Friday, December 15, 2006

A passage to India (and Spain)

Recently returned from conference at the University of Hyderabad on Challenges of Globalisation: Indian and Australian perspectives. Very interesting although I fear I disappointed two students when I explained that I was only a Marxist some of the time. My very long paper on ‘We have no role model’: Indo-Communism, globalisation and governance in the postcommunist era' is available here along with the PowerPoint that I spoke to at great speed. One theme of the paper is to ask whether the western tendency for cultural 'post-materialist' cleavages to supplant those around the economy in the determination of left-right divisions (an issue alluded to in previous post) has occurred in India also. Surprisingly despite the extent of poverty and inequality in India there is evidence of this. Left parties have increasingly made defence of secularism and opposition to the communal BJP their dominant motive, although the largest Communist Party I was advised at the Conference still considers homosexuality a manifesto of bourgeois decadence!. In this context an interesting article on the Spanish Socialist government in the NY Times here:

Previous Socialist Party governments tended to adopt moderate agendas to preserve the social cohesion that was painstakingly cultivated during the transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975. Mr. Zapatero [Prime Minister] has gambled that Spanish society is now stable enough and its democracy advanced enough that such moderation is no longer necessary. It is a significant wager, according to many. Mr. Lamo de Espinosa, the researcher, said Mr. Zapatero, 46, acquired political maturity when democracy was already established in Spain. “He takes democracy for granted, and he takes social and political stability in Spain for granted,” Mr. Lamo de Espinosa said. Mr. Zapatero has therefore been willing to openly defy the Catholic Church with his policies legalizing gay marriage and making divorce easier. He has also presented a legislative package condemning Franco’s dictatorship and honoring its opponents, taking sides in a conflict long considered too divisive for the government to address. And he has dismissed concerns he is flirting with the disintegration of Spain with his openness to greater autonomy for the regions of Catalonia and the Basque Provinces, whose separatist leanings — and the debate over how to contain them — have roiled national politics since democracy began here. Mr. Zapatero’s philosophy, rooted in what he calls citizen socialism, is based on near-pacifism in foreign policy, expanding civil rights and a preference for following rather than guiding the will of the people. “He is not a leftist,” said one friend, who spoke about him on condition of anonymity. “He is a radical democrat.”

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