Globalization And The Agenda For
A Free And Democratic South Asia
By Anu Muhammad
11 October, 2004
part of the world, the South Asia, is the most populous area of the
globe. The region is rich in many ways, yet this is the region with
the highest concentration of poverty, simultaneous alarming rise of
religious fascists and expansion of militarism, with intensification
of religious and ethnic conflicts. More than forty per cent of absolutely
poor people in the world live in south Asia, yet India the super power
of the region has the 4th largest army on its head, while another poor-burdened
Pakistan has the 6th largest army, so is their budget on defense. Both
India and Pakistan together have the highest concentration of poverty,
yet the ruling classes are keener in building war machines. They prefer
to make atomic bombs, not to expand atomic power to ease lives of the
billion. The ruling classes opt for this priority setting because that
helps to perpetuate the system and to accumulate of private wealth.
There is no need to elaborate the fact here that this priority of South
Asian ruling classes is inseparable with the present day global capitalism
Today we are confronting
biggest terrorist offences around the world from the US led imperialist
alliance. This continuous terror and war-cry are on the one hand an
organic expression of permanent war economy of capitalism and a desperate
attempt of the US to ensure domination over the earth on the other.
Capitalism has become truly a global system in this phase of global
history and much more potentially destructive.
of Capitalism: New Elements
of capitalism has been consistent with the conclusions derived by Karl
Marx after anatomical investigation of capitalism in its early stage
after mid 19th century. He showed in number of works the objective nature
of capitalism that is expansionary-reproductive and an international
system from the very beginning. Marx had foreseen a global capitalist
system, which is a reality today.
By 1916, V I Lenin
had developed a theoretical framework and insights to understand Imperialism.
After more than eight decades, his work on imperialism is still relevant
to understand, analyze and wage struggle against imperialism. But since
changes in many areas have occurred, we need to look beyond this classic.
As revolutionaries, we do not forget that in order to change the world
we have to go for concrete analysis of the concrete reality.
If we compare the
level of concentration, nature of monopoly finance capital we would
find a clear continuity of the imperialist system from the early 20th
century. But the new elements have also emerged in the process, which
deserve attention. The institutional set up of the global imperialist
system is one of the most important new phenomena. I would like to summarily
present five points in this regard.
Firstly, in 1916,
other than colonial powers in the west and the east most of the remaining
areas were colonies. Today these colonies have turned into several independent
states that gave local ruling classes a legal authority and a greater
space to become a part of international ruling class.
of international bodies muscled with global authority has initiated
a new form of global governance with participation from the ruling classes
of the centre as well as periphery.
Thirdly, these international
bodies, e.g., the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, the ADB and the UN agencies
have usurped the managerial role of the global capitalist system. They
have emerged as a legitimate body to intervene, manipulate and determine
a countrys course of politics and economics.
Fourthly, GATT agreement
in 1995 has opened up the world for multinational corporations and gave
a legal basis to privatize common properties in favour of international
Fifthly, the peripheral
State bodies have become essentially nothing more than implementing
agencies of the policies determined by the international capital and
In this scenario,
imperialism works in a country like Bangladesh also from within and
through legalized legitimized bodies. Imperialism is not something only
coming from outside with military power. The ruling classes within and
its institutions, through several contact and contracts and with so-called
sovereign bodies work as the junior partner or local version of international
ruling class, i.e., imperialism. Therefore anti-imperialist movement
is today more linked with the class struggles along with struggles against
gender ethnicity caste religious discrimination within and beyond border
than ever before. Globalization of capitalism has contributed to develop
ruling classes as well as oppressed classes, content and discontent
at a global scale. At this stage, interdependence of struggles in global
scale has intensified. The increasing collaboration of ruling classes
(in the form of unity and conflict) demands much more increasing collaboration
(in the form of unity in thoughts and in struggles) from the democratic
and revolutionary forces.
Bangladesh, in the
process of deeper integration in global capitalism, has been experiencing
several changes and unchanges. During the last three decades, Bangladesh
has experienced different forms of governments: Civil and Military,
Parliamentary and Presidential. Despite the changes in political power
and governance and the bloody conflicts among groups wishing to govern,
the economic front experienced a continuity of policy and ideology.
Both the changes and the continuities are important to the understanding
of the internal dynamics and external effects influencing Bangladesh.
At the time of independence, Bangladeshs society, both rural and
urban, was mostly composed of small owners: petty traders, low and middle-income
professionals, small and medium farmers, small entrepreneurs. Except
large farmers and jotedars big propertied class based on industry or
on trade was almost non-existent. That societal composition has radically
been changed during the last three decades. Big propertied multimillionaires
have grown in number to thousands in this period. However, this super
rich class has either little or negative relations with the growth of
In rural areas landless
people has grown in number and proportion too. As a class, they emerged
as a group of single majority of the population. A large segment of
this, however, has been delinked from farm work. Migration to urban
areas happened mostly from this group.
labour pool shrunk in size, new workers change its gender composition.
Women workers have become a significant part of the present working
class. In addition to that, the growth of the informal sector gave rise
to the floating labourer, low paying and insecure all the time.
After its first
three decades, we find Bangladesh is more marketized, more globalized,
and more urbanized; and, has a good number of super rich and increased
number of uprooted poor people. We also smell increasing role of international
agencies in governance of the state, see increasing presence of funding
organizations including corporate NGOs. Role of the state in major policy
formulation is rather marginal, though actively functional as repressive
Today a four party
alliance has formed the ruling government with two third majority in
the parliament. The alliance comprises Bangladesh Nationalist Party
(BNP), Jamat-i- Islami, Jatiyo Party and Islami Oikyo Jote. This four
party alliance is known to be pro-Islamic and anti-Indian.
But it is important to note that, because of its strong pro-imperialist
position the steps and policies taken by the alliance government, especially
in economic sector, gave Indian big business a good foot into Bangladesh.
It is no wonder that, even under pro-Islamic and anti-Indian
government, Bangladesh continues to be appendix of Indian economy. Anti-Indian
communal politics and pro-Indian liberal economics go hand
in hand in Bangladesh.
the Indian hegemony in the region
India, being a huge
country in the region, has accumulated authority to behave as a super
power in South Asia. Indian state has also become a regional centre
of global capitalism. US imperialism finds Indian State as a strong
regional ally. Its role represents on the one hand most consolidated
and developed bourgeoisie in the region and as an ally of global capitalism
on the other. Therefore, in this region, any anti-imperialist struggle
cannot escape struggle against Indian economic, political and cultural
hegemony. On the other hand any struggle against Indian hegemony without
linking it with anti-imperialist struggle would bind to be blind and
misleading. With the so-called economic reform projects
sponsored by global agencies like the World Bank, IMF, WTO and ADB have
opened the region for international capital, i.e., MNCs. In regional
strategy of the MNCs India emerges as a centre and therefore joint collaboration
with Indian big business bring India-US joint invasion in the region.
In most of the cases, global corporate bodies prefer to invade in the
region through Indian big corporate bodies. The policies and prescriptions
of the global agencies, therefore, stand for this alliance.
Agenda for Peoples
In this setting,
in order to change our lives, present and future, we need to have much
more clear vision and coordinated efforts on the part of revolutionaries
and the social activists. Here, because of the position of India in
the region, the role of Indian left and democratic forces is crucial.
However, in order to take things forward, we should not suppress our
feelings as well as experience in this regard. That is, unfortunately,
not very optimistic. Left in India, in general, has played much less
than what has been required. In many cases on the part of Indian left,
nationalistic and chauvinistic attitude towards smaller countries reduced
many of them into the leftist partner of the ruling classes. There are
revolutionaries in India who have long tradition of glorious struggle
but have little attention to the peoples struggle in neighboring
countries. This indifference not only affects peoples struggle
in other countries but it affects badly even ongoing struggles within
Everybody who strive
for a change would certainly agree that because of geographical location,
common colonial experience, regional common tread in environment and
livelihood, interdependence of peoples struggle the democratic
forces have no other way but to think and act on regional basis with
mutual respect and cooperation.
We should come closer
to know each other, to talk, to debate with each other and to work collectively.
I would suggest certain important area to explore and immediate initiatives:
1.We need to develop
a vision of free democratic South Asia in line with a free democratic
2.We need to work
on building a model of the best utilization of regional energy, water,
forest, and manpower resources on regional basis to maximize benefit
for the people as a whole. It would be an alternative to the model being
developed by the Global agencies and corporate bodies and supported
by local rent seekers to maximize profit at the cost of sustainable
3.We need to develop
our ideas and coordinate our struggle against religious, caste, and
class, regional, gender discrimination, imperialism and fascist rules.
We, the democratic
and revolutionary forces in the region, have definitely failed to make
revolutionary changes, but we have nevertheless succeeded to make many
changes. Our failure have definite causes, we need to identify that.
Imperialism, global monopoly capitalism have been doing everything to
expand their globalization, but in the process, dialectically, globalization
of the oppressed people all over the world has been taking shape through
increasingly globalized struggle. We have to discover the potential
and conditions of creating alternative world through intensifying and
coordinating these struggles to a definite direction.
We need to change
the present scenario, because we need human progress in Bangladesh,
so is for India, Pakistan, Nepal, Srilanka and Bhutan. To arrive at
a free and democratic South Asia end of Indian hegemony in the region
is absolutely essential; essential is the end of fascist racist forces
in different forms and the end of imperialist cancerous presence in
every country. Let us work together to achieve this goal without further
Anu Muhammad is
a Professor at Department of Economics Jahangirnagar University Dhaka,
Bangladesh. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org