I feel honoured to be here to be part of the sixth conference of Human Rights Forum*. Many thanks are due to the organisers to invite a left activist like me to this deliberations and giving me an opportunity to share my ideas.
For me it was a belated realisation that the conference is taking place around sixth death anniversary of the legendary activist for human rights and for justice late K Balgopal, who played a key role in the formation of the Forum. It does not need underlining that late K Balagopal was a rare combination of a scholar – mathematician by passion and lawyer by commitment – and activist who not only broke new grounds in the discourse around civil liberties and human rights but did not hesitate to raise uncomfortable questions when the time came. One can still imagine the loss you all must have felt when he suddenly left six years ago. As rightly mentioned by the late K G Kannabiran in his obituary then, how he was ‘one in a century rights activist’ who brought on agenda ‘jurisprudence of insurgence’.
Standing here, – amongst an august audience of veterans of human rights movement and scholars, intellectuals, grass root level activists – I can easily look at my own limitations of understanding as well as the limited experience I have of actual struggles on the ground. And that’s why I have no hesitation in admitting at the beginning itself that what I plan to share with you today should be considered scribblings of an activist who is himself trying to comprehend things.
Politics as the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci argued is always underpinned by hybrid philosophies. Perhaps the best example in our recent memory which bears testimony to this seems to be the present dispensation at the centre which on the one hand still sticks to the
– Exclusivist/majoritarian worldview of Hindutva Supremacism and– is simultaneously busy furthering the neoliberal agenda under the glib talk of development.
It is abundantly clear that it has no qualms in projecting its relationship with a self-proclaimed cultural organisation called RSS – which openly abhors the pluralist tradition of this part of South Asia, which has been an admirer of the policies and persona of Hitler n Mussolini, which had kept itself aloof from the independence struggle, had opposed making of the constitution under the chairmanship of Dr Ambedkar and had instead proposed that Manusmriti be made into independent India’s constitution and is engaged today in a corporate friendly agenda which is characterised by deregulation of economy, liberalisation of trade and industry, privatisation of state owned enterprises marked by massive tax cuts, reduction of social services and other welfare programes, downsizing of government, tax havens, anti-unionisation drive to ‘boost productivity’, removal of controls on global financial and trade flows.
The grand metamorphosis of Mr Narendra Modi, from a ‘polariser’ to a ‘development man’ seems to symbolise this new juncture in Indian politics. He leads a parliament which has the lowest representation of minorities since independence and a ruling party which does not have a single elected member from the biggest minority in the country. We have been witness to a strange paradox that many members of the ruling party have been found to be valorising Nathuram Godse, the first terrorist of independent India and spewing venon against the minorities on the floor of the august house.
Everyone knows it but not everyone would like to remember it these days that Mr Modi – who has completed around one and half year being Prime Minister of this country – remained under scanner of national and international human rights organisations for his alleged complicity/connivance or inaction during the infamous riots (variously described as carnage/genocide) when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat and was shunned by the leading western countries for similar reasons for more than a decade. And a case is still pending before the Supreme Court of the country filed by Ms Zakia Zaffery, widow of the ex-Congress M.P. Ehsan Jafri who was killed by a rampaging mob of Hindutva fanatics in 2002, which similarly calls into question his alleged role during the riots. (http://scroll.in/article/749408/will-zakia-jafris-fresh-plea-for-justice-take-gujarat-riot-investigations-to-modis-doorstep)
In fact whatever might be the claims of the PR agencies or the spin doctors close to the government – who are busy telling the outside world that how Modi has helped raise India’s prestige at the international level ( forget the fact that his government’s attempts to play ‘big brother’ in neighbouring Nepal has alienated all the mainstream parties from it or how President of Maldives’s recent interaction with External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj ‘left Delhi red-faced’ when he told her that his government will not tolerate any foreign intervention in the domestic issues [http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/after-maldives-statement-india-tries-to-save-face/] – it is for everyone to see that the effect of his ascent at the social level have been devastating.
The mob lynching of a poor Muslim because of a rumour that he was eating beef, in a village not very far from the national capital, and the manner in which the whole barbaric event is being rationalised by different sections of the ruling party and the continued silence maintained by the PM for a long time who is supposed to be avid social media user is the latest sign of this state of affairs. What was surprising that he had time to tweet a condolence message when son of a famours singer died abroad but he perhaps did not feel the need to show similar concern when poor Akhlaq was lynched by the people.
Any stocktaking of the unfolding situation brings home few stark facts that the ascent of a Hindu Right government at the centre led by Modi has led to a turmoil like situation:
– the alleged fringe elements of the rightwing which effectively are part of a continuum have got a new boost/legitimacy
– with two writers/activists killed within a span of nine months and several others receiving threats and intimidations and supposedly a ‘hit list’ in circulation, India has of late started imitating one of its Islamist neighbours where bloggers are being hounded and cultural programmes are being bombed supposedly to protect the sanctity of religion
– today attempts to foment communal tensions in newer areas are on leading to what the government itself has admitted that there has been 25 per cent increase in communal incidents
– retrogade changes in curriculum have been undertaken with people with dubious academic credentials being given responsibilities in key institutions
– there has been a conscious attack on provisions meant for the vulnerable and marginalised sections of our society in very many ways and there is conscious withdrawal of state from social welfare activities.
– Every effort is being made to put profit at the centre instead of people’s welfare and a free play is being given to the market forces
One can see it as a regime which essentially is walking on two legs.
The growing neoliberal offensive couched in the language of ‘development’ accompanied by (as and when necessary) communal tensions supposedly to further drive a wedge between different sections of the toiling masses, so that the broader issues of deprivation and pauperisation do not get raised at any level is the new normal.
As we can see this tactics has served them well till date.
Despite the growing realisation that they have befooled people by false promises – remember the much discussed promise that they will bring back black money – despite their U Turns on many key issues, despite the fact that prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed in recent times, one does not see much anger coming out on streets, because we can see the politics of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is in full swing. People seem to be more worried about what is in neighbours plate and what s/he is wearing and not concerned with the fact that her/his own plate is rather empty.
Around a year ago well-known documentary film maker Anand Patwardhan, in his speech titled ‘We and Our Nationhood Redefined’ – which was a memorial lecture at the editors guild – had thrown light on the ‘development model’ of Modi and shown glimpse of what was in store for the Indian people.
Please allow me a longish quote from his important speech to share with you:
…[H]anding over common resources by interlinking of rivers, mining projects and disinvestment corroborated by the stock market is not enough. The ideology must sink roots. The Gujarat State Standard VIII th Social Science Textbook of 2013 is evidence of the pervasive ideas of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation as panacea for are touted as victory all the problems our country faces today.– The idea that the Welfare State has failed its citizens is sold through the mechanism of the Public Private Partnership, to pave the way for the take-over of public assets by private interests.– The current regime is in place to rapidly subsume any and all citizen’s rights at a faster pace than what the UPA could manage. Assurances of rapid environmental clearances for mega projects, weakening safeguards in the Land Acquisition Act, withdrawal of the Gram Sabha’s right to decide the fate of mega-projects by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, handing over large tracts of reserved forest land to corporates like Adani, ..and the alarmingly high rate of malnutrition in the model State of Gujarat – these are a few symptoms of a phenomenon reminiscent of the close embrace between Hitler’s Germany and the mega-business of his day.
It will be around a year shortly when these observations were shared with the wider public and looking back one can see the new pace acquired by the government in implementing these policies which further marginalise the already marginalised and poor. Acche Din promised to all are really here but for the moneybags and the corporates.
Gone are the days when the 2002 riots and the growing normalisation of brutality had infuriated a section of the leading capitalists who had expressed their disapproval of the ambiance in the state, today as everyone can see all of them have fallen in line and there is complete change of scene. A recap of statements issued by leaders of industry then would rather seem unbelievable today. Here is an example which is worth sharing :
Internationally, we have lost our name as a secular country. I am ashamed to have seen this in our century. The chief minister must take responsibility and resign. If the powers in Delhi are supporting him, it is unacceptable. If politicians have prevented the police from doing their duties, it cannot be tolerated. Some heads have to roll.— Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC and an industry leader, in The Times of India, March 26, 2002.
All that is passe.
There is no denying the fact that the corporates must be feeling vindicated that they made a right choice when they decided to project Modi as future PM way back in 2009 itself when the western world had closed their doors before him or investigations were still on under a Special Investigating Team constituted under the directions of the Supreme Court to look into his alleged role in the infamous carnage of 2002.
In his write-up ‘How Mr Modi’s voodoo economics will twist India’s destiny’ Prof Amitabh Bhattacharya writes
..[T]oday, the country can “rightfully” qualify for the dubious distinction of having the biggest divide between the haves and have-nots. While a sizeable number of Indians belong to the group of world’s richest individuals, the country is also home to world’s largest number of most impoverished people.Owners of capital are creating wealth for themselves at a much faster rate than the growth of the economy. Without any progressive wealth tax the economic inequality in India is obviously set to increase even faster. The Modi government even removed wealth tax in the 2015-16 budget…
Rise and further rise of Gautam Adani, is rather symptomatic of the closeness of the corporate honchos to the government. Perhaps it is for the first time in independent India’s around seventy years journey that a particular Corporate leader seem to be accompanying the PM on every foreign trip.
In New York, Adani sat in the audience as Modi addressed the United Nations, and he visited Japan, Australia and France at the same time as the prime minister. He was with the prime minister in Brazil, according to the Hindustan Times, and he visited Bhutan with Modi, according to World Trade Scanner. The company denied both news reports.Adani, 52, has traveled with Modi in the past year more than any other billionaire, helping him emerge as the most prominent face of India Inc. to the wider world. His wealth has more than quadrupled since Modi announced his candidacy in September 2013, the biggest gain among the country’s elite.
Gone also are the days when a section of RSS leadership led by the likes of Dattopant Thengadi had played ‘spoilsport’ during NDA I regime led by Vajpayee, under the vague ‘Swadeshi’ concerns, today under a new leadership RSS has decided to support the same policies which it had earlier opposed – which would further marginalise the already exploited, oppressed – in return for a promise that they would like the government move ahead on their ‘cultural agenda’. One very well knows that ‘cultural agenda’ is another euphemism for carving out a Hindu Rashtra out of a plural/secular/democratic India.
For laypersons the unfolding picture is bit difficult to comprehend where yesterdays ‘Swadeshi’ lovingPracharaks and Swayamsevaks have turned into master salesperson to showcase India and are busy giving red carpet treatment to desi-videsi corporates. It is also bit incomprehensible to the ordinary people how the corporate bosses of the country and from outside are ready to digest peddling of mythology as science and history.
It was not for nothing that there was little consternation in the media or even among the articulate sections of our society when Modi – while dedicating a hospital in Mumbai (25 th October 2014) – had said that plastic surgery and genetic science existed and were in use thousands of years ago in ancient India. For him it was how the Hindu god Ganesh’s elephant head became attached to a human body, and how a warrior god was born outside his mother’s womb.
“We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in Mahabharat. If we think a little more, we realise that Mahabharat says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb…..We worship Lord Ganesh. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”
This speech which should have received widespread condemnation because it contravened Article 51(A) of the Constitution which ‘stresses on scientific temper’ and emphasises ‘inculcation of the same as a fundamental duty of every citizen’, was little reported in the media and despite the presence of leading corporates, doctors, scientists and many other celebrities, it did not generate any discussion outside as well. Despite a clear indication that it illustrated how Hindu nationalist views were moving to centre stage now that the BJP was in power, it did not cause any commotion.
Corporate bosses were wise enough to understand that retrogade social views which peddle a strange cocktail of mythology and science and polarising actions can peacefully coexist with logic of capital which was for them the essence of the much tommed tommed ‘Gujarat Model’ which was to be extended to the whole of the country now.
In fact as far as corporate interests are concerned, which today manifests themselves in the model of neoliberalism unfolding here, fascination for Hindu nationalism, Hindutva or similar exclucivist ideologies is mere coincidental. The primary concern is to serve logic of capital which subsists on profits. To put it bluntly, neoliberalism which is basically ‘capitalism with its gloves off’ has demonstrated that it has tremendous flexibility and can operate under spectrum of circumstances, ranging from a monarchy to a model of liberal democracy. History bears witness to the fact that Chile’s dictator Pinochet executed it through coercive violence – which was the first ‘great experiment at neoliberal state formation’ whereas Margaret Thatcher achieved it through the organisation of democratic consent.
For some ‘neoliberalism was from the very beginning an attempt to restore class power to the richest strata of population.’ (Dumeneil and Levy ) Perhaps a look at status of inequality and its dynamic nature in India can throw light on this proposition.
‘The Hindu’ had done a story last year to look at ‘India’s staggering wealth gap’ (Updated: December 8, 2014 11:06 IST) and posed a few questions to itself ‘how does inequality in India really look? How much share does the country’s poorest 10 per cent have in its total wealth, how much does the richest have , and are the rich getting richer?’
…For one, the difference in the wealth share held by India’s poorest 10 per cent and the richest 10 per cent is enormous; India’s richest 10 per cent holds 370 times the share of wealth that it’s poorest hold.India’s richest 10 per cent have been getting steadily richer since 2000, and now hold nearly three-quarters of total wealth.India’s 1 per centers – its super-rich – have been getting richer even faster. In the early 2000s, India’s top 1 per cent held a lower of share of India’s total wealth than the world’s top 1 per cent held of its total wealth. That changed just before and after the global recession – though the world’s super-rich are recovering – and India’s top 1% holds close to half of the country’s total wealth.
On the flip side (as far as capital is concerned) this neoliberal model has resulted in unprecedented social polarisation accompanied by fierce social and class struggles worldwide. As discussed in a book edited by Rebecca Fischer (Corpwatch)
“The pauperising effects unleashed by globalisation have generated social conflicts and political crises that the system is now finding it more and more difficult to contain. The slogan ‘we are 99 per cent’ grows out of the reality that global inequalities and pauperisation have intensified enormously since capitalist globalisation took off in the 1980s. Broad swaths of humanity have experienced absolute downward mobility in recent decades. Even the IMF was forced to admit in a 2000 report that “in recent decades, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population has regressed. This is arguably one of the greatest economic failures of the 20 th century.”(Quoted in ‘Infopack’ : Capitalism and Democracy, PEACE, 2015, Page 78)
In this backdrop if someone offers capital a less troublesome, less violent trajectory, only a fool would refuse it. Looking back, all the talk of ‘policy paralysis’ under UPA II regime, was basically dithering of the powers that be then to ‘keep pace with the ever-increasing demands of resource capturing corporates’. And Modi’s advent offered a break.
It was not for nothing that leading American magazine ‘Forbes’ compared business friendly Modi with Reagan – ex President of US under whom the economy there took a decisive neoliberal turn. An article published in its August issue ( 2014) was titled ‘Republican thinks India’s Narendra Modi is New Reagan’
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by wise people as false and by the rulers as useful-Seneca (4 BC-AD65)
A section of people tend to call the present situation within the country as ‘undeclared emergency’.
At the level of rhetoric one may not raise a point but if one goes into details the differences are obvious.
Internal emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi regime rekindles memories of the draconian period in Independent India’s trajectory, which connotes a situation when there was some external imposition by the state power then when democratic rights were suspended, when there was censorship of the media, when thousands of political activists were put behind bars.
But it is a fact that it could never gain legitimacy from the people.
Today’s situation is qualitatively different, formally there is no imposition, neither there exists any curbs on the media, nor there is formal ban on organisations but despite this one can perceive hollowing out of democracy slowly or its metamorphosis into majoritarianism.
If the hollowing out of democracy under internal emergency where it was substituted/replaced by authoritarianism faced resistance of the people, this second hollowing out has been disturbingly aided and abetted by people themselves. It may look and sound ironic but there have been occasions/periods in history where people have stood against their own interests.
We, who have gathered here and definitely seek a better world, more humane, more caring, more egalitarian, which can transcend the twin challenges of neoliberalism and Hindutva, need to ponder over this hegemony of such ideas over minds of people, which are detrimental to their long term interests.
There are many questions which demand answers, many issues which need to be understood. The consent of the people towards this regime is a real thing. We can’t wish away by saying that they received support of mere 31 per cent of the electorate. The failure of the opposition – from the Congress to the various shades of the left including the people’s movements in the country – in combatting this ascent is a fact which should be studied closely.
It is important to note that ascent of Modi and rise of illiberal and majoritarian voices in this part of South Asia cannot be considered an exception. It is really a strange coincidence that while we are debating ascendance of Hindutva Right here, situation in this part of South Asia looks very similar where majoritarian forces owing allegiance to a particular religion or ethnicity seem to be on the upswing. Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, you name a country and find democratic forces being pushed to the margins and majoritarian voices gaining new voices and strength.
Not very many people would have imagined that people claiming themselves followers of Buddha – who is considered apostle of non-violence – would metamorphose into perpetrators of tremendous human rights violations in Myanmar. It was only last year that ‘Guardian’ had done a special story on the Burmese monk Wirathu – called ‘Bin Laden of Burma’ – who with his 2,500 follower monks has become a dreaded name in the country, instigating Buddhist fanatics to attack Muslims. The plight of Rohingya Muslims has become a cause of international concern. The military in Myanmar has provided tacit support to him or others of his ilk.
Or, come to Sri Lanka, few months back the Bodu Bala Sena(BBS) started by Buddhist monks had reached headlines for attacking Muslims and causing loss of property and human lives. Since the suppression of the Tamil militancy the Sinhala extremist forces – which has enough sprinkling of Buddhist monks – with due connivance of the Rajpakshe government has discovered ‘new enemies’. If Muslims are target number one, Christians and Hindus are not far behind. .
Or you go to Bangladesh or reach neighbouring Pakistan where you find Islamist forces trying to play havoc with the lives of ‘others’. It is true that because of a strong tradition of secular movement, situation is still under control in B’desh but Pakistan seems to be bursting at its seams where various fanatic groups with their violenct acts against the ‘others’ – ranging from the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Hazaras, Hindus etc – have created a situation of implosion.
What is noticeable in this picture is that:
– Perpetrator community changes as you cross the national borders. In fact, one finds a reversal of roles. Perpetrator community on this side of the border metamorphoses into victim community on the other side of the border.-It is disturbing to note in such a volatile situation one type of fanaticism feeds on the other. Buddhist extremists in Myanmar strengthen Islamists in Bangladesh and they further add strength to the Hindutva supremacists here. If the first half of 20 th century this area has been witness to anti-colonial struggles which had strengthened each other’s emancipatory aspirations, in the first quarter of 21 st century we all have been witness to explosion of majoritarian movements trying to put all the achievements of democracy and secularism on the backburner.
And there are reports that different types of alliances are coming up between them
One can look at the words of appreciation expressed by then RSS leader (and now ‘loaned’ to BJP ) Ram Madhav about the Bondu Bala Sena sometime back in this connection and also attempts by the Buddhist extremists to make a common cause with Hindutva Supremacists to form a ‘peace zone’ against the ‘common enemy’ (read Islam)
BODU BALA SENA – A NEW BUDDHIST MOVEMENT IN SRI LANKABodu Bala Sena (BBS) – a Buddhist organisation many wish to call as Right or Ultra Right – is a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. One may prefer to brand them in any manner one would like to. But the fact remains that this new outfit is slowly growing in stature and popular support in the country’s Buddhist-dominated areas…So far, the issues raked up by the BBS are worthy of active and sympathetic consideration…– Ram Madhav
Attempts to coordinate activities against a ‘common enemy’ namely Islam had received a boost when the infamous Wirathu visited Sri Lanka last year and a proposal was put forward by Wirathu and BBS jointly seeking RSS nod to form what they called a “Peace Zone”
..The time has come to ally internationally,” Galagodaththe Gnanasara, the leader of the radical Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, announced at a convention held in Colombo last month. The guest of honor was Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist radical whose picture Time magazine put on its July 1 cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” The government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ignored pleas by Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian civil groups, fearful of more anti-Muslim violence in their country, to deny Mr. Wirathu a visa. Granting Mr. Wirathu a visa can only reinforce the fears of many Muslims that the government — and perhaps more powerful regional allies — back Bodu Bala Sena, which translates as Buddhist Power Force.Last week, Mr. Gnanasara claimed he was in discussions “at a high level” with the right-wing Indian Hindu group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak to form what he called a “Hindu-Buddhist peace zone” in South Asia. A Rashtriya Swayam Sevak spokesman, Ram Madhav, promptly denied that there were any such discussions. But Mr. Madhav, now general secretary of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, has written comments sympathetic to Bodu Bala Sena and Mr. Wirathu’s group 969 in Myanmar on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
One can as well deliberate over the economic agenda of the different rulers in our neighbourhood and you will discover that it is essentially neoliberal.
Looking at developments in India and the rest of South Asia, a picture may emerge that the world today is mere theatre of the rise of illiberal ideas and emergence of anti-human politics with people being turned into mere spectators. It has never been the case now and has never been the case earlier also.
Today as we fight to save sanity in public life – with our back to the wall – and confront the lynch mobs who want to weed out every ‘other’ from amongst our midst, it is heart-warming to see thousands and thousands of people in Europe holding demonstrations to welcome refugees from Syria and pressuring their own governments to change its rules.
Today as we contemplate strategies to challenge neoliberalism, one is witness to similar voices gaining upper hand at least in people’s imagination in many countries of the west, the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain or socialist Bernie Sanders in US primaries is worth watching.
What does future hold for us who live in India?
Whether India would emerge as the new economic superpower of the 21 st Century as claimed by the rulers and their Bhakts n cheerleaders or it will move towards another crude version of what Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India use to call ‘Hindu Pakistan’. It was Nehru only who could foresee how communalism of the majority presents itself as nationalism in a multi-religious country and can one day overwhelm the state.
As an aside let us remind ourselves Dr. Ambedkar’s caution at any such eventuality.
“If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.”( Pakistan or Partition of India, Page 358)
Situation here looks really grim.
Today we have before us an India where (to quote Prof. Achin Vanaik)
‘..[t]he centre of gravity has shifted perhaps decisively to the right, in three crucial spheres : economy, secularism and democracy.’
What can be done to halt this decisive turn to the right?
What should be done so that struggle against communalism, struggle for secularism and democracy and equity receives a new boost.
We need to remember that this struggle has not only national but regional/Asian significance. It does not need recounting how developments here affects developments in neighbouring countries. One can recall the period when for the first time Hindutva Supremacists reached echelons of power here under NDA I, that was the period when Islamists who have been dominating social life since quite some time in neighbouring Pakistan won elections in two provinces for the first time after independence.
Or, how the ascendance of Islamists in Bangladesh as well as Pakistan and the growing Wahabbisation of Islam/Muslims – thanks to what Pervez Hoodbhoy calls ‘Saudisation’ of Pakistan – has impacted social/political life of Muslims here.
And it would not be out of place here to underline that if secularism is able to retrieve lost ground here, neoliberal agenda is put on the defensive in these countries, then it would have a very positive impact on other neighbouring countries also.
As already mentioned if our adversary seems to be walking on two legs – balancing its commitments towards neoliberal agenda and the ‘cultural politics’ on the other, then we cannot just focus on one aspect, we will have to strategise to target both the ‘legs’ in more creative manner perhaps in a multipronged move. One understands that there will be overlapping here and there but we need to move ahead with a new vision, strength and determination.
It is time to envision a better future for India and also the world.
People of India who are exploited by the logic of capital and are oppressed by age old structures, practices and customs that make up Indian society, culture and civilisation definitely deserve a better future. How can they achieve it which would not only make them masters of all they create and give every one of them equal dignity and freedom.
Undoubtedly fighting neoliberalism – which is essentially capitalism of our age , under a bourgeois democratic state and Challenging the ‘cultural politics’ of the right in a society which has deeply entrenched pre-modern socio-cultural civilizational structures is not going to be an easy task. As of now we can easily see the enormity of challenge and the complexity of the situation which awaits us.
We need to carve out a strategy appropriate to our times to carry forward the struggle.
And we also need to think about the question of agency – who is going to take up the gauntlet on behalf of the masses. Who would be the new Davids who would confront the Goliaths of our times ? Would it be some ensemble of social movements or a motley combination of anti-system political formations or a reinvigorated and a reenergised revolutionary left in alliance with various people’s movements ?
My humble understanding is that left of a new kind – which does not believe in merely copying past revolutions and which is ready to reenvision a socialist future and keen about an ideological-theoretical-strategic reorientation – will play an important role in any such unfolding struggle. This emergent revolutionary left will have to realise that lessons and strategies of earlier revolutions cannot become a lodestar for future upheavals, coming transformations. It will have to bear in mind that the next big revolution, wherever it takes place, would be the first revolution of its kind which is directed against capitalism and some type of bourgeois democratic state.
Would it be possible for us to sketch a broad outline of the shape of the transformatory, revolutionary politics which is arising out of the contemporary reality faced by us. A reality carved out by neoliberal capitalist exploitation and plunder and the politics of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ which is the basis of any type of communal politics.
Perhaps there is need to begin the conversation about it with an open mind. My understanding is that we need to chalk out our tentative understanding in broadly five-six areas: economy, basic services like health and education, attempts to turn natural resources into assets for big capital, emancipation from social structures and practices which violate rights of dignity, separation between state and religion and secularisation of public space.
-To resist and defeat neoliberal policies – especially privatisation – workers will have to be organised and they will have to be prepared so that if need arises then they can even lay claim to the running of the enterprise. Workers should be ready not only to participate effectively in the management but also claim share in the surplus.
-Workers in the informal sectors of the economy, including agriculture will have to join hands to demand guarantees from the state of employment and humane wages, small producers will have to be organised to experiment various forms of cooperatives and collectives
-Look at the pittance which is allocated for two important sectors – health and education – which has led us to a situation where we are one of those countries where privatisation of health services has reached pinnacle and conscious dismantling of state supported education has taken place. Fight against neoliberalism here would mean eliminate market and logic of capital from them and compel the state to provide for these services.
-Should not we challenge and launch massive struggles against predatory big capital which is busy appropriating public assets – land, water, minerals, forests and demand that the state formulate policies so that such takeovers do not take place
-Struggle against communalisms of various kinds – majority as well as minority – would be incomplete if struggle for secularism and secularisation of public space is not taken up with equal vigour . Similarly struggles against social, cultural, traditional, religious practices -especially caste, gender should be taken up in right earnest.
Let me once again admit that these are tentative proposals and they are open for debate.
I am sure that we can have a very vibrant conversation around these themes and possibly will be able to move forward towards a consensus.
Let me stop here. Revolutionary Greetings to you all once again for a successful conference.
* The sixth conference of Human Rights Forum was held in Adoni, Kurnool, A.P. from 10-11 th October 2015.
Human Rights Forum (HRF) was formed in October 1998 with a strong understanding that violation or denial of rights arises in all situations of structured oppression and inequality and the democratic aspirations arising from all such situations, and resistance to such oppression, whether organized or not, whether collective or isolated, are equally important for the Rights movement: theoretically, practically and organizationally. Click here for HRF website.
** freely excerpted from the documents of the founding conference of ‘New Socialist Initiative’)
Subhash Gatade is a New Socialist Initiative (NSI) activist. He is also the author of 'Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India'; 'The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India' and 'The Ambedkar Question in 20th Century' (in Hindi).