Thinking a little more about it, and reading Arundhati Roy and P Sainath’s pieces on the subject, I have decided that I am going to take a minute and celebrate the results of India’s elections. The result is only hitting me now. Readers have probably deduced that I am somewhat pessimistic. But this is actually a major event: the population of India has rejected fascism and neoliberalism and done so in a way that pulls the country back from the brink. I stand by what I said yesterday — the government can’t be relied upon to pull India back very far from the brink. But it’s not the distance from the brink that matters, it’s the depth of the hole. That 1/5 of the world is now a little further back from it is very good news indeed.
In the interests of blog accountability, I will remind readers that I made an incorrect prediction days ago, when I followed the trends and said that India’s right wing Hindu fundamentalist party, the BJP, would win the elections with a minority. Well, it looks like the BJP won’t be at the head of the government after all. Instead, it will be the Congress party.
The Congress party isn’t the fascists, but it certainly is neoliberal, corrupt, and so on. It’s BJP-Lite. Sound familiar? It seems to me that it is part of a global phenomenon. Right here in Ontario, Canada, for example, the hard-right vicious regime of Conservatives were thrown out, and the Liberals, (Conservative-lite) were put in. The Spanish got rid of Aznar in Spain, and to the new regime’s credit, they have actually withdrawn their troops from Iraq. In Colombia, regional elections brought the left to power all over the place. And of course in the previous wave in Latin America there was Kirchner, Lula, Chavez, etc.
But there’s a problem. First, it’s not all peacemakers and ‘lite’ regimes coming to power. In Sri Lanka, for example, the more conciliatory party lost elections. In El Salvador, the nasty right wing party won.
But more importantly, these ‘lite’ regimes, having come to power on the heels (optimistically interpreting) of popular repudiation of the viciousness of the ones they were replacing, have little idea what to do when they are in power or (like in Colombia) don’t really have the power to do much in this global context. There’s actually an argument to be made that such do-nothing ‘lite’ regimes, especially if they are accompanied by corruption, pave the way for hard right regimes to come to power. That’s because they don’t do anything for their own constituency (the poor and oppressed constituencies), so they don’t get access to that energy and power, but at the same time they can’t possibly serve elites as much retrogression as fast as the more brutal governments of the right. That leaves people at an impasse, and even leads to some people on the left believing that ‘the worse, the better’, that a Bush is better than a Kerry, since Bush provokes more opposition than Kerry would.
I don’t agree with this assessment. I think that more progress would be possible, more reform could be wrested, out of a more wishy-washy ‘lite’ regime than out of a ruthless right wing regime. But the basic problem remains — the electoral system is a sealed little circle that deprives people of meaningful choices. How can people force their way into the equation, in a context like this one?