Vijay Prashad


Vijay Prashad
বিজয় প্রসাদ
UNCTAD Public Symposium 2013 - Plenary II (9200112948) (cropped).jpg
Prashad in 2010
Born (1967-08-14) 14 August 1967 (age 54)
Alma mater
RelativesBrinda Karat (aunt)

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, journalist, commentator, and Marxist intellectual.[1][2] He is an executive-director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books.

He was the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, United States from 1996 to 2017. In 2013–2014, he was the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut and has been a Senior Fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in Beirut.

Prashad is the author of thirty books. In 2012, he published five books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press) and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (The New Press). His book The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World (2007) was chosen as the Best Nonfiction book by the Asian American Writers' Workshop in 2008 and it won the Muzaffar Ahmed Book Award in 2009. In 2013, Verso published his The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.[3] He is author of No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord Books, 2015) and the editor of Letters to Palestine (Verso Books, 2015), a book that includes the writings of Teju Cole, Sinan Antoon, Noura Erakat, and Junot Diaz. His most recent book is Washington Bullets (LeftWord, 2020), with a preface by Evo Morales.[4]

Prashad is a journalist, the Chief Correspondent for Globetrotter - a project of the Independent Media Institute.[5] He is a columnist for Frontline and writes regularly for The Hindu and BirGun. He has reported from around the world for the Indian media.

In 2015, Prashad joined as the Chief Editor of the New Delhi-based publisher LeftWord Books.[6] He is also an advisory board member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.[7][8]

Early life and background

He is the son of Pran and Soni Prashad.[9] Vijay was born and raised in Kolkata, India.[10] Prashad attended The Doon School, a costly, elite Indian residential boarding school for boys ages 12–18.[11] He then came to the United States and received a BA from Pomona College in 1989, and earned a PhD at the University of Chicago in 1994.[12][13] He is the nephew of Marxist Indian politician Brinda Karat.[14] He is married to Smith College professor Elisabeth Armstrong.[14][15]


In an article for The Nation, Prashad lays out his vision for a struggle towards socialism. He argues that progressive forces typically have very good ideas, but no power. He asserts that without power, good ideas have little consequences and claims that socialists must not simply theorise, but also organise.[16] As a panellist at the 2004 Life After Capitalism conference, he explained his views on the state of leftist strategy in the United States. He argues that leftists in the United States are not as effective as they could be in situations where they win influence through community organising, such as in local governments, because they often do not appreciate ideas originating from other parts of the world. Examples he provides include experiments in participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, people's planning in Kerala, and new taxes for industries that cannot relocate. He also calls on leftists to have a long-term view of social struggle rather than focusing on short-term results. Prashad argues that this short-term focus often results from an economic system where companies are incentivised to demonstrate quarterly profits.[17]

Prashad is a self-described Marxist[1][2] and a co-founder of the Forum of Indian Leftists (FOIL).[1][18] His views on capitalism are most clearly summarised in his book Fat Cats and Running Dogs.

The historian Paul Buhle writes, "Vijay Prashad is a literary phenomenon."[19] The writer Amitava Kumar notes, "Prashad is our own Frantz Fanon. His writing of protest is always tinged with the beauty of hope."[20]

Criticism of US foreign policy

Prashad is an outspoken critic of what he calls American hegemony and imperialism.[21][22] He identifies himself as an anti-Zionist and has advocated the end of US aid to Israel.[citation needed]

Arab Revolt of 2011

Prashad gave a landmark interview on the Arab Revolt to Radical Notes, where he compared the fall of Egyptian President Mubarak to the fall of Mexico's dictator Porfirio Díaz:

The Mexican Revolution opened up in 1911, but didn't settle into the PRI regime till the writing of the 1917 constitution and the elevation of Carranza to the presidency in 1920 or perhaps Cárdenas in 1934. I find many parallels between Mexico and Egypt. In both, the Left was not sufficiently developed. Perils of the Right always lingered. If the Pharonic state withers, as Porfirio Díaz's state did, the peasants and the working class might move beyond spontaneity and come forward with some more structure. Spontaneity is fine, but if power is not seized effectively, counter-revolution will rise forth effectively and securely.[23]

In a subsequent essay, he asserted that the Arab Spring is part of a long process, the Arab Revolution. He argued that the Revolt of 2011 continues to raise the two "unanswered questions" of the Arab revolution: that of politics (freedom from monarchies and dictatorships) and of economics (to make an independent economy). In addition, he considers the revolt part of a historical process that he characterises as a "revolt against the market" (as opposed to revolts in Eastern Europe which he sees as a "revolt for the market").[citation needed]

In two essays, he lays out what he describes as the failures of US policy in the Middle East. The two pillars of US cynicism are its need for autocracy as an ally in its "war on terror," and its need to support Israel in any way possible. The test for this conservative US policy came in Obama's choice of Frank G. Wisner, who he calls the "empire's bagman", as the US envoy to Mubarak.[citation needed]

In a further essay he offered an analysis of the collapse of the national liberation dynamic which is evident from his book, The Darker Nations. This essay goes over the recent history of Libya and proposes of the recent upsurge there, "Old rivalries and new grievances are united. Some of them are for reactionary tribal purposes, and others seek liberation from 'reforms'. Some cavil that a country of 6 million with such oil wealth does not look like the Emirates, and others simply want to have some more control of their lives. But most want release from the hidden corridors of the Libyan labyrinth."[citation needed] Prashad debated historian Juan Cole on the US-French-NATO military intervention. Cole was for it, Prashad against.[24] Prashad argued that the genuine Libyan rising had been "usurped" by various unsavory characters, including some with CIA connections.[25]

Prashad's 2012 book Arab Spring, Libyan Winter AK Press puts this story together. His two part interview on Newsclick provides the argument of the book.[26][27]

He gave a talk on the geopolitics of the Iranian nuclear deal.[28]

Critique of Mother Teresa and Western charity

The Communists don't give people fish, so they might eat for a day; the point of Communism is to teach the masses how to fish, so that they might eat forever. Each day, Calcutta's Communists – as real nameless Mother Teresas! – conduct the necessary work towards socialism, for the elimination of poverty forever.

— Mother Teresa: A Communist View, Vijay Prashad, Australian Marxist Review No. 40 August 1998[29]

Prashad offered his analysis of Mother Teresa's missionary work in Calcutta, designating her as a representative of the collective 'bourgeois guilt' of Western nations.[30] He argued how people like Mother Teresa obscure the tragedies of capitalism. For instance, "During the night of December 2–3, 1984, the Bhopal disaster poisoned thousands of people". He contends that the Bhopal disaster by Union Carbide was but the most flagrant example of a transnational corporation's disregard for human life at the expense of its own profit. In 1983, Union Carbide's sales came to US$9 billion and its assets totalled US$10bn. Part of this profit came from a tendency to shirk any responsibility towards safety standards, not just in India, but also in their West Virginia plant. After the disaster, Mother Teresa flew into Bhopal and, escorted in two government cars, she offered Bhopal's victims small aluminium medals of St. Mary. "This could have been an accident," she told the survivors, "it's like a fire (that) could break out anywhere. That is why it is important to forgive. Forgiveness offers us a clean heart and people will be a hundred times better after it." Pope John Paul II joined Mother Teresa with his analysis that Bhopal was a "sad event" which resulted from "man's efforts to make progress."

In the same article he also commented on Mother Teresa's alleged links with Charles Keating and Michele Duvalier (wife of Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier). Denouncing the "cruel rule of capital" he also offered the view that the communists of Calcutta were the "real nameless Mother Teresas who conduct the necessary work towards socialism, for the elimination of poverty forever".[29]


Prashad has written extensively about the removal of Evo Morales as President of Bolivia in 2019 and the 2020 Bolivian general election.[31] He described Morales's removal as a coup d’état and said the Organisation of American States had "legitimised" the coup with unsubstantiated conclusions in its preliminary report.[31] In March 2020, he wrote that Morales's removal from office was the result of his government's "socialist policy toward Bolivia's resources" which required that returns from mining resources such as lithium "be properly shared with the Bolivian people". He said that the government of Jeanine Áñez had extended a "welcome mat" to Tesla to establish a factory in Bolivia to manufacture lithium batteries from Bolivia’s reserves.[31]


Attempts to demote

In 2010, Prashad was appointed to head the newly formed Trinity Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, at Trinity College. A group of professors wrote a letter protesting the appointment based on "the prominent role he has played in promoting a boycott of Israeli universities and of study abroad in Israel".[32] After initially refusing to meet with them, Trinity President James Jones eventually met with representatives from Jewish organisations, including the Connecticut Jewish federation, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford[33] on 14 September 2010. One participant reported a "veiled threat" to have Jewish donors "weigh in". The university backed Prashad and rejected attempts to rescind his appointment.[34]


  • (2020) Washington Bullets (LeftWord Books), ISBN 978-81-945925-2-5 Preface by Evo Morales Ayma.
  • (2019) Red Star Over the Third World (Pluto Press), ISBN 978-0745339665
  • (2017) Will the Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Climate Change (New Delhi: LeftWord Books).
  • (2017) Red October: The Russian Revolution and the Communist Horizon (New Delhi: LeftWord Books)
  • (2017) Land of Blue Helmets: the United Nations in the Arab World (co-edited with Karim Makdisi) (University of California Press).
  • (2016) The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press), ISBN 978-0-520-29325-0
  • (2016) Communist Histories, vol. 1 (New Delhi: LeftWord Books).
  • (2015) No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (LeftWord Books).
  • (2015) Letters to Palestine (Verso Books).
  • (2013) Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso). Foreword by Boutros-Boutros Ghali.
  • (2012) Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today. (The New Press), ISBN 978-1-59558-784-8
  • (2012) Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, (AK Press), ISBN 978-1-84935-112-6.
  • (2007) The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, The New Press, ISBN 978-1-56584-785-9
  • (2003), Keeping up with the Dow Joneses: Stocks, Jails, Welfare, South End Press, ISBN 978-0-89608-689-0
  • (2003), Namaste Sharon: Hindutva and Sharonism under US Hegemony, LeftWord Books, ISBN 81-87496-35-5.
  • (2002) Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0-8070-5011-8
  • (2002) Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism, Zed Books, ISBN 978-1-84277-261-4
  • (2002), War against the Planet: The Fifth Afghan War, Imperialism and Other Assorted Fundamentalism, Manohar, ISBN 978-81-87496-19-9
  • (2002), Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of a Dalit Community, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-565848-4
  • (2000), The Karma of Brown Folk, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-0-8166-3438-5


  1. ^ a b c "ZNet - Junevijayint". 16 April 2013. Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b "I came to Marxism against my self-interest. Born into affluence, I was raised in an revolutionary city (Calcutta, India)" Left history, Volumes 11–12, pp 61, Department of History, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, 2006
  3. ^ "The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South". Verso Books. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Washington Bullets: A History of the CIA, Coups, and Assassinations". Monthly Review. n.d. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  5. ^ "IMI Home". Independent Media Institute. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  6. ^ "About Us; Our Team". LeftWord Books. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Advisory Board - US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel". Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  8. ^ Guttman, Nathan (26 August 2014). "Anti-Israel Professor Returns to Trinity College — Will Controversy Come Back Too?". Forward. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  9. ^ My Japanese parents, VIJAY PRASHAD, Himal, May 31, 2013
  10. ^ Prashad, Vijay. Daily Hampshire Gazette {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "About Us - Best Boarding School for Boys | The Doon School". Doon School. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  12. ^ "2011 Indian-American Achiever Awards" (PDF). GOPIO-Connecticut. Global Organization of People of Indian Origin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Vijay Prashad Video - Book Interviews". OVGuide. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Vijay Prashad". STOP HINDU HATE ADVOCACY NETWORK (SHHAN). 28 August 2020. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  15. ^ "Elisabeth Armstrong". Smith College. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  16. ^ Prashad, Vijay (17 March 2009). "The Dragons, Their Dragoons". The Nation. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  17. ^ "Against the Grain – October 18, 2004" (Podcast). KPFA. 18 October 2004. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  18. ^ Hindutva For a Few Dollars a Day (author info) Archived 28 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine People's Democracy, Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  19. ^ Buhle, Paul (1 January 2014). "Prashad at Large". Monthly Review. 65 (8): 58. doi:10.14452/MR-065-08-2014-01_5. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  20. ^ Rana, Aziz (18 March 2014). "Break the Silence: An Interview with Vijay Prashad". Asian American Writers' Workshop. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  21. ^ "Vijay Prashad has come to be known for his expert critical analysis of US imperialism and war", Chopping Through the Foundations of Racism With Vijay Prashad, Joel Wendland, 8 August 2003, Friction Magazine
  22. ^ "Casual Imperialism". Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  23. ^ "'If power is not seized, counter-revolution will rise': Vijay Prashad on the Arab revolt (Part I)". Radical Notes. 31 January 2011. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  24. ^ "A Debate on U.S. Military Intervention in Libya: Juan Cole v. Vijay Prashad". Democracy Now. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  25. ^ "Professor: In Libya, A Civil War, Not Uprising". NPR. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Vijay Prashad: Arab Spring Libyan Winter - Part I". YouTube. 18 July 2012. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  27. ^ "Vijay Prashad: Arab Spring Libyan Winter - Part II". YouTube. 18 July 2012. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  28. ^ "The Geopolitics of Iran's Nuclear Program". YouTube. American University of Beirut. 30 March 2015. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  29. ^ a b Mother Teresa: A Communist View, Vijay Prashad, Australian Marxist Review No. 40 August 1998, previously published in Political Affairs, the Journal of the Communist Party USA
  30. ^ White Women in Racialized Spaces: Imaginative Transformation and Ethical Action in Literature, Samina Najmi, Rajini Srikanth, Mother Teresa as the Mirror of Bourgeois Guilt - Chapter 4, pp 67, Published by SUNY Press, 2002, ISBN 0-7914-5477-0, ISBN 978-0-7914-5477-0
  31. ^ a b c Prashad, Vijay; Bejarano, Alejandro (11 March 2020). "Elon Musk is South America's neo-conquistador". Salon. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  32. ^ Prashad, Vijay. "Understanding the boycott of Israel's universities" Washington Post, 24 January 2014
  33. ^ "About Us". Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  34. ^ Anti-Israel Professor Returns to Trinity College — Will Controversy Come Back Too? The Forward, 26 August 2014

External links

  • Vijay Prashad's newsletters at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research
  • Vijay Prashad's Faculty Profile at Trinity College
  • Vijay Prashad's Curriculum Vitae
  • Vijay Prashad's personal blog website Archived 16 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  • Reality Asserts Itself – Vijay Prashad. A set of 4 interviews on The Real News. (October 2014)
  • Making Poverty History. Jacobin. (November 2014)
  • What Was Missing from Obama's Anti-Terrorism Speech. "Vijay Prashad says President Obama failed to acknowledge how Western intervention has contributed to the rise of extremism." (February 2015)
  • Washington’s Bullets Can’t Stamp Out the Hope of a Better World. Interview with Jacobin. (November 2020)