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(en) Arundhati Roy's anti-authoritarian politics

From schmidtm@sundaytimes.co.za
Date Sat, 26 Apr 2003 19:39:39 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Respected internationalist libertarian writer / activist Arundhati Roy, of
India, annoyed right-wing socialists and delighted anarchists, autonomists
and other anti-authoritarian socialists when she made the following
critiques at a Treatment Action Campaign / Palestine Solidarity Committee
talk at the University of the Witwatersrand on April 23. The comments are
transcripts of a tape-recording:
On bourgeois electoral politics:
"You listen to people chanting 'Lula, Lula!' [the former metalworker
elected last year as the new 'socialist' president of Brazil] and I know
that you must allow them five minutes of celebration, but it's over, honey,
it's over! The minute you cross the line from powerlessless, from being the
people, to being the government, [you] become something else, and we have
to realise that."

On nationalism:
"I'm not interested in this xenophobia; I'm not interested in this
nationalism. You know, I like saying that flags are what governments use to
shrink-wrap people's brains - and then after as ceremonial shrouds to bury
the willing dead... With one side, they [Indian nationalist politicians]
are selling off the country into chunks, and with the other they are
orchestrating this howling mob and howling nationalism and fascism."

On the "threat" of multinationals to the nation-state:
"People think that corporate globalisation threatens national sovereignty -
but it doesn't. Corporate globalisation undermines democracy but it
reinforces nationalism. You 'need' these nuclear bombs, you 'need' these
heightened guards around America's boundaries to ensure that it is only
capital that moves across the boundaries, not labour, not ideas."

On anti-capitalist resistance:
"What I'm interested in is not some ultimate victory, because there never
will be that. What I'm interested in is the constant war between power and
powerlessness and how you close that gap ... How do you keep power on a
short leash? How do you live in a permanent emergency? ... I don't think
marches are a bad thing, but I do think they are a bad thing if all our
energies are going into organising a march because governments know how to
deal with a march... We've got to attack the machine - not the whole
machine; all we need to do is to put a little sugar in the tank."

On the authoritarian Left:
"Just the very language they use is so old and elitist and nobody can
understand [so] you have this old Left that is left without any
grassroots... [In India] religious fascists ... understand powerlessness
better than the Left which is far too intellectual to think about stuff
like that [water connections etc.]... What we ought to be talking about is
not the politics of government, but the politics of oppositon, of permanent
opposition in a way that keeps power on a short leash..."

On true democracy:
"We need to understand what we mean by democracy. The way I see it is it is
not a heirarchical, layered institution, but a natural one... Democracy is
not just elections. Elections are majoritarianism and majoritarianism is
eventually linked to fascism. Fascism dovetails with nationalism."

On the joy of resistance:
"We must make sure we're having a bloody good time!... ultimately, we're
patrolling the borders of our own happiness, of our own joy, our own beauty
and we have to hold on to that; we have to fight with that."

posted by: Michael Schmidt (Bikisha Media Collective, Anarchist Black
Cross, Johannesburg)

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