Celebrate Indian Women
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am constantly surprised by the high-quality radicalism among some Indian women. Of note, on Monday Kashama Sawant of Socialist Alternative was sworn in as the first socialist city counselor in Seattle for almost 100 years. She is a community college professor, yet is dedicated to the working class. She represents a tiny crack in the monolithic structure of Democrat/Republican control of all political power, joining people like Bernie Sanders, a more moderate socialist, and Greens in various offices.
Leftist intellectual figures such as Arundati Roy and Vandana Shiva are world-class activists and writers. Roy has written a number of journalistic articles and books attacking repression in India - books like “Notes on Democracy” and “Walking With the Comrades.” (Both reviewed below.) She has been threatened for her writings and activism. Shiva, a scientist, has been a long-time activist around agricultural and food issues, and is globally known. Her many books include “Water Wars,” “India Divided” and “Soil Not Oil.” She is a pioneer in efforts for sustainability and organic agriculture and against GMOs, the corporate ‘green revolution’ and bio-piracy. Others include activists and writers like Saru Jayaraman, who leads the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROCU) organization here in the U.S., which fights for the rights of food workers and the $15 an hour minimum wage. Javaraman and ROCU are one of the main sources for the $15-an-hour campaign waged by socialists, SEIU and others. (Her book, “Behind the Kitchen Door”, reviewed below). And academic leftists like Meera Nanda, who analyzed the reactionary Hinduism suffusing Indian neo-liberal politics, in “The God Market.” (also reviewed below.) She is a professor in India who teaches the history of science.
Or activists like Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women's Association, a group affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. She heads an organization combating the rape epidemic and oppression of women in India. Tens of thousands of Indian women and men have turned out to protest the avalanche of sexual attacks. As part of this, P.J. Kurien of the Congress Party (their Democrats), a deputy chair of the Indian Upper House, has been accused of multiple rape and abduction charges. Female members of Parliament of the Communist Party of India, Marxist, from the southern state of Kerala, have threatened to boycott the parliamentary session if action against Kurien is not taken.
Why? These women are mostly from the educated middle-classes. They have been radicalized by their contact with the misery of the Indian masses and the notable oppression of Indian women, which mostly affects the poor and working class, but also the middle-class. India is ranked as one of the most chauvinist societies on earth - though no match for Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Afghanistan. While some are not Marxists, they have been drawn to anti-capitalist perspectives by the very nature of Indian and U.S. capitalism.
Let us celebrate progressive Indian women and all those women from the global “South,” especially those living in fundamentalist Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Buddhist countries who combat religious obscurantism, classism and female oppression. In many of those countries their lives are in danger just from speaking out. In Afghanistan a whole layer of progressive Afghani women and men were exterminated as teachers of girls by the Mujahedin in the 1970s. This was part of a sexist war waged with help from the U.S. CIA under the Democrat Carter and the Republican Reagan.
Of course, this doesn’t change the character of whole ethnicities. Class still prevails. Reference the Indian Embassy employee Devyani Khobragade, who was recently arrested for falsifying documents in order to pay her captive live-in maid and nanny less than minimum wage. Or take upper-class bigot “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and education deformer and privatizer Michelle Rhee, who remind us that reactionary politics are not limited to white people – or men.
January 8, 2014