www.nettime.org
Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Paper on globalization [2/2]
Aditya Nigam on Thu, 30 Mar 2000 18:28:58 +0200 (CEST)


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Paper on globalization [2/2]


--- beginning part 2/2 ----

There were however, certain dissenting voices from the margins. For
instance, Srilatha Swaminadhan of the Rajasthan Kisan Sangathan argued
that the fight over the social clause was between two sets of exploiters
wanting a larger slice of the pie at the expense of the toiling peoples
of the world and that if the Indian workers wanted to improve their lot
they should use this opportunity. They should "fight and insist on the
linkage of the social clause with multilateral trade agreements" and to
"continue to add more and more demands of  the workers to be linked to
multilateral trade agreements."  Sujata Gothoskar of the Workers'
Solidarity Centre, Mumbai even recalled the anti-worker attitude of the
nationalist leadership to the move for factory legislation and the
enactment of the Indian Factories Act (1881) and argued that the workers
could not possibly have a stake in such a nation. She did see problems
in the institution of the social clause, its monitoring, its use or
misuse and underlined the need for evolving an independent
worker-oriented position.  Thomas Kocherry, Chairperson of the National
Fishworkers' Forum, which has been leading militant struggles of the
fisherfolk in the wake of liberalization gave expression to his
ambivalence: "On the one hand, it is clear that the real motivations of
the developed countries are dubious, on the other hand, the failure of
our government in protecting workers makes one wonder whether it is an
opportunity to be exploited." One extreme reaction has also come from
some NGOs, particularly those working on issues of child labour. Notable
among them is the Bachpan Bachao Andolan and the South Asian Coalition
Against Child Servitude, who decided to use the social clause in what
appears to be quite a naive and unproblematic way. Quite unmindful of
the power play involved in international trade, many NGOs have even lent
themselves to the business of certifying products made without the use
of child labour.
On the other side, it soon became clear that the working class and
workers' organizations and trade unions of the first world countries
were rallying around the positions of their own governments  demanding
the enforcement of the social clause, the linking of labour standards
with international trade. The ostensible logic of their position was
pro-labour - they wanted third world labour to have minimum rights too.
Yet, there was something more to it which was revealed in the American
case during the NAFTA debate. The fear that NAFTA would lead to the
movement of US capital to the low wage areas of Mexico aggravating
domestic unemployment, was played upon by the maverick presidential
candidate Ross Perot in his metaphor of the "giant sucking sound across
the border". The stand of the US unions exemplified the position of
almost all the Northern trade unions.  But in the middle of this
apparently unified voice of metropolitan labour and capital, there came
another, from the World Bank. This position was spelt out in its annual
World Development Report, 1995 entitled Workers in an Integrating World.
While the Bank celebrates globalization in the report by claiming that
"these are revolutionary times in the global economy", in the same
breath it expresses unease that  "there are fears of rising insecurity
as technological change, expanding international interactions, and the
decline of traditional community structures seem to threaten jobs,
wages, and support for the elderly."  These are precisely the type of
changes that have led to growing casualization and informalization in
countries where structural adjustment programmes and neo-liberal
economic policies have been implemented, including the United States
itself. These are also changes that, in countries like India, are bound
to aggravate conditions that the 'social clause' seeks to 'rectify'. But
the Bank is opposed to the social clause: "it is best to keep
multilateral trade agreements confined to directly trade-related issues
to prevent protectionist interests from misusing such links to reduce
the trade that workers in low and middle-income countries need if their
incomes are to rise."  So it suggests that the best way to ensure
optimum labour standards in any given country, is to institutionalize
"free trade unionism" and collective bargaining. Workers' organizations
can then themselves negotiate with the employers and the government. The
Bankís position needs to be studied and understood more seriously, but
it does seem that because it is entrusted with the task of forcing the
debtor countries to open up their economies, it probably finds it
difficult to sustain its propagation of the free-market and support the
social clause at the same time - a constraint that does not exist for
the Western nation-states. There are also indications that there has
been an acute awareness that, if the experience of the past is any
guide, structural adjustment programmes cannot be simply railroaded and
that high degrees of destitution can lead to political instability and
eventually jeopardize the very success of these programmes. In fact the
arch conservative journal The Economist devoted two full articles to
comment on the WDR `95 further strengthening its anti-social clause and
pro-unionism position.

Whether or not these are proposals that the Bank will ever push any
government to adopt, depends not just on how serious it is about them
but also on how serious others are about them and how much they can push
it in that direction. Take for instance, the pressure brought upon it on
the Sardar Sarovar Dam issue that has forced it suspend funding to it
for some time and concede some ground at some level. If the World Bank
has finally been forced to set up a World Commission on Large Dams to
examine the entire question of big dams, which includes Medha Patkar and
L. C. Jain, it is precisely because of the pressure brought upon it -
not only from the movements within but also internationally. We do not
yet know what will come out of it but it is certainly an important
development.

So we now have basically five different positions actually being
articulated in very interesting ways.
1) The pro-globalization, pro-social-clause position of the Western
powers
2) The anti-globalization, anti-social clause position of the Indian
trade unions and Left parties
3) The pro-globalization, anti-social clause position of the Indian
government and elites and the World Bank. Supported by a section of
conservative opinion represented by say, The Economist.
4) The anti-globalization, pro-social-clause position articulated by
some representatives of the unorganized sector workers. This is not
really a 'pro social-clause' position as it argues for making use of the
opportunity but does not repose any faith in the powers that seek to
impose it. It also includes many ambivalent voices. Included in this
category of responses should also be the Northern trade unions many of
whom stand opposed to globalization in more complicated ways but support
the social clause.
5) The somewhat unclear stand on globalization, of the pro social clause
NGOs working on child labour.

It is interesting that the organized trade unions representing the
organized sector workers, especially the public sector, have adopted the
more unhesitatingly outspoken nationalist position. They are after all,
not affected by any of the issues being raised in the package on
international labour standards. Child labour, bonded labour, below
subsistence wages and lack of union rights are not what they are
fighting for. It is precisely where these issues are of critical
importance, and where precious little has been done in the last five
decades, that the attitude to the social clause is more complicated. It
is precisely there that the stake in the 'nation' is the least- at best
it is ambiguous. It is reminiscent in many ways, of the situation at the
time of the nationalist movement when important leaders of the backward
castes and dalits (the untouchable castes) exhibited a similar
ambivalence towards the nationalists. It reminds us once again of the
ways in which hegemonic constructions of nationalism work to exclude the
already marginalized. It may in fact, be useful to mention here that
even the attitude to the GATT agreement itself, has not elicited the
unanimous opposition that would have been expected. Sharad Joshi's
Shetkari Sangathan has, for instance been arguing that Indian farmers
should make use of the opportunities presented by the accord. I may also
mention in parenthesis that, the NBA which leads the movement of another
marginalized, even excluded section, displays a likewise ambiguous
stance towards nationalism and has not hesitated to use international
fora to raise what many would consider  ìIndiaís internal matterî.

If there was any merit to the dominant nationalist position during the
anticolonial struggle - though this is itself a matter of serious
contention in our troubled present - there is no way it can be seen as a
simple embodiment of anti-imperialism today. If it was possible then to
indefinitely defer the claims of the subaltern/marginalized sections in
the name of national independence, it was because there was at least a
possibility that free India would mean the emancipation of these
sections also. Fifty years after the independent Indian nation-state
came into existence, and precisely at a time when it is being challenged
by the very excluded sections, the desire to do so can only be seen as a
suspect effort to defend the privileges of the Indian capitalist elite
and worse, the brahminical Hindu elite.

What the entire debate brings out, in my opinion, is the highly complex
nature of the present conjuncture. It underlines the impossibility of
defining radicalism with reference to the stance on one or even a set of
issues. Most importantly, it throws into question the entire nationalist
radical project that: (a) privileges anti-imperialism as the defining
feature of radicalism and (b) sees the nation-state as the only locus of
conducting an anti-imperialist struggle. It also demands a questioning
of the very idea of actually existing Indian nationhood and the place it
assigns to the toilers in it. It is important to recognize that it is
precisely such an idea of nationhood that makes it possible for the
ruling elite to brand the Narmada Bachao Andolan also as anti-national,
on the ostensible plea that they are blocking "national development" and
"progress".

That the stand of the Left parties is not simply a knee-jerk position
but backed by a kind of theoretical articulation is evident from the
following statement by a theorist of the orthodoxy. Aijaz Ahmed, despite
his deep marxist suspicions of nationalism says, "But a blanket contempt
for all nationalisms tends to slide over the question of imperialism. I
think that those who are fighting against imperialism cannot just forego
their nationalism. They have to go through it, transform their
nation-state in tangible ways..."  Or further, that "...there is
something profoundly democratic about anticolonial nationalisms" because
they politicize populations that have hitherto remained outside the
domains of modern politics. This idea that  they have to go through it,
that it is only through the nation-state that the struggle against
imperialism can be legitimately conducted is precisely what is at issue
here..

If the discussion in the earlier section on the social clause shows that
there is already a challenge to the notion of a unified national
interest and that correspondingly, there are different responses to
globalization, then that should lead us to ask further questions about
the idea of nationhood. For, it shows that there is no single unified
ground - the  'working class' - from where radicalism can speak, and
that the responses can be most effectively formulated from the social
location of the actors. It shows that existence as an unorganized sector
worker or an organized public sector worker can crucially determine the
extent of stake one has in the nation. But then we are already on sticky
terrain. Why would the location of an actor as an unorganized sector
weaver, for instance, be the more important ground from where s/he would
choose to act? If the weaver is simultaneously an OBC (Other Backward
Caste - a group of castes who have fought for affirmative action to
ensure jobs for them, and have been at the centre of what is known as
the Mandal commission controversy), or a Muslim or considers him/herself
a Hindu, situated further in some specific geographic locale, could s/he
not respond as a member of any of these social groups/communities? And
if it is possible that as a Muslim or a Dalit, the problem more pressing
is not really one of an abstract entity called globalization but, say of
self-respect  or the right to life, would that aspiration be any less
legitimate or radical? By what authority can it be decreed that X and
not Y should be the focus of radical political mobilization? Can we
continue to smugly inhabit a transcendental space from where we can lay
down the agenda of radicalism, which cannot but be based on the denial
of lived experience? In other words, the unravelling of the nation
itself implies the ëcoming outí of issues proscribed by hegemonic
nationalism so far - with all its attendant problems. If that happens,
it is doubtful whether our assumption of imperialism being the main
enemy/danger/threat for all can remain intact.

This brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this
paper: why has the ëpossibilityí of a nationalist, anti-imperialist
mobilization against globalization not materialized? Precisely because,
it seems, the ëmain-nessí of the threat is felt differently now that the
proscribing authority is crumbling. Ironically, the trajectory of
left-wing radicalism is moving in the opposite direction to that of the
Indian nation. For left-wing investment in Indian nationalism has been
growing in inverse proportion to its unravelling. Since the decade of
the 1980s, this assertion has assumed forms and has adopted a language
that has marked a serious rupture from those of popular struggles of
earlier decades. The struggle of the `sixties and the `seventies arose
around issues of price-rise, corruption, wages and land, but despite
their militant forms, they remained within the framework of the Indian
nation. At best they challenged the class domination of the capitalists
and landlords in their rhetoric and in the transgression of the
institutional mechanisms of redressal but never went beyond the confines
of the idea of nationhood. The culturally coded power of the upper
castes and their continuing stranglehold could never be challenged
within the sanitized secular language of modern politics. So, for
example, the slogan of  ëland to the tillerí that became the hallmark of
agrarian radicalism from the days of the Telengana movement of the
1940s, remained a movement that never touched the Dalits. Kancha Ilaiah
has argued that because they were not cultivating castes who owned at
least the implements of cultivation, the Dalits remained outside the
pale of such radicalism.  Along with nationalism then, it is probably
the unreflexive use of imported categories like ëclassí that are being
challenged today. Naturally then, left-wing nationalism would tend to
have increasingly diminishing purchase on such protests of the subaltern
and marginalized sections.
[The above is an edited version of a paper that was written more than
two years ago. Many developments have taken place in the meanwhile. Some
of the things discussed in this paper have become clearer. One instance
of the problematic nature of anti-imperialism and its easy relationship
with nationalism, is illustrated in a communication I reproduce below.]

Post Script
[For the general information of friends, I am attaching this extremely
interesting note sent by someone who has been alert to the dangers of a
naÔve anti-imperialism, as an appendix. Comments within square brackets
are mine]
----
GLOBALIZATION AND HINDUTVA: A comment from an activist

Benaras, India
January 20, 2000 (Posted on SACW dated 21/1/2000)

Recently, an e-mail message from New Delhi ?
subject: WTO DG Mike Moore faces protestors in India ?
 was widely distributed on various anti-globalization listservs as well
as some progressive and radical news services.

The message (attached below) provides a brief description about a recent
anti-WTO protest in India and an "open letter" to WTO Director-General
Mike Moore, signed by six organizations. Superficially, the post is
simple enough: a short account of a protest against the schemes of Mike
Moore and the WTO, as well as an accompanying Open Letter whose rhetoric
is common to
activists involved in anti-globalization movements ("biopiracy," "Wicked
Trade Organization," "pawn in the hands of the United States," etc.).

However, I write this message to draw attention to some of the groups
who have signed on to the Open Letter. Three of the six groups that I
have been able to identify are widely-recognized front groups affiliated
with the Hindu Right in India, while a fourth has supported the current
ruling party which represents the interests of those right-wingers. I
have not yet been able to identify the other two groups, but they
obviously have no qualms associating with the Hindu right-wing, at least
on the evidence of the letter.

The Hindu Right, comprised of a network of affiliated organizations
collectively known as the "sangh parivar", is led by the fascistic RSS
(Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and the
BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). The RSS-VHP-BJP combine and their
affiliates promote the idea of a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu homeland) which
manifests itself in a militant anti-secular, anti-Muslim and, more
recently, anti-Christian posture. The attack on the Babri Masjid in
Ayodhya in 1992, is one infamous recent chapter of the movement, while
the assassination of  Mahatma Gandhi, for his alleged appeasement of
Muslims, is another well-known post-independence bookmark (although
Gandhi, like other historical figures, has been appropriated by the
parivar for their purposes).

The sangh parivar has recently stepped up its rhetoric and attacks
against Christians while continuing to stir up anti-Muslim and
anti-secular sentiments (it goes without saying that the Hindu Right is
also militantly anti-communist and anti-feminist). The sangh parivar is
the heart of a well-organized Hindu Right mass movement in India which
is implicated in all aspects of Indian society, and whose political arm
governs the country as well as many key states. To speak cautiously, the
movement has fascist overtones, although many progressive activists in
India would not hesitate to label the Hindu Right as out-and-out
fascist.

The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Akhil
Bhartiya Vidayarthi Prishad (ABVP), signees to the open letter to Mike
Moore-are all openly part of the sangh parivar movement.

The SJM encourages the production and consumption of domestically
produced goods, appropriating the swadeshi legacy of the Indian freedom
movement. The BMS is a labour front, founded to counter so-called
"communist" inspired ideas of class-struggle. It stresses harmonious,
paternal relations with management in the "national interest" (much like
other right-wing and fascist trade unions in modern history). The ABVP
is the student wing of the parivar, which likewise wishes to
re-structure the relationship between students, teachers and college
administrators on the family model while purposely downplaying radical
student politics and
agitations.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) is a farmers' organization
which is seemingly independent of the parivar. However, it is
sympathetic to the BJP, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh where
it has provided electoral support on more than one occasion. The BKS,
like the other two groups signing on to the open letter (Laghu Udyog
Bharati and Swamajvadi Abhiyan) apparently have no problems identifying
with clearly identified Hindu Right organizations like the SJM, BMS and
ABVP.

To be sure, elements of the Hindu Right do genuinely oppose
globalization, and more-often-than-not employ anti-colonial,
anti-imperialist rhetoric in doing so. However, the anti-globalization
posture is tied to a wider agenda which seeks to scapegoat so-called
"pseudo-secularists" and "anti-national" Muslims and Christians for the
nation's problems.

Interestingly, the BJP, the largest party of the current ruling
coalition government, has embraced free-market "reforms" and has
recently passed a whole series of privatization and de-regulation bills,
which makes the pleadings of the open letter below all that much more
suspect.
[This may not be right, for there are different strands within the Hindu
right and the ones signing the statement are the more xenophobically
nationalist. The ABVP has recently even been doing an Indian version of
the Taliban  in some North Indian cities, threatening couples appearing
to enjoy Valentine's Day or issuing fatwas to girls wearing western
clothes. Some colleges have already fallen in line and  have enforced
the dress code dictated by them.]

The anti-WTO posture of elements of the Hindu Right is similar to
existence of chauvinistic right-wingers like Pat Buchanan in the USA, or
the array of anti-immigrant, far-right politicians in Europe who are
also outspoken opponents of globalization. (Admittedly, these are
imperfect analogies, and I use them simply to provide a basic frame of
reference for readers who
might not be familiar with India's political culture.)

The existence of far-right opponents of globalization is something that
various progressive opponents of globalization have been reckoning with
in the past few years. I refer here to a recent statement of the
People's Global Action against "Free" Trade movement (PGA) who squarely
addressed the issue at their conference in Bangalore last summer:

"We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination
including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious
fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human
beings. [T]he denunciation of "free" trade without an analysis of
patriarchy, racism and processes of homogenization is a basic element of
the discourse of the (extreme) right, and perfectly compatible with
simplistic explanations of complex realities and with the
personification of the effects of capitalism (such as conspiracy
theories, anti-Semitism, etc.) that inevitably lead to fascism,
witch-hunting and oppressive chauvinist traditionalism.  [The] PGA
rejects all reactionary forms of resistance to capitalism." [PGA
Bulletin, Issue #4, October 1999]

Undoubtedly, there is a militant, progressive, grassroots and radical
resistance to capitalist globalization in India, and I will forward a
quick article I recently wrote on the topic after this post. The PGA has
also posted accounts of recent protests on which my own article heavily
relies.

I encourage people receiving this note to re-post it to lists and
individuals who may have received the original post below without
knowing about the right-wing connections of the protesting organizations
signed on to the Open Letter to Mike Moore. It is important to stay
informed about
all movements against the WTO and globalization ? including the
reactionary ones. But this note is being posted in the interests of
providing some necessary context which the original message was missing.

Jaggi Singh jaggi {AT} tao.ca
January 20, 2000
Benaras, India
(based in Montreal)

----------original post----------

Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 10:31:51 -0800
From: Anuradha Mittal amittal {AT} foodfirst.org [Note that the address is of
Food First, a radical NGO, working on issues related to globalization.]
To: fianusa-news {AT} igc.topica.com
Subject: [asia-apec 1378] WTO DG faces protestors in India

New Delhi, Jan 11
While more than 200 activists were staging a demonstration outside,
three protestors sneaked into a heavily guarded venue session of the
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Meet 2000, here
today. WTO Director General Mike Moore had just finished speaking when
an activist walked to the dias and spoke against the dangers of allowing
WTO to police the world economy and also criticised the Indian
industrialists for joining hands with "an evil force".

Mr Mike Moore is in New Delhi on an invitation of the CII.

Taking the delegates attending the conference by surprise, the three
activists distributed to the delegates a copy of an open letter to the
WTO Director General. Terming the WTO as a "Wicked Trade Organisation",
the activists said that the recent protests on the streets at Seattle
had clearly demonstrated that trade was not the answer for human
development. "The protests that began in Seattle will now be seen in
India," they said.

A copy of the open letter to Mr Mike Moore is appended below:

AN OPEN LETTER TO MR MIKE MOORE

Jan 11, 2000

Mr Mike Moore
Director General
World Trade Organization.

Dear Mr Moore,

We have tolerated enough. For several years now, the people of India
have been a mute witness to the systematic effort of the rich countries
to recolonise the developing world under the garb of free trade. Over
the years, the WTO has legitimised under TRIPs the steal, grab and
plunder of biological wealth and traditional knowledge from India. Your
patent laws have been designed to facilitate biopiracy from the
biodiversity rich countries. We are aware that almost 90 per cent of
India's estimated 45,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species are
already stored illegally in the United States.

To protect the economic interests of a few million farmers on either
side of the Atlantic, the WTO has reached an Agreement on Agriculture,
which is aimed at marginalising the 550 million Indian farmers and
putting the country's food security at an unmanageable risk. For us, the
survival of our small and marginal farmers, forming the backbone of the
economy, is as essential as protecting the democratic traditions of this
great nation.

A majority of the small-scale industries in India have already closed
down. The pharmaceutical sector, which made available medicines within
easy reach of the people, is at the verge of closure. Multi-national
companies, which your organisation essentially represents, have already
embarked on the process of loot and repatriation of resources. And if
the past tradition is any indication, we know that after you quit the
WTO, you too will join one of these companies. Your interest in
furthering the cause of these companies is, therefore, obvious.

As if this is not enough, you are bringing in labour, environment and
multilateral investment within the gambit of the WTO. In any case,
Seattle has clearly demonstrated that you are merely a pawn in the hands
of the United States. Unabashedly, you addressed joint press
conferences  with the US Trade Representative. You behaved as if she was
your boss. You threw all the democratic norms to wind by permitting the
US to hijack the global forum. The WTO is, as a placard being carried by
a protestor on the streets of Seattle read: "Wicked Trade Organisation."

Your agents in India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and
the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI),
perpetuate the unequal doctrine on unsuspecting and gullible masses. For
your kind information, many of the people you support have already
sucked the national exchequer dry. For instance, the non-performing
assets of the nationalised banks in India, milked dry by a few
industrialists, stand at a staggering Rs 5,00,000 million !! [Note,
contra Jaggi, that the rhetoric is also anti-capitalist and not merely
anticolonial!]

The WTO protects the criminals. We cannot allow this to go on forever.
Let this be a warning from the people of India. We will not allow a
global system, which actually protects and supports the rich and the
powerful at the cost of the lives of millions of poor and hungry.
Mahatma Gandhi has taught us that tolerance of injustice is a crime. We
will, therefore, no longer accept any sort of coercion, threat and
injustice.

You are perhaps aware that we have had a long history of driving out the
pirates and the colonial masters. And we will do it once again, if need
be.
[Of course, the irony is that the first time it happened, these
organizations were abstainees. Both, the RSS, and the individuals
associated with the running of the present government, including the
Prime Minister, stayed studiously away from the anticolonial struggle,
where apparently Gandhi taught them to fight injustice!]
From:
Swadeshi Jagran Manch
Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh
Akhil Bhartiya Vidayarthi Prishad
Bhartiya Kisan Sangh
Laghu Udyog Bharati
Swamajvadi Abhiyan

-----end of message-----

__________________________________________
SOUTH ASIA CITIZENS WEB DISPATCH is an informal, independent &
non-profit citizens wire service run by South Asia Citizens Web
(http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex) since1996.


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net