An Attack On People’s Movements

I bought Jagdish Bhagwati’s book “In Defense of Globalisation” with a hope that it would be stimulating and challenging, and would move the debate on economic globalisation and alternatives to it to the next stage.

The book should have been called “An attack on peoples’ movements” not “In defense of globalisation” because its entire content is an attack on civil society, its institutions and its leaders. There are no arguments in defense of globalisation. There are no empirical facts, no concrete realities. The dominant paradigm has to be loosing when one of its leading proponents spends more time quoting Shakespeare than giving us a picture of people’s economic realities.

In 1988 we had protests in India against TRIPS and the special and super 301 clauses of the U.S Trade Act. In 1991, 5,00,000 farmers marched on streets of Bangalore to say “no” to the patenting of seed, commodification of food and corporatisation of agriculture which provides livelihoods to their quarters of India’s one billion population. This is nearly 15 Seattle ‘s.

The Indian People’s campaign against WTO is a coalition of 200 organisations with membership of more than 100 million people. The Indian Ambassador to GATT during the Uruguay Round S.P. Shukla is its convenor.

“The debate on globalisation is overlaid and overwhelmed by yet another fallacy that asserts that the disillusionment with globalisation, typified by the street theater and the campus protests, is worldwide and reflects a majoritarian discontent. But this belief is true.

Bhagwati deliberately erases the movements of the South and the concern of rural people, including the Korean farmer who took his life in Cancun saying “WTO kills farmers”.

In his Trilogy of Discontents there are no peasant movements, no Via Campesinas. There are not tribal and indigenous movements. No women and no workers, there are no parliamentarians, no citizens.

“I also think that an altogether new factor on the scene that propels the young into anti-capitalist attitudes comes from a different technological source in a rather curious fashion.

What the Internet and CNN have done is to take Hume’s outermost circle and turn it into the innermost. No longer can we snore while the other half of humanity suffers plague and pestilence and the continuing misery of extreme poverty. Television has distributed our sleep, perhaps short of the fitful fever but certainly arousing our finest instincts.

What Prof. Bhagwati is ignoring is that CNN transmits propaganda like his book does; it does not communicate the reality of the Third World or of ordinary people worldwide. That reality has reached the youth through books, through their travels. Young people brought up on a CNN diet are not today’s’ activists.

Prof. Bhagwati’s defense of globalisation is not just based on attacking strawmen. It is based on an imaginary globalisation. He identifies “flows of technology” as an intrinsic component of globalisation. But IPR’s block technology transfer and TRIPS promotes monopolies on seeds and medicines and piracy of Third World biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

This is not just a recipe for poverty, it is a recipe for genocide. In the free trade world that Bhagwati upholds, peasants sell kidneys to pay debt for poisons, displaced rural women sell their bodies to feed their children, hospitals become centers of organ theft, and India which sold the finest fabrics and tastiest spices to the world becomes the dumping ground for the toxic wste of 9/11 and the exploded and unexploded shells from the war in Afganistan and Iraq. Free trade is becoming a mechanism to take our wealth ? our biodiversity, our minerals, our brains and give us trash and toxic in exchange. It is an exchange of “bads” for “goods”. This is not comparative advantage, it is loot. Which is why we say, “Our World is not for sale”.

“So we find that the mantle of social activism in India , long worn mostly by men, has now fallen on the shoulders mostly of women. The ecofeminist Vandana Shiva is the most prominent in the Western media, but she is just one of the multitude. Indeed, doing good has become so much the thing to do in India that where the parents of a young man once might have bid for a bride by offering riches or a green card for immigration into the United States through marriage, the joke today on the Indian subcontinent is that they must offer the bride her own NGO.”

The ecofeminist Vandana Shiva views technology as a male disruption of the sacred woman-natured dyad, and advocates a “subsistence” economic model. ? Shiva opened her talk at the conference by noting that one of the “positive externalities” of globalisation was that she’d made so many good friends around the world?. If “globalisation” can produce such desirable things as friends ?. Perhaps it’s wrong to name it as your main enemy. Its ironic that people should rack up the frequent flyer miles while touting the virtues of localism ?writing books and running institutes while telling the masses that they should stay home and tend to their lentils”.

The seeds we have been saving through Navdanya to resist corporate monopolies and keep farmers options of freedom alive are not “fossilized”, they are seeds of hope. There are no suicides among farming communities who save and exchange their seeds and practise organic farming.

The spokesmen for Economic Globalisation treat our international solidarity as support of free mobility of capital and goods even though globalisation of corporate rule and greed and globalisation of compassion and humanity are opposite forces. They treat freedom for corporations as the same as freedom for citizens, even though the former destroys the latter. Which is why we organise against the corporate hijack of our planet both locally and globally.

Prof. Bhagwati, I had the option to be a comfortable tenure track professor in a U.S University like you, since I did my Ph.D in the West. I started Navdanya to fight seed patents and keep alive farmers alternatives. I take no money from the organisations I have started to defend the earth, people’s livelihoods and freedom from the assault of corporations.

If you had solid arguments and evidence in defense of globalisation, you would have responded to my books Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest and Water Wars. You would have engaged in a serious and informed debate on why Indian peasants are committing suicide in thousands, and how agriculture trade can be regulated to protect farmers livelihoods and consumer health.

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