Friday, November 27, 2009

What's wrong with the Indian left?

Well, this for example. The article is about Kian Tajbakhsh, an Iranian-American (ie, a dual citizen of those countries) social scientist who studied in the UK and the US, earning his Ph.D. in Columbia University and has worked with many respected organisations, chose to move back to Iran, and was arrested there and charged with espionage. Reportedly he is likely to be executed. The writer of the above article adds:

Those of us in India who have been consistently anti-imperialist and critical of the US, and who respect Iran’s anti-US imperialist position, have been deeply disturbed by the Iranian regime’s crushing of the pro-democracy protests and its attempts to characterize these massive uprisings as fomented by the US. It’s tragically ironic that the US should be dubbed as “pro-democracy” by the Iranian regime!

I wonder why the writer did not ask herself the obvious question: if Iran is the land of the free and it is ironic to call the US "pro-democracy", why, one may ask, do so many Iranians (and nationals of so many other countries) want to make the homes in the US, and why do so few Americans (or Indians or anyone else) want to immigrate to Iran? Does she think Tajbakhsh (whom she calls an "Iranian patriot") chose to move to Iran because he approved of the Iranian regime, or thought it better than what the US offers (even in the Bush era)? Do Burmese patriots, or North Korean patriots, approve of their rulers too?

Well, at least the writer is disturbed by the recent crackdown -- unlike fellow travellers of the Soviet Union who justified the atrocities there until Stalin's genocidal excesses became impossible to ignore (and, in many cases, even later).


Rahul Basu said...

Rahul: Surely the answer to your question is trivial! Once you are programmed to use the word 'imperialist' and 'neo-liberal' whenever you use the word 'US', you stop thinking 'why'? Even during the Cold War, fellow travellers of the CPI and CPI(M) never stopped to ask themselves why, if the US (and in general Western Europe) was the evil empire, didn't anyone ever try to cross the Berlin Wall in the opposite direction.

It's one thing to oppose specific US foreign policies, another to be mindlessly and mechanically anti-US. For the left, there is no such nuance. They are victims of 'unreconstructed Marxism', a relic of the 60s. which, in the guise of opposing US 'imperialism' has ended up defending some of the most regressive and fundamentalist regimes in the world (and some regressive atheistic ones too, like China!)

Rahul Basu said...

Sorry, forgot to add that your last line is not even correct. Stalin's picture still adorns the wall behind the seated Politburo members (along with those of Lenin and Marx) in any Communist party Central Committee meet. He continues to be a hero to our local reds.

Amartya Sen has this story of taking his daughter once to one of these meetings long ago, and pointing to Stalin's picture and telling her how she would never see anything like this anywhere else in this world.

And then there is our very own Deputy Chief Minister named M. K. Stalin. He is in his late 50s which means he was born in the early 1950s by which time Stalin's (Josef Broz i.e) excesses were well known and yet ...

Who said Stalin doesn't have his admirers...

km said...

Ha ha, they *respect* Iran's "anti-Imperialist position".


gaddeswarup said...

A few from M.N. Roy to K. Balagopal did break away from the dogma but M.N. Roy is is difficult to understand and K. Balagopal did not articulate any alternative theories. Possibly there is a prediliction to take to theories of every thing like religion and stick to them. Having said that, the record of the evil empire has not been that great. May be Abama will make some difference.

Niruj said...

Not to takw away from your point about the Indian left being obtuse, its specious to argue that the amount of immigration is a measure of the amount of democracy in a country. Its almost always economic, which may have, and usually has precious little to do with social freedom. A good example is probably Indian (mainly Keralite) migration to the UAE.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

All - sorry for late reply (am travelling).

Rahul - true. Stalin has sympathisers still, as does Hitler (I'm sure our comrades will appreciate the comparison).

Niruj - true. There's also Singapore, which is attractive even to Americans and Western Europeans. But I'd say few Malayalis want to live permanently in the Middle East or change their nationality -- it is more about easy money. Plus those countries attracted Indians for their own reasons. As for Singapore, it is superficially (in daily life) a free country, even if not really... It is true that people follow the money rather than the democracy, but from a long term point of view I think they do care about the "free country" aspect too. The US is particularly welcoming of immigrants.

Vishu said...

A related article on Left and (how it has implicitly and explicitly supported) Radical Islam by Pervez Hoodboy

Anonymous said...

Lakhs of Indian migrate/migrated to

1. Saudi Arabia
2. Iraq under Saddam Hussein
3. The United Arab Emirates


Yet strangely no Saudis, Iraqis or Emirs (what is a native of the UAE called?) seem to want to migrate in the reverse direction. By your impeccable logic, this proves that Saudi Arabia is a freer, better society than India.

The United States is a democracy. It does not usually support democracy elsewhere, especially in Asia. In Iran the CIA overthrew the parliamentary democracy of Mossadegh in 1954 in a coup that "restored" the absolute dictatorial monarchy of the Shah (see also Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia etc.).
Outside Asia the most recent cases of the Honduras and Haiti are instructive.

Your mindless criticism of the left is not intellectually more rigourous than the tortured pronouncements of some of our comrades themselves.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Ravi - there is a difference between "migrate" and "emigrate". And what you say is already discussed above. Yes, the US has a poor human rights record overseas. That does not mean that Ahmadinejad, or his predecessors in Iran, are beacons of democracy.

Anonymous said...

It is not my case that Ahmedinejad is a beacon of democracy. However the notion that it is self-evident that the US supports democracy is ludicrous to say the least. The criticism of Menon's article centred around her stand that the US is an evil empire. The US *is* an evil empire abroad even though it is still internally one of the freest societies. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge this? Is it not possible to believe that both the Soviet Union and the United States were evil empires?
That while Ahmedinejad is a monster his cohorts are not much worse than America's preferred SAVAK (the Iranian secret police under the Shah who were notorious for disappearances, torture and killing).

There are third generation Indians in the UAE. The difference between migrate and emmigrate is notional. I am guessing that the Indians would be happy to "emmigrate" permanently. Just that the local sheikhs won't give them the citizenship/permanent residence that will make it possible. Thus, one can easily argue that Indian view the Gulf States freer/better societies, since they choose to live there rather than in democratic India if one is to take the above argument seriously. It is pretty clear that the main driver is economic oppurtunity.