Strikes, Wars, Floods

Submitted by admin on Sat, 09/16/2017 - 13:43


Dear Friends,

The picture above is from Sikar, Rajasthan (India). The farmers of the state, organized by the All-India Kisan Sabha, have fought a tough battle against the BJP-ruled government. They wanted the government to implement a set of recommendations from a government commission on the agrarian crisis. The demands, as I note in this blog post here, are basic - humane and uncontroversial if we lived in a different kind of system.

But, of course, we don't live in a different kind of system. We live where we live, in these times of peculiarly harsh intensity. Facts are brutal these days. Data of suffering is too much to read and then the data from the bourgeois institutions (the IMF, for instance) is far too removed from daily realities to make sense. Eduardo Galeano, dearly missed, once wrote, 'Where do people earn the Per Capita Income? More than one starving soul would like to know'. The wit in this comment is itself factual. It has more truth in it than the charts in an IMF document.

I am in France for a brief period, and was fortunate to be able to cover the small rebellions here against the labour 'reforms' of the government of Macron. This is politics as morbidity. Everyone who has a finger on the pulse of history's real direction says that these 'reforms' will hardly help French growth rates, but they will certainly impact negatively on the social lives of French workers. But this everyoneis irrelevant. Macron controls the parliament and he is backed by the shadowy, undemocratic platforms of Europe (this Commission and that Commission). So here it goes. Once more a society must eat itself.


 France, September 12 2017


The rebellions in France - on September 12 - turned out to be not as large as those of 2016, but perhaps with as much eagerness by the State to crush them. That eagerness is captured in the picture above. There will be another manifestation on the streets on September 18 by transport workers, an anti-labour law 'reform' protest on September 23 (led by the left-wing La France Insoumise) and an anti-pension reform protest on September 28 (led by a pensioners' group). This is a full calendar of protest.

At Alternet, I cover this current confrontation in France, and put it into conversation at the end with the farmers of Rajasthan. You can read my report here.


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Meanwhile, another kind of confrontation continues at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea - the war in Syria. The Syrian army has moved eastwards to break the siege in Deir ez-Zor, just as the Syrian Kurdish backed militia - the Syrian Democratic Forces - with US air cover has broken through in Raqqa. The intensity of focus that 'Assad must go' is now lessened, with the guns pointed almost entirely against ISIS.

At The Hindu, thanks to Mini Kapoor once more, I report on these 'last days' of the war, with the frontlines squeezing ISIS and holding the remainder of the Syrian rebels in the enclave of Idlib. The UN has already complained of the 'staggering loss' of civilian lives in the battle over Raqqa. It will be worse when the Syrian army enters Idlib.

Which is why the UN's attempt to hold more peace talks in October is so significant. Sadly there is incoherence here, with one part of the UN asking for serious talks, while the other threatens the government in Damascus with war crimes prosecutions. The problem with this duality is that it narrows the appetite for peace talks in Damascus and provides false hope to the Syrian rebels for another push against the Assad government. The time for peace is now. But sadly this incoherence will not enable talks to develop.

You can read my report here.


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Finally, and here is the whiplash of my reporting, a series of storms that gather in the Atlantic Ocean have beaten against the Caribbean and the North American mainland. The most recent was Hurricane Irma, which rushed through Cuba to leave immense damage to the island (see above, from Havana). But Cuba is an interesting place, with a population that has a government pledged to their well-being. This is a representative view, quoted by Reuters, 'Sheets of zinc that came flying into our backyard also damaged the kitchen wall and we lost many roof tiles', said Angel Coya, 52, adding he was optimistic that Cuba’s Communist government would help repair the damage. 'We have to keep on'. Cubans get socially delivered aid and relief (nothing has to be paid for - such as the price gouging one sees in a capitalist society after a natural disaster).


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In the current issue of Frontline, I have a story on the ravages of Hurricane Harvey against the Texas city of Houston. You can read the report here. For the magazine I had covered Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where New Orleans had appeared to me like a city deluged by apocalyptic forces. Much the same here, but at a lower scale.

That's the Trumps above going to visit the flood zone - wearing nicely ironed khaki YSL pants and Jimmy Choos stilettos.

Thinking of that Aime Cesaire line from 1955: 'a civilization that uses its principles for trickery is a dying civilization'.

The current issue of Frontline, by the way, has an important section on the killings of Indian rationalists and rebels (with a very fine report by Parvathi Menon on the murder of Gauri Lankesh).

Warmly, Vijay.