This week, in Kerala and in other parts of India, the Left went out on the streets to fend off a challenge from the fascistic forces - led by the RSS. The Hindu Right's government in Delhi attempted to create mischief in Left-led Kerala, but it was held back by the mobilization of the people. The Left, in this state of 34 million people, built a wall against hatred and intolerance. The picture above, which I love for a million and a half reasons, is taken by Sudhanva (the Managing Editor of LeftWord Books) and is from the demonstration in Delhi.
At Alternet, I have a short report on this struggle around Kerala - because this is not really about Kerala, but more about the shenanigans by the ruling party, eager to have the public forget about its corruption and its failures. You can read my report here.
On the matter of the corruption of the ruling party, and its attempt to muzzle any of its critics, at our LeftWord Books blog, Amit Sheokand, a key member of our team at LeftWord Books, has an excellent short blog post that goes from the resignation of the editor of the Economic and Political Weekly to the current attack on The Wire - one of the fine new internet-based magazines in India. You can read Amit's blog post here.
In the current issue of Frontline, I have two stories on two different disasters in the United States - one the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma and Maria against the people of Puerto Rico and the other the devastation from the gunman in Las Vegas. These are different kinds of tragedies, but neither of them are purely natural - either from unpredictable weather or from the maladjustment of human nature. There is social policy in both of them.
Donald Trump, US President, continues to malign the people of Puerto Rico and its government. He is in an endless battle against an island whose 3.4 million people remain devastated. The cruelty of social policy is evident when one puts side by side the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico with the impact of Hurricane Irma on Cuba. The Cuban government, who run a country impoverished by a long-running embargo (renewed by Trump the night before the Hurricane hit), were nonetheless able to bring back power and to enable relief to reach the people with speed and dedication. There is something here in the way a socialist system - organized around voluntary labour - deals with a calamity of climate change. That embargo pushed by the US, say Cuban doctors, has meant a loss by the health sector of over $87 million between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017. At the Institute of Oncology and Radiology, Dr. Isabel Moya said that this fact cannot be 'treated with lamentation, but only with protest'. She is right. Nonetheless, the Cubans doctors asked to go to Puerto Rico. The US would not have it. You can read my story - A Tale of Two Islands - here. The picture above was taken by Ventura de Jesus Garcia at the power plant restoration in Matanzas (Cuba).
Eyes turned from the hurricane's destruction of Puerto Rico to the gunman's madness in Las Vegas. The debate around guns begins again. But it will go nowhere (unlike Australia, another frontier gun culture that ended its infatuation after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre). I am writing this newsletter in the shadow of an old Smith & Wesson factory, where guns were made for the US Civil War. Gun culture is deep. It will be hard to undo given the money being made by guns sales and the political narrative spun by the gun lobby in US society. My story, which is here, ends on another note. The names of the dead, now a familiar ritual from US tragedies, but then this: 'It was the last night of the concert. It was the last night of their holiday. Most of them would have gone home the next day to lead their normal lives. They were high on life, excited for the music, delirious under the stars. Then the gunfire came. It took the light out of their eyes'.
Not enough for Trump to have a crisis in North Korea which is unfinished, he must also intensify the tension with Iran. First comes the story that he will decertify the nuclear deal with Iran - an impossible action since the deal has been ratified by a UN Security Council Resolution (as I suggested this evening on RT - here). And then comes the Trump move to put pressure on Hezbollah, which is not only involved militarily in Syria but is a key political player in Lebanon. What Trump's people think they will get by going after Hezbollah is not easy to fathom. I spent twenty minutes with Aaron Mate of The Real News to tease of out the implications of both the pressure on Iran and the new attack on Hezbollah. You can watch it here.
Today is World Hunger Day. The Global Hunger Index is out. It shows that India is at 100th out of 119 countries, well-behind Bangladesh, Iraq and North Korea. India is not an ordinary state in this table. It has an enormous population. Its percentages therefore translate into hundreds of millions of people. The report says that a fifth of India's children are 'wasting', which is defined as the 'share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition)'. There are roughly 444 million children. About 95 million children are therefore 'wasting' - that's about the entire population of Vietnam or Egypt.
At the People's Archive of Rural India, Purusottam Thakur has a powerful story that illustrates the hunger epidemic in India. It is a story that goes back twenty years to look at a family at the epicenter of this epidemic. You must read it here.
It is one thing to be patriotic about flags and anthems. But another to be patriotic against starvation and hopelessness. Where is that second kind of patriotism gone?