Category Archives: India

Neoliberal Death Knell for Indian Agriculture

In a 2017 article, I asked what might a future India look like and concluded that, if current neoliberal policies continue, there could be dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just two to three hundred million (perhaps 15-20% of the population) left in an emptied-out countryside. And it could also mean hundreds of millions of displaced rural dwellers without any work.

The policies referred to have not only continued but have been given a massive boost in the form of three parliamentary bills: The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.

The ordinances were issued by the Modi-led government in June and (according to official rhetoric) seek to create barrier-free trade for farmers and allow them to enter into agreements with private players prior to the production for sale of agri-produce.

Some have commended these bills, claiming they will completely ‘liberalise’ the farm economy, leading to greater flexibility and efficiency and offering freedom and choice to farmers and buyers of produce. Others claim they effectively serve to impose the tenets of neoliberalism on the sector, finally clearing the way to restructure the agri-food sector for the benefit of large commodity traders and other (international) corporations: smallholder farmers will go to the wall in a landscape of ‘get big or get out’, mirroring the US model of food cultivation and retail.

As reported in the Economic Times, the Congress party chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said his party will fight the government “tooth and nail” on this issue:

These three draconian ordinances are a death knell for agriculture in India. They will subjugate the farmer at the altar of a handful of crony capitalists….

He added that farmers would not be able to get a remunerative price for their crop under the current system of minimum support price and that his party will join with other parties to put up a joint opposition to the draconian ordinances of the BJP government aimed at:

Subjugating the farming community and abolishing the livelihood of crores [tens of millions] of people who are aligned with the grain markets and other market systems.

The proposed legislation will mean that mandis – state-run market locations for farmers (overseen by Agricultural Produce Market Committees) to sell their agricultural produce via auction to traders – can be bypassed, allowing farmers to sell to private players elsewhere (physically and online), thereby undermining the regulatory role of the public sector. In trade areas open to the private sector, no fees will be levied (fees levied in mandis go to the states and, in principle, are used to enhance market infrastructure to help farmers).

This could incentivise the corporate sector operating outside of the mandis to (initially at least) offer better prices to farmers; eventually, however, as the mandi system is run down completely, these corporations will monopolise trade, capture the sector and dictate prices to farmers.

Another outcome of the proposed legislation could see the unregulated storage of produce and speculation, opening the farming sector to free-for-all profiteering for the big players.

Randeep Surjewala argues that the three ordinances are also a direct attack on the federal structure of India (farming and mandis come under the jurisdiction of states), but the government did not even consider it appropriate to consult them before promulgating the ordinances.

Sitaram Yechury, leader of the Communist Party of India, tweeted:

No amount of propaganda and spin can conceal such destruction of India and it’s economy. Withdraw these ordinances handing over our agriculture to multinational agribusinesses, further ruining our ‘annadaata’, demolishing India’s food security.

The proposed legislation will enable transnational agri-food corporations like Cargill and Walmart and home-grown billionaire capitalists like Gautam Adani and his agribusiness conglomerate and Mukesh Ambini and his Reliance retail chain to decide on what is to be cultivated, how much of it is to be cultivated within India and how it is to be produced and processed. From seed to field to plate, the corporate take-over of the food and agriculture chain will be complete.

Smallholder and marginal farmers will be further forced out and those remaining in the sector will be squeezed, working on contracts for market-dominating global seed and agrochemical suppliers, trader, distributors and retail concerns. Industrial agriculture will be the norm (with all the devastating externalised health, social and environmental costs that the model brings with it).

It may make some wonder who is actually determining policy in India when hundreds of millions of ordinary people could lose their livelihoods. Instead of pursuing a path of democratic development, the Indian government has chosen to submit to the regime of foreign finance, awaiting signals on how much it can spend. The imperatives of global capital require nation states to curb spending and roll back interventions and support mechanisms so that private investors can occupy the arena left open. And this is exactly what we are seeing in agriculture.

Foreign capital and sections of India’s billionaire class are working to displace the prevailing agrifood model and recast it in their own image. Tens of millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are already suffering economic distress and leaving farming as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them.

The Modi administration is fully on board with the World Bank’s pro-corporate ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and other such policies aimed at further incorporating nation states into the neoliberal fold, while equating neoliberal policies with ‘development’. Other recent policies will also serve to accelerate current trends in Indian agriculture as we see with regard to the Karnataka Land Reform Act, which will make it easier for business to purchase and consolidate agricultural land (leading to landlessness and urban migration).

Both ongoing and proposed ‘reforms’ are ultimately about ‘liberalising’ agriculture to further ease the entrance of foreign agribusiness interests and serve the needs of India’s home-grown billionaires. The Modi government is predictably facilitating what could eventually lead to a trillion-dollar (value of the Indian economy according to Modi’s former associates at APCO Worldwide) corporate hijack of India three steps closer with the ‘ordinances’.

By bringing the full force of liberalisation to the farm economy and in the process fundamentally restructuring Indian society (around 60% of the population still rely on agriculture for their livelihoods), any remnants of economic sovereignty and sovereign state status will be hollowed out and India will become a fully incorporated subsidiary of global capitalism and its fundamentally flawed and exploitative food regime.

Of course, many millions have already been displaced from the Indian countryside and have had to seek work in the cities. And if the coronavirus lockdown has indicated anything, it is that many of these ‘migrant workers’ have failed to gain a secure foothold and were compelled to return ‘home’ to their villages. Their lives are defined by low pay, insecurity and callous treatment by the government.

It raises the question: what does the future hold for the hundreds of millions of others who will be victims of the dispossessive policies of neoliberal capitalism?

The post Neoliberal Death Knell for Indian Agriculture first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Not Just an Orchard, Not Merely a Field, We Demand the Whole World

Caption: Mallu Swarajyam (left) and other members of an armed squad during the Telangana armed struggle (1946-1951). Credit: Sunil Janah / Prajasakti Publishing House.

Sunil Janah, Mallu Swarajayam and other members of an armed squad during the Telangana armed struggle, 1946-1951.

When news of the revolution in the Tsar’s empire filtered into British-dominated India in 1917-1918, the reception was universal: if they could overthrow the Tsar, then we can overthrow the British Raj. But the temperature had risen beyond merely the removal of the British; the barometric pressure had increased in the direction of a social revolution. A liberal newspaper in Bombay wrote, ‘The fact is Bolshevism is not the invention of Lenin or any man. It is the inexorable product of the economic system which dooms the millions to a life of ill-requited toil in order that a few thousands may revel in luxury’. That economic system – capitalism – had created great wealth but it could not improve the condition of the billions of people who produced that wealth.

Spurred on by the October Revolution of 1917, Indian workers went on strike after strike, eventually creating the All India Trade Union Congress in 1920. The energy generated by the October Revolution and the strike wave produced the conditions for the creation of the Indian communist movement a hundred years ago. Revolutionaries in exile from Berlin to Tokyo and revolutionaries inside India looked towards Tashkent (in the Soviet Union), where their comrades formed the Communist Party of India on 17 October 1920.

Our dossier no. 32 (September 2020) is a tribute to the One Hundred Years of the Communist Movement in India. It is not easy – in this brief format – to summarise the sacrifices and challenges, the struggles and advances of the millions of Indian communists over these hundred years; this dossier provides an introduction to a complicated and resilient world of revolutionary activism in a country that recently had – in one day – more COVID-19 cases than China has had during the entire pandemic.

Introducing the role of communists into the conversation in our time can raises eyebrows, as some question the relevance of the tradition. Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, in factories and fields, in call centres and office buildings across India, workers continue to produce the goods and services under the same oppressive conditions. Capitalism dances between a major contradiction: between social production and private property. Capital – namely Money that thirsts to make more Money endlessly – organises all the forces of production into one effectively organised social process that generates maximum profits to the owners and minimum possible wages to workers. The remarkable network of social production ties workers in one part of the world to another, brings commodities from there to here. This network promised to link people together and to allow humans to enjoy the fruits of each other’s labour.

Caption: Members of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti headed by communist leader SS Mirajkar (third from right, wearing dark glasses) who was then the Mayor of Bombay, demonstrating before the Parliament House in New Delhi, 1958. Credit: The Hindu Archives.

Members of the Samyukta Maharasthra Samiti headed by communist leader SS Mirajkar who was then the Mayor of Bombay, demonstrating before the Parliament House in New Delhi, 1958.

The problem, however, is that the immense productivity of capitalism stands on the foundation of private property. Capital is restless and must always seek a profit. It is through the control of the production process that capital exploits labour and draws out surplus value. Private capital controls the system of social production, and appropriates the social wealth produced, with little share to the actual producers.

The control of capital over the production process prevents the flowering of the creative power of human labour; the pressure of profit, the fruit of private property, seeks to draw more and more from the workers whose own resourcefulness is stifled by the demands of routine, obedience, and conformity enforced by the social relations of production.

Poverty is not an unfortunate manifestation of this system, but its necessary product. To eradicate poverty – which is a shared human dream – requires us to do more than seek welfare and charity. Charity and welfare might lighten the immediacy of suffering, but they cannot do more than that. To the early Indian communists, it was not enough to remove the British from India and allow Indian capitalists to rule the country; their philanthropy would be insufficient against the reproduction of generations of poverty. The producing classes needed to be organised to overthrow the system of private property and to found a system based on socialist principles. That is what has motivated generations of Indian communists, whose story is in our dossier, and that is what motivates the left around the world in our time.

Caption: A page from Hungry Bengal (1945) by Chittaprosad. Copies of the book were seized and burnt by the British; this drawing is from the only surviving copy (reprinted in facsimile by DAG Modern, New Delhi, 2011). Chittaprosad's drawings on the Bengal Famine were published in the Communist Party of India's journal People's War, helping to intensify popular anger against the British colonial regime.

Chittaprosad, Hungry Bengal, 1945.

In July 1921, the Communist International formulated rules and advice for communists around the world. Most of these rules are straightforward. But one particular statement stands out: ‘For a communist party, there is no time in which the party organisation cannot be politically active’. This advice was useful seventy years later, when the USSR collapsed, and the world communist movement suffered greatly from its demise. History, it was said, is over: capitalism has proved that it is now eternal and cannot be superseded.

Since 1989, the capitalist system has lurched from crisis to crisis, unable to face its deeply rooted contradictions and unable to offer solutions to endemic social problems. Marxism remains an essential framework to analyse a system that continues to operate by its centuries old rhythms. Capitalism has no doubt changed in many different ways, developed a greater role for finance for instance; but it remains governed by the system of social production and private gain, by capital’s immense power over the system of production and accumulation. Harsh conditions of work and life, the fight over labour time and intensity, the pressures of unemployment and hunger illuminate the centrality of class exploitation in our social order. This situation calls upon the left to be ‘politically active’, to extend, to deepen, and to unify the myriad struggles for concrete demands into a larger, stronger movement. As each struggle develops, it provokes a response from the capitalists and the state. And each response – often violence by the police – has the potential, when combined with political education, to clarify the political fight that must be waged by the workers not for this or that reform alone but for the transformation of a system that continues to generate poverty. The capitalist system, by its nature, produces diabolical levels of poverty; the future does not seem possible within the system.

Caption: Circa 1946: Godavari Parulekar, leader of the communist movement and the All India Kisan Sabha, addressing the Warli tribals of Thane in present-day Maharashtra. The Warli Revolt, led by the Kisan Sabha against oppression by landlords, was launched in 1945. Credit: Margaret Bourke-White / The Hindu Archives.

Margaret Bourke-White, Godavari Parulekar addresses an All India Kisan Sabha gathering in Thane, 1945.

A better way has to be possible. That is the great possibility of socialism, the great hope that we can go beyond a system that immiserates billions of people. For the 1983 film Mazdoor (Worker), Hasan Kamal wrote a song that captures the essence of this sentiment:

Hum mehnat-kash is duniya se jab apna hissa maangenge
Ek baagh nahin, ek khet nahin: hum saari duniya maangenge.

When we labourers demand our share of the world.
Not just an orchard, not merely a field: we will demand the whole world.

The extradition hearing for Julian Assange opened in London on 7 September. Assange is wanted by the United States of America for ‘computer-related offences’; but the US government really wants him for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere (as I detailed recently). The persecution of Assange has had a chilling effect on whistle-blowers and on investigative journalism. It is the outcome desired by the powerful.

Confidence does not return because of the courage of individuals. It is when people such as the communists of India take to the streets in the millions that ideas of peace become vital. That is why we stand with publishers and journalists who – given courage by the mass movements – reveal the terrible secrets of the powerful.

The post Not Just an Orchard, Not Merely a Field, We Demand the Whole World first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Cotton to Brinjal: Fraudulent GMO Project in India Sustained by Deception

Insecticidal Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton is the first and only GM (genetically modified) crop that has been approved in India. It has been cultivated in the country for more than 20 years. In a formal statement to the Supreme Court of India, the Indian government has asserted that hybrid Bt cotton is an outstanding success. It therefore argues that Bt cotton is a template for the introduction of GM food crops.

However, over the last week, two important webinars took place that challenged the government’s stance. The first was on Bt cotton and involved a panel of internationally renowned scientists who conclusively debunked the myth of Bt cotton success in India. The webinar, organised by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Jatan, focused on an evidence-based evaluation of 18 years of approved Bt cotton cultivation in India.

The second webinar discussed the case of Bt brinjal, which the country’s apex regulatory body, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), has brought to the brink of commercialisation. The webinar highlighted deep-seated problems with regulatory processes in India and outlined how the GEAC is dogged by secrecy, conflicts of interest and (scientific) fraud: participants outlined how the GEAC has been colluding with crop developers and seed companies to drive GM crops into agriculture.

Bt cotton failure

The panel for the Bt cotton webinar (YouTube: Bt Cotton in India: Myths & Realities – An Evidence-Based Evaluation) on 24 August included Dr Andrew Paul Gutierrez, senior emeritus professor in the College of Natural Resources at the University of California at Berkeley; Dr Keshav Kranthi, former director of Central Institute for Cotton Research in India; Dr Peter Kenmore, former FAO representative in India, and Dr Hans Herren, World Food Prize Laureate.

Dr Herren said that “the failure of Bt cotton” is a classic representation of what an unsound science of plant protection and faulty direction of agricultural development can lead to.

He explained:

Bt hybrid technology in India represents an error-driven policy that has led to the denial and non-implementation of the real solutions for the revival of cotton in India, which lie in HDSS (high density short season) planting of non-Bt/GMO cotton in pure line varieties of native desi species and American cotton species.

He argued that a transformation of agriculture and the food system is required; one that entails a shift to agroecology, which includes regenerative, organic, biodynamic, permaculture and natural farming practices.

Dr Kenmore said that Bt cotton is an aging pest control technology:

It follows the same path worn down by generations of insecticide molecules from arsenic to DDT to BHC to endosulfan to monocrotophos to carbaryl to imidacloprid. In-house research aims for each molecule to be packaged biochemically, legally and commercially before it is released and promoted. Corporate and public policy actors then claim yield increases but deliver no more than temporary pest suppression, secondary pest release and pest resistance.

Recurrent cycles of crises have sparked public action and ecological field research which creates locally adapted agroecological strategies.

He added that this agroecology:

… now gathers global support from citizens’ groups, governments and UN-FAO. Their robust local solutions in Indian cotton do not require any new molecules, including endo-toxins like in Bt cotton.

Prof Gutierrez presented the ecological reasons as to why hybrid Bt cotton failed in India: long season Bt cotton introduced in India was incorporated into hybrids that trapped farmers into biotech and insecticide treadmills that benefited GMO seed manufacturers.

He noted:

The cultivation of long-season hybrid Bt cotton in rainfed areas is unique to India. It is a value capture mechanism that does not contribute to yield, is a major contributor to low yield stagnation and contributes to increasing production costs.

Prof Gutierrez asserted that increases in cotton farmer suicides are related to the resulting economic distress.

He argued:

A viable solution to the current GM hybrid system is adoption of improved non-GM high-density short-season fertile cotton varieties.

Presenting data on yields, insecticide usage, irrigation, fertiliser usage and pest incidence and resistance, Dr Keshav Kranthi said that a critical analysis of official statistics (eands.dacnet.nic.in and cotcorp.gov.in) shows that Bt hybrid technology has not been providing any tangible benefits in India either in yield or insecticide usage.

He said that cotton yields are the lowest in the world in Maharashtra, despite being saturated with Bt hybrids and the highest use of fertilisers. Yields in Maharashtra are less than in rainfed Africa where there is hardly any usage of technologies such as Bt, hybrids, fertilisers, pesticides or irrigation.

It is revealing that Indian cotton yields rank 36th in the world and have been stagnant in the past 15 years and insecticide usage has been constantly increasing after 2005, despite an increase in area under Bt cotton.

Dr Kranthi argued that research also shows that the Bt hybrid technology has failed the test of sustainability with resistance in pink bollworm to Bt cotton, increasing sucking pest infestation, increasing trends in insecticide and fertiliser usage, increasing costs and negative net returns in 2014 and 2015.

Dr Herren said that GMOs exemplify the case of a technology searching for an application:

It is essentially about treating symptoms, rather than taking a systems approach to create resilient, productive and bio-diverse food systems in the widest sense and to provide sustainable and affordable solutions in it’s social, environmental and economic dimensions.

He went on to argue that the failure of Bt cotton is a classic representation of what an unsound science of plant protection and a faulty direction of agricultural development can lead to:

We need to push aside the vested interests blocking the transformation with the baseless arguments of ‘the world needs more food’ and design and implement policies that are forward looking… We have all the needed scientific and practical evidence that the agroecological approaches to food and nutrition security work successfully.

Bt brinjal – the danger is back

The government’s attempt to use a failed technology as a template for driving GMOs into agriculture has been exposed. Nevertheless, the GEAC has been moving forward with late-stage trials of Bt brinjal, while ignoring the issues and arguments against its commercialisation that were forwarded a decade ago.

In February 2010, the Indian government placed an indefinite moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal after numerous independent scientific experts from India and abroad had pointed out safety concerns based on data and reports in the biosafety dossier that Mahyco, the crop developer, had submitted to the regulators.

The then Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh had instituted a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings. His decision to reject the commercialisation of Bt brinjal was supported by advice from the renowned scientists. Their collective appraisals demonstrated serious environmental and biosafety concerns.

Jairam Ramesh pronounced a moratorium on Bt brinjal in February 2010 by stating:

It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.

The moratorium has not been lifted and the conditions he set out have still not been met. Moreover, five high-level reports have advised against the adoption of GM crops in India. Appointed by the Supreme Court, the ‘Technical Expert Committee (TEC) Final Report’ (2013) was scathing about the prevailing regulatory system and highlighted its inadequacies. The TEC went a step further by recommending a 10-year moratorium on the commercial release of all GM crops.

The regulatory process was shown to lack competency, possessed endemic conflicts of interest and demonstrated a lack of expertise in GMO risk assessment protocols, including food safety assessment and the assessment of environmental impacts.

Ten years on and regulators have done nothing to address this woeful state of affairs. As we have seen with the relentless push to get GM mustard commercialised, the problems persist. Through numerous submissions to the Supreme Court, Aruna Rodrigues has described how GM mustard is being forced through with flawed tests (or no tests) and a lack of public scrutiny. Regulators are seriously conflicted: they promote GMOs openly, fund them and then regulate them.

And this is precisely what the webinar ‘Bt brinjal – the danger is back’ (watch on YouTube) discussed on 27 August. Organised by the Coalition for a GM-Free India, the webinar was arranged because the regulators have again brought to the brink of commercialisation a new Bt brinjal ‘event’ – a different Bt brinjal than the 2010 version. Also included in the webinar were the experiences of Bt brinjal introduction in Bangladesh.

Dr Ramanjaneyulu (Centre for Sustainable Agriculture) highlighted how need has never been established for Bt brinjal of which India is a recognised centre of diversity. The argument for Bt brinjal in the run-up to Jairam Ramesh’s moratorium was that pesticide use is a problem in containing the brinjal fruit and shoot borer. He noted that Bt brinjal was promoted by Monsanto, USAID and Cornell University, but serious protocol violations, environmental contamination concerns and potential adverse health impacts were discovered.

He outlined simple non-pesticidal, agroecological management practises that can and are being used to deal with the brinjal fruit and shoot borer.

Farida Akhter of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) outlined how the introduction of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh was not needed but imposed on the country, which has 248 varieties of brinjal. Where pesticide use is problematic, she argued that it concerns hybrid varieties rather than traditional cultivars of which 24 varieties are resistant to fruit and shoot borer.

Akhter said that poor quality brinjal and financial losses for farmers have been major issues. Many have abandoned Bt brinjal, but farmers have received incentives to cultivate and where they have done so, fertiliser use has increased and there have been many pest attacks, with 35 different types of pesticides applied.

The Bill Gates-funded Cornell Alliance for Science, a public relations entity that promotes GM agriculture, and USAID, which serves the interests of the GMO biotech sector, tried to sell Bt brinjal on the basis it would ‘save’ people from the overuse of pesticides and related illnesses. But Akhter argued that Bangladesh was targeted because the Philippines and India had rejected Bt brinjal. Again, protocol violations occurred leading to its introduction and Akhter concluded that there was no scientific basis for Bt brinjal: its introduction was political.

As for India, event EE1, the initial Bt brinjal, has now been replaced by event 142, a different Bt brinjal. Kavitha Kuruganti (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture) explained this in the webinar and notes that the GEAC, immediately after the 2010 moratorium was announced, went straight ahead and sanctioned new trials for this Bt brinjal. The GEAC basically stated that the moratorium did not apply to this version, while ignoring all the criticisms about lack of competence, conflicts of interest, non-transparency and protocol violations. It was effectively business as usual!

With event EE1, Kuruganti implied that the GEAC acted more like a servant for Mayco and its Monsanto master. Nothing has changed. She noted the ongoing revolving door between crop developers (even patent holders) and regulators. As before, developers-cum-lobbyists were actually sitting on regulatory bodies as event 142 was proceeding.

Under public-private-partnership arrangements, event 142 has been licensed to private companies for biosafety testing/commercialisation. Despite major concerns, the GEAC has pressed ahead with various trials. In May 2020, under lockdown, Kuruganti notes that the GEAC held a virtual meeting and sanctioned what were effectively final trials prior to commercialisation. She explains that important information and vital data is not in the public domain.

According to Kuruganti, the regulator sits with the crop developer and the companies and grant biosafety clearance, claiming all tests (soil, pollen flow, toxicity, etc) are complete. What is also disturbing is that these licensed companies have closed and opened under new names (with the same people in charge), thereby making accountability and liability fixing very difficult if something were to go wrong further down the line.

She concludes that the story of event 142 is even worse than event EE1:

Once again, they are certainly hiding things that they don’t want conscientious scientists and aware citizens to see and know.

Taken together, the two webinars highlighted how hybrid Bt cotton is being deceptively used as a template for rolling out GM food crops: a fraud being used to promote another fraud in order to force unnecessary GMOs into Indian agriculture.

The post From Cotton to Brinjal: Fraudulent GMO Project in India Sustained by Deception first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid

In a world where nationalism and social division is increasing, bigotry growing, are the words refugee, asylum seeker, migrant worker, derogatory labels triggering prejudice and intolerance? Such terms create an image of ‘the other’, separate and different, strengthening tribalism, feeding suspicion, our common humanity denied.

Under the shadow of Covid-19 those living on the margins of society have been further isolated; the refugees and migrants of the world, those displaced internally or in a foreign land, people living in war zones, and the migrant workers in the Gulf States, India, Singapore and elsewhere.

Refugees/migrants and migrant workers are among those most at risk from Covd-19, the economic impact of the pandemic as well as xenophobic abuse linked to the virus. Migrant workers (who universally have few or no labor rights) from Qatar to India have been discriminated against, discarded and ignored. Migrants, particularly those of Chinese or Japanese appearance in the US and elsewhere subjected to violence and abuse, and in refugee camps across Europe and the Middle East, including Gaza, thousands have been left in unsafe camps without medical support.

Homeless, hungry and at risk

Even before the pandemic erupted, to be a refugee, migrant, or migrant worker was commonly to be mistrusted, marginalized and in danger. Whether working as a maid in one of the Gulf States, an internal migrant worker in their homeland or living inside an overcrowded refugee camp these men, women and children are amongst the most vulnerable people in the world. In Europe, where thousands of refugees (many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are packed into camps, their lives already swamped by uncertainty, the fear of the virus hangs heavy. Lacking sanitation and essential services these overcrowded tarpaulin cities are unsafe; the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, for example, was designed to accommodate 2,840, but now has 19,000 people; 40% are under 18, self-harming and attempted suicides are widespread. Compounding the heightened risks Covid has created, since July 2019 asylum seekers throughout Greece no longer have free access to the healthcare system, other than emergency support.

Meanwhile, in countries with large populations of migrant workers Covid-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic is adding additional layers of suffering to already arduous lives, not just of workers, but the families migrant workers support. According to the UN, round 800 million people globally are supported by funds sent home by migrant workers. Families depend on such payments to pay rent and buy food; when this flow stops, as is the case for many now, poverty and the risk of starvation is made more acute. The World Bank is warning of huge drops in global remittance payments of around 20%, resulting from the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, which they say has impacted on migrant communities particularly hard.

In the Gulf States, which depend on millions of workers from Africa and Southeast Asia, Covid-19 is intensifying discrimination and increasing abuse against migrant domestic workers, including abrupt termination of their contracts. In Kuwait suicide among migrant workers has surged; Saudi Arabia has deported thousands of Ethiopian workers (A total of 2,968 migrants were returned in the first 10 days of April, UN state), without any medical screening, which the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia said, is “likely to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 to the region and beyond.” And in Lebanon (where the majority of migrant workers are Ethiopian) and elsewhere across the region, lower income families unable to cover salaries, cover food costs or provide accommodation have laid off domestic staff; resulting in migrant workers being at high risk of forced labor, including prostitution.

Worse still is the case of freelance (‘live out’) workers, whose work has stopped, leaving them with no income, no food and nowhere to go. In Qatar, (one of the richest countries in the world, with over two million migrant workers) which has one of the highest rates of infections per capita, many of those suffering from the disease are migrant workers. Foreign workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines are being laid off or remain unpaid, as the economic impact of the virus hits. Some domestic workers (women) have been made destitute. In Singapore, widely thought to have responded well to the pandemic, migrant workers, employed mainly in the construction industry, were thrown to the wolves. And in India following the hasty decision by Prime Minister Mahendra Modi to lock the country down on 25th March, (giving people four hours warning!) tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of internal migrants working in cities were forced by their landlords to vacate their homes and had no choice but to head back to their native village. Without funds and with transportation suspended, huge numbers were forced to walk the hundreds or thousands of miles home.

Homeless, hungry and at risk of contracting coronavirus, migrant workers were ignored by the Modi regime. Reacting to this wholesale neglect, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing and on extreme poverty said (4th June), “we are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes…..the Government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality [which is commonplace in India] and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’.”

Contemporary Slavery

Covid-19 has highlighted a raft of social inequalities and destructive practices throughout the world. As such issues float to the murky surface of human affairs an opportunity presents itself for reform, for changes in attitudes and practices.

There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of employment rights for migrant workers throughout the world, with migrant workers receiving the same protections as native employees, including access to health care, limits on the hours of work, rates of pay, days off etc.

The Kafala System is used throughout the Gulf States, where the UN estimates there to be “35 million international migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Jordan and Lebanon, of whom 31 per cent were women.” Under Kafala a migrant worker, many of whom are domestic staff and therefore out of sight, cannot resign if an employer is abusive, the work exploitative or the conditions unacceptable. Amnesty International relates, that it “ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer.” The system enables employers to essentially own workers, giving them total control of workers’ movements. This legitimization of modern-day slavery must be brought to an end immediately.

Refugees and migrants are human beings fleeing violent conflict (are often traumatized), persecution and economic hardship. The journey into an unknown future is often treacherous, always uncertain. In the vacuum left by governments and regional authorities like the EU, that should be processing asylum applications in designated centers and offering safe passage, criminal gangs control migration routes and methods of travel, which are unsafe and extortionately expensive. Deaths are commonplace, abuse and exploitation widespread. If they survive the dangers and arrive in their destination country, all too often they are viewed with distrust and antagonism, instead of being warmly welcomed. They are pushed into the shadows, the margins of society, offered little or no state support and made to feel unwanted.

This must change; all should be embraced, not only those with skills in short supply.  The idea of judging who can and cannot enter a country based on some discriminatory points system related to national need (the Australian way – a country with a shameful immigration record), as the UK government is proposing, reduces human beings to commodities, some of which are more valuable on the ‘open market of immigration’ than others – and is completely abhorrent.

Deal with the causes of migration, help construct a world at peace by cooperating, sharing and building relationships; reject competition and nationalism in favor of unity and tolerance and see a dramatic fall in the numbers of people forced to leave their homeland, whether in search of safety or opportunity.

Pushing GMO Crops Into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success

On 6 July 2020, an article extolling the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops appeared on the BloombergQuint website based on an interview with Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of the key Indian Government think tank Niti Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) . On 17 July, another piece that placed a positive spin on GM crops and gene editing technology (Feeding 10 Billion People will Require Genetically Modified Food) appeared on the same site.

According to Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Dr Hans R Herren and Dr Peter E Kenmore, internationally renowned agricultural researchers, the pieces reported “sweeping unsupported claims” about the benefits of and need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and related technologies in agriculture in India.

The three academics felt that “a responsible and factual response” was required and have written a letter — containing what could be described as the definitive analysis of Bt cotton in India — to Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Rajiv Kumar (Niti Aayog Vice Chancellor) and Dr Amitabh Kant (Niti Aayog CEO).

Chand is reported as saying that there is no credible study to show any adverse impact of growing Bt cotton in the last 18 years in the country (India’s only officially approved GM crop). This is simply not the case. Moreover, Gutierrez et al argue that all of the credible evidence shows any meagre increases in cotton yield after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002 were largely due to increases in fertiliser use.

Before proceeding, it is pertinent to address the claim that ‘feeding 10 billion people will require genetically modified food’. If we take the case of India and its 1.3 billion-plus population, it has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruit.

However, food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent. But that is not because farmers don’t produce enough food. These problems result from other factors, including inadequate food distribution, social and economic policies, inequality and poverty. It is a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance (reflecting the situation globally). India even continues to export food while millions remain hungry. Productivity is not the issue.

And while proponents say GM will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies and years of neglect. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen.

Yet the pro-GMO lobby has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynch pins of its promotional strategy.

Valid concerns

The Chand interview occurred at a book release event for a new volume titled Socio Economic Impact Assessment of GM crops: Global Implications Based on Case Studies from India edited by Sachin Chaturvedi and Krishna Ravi Srinivas of the Delhi-based Research and Information System (RIS) for developing countries – a policy research think tank in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Gutierrez et al state that what Niti Aayog and RIS representatives say and write are existentially important because of their deep links to Indian policy makers: their views can have a large impact on the future development of policy in the area of genetic engineering and related technologies such as genomic editing, which will affect the long-term health, livelihood and welfare of Indian farmers and the nation.

Chand posits that opposition and uncertainty to GM technology lingers because it has created fear in the minds of people. He appears to imply this is one reason why the Indian government did not embrace the technology and that media reporting has relied more on activists than on scientists.

GMO biotech lobbyists have often stated that science has been sidelined by activists who have swayed the policy agenda.

In the journal Current Science (September 2019), Dr Deepak Pental responded to a previous paper in the same journal by eminent scientists P C Kesavan and M S Swaminathan, whose piece cited good evidence that questioned the efficacy of and the need for GMO agriculture in India. Pental argued that the two authors had aligned themselves with environmentalists and ideologues who have “mindlessly” attacked the use of GM technology and that aspects of their analysis are a reflection of their “ideological proclivities”.

However, in India it was a unique four-month scientific inquiry, not activism, that led to the rejection of the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal in 2010. And if we look at Europe, robust regulatory mechanisms are in place for GMOs as it is agreed they are not substantially equivalent to their non-GM counterparts. Numerous studies have highlighted the flawed premise of ‘substantial equivalence’. Furthermore, from the outset of the GMO project, the sidelining of serious concerns about the technology has occurred and, despite industry claims to the contrary, there is no scientific consensus on the health impacts of GM crops.

Both the Cartagena Protocol and Codex share a precautionary approach to GM crops and foods in that they agree that GM differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GMOs are used in food or released into the environment.

These concerns cannot be brushed aside as being non-science based. Such accusations are political posturing, part of a strategy to slant the policy agenda and divert attention away from evidence that leads to the questioning of the safety, environmental impacts and record of GM crops.

False narrative of Bt cotton

Gutierrez et al also comment on the Chaturvedi–Srinivas book in their letter and note that, in contrast to pro-GMO statements about the book reported in the press, most of the chapters contain some points that temper or criticise this over-simplified enthusiasm.

In reviewing the book, the three researchers note the general policy position, that Bt cotton benefits smaller and poorly connected farmers, is not always supported by the case study data presented. Moreover, Bt cotton yields were not necessarily higher (than non-Bt cotton) for all farmers and even when economic gains occurred, it was not demonstrated that those gains came from Bt traits: higher fertiliser levels usually increased yields.

Bt cotton is also not scale neutral: it has mainly benefited larger farmers and high Bt cotton seed prices are a big concern for many farmers as are monopolistic pricing practices.

Gutierrez and his colleagues conclude that the RIS volume cited gains in yield and reductions in insecticide use in Bt cotton that are inaccurate.

They add:

… a failed picture emerges of an unsustainable eco-social Bt cotton system based on a dystopic relationship between those who control and sell the inputs, and the vast majority of farmers… Nowhere in the volume is there mention of potential viable non-GMO alternatives.

The three researchers note that at least 25-30 peer reviewed papers have been published recently in India from almost all the agricultural universities dealing with cotton, validating the short-season high-density (SS-HD) concepts using non-Bt varieties. In all the studies, SS-HD plantings invariably got the highest yields, clearly pointing to the inappropriateness of the current long-season low-density hybrid system. Yet, none of these studies were cited in the Chaturvedi–Srinivas RIS volume.

Gutierrez et al note that hybrid cottons unique to India were introduced in the mid-1970s purportedly to increase yield and quality, but the hybrid seed is considerably more expensive, the plants require more fertiliser and stable water and the hybrid technology serves as a value capture mechanism requiring annual purchases of seed.

They argue that Indian farmers are planting inappropriate long-season hybrid cotton varieties at inappropriate low planting densities due to high seed costs, which contributes to low yield stagnation.

They also provide an overview of how, in long-season hybrid cotton, insecticide use caused ecological disruption, inducing outbreaks of secondary insect pests:

Farmers were spending money on insecticides to lose money from (insecticide) induced pests… While the Bt technology initially solved the bollworm problems, outbreaks of secondary pests not controlled by the Bt toxins began to occur, again increasing insecticide use in Bt cotton that by 2013 surpassed pre-2002 levels. This caused ecological disruption and induced outbreaks of still newer secondary pests… and increased levels of resistance to insecticides. By 2013, Indian farmers were solidly on both the insecticide and biotechnology treadmills.

The three researchers conclude that Bt cotton did not increase yields but did contribute to increased cost of production in the face of stagnant yields, leading to economic distress.

They argue that hybrid Bt cotton in India is a failure or at best very suboptimal for farmer welfare and say that HD-SS non-GMO pure line rain-fed cotton varieties have been developed in India that could double yield and triple net income. The potential exists for development of even higher yielding HD-SS non-hybrid non-GMO varieties in India, which would allow seed saving by Indian farmers.

However, they assert that this approach has been sidelined: we now see hybrid Bt cotton falsely being used as an example of success and as a template for rolling out GMOs, gene editing and other technologies across Indian agriculture.

On 12 August 2013, an article in The Hindu (‘Nip this in the bud’) noted that the Ministry of Agriculture, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research and the Ministry of Science and Technology were deeply compromised due to their strong and active ties with the GMO biotech industry. Indeed, Monsanto had been granted access to agri-research public institutions, which had placed that company in a position to seriously influence policy. By 2014, 95 per cent of cotton grown in India was GM and non-GM seeds had almost disappeared from the market.

The push is now on to see a similar value-capture scenario take root with genetically engineered food crops based on a myth of Bt cotton success, which has in recent years been promoted by a number of government officials in India. Science and reason (and farmers and the public) are in danger of being sacrificed for the “ideological proclivities” of key figures and bodies directly linked to national policy making.

The letter mentioned in this article can be read in full on the GMWatch.org website. It contains a more in-depth analysis of Bt cotton in India than presented here, including numerous graphics and references to key studies.

India Unlocked: World’s “Biggest Lockdown” and Workers’ Long March

A view of deserted Ranganathan Street in Chennai on June 23, 2020. Hindu Times

At times, states compete to showcase merchandise and relative productive capacities. Other times, many of these states sell misery to gain access to economic packages, charities and loans. Today is the time when they compete to show off their capacity to impose the most efficient lockdown on their citizenry. Of course, the priority is to make this imposition consensual, because that would showcase the self-discipline of the national workforce. But if that doesn’t work, then the dosages of coercion are streamlined to measure the states’ disciplining capacity. The Narendra Modi government’s chest-thumping claim to run the “world’s biggest lockdown” was to showcase the realization of the neoliberal ideal of a “strong state” in India — the carrots-and-sticks hidden behind the quinine-and-quarantine lockdown.

The Story of India’s Lockdown

With the absence of any coherent public health system, in the nationalist war against the “Chinese virus,” India has been relying on the dedicated medical workforce of much maligned public hospitals fending the virus without sufficient protection and supplies. Of course, popular pseudoscience is also there, factoring in a hot summer and the cumulative impact of other vaccines etc, along with the placebo effects of the homeopathic recipes.

Even with regard to the so-called practice of “social distancing” and its generalization through the lockdown, much was left to the play of the complex and sinister traditional divisions — such as caste and communal divides among others — within the Indian society. One can speculate that this factor might have played a role in the slow expansion of the pandemic in India.

However, it goes to the credit of supposedly the most vulnerable in India who called the Indian state’s bluff, making its rhetoric of a successful and strong lockdown evaporate into thin air. The migrant’s faint cry to be allowed to go back home became a collective roar, and a long march in defiance of the strictures and coercive forces ensued.

We are witness to a process of how the vulnerabilities of the weakest become their strength; how their weak actions lead to a legitimation crisis of the state (and also at many times capitalist crisis in general). It is not very difficult to see how existential defiance of India’s migrants and the working class in general unraveled the neat choreography of the lockdown, making it meaningless. The exodus of internal migrants (India’s “biggest intangible assets” and “India’s real economic dynamo: a silent force“) and the anticipated volatility in the labor market have made capital jittery.

The Narendra Modi government, with President Trump’s encouragement, was already planning to catch companies flying away from China. The labor laws were being derailed to clear the way. But nobody heard the plates shifting — the lockdown just couldn’t lock the workers in! Their footlooseness, which was the biggest asset, has become a great liability now.

The Liberal Politics of Victimhood and Representation

The tremors were felt everywhere. The state was trying to control the damage desperately by providing buses, rations, and identifying potential stars in children, cycling hundreds of miles carrying their parents. On the other hand, the sensitive gentry could see the faces of orphans whose parents died in an accident while cycling 750 kilometres back home, or see blood splattered on the railway tracks.

In a recent article in The Indian Express, one of the most sensible political scientists in India, Suhas Palshikar, expressed the angst of the majority of the self-acclaimed politically conscious people on the side of left and liberals. He lamented “the incongruous image of the politicians and the political party” — they talk of the people but “betray an instinctive choice of ‘law and order’ and a techno-bureaucratic idea of governance”. It seems they are “on a holiday” and abstaining from politics. At the time when the central government is “caught in the trap of regulation and denial,” and “beset with uncontrollably delusional self-belief”, the opposition forces should have taken the initiative to “come up with a robust alternative route to governance” (of course, Kerala is already showing the way!).

According to Palshikar, there should be “a political response to the pandemic,” for which “resumption of democratic contestation is a must”, since “politics alone can be survival therapy for democracy.” He advises the Congress and its leadership to ask the party workers “to hit the roads, talk with suffering workers, walk with them”, only then they would “realise that taking a stand also means mixing with the people.”

Palshikar’s plea for the “resumption of democratic contestation” may seem inspiring at the time when there are so many people who are left uncared-for during the pandemic. It might motivate the opposition to see a political opportunity here, and the government too might see their pragmatic mistakes. But there are many assumptions on the basis of which such a plea is made. It seems Palshikar and, with him, most liberals and leftists in India assume that there is never a democratic agency of those who are surplused by the system, as there is no political agency beyond the legitimate state apparatuses — institutional and ideological.

With the WHO’s recognition of Covid-19 as a pandemic, the governments did what they are always good at when they are forced into action, i.e., to reach out for coercive measures. In the absence of vaccination and any understanding of the infecting germ, these measures take the form of imposing ancient “tribal traditions” of prevention (as J.D. Bernal used to call them) — social distancing, isolation and quarantine. But the liberal conscience, represented by Palshikar and others, demands an official opposition which will act as a corrective to this coercion.

The Real Opposition beyond Spectacular Politics

What happened instead is something, which, though, is not very uncanny in history, but, generally, goes unseen and unrecognized. It is accounted only in a retrospective reading of the people’s history. It happens beyond the spectacle of formal politics, which doesn’t have any category to capture this phenomenon in its positive grammar, except as a subaltern that never speaks.

The wails of pain, agony and anger of India’s internal migrants and workers in general have shattered the adamantine chains of the lockdown. The lockdown was never successful except in the ritualites of the already cocooned little bourgeois within everyone (meaning, everyone individually or as an aggregate of individuals). We found the appropriate nuclear environment of safety and discipline, and sang the “Middle Class Blues”:

The streets are empty. 
The deals are closed. 
The sirens are silent. 
All that will pass.

—  Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Among the working masses, the lockdown as a generalization of “social distancing” was anyway meaningless, and its imposition amounted to an outrage. They felt what they are —surplus-ed and other-ed.

There are talks about the consolidation of the state and the rise of authoritarianism, but it is seldom recognized that this is a result of the exposed weakness of the state, its inability to regulate workers’ self activities and, especially, the panic and fear that they instill among other classes. Those who see these workers only as victims, which they are in the legitimate framework of political economy, are unable to see the organic resistance of the workers to the systemic regulation.

What argumentative liberals and online radicals couldn’t achieve was accomplished by the synergistic effects of the “weapons of the weak”. In fact, they are still waiting for the powers who imposed the lockdown to end it, so that, once again, they are able to lead these victims of the system back to the normal systemic cycle —some want them to fulfill their duties, and some, mainly those who are on the side of the left, would want them to struggle for their rights. What an irony!

There is nothing to celebrate here, but everything to understand — in order to imagine a new politics organically grounded in the everydayness of working class resistance.

The Business of Agriculture and Fiscal Prudence: The Vocabulary of the Oppressor

The deregulation of international capital flows (financial liberalisation) has effectively turned the planet into a free-for-all bonanza for the world’s richest capitalists. Under the post-World-War Two Bretton Woods monetary regime, nations put restrictions on the flow of capital. Domestic firms and banks could not freely borrow from banks elsewhere or from international capital markets, without seeking permission, and they could not simply take their money in and out of other countries.

Domestic financial markets were segmented from international ones elsewhere. Governments could to a large extent run their own macroeconomic policy without being restrained by monetary or fiscal policies devised by others. They could also have their own tax and industrial policies without having to seek market confidence or worry about capital flight.

However, the dismantling of Bretton Woods and the deregulation of global capital movement has led to the greater incidence of financial crises (including sovereign debt) and has deepened the level of dependency of nation states on capital markets.

If we turn to India, we can see the implications very clearly. The increasing deregulation of financial capital flows means that global finance is in a position to dictate domestic policy. Successive administrations have made the country dependent on volatile flows of foreign capital and India’s foreign exchange reserves have been built up by borrowing and foreign investments. For policy makers, the fear of capital flight is ever present. Policies are often governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign capital inflows.

The author(s) of a recent article by the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) notes that instead of imposing controls on flows of foreign capital and pursuing a path of democratic development, the Indian government has chosen to submit to the regime of foreign finance, awaiting signals on how much it can spend, giving up any pretence of economic sovereignty.

Anxious to shore up foreign exchange holdings, the Modi-led government is trying to attract even more risky foreign investments. Moreover, in a time of economic and social crisis, resulting from the draconian coronavirus-related lockdown, public spending to ameliorate the desperate situations of those affected has been abysmally low. This falls into line with the imperatives of global capital, which requires nation states to curb spending so that private investors can occupy the arena left open.

RUPE notes that the Indian government is also appealing to the US for help in addressing India’s foreign exchange conundrum (its foreign exchange reserves are largely based on borrowing which could exit). This will require some kind of ‘payback’.

Such payback could come in the form of a future trade deal. India is currently involved in ongoing trade talks with the US. If this deal goes through and India capitulates to US demands, it could devastate the dairy, poultry, soybean, maize and other sectors and severely deepen the crisis in the countryside.

Ranil Salgado, mission chief for India at the IMF, says that when the economic shock (resulting from the coronavirus lockdown) passes, it’s important that India returns to its path of undertaking long-term reforms. This would mean global conglomerates being able to further hollow out the remnants of nation state sovereignty.

Foreign capital is in the process of displacing the prevailing agrifood model before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control. Millions of small-scale and marginal farmers are already suffering economic distress and leaving farming as the sector is deliberately made financially non-viable for them. The Modi administration is fully on board with the World Bank’s pro-corporate ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and other such policies aimed at further incorporating nation states into the neoliberal fold and which equate neoliberal fundamentalism with ‘development’.

Recent developments will merely serve to accelerate this process as we see with regard to the Karnataka Land Reform Act, which will make it easier for business to purchase agricultural land (resulting in increased landlessness and urban migration) and the undermining of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (mandis), part of an ongoing process to dismantle India’s public distribution system and price support mechanisms for farmers. These ‘reforms’ are ultimately about ‘liberalising’ agriculture to further ease the entrance of foreign agribusiness interests like Cargill – even as ordinary Indians suffer.

And have no doubt, they are suffering. A recent news analysis report claims India let 65 million tonnes of grain go to waste in four months, even as the poor went hungry as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. The authors claim that this resulted from the government being wedded to neoliberal ideology and the dogma of ‘fiscal prudence’. They also ask why the Food Corporation of India has been holding such a large surplus of grain and conclude that it is because the government has been unwilling to expand the public distribution scheme.

In effect, US agribusiness wants India to tighten ‘fiscal prudence’, reduce subsidies and public sector spending on agriculture. The aim is to further displace peasant farmers thereby driving even more people to cities and ensure corporate consolidation and commercialisation of the sector based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants.

This runs counter to what is actually required. The various lockdowns around the globe have already exposed the fragility of the global food system, dominated by long-line supply chains and global conglomerates – which effectively suck food and wealth from the Global South to the richer nations.

What we have seen underscores the need for a radical transformation of the prevailing globalised food regime founded on one which reduces dependency on global conglomerates, external proprietary inputs, distant volatile commodity markets and patented technologies.

Practical solutions to the (global) agrarian crisis must be based on sustainable agriculture which places the small farmer at the centre of policies: far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives centred on self-sufficiency, localisation, food sovereignty, regenerative agriculture and agroecology.

On a macro level, economist Prabhat Patnaik argues that India must delink from neoliberal globalisation via capital controls; manage foreign trade and expand the domestic market through the protection and encouragement of petty production, including peasant agriculture; increase welfare expenditure by the state; and commit to a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and income.

Rather than have transnational agribusiness corporations determining global and regional policies and private capital throttling democracy, we require a system of healthy food and sustainable agriculture that is run for human need.

In fact, what may actually be required is an alternative to ‘development’ because, as post-development theorist Arturo Escobar explains, global inequality remains severe, both between and within nations, and environmental devastation and human dislocation, driven by political as well as ecological factors, continue to worsen. These are the symptoms of the failure of ‘development’, a concept based on capitalism’s overproduction-overconsumption ‘growth’ logic with all that follows in terms of environmental degradation and the economic plunder of nations and peoples.

Looking at the situation in Latin America, Escobar says development strategies have centred on large-scale interventions, such as the expansion of oil palm plantations, mining and large port development. And it is similar in India: commodity monocropping; immiseration in the countryside; the appropriation of biodiversity (the means of subsistence for millions of rural dwellers); unnecessary and inappropriate environment-destroying, people-displacing infrastructure projects; and state-backed violence against the poorest and most marginalised sections of society.

Perhaps we should be taking our cue from the world’s indigenous peoples whose societies display a deep connection with and respect for nature. Their economics and cultures often represent the antithesis of capitalism and industrialisation: the promotion of long-term sustainability through restraint in what is taken from nature, rather than hierarchy and competition.

This was echoed by Noam Chomsky during a 2014 interview:

“There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.”

With this in mind, soil, water, seeds, land, forests and other natural resources must be democratically controlled and recognised as common wealth and the scaling up of agroecological approaches should be a lynchpin of genuine rural development, which in turn must be modelled on the notion of food sovereignty.

Renowned agronomist MS Swaminathan says:

“Independent foreign policy is only possible with food security. Therefore, food has more than just eating implications. It protects national sovereignty, national rights and national prestige.”

Genuine food security in principle derives from food sovereignty, which, in a very broad sense, is based on the right of peoples and sovereign states to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies.

The struggle to assert genuine self-determination and democratic development in India involves challenging the dominance of private (international) capital. It also entails disputing the authority of a central state and its machinery that, at independence, was designed to consolidate power at the centre, quell dissent, divide the masses and, with the undemocratic and unaccountable influence of foreign interests like the Ford Foundation and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, ultimately serve the interests of both old and new colonial masters.

From Toxic Food to Agrarian Disaster: Dirty Deals Done Dirt Cheap

During the early days of the coronavirus lockdowns, in some quarters there was a certain degree of optimism around. Although millions of people were suffering, the hope was that the Covid-19 crisis would shine light on societal and economic systems across the world, exposing some of the deep-rooted flaws of capitalism. There was a belief that people working together with their respective governments could start building a fairer capitalism and more sustainable economies.

However, we see exactly the opposite taking place. In the UK, we now witness a post-Brexit trade deal being negotiated behind closed doors with the US that could see a lowering of food and environment standards, despite the Conservative government pledge that it would not compromise on standards in these areas. The government now proposes that chlorine-washed chicken, beef treated with growth hormones, pork from ractopamine-injected animals and many other toxic foods produced in the US will be allowed into the UK. Sanctioning the entry of (chemical-resistant) GM crops and GM food are also likely to be part of any deal.

It would effectively mean sacrificing UK farmers’ livelihoods, the environment and the nation’s health to suit the bottom line of US agribusiness corporations.

The UK isn’t the only country that US agribusiness has set its sights on. World Bank Group President David Malpass has stated that poorer countries will be ‘helped’ to get back on their feet after the various coronavirus lockdowns. This ‘help’ will be on condition that neoliberal reforms are implemented and become further embedded. Ranil Salgado, mission chief for India at the IMF, says that when the economic shock passes, it’s important that India returns to its path of undertaking such long-term reforms.

But haven’t ordinary Indians already had enough of these ‘structural adjustments’ and their impacts? Rural affairs commentator P Sainath has highlighted the desperate plight of migrant workers in India. He notes that millions of rural livelihoods have been deliberately snuffed out over a period of many years, sparking an agrarian crisis. As a result of lockdown, tens of millions went back to their villages but there is no work there because rural jobs have been extinguished – the reason for urban migration in the first place.

The US has been pushing to bring Indian agriculture under corporate control for a long time. Further ‘reforms’ would serve to accelerate this process. US agribusiness wants to force GMO food crops into the country, further displace peasant farmers thereby driving even more people to cities and ensure corporate consolidation and commercialisation of the sector based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants.

Like the UK, India is also involved in trade talks with the US. If this deal goes through and India capitulates to US demands, it could devastate the dairy, poultry, soybean, maize and other sectors and severely deepen the crisis in the countryside. India could also see GMO food flooding the country and the further corporate consolidation of the seed sector. The article ‘Perils of the US-India free trade agreement for Indian farmers’ published on the grain.org website highlights what could be in store.

In the wake of India deciding to not participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, another trade deal that would have had devastating consequences for farmers and the food system. the article concludes:

It would be inconsistent, and a slap in the face, to now start US-India trade talks that will pose much bigger challenges for India’s rural communities and agriculture sector. Such a deal would greatly compromise India’s huge diversity of local seeds and plants which are conserved and reused by millions of Indian farmers year after year. It will also destroy India’s hope for food sovereignty.

Any such trade deal will be for the benefit of powerful agribusiness giants and will reinforce the concentration of political and economic power in the hands of these corporations. It would also send millions more to the cities in search of jobs that are just not there. This will be the result of the ‘reforms’ demanded by the World Bank and IMF.

If lockdown has shown anything, it is that many of those who sought better lives in the cities have failed to establish a firm foothold. They are marginalised and employed in the worst jobs working long hours for minimal wages. The fragility of their position is demonstrated by the reverse migrations we have witnessed and the callous treatment they are used to was demonstrated by the government’s attitude to their plight under lockdown.

The various lockdowns around the globe have also exposed the fragility of the global food system, dominated by long-line supply chains and global conglomerates – which effectively suck food and wealth from the Global South to the richer nations.

What we have seen underscores the need for a radical transformation of the prevailing globalised food regime based on a system of agroecology which reduces dependency on external proprietary inputs, distant volatile commodity markets and patented technologies. It would help to shorten chains, increase crop diversity, improve diets, regenerate soils, support food sovereignty, re-localise production and consumption and boost local economies, which in India would stem the flow of people moving to the cities and would even create livelihoods for those who have returned to the countryside.

It is the type of system that Prof Michel Pimbert and Colin Anderson of Coventry University in the UK advocate. In contrast to corporate-driven trade deals, centrally controlled hi-tech innovations, people-free farming, drones replacing bees, genetically engineered crops and a future of synthetic lab-based food, the two academics argue:

Agroecological innovations… are being driven largely from the bottom up by civil society, social movements and allied researchers. In this context, priorities for innovations are ones that increase citizen control for food sovereignty and decentralise power.

Instead of trade deals hammered out behind closed doors above the heads of ordinary people by elite interests, the authors state that deliberative, inclusive processes like citizens’ juries, peoples’ assemblies and community-led participatory actions are urgently needed.

It is these types of processes that should guide all economic sectors, not just agriculture. Processes underpinned by a vision for a better, more just world that can only be delivered by challenging capitalism’s dispossessive strategies which fuel India’s agrarian crisis and the types of human and environmental degradation and exploitation we see across the globe.

Sticks, Stones and Death in Galwan Valley

Things along the Indian-Chinese border in the Himalayas have rarely lacked interest, notably along the secretive, heavily patrolled 3,488 km Line of Actual Control.  Neither China nor India have ever quite sorted out their differences on that front, plagued by territorial claims over unclearly demarcated boundaries.  The administration of Narendra Modi might well have wood global governments, but China’s Xi Jinping has remained cool.  Old habits die hard, and memories of India’s disastrous defeat in 1962 against its populous neighbour remain vivid.

Early last month, soldiers from both armies engaged in a fistfight of sizeable proportion akin to a large kindergarten brawl.  The encounter at 14,000 feet was followed by further confrontations at points along the border of approximately a thousand miles apart.  These were not marked by gun fire but a generous use of hands, clubs and rocks.  A muscular Chinese response ensued: the appearance of dump trucks, excavators, troop carriers and various armoured vehicles with artillery pieces, some of these, according to Indian analysts, positioned on Indian territory.  Such encounters reminded Sunanda K. Datta Ray of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger – “Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  The third time is enemy action.”

The list of grievances between the countries is vast, a thick dossier of resentment.  The traditional eye-sore remains India’s north-eastern Arunachal Pradesh state, or “South Tibet”, as Beijing prefers to term it. But to that can be added the novel coronavirus spread (blame on that front has been rich), inefficient responses due to insufficient safety equipment, the Silk Road project, trade competition, information technology and the PRC’s growing influence in Africa and Asia.

The issue with personal protective equipment has been particularly testy.  In April, a consignment of 170,000 PPE kits from China, including donations for the use of health care professionals dealing with COVID-19 sufferers, were tested by the Defence Research and Development Establishment in Gwalior.  The results were not good; around 63,000 were found to fall short of the necessary quality deemed appropriate by the DRDE.  None of this was good news given orders placed by Indian companies and government bodies for 15 million PPE kits from the PRC that month.  As India’s ambassador to China Vikram Misri described at the time, “We are in the process of, or have already completed, contracting for 15 million PPE kits, consisting of gowns, masks, gloves, goggles, etc. and nearly 1.5 million rapid testing kits of all kinds, some of which have already been delivered.”

On Monday, the kindergarten brawling had moved beyond sticks and stones.  In eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, the tension of 40 days between the troops of both countries exploded.  Initial word came through on Tuesday from the Indian army that an officer and two soldiers had been killed.  By the evening, figures were revised: 17 troops had been critically injured at the standoff location, succumbing to their wounds at sub-zero temperatures.

The diplomats were mobilised.  India’s External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava explained that the Monday encounter in Galwan Valley occurred when Chinese soldiers “departed from the consensus to respect the LAC (Line of Actual Control)” in an attempt to “unilaterally change the status quo”.  The ministry’s assessment was short on detail in terms of how the PLA supposedly attempted this challenge, though suggestions have been made to the establishment of a Chinese observation post on the Indian side of the LAC that was whisked away by Indian soldiers.

The Chinese account was shaped by a different script.  “The clash,” the PRC Global Times stated gravely, “took place after Indian troops crossed the border to conduct illegal activities and launched provocative attacks against Chinese personnel, leading to top physical defence measures from Chinese troops that reportedly caused the deaths of one Indian Army colonel and two soldiers.”

According to Senior Colonel Zhang Shuili, spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theatre Command, “China has always maintained sovereignty over the Galwan Valley region, and the words of Indian border defence troops are inconsistent and seriously violate agreements both countries have reached, seriously infringe upon the consensus made in the army commander-level talks and seriously harm the relations of the two militaries and the sentiment of the people in both nations.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was also pointing the finger at a serious challenge to the alleged “consensus reached in the two countries’ commander-level talks on June 6”, with Indian soldiers conducting unspecified “illegal activities” and assaulting Chinese personnel on two occasions.  (The talks on this supposed consensus had been conducted at two locations along the LAC, with brigadier-ranked officers taking their cue in Galwan Valley and Colonel-ranked officers meeting in Hot Springs.)

The deaths mark the first fatal encounter between the two powers since October 1975, when an Indian patrol was ambushed in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector, leaving four dead.  But both powers have a way to go before reaching the levels of bad blood brought out by the 73-day standoff in 2017 at Doklam, a territory both China and Bhutan claim.  On June 18, 2017, 270 Indian troops ventured into Doklam from Sikkim with the express purpose of halting the PRC’s extension of an existing road from Dokala southward to Zornpelri, site of the Bhutan Army camp near the Jampheri Ridge.  The successful construction of the extension would have given the PLA room to approach the strategic corridor in West Bengal known colloquially as the Chicken’s Neck.  Tensions spiked; confusion reigned and, on August 28, the soldiers of both sides were withdrawn.

Despite the furious huffing from Beijing and New Delhi, the world’s most populous countries are set for more brawls, contained by the slimmest understanding that a broader conflict would be calamitous to regional and global stability.  From an Indian perspective, 1962 remains unavenged, though politicians such as Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, are clear in their warning and assessment: “China has clearly twisted the crisis into a strategic opportunity by taking advantage of the geopolitical distraction.”  Fine as it might be to preach the virtues of peace, but not “at the cost of our territorial integrity.”

Anti-Communism is a Fundamentalist Religion now followed by Millions

150 years ago, on April 21, 1870, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, alias Lenin, was born. According to many, he was the greatest revolutionary of all times, a man who gave birth to both internationalism and anti-imperialism.

It is time to “revisit Communism”. It is also time to ask some basic, essential questions:

How is it possible that a system so logical, progressive, and so superior to what is, up till now, governing the world, failed to permanently overthrow the nihilism and brutality of capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism?

*****

Without any doubt, you have been told many horrifying things about Communism, especially if you have been living in the West, or in one of the countries that are fully under the control of the centres of anti-Communism: Washington, London or Paris.

You have been forced to read, again and again, about “Stalinism”, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Khmer Rouge genocide. You have, again and again, been served an elaborate cocktail of half-truths, outright fabrications, as well as twisted interpretations of the world history.

The chances are you have never been to Russia, China or Cambodia; you haven’t done any serious research there.

You have been told that Cambodia is the best example of savage Communism. You never realized that Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge extremists were fully supported by the United States, and not by the Soviet Union and never foolheartedly by China; that they were never actually really “Communist” (I did a detailed in-country research, and even Pol Pot’s personal guards told me that they had no idea about Communism, and only reacted to the monstrous U.S. carpet bombing of the Cambodian countryside, and to the capital’s collaboration with the West). In that period, most people died as a result of precisely that carpet-bombing by the USAF B-52’s, and as a result of a famine. And the famine came after millions of peasants were displaced by the savagery of the bombing, and by the unexploded substances left in the fields, all over the countryside.

It never occurred to you, that one survey after another, conducted in Russia, still shows that the majority of the people there would like to have the Communist Soviet Union back. And even in the former Soviet Muslim-majority states, including Kirgizstan and Uzbekistan, a tremendous majority of the people I encountered there remembered the Soviet Union era as some golden age.

And the so-called Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? I have worked, filmed and reported there, on three occasions, relatively recently. Outraged by the on-going Western occupation of their country, countless Afghan people told me stories, illustrating the contrast between their tolerant, progressive and optimistic socialist era, and the present-day horror, during which their country has sunk to the lowest level in Asia, according to both UNDP and the WHO. I worked in Kabul, Jalalabad, Herat, Bagram; the same stories, and the same nostalgia for the Soviet teachers, nurses, engineers.

Showered by the relentless Western propaganda, one never really realized how popular the Communist Party of China is in its own country, and how the Communist ideology is supported in Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.

If one goes to their friendly local bookstore in North America, Europe or even in Hong Kong, not to speak of Australia, the chances are is that all one will find there would be tomes written by anti-Communist Chinese or Russian ‘dissidents’, people that have been living off Western grants, receiving countless awards so they can spend all their energy on smearing Communism, and glorifying anti-revolution. Writers such as Svetlana Alexievich, who received the Nobel Prize for literature, for spitting on the graves of the Soviet soldiers who died defending Afghan socialism.

Films one would be allowed to watch, on commercial film channels, would not be any different than the books one had been encouraged to read.

Anti-Communism in the West and in its colonies, is a tremendous industry. It is easily the greatest and on-going propaganda campaign in the history of the world. Its metastasis has been spreading even into the core of the Communist and socialist countries themselves.

All of that is because the Western imperialist countries know perfectly well that their empire can only survive if Communism collapses.

It is because the very essence of Communism is the perpetual struggle against imperialism.

False but very effective slogans, like bugs, that are being implanted into one’s brains. They are repeated constantly, sometimes hundreds of times a day, without one even noticing: “Communism is dead!” you have been told. “It is outdated, boring.” “China is not Communist, anymore.” “Communism is grey. Life under communism is controlled, and it is monotonous”.  “People under Communism have no freedom, and no liberties.”

The opposite is the truth. Building, selfishly and enthusiastically, a new and better society for the people, is definitely more satisfactory (and “more fun”), than rotting in the constant agony of fear: worrying about mortgages, student loans, and medical emergencies. Competing with others, stepping on others, and even ruining other human beings. Living empty, sad, selfish lives.

*****

Absurdly, paradoxically, Western propaganda constantly accuses Communism of violence. But Communism is the biggest adversary of the most violent system on Earth, which is Western colonialism/ imperialism. Hundreds of millions of human beings have already vanished as a result of it, throughout the centuries. Hundreds of advanced cultures have been ruined. Entire continents have been plundered.

Before Soviet Communism, before the USSR itself, there was no true and powerful opposition to Western imperialism. Colonialism and imperialism were taken for granted; they were “the world order”.

The Soviet Union and China helped to de-colonize the world. Cuba and North Korea, two Communist countries, fought bravely and successfully, and brought independence to Africa (something that the West has never forgotten nor forgiven).

But fighting for freedom and for the end of colonialism is not violence; it is defence, resistance and a struggle for independence.

As a rule, Communism does not attack. It defends itself, and it defends countries that are being brutalised. In my future work, I will address two “exceptions”; and explain two cases which are constantly misinterpreted by right-wing propaganda: Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

But back to the so-called “Communist violence”.

My friend and comrade, the legendary Russian intellectual and professor, Aleksandr Buzgalin, wrote in his recent work, “Lenin: Theory as Practice, Practice as Creativity (to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of V.I. Ulyanov-Lenin):

There is a principle at work here: it is not the socialist revolution that provokes mass violence, but the bourgeois counter-revolution, that begins when capital realises that it is losing its property and power. In response to the generally peaceful and in many cases legitimate victory of the left, capital unleashes savage, barbaric violence. The left is then faced with the question of whether to answer this violence or not. If you go to war, then from that point the laws of war apply, and hundreds of thousands are sent to their deaths, planned in advance, so that millions might be victorious. That is the logic of war.

The revolution was carried through. It was victorious. In the broader perspective, the victors were not so much the Bolsheviks as the Soviets, in which the majority supported the Bolsheviks’ position. The revolution was substantially peaceful, prevailing almost without bloodshed. The fiercest fighting occurred in Moscow, where those killed on both sides numbered a few thousand. Beyond that, the picture was of a “triumphal procession of Soviet power” (this heading in Soviet textbooks was no accident). In the winter of 1917-1918 the relationship of forces saw half a million members of the workers’ militia, the Red Guard, pitted against a few tens of thousand White Guard members in the south of Russia. Everything was quiet until the counter-revolution received vast sums of money from the Triple Alliance (primarily from Germany) as well as from the Entente, and all these imperialist countries launched aggression against the young Soviet power.

This is a brilliant take by Aleksandr Buzgalin. I have addressed this topic on many occasions but never so coherently. And this applies to countless examples all over the world where the West first provoked and brutally antagonized socialist or communist countries, then accused them of cruelty, and finally “liberated” them in the name of freedom and democracy, literally raping the will of their people. All this just so European and North American imperialism would survive and thrive.

Let’s recall just a few examples: the USSR, 1965 Indonesia, 1973 Chile, 2019 Bolivia. The biggest attempt to date: to divert, destabilize and overthrow the enormously successful Chinese system. But there are, of course, countless other examples, in all corners of the globe.

*****

Ron Unz, the publisher of The Unz Review, wrote in his report “American Pravda: Our Coronavirus Catastrophe as Bio-warfare Blowback?”, recalling his thoughts, in 1999, when China protested about the NATO bombing of its Embassy in Belgrade:

But when I considered that the Chinese government was still stubbornly denying the reality of its massacre of the protesting students in Tiananmen Square a decade earlier, I concluded that unreasonable behavior by PRC officials was only to be expected….

Such at least were my thoughts on that matter more than two decades ago. But in the years that followed, my understanding of the world and of many pivotal events of modern history underwent the sweeping transformations that I have described in my American Pravda series. And some of my 1990s assumptions were among them.

Consider, for example, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which every June 4th still evokes an annual wave of harsh condemnations in the news and opinion pages of our leading national newspapers. I had never originally doubted those facts, but a year or two ago I happened to come across a short article by journalist Jay Matthews entitled “The Myth of Tiananmen” that completely upended that apparent reality.

According to Matthews the infamous massacre had likely never happened, but was merely a media artifact produced by confused Western reporters and dishonest propaganda, a mistaken belief that had quickly become embedded in our standard media storyline, endlessly repeated by so many ignorant journalists that they all eventually believed it to be true. Instead, as near as could be determined, the protesting students had all left Tiananmen Square peacefully, just as the Chinese government had always maintained. Indeed, leading newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post had occasionally acknowledged these facts over the years, but usually buried those scanty admissions so deep in their stories that few ever noticed. Meanwhile, the bulk of the mainstream media had fallen for an apparent hoax.

Matthews himself had been the Beijing Bureau Chief of the Washington Post, personally covering the protests at the time, and his article appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, our most prestigious venue for media criticism.

On top of it, what Western mainstream media was describing as a group of “freedom fighters” and “pro-democracy movement”, had a substantial number of radicals in its ranks, even outright racists, that were protesting against the presence of black Africans on Chinese university campuses. They demanded a ban on their relationships with the Chinese women. And they were fully supported and at least partially funded by the West, simply because of their savage, aggressive, fundamentalist anti-Communism.

The Chinese government does not even want to touch this subject, anymore. They feel that, faced with massive Western propaganda, they cannot get through with their take on the story; in brief, that they have lost the narrative.

Now fast-forward to 2019 and 2020. Hong Kong. Again, what we are witnessing there is outrageous and extremist anti-Communism. Fascist protesters that are marching, destroying public property, and attacking the Police, all under U.S, U.K and German banners, are hailed by the Western mass media as “pro-democracy activists”. They are physically attacking the supporters of Beijing. They are paid, they are glorified. I have talked to them on many occasions. They are fully, thoroughly brainwashed. They know nothing about facts. They deny the crimes committed by the British and the U.S. colonialists. They admire everything Western, and they despise their own country.

The West has been told to view them as “revolutionaries”. And it promotes them as revolutionaries, all over the world!

Another group unleashed against the Communist China, are the Uyghurs. Many of these people have joined terrorist organizations in Idlib, Syria, in Indonesia, and elsewhere. Or more precisely, they were injected there. The reason? To harden them on the battlefields, so that they could one day return to China, and try to break Communism, as well as the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), the most internationalist mammoth project on Earth. I have covered their activities in Syria, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere. I have written extensively about the atrocities they have been committing. But the anti-Communist propaganda is often too massive and too “professional”. It manufactures a “bullet-proof narrative”. It portrays the Uyghurs as the victims!

*****

Ask the common men and women of the streets of London, Paris or New York, what they know about Stalin’s era, or the famines in the early years of the USSR, or in Communist China?

99.99% know nothing. Where these famines took place, or why. But they are absolutely certain that they took place. No doubts, whatsoever. No doubts that they happened “because of Communism”. Westerners are intellectually obedient, like sheep. Most of them do not question the propaganda unleashed by their regime. Are they really “free”?

The famine in the Soviet Union actually took place because the young revolutionary country was totally devastated by the Western and Japanese invasions, which tried to break and plunder the country. British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, German, Japanese invasions, to name just a few.

But ask, for instance, the Czechs, how much they know about their Legions that controlled the Trans-Siberian railroad on their way from Europe to Vladivostok. Plundering, rape, and mass killing. I tried. I asked in Prague and Pilsen. They thought I was a lunatic. The Legions are portrayed as heroic in their history books. A bullet-proof narrative. No doubts there.

And “Stalinism”? This author is planning to write much more on this subject. But here, just in brief: What kind of country did Stalin really inherit? It was a country thoroughly plundered by foreign invaders, a country devastated by civil war. A country where the anti-revolutionary forces have been, until recently, financed by the U.K., France, U.S. and others. As a result of this brutal civil war unleashed from abroad, criminal gangs roamed all over the vast lands, and inside cities.

From the beginning, the Russian Communists wanted peace, the brotherhood of nations, and peaceful development for its people. I wrote in 2017, in my book Great October Socialist Revolution. Impact on the World and Birth of Internationalism:

The revolutionaries wanted to end all wars immediately. Russian soldiers left their trenches, and embraced their enemies. “We are all brothers!” they shouted. “We were forced to fight each other by ruthless monarchs, priests and businessmen. We should battle real enemies, not each other! Proletariat of the world, Unite!” But the Western officers and commanders were determined: they forced their men back to the trenches, accusing them of treason, pushing them to the battlefields.

Most significantly, the countless foreign invasions were overwhelming of both several major Russian cities and the countryside. As always throughout the previous centuries, the Europeans never thought twice before putting their military boots on Russian soil. In a way, Russia was treated and perceived as a ‘barbaric’ nation that could be attacked, colonized and plundered at will and without much justification, not unlike all those countless unfortunate nations all over the world: located in South America and Central Asia, in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Many Russians looked like whites, like Europeans, but to the Westerners, they were never “white enough”, never really part of the culture of the conquerors and plunderers. Russia always had its own soul, its way of thinking and feeling, its distinct manner of acting and reacting.

In my book, I revisited the subversion tactics of Western imperialism and militant anti-Communism:

The essence and strategy of Western imperialist subversion is essentially very simple: identify all strong and weak points of the country that you are attempting to murder, and try to comprehend its ideology. Study and learn all about its progressive leadership: its plans, and all that the revolution is trying to do for the people: like giving them freedom, equal rights, improved life expectancy, high standards of education, medical care, housing, infrastructure, arts and overall a decent quality of life. Then, attack where it hurts the most: use direct interventions, sabotage, terrorist assaults, or sponsor extremist and even religious fundamentalist groups, in order to spread fear and insecurity to slow down the process of social change and economic growth. Hit so hard that at some point, the democratic revolutionary system will have to react, simply in order to protect its people, their achievements, and even their bare lives. Wherever the West tries to destroy a socialist country, be it Nicaragua or Afghanistan in the 80’s, it first targets hospitals and schools, in order to demolish the great social achievements of the government, and to spread hopelessness among the population. Then it hits even harder, to trigger a strong government reaction, and then immediately declare: “You see, this is the real face of socialism or communism! You want a revolution? Fine: what you get in the package will be this: oppression, political trials, gulags, a lack of freedom, and even some brutal executions!” Use widely, weapons like disinformation and negative propaganda, so the revolution in a progressive but cruelly terrorized country would never have a chance to really influence the rest of the world, and even at home it will begin to suffer after being put under too much pressure…

… Such hideous tactics of the West, deeply injured the Soviet Union before WWII, but it failed to destroy the country.

*****

The Chinese famine took place partially because during the Japanese occupation, the Imperial Army disrupted the food chain supplies, as well as the system of farming, which had been formed and developed throughout thousands of years. Japan was interested in only one thing: how to feed its troops that were occupying a massive part of Asia.

In both cases, Western propaganda made people believe that the real cause for the loss of lives in Russia and China was Communism! The brainwashing has been so successful that even in Russia and China, millions of people have been fully indoctrinated by these countlessly repeated lies coming out of the West.

But ask in London whether people know anything about the fact that under the British occupation of India, tens of millions of people died from starvation; victims of the famines triggered by London, for many reasons, one of them being an attempt to lower the population. Over 50 million Indian people, cumulatively, died in these famines, between 1769 to 1943, in British administered India.

Should we, as a result, ban the British political system? I am convinced that we should! But that is usually not what the people of the world, including the victims of the British colonialist barbarity, are demanding.

So, back to the British or French public. What do they know about their past, and even about their neo-colonialist present? They only know what they have been ordered to believe. In brief: they know nothing. Zero. Only fairytales. But they are convinced that they are well informed. And that they have the right to lecture the world.

They know absolutely nothing about the USSR and about China. They have no clue about why North Korea and Cuba are being continuously demonized (as mentioned above, they both, hand in hand, liberated Africa from Western colonialism).

I have lived and worked all over Africa for years, made films, and written countless essays. The Cuban and North Korean involvement, enormously positive, internationalist and undoubtedly Communist, from Namibia and Angola, from Egypt to Mauritius, has been very well documented. But say it in a Parisian café or a London pub and jaws will drop. Blank stares, emptiness.

Even that “Anti-Communist left” consisting of anarcho-syndicalists and Trotskyists (really mostly British and U.S. brands of pseudo revolutionaries), knows nothing, or wants to know nothing, about true revolutionary Communism.

*****

On 23 April, 2020, Brasil de Fato quoted the Venezuelan Vice-Minister Carlos Ron:

It is very interesting in North American culture, to believe in “manifest destiny”, to think that they have a messianic mission. They believe that their mission is to end communism in Latin America, so they will overthrow Venezuela, Cuba and everything that is red, because all that is red is communist.

In Indonesia, an entire failed, miserable and depressing religious state is based on anti-Communist dogma. Nobody clearly understands there why they are anti-communist, but the more they are ignorant about the subject, the more aggressively they act; banning all Communist concepts and lexicon, building anti-Communist ‘museums’, and producing anti-Communist films. After killing millions of Communists on behalf of the West, anti-Communism has become the essence of their existence. In the past they even used to ban the Chinese and Russian languages. All just to silence the past, when President Sukarno and the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia), before the US-backed 1965 coup, were building a great, progressive, socialist and non-aligned nation.

In fact, in much of Southeast Asia, perhaps the most grotesquely turbo-capitalist part of the world, Communism has been banned, or at least demonized. The result: confused, consumerist, religious and dismal nations. Communist Vietnam is the shining star, but it is never portrayed as such, definitely not abroad.

*****

Let us celebrate the 150th birthday of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin!

Let us celebrate it by revisiting history, and the present.

The most brutal political system is Western imperialism, colonialism. It has already murdered hundreds of millions of people all over the world. This fact should be repeated again and again.

The goal of Western propaganda has always been to equate Communism and Fascism, the two most antagonistic systems in history in the world. It was the Soviet Communist system, which smashed Nazism to pieces, saving the world, at an enormous cost of approximately 25 million human lives.

Only Western imperialism can be compared to German Nazism. The two are made of the same stuff.

To me, to many of us, Communism means the perpetual struggle against Western interventionism, colonialism.

In this terrible moment in human history, it is important to clearly understand this reality.

If Communism were to be defeated, it would be the end of the struggle for freedom. Only the powerful, centralized, ideologically-sound Communist system can fight and liberate the human race from colonialist shackles, from savage capitalism, and an nihilist empty existence.

Propagandists tell you insane lies, that Communism is outdated and boring. Don’t believe them: it is the most upbeat, still young, and optimistic arrangement of the world. And unlike imperialism and capitalism, Communism is constantly evolving. Not in Europe or North America, but in the rest of the world.

Just look at the West and its colonies. Look at the misery and deprivation brought on humanity by the Western oppressive dictatorial regime.

Happy birthday, Comrade Lenin!

The struggle continues!

• First published by NEO – a journal of the Russian Academy of Social Sciences