Welcome to 2018. It promises to be a year of protest and unrest.
It begins in Iran. These are little understood protests. It says a great deal about the impoverishment of the use of a class analysis in the corporate media that it would like, therefore, to link these protests to the Green Movement of 2009. Those are utterly different - different classes and different horizons. Indeed, the standard bearer of their reformism is now in power in the government and the more radical elements of the Green Movement have been long made marginal.
In Alternet today, I have a brief report on the protests in Iran. These are, I suggest, protests against poverty and the sanctions - although the frustration is condensed inside the country rather than against those who have strangled Iran's economy. These are also oil revolts, a link to the unrest - albeit of a different class fragment - in Venezuela.
It is unclear what will happen in Iran. The current government is incapable of driving a policy agenda favourable to the working class and the lower middle class. But nonetheless it is a pragmatic and realistic government. It will find, most likely, that repression in insufficient. Other means, such as breaking the emerging class unities, will be at hand. Keep an eye on Iran. A country of over 80 million that is always full of interesting surprises.
It would be naive to believe that the United States and its allies stand firmly with the Iranian people. If they truly cared about the Iranian people they would not have run such a ruthless sanctions regime. The fake solidarity from Trump should be seen for what it is - the words of a man who drives an imperialist dynamic that seeks preponderant power for the United States and its allies.
This is clear in the National Security Strategy that Trump released in December. It is a vigorous defence of American power and force. In the current issue of Frontline, I have a short report that goes over the Security Strategy, one that is lathered in violence even when it pretends to be about economic security.
In the first Working Document from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, which will be out in a month, I offer an analysis of the political economy that digs beneath such a Security Strategy. That Working Document is the product of conversations within the Marxist left from South America to Southern Asia. I can't wait for its release and hope that it stimulates discussion.
This Monday, in the Indian village of Bhima-Koregaon, hundreds of Dalits gathered to pay homage to Mahar soldiers. Men with saffron flags attacked them. This part of the social suffocation of Hindutva. Clashes broke out across Maharashtra, as this violence took on a political and emotional character. Protests across the state continue, although a total strike in Maharashtra has been called off.
This is part of the social intolerance of the main ideology of India's ruling party. When I was in Brazil in December, I spoke to The Dawn about the current situation in India, the restive working-class and peasantry and the possibilities for the Left in all this. You can read the interview here. The Dawn's Zoe Pepper asked me, What gives you hope? Here is the answer,
It’s a good question, obviously we are human beings and human beings are not made to lose hope. Human beings have this incredible capacity to retain hope, it may be partly because we don’t get extinct after one generation, many of us create children and you want the world somehow to be better for your children, so there is a kind of natural desire for hope that humans have. Even when the right rises, there is hope, but that is too abstract.
Much more concretely, there are contradictions in the project of the right, there are deep contradictions. They have been trying to distract deep social distress into a kind of intolerant politics. Rather than tackle the fact that one in two Indians can’t really find a meal or doesn’t know where the evening meal is coming from, which means 700 million people do not have food security. So I say to them, Why not tackle that issue? Why are you going after vulnerable religious minorities and saying you don’t belong in the country? Why are you so upset with the left? The left is raising important issues of livelihood, important issues of survival, dignity, you are saying that these issues that we are raising are anti-national, what kind of nationalism do you have then?
So their positions are incoherent, we are going to the people and saying “look they can call us anti-national all they want, if you believe that guaranteeing 3 full meals a day is anti-national, then we are anti-national! If you believe that the idea that women and all people should be treated with dignity is anti-national, then we are anti-national! So their ideology is incoherent, and we are fighting them on that. The big issue is violence, the violence is a serious problem, we are prepared to engage them politically but they have taken to violence, and that is an issue that the Indian people need to resolve, whether our political demands, should have a space in Indian politics or whether their violence should become normal.
Another thing that gives me hope is the fightback from the key classes and from the oppressed sections of society. And of course the hard work and smart strategies of the Indian Left. In The Citizen, the former General Secretary of the CPIM, Prakash Karat, gave a very valuable interview on the strategic and tactical landscape that the Left faces in India. You can read his interview here.
One of our most important new books from LeftWord is a collection of Lenin's writings during 1917. The book is useful for that collection surely, but what makes the book so important is the introduction by Prakash Karat which goes into not only Lenin's conjuncture but our own. More than anything else, this introduction is a close assessment of the grammar of Communist politics. I hope you'll get the book. It is available worldwide here.
Politics is not only about having the right ideas and developing the correct policies. It is also about developing the sensibility of being correct. The neoliberal policy slate, despite its very damaging record, nonetheless convinces people that it is the way ahead. It has history on its side. It is the only possible future.
It is hard to convince people that alternatives exist or that if these do exist in a small scale, that they are capable of organising large-scale social worlds. At LeftWord Books, we are very happy to have published a new book by the current Finance Minister of the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala T. M. Thomas Isaac and the South Africa-based academic Michelle Williams - Building Alternatives: The Story of India's Oldest Construction Workers' Cooperative. It is about the Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society.
For the volume, I wrote a preface which has been published by the Indian Cultural Forum website. You can read it here. It gives a little window into the book, into Possible Communism. The picture above is of some of the cooperative members.
We, at LeftWord Books, are very proud that our volume Rehearsing Freedom: The Story of a Theatre in Palestine, edited by Johanna Wallin, won the Best Illustrated Book of 2017 by Publishing Next. This book, designed by Sherna Dastur and Sudhanva Deshpande, is a real treat. Johanna wrote a lovely little blog post for our blog about the book. The book is available from our website. It is not only lovely to look at, but it is a great read.