Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That Slow Train Wreck ...

The slow train-wreck of the world economy is progressing like one of those Peckinpah Westerns, each step slowed, bloodied, shown close up and then again from another angle, until the mind forgets what it is watching and is fascinated just by the blood and spilling guts.

When will the bodies start falling? I figure they're already falling. But as Buzz Light-Year put it, "falling with style."

Who will hit the ground first? My bet is it's going to happen in Europe. There's no way Greece is going to pay up. Or can pay up. Nor will Ireland. These were countries where the politicians "saved the banks" by taking on their debt. The people were not consulted. Marching to some Warsong of the Valkyries sound-track the politicians pledged their people's welfare for the banks and would you know it, they ended up holding the empty kitty!

So now oridnary Europeans are facing "austerity measures" -- like doing without jobs (unemployment's over 20 per cent in important parts of Europe), public services and social security. Part of the reason they're doing it is to "Save the Euro." The Germans are fighting that battle, giving out their taxpayer's money to keep Europe with a single currency. What's the bet that the Germans will tire of that eventually and chuck it?

If Europe falls, of course, there is no saving China. Even the Brits with their multi-trillion global blackmarket funds won't be able to salvage the Kung Fu Hustle we'll have there. China, by the way, seems to be headed for a perfect storm of drought, corruption, economic mismanagement. political folly -- and a real estate bubble.

The real estate market in the country is still rising. An average home in April rose in value to 8,773 yuan ($1,351) per square meter from 8,738 ($1,345) in March. The figures are estimates, for the government scrapped its national property price index in January. The Party mandarins just couldn't take the stress of reporting it any more. Another revealing detail: according to a study released last month, 80 per cent of all home-grown millionaires in China are planning to emigrate or have already established residence abroad.

What's grimly funny about this situation is that Pakistan's political leadership has taken just this moment to voice loud faith in China's enduring support. Its Prime Minister on a visit to Beijing exclaimed that China and Pakistan were "one nation but two countries." He thought Pakistan's "Islamic socialism" was just like the free market communism of the comrades of the CCP. No doubt to celebrate the kinship, the Chinese gave Pakistan 50 fighter aircraft. Just clean gave it to them . However, it is to be delivered in a year or two. Takes time to work out the kinks in free market communism.

Meanwhile, Beijing has been vigorously denying various political messages from Islamabad about how close ties are between them. For one thing, it denied that China would consider an attack on Pakistan as on itself. Then it said there was no question of taking over Gwadar Port in Baluchistan and developing it as a naval outpost. (The port is the middle of nowhere, surrounded by an active insurrection, with no infrastructure on the landward side, so it's easy to see why.) Then the mandarins declared that the aid demanded by Pakistan as an outright grant could not be given, for such gifts were never made.

The outcome of all this is not funny at all. We should, like Kubla, hear from afar, ancestral voices propheseing war. And not that far off either.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The "Undefeated Left"

A statement issued under the signature of five “Left” figures is making the rounds of e.mail lists. It seeks to garner support for the sentiment that the recent electoral defeat of the communist-led coalitions in Kerala and West Bengal does not mean “the end of the Left in India.” The five – Dilip Simeon, Jairus Banaji, Sukumar Muralidharan, Satya Sivaraman, Rohini Hensman – argue that “the Left in India is not the Left parties alone and therefore the defeat of the Left parties does not mean the defeat of the Left.” They say that there “are many cultural and political groups ... that have never identified or associated with the politics and the peculiar left traditions of the CPI(M) that are still largely moulded by the discredited legacies of Stalinism.” In their view there is an undefeated “Left” of “organisations, movements and forms of struggle” ranging from “hundreds of left-wing trade unions ... that are essentially independent of party control” to “dozens of popular campaigns and the organisations connected with them.”  
They credit this unstructured and ad hoc “Left” with a range of accomplishments:
·         “fighting the displacement of people by large scale government and corporate projects (the Hirakud and Koel Karo dams, the Baliapal missile range, the Sardar Sarover scheme, mining and industrial ventures by POSCO, Vedanta, Jindals, the Tatas, Ambanis, and so on).
·         the “grassroots campaigns for the Right to Information (RTI) and for rural employment schemes.”
·         campaigning “against communal violence and for justice for the victims of the violence that politicians have repeatedly instigated, notably, the horrific massacres in1984 (Delhi), 2002 (Gujarat) and 2008 (Kandhamal in Orissa).”
·         and fostering “movements of resistance to the hideous injustices and violence of the caste system; to the oppression of women; to homophobia; and against the forcing of millions of children into wage-slavery.”
Even if we overlook the fact that the courts, the government, and even political parties (the Trinamool C in Bengal), have been prime movers in some of these so-called “Left” achievements, the whole proposition reeks of clutching at straws. The statement indicates more clearly than the electoral defeat of the communists the intellectual bankruptcy of the “Left” in India. The concept of a political  "Left," originally borrowed from 19th Century Europe, has never taken root Indian soil, and it is now like a crude Mumbai knock-off of a Hollywood film, embarrassing not only in its lack of cultural originality but in its display of technical incompetence. Just as the denizens of the world’s largest film industry are content to be described as “Bollywood,” "Tollywood," "Kollywood" and so on, members of the Indian “Left” seem to be completely unaware that their imitative imported conceptualization and terminology put on display a fundamental lack of self respect. There is no inkling in it that the granddaddy of all “Left” politicians was Mahatma Gandhi, who rang down the curtain on the colonial era and initiated the global movements for racial equality, universal human rights, and rural development.