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Globalization And The Agenda For
A Free And Democratic South Asia

By Anu Muhammad

11 October, 2004

This 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 and imperialism.

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.

Globalization of Capitalism: New Elements

This globalization 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.

Secondly, emergence 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 country’s 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 monopoly capital.

Fifthly, the peripheral State bodies have become essentially nothing more than implementing agencies of the policies determined by the international capital and its agencies.

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: more integrated

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, Bangladesh’s 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 productive bases.

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.

While industrial 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 machine.

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.

Imperialism and 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 Counter Hegemony

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 people’s struggle in neighboring countries. This indifference not only affects people’s struggle in other countries but it affects badly even ongoing struggles within India.

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 globe.

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 resource management.

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 delay.

Anu Muhammad is a Professor at Department of Economics Jahangirnagar University Dhaka, Bangladesh. e-mail:







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