It was noxious. On a poster, a young African woman is resting on the ground, her breasts are exposed, one leg bent suggestively. Right behind her, a wild-looking black girl with red hair is wagging her hips.
What I am observing is not an ancient pornographic cartoon. It is an old, official poster, which is advertising a so-called ‘human zoo’, or as it used to be called in French: ‘Jardin Zoologique D’Acclimatation’. And it is not hanging somewhere around Pigalle, but in a highly ‘respectable’ Army Museum, Musée de l’Armée, in the enormous palace – Hôtel national des Invalides – near the Military School, Napoleon’s Tomb and the headquarters of UNESCO.
On this matter, Iman Hassan wrote for ‘Africa Matters’ in 2013:
“In the 19th and 20th century, Human Zoos were public exhibits of indigenous people to demonstrate the customs and lifestyles of the ‘uncivilized’ in comparison to the ‘civilized’ western nations. The infamous ‘Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation’ was used as a means for the imperialist tyrants to feed their fascination with pseudo-scientific studies. In particular, surrounding racial differences amongst them and the indigenous nations they colonized. The Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation housed various ethnic groups who had all been subsequently taken from their homelands and relocated to Paris as species for the human exhibit. As I began to read more and more about this institution, I came across an article titled ‘Les Somalis au Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation’ which elaborated on the experiences of the Somalis inhabiting the exhibit in Paris. The zoo was one huge scientific exhibition to reaffirm the ignorant belief that Western culture was the pinnacle of social evolution. The zoo housed a caravan filled with twenty-six Somali children, men and women, who all belonged to various tribes, including the tribe my father belonged too…”
The Army Museum in Paris is also where posters that glorify the mass murder of African people are still proudly hanging on its walls, side by side with the ‘artworks’ celebrating the French conquest of Madagascar.
I spoke to the museum guards. I wanted to know whether there was more information available inside this museum – about the colonial onslaught and the countless genocides.
André has consistently talked about the plight of the poor,destitute and unrepresented masses the world over. He does it day after day, month after month and year after year. He is not a passing journalist “posted” to a country but instead a revolutionary on the go ready to put his life on the line for the people.
This report is from behind the lines, from the real South Africa that has broken free from its shackles and will reassert herself. Sure, there is much to be done and hopefully it will be done. We should always question one sided simplistic reporting from the mainstream press. André sums it up well when he says:
“ Realizing that ‘socialist’ is once again seen as something positive, at least by billions of people all over the world, the Western propaganda is now using a very effective weapon of deception – it portrays countries like South Africa and China as ‘not socialist enough’, or even as ‘more capitalist than those countries in the West’. Unfortunately, it is an extremely effective tool of trickery.
On the other hand, brutally capitalist or feudal countries like India or Indonesia are hailed as ‘democratic’ and tolerant, even if these countries are openly devouring their own miserably poor majorities. “
Soweto is not just a suburb of Johannesburg located right near the mining belt; it is an enormous urban sprawl, with over 1.2 million inhabitants. It is more populous than Boston or Amsterdam.
It used to be a place synonymous with misery, with sadness, with the depravity of apartheid.
This is the township where Nelson Mandela lived with his first family and then with his second wife, Winnie. This is from where he was forced underground in 1961, before being arrested one year later and sentenced to life in prison by the pro-Western apartheid regime.
The West is striking again; it is stabbing the very center, the heart of the Arab World.
This time it is targeting the group – ISIS – which it created itself, and which it had been arming, feeding and pampering until just very recently.
Airplanes and missiles are flying, and bombs are falling. The war has begun.
But is it really a war, or just a brutal game, a gigantic PlayStation operated by thousands of hooked-up maniacs in the Pentagon and all over Washington, Brussels and some servile capitals in the Middle East?
A war is, after all, when two sides are facing each other, when two sides fight, when two sides are risking their lives.
In this surreal and post-modern ‘war’, the only victims will be the people of the Middle East, most likely civilians. Their lives will be risked by those who are sitting, in safety, on their destroyers and in control rooms, hundreds and thousands of miles away, drinking coffee and cracking jokes.
The Übermenschen of the West will not descend from the sky, in order to fight, – man to man – in order to minimize the casualties of a peaceful population. The killing will be done by Tomahawks and F22’s (at least those have real pilots), and by drones.
This is actually not a war but a massacre, a mass murder.
How outrageous, how heartbreaking, how truly grotesque! Windhoek City – the capital of Namibia – is, at one extreme full of flowers and Mediterranean-style villas, and at the other, it is nothing more than a tremendous slum without water or electricity.
And in between, there is the town center– with its Germanic orderly feel, boasting ‘colonial architecture’, including Protestant churches and commemorative plaques mourning those brave German men, women and children, those martyrs, who died during the uprisings and wars conducted by local indigenous people.
The most divisive and absurd of those memorials is the so-called “Equestrian Monument”, more commonly known as “The Horse” or under its German original names, Reiterdenkmal and Südwester Reiter (Rider of South-West). It is a statue inaugurated on 27 January 1912, which was the birthday of the German emperor Wilhelm II. The monument “honors the soldiers and civilians that died on the German side of the Herero and Namaqua ‘War’ of 1904–1907’”.
That ‘war’ was not really a war; it was nothing more than genocide, a holocaust.
And Namibia was a prelude to what German Nazis later tried to implement on European soil.
A European expert working for the UN, my friend, speaks, like almost everyone here, passionately, but without daring to reveal her name:
“The first concentration camps on earth were built in this part of Africa… They were built by the British Empire in South Africa and by Germans here, in Namibia. Shark Island on the coast was the first concentration camp in Namibia, used to murder the Nama people, but now it is just a tourist destination – you would never guess that there were people exterminated there. Here in the center of Windhoek, there was another extermination camp; right on the spot where “The Horse” originally stood.”
“The Horse” was recently removed from its original location, and placed in the courtyard of the old wing of The National Museum, together with some of the most outrageous commemorative plaques, glorifying German actions in this part of the world. Nothing was destroyed, instead just taken away from prime locations.
Where “The Horse” stood, there now stands a proud anti-colonialist statue, that of a man and a woman with broken shackles, which declares, “Their Blood Waters Our Freedom”.
Germany never officially apologized for its crimes against humanity in what it used to call German South-West Africa. It did not pay reparations.
Many North American intellectuals have this ongoing love affair with everything that is European, particularly with the European ‘social system’ and ‘European culture’.
It is a deadly, shameful obsession; partially based on a desperate desire to maintain the belief that the West is not finished, yet, and that to a great extent it is still superior to the rest of the world. Europe is portrayed as ‘unique’, as different to the United States, as something that is worth admiring… or at least its past and its essence.
It is never propounded or defined like that, of course, but this belief (and yes, it really resembles a religious faith) indirectly points out that it is quite legitimate that the West (or at least a big part of the West) continues its rule over our planet.
It is obvious that many men and women from the Left, living in North America, actually believe in Western “Exceptionalism”; not that of the United States, but that of Europe.
North American Eurocentric intellectuals tell us indirectly or even directly, that the US is some kind of desperado, which is derailing that wonderful, that glorious, centuries old, European cultural process, and the quest for egalitarianism.
Europe is often shown as a contrast, or counter-pole, to the United States, to its brutal selfishness and turbo capitalism… This is how the reality is depicted in so many progressive films, books and essays.
“Who is it, that strange lady with an axe in her hand and with a covered face – the lady whose name is Democracy?” This question, as a haunting leitmotif, is going through one’s mind while reading Fighting Against Western Imperialism and lingers long after the last page of the book is turned. The author of the book, André Vltchek, is one of a few noble knights of investigative journalism who travel to all the dangerous places in the world, “speak truth to power,” and report on the events on the ground in order that people could open their eyes and minds and learn the seemingly incongruent fact that there are millions and millions of innocents, people like you and me, who were and still are being sacrificed in the name of western-style democracy.
This is not an easy essay to write. I have been postponing it for several weeks. But I have many readers all over the world who trust me, and they encourage me to tell the truth, as I perceive it. And I will continue doing so, for them, even when the topic is complex and somehow uncomfortable.
Let me begin by saying that I fully support freedom for Palestine; I demand that the Palestinian people be allowed to have their own state, and to have their pride and dignity restored. Not ‘soon’ but now, and even ‘now’ is too late!
I condemn Israel, for being the Rottweiler of the West in the Middle East, for its bellicose approach in the region, for its brutality towards Palestinian people, and for its endemic dishonesty.
I have stood by the Palestinian people on several occasions: In Gaza and the West Bank, in Hebron and Bethlehem, in the Rafah Refugee Camp. I stood by them physically, not just in an abstract way, fighting, at least verbally, with the Israeli border guards, having rubber-coated bullets flying all around me, dashing illegally from Jerusalem to Bethlehem with my Israeli activists and Marxist friends.
India, where are you? Are you really in the BRICS camp, fighting for a new, free world, or are you now in bed with your former colonial master and her mighty offshoot?
India, a BRICS country, is actually nowhere to be seen while Brazil, South Africa, Russia and China are increasingly facing hostile attacks. India is not helping, as the United States and Europe are now manufacturing all sorts of ‘opposition movements’ inside countries that are still in the West’s path to total and unopposed global dominance.
India, a BRICS country, is silent as both China and Russia are being encircled, provoked and stabbed; at a time when their neighboring countries are constantly being pitched against them, ideologically and militarily.
India, a BRICS country, does not seem to mind as the US increases its military presence in Asia, from Okinawa to the Philippines and Qatar, or when Russia is being demonized and provoked by insane propaganda and by lunatic sanctions, imposed by the West which is actually the one that overthrew the Ukrainian government, putting in place a brutal fascist dictatorship.
And as the Western mass media outlets are now in top gear, spreading propaganda all over the world; the Indian newspapers, magazines and television stations, are dutifully reprinting and repeating the many vitriolic lies and fabrications, in exactly the same way as the Philippine and Indonesian business-owned media outlets are doing. But the Philippines and Indonesia are the West’s client states, and they do not belong to BRICS, while India does, at least on paper.
In the Economic & Political Weekly, published in 2013, Atul Bhardwaj wrote:
“India has got itself trapped into an anti-Chinese matrix set in place by the United States. This has led to a situation where the military is increasing its say in foreign and domestic policy and pushing aggressive postures on to the civilian government. Unless India abandons its aspirations to great power status and pursues a foreign policy which builds on Asian cooperation and strengths, it will continue to become cannon fodder for western strategic aims.”
That’s correct, but it is not only the anti-Chinese matrix; it is the staunchly pro-Western matrix that is serving India’s ruling elites, and it is the matrix of disinformation and ignorance imposed on the members of the underprivileged majority.
I went back to India to see where the country really stands in relation to BRICS. I opted for a very much unplanned, chaotic, jazzy and spontaneous journey. I wanted to speak to those of the Indian majority; to people in the villages and towns, to ask them what they really know about BRICS, about the new winds of freedom and progress that are blowing all over Latin America, about tremendous social changes in China, and about their own lives in the country, which the West continually defines as ‘the largest democracy on earth’.
Two village women are covered from head to toe in colorful fabric, and unlike in Saudi Arabia where only the eyes are visible, but totally. They are carrying huge crooked tin plates on their heads, and those plates are full of cow dung.
The village is called Karora, it is located almost 200 kilometers north from New Delhi, in Haryana State.
It is here that, in 2007, a newlywed couple was murdered in cold blood, after the assembly of village elders, Panchayat, passed ‘the verdict’. Both the girl (18) and boy (23) were only ‘guilty’ of belonging to the same sub-clan.
The Deccan Herald reported then:
“In June 2007, the couple was dragged out of a Karnal-bound bus by the girl’s relatives and was brutally murdered. Their bodies were paraded in the village and then dumped in a canal.”
We did not come here to only discuss honor killing and the horrible lot of Indian women; we came here to this remote corner of Haryana to discuss what the West calls ‘the biggest democracy on earth’, and above all, how India really fits into the BRICS, and to their determined fight against Western imperialism and market fundamentalism.
Yes, India is part of BRICS; but it is feudal in the countryside and capitalist in the cities. It is increasingly close to its colonial master and to the grand Empire.
We could not see the expression on the faces of the two Karora village women when we asked them about democracy, voting, women’s rights, caste oppression and honor killing. But the first female began speaking, bravely if reluctantly, in front of an entire army of onlookers:
“I’m only a poor village woman, how can I know such things? I have to work for 14 hours every day to make out a living for my family. My husband doesn’t have any regular work, and he is an alcoholic. I’m constantly worried about my children going hungry. The government doesn’t care about people like us and I don’t know who else could help. I’m very afraid so I can’t talk more about the caste system or honor killings. Women have no freedom here. “
The second lady echoes her, and then adds:
“I know the family of the eloped couple who suffered at the hands of Panchayat but I can’t talk about it. I’m afraid of such things. Women have no freedom here. Most of us are struggling to survive and I don’t know how things could be better, anytime soon. About democracy: I don’t know how the election could improve living conditions in this village and I don’t know about people’s movement in other countries or about things that are happening elsewhere.”
Soon, the crowd of onlookers begins to participate in the discussion.
The youths surrounded us to find out the reason for our sudden appearance in their village.
A boy named Biswan, wearing a black T-shirt, explained:
“My impression of what they call ‘Indian democracy’ and of the political parties that are participating in this game is… that it is a pattern of appealing for votes by some political party, with the inducement of local liquor by their men to the villagers, one day before every election day, then disappearing, to be never seen again for the next 5 years. We don’t have work here nor can anyone make a decent living with earnings here. I don’t feel this type of democracy works for us… We still haven’t got real freedom.”
Then the village youths begin speaking over each other:
“Money talks here, we are all educated to some degree, but only those who can afford to bribe some officials manage to get regular employment. We are poor villagers and unaware of developments in our own country, then how can we know about China, Latin America or other countries?”
The forlorn expression on the faces of the villagers showed their frustration, even resignation. Most certainly, we saw no hope and no enthusiasm here.
Our driver, Sunil, appeared to be extremely unhappy to be here. “In these villages, they have already torched so many cars belonging to those who came to ask questions!”
I insist that we have to finish our work here, in the heart of Haryana State. The driver fumes. He drives us around, missing the motorway a few times, but after we activate our navigation system, he gives up and just gets us where we want to go.
Later, in Delhi, my good friend and colleague, Anish, calls me and explains:
“Before he dropped me home, he said that he was so mad at you, he was ready to drive into a tree and kill us all.
“Kill us?” I thought I misunderstood.
“Yes. You may want to know that he was a soldier, serving in Kashmir… He told me that much, just a few minutes ago. We had a chat… He said he was court-martialed, because he killed a few civilians there. In Kashmir, in 1996, he was on a mission to capture members of some insurgency group, but things went wrong and the people he was after, had fled… So he opened fire on civilians, killing several of them. He said he used a LMG inside the house, emptying 2 magazines of ammunition, killing at least 3 civilians… Just like that!”
“Why is he driving a taxi?” I asked. “Isn’t he supposed to be in prison?”
Anish just commented, laconically:
“When we discussed this, he was depressed. Not because of what he had done, but because he was caught and punished. He said to me: ‘was I to have managed to kill at least one insurgent, then even if I killed dozens of civilians, I would never have got court-martialed.”
I wondered whether this approach is one that would really serve as an inspiration for the BRICS countries.
Some 1,500 kilometers from Karora Village, in Mumbai, a monster building belonging to the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, is allegedly the most expensive dwelling ever constructed on this planet.
Arundhati Roy describes Ambani’s home in her book “Capitalism A Ghost Story”:
“…The twenty seven floors, three helipads, nine lifts, hanging gardens, ballrooms, weather rooms, gymnasiums, six floors of parking, and six hundred servants… In a nation of 1.2 billion, India’s one hundred richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of the GDP.”
But to own all those billions is not enough. In order to rule, in order to fully control society, this small group of modern day rajas has to always find a way to morally justify their medieval, feudalist behavior.
The most effective way to do it is through almost total control of the media. Arundhati Roy continues:
“Mukesh Ambani is personally worth $20 billion. He holds a majority-controlling share in Reliance Industries Limited (RIL)… RIL recently bought 95 shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls twenty-seven TV news and entertainment channels, including CNN-IBN, IBN Live, CNBC, IBN Lokmat, and ETV in almost every regional language. Infotel owns the only nation-wide license for 4G broadband, a high-speed information pipeline which, if the technology works, could be the future of information exchange.”
The criticism of Indian elites does not only come from the Left. Conservative British news magazine, The Economist, recently ran its cover story about Ambani: “An Unloved Billionaire”, asking the rhetorical question “Why Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, needs to reform his empire”:
“Reliance’srelationship with the government is even more troubling. Anti-corruption campaigners claim Mr Ambani is the power behind the throne of India’s political leaders…”
In Indian ‘democracy’, the real rulers of the country pay politicians, to get to the top, while the voters get paid to vote a certain way, which is suitable to the regime. Mass media shapes public opinion constantly, so it stays exactly where the elites want it to stay.
From an amazing tolerance level for medieval oppressive ‘cultural practices’, to the gross cruelty towards women and ethnic/religious minorities, India is hardly a beacon of light for other BRICS nations, or, for the rest of the world. The way its economy, election practices, foreign policy and government systems are structured, the Indian state is much closer to MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey – although in this group, too, there is Mexico, which is, despite everything, culturally and historically, in the Social Democratic camp), a group which, if allowed to join BRICS, would surely destroy their political and social direction: (http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/15/the-challenge-to-the-west/).
But the West is always extremely generous towards its allies and economic cohorts. It promotes and glorifies those countries that are willing to sacrifice their people, throwing them on the sacrificial altar of global market fundamentalism.
Therefore, for the West, both Indonesia and India, two enormous and impoverished countries, are the true democratic and economic stars!
DLF Promenade in Vasant Kunj is a symbol of new wealth, hosting some of the top international retail brands, from Armani to Prada.
There are literally armies of guards, some in their white butler informs, others armed with guns. Photographing is prohibited. Surveillance is constant, just as in every place frequented by the elites.
Situated right near the DLF Promenade is the Khushampur Pahari slum, a place that is miserable and rough. Children move around aimlessly and barefoot. It is not as dirty as many of the much bigger settlements in Mumbai or Calcutta are, but still, people here are clearly desperate and deprived.
Mr. Jagdish is a ‘wage laborer’, not permanently employed:
“I have no regular work and the system is geared for the rich. We, poor people who form the great majority in India, don’t count.”
I ask him about the mall, but he insists on calling it ‘that huge building’:
“There is that huge building, but I don’t go there. They built it nearby, but I would never be allowed to enter. I would be beaten up if I try to go there.”
He looks into the distance:
“We are struggling here to meet basic needs. We don’t have clean drinking water and before each election they offer us free electricity supply and water. Promises that are never fulfilled; they lie to us. And they have always lied, whether it is the Congress Party or BJP…”
Electric poles and wires hang loosely above the roofs of the settlement. I ask whether people here are managing to get free electricity supply, by simply stealing the juice as they do in Peru or in Haiti, but the answer is resolutely ‘no’. They check on them, constantly. In fact, people here suffer from gross overcharging by the private company, Reliance Energy(owned by Anil Ambani, brother of the richest man in the country, the abovementioned Mukesh Ambani), which supplies power to this entire area.
“We are receiving a 1,000 Rs (approximately US$16) bill, every month”, explains an old couple next door. “On top of it we have to bribe employees of the electric company, to keep the connection. We have to go begging to more fortunate neighborhoods for water, and it is not always that the people there are willing to help us.”
An old man in the house actually follows what is happening in the world:
“I am aware of changes that are taking place in China, but our government is not doing the same things for us. Here, things are so bad that if we fall seriously ill, we simply die.”
“What about democracy?” I ask.
“Democracy is for the rich.”
Mr. Jagdish chips in: “As you heard, political parties come here, and they promise us free electricity and water, but nothing happens after the elections. Democracy is not working for us; it is the tool for the people with money to keep in power.”
Down an alley, a lady with a child confirms that there is no supply of clean water to this settlement.
Eventually, small barefoot children begin begging.
The ITC Hotel manager in Jaipur, Rajasthan, philosophizes:
“Arvind Kejriwal from AAM Admi Party (AAP) was very critical of the private media, and the mass media got extremely angry with him… You see; Arvind Kejriwal could become the Indian answer to the Latin American leadership!”
So I go to see him and his people.
On 3 August 2014, at the ancient star observatory, Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, Aam Aadmi party held a mass gathering consisting of around 5,000 local residents, who were demanding fresh elections. There were fiery speeches coming from the podium and the AAP’s leader, Arwind Kerjiwal, agitated the dense crowd with anti-corruption slogans, swearing he would implement reforms, were he to be voted in, back into the office. He was also promising to improve the lot of common man. The reigning cry of the day was of getting rid of the oppressor ruling class through the democratic contest of the ballot boxes.
Here, surely, people knew something about BRICS and the Latin American revolutions?
But it was not the case. The campaign was almost exclusively about corruption.
Mr.Pawan Das, a cable manufacturer from the Shahdara constituency, spoke about the impact of AAP and the ex-chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, and his former 49 days rule in Delhi:
“I noticed the policeman in our factory who used to extort Rs.300 bribe money from me every month, didn’t turn up for 3 months. I egged him on to collect his extortion dues on coming across him, and enquired as to why he didn’t come to get the money, to which he replied, evasively, that he was posted on an election duty. I retorted: ‘were you really engaged in any election duty or got scared by the fear of prosecution instituted by Arvind Kejriwal’s strong anti-corruption measures?’
But BRICS or the fight against Western imperialism – definitely not!
“On asking about their stance on India’s strengthening alliance with the American government and India’s unassuming posture at BRICS meeting, all of them expressed their unawareness about such matters”, explained Anish, in rather decorative language.
Then, at Jantar Mantar, we encountered several individuals who clearly demonstrated the art of sitting on two chairs.
Both Mr. Deepak Lal and his wifevoiced their favorable opinion about the strengthening of ties with America:
“It’s in the interest of India to be a great partner in creating alternatives to the dominant paradigm offered by the U.S., but at the same time India-US relations should remain unaffected”.
Another old couple went on in an even more Kafkaesque manner:
“US-India relation is the way to the rise of India along with creating alignments leading to a multipolar world”.
At the May Day Bookstore in New Delhi, after an avant-garde theatre performance, I met my friend Sudhanva. Comrade Sudhanva Deshpande, is the editor of LeftWord Books, as well as a famous Indian intellectual and actor. He explained:
“You are absolutely right posing the question: “Where is India in all this? It is very a good question because it is well known that for the last several years, a decade or more, Indian foreign policy had turned more and more towards the US. A few years ago, India conducted the Indo-US nuclear deal. That led to a lot of opposition back home, here in India, but the government went ahead with the deal. The Hindu right became more and more oriented towards the US. The government also argued for much closer ties with the Israel. As you know, India is the biggest buyer of Israeli arms in the world today.”
“Earlier this year, in May, in the general elections, the party of the Hindu right, which is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), came to power. It is led by Narendra Modi, the man who is widely seen as being complicit in the pogrom of Muslims, in his homestay, Gujarat, in 2002, when he was a chief minister. His campaign was a very muscular campaign, a very macho campaign… He presented himself and his party as aggressively nationalist. The pre-election campaign was marked by anti-Muslim violence and rhetoric. As for foreign policy, there had been a long-term trend for more and more orientation towards the West, towards the US. In the current aggression on Gaza, for instance, the Indian government took the stand of so-called ‘equidistance’ from both Israel and Hamas, and this is really… this is compromising India’s long-term commitment to the cause of Palestinian independence. And this goes back to even the 1940’s, when India was not even independent.
The fact that India itself was a colony, and that it fought an anti-colonial struggle – it all seems now as a distant memory.”
I asked Sudhanva about BRICS, concretely: “Is it even possible that India, where it stands right now, could and should be considered as a member of BRICS?”
“I think right now, Indian foreign policy is trying to calibrate its position”, he replies”.
And he continued:
“On one hand there is a trend towards more and more alignment with the US, and on closer and closer ties with Israel. So that’s on the one side. On the other side there are also hard economic realities. And that is what forced the Indian establishment to look towards formations like the BRICS. If indeed it so happens that BRICS will not be just an economic club, but if it starts taking a more determined anti-imperialist position, then the Indian establishment would have to really decide, where it stands. I don’t see India taking an anti-imperialist stand anytime soon, beyond some lip service.”
We talk about the past, about India’s determined anti-imperialist stand in its post-colonial period. Nehru brought this country to Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, where the Non-Aligned movement was created.
“India abandoned the Non-Alignment movement, effectively, in the late 80’s. In some sense you can say that it happened in Delhi, in the early 80’s, that it was the swansong of the non-alignment movement… The fact was that India became more and more ambivalent towards the idea of non-alignment, which helped to terminate the movement, because India was such an important part of it.”
And then India took a neo-liberal turn, in the early 90’s, and even the past was forgotten.
What can be expected of the present nationalist government of Narendra Modi, in relation to BRICS?
Benny Kuruvilla is from Kerala, a recognized expert on BRICS, and political lead at the ‘South Solidarity Initiative’. I met him, and his Chilean wife, Susana Barria, a labor organizer, after a demonstration in support of Palestine, in front of the Kerala House, in the center of New Delhi.
Benny readily clarified:
“Modi and his government would be happy to be part of the Western alliance and of the BRICS… This is really an ultra-nationalist government, and it has to reassert its ideology… In the past it was all very different: during the Cold War, India was very close to Cuba, and to the USSR. Now that India has a very pronounced right-wing government, it is very reluctant to side with the anti-Western block. I don’t think India will go along with the idea that the Western concept should be cancelled. Indian Left-wing forces are very weak now, and this government is so happy to be part of big-boy’s club; for them it is the place in the sun! What is happening in BRICS and in Latin America is mainly monitored by the local intelligentsia; mainly by the upper class.”
Susana appeared to be more optimistic and hopeful, believing in change, and in a way she echoed what Noam Chomsky told me about the Arab world, several years ago:
“Look, some 5 years before Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela, everything was bleak, in many parts of Latin America. We did not think that everything would be reversed so fast. We should not underestimate that things could change very fast.”
But India is not Venezuela. All three of us agreed that the Indian Left is too ‘purist’. It is stuck in theoretical definitions of what Communism or Socialism should be. For its taste, China is not socialist enough; most of the Latin American countries are not really purely Marxist. In the end, much is being discussed here, but very little achieved.
The next day I asked my friend Anish Gopinathan, a former international banker who spent several years working in Dubai, before returning, disgusted, back to India and began studying the Chinese language, and culture, whether all that I asked and heard so far made any sense. He replied:
“Yes. In 2002 MP Modi was the Chief Minister in Gujarat, during the pogrom. For years, there was a US ban on him, a refusal to issue him an entry visa. That ban was lifted around the time of elections…”
The same happened in Indonesia, against Prabowo, an ultra-nationalist who was accused of crimes against humanity in Indonesia and blacklisted by the US Department of the State, but was quickly rehabilitated when he almost won the presidential elections earlier this year.
“Modi is pro-business and pro-West. But in a way, he can also sometimes stand against the West, and for India. You often mentioned the Indian colonial hangover, when Indian elites shamefully idealize the colonial era. Well, Modi is one politician who does not have this hangover… For instance, he insists on using Hindi at international meetings. All our elites were conditioned in the West: Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Manmohan Singh… But not Modi! In fact he represents a big break against that colonial hangover… But the price is – he wants his Hindu state!”
Hindu state… We flew to Varanasi, to the ‘holy city’ built on the banks of Ganga River. It is a depressing, oppressed and miserably poor city, but at the same time it is the place that the current MP – Mr. Modi – was elected from.
We went to Kashi Vishwanath Temple, to talk to Brahmin priests, about their vision for India.
The results were shocking.
Mr. Pandey spoke to us in front of two military sentinels guarding the entrance to the temple. He was a Brahmin priest, associated with this place of worship since his childhood:
“I am here, I am a priest, because… actually… I couldn’t get a job anywhere else. Really, no regular employment for me… And so, this is how I make a living… To me, religion is important, because it gives me some income… I like Americans, because they come here, and give us money… Somehow I sense that they feel good, giving us money… I have no idea about the developments in China, Russia or Latin America… I really don’t care.”
Mr. Shyama Prasad Sharma who also works for the temple, clarified his views:
“Latin America? BRICS? No, we don’t have time for stuff like that. We are busy here, at this temple, with business, with trade.”
What about something higher, more enlightened than that?
He walks away.
Anish is outraged:
“This is like some market place; market mentality. It is like some fish market or vegetable market, or stock market! No time for any big questions in life! This is what BJP is fighting for. Hindu state… It is exactly what the mullahs in Pakistan are trying to create in their madrasahs. A cold, religious society; the code of primitive society…”
Desperate, we approach a simple man, a vegetarian food vendor. His name is Mr. Anoop Upadhyaya and he somehow brings things into perspective:
“I voted for Modi because my parents ordered me to do it. I don’t expect much improvement from his government. If they deliver even some 25% of what they were promising us, I would be satisfied. We are always ‘Bhajpa’ (BJP)… That is what we are. We don’t think about it, don’t question it.”
We ask about BRICS.
He does not react, as if we were talking about some distant planet.
At some point I had had enough and I expressed a desire to visit some old-fashioned school to talk to teachers who were already there, teaching, before India entered the pragmatically-oblivious realm.
I was taken to Bhigan, just across the border from the capital, on the very edge of Haryana State, to a well-organized, clean and optimistic looking primary school.
I don’t know if what I saw was true or whether my friends were just being too kind to me, creating a spectacle, similar to that in the film ‘Goodbye Lenin’.
The educators and the principal – Mr. Kuldeep Singh Chavhan, as well as the history and physical education teacher – were extremely kind, knowledgeable and supportive.
We all expressed our admiration for the Soviet Union, and then we condemned Western imperialism.
“Friendship with Russia!” Screamed one of the teachers.
“Israel is the oppressor! US are behind Israel!”
Then the Principal spoke:
“We are very well aware that the US is trying to buy India through its multi-national companies!’
Then I spoke.
It all felt like a scene from a long time ago, even before I was born…
We did not hug, kiss or embrace. We did not sing. But it all felt fantastic.
A dog barked outside.
Children began leaving the school. We were still speaking.
Then I asked about BRICS.
“There is an issue,” the Principal admitted. “I am not really aware of the BRICS’s cooperation with India.”
“But…” I howled: “India is member of BRICS.”
“But Modi went to Brazil!”
“I don’t know”, said the Principal, sadly.
‘It’s better if we sing!’ I thought.
From the other geographical extreme of the country, in the poorest Dalit villages around Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, my dear friend Venkat (he wanted to use only his first name for this report), a Cambridge-educated Brahmin, who was so appalled by the helplessness of the poor people, that he went against all that the upper cast and the elites represent, wrote to me:
“The Indian social and political landscape hasn’t changed in years. Like the distant mirage, new governments come and go giving hope to the parched souls who are soon left out to die with still hope in their eyes!
The new middle class, thanks to the growth of IT, has often been praised and written about but this is only a small percentage although in a country of this size even such small percentages works out to be huge in numbers!
An average rural person is still struggling to make ends meet and still hoping for the “paradise’ that every politician promises! There is no time to read, think, discuss about other issues that affect the nation or the world. Cricket stars, film stars and sleazy politics fascinate conveniently Indian media, as the mass media are only concerned about TRP ratings and not about what people think and want!
So, discussions about BRICS or what happens in Syria or Iraq doesn’t really matter. Many villagers accept the stereotypes that the western media has painted. For example – the US is the land of wealth; China means cheap goods, Latin America – Che on your T-shirts and Cigars, Africa- famine and dangerous diseases, Middle East- only war!
The education system is being so commercialized that Indian youth are actually produced in large numbers, lacking even the skills that Industry wants!
Unless ‘real’ education is given to our children, we may not have a ‘thinking’ population in the future. But only if people are educated, can we hope for a greater critical mass of intellectuals who can guide the country.”
After having our boarding passes scanned at the gate and before entering the airplane, passengers had to go through three more military checkpoints! The entire state of affairs appeared to be thoroughly Kafkaesque. This confused, frustrated ‘police state’ was using its military, cops and other armed forces to intimidate and to keep at bay its own citizens. It has been doing it, for decades, in the most open and despicable way.
I still remember how in Gujarat, after that horrid sectarian pogrom of 2002, the Akshardham Temple killing and both (then) Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Sonia Gandhi, decided to visit the area. A huge crowd gathered, to welcome the politicians. It was a very peaceful crowd, consisting mainly of poor onlookers. But the police began beating the people with batons, savagely, just ‘preventively’ I was told, as if it were the most natural thing on earth: ‘The largest democracy on earth at work’. Nobody dared to protest against such treatment.
After talking to many, it appears that the poor see it all very clearly now: in the villages and in the slums, they laugh and cry or gesticulate angrily whenever the word ‘democracy’ is uttered in front of them. Most of the poor (that is the great majority of the country) have no doubts that they are living in a country whose rulers and oligarchs, backed by the security apparatus, are alimenting on their sweat, misery and blood.
Those ‘educated classes’, including most of the intellectuals from the Indian ‘Left’, live in a continuous and great deception. Most of them are desperately clinging to the notion that has been spread by the old and new Western colonial masters: that India is actually the largest democracy on earth.
Even those individuals in India who see clearly that both European and North American ‘democracies’ are increasingly becoming nothing else other than a grand farce, do not dare to admit that their own, Indian, multi-party system (aped from the West) in which all major political parties are controlled by corporate interests, as most of the mass media is, have been totally failing to represent the interests of the Indian majority.
‘Democracy’ is not a secretive and complicated scientific formula. It only means, in Greek, ‘the rule of the people’. And it goes without saying that most of the long-suffering Indian people that I spoke to, do not feel that they are ruling their own country!
Just before I took off from Delhi, I found myself sitting right next to a member of the new local elites. A Sikh man, who began with the usual line of interrogation: where am I from, where do I live, what is my line of work? Dutifully and calmly, I replied. Then he offered his short biography: he was a manufacturer and owned 3 homes in 3 different parts of the world: one in India, one in Bangkok and one in Vancouver. “I am taking my family back to Bangkok, now”, he explained. “I have a wonderful house there. It is such a great place to live.”
“It is quite complicated there, lately”, I suggested, neutrally. “After the coup…”
My statement shocked him: “Why do you say that? It is all very simple. One and a half months ago it was complicated, but after the army took over, everything is great.”
“For you, maybe”, I said, “And for the Thai elites, as well as for their Western handlers.”
He gave me that look, indicating that I was actually nothing more than a piece of dirt to him; that very look, which has increasingly began appearing on the faces of the new Indian ‘elites’, in those 5 star malls and hotels, in both India itself, and in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, which are now inundated by corrupt Indian officials and businessmen.
The conversation ended: from then on, arrogantly, he refused to reply to anything that I uttered, ignoring my attempts to be at least essentially civil and polite to someone who was occupying the seat next to me.
I did not ask about BRICS. I knew what he would reply: “They should all go to hell!” or something of that nature.
BRICS countries have to maintain high standards, if they are to make a significant difference in this world. Their determination to fight against colonialism, imperialism and for true freedom for countries worldwide cannot and should not be diluted.
If states like Indonesia, with governments full of war criminals and mass murderers, and one of the most inhumane economic/social systems on earth, are allowed to join, if Turkey, a member of NATO and one of the closest allies of the West in the Middle East, with several Western air force and military bases, is allowed to join; if India, which is openly and shamelessly collaborating with the West while sitting on two chairs is allowed to maintain its membership, then BRICS will soon lose all of its clout as well as its moral upper-hand.
If such a scenario takes place, the world will lose an alternative, and that would be an enormous tragedy.
India matters. Its people matter! It is a great and important nation. It used to be ‘our nation’. It used to stand firmly against colonialism and imperialism. In many ways, and in many of its parts, it still does.
India should wake up. It is needed. It should rebel against the oppressive system, both domestic and global. And it should become a proud BRICS nation: with all its heart, and not just on paper!
Symbol of Indian democracy
André Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky:On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
The Saker is reaching a whole new generation of people across cultures and locations. We now publish in French, German and Russian with the help of a very enthusiastic community.
The Oceania Saker will bring you more varied voices, analysis and opinion from around the world. What better way to begin our journey than with Andre Vltchek, whose spirit so accurately captures what this blog will be about.
by André Vltchek
They hate us, because we are alive, and because we are walking and moving forward, sometimes stumbling, sometimes unsteady, but walking nevertheless.
All the while they are dragging all of humanity back into, dark nihilism, into terrible moods, dark sarcasm, and a feeling of hopelessness.
They hate us because we insist on doing things our own way, and because we put our people first, and sometimes we put deprived people all over the world, first. We do it more and more, often, whenever we can afford it.
While ‘they’ are putting their economic interests first, and in doing so, they torture, destroy and humiliate those that refuse to succumb, to kneel and to lick their boots.
For ages have been trying to destroy us, but we stood firm and we fought back, proudly. They invaded, ruined, burned our lands, and they murdered the people of Russia, of China and of the entire part of the world, now called Latin America. They, of course, also murdered and destroyed tens or hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East, in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
When I say ‘they’, I mean the West, and once again I refuse to make any distinction between the old colonial devils, Europe, and the new ones that come from the same roots, the same ‘culture’, but kill under the shade of their relatively new flags.
They hate us because we bled and cried over our dead, but we never gave up the struggle.
They only ‘acknowledge’ and glorify those who accept their regime, who have decided to collaborate, partially or fully: countries like India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kenya, and dozens of other “client” states, countries that are feeding that horrendous capitalist monster with the flesh of their own citizens.
‘They’ even invented ‘political correctness’ so the ‘culture’ of the oppressive and brutal regimes loyal to neo-colonialism, would evade being criticized or ridiculed in those ‘polite circles’ (lackey academia, mass media, etc.). Political correctness is not there to protect the majority of Indian or Indonesian people, but to shield their usurpers and exploiters, who wrap themselves hypocritically in their flags, as well as religions and cultural gowns.
They hate us for our dreams and for our laughter, for our confidence and determination. We are often hated not only by the Western global regime, but also by the majority of Western people, who are part of the system or at least to some degree, are beneficiaries of it.
The more they steal all over the world and the less we do than them, the more they smear us and claim that ‘we are the same’, robbing and ‘pushing for our interests’ in Africa and elsewhere. They own the mass media and they spill the poison of their lies through their press agencies and television networks, as well as the internet. Elites all over the world, owners of most of the local media, are then happy and always ready to disseminate these lies.
They hate us because they actually suspect that we are different, and the more they suspect it, the more they hate us; then the more they shout and scream that we are exactly like them, and perhaps even worse!
If the world they have created is total shit, then, they insist, the entire universe, even humanity itself, has to be swimming in the excrement.
But we are not like them.
They may be masters of propaganda, great puppeteers, but we, most of the time, refuse to lower ourselves to their level. We are trying to play fair, fighting fair and honest battles. We are trying to win honestly, not like the deceptive and sadistic scum. It is simply because we do want to play fair and also because we are so horrified by their bloodstained hands and mouths that we simply do not want to be like them, even when they are fighting us with all their might; even when they are trying to wipe us out, off the face of the earth.
For that, they hate us, too.
The more sincere we are, the more they slander us.
The more considerate we are, the more they accuse us of demagogy and deceit.
The more peaceful we are, the more they accuse us of being the aggressors.
The more pure our goals, the dirtier are their comments about our deeds.
Those right now that are collaborating hate us for not surrendering, because the collaborators always hate those that are free and proud, and resolute. Cowardly and angry servants, and slaves, are often much more vicious than their masters. Not always, but they often are.
The more comrades we lose, the more they hate us, because we refuse to kneel, and to beg them to stop killing us. We just grin through our teeth and keep walking forward. For humanity, for our beloved people…
The more united we are, the more they hate us. Latin America and China, as well as Russia, are now together. And several other great nations are joining us. We embraced. We embraced standing, proudly, voluntarily!
The nearer we are to achieving our main goal – the creation of a socialist, more humane and decent society on this planet – the more they hate us. They would rather obliterate our countries; even destroy them – nuke us – the entire planet, instead of accepting a global egalitarian society built on principles of social justice, true respect and non-interference.
The more reasonable and egalitarian we are trying to become, the more they hate us. We may not always succeed but they still hate us when we try, but fail. But when we get it right, when we succeed, then they go into top gear in their odium, assassinating our leaders, manufacturing and funding an ‘opposition’ in our countries, preparing and executing military coups against our leaders. How many ‘successful’ and failed coup attempts have we had, recently? Let us just recall a few: Honduras, Paraguay, Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine, and Libya…
But back to the main point: we do not yield! Not anymore. We refuse to yield. Their grotesque, idiotic, nihilist turbo-capitalist, neo-colonialist system and other fundamentalist dogmas, are as terrible as death itself. We are working night and day to resist it, to expose its maliciousness. We feel obliged to work and to fight, not because we are always so great and honorable ourselves, but simply because they are so horrid, murderous, cynical and inhuman!
And so they bathe us in dirt, they vomit their toxic poisons at us, pitching our neighbors against us, planning and triggering coups and ‘opposition movements’, as well as ‘student revolts’ and ‘color revolutions’. The targets are China and Russia, Cuba and Venezuela… Bolivia and Ecuador. Smeared are, Brazil and South Africa, Argentina and Zimbabwe, demonized are Eritrea and North Korea…
In a way, they – our enemies – are pathetic, ridiculous and sad… For those who know the world, they are just a bunch of sadistic lunatics… mighty but uncool, stinky echoes of previous loud and toxic colonialist/imperialist/racist farts.
But they are managing to scream louder. They are publishing billions of sheets filled with lies. They are using their money (mostly stolen from us and others) to twist all logical observations and analyses, presenting the emptiness they are spreading, with their soulless gadgets and consumerism, as something hip and human. And so the new generations in their countries and in their colonies are being manufactured and shaped – they are confused, tired ever since their cradles; empty, lacking poetry and creativity, obsessed with form whilst rejecting substance.
We keep telling them what they are doing to the world, and the more we tell them, the more they hate us.
But what do we really want? What truly unites countries as diverse as Cuba and China, Russia and Venezuela, Bolivia and South Africa?
It is a great desire for freedom. Not ‘their’ twisted concept of freedom! But the freedom to choose our own path, to use our resources to feed our children, to heal our sick, and to educate both adults and children! All for free. All as our patriotic and humanist duty!
We want our countries to exist only in order to create, to facilitate a good, healthy, meaningful life for their citizens. We want people to wake up and not to be scared that they will end up on the street, or that if they get sick, they will die just because they can’t pay their medical bills. We want people to think about the journey, about where they are going and what they will do at their destination, instead of constantly agonizing over where they will they get the money to buy a new car!
We want people to be free and to have the time to decide ‘where they are going’, and to have knowledge, to release their creativity and energy for the improvement of life, all over our beautiful planet.
And the more we want that, the more they hate us.
We want to be; many of us want to be, ‘naive’ again… to be able to dream, to communicate with each other, to work with our hands and our brains, to put our entire hearts into this life. And we want people to feel safe, not to be scared of waking up every morning, of being ridiculed for simply being good, decent; for being human!
This is what socialism or communism mean to me. This is what it meant to Chavez and what I think it means to Evo. This is what it means to my dearest friends in Beijing.
Venezuela, Bolivia or China are not perfect, damn it! We are all human; we all make mistakes. But we are trying. We are doing our best. We want to pull hundreds of millions out of poverty and we are doing it, step by step. Each of our countries is doing it in its own way, depending on its culture and history. And we want to do it our way and only in our own way, and that is why they hate us!
I don’t care or mind if someone runs his or her private hotel, or restaurant, or a newspaper… I don’t mind at all. I am not some dogmatic freak. But I do mind when entire nations are destroyed simply because they want to go their own way!
I do mind when ‘democracy’ is reduced to only what the Western bullies say it should mean. I mind when people are converted into serfs for the rich in their own countries, and then into serfs for the Empire. I do mind when they have no choice. I do mind when they are constantly fearful of something, when they get humiliated again and again. And not only do I mind, I want to clench my fists and fight for justice.
The more I mind, the more others like me mind, the more they hate us.
More and more of us actually do mind.
Now we have this great new wave of cooperation between four wonderful parts of the world. Soon we will have an alternative to the horrid institution called the World Bank. And eventually we will create an alternative to the United Nations, which by now has become a toothless, kidnapped institution, unable to punish or even name those true gangsters and true terrorists!
They hate us! But we do not like them, either! How could we like fascists and bigots?
They run this world by employing fear, just as for centuries, they used to run their colonies. They killed hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, in the last millennia. They would not think twice of killing a few hundred million more.
On top of it, they are also scared, and the more scared they are, the more bellicose and aggressive they are becoming. They suspect that this cannot last – this twisted, psychopathic arrangement of the world. They just hope it will last for another few decades, while they are still alive.
The more scared they are, the more they are trying to scare others, too… to provoke conflicts, to antagonize people, to spy on them, to lock millions up, to brainwash billions worldwide.
Those corporations of the Empire, the governments that they select… they make normal people want to puke. And we tell them this, straight to their faces! Now we have our own block of countries, our organized resistance, our media, (this publication is an integrated and strong part of it)!
We tell them who they are.
And they hate us for that.
We tell them: you do what you want at home. As long as your people tolerate it, accept it, or even endorse it. We will not be attacking you or ‘liberating you’. But do not dare to come to our homes again, and plunder, loot and corrupt.
If you do, our nations and our people will fight.
They know it, and they hate us for that!
We tell them: Our people will fight against you and for what is human, and for the normal development of mankind – development, which you have derailed in such a brutal, Machiavellian manner, for centuries.
For centuries, you used slavery in order to compile your riches. You are enslaving billions of men and women even now, although you do not use that “s” word.
Our people will fight against you if you try to impose slavery on us once again.
We will also fight for kindness, poetry – for that dreamy, naive and at the same time creative and secure world, which almost all of us humans desire from the bottom of our hearts.
And this is why ‘they’ really hate us – we want to stop this horrific experiment on human beings. We want human life to be much more important than the profits of some corporations and twisted individuals. We want to be proud again of being part of the human race.
They want us to produce and to consume, submit to their designs and on top of it, stay quiet and scared.
While we want to build and we want to sing, to dream and to invent, for other people, not just for cash. We want to help each other. We do not want to succumb to a system where those who are brutal and aggressive are enslaving those who are gentle and kind.
We want to prove that humans are not just cynical and selfish beasts. They are not! They only behave like that when they are injected with high doses of repulsive psychological toxins.
We want the end of this corporate and colonialist tyranny. Millions have fought it for centuries, and millions have already died, fighting for a much better world.
We are not going away! We are not deserting. We are not scared, anymore. Before falling, Hugo Chavez shouted: “Here nobody surrenders!” Well said! We feel the same. Aqui no se rinde nadie!
And that is why they hate us!
And we should be proud that they do.
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. ‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky:On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.