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The relentless crisis — Lal Khan

Occupy Islamabad LahoreThe huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst

After the 2008 crash of the world economy, there was an unprecedented turbulence in the world markets and economies. In the advanced capitalist economies most regimes, social-democratic or conservative, carried through severe austerity and cuts that started the process of dismantling the welfare state, mainly in Europe. All those gains achieved through intense struggle by the working classes of these countries were being reversed. Still the US and European economies could not come out of the recession after five years of brutal recipes to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working masses. There is a seething revulsion against the ruling classes. A popular catchphrase doing the rounds in Europe say it all: “Bankers are slightly less popular than paedophiles and serial killers.”

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, the so-called emerging economies that were expected to give a new lease of life to capitalism with high growth rates, have failed to do so. Their growth rates shrank and the nature of the socioeconomic development in these countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished, have resulted in severe social contradictions that have now begun to explode on the political plane. Instability, uncertainty and disillusionment are now stalking these lands. The eruption of mass revolts from Turkey to Brazil are thus not accidental. They reflect a growing discontent and a sense of revulsion amongst the masses who are being inflicted by the severe trauma of this crisis that is crushing their livelihood.

It seems as if happiness has become elusive for the ordinary people in the advanced capitalist countries, not to speak of the oppressed working classes of the underdeveloped world.

After the Second World War, even if the revolutions were defeated in several European countries mainly due to the betrayals of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties, yet the upswing enabled these traditional leaders of the mass organisations to carry out reforms. Reforms are always introduced from above to stop revolution from below, but at least at that stage capitalism in the developed countries had the capacity to create a social welfare state. In Britain, education became free and the Labour Party introduced a health system where even foreign visitors could get treatment at a minimal cost.

People had hope for a better future and that created a blissful atmosphere and relatively prosperous societies. Now that optimism in life in Europe seems to have evaporated. People have lost hope in a future that promises only a grim life. A social malaise has set in. It is astonishing that this situation has developed in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Eastern European Socialism and the capitalist restoration in China. After these events the bourgeoisie gained access to a huge market of more than two billion. At that time in the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was euphoria amongst the strategists of capital. The bourgeoisie on a world scale were dizzy with success. Yet it has turned out to be a hoax.

Dialectally it turned into its opposite and today we see capitalism mired in its most severe crisis, unprecedented in its 200-years history. This exposes the historical redundancy and the organic sickness of capitalism. Even with such a massive expansion of the market, it has failed to develop society and improve the living standards of the working class even in the advanced countries. The growth we saw in the last 20 to 30 years was through a greater labour intensive mechanism where all or most members of the household were working, many workers working overtime and of course, a gigantic expansion of credit.

The huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst. But what triggered the crash of 2008 was the overextension of credit that accumulated in the corporate sector and through personal loans in the previous three decades. The banking default in 2007 led to the sovereign default in 2010. Ever since the economies of most European countries and the US have been reeling from a chronic crisis with no end in sight.

According to the Financial Times, it could take at least 20 years to solve the European crisis! It goes on to say, “Europe raises the spectre of an ungovernable world.” The usually boastful The Economist had to concede, “The way to recovery is long and dark.” If these most staunch strategists and spokespersons of capitalism are in such gloom, the reality of this system’s recovery must be much starker.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, there was a sense of shock amongst the workers of the advanced capitalist countries. However, as various regimes embarked upon severe austerity programmes, retaliation began to emerge from the workers and the youth. The revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab revolution in the spring of 2011 took its inspiration from the mass demonstrations and protests in France in the autumn of 2010. The lightning strikes of the students in Britain in December of that year also had a huge impact on the youth, especially in Egypt. After the Arab Spring we saw the European summer with mass protests not seen in two decades in most countries of Europe. Then we saw the American Autumn with the sudden rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US with huge implications worldwide.

These movements also had important repercussions on the political plane. After 19 general strikes we saw the collapse of the traditional political party of the workers in Greece, PASOK. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA in Greece also shows that the working classes at a certain point can overcome the burden of their traditions and move ahead to a more radical solution.

Read more » Daily Times
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20137\21\story_21-7-2013_pg3_5

Were we really tolerant before the jihadis? – Dr Manzur Ejaz

Whether led by mature middle-class people or otherwise, the extremist religious movements draw most of their following from the new urbanite classes. In most cases, they have become the source of religious violence

Pakistanis must ask a central question: were we really tolerant people before Zia’s Islamisation or we were only naively indolent, prone to be violent at any moment? It is a common belief in Pakistan that when Zia, alongside the US, created violent jihadi organisations, they created hysteria in the public with narrow-mindedness ruling and people killing for frivolous reasons. Two questions come to mind about this explanation. One, were we really consciously ever a tolerant society for the jihadis to destroy? And two, how can we use this explanation to explain the parallel rise of extremist political Hinduism in India?

While talking about the killing fields that jihadis have created, we forget that the carnage of 1947 in Punjab cost more lives than the total number of people killed by jihadi violence in the last 20 years in Pakistan. Everyone blames the people of ‘other religions’ for the 1947 tragedy but, wherever Muslims were in overwhelming majority, they killed Sikhs and Hindus. Conversely, they faced the same treatment in areas where they were a minority. Amrita Pritam rightly said, “Aaj sabhay Kaidoo hu gaiy, husan ishaq de chor” (Today, everyone has turned into a villain, enemy of love). What happened in 1947 is closely linked to what is happening now and what occurred in east Punjab’s Khalistan Movement, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Most of the 1947 killings were concentrated in the rural areas; there were some in urban centres but they were limited. Most of the stories I have heard from Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs migrating from Pakistan indicate that the urban non-Muslims did not lose their family members while the stories from the rural areas are horror tales. One of my maternal uncles was killed in a village in Gurdaspur but at the same time none of the two neighbouring village’s Sikhs were spared — entire villages were murdered. How can so-called innocent rural people become murderous?

It can be argued that from the second to third centuries, the way the Gupta dynasty established self-sufficient but desolate and isolated village communities contributed to the religious violence of 1947, and even presently. When the Maurya Dynasty’s state ownership of entire land and manufacturing became unsustainable, it was replaced by self-sufficient village communities. Every community was required by the king’s law to have all kinds of artisans who were given a little land, residential and agricultural, and fixed shares of peasant produce. Consequently, the village communities had no need or desire to interact with other communities or reach beyond their own. Only a few traders and vendors were the link between the village and the rest of the world. The vendor, or vanjara in Punjabi, became a hero in folk songs because he was the only link with the outside world.

Due to the total absence of interaction and exchange of thought with the rest of the world, the village communities became lonesome entities. Mental horizons shrank and one generation of people was replaced with an identical next one. The village was considered a homeland or country whose honour was to be protected. This is why, during inter-village festivals, people would carry weapons as the possibility of war between the people of different villages was very real.

In eastern Punjab, some village communities were comprised of people of all religions but, when the British colonised western Punjab through an irrigation system, the village communities were established exclusively on religious basis. Therefore, another layer of separation was put in place where people of one religion became aliens for the other. The British education system did not mitigate such a separation because of the imposition of Urdu and denial of Punjabi identity. As a result, Sikhs limited themselves to the Gurmukhi script and Muslims to the Persian script. This was another fundamental divide created by the British. In Sindh, where Sindhi was made the official language and everyone used the same script, inter-religious hostility was a little less and did not lead to carnage in 1947. In the urban centres of Punjab where, despite furious religious political divides, the interaction between people was much better and the level of violence was also lower in 1947. ….

Read more : Wichaar