Vijay Prashad

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Vijay Prashad
Vijayprashad.jpg
Born Kolkata, India
Nationality Indian
Education The Doon School
Pomona College (BA)
University of Chicago (PhD)

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator and a Marxist.[1][2] He is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, US. In 2013–2014, he will be the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut.

Prashad is the author of fifteen books. In 2012, he published five books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press) and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (The New Press). Two of his most well-known books, Karma of Brown Folk (2000) and Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting (2002), were chosen by the Village Voice as books of the year.[citation needed]. His book The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (2007) was chosen as the Best Nonfiction book by the Asian American Writers' Workshop in 2008 and it won the Muzaffar Ahmed Book Award in 2009. In 2013, Verso published his The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South [3]

Prashad writes for Frontline (a column "Letter from America" and occasional reported stories) and The Hindu. In addition, his writings can be found in the websites Newsclick and CounterPunch, as well as in magazine Himal.

He is also an advisory board member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.[4]

Background[edit]

Prashad attended The Doon School, received a B.A. from Pomona College in 1989, and earned a PhD at the University of Chicago in 1994.[5][6][7]

He is the nephew of Indian politician Brinda Karat.

Views[edit]

At Counterpunch, in Asia Times and in Frontline one can follow his writings on the United States, on India, on war and on economics. His recent writing includes pieces on the 2009 Fort Hood shooting,[8] Mali and AFRICOM[9] and American policy on the Afghanistan war [5]. In his article for The Nation, Prashad lays out his vision for the struggle toward socialism. He argues progressive forces typically have very good ideas, but no power. He asserts that without power, good ideas are of little consequence and claims that socialists must not simply theorise but also organise.[10]

Prashad is a self-described Marxist[1][2] and a co-founder of the Forum of Indian Leftists or FOIL.[11][12] His views on capitalism are most clearly summarised in his book Fat Cats and Running Dogs.

Criticism of US Imperialism[edit]

Prashad is an outspoken critic of "American hegemony and imperialism".[13][14] He regards Colombian guerrilla group FARC, which is on US and European lists of terrorist organisations,[15] to be at the receiving end of "the animus of US imperialism" because they continue to resist "its hegemony".[16]

Arab Revolt of 2011[edit]

Prashad gave a landmark interview on the Arab Revolt to Radical Notes, where he compared the fall of Egyptian President Mubarak to the fall of Mexico's dictator Porfirio Díaz:

The Mexican Revolution opened up in 1911, but didn't settle into the PRI regime till the writing of the 1917 constitution and the elevation of Carranza to the presidency in 1920 or perhaps Cárdenas in 1934. I find many parallels between Mexico and Egypt. In both, the Left was not sufficiently developed. Perils of the Right always lingered. If the Pharonic state withers, as Porfirio Díaz's state did, the peasants and the working class might move beyond spontaneity and come forward with some more structure. Spontaneity is fine, but if power is not seized effectively, counter-revolution will rise forth effectively and securely.[17]

In a subsequent essay, he asserted that the Arab Revolt is part of a long process, the Arab Revolution. He argued that the Revolt of 2011 continues to raise the two "unanswered questions" of the Arab Revolution: that of politics (freedom from monarchies and dictatorships) and of economics (to make an independent economy). In addition, he considers the Revolt part of a historical process that he characterises as a "revolt against the market" (as opposed to revolts in Eastern Europe which he sees as a "revolt for the market").[18] In two essays, he lays out the failures of US policy in the Middle East. The two pillars of US cynicism are its need for autocracy as an ally in its "war on terror," and its need to support Israel in any way possible. The test for this conservative US policy came in Obama's choice of Frank G. Wisner, who he calls the "empire's bagman," as the US envoy to Mubarak.[19]

In a further essay he offered an analysis of the collapse of the national liberation dynamic which is evident from his book, The Darker Nations. This essay goes over the recent history of Libya and proposes of the recent upsurge there, "Old rivalries and new grievances are united. Some of them are for reactionary tribal purposes, and others seek liberation from 'reforms.' Some cavil that a country of 6 million with such oil wealth does not look like the Emirates, and others simply want to have some more control of their lives. But most want release from the hidden corridors of the Libyan labyrinth." [20] Prashad debated historian Juan Cole on the US-French-NATO military intervention. Cole was for it. Prashad against.[21] Prashad offered evidence that the genuine Libyan rising had been "usurped" by various unsavory characters, including someone with CIA connections.[22]

Prashad's 2012 book Arab Spring, Libyan Winter AK Press puts this story together. His two part interview on Newsclick provides the argument of the book.[23]

Critique of Mother Teresa and western charity[edit]

Prashad offered his analysis of Mother Teresa's missionary work in Calcutta, designating her as a representative of the collective 'bourgeois guilt' of western nations.[25] He argued how people like Mother Teresa obscure the tragedies of capitalism. For instance, "During the night of December 2–3, 1984, methyl isocyanate left the environs of a Union Carbide factory and poisoned thousands of people. He contends that the Bhopal disaster by Union Carbide was but the most flagrant example of a transnational corporation's disregard for human life at the expense of its own profit. In 1983, Union Carbide's sales came to $9 billion and its assets totaled $10 billion. Part of this profit came from a tendency to shirk any responsibility towards safety standards, not just in India, but also in their West Virginia plant. After the disaster, Mother Teresa flew into Bhopal and, escorted in two government cars, she offered Bhopal's victims small aluminum medals of St. Mary. "This could have been an accident," she told the survivors, "it's like a fire (that) could break out anywhere. That is why it is important to forgive. Forgiveness offers us a clean heart and people will be a hundred times better after it." Pope John Paul II joined Mother Teresa with his analysis that Bhopal was a "sad event" which resulted from "man's efforts to make progress."

In the same article he also commented on Mother Teresa's alleged links with Charles Keating and Michele Duvalier (wife of Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier). Denouncing the 'cruel rule of capital' he also offered the view that the communists of Calcutta were the "real nameless Mother Teresas who conduct the necessary work towards socialism, for the elimination of poverty forever".[24]

Religion[edit]

Prashad, along with his FOIL compatriot Biju Mathew, is also an outspoken critic of the resurgence of Hindu cultural nationalism, known as 'Hindutva'.[26] He has also critiqued what he described as the 'epidermic determinism' of V.T. Rajshekar, an advocate for Dalit rights, and others, and suggested that a 'polycultural' approach is needed instead.[27] He also identifies himself as an anti-Zionist and has advocated for the end of US aid to Israel.[28]

Books[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "I am a Marxist who has an affinity with working-class movements around the world." ZSVS Participant Interview with... Vijay Prashad, ZSVS June 2006: Interviews [1]
  2. ^ a b "I came to Marxism against my self-interest. Born into affluence, I was raised in an revolutionary city (Calcutta, India)" Left history, Volumes 11–12, pp 61, Dept. of History, Queen's University, 2006
  3. ^ http://www.versobooks.com/books/1150-the-poorer-nations.
  4. ^ http://www.usacbi.org/advisory-board/
  5. ^ http://www.pravasiherald.com/index.php/pravasih/comments/four_indian_americans_to_be_honored_by_gopio/
  6. ^ http://gopio-ct.org/images/GOPIO_Awards_2011.pdf
  7. ^ http://www.ovguide.com/vijay-prashad-9202a8c04000641f8000000006b37a80#
  8. ^ "What Swirls Around Fort Hood: Can the Major Speak". CounterPunch. 13–15 November 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Sahelian Blowback What's Happening in Mali?". CounterPunch. 28 October 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  10. ^ The Dragons, Their Dragoons
  11. ^ "Ten years ago, I co-founded the Forum of Indian Leftists." ZSVS Participant Interview with... Vijay Prashad, ZSVS June 2006: Interviews [2]
  12. ^ Hindutva For a Few Dollars a Day (author info) People's Democracy, Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India
  13. ^ "Vijay Prashad has come to be known for his expert critical analysis of US imperialism and war", Chopping Through the Foundations of Racism With Vijay Prashad, Joel Wendland, August 8th.2003, FrictionMagazine.com
  14. ^ Casual Imperialism, Vijay Prashad, People's Weekly World, Global Policy Forum, 16 August 2003 [3]
  15. ^ "The Farc, which is on US and European lists of terrorist organisations, has suffered a series of blows in recent years.", Profiles: Colombia's armed groups, BBC News LATIN AMERICA & CARIBBEAN, 29 August 2013 [4]
  16. ^ "The animus of US imperialism is directed at all those forces that resist its hegemoney, from guerillas in Americas (FARC in Columbia, for example) to the North American regime" , UNCLE SWAMI, Chapter 4, Vijay Prashad, The New Press, 5 June 2012
  17. ^ http://radicalnotes.com/content/view/153/39/
  18. ^ http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02152011.html
  19. ^ http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02022011.html; http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02082011.html
  20. ^ http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02222011.html
  21. ^ http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/29/a_debate_on_us_military_intervention
  22. ^ http://www.npr.org/2011/04/02/135072664/professor-in-libya-a-civil-war-not-uprising
  23. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmDFE-9YV74 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkcHWEdqvBs.
  24. ^ a b Mother Teresa: A Communist View, Vijay Prashad, Australian Marxist Review No. 40 August 1998, previously published in Political Affairs, the Journal of the Communist Party USA
  25. ^ White Women in Racialized Spaces: Imaginative Transformation and Ethical Action in Literature, Samina Najmi, Rajini Srikanth, Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt- Chapter 4, pp 67,Published by SUNY Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7914-5477-0, ISBN 978-0-7914-5477-0
  26. ^ Vijay Prashad, "Letter to a Young American Hindu," Countercurrents.org (23 May 2007).
  27. ^ http://www.jstor.org/pss/524727
  28. ^ "I also write about Israel in the hope that others will join in the campaign to end our subsidy for its human rights violations, this both from the U.S. taxpayer and from the Indian government (in the arms purchases)." My Investment in Israel, April 21, 2010, CounterPunch

External links[edit]