The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Reform and Revolution
Whether in the anarchist fold or in the Marxist fold there is a deep scepticism regarding the possibility of reforming a liberal democratic system to make it work for the majority of under privileged citizens. While the anarchist critique is based on the perceived impossibility of making a centralised state apparatus truly democratic the marxist critique is based on the perception that given the economic power of the capitalists they will invariably influence the democratic system in their favour by buying off the lawmakers.
However, the reality is that it is very difficult to actualise a revolutionary programme on the ground. The anarchists beginning with Proudhon in France in the early 19th century and down to Gandhi in India in the 20th century have never been able to mobilise enough of a resistance against the centralised state to be able to bring in a decentralised system of development and governance. The Marxists have succeeded in overthrowing weak bourgeois or feudal states and not strong bourgeois liberal democracies but after that they have not been able to ensure that the Marxist states do not become oppressors themselves. In the long run these states too have become bourgeois states.
Thus, even if the idea of revolutionary change is appealing it is not necessarily desirable. What is needed is the broadening and deepening of democracy. Human civilisation has become immensely complex and centralised. The challenge is to see how this centralised system can be made more just and sustainable both socially and environmentally. For this it may be necessary to undertake small reformist actions in large numbers rather than press for a revolutionary overthrow. Anyway given the fact that the centralised state apparatus is well aware of the theory and practice of revolution it is unlikely to sit back and let a revolution build up. Instead it uses cooptive and repressive measures to crush such efforts. Whereas in order to maintain a veneer of legitimacy the centralised state, especially in working liberal democracies, has to accommodate reformist demands. Only when such demands gain in strength and spread to a larger area does the state try to break such mobilisation.
The Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath is well aware of the limitations of its reformist programme but nevertheless it pursues it with gusto because in the interim this is the most effective way to make the centralised state apparatus more responsive to people's demands. An important aspect of the KMCS's functioning is its mass democratic nature. Programmes of action are not decided by a handful but in large meetings like the ones pictured below. New ideas may be broached by the full time activists or some of the more active villagers or even the government but whether they will be acted upon depends on a broad consensus emerging among the people.
Thus, direct democracy which is the best form of democracy and which can be actualised at the village level is being practised in the villages where KMCS has a following. People have taken their destiny into their own hands. If there are more organisations like the KMCS then together the pressure on the centralised state to become truly democratic will be even greater. So instead of remaining straitjacketed in the old dichotomy between reform and revolution newer modes of action and reflection have to be invented with the bottom line being the broadening and deepening of democracy.