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India, the WTO, & Capitalist Globalization

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  • Dan Clore
    India, the WTO and capitalist globalization by Jaggi Singh BHOPAL, INDIA, January 13, 2000 – Mike Moore, the shell-shocked Director-General of
    Message 1 of 3 , May 30, 2000
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      India, the WTO and capitalist globalization

      by Jaggi Singh <jaggi@...>

      BHOPAL, INDIA, January 13, 2000 – Mike Moore, the
      shell-shocked Director-General of the World Trade
      Organization (WTO), is visiting India this week to
      meet with "top officials and business leaders". It's
      all part of a concerted attempt at damage control
      after the victory of diverse peoples' movements at
      the Battle of Seattle. According to a WTO envoy in
      Geneva, "Moore clearly sees India as a key to kick-
      starting the negotiation process." [Reuters, January
      7, 2000].

      [In an interview with India Today Magazine [January
      24, 2000], Moore spoke of the "liberating force of
      globalisation" and declared it "a reality, not a
      policy." In Moore's words, "The era of "isms" is
      over." He didn't mention "capitalISM."]

      The official Indian government delegation to the
      Seattle WTO Ministerial meetings took a hard-line
      stance, at least publicly, against linking trade to
      labour and environmental standards. It was a position
      supported by all the major parliamentary factions,
      including the so-called left parties. Indeed, the
      government's view not only echoes that of other
      governments in the "Third World", but is critically
      supported by the majority of progressive opponents of
      globalization in India and the rest of South Asia.

      It's not that activists here are "soft" or relativistic
      about labour standards, the environment or human rights;
      nor are they naïve about whom the Indian government
      really represents. Rather, they see Western governments'
      apparent discovery of universal human values and standards
      as a ploy to ensure a competitive advantage for their own
      multinational companies. This view is widespread in
      countries like India, with its own historical context of
      colonialism, and contemporary context of neo-colonialism
      (with which the "holy trinity" of the WTO, International
      Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) are considered
      synonymous).

      According to Sanjay Mangala Gopal, the co-coordinator of
      the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM,
      representing some 125 grassroots organizations): "We will
      define our own way of development and we are capable of
      doing it. Who are you to teach us about child labour or
      anything else?"

      Gopal insists that voices from the South -- where the
      majority of the world's marginalized peoples live and
      survive – should provide the leadership to the international
      resistance to globalization (by definition, this includes
      those pockets of the Third World in the North, such as many
      indigenous and minority communities in North America). The
      analysis emanating from diverse sources in the Third World –
      not just the communists – revolves around the "Three Aunties."

      They're not talking about a kindly trio of female relatives
      who pamper their nephews and nieces, but an analysis of the
      WTO and related institutions that is "anti-imperialist",
      "anti-colonial" and "anti-capitalist," phrases which are
      seemingly alien to most mainstream anti-globalization
      movements in the North. As Gopal puts it, "If you want real
      change, you have to abolish the capitalistic mode of
      development."

      In the forceful words of R. Geetha, a union and women's
      rights activist based in Madras, "Who are they [the West]
      to impose conditions on third-world countries? People are
      starving here! Why the hell should they tell us what kind
      of economy we should have?"

      Meanwhile, Medha Patkar, a leading organizer of the Narmada
      Bachao Andolan (NBA, a more-than-decade long mass movement
      against destructive development and displacement in the
      Narmada River Valley of India) is not shy in saying: "The
      ultimate goal is to say no to the WTO. We're against the
      whole capitalist system."

      As for the clear emphasis by major Western labour,
      environmental and consumer organizations that the WTO needs
      to be reformed -- the "fair trade" crowd -- activists here
      respond with varying degrees of diplomacy. In the carefully
      chosen words of Patkar, "The context of developed and
      developing countries is different. Those who are for reforms
      [will] realize over a period of time that these institutions
      [WB, IMF and WTO] are beyond reform."

      In Geetha's view, "I think the organized American working
      class is worried about American capital going to the Third
      World to exploit conditions there." She adds, "That's an
      indirect fight."

      Meanwhile, one small independent Bombay monthly (which
      describes itself as "a monthly that challenges the ideas of
      the ruling classes") writes that "[t]he big labour unions
      and environmental groups" were those "whose demands almost
      mirrored that of the US government." [The Voice of People
      Awakening, December 1999.]

      Geetha insists on having a "direct fight" against
      globalization, while Gopal feels that many opponents of
      globalization "are looking at this issue with one eye," by
      ignoring, or downplaying, the voices of the South.

      While there is a strong basis of analytical unity by India's
      numerous activist groups and movements, their tactics in
      action are diverse, reflective of the complex -- cliched
      but true -- diversity of the subcontinent itself. The actions
      range from Gandhian-style non-violence to more militant forms
      of direct action (including property destruction) to armed
      struggle in certain rural pockets of the country. To a large
      extent the tactics are complementary, but it would be too
      idealistic to assert they're not also at times at odds with
      each other. However, there is often a strong sense of
      solidarity expressed between movements. It's what Patkar
      describes as "different strategies, but same goals" which is
      to be preferred to "same strategies, but different goals"
      (after all, right-wing fanatics also employ non-violence,
      property destruction or armed struggle as tactics).

      One group directly connected to the international
      anti-globalization movement is the KRRS, the Karnataka State
      Farmer's Movement, representing thousands of peasant farmers
      in the southern state of Karnataka. In recent years, the KRRS
      has physically dismantled -- with iron bars -- a Cargill
      seed unit, trashed another office of the same multinational
      agribusiness, burned Monsanto's field trials of biotech
      cotton, and trashed a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in
      Bangalore. [Their actions put in some perspective the recent
      debate about so-called "violence against property" in Seattle.]

      The KRRS has also been a major component of the People's Global
      Action against "Free" Trade (PGA) movement, which unites
      peoples' movements on five continents (including the Zapatistas
      of southern Mexico and the Landless Peasants' Movement (MST) of
      Brazil). The PGA's "hallmarks" are a clear rejection of the WTO
      and similar institutions and agreements, a confrontational
      attitude, a call to non-violent disobedience, and
      decentralization and autonomy as organizing principles. The PGA
      also added a fifth hallmark at their recent meeting in Bangalore
      which "rejects all forms and systems of domination and
      discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism
      and religious fundamentalism of all creeds."

      According to the recent PGA bulletin, "The "denunciation of
      "free" trade without an analysis of patriarchy, racism and
      processes of homogenization is a basic element of the discourse
      of the 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." In
      the Indian context, the new hallmark serves to distinguish
      progressive internationalist opponents of globalization, like
      the KRRS, NAPM and NBA, from the Hindu Right who also employ
      much of the same rhetoric of the anti-globalization movement.

      And so, on November 30, while a state of emergency was declared
      in Seattle, and various militarized police forces proceeded to
      brutalize thousands of anti-WTO demonstrators, the KRRS
      organized it's own demonstration in Bangalore. Several thousand
      farmers, along with their allies, issued a "Quit India" notice
      to multinational food and biotech conglomerate, Monsanto.

      In the spirited words of one speaker at the rally: "We don't
      want to grow and feed poisonous food by using the genetically
      modified seeds of Monsanto. It is our responsibility to protect
      our natural resources. I would like to tell the police to be
      prepared! We will attack Monsanto unless it quits India."

      The KRRS action on N30 is just one example of the spate of recent
      anti-globalization oriented protests on the subcontinent (although
      mobilizations against the WB and IMF started in earnest in the
      mid-1980s). For example, also on N30, activists of the NBA
      organized a 1000-strong non-violent procession in the Narmada
      Valley "protesting against the anti-human agreements and
      institutions that are pushing India and the rest of the world
      into the destructive process of capitalist globalisation."

      One week earlier, 300 adivasis (indigenous peoples) from the
      state of Madhya Pradesh stormed the World Bank offices in Delhi.
      They proceeded to block the building and cover it with posters,
      graffiti, cow shit and mud (yet again, more violence to property!).
      The protesters left a letter, which reads in part, "We fought
      against the British and we will fight against the new form
      of colonialism that you represent with all our might."

      Other adivasi activists are also currently engaged in a six-month
      long procession ("padyatra") from one end of Madhya Pradesh to the
      other in order to highlight the ever-hastening process of land
      displacement in the name of globalization.

      Meanwhile, just two days ago, the non-violent protesters of the
      NBA converged on the Maheshwar dam (one part of the Narmada dam
      system) and proceeded to illegally occupy the dam site. About 4000
      took over the site, while 1500 were eventually arrested by the
      police who responded by attacking some demonstrators.

      The protests show no sign of ending, with the NAPM promising to
      disrupt Bill Clinton's anticipated visit to India in March. Their
      chosen slogans include, "Go bank foreign exploiter Clinton!" The
      NAPM will stress "opposition to exploiting US rulers but friendship
      with all those Americans who support us."

      These examples don't even account for other ongoing movements of
      indigenous persons, fisherfolk, farmers, labour activists, low caste
      and Dalit (former "untouchables") organizations, youth and
      individuals in all parts of India. More information on those
      resistance struggles, and India's rush towards adopting
      free-market
      globalization, will be appearing in these pages in the upcoming
      months.

      [Jaggi Singh is a writer, independent journalist and political
      activist based in Montreal. He is currently writing and traveling
      in India. For more information, or a longer, in-depth version of
      this article, contact him by e-mail <jaggi@...> or by phone at
      514-526-8946.]
    • caliban@gate.net
      On 30 May 00, at 21:13, Dan Clore wrote (quoting the article India, the WTO and capitalist globalization ... So how does the progressive movement reconcile
      Message 2 of 3 , May 31, 2000
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        On 30 May 00, at 21:13, Dan Clore wrote
        (quoting the article "India, the WTO and capitalist globalization"
        by Jaggi Singh <jaggi@...>):
        > The official Indian government delegation to the
        > Seattle WTO Ministerial meetings took a hard-line
        > stance, at least publicly, against linking trade to
        > labour and environmental standards. It was a position
        > supported by all the major parliamentary factions,
        > including the so-called left parties. Indeed, the
        > government's view not only echoes that of other
        > governments in the "Third World", but is critically
        > supported by the majority of progressive opponents of
        > globalization in India and the rest of South Asia.
        >
        > It's not that activists here are "soft" or relativistic
        > about labour standards, the environment or human rights;
        > nor are they naïve about whom the Indian government
        > really represents. Rather, they see Western governments'
        > apparent discovery of universal human values and standards
        > as a ploy to ensure a competitive advantage for their own
        > multinational companies.

        So how does the "progressive movement" reconcile the
        disagreement between the utopians (and rich First World
        industrial workers) who want to impose their standards on
        others by force (even if it means Third World workers lose
        jobs and starve), and "progressive opponents of globalization"
        (and also multinationational corporations) who oppose such
        cultural imperialism?



        --
        John Fast
        <caliban@...> or <cleanthes@...>
        "The problem isn't, and never was, violence on TV.
        The problem is that drugs need to be legalized."
        -----Michael Moriarty
      • David Graeber
        ... I thought Mr. Fast considers himself an anti-Statist. Yet here he is identifying policies inflicted on Third World workers through state violence as
        Message 3 of 3 , May 31, 2000
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          >On 30 May 00, at 21:13, Dan Clore wrote
          >(quoting the article "India, the WTO and capitalist globalization"
          >by Jaggi Singh <jaggi@...>):
          >> The official Indian government delegation to the
          >> Seattle WTO Ministerial meetings took a hard-line
          >> stance, at least publicly, against linking trade to
          >> labour and environmental standards. It was a position
          >> supported by all the major parliamentary factions,
          >> including the so-called left parties. Indeed, the
          >> government's view not only echoes that of other
          >> governments in the "Third World", but is critically
          >> supported by the majority of progressive opponents of
          >> globalization in India and the rest of South Asia.
          >>
          >> It's not that activists here are "soft" or relativistic
          >> about labour standards, the environment or human rights;
          >> nor are they naïve about whom the Indian government
          >> really represents. Rather, they see Western governments'
          >> apparent discovery of universal human values and standards
          >> as a ploy to ensure a competitive advantage for their own
          >> multinational companies.
          >
          >So how does the "progressive movement" reconcile the
          >disagreement between the utopians (and rich First World
          >industrial workers) who want to impose their standards on
          >others by force (even if it means Third World workers lose
          >jobs and starve), and "progressive opponents of globalization"
          >(and also multinationational corporations) who oppose such
          >cultural imperialism?

          I thought Mr. Fast considers himself an
          anti-Statist. Yet here he is identifying
          policies inflicted on Third World workers through
          state violence as freedom, and any attempt to limit
          that violence as something imposed.
          In fact, in election after election after
          election the Third World workers in question have rejected
          just the sort of neoliberal polcies that the US government,
          IMF and World Bank propose; time after time the
          governments have then been forced to adopt those
          policies anyway by the direct orders of state elites in
          the US and industrialized world, and through the
          medium of the coercive force of local states, with
          the inevitable mass protests against these policies
          being met with even more massive state violence.
          How can anyone not notice this? How can
          anyone assume that the actual stated desires of the
          Third World workers in question are irrelevant, and
          presume to declare that he knows better than they do
          what is good for them? I often wonder. My conclusion
          is that it is the inevitable result of their own
          utopianism (which is presumably what makes them so inclined to
          hurl the epithet at others): which is IMHO the most
          dangerous conceivable form, a kind of free-market
          version of Stalinism. It's basically the same line:
          an enlightened elite has discovered the True Science of
          Society (in this case free market economic theory)
          and since it's the only way to organise any society,
          everyone must shut up and do what they're told because
          though it'll mean horrible dislocation, misery and
          death now, somewhere down the road, we don't know
          quite when, it will lead to a paradise of prosperity
          and happiness. (Why do you think it was so easy for
          old Stalinist elites in Eastern Europe and China to
          switch over to the Neoliberal line. It's basically
          exactly the same line, except with a different "science
          of society").
          For a proponent of this sort of imperialism to
          then go on to claim to be an _opponent_ of cultural
          imperialism because he defends the rights of, say,
          Mexican workers to not be allowed to form unions without
          thugs coming to carve the flesh off of union organisers
          (as often happens there; union organizers are often
          murdered in extremely gruesome ways), or the rights
          of Pakistani 10-year-olds to be sold as debt pawns by
          their parents and end up spending the rest of their brief
          lives working 12 hour days weaving carpets, is, well,
          rather ironic.

          Now if I have to deal with the same tedious
          free-market ideology here as on the net I'm going to
          have to ask Dan to take me off the list. This shit is
          tiresome and I have _much_ better things to do with
          my day. Mr. Fast is obviously a nice guy personally,
          but for whatever psychological reasons he seems to have
          decided to become an apologist for brutality - mainly,
          it would seem, because of a wishful-thinking desire not
          to have to face up to the ugliness of what really goes on
          in the world. Whatever the reason, I don't want to know.
          I am tired of debating with such people. Could this
          please be the last?
          David
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