We need leaders who want a different world

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‘We need leaders who want a better world’ by Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Left, right or centre? It's time to stop and rethink politics Dru Broomfield under a CC Licence

I was never a fan of Thatcher. But the thought of celebrating someone’s death – dancing in the streets, champagne – did not seem the right thing to do. I think it’s bad taste. However, I never lived in Thatcher’s Britain. And I didn’t suffer, like the coalminers, steelworkers and millions who became unemployed because of her policies. So I’m not sure that I’m allowed an opinion.

But because Thatcher’s death has been the most important news all week, it made me think about politics, in general and particular, in India and Britain, the Left and the Right, new Labour and communism. I grew up in Marxist West Bengal, I listened to Marxist intellectuals from when I was young. I will always thank them for forcing us, as students, to think, to argue and to be critical about everything. But because of that training, I disagreed with Left ideas. I also no longer agreed with Marxism in my home state. I agreed with a lot of leftist ideology, but I’ve seen that governing can be impossible, and the state can stop working completely when workers shut down the entire economy with many strikes, as has happened in West Bengal and Kerala. I spent time in the Soviet Union before glasnost and perestroika, and no-one would choose to live without freedom, even if they wanted the revolution. It was important to destroy feudalism and tyranny. But it was not the answer to replace that with normal people becoming a new dictator.

I remember the anger of ordinary people in Britain, in the seventies, when the coalminers threatened to strike in mid-winter, in freezing temperatures, just before Christmas. I support unions and workers’ rights. But I’ve seen union bosses fighting for their own importance, not for the workers. And I’ve seen the work culture in Bengal and Kerala totally destroyed by strikes for no reason.

What is the answer, then? I’m not an economist, but like the emperor’s new clothes, sometimes even a child can provide better answers than all the king’s supporters. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, everyone has been making jokes about communism and even socialism. In India, the Left parties still have some power. But everyone is totally sick of the same things the politicians say. And neither the Left nor the Right do any good.

Several years ago, I reviewed James Bruges’ The Little Earth Book for New Internationalist. The part about banks really interested me. The people who criticised and warned against banks as evil capitalist institutions which would destroy democracy, economies and governance were not communist philosopher, but two US presidents: the highly respected Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Over two centuries later, I received an article, ‘The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States’, from US magazine Truthout. The article asks why, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people were still afraid of socialism in the States. It suggested that Americans are looking for alternatives to their current structures. In India, some people are trying to start new parties, different from our standard old political models. And I heard today that the Italian media is excited about a promising new, clean politician, Fabrizio Barca, who says, ‘Italy needs not only a new government, but a new form of government.’ And in all these countries, people are desperate for change. Everyone wants a clean, people-oriented, decent government.

This may be simplistic, but I think we need to throw out the language of Left and Right and produce new politics. We need new faces, different from the corrupt politicians that appear to be in power almost everywhere. We need leaders who want a better world.

We’ve hit the bottom, so there must be hope. We can’t sink any lower. So things can only get better. And like a phoenix, something, I hope, will rise from the ashes.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/majority/2013/04/16/a-different-sort-of-politics/