(1) Where were you born, where do you now live, what has been your main, schooling, employment, family life, etc.? In short, introduce yourself personally.
Born in Calcutta in the middle of the Naxalite movement. I grew up in the affluent world of India's metropolitan cities. My family forms part of the salariat, with a considerable section at work for the State or for old corporations in decline (in industries like jute, for instance). The generation born in the 1940s and 1950s tended to liberalism, with a few taking the road to communism. While the value placed on formal education was low, many of my family took a great interest in ideas. My father, for instance, had his studies disrupted by World War II and by the Indian freedom struggle, but till he died he read several newspapers in the morning and read as widely as possible from books and encyclopedias. This was our world.
I came to the U. S. in the early 1980s to live with my brother. I brought my inchoate political history to the struggles against Reaganism, which for me personally was formative. The three legs of that struggle: anti-apartheid, the dirty wars of Central America, and finally the Jackson campaign for president.
(2) What have been your main political involvements in the past? Are you involved with particular movements, projects, or organizations now? If so, which? What features would an International Political Organization have to embody to attract you? What features would repel you? In short, introduce yourself politically.
I am a Marxist who has an affinity with working-class movements around the world. I believe strongly in building organizations to harness the objective situations around us, as well as to prepare our surroundings for the spontaneous upsurges that drive history forward. Without strong organizations we will perish.
Ten years ago, I co-founded the Forum of Indian Leftists. I work with the groups associated with the Center for Third World Organizing. I am very close to many Left formations. I work with, and appreciate the work of, groups like the Bus Riders Union-Labor/Community Strategy Center. I am on the board of CTWO, as well as the National Priorities Project and United for a Fair Economy.
I don't think that we are at the stage to launch an International Political Organization. We need to work nationally, because the national stage is still paramount. What I think is important is for international linkages between nationally based movements and organizations. We need to coordinate and think together -- to learn how the national platform can be harnessed against imperialism without becoming itself chauvinist. US-based movements also need to cultivate humility rather than arrogate to ourselves the right to determine the tempo of the global struggle.
(3) Imagine you are giving a public talk The question and answer period arrives. Someone says, "I know you are against capitalism, anti-racist, and anti-sexist. I know you believe in participation, want solidarity, require sustainability, and seek justice. Me too. But in a real world society, what institutions do you seek so as to fulfill those aims? What are your structural goals?" How do you answer? In short, stretch a bit in the directions ZSVS seeks to emphasize.
(1) on the national plane: we need to create regulatory institutions to hamper the class power of the elite, and we need to reinvigorate the liberal idea of progressive taxation. This is a short-term goal that is imperative toward the construction of the "capacity" for democracy.
(2) on the international plane: we need to craft international institutions that regulate the power of transnational capital (such as the now almost moribund United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations). We need to fight for the democratization of the United Nations, and for the creation of regional forums that do not include the U. S. (such as an Asian forum unlike APEC, and for a South American forum as proposed by Chavez and others that is unlike the FTAA group and the OAS).
These are program demands that will move our movement forward, and from which we will craft new program demands. The structural change we require is the destruction of the class power of the bourgeoisie, and in this phase, of the fiscal institutions who determine the lives of the world's population but which are utterly without regulation or transparency.
(4) What do you hope to get out of ZSVS, personally, for your self and for your work? For us all, what do you think will most likely come out of ZSVS? Also, what do you hope, in your most optimistic moment, will come out of it? In short, affect what we all plan and undertake and the tone we do it with.
I won't make it in June. That's my problem. I'd like to be part of the dialogue and see where this takes us.