Today is the birth anniversary of Jane Jacobs, renowned figure in urban planning, and her work is so relevant to daily life and in particular in the context of the CPM’s reverses in West Bengal.
She fought till the nineties of her life for democratization of our urban life, particular life on streets. She was not against the motor car as such but she was a resolute campaigner against motor car dominance. Either motor cars strangulate us with their unrelenting growth or we check their dominance.
She was not a Marxist and this is one of the grouses of Marxists against her. It is argued that her ideas have been incorporated by neoliberalism. But the point is the little struggles her work has triggered in many parts of the world are very important for sustaining of democracy. Today is the birth anniversary of Jane Jacobs
That is where the CPM factor comes in. The struggle for land acquisition for Singur car plant of Tata’s Nano car marked the beginning of the end of the 34 year old CPM rule in Bengal. It fought for a completely wrong cause and the failure of Nano after shifting to Gujarat is a further testimony to this.
Tomorrow is also the birth anniversary of Marx but we will come to that later.
Since we are on urban planning, let us take the example of Oscar Nieymeyer, an outstanding , world renowned architect of buildings in the new capital city of Brasilia in Brazil and a lifelong Communist, active as an architect when past 100 years of life.
The planner for the new city was Lucio Costa but it is Oscar’s name that comes to mind mainly when one thinks of the new city.
The city is now a world heritage site , it is spectacular but in practice unfortunately it is not at all people friendly, not democratic. It is too car dependent, not walkable, bad for pedestrians. No wonder Simone Beauvoir, the noted feminist author, complained about this aspect.
Oscar was a close friend of Castro and was president of the Brazilian communist party for four years from 1992. Today is the birth anniversary of Jane Jacobs
But he argued that architecture and planning could not solve urban problems, the party can do that at the political level.
Unfortunately, though the Communists had excellent theory they were short on implementing that is one reason for setbacks in different parts of the world.
As for Marx. He really thought of basics , had his ear to the ground.. He thought not only about economic and political life and revolution but other basic issues like agricultural soil. His work on how capitalist agriculture degrades the soil is highly relevant for the agricultural crisis in India, particularly soil erosion in Punjab where there is heavy exploitation of the soil.