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A review of “Capitalism a Ghost Story” by Arundhati Roy

A review of “Capitalism a ghost story” by Arundhati Roy, published by Verso London 2014

This short book, it is less than a hundred pages, is an attack on the power of Indian elites, represented by rich industrialists, entrepreneurs and politicians on those less fortunate in their society. This book is a polemic, written by an author with with a true grasp of the English language. To give you an example, “In India the 300 million of us who belong to the new, post-International Monetary Fund (IMF) “reforms” middle-class – live side-by-side with spirits of the netherworld, the poltergeists of dead rivers, bald mountains, and denuded forests; the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and over the 800 million who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than 20 Indian rupees a day.”

Arundhati also says, “According to the rules of the Gush-Up Gospel, the more you have, the more you can.” She notes that in India, “the land of millions of people is being acquired and handed over to private corporations for “public interest” – the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), infrastructure projects, dams, highways, car manufacture, chemical hubs, and Formula One racing. (The sanctity of private property never applies to the poor.)” Arundhati makes a very important point, when she says, “As Gush-Up concentrates wealth onto the tip of the shining pin of which are billionaires pirouette, tidal waves of money crash through the institutions of democracy – the courts, parliament – as well as the media, seriously compromising their ability to function in the ways they are meant to. The noisier the carnival around elections, the less sure we are democracy really exist.”

Her words recall what Woodrow Wilson said in 1913, “If monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of government stop I do not expect to see monopoly restrain itself stop if there are men in this country big enough to own the government to the United States, they are going to own it.”  (The New Freedom)

For those unfamiliar with modern India the author draws our attention to a number of serious problems that affect the Indian state, including the suppression of popular discontent in areas including Kashmir, Manipur, and Nagaland. As she says, “We hear about the ecological and social re-engineering of central India only because of the mass insurrection and the war.” For Arundhati what is happening in modern India illustrates the global problems that capitalism faces; she says, “Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 percent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital.”  She makes another important point when she says, capitalism’s real ‘gravediggers’ may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who had turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that it dug out of past crises – War and shopping – simply will not work.”

As I write Arundhati Roy is facing the threat of jail in India, accused of making “scandalous and scurrilous allegations” against the Indian judiciary over an article she wrote in May 2015 calling for the release on bail Professor GN Saibaba. She has contended that there was “much to suggest” that authorities do not want the severely disabled Professor to “come out of the Nagpur central jail alive”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, 6th February 2016, Andrew Marszal quoted Chiki Sarkar, a leading Indian publisher who said, “The Indian state seems to overreact to her in a way they don’t with everyone else. She says things that no-one else does.”

 

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