Shiv Sena is an extremist party
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The Indian government was not impressed by the claim that the world is not a commodity. The day before the World Social Forum (WSF) opened in Bombay, it passed the third stage of its economic reforms. Foreign investors no longer need government approval, they can buy Indian oil companies and 74 percent of the shares in banks. "Liberalization no longer negatively affects elections," said Pramod Mahajan, an electoral strategist with the Hindu nationalist BJP, the largest party in the coalition government.
The right-wing extremist Hindu party Shiv Sena, which is represented in the national government and provides the mayor of Bombay, has little to gain from this policy. "We are against such a sell-off, and the WSF is right to oppose such privatizations," said MP Sanjai Nirupam. Once again, the approximately 80,000 participants were reminded in this way that not only the emancipatory left is critical of "globalization". But the Hindu extremists could not feel welcome.
The relocation of the venue from Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the WSF took place for the past three years, to Bombay also brought about changes in content. In addition to "imperialist globalization", social hierarchies and conflicts in particular should be debated: patriarchy, communalism ("religious sectarianism and fundamentalism") as well as caste systems and racism. For an organization like Shiv Sena, whose morals are similar to those of Islamist groups, this is not an acceptable agenda.
Capitalist development and "globalization" have produced values in parts of Indian society that combine "Western" consumerism and status with religious bigotry and patriarchal extremism. This has fatal consequences for many women. "Eliminate the dowry, not the daughters," demands Vimochana, a women's group from Bangalore present at the WSF. Arranged marriages are widespread in India and the daughters, whose marriage requires a dowry, are an economic burden.
With economic liberalization and consumer demand, the pressure on families also increases. "Once married, women are seen as a worthless parasite. More money is demanded, and if families fail to comply, the consequences can be fatal." Vimochana collects testimony and investigates the murders, mostly disguised as accidents.
Seminars like the one organized by Vimochana and the clearly visible presence of homosexuals, Dalits from the lowest caste of the "untouchables" and other groups disreputable for the conservative part of Indian society should promote the emancipatory aspirations in the "largest democracy in the world". But this time too, the movement does not seem to be able to tie the threads together and to emancipate itself from the focus on the USA as the source of all evil in the globalization debate.
But there have long been fundamentalist and national-religious models of capitalism that are ideologically differentiated from the "Western" model of society. The BJP is not forced into its privatization policy by IMF directives or US advisers. She has her own ambitious plans. "Our long-term goal is to catch up with the US," recently announced Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani.
A contemporary theory of imperialism would have to reflect the reality of a "multipolar world" in which more and more states and alliances of states are competing with the USA, as well as the growing importance of reactionary resistance to "globalization" and the question of whether it is really that much more enjoyable to toil for an Indian instead of an American entrepreneur. Capitalism is a global system in which there are stronger and weaker players and the use of state power distorts competition. However, the structure of commodity production in the production of Roquefort for French gourmets is the same as in the production of processed cheese for hamburgers.
At least at the spectacular major events, listeners and media were once again delighted with the common phrases of the globalization movement. "Nestlé, Coca-Cola, leave our countries. Give us our rights," intoned the inevitable French cheese producer and farmer activist José Bové. The Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy demanded: "If we are against imperialism, then we must not only support the resistance in Iraq, then we must become the resistance in Iraq." In the end, Roy will probably refrain from wearing an explosives belt and blowing up GIs in Baghdad. The fact that the armed "resistance" in Iraq unites patriarchal, fundamentalist and racist groups does not seem to bother them.
In this respect, the concern of the organizers of the Mumbai Resistance 2004 forum that anti-imperialism will fall short at the WSF is probably unfounded. For the first time there was an alternative event in Bombay, which did not present itself as a counter-summit, but formulated a sometimes sharp criticism of the WSF. "WSF is a structure designed by the imperialists to weaken and divert spontaneous anti-imperialist struggles," say the New Democratic Labor Front and the People’s Art and Literary Foundation. And the Maoist Jose Maria Sison, former chairman of the Philippine Communist Party, also knows how this came about: "US intelligence agents have 2,000 French Trotskyists, Le Monde Diplomatique and some crypto-Trotskyist academics and journalists organized under the cover of the Ford Foundation at Attac Caused to collaborate with Social Democrats in France and Brazil to create the WSF. "
However, there is also some serious criticism. "It is well known that the way the WSF works is far from transparent," writes Argentine author Ezequiel Adamovsky. The organizing committee is "a bunch of people nobody really knows". Is an aristocracy critical of globalization forming at the social forums, managing the protest, setting the agenda and opening the doors to global social democracy? Undoubtedly, the leaders of Western NGOs, who contribute significantly to the WSF budget, have great influence. Conspiracy theories and the popular explanatory pattern, "Bureaucratic leadership prevents radical bases from fighting", add little to the analysis.
The WSF has been reproducing the state of the globalization-critical left quite reliably for four years. Its mainstream does not represent a fundamental criticism of, let alone an alternative to capitalism, but only formulates a diffuse discomfort with the conditions in the world, which is often associated with "anti-imperialist" resentment. For example, 17-year-old Andre Fernandes, a WSF volunteer, told the Times of India that the meeting was too radical for him. "I think capitalism also has pluses that they don't want to talk about."
Source: The article was published on January 21, 2004 in the weekly newspaper "Jungle World".
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