Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Climate Change and Social Justice: Towards an Ecosocialist Perspective

- Asit Das

After the Kyoto protocol and the IPCC report, climate change has emerged as a serious issue facing mankind. Climate change and the issues of social justice should be seen in the context of the urgency of the global ecological crisis. 

Some writers think that the origins of today’s global ecological crises are to be found in the unusual response in Europe’s ruling states, to the great crisis in the 14th century 1290 -1450. There are indeed striking parallels between the world system today, and the situation prevailing in a broadly feudal Europe. At the dawn of the 14th century, the agriculture regime, once capable of remarkable productivity, experienced stagnation. A large population shifted to cities; western trading networks connected far-flung economic centers. Resource extraction like copper and silver, faced new technical challenges, fettering profitability. After some six centuries of sustained expansion, by the 14th country, it had become clear that feudal Europe had reached the limits of its development, for reasons related to its environment, its configuration of social power, and the relations between them. 

What followed was either immediately or eventually the rise of capitalism. Regardless of one’s specific interpretation, it is clear that the centuries after 1450 marked an era of fundamental environmental transformation. It was to be commodity-centered and exclusive, it was also an unstable and uneven, dynamic combination of seigniorial capitalist and peasant economics. 

This ecological regime of early capitalism was beset with contradiction. In the middle of the 18th century, England shifted from its position as a leading grain exporter to major grain importer. Yield in England’s agriculture stagnated. Inside the country, landlords compensated by agitating for enclosures, which accelerated beyond anything known in previous centuries. Outside the country, Ireland's subordination was intensified with an eye on agricultural exports. This was the era of crisis for capitalism's first ecological regime. For all the talk of early capitalism as mercantile, it was also extraordinarily productivist and dynamic, in ways that went far beyond buying cheap and selling dear. Early capitalism had created a vast agro-ecological system of unprecedented geographical breadth, stretching from the eastern Baltic to Portugal, from southern Norway to Brazil and the Caribbean. It had delivered an expansion of the agro-extractive surplus for centuries. It had been, in other words, an expression of capitalist advancement following Adam Smith and occasionally, combining market, class and ecological transformations in a new crystallization of ecological power and process. 

By the middle of the 18th century, however, this world ecological regime had become a victim of its own success. Agricultural yields, not just in England but also across Europe, extended even into the Andes and Spain. It was a contributor to the world crisis. It was a world ecological crisis, i.e., not a crisis of the earth in an idealist sense, but a crisis of early modern capitalism's organization of the world nature of capitalism and not just a world economy, but also a world ecology. For even many on the left have long regarded capitalism as something that acts upon nature treating it as a commodity. This world ecological crisis can be characterized as capitalism's first developmental environmental crisis, quite distinct from the epochal ecological crisis that characterized the transition from feudalism to capitalism. It was a crisis resolved through two major successive waves of global conquest - the creation of North America, and increasingly India as a vast supplier of food and resources; and then, by the later 19th century, the great colonial invasion and occupation of Southeast Asia, Africa and China. 

The Industrial Revolution retains its hold on the popular imagination as the historical and geographical locus of today’s environmental crisis. It was a view that co-existed with the profound faith in technological progress. It can be viewed that the industrial revolution as the resolution of an earlier moment of modern ecological crisis and a more expansive, more intensive reconstruction of global nature. The industrial revolution offered not merely a technical fix to the developmental crisis that marked capitalisms ecological regimes, but within this revolution, was inscribed a vast geographical fix, which at that time was as limiting as it had once been liberating. Such a perspective of world ecological crisis offers a more historical name and a more hopeful way of looking for a pro-people approach for thinking and acting about the problems of ecological crisis in the modern world. While the technological marvels of the past two centuries are routinely celebrated, it had become clear in the 1860s that all advances in resource efficiency promised more aggregate resource consumption. This is how the modern world market functions, towards profligacy and not conservation. The technological marvels have rested on geographical expansion neither more nor less than they did in the formative centuries of capitalist development. The pressure to enclose vast new areas of the planet and to penetrate even deeper into the niches of social and ecological life has continued unabated. Now we are witnessing the imperial process of new enclosures, with a partnership with the ruling elites, and the corporate sector of the Third World countries. All this has been reinforced in the same manner by a radical plunge into the depths of the earth to extract oil, coal, water and different types of strategic resources. It is an ecological regime that has reached, or will soon reach, its limits. Whatever the geological veracity of the peak oil argument, it is clear that the American led ecological regime that promised, and for half a century delivered cheap oil, is now done for - this is a bigger issue than present limits of oil reserves. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

NSI – A Political-Ideological Platform – launched in its founding conference in New Delhi

"Ours is not an effort to create a new revolutionary party. The advent of such a party lies yet in the future. Ours is not an effort to replace the existing parties and organizations. Nor is our intention to work at counter purposes to any of the existing revolutionary organizations and processes. Ours is an effort to contribute towards meeting the historic challenge that confronts the entireRevolutionary Left. Ours is an effort to begin the process of forging a new language that will be the language of the entire Left, of designing a strategy that will be the strategy of the entire class of working people,of envisioning afresh a socialism that will be adopted as the future of humanity.It will be an epochal process and ours is an endeavour to be a worthy participant in it." - Pamphlet of the founding Conference 

NSI cultural team performing 'Messages from Revolutionaries"
The inaugural session of the founding conference of New Socialist Initiative, a political-ideological platform, took off today with a resounding rendition of the Communist anthem, The International. The session that was held at Hindi Bhavan in New Delhi began with a 'Welcome Address' by Amrapali Basumatary, followed by a performance by the cultural team of NSI. B. Manohar and Rajiv Prasanna, students of Delhi University, started the cultural programme with a melodious Classical Hindustani instrumental performance of the Mridanga and Flute. Following this was a performance, ‘Inquilabiyon ka Paigham’ (Message from Revolutionaries), a reading of letters and speeches of revolutionaries including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Paash, Che Guevara, Bhagat Singh, Mao, Rosa Luxemburg, Faiz, Safdar Hashmi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Salvador Allende and more. Subhash Gatade opened the inaugural Panel Discussion, ‘A Future for the Left’ remarking on the new conditions we are faced with today and the need to build a critical and reflexive renewed understanding of these new conditions. The floor was then opened for the panelists, Jairus Banaji, Marxist political theorist and historian, Saroop Dhruv, prominent Gujarati poet, playwright and cultural activist, and Ravi Sinha, Marxist political theorist, physicist and activist. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Celebrating 165th Year of Communist Manifesto: Eric Hobsbawm's Introduction to the 2012 Edition of 'The Communist Manifesto'

[ Editors' Note: Widely recognized as world's one of the most influential political manuscript, The Communist Manifesto was published today on 21st February 1848, exactly 165 years ago! 165 years down the line, the manifesto continues to inspire scores of people across the world! To commemorate the event we are reproducing here an Introduction to the Manifesto written by the historian Eric Hobsbawm in 2012. We take this opportunity to also pay homage to this great Marxist radical. While New Socialist Initiative (NSI) may not agree with everything that Hobsbawm says about the Manifesto, we can only be in total agreement with him when he proclaims "what might in 1848 have struck an uncommitted reader as revolutionary rhetoric – or, at best, as plausible prediction – can now be read as a concise characterization of capitalism at the end of the twentieth century. Of what other document of the 1840s can this be said?"]

Eric Hobsbawn
In the spring of 1847 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels agreed to join the so-called League of the Just [Bund der Gerechten], an offshoot of the earlier League of the Outlaws [Bund der Geächteten], a revolutionary secret society formed in Paris in the 1830s under French Revolutionary influence by German journeymen – mostly tailors and woodworkers – and still mainly composed of such expatriate artisan radicals. The League, convinced by their ‘critical communism’, offered to publish a Manifesto drafted by Marx and Engels as its policy document, and also to modernize its organization along their lines. Indeed, it was so reorganized in the summer of 1847, renamed League of the Communists [Bund der Kommunisten], and committed to the object of ‘the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the ending of the old society which rests on class contradiction [Klassengegensätzen] and the establishment of a new society without classes or private property’. A second congress of the League, also held in London in November–December 1847, formally accepted the objects and new statutes, and invited Marx and Engels to draft the new Manifesto expounding the League’s aims and policies. 

Although both Marx and Engels prepared drafts, and the document clearly represents the joint views of both, the final text was almost certainly written by Marx – after a stiff reminder by the Executive, for Marx, then as later, found it hard to complete his texts except under the pressure of a firm deadline. The virtual absence of early drafts might suggest that it was written rapidly.[i] The resulting document of twenty-three pages, entitled Manifesto of the Communist Party (more generally known since 1872 as The Communist Manifesto), was ‘published in February 1848’, printed in the office of the Workers’ Educational Association (better known as the Communistischer Arbeiterbildungsverein, which survived until 1914), at 46 Liverpool Street in the City of London. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

NSI Founding Conference 22nd -24th February 2013: A World for the Workers! A Future for the World!

Towards the Founding Conference of a New Ideological-Political Platform
(22nd-24th February, 2013, Delhi)

Revolutionary Left has been at the frontier of history during a good part of the previous century. It led glorious revolutions of the twentieth century and embarked on the most ambitious and most transformative project humanity had ever undertaken. Socialism presented a monumental challenge to capitalism and dominated the course of history for much of the century. The ‘wretched of the earth’ stormed the heavens and liberated themselves from a variety of feudal lords and colonial masters, from kings and compradors, from indigenous oppressors and foreign rulers. Under extremely difficult conditions of poverty, backwardness, war and encirclement, and beleaguered by their own lack of preparedness, they still managed to rescue their societies from the crises of the old order. And they managed to get on to the socialist road and travel a fair distance on it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rape, Race and Misogynist Nationalism(s)

- Leki Thungon

One of the biggest problems with the prevalent notion of rape is how the social response to it coincides with the rigidity of its legal definition. A complaint of rape necessitates the legally cumbersome process of demonstration how and why the act would constitute the act of rape. While there is a difference between sexual harassment and rape, it is the different reactions they generate which is highly problematic and dangerous. One frequently comes across statements like ‘Oh, it was “only” harassment not rape’, this kind of understanding not only blankets the severe misogynist vocabulary found in our language itself but also stigmatizes rape as an ultimate end of a woman’s already marginalized identity; anything lesser than the insertion of the penis into the vagina is not rape, therefore not that bad..! In the same light, my constant fear of being a source of someone’s perverse racial reassurance which in this case is the superior “Indian”, national gene Northeast is believed to be devoid of and the awareness of my face and body becomes a secondary problem. This question challenges a framework which goes beyond the purview of criminality and pathology. It cuts across issues of nationalism, identity and patriarchy. 

The question of racism and misogyny has been discussed at length in various levels, however, there is a general trend which is followed in both how it is conceived and received. Whenever there is a discussion on the racial discrimination faced by people from the Northeast the blissful idea of ignorance by “these” mainland Indians or the problem of their (Northeasterners) acceptance as Indians or both are frequently raised; thereby creating a political dilemma which sways between reductive identity politics or nationalism/ national appropriation. However, when the question of women is inserted it muddles up the two strongly separate ideologies and showcases the former following the same models of the latter in order to legitimize its foundation which is by appropriating the bodies and behavior of “their” women. In fact a geographical line can be connected between the Rajasthan government’s discussion on the length of a school girl’s skirt and the compulsion of donning a phanek on a woman in Manipur. To many people’s surprise and dismay, I would have to declare that the women in Northeast are not free from/of patriarchy as her counterpart in any part of North India. Rape is considered the ultimate dishonor of a woman and her community regardless of mainstream notion of an egalitarian society. 

Living as the ultimate other in a place like Delhi, one can think of innumerable incidents of racist and misogynist episodes with anger, frustration and helplessness. There were times when you could think of an equally ridiculous retort, sometimes you would threaten or even use the new Act which promises to “protect” you but most of the time you are left with the now familiar feelings of disbelief and disgust. This racial othering of the already gendered body is a process of curious interplay of racism, misogyny, exoticism, curiosity and nationalism where there is a conspicuous invisibility of Northeast. This results in a constant insecurity, alienation and tremendous vulnerability. One can only imagine the effect of this on a woman of an already marginalized community. One of the most common and dangerous reaction is the demonizing of the other by both the parties. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Against Profit Mongering over Knowledge: Students Protest at World Book Fair

By - Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge (ASEAK)

A protest organised by ASSOCIATION OF STUDENTS FOR EQUITABLE ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE (ASEAK), was held at World Book Fair in Pragati Maidan last Saturday (9th February) at the stalls of Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis Group. This protest was part of a series of campaigns undertaken by ASEAK on the issue of ‘copyright infringement’ provoked by the clamping down on photocopying by the three publishers beginning last year. The Association distributed more than 1000 pamphlets which discussed myths and facts around the issue of photocopying, copyright. A similar protest was held during the Delhi Book Fair at the same venue in September 2012 by the "Campaign to Save D School Photocopy Shop" (out of which ASEAK emerged). The protest saw members of the Association distributing the pamphlet and spreading information on the unfair practices of the publishers especially the ones that are University Presses and therefore claims to work for a non-profit and purportedly an educational intent. 

The members of the Association first protested at Hall no.1 where the Cambridge University Press Publishers and Oxford University Press Publishers and Hall no. 6 where Taylor and Francis were located. As in the similar protest held at the Delhi Book Fair, the protest garnered support from the visitors who also voiced the concern of the students and shared their fears of more and more inaccessibility to knowledge. 

Members of the Association also move around and engaged with students who had thronged the book fair. The protest also saw the spontaneous attendance of several people/ visitors of the World Book Fair who were aware of the plight of the students and the long term repercussion of such a clamp down on the state of education in this country. 

Delhi Book Fair Sept. 2012: CUP called Delhi Police to chase out protesters 
Delhi Book Fair Sept. 2012: A member of the campaign engaging with visitors
The Myths Propagated by Profit Mongering Corporate Publishers:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Notes from South Korea: Where is Our Anger Going?

[Editors' Note: This article by Jiyoung LeeAn is the second article of the "Asian Series on Gender Justice" an initiative - by Delhi University team of New Socialist Initiative (NSI) - to bring together significant moments from the recent histories of struggle for gender equality and justice in various Asian countries.]

Jiyoung LeeAn 

We live in a globalized world where horrific news has become a part of our every day. In a deluge of routinely repeated terrible images, we easily become senseless and insensitive to many tragedies happening outside our own society. The heartbreaking death of a 23-year-old woman who was gang-raped and beaten to death in the capital city of India last December might be a part of the same deluge to many people outside of India. Some might treat this particular tragedy as if it was happening in a distant ‘less developed country’. Some might feel relieved that they are living in a 'safer developed' world. Mainstream media in South Korea contributes in perpetuating these attitudes. In the Korean media, India is depicted as a backward society stained with patriarchal traditions and Caste system, therefore, 'different' from Korean society. This tragedy is regarded as an inevitable corollary to the backwardness of a society; and women in India are described as victims of that backwardness. Colonial gaze bares its teeth with these overly sensationalized representations of India by creating an illusion that we Koreans, unlike people in India, are living in a much safer and developed society. 

However, are we really 'safe'? Perhaps no women in Korea would answer in a definitive yes. That is one of the reasons why this horrific tragedy in Delhi haunts me. Her pain, anguish and struggles remind me of my own pain, anguish, and struggles in South Korea. Her death is not far from my daily life. It is not say that the pain we are experiencing is of the same intensity. There may exist different scales of violence. But, through her and her journey of life I see myself, I see a trajectory of my life. And this feeling gives me courage to write this small piece not only for her, but also for myself as a woman who lives in this contemporary world. 

People outside of India have seen, on televisions, thousands of thousands of young people in India come out to the street and raise their voices for gender equality. More than a month has passed since she died, but she lives in people’s memories. And enthusiastic and vehement protests have been continuously spreading not only across India but also in other parts of the world. These protest actions demonstrates hope in the midst of deep sorrow. However, when our anger and protests reaches its highest tenor, it is also the right moment for us to catch our breath and reflect where our anger is headed, and towards whom our anger is directed. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Demonstration Outside Indian Embassy, Seoul, Against Forcible Acquisition of Land for POSCO

Reacting to the brutal crackdown by Orissa Police at the crack of the dawn on February 3rd, comrades from different organizations in South Korea took the initiative of organizing a demonstration outside Indian Embassy in Seoul this morning (7th February). During the demonstration a Joint Press Statement was also released and circulated. The press statement was prepared under the aegis of "Advocates for Public Interests Law", "Energy & Climate Policy Institute", "GongGam, Human Rights Law Foundation", "Korean Confederation of Trade Unions",  "Korean Federation for Environmental Movement", "Korean House for International Solidarity",  "Korean Lawyers for Public Interest and Human Rights", "National Association of Professors for Democratic Society", "People’s Solidarity for Social Progress".

Below is an English translation of the original Press Statement in Korean released and circulated during the demonstration and few images from the demonstration:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Protest against communal-fascist Nadendra Modi's visit to Delhi University

Joint Protest by various left organizations against communal-fascist Narendra Modi's visit to Delhi University. Join us in large numbers! 3 pm, 6th February, 2013, Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) gate. Spread the word around.
Does Modi have any answer for this
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat and the person responsible for the Gujarat Carnage, is visiting Shri Ram College of Commerce on an invitation extended by Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) Students Union to deliver the Shri Ram Keynote Oration at Business Conclave 2013, the National Management Festival of SRCC. Several left university based organizations have given a call for a protest outside SRCC on the 6th February at 3 pm.