May Day 2018: A Rising Tide of Worker Militancy and Creative Uses of Marx C. J. Polychroniou (A Truthout Interview with Prof. Jayati Ghosh)

International Workers' Day grew out of 19th century working-class struggles in the United States for better working conditions and the establishment of an eight-hour workday. May 1 was chosen by the international labor movement as the day to commemorate the Haymarket massacre in May 1886. Ever since, May 1 has been a day of working-class marches and demonstrations throughout the world, although state apparatuses in the United States do their best to erase the day from public awareness. In the interview below, one of the world's leading radical economists, Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Jayati Ghosh, who is also an activist…

Capitalism, Poverty and Praxis Prabhat Patnaik

Capitalism is an economic system driven by its own immanent tendencies, which the State that presides over it normally supports, sustains and accelerates. One such tendency is its encroachment upon the surrounding petty production economy, resulting in an income squeeze upon, or the dispossession of, the petty producers. Dispossession here refers not just to an appropriation gratis of the assets of petty producers; it also includes cases of obtaining such assets at less than “market prices”, and also cases where only certain sections of those engaged in the petty production sector are paid, while others are not, in the process…

A Tale of Two Discourses Prabhat Patnaik

The Hindutva bubble has clearly burst. Not that efforts will not be made to form another bubble before the 2019 elections, but the one that had formed in the run-up to the 2014 elections and had carried the BJP to power is over. In the last few days, there have been mass demonstrations by peasants, traders, doctors, teachers, students and even school children. What is striking about these demonstrations is not just that the fear that had gripped people in the recent years is over and that they are willing to take to the streets to express their anger, but…

Commoditization and The Public Sphere Prabhat Patnaik

Central to liberalism is a distinction between two spheres, the sphere of the market (or more generally of the economy) where individuals and firms interact to exchange their wares; and the sphere of public discourse where individuals interact as citizens of a polity to debate and determine the actions of the State. The importance that liberals attach to this second sphere was underscored by Walter Bagehot, the nineteenth century British essayist of liberal persuasion, who had lauded democracy as “government by discussion”. He had thereby emphasized two basic liberal political tenets, namely the role of public discourse and need for…

Trump’s Protectionism Prabhat Patnaik

On March 8 Donald Trump made an announcement which according to many has the potential of starting a global trade war. He announced that the U.S. would be raising tariffs on imported steel by 25 percent and tariffs on imported aluminium by 10 percent. Now, the WTO allows tariffs under certain circumstances, against for instance some country that is “unfairly” subsidizing its exports, or is dumping its goods, which means charging higher prices on the domestic market for the same goods that are sold cheap in the export market. It also allows tariffs under a “safeguard” clause whereby a country…

The Importance of Dissatisfaction Prabhat Patnaik

In a slave society, one can argue, the interest of the slaves lies in keeping the slave-owner happy, for otherwise he is likely to flog and whip them mercilessly which would cause them great agony. Likewise in a caste society, one can argue, the interest of the dalit lies in being as inconspicuous as possible, in not “polluting” the upper castes through his presence, for otherwise he is likely to be beaten and lynched. Such behavior however appears “rational” only if we adopt exclusively a perspective that accepts the system that sees no possible existence outside of it. The same…

The UGC Directive on Autonomous Colleges Prabhat Patnaik

Higher education in India is facing a twin danger today. One is its commoditization, by which is meant not just the fact that higher education itself is becoming a commodity but also that the products of higher education, i.e. those in whom higher education is “embodied”, are also becoming commodities, in the sense of simply having their worth assessed both by themselves and by others in terms equivalence to a certain sum of money, the amount that they can command on the market. Commoditization makes the products of higher education self-centred individuals without any social sensitivity, and prepares them only…

The Tripura Election Verdict Prabhat Patnaik

Two clear conclusions emerge from the Tripura election verdict. First, it is exceedingly difficult for an opposition party that has an incumbent government in any state to withstand the onslaught of the BJP. This party brings to the electoral arena the might of its Central government to buttress its own well-financed electoral effort. True, the Manik Sarkar government had been crippled in its last term in office by a financial squeeze which had doubtless affected its performance, but this squeeze itself had been the result as much of the recommendations of successive Finance Commissions that had been grossly unfair to…

The Destruction of a University Jayati Ghosh

For more than two years now, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi has been in a state of turmoil. There is reason to conclude that this turmoil is no accident: it is the result of a set of decisions imposed from above that appear to be aimed at undermining the fundamental nature of this university and all that it has stood for. The fact that these decisions and actions are being adopted by those supposedly in charge of protecting and nurturing this institution - the Vice Chancellor since January 2016 and the administration that he has appointed - is particularly alarming.…

A Dangerous Period Prabhat Patnaik

For over half a century after the second world war, fascism had ceased to be a serious political force anywhere. There were no doubt many authoritarian, even murderous, regimes, and military dictatorships, especially in the third world, often installed through CIA-backed coups against progressive nationalist governments, and enjoying the tacit support of the U.S. But these must be distinguished from fascist regimes, which rely on mass political mobilization by arousing hatred against some hapless minority. For people of my generation, and several succeeding ones, the main contest appeared to be between liberalism and socialism. There were I believe, two major…