Kashmir And Palestine: How The World Has Seen Bloodletting In The Name Of Liberty And Democracy
Every democratic robbery unfurls its flag in the name of its victims whose best interests are served ideally by depriving them of their rights and possessions.
“When the dictators of today appeal to reason”, German philosopher and sociologist Max Horkheimer says, “they mean that they possess the most tanks. They were rational enough to build them; others should be rational enough to yield to them” (The End of Reason, 1947). The logic of power ends here, but the ruse of political reason begins from here.
Instead of tanks, albeit they are always at their disposal, the elected politicians have lethal slogans of religion, nation and/or democracy to usurp human freedom. They create mass paranoia, “a pathological possibility built-in to all conceptual thinking, the dark side of cognition” (Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectics of Enlightenment, 1944), to attract the support of the majority. “The fascist agitator is usually a master salesman of his psychological defects” (Adorno, Minima Moralia, 1951).
In recent times, the world has seen so much bloodletting in the name of liberty and democracy that the very thought of these words has become repulsive if not revolting. When spoken by a charismatic leader, the modern Zarathustras, they send a shiver down the spine because they mean nothing beyond dystopia and annihilation.
Every democratic robbery unfurls its flag in the name of its victims whose best interests are served ideally by depriving them of their rights and possessions. The annexation of Jerusalem from the Palestinians by the US-Israel nexus was not enough; to add insult to the injury, the US brazenly offered the occupied Golan Heights, a Syrian territory, to Israel in a golden platter by recognising it as a part of the aggressor. American historian Studs Terkel was succinct, “America suffers from a national Alzheimer’s disease, we forget history,” (Conversation with Studs Terkel, 2003), and the fact that not everything Americans contemplate offering to their allies belongs to them.
After the naked violence such as that, the world has regressed into the era of Nazi fascism. The concept of lebensraum has gained currency, and the hackneyed version of expansionism through colonising the land has reappeared on the world’s stage. Kashmir was the next in line, and it’s small wonder that the Indian fascist ruling class has swallowed a living, vibrant state, a thorn in its side, with massive economic opportunities for its capitalist class. After all, Kashmir too deserved the free market — its fruits and plagues both; the former are bitter, and the latter is lethal.
In both India and Pakistan, the economic uncertainty of the middle class and the expansion of capital to the peripheral regions have brought two fascist regimes into power. No matter what the capitalist economists claim, the continued overproduction and loss of rate of profit, the two key elements mentioned by Marx, have forced capitalism to invade the relatively unexplored areas.
“Men taken as a mass”, Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci concludes, “obey economic necessity and not their emotions. Politics is emotion; patriotism is emotion; these two imperious goddesses merely act as a façade in history. In reality, the history of people throughout the centuries is to be explained by the changing, constantly renewed interplay of material causes. Everything is economics” (Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks, p. 163).
“There has been a fall in the rate of profit in 2017, from 24.4 per cent in 2016 to 23.9 per cent in 2017. Indeed, the US rate of profit on this measure has now fallen for three consecutive years from a post-crash peak in 2014” (Michael Robert blog, 2018). For Robert Brenner “it is a Marxian crisis, in that it finds its roots in a long term fall and failure to recover the rate of profit, which is the fundamental source of the extended slowdown of capital accumulation right into the present. In 2001, the rate of profit for US non-financial corporations was the lowest of the postwar period, except for 1980. Corporations, therefore, had no choice but to hold back on investment and employment, but this made the problem of aggregate demand worse, further darkening the business climate” (The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2009). Capitalistic recession is contagious when it hits the developed countries; the scourge cannot be contained; it spreads like wildfire. “India’s corporate profit, to GDP ratio for companies according to Motilal Oswal Financial Services, has dropped to a 15-year low.”
The deregulation of the economy and its financialisation are the outcomes of the weakness of the real economy, which result in massive unemployment leading to another cycle of loss of rate of profit. The vicious circle is haunting the world economy, having no way out in sight. “The cat [capitalist crisis] is … there on the tree, it is going to fall; and we do not know what to do” (Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof, 2013). There is no dearth of economic analysis supporting the above-stated thesis, and it cannot be rejected just because it carries the tag of Marxism.
Similar conditions in Germany prepared the ground for the ascent of Hitler into power. Despite the campaign of terror unleashed by the Nazis, his electoral majority was a meagre one (43.9 per cent well short of a majority), but over the preceding years, the Weimar Republic deliberately hindered the way of the communists and played an instrumental role in his ascension to the office of the Chancellor.
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The concept of nation-states has always been an ambiguous idea if not a delusional one. From time immemorial, the people of different regions with different colours, creeds, and customs have lived together. With the arrival of capitalism, competition among the bourgeoisie led to the formation of boundaries — colourful pieces of cloth for flags and hatred to maintain that grotesque arrangement were sold to cleave the people.
The nation-states presented a thesis and an antithesis simultaneously. The uninterrupted flow of capital and control on the flow of labour fulfilled one objective for the capitalists. The competition between the stakeholders among different nations created tension within the groups and outside among the states. The condition of permanent war suited the military-industrial complex and Wall Street. War became an industry. People, divided into nations, were indoctrinated with the poisoned chalice of nationalism to fight the capitalists’ induced wars or to suffer a peace imposed by them.
With the concentration of capital in technologically advanced states, the less industrialised nation-states lost their farce freedom; the IMF, the World Bank, and other such institutions became the controlling authorities. With little autonomy outside, democracy — an instrument to maintain hegemony through consent — within the state threatened to grow up as the antithesis of capitalism, but a lack of political alternative, persistent oppression, and Orwellian indoctrination turned democracy into its opposite — a mighty tool of domination. The capitalistic changes, Horkheimer says, “have always repressed the egoistic and hedonistic demands thereby producing aggression, terror and the preventions of hopes for ‘liberty, equality and fraternity'”.
Despite all odds, under repressive conditions, democracy remains the only alternative to voice the concerns of the majority. Ironically, modern democracy is nothing more than unenlightened enlightenment since the majority supports the powers of the status quo. Trump, Bolsonaro, Orbán, Modi, and Imran are but a few examples worth noting. Keeping the victory of these fascist figures in view, one can say that the general will is wrong because it refuses to transform society into a human way of life. However, in a totalitarian state, the scarce alternatives leave the masses to defend the otherwise indefensible; the Orwellian democracy of capitalism, designed to maintain the control of capitalists on power, a means to struggle for their rights.
Every struggle requires certain conditions to thrive. It is comparatively easier for the proletariat to work against the dominant interests under a democratic dispensation, no matter how sham it is. What happens to the struggle of self-determination under brutal suppression is evident from the people of Kashmir and Palestine.
“The demand for men”, Marx says, “necessarily regulates the production of men, like any other merchandise, if the supply is greater than the demand a portion of the worker falls into beggary or dies of hunger” (Economic & Philosophical Manuscript, 1844). Once excommunicated from the productive process, a human being is condemned to economic impotence, intellectual powerlessness, and ultimately left to perish. Both Kashmir and Palestine, especially Gaza, give the image of a concentration camp where an organised holocaust has been going on for long. The capitalistic dynamic demands from people dying in the camps to produce surplus value until they breathe their last.
In the case of Kashmir and Palestine, the struggle for freedom, the intifada, will continue unabated but akin to labour, these struggles must have a double character; to seek liberation not only from the oppressors but from the expropriators as well. Political freedom does not automatically translate itself into economic freedom. Changing masters does not help in resolving the economic realities. The outcome of these struggles, the existential question, will depend not only on people’s resolve but also on the collective support of the masses internationally.
One cannot expect any help from the Arab world, the so-called Ummah, something of a juggernaut coined in necessity and expediency by the Pakistani ruling elite, especially the army, involved in a catastrophe called “jihad” against the Soviets. It wanted to justify not only the “manna” of dollars and bombs falling from the sky but also to stifle dissent at home.
In the Pakistani praetorian guards’ corruption has become a culture, something of a routine, not considered evil but a right. During Musharraf’s era, Tariq Ali states that “the fiercely incorruptible General Amjad … amassed evidence revealing extensive corruption in every institution in the country … he insisted to no avail, that the new regime clean up the armed forces. Unless retired and serving officers were tried, sentenced and punished, Pakistan would remain a failed state… His transfer [from accountability Bureau to military command] shows that he lost his battle” (Tariq Ali, Kashmir: The Case of Freedom, Verso, 2011).
The meltdown of Pakistan’s economy owes its credit or discredit to the army. Its massive size, greed and irresistible temptation to control the power structure of the state in connivance with imperialism have brought the Islamic republic to its ultimate nemesis.
The country is living beyond its means without spending anything substantial on the welfare of masses. According to Hafeez Pasha, an economist, since “growth will stay in the current and next financial years at about three per cent … eight million people will go down below the poverty line” (The News, 2019). “Almost all financial indicators have seen a downward trend. The growth rate fell by almost 50 per cent … it is expected to go down even further … to the country’s lowest in the past ten years. The Pakistani rupee has lost a fifth of its value against the dollar … inflation is expected to hover around 13 per cent for the next 12 months reaching a ten-year high” (Al Jazeera, 2019).
Every year nearly 30 per cent of the budget goes into debt servicing. “The biggest source of spending after debt-servicing is the military which officially receives around 18 to 23 per cent of the budget every year. Apart from this, it generates 1.5 billion [Rupees] annually from its over 50 commercial entities and has recently moved into oil and gas exploration sector” (Ibid). “The great armies”, AJP Taylor says, “accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight” (On Second World War, 1961). Whether this notion stands true for any other state can be anyone’s guess but that it fits the Pakistani situation is of little doubt.
There is no such promise that the years and the national wealth of Pakistan eaten by the locusts, the ruling class and the Great Biblical army sent by Lord will be repaid by Him and if the tradition continues, the house is most likely to crumble, set on fire by its own guards. The recent tragedy of Kashmir has at least opened the eyes of the public: first, the exploitation of masses in the name of Kashmir was a farce; second, the concept of Ummah was as baseless as the stories of the victories won by the parasitic superstructure including the praetorian guards against enemies. It is time to negotiate with people, especially those from the smaller provinces lest they too opt for a struggle akin to Kashmir and/or Chhattisgarh.
The world moves with its economic necessities and not by the power of faith. This lesson was long overdue, and the ruling class (including its praetorian guards) is privy to that. The repressed Kashmiris and Palestinians cannot expect support from the tin-pot dictators, ruling as kings in various Arab states, having little significance than the stooges that dance to serve the dominant interests of the US. “When the Ottoman Empire was picked apart by the British and by the French”, Pakistani political scientist Eqbal Ahmad says, “tribes were given flags and were kind of turned into imperial petrol pumps” (Confronting Empires, 2000).
These petrol pumps are fueling the jets of imperialism only to save the reign of the Arabian kings. In the holocaust of Palestinians, the impotent rulers connived with Israel; they will never twitch their hamstrings when Kashmiris’ intifada is suppressed violently.
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It is a moment of grief and reflection for the people of India. No nation is free that coerces the other into submission. The subcontinent is standing at the verge of a volcanic eruption. Pakistan can implode for its army’s greed. India must remember how fleeting, temporal and deceptive the flirtation with imperialism can be. The same predator cleaved the subcontinent and would do so when the inner dynamics of imperialism demand it again. Balkanisation of the larger states is its necessity; smaller and weaker nations are controlled far more effectively than the larger ones.
Kashmir is standing where German-occupied France stood on June 14, 1940. “Never were we freer than under the German occupation,” Sartre said. “We had lost all our rights, and first of all, our right to speak. They insulted us to our faces. … They deported us en masse. …And because of all this, we were free. And that is why the Resistance was a true democracy; for the soldier, as for his superior, the same danger, the same loneliness, the same responsibility, the same absolute freedom within the discipline” (The Aftermath of War, 1976).
With the dissolution of Kashmir’s former status, the world has killed the last mockingbird. Would the silence of lambs leave the human conscience guiltless? Guilt is a precursor of neurosis. History, Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish says, “Laughs at both at the victim and the aggressor”.
“It corrects its judgment too late; the correction does not help the victims, and does not absolve their executioners” (Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance, 1965).
Dr Saulat Nagi is an Australian author of Pakistani origin. He has written several books on socialism and history and regularly contributes to leading Pakistani dailies. His Twitter handle is @SaulatNagi.