[OPE-L:8409] Who is Jairus Danajee?

From: rakeshb@stanford.edu
Date: Thu Jan 30 2003 - 04:57:37 EST

>From The Telegraph Calcutta January 26, 2003


- Indian businessmen have no need to fÍte Narendra Modi 
Rudrangshu Mukherjee

Not with a long spoon 
Whom I had known, forgotten, half


Both one and many.
ó T.S.Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Newspapers, somebody said, catch history in flight. Rarely, if ever, 
do they open up the past. One such rare occasion, for me 
personally, was on Sunday, January 19. The bottom of the front 
page ó the anchor as it is known in the jargon of the newsroom ó 
of The Telegraph carried the news item that somebody in the 
Confederation of Indian Industry meet in Mumbai had shouted at 
Narendra Modi. The "offender", the report said, was a man called 
Jairus Danajee. It took me less than a moment to realize that the 
reporter had got the name wrong. The correct name is Jairus 
Banaji, the mentor of many of us in the Seventies in Jawaharlal 
Nehru University. It was absolutely in the fitness of things for 
Jairus to stand up in a meeting to accuse Modi of having blood on 
his hands and to deplore the CII for providing such a person with a 

Jairus Banaji is an unknown entity to most people. He studied at 
St Johnís College, Oxford, from where he took a degree in Greats 
(the Oxford name for a degree in Classics). I remember Tariq Ali 
telling us in JNU that Jairus was something of a legend in the 
radical circles of Oxford in the Sixties. He led the famous 1968 
Oxford "sit in", was part of the Trotskyist New Left and was 
phenomenally erudite. He chucked up Classics and came to JNU 
to study ancient Indian history. But student politics and "the 
Revolution" claimed him in JNU. He was later to go back to Oxford 
in the Eighties and to the classical world: he finished his D.Phil by 
writing a thesis on "The Economy of the Mediterranean in Late 

I first met Jairus in his activist phase in JNU and, like all who got to 
know him, was completely bowled over by his radiating intellect, 
his powers of comprehension, retention and articulation. He lit up 
the intellectual lives of a few of us. He opened up our minds to 
classical Marxism, to the writings of Marx, Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky, 
Preobrazensky, Rosa Luxemburg as well as to the world of 
contemporary European Marxism. With him we read LukŠcs, 
Rosdolsky, Althusser, Colletti, Poulant- zas. He introduced us to 
the writings of the (post-Marc Bloch) Annales School, to Pierre 
Vilarís remarkable essay on Don Quixote, to Kula on feudalism 
and to Levi Strauss. (Much later, sitting in his house in Oxford, I 
also learnt a lot from him about jazz and its origins, even though 
jazz isnít my kind of music. But Jairus made the subject come alive 
as he had done so many times before.) The days in JNU were 
heady days of reading, discussing and arguing. I remember Jairus 
in the library intently reading Hegel. He was the first to point out, at 
least to me, the intimate relationship between Hegelís Logic and 
Marxís Capital. It was many years later, when I studied Hegel in a 
remarkable study circle led by Partha Chatterjee, that I got to 
understand what Jairus had been getting at.

All these things came back to me in a flash as I read the news 
report. The gratitude for the past was complemented by pride in 
the present. It was just like Jairus to stand up in a hostile 
environment ó there were attempts at the meeting to shut him up 
and to throw him out ó and to say what he wanted to say, and 
articulate the anguish and anger that many of us feel not only 
about the events in Gujarat but also at the sight of Modi being fÍted 
by people who consider themselves civilized and should know 
better. Jairusís intellect and courage have never been influenced 
by any consideration save what he considered to be his 
commitment to the just and the good.

Much as I welcomed Jairusís protest at the CII meet and much as I 
admired him for it, I knew that he could not have been surprised at 
the industrialistsí camaraderie with Modi. He protested because 
he felt it was his duty to do so. Jairus is too good a student of 
history to be surprised at businessmen being cosy with a fascist 
implicated in a pogrom against Muslims.

Capital is morally neutral. Profits are capitalís only quarry. The 
most convenient example and analogy in this case is the support 
that the Nazis received from big business during their rise to 
power and while they were in power. The German historian, Karl 
Bracher, has shown in his book, The German Dictatorship, how 
big business made "profitable mutual-interest alliances" with the 
Nazi party and the Nazi state. Despite the far-reaching changes 
that the Nazis introduced in German society, the old industrial and 
capitalist class, having made its accommodation with violence 
and anti-Semitism, remained in place. And till the war destroyed 
Germany, this class made substantial gains. 

A few statistics will speak for it. Profits from all industrial and 
commercial enterprises rose from 6.6 billion marks in 1933 to 15 
billion marks in 1938. The sales of Siemens doubled, those of 
Krupp and Mannesmann Tube Works were tripled, those of 
Phillipp Hollizmann Inc. increased six times, and those of the 
German Weapons and Munitions Works rose tenfold. The 
distribution of German national income shifted sharply in favour of 
capital between 1932 and 1938. The shares of capital (interest, 
industrial and commercial profits, undistributed industrial profits) 
rose from 17.4 per cent of the national income in 1932 to 25 per 
cent in 1937 and 27 per cent in 1938.

The involvement of certain sections of industrialists with the Nazi 
regime was direct and conscious. Ian Kershaw, in his new 
biography of Hitler, has analysed how Hitlerís idea of "living space" 
for the German people ó an intrinsic part of Hitlerís ideology ó 
blended easily into businessmenís notions of a "greater economic 
sphere". Those sections of the economy aligned to armaments 
production fervently backed the Nazi regimeís expansionist 
programme (which included brutal acts of terror) since that was 
the certain route to high profits.

Particular firms came to be implicated with the crimes the Nazi 
regime perpetrated against the Jews. Industrial firms built the 
gas-chambers in which the Jews were killed in concentration 
camps. Edwin Black ó in a remarkable study, IBM and the 
Holocaust ó has exposed IBMís conscious involvement in the 
Holocaust. IBM gave its technology to the Nazis to help in the 
identification of Jews in census, registrations and ancestral 
tracing programmes and the organization of slave labour in 
concentration camps. The massive information system that the 
Nazis needed to carry out Hitlerís "final solution" was possible 
because of the active cooperation of an industrial giant. Capital 
has no scruples when profits have to be made.

More than my personal recollections of Jairus, it was this history of 
Nazi Germany that was opened up by the report on Modi at the CII 
meet. Is there any need for industrialists and businessmen to 
fawn on Modi? Arenít there other places in India (and in an era of 
globalization, might one even add, the world) to invest in other than 
Gujarat? Or do the captains of Indian industry feel that Modi 
represents the future face of India? If so, have they paused to think 
about the character of that future?

Early capitalism, it has been memorably noted, emerged from the 
womb of history, dripping with blood. Indian capitalism is no 
longer in its early stages; there is no need for it to associate with 
somebody whose hands can never be cleansed of the blood of 
Muslims. Equally important, isnít there something pathetic in the 
constant attempts of industrialists and their chambers to seek the 
patronage of politicians? Or is capital also always servile to 

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Jan 31 2003 - 00:00:01 EST