This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Red Star Over India?

Let’s call her Rani Koda. That name will do as well as any other. She’s young, not very pretty, not particularly intelligent or talented. She’s nobody special, no “queen” despite her name; just one of the poorest of the poor in India, one of the people so poor that the concept of a full meal twice a day is alien to them. She, Rani Koda, lives in a forest village, and has never seen a school, or a dispensary, and all she has is the small patch of ground on which her family grows a few vegetables, and the forests around in which her people have always lived and whose nature spirits they worship, and from which her people gather what they can to provide for their needs.

Now one day, a man from the government comes and tells Rani Koda that she must get off her land and go away; the government has decided that this land, and the forest, must be compulsorily taken over in the “public interest”. In order to ensure that she gets off the land, it sends in police to force her off, assuring her that she will be “compensated” and “resettled”, in time. It then says it can’t resettle her immediately because it has no land, and as for the meagre “compensation”, if it’s actually ever issued, what little is left after sundry middlemen have taken their cut wouldn’t buy her food for a week.

Oh, and what happened to her patch of land, taken from her because it is so essential to the national interest? Like the rest of the forest, it was given, virtually free of cost, to some capitalist mining corporation for stripping it of its mineral wealth. The total destruction of the local people, the forest, and the environment isn’t of any concern. Fattening the bank balances of corporate fatcats is in the national interest, it is.

Meanwhile, destitute, illiterate, stripped of all she ever had, including her nature deity, what options has Rani Koda? She could become a prostitute in the lowest class of brothel in the nearest shanty town, paying off the police and the pimps and the local hoodlums, watching her body rot from disease and the alcohol and drugs she takes to make her life bearable. She could commit suicide more directly, by setting herself on fire or drinking some poison, if she could get hold of it. Or she could protest.

If she protested “democratically”, peacefully, absolutely nothing would happen. Not even the local newspaper would even bother to take the slightest notice. At the most, Rani Koda might be considered enough of a nuisance to be dragged off to jail without a formal arrest, raped and beaten in custody, and then – if lucky – let go with no more than a warning to behave in future.

If, however, Rani Koda decides her only option is to fight back in an organised way, by taking part in mass protests and blockades, what will happen to her? Without the faintest shadow of doubt, she will be declared a dangerous left-wing terrorist, a Maoist, even if she’s never heard of the late Chairman Zedong. Police and armed paramilitary units will be deployed to break her peoples’ resistance, they will be shot down and imprisoned, and – if at all possible – carefully chosen hooligans and other malcontents from among her people will be armed and trained and formed into “people’s militias” to unleash a war of repression in order to force the people to yield. Even journalists and others – like Dr Binayak Sen, for instance – who are sympathetic to her people’s cause will be arrested and if possible locked up, if required for years, on charges so trumped up that they fail the laugh test.

Given this reality, would it perhaps be surprising if Rani Koda decided her best option was to join the Maoist “terrorists” she is anyway going to be accused of being part of? Would it be totally astounding if she thought that, since the state will in any case respond with violence, her only option to defend her life and property is to take up arms against the state? Even if she knew nothing of left-wing ideology, wouldn’t it be right to say that the state has just created a “Maoist terrorist” where there was none?

Now let’s get back to the mining corporation that wants the land. With the most Big Business-friendly government in the nation’s history in power in the country, a government so Big Business-friendly that it’s made “growth rate” into an all-purpose excuse for any action it chooses to pursue (just like the Bush regime’s invocation of “9/11” to excuse any and all of its crimes), it wants to strike while the iron is hot and make as much money as quickly as possible. And it knows some things. Knowledge is power, as they say.

It knows that the “prime minister” of the country, who is the head of government despite never having won an election in his life, is an “eminent economist” whose personal record is of spineless fealty to corporate interests. It knows that his government is full of people with organic connections to business interests, which they no longer even bother to conceal, and that they will do anything for Big Business if the money is right. It knows that the person responsible for internal security, the nation’s Home Minister, is a former corporate lawyer with a history of working for mining companies and who is an ex-board member for one such company, which has (perhaps coincidentally) been given rights to mine bauxite in forest land in Orissa state. It’s perfectly aware that in “mainstream politics” there is absolutely not a single significant voice against the policies of snatching people’s land to give over to corporate entities; even a supposed “Communist” party, the nation’s largest left-wing political group, has taken land at gunpoint from peasants to hand over to a notorious right wing corporate figure to make the “world’s cheapest car,” after all. It knows that all political parties are hopelessly beholden to capitalist concerns for election funds. It knows that the makers of the “mainstream opinion” in the nation – the print and electronic media – are utterly corrupt and amenable to bribery and outright purchase.

So, what, from its point of view, is the logical thing to do? To “manufacture opinion” by the payment of judicious bribes for an all-out war on “left extremism” (in other words, on Rani Koda and anyone else who is too poor to register on the national consciousness), and to prod the (extremely amenable) state to send in its forces to fight the war. Isn’t it deadly simple, when we consider how easy it is to “create consent” for crimes? Take a look at the Bush regime’s run-up to the Iraq invasion, for example.

So it’s not exactly a surprise that suddenly – virtually overnight, in the last few months, since the moment this ultra-business-friendly government took power, in fact – “Maoist extremism” has become Public Enemy Number One in what passes for “news” in the national media, surpassing the old bugbear, Islamic jihadist terrorism. It’s not exactly a surprise that the (unelected) “prime minister” (who has never won an election in his life, not even a fraudulent one, but has gone on record saying “The people of India deeply love you, Mr Bush”) has declared “left wing extremism” to be the country’s greatest internal security threat, much more than Hindunazi organised terror, which has repeatedly killed more innocent people in a few days than the Maoists have done in their entire existence. More honestly, he also (on June 18, 2009) told Parliament: “If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected”
, which may have been a Freudian slip in that it showed where his thoughts really lie.

It’s also, therefore, no surprise that this government, which claims it has no land to spare to resettle the displaced from its “development projects” but has no problems finding farmland and forests to hand over to business houses to convert into factories and “Special Economic Zones”, has decided to create a plethora of anti-Maoist forces with such names as Cobras and Greyhounds, which are, I guess, supposed to slither or race through the forests and eliminate the evil Red terrorists. It follows that the Air Force asks permission to fire on the Maoists “in self defence” (rich, indeed, since the Maoists have never, ever, attacked the Air Force). It’s no surprise that such a newspaper as Calcutta’s The Telegraph, which is all but a formal mouthpiece of the (unelected) “prime minister”, runs virtually daily front page stories from the “anti-Maoist battle zone”. And so on and on and on.

Meanwhile, in a development not entirely unrelated, the government and media have, suddenly, apparently, realised that China, that giant Maoist behemoth next door, has evil designs on the country. Anti-China rhetoric is suddenly the flavour of the season, and includes shamelessly making up stories such as the alleged shooting and wounding of Indian soldiers on the (disputed) border, which even the Indian government denied. When the nation’s Home Secretary (a bureaucrat under the Home Minister, and following his orders) declares that the Maoists are getting arms from China, you know the reason why.

So just who are those Maoists, who are suddenly such a colossal threat to the nation? I’ve already discussed them here, and that post might be of interest. In brief, they are a very, very disparate peasant guerrilla army, armed with crude bombs, landmines, bolt-action rifles and the like, who have varying levels of presence in a number of districts in various Central and South Indian states, termed by the media a “Red Corridor”. Oddly enough, this same “Red Corridor” comprises the areas where desperately poor people, who have always been neglected by the state, are being systematically exploited by rapacious corporate entities. Strange coincidence, isn’t it?

Most of the Maoists belong to a single grouping, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which has excellent reasons for not trusting the corporate-funded so-called democratic process; and individually, their reasons for joining have much more to do with personal survival (like Rani Koda’s) than ideology. They run “people’s courts” which deal out summary justice and are therefore preferred to the official and extremely corrupt legal system, which will take, quite literally, thousands of years just to clear the backlog of cases it has currently on its hands. They provide the people among whom they live a measure of protection from moneylenders and sundry exploiters. And, of course, when the big corporations come calling, they form a potent weapon for the people to defend their rights, lands, and lives.

Is it then a surprise that for this government, they are Public Enemy Number One?

Of course, the spectre of a peasant guerrilla army, numbering, by the most extravagant estimates, 20,000, on foot and armed with shotguns and First World War vintage .303 Lee Enfield rifles, marching into Delhi and taking over the country, in the face of one of the world’s (theoretically) strongest military machines, is laughable in the extreme; the Maoists have never, for longer than a few hours, managed to take over even a small town (unless one claims that people defending their rights to their land and blockading the government’s forces are ipso facto Maoists). Sane minds would realise this, and the same (unelected, Bush-hugging) “prime minister” also declared that the Maoists have limited capabilities. So, when hysteria is deliberately raised about them, and simultaneously the state goes out of its way to accommodate business interests, one doesn’t, perhaps, have to be a super-genius to put two and two together and come up with four.

In the blog entry I’d mentioned previously, I’d discussed Maoism in India and Nepal and discussed why a people’s revolution could succeed in the latter but not in the former country. However, in that post I was talking about, specifically, organised militant Maoism, and that still will never succeed, in the conventional manner, in capturing power in this country. That still holds true. However, there is a new factor involved, and that is this government’s utter and complete barefacedwillingness to wage war on the people of this nation in the name of combating left-wing extremism. Anyone who is poor and willing to stand up for his or her rights, or anyone who supports the poor person’s right to ask for his or her rights, is now fair game as a “Maoist”. The problem is that despite the fairy tales about the nation’s spectacular economic growth, more people are poor today than ever before, and the disparity between the tiny super-rich minority and the rest of the population is growing apace, and also that the armed forces are increasingly packed with personnel who are now joining up only because they have no other avenues of earning employment.

Therefore, when the government decides to begin warring against its own people, what it is doing is unleashing an army of poverty draftees against the people from whom they spring. When you do that, sooner rather than later the distinction between attacker and victim is going to get blurred, and increasingly there are going to be crossovers and desertions to the “other side”.

Meanwhile, the corporate entities to whom the government hands over the nation will concentrate on maximising their profits; naturally, because this is what they exist to do. Social justice isn’t even on their agenda. They are there to make as much money as possible as fast as possible and quit while ahead. To do this, they can buy the government and the media and they can successfully brainwash the Great Indian Muddle Class. But they can’t get rid of the poor, and they can’t brainwash the poor.

The poor don’t care about SMS polls that celebrate the country’s “achievements”; the poor can’t put on the growth rate or eat at the “global high table” to which the nation allegedly aspires. You can throw them off the land and push them into a fringe existence in the cities; you can make them destitute and deprive them of a legitimate voice. But even if you do all that you can’t take away their anger. That anger will only grow and grow, and there will be no dam that can hold it back.

Ultimately, then, when the rapaciousness of the corporate-government complex grows clear to everyone, and there is no further place to hide, the stage is going to be set for a very messy civil war, and there won’t be any winners. In many ways, we’ve already gone too far to turn back.

It’s not the beginning of the end, but it’s the end of the beginning.  

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