Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Let me thank all those who did not let me remain in the CPI(M)!!!!!!!!!

``Police Outrage in Nandigram.’’ This scroll message at the bottom of the TV screen got me to stop switching channels. I would not have switched on the TV in normal course. I do not recall why I did that. I had decided to write about Hasan Ali and his hawala business. I was unaware of the massacre in Nandigram. And even when my friend had mentioned something about Nandigram, I did not realise what he was talking about.

But then, after seeing the visuals, I told myself that Hasan Ali must wait. The fact is Hasan Ali was only a player in a money-laundering racket and is not guilty of manslaughter. In other words, to comment on the Hasan Ali, at this stage, will only be an excuse to gloss over the murderous act by the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal. The hard-core in the CPI(M) may do that. But I was never a hard-core in the party and I am only too happy that I did not end up one. I am glad that I was not allowed to stay on with the party! My formal links were over several years ago.

Let us come to Nandigram now. The fact is that the almost all the inhabitants in the village are united against the state government. It means that even those who were members of the CPI(M) are not amused by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s zeal to convert West Bengal into one huge industrial hub. It means that there are members in the CPI(M) too who refuse to accept a spurious interpretation of Marxism that industrial growth is the only way to progress.

In other words, the resistance in Nandigram is proof that Karl Marx was talking a lot of sense when he described capitalism as inhuman. It will make some sense if the members of the CPI(M) and its leaders take some time to read The Grundrisse, which by all means is a text where Karl Marx’s early humanism (which comes out in the Communist Manifesto of 1848) is synthesized with his later researches in history and economics. The CPI(M) leaders, as I know them, love to dismiss any suggestion to read scholarly texts, as unwarranted and even deride it as a disease. And this is how they manage to contain debates inside the party.

But the events in Nandigram clearly show that there are members and associates of the party who refuse to consider the party leaders as the priest or the prophet. And they decided to be a part of the struggle against the land grab that is being planned in Nandigram in the name of setting up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) out there. And these former associates of the CPI(M) have no serious problems in joining hands with others, even if some of them were supporters of other parties, to resist the land grab! This indeed is what Marx talked about in all his writings: That the shared experience of the oppressed people is bound to unite them in a battle against the oppressors. And that the oppressors will be backed by the armed mercenaries (the police) and unleash violence.

But then, Biman Bose, the party commissar in Kolkotta thinks differently. Apart from a formal statement that the police must not have fired, Bose has added that the people of Nandigram are being misled by ``outsiders’’ and the Maoists.
Now, Bose would not have made this silly remark if he had recalled the lessons he had learnt in his early days in the party; his own comrades were charged of inciting violence just because they belonged to a band of men who loved violent means. This was how the communists were described by Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel when the organised the peasants and the oppressed during the Tebhaga movement in Bengal, the Telengana armed struggle in that part of Andhra and in Punnapra-Vayalar in Travancore.

And Bose himself was a victim of oppression by the police during the semi-fascist terror unleashed against the communists in West Bengal between 1972 and 1977 when the State was ruled by Sidhartha Sankar Ray. And for him to now make this point about outsiders and Maoists being behind the Nandigram trouble (and on a day when the police killed at least a dozen human beings), is to justify the brutality on grounds that it is alright for the police to shoot down these outsiders and the Maoists. The point is that even if there are outsiders and Maoists, they don’t deserve to be shot dead or beaten up by the police.

And when someone says that such violence by the police is justified against outsiders and Maoists, there is something seriously wrong. And let me stop now with this statement: ``If you are capable of trembling with indignation each time that an injustice is committed in the world, we are comrades.’’ Well, that was Che Guevara!


Blogger Aandy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Aandy said...

That a police force is being used to subjugate one section of the population for the benefit of another and that the police can kill with impunity, demonstrates the failure of our democracy to deliver social justice.

When government intervention in such cases is sought, the government should adopt a common rule of ensuring 'Pareto Optimality'. Which simply means that no one should be made better off by making someone else worse off.

The argument placed by the government is usually that such projects are for the 'greater good'. This argument must be dropped in favour of a 'Pareto Optimal' argument, which will at least be a small step in the direction of social justice.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous KALPIT MANKIKAR said...

The article was thought provoking, but (sorry to play devil's advocate). Agriculture will not be able to provide so many jobs to the population, the workfore can only be absorbed into industry. in the that event, why have such an inimical attitude towards manufacturing?

What is wrong if a hundred SEZs bloom?

12:37 AM  
Blogger Aandy said...

If agriculture cannot provide jobs, then there will be surplus labour. If there is surplus labour, then wages will go down. If wages go down, anything that uses labour to produce something of value will become cheaper and more profitable to produce.

Which is just to say that surplus labour will attract investment on its own. The market works fine if the government does not fiddle around with it. And as such government does not need to promote SEZs. Moreover, it is not that industries cannot be set up or cannot thrive without SEZs.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Vibha said...

kalpit, in response to your argument that SEZs will deliver us from poverty.
to begin with one only needs to take a look at the labour standards in SEZs. which needless to say are abysmally low. subsistence wages, sometimes even violative of the Minimum Wage stipulation, no health benefits, no social security...measures to keep the workforce at mere subsistence level. that is never going to get us out of poverty. and let's not forget the hire and fire policies that SEZs are allowed, which means that you have no security in terms of a job and no savings thanks to the lack of social security. how will this system ever deliver us from poverty?

i agree everyone can't be given jobs in agriculture...but what's taking place in Bengal is not any transition to's immiserisation! land is as valuable an asset for a farmer as say your education is for you. it's a lifelong security. even if one is to consider the argument of compensation, it cannot ever measure up to taking away one's permanent source of income forever in exchange for a few lakhs.

pareto optimality (though in your context you have used to favour the dispossessed) is the criteria that is used in most compensatory packages and am sure it was used in this case too...
but pareto optimality is not the best measure of social welfare. it does not say anything abotu distributional inequalities. so if i was rolling in luxury and you were completely impoverished, pareto optimality woudl actually advise against any kind of redistribution as it would make you worse off than before at my cost.
economics is fine, but not without a sense of ethics. let's accept that certain decisions require value judgements and let not the war cry of objectivity as sounded by free markets mislead us from our sense of 'right' and 'wrong'.

when you say surpluys labour will attract investment,and celebrate the ability of markets to take care of creating employment there are serious qualifications you need to make here. markets unlike deomocracy are exclusionist. you need to belong to a certain bracket of purchasing power in order to participate on equal footing in free markets.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Aandy said...

I guess nobody can indulge in value judgements. To each man his own, according to his abilities.

That is not to say that equal opportunities must be overlooked.

Moreover, about free markets and democracy. Democracy is more exclusionary than free markets. When there is a rule by the majority there is always some minority (not in the religious sense of the term) that is excluded.

I hope free markets do not invoke images of factories and malls in your mind, since you mention one has to belong to a certain purchasing power bracket.

Any place where exchange of goods and services take place is a market. When such exchanges are allowed to take place unhindered it creates a free market. In that sense even a beedi factory and small vegetable market are part of a free market.

Therefore you do not need to have purchasing power to participate in a free market. You need to have something to sell in the first place to participate in the free market. This something to sell in the case of unskilled persons would be unskilled labour and if you are a journalist I guess it would be your words or ability to write. Since without selling something it is not possible to buy anything.

Free markets in this sense are not exclusionary. They are in fact more inclusive than democratically elected governments.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Vibha said...

when i said democracy is inclusive...i meant it in the sense of one individual one vote! everyone gets to participate in the democratic process and voice his choice.
as for markets and the forces of demand and supply, who decides what skill is required and what is not? the one that owns the means of production.
but to acquire a particular skill required by the market itself requires you to belong to a particular class. example, in order to become a software engineer, you need to belong to a class that can afford to acquire the education requisite for it. what makes us value a software engineer's contribution higher that say a sewage cleaner? i don't think the forces of demand and supply are entirely objective then in choosing a particular skill over the other. there are various interests that play a role in creating demand for a particular skill, commodity, service, etc.
else i wouldn't have the supermarket next to my hostel stacked with 25 varieties of cereal from all over the world to make sure that people staying in the highrises nearby are not starved of their freedom of choice while a few million around the country cannot even demand homegrown cereal to eat one meal a day.
and at the cost of sounding cliched, whether you like it or not, malls are a part and parcel of that very process called free markets.
it's very comforting to stay away from any sense of right and wrong and tell ourselves that we are not indulging in value judgements and being objective. but economics without a sense of ethics would then just be a discipline that is best relegated to the realm of text books.

3:31 AM  

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