help sustainable development

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jun 9 10:29:58 MDT 2000

Russell Grinker:
>Seeing as you decided to raise this topic, perhaps it deserves another look.
>As far as I understand it, the elected Indian government made a decision to
>go ahead with the Narmada Valley project, with the support of all of the
>state governments involved.
>A western NGO, the EDF, played a thoroughly divisive role in splitting the
>campaign for resettlement and was instrumental in lobbying the World Bank to
>sabotage the dam project. Which do you support: the right of the Indian
>government to decide what technology it has at its disposal, or the American
>NGO's deployment of the West's monopoly over credit to sabotage that
>decision? Should the Indian government be prevented from doing something
>about the power cuts and electricity shortages that regularly black out its
>major cities because some American radical greens believe that it would be
>ecologically damaging and therefore fund particular local interests to
>oppose the project?

Russell, this is LM propaganda. The thing that drives me nuts about you and
Jim Heartfield is that you don't even go through the motions of addressing
opposing viewpoints. This was not a clash between "the Indian government"
and American radical greens. It was a clash between the agrarian
bourgeoisie, who along with the industrial bourgeoisie runs India through
the Congress Party, and poor peasants. The movement was launched by Baba
Amte, an elderly figure who set up leprosy hospitals in the western Indian
state of Maharashtra in 1949 and who had long been seen as a defender of
India's poor.

After seeing the disaster in Bhopal and watching the holy Ganges turn into
a cesspool, Amte said "I realized that physical leprosy is perfectly
curable and that it was this mental leprosy that was so horrible," he said.
"It is this invisible leprosy of greed and ambition that is turning our
world into a wasteland." In July, 1988 when he convened a meeting of
India's top scientists, civic planners, social activists, politicians and
journalists at his ashram in Anandwan, Maharashtra. There was not a single
American at this gathering, Russell. They were Indians, every last one of
them. The May 1, 1990 Los Angeles Times reported:

"They sat for days in a large hall on white sheets and discussed the state
of Planet Earth. At the end, they drafted a document that has become the
cornerstone of India's burgeoning environmental movement.

"Entitled, 'The Anandwan Declaration Against Big Dams,' the group concluded
that the 'super-dam' projects planned for India and other Third World
countries were the perfect symbols for the environmentalists' crusade.

"'We consider (big dams) symbols of destruction in the name of
development,' the Baba's group declared. "They delude people by promising
benefits which do not accrue to them. The reliance on big dams is
symptomatic of the unthinking acceptance of the dominant world models of
economic growth.'

"The Baba then set off across India in a bus bearing the sign 'Peace by
Peace Mission' -- a yearlong crusade to take the anti-dam movement into
India's smallest, most remote and yet most directly affected villages,
until, finally this year, he decided to concentrate all his efforts on the
Narmada project."

>I'm sure I recall reading something by Jairus Banajee which pointed out that
>it was in fact local landowners who were behind the mobilisation of the
>anti-Narmada movement rather than the masses.

Of course, you read it in LM. Try varying your diet. Er, I guess that is a
somewhat academic point given the current situation of the magazine,
although I have been assured by one of its boosters that the "Son of LM" is
forthcoming, with everything we've grown to love about the magazine:
coverage on fox-hunting, the glories of nuclear power, why smoking must be
allowed in restaurants and why Prince Charles is standing in the way of

>Maybe you do.  The fact is however that "sustainable development" in
>practice is now the ideology of every imperialist development agency. As the
>quote which originally started off this discussion pointed out, it is used
>as justification for the non/slow development of large chunks of the world
>on the pretext that technological progress would be ecologically harmful,
>inappropriate, or whatever - the western under-development of Africa (to
>paraphrase Walter Rodney) and other areas is now justified as OK because
>that is what is "sustainable".

"Ideology" is not what concerns us. Al Gore wrote a book called "Earth in
the Balance", but he has been part of an administration that has a worse
record on the environment than Reagan's, according to former Sierra Club
leader David Brower.

>If you had any regular contact with development practitioners on the ground
>you would know that things have moved on from the days of what the left used
>to term neo-liberalism.  Imperialist intervention has for some time now
>taken a far more ecologically sensitive, nuanced, humanitarian form.

Russell, I grow increasingly impatient with you. I advocate socialism, not
World Bank 'sustainable development'. Get your nose out of Frank Furedi's
bum and read something other than cult literature.

Louis Proyect

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