a) Royal flush: on the Saudi Crown Prince’s surprise crackdown

Ever since he was named the defence minister of Saudi Arabia in 2015, Mohammed bin Salman has had little patience for the way the kingdom is being ruled. In June, two and a half years into the reign of his father King Salman, he replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince. In recent weeks, he had taken on the Salafi religious establishment. On Sunday, he sprang another surprise by ordering the arrest of senior government ministers, officials and 11 Princes, including the billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, and the powerful chief of the National Guard, Mutaib bin Abdullah. The immediate reason for the arrests is not known. The palace version is that they were carried out as part of a new campaign against corruption that is spearheaded by Prince Mohammed. But the recent crackdowns suggest that Prince Mohammed is consolidating his power. He first had Prince Nayef removed from his path to the throne as Crown Prince. As one of the richest among Saudi royals, Prince Alwaleed is known for his cosy ties with Western governments and less conservative views. Prince Mutaib, a favourite son of the late King Abdullah, is an influential figure within the palace. By arresting both, Prince Mohammed has potentially neutralised the money and power centres that could pose challenges to him in the future. With the latest arrests, at just 32 years of age Prince Mohammed appears to have established himself as the most powerful Saudi Crown Prince in decades. He is practically in charge of key policy decisions and has taken control of all branches of the Saudi security services — the military, internal security and the National Guard. He clearly has the King’s ear. Still, Prince Mohammed is playing a risky game. In a short span of time, he has opened multiple fronts in the still-unfolding internal power struggle. In Saudi Arabia, where the rulers traditionally distribute power among the different branches of the royal family as a balancing tactic and get their decisions approved by the ulema for legitimacy, Prince Mohammed’s moves are upending tradition. By concentrating power in his own hands and turning against other Princes as well as some clerics, he has upset the balance in the system. Quick consolidation of power could perhaps allow him to reshape the governance model. The anti-corruption campaign, which sounds much like that led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, will have popular support, which he could use to continue to target his rivals. But Prince Mohammed’s track record so far is devoid of any major achievement. His ambitious plan to reform the economy has been a non-starter. His foreign policy moves also backfired with the Yemen war spinning further out of control and the Syrian civil war turning in favour of President Bashar al-Assad, who is seen as an adversary by Riyadh. If he continues to make mistakes the game could go awry, triggering an open power struggle within the House of Saud. With the Riyadh-Tehran rivalry in West Asia hotting up again, these developments are also bound to have repercussions beyond Saudi Arabia.

b) The varied legacy of Russia’s October revolution

century ago, on November 7, the world was shaken by a revolution in Russia. Public recollection on the centenary has been scanty in India thus far, perhaps out of the fear that remembering the Russian Revolution is tantamount to endorsing its outcomes. But that would be a sentimental approach to history. Historical events are to be evaluated in terms of their consequences.

Most of it horrific

There is no gainsaying that the revolution in Russia was momentous (Picture, taken in October 1917, shows armed soldiers, with a banner reading ‘Communism’, marching on Nikolskaya street towards the Kremlin Wall in Moscow). However, if we are to think of a legacy we might say that it has been both horrific and benign, much of it having been horrific for the people of Russia and some of it benign for the rest of the world. After a brief interregnum of endless possibilities in the early 1920s, the vacuum created by the death of Lenin was taken advantage of by Josef Stalin to assume power. For the next three decades, his role was not unlike that of the Tsar who had been deposed. The opposition was annihilated, labour camps for dissidents established, the free press disbanded and the peasantry dispossessed. Among the nationalities, the Ukrainians who had once dreamt of independence were suppressed. The method was not just ruthless, it was innovative. Upon Stalin’s orders, grain was shipped out of their country to the rest of the Soviet Union, causing famine and deaths. A people were crushed. What the Ukrainians faced as a people was the treatment meted out to individual Russians who opposed the dictator. Termed ‘enemies of the people’, they were stripped of all human agency when they were not marched off to Siberia. There among the tasks assigned to them would be to work nickel mines with their bare hands in sub-zero temperature. In a history reminiscent of the Third Reich, gypsies, Jews and homosexuals found themselves in Stalin’s labour camps, the only difference being that Hitler had reserved a place also for the communists in his. It may be said that some of Stalin’s actions were no different from those of the European regimes in their colonies. While this is indeed correct, the colonial powers had not come into being promising emancipation of the oppressed. Churchill may have sucked grain out of Bengal thus tipping it into famine, but then he was unabashedly racist. On the other hand, the communist movement that eventually gave birth to the Russian Revolution was premised on the promise of power to the people. Instead, under Stalin, it gave rise to a bureaucracy, the rationale of which was to maintain the regime perpetrated by the communist party. Despite the avowedly internationalist stance of the Comintern, Stalin was not sympathetic to the Indian national movement, painting it as bourgeois in character. It is odd therefore that the Communist Party of India chose to support the British government during the Quit India movement launched by the Congress, ostensibly on grounds that an Allied Victory held out greater prospects for Indian independence. Perhaps they were unaware of Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons in 1942: “I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire…. ” Or perhaps the Indian communists just chose to follow their captain, who having once signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, was later to fall out with him.

Sets of reforms

After the death of Stalin, the former Soviet Union went through two rounds of reforms. The first was under Khrushchev and the other under Gorbachev. Following the latter, the country imploded and we are now left with Russia alone, most of the republics having gone their own way. The diminution of the former Soviet Union is of lesser importance than the fact that the political climate in what remains of its core, namely Russia, did not change. It is moot whether the Russia under Vladimir Putin today is a major change from the Russia under the Romanovs. A once-proud civilisation is now ruled by a former secret-service agent. Mr. Putin represents the very spirit that the revolution had tried to expunge, a reactionary combination of nativism and authoritarianism. He was able to rise to power due to Soviet communism’s success in preventing the creation of a free and vibrant civil society. At the ending of the former Soviet Union, the only free agents around were the communist apparatchiks and the crime syndicate. Together they divided the assets of the country built by the toil of the Russian people. This is the tragedy of the Russian Revolution. While the very people whom it was meant to serve suffered unimaginably in the cataclysmic events in the former Soviet Union, elsewhere in the world there were to be benign consequences. Of these, the rise of social democracies across Europe. In their ‘Communist Manifesto’ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had written: “A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism.” While they may have been right when they wrote this, it was a while before the vision could have an effect. It took the Russian Revolution to bring home to the ruling classes of Europe the urgency of making concessions to workers, and that too only after the Second World War and the consequent incorporation of almost half of Europe into a Soviet bloc. These took the form of the public provision of health, education and housing. Underlying this is the brilliant Marxian construction that all value is created by labour, entitling them to a larger share of the surplus than the bare necessities for their reproduction. Europe’s social democracies have combined prosperity and freedom, and provided an alternative to raw American capitalism and repressive Soviet communism. They have also demonstrated an imaginative response to the ecological constraint on mankind, something that the communist model was incapable of imagining.

Impact on colonies

The other consequence of the Russian Revolution was for Europe’s colonies. While Stalin’s initiatives for ending colonialism were notably absent, the early communist movement had a global ambition aiming for the emancipation of all subject peoples. This was to have an impact on India. Though the communists never had a hold on the British working classes, the latter supported the revolution in Russia as did the British Labour party, which drew its support from the workers. It was natural that its commitment to socialism would extend to Indian independence. The Labour Party was to redeem its pledge. Winning the elections after the Second World War, the party withdrew British rule from India. Though the subsequent return to power of the Conservative Party under Churchill was to, predictably, delay the decolonisation process, Indian independence had a domino effect on Europe’s colonial possessions.

Friendship that vanished

To end on a more mundane note, for almost three decades after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin, India enjoyed warm relations with the former Soviet Union. We received loans and other forms of economic assistance and political support in a notoriously partisan UN Security Council. An aspect of the former was the rupee-rouble trade whereby the Soviet Union accepted payment in rupees in exchange for vital goods needed by India, including defence equipment, oil and fertilizer. This mattered for the economy, for otherwise hard currency would have had to be earned on the international market before these goods could be had. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union, its erstwhile republics lost their confidence and India’s power elites turned the country westward for approbation. And a brief moment in history, when a rare friendship between diverse peoples had flourished, evaporated into thin air.


1) Sprang

Meaning: Present or propose something suddenly or unexpectedly to (someone).

Example: “we decided to spring a surprise on them”

Synonyms: Suddenly, Surprise

2) Cosy

Meaning: Giving a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation.

Example: “the flickering lamp gave the room a cosy lived-in air”

Synonyms: Snug, Comfortable

Antonyms: Uncomfortable

3) Upending

Meaning: Set or turn (something) on its end or upside down.

Example: “she upended a can of soup over the portions”

4) Rivals

Meaning: A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.

Example: “he has no serious rival for the job”

Synonyms: Competitor, Opponent

Antonyms: Partner, Ally

5) Devoid

Meaning: Entirely lacking or free from.

Example: “Lisa kept her voice devoid of emotion”

Synonyms: Lacking, Without

6) Ambitious

Meaning: Having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.

Example: “a ruthlessly ambitious woman”

Synonyms: Aspiring, Determined

Antonyms: Lazy

7) Spinning

Meaning: Turn or whirl round quickly.

Example: “the girl spun round in alarm”

Synonyms: Revolve, Rotate

8) Hotting up

Meaning: If an event or situation hots up, it becomes more exciting and more things start to happen.

Example: A few days before the elections, the pace began to hot up.

Synonyms: Excited

9) Tantamount

Meaning: Equivalent in seriousness to; virtually the same as.

Example: “the resignations were tantamount to an admission of guilt”

Synonyms: Equal to, More or less

10) Endorsing

Meaning: Declare one’s public approval or support of.

Example: “the report was endorsed by the college”

Synonyms: Support, Back

Antonyms: Oppose

11) Gainsaying

Meaning: Deny or contradict (a fact or statement).

Example: “the impact of the railways cannot be gainsaid”

Synonyms: Deny, Dispute

Antonyms: Confirm

12) Benign

Meaning:  Gentle and kind.

Example: “his benign but firm manner”

Synonyms: Kindly, Liberal

Antonyms: Hostile, Unfriendly

13) Interregnum

Meaning: A period when normal government is suspended, especially between successive reigns or regimes; The period in English history from the execution of Charles I in 1649 to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

14) Annihilated

Meaning: Destroy utterly; obliterate.

Example: “a simple bomb of this type could annihilate them all”

Synonyms: Destroy, Eliminate

Antonyms: Create, Build

15) Dissidents

Meaning: A person who opposes official policy, especially that of an authoritarian state.

Example:  “a dissident who had been jailed by a military regime”

Synonyms: Dissenter, Protester

Antonyms: Conformist

16) Disbanded

Meaning: (with reference to an organized group) break up or cause to break up.

Example: “the unit was scheduled to disband”

Synonyms: Disperse, Dissolve

Antonyms: Assemble

17) Peasantry

Meaning: Smallholders and agricultural labourers of low social status (chiefly in historical use or with reference to subsistence farming in poorer countries).

Example: “the upper class exploited the peasantry”

18) Dispossessed

Meaning: Deprive (someone) of land, property, or other possessions.

Example: “they were dispossessed of lands and properties during the Reformation”

Synonyms: Divest, Strip

19) Dreamt

Meaning: Contemplate the possibility of doing something or that something might be the case.

Example: “I wouldn’t dream of foisting myself on you”

Synonyms: Think, Consider

20) Shipped out

Meaning: To leave a situation.

Example: The company sold up and shipped out of its Dublin base.

Synonyms: Leave, Escape

21) Stripped Of

Meaning: To take something away from someone, sometimes in a way that seems unfair or dishonest.

Example: Be stripped of sth About 40,000 people may be stripped of their pensions because their employers have gone into administration.

22) Reminiscent

Meaning: Tending to remind one of something; suggesting something by resemblance.

Example: “the sights were reminiscent of my childhood”

Synonyms: Similar to

23) Emancipation

Meaning: The fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions; liberation.

Example: “the social and political emancipation of women”

Synonyms: Liberation, Release

Antonyms: Enslavement, Slavery

24) Unabashedly

Meaning: Without any worry about possible criticism or embarrassment.

Example:  She is to this day unabashed in her patriotism.

25) Perpetrated

Meaning: Carry out or commit (a harmful, illegal, or immoral action).

Example: “a crime has been perpetrated against a sovereign state”

Synonyms: Commit, Perform

26) Ostensibly

Meaning: As appears or is stated to be true, though not necessarily so; apparently.

Example: “the party secretary resigned, ostensibly from ill health”

Synonyms: Apparently, Seemingly

Antonyms: Genuinely, Really

27) Imploded

Meaning: Collapse or cause to collapse violently inwards.

Example: “both the windows had imploded”

Synonyms: Collapse, Cause

28) Diminution

Meaning: A reduction in the size, extent, or importance of something.

Example: “a permanent diminution in value”

Synonyms: Curtailment, Decrease

Antonyms: Increase, Expansion

29) Expunge

Meaning: Obliterate or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant).

Example: “the kind of man that could expunge an unsatisfactory incident from his memory”

Synonyms: Erase, Delete

Antonyms: Add, Joint

30) Authoritarianism

Meaning: The enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom; lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others.

31) Apparatchiks

Meaning: A member of a Communist Party apparat.

Example: “old apparatchiks have given way to the Russian government’s young reformers”

Synonyms: Member

32) Syndicate

Meaning: A group of individuals or organizations combined to promote a common interest.

Example: “large-scale buyouts involving a syndicate of financial institutions”

Synonyms: Same opinion or thought.

33) Cataclysmic

Meaning: (of a natural event) large-scale and violent.

Example: “a cataclysmic earthquake”

Synonyms: Tragic, Terrible

Antonyms: Fortunate, Beneficial

34) Haunting

Meaning: Poignant; evocative.

Example: the sweet haunting sound of pan pipes”

Synonyms: Evocative, Affecting

Antonyms: Unmemorable

35) Redeem

Meaning: Compensate for the faults or bad aspects of.

Example: “a disappointing debate redeemed only by an outstanding speech”

Synonyms: Save, Rescue

36) Domino effect

Meaning: The effect of the domino theory; Any of 28 small oblong pieces marked with 0–6 pips in each half.

Example: “everyone will fall over like a row of dominoes”

37) Mundane

Meaning: Lacking interest or excitement; dull.

Example: “his mundane, humdrum existence”

Synonyms: Dull, Boring

Antonyms: Extraordinary, Imaginative

38) Notoriously

Meaning: Used to emphasize that a quality or fact, typically a bad one, is well known.

Example: “the company is notoriously difficult to contact”

39) Erstwhile

Meaning: Former.

Example: “the erstwhile president of the company”

Synonyms: Old, Past

Antonyms: Present, Future

40) Approbation

Meaning: Approval or praise.

Example: “a term of approbation”

Synonyms: Approval, Support

Antonyms: Criticism


Arjuna Awards 2017 – For IBPS PO 2017

Legend Magazine – October Month Current Affairs Capsule With Quiz

THE HINDU EDITORIAL- 6th November 2017