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Indian Marxist says: Globalization means imperialist attack on working poor

Published May 27, 2008 8:47 PM

Manik Mukherjee, the vice president of the All-India Anti-Imperialist Forum and a senior leader of the Socialist Unity Center of India, spoke at a New York City Workers World Forum May 16 along with WWP Secretariat members Fred Goldstein and Teresa Gutierrez, who had both just returned from a conference on Marxism in Havana, Cuba. The following are excerpts from Mukherjee’s talk and from an interview with him made that same day.

Sara Flounders, Manik Mukherjee
and Ramsey Clark.
WW photo

Globalization is a nice-sounding word that means an imperialist attack on the workers and peasants. And imperialism is very bad for the common people. The workers, peasants and agricultural workers are under attack from imperialism on all fronts.

This attack is spearheaded through the use of what are called Special Economic Zones, SEZs. The workers call them “Special Exploitation Zones.” There are 1,300 SEZs planned for India. We find that many multinational companies are being invited to India by the central government and by the state government—where I am, Kolkata (Calcutta), this means the West Bengal government.

In a SEZ, the government will give the multinational the land and the company will not have to pay rent. It will also get water and electricity free. The West Bengal government says that globalization and SEZs will bring industry to the state but we have seen that no industry is established. We have a phrase for this: “jobless growth.” Even where production expands there is a net loss of jobs. These are all capital-intensive industries without much scope or opportunities for jobs for the common people.

In a SEZ, the existing labor laws won’t be operational. The owners can fire workers at will. The maximum hours workers can work will not be maintained; they may be forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day. Everything will be under the control of the owner. Poor grow poorer,

rich become billionaires

They say they are expanding industry but we know they are taking over the lands and they will use them for real estate development. The moneyed people of India will take over and build homes and the wealthy 10 percent of Indians will live there. The other 90 percent of Indians will just get poorer.

Right now 36 percent of Indians live below the poverty level, which means they get less than two full meals a day. Their purchasing power is so low that their very existence is at stake. They suffer unthinkable poverty.

On the other hand, four of the richest people in the world are Indians, including Lakshmi Mittal, owner of Mittal Steel, the biggest steel company in the world. [According to Forbes’ 2008 list of billionaires, numbers 4, 5, 6 and 8 are Indians—JC] It is these superrich and others like them who gain from globalization and SEZs, in conspiracy with the state and central governments.

They allow the multinationals to penetrate India to exploit Indian labor and resources, and in turn get access to markets in Japan and in Latin America. All capitalist and imperialist countries are going through an acute economic crisis of overproduction and underutilized capital—they are unable to invest.

Indian capitalism has also acquired imperialist characteristics and is exporting capital to other parts of the world, buying up industry, even major steel companies. Indian capital is buying even cheaper labor in Nepal and Bangladesh, which have become economic colonies of India.

In turn, India’s foreign policy is no longer nonaligned. India tilts toward the U.S. and Israel and is a large purchaser of Israeli-made arms.

With land being taken away from peasants for use in SEZs, more and more village people are coming into the cities. Since there are no jobs, there is a big increase in begging and prostitution. It is very painful that women are forced into prostitution to feed their children.

Many workers and peasants are committing suicide—no fewer than 2,000 in the last year—when they get into intractable debt that they can never pay back. Nandigram means fight back

Dow Chemical was invited into Nandigram in West Bengal to establish a chemical hub. Its plants threatened to pollute the atmosphere and a nearby river. They started grabbing all the fertile land in the SEZ. The peasants and agricultural workers will lose the use of the land, which means they lose everything.

But Nandigram turned out to be something else. It was an example of tremendous resistance. People’s committees formed. SUCI, my party, was very active in Nandigram. The state government of West Bengal intervened with severe repression. But the people kept fighting back and they had a victory. This has set an example for peasants and agricultural workers all over India. (See WW, Dec. 14, 2007, “Nandigram says ‘No!’ to Dow’s chemical hub”)

West Bengal is where not only bourgeois parties but also a social democratic party—called the Communist Party of India-Marxist but which we in SUCI have considered a social-democratic party since 1948—control the state. And they have been exposed in Nandigram for using state repression to serve capitalist interests.

SUCI is trying to unite with other forces, for example, the Naxalites and other Marxist Leninist organizations and even a part of the Congress Party called the TMC, to protest against SEZs and to develop the mass and class struggle.

Now a large sector of the people is looking to SUCI as an organization of mass and class struggle. We are gradually getting more support from workers, peasants, women and students. We have an agricultural organization and our trade union organization is the fifth largest in the country. SUCI exists in 17 of India’s 19 states.

We oppose outsourcing. We are in solidarity, for example, with U.S. workers who lose their jobs through outsourcing, and we oppose also Indian companies that outsource. Outsourcing is a conspiracy to deprive workers of different countries, and we have to maintain worker solidarity.

In India too we have to build solidarity. The British, during their colonial rule, divided people by religion—into Muslim and Hindu—so that the British could “divide and rule.” It was painful that the national leaders of the Congress Party helped the conspiracy of the British and became the party mainly of the Hindus. Now the ruling class is following the same policy, both in the name of religion and by the caste system among Hindus. They are dividing people to stop the unity of the proletariat.

It is a hard task for us to convince the common people, the working class, that caste and religion should not divide us. But we must fight together, united, against capitalism and imperialism.