IDEAs hosted a panel discussion and a series of five seminars around the theme of imperialism, its nature and impact, during the World Social Forum (WSF) held in Mumbai, India, between 16 -21st January 2004. The objective of the continuous and connected series of events was to draw attention to the problems faced by different sections of our society, and capture the wide range of impact that the current imperialist neo-liberal policies are having on our world today.
Resisting Imperialism: The Agrarian Crisis
The first of the IDEAs seminars at the WSF was held in partnership with the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South, and dealt with the crisis that the agrarian sector is facing as a consequence of imperialist globalization. Professor Jomo K. S. of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Chairperson of IDEAs, as well as Professor Erinc Yeldan from Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, also on the executive committee of IDEAs and who chaired the session introduced IDEAs to the audience. The speakers in this session included Professor Utsa Patnaik from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Chanida Chanyapate Bamford from Focus on the Global South, Punyavati from All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Professor Alicia Puyana from La Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Mexico, Chittaroopa Palitfrom the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and Professor Abhijit Sen from Jawaharlal Nehru University. All the speakers were concerned about how the current focus of globalization is all about re-colonialisation of developing country agricultural sector and pointed out the immiserisation of the masses that is taking place as a result of agricultural liberalization.
Resisting Imperialism: Women and Economic Rights
The second seminar that IDEAs hosted during the World Social Forum was the session focusing on women and their economic rights in the current context. The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) were the co-sponsors of this session. The session sought to bring to the fore the problems that are now faced by a relatively marginalized section of society, in the wake of increasing withdrawal of government activity and reduction in its social expenditure. The central issue of the session concerned the economic rights of women which encompass the right to food, right to livelihood, right to housing, right to basic necessities such as safe water, fuel etc. These have been eroded by privatisation, reduced quantity and quality of public provision and increased user charges and other prices. The seminar intended to examine coping strategies as well as the possibilities of alternative policies to ensure the economic rights of women and girls. The panel discussed the issue with inputs from academics as well as from activists. The speakers at the session were Radhika Balakrishnan from the Marymount Manhattan college, New York, US, Hemlata, Sudha and Mariam Dhawale from the ‘All India Democratic Women’s Association, Anita Nayar from the University of Sussex, UK and Diane Elson from the University of Essex, United Kingdom who is also a member of the IAFFE.
Resisting Imperialism: Financial Fragility and Trade Volatility
All the speakers at the IDEAs session on Resisting Imperialism: Financial Fragility and Trade Volatility outlined the dangers of financial liberalization as this will lead to an increase in speculation and volatility in the financial sector where market signals that are available to the firms and the ability of private agents of taking market signals are the least, and the risks of market failure are the greatest. The speakers included Prof. Amiya Kumar Bagchi from the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata; Prof. Zhiyuan Cui from East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore and Wissenschaftskolleg Zu, Berlin; Prof. C.P. Chandrasekhar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Prof. Sushil Khanna from Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata; Prof. Sunanda Sen from Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia, New Delhi; and Prof. Erinc Yeldan from Bilkent University, Turkey. Prof. Korkut Boratav from Ankara University, Turkey chaired the session.
Resisting Imperialism: The World of Labour
All the speakers in this session agreed on how labour faces a grave threat under the imperialist globalization that is being forced upon most countries, and we need to unitedly resist such efforts by international capital to undermine the interests of the working class in their search for increasing profits. The speakers in this session comprised of Subhashini Ali of AIDWA; Prof. Thomas Isaac, MLA from Kerala; Dr. Praveen Jha from JNU; Ravi Naidoo from Naledi, South Africa; Prof. V.K. Ramachandranfrom Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; and Prof. William K. Tabb from Queen’s College, USA. Prof. Utsa Patnaik from JNU chaired the session.
Resisting Imperialism: The Impoverishment of Nation States
The session drew attention to the reduced ability of governments in different countries to meet their basic responsibilities for the provision of the socio-economic rights of citizens that has emerged as a typical feature of imperialist globalisation in the age of finance. The objective of the seminar was to deconstruct the elements of this enfeeblement of governments in different countries to meet their basic responsibilities for the provision of the socio-economic rights of citizens, in terms of the reduced ability to raise tax revenues, the fear of deficits, and the sale of valuable public assets to private agents. The discussion also considered the implications of these on different groups in society, and especially on women in peasant and working class households. The intent was also to show how these patterns are the result of political choices by governments, rather than inexorable economic laws, and how they can be reversed with sufficient social and political pressure.
The chair for the session was Galip Yalman from Turkey. The speakers at this session discussed the situation in a wide range of countries. The panel included Jimi Adesinafrom Rhodes University, South Africa, Alejandro Bendana from the Centre for International Studies, Managua, Nicaragua, Remy Herrera from Maison des Sciences économiques de l’Université de Paris, France, Nirmal Chandra from the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, India, Todd Tucker from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, USA and Jayati Ghosh from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
The Instruments of Imperialism: War, Trade and Finance
IDEAs also hosted a panel discussion meant for an extensive audience of 4000 during the World Social Forum. In this event, its partner organizations were the ‘Initiative for Policy Dialogue’, New York, US and ‘Focus on the Global South’, based in Bangkok, Thailand. The session was chaired by Alicia Puyana from Mexico and the panelists included Samir Amin from Senegal, Korkut Boratav from Turkey, Diane Elson from UK,Jomo K.S. from Malaysia, Joseph Stiglitz from the US, and Prabhat Patnaik from India.
The intention of the discussion was to focus on the changed character of imperialism and to analyse the workings of national and international markets in the age of ‘free’ global trade and the dominance of finance. The emphasis was on finance as a tool for dominating developing country economies. This not only implies severe deflation in developing countries with major adverse consequences for ordinary people but also the conversion of financial markets into sites for primitive accumulation by means of corporate malpractices and/or corporate crimes. Further, the new imperialism has also been characterised by greater violence and more specifically, war. Where other instruments of domination have failed, war, as a threat or as a reality, has been used. All the three instruments of trade, finance and war have thus been used in conjunction and in different combinations to subjugate the South.
While Joseph Stiglitz, representing the ‘Initiative for Policy Dialogue’ (IPD), New York, USA drew on the central theme around which the World Social Forum revolves – that ‘another world is possible’ and advocated that alternative policies must be considered, Samir Amin, from The ‘Third World Forum’ based in Dakar, Senegal, advocated the view that developing countries must de-link their economies from that of the developed countries to be able to implement alternative strategies.