Rape Culture and Capitalism: What is living and what is dead

By Saswat Pattanayak

I understand many of us, Indians, are ashamed these days. And it is true that protests and placards do not educate the rapists. And that the students came out on the streets only because it is New Delhi. But we should not miss an important aspect of it all – most protesters clearly defying governmental bans are demonstrating an important tactic in the struggle for women’s rights anywhere in the world. This is a strategy that should not be discouraged, rather used everywhere – be it in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Orissa or Manipur.

Or for that matter, in London, New York and Stockholm. Because last checked, India is as unsafe a country for women as are the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden. Statistically speaking, there are more rapes taking place per hour in the US than in India. Whereas in India the number of rape cases amount to over 20,000 a year, the number well exceeds 90,000 in America with third of the population. The unreported cases of rape and ridiculously low conviction rates are also common and comparable across the modern capitalist nations.

It is necessary to fight for women’s rights, but why should the drive stop at the borders? Those of us who refuse to adequately acknowledge the protest movement in Delhi by citing the relative silence in Gujarat and North-East also commit similar fallacies when we fail to protest against abuse of women elsewhere in the world. Why should a “safe Delhi” narrative be replaced only with an equally jingoistic, “safe India”? The fact is protesting against social injustice anywhere should be encouraged, not spurned. No matter the intensity, no matter the limited purpose, no matter the viability. True, that the goals go astray when people demand for death penalty instead of conviction, and true, that some reactionary elements at times also end up hijacking the movements, but it is also true that inaction, silence and skepticism are not going to help the principled oppositions to the status quo, that takes place in any shape, way or form.

Violences on women are rising everywhere, in every corner of the globe. But that is only because more cases are being reported today than it used to be the case earlier. The journey from feudalism to capitalism in the case of India is a journey of advancement, of progression. More women today than ever before are aware of what comprises sexual harassment. More women understand their reproductive rights today than in the “good old days”, which some Indians are craving for by citing the “vulgarization of Indian culture” as the prime factor behind the rape statistics.

Rape culture is a necessary culmination of capitalism, only because it is acknowledged     as thus. In the days of slavery and feudalism, women were not even counted as human beings with needs and demands. Certainly there was no hue and cry about “rape” and in the days of the past, the ruling classes comprised kings and landlords – for whom total ownership of women was not something to be ashamed of, but something to take pride in. “Conquest” of women used to be the prevalent culture and rape was never treated as an exception or aberration. Young girls used to be “gifted” to the royals before they could be married off during their childhood days. In many a cultural settings of the past, the “virgins” were first offered to the rulers. It is no wonder that the sanctity around virginity is a result of feudal structure and its remnants today aid the common men in craving for virgin women.

The Good Old Days Fallacies
Any romanticization of the brutal days of the past must end immediately. Neither India nor any other country in the world can claim to have provided for a safe society for women during their feudal stages of developments (barring probably the tribal and other matriarchal phases, which anyway suffered from other malaises). The reality today may not be any better when other factors are taken into consideration, and I shall dwell on that shortly, but uncritical assessment of the days of yore are grossly regressive and we cannot afford to model a future society after such heinous past.

When serfdom gives in to the rise of modernity and capitalism, there are bound to be struggles, but recognition and knowledge of such struggles empower women and other oppressed sections in unprecedented manners. A growing challenge to narrow nationalism helps borrow and reproduce cultural imports, including some progressive ones – and this becomes a step in the right direction for the traditionally oppressed. Thanks to the growing cosmopolitanism, more Dalits and more women are finding for themselves avenues for education and empowerment today. These are by no means small achievements. Indeed, these are the only justifiable achievements a country like India can boast of in its long “glorious” history.

With advent of capitalism and industrialization, more women find themselves at the workplace, and such a shift is bound to challenge the male hegemony. Through empowered outlooks, more women begin to challenge patriarchy, and that too disturbs the traditional males. Through more involvement in decision-making process, more women begin to exercise their rights to have a child – or to abort one, to marry – or not to marry, and finally they begin to articulate as sexual beings, and not just as sexual objects. Of late, India has witnessed a LGBTQ “pride” movement that could not have surfaced without the present consciousness. Through “Slutwalk”, another movement of solidarity among feminists is shaping up globally and Indian women have joined the cause, despite some obvious flaws in conceptualization and appropriation of the word “slut”. Defying the moral police that run ruckus all over the country during “Valentine’s Day”, women in India are now openly flaunting their love interests in the public. Suffice it to say that such liberated outlooks have started to cause a crisis that is about to shatter the status quo and challenge the norms of capitalism.

Capitalism replaces feudal society, but the wealth still remains concentrated along the lines of traditional privileges. Although education and empowerment is ushered in through capitalism, they are properly utilized only by the families of the former landowners. Slaves get emancipated, but they have no way to compete as equals. Capitalism establishes the “old boys networks”, thrives on favoritism and establishes a meritocracy whose rules are defined by the traditionally privileged which go a long way in sustaining the class society. Capitalism firmly enforces the class divide and this in turn plays right into the hands of the traditionally oppressive gender, the male.

Be they Indian men or North American men or European men or Australian men or Arab men or Hindu men or Muslim men or Christian men or Buddhist men – the men typically and automatically advance faster than the women under capitalism. Male advancement invariably accompanies brutal competitiveness that characterizes such individualistic societies. At the same time, they are constantly challenged by more women and children – a development for which men, owing to their historical and superconscious makeups, remain clearly unprepared for. Gender violence is akin to class war and racial struggles in the sense that the historically privileged social location retaliates against those it had oppressed whenever it faces a challenge to its dominance.

It will be a wishful thinking to suggest that we go back to the “golden era” of Indian culture. Wishful only because that is clearly not going to happen. Even the societies where feudalism still remains intact will have to advance to capitalism sooner than later. And with contradictions of capitalism – which are of a very different nature than the struggles within feudalism – are going to pave way to even more advanced forms of struggles – the class war. But we have not reached a stage where majority of people are class-conscious and we must go through this essential period of struggle to duly recognize variety of social locations such as caste, race, gender, ability among others, and allegiances such as nationality and religion – the factors that hinder critical social justice education from empowering everyone.

The cultural contradictions
It is necessary to understand that the protests against rape in Delhi have two basic components – one that cries out for death penalty or stricter punishment, and another that demands equality of women. While the former is an endorsement of feudalism and a reinforced belief in the status quo, the latter is an unqualified call for socialism. Delhi Police long infamous for being sexist has hired a renowned Bollywood actor-director Farhan Akhtar to entice men into becoming more “man enough” to join them in protecting Indian women. This is not just a crude display of macho tendencies that make the world an unsafe place to begin with, what is even worse is such artistic collaboration lends credence to a law and order system that is inherently oppressive – Indian police and military system systematically brutalizes countless poor through rape, murder and torture as tools to suppress any dissenting voices. No wonder then, despite the advertisements claiming that Delhi Police is interested in protecting women, once the people gather to register their protest on the streets, the state power unleashes its menace through violent suppressions.

But it would be wrong to especially focus on Delhi Police. Same calls for feudalistic past are being made by leading women leaders of India as well. Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal has commented on the increasing number of rape cases thus, “The way media is cooking up rape stories, it would be difficult to believe a genuine rape case.” Sushma Swaraj, the leader of opposition in India has dehumanized rape survivors as “living corpses”. Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi has advised women “not to be adventurous”. In each of such assertion lies the firm refusal on part of ruling class women, along with their men, to break away from India’s feudal past.

Just as the struggle continues in modern India to destroy the last remnants of feudalism, so also the struggle must continue to recognize the early symptoms of Indian capitalism. As the traditionally privileged males – the landowning, slaveowning and women-owning –  fail to understand the historical advancements made by women today in almost all spheres of society, their resistance against this upheaval is going to emerge all the more. Traditional men are puzzled over the emerging idea that women no longer need to be bound by traditional family roles, and that such a shift also extends to women’s prerogatives to choose sexual partners whether or not they are married. A major resentment against the sexual freedom for women represents itself through variety of censorships, sexist laws and moral dictates on clothing patterns. Even as rapes continue to be condemned by the society which is ready to shun feudalism, various factors and societal excuses leading to rapes are being deliberated upon by the same society that is struggling with capitalistic values.

A substantial section of the men who oppose rape also are quick to offer the dress codes and time limits for women as well as raising objections against “clubbing”, “smoking”, “extra-marital affairs”, and a general sense of “cultural degeneration” that apparently make women “easy prey”. At the same time, they refuse to acknowledge that men have continued to indulge in every such “vices” without hindrances for centuries. Patriarchy is just not open to letting women join the scene at equal footing, because that would end the system as we know it. And since capitalism provides for the “opportunities” for women to either reject – or, conversely, accept – the terms of objectification, disgruntled men then hold “cultural corruption” accountable as the convenient culprit.

Not only have upper caste Hindus started quoting Manusmriti to reduce women into symbols of “worships”, even the Bahujan Samaj Party which represents Dalit mainstream interests has found itself embarrassed over calls for feudalism as a method to “protect” women. Rajpal Saini, a BSP member of Parliament recently was quoted saying, “There is no need to give phones to women and children. It distracts them and is useless. My mother, wife and sister never had mobile phones. They survived without one.” BSP supremo Mayawati likewise has joined the right-wing ideologues in calling for “stricter laws” as a deterrent to rape. “It is not enough to just arrest them (the rapists), but action should be so strict that no one should dare to act in such a manner.”

What is to be done?
The reality is conviction rates in cases of rape are abysmally low. Not just in India, but around the world as well. In the United States, there are an estimated 400,000 “rape kits” (just in case, that’s the situation for 400,000 women) currently backlogged. And by the time the kits are tested the statute of limitations expires and the rapists no longer get charged. Only 24 percent of rapists are arrested in America. The statistic is not any more encouraging in the United Kingdom either. The British government acknowledges that as many as 95% of rapes are never reported to the police, and the country has roughly 6.5% conviction rate.

Precisely because of the nature of patriarchy and the way it engulfs feudal/religious societies as well as capitalistic/liberal societies, the need of the hour is to recognize the war against women as a systemic feature of the world, and to collaborate with every progressive force looking to replace such a status quo. Harking back to the past is not the solution. Looking forward to dismantle the forces of feudalism/capitalism is the approach we must adopt. Let there be no surprise or disappointment in the increasing number of rape cases being registered. More the number of women report assaults, more certain are we to become that the political economic system within which we seek solution is an inherently evil – and fragile – one. Arundhati Roy recently spoke about the fact that the rich people used to oppress women exercising a certain amount of discretion in the past, while thanks to the cultural shifts and movie culture today, their disdain towards women is becoming more apparent. While that is true, we also need to acknowledge this as an evolution for the better. The more racist and sexist people expose their real colors, the greater will the need be felt to overthrow the existing system. Just as in the similar vein, the greatest challenge to racism are not the avowedly racists, but those that deny their race privileges.

What is happening in India is truly remarkable. The collective disdain towards the system may not last forever, since right-wing moralists are going to take it over with sheer power of wealth and media distractions, just as the Occupy movement in America got co-opted by the liberal Democrats for their political aspirations. And as such, the dissenters do not always represent the best interests of the most oppressed in such outbursts, where Dalits, blacks, and the poor often do not find themselves represented. But these outbursts, howsoever temporary, do provide for a recipe of non-cooperation and of civil disobedience. As Howard Zinn reminds us, gradual reforms take place not because of good laws suddenly finding their way in, but because of dissenting people compelling the bad laws out of the system through mass movements. The truth is dissenting voices against the ruling classes world over are increasing phenomenally with more people ably aided by critical education and alternative media. Majority of the world is still too poor, and underprivileged to exchange a wage-earning day in favor of a placard-holding session. And that is precisely why oftentimes in history, progressive sections of the society across classes form larger alliances and go against the grains. And towards that extent there is a need for all of us to collaborate with resistance movements that aim to challenge the ruling order no matter if the causes immediately impact us or not, or if the causes are too narrowly framed by taking on specific agendas. Warmongering against Iran must be opposed just as we should protest massacre of Shia Muslims in Pakistan, and demand for rescue of Palestine from the reactionary Zionists. Role of the revolutionary is to recognize that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

In Indian context, some of us are protesting against communalism in Gujarat, some of us are raising voices against militarism in Manipur, some engaged in defending lands in Orissa, some protesting against the rape in Delhi. Each of these movements has the potential to be hijacked, infiltrated, and demolished. And yet, each also has the potential to collaborate with fellow resisters all across the globe, and to encompass the ethos of revolutions that will annihilate feudalism, smash down patriarchy, and shatter every iota of capitalism that is inherently exploitative. Eventually, what capitalism produces are its own “grave-diggers”. And its fall and the victory of the revolutionaries are equally inevitable. And there is never a better time than now, to emerge united with the working women and men, the world over – regardless of the prevailing challenges and, because of them.

(Originally published by Radical Notes)


Rape Culture, Capitalism and India

By Saswat Pattanayak

Looks like, rape still continues to shock virtuous people in India. Or was it just this latest one? The one that took place in Delhi? Was it because the “izzat” of India’s capital city has now become the new concern? The honorable India has to be reclaimed in all “her” full glory where the goddesses are worshipped and women assaulted?

Or is it that the unprecedented outrage in Indian society today owes to the fact that this rape was of the “more brutal” variety? Since most of us don’t do that kind of “iron rod” rapes. We are the gentler varieties?

The very fact that instead of debating about the status of women in Indian class society, we are expressing disgust at an incident of rape says the extent to which we have surrendered ourselves to corporate media agenda-settings. Sure, the rape was gruesome and sure a woman was tortured and probably shall not survive. But the nonplussed manner in which the Indian society at large is responding to this incident underscores the collective denial about the degraded status of women in India, if not a clear refusal on part of the suddenly agitated, to confront the social realities.

The truth is sexual violence against women is inherently a dominant feature of feudalism/capitalism, where women necessarily are objects to be owned, conquered, glorified or abused, and such treatments are by extension, because they are not meant to be equal stakeholders in the society. Whereas the indignation is rightful and the protests against rapists are steps in the right direction, the larger demands for death penalties/castration/hanging etc are only that much more a vicious reaffirmation of the existing law and order framework.

What is too often forgotten in such times of “awakenings” is that the law and order system within a capitalistic setup typically works to benefit the men over the women, since patriarchy and capitalism are inextricably paired together. Within a framework of exploited labor, women must be especially commodified as they remain the very foundational private property. And if the women belong to further oppressed groups such as the Dalits in India or blacks in the United States, they are counted as nothing more than mere flesh, mere statistics. Religions and dominant cultural heritages sanction rape against these “lowly creatures”. And so commonplace becomes the organized violence against them that reports of their abandonment rarely ever generates collective outrage, let alone justice.

Scripturally, all major religions in the world have treated women as second-class citizens, if not downright slaves. Women have defined roles to play, approved cultural norms to adhere to. They are systemically deprived of reproductive rights, or even of rights to enjoy their status as sexual beings. Within a political-economic setup where women are treated as objects to be controlled, they have no say in matters of marital rapes either. In fact, marital rapes – where the largest concentration of rapes are to be found – remain sanctioned by religious codes. Divorce procedures are made complex while domestic violence goes underreported.

Even when divorce processes are facilitated with ease, women continue to remain dependent on men, because of disparity in economic equality, barring isolated cases where they earn more than the men in their lives. Domestic lives and tensions are confined within families owing to fears of undesirable social repercussions, and consequent stigmatizations. In a heteronormative order, an unmarried woman, or a woman without a husband, or an unwed mother must come to terms with legitimized violence. And the expectations from men to protect the women under similar circumstances – which has become a celluloid epic in cultural extractions – goes on to cement this unequal relationship even further. Women necessarily need men because the law and order systems within capitalism are juridically geared to serve male interests. Until the male “savior” surfaces, the woman must continue to suffer.

All the outrage about the Delhi incident are entirely uncalled for simply because treating rape as shocking devalues the reality. It is insulting towards women whose rape cases have been dismissed at the courts if they at all were allowed to reach there. It is absolving religions of their scriptural allowance for rape to take place to begin with. It is also undermining the roles mothers play in raising their children with religious codes of uncritical submissions. It undermines the roles – especially, educated and relatively empowered women play in tolerating their abusive husbands, their violent sons and privileged brothers.

Once domestic violence is normalized even while remaining the largest contributor to rape culture in capitalistic setups, women get equally oppressed by their secondary masters – the national patriots, and their holy cows, the military officers. Atrocities of American military are well known. What is lesser known is the way Indian military emulates it. “Encounter” killing and rape are integral to the culture of militarism in India and aided recently by the draconian law, “Armed Forces Special Powers Act” (AFSPA). Taking recourse of this and patriotic license providing for such systemic flexibilities, military assaults and tortures of Indian women and children continue all over India, not just in North-Eastern regions or Kashmir. The latest trend is brutalizing the indigenous peoples in the name of combating Maoism in the “tribal belts”.

Demanding castrations and death penalties are the easiest ways to appear moralistic while letting the system sustain its sexist character. If righteous people are really serious about hanging the rapists, they will be surprised by the sudden decrease in the military forces of any country, once such a law is duly implemented. Which is not a bad thing at all, but it will still be striking at the consequences, rather than the roots. And eventually, such death penalty rhetoric (which would enable the rapist to not just rape, but also to kill the victim in an effort to not leave behind any evidence of crime), are dangerous distractions from the core issue – the crisis of capitalism.

Focusing on gender wars and demonizing all men as beasts and all men as potential rapists is highly regressive and counterproductive. Asking that men give up their privileges is akin to asking capitalists to give up their wealth. This is utopian at its best, and reactionary, at its worst. Blaming the victim is as bad a strategy as disempowering them. By depending on the men to change their paths is to evince faith in patriarchy, just as expecting the police to end rape culture is to assert faith in capitalistic judiciary. The reality is most rapes do not take place outside of the inner circles of the victims. The very devaluation of women – the necessary condition for capitalism to flourish – is the primary enabler of rape culture. Not only are men assured of the “availability” of women for their gratifications – be they in full-blown capitalism of commodified women, or in feudal setups ensuring arranged marriages, they also end up becoming sexual toys for the men – and conversely, their inaccessibility resulting in forcible submissions – go beyond mere morality.

Boycotting a few corporate brands and killing a few greedy men do not alter the conditions of capitalism, just as hanging a few rapists and calling men beasts do not alter patriarchy. However, challenging patriarchy or racism in all their forms is a very effective method to wage war against capitalistic status quo, precisely because sexism and racism are inherent to capitalism. But what is paramount is the critical consciousness-raising that takes into account the need for women to remain accountable as much as the men, so that the war against capitalism to put an end to patriarchy have equal stakeholders. Empowering revolutions, not sheer anarchy and disorganized/misdirected/media-driven anger can firmly end the violence against women and children – a goal that is not just desirable or ethical, but an absolute necessity for realization of a socialistic world.

When it comes to gender violence, there is nothing as a “current crisis”. Getting surprised at the Delhi Police insensitivities is also foolish, since it is then assumed that by taking on a certain position – be it that of the cop, or the officer, the gentleman or the father – the person suddenly will renounce his privilege. Clearly, it is not the responsibility of the police force to make sure that rapes do not happen. Certainly not within the same society whose basis of economic reality is itself suspect. And contrary to the prevailing outcries, rape culture is not exclusive to India. Indeed, the United States, the citadel of capitalism is deeply entrenched by rape culture. Quite naturally so, because rape culture is not merely a byproduct of cultural factors; it is primarily the culmination of exploitative economic conditions. Incidents of rape in India have witnessed an eight-fold increase over the last four decades, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Widening economic divides among people, and especially among men and women coupled with powerlessness among the most oppressed have ensured that whereas murders have increased by 106%, incidents of rape in India have increased by 792%.

However, if some immediate measures must be taken/preached within the Indian context, they must include women’s participation more than ever. It is perhaps politically correct to say that men should be asked not to rape, but such a placard overlooks the fact that men are conditioned to be disrespectful towards women within a family culture; such attitudes do not suddenly manifest within a rape culture later on. The family units in individualistic societies are spearheaded by male patriarchs and hoodwinking divine blessings, who, in turn, are legitimized by the political-economy that forces women to remain enslaved to the system.

The necessary reforms therefore must begin with women putting a stop to their worshipping of gods – be they the husbands or be they the religious figures – both of whom benefit immensely from capital accumulations. Women must take responsibilities for their own inactions and of their reactionary stances. If children they must raise, they must not indoctrinate them with religions that eventually recycle the same societal values of patriarchy for the next generations of men. They must not demand uncritical obedience from their children towards the regressive elderly. They must not expect competitive selfish gains from the children in their quest to pride themselves as parents of success stories. While demands for harsher punishments for the rapists may be just and proper, they must not become the goals in themselves. In fact, confusing stricter laws as revolutionary victories alone allows for the oppressive ruling classes to grant concessionary justice to uphold and legitimize their status-quo, until the next incident captures media attention.

The onus lies with the working class men and women to understand revolutionary theories and practices so that they can collectively challenge and overthrow existing capitalistic status-quo that inherently sustains sexist, racist laws and benefits from patriarchal conditionings. What’s important is not to ask men for mercy or police for protection, but to form alliance with every revolutionary formations to overthrow the last vestiges of feudalism – the patterns of caste violence, the licenses to rape women in the name of religious sanctions, the sacrosanct marriages – and to organize a communistic future that will no longer depend on legal interventions from the capitalistic judiciary.

(Originally published by Kindle Magazine)

Misplaced Tears of a Militarist President, the Reactionary Pursuits of Gun Control, and Unquestioned Faith in Patriarchy Normative

By Saswat Pattanayak

Most of those who just woke up to realities asked how could it happen here? The decent folks who would not kill a fly declared that the killer must be crazy. The believers in the good things to come prayed to God so that it never happens again and the innocent souls are blessed. The politically docile were as always moved by witnessing the President and his White House staff burdened to tears with grief. The good liberals who don’t shoot people whether or not they possess guns demanded that guns be controlled. And amidst all the mixed responses, good, bad and some outrightly evil, all of us are still intrigued by the difficult question that seeks an uneasy answer: why did that man kill those children?

In all likelihood, such a question shall not be addressed earnestly by the powerful elites. Not because they do not know the answer already, but because the answer is all too obvious to them. And in attempting to answer the above question, rest of us might feel unsafe to go beyond the surface, again not because radicalizing it is unproductive, but because we know addressing the roots of this crisis will amount to upheavals in the status-quo which we are not prepared to give up.

But we must dwell on this today, even if it implies that American lives are more precious than peoples’, rest of the world. Does not sound ideal, but sounds factual, for it took decades to finally end Vietnam War not because that war was not immoral, but because the accurate number of American deaths was not registering with the American public until it was too late for the latter. Thousands of Vietnamese people raped, tortured and killed were not sounding to be enough a rationale. Only when American bodybags were shipped back home were the American rage against the war was truly felt. Only when “bring our boys home” slogan was raised, the war came to a halt.

And yet, not so for long. The anti-war agenda was eventually repressed. And American empire proceeded to attack Grenada, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Albania, Iraq, Afghanistan…That list continues to this day with additions of new territories, and new dead.

How could it happen here?
This is perhaps the silliest of questions, usually posed by the politically conservatives, but also by some good liberals. The idea is United States is nothing but a moral artifact, the invincible power that resonates solely with mercy, the land of the free, the brave and the forgiving. Within such a worldview, it is quite possible that every heinous act committed by an American is an unbelievable exception, the heinous-ity of which is to be determined by convenient modalities of social/geographical locations.

The reality is if atrocious crimes and senseless murders do not take place in the United States, they have no reason to take place anywhere else in the world. This is a country founded upon bloodshed, selfish pursuits, greed, competitions, occupying and colonizing ethics, the largest prison system in the world, and finally, it uses violence as the ultimate tool for societal solutions.

The US spends more on its military than any other country in the world – spending 41% of military spendings all over the world. In fact, it spends more on its military than the next ten highest spending countries put together. A country which prioritizes violence and warfare thus, can only boast of a citizenry that also seeks solutions through those very means. If President Obama, the Nobel Peacenik can solve national safety issues by presiding over drones and killing civilians and innocent children in faraway Pakistan, it is not such a stretch to imagine why his beloved American citizens cannot fall for such violent methods to address their own safety issues back home.

Constantly fed with falsified versions of history, and shoved to the collective mindset grossly misplaced pictures of the founding fathers, deliberately misled about the roots of slavery, practice of colonialism and continuance of imperialistic tactics, the large majority of American public is even finding itself excited about the ritualistic elections that is rigged from the beginning by two parties with same principles of militarism guiding their visions – this is a country that is not only founded upon false and evil premises, but flourishes upon the same. Violence is the path chosen by its government, and violence is the path chosen by its citizenry.

Only if folks were sleeping until now and will go back to sleep after a day (sleeping in this instance is no more than harboring false consciousness), they would ask questions such as “why here”.

Killers are Crazy
Then there are foolproof declarations that the killers are insane, crazy psychopaths. This is a comfortable conclusion made by those of us who think we are perfectly sane, normal people. Keeping aside the fact that none of us are actually “sane”, casting such an allegation against people who murder others is nothing but stigmatizing the already marginalized group of people who have deviated from the norm in significant ways. If the social normative is filled with violence, racial hatred, misogyny and warmongering, then those who have deviated from the norm are probably people worth emulating, not candidates for condemnations.

It gets even more sinister when the race factors in. If a black person is accused of murder, it immediately becomes a case about his/her race. Already segregated neighborhoods are further patrolled by the police. Academic papers are authored about the propensity for violence among black teenagers. And yet, when its a white man on a killing spree, it is no longer a question of race. It merely becomes a question of mental illness.

Alas, accusing someone of having mental illness is not a “mere” issue. The direct and unapologetic associations that people make between mental illness and crime is just wrong at all possible levels. Disadvantaged people consuming prescribed drugs for a lifetime are already doubly oppressed. They do not need another tag – that too, one of a criminality. Following the Connecticut school tragedy, invariably every news channel kept repeating their conclusions on how “insane” this killer must have been.

As if they ever would accuse President Obama of being “insane” for the drone attacks on Pakistan. As if they would ever accuse the gun manufacturers of being “insane” for creating products that are designed to kill. Lack of such obvious sensitivities on part of the mass media should concern us all. The truth is so-called sane people murder all the time. So-called sane people abuse children and spouses all the time. So-called sane people write unjust laws and practice racism all the time. Killing people, just as conducting scientific experiments, requires great deal of planning, subjective assessments, careful selection and elimination procedures and finally successful experimentation. And killers are invariably among all of us, the so-called sane people of the world. The sooner we realize, the better we can address the crisis. By running away from ourselves and blaming the invisible is inherently counterproductive.

What is seemingly out of discourse in this case is the fact of domestic violence. It was not by mere accident or sheer coincidence that Adam Lanza picked up the gun to kill his mother. Hatred for women run deep in American capitalism and it manifests itself numerously. And more often than not in cases of domestic violence, men are depicted as experiencing a temporary insanity, than privileged byproducts of patriarchy. What is endemic to a class society that treats women as commodities gets frequently overlooked as an incredible oddity. And after dismissing the shocking news, we take recluse in our privileged blessings that we translate thus: we are well, and so will the world be.

Pray the Gods and Drop the Bombs
We are constantly praying our respective Gods. Some on a weekly basis, some on a daily basis, and some even a few times in life. This has been going on for centuries now. I am not going to address the creation and sustenance of the God factor in this essay. What is pertinent, however, is the fact that no amount of prayers to Gods can ever stop reactionary violence in this world. It never has, it never will. But it will certainly prevent us from actually uprooting the causes of such behaviors because by trusting in God, we invariably give up on our own capabilities to creatively control the prevailing situations.

And by praying God, we take this one step further: we actually justify the status quo of violence. If we believe that a God is going to set things right in future, we also admit that God has failed to set things right in the present – which casts real doubts on the divine infallibility. And if we believe that the world is according to God’s plans, then we mere mortals cannot really mess around with his plan, and hence must submit to what is happening instead of rejecting the notion that anyone else other than ourselves have to take responsibility for the present and future of this planet.

That the God will somehow punish the criminal and save the innocent souls is not just far-fetched imaginings, it also speaks of our inability to construct pivotal questions around the global crisis. Only a society that devalues human beings is one that produces the criminals. And without addressing the root causes of the devaluation, and by wishing that God will set things right, we allow our children to eventually suffer while we project our twisted goodness through reactionary gibberish.

Good people weep
Another false assertion is that good people weep. And when President Obama wept, most journalists started recollecting their professional careers to heap praises over this man who was soon hailed as the first American President to display such level of empathy and concern.

The reality is all of us are raised in selfish units called families, where we are led to believe that the pains and sufferings of family members should affect us more. There may or may not be anything inherently wrong in such an understanding, but it has nothing to do with morality. It is pure selfishness. Of course President Obama cries because children of his country were killed. But such sentimentalities have no bearing on him as a human being. He was just acting the consoler-in-chief of the specific grieving family, in this case, the country he heads. As an empathizing human being, however, Barack Obama would have been shedding tears every day of his life in the White House considering his own actions have led to murders of thousands of civilians, including a significant number of children all over the world – and that, he personally supervises a notorious kill-list.

America weeping when a 9/11 takes place or when a shooting takes place in Connecticut school premises says nothing great about Americans other than the fact that as a society America revels in its indifference towards others. The reality is we do not want to internationalize what happened in Connecticut because that would only cast aspersions on the warmongering society America has become, inside out. By publicly shedding tears to gain media friends is an approach to humanize violence we perpetrate on children in rest of the world. We send out a message to the world about our own vulnerabilities, our own sensitivities, our own humanism through such tears, while deep inside we are filled with intolerance, warmongering and inhumane tendencies that have defined American hegemony since decades, if not centuries.

The people who got moved by Obama’s tears yesterday are the same people who got moved by Obama’s tears during his reelection bid. They get moved by rhetorics of hope and positive changes while their leaders merely sustain the machine of avarice and assault. If we are truly seeking the answers to why children have to die this young, anywhere in the world, we must locate the American presidency as part of the ever-widening problem, not as part of the emotional solution we wrongly seek.

Finally, Gun Control!
The good liberals never cease to amaze. They want the wars abroad, but they don’t want the wars at home. They want other children to die, just not theirs. They want to be able to buy the guns themselves, just not allow the rest. They want to suppress facts about the Fast and Furious operation that landed guns across the borders. But they still don’t want people to own guns at their homes within the borders.

They clamor for gun control, but fail to see that guns are actually controlled.

If guns should be banned, why not within the military ranks and the police services, to begin with – because they are the ones who use and misuse weapons the most?

Most point-and-shoot murders are caused by racist police departments inside the United States. How many times have we demanded to disarm the cops? Most organized terror acts are committed through military servicemen of the United States. How many times have we demanded to disarm the military? Instead, we keep loving them all the more. “Support our Troops” stickers paint the cars all year around and police departments get clean chits in case of clear murders. When a young black man Sean Bell was shot fifty bullets by racist cops on the day before his wedding, there were rare protests against the NYPD. But no demand to disarm the police. In fact the officers who shot this young man fifty times without any evidence of a single crime, freely abound today without guilt, remorse or punishment. And our media still do not declare those cops as “insane” or the NYPD unworthy of flaunting guns around.

When Fidel Castro came to power he said guns for every household makes the country more democratic than those societies where only the rich and powerful interests monopolize over guns. In fact the dictatorship of leader ends the moment people have guns to decide their interests. Guns on their own do not create revolutions just as on their own they do not cause reactionary violence. Individualistic, unemployed and viciously alienated people are those that commit selfish murders. Black Panther Party members had guns by their side, and yet they were not on a rampage to kill people. They in fact trained themselves for self-defense against a racist police force and to empower communities with social justice education so people could locate themselves within the higher goals of revolutionary ethics rather than remaining ignorantly submerged within capitalistic orders. No revolution that has replaced the world order for the better during its time – be it the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution or the Chinese Revolution – has taken place without guns. When the masses arm themselves equitably, they do not automatically pose threats for each other. They become threats to any unjust ruling class which seeks to consolidate power through controlling the militant potentials of the masses it subjugates. But the underlying conditions must enable everyone to possess guns, or prevent everyone from possessing them.

Gun control is not the key. Gun abolition is. That can be attained by gun democratization. Quite simply, it means: guns for all, or guns for none. People must have equal means available with them to resist and demand changes when needed. Not as individual bullies, but as revolutionary collectives. This is especially true in a police state. Towards that extent, capitalism must be challenged in all its manifestation via critical socio-historical education that empowers the people to identify their class interests. And towards that extent, the prison system must be abolished and the police/military units must not prevail upon the masses. And in American context, both the First and the Second Amendments are worth further amendments, not because they actually work, but because they actually have never worked. Both the free speech and right to bear arms are jeopardized in the United States because both of them are controlled by the ruling class. Free speech is disproportionately controlled by those who own the media just as arms are disproportionately owned by those who can afford them.

Reactionary violence is a structural problem, not a spiritual, psychological or individual deviation. And a structural problem requires a nothing less than a revolutionary overhaul. In its current phase, our world requires both pen and the sword, both ballot and the bullet – simply because the ruling class controls us militarily. Until the ideal stage is reached, people must not be deprived of their rights to organize themselves. Gun rights, like expression rights must be collectivized. At no point an individual should feel disempowered enough to resort to selfish crimes and at every juncture, the masses should feel empowered enough to revolt against tyrannical injustices represented by torture cells of the world’s largest prison-military-industrial complex, that the United States of America has today emerged as.

The present instance is not an exception. The killer is not a “crazy insane psychopath” with a gun. For all we know, and his motives suggest, he was driven by a need to kill his mother. The issues at hand in the Connecticut murders clearly include domestic violence and gender oppression. Young men driven by pursuits to control women in a highly individualized society that rarely ever includes its subjects within a collective process of consciousness-raising can only declare a structural/societal failure of capitalism to be nothing more than an individual aberration resulting from gun misuse, and then move on to glorifying patriarchy normative, without altering the status quo – to the next impending tragedy. By declaring with tearful eyes that, those killers are not us.

While, we continue the business of killing just about anywhere else.

On Einstein’s Acceptance of Communist Russia and Rejection of Zionist Israel

by Saswat Pattanayak

With the “God Letter” recently auctioned for over $3 million, the world has started taking a renewed interest in Albert Einstein’s core philosophies. In the most conservative estimate, he has been described as the father of modern physics; and by most liberal counts, the most intelligent human being in history. But despite tremendous biographical sketches, Einstein has remained largely unknown as an activist, or terribly misunderstood as a statesman. Many dimensions of his life have been deliberately suppressed, some grossly exaggerated, and quite a few entirely concocted with blatant lies. This is quite natural considering the ruling class elites have a stake in appropriation of his legacies – the United States which granted him residency has needed to use him for its Cold War propaganda, while Israel and the Jewish Diaspora have needed to tout him – the most famous Jew in history – as their torchbearer. The spiritual thinkers have cited him as irreverently religious, while the progressives have owned him up for his idealistic socialism.

But this auctioned letter, handwritten by Einstein shortly before his death, almost disturbed many such long-held conventional conclusions, shattered many a comfortable myths and certainly exposed to the world how little we knew about this man, most of us thought we always have known. If Einstein could compose such an unsweetened critique of God and religion as the letter suggests what else about him do we not know? Who has been suppressing the lesser-known dimensions about someone we define the word genius by? Why has there been a need to distort the truths about the good scientist to begin with?

The answers lie in the argumentative clarity and the sheer brilliance that epitomized Einstein all his life – the naked truths our convoluted and opportunistic world has never been prepared to brace itself for. After all, it has always been more convenient to hero-worship a critical thinker than delve into his/her necessary prescriptions. As Phil Ochs once wrote about Woody Guthrie, “Oh why sing the songs and forget about the aim; He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same?”

Like Guthrie, Einstein’s own songs for life were always unconventional and strenuous. His successes and his fame were mere footnotes and yet they were falsely projected to represent him in entirety. And although he remained among the most well-known in history, he stated toward the end of his life, how little value that held for him, “Though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me.” Whether there is a historical necessity to really know Einstein is an important question, increasing in relevance, as more of the world is getting engaged in religious warfare, vocally supporting Israeli terrorism, and has been actively embracing tenets of capitalism. Irrespective of our intents, Albert Einstein, the celebrated global citizen who most informedly analyzed international relations, more than anyone else, still possesses the rigorously tenable solutions to each of these crisis.

To seek the answers, let’s begin with the three million dollar letter, and then proceed to locate his roots and evolution. In the “God Letter” (1954), Einstein wrote, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

Such outright rejections of God, Judaism and Israel in this letter have raised many eyebrows, especially in a world that has been systematically tutored so far to treat Einstein as per the ‘decent’ norms of our day. Despite the worldwide attention to the content of this letter, the truth is, it is far from sensational, and the opinions therein are not exceptionally subversive, by Einstein’s standards. It is important to shatter the myths about Einstein’s feel-good pacifist humanism in favor of his true radicalized communist activism, so that Einstein’s worthwhile contributions are made commonplace and they inspire revolutionaries world over as originally intended, instead of merely enticing secret bidders on auction websites.

Einstein’s Zionism: For a Cultural Center, not a Political State

Einstein never disowned his association with Zionism, although it is important to note his definition of Zionism largely varied from the ones commonly held during his own time, and now. He could easily have succumbed to a reactionary (nationalist) variant of Zionism considering he was constantly victimized as a Jew, regardless of his celebrity. But he consciously did not choose that path. In 1920, a group of German scientists, led by Nobel Prize winner Philipp Lenard, denounced the theory of relativity as a “Jewish perversion”. Lenard would go on to serve as Hitler’s chief scientist, and the man to fund this campaign to discredit Einstein’s contributions would be later unraveled as the American industrialist Henry Ford, a Nazi collaborator. Remaining unprovoked however, Einstein declared the same year: “I do not believe in anything that might be described as ‘Jewish faith’. But I am a Jew and am glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it in any way as chosen…”

Cognizant of the anti-semitism impacting Einstein’s career and legacies, Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in 1921 asked Kurt Blumenfeld, a top Zionist recruiter to “stir up Einstein”. Blumenfeld sent back Weizmann a warning – “Einstein, as you know, is no Zionist, and I ask you not to try to make him a Zionist or to try to attach him to our organization…Einstein, who leans to socialism, feels very involved with the cause of Jewish labor and Jewish workers… I heard…that you expect Einstein to give speeches. Please be quite careful with that. Einstein…often says things out of naïveté which are unwelcome by us.”

Einstein required no stirring up, as he had already chosen the side of the oppressed and without any hesitation accepted Weizmann’s invitation to travel to England and America, but duly noted, “In several places, a high-tensioned Jewish nationalism shows itself that threatens to degenerate into intolerance and bigotry; but hopefully this is only an infantile disorder.” Besides, Blumenfeld was clearly wrong, for Einstein was no naive. He knew from his experiences that “anti-Semitism is frequently a question of political calculation”. During his stay in Switzerland, he was not aware of his Jewishness and he wrote, “There was nothing in my life that would have stirred my Jewish sensibility and stimulated it. This changed as soon as I took up residence in Berlin. There I saw the plight of many young Jews, especially of East European Jews. They are made the scapegoats for the malaise in present-day German economic life…Meetings, conferences, newspapers press for their quick removal or internment.” When the German government contemplated measures against East European Jews, Einstein protested and exposed the “inhumanity and irrationality of these measures” in the Berliner Tageblatt.

Einstein distinguished early on between the West European Jews and the prevailing anti-Semitism targeting East European Jews. His support for Soviet Union was strengthened based on how Stalin’s policies welcomed East European Jews into Soviet Union. And at the same time, between the First World War and the Second, Einstein witnessed how the racist Germany was treating the East European Jewish refugees, and the barbarity of it all would awaken his sense of belonging with the oppressed race of the time. Although he could afford to, Einstein refused to remain indifferent, and he refused to separate his profession from his politics. Together with a few colleagues – both Jews and non-Jews, he held university courses especially to benefit the East European Jews in the summer of 1921 and he declared that “such experiences have awakened my Jewish-national feelings. I am not a Jew in the sense that I call for the preservation of the Jewish or any other nationality as an end in itself…I consider raising Jewish self-esteem essential, also in the interest of a natural coexistence with non-Jews. This was my major motive for joining the Zionist movement…But my Zionism does not preclude cosmopolitan views.” His envisioning of a “free Jewish community in Palestine” was not so much a demand for a militarist sovereign country as it was about the need to recognize that the East European Jews are not treated as wretched refugees in the racist European powers. Jewish Diaspora would never have aimed for a separate land if the Jews were treated humanely in the various European countries they lived in, Einstein cited early on.

German Jewry, for one, lived in abysmal conditions. Einstein described its history in details: “Our ancestors lived in the ghetto. They were poor, politically disenfranchised, separated from non-Jews by a wall of religious traditions, daily lifestyle, and legal restraints. In their intellectual development they were limited to their own literature, and only faintly influenced by the tremendous revival that European intellectual life experienced during the Renaissance.” In 1925, Einstein would express his support for Zionism as it was “in the process of creating in Palestine a center of Jewish intellectual life…The moral homeland will, I hope, succeed in bringing more vitality to a people that does not deserve to die.”

But wary he would always remain of the Zionists at the same time. One of them was Isaac Don Levine who tried early on to persuade Einstein against the Bolsheviks by making false claims about how Jews were being colonized by Stalin’s Russia. On April 9, 1926, Einstein rubbished such claims by Levine and wrote to him that he was supporting Russia and that the “efforts being made to colonize Jews in Russia must not be opposed because they aim at assisting thousands of Jews whom Palestine cannot immediately absorb.” Einstein had duly acknowledged how Stalin was the only international leader to have been supportive of the Jewish cause, so much so that Soviet Union was the first country to develop an autonomous territory for the Jewish people, a concept that Einstein had dreamt to see realized in Palestine, upon British promise. But reactionary Zionism was intolerant towards the communists and was refusing to credit the Soviet Union for their initiatives. As history would prove it later, and Einstein would attest, the British ended up deceiving the Jews, while Soviet Union continued to save millions of them.

Einstein was deeply committed to the welfare of Jewish people, but for that he also needed to be politically alert. His activism did not spare even Blumenfeld whom Einstein wrote demanding to peruse through the financial details of the Zionist Organization and started expressing doubts over the viabilities of Zionism. In the March 1926 letter to Blumenfeld, he wrote, “I appreciate the educational achievements of Zionism. However, as an enterprise, I don’t know it well enough to support it with good conscience.” Even as Einstein’s conscience would continue to haunt him, he was still optimistic about the forthcoming “Jewish center” of morality and intellectualism. He never got the “impression that the Arab problem might threaten the development of the Palestine project.” He said, “I believe rather that, among the working classes especially, Jew and Arab on the whole get on excellently together.” (1927)

Next year, in 1928, contrary to political wisdom, the British proposed a parliament for Palestine in a rushed manner that mandated equal representations from Jewish and Arab (and some British appointees) – a move that would result in the first major “riots” claiming hundreds of lives on each side. By the Jewish migrations in 1930, the British census report would declare almost 17 percent of the population in the Arab land to be Jews. Mass agitations among the Arabs would be “tackled” by the British in 1936 when for the first time the colonizers would station more troops in Palestine than in the entire Indian subcontinent. In 1937, the proposed mandate would be declared a failure because common grounds between the Arabs and Jews would not be allegedly found and the British conveniently would then “partition” Palestine, much to the chagrin of the Arabs (and, Einstein).

Before the proposed “Partition” could materialize, Zionist Weizmann demanded that all Arabs be deported to Jordan, an idea that was opposed by Einstein and resulted in further differences between the two of them. Describing Jewish nationalism as guided by militarism and conservatism, Einstein even compared it with Prussia in a letter to Weizmann: “Without honest cooperation with the Arabs there is no peace and no security. This is for the long range politics and not for the present times. In the last analysis, even if we were not practically defenseless, it would not be worthy of us to want to maintain a nationalism a la Prussienne.”

Einstein became bitterly opposed not just towards Weizmann (who went on to become the first President of Israel), but also towards the more liberal Zionists such as Selig Brodetsky, whom Einstein characterized as a “Mussolini”. Brodetsky defended himself as a socialist and as an “outspoken opponent of any form of chauvinism and militarism in connection with the Zionist movement”, but Einstein saw through the motives of such Zionists and criticized Brodetsky vociferously: “What I have against your talk is less what you have done but more what you have left unsaid. What’s missing is an analysis of the cause of the reaction of the Arab world against us – without which the question, in my conviction, cannot be solved.” Brodetsky was known for inciting caution against the allegedly growing power of Arabs and of their increasing population in Palestine – a jingoistic assertion that was attacked by Einstein thus: “I’m happy that we have no power. If national pigheadedness proves strong enough, then we will knock our brains out as we deserve.”

It was not any political power that Einstein wanted to see instituted in the Arab land. Refusing to be deluded by the Zionist propaganda, he was increasingly becoming concerned about the safety of the Arab people in Palestine. In a letter to Bernard Lecache in May 1930, Einstein wrote, “With regard to the question of Palestine, my most eager wish would be that, by policies preserving the legitimate interests of the Arabs, the Jews might succeed in proving that the Jewish people has managed to learn something from its own past, long ordeal.” In the same year, he wrote to Hugo Bergmann, “Only direct cooperation with the Arabs can create a dignified and safe life. If the Jews don’t comprehend this, the whole Jewish position in the complex of Arab countries will become step by step untenable.”

Although immigration of Jewish people to the Arab land was becoming legally inevitable, Einstein proposed there should be a limit to that. In a letter to Edward Freed, he wrote in 1932, “I am not a nationalist and I do not wish any discrimination of the Arabs in Palestine. The Jewish immigration to Palestine in the framework of ‘suitable limits’ can’t do harm to anyone.” The ‘limits’ were opposed by many Zionists of the time, principally by the anticommunist and Jewish nationalist Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Einstein attacked them as Fascists and in a letter to the Zionist Beinish Epstein, he accused them of “borrowing from the Fascists…methods that I abhor deeply, and use them to serve the interests of those who, relying on their ownership of the means of production, disfranchise and exploit the nonowners.” (1935)

Einstein’s communistic analysis irked many, and surprised many more. So disgusted were some Zionists that one of them, Elias Ginsburg threatened legal actions against Einstein. But the scientist remained persistent in objectively laying out the verifiable truths. In 1938, he declared his priorities based on that: “I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state…” These sentiments are more relevant today as the Gaza wars continue to oppress the Arabs in the name of defending the state of Israel. Back then, Einstein had warned the Jewish people not to fall into the trap of nationalism, and the following excerpt of his commentary sums it up: “The essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power..I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state. A return to a nation in the political sense of the word would be equivalent to turning away from the spiritualization of our community…”

However, Einstein’s plan was not laying the foundation for the future; British colonialism’s declarations were. As the Second World War unfolded, between 1939 and 1944, the British allowed for a limited number (75,000) of Jews to be settled in Palestine. In the meantime, Nazi Germany’s onslaughts made possible somewhat of a unity among the Arabs and Jews – Palestinian Communist Party (which supported the Soviet Union) as well as Jewish Communists and left-leaning Zionists Hashomer Hatzair worked towards forging alliances between antifascists from each side. At the same time, to counter the influence of the communists, the rightwing Zionists also grew in leaps and bounds (some of them assassinated Lord Moyne, British Minister of State in 1944). Next year, they demanded immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Eretz Israel, Einstein sharply attacked these Jewish militants and said “I regard them as a disaster. I’m not willing to see anybody associated with those misled and criminal people”, in an interview with I.Z. David.

Anti-Israel: “The war is won, but the peace is not.” (Einstein, 1945)

While he rejoiced the defeat of Hitler and Nazism, Einstein continued to oppose the idea of a Jewish state. In January 1946, testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine (AACIP), Einstein argued against the idea of Israel. He wrote to Rabbi Wise, “I’m firmly convinced that a rigid demand for a ‘Jewish State’ will have only undesirable results for us.” American radical journalist I. F. Stone, himself a fellow ‘cultural Zionist’ declared his support for Einstein saying that “to have the greatest Jewish figure of the period oppose a Jewish state as unfair to the Arabs is a very noble thing.”

When Menachem Begin (who would later become the sixth Prime Minister of Israel and win Nobel Prize for Peace in 1973) visited the US, Einstein denounced him and the right-wing Zionism as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” Not only was he bitterly critical of the reactionary Zionists, Einstein was equally forthright in his support for the Soviet Union. At the annual Nobel Prize anniversary dinner at New York, he said, “We do not forget the humane attitude of the Soviet Union who was the only one among the big powers to open her doors to hundreds of thousands of Jews when Nazi armies were advancing on Poland.” Later that year, he released another statement revealing his support for Stalin in a time when most of his peers were distancing themselves, “We must not forget that in those years of atrocious persecution of the Jewish people, Soviet Russia has been the only great nation who has saved hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives. The enterprise to settle 30,000 more Jewish war orphans in Birobidjan and secure for them in this way a satisfying and happy future is new proof for the humane attitude of Russia towards our Jewish people.” Not only that, Einstein also gladly accepted the offer to become honorary president of the most prominent committee setup to coordinate Jewish settlements in Birobidjan (which was established within the Soviet Union under Stalin in the late 1920s as the first autonomous Jewish region in the world).

By the end of Second World War, Einstein had already made his political commitments clear. Testifying before AACIP, he attacked the British as the root cause of the instabilities in the lives of Arabs and Jews. “Difficulties between the Jews and Arabs are artificially created, and are created by the English,” he thundered. Opposing a separate Jewish state, Einstein noted that Palestine could still rule with one government, but without British interventions, because in his impression, “Palestine is a kind of small model of India. There is an attempt, with the help of a few officials, to dominate the people of Palestine and it seems to me that the English rule it.” Attacking the British colonial rule as one that exploits the native while collaborating with landowners, Einstein laid bare a vicious critique of Western interests in the proposed partitions. In addition, Einstein denounced the idea of a new state while replying to a question by Judge Hutcheson: “The state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.”

In short, Einstein was opposed to a separate Jewish state, opposed to a partition of Palestine, opposed even to an establishment of a Jewish government-in-exile, considered the Jewish underground movement a “disaster” and supported a bi-national self-government in Palestine with both Arabs and the Jews ruled with the consent of the Arabs.

On matters of Palestine, Einstein detested the Americans as having “inherited the inflatedness and arrogance of the Germans.” He accused the American administration of “taking on the role England has played up to now.” He predicted quite accurately that the English “old-fashion methods of suppressing the masses by using indigenous unscrupulous elements from the economic upper class will soon cost them their whole empire.” In a 1948 letter to a friend, Einstein deplored the Western world for preparing a war against Russia, “By now, it is not only the English, but also the Americans who have sold and betrayed us politically for a song. In Washington, they are conspiring for a preventive war against Russia, a fact that is also related to the villainy in Palestine. We Jews are not safe in America where anti-Semitism has increased very much…The psychological situation of the Jews over here is quite similar to the one in Germany before Hitler. The rich and the successful try to cloak their Jewish descent and act out as super patriots…”

In response to Shepard Rifkin, Einstein reiterated that, “when a real and final catastrophe should befall us in Palestine the first responsible for it would be the British and the second responsible for it the Terrorist organizations built up from our own ranks. I am not willing to see anybody associated with those misled and criminal people.”

With such criminal people, Einstein never made peace, not even after Israel was established despite his lifelong struggles against its formation. In 1952, when Weizmann died and to fill that vacuum a great name was sought to become President of Israel, Ben Gurion unashamedly approached Einstein. Not only did Einstein refuse to accept that position, he also stated it would be “a difficult situation that would create a conflict with my conscience.” Although Gurion’s offer is a well-known historical episode, Einstein’s response is rarely mentioned because that would then brand the most honored Jewish person as the biggest anti-Semite in the political terms employed today.

Likewise, a day after Einstein’s death, the New York Times, on April 19, 1955 deliberately misconstrued history in its characteristic style by printing, “Israel, whose establishment as a state, Einstein had championed…” As Einstein’s chronicler Fred Jerome noted, it was “a description of Einstein the media had never used while he was alive.” However, the conspiracies to cleanse Einstein of his “dirty past” had started long ago with FBI employing anti-Stalinist agents to discredit him, while suppressing such facts from the public knowledge. Thanks to Jerome’s investigations (“The Einstein File”), it is now revealed that Louis Gibarti, who was expelled from the Communist Party by Stalin, soon became an informant for the FBI (interviewed by Democratic Party Senator Pat McCarran). McCarran, submitted the reports of allegations against Einstein’s international communist contacts, and his Republican counterpart Senator McCarthy ended up denouncing Einstein as an “enemy of America”.

Einstein’s deeply rooted friendship with Paul Robeson and his unconditional support for W.E.B. DuBois were also deliberately kept under wraps for decades – despite them possibly being the biggest influences in Einstein’s radical saga. Just as the facts – that he was the fiercest critic of British colonialism, a profoundly radical voice against American imperialism, a strong advocate for Stalin’s Russia, a steadfast supporter of the black communists, and a studied commentator against the reactionary Zionism upon which Israel has been founded – have been carefully concealed. For if the real Einstein were to inspire the world today, that would not just disturb the comfortable imperialists, more importantly, it would awaken and radicalize all the oppressed people of the world to stand up against injustice, as Einstein, not the marketable genius – but the collective conscience for a progressive world, once did.

(An abridged version of this piece has appeared on Kindle Magazine)

Two Terrorists

(On their untimely deaths. One died too late and one, too early) 


You were right about the god

He took care of his subjects

Rewarded those to Him closer

Punished any whom to Him objects

Must be sins driving them to deaths

Who dared appeal for divine justice

Fateful nights of communal clashes

Died those lesser Hindus, Muslims 

You, much loved,  lived on, lives on

Immortalized by  Lata and Bachhan

Honored with Tricolor, your body

Even in death, rules over the  nation



Now that you are gone

We can breathe again

Lose in the dance of joy

Seek ourselves in your death

The unfinished business 

Of ending terrorism 

Find itself done 

Now that you are gone


– Saswat Pattanayak, Peoples’ Poet