The most “delightful irony” of all in The Unknown Masterpiece, noted by the American writer Marshall Berman, is that Balzac’s account of the picture is a perfect description of a 20th-century abstract painting – and the fact that he couldn’t have known this deepens the resonance. “The point is that where one age sees only chaos and incoherence, a later or more modern age may discover meaning and beauty,” Berman wrote. “Thus the very open-endedness of Marx’s later work can make contact with our time in ways that more ‘finished’ 19th-century work cannot: Das Kapital reaches beyond the well-made works of Marx’s century into the discontinuous modernism of our own.”
Like Frenhofer, Marx was a modernist avant la lettre. His famous account of dislocation in the Communist Manifesto – “all that is solid melts into air” – prefigures the hollow men and the unreal city depicted by TS Eliot, or Yeats’s “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. By the time he wrote Das Kapital, he was pushing out beyond conventional prose into radical literary collage – juxtaposing voices and quotations from mythology and literature, from factory inspectors’ reports and fairy tales, in the manner of Ezra Pound’s Cantos or Eliot’s The Waste Land. Das Kapital is as discordant as Schoenberg, as nightmarish as Kafka.
Reports from that area indicate that there are great expectations for the first visit of Evo Morales to the area as head of state, and for the fact that, for the first time in history, a president will pay tribute to Che Guevara.
Moldiz, coordinator of People’s General Staff — a political front of the masses who support the government — emphasized the consistency of the presidential tribute with the path of Morales’ struggle and the identification of his government with the ideals of the guerrilla.
The indigenous President included Che among the fallen heroes of more than five centuries of the indigenous and popular struggle, upon assuming the presidency, on the 22nd of January this year.
A wonderful birthday tribute to Che, here.
Reports from Peru place the Leftist candidate Ollanta Humala as having an edge over the Rightist candidate Lourdes Flores:
An ardent nationalist, Mr Humala wants to increase state control of key mining and gas sectors. He has the support of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, which has alarmed Washington, as has his pledge to legalise coca production.”Nationalism is the recuperation of our sovereignty and of our resources, which God put in the ground to benefit out children,” was his message to the enthusiastic crowd.
Mr Humala, 44, is a retired lieutenant colonel who led a failed military rebellion against the then President, Alberto Fujimori, in 2000.
His father was one of the country’s leading communists who also believed that only the descendants of the Incas could pull the country out of poverty.
Complete Story: BBC
Picture acknowledgement: Punjab Panorama
Before the anti- Mandal Commission Report riots changed the nature of political discourse in India, Bhagat Singh was one of the key icons of the Indian Left- then the natural habitat of the young and of the intelligentsia.23 March used to be a day of commemoration marked by lectures, rallies and distribution of his book Why I am an Atheist.
Nowadays, the day passes almost unnoticed.My old comrade and friend- years have thinned the differences between the two- Balram perceptively writes on how Bhagat Singh has been appropriated by the Hindutva brigade and underlines the need to see his life and thought as a whole- as an evolution of this wonderfully precocious mind. It is often forgotten than he had not yet turned 23 when hanged by the British.
Various political movements- from the Right wing Hindutva to extreme Left wing Naxalite Maoists, tend to highlight one or the other aspect in the evolution of Bhagat Singh’s rapid movement from Arya Samaji sympathies to revolutionary socialism- a movement that gathered particular immediacy in the aftermath of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930.
Balram’s rhetorical flourish towards the end about Bhagat Singh’s ‘spiritual relationship’ with Gandhi is overstated, but the point that he makes is still moot.
The success of BJP, VHP types in stealing into academics and public consciousness the concept of cultural nationalism is a case in point. This has become possible for first time that a political movement has arisen without the help of heroes of national revolution. Owing to lack of any specific programme for social or economic reorganization, this movement has to take recourse to mythological heroes instead of historic ones, who can be moulded as they like into their programme of cultural reconstruction. Ramjanambhoomi movement is an example.
The immense treasure of heritage of Bhagat Singh would be open to us if we could see Bhagat Singh as someone who dared to dream and had it in himself to live or die for it, instead of seeing him simply as a freedom fighter or a person committed to a particular ideology. But while doing so we would have to not only renew Bhagat Singh who has become a symbol of revolution but the dust that has settled on his spiritual relationship with Gandhi will also have to be cleaned up.It is obvious that it is impossible to safeguard the relevance of Bhagat Singh without Gandhi and of Gandhi without Bhagat Singh.
Read the complete article here.
I came upon Bolívar, one long morning
in Madrid, at the entrance to the Fifth Regiment
Father, I said to him, are you, or are you not, or who are you?
And, looking at the Mountain Barrak, he said:
‘I awake every hundred years when the people awake’
- excerpt from the poem a Song for Bolívar by Pablo Neruda, quoted in the book
‘Save your people and save yourself. Do what you have to do. Negotiate with dignity. Do not sacrifice yourself, Chávez, because this is not going to end. You must not sacrifice yourself.’
Chavez was too important a figure for the future of Latin America, Castro argued, for him to allow himself to be killed off in a coup. The advise was timely and wise.
Castro evidently had the experience of the 1973 sacrifice of Salvador Allende and his government- and the long dark years that followed the coup.
Chávez turned out to be a sharp learner who not only survived the coup but also emerged as an astute politician who is poised to succeed Fidel Castro as the leading voice of dissent against neo- imperialism and globalization as defined by the West.
Richard Gott brings such quotes- like the telephonic message from Castro- and many a historical insight to explain the phenomenon of Hugo Chávez.
Chávez is an advocate of New Socialism for the 21st century and has initiated a number of changes in his country to translate that vision into reality.
Having said this, it is important to remember, as Gott points out in this extremely necessary book- that Chávez and his concept of Socialism is derived much more from the Latin American experience of the last three centuries than from the Marxist- Leninist or Stalin- Maoist models.
Simón Bolívar has often been derided by Marxist writers as bourgeois- even Garcia Marquez ruffled a few feathers by his implicit criticism of ‘The Liberator’ in his The General in his Labyrinth. But Chavez considers Bolívar as an important part of the Left wing tradition in South America.
Left scholarship has traditionally seen Bolívar as securing liberation from Spain but with the help of the British- having subsequently handed over the continent over for exploitation by English capitalism.
Chávez, on the other hand has incorporated Simón Bolívar into the Left tradition and thereby brought in a heavier dose of nationalism into the ideology of the Left.
However, he does not share the pessimism of even the Liberator who is said to have remarked on his deathbed: ‘America is ungovernable. Those in the service of the revolution have ploughed the sea.’
‘The contradictions in Bolívar’s thought are not the determining factor’, argues Chávez, ‘What we can see in the period of history between 1810 and 1830, are the outlines of a national project for Spanish America’. Chávez evidently plans to pursue that project with renewed energy.
Another historical personality that Chávez looks upto is Simón Rodríguez, sometimes called the Robinson Crusoe of Spanish America.
Rodríguez was a schoolteacher with unorthodox views on education and commerce far in advance of his time. he also had a passionate belief in the need to integrate the indigenous people’s of Latin America, and the black slaves brought from outside, into the societies of the future independent states.
Rodríguez’s ideas about education for the indigenous population of South America and the role of the underclass are crucial for Chávez- himself a mestizo.
The third major influence on Chávez has been the revolutionary soldier Ezequiel Zamora, a provincial radical who became a soldier and strategist. He advocated far reaching land reforms for the peasants and was passionately hostile against the land owning oligarchy. But more than that, the crucial element from his thought that Hugo Chávez has internalized and that has become the axis of the Chávezista phenomenon is his advocacy of the combined role of the soldiers and civilians in his struggle and the Bolivarian dream of combining with like- minded forces across South America.
Having traced the idelogolical roots of Chávez, Gott goes on to give us an extremely well crafted narrative of the rise of Chávez, his failed coup and subsequent rise as a democrat. The new constitution that the National Assembly in Venezuela wrote under his leadership has to be read in the context of these influences on the progress of the Venezuelian revolution led by Chávez.
Another distinguishing feature of this revolution- which marks it out from previous socialist projects in Europe and Asia is the lack of an organized political party- the Movement for Socialism that Chávez leads is an amalgamation of various Left wing groups and patriotic elements from the military, the latter is explained well by Gott:
For many people outside Latin America, particularly in the quarter of a century since General Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende in September 1973, it has been almost impossible to think of a military leader without conjuring up the image of the gorila, the general and his military junta in dark glasses presiding over an authoritarian and repressive regime. Few recall the handful of leftist military rulers to have taken the side of the poor and the peasants, and pushed through radical reforms in the teeth of fierce opposition from local oligarchs and the United States. Few remember that Allende recruited progressive officers to serve in his government.
The extent of the opposition that he has invited from the previous ruling circles in his own country and the repeated coup attempts against his government are explained in the context of far reaching changes that he has brought about in nationalizing specially the oil industry, providing rights to indigenous people and in his efforts to decentralize development works.
He has repeatedly invited the wrath of the United States as his policies place him in the anti- globalization league.
Revolutionaries in every age are threatended by twin forces. On the one hand, every revolution spawns a counter- revolution as Marx observed somewhere, on the other, as the experience of the socialist revolutions of the 20th century have demonstrated, every revolution devours its own children.
The Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is threatened more from the former at the moment, though the latter may soon be a threat too.
For all those who wear of a patch of red on their heart, the success of socialism in Venezuela and in rest of South America is extremely important.
Its continuous progress opens up new vistas for the revival of the socialist project that suffered a dramatic, if temporary, defeat after the fall of ‘existing’ socialism in the Soviet Union.
An interview with Richard Gott here.
Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution by Richard Gott
The CCP after having dumped every tenet of its official ideology, has decided to make China the center of world Marxism, a slot left woefully empty after the demise of Soviet Union.
3,000 “top Marxist theorists” and academics from across the country are to be summoned to Beijing to compile more than a hundred Marxism textbooks, each one to contain contributions from between 20 and 30 scholars.
Li Changchun, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee and the party’s chief official in charge of ideology, was reported to have told a meeting of propaganda officials and theorists that the leadership saw the project as a means of resolving various issues facing the country, and had given it “unlimited” support.
In the past decade and a half, the party has dismantled the state sector, thrown hundreds of millions out of work, given up on collective agriculture, celebrated the art of getting rich (not least through its own corruption), embraced the market “with Chinese characteristics”, dumped the principles of free education, healthcare and cheap housing for the workers and created one of the most unequal societies in the world. Workers are not allowed to form trades unions, have little job protection, suffer appalling labour conditions and routinely go unpaid for months on end: a recent study by the National People’s Congress concluded that migrant workers were owed more than £5bn in unpaid wages.
Far from abandoning Marxism, according to Professor Cheng, China has taken the lead in its development. One of two academics invited to lecture Politburo members last year on the need to modernise Marxism, Professor Cheng said recently that the Politburo had been studying the knotty question of how to reconcile the contradictions between Marx and free-market reforms.
To employ Marxist shorthand, it is a negation of negation- that can end either in a higher form of Marxism or its demise. Or is it a case of “unity and struggle”- perhaps the CCP’s dialectics has some undecipherable Chinese twist too.
Is this going to be mere lip- service to Marxism?
Or will this spawn a new revisionist Marxism, battered, post- USSR, as it is by a number of post- isms including post- modernism and the lit- crit mob?
It is more likely a device to disarm the New Left Marxism that is being espoused the more sensitive Chinese intelligentsia and their efforts to return Marxism as praxis. It is certainly a contradictory policy- it violates China’s continuous slide into a worst form of capitalism.
Meanwhile the stand of the two major Indian ‘communist’ parties is appalling, they sincerely believe that the CCP is ushering in socialism in China. The CPM’s stand is understandable, it was a product of the Soviet- China split in the sixties when it decided to go with the China line. That of the CPI is less so, but then, it wants to wag its tail too, as a loyal B team of the CPM.
Original source here.
James Petras, one of the most authoritative US commentors on the Left movements in Latin America criticizes the popular misconceptions about Evo Morales as a staunch Leftist.
All the data on Evo Morales’ politics, especially since 2002, point to a decided right turn, from mass struggle to electoral politics, a shift toward operating inside Congress and with institutional elites. Evo has turned from supporting popular uprisings to backing one or another neo-liberal President. His style is populist, his dress informal. He speaks the language of the people. He is photogenic, personable and charismatic. He mixes well with street venders and visits the homes of the poor. But what political purpose do all these populist gestures and symbols serve? His anti-neo-liberal rhetoric will not have any meaning if he invites more foreign investors to plunder iron, gas, oil, magnesium and other prime materials. Systemic transformations do not follow from upholding illegal privatizations, the maintenance of the financial and business elites of La Paz and Cochabamba and the agro-business oligarchy of Santa Cruz.At best, Evo will promote some marginal increases in property and royalty taxes, and perhaps increase some social spending on welfare services (but always limited by a tight fiscal budget). Political power will be shared between the new upwardly mobile petit bourgeois of the MAS office holders and the old economic oligarchs.
Subcommandante Marcos on the death of Subcommandanta Ramona, co- author of the Revolutionary Rights of Zapatista Women:
“I want everybody to listen to what I am about to say without any interruptions. Comandanta Ramona died yesterday… The world has lost one of those women it requires. Mexico has lost one of the combative women it needs and we, we have lost a piece of our heart,” said Marcos.
New York Times reports on the latest move by the Zapatistas in Mexico to take their rebellion out of the Mexican jungles in a march covering 31 major Mexican cities, in a bid to expand their influence for the July 2006 elections.
Standing in front of a mural of Mexican revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata — the rebel group’s namesake — the Indian rights movement’s spokesman Subcomandante Marcos said Sunday the enemy ”has many faces but one name: capitalism.”
Alejandro Cruz, a rebel supporter and 33-year-old high school teacher from Mexico City, said the Zapatistas could be looking to become an organization like the Brazilian landless peasant movement Sin Tierra, which has no candidates of its own but has a strong influence on elections.
Links to NYT and The Daily Gleyph reports via Boing Boing.
The former industrial worker Luis Inacio Lula da Silva took over as the President of Brazil in 2002, with a resounding declaration: “I cannot fail. The poor in Brazil have waited 500 years for someone like me.” As Morales has made similar statements, and faces similar challanges, it is pertinent to remember the lessons from Lula’s three year old reign that is now under fire on corruption charges, besides not fulfilling its promises. The key, according to Sue Branford and Hilary Wainwright, is to trust its social base and not fall in the trappings of electoral rat race.
Where did the PT government go wrong? Most commentators agree that the rot set in long before Lula’s victory in October 2002. The party’s original base – the industrial working class – was weakened in the 90s by rocketing unemployment as successive administrations enforced IMF edicts. Instead of trying to build a new base among the unorganised rural and urban poor, the PT increasingly used the same methods for winning elections as every other party – even hiring the same spin doctors. This required money (hence the slush fund) and led to a concentration of power in a centralised leadership. The practice of involving the membership was eventually abandoned.
This growing obsession with electoral success at any price meant that the PT failed to prepare properly for government.
Daphne Eviatar identifies three major obstacles before ‘Bolivia’s homegrown President’ Evo Morales- the financial force that Western oil companies may exert to oppose any nationalization of the oil industry in the country that is South America’s second largest producer of oil, the US Congress’s opposition to any international aid to the poverty striken country if Bolivia refuses to continue with the coca eradication program and the opposition of the rich land owners to the land reforms.But then, no change has been brought about easily- and Morale’s ability to navigate through the maze of these obstacles will determine the future course for Socialism in South America.
Interestingly, the same article quotes Morales indicating the forging of ties with China- indeed along with Venezuela and other countries in South America, it may well form a formidable bloc. The formerly communist China may still have its uses for socialism!
Evo Morales becomes the first indigenous President of any country in South America.
Fernandez considers the election a dramatic triumph for South America’s leftists: After years of strikes, protests and barricade-building, the people are finally in the position to demand more power from entrenched ruling classes.“This isn’t just about Bolivia; this is happening across Latin America,” Fernandez said. “There is now a wave of popular movements sweeping across the region, not only in Bolivia but also in Uruguay, Brazil and other countries.”
(Picture from: BBC)
An interview with Evo Morales here.
There are many progressive leaders in Latin America right now; presidents like Fidel and Chavez, but also Kirchner [in Argentina], Lula and Tabarez Vasquez [in Uruguay]. The social movements are very strong and interesting and they move from union struggle, to local, to national struggle. If the 19th century belonged to Europe and the 20th century to the United States, the 21st century will belong to America, to Latin America. I have a vision of integration, like the European Union, with a single market and a single currency and with the corporations subordinate to the state.
…… The state has to be the motor: We will nationalise the forests and the petroleum and natural gas reserves. In several cases the management of the companies has been disastrous. To develop the country, we have to get rid of the colonial and neoliberal model. We want to tax the transnationals in a fair way, and redistribute the money to the small- and medium-size enterprises, where the job opportunities and ideas are. To get this on its way, we want to create a development bank. The properties of big land owners will have to be redistributed; we’ll respect the productive land, but the unproductive land must be handed out to landless peasants—this will start a true process of economic redistribution. We also want to industrialize and give people more access to technology.
Meanwhile, in Argentina President Kirchner decides to pay off the IMF debt:
“Goodbye and good riddance”, said Buenos Aires’ resident Gabriela Garcia on hearing of the plan to pay off the country’s IMF debt lump sum.
… Help is also on hand from oil-rich Venezuela, which recently purchased around $1bn in new Argentine government bonds. Venezuela’s firebrand president, Hugo Chávez, is reported to have pledged an additional $2bn to assist Argentina’s attempt to rid itself of the IMF.
Although the country will not cancel its membership to the lending organisation, most Argentinians welcome the prospect of waving goodbye to the lender’s presence in domestic affairs. Like the president, many blame the IMF’s neo-liberal recipe of market reforms and public spending cuts for the economic crisis.
“We have extricated ourselves from a monster hanging over us. This debt, although we’ve said it was illegitimate, is a debt all the same,” said Estela de Carlotto, a spokeswoman for Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an influential human rights group.
After Chile, here comes the news of the Indian candidate Evo Morales leading the exit polls by a definitive margin. South America now has Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and potentially Chile turn Left, besides Cuba. All this in “America’s backyard”, as Henry Kissinger once derisively remarked about South America. Bush may now have to worry about the ‘backyard’- Morales has promised to be a ‘nightmare’ for Washington.The turn of events in South America is also a caution to those who are enamoured of the “free- market” economics in India. There is nothing like a trickle down effect in economics. Its not there in in a continent of 400m, and certainly not for a nation of over 1.1 billion.
“I am the candidate of those despised in Bolivian history, the candidate of the most disdained, discriminated against,” he said after working through a crowd of admirers some of whom rushed forward to kiss him before voting at a decrepit basketball court in the village school.He compared the struggle of his Movement Toward Socialism party to those of Indian leaders who fought Spanish conquerers, as well as to the independence hero Simon Bolivar and socialist icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian political expert, said Morales’ bid to become the latest South American leftist to win election was fueled by support that went undetected in pre-election projections. Many Indians blame the country’s free-market policies for enriching white elite at the expense of the majority poor.
Meanwhile, reports about Chavez congratulating Morales pour in.
At a party at Morales’ home in Cochabamba, his supporters toasted as the candidate announced that Chavez planned to contact Cuba’s Fidel Castro.Said Morales of Chavez: “He’s going to tell Fidel the good news” – eliciting laughs from those nearby.
Morales has promised to be “Washington’s nightmare,” indicating he would exercise more state control over South America’s second-largest natural gas reserves and bring an end to U.S.-backed coca eradication efforts.
Three decades after Salvador Allende’s democratically elected Socialist- Communist alliance was overthrown by a bloody military coup, the daughter of one of the generals who did not side with the coup, leads the polls. The next round of elections in January promise to be close since Bachelet’s current lead could be misleading, her 45% votes are still less than the rival right wing candidates whose votes were split.Chile’s continued turn to the Left (if finally elected Bachelet will replace an outgoing Socialist President) is marred because she is still expected to carry out free- market policies, according to the IHT.
When her father, Gen. Alberto Bachelet, was arrested on the day of the coup she was a 22-year-old medical student. She and her mother also were rounded up, blindfolded, beaten and denied food for five days while their cellmates were raped — an ordeal she doesn’t want to talk about except to say she and her mother were ”physically mistreated.”
Their connections enabled them to leave the country. After five years of exile in Australia and then communist East Germany, Bachelet returned to Chile, working underground with other leftist exiles and quietly advancing in the Socialist Party. She became a well-known figure in the center-left coalition that has ruled since democratic elections were restored in 1990.
If elected president, she’s expected to maintain the free-market policies that have made Chile’s economy one of the most successful in Latin America, but wants to develop a pension system that will narrow the gap between rich and poor.
She is widely credited with helping to overcome mistrust between the military and the civilian government that was spawned by the coup of 1973.
”I harbor no rancor because I have a politician’s understanding of why those things happened,” she once said.
… in the words of Subcomandante Marcos himself, published on the 14th of July, surprisingly this is the only article that I found that remembered 14th July, none of the newspapers and sites that I read (and there are many) carried any memory of the 14th of July. That the statement released by the Zapatista Army reads like a story is an indiicator of how story and history, of how struggle and literature are tied up in each others’ arms in Latin America.
This is our simple word which seeks to touch the hearts of humble and simple people like ourselves, but people who are also, like ourselves, dignified and rebel. This is our simple word for recounting what our path has been and where we are now, in order to explain how we see the world and our country, in order to say what we are thinking of doing and how we are thinking of doing it, and in order to invite other persons to walk with us in something very great which is called Mexico and something greater which is called the world. This is our simple word in order to inform all honest and noble hearts what it is we want in Mexico and the world. This is our simple word, because it is our idea to call on those who are like us and to join together with them, everywhere they are living and struggling.
And he goes on to recount the struggle of the Indian people in Mexico, ending with a cliched, but nevertheless a resounding, defiant call:
This is our word which we declare:In the world, we are going to join together more with the resistance struggles against neoliberalism and for humanity.
And we are going to support, even if it’s but little, those struggles.
And we are going to exchange, with mutual respect, experiences, histories, ideas, dreams.
In Mexico, we are going to travel all over the country, through the ruins left by the neoliberal wars and through those resistances which, entrenched, are flourishing in those ruins.
We are going to seek, and to find, those who love these lands and these skies even as much as we do.
We are going to seek, from La Realidad to Tijuana, those who want to organize, struggle and build what may perhaps be the last hope this Nation – which has been going on at least since the time when an eagle alighted on a nopal in order to devour a snake – has of not dying.
We are going for democracy, liberty and justice for those of us who have been denied it.
We are going with another politics, for a program of the left and for a new Constitution.