Archive | May 4th, 2020

المعارضة و الثورة

By: Maan Saleh


المعارضة الوطنية الحقيقية هي المعارضة التي تعمل على حصار السلطة و إظهار ممارساتها بشكل مسؤول و ليس بهدف تقويضها ، و إدارة معركتها مع السلطة تكون على قاعدة الاختلاف الدائم معها و ليس العداء الدائم لها ، و الديمومة هنا لا تعني رفض وجود توافقات بين المعارضة و السلطة ، بل تعني ضرورة وجود مسافة تحول دون التماهي بين المعارضة و السلطة .
إن تقويض السلطة في بعض المجتمعات التي تمتلك خصوصيات في تركيبتها و بنيتها وخاصة ما يتعلق بتدني مستويات الوعي و بالتنوع الطائفي و الإثني تكون مخاطرها أكبر بكثير من فوائدها لأنها تكون مفتوحة على الفوضى و خاصة في ظل الأنظمة الشمولية و الأمنية .
إن الوعي و المسؤولية التي يجب أن تتحلى بهما المعارضة الوطنية هما صمام الأمان لعملية التغيير الهادئ و الواعي و الطويل الأمد ، و عندما تقع المعارضة في مصيدة العداء للسلطة ( و هو الفخ الذي تنصبه السلطة للمعارضة عادة ) و إن كان تحت عناوين ثورية براقة هو دليل على عدم النضوج الفكري لهذه المعارضة ، و دليل على لهاثها و استعجالها للوصول الى السلطة بأي ثمن من الأثمان ، و في هذه الحالة تمثل الوجه الآخر للسلطة التي تعمل على تقويضها .
الحلم الثوري يمكن له أن يلعب دوراً مزدوجاً متناقضاً في نتائجه ، في طرفه الأول يلعب دور الحافز الى التغيير ، و في طرفه الآخر يشكل حافزاً الى التدمير ، و الموازنة بين الحافزين هو دور النخب الطليعية ، و في حال غياب هذه النخب تكون الساحة مفتوحة على مصراعيها لفوضى التدمير ، و تتحول القوى الثورية الى عالة و عثرة حقيقية في وجه التغيير ، و تتحول الى قوى مندفعة تتحكم بها الأحقاد و الغرائز القطيعية . و تنحرف عن الهدف الحقيقي الذي كانت تسعى لتحقيقه لتتوزع الى مجموعات لا تجيد سوى التدمير المادي او المعنوي أو كليهما ، و تقع فريسة بين يدي أصحاب المصالح و الطموحات السياسية .
إن المعارضة في جوهرها فعل ” بناء و تغيير ” كمتلازمة لا يمكن فك عراها تحت أي عنوان إن كان عقائدياً او ايديولوجياً ، و الثورة التي تضل عن هذا الطريق تفقد مشروعيتها و تفقد شرف التسمية .
في نظري إن المعارضة دائماً تتحمل المسؤولية الأخلاقية بشكل أكبر من الانظمة أو السلطات التي تعارضها وظيفتها تفرض أن تقدم النموذج الأمثل ، و في حال انتفاء هذه المسؤولية الأخلاقية تنتفي حجة و أسباب وجودها . و المعارضات التي تلقي المسؤوليات الأخلاقية على الأنظمة لتتبرأ من مسؤولياتها تكون أسوأ من تلك الأنظمة .

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Warnings of ‘Suspension of Democracy’ in New York as State Officials Weigh Removing Sanders From Primary Ballot

“We think this is a power play on the part of the governor.”

byEoin Higgins,

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to the media after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to the media after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami. (Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

New York state election officials are poised to remove Sen. Bernie Sanders from the ballot in June’s primary election, a move that would deny the Vermont lawmaker’s supporters the chance to cast a vote for him as president and would harm his chances of using his delegate count to influence the party’s direction and push for reforms.

“Hard to imagine a pettier decision more perfectly calibrated to infuriate and depress younger and progressive voters,” tweeted Jewish Currents editor David Klion. 

As HuffPost‘s Daniel Marans reported Tuesday, Board of Elections co-chair Douglas Kellner and commissioner Andrew Spano, both Democrats, will meet Wednesday to decide on whether or not to remove Sanders’ name from the ballot. Kellner believes that a provision in the 2019-2020 budget saying the board “may” remove a candidate from the ballot if they make clear they are no longer seeking the office in question rquires Sanders’ removal. 

Under Kellner’s interpretation of the statute, Sanders, who suspended his campaign on April 8, falls under that category. 

“It’s not very controversial that Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign,” Kellner told HuffPost. “I anticipate that we will be removing him.”

Such a decision by Kellner and Spano, under the statute, would have to be unanimous—both men would have to agree.

Progressives in New York had been anticipating such a move after Gov. Andrew Cuomo postponed the state’s election due to the coronavirus outbreak and pushed for the inclusion of the language in the bill.

“We think this is a power play on the part of the governor who wants to control the entire delegation,” said New York activist George Albro.

A letter (pdf) from a number of advocacy groups in the state said that removing Sanders from the ballot would constitute a “suspension of democracy” and warned that disenfranchising the Vermont senator’s New York supporters was not a path to unity. 

“We urge you to prioritize saving lives and defeating Donald Trump over the possible implementation of this clause,” the groups wrote. “Cancelling the presidential primary is not the right way to address our current challenges.”

As HuffPost explained, removing Sanders from the ballot would cut off the ability of the senator and his supporters to influence the party platform due to New York’s delegate count:

When Sanders withdrew from the primary earlier this month, he promised to remain on the ballot in states that had yet to cast votes to maximize his influence over the Democratic Party platform and nominating rules. (He endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee, a few days after dropping out.)

Sanders partisans are hoping, for example, to make permanent a rule change in effect in the 2020 cycle that bars the party officials known as “superdelegates” from backing a presidential candidate on the first convention ballot that differs from the candidate their state’s voters chose in a primary election or caucus. 

In an April 15 letter (pdf) aimed at staving off the move by the board to take Sanders off the ballot, New York candidates for delegates to the convention backing Sanders urged the state not exercise the authority in the budget line. 

“To cancel the presidential primary would be an affront to democracy, to the efforts and dedication of our delegate candidates, and to common decency and fairness,” the group wrote. 

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Mexico COVID-19: UN Calls for Equitable Access to Vaccines

A person in a wheelchair asks for coins on the streets this Monday, one month after the mandatory quarantine for the COVID-19 virus, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. April 20, 2020.

The UN approved a resolution to ensure that essential inputs are distributed in a fair manner.

A resolution adopted on Monday by the United Nations General Assembly seeks to ensure equal access to vaccines, medicines and medical equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

RELATED:  8 Nations Address Letter to UN Chief Urging Sanctions Be Lifted

The Government of Mexico submitted resolution 74/247 with the aim of ensuring that the essential inputs in the battle against the new coronavirus are distributed in a fair and equitable manner.

The 193 member countries of the UN ratified the resolution, proposed by Mexico president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, before the Extraordinary SuMmmit of G20 Leaders, held on March 26. 

The resolution is called Strengthening International Scientific Cooperation to Combat Covid-19 and Intensifying Coordination.

Misión de México ONU@MexOnu

🇲🇽

The world came together”virtually” tonight by adopting resolution 74/247 to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to deal with COVID-19. It has been an honor for Mexico to lead this effort along with 179 co-sponsoring countries #UNitedAgainstCOVID19

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The legal document encourages member countries to increase funding for vaccine research.

It also calls for an end to speculation, and to stop hiding or limiting access to products that are essential to contain the pandemic.

“This is a historic resolution,” Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said recently on his Twitter account.

He also congratulated “Ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente and the Mexican mission to the UN.

For Mexico, resolution 74/247 is the most voted resoluti

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U.S.’Coronavirus Did Not Come out of a Laboratory’, WHO Holds

Laboratory workers at the Veterinary Specialist Institute, Nis, Serbia, April 7, 2020.

The UN agency insists that “we must focus on facts” and not on conspiracy theories.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Tuesday denied that the coronavirus was created in a laboratory and clarified that the pathogen originated in animals.

RELATED: WHO Asks Govts to Review COVID-19 Statistics ASAP

“All the evidence we have suggests that the virus was of animal origin and did not undergo genetic manipulation,” the WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.

“Many researchers have analyzed the genetic characteristics of the virus and have found no indications supporting the idea that it was built in a laboratory… Every day we are not only fighting the pandemic but also the infodemic,” she added.

The WHO clarified that the natural reservoir of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was bats. From these mammals, it came to an “intermediate” species from which the virus jumped into humans.

It has been talked about insistently that this intermediate animal was the pangolin, but scientists have not yet concluded their investigations.

“Everything points to its animal origin and that it was neither manipulated nor built in a laboratory… This is the position of the WHO as a science-based organization,” Chaib insisted.​​​​​​​

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · Apr 21, 2020

I’ve had great “ratings” my whole life, there’s nothing unusual about that for me. The White House News Conference ratings are “through the roof”(Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale , @nytimes) but I don’t care about that. I care about going around the Fake News to the PEOPLE!

Independent_lefty@independent_r21

I care about the 42,000 families who are grieving loved ones in a country with vacant leadership @ the top. I can’t imagine the pain they are feeling & don’t think that Trump’s COVID reality show helps. Donald is the number one reason that we lead the world in infections &deaths.

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“When a new virus appears, it is usual to see conspiracy theories about its origin spread,” the WHO spokeswoman recalled.

The first hints that the SARS-CoV-2 emerged from the Wuhan’s Institute of Virology were released by the U.S. government. On April 16, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the virus came out of a laboratory.

Although he did not present evidence to support his claims, the rumor has been echoed by many media and social networks.

“We must focus on facts and not on fear… Part of the falsehoods appearing in the media and on social platforms have to do with spurious theories,” Chaib insisted.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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Covid 19 and Modi’s Lockdown: Maximum Chaos, Minimum Planning

corona-19
– Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, CPIML

Nearly three weeks since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the shadow of the killer virus continues to loom larger and larger. China, the initial epicenter of the outbreak, has brought it under control, but the havoc is getting worse in large parts of Europe and America, with the death toll jumping uncontrollably in countries like Italy and Spain. And lately India and Pakistan too have begun to experience a worrying surge in cases.

China was initially a bit slow to respond to the gravity of the outbreak, and there were reportedly also attempts to cover it up. But once the dimensions of the devastation emerged more clearly, China tackled things on a war-footing and managed to stop the outbreak from spreading beyond Wuhan. The rest of the world clearly had more time to prepare, but with a few exceptions, most  countries, including almost the whole of Europe and America, and worrisomely for us, India, have hardly shown any serious level of preparedness.

With no vaccine or specific treatment available yet for this newly identified virus strain, the main point was to try and prevent the outbreak and slow it down by all means. The early preventive approach understandably revolved around effective quarantining of people coming from China and other affected countries, and extensive testing of people suspected of having contracted the virus. This is the strategy that seems to have worked in countries like Taiwan, Singapore or South Korea.

But we know at the end of February India was busy with Trump’s visit, and Delhi was reeling for days under targeted anti-Muslim violence with shocking levels of complicity of the police. And Trump himself was telling the world how America was in firm control and the stock market was looking good! We now also know there was no effective monitoring or quarantining of passengers who arrived from major Corona-affected countries till early March. In terms of testing, we are still perhaps the most under-tested in the world which largely explains why the number of identified cases is still relatively low.

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Indeed, the medical community is having to work among amidst acute shortages of basic protective equipment, not to speak of the enormous infrastructural crisis with negligible availability of ICU beds and ventilators for serious patients. Shockingly enough, even as our healthcare personnel dealing with Covid-19 patients lack something as basic as masks, the government signed a Rs 880 crore contract with Israel to procure 16,479 LMGs for India’s frontline troops right in the midst of this public health emergency. The belated sanction of Rs 15,000 crore for the Corona medical mission does not even match the sum the government is spending to redesign the Central Vista area in New Delhi from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.

With little emphasis on timely preventive measures and expansion of testing and treatment facilities, the Modi government’s response has come to rely almost entirely on the coercive strategy of complete countrywide lockdown. Having missed the bus of early prevention, the lockdown may well have become essential, but the way government announced it with no time to prepare and triggering all-round panic, and is now cruelly enforcing it without any plan to mitigate the enormous human suffering it has caused among the poor and daily wage earners, has compounded the crisis manifold.

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Families of migrant workers marching across India to head home to escape being stuck without work, income and even food or any other sustenance, facing constant police harassment on the way, have become the most defining image of lockdown. Reports of malnourished and ailing people succumbing to death because of lack of food and medicine – like 11-year-old Rakesh Kumar from the most impoverished Musahar community who died in Bihar’s Ara on the third morning of the lockdown – have already started coming in. The fear that this cruel and unplanned lockdown will take a much bigger toll than the Covid-19 pandemic is very real.

The two addresses by Prime Minister Narendra Modi only helped trigger panic without giving us any clue as to how the government proposes to handle this enormous challenge. On the contrary, his call to the people to come out on their ‘balconies’ and ‘windows’ to clap and clang plates to thank the medical community and others running essential services made a complete mockery of all the ‘social distancing’ advice as people took out marches, led in some cases by over-enthusiastic officials heading district level administration. Meanwhile, the formidable IT Cell of the Sangh-BJP dispensation is working overtime to spread fake news and bigoted ideas and superstitious beliefs to turn the Corona crisis into a propaganda campaign for the Modi regime.

effect

The relief package finally announced by the Finance Minister is a classic case of statistical jugglery without even addressing the crucial question of assured delivery of food and other essential supplies for India’s poor and vulnerable people. A minor increase in MGNREGA wages means nothing in the middle of a lockdown. Instead of community kitchens, mass shelters, waivers of sundry rents and fees and physical provision of essential supplies that could provide immediate succour to the people, the package mostly promised bank transfers that can only remain inaccessible to many during the lockdown.

While an early end of the Covid-19 pandemic is still not in sight for India as well as large parts of the world, the staggering human cost of the lockdown and the concomitant disruption, in economic and deeper structural terms, is unfathomable at the moment. The pandemic has posed an enormous question mark before the dominant trajectory and pattern of globalization and privatization. This is clearly a pandemic that has spread along the routes of global capital flow and connectivity – the more a country or city is integrated with the global capitalist order the harder has it been hit. While industrial, profit-driven corporate food production, land-grab and systematic destruction of forests has led to the release and spread of pathogens which were previously contained by long-evolved forest ecologies, rampant commercialization of healthcare and more broadly the multipronged evisceration of all forms of social provision has severely undermined our ability to cope with this disaster.

covid19

Corona has also glaringly exposed the fundamental social and political contradictions of our times. While ‘social distancing’ (which should actually be called physical distancing) is now evidently the only way out of the crisis, it is equally evident that the way it is being enforced by far-right neoliberal governments in India and elsewhere in the world is fundamentally incompatible with the existing living and working conditions of the working people. Existing stark inequalities will only be further deepened as the poor and deprived sections of population bear the social, economic and physical brunt of the pandemic.

Also, while rabidly rightwing and racist regimes in Europe and America are not hesitating to yet again invoke xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-migrant sentiments (in India we can see all this along with our very own patterns of social divide rooted in caste-class hierarchy and ethno-lingual divisions), the dystopian world is desperately crying out for the warmth of human solidarity at this apocalyptic hour. Never since the days of the Second World War perhaps has the world been faced with such a stark choice as today, the choice between the wellbeing of the people and the profit-hungry ways of global capital, between humanity and racism, between life and death.

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Tamil Nadu Round Up

tamilnadu

Astate cadre convention of the party on 20 October at Guduvanchery (Chennai – Kanchipuram) decided to undertake a campaign to ‘Go to the Masses’ and also passed a set of resolutions for struggle. It was decided to organise ‘People’s Rights Rallies’ in various districts and was aimed at generating initiatives at grassroots level against the anti-people Edappadi Palanisamy led AIADMK government. A booklet explaining CAA-NPR-NRC was published in Tamil and widely distributed.

People’s Rights Rally

The rally at Pudukottai against CAA, NRC and NPR was the first ever major protest in the series. It was held on 18 Dec, the memorial day of our beloved comrade Vinod Mishra. Thousands of people, particularly rural poor, including some from neighbouring districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Karur, Dindigul, Madurai and also Puducherry participated in the rally with great enthusiasm and zeal. The rallyists thundered that they would boycott NPR and demanded revocation of CAA and NRC. Similar protest rallies and demonstrations were also held at Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Villupuram, Chennai – Kanchipuram, Cuddalore, Salem, Kumarapalayam (Namakkal) and Coimbatore. Combined mobilisation of eight districts and Pudukottai surpassed – in fact, it was more than doubled – all our previous records in the recent past in the state. Cuddalore – Unleashing Initiatives

The rally at Virudhachalam in Cuddalore district on 12 December 2019 was quite encouraging because there was not much of activity over there for more than two years. The campaign to go to the grassroots, with people’s issues and with a task of creating awareness on CAA-NRC-NPR, kindled and unleashed grassroot initiatives. Rural poor marched to the Sub-Collector’s office defying prohibitory orders by the Edappadi Palanisamy led AIADMK government. Moreover, the campaign also became an inspiration and various other demonstrations also sprang up on basic issues of the people in the run up to the demonstration on 12th. We have also won a Panchayat Ward Member seat in the district.

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Carrying the Panchami Jyothi – The Struggle for Panchami Land

Chennai – Kanchi districts organised mass protests at Guduvancherry on 15th Dec. demanding restoration of Panchami land to Dalits by enacting a special legislation in the assembly. Housing for unorganised workers also was another major demand. The Panchami Jyothi, carried from Thiruporur, the land of struggle for Panchami land, where a protestor became a martyr as police opened fire, was handed over to youth leaders by Com Kavita Krishnan, the Politbureau member of the party. The same was to be handed over to the party GS Comrade Dipankar at Pudukottai on 18 Dec. In addition to organising an independent campaign along with joint ones, we held a demonstration on 11th March as a part of state call to observe a Protest Day against Modi’s attack on rights of citizenship.

Coimbatore: People’s Rights Convention – Broadening Horizons

On the same day, 15 Dec, a ‘People’s Rights Convention’ was held at Coimbatore. The people struggling for housing rights and belonged to our Slum dwellers organisation joined in good strength. We could also witness workers from various areas and categories, including loading and unloading workers of Civil Supplies Corporation, joining in good numbers. The convention also decided to intensify struggles of sanitation workers and also slum dwellers. Resolutions were also passed against privatisation of water supply system to private players, mainly the MNC, Suez.

Subsequent to the convention, sanitation workers meetings were organised in various localities covering more than 1000 workers. The spontaneous two days strike and agitation on 9th March against the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation on the issue of regularisation and unrealistic reservation in appointment of sanitation workers was jointly led by us, CITU and other Dalit organisations. The Collector and the Municipal administration agreed to increase wages to Rs. 550 per day, 16500 per month, from the present wages of Rs — per day, no victimisations, forwarding a recommendation to state government regularise contract sanitation workers, etc., but is yet to give the same in writing.

Our Slum Dwellers organisation in the city has not only fought for demands of housing pattas and sites but also expressed support to struggling Shaheen Baghs of Coimbatore. Recently, slum dwellers thwarted an attempt by the administration for eviction in several slums, including the ones at Kumarasamy Colony, etc. The recent struggle against disconnection of electric power to slums is also very significant.

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Kanyakumari – Conflict with Communal Fascists

Kanyakumari witnessed a massive demonstration on 16 Dec. with an overwhelming presence of women, construction workers and various other sections of the unorganised workforce. The demonstration organised in the midst of Panchayat elections was well attended. The demonstration raised several basic issues of people, including housing, in addition to their opposition to CAA-NRC and NPR. We have also won a Panchayat Ward member. Our intervention in the struggle against CAA-NRC-NPR is quite significant because our comrades played an active role in the protests that attracted thousands of minorities and also Hindus. This is one district where Sanghis are actively against us because of our anti-fascist thrust and have also filed complaints against us.

Tirunelveli – Revival of Beedi Workers Struggle

Beedi workers, construction workers, washermen and Loading and Unloading workers of Civil Supplies Corporation marched on the streets of Tirunelveli on 17 Dec. demanding a minimum wage of Rs 1000 per day, abolition of middle-men – contract system, etc. Good number of women, mainly Muslim workers, also joined the protest. This is the district where we lost our Comrade Mariappan some years back in the course of struggles of washermen in the district. Our beedi work is under revival course and was quite evident in the demonstration.

Villupuram – Asserting Agricultural Labour

Agricultural labourers and NREGA workers marched on the streets of Ulundurpettai (Villupuram district) demanding minimum wage, 365 days work and also house sites. They also registered their opposition to Citizenship Amendment Act that questioned the very existence of poor workers. We are consistently active in the district and Villupuram is one of the strongholds of our work among agricultural labourers in addition to Delta districts, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai. The struggle against corruption in government machinery, against the high-handed attitude of police machinery, etc., has been a regular component of our work here.

Salem: Demanding Ownership Rights

In Salem, our work among slum dwellers, particularly among those residing in houses of Slum Clearance Board demanding ownership has assumed significance, next to our consistent struggles and a temporary victory regarding 8-lane corridor. The government says that they have mortgaged all houses under Slum Clearance Board to the World Bank and they can get it back only if they repay the loans to World Bank. Despite the willingness of the people to pay some money and get ownership rights, in spite of willingness on the part of local administration to do the same, the central and state governments that mortgaged the houses are not willing to give ownership rights to the dwellers who reside there for more than a decade. Slum Dwellers held a massive demonstration on 23 Dec defying prohibitory orders in force. We also have significant presence among powerloom workers, construction workers and such other unorganised workforce in the district, in addition to our influence among small farmers under AIKM.

Powerloom Workers and Housing Issue

But for bonus and wage issues in powerloom centres, Kumarapalayam and Pallipalayam, no organisation is capable enough to organise powerloom workers. But, it was surprising to witness more than 500 workers demonstrating under the banner of DPLU-AICCTU-CPIML demanding housing on 24 Dec. Democratic Powerloom Labour Union (DPLU) affiliated to AICCTU, operating in powerloom workers belt of Salem, Namakkal and Erode is well known for its militant struggles since 80s, well before the present leaders joined the workforce. The movement has been consistently active since then. In the present situation, it is heartening to watch all those generations of leaders – past and present – coming together to reclaim and uphold the banner, DPLU which is inseparably integrated with the politics of CPIML and AICCTU.

We could also witness various cross sections of people, including minorities and various political forces, mobilised at the call of our organisation against the draconian citizenship amendment act for a demonstration on 9th Feb at Pallipalayam.

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Political Assertion of Agricultural Labourers

In Pudukottai, our main workforce is agricultural labourers. We have also won the post, Panchayat President and two ward members in one block in the recently concluded local body elections in January. We held several block level demonstrations, public meetings on people’s issues, in the first round, upto 18 December. Then again, we were engaged in Panchayat elections contesting several posts from Ward members to Panchayat Presidents in at least 15 places in the district. We are working in more than seven block and are a significant force, at least, in five. Then began our own struggles in March, against CAA-NRC-NPR and also several other interventions, jointly with Left parties on the one hand and also with several other organisations, on the other. We have been actively supporting many Shaheen Baghs in the district.

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Karur – Tex Workers

In Karur, we organised an elaborate campaign and demonstration of Tex workers, construction workers and EB workers demanding increase in wages and housing sites. A Hindi leaflet was also distributed in order to reach out to large section of migrant workers in Karur. There was also a convention against CAA-NRC-NPR addressed by Comrade Sai Balaji, All India Coordinator of Young India and President of AISA along with Comrade Shankar. The convention was preceded by a rally that began with garlanding Periyar statue.

In Dharmapuri, we have expanded our work among construction, EB, hospital and Transport workers recently and also into Pennagaram block. We have a vast network of construction workers in several panchayats in two blocks of the district. We have also established an office in the district recently.

In Dindigul, we are a force in some blocks, including some Panchayats. We put up a brave fight in elections to the President of the Kottanatham Panchayat. Comrades participated in Pudukottai rally with renewed enthusiasm. We are also working among agricultural and rural workers and also among poor farmers.

In Madurai too our work among agricultural labourers and student youth is growing. We have relatively greater following among women in one block. In fact, they form the backbone of our work in the district.

Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai and Thanjavur districts participated in good numbers in Pudukottai rally on 18 Dec. Anti-CAA-NRC-NPR campaign is also taken up in addition to several initiatives on local issues and on issues of construction workers. We contested in some wards and for the Panchayat presidents too. We are also fast expanding our work in Thiruvannamalai district.
We had several joint demonstrations with Left parties and active support to Shaheen Baghs in Madurai, Dindigul, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Vannarpettai – Chennai, etc.

Workers’ Movements

Our participation in 8th January all India Strike was very encouraging. We joined the joint demonstrations in more than 35 – 40 centres which is more than number of centres we participated in the past. We declared Rail Roko at Kanchipuram independently and all our workers were arrested. Similar independent initiatives were there in other places as well. The challenge is to reflect our full participation and higher mobilisation and meaningful presence in joint platforms.

Women’s Struggles

AIPWA recwently reorganised its state convening team. Our recent intervention in women issues, including the issue of the plight of lightning struck women agricultural labourers in Pudukottai, the issue of rape victims, etc., generated support. The state’s presence and size of delegation in the all India conference of AIPWA was also significant.

aisa

Student – Youth Movement

Reorganising our student – youth work began with a cadre meet attended by Com Sandeep Singh, GS of AISA at Trichy in November. The meeting decided to undertake a campaign towards its all India conference at Hyderabad in Jan. A large delegation from the state also attended the conference. Subsequently, many student strikes were organised in many colleges in the state and also many demonstrations against the Sanghi government’s targeted and brutal attack on students of JNU, Jamia and AMU. Student – youth cadre meetings were also held at Karur and Trichy in the presence of Com Sai Balaji, when he was there to attend Makkal Adhikaram’s Convention at Trichy, to initiate Young India Coordination in Tamil Nadu.

rally

Some new initiatives

A recent meeting of concerned friends and progressives decided to float a Tamil version of Insaaf Manch that can address issues of Minorities, Dalits and also can be a platform to protect progressive political and social values of Tamil society, including that of Periyar’s ideas, that are under systematic attack by right wing forces.

Our advocates in Tirunelveli, Chennai, Coimbatore and Trichy played a key role in organising legal community against CAA-NRC-NPR in alliance with other progressive and Left lawyers in the beginning. Later, several demonstrations by various groups of lawyers followed. We took the lead in a lawyers demo with others when 17 Dalits died because of the collapse of the ‘Untouchability Wall’ in Mettupalayam. The State Secretary Com NK Natarajan also visited the spot and met families in grief.

The party is now working towards holding district conferences and state conference on 19-20 May at Villupuram to consolidate the organisationand intensify people’s movements.

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Dr Shyam Bihari Rai

shyam

DR. Shyam Bihari Rai, Director of Grantha Shilpi, matchless in the Hindi publication world for social sciences publications, passed away on 10 March 2020. His life was the epitome of simplicity and resoluteness. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he worked throughout his life on the hazardous task of publishing Hindi translations of books on Marxist thought and ideology. The weakness of the Left movement in Hindi speaking areas is almost an acknowledged fact, but Rai sahib still discharged this responsibility with great courage.

Dr Rai was confident of the existence of readers of serious Hindi literature. The basis of this confidence was his Marxist understanding of social movements. At the time that he entered the world of publication, a somewhat different generation of new readers in Hindi had come to the fore. The social composition of this generation was different from that of the previous generation. This included students from backward sections who had come into higher education as well as a large number of girls, all of whom had a keen desire to read and acquire an understanding of the world. In addition to literature this new group of readers was taking an interest in writing also, as a result of identity discussions and intellectual contact. Rai Saheb started familiarizing these readers with cognitive reflections and writings of high quality. He introduced these readers to the books of Marxist thinkers from all over the world and from all disciplines. He knew these readers and maintained a lively dialogue with them. Through the success of his publications he broke the myth that Marxism holds no attraction for the Hindi speaking intellectual collective.

He was born at Birpur village in Ghazipur District, Uttar Pradesh. The anti-zamindari movement led by the undivided Communist party was going on in that District from the time of independence. Contrary to the belief of land owners, that was a movement which greatly attracted the young. Rai Saheb, though himself born in a land owner caste, was also deeply influenced by that movement. In order to understand the extensive impact of the Communist party in Ghazipur District, the interesting fact should be noted that in the first general election the Communist Party won the Parliamentary seat as well as all four Assembly seats from the District. This initial impact on Dr Rai became even deeper when he came to Kanpur for education. At that time Kanpur city used to be the hub of the Left workers’ movement. Here he directly experienced another facet of the Communist movement he had seen in childhood, and his initial commitment was reaffirmed even more strongly.

His experience relating to trade unions and farmers’ issues in the Communist movement made him an important collaborator with the Left movement in the intellectual world. As Editor of the Hindi Department of an important international publication like Macmillan, he procured and published many translations done by Gorakh Pandey, Founder General Secretary of Jan Sanskriti Manch.  ‘Manaviya Sartattva’, Gorakh Pandey’s translation of George Thompson’s book was published by People’s Literacy through Rai Saheb’s motivation.

In search of livelihood, Dr Rai initially took up the teaching profession in Kanpur and taught Vinod Mishra (late General Secretary of CPIML) and Brij Bihari Pandey (Editor of CPIML Hindi organ Lokyuddh) when they were in Middle School, both of whom who had lasting contact with Rai Saheb. As a witness to this relationship that went beyond teacher and student to the warmth of comradeship, I can assert that he was indeed a rare person. Brij Bihari Pandey translated for him Marc Bloch’s book The Historian’s Craft into Hindi with the title ‘Itihaskar ka Shilp’. He had an extremely warm and lively relationship with our Party. Often he used to walk over from his office to our Party office.

Shyam Bihari Rai’s profound ideological studies and experience prepared him for undertaking the historic responsibility of disseminating Marxist writing in the Hindi language through Grantha Shilpi Prakashan during a phase when Marxism and Communism had to fight their way back into popularity. We salute his memory!

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India: Surveillance State and the ‘New Frontiers’ of Power

radhika

WE are all perhaps familiar with the fictionalised account of a pizza delivery service interacting with a potential customer. Through the course of the conversation, the server reveals an awareness of the customer’s medical condition, financial status, legal misdemeanours, and more. This situation, which was at one time seen as a joke or a frivolous exaggeration, is now strikingly close to our lived experiences. As a recent RTI request has revealed, the Modi government’s proposed “National Social Registry” is designed to do an all-round surveillance of each and every Indian, via the Aadhar system. Data which was previously collected by various government bodies for specific governance-related purposes and located in separate silos will now be brought together in a centralised manner using the unique Aadhar number. Computational tools and algorithms will now be used on this centralised data in an extensive manner.

All sorts of personal data – related to births, deaths, marriages, travel, migrations, address changes and financial status – will not just be collected to create a profile of individuals, it will serve as a key policy input for governments. The government claims that this is to enhance the performance of state-funded projects targeted at the poor and the marginalised; it seeks to “dynamically” record and verify the status of people below the poverty level who are beneficiaries of various projects. This however is a specious claim, since each and every citizen of this country is under scrutiny. This is a clear a violation of a right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has argued is a fundamental right, because it fails the proportionality test and subjects everyone to a breach of privacy of massive proportions. So how does the Modi government plan to circumvent this? Through amending the Aadhar Act in order to allow for a complete dismantling of the Supreme Court’s right to privacy judgement.

Fears of gross violations of individual rights through the proposed social registry have been expressed by none other than Manoranjan Kumar, a bureaucrat who was one of its loudest proponents at one time. Kumar has been deeply involved in discussions and preparations around this registry since 2015 when it was first mooted. His enthusiasm has now given way to profound scepticism, and he has warned that computer algorithms can (and will, by design) be used to do all kinds of searches across various databases to profile individuals and communities. This, as we can well guess, is a recipe for disaster.  

What we are now seeing is the latest, and by far the strongest form of the panopticon in human history, powered by technological tools and being put in place by political regimes. Constant collection of information after all provides the basis for a regime of control and discipline. The question for us is: what exactly is the nature of the modern panopticon, propelled by digital technologies? Our personal data is today the very fulcrum of a significant proportion of private business ventures. Digital technologies actively and silently record and process every instance of our lives. Detailed profiles are prepared, and this information is transformed into usable services which are now an integral part of our lives. While private businesses use our data, often without our explicit consent, governments are empowered to collect and use vast amounts of personal data. Sweeping powers make for a regime of anticipatory surveillance, where data can be collected and processed without having to cite a specific investigation. This point has been eloquently reiterated most recently in Edward Snowden’s autobiography, Permanent Record. Snowden speaks of how technological tools and regulatory mechanisms have colluded to create an extensive system of mass surveillance.

These concerns have been reflected in India. Since its inception in 2009, the Aadhar project has given an additional momentum to existing concerns of governmental overreach and the loss of privacy. Several other initiatives are equally worrying. India has proposed a centralised telecom interception system to automate eavesdropping on conversations. The Modi government also plans mass surveillance of private conversations and posts on social media. In response to this, we have been urged to look for specific rights (such as the “right to explanation”, the “right to erasure” and the “right to correction” detailed in a previous piece carried by Liberation). Consent and privacy have been the pivots around which any discussion of surveillance and data privacy takes place. It is in this context that Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for the Future at the New Frontier of Power needs to be read for its description of the nature of modern surveillance systems.

Tracing the Contours of Surveillance Capitalism

“Demanding privacy from surveillance capitalists or lobbying for an end to commercial surveillance is like asking…a giraffe to shorten its neck”

Zuboff characterises the current economic model as “surveillance capitalism,” where human experience is a raw material to be extracted and used to predict intentions, in order to produce and sell more goods and services. It crucially relies on new computing tools such as machine learning to exist. For example, personal data can be processed and converted into an application that is used by insurance companies to decide on the creditworthiness of its clients. It can be used to develop an application to help a car owner find an empty parking lot, or the least congested route to her destination. Zuboff’s central argument is that this regime poses a specific challenge because of its tumultuous impact on the very concepts of consent and privacy.

A key feature leading to the development of surveillance capitalism out of earlier models of capitalism is what Zuboff calls the discovery of “behavioural surplus”: the surplus value generated in mining enormous amounts of personal data and converting it into a marketable product. This surplus becomes available to corporations for uses beyond service improvement and its only purpose is to ensure exponential profits. The rush to increase behavioural surplus and thus ensure continuing profits leads corporations to move inexorably towards systems that not just infer personal behaviour, but are able to predict it with increasing accuracy. This is made possible through a continuous expansion of data that feeds into the prediction process and the use of computational tools. We are now seeing “permissionless innovation”; a unilateral seizure of rights over data without consent in order to cater to these new needs. Data is continuously extracted, behaviour is predicted, and user experience is personalised and customised.

The quest for behavioural surplus has moved to the offline world. Companies now track every moment of our daily lives in the physical world through smart-home devices, wearables, and applications such as Google Maps. Even human emotions are harnessed by computational methods that identify sentiments from textual and visual sources. The creeping incursion into daily routines slowly habituates people to them, but if a particular incursion generates too much of an uproar, companies adapt by promising reforms or by occasionally paying fines. This, however, fails to check the ever-growing range of data collection, made possible through tools such as ambient computing, ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).

From monitoring, surveillance capitalism has now entered a new domain: behavioural control. Not only is data being constantly collected, it is being processed and fed back to trigger certain desired commercial outcomes. Cars can be made to break down in order to facilitate loan recoveries; a Pokémon player is directed close to a MacDonald’s outlet; advertisements are presented to individuals when they are emotionally vulnerable and most likely to respond impulsively. In Zuboff’s narrative, human beings are now essentially Pavlov’s dogs, punished by the regime of surveillance capitalism for ‘undesirable’ behaviour and rewarded for ‘desirable’ ones.

How has what Zuboff calls “digital dispossession” (humans being dispossessed of the control of their personal data) taken place? She argues that tech companies such as Google and Facebook have benefitted from an economic model that is based on libertarian notions of fundamental freedoms and a model that is deeply sceptical of regulation. They equally benefitted from the post 9/11 political milieu in the US, which accepted and allowed for exceptional levels of surveillance under the garb of fighting terrorism and protecting national security. Zuboff reminds us that long before Cambridge Analytica, tech companies were working closely with political campaigns (such as the Obama 2008 campaign) to build voter profiles and to advise on strategy.

Zuboff’s arguments powerfully remind the reader that they are a mere pawns within an elaborate system of social control driven by technological tools controlled by big corporate houses or by governments. She convincingly argues that privacy and consent have been rendered toothless in this new regime of surveillance capitalism. Efforts to foreground privacy and consent are doomed to fail.

Is it possible to “take back” big-data analytics from the state and from big business? How effectively would regulatory mechanisms work? While Zuboff expresses hope that this particular form of capitalism (which is product of a certain historic juncture) is at fault, her own arguments suggest otherwise. Big data analytics seem incompatible with democratic control and far more in sync with authoritarian control. As David Harvey suggests, socialism or democracy will need technologies which have mental conceptions of new social relations embedded in them unlike the current technologies which have the idea of surveillance-based social engineering deeply embedded in them. Machine intelligence is the very means of production in surveillance capitalism and therefore alternative means might have to emerge. Given the extent of compatibility between surveillance capitalism and digital technologies, it is difficult to imagine the existence of one without the other. Taking back the digital seems a difficult task, requiring the reconstitution and rebuilding of digital technologies themselves.

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Kashmir Caged: SCs Issues Toothless Orders, As Chief of Defence Staff Flaunts Atrocities

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

court

THE Supreme Court response to petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Kashmir lockdown and all related issues is an exercise in dishonesty. An editorial in The Hindu called the SC order on internet curbs in Kashmir, “eloquently reticent”. It observed, “If enunciating the law and laying down norms for the exercise of executive power were the only functions of a constitutional court, the Supreme Court’s verdict on the prolonged lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is indeed admirable. However, the apex court is also a court of justice, one duty-bound to enforce fundamental rights. …When it says Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure ‘cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights’, it makes a comment worthy of being treasured in these times of frequent resort to that section. Yet, the court does not go beyond directing the authorities to review all their orders and restrictions forthwith.”

In a commentary in the Scroll titled “Kashmir judgement: Supreme Court threw down a straw but it was hailed as a lifeline”,  Vijay Hiremath and Veena Gowda wrote that “The verdict must be read in the larger context of Kashmir and the court’s response to pleas in other issues related to the revocation of the region’s autonomy.” The writers pointed out that “five months on, the Supreme Court is yet to hear the challenge to the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A. During that time, the state has been split into two Union territories, various human rights institutions have been abolished, dozens of laws repealed and new laws applied. The Court specifically refused an interim stay when the matter was heard before the changes came into effect on October 31. When the Supreme Court finally hears the petitions challenging the constitutional amendments, the exercise may be more academic than practicable, given the far reaching and irreversible nature of the changes that have been brought about on the ground, despite a pending legal challenge.

“In the habeas corpus petitions, after considerable delays, the Supreme Court merely gave orders for some family members and well-wishers to meet the detainees and nothing more than that. Thus, after more than five interminable months, political leaders and lawyers still remain under preventive detention with no date of release mentioned by the authorities.”

The SC accepted two reports submitted by the High Court Juvenile Justice Committee stating that children had not been illegally detained: “This is in stark contrast to many credible reports from the media and other independent quarters based on interviews with families of minors and even some released minors, which reiterate that children were detained, heckled and beaten.”

Meanwhile, a report in the Indian Express has found that “In at least 2 villages of Shopian residents say it has become a regular practice for the Army to call owners of commercial and private vehicles and use their vehicles at night for free. Residents have no idea why and for what purpose are the vehicles used.” What if these cars are being used by some Davinder Singh for a false flag terror operation?

Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat has shocked the world by proposing that Kashmiri children be detained in “de-radicalisation camps.” Legal researcher with extensive experience in Kashmir, Shrimoyee Ghosh explained that “General Rawat’s remarks on detention centres for ‘de-radicalisation’ may well be based on the Chinese model, and will make this detention/ ‘re-education’ connection more explicit and systematic, but it develops on a well entrenched system involving police, army and civil authorities. Children and young men are the largest single class of ‘dangerous’ individuals detained (indefinitely) under the draconian Public Safety Act. After PSA detentions, detainees are made to undergo ‘counselling’ or ‘debriefing’ sessions at joint interrogation centres before release. This is all not to say the General’s remarks are not horrifying — he is calling specifically for the internment of children which the PSA at least on paper disallows, and creation of such special camps – but to point out the context and continuities that enable this horror.”

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Reading ‘How Fascism Works’ In Modi-ruled India

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

shaheen

WE know that fascism differs from totalitarian dictatorship in that fascism is a movement, enjoying the support and participation of a significant section of people. How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, a 2018 book by Professor Jason Stanley, deftly identifies ten key methods used by fascist politicians to achieve such support. Rich with examples  from history as well as contemporary world politics, this book helps us analyse India’s contemporary reality. Reading this book, we can easily see how Modi’s regime takes many a leaf from the fascist copybook. Liberation will summarise the ten features of fascist politics identified in this book, with brief notes on how the Modi regime and the RSS and BJP politics tick those ten boxes.

I – The Mythical Past

In this chapter Stanley discusses the BJP’s own use of this tactic of constructing a mythical past. He quotes a 1922 speech at the Fascist Congress in Naples, where Benito Mussolini declared:

We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality….Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything.

Stanley observes, “Here, Mussolini makes clear that the fascist mythic past is intentionally mythical. The function of the mythic past, in fascist politics, is to harness the emotion of nostalgia to the central tenets of fascist ideology—authoritarianism, hierarchy, purity, and struggle.” Stanley adds, “The fascist mythic past exists to aid in changing the present.”

Stanley’s observations on the centrality of the patriarchal family in the fascist myth are especially relevant to the RSS tactics in India. Stanley observes:

“The patriarchal family is one ideal that fascist politicians intend to create in society—or return to, as they claim. The patriarchal family is always represented as a central part of the nation’s traditions, diminished, even recently, by the advent of liberalism and cosmopolitanism. But why is patriarchy so strategically central to fascist politics?

In a fascist society, the leader of the nation is analogous to the father in the traditional patriarchal family. The leader is the father of his nation, and his strength and power are the source of his legal authority, just as the strength and power of the father of the family in patriarchy are supposed to be the source of his ultimate moral authority over his children and wife. The leader provides for his nation, just as in the traditional family the father is the provider. …By representing the nation’s past as one with a patriarchal family structure, fascist politics connects nostalgia to a central organizing hierarchal authoritarian structure, one that finds its purest representation in these norms.”

In an essay titled ‘India’s Democracy: Contest For The Nation’s Core’, (Indian Democracy Origins, Trajectories, Contestations, Edited by Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Anand Vaidya, Pluto Press, 2019), Liberation editor Kavita Krishnan noted how the RSS deploys metaphors of home (ghar) and its sister-term family (parivar) “to valorise the patriarchal family and subjugation of women – even to the extent of justifying wife-beating as necessary chastisement of erring wives.” She pointed out that “Leaders of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the RSS’s women’s wing, describe themselves as “familyist not feminist”, and feminist assertions of women’s autonomy are painted as Western-inspired disruptions of the harmonious Indian family. Oppressive social practices are all rationalised as having evolved to “protect” women from rapacious Muslims.” Moreover, “Ghar is also invoked to describe Hinduism as the home for Dalits and Muslims, and to prescribe and order ghar wapsi, a return to the home of those who have converted to other faiths. Parivar is used to recast relations between workers and bosses as harmonious relations within the “industry family”, thus justifying erosion and dilution of labour laws. …Labour laws and unionising are cast as disruptions of the “industry family”. Parivar is also used to recast India as the global home of Hindus in the draft Citizenship Amendment Bill…a Hindu Rashtra Bill by the backdoor, seeking to cast Hindus as having a greater natural right to citizenship than non-Hindus.”

Stanley comments on the debt owed by the RSS to European fascists Hitler and Mussolini:

“According to adherents of the Hindutva movement in India, Hindus were the indigenous population of India, living according to patriarchal customs and with strict puritanical sexual practices until the arrival of Muslims, and subsequently, Christians, who introduced decadent Western values. The Hindutva movement has fabricated a version of a mythic Indian past with a pure nation of Hindus, to dramatically supplement what is regarded by scholars as the actual history of India. India’s dominant nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), adopted Hindutva ideology as its official creed and won power in the country using emotional rhetoric calling for a return to this fictional, patriarchal, harshly conservative, ethnically and religiously pure past. BJP is descended from the political arm of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an extremist, far-right Hindu nationalist party that advocated the suppression of non-Hindu minorities. Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi, was a member of RSS, as was current Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. RSS was explicitly influenced by European fascist movements, its leading politicians regularly praised Hitler and Mussolini in the late 1930s and 1940s.”

But if the fascists glorify and mythologise the past, why do they run down historians and historical research so much? Stanley offers this insight:

“The strategic aim of these hierarchal constructions of history is to displace truth, and the invention of a glorious past includes the erasure of inconvenient realities. While fascist politics fetishizes the past, it is never the actual past that is fetishized. These invented histories also diminish or entirely extinguish the nation’s past sins. It is typical for fascist politicians to represent a country’s actual history in conspiratorial terms, as a narrative concocted by liberal elites and cosmopolitans to victimize the people of the true “nation.”

This fits in exactly with what the RSS does to India’s best historians, and to history-writing in India.

II – Propaganda

Why do fascists need propaganda? Stanley writes: “It’s hard to advance a policy that will harm a large group of people in straightforward terms. The role of political propaganda is to conceal politicians’ or political movements’ clearly problematic goals by masking them with ideals that are widely accepted.”

Anti-corruption is a favourite plank for fascists. Referring to Trump’s (false) claims of “draining the swamp” (i.e cleansing Washington of corrupt corporate lobbyists), Stanley writes that “Fascist movements have been “draining swamps” for generations.”

Stanley notes that “anticorruption campaigns are frequently at the heart of fascist political movements. Fascist politicians characteristically decry corruption in the state they seek to take over, which is bizarre, given that fascist politicians themselves are invariably vastly more corrupt than those they seek to supplant or defeat.” This is certainly true of Modi and the BJP, who rode to power in the wake of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement, but have proved to be vastly more corrupt than the UPA Government they ousted.

The historian Richard Grunberger’s observations on the Nazis in his book The 12-Year Reich, cited by Stanley, sound uncannily familiar to us in India today:

“Having dinned it into the collective consciousness that democracy and corruption were synonymous, the Nazis set about constructing a governmental system beside which the scandals of the Weimar regime seemed small blemishes on the body politic. Corruption was in fact the central organizing principle of the Third Reich—and yet a great many citizens not only overlooked this fact, but actually regarded the men of the new regime as austerely dedicated to moral probity.”

The Modi Government’s erosion of the independence of the press, the judiciary, the Election Commission and various investigative and watchdog agencies is also a favourite fascist tactic. Stanley writes, “In the name of rooting out corruption and supposed bias, fascist politicians attack and diminish the institutions that might otherwise check their power.”

The mere fact that Trump, Modi and Bolsonaro were elected, does not make them less fascist. According to Stanley, “Historically, fascist leaders have often come to power through democratic elections. But the commitment to freedom, such as the freedom inherent in the right to vote, tends to end with that victory.”

A quote from the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, cited by Stanley is a particularly striking: “This will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.”

III: Anti-Intellectual

The vicious attacks by Sangh stormtroopers and police on JNU, DU, Jadavpur University, HCU, Jamia and AMU are very much in line with the classic fascist modus operandi.

When the Modi regime was reelected in May 2019, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav wrote a triumphant op-ed saying that in this second term, liberals would “be discarded from the country’s academic, cultural and intellectual landscape.” Stanley puts his finger on why the Sangh and BJP are equally invested in saffronising syllabi and schools while attacking and destroying liberal campuses: “Education … either poses a grave threat to fascism or becomes a pillar of support for the mythical nation. It’s no wonder, then, that protests and cultural clashes on campuses represent a true political battleground and receive national attention. The stakes are high….Fascist politics seeks to undermine the credibility of institutions that harbor independent voices of dissent until they can be replaced by media and universities that reject those voices.”

Stanley’s description of the fascist animus towards intellectuals sounds like a description of the Sangh’s attacks on JNU and what they deride as the ‘award-wapsi gang’, ‘Khan Market cabal’ or ;urban Naxals’ today:

“Whenever fascism threatens, its representatives and facilitators denounce universities and schools as sources of “Marxist indoctrination,” the classic bogeyman of fascist politics. Typically used without any connection to Marx or Marxism, the expression is employed in fascist politics as a way to malign equality. That is why universities that seek to give some intellectual space to marginalized perspectives, however small, are subject to denunciation as hotbeds of “Marxism”…

Student protests are misrepresented in the press as riots by undisciplined mobs, threats to the civil order. In fascist politics, universities are debased in public discourse, and academics are undermined as legitimate sources of knowledge and expertise, represented as radical “Marxists” or “feminists” spreading a leftist ideological agenda under the guise of research. By debasing institutions of higher learning and impoverishing our joint vocabulary to discuss policy, fascist politics reduces debate to ideological conflict. Via such strategies, fascist politics degrades information spaces, occluding reality.”

The Sangh has always referred even to liberal historians as ‘Leftist’ or ‘Marxist’. And now all dissenting voices, even those of Gandhians, are referred to as ‘Maoist’ or ‘urban Naxal.’

IV: Unreality

In what sounds like a perfect description of ‘Modi-fied’ television in India today, Stanley writes, “Fascist politics transforms the news from a conduit of information and reasoned debate into a spectacle with the strongman as the star.”

V: Hierarchy

We have seen how the anxieties of the dominant Hindu upper caste men (the notion that they are ‘victims’ of caste-based reservations, that Muslims are ‘taking over’; and even that ‘men’s rights’ and ‘family’ need to be ‘saved’ from westernised women) have provided fertile grounds for the RSS. Stanley explains how this works:

“Hierarchy benefits fascist politics in another way: Those who are accustomed to its benefits can be easily led to view liberal equality as a source of victimization. Those who benefit from hierarchy will adopt a myth of their own superiority, which will occlude basic facts about social reality. They will distrust pleas for tolerance and inclusion made by liberals on the grounds that these pleas are masks for power grabs by other groups. Fascist politics feeds off the sense of aggrieved victimization caused by loss of hierarchal status.”

The caste system and Brahminical patriarchy in particular make Indian society more hierarchical than most – and therefore especially vulnerable to fascist politics.

faci

VI: Victimhood

Stanley discusses how “increased representation of members of traditional minority groups is experienced by dominant groups as threatening in various ways.”

Here, Stanley helps make the distinction between anti-colonial nationalism and chauvinistic nationalism. He points out that “Anti-colonialist struggles typically take place under the banner of nationalism; for example, Mahatma Gandhi employed Indian nationalism as a tool against British rule. This kind of nationalism, the nationalism that arises from oppression, is not fascist in origin. These forms of nationalism, in their original formations, are equality-driven nationalist movements.”

However, Stanley rightly cautions: “Equality-driven nationalism can rapidly turn oppressive itself, if one is not paying enough attention to shifts in power. Some problematic nationalist sentiments arise from perfectly genuine histories of oppression.” This certainly applies to the ways in which the Indian and the Chinese states have deployed “nationalism” away from its original anti-colonial and egalitarian goal, to justify discrimination and repression. That India won freedom from colonial rule does not mean that Indians are not replicating colonial attitudes in Kashmir.

Stanley could well be talking about caste-based reservations which are attacked with the casteist argument of “merit” when he writes:

“Fascist politics covers up structural inequality by attempting to invert, misrepresent, and subvert the long, hard effort to address it. Affirmative action at its best was designed to recognize and address structural inequality. But by falsely presenting affirmative action as uncoupled from individual merit, some of its detractors recast advocates of affirmative action as pursuing their own race- or gender-based “nationalism” to the detriment of hardworking white Americans, regardless of evidence.”

In India, then, we need to make a distinction between an equality-driven nationalisms, and nationalisms that define themselves in contrast with vulnerable minorities cast in the role of the “dangerous Other.” The same nationality movements that are progressive when they assert themselves against a discriminatory and oppressive State, can themselves become communal and xenophobic when they cast the migrant labourer from linguistic and religious minorities as the enemy. As Stanley puts it:

“Nationalism is at the core of fascism. The fascist leader employs a sense of collective victimhood to create a sense of group identity that is by its nature opposed to the cosmopolitan ethos and individualism of liberal democracy. The group identity can be variously based—on skin color, on religion, on tradition, on ethnic origin. But it is always contrasted with a perceived other against whom the nation is to be defined. Fascist nationalism creates a dangerous “them” to guard against, at times to battle with, to control, in order to restore group dignity.”

VII: Law and Order

Stanley writes: “Fascist law-and-order rhetoric is explicitly meant to divide citizens into two classes: those of the chosen nation, who are lawful by nature, and those who are not, who are inherently lawless.”

This observation is especially useful to understand the BJP’s attempts to imply that all Muslims are inherently “infiltrators”, “troublemakers who can be identified by their clothes”, and “terrorists.”

VIII: Sexual Anxiety

In passages describing how fascist politics portrays the ‘Other’ as a source of sexual danger, Stanley specifically notes the connections between Nazi anti-Semitism in Germany, white supremacy in the US, and Islamophobia in Myanmar and India.

Stanley notes how “fascist propaganda” sexualizes “the threat of the other,” citing the example of Nazi policies against ‘race-mixing’, and the lynching of black men in the United States on the pretext of “defending the purity of white American women.”

He also notes how “the genocide against the Rohingyas” in Myanmar “has been fueled by paranoid theories” by Buddhist fascist groups about “Muslim sexual schemes to prey on Buddhist women.”

Stanley also discusses India in detail:

“In India, Hindu nationalists have regularly stoked anti-Muslim sentiment with campaigns calling attention to the supposed threat Muslim men pose to Hindu masculinity. Most recently, this took the form of a panic about a supposed “love jihad.”

The way in which the “law and order” and ‘love jihad’ rhetorics combine in Sangh propaganda are extremely apparent in BJP President Amit Shah’s speeches in western UP in 2014, where he justified anti-Muslim violence by saying, “when a community violates the honour of our daughters and sisters, and the administration does nothing, people are forced to riot.” ( ‘Amit shah’s Hate speech at Jat sabha in Shamli, West UP’, posted by NewsClick, YouTube, 7 April 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttk_ZYdevoM)

India is going through a Modi-made economic disaster and unemployment crisis. While this can and does translate into anger against the Modi regime, the RSS and BJP try hard to use patriarchal sentiments to turn the anger against “a community that violates the honour of our daughters and sisters” or against feminists and women students who are described as purveyors of “free sex”. Women’s freedom and inter-faith love are both demonised by the Sangh as threats to the caste and patriarchal hierarchy.

Stanley’s analysis helps us understand why and how. He writes:

“Patriarchal masculinity sets up men with the expectation that society will allow them the role of sole protectors and providers of their families. …Fascist politics distorts male anxiety, heightened by economic anxiety, into fear that one’s family is under existential threat from those who reject its structure and traditions. Here again, the weapon used in fascist politics is a supposed potential threat of sexual assault.”

IX: Vilifying Urban Cosmopolitanism

Why did Mohan Bhagwat blame rape on cities? Perhaps because the Sangh seeks to appeal to hierarchical rural communities by displacing their natural resentment at marginalisation and crisis unleashed by neoliberal policies, onto liberal urban campuses, intellectuals and youth who are portrayed as ‘elite’ and morally corrupt.

Stanley explains: “Fascist politics highlights the wrongs a globalized economy does to rural areas, adding to it a focus on traditional rural values of self-sufficiency supposedly put at risk by the success of liberal cities culturally and economically.

Fascist ideology rejects pluralism and tolerance. …The diversity, with its concomitant tolerance of difference, in large urban centers is therefore a threat to fascist ideology.”

Ironically while fascist politicians may portray JNU and DU students, and trade union activists like Sudha Bharadwaj as liberal ‘Khan Market’ elites, they describe their own stupendously corrupt, super-rich corporate cronies (Ambanis and Adanis) as ‘wealth generators’ rather than elites!

X: Work Sets You Free

Remember how BJP MP Tejasvi Surya jeers at Muslims as ‘puncture repair walas’, and Amit Shah refers to them as ‘termites’ (i.e parasites)? Stanley’s writing could help explain why they deploy such rhetoric:

“In fascist ideology, in times of crisis and need, the state reserves support for members of the chosen nation, for “us” and not “them.” The justification is invariably because “they” are lazy, lack a work ethic, and cannot be trusted with state funds and because “they” are criminal and seek only to live off state largesse. In fascist politics, “they” can be cured of laziness and thievery by hard labor. This is why the gates of Auschwitz and Buchenwald had emblazoned on them the slogan ARBEIT MACHT FREI—work shall make you free. In fascist ideology, the ideal of hard work is weaponized against minority populations.”

Stanley offers an important insight about the relationships between libertarian and fascist ideology:

“The fascist vision of individual freedom is similar to the libertarian notion of individual rights—the right to compete but not necessarily to succeed or even survive…. Though fascism involves a commitment to group hierarchies of worth that is flatly incompatible with true economic libertarianism, which does not generalize beyond the individual, both philosophies share a common principle by which value is measured.”

Remember how the BJP tries to recast the labour-boss relationship as the ‘Industry Family’? Turns out that too is a classic fascist ploy which also shares much with corporate ideology. Stanley observes:

“Hitler was correct that in a democratic society, there are tensions between the varied practices and structures of families, workplaces, government bodies, and civil society. Fascism promises to solve this by eliminating such differences. Instead, in fascist ideology, all institutions, from the family to the business to the state, would run according to the Führer Principle. The father, in fascist ideology, is the leader of the family; the CEO is the leader of the business; the authoritarian leader is the father, or the CEO, of the state. When voters in a democratic society yearn for a CEO as president, they are responding to their own implicit fascist impulses.”

Epilogue

Is it not an exaggeration to claim India is descending into fascism? This is a question that is often asked, especially by liberal commentators who still want to claim that things are not so bad. In the epilogue, Stanley discusses this issue:

“What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary. It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been. By contrast, the word “fascist” has acquired a feeling of the extreme, like crying wolf. …Normalization means precisely that encroaching ideologically extreme conditions are not recognized as such because they have come to seem normal. The charge of fascism will always seem extreme; normalization means that the goalposts for the legitimate use of “extreme” terminology continually move.”

The book which outlines fascist tactics and acknowledges how powerful and persuasive fascist politics can be, still ends on a note of hope. As we look around us at the movement that has sprung up against the NPR-NRC-CAA, we may cautiously say that we, in India too, must nurture some of this hope.

Stanley writes:

“How do we maintain a sense of common humanity, when fear and insecurity will lead us to flee into the comforting arms of mythic superiority in vain pursuit of a sense of dignity? …We can take comfort in the histories of progressive social movements, which against long odds and hard struggle have in the past succeeded in the project of eliciting empathy.

“In the direct targets of fascist politics—refugees, feminism, labor unions, racial, religious, and sexual minorities—we can see the methods used to divide us. But we must never forget that the chief target of fascist politics is its intended audience, those it seeks to ensnare in its illusory grip, to enroll in a state where everyone deemed “worthy” of human status is increasingly subjugated by mass delusion.”

This is perhaps the insight that resonates most in these times. While Muslims are certainly the most vulnerable targets of the NPR-NRC-CAA, we must never forget that the non-Muslims who are the intended audience for its Islamophobic hate-speech, are also targets and victims whom the Modi regime is seeking to delude. NPR-NRC-CAA will place the vast majority of Indians (including the non-Muslim poor) at the mercy of an all-powerful State that can control them with the ever-present threat of marking them as “doubtful citizens” and stripping them of citizenship and humanity. So Stanley warns against demonising even the majority who have become loyal bhakts of the Trumps and Modis:

“Those not included in that audience and status wait in the camps of the world, straw men and women ready to be cast into the roles of rapists, murderers, terrorists. By refusing to be bewitched by fascist myths, we remain free to engage one another, all of us flawed, all of us partial in our thinking experience, and understanding, but none of us demons.”

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