Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush in Baghdad: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog"

The article given below is from A world to Win News Service

Bush in Baghdad: "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog"

15 December 2008. A World to Win News Service. U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad to say farewell to the country his government raped. The highlight, a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was touted as proof of the improved situation for the occupation.

Just as Bush concluded his remarks, a young Iraqi journalist in the audience stood up and hurled a shoe at the U.S. president, shouting, "This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!" Then he threw the other shoe, adding, "This is from the widows, the orphans and all those who were killed in Iraq!" Bush ducked and the shoes hit the U.S. and Iraqi flags behind his head.

Hitting someone with the sole of your shoe is an extreme insult in the Arab world. All Iraqis remember the way people pounded Saddam Hussein's statue and portraits with their shoes when he went down.

The journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, was present as an accredited correspondent for a satellite television station that broadcasts from Cairo, and had passed a U.S. Secret Service background check. His family was known to have suffered arrests under the regime of Saddam Hussein. He was said to have been deeply shaken by the American outrages at Abu-Ghraib, and then by the dead children he saw as a reporter on the scene during the U.S. bombing of the Sadr City slums last March. His employer described him as a "proud Arab and an open-minded man."

Bush made light of the incident. "This is what happens in a free society," he said. People in Iraq were not so convinced about the "freedom" the U.S. has brought Iraqis. U.S. Secret Service agents and Iraqi security guards could be seen beating Zaidi in the press conference room and he could be heard yelling “My hand, my hand.” Apparently the beating continued out of sight in the next room. His brother told BBC that he had suffered a broken hand, broken ribs, an eye injury and internal bleeding.

The 28-year-old journalist wasn't speaking just for himself. Two other reporters present were also arrested and beaten after his act, reportedly for remarking that it was courageous.

The next day thousands of people marched in the capital's Sadr City, Najaf and Basra, brandishing shoes and demanding his release. Since then some Iraqis have taken to throwing shoes at passing American patrols. Support for him is said to be overwhelming among Iraqis, crossing religious and ethnic lines among all those opposed to the occupation.

He has been taken as a role model by other journalists across the Middle East. Many are wondering, half seriously, if from now on press conferences with American officials will be "socks only". Among the hundreds of lawyers who have volunteered to defend Zaidi, some are reportedly Americans. Many comments on the Al Jazeera Web site posted from the U.S., Canada and Europe said Zaidi spoke for them and “simple folk across the planet.” Tens of thousands of people have joined Facebook groups set up on the Web in his support.

Zaidi’s brother said he was outraged by the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces treaty (see AWTWNS 27 October) whose signing Bush came to Baghdad to celebrate. Part of what’s fuelling a new swell of popular anger in Iraq is that Bush may be saying goodbye, but the U.S. occupation does not seem about to end. In the days before the press conference, U.S. commanding general Ray Odierno, on whose judgment incoming president Barack Obama says he will rely, announced that although the treaty promises that American troops will withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns after June 2009, he intends to keep "thousands" in the capital and other urban centres by re-labelling them "enablers" rather than combat forces. He suggested that the Iraqi government might later change the treaty and allow the U.S. to remain for years to come after the 2011 deadline it calls for. Speaking in favour of that idea, a spokesman for the Maliki government guessed that might mean another decade of occupation.

And for those who think they missed the opportunity to throw their shoes at Bush, dont worry. Here is a chance for u too to throw the bastard

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chief Seattle's Letter

With Barack Obama being elected president of the US, the question doing rounds is whether there will be a change in US. Is a sudden change possible in the Empire that rules the world. People like Fidel Castro thinks “it would be extremely naive to believe that the good intentions of an intelligent person could change centuries of interests and selfishness already created.” Yes centuries of interests and selfishness...

But has America always been like that? Definitely not. The letter written by a Red Indian chieftain in 1855 suggests that america had a different past too.

In 1855 the president of the United States Franklin Pierce wrote to Chief Seattle with an offer from the government to buy his people’s land. The US government was offering Seattle a considerable sum. And it was in reply to this Chief Seattle wrote the letter. The letter is also an eye opener to those who advocate to civilize the savage and bring them to the mainstream.

Here for my readers i post the famous letter

The Great White Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. He also sends words of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. What I say the Great White Chief can count on as truly as our white brothers can count on the turning of the seasons. My words are like stars: they do not set.

How can you buy or sell the sky; the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water, so how can you buy them from us? We will decide in our time, but every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every glade and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know that the white man doesn’t understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the Earth whatever he wants. The Earth is not his brother but his enemy; and when he conquers it he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves behind and doesn’t care. He kidnaps the Earth from his children. His father’s graves and children’s birthrights are forgotten. His appetite will devour the Earth and leave behind a wasteland. The sight of your cities pains the eye of the red man. But perhaps this is because the red man is a “savage” and doesn’t understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the leaves of spring or the rustle of insects’ wings. The clatter insults the ears. But perhaps I am only a “savage” and don’t understand. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill or the argument of the frogs around a pond at night? The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, and the wind itself cleansed by the midday rain or scented with pinion. The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath: the beasts, the trees, the man. The white man doesn’t seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for days, he is numb to his own stench.

If I accept, I will make one condition: the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am just a “savage” and don’t understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a “savage” and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo whom we kill only to live. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone then men would die from a terrible loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.

Our children have seen our fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame. After defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet food and strong drink. It matters little where we pass the rest of our days; they are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters, and none of the children of the great tribes that once lived on the Earth, or that roamed in small bands in the woods, will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful and hopeful as yours. One thing we know that the white man may one day discover: our God and your God are the same. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land, but you cannot. He is the God of man and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The Earth is precious to him, and to harm the Earth is to pour contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass, perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your own bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses all tamed.What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by telegraph wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift and then hunt, the end of living and the beginning of survival.

We might understand if we knew what it was that the white man dreams, what hopes he describes to his children on long winter nights, what visions he burns into their minds so that they will wish for tomorrow. But we are “savages”. The white man’s dreams are hidden from us. And because they are hidden we will go our own way. If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you’ve promised. There, perhaps we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from the Earth, and our memory is just the shadow of a cloud passing across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people, for they love the Earth the way a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat.

If we sell you our land, love it as we’ve loved it. Care for it as we’ve cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land, as it is when you take it. And with all your strength and all your might and with all your heart preserve it for your children, and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know: our God is the same as yours. The Earth is precious to him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from common destiny.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Afghan Maoists: On the military situation of the Taleban and other Islamic anti-government forces

The article given below is from A World to Win News Service. For those who r not subscribers of AWTWNS, i post it here.

Afghan Maoists: On the military situation of the Taleban and other Islamic anti-government forces

1 December 2008. A World to Win News Service. Following are edited excerpts from issue no. 19 (July 2008) of Shola Jawid, organ of the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan. The explanations in parentheses are by AWTWNS.

The Taleban made little use of guerrilla methods in their war against the "Islamic Interim State of Afghanistan" headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Shah Massood (the warlord regime that came to power after the fall of the pro-Soviet regime in 1992 and eventually fell to the Taleban in 1996). For the most part their offensives took the form of conventional warfare.

In their initial confrontation with the U.S. and UK (after the October 2001 invasion), they used the same methods and suffered heavy losses. After two months of putting up more resistance than the invaders expected, they quickly retreated from the regions under their control. At that time they were unable to reorganise their forces to fight guerrilla warfare and continue fighting in the villages or mountains. In addition to these organisational and military questions, other major factors behind their inability to sustain the fighting were the lack of mass support and low morale in their own ranks due to the general assumption that it was impossible to resist the superior military forces led by the U.S. This defeat caused a relatively large section of the Taleban forces to defect and join the puppet regime.

The Taleban did not mount significant military operations between that time and the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in 2003. The beginning of resistance in Iraq brought with it scattered guerrilla resistance by the Taleban and the growing activities by the (historically and organisationally distinct) Pakistani Taleban and Arab and non-Arab groups related to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The widespread movement in the Western countries against the U.S. and UK invasion and occupation of Iraq increasingly turned its attention to the Afghanistan situation too. Previously the occupation of Afghanistan was not a big issue in these protests, in comparison with the war in Iraq. Further, the Iraq war widened the cracks among the imperialists, in particular between the U.S. and Russia, and somewhat intensified their contradictions. Moreover, the Taleban were able to gain manoeuvring room because of U.S. threats against Iran, on the one hand, and on the other Pakistan's alarm at the increasingly close relations between the U.S. and India, which Islamabad considers a threat to Pakistan's security and even to its existence. These factors created new conditions for cooperation between the Taleban and certain political forces and sections of the ruling classes in Iran and Pakistan.

However, the most important factor in sparking the revival of the Taleban was the consequences of the imperialist occupation and the rule of the regime they installed. This is the main reason why by 2006 the Taleban were strengthened to the point of becoming a relatively large force with bases in much of the country. In particular, the failure of the imperialists' reactionary reconstruction efforts in the political, economical, cultural and social spheres greatly helped the once-defeated and hated Taleban to regain influence among the masses and extend their military activities.

The Taleban made the most of the masses' increasing discontent with the occupiers and their puppet regime. Partly by relying on the masses in certain regions and with direct and indirect foreign support, they were able to give a more organised form to their scattered activities against the regime and the occupation armies, and win over new forces as well.

A report by the county's main security agency (the General Supervision of National Security) given to the regime's parliament largely reflects the intensification and expansion of Taleban military activities. The total number of Taleban operations recorded by this agency are as follows:

In 1383 (20 March 2004-20 March 2005) 1,466 actions

In 1384 (21 March 2005-20 March 2006) 1,796 actions

In 1385 (21 March 2006-20 March 2007) 3,012 actions

In 1386 (21 March 2007-20 March 2008) 4,118 actions

These figures include ambushes and assaults, sabotage, kidnappings, suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, but not all Taleban military operations. For example, they do not include the numerous cases where, without fighting, the Taleban have seized villages briefly or even for a longer time. These operations are very important for the Taleban. When the regime loses control over these villages, the Taleban can enforce their own rules. They close girls' schools and establish their version of the Sharia (religious) justice system, impose Islamic taxes and collect donations. They also take over the security of poppy-growing farms, heroin production and drug trafficking. They have more freedom to run their religious schools and recruit from the people.

The Taleban recruiting methods are simple. They invite the inhabitants to join the jihad (holy war) against the kafir (infidels). They arm these volunteers and organise them into their ranks. In regions where they have more stable control, they demand that every certain number of families (for example 20) offer one person as a fighter, or that they pay the annual living expenses for one soldier. This kind of primitive recruiting has made it easy for spies and informers to infiltrate their ranks. The secret services have used the information they obtained in this way to inflict serious blows on the Taleban, including killing some of their leading commanders. But instead of changing their recruiting methods, the Taleban have tried to prevent infiltration by brutally punishing any spies and informers they can catch. Often this means beheading. Such terror has produced some results and seems to have hindered infiltration somewhat, but it has not been very effective. Moreover, it has given rise to so much discontent among the masses that recently Mullah Omar (the Taleban leader) ordered a halt to beheadings.

Taleban fighting tactics

The Taleban base their military tactics on the experiences of Afghanistan's previous wars, and, additionally, the methods used by Al Qaeda in Iraq. The operational methods used to occupy villages and districts are basically the same as during the war against the Soviet occupation. Suicide operations, however, were unknown in Afghanistan until recently. It is said the initial training for suicide attacks in Afghanistan took place in Iraq. The main Taleban guerrilla operations in urban areas are suicide bombings. The 27 April attack in Kabul that forced the Hamid Karzai government to cancel its celebrations (of the victory against the Soviet Union) in the capital and elsewhere – an operation with worldwide political impact – was meant to be a suicide attack. The regime is in such crisis that the members of its security forces ran way when the shooting started, so the attackers did not find it necessary to detonate their bombs and got away alive after their successful operation.

The Taleban fighters have no air defence weapons. Their arms and equipment come from three sources: the material remaining from their years in power, and that which they get from Iran and Pakistan. Certain sections of the ruling powers in these two countries support them to a certain degree. In addition, the Taleban have developed an almost nation-wide network for buying arms and ammunition. This is the only Taleban activity that is not limited to Pashtun areas.

It is impossible to have an opinion on the exact number of Taleban fighters. The occupiers and regime put their numbers at 15,000 – 20,000, but these statistics are far from reliable. The Taleban themselves have not put out figures, and in fact it is likely that they themselves do not have an accurate count. This is because most of their fighters are not permanent. Even their full-time fighters are not organised separately into a regular army. Many fighters are either part time or enlist for a limited time frame (often defined by harvests). Despite their relatively broad international connections, the Taleban and their fighting forces have mainly kept their tribal character. This is an impediment to combining their forces into a single army.

The Taleban suffer from an incurable limitation: they are known as the most violently Pashtun chauvinist organisation in Afghanistan. (At roughly 42 percent of the population, the Pashtun are not only by far the single biggest ethnic group but historically the country's oppressor nationality – Afghanistan means "land of the Pashtuns" in Farsi.) During their "Islamic Emirate", they acted with an extraordinary ruthlessness and brutality against non-Pashtun people. They harshly suppressed the people in general in non-Pastun regions and non-Pashtuns in the mixed areas in the north. In the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif they waged a brutal war of ethnic cleansing. That is why the Taleban forces are almost entirely Pashtun. In addition to the country's south and east, where Pashtun are the majority, they are also active in Pashtun minority regions in the west and north.

Many of the anti-Soviet jihadis and the formerly pro-Soviet militias who quickly capitulated to the U.S. claimed that these new invaders offered a ray of hope to save the country from the Pashtun-chauvinist Taleban. They continue to do so today. This factor played an important role in spreading capitulationism among the non-Pashtun nationalities. Over the years of occupation this "ray of hope" has lost much credibility, but the Taleban are still unable to exert much influence among the non-Pashtun nationalities. The Taleban themselves are aware of this limitation and that is why they do not make much effort to recruit from them.

The Pakistani Taleban have also emerged as an important force, able to carry out significant military operations over a wide area. But in Pakistan, too, they are a single-nationality movement, active only in Pashtun areas and mainly among the tribal areas. The Pakistani Taleban have played an important role in strengthening the Taleban movement as a whole and participated extensively in the war in Afghanistan. In some cases their actions have gotten more attention than their Afghan counterparts. For example, most of the suicide attacks attributed in Afghanistan are carried out by Pakistani Taleban. The Pakistani Taleban areas serve as a secure rear area for Afghan Taleban, where they can rest, train and satisfy logistical needs.

On other Islamist forces

Among other Islamist forces that fight the occupiers and the regime is the Hezb-e Islami, the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (The prime minister of the Islamic regime established after the departure of the Soviet army, Hekmatyar's faction played a key role in reducing Kabul to rubble during the subsequent civil war among the former jihadis.) Like the Taleban, Hekmatyar's party is limited to the Pashtun heartland and Pashtun minority areas. The Islamic Party used to be multi-national, but after the occupation nearly all its non-Pashtun components joined the Karazi regime.

Where the Taleban are strong, the Islamic Party works through them. In fact, the Taleban do not allow anyone else to carry out independent activities. Where the party is stronger than the Taleban, they do mount their own military activities. For instance, it is widely believed that the Islamic Party and associated organisations are behind many of the operations in Ghazni (a province in east-central Afghanistan) .

Hekmatyar has some backing among fundamentalist circles in Pakistan and certain circles in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Militarily his forces today tend to follow the same model they employed during the war against the Soviet occupation – a war of attrition focused on planting mines, and rocket, artillery and sniper attacks from a distance. They do not carry out suicide operations.

A few words on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: despite the dramatic presence of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, it seems that the main Al-Qaeda bases are still in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this presence has diminished. In the last few years, due to the intense contradiction between the Parvez Musharraf regime and Al-Qaeda, heavy blows were inflicted on the Al-Qaeda organisation in Pakistan. Nearly a thousand of its leaders and cadres in Pakistan have been killed or arrested and handed over to U.S. officials.

In any case, while it is impossible to exactly determine the number of Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, considering the number of their causalities and arrests over the last few years, it seems that they are much less numerous than the Taleban and do not dominate the fundamentalist opposition overall. However, their presence in Afghanistan is still relatively effective.

Revolutionary forces

As we can see, in general the Islamist forces monopolise the military resistance to the occupiers and the puppet regime. Both in the country and abroad, this military resistance is considered Islamist and basically Taleban. In other words, revolutionary military forces are not present on the battlefield. Experience shows that if this continues to be the case, the Islamic and Taleban colouring of the resistance will only get stronger. At a certain point, it is possible that the grounds for the presence of the revolutionary armed forces in the battlefield will disappear and the whole revolutionary movement and communist movement will be marginalized, unable to assert an effective influence on the country's political scene for years and years to come.

It is absolutely clear that there are certain objective and subjective factors that make it potentially possible for revolutionary military forces to enter the battlefield against the occupiers and the regime. However, these potentially favourable objective and subjective

elements will not flourish automatically. Emerging from the present unfavourable situation would require hard and tireless work by the whole party and advanced masses. We are well aware that without such a turn, we will not be able to play a significant positive role in changing the country's political situation. Only by launching and successfully advancing a revolutionary people's national resistance war against the occupiers and the puppet regime will we be able to wage an effective ideological and political struggle against the enemies of the revolution and position ourselves to provide the practical revolutionary leadership on the whole war of resistance and lead this war to the victorious path of new democratic revolution

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Arundhati on Media-Police Collusion

Of late India is witnessing a lot of encounter killings. But are they all encounter killings...? In her latest interview with CNN-IBN noted writer Arundhati Roy expresses her doubts over these killings and media's role in making people believe them.

Arundhati on media-police collusion

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. Why is Arundhati Roy angry with the police and upset with the press? That’s the key issue I shall explore today. Arundhati Roy, let’s start with the recent encounter in Jamia Nagar in New Delhi. You’ve called for an independent judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge. Why do you involve yourself into this work? What’s your locus standi?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I am just one of those thousands of people who are asking some very serious questions of the police. The trouble is that you know, even if you wanted to believe this police version, you don’t know which police version to believe. Does one believe the Bombay police, the UP police, the Gujarat police or the Delhi police? All of them have different versions. There’s a blizzard of masterminds. The Additional Commissioner of Mumbai police, Rakesh Maria recently said that Tauqeer, who is the Delhi police’s mastermind of Indian Mujahideen, is a media creation. The point is who creates the media creations? Is it the media or the police or do they work together?

Karan Thapar: So, you are motivated by these contradictions. Is that the sole reason you need a judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge?

Arundhati Roy: Again, it is not just me. It was thousands of people who are saying one thing, you know. When the police have killed people, it ceases to be a neutral party. It cannot have an impartial investigation in its own actions. And there are so many serious questions about what happened at Batla House.

Karan Thapar: But before we come to those questions, let me point out what many people will be thinking at this moment. They are going to ask why do you think will an encounter, when a senior police officer like MC Sharma is killed and another injured would be fake. The police would not endanger themselves in a fake and fraudulent incident.

Arundhati Roy: Well, historically the police and security agencies the world over have done things like that. I am not saying it is fake. I am saying lets have an enquiry because this matter of MC Sharma, for instance would be cleared up if they would only produce the post-mortem report. Instead the post-mortem report is leaked in various ways and Mail Today says that he was shot from behind. Praveen Swami (of the daily The Hindu) says he was shot from two sides. The residents say that the police arrived and that there were drills and that they are making holes in the flat now. Why cannot all this be cleared up? If they would just produce the reports, which even the Magistrate asked for, and has put out a warrant for investigating officer and they still haven’t produced it.

Karan Thapar: As you speak, I get the impression that your whole premise is that you don’t trust the police. Millions of Indians do. Is it fitting and fair that you should question their veracity in this way when you know that it would not just demoralise them but it would seriously undermine their struggle to contain terror?

Arundhati Roy: Well. Millions of Indians do not trust the police. Is our choice not to question them because here we are talking about the communal profiling of a hundred and fifty million people, demoralising them, radicalising a whole generation and asking serious questions of a story that is told to us that is full of holes? Especially because such a senior police officer died in the incident, why should we not clear it up for the sake of police itself?

Karan Thapar: Let me for a moment play Devil’s Advocate and point out to you evidence that you are deliberately ignoring. AK-47s were found in Batla House, so were two pistols. Policemen were shot at, policemen were killed. Atif’s name appears in the Ahmedabad, Mumbai and UP police findings. Now, most recently, it transpires that Atif’s degree from Allahabad is a fake. Why aren’t you giving the police, as anyone else will, the benefit of the doubt? The evidence suggests that there is something suspicious, that there is a case. Why do you doubt it?

Arundhati Roy: Let enquiry clear it up. Even in the case of these recoveries, you know, there is a serious procedural lapse. When the police make recoveries at the scene of the crime, they should have independent witnesses corroborating it. They didn’t, like in the case of the Parliament attack.

Karan Thapar: Isn’t it possible that people are scared to come forth?

Arundhati Roy: No, but they have to get the seizure memo signed, right? And even the magistrate is asking for all these documents, for the FIR, the post mortem report, for the case diary not being produced. Now, let me ask some questions about Atif. The reports in the media given out by the police say that they have had him under surveillance since July 17. If so, then how was he allowed to plant these bombs in September? And even when they say that they had him under surveillance, they say that his number was called by a number, which was called by another number. I mean, c’mon, that’s a lead, not proof that someone is a terrorist.

Karan Thapar: Maybe the surveillance wasn’t effective. Maybe the police are exaggerating that they had him under surveillance. What about the other evidence that the police have brought into the public domain? It transpires that clips of the car that was used in the Ahmedabad bombings were found inside Atif’s mobile, it transpires that literature of al-Qaeda was found at Batla House. It seems that even Saif has been using an assumed name. He has been travelling under a false identity calling himself Rohan Sharma. He even had that gentleman’s voter identity card with him. None of these is suggestive or corroborated but you are dismissing it as otherwise.

Arundhati Roy: I am not dismissing it. If there is an enquiry, all this will also be a part of it. I am not dismissing they may be real terrorists. There are real terrorists, who are they? Are these boys the real ones? While the police are giving us evidence, there are also strange stories floating around. The police have been using the media to put out stories. All this is very disturbing and all this could be cleared out.

Karan Thapar: See, if I understand you correctly, there are two things you want clarified. One is that you want the questions and the inconsistencies in the police stories clarified because they suggest that the police hadn’t got a clear cut case. And the second thing is that you want to try and get at the proof that establishes that the police had good reason to suspicious of the people.

Arundhati Roy: Exactly! Even their own versions are contradicting each other. On the one hand they say that you know, we did not know that they were terrorists and that is why we went in, in this casual manner. But the minute something came up they come out and say that these were the masterminds. There are so many things, you know. They say that people were killed in the crossfire but the proof is that these two men were killed while they were kneeling with shots in their head.

Karan Thapar: That’s an assumption, I must point out!

Arundhati Roy: No, there are pictures.

Karan Thapar: Suggested. But we do not have the corroboration from the police.

Arundhati Roy: The police should show the post mortem report but we see it from the photographs.

Karan Thapar: You know what? Listening to you, people will say, and I am repeating what I have said to you earlier! They will say that her problem arises from the fact that she does not trust the police. Is it right that you should have such serious doubts about them?

Arundhati Roy: Not just rights, I think its our duty to have serious doubts and especially today, when we are sliding quickly into fascism and terrorism. It’s our business as members of civil society to ask hard questions.

Karan Thapar: In which case, what are you suspecting the police…or let me put me more strongly and bluntly. What are you accusing the police of, on this issue?

Arundhati Roy: Well, primarily of giving us a story that doesn’t hold together and insults our intelligence.

Karan Thapar: Why would they do this?

Arundhati Roy: I don’t know. That’s what we would like to know.

Karan Thapar: Is it not possible that they have got it right and you have doubts about them?

Arundhati Roy: Maybe! But an enquiry would show that, wouldn’t it? The more they block it, refuse to produce the post mortem. The more they subterfuge and obfuscate their way through this, the more people will get suspicious of them.

Karan Thapar: An enquiry at the end of the day, would be in their benefit as well! Is that what you are arguing?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely!

Karan Thapar: What then do you say of people who argue that this is typical Arundhati Roy. She’s been against dams and developments; she’s in favour of secession of Kashmir. She’s attacked nuclear weapons and is now she is defending terrorists?

Arundhati Roy: Well, to being accused of being typically oneself is not an accusation. But if you are accusing me of having a world view that I do not believe in…I mean I do not believe in neo colonial military occupation, I don’t believe in nuclear weapons and I don’t believe in ecological destruction; then I am guilty as accused. Raising questions does not amount to supporting terrorism. I raised questions on the Parliament attack along with the people; we want to know who the terrorists are. We don’t know. Now, of the people we defended, two of the four ‘masterminds’ of the case were released. Afzal has been convicted by the Supreme Court which says that says that we have no evidence to prove that he is attached to any terrorist groups but in order to satisfy the collective conscience of society, he is being sentenced to death. Excuse me Karan, its my case that the collective conscience of society is also a part of media construct and a part of the judicial imagination constructed by these stories that being put out.

Karan Thapar: So, you are saying to me that as a citizen, as a conscientious democrat, it is your duty to question. And if the questions are awkward and unsettling, so be it and that they must be answered, none the less?

Arundhati Roy: Yes, absolutely!

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, lets come to the wider issue about how the police treats the people it has arrested and it is holding in detention. You are extremely upset by the fact that India Today journalists were given an access to the young men arrested at Batla House so that interviews could be done. Why do you call this a terrible thing?

Arundhati Roy: Well, look this phenomenon of media confessions is becoming a standard operating procedure with the Special cell and the Delhi police. The point is that neither the courts nor any kind of international law allows you to say that people who are being held in police custody under torture.

Karan Thapar: How do you know that they are being held under torture?

Arundhati Roy: Well, the possibility of torture…maybe that day, they were not tortured. It was the first day.

Karan Thapar: You are saying that Human Rights laws and values do not permit people under detention to be interviewed when they are not willing to be interviewed?

Arundhati Roy: Yes! And even the courts do not accept these as confessions or evidence. But the reason these are done is because they have a propaganda value.

Karan Thapar: The assumption when you say that such incidences have propaganda value is that these are forced confessions…that the young men interviewed did not give the answers they did, willingly and voluntarily. How can you conclude that that’s the case?

Arundhati Roy: In this case it is very easy to be sure. Those young men, before they were caught, Zeeshan went to Headlines Today, Saquib went to Mail Today…both these (media units) are owned by the India Today, as you know. They were all people who came out in support of Atif and Saquib and said, look we know this guy. We know who he is.

Karan Thapar: Then how come you are calling those so called confessions when they are incriminating themselves and that when they went willingly to Mail Today or India Today, there are inconsistencies.

Arundhati Roy: Yes, so which version are we supposed to believe? The custodial one or the non-custodial one?

Karan Thapar: All the three men named by India Today and I will name them, Zia-ur-rehman, Saquib Insaar and Shakil admitted to planting bombs. You are denying or doubting the veracity of the so called confessions.

Arundhati Roy: Obviously! Its absurd not to, because they are in police custody. The same guys, Saquib went to Mail Today saying that I have known Atif for years. I got him this house. I mean it’s hardly the behaviour of terrorists.

Karan Thapar: I assume that the point you are making is that any interview that is granted in police custody is not a willing and voluntary one and therefore any confession made in that interview is a forced confession and not acceptable?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it is not admitted. Even in the Parliament case, the courts admonished the police for parading these people before the media and giving these media confessions. They didn’t do anything to the police which is why the same police; in fact Mohan Chand Sharma was a part of that cell, that same cell did it to theses people and it served the purpose. The propaganda value has been achieved.

Karan Thapar: You are saying that the Courts had admonished the police at the time the Parliament attack had happened for arranging such alleged false confessions and the police disregarded that admonishing and did the same thing again.

Arundhati Roy: That’s right.

Karan Thapar: In your eyes, is the police guilty of violating fundamental human rights by arranging what you call false confessions to be made in forced interviews? Is this a violation of basic human rights?

Arundhati Roy: It is a violation of all kinds of rights. I say it again, that in this atmosphere of communal profiling, this kind of propaganda is essential for them. It is the keystone to this whole enterprise. They have achieved what they set out to, regardless of what the court says.

Karan Thapar: The police have made a habit of this. It happened under circumstances, in the Arushi murder case, practically everyday. They hold press briefings, where half baked theories or at least unconfirmed details they are repeated and revealed to the press. The press then prints them as facts. The readers and the viewers of television then accept it as the truth. Are you disconcerted by this?

Arundhati Roy: I am utterly disconcerted by this because now it is the combination of the media and the police…you do not know which ends where and which begins where. In a situation where these encounter specialists are going out and summarily executing thirty people, calling them terrorists…No one asks questions once they are dead. We just accept it.

Karan Thapar: Just a moment ago, you spoke about the collusion between the media and the police. Are you saying that the press is itself in error when it accepts what is given by the police and publishes it without verifying or double checking it?

Arundhati Roy: It is not just an error. It is outrageous to do something like this.

Karan Thapar: So the press’ behaviour is outrageous?

Arundhati Roy: It is outrageous. There are statements like…and this man looked at me and he looked like a human bomb…I mean what kind of journalism is that?

Karan Thapar: So when as a result, like many people have said, this collusion between the police and the press leads to Jamia Nagar or to Azamgarh being thought as terrorist hubs or breeding grounds for terrorism, how unfortunate is that?

Arundhati Roy: It is not just unfortunate, its very dangerous. We now have a situation where a hundred and fifty Muslims and an equal number of Dalits and Adivasis in a different set of circumstances are being targeted in this way. Even if half a per cent of them decide to stop putting their heads down and decide to hit back, life as we knew it is over. A whole generation is radicalised and India becomes a threat to not just itself, but to the whole world.

Karan Thapar: This is something very important that you are saying. You mean that this behaviour of the police and the uncritical reporting by the press is going to end up in alienation and breeding the terrorism that we think we are controlling.

Arundhati Roy: Yes, that and also that this is a recipe for sliding into fascism. And we are bang in the middle of it now and this is how it works.

Karan Thapar: Why does the Indian middle class society that is so proud of calling itself a liberal democracy, accept this?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I don’t think we are anymore proud of this. We have increasingly accepted that we are a police state and there is a sort of sliding of the democracy into majority into fascism that is a real danger now.

Karan Thapar: So you are saying that the middle class no more stands up for the liberal values it believes in. It is actually in a sense accepting the horrible shortcuts and therefore colluding. It’s a very strong criticism, do you really mean it?

Arundhati Roy: I do. In fact, I feel that some day like the Nazis in Germany, we will be called upon to answer for what we have done and why we kept quiet while this was happening.

Karan Thapar: I get the feel that you are deeply disillusioned with the Indian middle classes.

Arundhati Roy: It is not just the middle classes, you know. It is the framework that we are putting into action these days. I have spent ten years writing about it. We are in a very serious situation. If we are to right it, all of us should ask ourselves very serious questions about when we chose to speak up and when we chose to stay quiet.

Karan Thapar: But in keeping quiet, as you say suggesting, Indians today are prepared to do, they are not just betraying essential values that they claim they believe in, they are actually betraying themselves and letting down their country. That’s the case you are making.

Arundhati Roy: I am making that case and I am saying that with these policies that we are persuing, today every ordinary Indian’s life is going to be at risk and we will pay very heavily for the consequences of what is going on now.

Karan Thapar: So it is virtually the last moment to stand up and be identified with the values that we claim to believe in otherwise those values are gone and with that our lives are gone.

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely!

Karan Thapar: And that’s not an exaggeration?

Arundhati Roy: Nope! Absolutely not!

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, a pleasure talking to you on Devil’s Advocate

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Promise of Change...and the Change We Need

This article appeared on the website of Revolutionary Communist Party, USA the day after elections resutls were out. Is Obama's victory going to change the US policies...? Read on the article for answer...

The Morning After the Election:

The Promise of Change…and the Change We Need
You couldn’t miss it on Election Night. People actually pouring into the streets to celebrate the election of a president. Emotions ran high, and tears flowed.

And in the days after: people talking to friends and strangers alike of hope. Hope for a coming era of change from the horrors of the Bush years. Hope for overcoming racism. Hope for a new era of service to the common good.

Hope—hope that is founded on the real possibilities for fundamental change in this world—is indeed precious. Dedicating your life to something higher than the ethic of “I-want-mine” is so vital that the future of humanity actually depends on it. And overcoming—truly overcoming—the divisions of society based on inequality and oppression must be at the heart of any real movement for social change.

But now, in the dawn of the morning after, one must ask and honestly grapple with some basic and very serious questions.

Hope for what?
Service to what?
Unity around what goals and what values?
And victory for whom?

The Change He Has Promised
“I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” —Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

Most of those who celebrated in the streets oppose the string of wars that Bush has launched and the threats of more war. Yet Obama through his campaign promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. He floated the idea of attacks on Pakistan, threatened Iran, and pledged to back Israel—which to this day continues to torment the people of Palestine—to the hilt. He established his reputation by opposing the launching of the war on Iraq—but has already backtracked on this during his campaign, with talk of “listening to the generals” and determining when Iraq was “stable” and its troops “sufficiently trained.”

Most of those celebrating in the streets hate the fascism of the Bush years: the spying, the evisceration of fundamental legal rights, and the torture. Yet as a senator, Obama voted for the renewal of the Patriot Act (which abolished or seriously cut key legal rights), and for immunity for telecommunications companies which illegally spied on people at White House behest.

Most of those celebrating in the streets yearn to see an end to racism, and to the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities. Yet Obama did not speak in his campaign of ending the discrimination and oppression that continues in a Black unemployment rate that is more than double that of whites, discrimination in housing and health care and the legal system, and an incarceration rate of Black and other minority people that is the scandal of the world. No, instead he spoke against his former minister, Jeremiah Wright, because Wright had “a view that sees white racism as endemic.” Obama in that speech went on to say that such thinking is “divisive” and draws people away from the problems of “two wars, a terrorist threat, a failing economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change”—thereby, in a phrase, covering over how systematic discrimination is embedded in every problem in America and negating both the bitter ongoing oppression of Black people as a people and the deep structural problems in American society that sustain this.

Many of those in the streets also see Obama as sharing their values on ending the oppression of women and of gay people. Have they noted that Obama routinely characterizes abortion itself as a bad thing, even if he does not oppose the right to abortion, or how rarely he even mentioned defending this right? Or how Obama, at a time when the right of gay people to marry was being attacked in electoral referendums, said that while he did not support that referendum, he at the same time opposed gay marriage itself—on the basis of his own religious beliefs?

Obama has said he is bringing change. He has called on you—most recently in his victory speech on election night—to both put your efforts behind him and to be patient with his administration. The question is this: judging from Obama’s actual statements and not from what you think he must believe deep down, is the change that he is promising and trying to enlist you in the change we need?

Or are you being enlisted in something that will end up actually opposed to your best aspirations and a morality based on the common good of humanity?

Redeeming the Dream?
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” —Barack Obama, in his victory speech

Well, many things certainly are possible in America. It is possible in America for European settlers to commit genocide against the Native American Indians who lived here and to then declare themselves to be builders of a “shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of mankind.” It is possible in America to kidnap over ten million Africans and hold them and their descendants in slavery for 250 years, exploiting them as the foundation of the great wealth of this country, and then maintaining their descendants in new forms of oppression and super-exploitation, and to simultaneously brag that “the dream of our founders” is based on the principle that “all men are created equal.” It is possible in America to wage and sponsor wars and military coups over the past 150 years that have taken a toll on humanity unmatched by any of the fabled monstrous empires of the past, and to then routinely declare, as Barack Obama did in his speech, that this same country is the world’s great guarantor of “peace and security”—even as he preceded that by assuring anybody who opposed what he called the “new dawn of American leadership” that “we will defeat you.” It is possible in America to subordinate the economies of entire nations to the demands and dictates of U.S. capital; and it is possible to then both super-exploit impoverished people from those countries who then desperately seek work in the U.S. and at the same time to demonize them and scapegoat them as the cause of everyone else’s hard times. It is possible to torture in the name of “safety,” even as you assure the world you don’t.

But apparently, other things are NOT so possible in America. It has NOT been possible in America to actually do away with the structures of white supremacy and the oppression of entire peoples. It has NOT been possible in America to desist from sending troops, CIA spies, and commandos all over the world—nor has it been possible to avoid things like killing 40 civilians at a wedding party in Afghanistan on the day before the election which installed a man who has promised to send more troops to invade that tortured, beleaguered country. It has NOT been possible in America to actually overcome the subjugation of women in every sphere of life, or to end the demonization and systematic discrimination against gay people. It has NOT been possible for America to refrain from the heedless plunder and spoliation of the very planet on which we live. It has NOT been possible in America to overcome the deadening alienation of everyday life for most people, or the despair of seeing your best efforts come to naught for many of those who want to dedicate themselves to making things better.

What has been proven to be possible—and what has proven to be NOT possible—has nothing to do with “human nature” and everything to do with the system that was put in place to ensure the “dreams of our founders.” The name of that system is imperialism—a stage of capitalism in which the majority of humanity are consigned to short, bitter lives of almost indescribable exploitation, humiliation and degradation. . . in which entire nations are subjugated to deepen and extend that exploitation. . . and in which the entire world is divided up amongst a handful of big imperialist powers (with the U.S. currently at the head of that).

That is the system which actually determines what is, and what is not, possible. That is the system Barack Obama is now stepping in to head. That is the system to whose service he now summons you.

Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking About Humanity!
Imperialism has an ideology—a systematic way, even if unacknowledged, in which people are trained to view every event in the world. When Barack Obama sings songs of praise in his victory speech to the greatness of America—he is training us in a way of understanding the world. When he goes so far as to not just send best wishes to his opponent, but to gushingly praise this unrepentant war criminal who dropped bombs on civilians over and over again in Vietnam as a “brave and selfless leader”—he is doing that training in a particularly nauseating, and frankly horrific, way. When Barack Obama tells us to “summon a new spirit of patriotism” and overcome divisions—same thing.

This has to be called out for what it is: American chauvinism. This accepts as a given the existence of imperialism. Many of those who celebrated on election night are in effect hoping that Obama will lead to a "better" imperialism. But there is no such thing– there is no "better" imperialist USA, no "good" imperialism of any kind. What we need is to sweep away imperialism, and all relations of oppression and exploitation.

Stop chanting USA, USA—and start thinking about what is really facing humanity and what must urgently be done. Stop waving those flags, and start resisting the crimes of that system, including the very real crimes of the Bush regime that Obama not only is not going to prosecute but, yes, is determined, in large part, to continue. STOP THINKING LIKE AMERICANS—and start thinking about, and trying to proceed from, what humanity needs.

A Better Way
Does this mean, then, that there is no hope? That there is, in fact, nothing one can do? Are we counseling cynicism or despair?

Far from it. In place of false hope, we offer hope based on a real foundation. We offer hope based on the vision of a different society that draws on the fact that humanity could today accomplish great things—starting with the elimination of hunger and disease and homelessness—but is only held back by the economic relations of exploitation in which it is fettered, and the machinery of oppression that backs up those relations. We offer, in short, the hope of revolution.

We offer hope evidenced in the accomplishments of the Russian and Chinese revolutions—before those revolutions were reversed. Those revolutions made leaps in the very things that are NOT possible in this system: the elimination of exploitation and a rupture with the imperialist relations that strangle the world; the uprooting of the subjugation of women, and of oppressed nations and nationalities; the opening up to the oppressed of the spheres of running society and working with ideas—spheres which they are today kept out of by both the normal workings, and conscious policies, of capitalism; and the provision of health care, education and many other basic needs to all of society, in ways that narrowed and did not widen inequality.

We offer hope founded on the scientific work of Bob Avakian, the leader of our Party, who has both upheld the achievements and fundamental lessons of these revolutions, while criticizing and rupturing with significant errors and shortcomings of that first wave of revolution. On that basis, he has revived the REAL dream of emancipating all of humanity from exploitation and oppression, and shown the way forward to do that.

In place of a “service” which can only end up reinforcing the very things you oppose, we offer something which corresponds to your highest aspirations: making revolution.

For there IS work to do—work that urgently cries out to be done. There is the work of fighting for your best ideals and hopes for change. There is the work of actually digging into how the world really works, into America’s real place and role in that world, and into what revolution is all about and how it might be possible. There is the work of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.

Let us break, finally, with deadly illusions and let us set about that work—the ending of imperialism, and of all relations of exploitation and oppression, and NOT their reinforcement, in a different package. Let us truly bring about a new day.

Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Protest Meet against State Terror

As part of a campaign against the increasing state terror, Bharanakuta Bheekarathavirudha Samithi (Committe against State Terror),an alliance of various organisations including Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam, PUCL,Porattom, Solidarity, CHRO and Democratic Dalit Movement, convenes a meeting at Palakkad on 2nd November. The meeting to be held at Palakkad Employee's Co operative Society Hall at 10.a.m will be inagurated by noted Tamil writer A.Marx. P.Surendran will deliver the key note address.

Adv.P.A.Pouran, K.P.Sethunath, Sunny M.Kapikad, Adv.John John, Dr.Abdul Salam, M.N.Ravunni, Ajayan Mannur, Dr.P.G.Hari are among those who will speak on the occassion.

Samithi convenor Adv. Thushar Nirmal Sarathi told this blogger that state was branding all those who raise their voice against the wrong policies of governments as terrorists. "The government says that its not their duty to protect human rights. And when others come forward to protect human rights the government brand them as terrorists and torture them." Adv.Thusar said. He welcomed all progressive and democratic forces to the meet. Adv. Thushar may be contacted over the phone number 9495218579

Saturday, October 25, 2008

'The United States Has Essentially a One-Party System'

The linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky has long been a critic of American consumerism and imperialism.German magazine SPIEGEL spoke to him about the current crisis of capitalism, Barack Obama's rhetoric and the compliance of the intellectual class.

SPIEGEL: Professor Chomsky, cathedrals of capitalism have collapsed, the conservative government is spending its final weeks in office with nationalization plans. How does that make you feel?

Chomsky: The times are too difficult and the crisis too severe to indulge in schadenfreude. Looking at it in perspective, the fact that there would be a financial crisis was perfectly predictable, its general nature, if not its magnitude. Markets are always inefficient.

SPIEGEL: What exactly did you anticipate?

Chomsky: In the financial industry, as in other industries, there are risks that are left out of the calculation. If you sell me a car, we have perhaps made a good bargain for ourselves. But there are effects of this transaction on others, which we do not take into account. There is more pollution, the price of gas goes up, there is more congestion. Those are the external costs of our transaction. In the case of financial institutions, they are huge.

SPIEGEL: But isn't it the task of a bank to take risks?

Chomsky: Yes, but if it is well managed, like Goldman Sachs, it will cover its own risks and absorb its own losses. But no financial institution can manage systemic risks. Risk is therefore underpriced, and there will be more risk taken than would be prudent for the economy. With government deregulation and the triumph of financial liberalization, the dangers of systemic risks, the possibility of a financial tsunami, sharply increased.

SPIEGEL: But is it correct to only put the blame on Wall Street? Doesn't Main Street, the American middle class, also live on borrowed money which may or may not be paid back?

Chomsky: The debt burden of private households is enormous. But I would not hold the individual responsible. This consumerism is based on the fact that we are a society dominated by business interests. There is massive propaganda for everyone to consume. Consumption is good for profits and consumption is good for the political establishment.

SPIEGEL: How does it benefit politicians when the populace drives a lot, eats a lot and goes shopping a lot?

Chomsky: Consumption distracts people. You cannot control your own population by force, but it can be distracted by consumption. The business press has been quite explicit about this goal.

SPIEGEL: A while ago you called America “the greatest country on earth.” How does that fit together with what you've been saying?

Chomsky: In many respects, the United States is a great country. Freedom of speech is protected more than in any other country. It is also a very free society. In America, the professor talks to the mechanic. They are in the same category.

SPIEGEL: After travelling through the United States 170 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville reported, "the people reign over the American political world as God rules over the universe." Was he a dreamer?

Chomsky: James Madison’s position at the Constitutional Convention was that state power should be used "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." That is why the Senate has only a hundred members who are mostly rich and were given a great deal of power. The House of Representatives, with several hundred members, is more democratic and was given much less power. Even liberals like Walter Lippmann, one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century, was of the opinion that in a properly functioning democracy, the intelligent minority, who should rule, have to be protected from “the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd.” Among the conservatives, Vice President Dick Cheney just recently illustrated his understanding of democracy. He was asked why he supports a continuation of the war in Iraq when the population is strongly opposed. His answer was: “So?”

SPIEGEL: “Change” is the slogan of this year’s presidential election. Do you see any chance for an immediate, tangible change in the United States? Or, to use use Obama’s battle cry: Are you "fired up”?

Chomsky: Not in the least. The European reaction to Obama is a European delusion.

SPIEGEL: But he does say things that Europe has long been waiting for. He talks about the trans-Atlantic partnership, the priority of diplomacy and the reconciling of American society.

Chomsky: That is all rhetoric. Who cares about that? This whole election campaign deals with soaring rhetoric, hope, change, all sorts of things, but not with issues.

Find out how you can reprint this DER SPIEGEL article in your publication. SPIEGEL: Do you prefer the team on the other side: the 72 year old Vietnam veteran McCain and Sarah Palin, former Alaskan beauty queen?

Chomsky: This Sarah Palin phenomenon is very curious. I think somebody watching us from Mars, they would think the country has gone insane.

SPIEGEL: Arch conservatives and religious voters seem to be thrilled.

Chomsky: One must not forget that this country was founded by religious fanatics. Since Jimmy Carter, religious fundamentalists play a major role in elections. He was the first president who made a point of exhibiting himself as a born again Christian. That sparked a little light in the minds of political campaign managers: Pretend to be a religious fanatic and you can pick up a third of the vote right away. Nobody asked whether Lyndon Johnson went to church every day. Bill Clinton is probably about as religious as I am, meaning zero, but his managers made a point of making sure that every Sunday morning he was in the Baptist church singing hymns.

SPIEGEL: Is there nothing about McCain that appeals to you?

Chomsky: In one aspect he is more honest than his opponent. He explicitly states that this election is not about issues but about personalities. The Democrats are not quite as honest even though they see it the same way.

SPIEGEL: So for you, Republicans and Democrats represent just slight variations of the same political platform?

Chomsky: Of course there are differences, but they are not fundamental. Nobody should have any illusions. The United States has essentially a one-party system and the ruling party is the business party.

SPIEGEL: You exaggerate. In almost all vital questions -- from the taxation of the rich to nuclear energy -- there are different positions. At least on the issues of war and peace, the parties differ considerably. The Republicans want to fight in Iraq until victory, even if that takes a 100 years, according to McCain. The Democrats demand a withdrawal plan.

Chomsky: Let us look at the “differences” more closely, and we recognize how limited and cynical they are. The hawks say, if we continue we can win. The doves say, it is costing us too much. But try to find an American politician who says frankly that this aggression is a crime: the issue is not whether we win or not, whether it is expensive or not. Remember the Russian invasion of Afghanistan? Did we have a debate whether the Russians can win the war or whether it is too expensive? This may have been the debate at the Kremlin, or in Pravda. But this is the kind of debate you would expect in a totalitarian society. If General Petraeus could achieve in Iraq what Putin achieved in Chechnya, he would be crowned king. The key question here is whether we apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others.

SPIEGEL: Who prevents intellectuals from asking and critically answering these questions? You praised the freedom of speech in the United States.

Chomsky: The intellectual world is deeply conformist. Hans Morgenthau, who was a founder of realist international relations theory, once condemned what he called “the conformist subservience to power” on the part of the intellectuals. George Orwell wrote that nationalists, who are practically the whole intellectual class of a country, not only do not disapprove of the crimes of their own state, but have the remarkable capacity not even to see them. That is correct. We talk a lot about the crimes of others. When it comes to our own crimes, we are nationalists in the Orwellian sense.

SPIEGEL: Was there not, and is there not -- in the United States and worldwide -- loud protest against the Iraq war?

Chomsky: The protest against the war in Iraq is far higher than against the war in Vietnam. When there were 4,000 American deaths in Vietnam and 150,000 troops deployed, nobody cared. When Kennedy invaded Vietnam in 1962, there was just a yawn.

SPIEGEL: To conclude, perhaps you can offer a conciliatory word about the state of the nation?

Chomsky: The American society has become more civilized, largely as a result of the activism of the 1960s. Our society, and also Europe's, became freer, more open, more democratic, and for many quite scary. This generation was condemned for that. But it had an effect.

SPIEGEL: Professor Chomsky, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Gabor Steingart

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Global Financial Crisis

As global economy shows signs of a recession proving those who declared the end of history wrong, worldwide people are looking for alternatives. In fact isn't there an alternative? On this historic occassion, i post this article by Raymond Lotta first published in the latest edition of

System Failure and the Need for Revolution

by Raymond Lotta

The most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression shows no sign of letting up. The financial edifice of U.S. imperialism is in danger of crumbling. The U.S. ruling class is confronting what Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke describes as a crisis of “historic proportions”—and is hurriedly cobbling together desperate measures to prevent wholesale collapse. Three of the largest independent investment banks on Wall Street have ceased to exist since April. The government had to assume a major stake in the American International Group (AIG), the world’s largest insurer, to prevent it from collapsing. Now the U.S. Treasury is considering taking ownership positions in major U.S. banks.

This crisis is amplifying internationally. Western Europe is facing large bank failures and governments are engineering their own bailouts. The Russian stock market has intermittently suspended operations. Financial markets in Asia have nose-dived. Mexico’s economy is wobbling, as its exports shrink.

Two things stand out about this crisis. First, there is the ferocity of its global shocks and the speed with which it has spread. Second, unlike the debt and financial crises of the last 30 years, which were largely centered in the Third World, this crisis initially exploded in the U.S., the world’s leading capitalist economy, and is focused in the financial centers of world capitalism.

U.S.-led finance, which plays a dominant and shaping role in the global capitalist order, has taken a huge body blow. This will have enormous repercussions, not just for the stability of the world capitalist system but for power shifts and rivalries within it.

Many progressive commentators have put the blame for this crisis on fraud and greed, or on lax regulation. All of which are certainly in play. But these explanations do not get to the essence of what is happening, to the cause of the problem. This crisis is the outcome of the fundamental workings of the capitalist system.

The analysis that follows is framed by these core points:

There is an essential relationship between the vast enlargement of the financial sector in the U.S., and the general phenomenon of financialization, and the deepening globalization of capitalist production of the last 15 years. And central to this dynamic has been the relationship between U.S. imperialism and China.
Through the course of this growth and expansion, severe imbalances have built up between the financial system—and its expectation of future profits—and the accumulation of capital, that is, the structures and actual production and reinvestment of profit based on the exploitation of wage-labor.
A “dirty little secret” of this crisis is the enormous weight of militarization of the U.S. economy.
This crisis is a concentrated expression of the anarchy of capitalist production—the fact that production is not carried out according to any conscious, rational plan at the society-wide level, much less at the international level.
Background to Crisis
In the early 2000s, in the aftermath of the collapse of high-tech stocks, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank sought to stimulate lending and growth. It lowered interest rates and pumped funds into the banking system. Banks had access to cheap and plentiful credit. And through deceit and aggressive marketing, they pushed mortgages on people. The Federal Reserve continued to inject low-cost funds into the banking system—helping to prop up loans and to fuel a long-term speculative housing bubble.

Banks sold these mortgages to investment banks. The investment banks in turn bundled these loans together with other loans, created complex financial products, and sold them to large investors—in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, especially Western Europe. These mortgage-backed securities, as they are called, circulated in financial markets and became the basis for other loans. The ultimate collateral for this chain of borrowing and lending was the original mortgage loans. So when housing prices fell, and as growing numbers of mortgage holders found themselves unable to pay back housing loans, much of this original collateral became nearly worthless.

This whole process is an obscene example of how under this capitalist system something as basic as human shelter becomes a financial instrument and object of speculation. This has led to a situation today where 1 in 6 U.S. homeowners owe more on a mortgage than their home is worth; where 1 in every 65 households in California is in some phase of foreclosure; and where a disproportionate number of Black and Latino families who have been victimized by predatory lending have experienced incredible losses of what little wealth they had.1

AIG had made enormous profits internationally by selling insurance to investors who held many of these mortgage-backed securities. These investors would be repaid by AIG, in the event that the loans that were bundled into these financial packages they had purchased were defaulted on—could not be paid back. But by mid-September, AIG could neither cover massive loan damage nor borrow sufficient funds on the financial markets to keep itself afloat. AIG was so interconnected with other major financial players that if the company went under, it would likely have taken others down.

In the face of mounting financial crisis, the imperialist state intervened. It acted as the representative of capital and as the guardian of the interests of capital. The U.S. ruling class was faced with a two-fold danger: mounting losses and bankruptcies in the financial sector; and the choking up of lending channels, which could send the economy into a rapid downward spiral.

The government basically took over AIG. And on September 19, the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a $700 billion bailout. The essence of the rescue package was that the government would buy the troubled mortgage-backed securities sloshing about in the financial system and through this get lending going again. But the announced bailout did not unblock credit markets or calm stock markets. Nor has it restored international confidence in the U.S. economy.

Taking a Step Back
This crisis broke out in the banking system. Its more immediate trigger was the popping of a speculative real estate bubble, cascading losses in the financial sector, and the inability of stricken financial institutions to raise capital and the unwillingness of others to lend capital.

At a deeper level, this crisis is the outcome of a particular trajectory of world capitalist growth.

There has been a massive new wave of globalization. One of the most significant features of world growth and expansion of the last 15 years has been the deepening integration of the world capitalist economy. This is happening both on the level of production and trade—like the parts that go into a computer being manufactured in different parts of the world; and in the case of an iPod being totally manufactured in China. And it is happening on the level of finance—where banks operate globally and are more tightly interlinked with one another through chains of borrowing and lending and even, as in the case of AIG, insuring risks of lending.

This new wave of globalization has involved direct productive and financial investments abroad. It has involved the expansion of outsourcing and subcontracting. And central to all of this has been the fuller integration of export producing countries of the Third World into the world capitalist market—and the forging of a globally-integrated, cheap-labor manufacturing economy.2

40 percent of the imports coming into the U.S. are accounted for by U.S. transnational corporations—and this does not even include the subcontracting done by companies like Walmart. 30 percent of U.S. corporate profits are generated overseas. China, which has evolved into the high-profit workshop/sweatshop for international capitalism, has been at the epicenter of this recent surge of globalization.3

From the standpoint of the needs of profitable globalization, various elements of deregulation—for instance, the lifting of barriers to rapid shifts and transfers of capital—were functional. This is why both Republicans and Democrats have promoted deregulation. Indeed, the Clinton administration in the 1990s played a decisive deregulating role. It negotiated so-called free-trade agreements with Third World countries and helped to loosen strictures on U.S. banking and telecommunications.

The trajectory of capitalist growth of the last 15 years has also involved heightened financialization. On this platform of more globalized production and exploitation, the financial services sector in the advanced capitalist countries mushroomed.

On a turbo-charged global playing field of ever-more mobile and massive flows of investment capital—where the stakes of winning and losing are enormous—capital requires all kinds of risk management. Investment banks and other financial institutions provide such financial services to “hedge” against interest rate variations, currency fluctuations, and other sources of volatility and loss. At the same time, financial activities became a greater source of short-term and speculative profits. In an intensely competitive atmosphere for financial market share, investment banks were creating ever-more complex and exotic financial products. Global financial assets increased from $12 trillion in 1980 to nearly $200 trillion in 2007, far outstripping the growth of world output or the expansion of trade.4

Growth in the advanced capitalist countries over the last 15 years became increasingly finance-led and credit-driven. The U.S. has been at the epicenter of this process of heightened financialization. By 2005, the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy had fallen to 12 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (the production of goods and services), while the financial services sector made up of finance, insurance, and real estate had grown to 20 percent. In 1982, the financial sector’s share of total corporate profits was just over 5 percent; in 2007, the financial share of corporate profits had skyrocketed to 40 percent!5

Contradictions of Development
These interrelated processes of globalization and financialization ultimately led to unsustainable imbalances and instabilities. The dynamics that fueled growth have generated new barriers to profitable accumulation of capital. Strengths have turned into vulnerabilities.

These include:

Bloating of the financial sector relative to the productive base.
Huge run-up of debt and U.S. trade and government deficits in the U.S. necessitating massive and uninterrupted inflows of capital from around the world, with the central banks of Japan and increasingly China holding huge amounts of U.S. Treasury debt.
Billions upon billions of dollars of paper assets that cannot be transformed into real, productive and material, assets.
U.S. consumption and borrowing stimulating China’s growth but China’s breakneck manufacturing growth further fueling U.S. trade deficits and intensifying competitive pressures throughout the world economy.
The expansion of credit spurring growth but heightening global financial fragility.
We are seeing things turn into their opposites. Financial institutions attempted to reduce risk and to profit from risk by dispersing more varied financial instruments over a wider field of investors internationally. But this process has drawn investors, these very institutions, and now governments into a vortex of vulnerability and crisis. The heightened globalization of production and markets, the closer intertwining of economies, has created conditions for faster and even more extensive ripple effects of crisis throughout the world.

A Knot of Contradictions
A strategic concern of the U.S. ruling class is the international strength of the dollar. The dollar is the world’s leading currency for settling transactions, clearing debts, and holding foreign exchange reserves (trade and investment earnings that become part of the reserves of foreign central banks). The dollar has been a linchpin of U.S. global supremacy and of the whole current global economic order.

The dollar is also an investible commodity—major currencies are bought and sold and traded on international currency markets. The value of the dollar rises and falls in relation to other currencies, and in response to international political and economic trends and developments. If foreign central banks and investors were to significantly shift away from dollar holdings, this could set off a global monetary crisis and/or strengthen the position of rival currencies (like the euro) and rival powers.

These are uncharted waters for U.S. policymakers: in the scale and complexity of the crisis…in the magnitude of the rescue operations required to prevent financial breakdown…and in the rapidity with which this crisis is unfolding. A Harvard research economist put it this way: “like the sorcerer’s apprentice, we have created things we do not understand and cannot easily control.”6

U.S. imperialism has limited maneuvering room. The U.S. is already the largest debtor country in the world. It is waging costly wars for greater empire in Iraq and Afghanistan. And both John McCain and Barack Obama are committed to America’s global “war on terror”—the umbrella under which the U.S. is waging these wars for empire.

U.S. imperialism has attempted to parlay its superior military strength into a new world order and to lock in its global supremacy for decades to come. Defense and defense-related spending totaled more than $1 trillion in fiscal 2008.7 And military-related production and research have long been deeply embedded in the U.S. economy. The whole imperialist system rests on the domination of vast swaths of the globe through savage force, with the U.S. military colossus playing a special role. The costs of forcibly preserving and extending the U.S. empire is one of the dirty little secrets of the dynamics of this crisis that scarcely gets talked about.

Here an important dialectic comes into play. “U.S. military dominance,” writes Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, “has been one of the linchpins of the dollar.”8 But this military dominance and the wars the U.S. is waging have increasingly come to depend on the steady inflow of foreign capital into the U.S. (to the tune of $3 billion a day). For this to continue requires that the U.S. economy and dollar remain stable. This is a major contradiction for U.S. imperialism.

U.S. imperialism is facing new competitive challenges and the emergence of potential rival constellations of imperial and big powers—vying for market shares, control over energy resources, and geopolitical position.

Emergency Capitalism
People are losing their homes. Retirement savings plans since the middle of 2007 have lost 20 percent of their value with the stock market sinking. Funding for vitally needed social programs and services at state and local levels is being pinched by the financial crisis and economic slowdown. In much of the Third World, food prices soared over the last year, this is partly related to financial speculation, and hunger has spread.9

While the futures of millions are in jeopardy, what is the paramount concern of those at the top of the pyramid of economic and political power? It is the protection of a financial system that sits atop a global system of exploitation; it is the rescue of the owners and investor beneficiaries of that system.

This is not “socialism for the rich” or a bailout for the people. It’s emergency capitalism for the capitalist class: injections of funds and guarantees, government takeovers, cost-cutting, selective liquidations, restructuring of regulations; and it’s more brutal capitalism for everyone else: austerity, more intense international exploitation, and more misery for people throughout the world.

The official story line is that this crisis issues from particular flaws and malpractices that can be corrected: “excessive greed,” “Wall Street irresponsibility,” “outdated” or “ unenforced regulations.”

The truth is that this crisis has deep structural causes in the very nature of the system—in the quest for profit, not the satisfaction of human need, and in the anarchic workings of world capitalism.

We are seeing how the means through which capitalism expands and “innovates” have led to new barriers and to gales of “creative destruction”—with trillions of dollars of asset values destroyed in the market turmoil. Through these convulsions, the imperialists seek to wrench new freedom, promoting further consolidation and monopolization. Bank of America absorbs the giant investment bank Merrill Lynch. Lehman Brothers is forced into liquidation.

Whoever wins the presidential election will be inheriting a battered financial system and huge government deficits. This will not be an era of expanded social spending, but one of more direct government intervention in financial markets and cutbacks in social spending.

A Status Report
This rolling and intensifying financial crisis serves as a profile and status report on capitalism in the 21st century:

A once-thriving subprime mortgage market…had been linked to the ability of U.S. financial institutions to market securities to European banks and of the U.S. Treasury to draw in export earnings from China…earnings generated in sweatshops…tied into subcontracting networks of Western corporations….

Real estate markets tank…. The “smart money” looks for “safe places” to shift its capital…. Some of it heads for commodity futures like rice…. So food prices spiral upward in response to the investment stratagems of people who know and care nothing about food needs and food production…. In countries like Haiti, women who can no longer afford basic staples are feeding their children mud-cakes….

A French bank, with its assets plunging in value, and the chain of global capitalist finance snapping all over, now finds itself with “non-performing loans”…. It must “improve its balance sheet” and faces pressures to reduce or eliminate trade credits to a country in Africa that depends on imports for food, and where people already spend 50 percent of their incomes for food.

Despite staggering advances in technology and human knowledge, despite the fact that the development of human society has brought humanity to a historic threshold where it is now possible not only to overcome scarcity and exploitation but also to forge social arrangements where human beings can truly flourish—despite all of this potential, social and economic life are under painful duress and the ecosystems of the planet gravely threatened. It is not for lack of resources or knowledge.

All of what has been described in this article is the result of the relations and domination of capital, the result of the workings of a system driven by vicious competition and the blind accumulation of profit based on exploitation—and backed by massive military force.

In the heartland of capitalism, there is financial meltdown. In the Third World, millions are already suffering the ravages of a global food crisis. This system is a horror and a failure. Is it necessary for humanity to live this way?

The October 10 edition of The Washington Post carried an article with the title and question “The End to American Capitalism?” In forums and in the media, leading bourgeois policymakers and analysts have discussed whether this crisis, careening beyond control and threatening greater economic calamity, suggests that there is something fundamentally amiss about capitalism. And the emphatic answer given is the same: “the system may not be working optimally, but there is no alternative, only gradations and variations of capitalism.”

But there is another way. It is possible to take hold of the productive resources of society and to develop and deploy them in a rational, planned, and society-wide way to meet human need and to safeguard the planet. It is possible to establish a radically different kind of state power and to create a society and institutions that unleash people’s creativity and that promote initiative and diversity in an atmosphere that brings out human community.

The question of socialism, of communism, of revolution could not be more relevant…and more urgent.

To be clear, revolution is not a catchword for lots of new things or lots of change. Revolution has very specific meaning: the people getting rid of the system; depriving the old ruling class of their political-economic-military power; and creating a new power with new aims and objectives and the means to enforce those aims and objectives.

As serious as this crisis is, with all the havoc it is wreaking, the system will not automatically collapse of its own weight and disorder. Absent revolution, capitalism will put itself back together—in its own image and at unimaginable social cost.

And for all the agony that crisis inflicts, this will not automatically and spontaneously translate into progressive, radical, and revolutionary sentiment and consciousness. Other forces are in the field doing ideological and political work: reactionary populists like Lou Dobbs (“blame the foreigners and illegal immigrants”) and Sarah Palin whipping up a social base for religio-fascism. The Obama candidacy is channeling disenchantment and the thirst for change right back into the political system’s suffocating embrace (“change we can believe in” is nothing other than change acceptable to the powers that be).

This is a highly fraught situation. Things can change very quickly. The system is revealing much about its basic nature. Bigger jolts may come and outrage may suddenly grow and give rise to resistance from all kinds of quarters. We have to grasp the potential of the situation. We have to be out there bringing forward understanding and bringing forward a vision of a liberatory world. We have to rise to new political and ideological challenges in the belly of the beast.


1. Data from James R. Hagerty and Ruth Simon, “Housing Pain Gauge: Nearly 1 in 6 Owners ‘Under Water,’” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2008; RealtyTrac, “Foreclosure Activity Up 14 Percent in Second Quarter,”, July 25, 2008. A study published earlier this year estimates the total loss of wealth suffered by Black, Latino, and other minority households on account of bank subprime-lending of the last eight years to be the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern U.S. history (United for a Fair Economy, Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008).

2. Among informative studies of the origins and development of a globally integrated cheap labor manufacturing economy, see Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (Quebec: Center for Research on Globalization, 2003); and on globalized manufacturing in relation to financialization, see William Millberg, “Shifting Sources and Uses of Profits: Sustaining US Financialization with Global Value Chains,” Economy and Society, Vol. 37, No. 3 (August 2008), pp. 420-451.

3. Data from Milberg, “Shifting Value Chains…”

4. Jeffrey Garten, “We Need a New Global Monetary Authority,” Financial Times, September 25, 2008. On financialization as a means also to contain financial disorder and to impose profit maximizing discipline on capital, see Christopher Rude, “The Role of Financial Discipline in Imperial Strategy,” in Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, eds., Socialist Register 2005: The Empire Reloaded, London: Merlin Press, 2004.

5. Kevin Phillips, Bad Money (New York: Viking, 2008), p. 5; Robert Wade, “The First-World Debt Crisis of 2007-2010 in Global Perspective,” Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, July-August 2008, p. 33.

6. David Dapice, “Bad Spell on Wall Street,”, January 24, 2008.

7. Leaving out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending has doubled since the mid-1990s. See Chalmers Johnson, “Why the US has really gone broke,” (English edition), February 5, 2008.

8. Kenneth Rogoff, “America Will Need a $1,000bn Bail-Out,” Financial Times, September 17, 2008.

9. On the global food crisis, see “The Global Food Crisis and the Ravenous System of Capitalism,” Revolution #128, May 1, 2008.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Return of Marx

With the signs of a sunset becoming more visible in the Empire, the talks about an alternative to capitalism is once again hotting up across the world. And quite naturally the intellectuals are looking back to Karl Marx. The conversation between Eric Hobsbawm and Marcello Musto held on the occassion of 15o years of Grundrisse also points to the contemporary relevance of Marx.

The importance of Marx, 150 years after the Grundrisse

M. M. Professor Hobsbawm, two decades after 1989, when he was too hastily consigned to oblivion, Karl Marx has returned to the limelight. Freed from the role of instrumentum regni to which he was assigned in the Soviet Union, and from the shackles of ``Marxism-Leninism'', he has in the last few years not only received intellectual attention through new publication of his work, but also been the focus of more widespread interest. Indeed in 2003, the French magazine Nouvel Observateur dedicated a special issue to Karl Marx -- le penseur du troisième millénaire? (Karl Marx -- the thinker of the third millennium?). A year later, in Germany, in an opinion poll sponsored by the television company ZDF to establish who were the most important Germans of all time, more than 500,000 viewers voted for Marx; he came third in the general classification and first in the ``current relevance'' category. Then, in 2005, the weekly Der Spiegel portrayed him on the cover under the title ``Ein Gespenst kehrt zurück'' (A spectre is back), while listeners to the BBC Radio 4 program In Our Time voted for Marx as their ``greatest philosopher''

In a recent public conversation with Jacques Attalì, you said that paradoxically "it is the capitalists more than others who have been rediscovering Marx", and you talked of your astonishment when the businessman and liberal politician George Soros said to you "I've just been reading Marx and there is an awful lot in what he says." Although weak and rather vague, what are the reasons for this revival? Is his work likely to be of interest only to specialists and intellectuals, being presented in university courses as a great classic of modern thought that should never be forgotten? Or could a new "demand for Marx" come in the future from the political side as well?

E. H. There is an undoubted revival of public interest in Marx in the capitalist world, though probably not as yet in the new East European members of the European Union. It was probably accelerated by the fact that the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Manifesto of the Communist Party coincided with a particularly dramatic international economic crisis in the midst of a period of ultra-rapid free market globalisation.

Marx had predicted the nature of the early 21st century world economy a hundred and fifty years earlier, on the basis of his analysis of "bourgeois society". It is not surprising that intelligent capitalists, especially in the globalised financial sector, were impressed by Marx, since they were necessarily more aware than others of the nature and instabilities of the capitalist economy in which they operated. Most of the intellectual left no longer knew what to do with Marx. It had been demoralised by the collapse of the social-democratic project in most North Atlantic states in the 1980s and the mass conversion of national governments to free market ideology, as well as by the collapse of the political and economic systems that claimed to be inspired by Marx and Lenin. The so-called "new social movements" like feminism either had no logical connection with anti-capitalism (though as individuals their members might be aligned with it) or they challenged the belief in endless progress in human control over nature, which both capitalism and traditional socialism had shared. At the same time the "proletariat", divided and diminished, ceased to be credible as Marx's historical agent of social transformation. It is also the case that since 1968 the most prominent radical movements have preferred direct action not necessarily based on much reading and theoretical analysis.

Of course this does not mean that Marx will cease to be regarded as a great and classical thinker, although for political reasons, especially in countries like France and Italy with once powerful Communist parties, there has been a passionate intellectual offensive against Marx and Marxist analyses, which was probably at its height in the 1980s and 1990s. There are signs that it has now run its course.

M. M. Throughout his life Marx was a shrewd and tireless researcher, who sensed and analysed better than anyone else in his time the development of capitalism on a world scale. He understood that the birth of a globalised international economy was inherent in the capitalist mode of production and predicted that this process would generate not only the growth and prosperity flaunted by liberal theorists and politicians but also violent conflicts, economic crises and widespread social injustice. In the last decade we have seen the East Asian financial crisis, which started in the summer of 1997, the Argentinian economic crisis of 1999-2002 and, above all, the subprime mortgage crisis, which started in the United States in 2006 and has now become the biggest post-war financial crisis. Is it right to say, therefore, that the return of interest in Marx is also based on the crisis of capitalist society and on his enduring capacity to explain the profound contradictions of today's world?

E. H. Whether the future politics of the left will once again be inspired by Marx's analysis, as the old socialist and communist movements were, will depend on what happens to world capitalism. But this applies not only to Marx but to the left as a coherent political ideology and project. Since, as you say correctly, the return of interest in Marx is largely -- I would say mainly -- based on the current crisis of capitalist society, the outlook is more promising than it was in the 1990s.

The present world financial crisis, which may well become a major economic depression in the USA, dramatises the failure of the theology of the uncontrolled global free market, and forces even the US government to consider taking public actions forgotten since the 1930s. Political pressures are already weakening the commitment of economic neoliberal governments to uncontrolled, unlimited and unregulated globalisation. In some cases (China) the vast inequalities and injustices caused by a wholesale transition to a free market economy already raise major problems for social stability and raise doubts even at the higher levels of government.

It is clear that any "return to Marx" will be essentially a return to Marx's analysis of capitalism and its place in the historical evolution of humanity -- including, above all, his analysis of the central instability of capitalist development, which proceeds through self-generated periodic economic crises, with political and social dimensions. No Marxist could believe for a moment that, as neoliberal ideologists argued in 1989, liberal capitalism had established itself forever, that history had come to an end, or indeed that any system of human relations could ever be final and definitive.

M. M. Do you not think that if the political and intellectual forces of the international left, who are questioning themselves with regard to socialism in the new century, were to foreswear the ideas of Marx, they would lose a fundamental guide for the examination and transformation of today's reality?

E. H. No socialist can foreswear the ideas of Marx, since his belief that capitalism must be succeeded by another form of society is based not on hope or will but on a serious analysis of historical development, particularly in the capitalist era. His actual prediction that capitalism would be replaced by a socially managed or planned system still seems reasonable, though he certainly underestimated the market elements which would survive in any post-capitalist system(s).

Since he deliberately abstained from speculation about the future, he cannot be made responsible for the specific ways in which "socialist" economies were organised under "really existing socialism". As to the objectives of socialism, Marx was not the only thinker who wanted a society without exploitation and alienation, in which all human beings could fully realise their potentialities, but he expressed this aspiration more powerfully than anyone else, and his words retain the power to inspire.

However, Marx will not return as a political inspiration to the left until it is understood that his writings should not be treated as political programs, authoritative or otherwise, nor as descriptions of the actual situation of world capitalism today, but rather as guides to his way of understanding the nature of capitalist development. Nor can or should we forget that he did not achieve a coherent and fully thought out presentation of his ideas, in spite of attempts by Engels and others to construct a volume II and III of Capital out of Marx's manuscripts. As the Grundrisse show, even a completed Capital would have formed only part of Marx's own, perhaps excessively ambitious, original plan.

On the other hand, Marx will not return to the left until the current tendency among radical activists to turn anti-capitalism into anti-globalism is abandoned. Globalisation exists, and, short of a collapse of human society, is irreversible. Indeed, Marx recognised it as a fact and, as an internationalist, welcomed it, in principle. What he criticised, and what we must criticise, was the kind of globalisation produced by capitalism.

M. M. One of Marx's writings which has provoked the greatest interest amongst new readers and commentators is the Grundrisse. Written between 1857 and 1858, the Grundrisse is the first draft of Marx's critique of political economy and, thus, also the initial preparatory work on Capital; it contains numerous reflections on matters that Marx did not develop elsewhere in his incomplete oeuvre. Why, in your opinion, are these manuscripts one of Marx's writings which continue to provoke more debate than any other, in spite of the fact that he wrote them only to summarise the foundations of his critique of political economy? What is the reason for their persistent appeal?

E. H. In my view the Grundrisse have made so large an international impact on the Marxian intellectual scene for two connected reasons. They were virtually unpublished before the 1950s, and, as you say, contained a mass of reflections on matters that Marx did not develop elsewhere. They were not part of the largely dogmatised corpus of orthodox Marxism in the world of Soviet socialism, yet Soviet socialism could not simply dismiss them. They could therefore be used by Marxists who wanted to criticise orthodoxy or widen the scope of Marxist analysis by an appeal to a text which could not be accused of being heretical or anti-Marxist.

Hence the editions of the 1970s and 1980s (well before the fall of the Berlin Wall) continued to provoke debate largely because in these manuscripts Marx raised important problems which were not considered in Capital, for instance, the questions raised in my preface to the volume of essays you collected [Karl Marx's Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later, edited by M. Musto, London—New York: Routledge 2008;].

M. M. In the preface to this book, written by various international experts to mark the 150th anniversary of its composition, you have written: "Perhaps this is the right moment to return to a study of the Grundrisse less constricted by the temporary considerations of leftwing politics between Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin and the fall of Mikhail Gorbachev". Moreover, to underline the enormous value of this text, you stated that the Grundrisse "contains analyses and insights, for instance about technology, that take Marx's treatment of capitalism far beyond the nineteenth century, into the era of a society where production no longer requires mass labour, of automation, the potential of leisure, and the transformations of alienation in such circumstances. It is the only text that goes some way beyond Marx's own hints of the communist future in the German Ideology. In a few words, it has been rightly described as Marx's thought at its richest." Therefore, what might be the result of re-reading the Grundrisse today?

E. H. There are probably not more than a handful of editors and translators who have full knowledge of this large and notoriously difficult mass of texts. But a re-rereading, or rather reading, of them today could help us to rethink Marx: to distinguish what is general in Marx's analysis of capitalism from what was specific to the situation of mid-nineteenth-century "bourgeois society". We cannot predict what conclusions from this analysis are possible and likely, only that they will certainly not command unanimous agreement.

M. M. To finish, one final question. Why is it important today to read Marx?

E. H. To anyone interested in ideas, whether a university student or not, it is patently clear that Marx is and will remain one of the great philosophical minds and economic analysts of the nineteenth century and, at his best, a master of passionate prose. It is also important to read Marx because the world in which we live today cannot be understood without the influence that the writings of this man had on the twentieth century. And finally, he should be read because, as he himself wrote, the world cannot be effectively changed unless it is understood -- and Marx remains a superb guide to understanding the world and the problems we must confront.

Eric Hobsbawm is considered one of the greatest living historians. He is president of Birkbeck College, London, and professor emeritus at the New School for Social Research. Among his many writings are the trilogy about the "the long 19th century": The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 (1962); The Age of Capital: 1848-1874 (1975); The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 (1987), and the book The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (1994). Marcello Musto is editor of Karl Marx's Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, London-New York: Routledge 2008.
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