Vaclav Havel :: Freedom Fighter or Militarist Capitalist?

The biggest myths perpetuated in the history of political economic analysis are the established contradistinctions between ‘democracy’ and ‘dictatorship’. Based on outlined differences, democracy is canonized as the opposite model of political governance to what is disgraced as dictatorship. And with this logic in place, Vaclav Havel is glorified to be a “freedom fighter” of his land, and Kim Jong-il is denounced as a dictator who throttled freedom in his country. It may be an irony that both these leaders died around the same time, but what is way bigger a concern is the manner in which they are being judged as historical subjects.

In a corporate media culture that actively moulds our everyday thought processes through news contents, it is necessary to pause awhile, and dissect such enormous conclusions and examine if the impositions of such documented views are merely hasty, or purely methodical. For history is not just a body of collective knowledge compiled for posterity, but more importantly, critical investigations into historical scholarships instill the more necessary weapons in the minds of the future generations to improvise upon this much maligned world.

Invariably every media house in the West has recently depicted Havel as a freedom fighter while Kim Jong-il is announced as an evil dictator. What then were their legacies, and what value systems did they further? Let us investigate into the unique histories they individually were influenced by, and gave further shapes to.

Contrary to mainstream media depictions, Havel was not the romanticized non-violent leader of a bloodless Velvet Revolution. Such an assertion is grossly inadequate to explain the peoples’ history of the Eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia’s political transitions throughout last century were tumultuous at various junctures, to say the least, and Havel’s roles were equally dubious.

Before awarding the nonviolence sainthood upon a person like Havel, it is important to recollect that Havel was the first leader of Czechoslovakia to support the biggest militarist force on the earth, NATO. His ambition to drive Czechoslovakia to join NATO was one of premeditated stance that had surfaced for all three decades following the so-called Prague Spring. Not only was NATO alliance close to his heart, Havel was a ruthless proponent of capitalism all along. Resultantly, he drove Czech Republic to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as soon as he was handed over power. OECD, in turn is a creation of the Marshall Plan, a militarist and economic system that fostered American hegemony during the Cold War and its aftermath. In simpler terms, Marshall Plan (and OECD) were funded by the successive US governments with a single aim to destabilize communist countries in Eastern Europe, using financial aids and grants. Marshall Plan also fostered western European colonialism (such as Netherlands’ colonial aggressions in Indonesia and subsequent annihilations of millions of communists).

If anything, Havel’s legacies are that of a violent and ruthless anti-communist leader who aspired to divide Czechoslovakia, rule over the land (for over a decade) with an intent to end communism and make the country an active recipient of military contracts from the US, and a militarist leader who formally inducted Czech Republic into International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat operations in the War on Afghanistan (where Czech Republic is one of the major players).

As a member of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Havel has led Czech Republic into legitimizing the various ribbon-based demonstrations that were instrumental in disrupting former CIS republics. Be it the so-called “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine or the electoral judgments in Belarus, OSCE has been at the most, a biased organization with agenda suitable to further western models of democracies, while selectively refraining from judging electoral frauds in United States, for example. “Orange Revolution” has been already admitted to be the handiwork of western bullies. Funders include both Republican Party and the Democratic Party. If the former party was represented by International Republican Institute (IRI- funded by the US Govt and headed by none other than Senator John McCain to “democratize” nations around the world), the Democratic Party made its presence felt in the so-called “revolutions” in Europe through its National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) headed by Madeleine Albright (whose hawkish crusade – along with Bill Clinton’s – against Iraq’s illusive WMD programs led to the tragic war on millions of innocent people). NGOs such as Freedom House which are endorsed by Bill Clinton and his likes have the dubious distinction of creating the freedom scales whereby they have ranked North Korea to be the lowest in their appraisals. Irony is that the Freedom House had declared a racist system of Rhodesian election of Ian Smith to be “fair” while legitimate election of Mugabe in Zimbabwe to be “dubious” (Chomsky/Hermann, Manufacturing Consent). Freedom House has consistently sought its information from anti-communist organizations as its sources based upon which, it ranks the freedom levels of countries. Freedom House, Chomsky writes, is “interlocked with AIM, the World Anticommunist League, Resistance International, and U.S. government bodies such as Radio Free Europe and the CIA, and has long served as a virtual propaganda arm of the (U.S) government and international right wing”.

The widely disgraced Radio Free Europe (RFE) was used as a successful tool in instigating the so-called Hungarian Revolution. Similar to Havel were the likes of Lech Walesa who would learn anti-communist tactics from RFE and go on to win Nobel Peace Prize (naturally) following deliberate collapse of communism in Hungary. Such ribbon based “Springs” and “Revolutions” are also monetarily aided by the likes of George Soros, the virulently anti-communist. His Open Society Institute openly funded the creation of the so-called “Rose Revolution” to oust the last communist leaders out of power in Georgia. And more importantly, the multi-billionaire Soros who is among the top ten richest Americans in the world financially aided the likes of Havel in furthering the so-called Charter 77, aimed at dismantling communism in Czechoslovakia. The Charter 77 naturally went on to instigate the so-called “Velvet Revolution” for which Havel is today being heroized.

What then is the origin of Velvet Revolution? Was it a spontaneous student movement against so-called communistic atrocities that merely coincided with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc? This is how the corporate media presents the revolution to be. In reality, it was a reactionary movement funded by venture capitalists of the western world that were since decades channeling money and propaganda into the regions to destabilize communism. Charter 77 group continued to create anticommunist sentiments in Czechoslovakia from 1976 to 1992, manipulatively fostering market capitalism in the region in lieu of power sharing. Václav Havel, Jan Patočka, Zdeněk Mlynář, Jiří Hájek, and Pavel Kohout – each of these Charter 77 members who formed the coalition and received funding from George Soros and assistance from CIA, RFE, IRI, NDI, Freedom House etc, were the mastermind conspirators from the very start. They worked with CIA spies and drafted propaganda materials to overthrow communism. They published their views on New York Times and Voice of America and directly aided the American interventionist agendas – both militarily and economically. They endorsed the likes of Józef “Butcher” Światło who was planted by the CIA to execute communists in Poland. Światło after his much dramatized “defection” in turn worked for the CIA and Radio Free Europe with an intent to end communism in Poland. Światło was heading the “Operation Splinter Factor”, initiated by CIA director Allen Dulles, in order to finish millions of communist activists in Eastern Europe. According to historian William Blum, the counterpart of Światło was installed in Czechoslovakia by none other than General Reinhard Gehlen, the former Nazi intelligence chief who later on worked for CIA. Gehlan was instrumental in carrying out arrests of hundreds of thousands of communists. Although World War II was decisively won by the Soviet Union, the “spheres of influences” were created to check the growth of communism. And as a result, scores of civil wars were funded by the western capitalistic world inside the “Eastern Bloc”, and CIA documents of the Cold War era reveal spy networks and “show trials” orchestrated by men and women funded by the American intelligence agency.

It was only after Światło was exposed to have been working for the CIA all along that the Polish and Hungarian governments realized how they had been duped by this man. They immediately released all their prisoners and compensated them. An American fellow-traveler Noel Field who was used by Światło, as the central figure of contact to trace all his comrades, was also released and he chose to remain in Hungary for the rest of his life. Like Światło, the person responsible for naming “Velvet Revolution”, Rita Klímová was consistently taking up the task to leak information about the party activists to the western press and intelligence agencies, while actively maintaining her communist party membership. Along with the much disgraced Światło, she was also fired from the party after she was exposed to be conducting the “Stalinist purges” while working for the western interests. She was such an anticommunist that she wrote samizdat articles under the pen name “Adam Kovárc” (Czech for Adam Smith). It was no simple coincidence that after imprisoning thousands of communists in the guise of being a Stalinist, she was chosen to translate Vaclav Havel’s works and subsequently helped facilitating his seizing of power.

The so-called “Prague Spring” was an outcome of such a period of Czech history which was dictated by former Nazi officers, American spies and RFE propaganda led by Światło. The Charter 77 furthering the anticommunist efforts was a mere continuation of such counter-revolutionary legacies.

It is important to remember that Communism never collapsed in the world. Only a few communist regimes were ended in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union following enormous anticommunist propaganda, military interventions and vulgar infiltration of western capital. Havel and the likes only represented that section of people who immensely benefitted from introduction of market capitalism in their respective countries. They were intrinsically reactionaries, anticommunists and pro-market enthusiasts. And they were ably funded by Wall Street business magnets to further the goals of corporate greed. To pay tribute to Havel who throughout his life led the life of a militarist NATO-enabling, power hungry capitalist as a “nonviolent revolutionary” is to inflict great insults to both Gandhi and Lenin at the same time.

If Alexander Dubček had his way, the “Velvet Revolution” that apparently ended communism in Czechoslovakia would not have taken over three decades to materialize. Overthrowing of Antonín Novotný was not the issue at hand. Not accommodating Vasil Biľak was not either. The reality is no one else emulated American electoral system like Havel did. He not only successfully divided up the country by racially disintegrating the Slovakians (almost 90% of whom were ethnically Slovak), Havel adopted a political system modeled on the U.S. Senate. And no surprising is the fact that the Czech Senate is vastly unpopular among the public. The elections in that post-communist land has had some of the lowest turnouts in democratic histories of the world. Records indicate that the turnouts in Czech elections are usually 30% in the first round and 20% in the second.

So much for the Freedom House rankings! And the declaration that Václav Havel was a Freedom Fighter!

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)


Of Occupy Wall Street :: Democracy, Free Press, Police State & the American Liberty Myths

“We own half the world, oh say can you see
And the name for our profits is ‘Democracy’
So, like it or not, you will have to be free
‘Cause we’re the Cops of the World, boys
We’re the Cops of the World…”
– Comrade Phil Ochs (1940-1976)

“State Police Keeps Press Away; Arrests and Assaults Peaceful People”

This is the Democracy that brings the likes of Bush and Obama to power. The Democracy that lets Democrats and Republicans contend with each other to run the American imperialism. The Democracy which exemplifies itself as the freedom forum to force its way into rest of the world. The Democracy that thrives on individual liberty, and free press!

And, when the rest of the world opposes the mammoth contradictions and brutalities of what the Democracy comprises, the Democracy then teaches the world a lesson. Across the world, the lesson comes in the form of lingering unforgiving wars where the Democracy annihilates the humanity that disregards its proclaimed superiority.

And, nearer home, the Democracy manifests in its nakedness, in its actual being, in the status of a Police State.

American Democracy does not even have to preach its virtues. In fact, it does not need a propaganda press. It simply does away with the press. American Democracy is not answerable to anyone, except those who own it: the wealthy class and their puppets, the lawmaking agencies, executives and representatives. They do not need the lobbyists at Washington. They are the lobbyists of capitalism themselves. A monstrosity that sustains itself. A system that perpetuates injustice as though it were normal, and necessary.

When NYPD forcefully evicted all the peaceful dissenters at the Liberty Square earlier tonight, and dumped one of the the largest collections of progressive books and literature literally into trash cans, it was a true reflection of what the civilized Democracy looked like. Not only were the people who claimed to be the majority brutally teargassed, handcuffed and unjustly arrested, but even the media/press which are supposed to represent the voices of the American society were disallowed from covering the ways the events unfolded in the middle of the night. Even the airways were blocked, lest the “free press” sends a helicopter to cover the brutalities that might give the much sacrosanct and vulnerable Democracy a bad name!

Really, what is this thing called Democracy? A system where the police decides to grant credentials to the press, a system where the media are owned by a bunch of millionaires to air their collective capitalistic interests, and a system where the reporters are forbidden from covering one of the most significant news events in recent times?

What happened today was worse than any other event of state brutality ever recorded in modern history. A right to peacefully dissent is not an exclusive form of American liberty grant. It is a fundamental human right everywhere in the world. It is so fundamental that every revolution and every mass movement has depended on its actualization.

Any government, by virtue of being one, is merely a temporary entity that is duly allowed to be there at the first place by the majority of people in a given society. May it be Hitler’s Germany, or FDR’s America, or Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, or Nehru’s India, a government is always in place with the support of the majority of people. Political scientists can call a government a form of dictatorship, communism, a monarchy or a democracy. The fact remains, without at least the implicit support of the majority, no government can stay in place. People implicitly, or overtly lend support to any regime for it to continue.

And therefore, it is the people who also inevitably change the governments and replace the systems.

Each time the people protest and make the changes, the events are duly recorded and the governments take notice of the oppositions. In the ongoing war, the people’s wills are always taken note of. No matter how politically polished or uneducated they may appear to be. When the Berlin Wall collapsed, one could dispute the collective intelligence of those that rejoiced. When the fascist minded folks walked the grounds to exhibit their deep-seated racism in Nazi Germany, one could virulently attack the sanity of the people. When George Bush was reelected to power in America, one could ceaselessly apologize on behalf of the electorates. But the reality is in each successful implementation of a political framework, it is the majority people, whose will has always prevailed sooner or later. And it is no wonder then, that this will has always been recorded in the pages of contemporary world history.

Except when the Democracy is questioned.

In the Wall Street area, where the Occupy Movement first started, when the police swiftly, hideously and murderously took over the Square amidst the darkness of a long night, American Democracy did not feel alarmed. American Democracy was not allowed to be recorded by the media to be the brutal, dysfunctional and oppressive construct it actually was. And the world’s earliest Democracy, the most vigorously tested Democracy, the world’s most successful Democracy did exactly what it was supposed to. It was not the Obama government or the Bush government that failed the people’s aspirations. It is the majority of people’s will to sustain an inherently failed system of Democracy – a system where money buys the votes – that failed the peoples’ aspirations.

Occupy Wall Street had major flaws no doubt, but it would have failed its purpose had it not enlightened the people about the failed system of Democracy that it was fighting within.

Fortunately, when the movement was overpowered by the Democracy, it veritably succeeded in its mission.

In its failure to succeed, the mass movement gains its success. Such is the nature of the Democracy.

Either we accept this contradiction, or we must redefine the word Democracy.

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)

Occupy Wall Street: Challenges, Privileges & Futures

“One who tells the people revolutionary legends, 
and who amuses them with sensational stories, 
is as criminal as the geographer 
who would draw up false charts for navigators.” 

– HPO Lissagaray, “History of the Paris Commune of 1871” (1877)

The challenges to Occupy Wall Street are many. Some even more critical than the very issues the protestors are fighting against. Whereas it claims to be the 99%, yet the movement practices the age-old privileges of class and race blindness. Similar to most white liberal movements, the OWS is hardly inclusive of the people of color. Although the spirit is radical and the intent is revolutionary, the movement itself suffers from a lack of critical understanding on how race and class intersect. In reality, 99% of people do not form a class in themselves. This is because the 99% of population comprise a significant amount of aspiring rich, a “middle class” category of people who have steadfastly refused to side with the poor working class whenever the latter has organized itself. In the US, this segment of opportunistic liberal citizens have always believed in the country’s racist foundations, its heritage of exclusionary democracy, and its segregated educational system, and amply benefited from patriotic allegiances. And as a result, they have lent unconditional supports to electoral reforms that sustain an individualistic social order, to corporate policies that help private business thrive, to political outfits such as the Democratic Party in recent times, which upholds the status quo in every level of governance defining American imperialism.

In the current romanticized version of revolutionary zeal at the Wall Street protests, there is a marked denial on part of the “General Assembly” of the movement that it could be perceived as supportive of the status quo. Proudly boasting of a movement without specific goals and leaders, the movement publishes formal newspapers and handouts clearly stating its disavowal of “Tea Party” right-wing movements. Not only is the OWS appearing left-wing and liberal – a political lineage that may not find endorsement among the 99% of people – it is also claiming to be without ideologies and specific goals. OWS is in a state of denial that anarchism of various forms are themselves ideologies, and the organizers of the movements are their leaders, the money which enables publications of the “Occupied Wall Street Journal” has sources to its sponsors. If rejection of current economic situation is the inspiration for the movement, the rejection of the current economic situation is the goal.

The biggest challenge for the OWS is to humbly acknowledge that it is a movement driven by a specific ideology which refuses the use of violence as a revolutionary tool, demands increased taxes for the rich, envisions student debt relief, opposes the Tea Party politicians, demands “direct democracy” as a political approach, and has raised over a half a million dollars within a couple of weeks to fund its campaign. And, it has allowed MoveOn, a multimillion dollar partisan initiative to speak on behalf of OWS to the media. The Occupy project has organizers who decide when the General Assembly will take place, which celebrity will address them, which entertainers will put up shows, which specific websites will be declared “official”, which post-box addresses the charity checks will be received at, and what heads will the money be spent on. Despite massive financial assets, when the OWS refuses to replace the drums of an activist which was destroyed at the protests, it is unilaterally decided by the specific organizers.

In their postmodernist hues, when political movements decry ideologies, refuse to take sides on political issues and pretend to distance themselves from power struggles, they smack of redundancy at best, and hypocrisy, at worst. When the educated youths refuse to acknowledge their race and class prerogatives, and claim that their movements let everyone have equal voice, it speaks of the gravely misplaced understanding of how freedom of speech is interlaced with entitlements. If the Occupy movement has not attracted majority of Black and Latino people into its fold, it is a sad reflection of how the movement has failed to address the needs of the most oppressed while boasting of representing them.

People of color are disproportionately incarcerated, disenfranchised, and unemployed in the United States. There is a rigid American class society in place ever since the country was founded. And yet, “class” as a realistically oppressive concept is seldom discussed in the country. Without any necessary critiques of the class society, majority of white liberals almost never understand their hidden privileges. They unequivocally endorse similar newspapers, television channels and textbooks that are inherently biased against class and race analysis. They invariably exalt founding fathers who owned slaves, presidents who denied racial disparities, and swear by the prison-military-industrial complex of the largest imperialistic society in history of humanity. OWS is based on the primary notion that the American society was absolutely democratic and fulfilling until Reagan spoilt the show. If they tried to include black people who suffered the brutality of every presidential regime in American history, the Occupy movement would not be wishing for the American democratic model to continue while singling out Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street has every possibility of becoming its own nemesis. A separation of economy from politics of the day is naive and reactionary. Merely opposing a bunch of corporate houses in the Wall Street without disrupting the political climate in Washington DC is a hopeless distraction. Calling for arms may or may not be a suitable alternative to political misrule, but to clearly disavow any use of violence while calling for “revolution” is a utopian approach. In fact, just around the time when majority of Americans were clearly fed up and were beginning to demonstrate repressed anger with the entire political establishment, when a Malcolm X demand for replacement of the existing political economy by “any means necessary” was going to be a possibility; a movement that preaches nonviolence and targets a few corporate houses as the only stumbling blocks in the path to progress while giving the Democratic Party and its fundraisers a space within its platform either defies progressive logic, or works towards crushing collective demands for concrete replacements at the corridors of power, in lieu of possible electoral gains in the coming year.

The problem with a movement such as OWS is that majority of white liberals who protest at Wall Street do not live in colored neighborhoods, nor do they acknowledge that they have any similarities with the poor working class of the country, the homeless and the destitute of America, the black families whose children are imprisoned without trials, the Latino construction workers whose health issues are not covered by any insurance corporations that the otherwise liberal Democratic Party leaders have been receiving donations from. Yet, year after year when neglected teenagers from minority communities are routinely murdered and assaulted and detained without justice, most white liberals refuse to show up at demonstrations led by minority leaders to challenge the police state. The OWS should be a venue for rendering apologies with an effort to seek supports of lesser privileged comrades, not as a self-proclaimed glorified uniqueness in the history of protest movements.

Serious issues have been affecting the majority of people in America; they are all for real. They have been well known crisis, nothing abstract to articulate for months on. The tall claims for forming “consensus” through direct democracy are also without merit considering that a huge majority of people that are apparently being represented by the OWS, are the very folks who are not privileged enough to join the “General Assembly”; and timely decisions must be taken on behalf of them without waiting for any consensus. This demands for organized leaderships charting out the most pressing – and therefore, known – issues affecting the most oppressed.

For instance, unemployment crisis is neither new nor shocking for the people of color in this country. Racism is alive and thriving at an institutional level. And demonstrations and marches have been carried out by black people in this country against unjustified administrative policies concerning wars, atrocities, discrimination, and immigration procedures. People of color vastly are drafted into the military facilitated by an economic system that has failed to work for them from the days of slavery. It is not a mere coincidence that Wall Street is not controlled by racial minorities. In fact, it is a common knowledge that capitalism was founded by plantation/slave economies.

That, the majority of working class folks of color who survive by dodging random bullets in their abjectly neglected neighborhoods shall suddenly identify with the rich spoilt educated group of youngsters that abruptly woke up to an accidental American nightmare while having always lived amidst downtown luxuries remaining predictably clueless on specific demands of a movement, is an insensitive expectation. That, the “illegal aliens” from the restaurant kitchens owned by overprivileged “citizens” who are upholding American flags at the Occupy Wall Street, will somehow join this movement to sing glories of “First Amendment” rights of the liberals selectively granted by a Constitution that refuses to recognize people in dire despair as full human beings, is utterly inconsiderate a demand.

A movement which fails to adequately address the needs of the most oppressed among the oppressed is a movement that somehow must end up diluting the most basic needs of the society with the peripherals. Such a movement can only enhance general cynicism, which is certainly a desirable wake-up call, but transformative revolutions that address the roots and not just symptoms call for agenda-driven optimism, armed organizations for self-defense, and principled leaderships with theorized visions that must replace political economies which have failed their subjects for hundreds of years.

Occupy Wall Street has the same potential of evolving into a revolution as countless other marches across the globe. The first American peoples’ revolution would have well begun, if occupations had inculcated limitless revolutionary imaginings, duly recognized the possible sparks, drew the most oppressed to clearly charted out radical visions in a timely manner, dissociated itself from the very political parties and electoral systems which have historically facilitated capitalism and phony democracies,

After all, there are no surprises in revolutions. They are historical necessities.

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)

They Did Not Kill Just Gaddafi…

They could not annihilate Africa. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not devastate a collective aspiration for freedom from imperialism. So they killed Gadhafi.

They could not forever shatter the promises of internationalism, socialism, Arab nationalism, and third world liberation. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not resolve the capitalistic contradictions in their home states, the Wall Street occupiers and the occupiers in London and Madrid, and in Paris. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not address the sheer crisis of masculinity their elected presidents and prime ministers struggled with, while their democratically elected leaders raped their interns and approved inmates being assaulted in their prison systems. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not justify their political assassinations of numerous heads of states who defied their atrocities, from Patrice Lumumba to Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, or of their murdering former allies that disagreed with them later from Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden to Anwar al-Awlaki – among hundreds of thousands others, without any due course of justice or legal recourses. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not have possibly stood trial at defending their heinous acts of official terrorism, while they kept bombing civilians, destroying villages in faraway lands that have never conspired attacks on western countries, and they could not possibly allow to be held responsible for the innumerable cases of human rights violations they have perpetuated. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not glorify any longer their Nobel Peace Prize winning Presidents and heads of states who lobby for their own places in world history as peaceniks and who declare they have invented internet and rewrite history textbooks to showcase their conquests as necessities and attacks as patriotism, and ask their Christian Gods to bless their free lands where millions exist without healthcare and homes, and since they are not likely to acknowledge there is a war going on right in their own homelands between the classes of haves and the have-nots. So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not provide any answers as to why they must invade and attack civilians of other sovereign countries and try to replicate their versions of corporate money driven phony electoral systems in other nations, not excluding in recent times, El Salvador (1980), Libya (1981), Sinai (1982), Lebanon (1982 1983), Egypt (1983), Grenada (1983), Honduras (1983), Chad (1983), Persian Gulf (1984), Libya (1986), Bolivia (1986), Iran (1987), Persian Gulf (1987), Kuwait (1987), Iran (1988), Honduras (1988), Panama (1988), Libya (1989), Panama (1989), Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru (1989), Philippines (1989), Panama (1989-1990), Liberia (1990), Saudi Arabia (1990), Iraq (1991), Zaire (1991), Sierra Leone (1992), Somalia (1992), Bosnia-Herzegovina (1993 to present), Macedonia (1993), Haiti (1994), Macedonia (1994), Bosnia (1995), Liberia (1996), Central African Republic (1996), Albania (1997), Congo/Gabon (1997), Sierra Leon (1997), Cambodia (1997), Iraq (1998), Guinea/Bissau (1998), Kenya/Tanzania (1998 to 1999), Afghanistan/Sudan (1998), Liberia (1998), East Timor (1999), Serbia (1999), Sierra Leon (2000), Yemen (2000), East Timor (2000), Afghanistan (2001 to present), Yemen (2002), Philippines (2002) , Cote d’Ivoire (2002), Iraq (2003 to present), Liberia (2003), Georgia/Djibouti (2003), Haiti (2004), Georgia/Djibouti/Kenya/Ethiopia/Yemen/Eritrea War on Terror (2004), Pakistan drone attacks (2004 to present), Somalia (2007), South Ossetia/Georgia (2008), Syria (2008), Yemen (2009), Haiti (2010) and Libya (2011). So they killed Gaddafi.

They could not provide any excuses any longer. Because they do not have any. No moral reasons and no justifiable grounds. So they just went ahead and thought they killed Gaddafi.

In reality, they did not kill just a man named Gaddafi. They killed the world leader who had relentlessly strived to unify Africa and to bring people of the colonized world together to raise their consciousness about the history of Eurocentrism and the living legacies of Colonialism. They killed humanity’s faith on humanity’s ability to engage in intelligent dialogues over targeted murders.

They killed the hope that the world somehow still pinned on the concept of western models of democracy and civilizations. Of the high moral horses they rode talking about human rights and due processes of law. They killed the trust of their own children and grandchildren and of every subsequent generations of human beings who would have otherwise reposed upon the collective wisdom and propaganda of their brutal ancestors masquerading as decent god-fearing folks. And they killed any remaining possibility that when the NATO gang members talk about peace, they could remotely mean peace.

They did not kill just Gaddafi. They killed their own conscience or whatever was left of it, several times over. And they will probably next kill Ahmadinejad and Mandela and Chavez and anyone who agreed with Gadhafi and disagreed with the NATO rogue nations.

This is the most insensitive, most undemocratic, the most brutal western world that ever left its mark on the planet. They are the royals, the guards and the lions at the same time. The Columbus of our times. The plunderers of our age. The Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama of our times. The James Bonds of our times. They have the license to kill any of us ‘bad guys’ out there. And not just Gaddafi.

It’s just that, they came for Gaddafi first. And we are not saying anything… because they have not yet come after us…

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)

SlutWalk Must Evolve Into WomanWalk!

SlutWalk has turned out to be a phenomenal movement on a global scale, aimed at challenging rape culture, rampant sexual violence, victim-blaming and slut-shaming in our society.

Historically, in the garb of tradition, culture and mannerisms, men have conveniently imposed upon women certain moral standards that upholds patriarchy, reduces women into objects of either desire, lust, or procreation while at the same time stripping them off their intrinsic and equal human rights as individuals who can object to such strictures as and when necessary.

In so many ways, a movement such as SlutWalk is a vociferous expression of the radical notion that women are human beings at equal footing with men in our vastly sexist world. Women must be able to wear what they want to wear (or, not wear), they must be able to consent to sexual advances when they want to engage in a sexual activity, and similarly, their wishes must be respected whenever they refuse to be touched. No matter if a woman is being “slutty” or being “serious”, when she says maybe, it means maybe, when she says yes, it means yes, and when she says no, it means no. A woman – a girlfriend or a wife, a co-worker or a flight attendant, a model or an adult porn actress, a sex worker or a corporate bank employee – she must be allotted a lifetime of safe space, no matter what role she is expected to play in a society.

A movement such as SlutWalk probably acknowledges this. After all, it is quite liberating to witness women on the street wearing short skirts and bikinis and holding placards that say “my skirt is not worn for you”. As a form of new tactic against rape culture, which began in Toronto, Canada this March, when a police officer told a group of women that the best way to protect themselves would be to “stop dressing like sluts”, SlutWalk is at once emancipatory, and it creates a platform for the women to speak their selves in manners never experienced before in the world.

The Lessons from the Past

Except, that, SlutWalk might have overlooked the lessons from the First and Second Waves of feminist movements. This is clearly a movement which welcomes everyone, except that it has failed to recognize that not everyone might have felt welcomed. Reclaiming of the word “slut” or normalization of the word “rape” – especially as a metaphor – is often a privilege duly limited to the educated white liberals. Majority of women in the world – which obviously includes “Third World” women in Asia and Africa, and the African-American women right here in the United States – may find the word “Slut” not only unacceptable at every level, they also shiver at the thought of the word being reclaimed by their sisters.

There is a great necessity to reexamine not the spirit of the movement as such, but the framing of it. Slut as a word is much similar to the “Ho” word, which in turn is similar to the N-word. There is no telling how women should and must have every right to wear or not wear whatever they want to, irrespective of what their parents, teachers, preachers, or the so-called societal traditions demand of them to. But that is not an equivalent position with that of associating oneself with the very demeaning phrases the majority of women in the world are struggling to dissociate themselves from. In fact, quite the contrary.

Women of color have struggled to position themselves in the larger feminist struggle for several decades now, essentially because their unique/exclusive issues have not been taken up by the mainstream liberal feminists. The significant contributions of the early feminists notwithstanding, it is critical to note that the inherent biases of the theorists of the first and second wave were informed by the dominant consciousness of the respective times. The feminists of those periods (from 1930’s to 1970’s) had drastically failed to understand and apply lenses of social location intersections. Whereas the white women struggled for dignity of labor and hoped that their struggles would equate their worth with that of their husbands, the women of color struggled at a much more oppressed level, usually riled up within more than doubly oppressed states. Women of color not only had to raise their voice up against the racism perpetuated by white men and white women during those times, but they also had to contend with their own husbands and other male family members who, largely due to their own enslaved situations were more vulnerable in terms of displaying masculine tendencies mirrored after the masters.

Its fashionable today not only to forget the lessons of slavery as though it took place in another planet, but also to conveniently ignore the evolution and lessons from feministic growths, the complexities within the feminist movements when it comes to allowance for intersections of gender, race, class and nationalities to be addressed.

For the above reasons alone, the first SlutWalk in New York City was an uneasy experience for me. It had a conspicuous absence of women of color. Not because women of color do not agree with the vision that consent is more important than clothes, but because the existing tensions and appeals were being sidelined or ignored by the core organizers. When women of the world perceive themselves as the oppressed gender, they can merely look towards the most oppressed among them for the most essential issues that pose as the common denominator across classes, if not races. And this is where the SlutWalk failed to empathize with the very women they claimed to represent.

The Challenges Ahead

Relabeling is the foremost key. Slut as a word does not need to reclaimed, it needs to be denounced. Again, it need not be shamed, it needs to be eliminated. Much like the N-word. Especially when Slut or the N-word are used by the privileged class, they take a different dimension. Often people argue if it amounts to hypocrisy to suggest that Black people can utter N-word, whereas they do not approve of its usage by the people of other races. The reality is an objection to this demand for sensitivity is more often than not the case of historical misreading. Most pejorative or slang terms today owe their origins to the creators of the dominant narratives, who have over the time been privileged enough to move farther away from the underground they created; and with time the historically privileged have embraced certain modes of sophistication in an elitist manner.

However, the ones who were victimized by the nasty words have over the time “owned” those very words that were meant to demean them. Unable to gain entry into the elite clubs of mannerisms, for the oppressed, they have probably nothing left except what is their own, by default, for better or worse. There are scores of “Snaps” they repeat to each other in ways that can shock the uninitiated. For example, some snaps include creating jokes about the rival’s mother being blacker than one’s own! It would be ghastly racist if a person from another race creates such a joke for amusement. But this is part of the cultural heritage, howsoever unacceptable, for the oppressed. This duality that exists in terms of pejorative usages of adjectives is bound to disappear over time. Or it will disappear with conscious movement from within the Black people themselves. But any attempts to reclaim the racist and sexist terms on part of the privileged gender or race in order to universalize its usage in a trivial manner is bound to spark debates and consequently, condemnation.

Considering the technological possibilities, this is the most feasible time for greater unity among women all across the world. And while attempts are being made in this direction, it is crucial not to alienate those very women who are the most oppressed. In this sense, SlutWalk should probably have addressed to the emotional (and rational) appeal made by Black Womens Blueprint. Instead, like the flawed feminism of the past century, the issues have got all mixed up this time. In place of serious reflections on the most pressing issues of rape culture, there is sensational attempts for media space while relegating black women to the sidelines.

Without the working class women – and men – of color, no feminist movement will ever resemble more than a repackaged bourgeois coalition of neocolonial mindsets. Let the black women take the stage, propose the agendas and carry out the next WomenWalk. Inclusiveness should be the only priority now, if patriarchy has to be systematically addressed. And a movement that does not include its most oppressed, turns out as history suggests, most opportunistic.

(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)

Further Reading:

“SlutWalk: A Stroll Through White Supremacy” by Aura Blogando

“Why I Don’t Care to SlutWalk” by Chai Shenoy

“Ladies, We Have a Problem” by Rebecca Traister

“AF3IRM Responds to SlutWalk: The Women’s Movement Is Not Monochromatic.”

“The Open Letter”

“SlutWalks v. Ho Strolls” by The Crunk Feminist Collective

“Woman is the N of the World…” placard held by Erin Clark and others –

“Mother Tongue Monologues”