Category Archives: Narendra Modi

Hunger Will Kill Us before Coronavirus

Baasanjav Choijiljav (Mongolia), Promise, 2018.
Baasanjav Choijiljav (Mongolia), Promise, 2018.

In April 2020, a month after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the pandemic, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) warned that the numbers of people who lived with acute hunger around the world would double due to COVID-19 by the end of 2020 ‘unless swift action is taken’. A report from the Global Network Against Food Crises – which is comprised by the WFP, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), and the European Union – said that the pandemic would ensure the highest level of food insecurity since 2017.

None of these reports made the front pages of newspapers. Little was made of the fact that this is not a crisis of food production – since we have enough food in the world to feed everyone – but a crisis of social inequality. This crisis – the pandemic of hunger – should have seized the attention of every country. But it did not. Apart from a few countries – such as China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Venezuela – little has been done to create mass-scale feeding programmes to prevent famine-like conditions (as the FAO warned in May).

Six months into the pandemic, the question of hunger remains a burning issue. In September, the Global Network Against Food Crises released a new report on the deepened crisis. FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu warned of ‘looming famine’ in many parts of the world, particularly in Burkina Faso, South Sudan, and Yemen. It is now estimated that one in two people on the planet struggles with hunger. No-one should go to bed hungry at night.

Shaima al-Tamimi (Yemen), So close yet so far away, 2019.
Shaima al-Tamimi (Yemen), So close yet so far away, 2019.

Yemen, which has faced an unyielding war prosecuted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (backed fully by the West and by arms manufacturers), has struggled with famine and with desert locusts and now with the enormity of the pandemic. Two days after Qu made these comments, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres pleaded for an end to the war on Yemen. The war had ‘decimated the country’s health facilities’, Guterres said, which are not able to tackle the near million cases of COVID-19 in the country. The war, he said, has ‘devastated the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis’.

It is important to understand that the population of Yemen before the Saudi-Emirati war began in 2015 was only 28 million, which means that ‘tens of millions’ means almost all of the Yemeni people. A new UN report shows that Canada, France, Iran, the United Kingdom, and the United States continue to fuel this conflict with arms sales. Pressure on the Saudis and the Emiratis, as well as on the Western arms dealers, to end this war against the Yemeni people should be the focus of attention. It is a war that bring starvation to Yemen.

Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu (DRC), Simba Bulaya (‘Lions of Europe’), 1973.
Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu (DRC), Simba Bulaya (‘Lions of Europe’), 1973.

Equally absent in popular global consciousness is the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), driven in large part due to the presence of immeasurable resources in the country (such as cobalt, coltan, copper, diamonds, gold, oil, and uranium). The war, economic distress, and heavy rain has brought 21.8 million people (out of a population of 84 million) into acute hunger as of December 2019, a situation that has been exacerbated since the emergence of COVID-19. Social indicators in the DRC are miserable: 72% of the population lives below the national poverty line, while 95% live without electricity. These are just two numbers, but perhaps the most startling is the estimated wealth of its resources at $24 trillion. Little of this wealth goes towards the people of the Congo.

On 30 June 1960, when Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba pronounced the independence of the DRC from Belgium, he said that ‘Congo’s independence is a decisive step towards the liberation of the whole African continent’ and that the new government would ‘serve its country’. This was the promise of the country and the continent; but Lumumba was assassinated by the imperialist bloc on 17 January 1961, and the country was handed over to the Western multinational corporations. Before he died, Lumumba wrote a poem, with a hope that remains alive:

Let the fierce heat of the relentless midday sun
Burn up your grief!
Let them evaporate in everlasting sunshine,
Those tears shed by your father and your grandfather
Tortured to death upon these mournful fields. 

It is hard to feel this hope at times, with northern Nigeria seeing an increase in its population of hungry people by 73% during the pandemic, Somalia seeing an increase of 67%, and the Sudan seeing an increase of 64% (a quarter of whose population is now acutely hungry). Burkina Faso, meaning ‘the Land of Upright People’, meanwhile, has seen a 300% increase in cases of acute hunger. When Thomas Sankara led Burkina Faso for four years from 1983, his government nationalised land to guarantee access to those who worked it and launched tree planting and irrigation projects to increase productivity and combat desertification. After the government passed an agrarian reform law in 1984, Sankara went to Diébougou, where he addressed a peasant rally with the promise, ‘Improve our land and farm it in peace. The time is over when people, sitting in their parlours, can buy and resell land on speculation’. All of this ended when Sankara was assassinated in 1987.

The famine sweeping these countries is not from want of resources. The DRC has 80 million acres of arable land, which could feed two billion people if it were cultivated with food crops in an agro-ecological manner; but, as of now, only 10% of the country’s arable land is cultivated. Meanwhile, the country spends $1.5 billion per year in food imports – money that could be used to invest in the agricultural sector, where the main work is done by women subsistence farmers (who own less than 3% of the cultivated land). A lack of power amongst the agricultural workers and the farmers results in a lopsided system that privileges a handful of agri-business conglomerates rather than cooperatives and family farms.

Parmar (India), Riot, 1965-1975.
Parmar (India), Riot, 1965-1975.

This brings us to India. The far-right government of Narendra Modi pushed through three agricultural bills in the upper house of parliament by voice vote, the loudest shouting their assent while the problems with the bills were not allowed to be debated. The bills have names that suggest an orientation towards small-scale farmers, but they will implement a policy that favours the agri-businesses: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. The bills put the entire agricultural system in the hands of ‘traders’, meaning large corporations, who will now set the terms for prices and quantities. The absence of government intervention leaves family farms at the mercy of large corporations, whose power will now be largely unchecked. This will adversely impact food production and will certainly contribute further to the impoverishment of small farmers and agricultural workers in India.

As hunger increases, so does the attack on those who farm the soil. Little wonder that farmers and agricultural workers across India say that hunger will kill them before coronavirus. This is a slogan familiar to farmers and agricultural workers from Brazil, who – as we demonstrate in our dossier no. 27 Popular Agrarian Reform and the Struggle for Land in Brazil – have long been in the midst of a fight to bring democracy to the land. Like Sankara’s Burkina Faso, the brave sem terras [landless] of Brazil have their own project: to reforest land that was once saturated with agro-toxins, to occupy unused land that they then farm through agro-ecological practices, and to forge ‘a broad demand for a new vision for the country as a whole’.

The post Hunger Will Kill Us before Coronavirus first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Do Not Reach for the Sky Just to Surrender

Greta Acosta Reyes (Cuba), Neoliberalism, 2020.
Greta Acosta Reyes (Cuba), Neoliberalism, 2020.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

Beirut, mon amour.

Those shattered mirrors once were
The smiling eyes of children,
Now are star-lit.
This city’s nights are bright.
and luminous is Lebanon.
Beirut, ornament of our world.
Faces decorated with blood
Dazzling, beyond beauty.
Their elegant splendor
Lights up the city’s lanes.
And radiant is Lebanon.
Beirut, ornament of our world.
Every charred house, every ruin
Is equal to Darius’ citadels.
Every warrior brings envy to Alexander.
Every daughter is like Laila.
This city stands at time’s creation.
This city will stand at time’s end.

– Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984).

The novel coronavirus continues its march through the world, with 18 million confirmed cases and at least 685,000 deaths. Of these, the United States of America, Brazil, and India are the worst-hit, harbouring about half of the world’s cases. US President Donald Trump’s claim that these numbers are high because of higher rates of testing is not borne out by the facts, which show that it is not testing that has ballooned the numbers but the paralysis of the governments of Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and India’s Narendra Modi and their failure to control the contagion. In these three countries, testing has been hard to access, and the test results have been unreliably reported.

Trump, Bolsonaro, and Modi share a broad political orientation – one that leans so heavily towards the far right that it cannot walk upright. But beneath their buffoonish statements about the virus, and their reluctance to take it seriously, lies a much deeper problem that is shared by a range of countries. This problem goes by the name of neoliberalism, a policy orientation that emerged in the 1970s to stabilise a deep crisis of stagnation and inflation (‘stagflation’) in global capitalism. We define neoliberalism plainly in the image below:

Vikas Thakur (India), Neoliberalism, 2020.
Vikas Thakur (India), Neoliberalism, 2020.

The tax strike by the very rich, the liberalisation of finance, the deregulation of labour laws, and the evisceration of welfare provisions deepened social inequality and reduced the role of the vast mass of the world’s population in politics. The demand that ‘technocrats’ – especially bankers – run the world produced an anti-political sentiment amongst large sections of the world, who became increasingly alienated from their governments and from political activity.

Institutions of society that emerged to protect us from catastrophes of one kind or another were undermined. Public health systems were dismantled in countries such as the United States and India, while associated social services for childcare and eldercare were cut back or destroyed. In 2018, a United Nations study found that only 29% of the global population has access to social protection systems (including income security, access to health care, unemployment insurance, disability benefits, old-age pensions, cash and in-kind transfers, and other tax-financed schemes). A consequence of ending even meagre social protection for workers (such as sick leave) and of failing to provide public universal healthcare is that in the case of a pandemic, workers can neither afford to remain at home nor can they access healthcare: they are left to the wolves of the ‘free market’, which is really a world designed around profit and not the well-being of people.

Choo Chon Kai (Malaysia), Freedom of choice, 2020.
Choo Chon Kai (Malaysia), Freedom of choice, 2020.

It is not as if there have not been warnings about the policy framework known as neoliberalism and the austerity project that it has driven. In September 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned about the deep cuts in public health spending – including the lack of hiring of public health workers – and the impact this would have if a pandemic were to break out. That was on the verge of this pandemic, although earlier epidemics (H1N1, Ebola, SARS, MERS) already showed the weakness of the public health systems to manage an outbreak.

From the onset of neoliberalism, political parties and social movements warned about the threats posed by these cuts; as social institutions are whittled away, society’s ability to withstand any crisis – be it economic or epidemiological – is damaged. But these warnings were dismissed, the callousness remarkable.

Kelana Destin (Indonesia), Water, 2020.
Kelana Destin (Indonesia), Water, 2020.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), founded in 1964, lit the red light of caution from the publication of its first Trade and Development Report (TDR) in 1981; this UN body tracked the new economic agenda premised on liberalised trade, debt-driven investment in the developing world, and the slow emergence of a broad slate of austerity policies pushed by the IMF’s structural adjustment programmes. The austerity programmes imposed on countries by the IMF and by the wealthy bondholders negatively impacted GDP growth and produced large fiscal imbalances. Growth in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and exports did not necessarily mean an increase of the incomes for the people in the developing world. The TDR from 2002 explored the paradox that, while the developing countries were trading more, they were earning less; this meant that the trading system was rigged against these countries whose economies are largely reliant on exporting primary commodities.

The 2011 TDR looked closely at the after-effects of the 2007-08 credit crisis, which – it noted – ‘highlighted serious flaws in the pre-crisis belief in liberalisation and self-regulating markets. Liberalised financial markets have been encouraging excessive speculation (which amounts to gambling) and instability. And financial innovations have been serving their own industry rather than the greater social interest. Ignoring these flaws risk another, possibly even bigger, crisis’.

Lizzie Suarez (USA), Abolish Neoliberalism Resist Imperialism, 2020.>
Lizzie Suarez (USA), Abolish Neoliberalism Resist Imperialism, 2020.

After re-reading the 2011 TDR, I wrote to Heiner Flassbeck, who was the Chief of Microeconomics and Development at UNCTAD from 2003 to 2012, to ask him about that report and his feelings about it almost a decade later. Flassbeck re-read the report and wrote, ‘it seems to me that it is still a good guide into a new global order’. Last year, Flassbeck wrote a three-part series of articles titled ‘The Great Paradox: Liberalism Destroys the Market Economy’ in which he argues that neoliberalism destroyed the ability of economic activity to create jobs and wealth for the majority of the people. Now, Flassbeck wants to emphasise the importance of stagnant wages as an indicator of problems, as well as a place from which to develop solution.

The 2011 TDR argued that ‘the forces unleashed by globalisation have produced significant shifts in income distribution resulting in a falling share of wage income and a rising share of profits’. The Seoul Development Consensus of 2010 had advised that ‘for prosperity to be sustained it must be shared’. Apart from China, which developed a major scheme in 2013 to eradicate poverty and share growth, most countries saw wage growth fall short of productivity growth, which has meant that domestic demand grew slower than the supply of goods; nor were the possible solutions of relying on external demand or stimulating domestic demand with credit sustainable.

Pavel Pisklakov (Russia), Invisible Hand, 2020.
Pavel Pisklakov (Russia), Invisible Hand, 2020.

Flassbeck replied to Tricontinental: Institute of Social Research: ‘The core of the matter is wages. That was missing in the TRD 2011. All attempts to stabilise our economies and bring them back to strong investment growth are futile if the wage question is not fixed. To fix it means to implement in all countries of the world strong regulation to make sure that wage earners are fully participating in the productivity growth of their national economies. In the developing world, this is understood in Eastern Asia but nowhere else. You need strong government intervention to force companies, national as well as international, to apply wage growth in line with productivity growth and the inflation target set by the government or the central bank. It can be pushed through by governments decisions about the increase of the minimum wage, as China did it, or by informal pressure on the companies, as Japan did it’.

In a recent report, Flassbeck argued that many developing countries – even in the midst of the coronavirus recession – look to the advanced capitalist countries, which are cutting wages, underspending, and pursuing failed policies of ‘labour market flexibility’; the IMF often forces along these policies, which are the ‘main hindrances to a better growth and development performance’.

Sinead L Uhle (Germany), También la lluvia (‘Also the rain’), 2020.
Sinead L Uhle (Germany), También la lluvia (‘Also the rain’), 2020.

This newsletter is illustrated by posters from our ongoing Anti-imperialist Poster Exhibition. The first set was on the theme of capitalism; the second set is on neoliberalism, for which we received submissions from 59 artists from 27 countries and 20 organisations. Please spend some time enjoying the inventiveness of the artists.

Their inventiveness gives us confidence to be inventive and bold in our demands for society, which reject the neoliberal capitalist framework. If we are to reach for the sky, there is no point in putting our hands up merely to surrender to the propertied and the powerful; we need to reach for the sky to lift up the world from the morass of despair.

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 Not-So-Shocking Report on Israeli Weapons Exports

The Middle East region, battered by wars and adjoining humanitarian crises that have left millions of people stateless, hungry and diseased, is in urgent need for peace, security and reconstruction. Thanks to the US, Russian, French, Israeli and other weapons manufacturers, however, it is now the dumping ground for military hardware, an ominous sign for the years ahead.

Data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 9, paints a grim picture of the world, in general, and the Middle East, in particular. According to the report, the demand for weapons in the warring region has increased by a whopping 61% between 2015 and 2019.

The correlation between arms, war, and casualty count needs no elaborate algorithm to be deciphered, as facts on the ground amply demonstrate. Syria remains the epicenter of conflict in the Middle East, with Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, and South Sudan trailing, but not far behind.

The top five merchants of death, according to SIPRI, are the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and China. Interestingly, while US arms exports have increased exponentially by 76% in the last five years, Russia’s arms exports fell by 18%.

The US market is in constant expansion as it now includes 96 client countries, while Russia has, essentially, lost one of its most significant clients, India.

Ruled by a right-wing Hindu nationalist government, Delhi has found in Tel Aviv a more ideologically like-minded supplier. The special ‘friendship‘ between India’s Narendra Modi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has made India Israel’s largest weapons market.

In 2017, Israel’s arms exports reached a record high of $9 billion dollars, following the signing of a $2 billion deal with India. The contracts awarded to the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) were considered the “single largest deal ever signed by the Israeli arms industry.”

With India becoming the largest importer of Israeli arms in the world, Israel is now a secondary party in the protracted conflict between India and Pakistan. The two nuclear-armed countries edged closer to the abyss of a full-blown war in March 2019. Naturally, Israeli weapons, now featured prominently in India’s military arsenal, will play a major role in sustaining any future conflict.

According to the newly-released data, Israel is only second to South Korea in terms of the vast expansion of weapons exports, as Israel’s weapons manufacturing industry has experienced an unprecedented boom in recent years. SIPRI puts that increase at 77%.

Last year, the International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israeli Ministry of Defense (SIBAT), which is the cornerstone of Israel’s weapon manufacturing, testing and export, released a comprehensive plan aimed at the expansion of Israel’s global weapons market, with due focus on the US, Finland and India.

What makes Israeli weapons more attractive than others is the fact that they are not accompanied by any political price tag. In other words, Israel is willing to sell weapons to any country, or even non-state actors, openly or secretly, regardless of how these weapons are used and whether their use violates human rights or not.

In May 2019, Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter released an in-depth report that examined Israel’s weapons export markets. Contrary to the claim by Rachel Chen, head of the Israeli Defense Export Controls Agency, that “we will carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons,” Israel is known for peddling its weapons to the world’s most notorious human rights violators. The list includes Myanmar, Philippines, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

A damning proof to the above claim is a statement made by Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his dismal human rights record, on September 4, 2018, during his highly touted visit to Israel. Duterte told Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, that the Philippines “would henceforth only buy weapons from Israel due to its lack of restrictions,” Times of Israel reported.

The US is “a good friend,” Duterte said, but like Germany and China, US weapons come with certain “limitations”.

Considering that Washington provides Israel with over $3 billion worth of weapons annually that are used freely against occupied Palestinians and other Arab nations with no regard whatsoever for international or humanitarian law, one has to marvel at Duterte’s statement.

It is logical to assume that a country that sells weapons to civil war-torn and extremely impoverished South Sudan, has not an iota of regulations, let alone moral standards.

What is unique about the export of Israel’s weapons and so-called ‘security technology’ to the rest of the world, is that they often appear in regions where people are most oppressed and vulnerable. For example, Israeli companies have for years stood at the forefront of successive US administrations’ war on undocumented immigrants.

Moreover, recent years have witnessed the infusion of brutal Israeli military tactics in many aspects of American society, including the militarization of American police, thousands of whom received training in Israel.

Similarly, in 2018, Israeli war technology was incorporated to the European Union’s security apparatus. One such contract was awarded to the Israeli company Elbit, estimated at $68 million, to provide maritime unmanned aircraft system (UAS) services. This technology, which relies on the Hermes 900 Maritime Patrol system, allows Frontex — the European Border and Coast Guard Agency — to intercept war refugees and migrants in their attempts to cross into safer European territories.

Interestingly, the EU has purchased from Israel the same deadly technology that the Israeli army has used against Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip during Israel’s so-called ‘Protective Edge’ war of 2014.

The latter fact represents the backbone of Israel’s marketing strategy. Branding its military products as ‘combat-proven’, Tel Aviv is able to obtain top dollar for its bloody technology, as it is able to demonstrate, using actual footage, how its armed drones, for example, can flatten whole Palestinian neighborhoods in seconds and return safely to their bases inside Israel.

SIPRI and Amnesty International are right in exposing Israel’s thriving weapons exports market, while emphasizing the fact that much of these weapons proliferate freely among human rights violators. But far greater focus should be placed on the fact that Israel is, itself, a notorious human rights violator that should be held accountable for its crimes against Palestinians, who are often used as guinea pigs in the testing stage of Israel’s technology of death.

Which Would You Prefer: Nuclear War or Climate Catastrophe?

To: The people of the world
From: The Joint Public Relations Department of the Great Powers

The world owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, and other heroic rulers of our glorious nations. Not only are they hard at work making their respective countries great again, but they are providing you, the people of the world, with a choice between two opportunities for mass death and destruction.

Throughout the broad sweep of history, leaders of competing territories and eventually nations labored at fostering human annihilation, but, given the rudimentary state of their technology, were only partially successful. Yes, they did manage to slaughter vast numbers of people through repeated massacres and constant wars. The Thirty Years War of 1618-1648, for example, resulted in more than 8 million casualties, a substantial portion of Europe’s population. And, of course, World Wars I and II, supplemented by a hearty dose of genocide along the way, did a remarkably good job of ravaging populations, crippling tens of millions of survivors, and blasting much of world civilization to rubble. Even so, despite the best efforts of national rulers and the never-ending glory they derived from these events, large numbers of people somehow survived.

Therefore, in August 1945, the rulers of the great powers took a great leap forward with their development―and immediate use―of a new, advanced implement for mass destruction: nuclear weapons. Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were all eager to employ atomic bombs against the people of Japan. Upon receiving the news that the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima had successfully obliterated the population of that city, Truman rejoiced and called the action “the greatest thing in history.

Efforts to enhance national grandeur followed during subsequent decades, as the rulers of the great powers (and some pathetic imitators) engaged in an enormous nuclear arms race. Determined to achieve military supremacy, they spared no expense, employed Nazi scientists and slave labor, and set off vast nuclear explosions on the lands of colonized people and in their own countries. By the 1980s, about 70,000 nuclear weapons were under their command―more than enough to destroy the world many times over. Heartened by their national strength, our rulers threw down the gauntlet to their enemies and predicted that their nations would emerge victorious in a nuclear war.

But, alas, the public, failing to appreciate these valiant efforts, grew restive―indeed, disturbingly unpatriotic. Accordingly, they began to sabotage these advances by demanding that their governments step back from the brink of nuclear war, forgo nuclear buildups, and adopt nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties. The popular clamor became so great that even Ronald Reagan―a longtime supporter of nuclear supremacy and “winnable” nuclear wars―crumpled. Championing nuclear disarmament, he began declaring that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” National glory had been sacrificed on the altar of a cowardly quest for human survival.

Fortunately, those days are long past. In the United States, President Trump is determined to restore America’s greatness by scrapping nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements, spending $1.7 trillion on refurbishing the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, and threatening to eradicate other nations through nuclear war. Meanwhile, the president’s good friends in Moscow, Beijing, London, Paris, New Delhi, and elsewhere are busy spurring on their own national nuclear weapons buildups. As they rightly insist: The only way to stop a bad nation with the Bomb is with a good nation with the Bomb.

Nor is that all! Recently, our rulers have opened up a second opportunity for a planetary destruction: climate catastrophe. Some scientists, never satisfied with leaving the running of public affairs to their wise rulers, have claimed that, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, rising temperatures are melting the polar icecaps, heightening sea levels, and causing massive hurricanes and floods, desertification, agricultural collapse, and enormous wildfires. As a result, they say, human and other life forms are on their way to extinction.

These scientists―and the deluded people who give them any credence―are much like the critics of nuclear weapons: skeptics, nay-sayers, and traitorously indifferent to national grandeur. By contrast, our rulers understand that any curbing of the use of fossil fuels—or, for that matter, any cutbacks in the sale of the products that make our countries great―would interfere with corporate profits, undermine business growth and expansion, and represent a retreat from the national glory that is their due. Consequently, even if by some remote chance we are entering a period of climate disruption, our rulers will refuse to give way before these unpatriotic attacks. As courageous leaders, they will never retreat before the prospect of your mass death and destruction.

We are sure that you, as loyal citizens, are as enthusiastic as we are about this staunch defense of national glory. So, if you notice anyone challenging this approach, please notify your local Homeland Security office. Meanwhile, rest assured, our governments will also be closely monitoring these malcontents and subversives!

Naturally, your rulers would love to have your feedback. Therefore, we are submitting to you this question: Which would you prefer―destruction by nuclear war or destruction by climate catastrophe? Nuclear war will end your existence fairly quickly through blast or fire, although your death would be slower and more agonizing if you survived long enough to die of radiation sickness or starvation. On the other hand, climate catastrophe has appealing variety, for you could die by fire, water, or hunger. Or you might simply roast slowly thanks to unbearable temperatures.

We’d appreciate receiving your opinion on this matter. After all, providing you with this kind of choice is a vital part of making our nations great again!

The Futility of Populism

On May 13 the Oval Office in DC was graced by the presence of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban is known for his defense of ‘Christian Europe’ against invading migrants along with the accompanying ‘virus of terrorism’ and for what he calls ‘illiberal democracy’, which includes such initiatives as restricting press freedom, undermining judicial independence, and shutting down Central Europe University, while circulating some obvious anti-Semitic propaganda around its founder George Soros. Donald Trump, as could be expected, gave Orban a grander than most European capitals,

rambling ‘Viktor Orban has done a tremendous job in so many way. Highly respected. Respected all over Europe, probably like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s ok. That’s ok. You’ve done a good job, you’ve kept your country safe.’ Then adding ‘I know he’s a tough man, but he’s respected and he’s done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration. And you look at some of the problems that they have in Europe that are tremendous because they’re done it a different way than the Prime Minister.’

Of course Orban is far from the first strongman to receive a red carpet in Washington. The list of such specimen who have gotten a warm reception at the White House is too numerous to count. The House of Saud has been an honored guest for decades. What brought the spotlight on this encounter is that Orban is mentioned as being part of a vast resurgent right-wing populism with which Trump himself is often grouped. Meanwhile days after Orban’s visit, the Brexit crisis finally brought down Theresa May with her Tory government in Britain still trying to square the circle on Brexit having already received two extensions in the process. Shortly after May’s announcement right-wing parties, including in Britain with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, made significant gains in the EU parliamentary elections.

Since the Brexit vote in June 2016 innumerable gallons of ink have been spilled on expanding right-wing populism, governments that bill themselves as everything from ‘nationalist’, along with its corollary ‘anti-globalist’, to ‘illiberal.’ Trump was elected in November 2016. Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency of the Philippines in that May. In Italy an alliance of the Five Star Movement and The League (formerly the Northern League) assumed power in May 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was convincingly elected in Brazil five months later. In Poland the Law and Justice Party won a parliamentary majority in 2015 (it previously was the largest party in parliament 2005-2007). Orban has been in power since 2010.

Like all narratives this one is prone to overstatement. On May 20, 2019 the New York Times had this on its front cover:

And in India, where the world’s biggest parliamentary election… the electorate seems poised to bring back Mr. Modi (Narendra Modi), extending the wave of victories by right-wing populists around the world… Around the world, it has become the age of the political big man, and no one disputes that Mr. Modi is the biggest force India has produced in decades.

Modi did indeed go on to win a landslide reelection on the back of Hindi nationalism and in the aftermath of a military confrontation with Pakistan. Yet Hindi nationalism has been building in India for decades and tension with Pakistan has been endemic since the partition back in 1947. Can a strong comparison truly be found with Trumpism in the U.S.? Such differences stand out between all these figures. Duterte and Bolsonaro were elected in the midst of very bad crime waves on ‘law and order’ platforms that emphasize ‘zero tolerance’ for alleged criminals and drug users. Both rail against ‘feminism’, ‘social justice’, and ‘socialism’ when convenient, which is often, especially in targeting the opposition to their bloody crime fighting policies (Duterte recently proclaimed he ‘cured himself’ of being gay, Bolsonaro publically proclaimed the importance of Brazil not being a ‘gay tourism paradise’). Immigration plays no part in their message. Bolsonaro pleaded ignorance on the economy, claiming only ‘superficial understanding’ and handing it off to University of Chicago trained economist Paulo Guedes as ‘Super Minister.’

Opposing Muslim immigration is the largest pillar of Orban’s and Polish President Andrezej Duda’s platform, their anti-EU rhetoric centering on negotiations during the migrant crisis of 2014-2015 and its aftermath. Their emphasis on sovereignty is in opposition to EU attempts to quota migrants. Orban’s government was successful in building a border fence along hundreds of miles of Hungary’s southern border. Orban also instituted a jobs program for his rural base, along with free school books, paid for partially by a tax increase. The Five Star/League coalition in Italy’s messaging also largely centers on anti-immigration, as does the appeal of the far-right Alternative for Germany which has made impressive gains since the migrant crisis. Trump too was elected on border security, with the same reactionary rhetoric about migrants, and he also brought a strong anti-free trade position to go along imagery about ‘American carnage’, occasional rants against political correctness, and appeals to ‘those were the days’ patriotism- infamously during the protests of NFL players during the national anthem.

Besides the noxious loudness of their collective personalities, along with perhaps the admiration of Steve Bannon, the one thread that runs through all of it is ‘anti-elitism.’ On the surface this translates to an obvious resentment of the influence that wealth has over governance. Trump ranted against the influence of Goldman Sachs, given the lucrative speaking fees it gave Hillary Clinton, before he appointed several Goldman figures to his cabinet. Yet the idea is vague and fluid enough to be extended in any direction.  Given this easy fluidity elites are those who favor everything from immigration to secularism to environmentalism to socialism. Hence the pejorative ‘liberal’ is often attached to ‘elites’ both for clarity and scorn’s sake. In fact ‘elite’ has more or less become a replacement for ‘liberal’, the elite aspect a sort of red meat to working class cultural conservatism- ‘not only do they think you’re stupid they have more money than you do.’

Predictively when it comes to practical results populism thus far has come up short. Bolsanaro’s poll numbers are in freefall and the Brazilian economy has flatlined. Duterte’s slaughter may be producing an impressive body count but history clearly shows that ‘wars on drugs’ no matter how brutal hardly put a dent in drug trafficking. Trump constantly railed against the U.S. trade deficit during his campaign. In 2018 the deficit reached an all-time high. While the number of migrants crossing the border has declined greatly since the early 2000s, the numbers during the Trump presidency have surged to the highest they’ve been in over a decade. In December 2018 the Italian government backed off its debt exploding budget proposals in the face of EU sanction threats. Currently it is toying with a pathetic ‘mini-bot’ (mini Bills of Treasury, essentially IOUs) program to reduce its debt. None of the ‘Euro-skeptic’ parties are campaigning to leave the EU and the recent EU parliamentary election, by no means the most significant of elections, more often a forum for simple protest votes, saw about an equal increase for left wing parties, such as the Greens, as populist parties. In fact the Euro-skeptics, such as Italy’s hard-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, often cloaked themselves under the banner of saving Europe rather than leaving. Hungary  and Poland have long been among the largest recipients of EU funding. Plus the European populist parties have their own divisions, primarily about the ‘Russian question’ with those parties in Western Europe, such as Marie Le Pen’s National Rally favoring warm relations with Vladimir Putin’s government and those in East cool to the idea.

The antagonists to the elites in populist imagery naturally would be the working and middle classes, any distinction between them simply blurring under the banner of ‘those who work.’ It is important to note that lack of distinction is due to the fact that this kind of producerism, defined as a conviction that the wealth produced in a society should belong to its producers, targets the allegedly parasitic poor masses just as much as it targets the rent seeking elites. The highpoint of the original Populist movement is often said to be the Omaha Platform which launched the Populist Party back in 1892. While the Omaha Platform properly railed against war and trusts there was the resolution that read:

That we condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor under the present system, which opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world and crowds out our wage-earners; and we denounce the present ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further restriction of undesirable emigration.

Much was made of Trump’s support from the white working class and though this proved to be overstated he did win his election through the Rust Belt. Much of the support from Brexit came from Britain’s deindustrialized heartland. In the context of working class displacement, low wages, capital flight, the endless quest for cheaper labor around the world for greater profits and shareholder value, the ‘globalism’ being railed against by the populists is simply another name for capitalism, hence the reason why these economic ‘nationalists’, who loudly wave the capitalist banner against the specter of creeping socialism, never quite get around to saying what it is they actually intend to implement. After all capitalists are perfectly free to argue that the elite doing what is in its interest is the key that unlocks prosperity for everyone but not to argue that capitalism is anything but elites ultimately doing what’s in their interest.

For instance, the economic power of China has become a pivotal issue in American politics. Indeed, if there is an actual proclaimed area of bipartisanship it is that China is an economic opponent whose progress has come at least partially, if not more so, at the expense of the United States.  A study by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that the explosive growth in the trade deficit since China’s entry into the WTO in December 2001 has cost the U.S. 3.4 million jobs, 74 percent of them in manufacturing.  Populists have seized on such numbers. An example comes from a piece in the New English Review titled ‘More Than a Trade War with China.’ There Brandon J. Weichert writes, under a subheading of ‘Death to American Manufacturing! All Hail China’s State Capitalism!:

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the first round of free trade deals was signed between American companies and China that would eviscerate the American manufacturing sector and help build China’s massive middle class. It was during this period that China also became the workshop of the world…There is a direct connection between the collapse of the American blue-collar community due to deindustrialization and the propulsive rise of the Chinese middle-class. Meanwhile, the coastal enclaves in the United States, where manufacturing was not as important… benefited most. It was in these bastions of prosperity where the policies to push those industrial jobs out of the American Midwest and into China were made—and these coastal metropolises rarely saw the negative downsides of these decisions. As American policy was increasingly determined by a conglomeration of corporatists, globalists, foreign-funded lobbyists, and airy academicians…

Obviously the author has never been to coastal enclaves such as New York, where deindustrialization caused the poverty rate to spiral in the last 40 years, or Baltimore where the effects of deindustrialization continue to devastate the city. The author’s use of ‘State Capitalism’ is instructive, clearly meant to distinguish it from ‘real’ capitalism thus save capitalism from itself from the criticism. If meant as a pejorative about state subsidies it obviously overlooks the fact that the U.S., much of Europe, and Japan heavily subsidize their agricultural sectors. Much is also made of technology transfers that China has required in joint ventures with multinational corporations. This again is largely theater: Last year when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked countries on how well they protected intellectual property China scored above Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, and the Philippines. According to the Heritage Foundation annual index of ‘economic freedom’ the Chinese government intervenes less than American allies in India, Vietnam, and Brazil.

No threat of violence or death, nor certainly any concern for human rights, caused the global economy to make China the world’s factory, only the promise of cheap labor and great profit. Technology deals with Chinese partners were considered well worth it. As if global capitalism would bypass the country with the largest amount of surplus labor and the largest consumer market. In the end the Trump administration’s tariff war vs China won’t accomplish much in terms of bucking these trends, nor will the other populists succeed in stemming the underlying causes of the discontent they are exploiting such as uneven development, capital flight, and migration. However deep the populist moment goes it will pass. The contradictions of global capitalism will remain.

Through the Eyes of an Activist for Palestine

Of the roughly millions of novels published annually worldwide, Arundhati Roy is one of the rare maverick authors for whom justice and politics is integral to her art and to her identity. Her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which I would describe as her summa injustica of India, has been criticised as “A Novel That Is Neither Creative Nor Fiction.

Well, it is definitely outside the run-of-the-mill novel genre enjoyed by suburban book clubs, and you can thank the god of your choice for that! Such novels are set in a bubble world, sanitised and separate from politics, with generally predictable characters that trudge on predictably from one predictable plot to another reaching a predictable denouement. Ho hum. For me, as an activist, that IS boring.

Conversely, in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness we enter a world intensely crammed, like India itself, with the vicissitudes and minutae of the human condition ranging from rapture to agony, from goodness and evil and all in between… infused with politics with its omnipresent stench of violence.

It was as though the Apparition whose presence we in India are all constantly and acutely aware of had suddenly surfaced, snarling, from the deep, and had behaved exactly as we expected it to. Once its appetite was sated it sank back into its subterranean lair and normality closed over it. Maddened killers retracted their fangs and returned to their daily chores – as clerks, tailors, plumbers, carpenters, shopkeepers – life went on as before. Normality in our part of the world is a bit like a boiled egg: its humdrum surface conceals at its heart a yolk of egregious violence. It is our constant anxiety about that violence, our memory of its past labours and our dread of its future manifestations, that lays down the rules for how a people as complex and as diverse as we are continue to coexist – continue to live together, tolerate each other and, from time to time, murder one another.

Roy’s novel is not a reading activity – immersed – it becomes a tangible experience wherein one cannot but love tenderly its singular coterie of friends: Anjum the transgender Hijra, who rises, over and over from the ashes of discrimination and trauma with renewed élan vital and all embracing compassion. Then there is the entrepreneurial visionary, self-named Saddam Hussein (in honour of ‘the courage and dignity of that man in the face of death’) the Dalit who converted himself to Islam, and many more who are at once warmly human, stridently individualistic, quirky and bravely resilient.

My favourite character is the archetypal elder activist, Dr Azad Bhartiya, “who had just entered, according to his own calculations, the eleventh year, third month and seventeenth day of his hunger strike” who states:

I am fasting against the following issues: I am against the Capitalist Empire, plus against US Capitalism, Indian and American State Terrorism/ All Kinds of Nuclear Weapons and Crime, plus against the Bad Education System/ Corruption/ Violence/ Environmental Degradation and All Other Evils. Also I am against Unemployment. I am also fasting for the complete obliteration of the entire Bourgeois class. Each day I remember the poor of the world, Workers/ Peasants/ Tribals/ Dalits/ Abandoned Ladies and Gents/ including Children and Handicapped People.

Politics is not background but a multi-faceted character that appears behind many masks:  the cruelty-incarnate mask of Major Amrik Singh, who has multiple Israeli doppelgängers such as General Benny Ganz, the Butcher of Gaza, and every head, past and present of Shin Bet. Roy exposes the faustian media opportunists like Naga, whose transition from principled left politics to mainstream journalism embedded in right-wing propaganda and fake news is hidden behind a mask of journalistic integrity. Naga’s transition is marked by “his hero at the time was George Habash’. Roy’s choice of Habash is not subtle. Habash, unlike Arafat, never betrayed Palestinian resistance nor the integrity of historic Palestine. Naga has become the system. “Naga had started wearing tweed coats and smoking cigars. Like his father did. And talking to servants in the imperious way that his mother did.” This  apeing of imperial Britain recollects colonialism at its most vile as Roy demonstrates in a 2002 article:

In 1937, Winston Churchill said of the Palestinians, I quote:  I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” That set the trend for the Israeli State’s attitude towards the Palestinians. In 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “Palestinians do not exist.” Her successor, Prime Minister Levi Eschol said, “What are Palestinians? When I came here (to Palestine), there were 250,000 non-Jews, mainly Arabs and Bedouins. It was a desert, more than underdeveloped. Nothing.” Prime Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians “`two-legged beasts.” Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called them “grasshoppers” who could be crushed. This is the language of Heads of State, not the words of ordinary people.

Inevitably, there are the masks of diplomatic collaborators of Indian oppression of the Kashmir people like Garson Hobart who brings to mind the pack of Palestinian Authority/PLO security dogs that protect Israel’s interests headed by Abba$. Like his zionist role models who denied Palestine’s existence in the White House on May 3, 2017, Abba$ denied  the existence of the freedom struggles of Kashmir, Western Sahara, West Papua, Tibet:  “We are the only remaining people in the world that still live under occupation.”

But Roy knows better:

How carelessly imperial power vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modem world. Both are fault lines in the raging international conflicts of today.

And gridlocked in occupation, Kashmir and her feisty children loom large in the novel as battered but defiant heroes. From an activist perspective on Palestine, the resemblance of the Kashmir and Palestine struggles against India and Israel respectively is glaringly remarkable. The shadowy freedom fighting Musa reminded me of Hamas military chief, Mohammed Deif.  And the tortured Kashmiri child’s defiance reflects the defiance and sumoud of Palestinian children and political prisoners in Israeli prisons:

In a few minutes a burly policeman entered, carrying a thin boy in his arms. One leg of the boy’s trousers was rolled up, exposing a matchstick-thin calf held together by a splint from ankle to knee. His arm was in a plaster cast and his neck was bandaged. Though his face was drawn with pain, he didn’t grimace when the soldier deposited him on the floor. To refuse to show pain was a pact the boy had made with himself. It was a desolate act of defiance that he had conjured up in the teeth of absolute, abject defeat. And that made it majestic.

It is unsurprising that Modi broke the longstanding Indian support for Palestine:

It is held that Jawaharlal Nehru’s commitment to the cause of an undivided Palestine — even as Indian National Congress accepted the British decision to divide the nation on the basis of religion — forced him to reject Albert Einstein’s four-page letter as India voted against the Mandate Partition plan at the UN in 1947. It eventually recognised Israel in 1950 but without diplomatic relations.

By visiting Israel and embracing Netanyahu because both are serial Muslim killers, Modi set “Thirty thousand saffron parakeets with steel talons and bloodied beaks” to massacre Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Both promote a hard-line fascist form of nationalism — Modi’s ‘saffron tide’ of Hindutva and Netanyahu’s Jewish state; both stand on the power of
nuclear armaments and together they cinched a $2.6 billion arms deal. The effusing delight of the zionist media with the new-found bromance culminated in the image of Modi and Netanyahu frolicking barefoot in the sewage-infested Mediterranean caused by Netanyahu’s ordered destruction of Gaza’s sewage plant and electricity cuts. Karma.

Roy has been criticised  for “being frustratingly rambling.  The Ministry is shockingly uneven in its register” and that her “polemical instinct is far more developed than her art.” However, Roy is artfully crafting the uneven register and polemics to mess with our heads; to shock us alert to imperiled humanity threatened by the likes of Modi, Netanyahu, Trump, May, Merkel, Macron, the Sauds…. the list is long.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a tough yet stunning literary experience. Its phenomenal breadth and depth of intelligence and unpredictable creativity far outstrips, in my view, The God of Small Things. It is wondrously creative. It is an experience that must be mindfully savoured as you wonder word by word where Roy’s brilliance is taking you… what is around the roller coasting corner of the next word.. poetry that will make you gasp, quirkiness that charms, flagellating condemnation, a chuckle of humour, awesome acuity, shuddering contempt, fierce tenderness, brittle satire, outlandish juxtapositions where Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut sit square with Torture, and where Mango Frooti can spark a Massacre.

This is not a novel for ostriches desiring soma comfort. It is for adults demanding their destiny of human dignity and Roy guides us to that end… to The Ministry of Utmost Happiness located in the Jannat Guest House where its residents live the creative actions within people’s power that Binu Matthew says will “bring peace, justice and communal harmony.”