Thursday, October 15, 2009

Democracy Now: Savoj Zizek October 15, 2009

Dubbed by the National Review as “the most dangerous political philosopher in the West”, and the New York Times as “the Elvis of cultural theory”, Slovenian philosopher and public intellectual Slavoj Zizek has written over fifty books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history, and political theory. In his latest book, “First as Tragedy, Then As Farce”, Zizek analyzes how the United States has moved from the tragedy of 9/11 to what he calls the farce of the financial meltdown.

We continue on the subject of the financial crisis with a man the National Review calls the most dangerous political philosopher in the West. The New York Times calls him the Elvis of cultural theory. Slovenian philosopher and public intellectual Slavoj Zizek has written over fifty books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history, and political theory. His latest, just out from Verso is called “First as Tragedy, Then As Farce.” It analyzes how the United States has moved from the tragedy of 9/11 to the farce of the financial meltdown.

Zizek’s latest offering also excerpted in the October issue of Harper"s magazine opens with the words: “The only truly surprising thing about the 2008 financial meltdown is how easily the idea was accepted that its happening was unpredictable.” He goes on to recall how the demonstrations against the IMF and the World Bank over the past decade all protested the ways in which banks were playing with money and warned of an impending crash. They were met with tear-gas and mass arrests.

The message, he writes, was “loud and clear, and the police were used to literally stifle the truth.”

Well, Slavoj Zizek addressed a full house at Cooper Union here in New York city Wednesday night and he joins us now in the firehouse studio.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nepal: Comrade Gaurav speaks on Democracy and Cultural Revolution

Chandra Prakash Gajurel, aka C.P. Gajurel or Gaurav, indicates in the article imported from Kasama below, the real final hurdle. It is not unlikely that a third peoples uprising in the streets will reinstate Maoist led government and a coalition of oppressed classes in a form of democratic centralism exercising what could be viewed as a dictatorship over the oppressor classes represented by such parties as the National Congress and over opportunistic and revisionist tendencies such as exemplified by the UML. My interview with Gaurav is found here (the photo is one of several taken at that time).

Lead to Entry at Kasama:

This article was published on the WPRM Britain website.

Question: Do you envision a role for Nepali Congress and CPN (United Marxist-Leninists) after the New Democratic Revolution?

Answer: If they don’t change their ideological-political line, we don’t envision that they will be able to take part in those elections. The New Democratic system will not allow this if they don’t change their ideological-political line and behaviour.

* * * * * **
Nepal: Comrade Gaurav speaks on Democracy and Cultural Revolution

Gaurav has recently been made one of the secretaries in the new Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN[M]) leadership structure. Activists with the World Peoples Resistance Movement met him at the party office in Paris Dand, Kathmandu, where we tried to get deeper into the issue of democracy, specifically the UCPN(M) concept of 21st century democracy, of holding elections under New Democracy, and how this relates to the theory and practice of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.

WPRM: In the current situation when the UCPN(M) has its sights set on New Democratic Revolution, it seems more important than ever to understand the party’s idea of 21st century democracy, competitive elections under New Democracy and socialism, can you explain this concept to us?

Comrade Gaurav: Yes we are now in the stage of completing the New Democratic Revolution.The New Democratic system is not a socialist system. It is a bourgeois democratic system. The difference is that the revolution is made under the leadership of the proletariat.

The old type of bourgeois democratic revolution took place under the leadership of the bourgeoisie, but the New Democratic Revolution will take place under the leadership of the proletariat. When it is led by the proletariat it will lead towards socialism and communism. On the other hand, if the bourgeois democratic revolution is being led by the capitalist class, it will either consolidate capitalism or, if it develops at all, it will develop towards imperialism. That is the difference. So New Democratic Revolution in this sense is not a socialist revolution, it is a bourgeois democratic revolution but it is led by the proletariat. And, when the proletariat leads this revolution and the revolution is completed, then immediately it will move towards socialism. It will not consolidate bourgeois democracy, it will move towards socialism.

This debate was seriously carried out during 1956 in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). People like Deng Xiaoping said that since it is a bourgeois democratic revolution, it is the time to consolidate capitalism. But, Mao said that it should not be consolidated, it should go forward to socialism. This is the basic division between New Democracy and socialism. And, the question of which class is leading is the fundamental question.

So far as elections are concerned, under a New Democratic system there will be a broad anti-feudal and anti-imperialist alliance. This will be the class character of New Democratic Revolution. It is certainly true that not all anti-feudal and anti-imperialist forces are communists.

But there should be a broad alliance of the UCPN(M) with different political forces who are anti-feudal and anti-imperialist. We have to recognise the existence of these other political forces, because they are the ally of the proletariat during New Democratic Revolution. Therefore, we have to guarantee their political freedom, and the political freedom of those parties has already been carried out in China also.

In China, except for the CCP there were nine other political parties, all of which were anti-feudal and anti-imperialist. They competed and participated in elections with the CCP and some of them became ministers in the government. In our case also we have to recognise those forces. They are not communists but they are the allies of anti-feudal and anti-imperialist forces, and they should be guaranteed political freedom.

When our party talks about multiparty competition or democracy, we are talking about our concept of ‘21st Century Democracy’.

The difference here however is that in China there was a condition, all anti-feudal and anti-imperialist forces had to cooperate with the CCP. This was the precondition. But now our party is talking about allowing those political parties to compete even with the UCPN(M).

In China there was a precondition, they were not allowed to compete but had to cooperate. In elections they made some sort of compromise or negotiation and they fixed candidates by consensus. In some constituencies the other parties put forward their candidate and the CCP did not. And in most other seats they did not have a candidate but supported the candidate of the CCP.

But here in Nepal today we are talking about competition. All those political parties will be allowed to compete with the UCPN(M). We can have direct elections with those parties and the Maoists. That is the difference. We are formulating this kind of thing because the imperialists and the capitalists, who are the enemies of socialism and communism, accuse communist parties of not allowing other parties to compete. They say there is no competition, there is no democracy. And in fact, in the old way there was scope for those political parties to confuse the masses. For example, there is an election but there is only one candidate, and if everybody has to vote for the same candidate what is the meaning of this? It is something like selection. But we will make it clear that people can vote for their own candidates and that there will be more than two candidates for people to choose between.

Furthermore, we should give the people the right of recall. If the candidate elected by them is not competent, or is taking an anti-people road, the people’s right of recall will be assured.

This is the type of thing we have to introduce in an electoral system. Only then can we assure the masses that they can vote for the candidate they like and it is a real election where there are many candidates. The election will have a definite meaning. If there is only one candidate then voting is meaningless.

This is what we mean by ‘21st Century Democracy’.

WPRM: How will this democracy and use of elections develop as New Democratic Revolution develops into the stage of socialism. Will there be more than one communist party at this time?

Comrade Gaurav: We don’t envision more than one Communist Party because every political party has a class character. The proletariat should have their own party.

In the long run, ultimately, there will not be different political parties. When we achieve socialism in that case, we think there will be no necessity for other political parties, because the society will have undergone a big change. There will be no other classes at that time.

WPRM: Do you envision a role for Nepali Congress and CPN (United Marxist-Leninists) after the New Democratic Revolution?

Comrade Gaurav: If they don’t change their ideological-political line, we don’t envision that they will be able to take part in those elections. The New Democratic system will not allow this if they don’t change their ideological-political line and behaviour.

WPRM: Comrade Basanta in Worker #12 has recently written that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China is the pinnacle of application so far in practice of dialectical materialism, the science of revolution. Can you sum up for us the lessons of the Cultural Revolution as formulated by the UCPN(M)?

Comrade Gaurav: We think the Cultural Revolution is the pinnacle of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

Because Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is a science in the process of development, it is not something static. It is in the process of development and this development is interlinked with revolutionary practice. From this practice comes our ideology. And from revolutionary practice, the experiences of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, and from the examples of counter-revolution in those countries, Mao synthesised the whole thing and developed the theory of Cultural Revolution.

What Mao developed in his life, was more than that which Lenin did in his time, because for Lenin it was not possible to carry out Cultural Revolution or theorise Cultural Revolution. During his life, in the period of revolution and after that he was trying to develop the whole revolution. He formulated so many ideas and theories regarding revolution. But in the case of Mao, during that time China was not a capitalist country, it was a semi-feudal semi-colonial country.

So the responsibility of the CCP was to carry on to accomplish the bourgeois democratic revolution and also to carry on the socialist revolution. It was a historical necessity for the CCP to carry out both these tasks. The CCP, under the capable leadership of Comrade Mao, led these two revolutions and in the process of developing socialism, learned the lessons that Mao took from the capitalist restoration in the USSR and many attempts to reverse the revolution within China itself. These were the materials for Comrade Mao Zedong to develop Cultural Revolution. With all these materials Mao developed our ideology to a qualitatively higher level. And we think the Cultural Revolution is the pinnacle, it solves the problem of revolution in that it can prevent counter-revolution. Many people say that the Cultural Revolution was a Chinese phenomenon,

it was done in China, whether right or wrong, so it is a Chinese question.

But we think it is not a Chinese question, it is a question of theory and it is a question of ideology. So it is a universal theory. And we uphold Cultural Revolution as the universal theory of communism. It holds good for China, and it holds good for Nepal also.

WPRM: Indeed, Mao said the bourgeoisie is not just outside the party but right within it. How will elections help to uncover the bourgeoisie within the party?

Comrade Gaurav: Elections will not help with this. Through elections you cannot root out the bourgeoisie within the party.

To root out the bourgeoisie within the party you have to carry out Cultural Revolution, to find out who are the capitalist roaders within the party. The process of elections will not determine all these things. The process of elections relates to the time when there are other political parties who are the allies of the proletariat.

We will compete with those parties only, not with the puppets of feudalism and imperialism. There is no point competing with reactionaries. Competition means to compete with allies, friendly competition only. So dictatorship will still be applied against reactionary political parties, pro-feudal and pro-imperialist parties.

So far as capitalist roaders within the Communist Party are concerned, this question will not be resolved through elections. That is different. Elections are concerned with forming the government and some matters of state.

But the party of the proletariat should resolve the contradictions within the party in a different manner. In that case we have to apply Cultural Revolution. Cultural Revolution means the party should be interlinked with the masses. The masses will be given full rights to expose the leaders of the Communist Party. If they are really capitalist-roaders, they have to be exposed. This is the mass line as formulated by Mao. He made the slogan ‘bombard the headquarters’. Headquarters means your own headquarters, not the headquarters of other parties, but the headquarters of the Communist Party. Because in the headquarters there are many capitalist roaders, so people have every right to bombard that headquarters. People should be mobilised to expose the capitalist roaders. Only through Cultural Revolution can we root out capitalist-roaders.

WPRM: The Cultural Revolution involved many examples of the practice of democracy, such as the right to bombard the headquarters, the four great freedoms, big-character posters, the formation of Red Guards, the 3-in-1 committees, and even the Shanghai commune, not to mention the reorientation of health care, education and development towards rural areas. Why do you think elections under New Democracy can best provide democracy to the people?

Comrade Gaurav: Democracy as defined by the capitalists or imperialists is, according to their own definition, only political freedom, or competing in elections.

But for us this is not the only characteristic of democracy. Democracy means the rights of the people for food, healthcare, education, all the economic requirements. These are fundamental things for our democracy. So we prefer a different definition of democracy.

What Mao put forward in the Cultural Revolution, these are definitely things of democracy. We uphold all these things. But despite all of these requirements, we think elections are also necessary. In the nature of electing the representatives we prefer competition, but only during the stage of New Democracy. When the society changes totally to socialism, then elections will maybe not be necessary. We are talking about New Democracy. When the society has been changed to socialism, the situation will be different.

We cannot claim now that the same method of elections will be applied during socialism. When there are various different political parties during the stage of New Democracy then there is competition between the political parties. But in socialism the class character of society will have changed, fundamentally changed. In that case there will be no need for various different political parties. And clearly the existence of political parties will be actually not necessary. They will not exist. In that case elections will not be needed.

WPRM: How will the practice of Cultural Revolution and the holding of elections prevent capitalist restoration? Which will be decisive?

Comrade Gaurav: As I have said, we cannot predict the form of elections under socialism. But the method of elections will definitely not be decisive to prevent capitalist restoration. Only Cultural Revolution can do that.

WPRM: According to Mao, not one but many Cultural Revolutions will be needed during the stage of socialism, which will last for many generations.

Comrade Gaurav: Yes, we very much agree with this principle that the Cultural Revolution should continue.

When the Cultural Revolution was terminated in China, the result was capitalist restoration.

This history is there for everyone to see. After the death of Mao, the revisionists said the Cultural Revolution was not necessary. They called those ten years a decade of catastrophe, the revisionists, that was their summation. But during the time of Mao the Cultural Revolution was not always directly carried out. Mao was almost bedridden, and immediately after his death it was reversed. If the Cultural Revolution had been carried out further, definitely it would have prevented the restoration of capitalism. So from the practice of China, we can realise that to prevent capitalist restoration we have to continue the Cultural Revolution. In China, the Cultural Revolution was carried out for ten years, but that was not enough. It was only enough for that period. We must directly carry out a continuous process of Cultural Revolution.

WPRM: Elections in imperialist countries at present are a bureaucratic procedure that hide the dictatorial nature of capitalist society. How will elections under New Democracy provide a mechanism for the continuous revolutionisation of the masses as well as mobilisation against the danger of capitalist restoration?

Comrade Gaurav: We think that on the issue of what type of election and how the election will be carried out, there is one fundamental question: who is leading the state? Which class is leading the state?

Now the election to the Constituent Assembly was only possible because the state was in some sort of transition. But we are not always in the period of transition. It is a temporary period.

In this period the state is not so powerful. It was possible for our party to take advantage of this because of the revolutionary intervention of the masses, during the People’s War and the 2006 People’s Movement. It was possible for our party to win, to be victorious in the elections. But the same situation will not continue for a long time. The state will consolidate itself and its own class character. In that case it cannot be in transition. So it all depends on which class is in power. That is the fundamental question.

This will be defined by the constitution, so now our struggle is concentrated on the question of constitution. What type of constitution will there be? Basically there are two positions: whether it will be a People’s Federal Republic, in short a People’s Republic like that in China but taking into account some particularities of Nepal, or a bourgeois republic, a capitalist republic.

Our struggle is concentrated on this point, the major point of struggle in our country at this time. Our party is for a People’s Republic, the other parties are for a bourgeois republic. If a People’s Republic wins, then that means the proletariat will have won, they will be in power and they will hold their elections under those conditions. And since they will already be in power there will be freedom for the people to vote according to their choice. But if the proletariat is defeated, if there is a bourgeois republic in power, then the capitalist class will have won, and definitely they will use the same method that the capitalists of the world use during elections. We are in the transitional period and the constitution will define what type of system there will be in Nepal and which class will be in power. The type of electoral system will also depend on the outcome of this fight or struggle for a new constitution.

WPRM: Now that there is increasing talk of the third People’s Movement and the coming insurrection, can you explain how the UCPN(M) envisions the New Democratic Revolution taking place? Is it possible to do this through elections?

Comrade Gaurav: When we talk about Jana Andolan (People’s Movement) 3 we are talking about mobilising the masses. In the mobilisation of the masses, there are a few things that we have to take into account.

In the revolution in Nepal at this present moment, talking about a People’s Republic is not an illegal matter, an illegal political question for accomplishing the revolution. It is a legitimate question. The other political parties can fight for their republic, why can the Maoist party not fight for a People’s Republic?

We have every right to fight for the achievement of the people’s revolution.

People’s Republic means New Democracy, because when New Democratic Revolution was accomplished in China the state was called a New Democratic Republic. New Democratic Revolution and People’s Republic are the same. There is a chance that through the constitution-making process we can write a new constitution of People’s Republic. But that cannot be achieved without mass upsurge.

This is because in the given situation, the Maoist party is in favour of a People’s Republic, but we do not have enough support in the Constituent Assembly to write our type of new constitution. On the other hand, all the other political parties except for the Maoists also don’t have enough support to write their type of republic into the constitution.

In this specific situation in Nepal, only Jana Andolan 3 can resolve the problem of writing a constitution. The new constitution cannot be written only in the Constituent Assembly. This is neither possible for us nor for them.

When we have to write the new constitution, only Jana Andolan, a people’s upsurge, can put pressure on and create the situation whereby all the other forces excluding the reactionary forces would support the Maoist proposal. There is thus some possibility of a People’s Republic. But in all cases only the people’s upsurge, or people’s movement, will complete the revolution. And our party is in favour of Jana Andolan 3.

Now we call it people’s insurrection, or people’s revolt. But only a people’s revolution can play the decisive role in making New Democratic Revolution.

WPRM: What role do you think Maoists and anti-imperialists around the world can play on these questions of democracy and the construction of socialism, and the successful completion of New Democratic Revolution in Nepal? How can we raise the debate on these questions in the international arena to a higher level ?

Comrade Gaurav: At the present stage we are not going to carry out socialist construction. The present task of the revolution is to accomplish New Democratic Revolution. Only then can we carry out socialist transformation. Now we are in the stage of New Democratic Revolution.

And the international proletariat should support the Maoist movement in Nepal to accomplish the New Democratic Revolution. We think that a revolution cannot be replicated, only developed. It cannot be a photocopy of other revolutions. It will not be a stereotype of revolution. The Nepali revolution is based on certain fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but it will have its specific character.

In the case of China, Mao called this the ‘Sinification of Marxism’. We have to accomplish the revolution, based not on exactly what has happened with any other revolution of the world, which took place in history under the leadership of a Communist Party. Although the basic and fundamental guiding principles remain the same, there are many different aspects, including the security of that country, the international situation and other developments in the last decades.

Our party thinks that in the given situation the present line of the party can lead to the completion of New Democratic Revolution. So our class internationally should support the forms put forward by our party to accomplish the revolution. They can make suggestions. But we are formulating tactics on how to achieve the revolution and this does not exactly correspond to other revolutions. Our comrades are in different countries. They read the newspapers and the documents and all the other things, and they find the weaknesses and start to say that we are no longer communists, that we are revisionists.

From outside analysis they will find differences. But what is the reality? The reality of the situation is quite different. And in the present reality we have to accomplish the revolution. That is the major task of the UCPN(M).

We have formulated our line based on the concrete reality of Nepal, the present national and international situation. We think other comrades can make suggestions, because there is danger. When we are in a new experience there is also risk, there is also danger, of deviating towards the right.

Our comrades should give their sincere suggestions, which we will accept. But they should not condemn the revolution. If this revolution will be condemned or will not be cooperated with by our class internationally, it is hard for us to succeed. And we feel that communists will not help on these questions by doing that.

In fact we expect from our comrades internationally that they should give suggestions, they should express their political concerns about whether the party or line has been deviated. But it is their responsibility to always support us. Condemning the revolution as a whole, or not making any positive contribution to the revolution, that is not a good thing. That is not proletarian internationalism.

And if we succeed then communists around the world should welcome our revolution, and our comrades should celebrate. But more important is to think of what is your own contribution? Making revolution, that is your contribution. Communists have to continue accomplishing their own revolution. And we very humbly request this from the comrades of the world.

We are doing our duty to accomplish the revolution in Nepal. We have no other objectives than to accomplish the revolution. We are struggling for that, and we believe we will be successful in making revolution in Nepal. We are confident.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Interview of Prachanda, Chairman, UCPN (Maoist)

Interview of Prachanda, Chairman, UCPN (Maoist) by Anand Swaroop Verma

Following is the transcript of an interview of Prachanda, Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Q : There has been a sudden stop in the political process of the country which was witnessed after 12 point agreement of November 2005 till announcement of republic. Confusion has gripped both the countries, Nepal and India and it appears that the process of development has been caught in a bind. Who is responsible for it and what is the road to come out of it?

A: Thanks. You have asked important question. The main aim of the 12 point agreement was to establish a new democratic constitution through constituent assembly. At that time the main aim of the peoples movement was to have a joint struggle against the autocratic monarchy. This is clear that monarchy was abolished and democracy could be brought in. We succeeded in our immediate task. The election to the constituent assembly was accomplished and the Maoists emerged as the single largest party. The government was also formed under the leadership of the Maoists. But while we were moving forward to take the peace process to a logical conclusion and working with an all round strategy to write the constitution, a debate on the issue of the supremacy of the military and the people erupted. What ever orders I issued on behalf of the government, the army general repeatedly violated those instructions of an elected government. He refused to accept them. He challenged them. This created a piquant situation for me. If the army refused to accept the supremacy of an elected government, the supremacy of the peoples, and does not come under the peoples’ government then a major problem would crop up. And for this reason I decided to remove the army general. Other people meaning the Nepali Congress and UML supported the army’s supremacy. As a result the situation acquired a complicated shape. This is the reason that a debate is still going on: should it be civilian supremacy or military supremacy? We have been consistently telling the parties which claim to uphold the supremacy of parliamentary system that since you talk of parliamentary supremacy then on the issue of army general and the unconstitutional steps taken by the President in this connection should be debated in the parliament. But they are not ready for this. They are completely going against the democracy, peace process and drafting of constitution. Obviously those persons who favour the army general and oppose the peoples government are responsible for this situation.

Q : Yesterday I talked to prime minister, Mr Madhav Nepal and sought to know his views on this issue. He told that there was no provision in the constitution under which the parliament could debate the steps taken by the President. Is it so?

A : Certainly not. This is not a monarchy where in the decision of the king could not be debated in parliament. During the days of monarchy no debate in parliament could be permitted on any step of king. There is no such provision now in the constitution. We can debate about President. There is no problem. These people are intentionally pursuing dogmatism.

Q : The prime minister, Mr Madhav Nepal has assured you people that he would rectify the unconstitutional decision of the President and for this he had sought one month’s time so that you should allow the parliament to function. What the government so far has done in this direction.?

A : We talked to him with responsibility and he in the parliament told that he would evolve a consensus on this issue after talking to various political parties within a month and try to solve the problem. This was the assurance of the prime minister and it was our expectation too that it would be solved within a month. But so far he did nothing. After five days were left I told him emphatically that it is imperative to talk or else the problem would continue to exist. However one talk was held with the leaders of Nepali Congress and UML but the prime minister does not appear to be keen to solve this. Today is the last day of the time frame. Since nothing substantial has emerged we would now be raising this issue in parliament and on streets. We are raising this issue in a peaceful and democratic manner. But these people are not showing any seriousness.

Q : I have been witnessing since the days of Raja Tribhuvan that the politics of Nepal has been to a major extent India centric. Whoever has been in power while taking a decision looked towards India. This was for the first time that you refused to accept the dictate of India. The disappointment of India could be understood but other political parties did not support you either. Do you think that the politics of Nepal being India centric has been the prime reason for most of the problems?

A : Your question is of strategic importance. Not only from the days of King Tribhuvan instead this situation has been prevailing when British ruled India. You will recall that a war took place between British India and Nepal and following that in 1815 the Sugauli Treaty was signed. After that the influence of ruling elite of India continued to increase here. Nepal is an independent country but the fact is after the Sugauli treaty it turned like a semi colony of India. When the peoples movement was going on against Ranas (Ranashahi) at that time King Tribhuvan took shelter in India and with the help of India through the " Delhi agreement" the rule of Rana was abolished. This helped strengthen the rule of Shah dynasty. India played a major role. After that in the move for bringing democracy, which started in Nepal, the Nepali Congress often adopted a stance of compromise, understanding and surrender towards India. In this backdrop democracy was installed but its functioning continued to follow the old pattern. The moment the main leader of the Nepali Congress Mr B P Koirala started talking of little freedom he was ousted. India encouraged the autocratic move of the King. The autocratic panchayati system, independent authoritarian establishment could keep its identity in Nepal only due to the support extended by India. Due to the struggle of CPN (Maoist) the process of major transformation of Nepal’s economic, social and political condition has emerged. Now when the Maoists emerged as the major political party in the constituent assembly elections to address this process of transformation then again problem has cropped up. On my tour to India I had in specific words told that there was imperative need to address this transformation. Nepal has undergone a major political change and with this there is need for some change in our historical relation with India. I had told in clear words that people of Nepal are not happy with the 1950 friendship treaty. They view it as unequal treaty. This needs to be changed as it is not based on equality. We don’t want any bitterness with India instead we long for good relation. But keeping in view the revolutionary change that is going on in Nepal the relation between the two countries should be changed, should be developed accordingly. Only then we can improve the relations between the two countries. Our special economic, political, geographical, cultural and historical relations should be rearranged according to the prevailing time. But unfortunately this is not happening. Delhi has a psychology that Nepal has to obey what India dictates. No change has taken place in the psyche though a number of changes have taken place in India. End of the British rule and strengthening of India through sustained economic growth did not have desired impact on the mind set of the ruling class of India. The amount of change which should have taken place has not occurred. Nepal has witnessed a major political change but India is not serious to understand this and also to reshape the relation between the two countries in the perspective of the changed scenario. This is the reason problems keep on emerging. I wish the India Nepal relation should be redefined in the background of the recent political and socio-economic changes. This should be developed further.

Q : After you formed the government in August 2008 it appeared that the government of India has accepted the situation and its attitude towards your government was quite cordial and cooperative. But its displeasure on the Katwal issue came out openly. What mistake did you commit during your rule that changed the approach of India? Were you careless while dealing with China that made India unhappy?

A : I don’t think so. My party and I too seriously thought over this. But the more I think, the more I am clear that neither my party nor me committed any mistake. When my government was installed, in the neighbouring country China Olympic games were on. On the inaugural day my government was formed. The President of Nepal was invited to participate at the inauguration but he could not go. Before the Olympic concluded my government was formed and I was invited to participate at the closing ceremony. I thought it would not look nice if being the neighbouring country I would not had participated at the event where American President, Mr Bush, Ms. Sonia Gandhi and her family from India, the Prime Minister of UK and rulers of many other countries would be present. What mattered most was being the leader of the party, which had brought about such a change in Nepal it was proper to go there for interacting and meeting with more people. Nepal has a tradition that after swearing in of the government the Prime Ministers undertake their first visit to India. I did not give so much of credence to that tradition. I felt this was not a good tradition. But it did not imply that I have first visited China. Any visit should be in conformity to the necessity. According to need we can go to India first and even to China. I felt the Olympics closing ceremony was being held for which I have been invited and so I should go there. In fact some people had put pressure on me that I should not go to China, it would break the tradition, India will feel bad etc. But I sought to know why the relation with India sour? If Mr Bush and Ms. Gandhi could go why cannot I? China is our neighbouring country and I decided to go and went. When I turn back and look at the event I have the feeling that this had a some psychological impact on India. In my perception what happened was a natural development but the ruling elite of India did not like it. Besides this before formation of my government one major incident had taken place in Tibet. Some incidents of vandalism had taken place. Some people had died in Lhasa. Chinese government nursed the impression that people active in creating disturbances in Tibet were using the land of Nepal. I feel that in view of that incident some intellectuals and officials of China started frequently visiting Nepal. They wanted to know that the political changes that were taking place in Nepal whether would benefit China. China from the beginning has been supporting monarchy as it felt stability in Nepal could be possible through monarchy. From the days of Mao Tse Tung China maintained a cordial relation with monarchy. Now we have uprooted monarchy and created a new political set up. However India felt that since Maoists have come to power in Nepal the flow of the Chinese visitors to Nepal had increased and Maoists were tilting towards China. But these were mere coincidences: end of monarchy, vandalism in Tibet and Maoists coming to power in Nepal. And even if the Chinese have been frequently coming to Nepal to understand the changes that took place it should not have been enough to become suspicious. According to me it is wrong. Because this was happening not due to us, but due to them. I repeatedly made it clear that I would strive to maintain the good relations between the two countries. Besides I did not want to do any thing in haste. I was firmly committed to address the aspirations of the people. I was gradually and steadily moving in the direction of giving a concrete shape to the peoples’ aspiration of change. People wanted a reform in security sector. Keeping this in view I brought about certain changes in the police department and armed constabulary department. Naturally in this background the issue of Katwal cropped up before me. People were aware of the fact that Katwal was not in favour of change, he was not in favour of integration of army, he was not in favour of constitution, he was not in favour of democracy and was regularly challenging the government. Obviously some action has to be taken against him. May be some of my friend did not like it. I don’t think that I ever took any action which should have been the factor for straining the relations with India. I tried to develop the relations with China and India keeping in view the needs of the Nepali people and Nepali nation.

Q : Do you think that you adopted liberal stance in the matter of Katwal? Did you agree that just after becoming prime minister if you had acted on the Raymajhi Commission report and removed Katwal then in that case you would had received massive public support? What was the reason?

A : Girija Babu’s government was in power when the Raymajhi Commission report came. I had raised this question but Girija Babu was not ready to take action. Of course people ask me why I did not take action soon after I came to power. My endeavour was to evolve a consensus among the coalition partners before taking any action. I tried but other parties did not agree. I held with other parties giving consent the task would be easier; particularly with giving consent by the UML. I was having talks with the UML. They told me to wait till their Congress. After the Congress concluded a serious talk was held with their president Jhalnath Khanal, vice president Bamdeo Gautam and general secretary Ishwar Pokhrel and all of them gave their consent. They told me to take action against Katwal and assured me of their help. Once UML supported, the Madhesi forum also agreed. After this Sadbhavana Party and others also consented and then only I took action. Had I known that they would succumbed to the internal and external pressures and retreat from their positions then in that case I would have taken action within a month of my becoming the prime minister. Even children of Nepal know from where the pressure was coming.

Q : Yesterday I had asked prime minister Madhav Nepal that your party president had given his consent for removal of Katwal and I had also read a statement purporting to it. But he refused and said that his party president never gave consent for it.

A : He is misleading. Now it is clear to the parliament also.

Q : On the issue of integration of both the armies nearly one month back I had read the statement of Indian ambassador, Mr Rakesh Sood in which he said that there is no reference to integration of two armies in the peace accord and integration meant integration of the PLA soldiers in the Nepali society. Recently Mr Girija Prasad Koirala also repeated the same line. In this background are you apprehensive of peace process getting derailed?

A ; This is the reason that I have been repeatedly saying that the unconstitutional step taken by the President was not his own instead it is a part of the well thought out strategy against the peace process and also against the process for creation of constituent assembly. That is why I have been consistently saying that till the issue of civilian supremacy is not resolved, till the wrong step taken by a ceremonial president, who has been pretending to work as the functional president is not rectified, this issue could not be resolved. I am saying this only for the reason that this action was against democracy and also against the democratic traditions. But these people are not ready to take any corrective measure. They intend that the issue of army integration should be completely dropped as in the detailed peace agreement it is specifically mentioned that the army integration and rehabilitation would take place. Army integration meant unification of both armies. This is clearly written in the agreement. But when people like Rakesh Sood, Girija Prasad Koirala speak one language, speak against the peace accord and resort to distorted arguments on the issue of integration of army as the integration of soldiers in the society and try to create confusion in the world then it obviously implied that we are left with no other option but to resort to movement. Which is why we have decided to go for movement; inside the parliament and also outside. If they go against the peace accord and oppose the interim government, democratic values and supremacy of the people then we are left with no option but to start movement and we are actually doing that from today. But side by side we would keep on talking to other parties. We would continuously strive to evolve a national consensus on this issue. Our stand is there is only one solution to this issue: we should be allowed to place our views in the Parliament. A formal atmosphere should be created inside the house to debate our issue. We are saying only this much but they are not agreeing to this proposal. It simply meant that they want confrontation. They don’t want peace. They don’t want democracy. Instead they want autocracy.

Q : The central committee of your party had decided for national government of general consensus which would be led by the Maoists. How is it possible in the present situation?

A : The central committee of our party debated various aspects of this issue and we reached at the conclusion that we should firmly stand in the favour of the peace process and in the creation of constituent assembly and form a national government with general consensus under the leadership of Maoists. We feel this is possible. The first thing is the question does not arise to form the government with any party which justifies the unconstitutional action of the President. If they don’t agree to rectify the presidential action then in that case we will not take in the new government. They have to change their old stand on the issue of army general. In spite of this we visualize the possibility of the government as majority of the members of parliament of UML are opposed to the President’s step. They want to debate the issue in the Parliament as they are aware that the majority would be in the favour of the Maoists. We believe even if they are not agreeable for a debate we can protest the step of President with the help of the MPs of UML and other parties. The Madhesh parties will also join us and by then we will come into the position of forming the government. We have majority in parliament.
Q : Does it imply that the issue of civilian supremacy is the biggest issue for you?

A : Certainly. Civilian supremacy in comparison to the military supremacy is the biggest issue.

Q : Two line struggle has often been going in your party. Without trying to know who represents which line I would like to ask what are the two lines.

A : The reply is complicated. It is not so easy, even then I will explain about the two lines. Certainly our party had two line struggle and the just concluded central committee meeting had a long discussion. At this meeting through discussion the two line issue has been resolved. Now based on a new foundation a new unity has developed in the party. In fact a good number of comrades were sceptical whether the party was following in the lines of UML. Is it drowning in parliamentarism? Is it moving towards reformism? They were quite disturbed due to these questions. Our cadres were seriously anxious. This was a bigger problem. We were telling them that we were advancing only after making a thorough analysis of the basic principles of Marxism; concrete analysis of the concrete situation. We were advancing keeping in view our socialist and communist ideals and also our strategy for peoples revolution. One section held this view. Other section felt that instead of moving towards revolution we were inching towards compromise and parliamentarism. This is the essence of debate. But after my resignation our comrades have come to believe that there was no deviation in the party. They felt that the party in the correct manner was progressing towards revolution by taking the people alongwith it. From outside my resignation would appear to be a negative step but whereas the unity of the party and the confusion in the party are concerned this has left a significant positive impact. Comrades who nursed the feeling that the leadership has developed lust for power are now feeling relieved. Their misconceptions have been removed. I had resigned with the commitment to struggle against the counterrevolutionary and reactionary elements and not to surrender to the dictates of foreign lords. I had told that I would not tolerate any kind of foreign intervention. This has created an atmosphere inside the party that the leadership was pursuing the correct line towards revolution. As a result of this not only the unity of the party has been strengthened but also credibility amongst the people has enhanced. After my resignation even the urban middle class has come to realize that our party could protect the national interest and preserve its sovereignty and pride.

Q: Your critics say that you have abandoned the base areas and disarmed the Janamukti Sena (PLA). How far is it correct?

A : This is not true. When we came in peace process and also came for democracy then it broadly implied that we were successful. We dislodged monarchy, constituted the constituent assembly and emerged as the biggest party in the constituent assembly. Obviously I don’t find any weakness. As for as the issue of base area and PLA are concerned; PLA is in the cantonment and the arms are with them. The keys of the boxes having the guns are with the PLA. This makes clear that we have not surrendered the arms. If the other side is willing to abide the peace accord then we are also ready for integration of the army. But we are not for surrender. Which is why the people who criticize us on this count are wrong. They fail to understand the true situation prevailing in Nepal. They are not able to comprehend the development of the revolution and its dynamics. They look at the entire scene in a narrow and mechanical manner. Our base areas are intact and the people in those areas are firm. The organization in those areas is also strong. I in fact believe that we have succeeded in expanding our base areas. It has been spread through out the country. At present in a way the whole country has become our base area. Our victory and the manner in which we have amalgamated with the people, for me this is expansion of the base area. For this reason I don’t believe that we have left our base areas.

Q: If the integration of the army takes place and if a unified National Army is constituted as the result of the merger of the Nepali army and the PLA, in that case are you conscious of the impending dangers? What I want to say cannot that army be used against you once you are out of power? The reason for this is what is the guarantee that the army constituting of the revolutionary cadres of the PLA and regular armymen nursing feudal would stand in the favour of people?

A; That danger is there, but we have faith in people. I have faith in integration of the army. If the integration of the army takes place then it should be viewed as the victory of the situation created through the peoples struggle. Obviously the entire army will stand in favour of the people. The army will stand in favour of the nation. And under the leadership of the party we could lead the country in a better way. This is my belief. Just some time back you wanted to know why the Indian ambassador, Mr Rakesh Sood and Mr Girija Prasad Koirala of Nepali Congress has been opposed to integration of army. Do you think they would have opposed this if the reactionary forces have visualized that the integrated army would stand in favour of reactionary forces? Once the integration takes place this army would ceased to be theirs. This would be completely the army of the people. Which is why they are speaking against it and trying to create hurdles. One should realize that the integration of army is not against Maoists. This is not against the people. This is in favour of people. This is the reason that the reactionary forces outside the country and also inside quite active against it. One should understand this.

Q: What is the programme for insurrection? And what should be its character?

A : I believe that Nepal would not have that nature of insurrection that took place in Russia under Lenin or the peoples revolution that was witnessed in China under Mao Tse Tung. A new type and new form of insurrection is possible in Nepal. We cannot import any revolution in a mechanical manner. We would have to show the courage and strength of developing it. We are striving in this direction. And for this we are advancing in the right direction by pursuing a completely new style, in our own way and keeping in view the global situation. We have to chalk out the programme and strategy of the Nepali revolution keeping in view the global and regional balance of power and also in the background of relations with China and India. We are striving in this direction. Which is why we do not understand the insurrection in a mechanical way. I don’t think proper to speak more than this on this issue at this stage.

Q : The movement which you are going to launch may create the law and order situation, the government would also resort to repressive measures and the people may also take to resistance movement. In this background do you visualize that the movement may turn violent? Do you think that the situation would go to such extent that you would be forced to take to armed struggle of the days of the peoples’ war?

A : The programmes of movement that we have announced are of peaceful nature. We would steer it in constitutional and peaceful manner inside and outside the parliament. In case the government resorts to repression then in that situation the people would come to realize that the Maoists intended to place their views in a peaceful manner but were not being allowed. The Maoists has been struggling for democracy and civilian supremacy through the constitutional means. The people would also see that the Maoists have been demanding to have a debate on this inside the parliament. If the government resorts to repression the people would find out their own way to resist. We are talking of ‘Jan Andolan 3’ (third peoples’ movement). We will proceed through peoples’ movement and they would be forced to accept the peoples’ demand. We don’t have any plan to resort to violent or arms struggle. The people will certainly resist in case the state perpetrates violence and repression. In this situation the Maoists would support the peoples’ resistance movement.
Q: Don’t you think this is hindering the process of drafting of the constitution for which you people have been elected.?

A : No. The work of drafting of constitution is going on smoothly. Both the movement and drafting of constitution will continue. We will not create any obstruction in the task of constitution drafting. We are obstructing its parliamentary part. There are separate committees for drafting of constitution with different functioning and we are not creating any obstruction in that. We would continue to take active part.
Q: How do you visualise the future of Nepal in coming days?

A : The people of Nepal will win. We are trying for taking forward the revolution of the country in a different manner and confident of getting success.

(Published in the October 2009 issue of Hindi journal Samkalin Teesari Duniya, New Delhi.)

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Chomsky: Coups, UNASUR, and the U.S.

Coups, UNASUR, and the U.S.

October 2nd 2009, by Noam Chomsky - from Venezuela Analysis and originally published at Znet

The last time I had the opportunity to speak in Caracas-at long-distance that time-was about a year ago, right after the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) meeting in Santiago in September 2008. That meeting was called "with the purpose of considering the situation in the Republic of Bolivia," after an uprising backed by the traditional elites who had lost power in the impressive democratic elections of 2005. UNASUR condemned the violence and the massacre of peasants by the quasi-secessionist elements, and declared, "Their fullest and decided support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a wide margin in the recent referendum." These are the words of the final Declaration, which also warned that the participating governments-all of the South American Republics-"energetically reject and do not recognize any situation that implies an intent of civil coup d'état, the rupture of institutional order, or that compromises the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia." In response, President Morales thanked UNASUR for its support and observed that, "For the first time in South America's history, the countries of our region are deciding how to resolve our problems, without the presence of the United States."

True, and a fact of historic significance.

It is instructive to compare the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) with that of the African Union (AU). The latter permits intervention by African states within the Union itself in exceptional circumstances. In contrast, the Charter of the OAS bars intervention "for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state." The reasons for the difference are clear. The OAS Charter seeks to deter intervention from the "colossus of the North"-and has failed to do so. That is an enduring problem in the Western hemisphere, nowhere near solution, though there has been significant progress. After the collapse of the apartheid states, the AU has faced no comparable problem.

South American Process of Integration

Last year's UNASUR meeting in Santiago took a step forward in the difficult process of integration that is taking place in South America. This process has two aspects: external and internal. The external process establishes bonds among countries that had been largely separated from one another since the early European conquests, each one oriented towards the West. The internal process seeks to integrate the vast impoverished and oppressed majorities into the societies that took shape under colonial and neocolonial domination. These societies have typically been ruled by small Europeanized elites who had amassed enormous wealth and were linked to the imperial societies in many ways: export of capital, import of luxury goods, education, and many other dimensions. The ruling sectors assumed little responsibility for the fate of their own countries and their suffering people. These critical factors sharply distinguish Latin America from the developmental states of East Asia. The processes of internal integration in South America, quite naturally, are arousing great concern among the traditional rulers at home and abroad, and strong opposition if they go beyond minor reforms of the worst abuses.

In early August, UNASUR met in Ecuador, which assumed the presidency of the organization. The announced goal of the meeting was to carry forward the process of integration, but the meeting took place under the shadow of renewed U.S. military intervention. Colombia did not attend, in reaction to broad concern in the region over its decision to accept U.S. military bases. The host of the meeting, President Correa of Ecuador, had announced that the U.S. military would no longer be permitted to use its Manta base, the last major U.S. base remaining in South America.

Bases and Coups

Establishing U.S. bases in Colombia is only one part of a much broader effort to restore Washington's capacity for military intervention. In recent years, total U.S. military and police aid in the hemisphere has come to exceed economic and social aid. That is a new phenomenon. Even at the height of the Cold War, economic aid far exceeded military aid. Predictably, these programs have "strengthened military forces at the expense of civilian authorities, exacerbated human rights problems and generated significant social conflict and even political instability," according to a study by the Washington Office on Latin America. By 2003, the number of Latin Americans troops trained by U.S. programs had increased by more than 50 percent. It has probably become higher since. Police are trained in light infantry tactics. The U.S. Southern Military Command (SOUTHCOM) has more personnel in Latin America than most key civilian federal agencies combined. That again is a new development. The focus now is on street gangs and "radical populism": I do not have to explain what that phrase means in the Latin American context. Military training is being shifted from the State Department to the Pentagon. That shift is of some importance. It frees military training from human rights and democracy conditionalities under congressional supervision, which has always been weak, but was at least a deterrent to some of the worst abuses.

Military bases are also being established where possible to support what are called "forward operations"-meaning military intervention of one or another sort. In a related development, the U.S. Fourth Fleet, disbanded in 1950, was reactivated a few weeks after Colombia's invasion of Ecuador in March 2008. With responsibility for the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the surrounding waters, the Fleet's "various operations...include counter-illicit trafficking, Theater Security Cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training," the official announcement says. Quite properly, these moves elicited protest and concern from the governments of Brazil, Venezuela, and others.

In past years the U.S. routinely helped carry out military coups in Latin America or invaded outright. Examples are too numerous and familiar to review and are awful to contemplate. That capacity has declined, but has not disappeared. In the new century there have already been three military coups: in Venezuela, Haiti, and now Honduras.

The first, in Venezuela, was openly supported by Washington. After a popular uprising restored the elected government, Washington immediately turned to a second plan to undermine the elected government: by funding groups of its choice within Venezuela, while refusing to identify recipients. Funding after the failed coup reached $26 million by 2006. The facts were reported by wire services, but ignored by the mainstream media. Law professor Bill Monning of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California said that, "We would scream bloody murder if any outside force were interfering in our internal political system." He is, of course, correct: such actions would never be tolerated for a moment. But the imperial mentality allows them to proceed, even with praise, when Washington is the agent.

The pretext, invariably, is "supporting democracy." In the real world, the measures employed have been a standard device to undermine democracy. Examples are numerous. To mention just a few, that is how the ground was prepared for the U.S.-backed military coup in Haiti after its first democratic election in 1990, bitterly opposed by Washington. And in another part of the world, it is happening right now in Palestine where the outcome of a free election in January 2006 was counter to Washington's wishes. At once, the U.S. and Israel, with Europe tagging politely along as usual, turned to severe punishment of the population for the crime of voting "the wrong way" in a free election, and also began to institute the standard devices to undermine an unwanted government: "democracy promotion" and military force. In this case, the military force is a collaborationist paramilitary army under the command of U.S. General Keith Dayton, trained in Jordan with Israeli participation. The Dayton army received great acclaim from liberals in the government and the press when it succeeded in suppressing protests in the West Bank during the murderous and destructive U.S.-backed Israeli military campaign in Gaza earlier this year. Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, was one of many close to the Obama administration who saw in this success a sign that Israel may at last have a "legitimate negotiating partner" for its U.S.-backed programs of taking over what is of value in the occupied territories, under the guise of a "political settlement."

All of this is routine, and very familiar in Latin America, where U.S. invasions have regularly left what remains of the country under the rule of brutal National Guards and collaborationist elites. The policies were initially developed with considerable sophistication a century ago after the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, which left hundreds of thousands of corpses. And these measures have often been successful for long periods. In the original testing ground, the Philippines, the impact still remains a century later, one reason for the continuing ugly record of state violence, and the failure of the Philippines to join the remarkable economic development of East and Southeast Asia in recent years.

Returning to coups in Latin America in the new millennium, the first one, in Venezuela, was unsuccessful. The second was in Haiti two years later. The U.S. and France intervened to remove the elected president and dispatched him off to Central Africa, actions that precipitated yet another reign of terror in this tortured country, once the richest colony in the world and the source of much of France's wealth, destroyed over the centuries by France and then the U.S. I should add that the harrowing history, in Haiti and elsewhere, is almost unknown in the U.S.-worse, it is replaced by fairy tales of noble missions that have sometimes failed because of the unworthiness of the beneficiaries. These are among the prerogatives of power, and facts that cannot be ignored by the traditional victims.

The third coup is of course the one taking place right now in Honduras, where an openly class-based military coup ousted left-leaning President Zelaya. This coup was unusual in that the U.S. did not carry it out or directly support it, but rather joined the Organization of American States in criticizing it, though weakly. Washington did not withdraw its ambassador in protest as Latin American and European countries did, and made only limited use of its enormous military and economic influence, as it could easily have done by simple means-for example by canceling all U.S. visas and freezing U.S. bank accounts of leaders of the coup regime. A group of leading U.S. Latin American scholars recently reported that "not only does the administration continue to prop up the regime with aid money through the Millennium Challenge Account and other sources, but the U.S. continues to train Honduran military students at the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation-the notorious institution formerly known as the School of the Americas," from which much of the top Honduran military has graduated. Amnesty International has just released a long and detailed account of extremely serious human rights violations by the coup regime. If such a report were issued concerning an official enemy, it would be front-page news. In this case it was scarcely reported, consistent with the downplaying of coups to which U.S. political and economic power centers are basically sympathetic, as in this case.

The U.S. surely hopes to maintain and probably expand its military base at Soto Cano (Palmerola) in Honduras, a major base for the U.S.-run terrorist war in Nicaragua in the 1980s. There are unconfirmed rumors of plans for other bases. (The best source of information and analysis is the consistently outstanding work by Mark Weisbrot at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who also reviews the media's refusal to rise to minimal journalistic standards by reporting the basic facts.)

Imperial Mentality and Drug Wars

The justification offered for the new military bases in Colombia is the "war on drugs." The fact that the justification is even offered is remarkable. Suppose, for example, that Colombia, or China, or many others claimed the right to establish military bases in Mexico to implement their programs to eradicate tobacco in the U.S., by fumigation in North Carolina and Kentucky, interdiction by sea and air forces, and dispatch of inspectors to the U.S. to ensure it was eradicating this poison-which is, in fact, far more lethal even than alcohol, which in turn is far more lethal than cocaine or heroin, incomparably more than cannabis. The toll of tobacco use is truly fearsome, including "passive smokers" who are seriously affected though they do not use tobacco themselves. The death toll overwhelms the lethal effects of other dangerous substances.

The idea that outsiders should interfere with U.S. production and distribution of these murderous poisons is plainly unthinkable. Nevertheless, the U.S. justification for carrying out such policies in South America is accepted as plausible. The fact that it is even regarded as worthy of discussion is yet another illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, and the abiding truth of the doctrine of Thucydides that the strong do as they wish and the weak suffer as they must-while the intellectual classes spin tales about the nobility of power. Leading themes of history, to the present day.

Despite the outlandish assumptions, let us agree to adopt the imperial mentality that reigns in the West-virtually unchallenged, in fact, not even noticed. Even after this extreme concession, it requires real effort to take the "war on drugs" pretext seriously. The war has been waged for close to 40 years and intensively for a decade in Colombia. There has been no notable impact on drug use or even street prices. The reasons are reasonably well understood. Studies by official and quasi-official governmental organizations provide good evidence that prevention and treatment are far more effective than forceful measures in reducing drug abuse: one major study finds prevention and treatment to have been 10 times as effective as drug interdiction and 23 times as effective as "supply-side" out-of-country operations, such as fumigation in Colombia, more accurately described as chemical warfare. The historical record supports these conclusions. There is ample evidence that changes in cultural attitudes and perceptions have been very effective in curtailing harmful practices. Nevertheless, despite what is known, policy is overwhelmingly directed to the least effective measures, with the support of the doctrinal institutions.

These and other facts leave us with only two credible hypotheses: either U.S. leaders have been systematically insane for the past 40 years; or the purpose of the drug war is quite different from what is proclaimed. We can exclude the possibility of collective insanity. To determine the real reasons we can follow the model of the legal system, which takes predictable outcome to be evidence of intent, particularly when practices persist over a long period and in the face of constant failure to approach the announced objectives. In this case, the predictable outcome is not obscure, both abroad and at home.

Abroad, the "supply-side approach" has been the basis for U.S.-backed counterinsurgency strategy in Colombia and elsewhere, with a fearful toll among victims of chemical warfare and militarization of conflicts, but enormous profits for domestic and foreign elites. Colombia has a shocking record of human rights violations, by far the worst in the hemisphere since the end of Reagan's Central American terror wars in the 1980s, and also the second-largest internal displacement of populations in the world, after Sudan. Meanwhile, domestic elites and multinationals profit from the forced displacement of peasants and indigenous people, which clears land for mining, agribusiness production and ranching, infrastructure development for industry, and much else. There is a great deal more to say about this, but I will put it aside.

At home, the drug war coincided with the initiation of neoliberal programs, the financialization of the economy, and the attack on government social welfare systems, real, even though limited by international standards. One immediate consequence of the war on drugs has been the extraordinary growth in scale and severity of incarceration in the past 30 years, placing the U.S. far in the lead worldwide. The victims are overwhelmingly African-American males and other minorities, a great many of them sentenced on victimless drug charges. Drug use is about the same as in privileged white sectors, which are mostly immune.

In short, while abroad the war on drugs is a thin cover for counterinsurgency, at home it functions as a civilized counterpart to Latin America limpieza social cleansing, removing a population that has become superfluous with the dismantling of the domestic productive system in the course of the neo-liberal financialization of the economy. A secondary gain is that like the "war on crime," the "war on drugs" serves to frighten the population into obedience as domestic policies are implemented to benefit extreme wealth at the expense of the large majority, leading to staggering inequality that is breaking historical records, and stagnation of real wages for the majority while benefits decline and working hours increase.

These processes conform well to the history of prohibition, which has been well studied by legal scholars. I cannot go into the very interesting details here, but quite generally, prohibition has been aimed at control of what are called "the dangerous classes"-those who threaten the rights and well-being of the privileged dominant minorities. These observations hold worldwide, where the topics have been studied. They have special meaning in the U.S. in the context of the history of African-Americans, much of which remains generally unknown. It is, of course, known that slaves were formally freed during the American Civil War, and that after ten years of relative freedom, the gains were mostly obliterated by 1877 as Reconstruction was brought to an end.

But the horrifying story is only now being researched seriously, most recently in a study called "Slavery by another name" by Wall Street Journal editor Douglas Blackmon. His work fills out the bare bones with shocking detail, showing how after Reconstruction African-American life was effectively criminalized, so that black males virtually became a permanent slave labor force. Conditions, however, were far worse than under slavery, for good capitalist reasons. Slaves were property, a capital investment, and were therefore cared for by their masters. Those criminalized for merely existing are similar to wage laborers, in that the masters have no responsibility for them, except to make sure that enough are available. That was, in fact, one of the arguments used by slave owners to claim that they were more moral than those who hired labor. The argument was understood well enough by northern workers, who regarded wage labor as preferable to literal slavery only in that it was temporary, a position shared by Abraham Lincoln among others.

Criminalized black slavery provided much of the basis for the American industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th century. It continued until World War II, when free labor was needed for war industry. During the postwar boom, which relied substantially on the dynamic state sector that had been established under the highly successful semi-command economy of World War II, African-American workers gained a certain degree of freedom for the first time since post-Civil War Reconstruction. But since the 1970s that process is being reversed, thanks in no small measure to the "war on drugs," which in some respects is a contemporary analogue to the criminalization of black life after the Civil War-and also provides a fine disciplined labor force, often in private prisons, in gross violation of international labor regulations.

For such reasons as these, we can expect that the "war on drugs" will continue until popular understanding and activism reach a point where the fundamental driving factors can be discerned and seriously addressed.

Last February, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy issued its analysis of the U.S. "war on drugs" in the past decades. The Commission, led by former Latin American presidents Cardoso, Zedillo, and Gavíria, concluded that the drug war had been a complete failure and urged a drastic change of policy, away from criminalization and "supply-side" operations and towards much less costly and more effective measures of education, prevention, and treatment. Their report had no detectable impact, just as earlier studies and the historical record have had none. That again reinforces the natural conclusion that the "drug war"-like the "war on crime" and "the war on terror"-has quite sensible goals, which are being achieved, and therefore continue in the face of a costly failure of announced goals.

Returning to the UNASUR meeting, a dose of realism, and skepticism about propaganda, would be helpful in evaluating the pretexts offered for the establishment of U.S. military bases in Colombia, retention of the base in Honduras, and the accompanying steps towards militarization. It is very much to be hoped that South America will bar moves towards militarization and intervention, and will devote its energies to the programs of integration in both their external and internal aspects-establishing effective political and economic organizations, overcoming the terrible internal problems of deprivation and suffering, and strengthening varied links to the outside world.

But Latin America's problems go far beyond. The countries cannot hope to progress without overcoming their reliance on primary product exports, including crucially oil, but also minerals and food products. And all these problems, challenging enough in themselves, are overshadowed by a critical global concern: the looming environmental crisis.

Current warnings by the best-informed investigators rely on the British Stern report, which is very highly regarded by leading scientists and numerous Nobel laureates in economics. On this basis, some have concluded, realistically, that "2009 may well turn out to be the decisive year in the human relationship with our home planet."

In December, a conference in Copenhagen is "to sign a new global accord on global warming," which will tell us "whether or not our political systems are up to the unprecedented challenge that climate change represents." I am quoting Bill McKibben, one of the most knowledgeable researchers. He is mildly hopeful, but that may be optimistic unless there are really large-scale public campaigns to overcome the insistence of the managers of the state-corporate sector on privileging short-term gain for the few over the hope that their grandchildren will have a decent future.

At least some of the barriers are beginning to crumble, in part, because the business world perceives new opportunities for profit in alternative energy. Even the Wall Street Journal, one of the most stalwart deniers, has recently published a supplement with dire warnings about "climate disaster," urging that none of the options being considered may be sufficient and that it may be necessary to undertake more radical measures of geoengineering, "cooling the planet" in some manner.

Meanwhile, however, the energy industries are vigorously pursuing their own agenda. They are organizing major propaganda campaigns to defeat even the mild proposals being considered in Congress. They are quite openly following the script of the corporate campaigns that have virtually destroyed the very limited health care reforms proposed by the Obama administration so effectively that the business press now exults that the insurance companies have won-and everyone else will suffer.

The picture might be much grimmer even than what the Stern report predicts. A group of MIT scientists have just released the results of what they describe as, "The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth's climate will get in this century, [showing] that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago-and could be even worse than that [because the model] does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, for example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane." The leader of the project, a prominent earth scientist, says that, "There's no way the world can or should take these risks," and that, "The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies." There is little sign of that.

While new technologies are essential, the problems go far beyond. It will be necessary to reverse the huge state-corporate social engineering projects of the post-World War II period, or at least severely ameliorate their harmful effects. These projects quite purposefully promoted an energy-wasting and environmentally destructive fossil fuel-based economy. The state-corporate programs, which included massive projects of suburbanization along with destruction and then gentrification of inner cities, began with a conspiracy by manufacturing and energy industries to buy up and destroy efficient electric public transportation systems in Los Angeles and dozens of other cities; they were convicted of criminal conspiracy and given a light tap on the wrist. The Federal government then joined in, relocating infrastructure and capital stock to suburban areas and creating the interstate highway system, under the usual pretext of "defense." Railroads were displaced by government-subsidized motor and air transport.

The public played almost no role, apart from choice within the narrowly structured framework of options designed by state-corporate managers. One result is atomization of society and entrapment of isolated individuals with self-destructive ambitions and crushing debt. A central component of these processes is the vigorous campaign of the business world to "fabricate consumers," in the words of the distinguished political economist Thorstein Veblen, and to direct people "to the superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption" (in the words of the business press). The campaign grew out of the recognition a century ago that it was no longer as easy as before to discipline the population by force, and that it would therefore be necessary to resort to propaganda and indoctrination to curtail democratic achievements and to ensure that the "opulent minority" is protected from the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders," the population. These are crucial features of really existing democracy under contemporary state capitalism, a "democratic deficit" that is at the root of many of today's crises.

While state-corporate power was promoting privatization of life and maximal waste of energy, it was also undermining the efficient choices that the market does not provide-another destructive built-in market inefficiency. To put it simply, if I want to get home from work, the market offers me a choice between a Ford and a Toyota, but not between a car and a subway. That's a social decision and in a democratic society would be the decision of an organized public. But that's just what the dedicated elite attack on democracy seeks to undermine.

The consequences are right before our eyes, in ways that are sometimes surreal-no less surreal than the huge resources being poured into militarization of the world while a billion people are going hungry and the rich countries are cutting back sharply on financing meager food aid. The business press recently reported that Obama's transportation secretary is in Europe seeking to contract with Spanish and other European manufacturers to build high-speed rail projects in the U.S., using federal funds that were authorized by Congress to stimulate the U.S. economy. Spain and other European countries are hoping to get U.S. taxpayer funding for the high-speed rail and related infrastructure that is badly needed in the U.S. At the same time, Washington is busy dismantling leading sectors of U.S. industry, ruining the lives of the workforce, families, and communities.

It is difficult to conjure up a more damning indictment of the economic system that has been constructed by state-corporate managers, particularly during the neoliberal era. Surely the auto industry could be reconstructed to produce what the country needs, using its highly skilled workforce-and what the world needs-and soon, if we are to have some hope of averting major catastrophe. It has been done before, after all. During World War II, the semi-command economy not only ended the Great Depression, but also initiated the most spectacular period of growth in economic history, virtually quadrupling industrial production in four years as the economy was retooled for war, and laying the basis for the "golden age" that followed.

But all such matters are off the agenda and will continue to be until the severe democratic deficit is overcome. In a sane world, workers and communities would take over the abandoned factories, convert them to socially useful production, and run the factories themselves. That has been tried, but was blocked in the courts. To succeed, such efforts would require a level of popular support and working class consciousness that is not manifest in recent years, but that could be reawakened and could have large-scale effects.

These issues should be very prominent right here in Venezuela, as in other oil-producing countries. They were discussed by President Chavez at the meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2005. I will quote his words, which unfortunately were not reported, at least in the U.S. press: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing an unprecedented energy crisis in which an unstoppable increase of energy is perilously reaching record highs, as well as the incapacity of increased oil supply and the perspective of a decline in the proven reserves of fuel worldwide.... It is unpractical and unethical to sacrifice the human race by appealing in an insane manner to the validity of a socioeconomic model that has a galloping destructive capacity. It would be suicidal to spread it and impose it as an infallible remedy for the evils which are caused precisely by them."

These words point in the right direction. To avoid the suicide of the species there must be coordinated efforts of producers and users, and radical changes in prevailing socioeconomic models and global organization. These are very large and urgent challenges. There can be no delay in recognizing and understanding them, and acting decisively to address them.

This article is from a talk given in Caracas, Venezuela on August 29 (updated September 9). Noam Chomsky is a leading linguist, a long-time professor at MIT, a social critic, and author of numerous articles and books, including his latest, Failed States.

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