UNCEASING WAVES

Istvan Meszaros

Posted in General by Karthick RM on October 4, 2017

15-04-20-mc3a9szc3a1ros-o-globoIstvan Meszaros, one of the most important Marxist philosophers of our times, passed away on 1st October. I was introduced to his writing through his “The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom”, one of the finest theoretical commentaries on Sartre, which I engaged with in my thesis. His prose was dry and often obtuse, but rich with critical insights. This book is also a good example of how to do intellectual history. I had planned to read his “Marx’s Theory of Alienation” earlier this year, but owing to other projects, this was put on the back-burner. I hope to begin that soon in Meszaros’ honor.

In an interview about 2 years back he said “There can be no such thing as “historical inevitability” in the direction of the future. History is open-ended, for the better or worse” and further that “The greatest and most perilous irony of modern history is that the once championed “productive destruction” has become in the descending phase of capital’s systemic development an ever more untenable destructive production, both in the field of commodity production and in the domain of nature, complemented by the ultimate threat of military destruction in defence of the established order. That is why the socialist alternative is not only possible – in the earlier mentioned sense of its historical sustainability – but also necessary, in the interest of humanity’s survival.”

Let us work towards that socialist alternative. Even better, let us properly theorize it.

Rest in Power Istvan Meszaros. See you in communism.

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Catalonia, Spain, and Franco’s Legacy

Posted in International, Politics by Karthick RM on October 4, 2017

22050364_1319696978139780_8646897719101201698_nAs Catalonia voted for independence, and as Spain unleashed police brutalities on Catalan voters, let us remember the legacy of this gentleman, Francisco Franco. Because it is his legacy that forms a part of Spain’s desire to maintain itself as a unitary state.

Where right-wingers peddle irrational lies, both liberals and the left peddle rational ones. One of the dirtiest lies of the previous century was that WW-II saw the defeat of fascism. Well, German and Italian fascists were defeated for sure, but Spain under Franco was a fascist fortress till the dictator’s death in 1975. Not only was the Generalissimo covertly helped by the US-UK as a buffer against Soviet Socialism, Soviet Socialism’s stooges destroyed the fight against fascism from within by focusing more on eliminating the anarchists than on fighting the fascists. Fascism requires several things to succeed, one of the key things being misplaced priorities of the leftist camp who often score same-side goals.

And it is also interesting to see how little critical literature there is on the Spanish brand of fascism. (Interested to know some good titles if someone can suggest any.) Because I think understanding the victorious brand of fascism in the previous century is more important to critique right-wing movements today rather than lazy reductio ad hitlerum fallacies, i.e., the tendency to equate any despised figure with Hitler, a failed fascist.

Much of Spain’s anti-referendum approach, from right-wingers and liberals alike, stems out of the foundation of Spanish nationalism that Franco cemented. The Catalonian referendum is a challenge to this legacy. Let the will of the Catalan people triumph!

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Rest In Power Mehmet Aksoy

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on October 4, 2017

Mehmet Aksoy It was a horrible shock to hear the news that my good friend and comrade Mehmet Aksoy had been martyred at the hands of the ISIS. I have known Mehmet for over five years. When I was in the UK, I had worked with him on building solidarity between the Kurdish and the Tamil struggles. I admired his piercing political clarity, uncompromising commitment to the struggle of his people, and his principled approach to fellow oppressed nations. The Kurdish people have lost a great activist and the Tamils a great comrade.

The last time we met in 2015, he said that I should join with him on a trip to Rojava to study the movement there first hand. This was not to happen as I had to return. I do hope to visit Rojava, the most important site of Revolution in the 21st century, at some point of time in the future. But this will be a trip without dear Mehmet.

Here is a video where I had interviewed him for TamilNet. Comrade Aksoy’s poignant words still echo:

“The system that oppresses us is global. The system that oppresses us is united and in solidarity with each other. So we need to be in solidarity with each other against the same system that oppresses us. The Tamil national liberation struggle is a case in point. Your enemies are our enemies.”

Salutes to you my friend! Your martyrdom will be avenged by the victorious Revolution of the Kurdish people.

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The Ainkurunuru

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on September 1, 2017

9780231150651A fascinating work. Though the poems are concerned with the ‘interior landscape’ of individuals – love, sex, the home, the family, separation, longing, ecstasy, frustration, contentment – they also throw light on the geography of the Tamil world two millennia back. Centered around the heterosexual couple, a key character in these poems is the “thozhi”, or the female friend of the heroine, who not only acts as messenger between the couple in times of distress, but also functions as a sort of a marriage and relationship counselor. (The vulgar modern day equivalent of the thozhi of course is the “nanben da”, the duffer-friend of the hero of Tamil cinema who crudely takes on the role of the thozhi. Remember Vivek or Santhanam.)

Selby has done a brilliant translation of the Ainkurunuru. Tamils should be eternally grateful to these ‘westerners’ who have taken our classics to the wider world, and have also opened windows to the aesthetics of the ancient Tamil world to those Tamils who have lost touch with their language (I partially include myself in this list) but are keen to learn about their own culture. Anyone interested in Tamil history, anyone interested in poetry, and anyone interested in love must own a copy of this book.

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Confession

Posted in General by Karthick RM on January 19, 2017

In Absolute Recoil, Zizek makes extensive reference to Hayden White’s Metahistory. I recollected that this was a core reading in my MA history course at JNU. However, JNU was an ‘infantile disorder’ phase for me (a phase that several of my ex-comrades have been unable to grow out of). To me at that time, White along with several other critical historiographers were bourgeois and I studiously avoided studying them, gorging instead on Mao. To be honest, anyone whose language was too complicated was bourgeois to me. Though I grew out of juvenile ultra-leftist leanings by the last semester at JNU, this anti-intellectualist leaning continued into my PhD. Fortunately, a good friend and a great activist advised me to take theory seriously – in quite harsh words. It was the sting I required, without which I might have been immersed in effete activism and not have finished my PhD in time. Of course, I do not regret the experience gained by activism, but I think I got that at the cost of valuable knowledge in the classroom. Of my very few regrets in life, the top most would be not reading Lacan when I had the time and chance! I guess I understood my true calling a bit late, but early enough to make amends. I am an academic with a cause, not an academic in a cause. And as my guru Zizek advised many a time, I have fully overcome the seduction to act! So I think…

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Finishing Don Quixote!

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on December 29, 2016

Akira Kurosawa says somewhere that to have lived on the earth without having seen a Satyajit Ray movie is to have lived without seeing the sun and the moon. I would use this quite hyperbolic statement for a person who has lived a literate life without reading Cervantes’ masterpiece. I began reading Don Quixote in November 2015 – I finally finished it today! Reading this book was like working on my dissertation’s chapters, most of which I began working on just 2 weeks before the deadline. I had ample time to complete reading this classic novel. But in between, I read several other shorter books and short stories, cleared my viva and got my PhD, got my first peer-reviewed journal article published, presented at two big conferences, wrote book reviews, got a job, shifted my home to another city, and fell in love and got married!

Eventually in November this year, after only finishing about 400 pages of a 932 page book, I decided I will close this novel and get back to it later in life, having not completed it for over a year. However, when it comes to reading novels, there is nothing I detest as much as closing a book without finishing it (the only exception to this rule is James Joyce’s Ulysses – I tried reading it during the 2nd year of my PhD but decided after 30 pages that it was a novel for me when I am 40). So, in the last two weeks, I managed to finish the remainder of the book. Really, reading such a work requires commitment to continuity and discipline. And what a novel! While my general mood is misanthropic, it is works like these that makes one root for human civilization.

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On Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on December 12, 2016

Read full article on The Wire

“Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is not hostile towards any minority or ethnic group and does not claim to represent any nationalism or ethnocentrism. It even eschews the progressive anti-Brahminism of the erstwhile Dravidian movement and claims to represent all sections, upper-caste and lower-caste alike. Although it has a strong base among the Thevar castes, AIADMK also enjoys considerable popularity among other intermediate and lower castes, as proven by its win over the Vanniyar-based PMK and the Adidravida-based VCK in the recent elections.

The AIADMK is also not anti-Communist in its discourse since its Puratchi Thalaivar (revolutionary leader) MGR and his protégé Jayalalithaa, the Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader, feminised), claim to be spearheading societal progress and change. In practice, neither MGR nor Jayalalithaa have allowed any form of trade unionism to emerge under their rule. For instance, brutal police operations against Naxal supporters under MGR’s rule caused no public outrage. Likewise, whenever parliamentary communist parties have fought elections against Jayalalithaa, they have been  faced with electoral decimation.

That leaves only the DMK as a powerful and credible challenge to the AIADMK. If the party is consistent on one thing, it is its opposition to the DMK and even this is not on ideological grounds; it only claims to be a better DMK.

AIADMK is marked by an explicit absence of ideology. But then, it is only in its absence that ideology becomes most imminent.”

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After Jayalalithaa… Few Comments

Posted in Politics by Karthick RM on December 12, 2016

It is not a failure of the Dravidian movement that a Brahmin woman took over a Dravidian party; the fact that she has defended OBC, SC and ST reservations and the TN government has implemented the same without any tampering whatsoever is a testimonial to the movement’s success.

***

Despite being sworn enemies, the DMK leadership has shown remarkable decency in their condolence messages for JJ. At such times, one is tempted to ask, would have the AIADMK responded in a similar manner had it been the DMK leader who passed away? If the AIADMK’s response to Murasoli Maran’s demise in 2003 is any indicator, it would have been quite depressing. This is of course, a negative speculation. In 2016, maybe, could one positively speculate that a level of political decency has been reached among the parties? Full credits to the DMK for their gestures – even if it was purely symbolic, symbols do matter to politics. And I hope the AIADMK also responds reciprocally when the time arises…

DMK leaders making filthy sexist remarks on Jayalalithaa has been noted and criticized by Indian journalists writing obituaries for her today – I hope they are also sensible and sensitive enough to record and criticize filthy casteist remarks made by AIADMK leaders on Karunanidhi when they write articles about the DMK patriarch in the future. Verbal abuse, sexist or/and casteist innuendos, character assassinations, unrepentant logical fallacies are commonplace not just in the political terrain of Dravidian politics – but also among intellectuals, writers, poets, literary critics in the Tamil scene. Observing some of their fb walls for a few days will give one access to a litany of swear words.

Political decency (which is VERY different from political correctness) is important. It is the grounds on which democratic dialogue can sustain itself. In the absence of any radical Third, the Dravidian parties are the only bulwark against a marauding Hindutva mobilization. If the time comes, only if there is political dialogue between the two main parties, can there be an effective, democratic opposition to the Hindi-Hindu centralization that is going on. And this is the time for the DMK and AIADMK to identify their political enemy not in each other, but elsewhere. Hope the next gen leaders are up to it!

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JJ’s demise has brought out all sorts of charlatans into public view. Analysts praising her feminism. Journos scripting a K. Balachander story of an innocent Brahmin woman cheated by unscruplous non-Brahmin thugs. DK defending the Sasikala crime syndicate. Hindutva supporters opposing Sasikala on ethical grounds. Lefty critics equating JJ with Modi and trivializing the latter’s crimes. Ultra-Dalitist critics equating JJ with MK and ignoring the former’s vastly superior social capital. DMK critics of Mannargudi Mafia acting as though Azhagiri does not exist. AIADMK critics… well, no such thing exists.

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Unpacking My Library

Posted in Society and Culture by Karthick RM on November 12, 2016

Read full essay at Outlook.  

“Even with help from my partner, it took me two full days to unpack and arrange my books. While surveying them in the process of writing this article, I couldn’t help but wonder why some books were placed here and not there, why have I purchased the same book twice, why have I not yet opened some books, why have I not yet finished the books I have opened, why are there some books still on the market and not on my shelf… The book collecting passion is not just a “chaos of memories” as Benjamin said; it is also a chaos of the future. Gaps in my bookracks gape at me, demanding to be filled. The last book to be added to my philosophy shelf and thereby filling it was Leszek Kolakowski’s Is God Happy? And now, I need to create more space for future philosophy books without disturbing the order that I have established. Or maybe I will introduce a little anarchy…”

 

 

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Why Clinton Got Trumped

Posted in International, Politics by Karthick RM on November 12, 2016

Originally published on The Huffington Post

The white working class is the American equivalent of the Indian Backward Castes in political and economic terms. Though they form the majority and though they suffer the most (as much as non-whites) from America’s disastrous economic policies, they are only seen by posh urban multiculturalists as backward villains, racists, xenophobes, inbred dimwits – or simply, “white trash”. The term “white trash” is so broad that it can be used to refer to any white person who cannot afford elite education, who lives a life that has none of the multicultural or multiracial glamour of a cosmopolis.

And what do you know – according to a report of voting patterns in North Carolina, “Trump is getting 70 percent of white male voters with no college education.” That is, the untouchables whom Clintonists would never dream of campaigning with. Bernie Sanders had a chance to win them over. But like most leftist leaders today, he shot himself in the foot when he compromised to an ultra-elitist, bank and arms industry favoured, war-mongering.. err… feminist. How to understand the ‘to defeat Trump, we need to ally with Clinton’ argument then? Through Hollywood of course!

In Jurassic World, you have the cruel genetically altered mega-monster Indominus Rex which goes on an indiscriminate killing spree of anyone in its path. To defeat it, the humans ‘strategically ally’ with Tyrannosaurus Rex (which is also a genetically altered monster that wreaked havoc in earlier movies, but that history is conveniently forgotten). In the climax, T-Rex saves the humans from Indominus Rex and rules over Jurassic World like a triumphant, well um, liberal democrat. But a radical ending to this movie would have been to show T Rex defeating Indominus Rex and proceeding to eat the humans. That would have been the fate of Sanders’ politics had Clinton won; any leftist core in it would have been swallowed by the wave of triumphant militaristic liberalism. Now at least Sanders and co have time to introspect on what went terribly wrong for the American left.

I did think Clinton will win. But America has voted anti-establishment for the first time in several decades. Trump had all odds stacked against him – the lefty media and the corporates, pacifists and the arms-industry big wigs, Occupy and Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and George W. Bush. And yet he won. A pity that this anti-establishment candidate is a racist bigot, and not a left-wing leader who could mobilise America’s majority and minorities against the establishment.

But what is the most radical thing the American left has done in recent times besides vomiting theoretically hollow jargon and preaching practically unfeasible activism in infantile ultraleftist forums like CounterPunch and Jacobin? And will the liberal writers who are cribbing about the “audacity of hopelessness” and pitifully wetting the pages of the NY Times with their tears ever comprehend that liberalism has exhausted its limits? Perversely, the only happy thing in these dark times is to see stupid people like these cry!

Because, America is not Berkeley University. America cannot be controlled with trigger warnings about microagression. America cannot be restrained under a fragile tyranny of political correctness. America cannot (and should not) bear the great white guilt and hence, they have voted in a great white shark. America has spoken today and the verdict is out.

#RIPClinton