Regime Change

Arundhati Roy

Re-imagining a world beyond capitalism and communism.

Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still hope. If anyone can do it, we can. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonized by that consumerist dream.

We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Gandhi's vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have Ambedkar's vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well as the socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements, with their experience, understanding and vision.

Most important of all, India has a surviving adivasi (aboriginal) population of almost 100 million. They are the ones who still know the secrets of sustainable living. If they disappear, they will take those secrets with them. Wars like Operation Green Hunt will make them disappear. So victory for the prosecutors of these wars will contain within itself the seeds of destruction, not just for adivasis but, eventually, for the human race. That's why we need a real and urgent conversation between all those political formations that are resisting this war.

The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come.

If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step toward re-imagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination – an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment.

To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the waters in the rivers, the trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountain? If they say they cannot, then perhaps they should stop preaching morality to the victims of their wars.

Arundhati Roy is a celebrated novelist. This article is excerpted from her recent book, Walking with the Comrades in which Arundhati reflects on her time spent with Maoist guerrilla insurgents in India.

17 comments on the article “Arundhati Roy”

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Agreed. However, an observation: indigenous values are never pacifist, and homosexuality is not tolerated. Also, any kind of embracement of large-scale immigration is of course detrimental to anything indigenous. For instance, in Norway, non-Western immigrants by now inhabit a large part of the capital, i.e. where policies are created. Immigrants simply do not care about the traditional culture of the country, and so it is disappearing, as efforts to bridge the indigenous with modern society instead are directed at bridging the modern society with immigrants (for instance, immigrants dislike, and cannot deal with, the alternative, more traditional form of written Norwegian, and because of this it's now a question of time before it is removed from school curricula). The result is that we get a "USA society" where everything is diluted, commercialised, greedy, conservative, unsustainable and plainly horrible - by now, this is simply the worst country imaginable. In addition, solely due to immigration there is a strong revival of the Abrahamitic religions that we thought we finally had got rid of after the common man has battled them, with and without weapons, for more than 1000 years (the Viking Age was, to some degree, a 300-year war on Christianity). Even worse, of course, are the daily tsunami waves of trash from the sociopath-to-the-core Anglo-Saxon culture, but this people are, and will always be, too stupid to understand.

I am sorry, but in their New Age efforts to make the world into a huge group hug, The Left does not have any theoretical platform that can deal with this.

But then, as a group, no Scandinavian is really counted as indigenous anyway, we're just evil Westerners, eh?

Sorry, but this subject got me frustrated. What remains of sanity here is by all the measures that I can imagine disappearing if not already completely gone, and what little remains of the Left just loves it, because in the anarchy that results it is more accepted to have gay sex and to smoke cannabis. Intercultural communication and learning is wonderful. Somewhere, however, the ideal of constructive and respectful communication was mistaken for the ideal of someone moving into your flat indefinitely. The resulting intrusion of people's ego and private sphere is perhaps celebrated in Westernised Buddhism and New Age, but not anywhere else. Throwing citizenships at more or less everyone who wants one manifestly is not a good idea. In sum, the adoptation of New Age and its lack of respect for human integrity, perhaps the natural next step from Marxist ideology, killed off the Left, and makes it impossible for normal people to appreciate its message.

And in another context, I would vehemently oppose what I just wrote. Which is another way of saying that these points of views cannot be defended, and that everything will just continue. I'll post it anyway, because writing things on the internet whilst angry, as we all know, is such an intelligent thing to do.


Having thought some more about this, I'll condense what I wrote into the following:

If you ever meet indigenous people, what is likely to strike you is their personal dignity, a specific kind of inertia. Whenever you encounter this, it is a sign that you should listen.


If I could for a moment fall into the trap of typing: I largely agree with the article in point, and you argue your points and counterpoints very well. However I must take just a small umbridge with the statement 'indigenous societies are never pacifist'. There are scores of documented accounts regarding many indigenous people from all over the planet to whom the ideas of war or killing their fellows were abhored. There is certainly some sense in your pragmatism. To be pacifist when under attack, is this to be suicidal? I like the article, I think the sensitivity of the writer shines through. The only revolution possible is one entirely independant of thought and form, of stock portfolios, great literature, strange dreams to decode, economic and social research, shopping malls and flags, fiery wordplay, cruise missiles and farm machinary. It is sensless to think in a groove, to repeat phrases. I would like to hope that this magazine sees itself as a jumping off point- a point of departure, to which one should not return.


The Radical Libertarian Argument Against Health Care Reform. The facts simply don’t support the public perceptions on Marijuana Seeds. We ought to be really worried about the legal opioid drugs that young people are actually overdosing on and not those that absolutely no one overdoses on.

andrew conte

I stopped reading at your first sentence. "Homosexuality is not tolerated" In many many indigenous tribes, homosexuality was not "tolerated" but embraced. Many of the shaman, teachers etc were "two-spirited". In the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, there are the Muxes, who are gay, dress as women, and are an integral part of life, still. In fact, mothers often times brag about have a Muxes for a son. There is much historical information to bear this out throughout the Americas. The French explorers noted homosexuals and reported in a disgusting manner....NOT the homosexual, but rather the normality of it, that no one in the tribes found it wrong. The indigenous were...and still are....close to nature. Homosexuality is nature.... homosexuality is found in all mammals.

Mike Germaine

What India needs is more capitalism and more consumerism, not less. Can people not see the remarkae transformation that has happened in India in the last 20 years, after the socialist utopian dream was abandoned? What's happened over that time period is incredible - hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty and despair.


Something I've never seen in Adbusters, even in the recent Zizek series, is a proper analysis of the term 'communism' — the word had a very different definition before the Stalinist USSR and the People's Republic, a la Marxism. Even Marxists as historic as Leon Trotsky tried to offer revolutionary strategies that incorporated less 'developed' societies such as India into an internationalist vision of socialist revolution (permanent revolution, uneven and combined development, etc), this shouldn't be written off because of what history's tyrants have done to a word.


India is home to 165 million untouchable Hindus and 34 million Hindu widows who are not allowed to remarry.

Arundhati Roy needs to address those issues too.


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