From Tue Mar 18 04:00:11 2003
From: Le Monde diplomatique <>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <>
Subject: Resistance is never futile
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 15:06:16 +0100 (CET)

Resistance is never futile

By Arundhati Roy, Le Monde diplomatique, March 2003

WHAT do we mean by the idea of confronting “empire”? Does “empire” mean the government of the United States (and its European satellites), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation, the multinational corporations? Or is it something more than that? “Empire” has sprouted subsidiary identities in many countries, and produced dangerous byproducts: nationalism, religious bigotry, fascism, terrorism. All are in alliance with the project of corporate globalisation.

India, the world's biggest democracy, is now at the forefront of the corporate globalisation project. The WTO is prising open its market of a billion people. The Indian government and elite are welcoming corporatisation and privatisation. It is no coincidence that India's prime minister, home minister, and “disinvestment” minister—men who signed the deal with Enron in India, men who are selling the country's infrastructure to corporate multinationals, men who want to privatise water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education and telecommunication—are all members or admirers of the RSS, a rightwing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild that openly admires Hitler (1).

In India democracy is being dismantled with the speed and efficiency of a structural adjustment programme. The project of corporate global isation destroys lives in India, and massive privatisation and labour “reforms” push people off their land and out of jobs. Hundreds of impoverished farmers have committed suicide by drinking pesticide. There are reports of starvation deaths from all over the country. While the elite ascend to an imaginary destination somewhere near the top of the world, the dispossessed fall into crime and chaos. History tells us this climate of frustration and national disillusionment is the perfect breeding ground for fascism.

The two arms of the Indian government have achieved perfect pincer action. One sells India off in chunks, and the other, to divert attention, orchestrates a howling chorus of Hindu nationalism and religious fascism. Nuclear tests are being conducted, history rewritten, churches burnt and mosques demolished. Censorship, surveillance, the suspension of civil liberties and human rights, the redefinition of Indian citizenship (particularly with regard to religious minorities): these are all becoming common practice.

In March 2002, 2,000 Muslims were butchered in a state-sponsored pogrom in the state of Gujarat. Muslim women, specially targeted, were stripped and gang-raped, then burned alive. Shops, homes, textile mills, and mosques were looted and burned. More than 150,000 Muslims were driven from their homes. The economic base of their community was devastated.

While Gujarat burned, the Indian prime minister was on MTV promoting his new poems. This January the government that organised the killings was voted back into office with a comfortable majority. Nobody has been punished for genocide. Narendra Modi, architect of the pogrom, and proud member of the RSS, has begun his second term as the chief minister of Gujarat. Were he Saddam Hussein the atrocities would have been seen on CNN. But since he is not—and since the Indian market is open to global investors—the pogrom is not even an embarrassing inconvenience. There are more than 100 million Muslims in India. A time bomb is ticking in our ancient land.

So it is a myth that the free market breaks down national barriers. The free market does not threaten national sovereignty, it undermines democracy. As the disparity between the rich and the poor grows, the fight to corner resources intensifies. Corporate globalisation, to push through its sweetheart deals, to corporatise the crops we grow, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the dreams we dream, needs an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, authoritarian governments in poorer countries to pass unpopular reforms and quell mutinies. Corporate globalisation (let's call it by its name, imperialism) needs a press that pretends to be free and courts that pretend to dispense justice.

All the while the countries of the North harden their borders and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. They have to ensure that only money, goods, patents and services are global ised. Not the free movement of people. Not respect for human rights. Not treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclear weapons or greenhouse gas emissions or climate change—or justice.

This is all “empire”: this loyal confederation, this accumulation of power, this increased distance between those who make the decisions and those who suffer from them. Our fight, our vision of another world, must be to eliminate that distance. So how do we resist “empire”? The good news is that we are not doing too badly in resisting. There have been major victories, especially in Latin America. In Bolivia there was Cochabamba (2) and in Peru the uprising in Arequipa (3). In Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is holding on, despite the US government's best efforts. Lula da Silva has become president of Brazil. The world is looking to the people of Argentina, trying to refashion a country after the havoc done by the IMF. In India the movement against globalisation is gathering momentum and is poised to become the only real political force against religious fascism.

But we also know that behind the slogans of the war against terrorism, men in suits are at work. While bombs rain down, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, we know that contracts are being signed, patents registered, oil pipelines laid, natural resources plundered, water privatised. However the “empire” is now out in the open and too ugly to face its own reflection. Before 11 September 2001 the US had a secret history, secret especially from Americans. But now those secrets are history, and that history public knowledge. We know that every argument used to escalate the war against Iraq is a lie, the most ludicrous being the US government's commitment to bring democracy to Iraq. Killing people to save them from dictatorship or ideological corruption is an old US governmental habit.

Nobody doubts that Saddam Hussein is a dictator, a murderer whose worst excesses were supported by the governments of the US and United Kingdom. Iraq would be better off without him. But, then, the whole world would be better off without President George Bush.

What can we do? We can improve our memory, learn from our history. We can build public opinion until it becomes overwhelming. We can expose George Bush and Tony Blair, and their allies, as baby killers, water poisoners, and cowardly long-distance bombers. We can re-invent civil disobedience in a million ways. When Bush says “you’re either with us or you are with the terrorists,” we can refuse his choices. We can let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose between a malevolent Mickey Mouse and mad mullahs.


(1) The RSS was founded in 1925; at present it has 3 million members who are sent to paramilitary training camps—see Le Monde, 15 March 2002).

(2) In Cochabamba the water wars waged by Bolivians in 1990 and 2000 forced the government to deprivatise water management.

(3) In June 2002 six days of popular uprising in the town and department of Arequipa, in the south of Peru, forced President Alejandro Toledo to stop privatisation of electricity companies.