World War III may not have broken out per se, but a war situation prevails all around. Trade wars have taken on massive proportions. The war is between Russia and America, and America's allies. Meanwhile, the people of Ukraine suffer. Actually, it is not just Ukraine, but people all over the world are suffering. People are being assailed by the energy crisis, a fall in food production, inflation, narcotics, pornography and more. And the businesspersons prosper.
In the meantime, extraordinary political events continue to occur. The Nazi and fascist horrors in Europe are matters of shame and sorrow in human history. Those nationalists are back with their nationalist arrogance. Nazi resurgences are visible in Germany and in Italy, fascist supporters of Mussolini are back at the helm of state. They may have only won 22 per cent of the votes, but nevertheless they have been elected! That too, by democratic process. Their party's name is 'Brothers of Italy', no sisters. The leaning is clearly chauvinistic, patriarchal. Mussolini is the ideal and yet the party chief is not male. She is a woman and is the prime minister. She is relatively young, 45 years old. Her main appeal to the young brothers of Italy, is for 'God, the country and the family'. Her father was a wealthy man, but he had abandoned the family. The future prime minister was brought up by her mother. And yet she has had no problem to surrender to patriarchy. She is the first woman prime minister in the history of Italy.
The bottom line is, no matter what outward appearances may seem, inside she is an authoritarian and believer in patriarchy. The mainstay of her party is, in the name of national interests, to block outsiders from entry into the country and, if possible, to evict those who have already entered. Could one ever imagine a resurgence of pro-Mussolini forces in Italy after World War II?
There has been turmoil in the political history of Great Britain too. They had three prime ministers in a matter of three months. Boris Jonson stepped down with various allegations on his shoulders. Then came along a young woman, but lasted only 45 days. She had to save face by stepping down amidst failure to tackle the economic crisis. And now someone even younger than her has come. It would have been unimaginable for the racially arrogant British to have someone of his descent to be prime minister of the country. He is not of English descent, but of Indian origin, his roots in the country of Gandhi, to whom Winston Churchill referred to as the 'half-naked fakir'. Even his name is totally un-English. Rishi Sunak. He is not Christian, but a Hindu. He had been a minister before, in the very right-wing cabinet of Boris Jonson. But could any English person imagine he would ever be prime minister? But this is reality, or else how has he become prime minister? He certainly isn't unqualified for the office. Had he been unqualified, why would he have been selected? He certainly is qualified. Firstly, he is extremely conservative and though his first name is 'Rishi', he certainly is no 'rishi' (saint), just as many at the helm in India are no yogis despite adopting the name 'Yogi'.
Rishi is an extreme pragmatist and is reportedly extremely wealthy too. No prime minister of Britain in the past has been quite so wealthy. This Rishi is very class conscious and there is no evidence of his being close to anyone of the working class (regardless of colour or creed). He is a puritan to the core, totally conservative. He also went to America for higher studies, so his contemporary relevance cannot be questioned either. Meanwhile the capitalist economy of his country (that is, the United Kingdom) is in such a mess, that someone like him of foreign descent had to be taken on board as a possible saviour. He is only 42 years old, the youngest prime minister. (When you are sinking, who is judging a person's age!) Global capitalism is in such a predicament that it is desperate to survive and is sinking its fangs into human civilisation. There is no space open for any liberal policies anymore. The liberals are in retreat. The woman, who was prime minister for 45 days, had been in the Liberal Party as a university student. She later became a Conservative. Had she not made that switch, she never would have come as far as she did.
The people in Bangladesh are in the same predicament. The workers slog away while the opportunists snatch up the benefits of their work. They use some of this wealth for their luxury lives and siphon out the rest overseas
The leftists who had been the British Labour Party, are in a difficult place. And in Israel, Netanyahu is the prime minister and a corruption case is still underway against him in the court there. He is a staunch rightist, but as if that was not enough, he has reached out to those ever more extremist than himself. Also, Sweden had so long been renowned worldwide for its liberal polices, but there too the right wingers are in power.
It is the same all over. The working class is being repressed by capital. Humanity is being defeated by profit mongering. In face of the global rise of capitalism, the working class faces the fate of cockroaches.
Elon Musk is among the top wealthy persons of the world. He has bought Twitter and decided to improve it further. In one sweep, he laid off half of the employees and told the others that they have to increase their work hours. All in the name of improvements. These improvements are nothing but ensuring fat profits for the owner.
Violence has increased in these times of economic crisis. Losing in the election, Donald Trump claimed his victory had been stolen. Innumerable Republicans backed that narrative in their own interests. They attacked the Capitol building. The attackers were looking for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She escaped physical harm, but before the mid-term elections this time, an assailant attacked her house, ready to kill her if he could lay his hands on her. Not finding her, he assaulted her husband with a hammer.
Everyone knows Thailand as a peaceful country. Something unprecedented occurred there. A man armed with a gun and knife attacked a daycare centre in a small town there and killed 38 persons, including children. Then he went to another town, killed his own wife and child, and then himself. He had been working in the police department. He had lost his job for taking drugs. So how far is Thailand now from America?
The people in Bangladesh are in the same predicament. The workers slog away while the opportunists snatch up the benefits of their work. They use some of this wealth for their luxury lives and siphon out the rest overseas. They buy land and property in foreign lands. The money goes to Swiss banks for safe keeping. It is heard that in one year, Bangladeshis' deposits there have increased by Tk 30 billion. Yet the government makes no move to draw up a list of these money launderers. A High Court bench said, "There should be provision to shoot money launderers." Many people feel that way, but will any such provision be put in place? Even if it is, there is little chance of this being put into effect.
* Serajul Islam Choudhury, Emeritus Professor, Dhaka University
* This column appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir