Interview with Sailaj Ravi on people’s movements in Orissa

Sailaj Ravi – poet, critic and social activist based in Cuttack (Orissa)

An Interview with Prafulla Samantara on movements and state repression in Orissa

Prafulla Samantara, a prominent social activist in Orissa

An Interview with Shivram on movements in Orissa

Shivram, a CPI(ML) leader based in Bhubaneswar (Orissa)

An interview with Benedict Anderson

Benedict Anderson was in Delhi recently to deliver a lecture on his latest work. He “is one of the first and original theorists of nations and nationalisms. His pathbreaking work ‘Imagined Communities’ is an exploration of how various peoples have at a certain juncture in history imagined themselves into nations. An anthropological explorer of various national-liberation movements in East and Southeast Asia, Prof Anderson sees the rise of nationalism as being closely connected with the growth of printed books and with the technical development of print as a whole”. Paramita Ghosh interviewed Anderson for Hindustan Times. FOR THE FULL TEXT

Q: As a man of the Left, what is the future of Marxism in south Asia and in India?

A: Communism has taken a beating in the last 20 years. But it won’t go away if underlying problems in society don’t go away. There has to be new ways to revive it. However, one framework which Marx never anticipated was how the atomic tests would destroy civilisation. The limits of resources are not there in Marxist vocabulary, it comes from Thomas Robert Malthus and it has to be grappled with.

India has three kinds of Communisms. The established left, the CPI M-L and the new Naxalites who are no longer led by college students. They go to the bottom of society.

Q: One of our living realities is the competition between Indian and China amid the babble of economic cooperation. How can Third World solidarity be revived?

A: What solidarity can there be to speak of? There was never a leftist government in India. The Cold War put China on one side and India played a role in between…. Both are rapidly expansionist, they are bound to get in each other’s hair. But it is in everyone’s interest to reduce the power of America.

China wants a ring of friendly countries around it, but it won’t occupy them. It’s not clear what China wants in Africa. I don’t know whether they intend to stay. If the Chinese start moving there, then it might get interesting.

There is, I think, however, a growing acceptance that war will not get you more territory. What threatens nation-states are not external states, but internal collapse. It has happened in Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia. It may happen in India. States can’t get any bigger, but they can get smaller.

An Interview with Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor, EPW) III

Radical Notes’ Pothik Ghosh talks to the Deputy Editor of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) Bernard D’Mello about the current confrontation between the Indian State and the Maoists.

An Interview with Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor, EPW) II

Radical Notes’ Pothik Ghosh talks to the Deputy Editor of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) Bernard D’Mello about the current confrontation between the Indian State and the Maoists.

An Interview with Bernard D’Mello (Deputy Editor, EPW) I

Radical Notes’ Pothik Ghosh talks to the Deputy Editor of the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) Bernard D’Mello about the current confrontation between the Indian State and the Maoists.

Narayanpatna: An Interview with Gananath Patra


On the 20th of November three adivasis, including a leader of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), were gunned down near the police station of Narayanpatna. The CMAS has been struggling for the redistribution of land among tribals in the region. Nachika Linga and Gananath Patra have been spearheading the movement since its inception. The police alleges the CMAS of conducting violence. According to the police, hundreds of adivasis had come to loot the police station; the police had to fire in retaliation and hence the incident. Later, a section of media claimed that the government has issued a shoot-at-sight order against Nachika Linga. Kumudini Behera, another leader of the CMAS, is already under arrest. The following is a telephonic interview with Com. Gananath Patra.

Satyabrata: The media is projecting that hundreds of members of CMAS had organized themselves around the police station in order to loot weaponry. How much truth does this statement of the police carry?

Gananath Patra: It is ridiculous that the police is even able to say such things. Firstly, there were only hundred and fifty adivasis who had come to the police station. There was a genuine reason for that. The previous night, in the name of hunting down the Maoists, innocent adivasis were beaten, looted and women were molested in Kumbhari panchayat. They had only come to seek an explanation. They were naturally agitated because of what they had to face the night before but they had no intentions of looting the police station, they were unarmed; they came without even their traditional weaponry. Moreover, if they had intentions of looting the police station, they could have easily conspired that in the night. Why would they, in broad daylight, come to the police station unarmed!

Satyabrata: Curfew has been declared in the region with the enforcement of Section 144 of the IPC. Cobra battalions have reached the region. The situation is being militaristically dealt with by the government. Why so?

Gananath Patra: Due to the pressure of our movement, several landlords and liquor merchants ran away from the area, and they have organised themselves in adjoining Laxmipur in the name of a Shanti (Peace) Committee under the patronage of the BJD, the ruling party of Orissa. The State has its class character and this move only explicates it. The State is against the movement of the adivasis for their rights because their rights mean loss to the landed propertied classes which are the class base of the ruling party in that region.

Satyabrata: The state has militarized itself. What will its effect be on the movement?

Gananath Patra: We know very well that behind the military intervention of the State is its intention to militarize our movement in order to find a plea to brutally subjugate it. We know their intentions and we are careful about any move we shall be taking. The movement must continue.

Satyabrata: The CMAS is being projected as the frontal organization of the Maoists. Is that true?

Gananath Patra: You mean the CPI(Maoist). No. we have considerable differences with the CPI(Maoist) line, though they are our sympathizers and critics. I believe in Marxism-Leninism- Mao Tse-tung Thought, which has considerable differences with the Maoism of the CPI(Maoist). Our method of occupying and cultivating land is mass line task and has nothing in common with the CPI(Maoist).

Satyabrata: Why are you being projected as Maoists then?

Gananath Patra: We pose a danger to the status quo the ruling class wants to maintain and hence it wants us to be branded as Maoists. Then the matter becomes simple; pick up anyone who is against this status quo, brand him a Maoist and rob him of his movemental potentiality by either putting him behind bars or by gunning him down. History has been spectator to this strategy of several States at several conjunctures in the past. The state has banned the CPI(Maoist) to facilitate this purpose.

Satyabrata: Your message to the people who will be going through this interview.

Gananath Patra: The movement at Narayanpatna is the struggle of the indigenous adivasis against the exploiters. Time will show, if things go our way, we will be able to produce agricultural products in a quantity many times more than that produced under exploitation, and the produce will go to the producers. We don’t need any Green Revolution. Of course, the State is trying its best to subjugate the movement, but, this is our struggle – the struggle of indigenous adivasis against our exploiters. The State and the media have joined hands in projecting it as a terrorist movement and CMAS as a terrorist outfit. Let us join hands to prove them wrong.

An Interview with Lenin Kumar


Lenin Kumar, editor of a progressive peoples’ magazine in Oriya, Nisan, was arrested and sent to jail on charges of writing provocative literature. The fact is that his magazine took a stance against the anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal district after the killing of Laxmananda Saraswati. His arrest was an attempt by the government of Orissa to silence the voices of the oppressed, and could be seen as corroborating the ongoing McCarthyization process in India. After much struggle, Lenin is free on bail now.

Satyabrata: You have been convicted for possessing inflammatory materials. What, according to you, is being regarded as inflammatory in your booklet, Dharma Namare Kandhamalare Raktanadi (Kandhamal’s River of Blood in the Name of Religion) and why?

Lenin Kumar: Is it inflammatory, to identify the communal and brahminist forces and their agenda? The riot affected people in the relief camps have already pointed at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal men as responsible for violence in the name of religion. In the book, Dharma Namare Kandhamalare Raktanadi they are unmasked. But, they are in power in the state. So using the police they wanted to silence the voice, which is ‘inflammatory’ to them. It is ridiculous to say that the book disturbed communal harmony because it exposed them who really disturbed it.

Satyabrata: Why is Nisan being targeted? What is your expectation from other progressive people, intellectuals on this assault on Nisan?

Lenin Kumar: Nisan stands for janabadi (democratic) literature. Its basic trend is against Brahminism and imperialism. Unlike mainstream journalism, we have focussed on the ongoing peoples’ movements (including the Maoist among others) and their roots in genuine popular desire for liberation from brahminical and imperialist domination. The magazine is not yet banned. There is no question of bowing in front of the anti-people forces. When they sent me to jail, people protested throughout the state – writers came on the streets in a manner quite unimaginable in a region like Orissa. I think this is due to our commitment. All these developments inspire us. So there is no question of leaving the battlefield. And how can one repress an ideology?

Satyabrata: What reaction do you expect from other newspapers and journalists?

Lenin Kumar: Unfortunately in Orissa, most newspapers are in the hands of the ruling classes. They are simply bourgeois party leaflets. It is very difficult for a genuine reporter to take his position. Some reporters blindly act like representatives of the state. In my case, I have seen my name as ‘Mao writer”. What does it mean, till date I do not understand. Professionally they are expected to be above the outlook of the ruling classes, which are openly becoming the agents of international capital. Otherwise, there will be no space for democracy.

Satyabrata: You were arrested because of touching the Kandhamal issue. What is your personal view regarding the recent incidents in Kandhamal?

Lenin Kumar: Anti-dalit, anti-minority agenda is in the air. The Sangh Parivar is openly challenging the democratic values. The state is keeping silence. The Maoists in Kandhamal have showed us that the communal forces are building their second laboratory in the region after Gujarat’s. They have opposed these forces in their own way. We should not forget that Laxmananda Saraswati in Kandhamal was not a saint or a representative of the Hindu religion, but a leader of VHP. And frankly, I have no respect to their riot-politics.

Satyabrata: What is your message for fellow journalists, writers, intellectuals and progressive people?

Lenin Kumar: For getting the bail, I heartily thank the writers, journalists, intellectuals who stood for freedom of expression and protested my arrest. I thank my wife Rumita for her camaraderie in this process. If a person like me coming from a middle class family living in the state capital can be targeted, one can only imagine the extent of state terrorism and violation of human rights in the remote villages of Orissa, which hardly get noticed. We must stand united against any undemocratic, exploitative, anti-people actions.

Capital and capitalists nannied by the states: An Interview with Amiya Kumar Bagchi

Amiya K Bagchi“Capital and capitalists will continue to be nannied by the states they control, unless the crisis intensifies the struggles of workers and peasants to change this horrendously unjust and murderous social and political order. Nor will borrowers of recapitalized banks or the insured of the US company AIG benefit from lower interest rates, better access to credit or insurance or less discriminatory insurance rates. The new managers will be busy guarding the capital of their respective managed entities. Unless the rulers are made to see that money market instruments are not the proper vehicles to deliver affordable credit or insurance to the poor and are forced to carry out the structural changes needed to embody that perspective in practice, the old order will continue when the recession subsides.”  

Radical Notes: Can you explain the nature of the current crisis and how it developed?

Amiya Kumar Bagchi (AKB): A full explanation of the current crisis will be a book-length study. The immediate causes of the crisis can be put as follows: (a) unbridled financial liberalization, the most significant components of which have been the further elaboration of derivatives, including securitized products, increasing the non-transparency of the financial market, (b) the effective demolition of the distinction between deposit banks specializing in loans and investment banks, (c) conversion of the dollar into virtually the sole source of global liquidity, even while keeping a major fraction of the world’s economies in a condition of endemic deficiency of effective demand and (d) the rapid emergence of housing and related markets as sectors of the most intense speculative activity.

Radical Notes: As an economic historian, do you find any uniqueness in the present crisis in comparison to the past ones?

AKB: Capitalism has been racked by speculative crises, almost from the moment of its birth. One of the earliest of such crises was the Tulip Mania in the Netherlands in the 1630s. The second speculative crisis in order of occurrence was the crisis of 1720-21 centring around the so-called Mississippi project in France and the South Sea Company in England: this crisis threatened to engulf much of Western Europe at the time. If we take England only, there were severe banking crises in almost every decade from the 1820s , with the Baring Crisis of 1890-91, characterizing the last decade. In that crisis, the inability of Baring Bros to meet its obligations arising out of its over-exposure to loans to the Argentine government threatened to involve the whole British financial system. That is arguably the first time that the Bank of England acted as the lender of last resort. (Baring Bros collapsed in 1995, as a result of Nick Leeson, its bureau chief in Singapore, losing his bet on movements of Nekkei and the firm’s capital of £800 million disappeared). Then you have the biggest financial crisis of the twentieth century, namely, the Great Depression of the 1930s, which really ended with the onset of World War II that saw the stepping up of military and other public expenditure to unprecedented heights.

But as any student of history knows, you never step into the same stream twice. Capitalism in particular has been like a super-chameleon, transforming not only its colour but also its apparent structural relations every few decades. The changes preceding the current crisis are no exception. The uniqueness of the crisis can probably be described as a situation in which governments, so-called specialists in finance not only ignored the totally non-transparent manner in which banks, investment brokers and non-bank financial institutions carried on their business, but positively cheered them in the belief that this was the way to create wealth. One of the most ironic symbols of this atmosphere is the compilation and celebration of the growth of wealth of the ‘High Net Value Individuals’ (HNVIs) by Merrill Lynch, a firm that had to merge with Bank of America in order to stave off bankruptcy.

Radical Notes: Can we understand the present crisis as a crisis of imperialism and the US hegemony?

 Yes, we can. But we must remember that other G7 countries are also implicated in the US hegemony, and even China’s current pattern of growth is symbiotically related to US hegemony. Whether the crisis will lead to a decline in the murderousness of the US military operations remains an open question. As I have argued earlier, capital wants to win in competition, if necessary in the last instance by using armed conflict. The prospect of a USA threatened with the loss of hegemony using its fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is mind-numbing.

Radical Notes: How do you assess the impact of the crisis on the developing countries?

 In many developing countries, there are no real stock markets and even if there are, their operations do not have much of an impact on firms which are often too small to be able to raise money in the stock market. In many of them, earlier depredations of imperialism, its domestic collaborators and its agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank have led to the exclusion of most economic agents from formal credit markets. The so-called success of micro-credit agencies in Bangladesh, for example, was built not only on loans extended by foreign lenders but also on the destruction of public sector banking by local businessmen defaulting on their loans. Organizations blessed by the World Bank and foreign donors fished in such turbid waters.

The direct effect of the present crisis on such countries may not be great. But they will suffer through the further decline in the demand for their output in foreign and domestic markets because of the global recession. The countries, which have depended greatly on foreign capital for stimulation of their economies such as India, will also suffer through minor or major currency crises and the downsizing of the transactional enterprises operating in those countries and badly affected by the crisis. In the immediate future, the most distressing effect for the common people will continue to be the loss of employment in construction, services and the manufacturing sector and the high cost of food grains, induced by underinvestment in agriculture in developing countries, speculation in commodities by the big finance houses and others and the diversion of cropland to the highly subsidized biofuel in developed market economies, especially the USA.

Radical Notes: A recent report says that India and China – which are considered by many as the bulwark of capitalist growth in the 21st century – have witnessed the steepest market declines between December 2007 and September 2008. They “have lost almost 51% of market capitalization, or m-cap, and this figure could be much higher if the declines of the last fortnight are taken into account.” As latest reports indicate, industries in India, especially the aviation industry, have already started shifting the brunt of the crisis on labour, through various means. Do you think these developments are indications toward a full-fledged crisis around the corner?

AKB: As far as China is concerned, the slide in stock prices will not have a major effect on the economy, because stocks traded in the Shanghai market provide finance only to a small fraction of firms in the Chinese economy. But the effect on India is obvious not only from the retrenchments already announced by aviation companies and IT firms but also by the continued outflow of FII funds from India and consequent decline in the value of the Indian rupee. The Indian manufacturing sector was already showing a downward trend in fiscal 2007-08, and that trend has strengthened in recent weeks as shown by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP). It is disingenuous of the Finance Minister to call the IIP “not very reliable” when his government has done so much to massage the official statistics so as to produce a favourable picture of its performance in the economic field.

Radical Notes: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) too is taking measures to ensure liquidity and boost confidence. As a historian of India’s banking sector, how do you assess India’s financial-structural ability to withstand such crisis at this juncture? How much do you think the neo-liberal policies that subsequent governments have pursued eroded this ability?

AKB: Fortunately, despite all the attempts of successive governments at the Centre since 1991 to force the pace of ‘economic reforms’, the worst of their designs could not be carried through. These include full capital account convertibility, complete privatisation of the banking and insurance sectors, and total abolition of the distinction between banks and non-banking finance companies. Every time either major international crises or electoral compulsions have stayed their hand. In 1997 and this time around, financial crisis in Asia and the global financial crisis have prevented the enforcement of capital account convertibility. The strength of Indian public sector banks compared with their private counterparts is there for all to see. The worst development under the neo-liberal regime is the naked play of money and communalism in determining the positions all major centrist or right-wing parties have adopted. Another major casualty has been the fiscal stance of the state. It will take quite an effort to get the rich to pay their taxes and to stop the indulgence the state has displayed towards punters and hot money merchants in the financial sector. The quality of Indian democracy has been further sullied under the neo-liberal regime. Hence the ability of the regime to handle the resolution of the crisis in national interest has been badly impaired.

Radical Notes: Various commentators have suggested that the bailing out strategies of different governments throughout the world has ultimately brought the state back in. What is the merit of such conclusion? Can we see this return of the state as just a moment, for which Milton Friedman once said the role of government is “to do something that market cannot do for itself”?

AKB: Yes, the state has been brought in but only to save the illegitimate earnings of the crony capitalists. Will Mr Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Bros, be made to disgorge the nearly $500 million he earned from his stock options and bonuses? In the financial year 2007-08 alone, according to, Fuld earned $71.50 million and in the preceding 5 years he had earned $354 million. When Lehman applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Fuld took $22 million from the firm as retirement benefit. What applies to the top managers of  Lehman also applies to those of Wachovia and Merrill Lynch, to UBS of Switzerland which is being recapitalized by the Swiss government or Northern Rock, the hosing mortgage bank, which has been bailed out by the Bank of England. In 2004, I published an article with the self-explanatory title, “Nanny state for capital and Social Darwinism for Labour” (Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 47(1), January-March). Capital and capitalists will continue to be nannied by the states they control, unless the crisis intensifies the struggles of workers and peasants to change this horrendously unjust and murderous social and political order. Nor will borrowers of recapitalized banks or the insured of the US company AIG benefit from lower interest rates, better access to credit or insurance or less discriminatory insurance rates. The new managers will be busy guarding the capital of their respective managed entities. Unless the rulers are made to see that money market instruments are not the proper vehicles to deliver affordable credit or insurance to the poor and are forced to carry out the structural changes needed to embody that perspective in practice, the old order will continue when the recession subsides.

Amiya Kumar Bagchi is India’s foremost political economist and economic historian. He is the Director of the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata. He was a member of the State Planning Board until 2005, Government of West Bengal and was recently Chairman of a committee appointed by the Government of West Bengal to report on the finances of the government during the Tenth Five Year Plan period. He acted as the official historian of The State Bank of India until 1997. His recent works include (co-edited with Gary A.Dymski) Capture and Exclude: Developing Economies and the Poor in Global Finance, Tulika, New Delhi, 2007, The Perilous Passage: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, USA, 2005, The Developmental State in History and in the Twentieth Century, Regency Publications, New Delhi, 2004, and  Capital and Labour Re-defined: India and the Third World, Tulika, New Delhi and Anthem Press, London, 2002.