September 21, 2007

The State of the Revolution - Part 2

Part 1

Part 3

6) Right-wing intellectuals - The mirror-image of the Shushils, I refer of course to the Naya Diganta types, specifically Farhad Mazhar and Mahbubur Rahman (of ex-BOI and CPD-suing fame). Now a lot of people might point out that this is by no means new. Well, yes nothing is completely new under the sun true. But my rationale is that they represent a new strand in right-wing support for unelected governments: previous right-wing intellectuals were usually BCS people (e.g. AMA Muhith) or no-brainers. An interesting case is that of Enayetullah Khan, the late editor of Holiday whose family now owns the New Age. Left-wing intellectual, so far to the left that he has extended his support to every right-wing government in power to get even with the Awami League for the early 70s. Farhad Mazhar might just be doing the same with his latest shenanigans. (I'm indebted to the numerous discussions I've had with people on Rumi bhai's blog for this section. They really got me thinking seriously about the Naya Diganta clique.)

Now that we've got 1-6 somewhat differentiated from one another, let's look at their aims.

1 and 2 have the same aims: greater bureaucratic control over politicians in the long run and a clean exit. I do not doubt their patriotism: they genuinely want good things for the country. I doubt their ability to listen to the very people they are supposed to lead. Top-down modes of governance do not work in the long-run without extreme coercion. Get a book on Soviet history and see if I'm wrong. Unelected government officials become ready to seek out "conspiracies" if ELECTED political masters are not present: elected people are conscious of the people below them even in a flawed democratic state like Bangladesh. Bureaucrats and military people are more apt to find conspiracies or somehow or the other blame the public for policy failures. Don't believe me? Look at the fixed price market fiasco. (Free economics 101 lesson for any BDR personnel who wants it. Just leave a comment on this blog!)

3 is not really much of a mystery. These are people who have decided that they want power no matter who they have to serve, no matter how much of their previous statements they will have to disavow. Mr. Moudud is the epitome of this class, but in the context of the current CTG, the poster-boy of this faction is none other than a newspaper magnate cum barrister cum advisor cum conspiracy theorist. I refer of course to someone who once resigned from BAKSAL (h/t shadakalo), not because it was undemocratic (how "naive and idealistic" that would have been) but because his illustrious father's newspapers had been confiscated. Like father, like son? Hah!

4 is not a mystery either. By hook or by crook, they want Shahriah law in Bangladesh. That Shahriah itself outlaws the hook against other Muslims (which most of us are) is not something that bothers them. That there are different interpretations of the Shahriah and the Quran (and have been since time immemorial) is also not something that bothers them. More than anything that a cartoonist could draw, these living beings are an insult to the Islam I know and practise. Let's ban them from politics using their own logic. That some of them acted against us in 1971 simply lends more credence to the call. Seriously, this is the only time I'm going to echo Kader Siddiky. (Btw, Mr. Siddiky, I second your opinion as given to the EC that all rajakars should be banned. What's your take on pro-Mujib guerrillas who fought OUR army with Indian help? Somehow less treacherous? Jackass!)

That faction 6 is allied with Islamists is a tragedy, which we've been trying to fathom on several threads on this blog and Rumi bhai's. Neither Farhad Mazhar nor Mahbubur Rahman nor most of the other right-wing ideologues are Islamists or even particularly religious. The consensus among the bloggers is that it reflects the failure of a centre-right BNP to find any meaningful outlet to their voices: after all, the BNP has valued loyalty over dissent in its 2nd term. And dissent is the one thing you cannot take away from people who think for themselves.

5 was of course the big surprise this coup round. Their participations spoke of a society in which power had been devolving to hostile civilians slightly, with the liberalization of the economy and the media. What was their interest in supporting an undemocratic procedure? Surely these were "liberals" who believe in democracy right? Get ready for a rant.

We had two political parties families personalities... let me start again. We have had two powerful political ideologies differentiating themselves on paper only through this: "socialism and secularism" and "capitalism and the state's supreme faith in Allah". Both ideologies are willing to sacrifice "democracy" to get to these supposed utopian goals from what I've seen and read (BAKSAL and Jamaat's Roadmap are two sides of the same coin). Democracy therefore clearly has no advocate in Bangladesh, the first Bangladeshi politician on the blogosphere notwithstanding.

The dependency school of political economy in its typically post-Marxist way tells us that economic "exploitation" (read: relations) did not end with colonialism. What happened was that the "white masters" were replaced with brown/black ones. These new masters were comprador elites, serving the needs of the old colonial power at the expense of the development of their own newly independent countries. Their consciousness were therefore elsewhere, in the lands of those who held the purse-strings. (Full disclosure: Dependency theory has been partially discredited, so Islamist readers, please don't go on a rant about how "secular liberals" serve the "Empire". I don't subscribe to such facile theories myself.)

Like economic elites, our liberals too are comprador, not in an economic sense but in an ideological sense. We all remember the old saying, "These people hold up umbrellas when its raining in Moscow" (which btw can be modified slightly to fit the Islamist condition, "These people take shelter when a sandstorm bursts forth in Riyadh, Jeddah, Gaza City, Damascus, Ankara etc etc"... anywhere except my beloved Dhaka of course!). Our liberals are painfully short of original ideas. Yunus was of course the exception to this in that microlending really is original in breaking free of Cold War shackles of thought. His tragedy lies elsewhere.

The lack of original ideas is reflected:

1. in their avowal of "secularism", borne out of the experience of the Inquisition in Europe and superimposed on Bangladesh's '71 experience;

2. in their avowal of "Communism", borne out of the experience of Industrialisation which Bangladesh did not go through;

3. in their 180 degrees digbaaji following Berlin '89 and their avowal of "the Market and Industrialization", without letting go of their hostility towards entrepreneurs or calling for a strong legal basis without which the Market cannot function;

4. in their avowal of "civil society" narrowly defined to include themselves and only themselves at the expense of other ideologies;

5. and finally in their full-fledged support for the CTG's policies (especially their censorship and self-censorship) as a "national government" following the Communist models they once aspired to.

Democracy remained something elusive (usually dismissed as a buzzword by the ignorant), something for the naive to shout about, people like me who thought that "over"-populated, "under"-educated Bangladesh could cope with the democracy it had fought for in 1971.


jyoti said...

Much better than the Matrix revolution.:)

Both Mati and Mazhar have forgotten their Mao - political power lies in the barrel of a gun. When we leave electoral politics, people with guns usually trump over people with pens in the short term. Yes, pen and ideas may triumph in the long run - but in the long run we are all dead.

tacit said...

Mao and Keynes, a potent mix indeed. Allow me then to diversify a bit. "Do you think that you shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed before you?"