Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

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.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Whither Anarchism

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has completed its initially announced time period of two months on November 17th 2011 and is still going strong. What had started off tentatively has now gained support across the globe and despite repression is refusing to die down. In many ways this is a significant protest movement -
1. First and foremost the movement is leaderless. It does not even have a core committee directing it. Everything is decided by mass consensus. Thus, an attempt in the middle by some participants to get some kind of a manifesto together and place some concrete demands before the authorities was shot down and apart from the broad demand that the exclusivist financial system should be dismantled, there is nothing else in the form of a programme of action coming out from the movement.
2. The movement has touched a chord among many people across the world who feel that the present economic and political system is unjust and they have spontaneously come out onto the streets. So not only young people who are without a job or older people who do not have social and economic support but also intellectuals and well heeled people, have come out in support of the movement.
3. Even though initially the mainstream media had totally blacked out the movement, the latter has through its persistence and spread to other cities in the USA and elsewhere in the world been able to force its way into the news and even got sympathetic attention.
4. The establishment has had to sit up and take note of the movement. Its persistence and resilience have made the authorities resort to repressive behaviour only to be met with peaceful protest again and again. No sooner is the Zuccotti Park cleared out than the protesters are back again. The courts have upheld the rights of the owners of the park to get the protesters evicted but that has done little to prevent the latter from occupying the park again.
However, though all this is fine as far as it goes, the problem is that it does not go really far in the present day and age. In fact anarchist mobilisation, especially of the peaceful variety, has always had a fundamental problem that the centralised state systems do not pay much attention to them unless they gather huge strength - mobilisation in hundreds of thousands or even millions. To get that kind of mobilisation on a sustained basis unfortunately there has to be some organisation, some leadership, some concrete demands and some programme of action. But this is against the basic anarchist credo which is why the OWS Movement has remained amorphous even if it has been resilient. Even though it claims to be inspired by the mass movements of the Arab Spring there is a fundamental difference here. Those movements had a clear agenda of overthrowing repressive dictatorships and so immediately large numbers of people joined the movements. That is not happening here because there is no clear agenda or programme of action and so there are a few hundred people at each of the locations and it is not causing the establishment any great worries. After all occupying Wall Street is only the first step and if that is not being done in large enough numbers to actually prevent Wall Street from functioning then just the symbolic nature of the occupation is not going to bring about any far reaching changes. Since there has not been any consensus, so an alternative system has also not been offered by the OWS.
The dilemma is a very deep one for anarchists. Having struggled in our work here among the Bhil tribals continuously with this question I feel that in the present context something new has to be evolved to counter the huge centralisation of the establishment. In India especially we have seen that much stronger movements than the OWS have not been able to achieve any substantial change other than some legislative leeway. As for example is going to happen with the India Against Corruption movement for a Jan Lokpal Act and as has happened earlier with the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or the Forest Rights Act. A basic change in the way governance and development are practiced is not being achieved and that is what is required. In fact in more core areas even proper legislation is not coming up. The Land Acquistion, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill that is going to be tabled in Parliament shortly is a case in point. This is one issue on which there have been innumerable mass movements and at any given time there are movements going on with an activist Sister Valsa John having been murdered just a few days ago by the mining mafia in Jharkhand. Yet, the bill is a travesty of justice as it seeks to facilitate the alienation of landowners, especially those without the wherewithal to fight lengthy court cases, rather than protect their rights as has been rightly critiqued by a group of organisations and individuals. The weakness of anarchist mobilisation in the face of a state totally controlled by capitalist forces committed to exploitation and accumulation is there for all to see.
In the same way as liberalism or marxism cannot provide all the answers to the problems of social, economic and environmental injustice, so also anarchism too is a partial  ideology in the present context of centralised capitalist development. The challenge is to seek a balance between centralisation and decentralisation both in the alternative systems to be fought for and the programmes of action that have to be adopted in this fight.

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