‘Where is the change? Obama is no different’

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CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat tells Kunal Majumder that the Left will hold protests against Obama’s policies

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Why isn’t the CPM planning to boycott US President Barack Obama during his India visit?
We are not into the business of boycotting. Our MPs are not even boycotting the joint session of Parliament. When George Bush had come to India the last time, there was no joint session because we were opposed to his visit. We are not taking the same position as far as Obama is concerned. But since he is the American president and since he is coming to India on an official visit, we will use the occasion to express our opposition to some policies of the American administration and also their global strategic hegemonic designs. We are not opposing his visit as such.

One can understand your opposition to George Bush. But how different is Obama from Bill Clinton?
We didn’t declare any boycott for Clinton. We observed his visit as an anti-imperialist day, which is what we are doing for Obama too.

Has there been a change of heart towards the US?
Not at all. But, we are definitely making a distinction between Obama and Bush. That doesn’t mean that we have no opposition to the US government’s policies. American attempts at a hegemonic global dominance have continued unabated. The US has 50,000 troops in Iraq and over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. They continue to have an embargo on Cuba. They are helping Israel in keeping down the Palestinian people’s struggle. Where is the change? We continue to express our opposition to that. (The CPM, CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP will organise demonstrations across the country on 8 November, the day Obama arrives in Delhi.)

How do the US government’s policies around the globe matter to an ordinary Indian?
We are not only confined to global issues. We are also opposing all American policies that have affected Indians adversely. From pressuring the Indian government to open up retail trade for their multinational corporations to attempting to penetrate Indian agriculture to opening up our higher education for their capital, we are against all such policies. We want Obama to deal with The Dow Chemical Company the way he dealt with British Petroleum, when the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico happened. BP was made to pay billions of dollars, whereas in India the US administration is not even willing to let an American company compensate for the damages it did in Bhopal.

Does that mean the American president is no longer a satan, and you’re opposed to American policies alone?
We are not calling him a satan. We are not the Ayatollah. We understand that America represents imperialism in the world today. We make a distinction between Obama and Bush. Bush was a neo-con; he was driven by an aggressive agenda. Obama is different. He raised expectations that there will be changes in policy but those changes have not materialised.

You also recently announced that Marxists are not against market and foreign direct investment (FDI). Does it not indicate a shift in the CPM’s policies towards capitalism?
This is too complicated a topic. I was speaking to business houses in Chennai and they had asked me about my views. I tried to explain that Marxists are against the market. We have never been opposed to foreign capital but we must decide in which sectors we need FDI and which sectors need to be regulated.

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