are anxious, but they know that they are incapable of undertaking any aggressive activist step in this regard. Their game plan has to be subtle and nuanced, but the pattern is quite evident. The US in the same post-elections message blamed “Maoist intimidation and killing of candidates during the campaign” for the failure of the elections, and refused to note the unanimity between the parliamentary forces and the Maoists on the illegitimacy of the elections. It once again insisted on the need to have a dialogue between the King and the “political parties” in order to “effectively deal with the threat posed by the Maoists” (8). How will this dialogue happen when the “parties” and the Maoists are already in alliance? Where is this hope for a royalty-parties alliance against the “Maoist threat” coming from? And herein lies the danger.

The success of the Maoists’ General Strike is bound to make the inconsistent upper crust of the petty bourgeois leadership epileptic because of the immense fluidity and uncertainty of the aftermath. If this is not complemented by more intensive consolidation on the part of the radicalised masses and their consistent leadership, it will lead to horse-trading between the inconsistent democrats and the King mediated by the imperialists, especially India and the US. US Ambassador to Nepal, James F. Moriarty in his recent speech clearly indicated this. He called upon the Democrats and the King to be ready for “hard compromise, tough give and take”. In return, the United States “would look eagerly for ways to assist a new Nepal government that respects and supports democracy, human rights, and freedom. This also could include renewing assistance for the Royal Nepalese Army.” (9)

The Maoists are aware of this danger, as Prachanda informed in one of his recent interviews: “We have gotten an indication, through the UN people or other international agencies, that they [government] are trying to propose in a roundabout way a conditional constituent assembly. Obviously, the Maoists will “reject it outright because “conditional” means “compromise”” (10), but as the intensity of the movement increases, the leaders who have tasted proximity to the royalty and enjoyed it while in government are used to such compromises. They are bound to vacillate. In such a situation the only resort will be closing the ranks at the bottom level on the basis of the rapport which the Maoists and other radical democratic forces have built between the rural and urban working classes, peasantry and petty bourgeoisie across party lines. Only a vigilant and conscious check and assault from below on such tendencies will guarantee a political transformation that goes at least an inch beyond the replay of democratic farce in the name of attaining peace among the “constitutional forces”.


References

1. V.I. Lenin (1916-17), Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

2. Mao Tse-tung (1956), “Stalin’s place in history” (1956), Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. 7.

3. “In response to a question on the withdrawal of ceasefire by the Maoists in Nepal”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (January 2, 2006)

4. “Nepal: Maoists End Cease-fire”, US Department of State (January 3, 2006)

5. “Nepal: Arrests of Opposition Leaders”, US Department of State (January 19, 2006)

6. “Foreign Office Minister condemns political arrests in Nepal” (January 19, 2006), UK Foreign Office

7. “In response to a question on developments in Nepal”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India (January 19, 2006)

8. “Nepal Municipal Elections Lack Public Support”, US Department of State (February 8, 2006)

9. James F Moriarty, “Nepal’s Political Crisis: A Look Back, A Look Forward

10. “Interview with Prachanda”, The Kathmandu Post (posted on February 7, 2006)

Bush’s Passage to India: Why Does India Carry His Water?


COUNTERPUNCH

A few days from now, Bush will go to India and reaffirm his newfound love, becoming the only Republican President to visit India after Nixon. Bush and his ‘mouthpieces’ are quite vocal about their need of India – to compete with the EU, to check China, to control unpredictable regimes and to expand the war on terrorism etc. But it is quite interesting to note how India’s consistent positive response to these advances is generally taken as paradoxical, or else simply as succumbing to ‘external’ pressures. However if we take notice of the transformation of Indian capitalism and of the aspirations of the Indian ruling class, we can easily find the reason behind this mutuality.

India has already expanded its interests beyond South Asia and other neighboring economies. It has business assets and interests to secure both in developed and underdeveloped worlds. In fact, Indian capital has been ‘flying’ through legal and illegal routes since 1956 when the Birla group of companies made a large-scale investment establishing a textile mill in Ethiopia. In the late 1970s-early 1980s, the phrase “third world multinationals” was popularized to differentiate them from the first world multinationals. It was generally perceived that unlike the latter, which were motivated by the firms’ internal growth process, third world multinationals were products of demand-side bottlenecks, the statist restrictions on monopolistic and trade practices, other imperfections and distortions created by the state and political forces. This argument is negated by the fact that the companies going abroad where mostly those who had profiteered in the phase of ‘interventionism’. They were firms having “a diverse and established presence at home”. As one scholar from that period, Rajiv Lall noted in his study “Multinationals from the Third World: Indian Firms Investing Abroad” (Oxford University Press, 1986): “These firms tend to be part of large industrial houses with a conglomeration of holdings that give them an imposing rule in the Indian market.”

However, until 1978, majority equity participation in firms abroad was generally prohibited. Despite this, the Indian firms investing abroad managed to retain management control. After that, the pace of capital export has been unceasingly maintained, with its tremendous unimpeded nature in the post 1991 phase. The post-1991 scenario has rendered new directions to the Indian “export of capital”. The State itself has emerged as a leading segment in this trade, concentrating on sectors that allow a smooth process of capital accumulation domestically and internationally–energy and finance, being true to its role of expressing the general conditions of accumulation and devising overall economic strategy.

The energy requirements of India’s economy have been constantly increasing and as a result indigenous corporate oil interests have evolved, which initially were restricted to brokerage in export and import. But as the regulation for the outflow of Indian capital for investment and acquisitions abroad has been eased out, there has been heavy investment to ‘proactively’ secure energy supplies from abroad. Indian oil companies, especially, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation­Videsh Ltd (OVL), are acquiring assets in oilfields in Russia, Latin America, the Middle East and ex-Soviet Central Asian republics. India is particularly using its erstwhile non-aligned image to gain access to the African oil and gas fields – Chad, Niger, Ghana, and Congo in particular. In Sudan, it has already made its largest investment acquiring the assets from a Canadian company, which left Sudan after human rights organizations charged it of committing genocide in Darfur region. On this front, once again, China is India’s main competitor and collaborator, as both have been trying to ‘secure their energy supplies’ in the context of bigger players.

One may point out that these are still public sector endeavors. However, on the contrary, there have been increasing efforts to open up India’s energy market for private investment, and domestically it is already in place now with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and other private corporates expanding themselves in petroleum and power sectors. Further, at the present fluid state of India’s capitalist expansion, the public sector leadership provides a systematic character to the expanding tentacles of Indian capitalism. Because of the specific character of property relations and rent system involved in it, the oil sector is totally different from other industries and requires state-to-state relation for any negotiation to succeed. In the present state of uncertainty in the energy sector internationally, even if India further liberalizes this sector, its international expansion will remain largely a government affair. Further, especially after 1991, state companies in India have been increasingly corporatized, independently competing for the access to finance and capital markets, and strategizing on their own expansion. The corporatist character of the state-owned enterprise brings together several individuals, having interests and aims distinct from the State, who make contributions during the course of development of the enterprise in the capacity of managers and investors. The State is only the initial investor of the enterprise, while its subsequent expansion is dependent on factors internal to it and its presence in the market. Eventually the state’s ‘share’ is effectively reduced, and the enterprise acquires an independent character similar to the private sector. This leads to crises–on the one hand, the state and the managers are frequently in conflict, and on the other, the state control is de-legitimized.

In fact, the crisis is already evident in India. The Indian government and the managers of its Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) are increasingly at loggerheads over risk assessment etc. For example, OVL’s commitment to corporatism and market is coming increasingly in conflict with its political directors. Recently, OVL had successfully bid a 45 percent stake in a Nigerian oil and gas field. It was the only case where it could beat the Chinese. But in the end it had to face, as some OVL officials put, “a huge embarrassment” and “a loss of credibility” because the government turned down its proposal at the very last moment on the ground of it being “risky”. This must be understood in the context of the political debate over divestment in the profit making PSUs. It remains a very contentious issue. Moreover, the left support to the present Indian government has moderated the Indian state’s intensive neo-liberalism, scuttling its recent vigor. Therefore, it needs to put stop to the statist expansion in the energy sector by other means, by playing the political game of calling the investments risky, and motivating the private corporate sector to come up. Besides this, a private-public partnership in the energy sector is already in place, domestically with private oil companies like RIL, while internationally with “diasporic” capital like Mittals.

Recently, some analysts have argued that India’s expansionary involvement with oil-producing countries for securing energy supplies itself is risky as these countries are in conflict with the United States over human rights or non-proliferation issues. And the latter will tolerate India’s alliances only to the extent they are trade-focused. A “diasporic” apologist of the Indian submission to the “American Imperium”, Economist Deepak Lal (Business Standard, November 15 2005) argued that this risk “could involve not merely putting the “Gurkhas” on the oil field, but in essentially taking over the country”. Quite unabashedly, he argues, “If these foreign investments are to be made on a commercial basis by an Indian oil company, it would be best to privatize the state-owned companies and let them then decide whether such investments are in their commercial interest.” However, he concedes, “The Indian government could justifiably use its diplomatic clout to help [a private investment project] fructify”. Does not this diplomacy include an employment of “gunboats and Gurkhas”?

Besides energy, another sector where the “public” is supposed to be in command in India is the banking sector. Indian banks too have been buying assets in Africa and Asia. Significantly, this expansion is a typical case of what was classically conceptualized as “finance capital”–a merger of banking and industrial interests. These state-run banks have been providing financial resources to overseas Indian projects, both private and public. More importantly, they are involved in giving loans, credit lines and other financial helps to fragile economies for infrastructure building and other industrial projects on the condition that they will employ Indian firms. In other words, the banking sector expansion has been an important vehicle in exporting Indian capitalist interests overseas, and also reclaiming the Indian “diasporic” interests, as they are increasingly using these financial institutions to their advantage. The “public” nature of this expansion gives it a ‘systematicity’, which otherwise would have been lost in the global market. Further, it creates a direct linkage between the Indian state and capital.

However, “most outward FDI goes to the manufacturing sector, especially, pharmaceuticals”, and non-financial services that account for as much as 36% (UNCTAD, “India’s outward FDI: a giant awakening?”), and here it is the private sector that reigns. Definitely, whether “public” or “private”, they involve imminent “risks”. However, these risks can be India’s asset too. On the one hand, the unstable polities in countries hosting these investments legitimize India’s political intervention to secure its economic assets and interests. In the post-9/11 political parlance, this is what is termed as overseas “security interest” of a powerful country. The recognition of this ‘interest’, the ability to legitimize it by manipulating ‘global opinion’ and forming favorable international alliances constitute the criteria for becoming a power.

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.

Answering some objections

There are two points that can be raised regarding the “export of capital” from India–that it is quantitatively insignificant, and that the biggest host of the Indian export is the United States and other First World countries.

Regarding the first point, the export is not so insignificant, as the ratio of outward to inward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI/IFDI) is significantly high and increasing, amounting to around 20% in 2005, while in 1997 it was less than 6%. However, even if we concede this point what matters more is the ability and will of a State to defend the rising interests from this insignificant amount–how does this OFDI shape up the character of Indian capital and state, irrespective of its amount? How much it has affected India’s relationship with the Nepalese, Sri Lankan and other neighbouring economies and polities? How much it has defined India’s intrusion in the African economies (like Sudan, Libya, Nigeria)? How much it has helped in evolving India’s aggressive oil interest, especially since OVL has invested in many African and ex-Soviet Central Asian republics’, Vietnamese, even Cuban oilfields? How much it has defined the active Indian interest in the oil price war, in lowering the “differential oil rent” accrued by the oil economies, and hence how much it has shaped the Indian hobnobbing in the Middle Eastern politics, its vote on the IAEA resolution on Iran?

As far as India’s investment in the US, which hosts the largest chunk, is concerned, it makes the Indian economy (like many other economies) dependent on the ups and downs in the American market. Since Indian capital is just one of the many players here, the Indian state’s task as the protector of its capitalist class (Non resident Indian (NRI) or non-NRI) is to provide it an edge in the competition. This makes the Indian state, furthermore, subservient to global coalitions. On the whole, the OFDI brings Indian capital and state in the consortium of global imperialism, which is presently under the police administration of the US (this status of the US is defined economically, politically and historically.

What the US Ambassador Taught Nepalis


COUNTERPUNCH, ZNET

Recently, the United States has been anxiously trying to pre-empt every possible uncomfortable situation in South Asia. Its ambassadors are actively intervening in internal political debates in South Asian countries. Of course, it is nothing new for the US, but in order to understand specific implications of this activism in specific contexts, the peeping tom has to be caught red-handed at the site of the crime and interrogated. The ambassador in India was recently in the dock for threatening Indians to behave well on the Iran issue. Now it is the turn of the ambassador in Nepal, James F. Moriarty. However, for our convenience, Moriarty has been too explicit in his conduct.

For the complete article: http://counterpunch.org/chandra02202006.html
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=32&ItemID=9769

Cartoons, Anti-Semitism and the “Aestheticisation of Politics”


Pratyush Chandra

The way the European press and politicians behaved on the issue of the publication of “anti-Islamic cartoons” can really be interpreted as, a Haaretz journalist puts, “a new breed of anti-Semitism. But the Semites, in this case, are not Jews.” (1)

It is worth pondering, why did these European “cartoonists” choose to indulge in this sort of “freedom of expression” at the time when they knew it would be volatile to do so. Either it was an act of sheer cheap commercialism, or it had a political meaning – a journalistic contribution in the hegemonist World ‘War on terrorism’. This “contribution” serves one major purpose – to provide an ideological sustenance to this war, by creating and homogenising “the enemy”, and of course its mirror image – a homogenised West, the land of the “advanced” people terrorised by the “backward” Orient. What is happening now seems to evidence the designs.

There might have been wider underlying international political economic reasons that brought Hitler to power, but the ideology of anti-Semitism was essential for its sustenance. Today’s Western mode of dubbing all movements of self-determination in the Middle East (which goes against the interests of the Western Powers) as “Osama’s conspiracy” is not very dissimilar to “the Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The myth of “Osama” (if we separate it from Osama the man, if he is really one) itself can sustain the Western militancy and its regional cohorts throughout the globe for a long time to come, not only against the “Islamic” forces, but also, and more so, against any “rogue” states and movements (leftists or nationalists).

For example, already, now and then ‘journalists’ report about Osama’s “shadows” emerging in different places in the Indian subcontinent. One was sighted in Sri Lanka with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) just after 9/11.(2) Moreover, the Indians have traditionally found Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)’s involvement in every uncomfortable movement of ‘self-determination’ within its territory, and after 2001, it has become synonymous to Al Qaeda’s involvement. Interestingly, nowadays ‘reports’ regularly come about ISI’s role in the radical left movement of India too. It has already been ‘spotted’ in Nepal’s communist upsurge. And of course, through ISI, it’s Al Qaeda that operates!!! So the target is set and reasoned!

In the case of Hitler, anti-Semitism of one sort (with the ghost of “the Elders of Zion” and their protocols) could enable him to invade regions with negligible Jewish population or influence, and to be on continuous war. Now, it is anti-Semitism of another sort (with the ghost of Osama and his audiovisual tapes) that provides reason to the global ride of the international ‘security guards’ to wage their ‘crusades’. The time is not far when we will find Osama’s shadow roaming in Latin America too. Or, may be it has been already spotted, and the “investigative report” is awaited.

The timing of the publication of these cartoons is very important to understand their significance – the ongoing war in Iraq and the ensuing discomfiture, continuing embarrassment of the Europeans over their ineffectiveness in the Middle East (lately on the Iranian issue), humiliation in their efforts to outrun the Americans throughout the globe, the Hamas victory… The First World rulers have many reasons to be upset. Their anxiety is heightened by their inability to completely monopolise critical information, whose unhindered transmission despite all kinds of borders and boundaries erected through international negotiations, intellectual and material property rights have virtually recreated an alternative world of commons. The ‘ dynamic’ reproduction of the ruler’s real self in its ever-changing forms by the immense ‘horde’ of ‘commoners’ is bound to make him anxious, and this is what forces him time and again to aestheticise politics – to occlude critique. And what else is the ‘official’ function of the media? What else can be the function of these cartoons? To force the readers, viewers and listeners to “think with one’s blood’. And that’s what they are doing.

Note:

(1) Bradley Burston, The New Anti-Semitism, cartoon division, Haaretz (February 6, 2006)

(2) Osama hand in glove with LTTE, The Times of India (September 22, 2001),

The India-China relationship – What we need to know



Pratyush Chandra

Every ‘bold’ and ‘independent’ step by a ‘third world’ government is seen as congenitally progressive and even anti-imperialist. Any ‘third world’ alliance is welcomed on the ground that it will develop multi-polarity in the ‘unipolarising’ world. Today, in India at least the middle class “progressives” have the tendency to visualise every dinner party between Delhi, Peking and Moscow to be progressive and a step against imperialism. While trivialising the very notion of imperialism as a world system, this nostalgia for an “anti-imperialist” statist cooperation has made our “progressives” remarkably moody – the Indian state’s apparently contradictory, adulterous relationship with the US hegemony seems to negate the promise revived by Manmohan’s courting of Putin or the Chinese leadership. The simultaneity and intensity of all these relations put our “progressives” totally out of mind, making them giddy.

They must be really sick, if they come to feel the potentiality of anti-imperialism in business ties, as recently in the partnership between ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for jointly bidding for promising projects. This particular partnership is definitely significant not only for the energy supplies to India and China, but also perhaps for global energy politics. But to consider it as challenging the global hegemonies is undoubtedly a maddening extrapolation.

It is true that India and China both are major players in the world market, and the global polity cannot be understood by ignoring their activities. But it must be admitted that their position is largely, if not solely, dependent on the cheap labour-force and its vast reserve army (regimented by the informalisation of labour markets along with the statist integration of ‘labour aristocracy’). Their underdevelopment has been a boon in this global rise of these economies. It has carried the segmentation of labour market to an unprecedented level, along with a multiple diversification of the demand structure. These are the gifts of the “differential of contemporaneousness”, as Sidney Pollard would call it. (1) Do we want to term this rise as “progressive”?

Further, the Indo-Chinese “collaboration to compete” is already in place in various international and regional trade, business and political forums, both struggling against the protectionist west and claiming low labour and environment standards as their comparative advantages. Even though global capital on the whole – western and indigenous capital and multi-nationals – is effectively using these advantages for its expansion, its identitarian heterogeneous configuration forces a competition that requires cornering of each other through shifting coalitions.

With regard to the Sino-India cooperation, three points are very important. Firstly, its political manifestation need not exactly pattern with the economic. In fact, all international alliances and cooperation in the phase of neoliberalism tendentially seek to ‘depoliticise’ the economic management. Are we not used to frequent statements from businessmen and politicians that call for not mixing ‘national’, ‘pragmatic’ economic interests with politics? However, “depoliticization is highly political” – it puts the economic management beyond the effects of political uncertainties that mar political systems today, especially democracy. In effect, this means putting economic instruments beyond the possibility of democratic control, beyond any reciprocal effects of the social fallouts of capitalist competition and collaboration. (2) There is a high probability that we will see political and border conflicts between India and China intensifying with the increasing economic cooperation. In fact, the reformist China has been very efficient in depoliticising its international relations and also its labour market, by carving a near-ideal panopticon (Bentham’s “confinement house”) out of the Chinese society, as “mechanism of discipline, secure management of a multitude and extraction of labour”. (3). Only a rampant depoliticization of all economic relations – i.e., by forcing labour to surrender – China could achieve its “global rise”. The said Indo-China cooperation is developing in this context.

Secondly, any global intervention on the basis of this cooperation will be more of a competitive-collaborative character designed to redistribute the booties gained in the areas where they compete, or more exactly for the “division of the rest of the world”, left by the “great powers”. They collaborate to compete, and their collaboration in the energy sector, where cartelisation is an inherent tendency, is exactly of this nature.

If we see counter-hegemony in India-China partnership, can we call the formation of OPEC as progressive, or anti-imperialist? OPEC was constituted by five oil-producing countries in 1960 to stabilise their own income against the earlier system of royalty arbitrarily fixed by the oil concessions. “The royalty rates …were exclusively geared to the extent of political domination of international oil companies and their governments with respect to this particular oil region.” (4) OPEC was formed as a collective body of rentiers to negotiate with Occidental companies, linking the oil rent system to oil price. However, at the time some did call it anti-imperialist, but considering its relationship with the non-OPEC ‘third world’ it hardly seems so. The collaboration of the OPEC countries individually and collectively with the global hegemony has been quite pronounced except over division of oil income, which is more like a conflict between landlords and capitalists, or an intra-capitalist class conflict, as there are local oil companies too. Further, there is hardly any political unanimity within OPEC except on oil dealings.

Similarly, the Sino-Indian collaboration internationally will be geared towards regions and sectors where they are unable to compete individually, and this collaboration does not require any mutual ‘political’ understanding, except a level of trust required for any business relationship. And, of course, a ‘political’ collaboration is required to the extent that it facilitates their collaborative business to fructify.

It is here that the last and most important aspect or implication of the ‘outward-oriented’ Sino-Indian relationship resides. The fruitfulness of this relationship as a rule will be determined by and will lead to an intensified intervention in the regions of this collaborative landing. It is nothing but chimera to imagine a peaceful Asia under the unlikely leadership of China and India. Particularly in the energy sector, the conflict between the ‘Indo-China nexus’ and OPEC will become more direct and intensive, which will be similar to the conflict between the West and OPEC, that of between ‘oil rentiers’ and oil companies. Nothing can prevent India and China, not even the ideology of “Asian Continentalism”, from collaborating with the West on the basis of this commonality of business interests, which does not take much time in getting politically translated into either active collaborationism or neutrality, or even armed conflicts (when intra-class conflicts intensify).

In some regions, the interventionist collaboration between India and China is already politically visible. In Sudan and other African oilfields, Chinese and Indian businesses have been remarkably coordinating with highly conflicting local hegemonies to stabilise their own interests, tempering and tampering the global aid and ‘humanitarian’ regime for these ravaged economies to their advantage. Further, these interventions are not totally devoid of militaristic component, as India (and China, too) has been involved in training local military personnel and supplying arms. In sharply fragmented and divided societies such interventions cannot have any other purpose but “neo-colonial”.

In South Asia, where India knows that any slackening on its part in any field can give the Chinese a tremendous advantage, and China is aware of the near impossibility of shaking off the Indian hegemonic influence on the region, the collaboration between them acquires a different level of intensity. Both require stabilising local polities and curbing any ‘nationalist’ hostilities for safe intrusion and spreading. More important in the region is to facilitate market integration and capital flow, for which infrastructure too should be provided for. China and India are aware of the futility of trying to negate each other in the region. Any attempt to shutting off each other is bound to fail and result into greater instability, as both have groomed their political agencies in all the regional societies for many years now.

Moreover, the nature of capitalist regulation from the firm level to the industry level, further up to the economy and to the global level has changed. It has transformed the character of “the division of the world between capitalist associations and great powers”. The corporate structure has intensified competition within a firm among diverse stakeholders and shareholders for greater share in profit. The same struggle is every moment transformed into greater collaboration that constitutes the firm. Similarly the “division of the world” is increasingly fluidised. Particular (national) capitals compete for attracting more and more profit, but they need to collaborate to compete with others or even to go on competing among themselves. The presence of India and China in South Asia and elsewhere too has acquired this dimension. They compete with one another, collaborate to compete with others, and collaborate with others to compete with one another. We cannot take one of these moments to be all defining as most analysts do when they analyse the rise of these two “Asian Powers”. Their analysis on the basis of one set of events is always negated by another, and they find India’s alliances with competitive powers contradictory.

Notes:

(1) Sidney Pollard (1992), Peaceful Conquest: The Industrialization of Europe, 1760-1970, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

(2) Peter Burnham (2000), “Globalization, Depoliticization and ‘Modern’ Economic Management”, in Werner Bonefeld & Kosmos Psychopedis (ed.), The Politics of Change: Globalization, Ideology and Critique, Palgrave, New York.

(3) Massimo de Angelis (2002), “Hayek, Bentham and the Global Work Machine”, in Ana C Dinerstein & Michael Neary (ed.), The Labour Debate: An Investigation into the Theory and Reality of Capitalist Work, Ashgate, Hampshire.

(4) Cyrus Bina (1985), The Economics of the Oil Crisis: Theories of Oil Crisis, Oil Rent and Internationalization of Capital in the Oil Industry, Merlin Press, London.

The Hindu’s editorial: "One party, two visions" (Jan 21, 2006)


Letter to the editor

Your editorial, One party, two visions (January 21), is indulgence in appearances, characteristic of much of mainstream journalism today. It ignores the inherent unity that apparent “oppositions” entail in the political market and competition. The ideal of a two-party (or even multi-party) system is nurtured to structure and limit political choices in a bourgeois system, transforming the electorate from a referee in the match to a football. Political parties, irrespective of their political ideologies, come to nurture the same within themselves, too. Like a firm in a commodity economy, their success depends on how many incarnations (choices) they themselves can take, even if it means to change just the colour of the packaging. BJP has been remarkably successful in this regard – earlier, if it was Vajpayee vs Advani, today it is Advani vs Singh. The extent of its success is evident from the fact that even The Hindu’s sensible journalism has been mesmerised.

The published version: Changing the packaging (January 23 2006)

An early comment on ADVANI’S JINNAH DRAMA (June 2005)

BBC asked – Should the world trust Iran?


Recently, BBC posted a question for readers’ comments – Should the world trust Iran?

As an answer, I posted the following alternative questions for the BBC readers’ to ponder upon (I don’t know whether they will publish it or not):

“Why is it that we never ask such questions in ‘reverse’ whenever it comes to the ‘Orient’ – in this case, for example, should Iran trust the world? The ‘oriental’, ‘southern’ countries, who represent the majority world population too can have their own interests to preserve, considering that they have more responsibilities. Why do we limit “the world” to a few ‘hegemonies’ and dub their psychotic fear of “others” or their “obsessional neurosis”, as Freud would say, as the concern for ‘international security’?”

However, many of us do know the answers, don’t we? This is the way hegemonic ideologies rationalise the hegemonies. Questions determine the way we answer them, and the function of mass media, and all other educational ‘institutions’, is to school us in this mode of problem solving – don’t go beyond what is asked, as anything “beyond” is irrelevant, incoherent, and hence unpublishable.

The 12-point Agreement and the Future of Democracy in Nepal


Pratyush Chandra

ML INTERNATIONAL NEWSLETTER (JANUARY-FEBRUARY, 2006)

Four Phases of the Democratic Movement in Nepal

The present-day Nepalese democratic movement has perhaps entered its fourth phase now. The first ended with its partial victory in 1990, with the accommodation of the “democrats” in the power structure, which eventually frustrated the movement’s vigour, alienating its committed vanguards and grassroots. It was also at that moment that the Nepalese “long march” started to re-base the people’s movement among the people – peasantry, working class and other downtrodden sections – and look for the occasion to rise again as a contra-power rather than being glued to the old power structure, becoming its agency for manipulating ‘demos’ to preserve the ‘cracy’. This second phase saw mobilisation and dispersal of the movement beyond a few urban centres. The cry for democracy – for “self-determination” – reached hitherto untouched zones of the society. It is not strange that Mao’s model of strategy-formulation – of re-building the democratic movement from below in peasant societies like those in Nepal formed the guidelines for the revolutionaries there. This phase ended with the announcement of the ‘people’s war’ beaconing a new phase, of the rise of dual power.

The history of the third phase is well accounted in two recent collections – of the reports by Li Onesto (1), and of Baburam Bhattarai’s writings (2). They provide graphic descriptions of the fast-changing Nepalese polity embedded in the ever-dynamic post-cold war international political economy. Bhattarai’s works, especially, reflect the Maoist revolutionaries’ ability to dialectically cope up with the unfolding of the multivariate reality that always reveals itself in a piecemeal manner, never in totality. A historicist may find the Maoist strategies and tactics as frequently shifting. This is true for most of the political analysts – journalistic or serious. They are, however, ignorant of the pains of a revolutionary movement that bases itself on a continuous critique of international capitalism, its subordinate political economic structures and their diverse manifestations in deeds rather than simply in words. The movement itself is the epitome of this multi-level critique.

The Maoist’s ability to establish and flourish as the counter-power against the local state formation nurtured by global imperialism has perhaps heralded the fourth phase in the new democratic transformation in Nepal. The consistency and strength of the Nepalese revolutionaries, have rendered a fatal blow to the corporatist-monarchist-landlordist alliance with petty-bourgeois parliamentarism. In a way, this alliance was sponsored and nourished by imperialists to gain a decisive control over the region. India’s decision not to renew the 1978 treaties on trade and transit rights in 1989, leading to a major strangulation of the Nepalese economy, enforced this ‘nationalist’ compromise in 1990. It allowed the imperialists to check the arbitrariness of absolutism and radicalisation of the democratic movement, and gear up the local political economic arrangements in their own favour. However, the energy that was released in this process could not be fully confined in this official arrangement. On the contrary, as mentioned earlier, it allowed the radicals a freehand to reorient the democracy movement towards the oppressed masses independent of wavering petty bourgeois democrats, afraid of any drastic structural transformation. A decade long success of this grassroots movement today seems to have reoriented the aspirations of the Nepalese petty-bourgeoisie too forcing the “democratic” parties to form an alliance with the revolutionaries against “the autocratic monarchy”. The 12-point agreement between the Maoists and seven parliamentary parties, along with the unilateral ceasefire by the revolutionaries, perhaps, marks the beginning of the new, fourth phase in the Nepalese democratic struggle, in the Nepalese struggle for self-determination.

The 12-Point Agreement and The Success of People’s War

The text of the agreement shows the willingness of the democrats – both parliamentarian and revolutionary – to rethink their respective strategy to save the coordination achieved so far. Although it is hard to prognosticate all the implications of this agreement, the contradictory aspirations are clearly reflected in the text. The unwillingness of the moderates to go beyond constitutional monarchy is reflected in the criticism of “autocratic monarchy”, instead of monarchy itself. On the other hand, the agreement talks about absolute democracy, too. Only time will determine where this Cartesian unification of spirits of ‘democracy’ will lead. However, the major breakthroughs are the refiguring of the issue of “constituent assembly” on the agenda for the ‘unified’ people’s movement, with that of sweeping away the ‘royalty’ of the Nepalese armed forces (however, the latter is not clearly spelt out) (3). Independent statements from the revolutionary leaders indicate that they are willing to rethink their stand on “constitutional monarchy”, if a constituent assembly is formed.

The post-agreement political scenario may perhaps seem quite unclear, but it will be wrong to make a mechanical interpretation of it. Some “radical” outsiders want to think that the Maoists are using the agreement simply as a tactic, as such compromises go against the spirit of revolution. However, one must realise the truth of Mao’s pronouncement that the complete victory of revolution will take hundreds of years, and a revolutionary force needs to be prepared for all eventualities in “the process of continuous revolution and counter-revolution”, and it cannot rely on formulas. The Nepalese revolutionaries’ understanding on “relationship between the Party, Army, State and the People” is significantly based on the basic idea of “the rights of self-determination of the masses” (4). Throughout the history of people’s war, they have built on coordinating with various ‘autonomous’ movements even if they have not frequently been conscious of it. There have been occasions where they have faltered, but have readily rechecked themselves. Hence, identifying only the militarist aspect of people’s war in Nepal is reducing its history, experience and logic to nought, to mere formulas derived from “teachings” and “preaching”, themselves generalisations of past experiences. It amounts to making people’s war and sacrifices goals in themselves, against their function to unleash the people’s “creativity and energy, making them the new rulers with more responsibilities” (5).

The documents of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) along with Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai’s remarks on the situation in both their statements and interviews reveal their distinct “pessimism of intellect, optimism of will” regarding the Nepalese situation. Bhattarai in his recent interview clearly stated the constraints in which the Maoists are operating:

“We are not attempting a final military victory right now, but are working for a negotiated political settlement either directly for a democratic republic or for the election to a constituent assembly. That is basically for two reasons. First, given the vacillation of a large section of the urban and rural middle classes toward revolutionary change, we find it prudent to go through the substage of a democratic republic. Second, due to the sensitive geopolitical setting of the country sandwiched between the two huge states of India and China, and both hostile to a revolutionary change we feel constrained to settle for a compromise solution acceptable to all.”(6)

The ability of the Nepalese revolutionaries to transcend any metaphysical idealisation of particular practice distinguishes them from other revolutionary movements and insurgency, and brings them closer to the temperament of Mao and his comrades, despite the vast difference in the national and international scenario in which they are operating. Whatever be the future results, which are not dependent on the Nepalese revolutionaries but, as noted by Bhattarai, on the amalgam of international and national factors, they have created a crisis of legitimation for the monarchy, alienated its middle class support-base gathered during its alliance with parliamentary forces, and brought the exploited and oppressed labouring classes to the centre-stage. It is clear that any future political arrangement will have to deal with the alternative participatory institutions and popular aspirations that they have helped in generating during the decade of people’s war.

Global Imperialism and Democracy in Nepal

The international interventionist forces are afraid of the evolving pattern out of the present fluidity in the Nepalese situation. India, especially, is deeply worried. It came to its senses immediately after its ambitious and phoney embargo in the aftermath of the “February coup”, after having been chastised by its own corporatist interests in Nepal. Although it says it has still not restarted supplying arms to Nepal, it admits of providing military training to the Nepalese army. In fact, it is desperately using all tactics to keep the monarchy in the scene. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran during his visit to Nepal explicitly stated on December 13 that the “constitutional forces [monarchy and political parties] should be working together… This is our view” (7).

Recently, China has been supplying arms to the Nepalese monarchy. One may suspect that there might be evolving an understanding between India and China, in this regard, to complement each other. Since the former is constrained by the domestic left forces who are against re-supplying arms to Nepal, however allowing it to train the RNA personnel, China can take over the complementary role. Both countries are not comfortable with the elimination of the institution of monarchy, and, as Shyam Saran puts, “to the extent that our objectives are the same, it is better for us to work together” (8).

Other imperialist interests – the UK and US are largely involved through India. On the other hand, the EU’s desire to become an independent pole of international relations (despite its militarist irresolution) motivated it to applaud the revolutionaries’ unilateral ceasefire and the 12-point agreement, and to call upon Gyanendra to reciprocate the ceasefire.

In this context of consensus and division among the imperialist forces globally, the democratic tasks in Nepal become furthermore complicated. This context proves decisive at least with regard to the mobilisation of the wavering democrats. The extent of the success of the democratic movement depends on the counter-balancing of this imperialist opinion and interventionism by the internal cohesion among working classes, semi-proletarians and petty bourgeoisie. This cohesion seems to have evolved to some extent, but it needs to be sustained and promoted consistently. Another factor that can help in disarming the imperialist support to monarchy is the anti-imperialist mobilisation in the interventionist countries, especially India.

References:

(1) Li Onesto, Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal, Pluto Press, 2005

(2) Baburam Bhattarai, Monarchy Vs. Democracy: The Epic Fight in Nepal, Samkaleen Teesari Duniya, New Delhi, 2005

(3) Parties, Maoists announce 12-pt agreement, Kathmandu Post, November 22 2005

(4) Present Situation and Our Historical Task, Adopted by Central Committee Meeting of CPN (Maoist) in June 2003
(5) Parvati, People’s Power in Nepal, Monthly Review, Vol 56 No 6, November 2005

(6) Maoists eye multiparty democracy, Interview with Baburam Bhattarai, Washington Times, July 30 2005

(7) Media Interaction by Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran in Kathmandu, Nepal on December 13 2005, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

(8) Ibid