Thursday, January 20, 2011

How wrong can one be, Noam, when one reads only the manufactured consent of the lal salaam?

[Posted on Facebook, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 15:15]

Here I reproduce the texts of two letters written by various people who are called intellectuals, most likely at the instance of one of the signatories. I know a lot of my friends seem to think very highly of these guys, but they are quite fallible, opinionated, and often speak of things that are best passed over in silence.

First, an open letter:

To Our Friends in Bengal.

News travels to us that events in West Bengal have overtaken the optimism that some of us have experienced during trips to the state. We are concerned about the rancour that has divided the public space, created what appear to be unbridgeable gaps between people who share similar values. It is this that distresses us. We hear from people on both sides of this chasm, and we are trying to make some sense of the events and the dynamics. Obviously, our distance prevents us from saying anything definitive.

We continue to trust that the people of Bengal will not allow their differences on some issues to tear apart the important experiments undertaken in the State (land reforms, local self-government).

We send our fullest solidarity to the peasants who have been forcibly dispossessed. We understand that the government has promised not to build a chemical hub in the area around Nandigram. We understand that those who had been dispossessed by the violence are now being allowed back to their homes, without recrimination. We understand that there is now talk of reconciliation. This is what we favour.

The balance of forces in the world is such that it would be impetuous to split the Left. We are faced with a world power that has demolished one state (Iraq) and is now threatening another (Iran). This is not the time for division when the basis of division no longer appears to exist.

Noam Chomsky, author, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy; Tariq Ali, author, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope and editor, New Left Review; Howard Zinn, author, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress; Susan George, author, Another World is Possible if, and Fellow, Transnational Institute; Victoria Brittain, co-author, Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim’s Journey to Guantanamo and Back, former editor, Guardian; Walden Bello, author, Dilemmas of Domination: The Unmaking of the American Empire, and Chair, Akbayan, the fastest growing party in the Philippines; Mahmood Mamdani, author, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War and the Roots of Terror; Akeel Bilgrami, author, Politics and the Moral Psychology of Identity; Richard Falk, author, The Costs of War: International Law, the UN and World Order After Iraq; Jean Bricmont, author, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War; Michael Albert, author, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, and editor, ZNET; Stephen Shalom, author, Imperial Alibis: Rationalizing US Intervention After the Cold War; Charles Derber, author, People Before Profit: The New Globalization in an Age of Terror, Big Money and Economic Crisis; Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World.

And then, when this letter raised the hackles of several people in India including Mahashweta Devi and others, for almost every statement therein was contestable if not downright false, there followed the second letter:

We are taken aback by a widespread reaction to a statement we made with the best of intentions, imploring a restoration of unity among the left forces in India – a reaction that seems to assume that such an appeal to overcome divisions among the left could only amount to supporting a very specific section of the CPM in West Bengal. Our statement did not lend support to the CPM’s actions in Nandigram or its recent economic policies in West Bengal, nor was that our intention. On the contrary, we asserted, in solidarity with its Left critics both inside and outside the party, that we found them tragically wrong. Our hope was that Left critics would view their task as one of putting pressure on the CPM in West Bengal to correct and improve its policies and its habits of governance, rather than dismiss it wholesale as an unredeemable party. We felt that we could hope for such a thing, of such a return to the laudable traditions of a party that once brought extensive land reforms to the state of West Bengal and that had kept communal tensions in abeyance for decades in that state. This, rather than any exculpation of its various recent policies and actions, is what we intended by our hopes for ‘unity’ among the left forces.

We realize now that it is perhaps not possible to expect the Left critics of the CPM to overcome the deep disappointment, indeed hostility, they have come to feel towards it, unless the CPM itself takes some initiative against that sense of disappointment. We hope that the CPM in West Bengal will show the largeness of mind to take such an initiative by restoring the morale as well as the welfare of the dispossessed people of Nandigram through the humane governance of their region, so that the left forces can then unite and focus on the more fundamental issues that confront the Left as a whole, in particular focus on the task of providing with just and imaginative measures an alternative to neo-liberal capitalism that has caused so much suffering to the poor and working people in India.


Michael Albert, Tariq Ali, Akeel Bilgrami, Victoria Brittain, Noam Chomsky, Charles Derber, Stephen Shalom

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