On Oct. 23, the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign met with Indian Marxist, Kavita Krishnan. (See the announcement of this meeting for a short biography of Kavita.) This was a small but hugely important step towards reviving a genuine socialist movement, one that sees the world as it is today rather than as it was just a few decades ago. Fundamental in this task is bringing such socialists together from the “Global South” and the “Global North”. Some people prefer to read material rather than listen to it, so we have taken the time to transcribe some of the meeting. We have transcribed the comments of Kavita plus those of Denys in Ukraine and Simon in Latin America. See this transcription, plus some comments of Oaklandsocialist, below this video of the full meeting.
John Reimann (chair)
We’d like to welcome everybody to this meeting of the Ukraine Socialist Solidarity Campaign. One of our goals is to help bring together the left around the world, the left that stands on principle and opposes not only U.S. capitalism and imperialism, but also that of Russia and China and elsewhere too, of course. We think it’s especially important to make these links between the so called Global North and the Global South. And it’s partly for that reason that we’re especially happy to welcome Kavita Krishnan to speak. Kavita was a leader of the student movement in India. She led the campaign against rape of Indian woman, and then she joined and became a leader of the Communist Party of India Marxist Leninist. In September of this year, she spoke out against that party support for the Xi and the Putin regimes, especially in regard to repression of Uighurs, and regarding the invasion of Ukraine, and it’s not easy to stand up for principle, rather than convenience. Completely aside from everything else, I think we have to recognize the tremendous courage and the integrity that Kavita showed for taking that stance. So aside from everything, with that included, we’re extremely pleased to welcome Kavita, and we hope this will be another step in working together. Kavita will speak for about 30 to 45 minutes, then there will be direct questions for Kavita and then she will reply to that. And then we’ll open it up for just general discussion any points of for that other comrades want to make. Because of the number of people, we’re going to ask people to limit their comments to two to three minutes. And then Kavita will sum up and reply to the comments for 15 to 20 minutes. So with that, welcome to Kavita, and please go ahead.
Thank you. Yeah, it’s a real pleasure to be here. And I especially appreciate this because it has not been easy. Losing what I thought was my political home, and which had been my political home for the last nearly three decades. And what does compensate for that pretty calamitous loss for me, is the discovery of another community, which I have not been in touch with before this, which is a community of those on the left, who are while being committed to a future beyond capitalism, do recognize the situation that the world is in right now, do recognize that, you know, we can’t approach 2022 with the same formulas that we had in 2003. The world is different right now. There are other other dangers right now. And there are other forces in the world apart from American imperialism, which present a clear danger to democracy and are not only imperialist, and oligarchic, but are also extremely right wing, extremely far right.
So I will explain what I mean by that right now, how I see these things and how they are seen in India: But just before that, I wanted to say that just finding other people who are grappling with this situation, where we are dismayed to find so much of the global left so many influential voices on the global left, who we have grown up deeply respecting, as well as a whole bunch of websites and so on which are the go to places where people go for the left perspectives on so many things. All of them seem to share so much with far right positions right now that it is pretty bewildering and dismaying. So I think those who share that sense of dismay, and those who are grappling with this situation… well, we are in it together and that feels a little better.But I wanted to just start by clarifying that there are many left streams in India. And I will start by talking about the Indian situation we are in beyond the left alone. But I just wanted to clarify to begin with that the primary sort of left streams in India – there are two parties called the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India Marxist the CPI and CPI-M. They more or less share very similar positions, and are, you know, in the in a similar political place on most things. And they have held several governments at various times in states and India, and the CPI ML to which I believe I belonged is a different stream. And, in general its positioned while the CPI and CPI-M, many of you may recognize Vijay Prashad, who is with the CPI-M and also quite well known as a left as a figure on the left internationally. CPI ML has actually generally had a better position on so many issues, both nationally as well as internationally more democratic position. So it isn’t quite accurate to say that they support Putin. They didn’t. They said, “we condemn the invasion; we stand with Ukraine.” The problem I think, was – and you know, I have written about the Uighurs and what is happening to them in the party magazine, and so on. All of that was alright. It’s just that I was disturbed to find that we seem to be in a habit of balancing that solidarity and support and calibrating it with a need to sort of say, “oh, but American imperialism is at fault as well. There’s a NATO angle. There is America is benefiting most from this war,” and therefore showing us less solidarity, actionable meaningful solidarity than we did when it was Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam, or whatever it was, you know.
So what I mean by actionable meaningful solidarity was that the Indian media and social media sphere is completely flooded with Putin propaganda. That is the dominant understanding across political lines. On the far right, there is tremendous support for Putin, and I’ll come to that. But on the Hindu supremacist right, there is a tremendous sense of identification with Putin and his political project, and I will come to that. But beyond that, you know, minority communities like the Muslim community — India, which is at the receiving end of Hindu supremacist fascism — there as well, there is a tremendous sort of acceptance for [it], because, you know, Russia is seen as a challenger to American imperialism. There’s a lot of pro Putin sentiment there as well. There is a lot of excuses for the war, which have been very, very widespread.
And of course, on the left… there is a formal, you know, saying that “we want the war to end; we are against the war, of course. War is never right.” But on the CPI and CPI-M after that there would be all this stuff about, “the war is happening because of NATO,” and they’re quite open in that praise those left parties of Russia and China as the multipolar challenge to America. And, you know, China is called socialist and all of that.
So the thing is that with the CPI ML, what I felt was that we were sort of, in trying to appease two positions. At the same time, we were not able to clearly say that we should be dismantling this disinformation, we should recognize it’s out there and we should be very active in debunking the myths that are coming out, which are changing, you know, which is which is changing. You know, Putin propaganda has gone through various phases.
So, people forget that just before the war started, everyone on the left was saying, “this is all war mongering on the American side. It’s not going to. be… there isn’t going to be an invasion.” I remember these conversations with my own comrades, but they don’t remember it anymore because they moved on. And you know that part is forgotten, you know, right till the day the invasion happened, Russian television was saying “there isn’t going to be an invasion. It’s all American propaganda.” So I think there’s the changing nature of that, and the need…
I remember, I was an active political activist on the left in the CPI ML, in 2003. And I remember we dedicated entire magazine features, you know, we produced booklets and so on in various languages, debunking American claims in support of the war. We’re doing nothing now beyond, you know, issuing a little statement here and there. So there isn’t really, as I said, meaningful solidarity. In fact, there’s this thing of “what can we do, you know? we’ve done what we can do. We have our priorities here in India, and we can’t really do anything beyond that.” What our embassies or, you know, when Russia bombs civilians, why can’t we protest there? Likewise, with China as well: the problem was that it was a tendency to criticize China, as though it were a fraternal sort of criticism of a communist of another left formation. So it was a criticism of China, as “it’s socialism that has gone off the rails,” or that “it’s moved from its ideals.” And so there will always be this, you know… it could be couched with the expectation of change, you know, “wisdom from the China CCP leadership” and so on. That’s delusional right now. And fact is that, you know, as a left formation, you may look at China and analyze its policies in left terms, in terms of “it isn’t socialist, how socialist is it”, and this and that. The point is that in terms of the actual harm it is doing, it is doing harm in the world, and of course, especially in the region, where India is, in term as an an authoritarian regime with overtly Islamophobic policies… where at home and, and also, of course complete suppression of dissent, complete remaking of the idea of citizenship, and nationalism. you know. So the rhetoric of anti colonialism and anti imperialism being used to push a certain idea of “China” and “belonging to China,” to tell Chinese people that essentially, their job as citizens is to obey. And so turning the notion of citizenship as a rights-bearing citizen into something which is a citizen who owes duty to the state, and to the Communist Party.
And in particular, now, of course, the Communist Party, and Xi and China as a country — we’ve seen that in the latest Congress documents there, that’s all fused into one figure of Xi. And so a duty of obedience is owed to Xi, and this should be something we pay attention to, because, of course, the regime in India makes no pretensions of being left wing or communist and all of that. It’s the opposite. It’s a far right regime. It’s Hindu supremacist. And of course, you know, the main fascist formation that it is born off is actually a product of the 1920s and arose alongside European fascism of that time, and is quite explicit in its debt to those fascism, while having very specifically Indian features as well. But the thing is that at the same time, you know, while they have all those features and those Indian specificities, they are not beyond learning from this authoritarian totalitarian state next door right. So, they are learning methods of control both political and technological from there, so, they are borrowing facial recognition technology, used to monitor minorities, to monitor people in conflict areas, to monitor dissenters, monitor protesters in Delhi, all of this. And at the same time, of course, this notion Modi also has, started speaking, the language of [unclear] all this talk of rights dominant. “We should be talking about duties.” so, all of us you know, “we have to do our duty. So you have to do your duty as a citizen.” And so he harps on that.
He also is looking very closely at the manner in which China is justifying its incarceration of Uighur people and mass iconcentration camps using the rhetoric of the war on terror. So I found that while the CPI ML, as distinct from the CPI-M, if you read Vijay Prashad on this, he says, “Well, this is education. You know, education is something everyone’s done, was it not done in, you know, in America with the indigenous people?” And so on. People say, “well, but that was racist, and that was genocidal, was it not?” And he says, “How dare you call me racist and genocidal! I think that we need to lift the Uighur people out of backwardness,” and so on and so forth. “And that’s what China’s doing,” you know, so there is this explicit comparison with absolutely genocidal precedents, which he seems to approve of, it seems, but he says, “But when China does it, it’s not genocidal. It’s just education.” You know, it’s like fighting caste in India that comparison. So what is it we got identity or Islam as a religion? I mean, these are being compared with the caste hierarchy. What is this? How does this work? And you know, how is one not seeing the connection between Xi saying, as he has repeatedly done that, “Islam in China has to be of a Chinese character.”
That’s exactly what the RSS says in India. The Hindu supremacist fascists in India have always said that Muslims have an allegiance to a state that is not Indian. And therefore, they can live in India only if they Indianize their themselves. And that means basically adopting Hindu/not Hindu nationalism, which is equated with Indian nationalism by the Hindu supremacist, right. So the similarities between these are simply impossible to ignore by any honest person, and I’m not saying this simply in a morally superior sort of way. I’m saying in order to understand what is happening in India and fight it, right, I feel as though you need to see what is happening in your region and make those very real connections, if you’re simply going to say, “oh, Brics”, and, you know, “Brics is a multipolar challenge.” And, you know, “how wonderful it is. And basically it’s such a wonderful challenge to the evil, US imperialist hegemony” and this and that, you are ignoring the political character of the regimes that make up the BRICs. And you are not willing to see what they are learning from each other, and how you need to really understand that in order to be able to fight effectively here at home, as well.
And with the ML, of course, the position was not that. They wouldn’t say these things about the Uighurs. But the point is that they want this statement on Uighurs to be a formal one, placed somewhere in some document or whatever. But not, as I said, one of actionable, meaningful solidarity, that when you come when you find out news, you know, when you find details in the New York Times about (it), with photographs and evidence and speeches and documents, police documents, in leaked police files on the Uighurs, the natural thing to do would be that you go and protest at the Chinese Embassy saying we demand answers for this. It’s nothing I mean, it is, of course, it’s symbolic, and you know, formal as well, but it is an action which one should take, one should take it up should try and mobilize like minded people on the left anywhere in the world to do this, because that is what is owed to the other people. If you just don’t do that, then you’re letting the dominant narrative on the left be exactly what it currently is, which is that on most websites of the left globally what you have is basically apology for China on the legal question, the sort of false propaganda that all this is just American fake news and this and that. It’s all made up. Or silence. So, yeah, I mean, I felt as though that needs to change. So in India, you know…
So I just wanted to say that I felt as though of course, it is absolutely true. You know, I’ll tell you how the argument goes on the ML side of the left, which is the best of the left that you get in India: So, the argument there was basically that multipolarity is a good thing in itself. And it that is, regardless of the democratic or fascist or authoritarian character of the regimes that make up this multipolarity challenge to American unipolarity. And that, essentially, of course, you know, Modi and the Hindutva fascism, that is our national priority, we need to fight that in India. And that means, because that regime, yes, it may have relationships with, you know, in Brics and all of that, but primarily, it’s aligned with American imperialism in order to contain China. And so our basic international sort of center of gravity around which we will understand, you know, we will put everything in perspective, keeping in mind that we have to balance, keep the multipolar balance going by opposing American imperialism. Our solidarity for something should move our international solidarity for Ukraine or leaders or whatever, shouldn’t overturn, you know, shouldn’t end up undermining our national interest, national priority. So it’s a very convoluted and very strange argument, which implies basically that then you have to ration out your solidarity, wherever it is. You won’t give any to Syria, you will give a little bit to Ukraine, you will give a little bit to Uighurs, but you shouldn’t give so much that it basically ends up unbalancing some imaginary balance of forces in the world. And I feel as though that is a “realist” ideological corruption of Marxist or Leninist understanding of the world, because this language of polarity and balance and so on … Since when is it the left’s job to imagine that we are able to sort of maintain this balance of forces and polarity? That is the job of ruling classes, to compete among themselves. Forr us to take sides, there was never… what kind of Leninism is that anyway? What kind of Marxism is that anyway? Our job should be to support people who are struggling. And then the argument will come that, “oh, but Ukraine, you know, it’s getting all this money and all this aid, military arms and so on from NATO, from America, and this and that,” but the point is, well, you, you can’t just say, “oh, I want I wish Ukraine would be able to successfully defend its solidarity, its sovereignty. But I’m not really happy… I don’t really have to weigh in on how they do that. And I am free to disapprove of the fact that they are taking arms from wherever they get it.” Which is a really a strange, kind of mental game that you’re playing where you think you have to keep your hands clean. And you shouldn’t say, “Well, you know, America actually owes the support, they should have given this kind of support to many places, including Syria, and preventing genocide” or to be something we should be pushing these countries that have the resources to help to do more, not do less.
And I think that the idea that America will benefit and, you know, America is winning, but if it didn’t, well, Ukraine is benefiting because its survival depends on basically fighting and winning and, you know, as for Ukraine’s own economic policies, and so on and so forth. It’s for the Ukrainian left and the Ukrainian workers to fight and, you know, when they have a free country and where they don’t have to actually go fight to protect their country and their people, and they are able to concentrate on these tasks and they will. So why should that be a reason for us to withhold our wholehearted solidarity and only offer this kind of lukewarm, “we would like Ukraine to win but” kind of thing.
The other thing, which I think is important, which we I think are completely missing in the Indian left and probably across the Indian left: there is almost no scrutiny whatsoever of how the global far right forces are actually working together. And what does that mean for your understanding of the world, because you can’t keep talking about multipolarity, and so on if you were to really recognize that, because, you know, the Indian left is willing to recognize this insofar as they are able to see how the Indian far right Hindu supremacist love Trump. They love Netanyahu. They love Israel and all of that.
So they’re not willing to see that the same forces love Putin as well. They literally say, “oh, Putin is going to create this undivided Russia, he is going to recreate the undivided Russian civilization state. And that is exactly what we want to do, we want to create a kind of [unclear] which is the undivided, you know, the mythical undivided civilization state, which the far right in India, the Hindu supremacist in India, feel entitled to. They feel that the Hindu civilization state, you know, that will encompass everything from Afghanistan, to Burma, to Sri Lanka, to Nepal, to you know, all all India’s neighbors, basically, Pakistan, Bangladesh, of course. So the idea that this unified whole has been dismembered that which is wound on the body politic. This is very common on the Hindu supremacist right here. And it’s exactly that language that Putin and his various ideologues, you know, fascist ideologues have been speaking about Russia as this organism, which has been dismembered and which needs to be put back together again, and Ukraine’s being annexed, again, is crucial to this. That’s one thing. The other thing is that there are very real connections here. For instance, Dugin, who is referred to who, you know –the left in India doesn’t seem to be willing to see that this is a fascist ideologue with who’s actively cultivating the Indian far right? So they refer to him as a political philosopher under sort of right wing political philosopher, like, sort of Eurasian version of Huntington, you know, that kind of thing. But the fact that he is able to command… I’m not even going into the actual relationship between Putin and so on.
The point is to understand where these ideas are coming from. So the fact that Putin’s speeches are designed to appeal not only inside Russia, but to the world to for the far right across the world is basically saying in every speech of his or repeatedly, what Dugin says, all he’s been saying for a long time, which is that “we need an anti imperialism and multipolarity meaning, that we need to put up a challenge to American hegemony. What is American and Western hegemony? It is basically this liberal values and human rights and democracy. We shouldn’t, you know… the civilization states of the world, that includes China, that includes Hindu India, that includes Russia, that includes the Arab states, and so on, and so forth, you know, the Taliban, whatever it is, they all have a right to basically, do what whatever they like without being accountable to, you know, these Western values, you know, so human rights, democracy, these are western values, universalizing them is absolutely wrong,” and so on and so forth.
And so if you pay attention, then we can see that Xi has, in fact, said the exact same thing, many times. Exactly the same thing, saying, “Look, we are all puppies and, you know, democracy, but we get to decide what democracy means. Nobody is challenging us in China, the majority of the Chinese people are with us. So a democratic, it’s up to the people of our country to decide who’s democratic, who’s not. And who are you to say that that needs to be some kind of electoral tests that you have to pass and that leadership has to change and so on and so forth. You know, you that’s not the way we do things in China.” Likewise, you know, Russia, you know, they they say the absolute same thing. Modi and Amit Shah, who’s Modi’s right hand man. He has said this very explicitly policing a human rights, “we don’t accept these western standards of human rights. Indian human rights ideas mean that the Indian family is this wonderful place where in the Indian Village, these are these wonderful places who take care of the weaker sections of society and who take care of women and children.” You know, he’s basically talking about caste hierarchy, which is very far from the way he describes the caste and gender hierarchy, which can be pretty horrific, but he’s actually advocating is the connecting point between this, because he’s has visited India many times, his first English publisher, his English publisher was, you know, their their first, you know, for four years in their first four years, they were based in Goa, which is also a hub of Hindutva, Hindu supremacist power right forces here. And so he openly says, you know, “there’s this beast antichrist, Satan. What is it Kali Yuga.” So Kali Yuga is the phrase in sort of Hindu mythological terms, which is for the world turned upside down. And that has a very specific meaning where basically the cast hierarchy is turned upside down. And the oppressed castes are ruling and women are on top. And it’s basically the rule, you know, the castes which are born to rule are the ones on the bottom.
So this is a specter, which is supposed to be the modern world today. It’s supposed to be a specter of you’re on the verge of destruction. Basically, society is in disarray. And so you need an apocalyptic figure to come and set it right and all of that. So he literally refers to all of this you know, as the beast, the Antichrist and all of that. This is about overturning caste hierarchy. Dugin has basically said, “well, then the way you know the Hindutva Hindu far right forces Modi’s rise,” all this basically is about the civilizational multipolarity we are talking about? No, my point is that when this is going on, you also have America.
You can’t just say, “look at America and say American imperialists inside America, the Biden administration is sending these funds to Ukraine and these arms to Ukraine.” Who’s opposing it inside America? It’s Trump supporters. Are we not able to see this politics inside that? Does it not matter to us at all? If we talk the language of multipolarity, which is now completely… if ever, it was the language, the left should have been speaking, which I would contest right now, it’s completely hijacked by the far right. And it is preventing us from seeing what is happening inside America, for instance, where you have a far right, that looks at Putin, and various power, right, fascists all over the world as their friends that have actual material linkages with them. I mean, we know where Trump’s money comes from. And it is, it is something to decide there, right? Any left in America, and then the world, would have to decide, “do we want to be on the side of the Trump supporters and be saying, ‘oh, there shouldn’t be all this arms being sent to Ukraine?'” Or should we be on the side of Ukraine and say, “get your arms around where you live, but we need you to win, we need you to survive, and we need Russia, we need this particular very crucial fascist invasion of Putin’s to fail.” So I’ll end there, basically by saying that, to me, I think that fighting fascism in India, for me, is what the… and I think this was what was difficult for my comrades to understand that fighting, you know, for me, these international issues and the national priority, I couldn’t manage to separate them in different boxes and sort of have it all arranged in my head that way. So the urgency towards fighting fascism in India, and the urgency of recognizing that there is this global fascist far right, growing unity of purpose and unity of language and a unity of ideological, ideological synergy. I felt an urgency, the same urgency to recognize that that same urgency to support everyone who is fighting this, no matter where they are fighting, in which country in which corner of the world, and so, you know, support for the women and the people of Iran fighting? Well, you know, Iran is supplying arms to Russia, we should be recognizing that increasingly, the people of the world should be finding shared ways to recognize that their enemy that a victory for Putin is a victory for all these [unclear] for Modi, for Trump for, you know, Ali Khamenei, everyone. And a defeat for Putin, likewise, is a defeat for all these forces and you know, vice versa. So, we should be recognizing that. And that is a much more Political clarity. It’s a position with political and, you know, moral clarity rather than this convoluted idea of the left sort of adjusting itself to and calibrating its solidarity based on some, you know, notion of multipolarity and balance.
Thank you very much, Kavita, that was very, very informative. And a lot of important points there. So, now we’re going to move to direct questions for Kavita, which she will then respond to, and then we’ll have a complete free and open discussion. So if anybody has any questions, please use the raise hand.
I am Denys Pilash from the Ukrainian socialist organization called [unclear]. The Social Movement. I’m speaking from Kyiv. Fortunately, today we have electricity, because blackouts are quite frequent now, due to the mentioned Iranian drones used by Russians to hit civilian infrastructures throughout the country. And I, first of all, I am very grateful to Kavita for everything she said today and everything what she has done previously, because, well, when I was a student, I used to have as my master’s thesis, the pollution in Nepal. And I’m interested in what’s happening in South Asia in India and its neighbors. And again, it’s big problems. The people here in Ukraine and the people in many parts of the Global South, they seem very isolated from each other. And many people in the global south are eager to reproduce some kind of primary narratives. And we need to be build these bridges. So when I first saw characters, signatures and the different, like, Ukrainian feminist manifestos and other appeals, it was a very good sign because we relaxed these contracts with the movements in the Global South. We had some in Latin America, in South Africa, mostly via different Trotskyist groups. But again, South Asia was wasn’t there. And Kavita was, in her clarity, so powerful in this analysis of what’s real this neocolonial and imperialist nature of Russia’s aggressive policy against Ukraine. And I wanted, first of all, to ask whether this position that is open to… you mentioned that it’s still not enough, but that it is present in the Indian left. It’s a position that is open to listen to Ukrainians and to give their them some subjectivity to the people of Ukraine, some some agency of their own. And also your articles and your posts – they were also denouncing aspects of Stalinist policies in the Soviet Union, and in Ukraine, and again, from what we see in the movements in South Asia, many of which are very combative, and they are genuinely linked to the masses in workers and peasants, but they are still seem many of them, they seem from the Maoist tradition. And whether also this denunciation of Stalinism and Stalinist political culture, whether it is doing its way in the Indian left or it’s still far from being in this processes.
And finally, I’d also suggest that your analysis of the so called bridge of multipolarity done by by Putin’s regime. It can also be added that even in these terms, yes, you correctly mentioned that is really about building a far right International and Putin’s Russia is model for many far right in the West. Now, fascists and conservatives from Orban and Marine LePen, to many people like Modi and Bolsonaro and so on. But it’s also this notion of multipolarity is not about building a more diverse political map throughout the world but returning to some old imperialism of the 19th century, when you have several big players and all others, all other countries, all other peoples are denied any kind of agency. And this is the very core of Putin’s understanding of multipolarity. You have Russia, you have the US, you have China, maybe India, maybe Brazil, and that is all, and all other peoples of Asia and Africa, they are denied actually, they, they are viewed only [unclear]… whether you can elaborate also on this. Thanks.
Sure, let me go. And maybe if there are one or two questions left, then you know, people can just bring them up in the discussion. I think that one of the questions Dennis asked, Vladislav asked very similar – basically, you’re asking about, “are there any groups in India that are open to listening to Ukrainians are taking a better position basically have no more clear solidarity with Ukraine?” So I should say that look, in terms of the organized left? Not really, there are some. There’s a very small group called “Radical Socialists” they call themselves. I think they are aligned with the Fourth International and in India, this group in action Vinayak (?), who’s very good friend, his positions and Radical Socialists’ positions have been largely pretty good. And so he’s, he’s also someone who has for four decades now cut through the multipolarity, you know, the real realist kind of bullshit on the international relations talk. We should be Palestine and a whole lot of other things. So he’s very good at that. But, you know, the, the thing to me is that Fourth International is also such a big bag in which you also have Tariq Ali, who’s been saying stuff on Ukraine since 2014. And so, to me, I find that in India as well as beyond India, and this is an answer to Vijay who asked about anarchism and Chomsky is… well, my problem is that right now, I think the entire left, irrespective of whether they are Trotskyites, whether they are anarchists whether they are Marxist, Leninist, Stalinist, you name it. I think that this disorientation because of this notion that, you know, “America has to be the big bad villain all the time in any international situation.” This is something really widespread. Tariq Ali has had some things to say about Ukraine, which have been really bad. He has justified the annexation of Crimea, for instance, in 2014, saying, “Oh, this was all with a referendum” and all of that. So I think the problem is that, you know, this goes beyond these kind of old… However, we understood the map of the left, okay, so I think that with Trotskyites, for instance, you know, in the western capitalist countries most of the time, you know, anti Stalinism was a way of distinguishing yourself from the Communist Parties and so on. But they didn’t really look closely at what harm the Soviet Union and Stalin’s regime in particular did to Eastern Europe. And, you know, everyone who was at the receiving end of invasions, annexations, and so on of the Stalinist regime. So I think that that’s been a problem where they are struggling (with). I mean, I see them being unable to look face on at what Ukraine means. Ukraine’s as a colony as the colonial relationship that Ukraine had with the Soviet Union. I know, on the Indian left, that that is a completely novel idea. And when I began to talk about Ukraine in these terms, because of what I had been reading for some years now, I’d been reading, you know, as much as I could get ahold of research on the Soviet documents and so on, and people’s jaws would drop open and they would be like “colony?” and I would say “yes, but you know India doesn’t have your colonizer, doesn’t live next door to you. Ukrainians colonizer lives next door.”
So in India, you know, you across the board, you would have these weird metaphors being used, all of which were pro Putin, saying, “oh, you know, what if this, your wife, you know, the husband and wife, and then the wife keeps a knife under a bed and says, ‘Oh, it’s just there for my safety,’” you know, so this idea that Ukraine is the wife and you know, she’s keeping NATO knife under her bed, and she’s going to kill her husband in the night and whatnot. Awful stuff. And the stuff was going on. And I was saying, if there is at all, any… to understand that relationship, right, you have to understand that Ukraine was the colony. And so yes, they are the ones who have a right to feel insecure vis a vis, Russia. So all that, I think, is there,
And Chomsky as well, I mean — he’s talked about peace and so on, you know, and the problem is that he’s talking about peace as though the Ukrainians need to be lectured on peace. He’s gone to the extent of saying, “oh, Trump is the one behaving like a statesman and talking about negotiations.” Negotiations on what, you know? The idea that he keeps saying that in this latest interview he did with Vijay Prashad, he kept saying that the Americans are preventing negotiations, they have to allow negotiations, again. This is this strange idea that Ukraine is a proxy of America, and that, you know, America will allow or disallow negotiations. The point is that Ukraine made all these overtures for negotiations and meaningful bonds, and they were… Putin was not interested in them. And is it possible to enforce any deal that is agreed upon? I mean, that is also a question, if Putin will actually respect those. So that’s the problem, I feel. And so I can’t have any easy answers to any of you about that. In India, you will notice, Denys, that it wasn’t just my signature, I had actually managed to get a whole bunch of people to sign those statements which emanated from Ukraine. And that was, to me the, the hopeful part, the people who are not with organized groups, or who were with organized groups, but we’re thinking differently from their organizations, many of them were willing to listen. And unfortunately, the problem is that the organized groups, not just left groups, but even, for instance, the National Alliance of People’s Movements, similar, you know. So a solidarity with Ukraine has hedged about with “Oh, but you can’t take sides, you have to be really careful. Because this Because NATO, you know, because Nazis, because whatever.
So, that stuff. But then there are people there who are certainlybasically willing to listen. Your question, John, about what next, organizationally? I have no clue, frankly, I do not know. And I’m merely recovering right now, from the shock of recognizing that something which I had not imagined would be the situation. Even a year ago had you asked me, I would have said, “I’m in this party for life.” So I did not really realize, I think very naïve of me, but I didn’t realize what kind of buttons I would end up pushing by talking not only about all this on Ukraine and so on, but basically, I think that the fact that a solidarity with Ukraine led me to read about Stalin’s regime. And talking about that, in any specific terms.
In general terms, you’re allowed to say, “Oh, all right. You know, of course, there were a lot of harm done to in a party and socialist democracy by Stalin.” The ML will let you say that. [But] the minute you get down to specifics, and you start talking about genocides, and mass starvation and so on, then, you know, you’re basically not welcome to do any of that. So that is a problem. I don’t have an answer about where next. So, okay. The question about which [unclear]… so Ted attend about multipolarity on the left in India. I don’t know when this began, I’ll have to do some deep diving on that to figure it out when this kind of idea started, probably in the last decade, I think. But
I think the whole issue has come about with the you know, with with the left’s base(?) to sort of find a language to understand how to talk about Russia and China and their growing emergence in a sense. So, you know, into in the early noughties, where the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and so on took place, I think it was a very fringe situation where, you know, you could talk, you know about American imperialism, and that’s it. You didn’t really have to, at least in India, there wasn’t any conflict within I think the attempt to sort of fit things into an old familiar narrative. Fit a fast changing world with new dangers into an old familiar narrative. I think that is somewhat part of the problem. Okay. And I don’t really know when that began. Okay, Cheryl asked about working class movement. I’ll go there last. Mudassir, your question – I don’t know, I don’t think this is a problem about messaging, and people assuming that we are for the US. I think there is a bad faith. Nobody who knows, for instance, my history, nobody who knows my background could remotely in good faith, say that I’m a fan of American imperialism. But they are, they’re saying, I’m a CIA agent, or I’m a Zionist agent, or whatever it is.
You know, the tankies in India, that’s what they’re doing. And it’s peculiar, because, there is no ground for this whatsoever. But it’s not a problem of my messaging. The problem is that they do not want you… the minute you criticize Putin, or Russia or China and so on, especially China, you’re sort of persona non grata. The only way and this is not just some rank and file, trolls. This is [unclear]. For instance, Vijay Prashad, has said this in a way that anybody is calling, you know, using the terms tankie, or Stalinist or whatever, they’re all… he said something, he’s tweeted something like, “oh, you know, pal, you should… you’re a CIA agent, and you should say so openly.” So it’s not meant to take names, but that’s the kind of things so that this is right from very influential people. And I find it rather appalling that this kind of left voices who are well known, that are influential, that are seen, as sort of… or that have a footprint, you know, beyond India, and all of that. This is a dangerous language of basically ad hominem attack on anyone who is challenging your view of the world. And your view of the world is simply not borne out by facts, you can only hold on to that view, by refusing to look at reality in the face, you know. You just can’t hold on to it otherwise. And you’re actually a fan China, as a regime right now, a fan of Russia, and what on earth is the situation for the left? What Cheryl asked about the working class movement: Well, in short, there’s a lot I could say about that, but very briefly, see, there are large unions in India and many of them are left. are led by various left formations. There is a very large unorganized sector, where unionization is much weaker, but there also the left has led. So there are some very remarkable struggles and movements. But I should say that, of course, the fact that there is a dominant… you know, right now the entire country is… the Modi regime is sort of… under the Modi regime, India’s fast hurtling towards becoming a sort of totalitarian Hindu nation.
In a sense, if not in name. So, you know, even if they keep the Indian constitution as a sort of external cover, they are fast hollowing it out of any real meaning very fast. So in that situation, you know, they’re also obviously, very fast getting rid of labor laws, and all of that. But I feel that the working class movement as a whole, is still yet to have a full realization that this is happening. So a full realization to the fullest extent of what this danger represents, and what needs to be done about it formally. Of course, it’s there. But I think that we are all still struggling, and I don’t blame anyone for that. I’m just stating it as a fact.
And I just want to add one last little bit there. Denys did seem to you know, that because he studied Nepal, and all of that, and it’s a privilege to have been able to speak to you, Denys here. And, you know, my solidarity. And my thoughts with you. I just wanted to say there that you’re absolutely right that in South Asia and in the Global South, generally. I think that this is the problem, that you can’t just dismiss with contempt, even Stalinist parties and so on. You can’t because there are many courageous movements there are many remarkable struggles that have taken place, that are taking place, and in which basically the main players are parties, which, on the question of Stalinism, have a very, very compromised position. So I think that that is what complicates the situation. And I find that many in the West don’t really understand this. So, you know, when I said what I did, while coming out there, I noticed there were many sort of Trotskyites in Western countries who were saying, “what’s all this? You know, this is all old stuff. No big deal,” kind of thing. “Just realizing this now? So didn’t you know?” That kind of thing. And I felt like saying, “Well, yes and no,” right? Because the point is that here, it is a very different situation. This is not some, you know, corrupt… sort of group that is holding on to some old dead end ideological jargon. It is a live party with many…, you know, with the party I just left. I mean, it has remarkable struggles, too. It has very, very courageous struggles and mass movements to its name and still does. So, you know, that is I think, what causes the difficulty here.
Yes, thank you. I wanted to comment on on two things. One is the idea of multipolarity linked to a certain understanding of sovereignty and cultural diversity in such a way as to justify dictatorships in what is considered the global south or non western world. This is how it was used by Chavez in Venezuela, for example, and I will link it – this idea of being there being capitalist regimes even dictatorships which may have a progressive role and are perceived as allies – to furthering the cause of socialism. So what happens on the national level, when sectors of the bourgeoisie are portrayed as progressive capitalists, patriotic capitalists, and so on, which is also something that has happened very frequently in Venezuela is like part of the trademark of Chavista ideology, as a left opposition is the… I am, of course, totally acquainted with being accused of being at the service of imperialism with the CIA and so on. So all of my solidarity to Kavita Krishnan for her brave position and all my rejection for all of the attacks that she has suffered. My question for her would be the following: I think that the opposite of these class collaboration ideologies, which are not exclusive of Stalinism, but Stalinism was one of them, that in international politics is a form of capitalism, but on the case of national politics is the Popular Front, the idea of the necessity to have a strategic alliance with a sector of the bourgeoisie. I would like to ask her what she thinks about this, if she thinks that class independence is some important strategic definition for Marxist revolutionary socialist.
Thank you so much. That was absolutely great speaking to all of you. And I’d really appreciate it if John or anyone could maybe mail me the email i.d.’s of everyone who’s willing to share their mail with me. I put mine down in the group. So I’d love to be in touch with all of you later. What Ted said, I found really interesting, because it’s very, very possible that this multipolarity talk on the left could well date back to China. You’re probably right. I will also try to dig up more on that. But what you asked me about, feminist groups and other groups and all of that: I think, as I said, there are many individuals whom I got them to sign these statements and all that, that was quite a large number. But groups wise, there are some, you know, there are many feminist groups that are doing excellent work and all of that. But even their understanding, usually on these issues or in Iran, it’s fine. But on other issues and all of that the tendency is to basically sort of trust, to go along with whatever is the dominant left position. So they are not even aware of it perhaps that, you know, there is this. So I’ve noticed there’s a feminist mailing group on which there have been quite heated debates, because Rohini Hensman is on it, and she has very strongly written in solidarity with Ukraine and excellently so, but she’s from a Trotskyite background. And I would sort of try to explain to people how important it was to understand how supporting Ukraine is a feminist issue. But a lot of the sort of more older feminists, and not just those from left groups in general, as well, there was a sort of fatigue about it, and a sort of, you know, [thinking that it is] too much work to sort of change what you had assumed the world was like. Unfortunately, that is the problem. And I wish it was the case, as you what you’re describing in Colombia, that there are a lot of young people doing, you know, great work. And outside this, there are young feminists in India, very exciting work. But they too, on many issues, you know, have sort of, I would say, sort of slipped up when it has come to, for instance, Asam (?). And that’s another story.
But in India, also there are issues on which the left has sort of fallen prey to some kind of regional nationalism, and which is overlapped with Hindu supremacist politics. And their talk about citizenship and all of that, that’s another story for another day, but these groups have also slipped up there. So I don’t really think there’s any organized group right now to be taken up with any great hope. But as I said, you know, the fact that I could get so many individuals, that I found this much easier to talk to people outside groups than I have, you know… It’s the wall you meet when you talk to people within lefts than other kinds of groups. I have not found that in people outside groups, there’s a much greater openness, which is why I could get so many signatures, you know, and statements. So I guess that would be my starting point.
Now what? Yeah, what?
The other question, one second, was, what Simone asked about Popular Front. See, in India, I know that the left and even the party, which I belong, which had, for the last two decades or so been very clear about not having any alliances with most of the parties that are bourgeois parties that were in power. So unlike other left parties, we had sort of remained aloof from those alliances. And, you know, that was very clear. But I think those two, that situation changed after 2014. With more these, you know, being in power, and Modi has won two terms now. And I think that it’s very clear that the very survival of opposition politics at all, is at stake right now, which is why there are attempts to unite opposition forces as much as possible. These opposition forces in India have all kinds of weaknesses. And that includes left parties as well, which once held power in for a very long time for 30 years, 30 plus years in a state like [unclear]. But they too now are in a very weak situation. So I think that definitely, in India, the dominant understanding for all of us, not just parties, but even for individuals and anyone who is worried about India survival as a democracy and worried about survival of Muslims, in particular, under the Modi regime. I think there’s no debate that we want to see the opposition as united as possible. And, you know, giving not only an electoral challenge, but sort of working beyond just electoral adjustments to actually sit and think about how to do something new in order to challenge this because I’m not I’m not terribly confident about opposition prospects in the coming election in 2024, either. And after that, if Modi wins that election, then all bets are off. We don’t know what India will be like after that.
John Reimann – Chair’s concluding remarks
First of all, I think we’re all so happy that you were able to join us, and also our admiration for your courage and integrity. I hope that this is just one part of of a general move forward and that we can really concretize the links that we’re starting to make here. First, some more joint discussion and joint action. I would just like to conclude with a comment that Mudassar Nadim said he said “excellent presentation. Never seen such stuff from the left”.
Oaklandsocialist comments: There are, of course, huge differences between India and the United States. But what Kavita said about the threat to (bourgeois) democracy really strikes a bell here in the US. The serious possibility that the MAGA Republicans could take full power in 2024 is something to seriously think about. What Kavita said about Modi overturning the democratic norms while still maintaining the Indian constitution is exactly what could happen here.
Contrary to what many – possibly most – socialists think here, the Republican Party of today is not what it was 15 years ago. Today, it has actual fascist links and actual fascists such as Lauren Bobert and Marjorie Taylor Green in the U.S. congress. Socialists’ refusal to recognize this real change and refusal to consider what this might mean programmatically goes hand-in-hand with their opposition to Ukraine getting arms from wherever necessary.From what Kavita was saying, it sounds like there could be similar issues in India. That is why we hope that this is only the first discussion of this sort.
On a local level, I am running for mayor of Oakland. Here and here are some examples of how I think socialists and Marxists can take up the social and political issues in the working class in general. We also have many other more general and news related articles on Trump and US politics in general.
One final note: Because it takes a lot of time and energy to make and correct these transcripts, Oaklandsocialist usually only transcribes the comments of the speaker (plus the chair). In this case, though, we also transcribed the comments of one comrade in Ukraine and one in Latin America. We hope this will in its own small way further facilitate the collaboration of these forces in both Ukraine and Latin America with those in India.