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Why socialism is necessary
by Louis Proyect
24 May 2002 15:32 UTC
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(On the Internet and at left-academic conferences, there is endless
discussion of the feasibility or non-feasibility of socialism based on
criteria having to do with economic efficiency, the imperative to avoid
"grand narratives", constraints imposed by "globalization" or "Empire",
etc. When you read the article below, you will be reminded that modern
socialism became a reality because of the barbarism of capitalist war.
Nothing has changed.)

The Independent (London), May 24, 2002, Friday 


Peter Popham In Delhi 

An Indian villager near Jammu in Kashmir after Pakistani troops shelled the
region yesterday, destroying his home Aman Sharma/AP 

INDIA LIVES in several centuries at once, it has been said. What is true of
peace will also be true if India and Pakistan go to war. 

Yesterday, as Indian and Pakistani troops once again exchanged heavy
artillery fire across Kashmir's ceasefire line, the Indian Prime Minister,
Atal Behari Vajpayee, held a war council in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar,
chairing a meeting of the Unified Command to review the preparations for
war and the security situation along the border. 

In Rawalpindi, Pakistan's corps commanders met to discuss operational
strategy, and later announced that Pakistani troops were to be withdrawn
from UN peace -keeping duties in Sierra Leone "in the wake of a grave
Indian threat". The world quakes at what will happen if the Pakistani
leader, General Pervez Musharraf, or Mr Vajpayee press the nuclear button.
Estimates of India's and Pakistan's nuclear strengths vary wildly, but at
the low end of the scale Pakistan is estimated to have at least 40 nuclear
bombs compared with India's 60 - quite sufficient for the task. 

Both nations also have the missiles needed to deliver them, so that in
theory all Pakistan's cities and many of India's are within range. A
missile from Rawalpindi could deliver its nuclear payload to Delhi within
three minutes, and vice versa. 

But India and Pakistan are also braced to fight a very different kind of
war - a war such as Europe has not seen for more than 80 years. 

Three quarters of a million Indian troops are strung out along India's 2000
-mile border with Pakistan, from the torrid salt marshes of Gujarat to the
frozen peaks of Siachen Glacier in the High Himalayas. They are confronted
by a quarter of a million Pakistanis. 

Both armies derive from the old Indian army of the British Raj, a unified
force until independence and partition in 1947. Both claim that they
enshrine the best military qualities instilled by the British during more
than two centuries of almost continuous warfare on the subcontinent:
immense stamina, fierce regimental loyalty, unquestioning obedience. 

And the manpower of both is still drawn from the same populations that
filled the ranks of the Indian Army, what the British termed the "martial
races": Baluchis, Punjabis, Rajputs and Dogras. Many of the troops
confronting each other come from the same stock as each other, speak the
same language and share the same culture, leaving aside the matter of
religion. That is one of the bitter ironies of India's and Pakistan's
endless wars. 

Both armies are modernising fast: with annual budgets of pounds 9.5bn
(India) and pounds 2.2bn (Pakistan), which mock their claims to be
considered poor countries, their compulsive rivalry is buying them new
combat aircraft, new airborne warning and control systems and missiles, new
tanks, new artillery. 

India has committed to buying pounds 6.8bn of weapons and other hardware
from its old patron Russia over the next 10 years. Pakistan is
collaborating with its staunch ally China on a new combat jet. Until 11
French engineers were killed by a suicide bomber in Karachi two weeks ago,
France was building Pakistan three new diesel submarines. India also plans
to deploy new aircraft carriers and submarines among other warships, both
Russian and home-made. In one war scenario, India chokes Pakistan to death
by blockading Karachi's port - a tactic threatened by India as a way to end
the Kargil mountain war three years ago. 

Yet whatever the new toys, the preparations for war in Gujarat, Rajasthan,
Punjab and Kashmir have a relentlessly period look: a turn of the century
North -West Frontier skirmish remade with a cast of hundreds of thousands;
Flanders Field, complete with trenches, barbed wire, no man's land and
mines, translated to some of the hottest places in the world. 

Conditions in Rajasthan's desert this month are so extreme that military
sources said war could not be fought until the temperature had fallen
somewhat - say around September or October. 

Political considerations are forcing them to confront the possibility that
they will be obliged to fight in the next few weeks, with the temperature
at 50C (122F) every day, and nearly 70C inside the tanks. There is no water
out in this desert: it is brought in by train. The troops have been in
these positions close to the border for nearly six months now. Sandstorms
make breathing impossible and over to the west in the salt marsh of the
Rann of Kutch, in Gujarat, the staggering heat, combined with 80 per cent
humidity and storms of sand and salt, is massively debilitating. 

Up in the Jammu region in the south of Jammu and Kashmir state, a blood-
soaked history is all around. "Invading armies have poured through here for
centuries," the Sikh commander explained when I visited his camp,
indicating the flat land at the base of the first Himalayan foothills that
he overlooked. From the pill-boxes on the front line, the enemy's front
line is plainly visible a quarter of a mile away. Even in times of relative
calm, exchanges of machine-gun fire are a daily occurrence. Today the war
is already going on along this front, with mortar batteries, rocket and
heavy artillery trading fire every day, targeting enemy civilians and
driving them out of their villages. 

The last time India and Pakistan came close to all-out war was in the
summer of 1999, when India threw hundreds of thousands of jawans, troops,
into repelling a Pakistani intrusion in the mountains of Kargil sector of
Kashmir state - masterminded by one Pervez Musharraf, who was then chief of
the army. About 1,000 soldiers died in the six-week conflict, which
involved displays of courage and stamina as Indian soldiers scaled 15,000ft
peaks to launch suicidal assaults on heavily fortified Pakistani
mountain-top positions, fighting hand-to-hand to the death. The conflict
was defused only when Bill Clinton browbeat the Pakistani prime minister,
Nawaz Sharif, to order a withdrawal. 

If India launches the new war by thrusting its forces into Pakistani
Kashmir, either in pursuit of militants or to smash terrorist training
camps, it can expect to meet resistance at least as fierce as on Kargil's
mountains. A more ambitious assault with air power risks provoking
overwhelming retaliation. 

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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