Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Iran Nuclear Issue: Draft

The Iran Nuclear Issue:

Chander tells me that he expected me to write a blog on this issue. Its a complex one indeed. Was India right in voting for the resolution to move to the Security Council, the issue of Iran enriching Uranium for power needs? First Glance, my opinion was No, certainly not. From all earlier reports, India always indicated that they were keen on taking a stance that they supported Iran's right to use Nuclear Energy for peaceful purposes, for it was a signatory to the NPT and as long as Iran adhered to the NPT norms, there was no problem at all and all issues were to be handled under the aegis of the IAEA. Yet, India voted in direct contravention to this pre-supposed position that she was supposed to take. Why did India take this position suddenly?

The Left, particularly CPM Gen Sec Prakash Karat was scathing on the government's decision. So was the Hindu's editorial. The basic funda was that India did this as a quid pro quo to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal that was yet to be ratified by the US Congress. Ergo, the statement by Manmohan Singh that it was difficult to go ahead with the Indo-Pak-Iran Gas Deal because it was difficult for financial backers to underwrite such a project. The Left feels that this position of India is tantamount to bending towards imperialism in a shameful manner and a betrayal of Non-Alignment, Third World Solidarity and inclining toward the diktats of the unipolar hegemon, the US.

Editorials of papers who do not regard the presence of imperialism any more tried to give their own spin to the entire issue. They called this a "maturing" of India's foreign policy in consonance with India trying to find a place among the comity of developed nations. The Indian Express, as has been its wont these days, was increasingly harsh on the Left's position. Different Editorials on Karat's essay in the People's Democracy, the Left position on Iran and Iran's internal polity, opinion pieces and reports of how Iran has noted the Left's displeasure and playing to this internal dynamics within India's political alignments, were all part of the Indian Express's take on the issue.

The Hindu on its part published a long Editorial criticizing the Indian Government's policy, followed up by a front page publication of a purported report that Iran was going to cut off the Gas deal with India, which later on was proved to be not the case. Even Sri Lanka, Pakistan and other Third World countries had abstained on this issue, and there was no reason why India couldnt' have abstained themselves. The only country that voted against this resolution was the exceedingly vocal and anti-imperialist regime of Venezuela (which unfortunately was termed "maverick" by bourgeois papers such as the Indian Express).

My take on this issue is a convoluted one. While I agree that the gameplan of the USA is right on the same track that was followed against Iraq not long ago, which resulted in the invasion of Iraq on the flimsiest of reasons, and I also agree that there indeed exists US imperialism in this unipolar hegemonic world, I also suspect the intentions of the Islamic government of Iran. This theocratic regime in its inception was a commeupance of a wide ranging progressive movement led by the Left in Iran, but later being scuttled and crushed by the theocrats, who later established an Islamic regime in this country in the early 1980s. Though this Islamic regime definitely had an anti-imperialist character, it never pursued a largely progressive agenda of governance in the country. The Left disagrees with the type of governance that is prevalent in Iran, but is sensitive to the cause of anti-imperialism and that explains its opinion on India's positioning on this issue.

As regards the other political actors in India, the BJP was not overly critical (it was expected, as largely, the BJP led NDA government was pro-American and pro-unipolar during the NDA rule), while the Congress still keeps on saying that there was no barter of interests between the US and India and what was done by India was probably good for Iran. The Congress logic however sounds very hollow though.

What concerns me more is not India's position on Iran's nuclear energy stance, but the proposed Gas deal. The Gas deal was supposed to make fuel available for travel, making it cheaper and more viable and was to link up Iran, India and Pakistan in a strategic partnership that could have stretched down to China. It however appears that India's adverse positioning has nearly jeopardised this deal. Indian Express however said that there were other alternatives for sourcing Natural Gas, yet, it didn't elaborate further.

Today, in JNU, we have a talk on this by Aijaz Ahmed, Political Scientist and Prabhat Patnaik, Economist on this issue. Both are Marxist theorists who liken the current phase of globalization to neo-liberalism and imperialism.

Prof Ahmad has written yet another incisive piece on the Iran issue in the latest issue of the Frontline. I intend to update the blog with further details from the Talk scheduled for today

Monday, October 10, 2005

Organizing an Industrial Strike:

Long time since I updated my blog. I have to blame the bloody internet vala who was supposed to get me connected but screwed up owing to a plethora of reasons. I still remain the only owner of a Toshiba Laptop which stays stand alone in the world, I guess.

Anyways, since Chander and Guru (the closest guys during my undergrad days) are insistent that they read out this insignificant blog with intent, it is my duty to honor their request.

Firstly, the first and only industrial strike that I sorta organized along with others on September 29th. So much has been said about the neo-liberal economic reforms and its impact on the working class by the Left in the country. Having been part of the "coupon-clipper" white-collar software sector for 4 years and seen the better side of globalization, I was eager to see the bad side of it for real. The Honda-Gurgaon incident was one example but again I hadn't seen the working class in throes again in the front of my eyes. Hence the expedition to Okhla Industrial Estate, New Delhi on September 29th.

I was woken up by a senior comrade of SFI, Rohit (former twice president of the Jawaharlal Nehru Students' Union), in the wee hours of the morning (at least for me) at 6:00 AM. Alongwith other comrade students and activists, we made it to Okhla on a makeshift vehicle. We crowded the "entrance" to one industrial sector of the area and started sloganeering (after being joined by flag-toting CITU activists). The slogans went "Mazhdoor Hiton ka hanan hua to khoon bahega sadko par", "Tekedaari Nahi Chalegi", "Tekedaariprathaa Bandh Karo", "Nijikaran nahi sahenge", "Vyaaparikaran Murdabaad" [translated in English: "If Workers' rights were not respected, blood would flow on the streets", "We would not accept Contract System", "Liberalization in the form of loans would not do", "Privatization wouldn't do"] and other such ones. The entourage of 10 odd activists (including me) were soon joined by curious onlookers. One senior comrade then went on the podium (a makeshift chair) and gave an impromptu speech beseeching the workers (on their way to work) to resist work for a day and join us in organizing the strike, which was called on a national scale by CITU and other left trade unions to protest pro-imperialist (read Globalization/ Pro-WTO diktat/ pro-Privatization and Liberalization/ Labour-Reform) policies followed by a neo-liberal friendly government headed by the Congress-I and Manmohan Singh, the architect of the economic reforms programme of 1991. In essence, the message was clear: Today was a day when even airport workers/ bank workers had joined the strike and it was hence necessary that ordinary industrial workers who were feeling the worst brunt of the neo-liberal economic reforms lend their muscle toward the nationwide strike.

The curious onlookers were growing in strength, directly in proportion to the amount of curiousity that was growing within me. As the sloganeering and beseeching gathered momentum, so did the impromptu repeating of the slogans being raised by the onlookers themselves. When the gathered crowd neared around 75-80, it was decided that "we" would take a procession around the industrial estate. Led by senior comrades carrying flags and raising rousing slogans the procession started off slowly and gradually gained momentum.

As we took a junket around the industrial estate (which, in my opinion had appalling standards of hygiene and high pollution levels), more people joined us in the march. In 3 hours or so, the number of people around us neared 250. The problem was that, as the numbers increased, so did a bit of indiscipline. The workers (many of them who came to work in cycles), started getting restless and pulled the air out of cycles parked outside their respective companies (obviously letting out pent-up frustration by means of this gesture as part of the strike). It took some wise counselling from my fellow students to force them to become more disciplined and objective in their procession building. Nearing 12:30 in the afternoon (after some withering away of a few workers due to the long march and the hot weather), we still had around 150 people as part of the procession, still in "worked up" state and still raising and richocheting slogans. That is when, this group joined yet another group in a larger procession, taking the total number to nearly 350 odd workers.

By this time, we were tired and decided to let the workers be by themselves. We had successfully "organized" the strike that day and I, for one, could see the spontaneous response of industrial workers, worked up by a plight of temporary jobs, inclement work conditions, insufficient payment, increasing "contract"ualization of work, letting out their anger through noisy slogans. This was yet another eye-opener for me.

The media's reaction: The Hindu observed that the the strike evoked very strong response in large parts of the country, especially in the Left dominated areas. It didn't polemicize the reasons for the strike and was objective in its reporting. The Indian Express, however was scathing on the Left. A slew of editorial opinions, followed by a Op-Ed piece by Inder Malhotra etc were very critical of the Left's call for a nationwide strike affecting travel and banking services. The industrial strike effected, was however not mentioned in any detail, nor was the fact that there indeed was a flip side to globalization policies and its effect on the industrial working class of the nation.

I was keen on writing to Shekhar Gupta, but somehow as usual, tardiness prevented me.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Motorcycle Diaries:

Che Guevara, is a romantic figure, whom I always saw as some kind of a guerilla fighter fighting imperialism. His description and short introduction in Encyclopaedia Britannica was all, that I knew of him, other than exquisite paintings/photos of him and quotes attributed to him.

How indeed was this guy transformed from a idealist youth in search of adventure and self-discovery to a communist who was responsible for the Cuban Revolution? A few answers were provided in the latest movie that I saw on DVD, "Motorcycle Diaries". A picturesque movie about two friends ('Che' and Alberto Gradando) on a motorcycle sojourn from Argentina to Venezuela, "Motor..." is a beautiful movie that provides glimpses of the early personality of Guevara. A honest person who is struck by sights of injustice, poverty, and disease, Guevara is a picture of idealist youth in this movie. His comical partner-in-tow Gradando however steals the movie as a happy-go-lucky adventurist in constant search for fun, but with an objective purpose about him.

I am now very much motivated to read more on Guevara and the Cuban Revolution. I even have a poster of Che saying "The basic clay our work is the youth, we place our hope in it and prepare it to take the banner from our hands" struck right on the wall next to my reading table now! If time and the situation permits, it wouldn't be too grand of me to say that I wish I could attempt a Guevara & Gradando in India on motorcycle next year, as soon as I finish my Masters. An one month trip would be worth trying!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Chappell vs Ganguly:

One issue that hogged the limelight throughout the Indian newspapers for a long time this past month was the Chappell-Ganguly imbroglio. Frankly speaking, I was too bored even to glance through this latest saga in the Indian cricket soap opera. For years, I have been pleading my case that Ganguly for all his so called aggression as a captain was a super-flawed cricketer who had increasingly become a bane to the Indian Test team rather than a boon. The Indian team under Ganguly has in the final analysis been just above-average and my thesis all along for this performance has been the introduction of young talent unencumbered by the weight of constant losing. Kaif, Yuvraj and Harbhajan were part of age group teams who were always winning competitions as youngsters and this eclectic mixture added tremendous value to the Indian team. Added to this, the metamorphosis of Dravid from a good to a great batsman was the reason for India's sporadic strong showing. All the credit that went to Ganguly for good performances, for me was rather out of place. To me, Ganguly was a supreme Machiavellian politician, using the rumblings in the Board and in the team to his benefit and performing when it least mattered (against teams of no intrinsic cricketing value), and maintaining his average in the early 40s by some means or the other.

Greg Chappell confirmed, what I had in mind all along, by calling a spade a spade. Unfortunately the muddle that the Indian media-the Board-the cricketing firmament is, Chappell's honesty and social constructivism has no role to play in a free-for-all realist power game that is Indian cricket. One needs to understand international politics to theorize Indian cricket, thats my honest opinion!