African Asian Writers Conference (The News)

Should globalization be rejected out rightly?

By Babar Ayaz

At a recent conference in Islamabad progressive writers the theme was: “Design of Global cultural hegemony and the writers’ role in the defense of the heritage, culture and peace”. I was amused as this formulation and the choice of words could have been a right wing conference proposition.

To begin with it is important at the very outset to understand what ‘Globalization’ is, and then analyze its positive and negative influences on the society and its values. It is important because rejecting globalization in sweeping statements is fashionable.

So first a re-reading of the Communist Manifesto is perhaps in order when we sit to discuss globalization and its influences on our society. Interestingly, Marx and Engels had forecast the inevitable rise of globalization in 1848:

“Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguished the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify… The need of a constantly expanding market for its production chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, and establish connections everywhere.” (Read globalization).

“The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of the industry the national ground on which it stood.” (my emphasis)

“All old established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose productions are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants requiring for their satisfaction the products of different lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature … The cheap prices of the commodities are the heavy artillery, with which it battles down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on plain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeoisie mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

Moving towards mankind progress, according to political theorist Michael J. Sandal the question is, “which frictions and barriers are mere sources of waste and inefficiency, and which are a source of identity that we should protect.”

Total rejection of globalization is irrational. So let’s leave that to religious parties and the left should not stand with them. Then how do we judge what is good in globalization for the people and what is not? Perhaps the best approach for the left would be to sift globalization and support the elements, which contribute to raising the standard-of-living of the people. And oppose where it goes against the people by suggesting alternate means that are workable today and not in the unforeseen future. They should not forget in today’s ‘flat world’ thanks to cyber revolution it is not that capital has no boundaries labor has no boundaries too.

I think that the writers are doing that to a certain extent. We should bring into focus social and humanitarian issues in the market and profit driven world order. At best the writers should be creating literature which promotes humanism and be the lobbyist for the people, who are successful in reminding the policy-makers and economic managers that they have to rise above their class interest. And that they have to keep in mind that greater good of greater number of people. This is important to lessen the frictions in the world at large, which makes good business sense also.

Questions for the left are: Can debating and screaming will pressurize the policy-makers to do some good for the people? Can we just go on cribbing about what is wrong with the world all the time? Is it enough to tell the people who are poor and are suffering to reject all that is good and bad about capitalist system and its global manifestation and to wait for their redemption till there is a socialist revolution? For decades we said the revolution is around the corner, so wait, and failed to deliver it. In societies where revolution was successful, they failed to sustain it largely because they degenerated into highly centralized inefficient bureaucratic states.

In this backdrop another question the writers have to ask themselves is what are they offering to people to join them now? Yes, NOW is important. The world is moving fast, the old paradigms are falling, new division of labor is being created at cyber speed, it’s moving beyond the industrial society references. In this world where advancing technology is changing relations of production at a faster pace than when Marx and Engels took notice of it, writers have to re-think its theory, strategy and tactics. (to be continued)

(Writer can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail.com His author of What’s Wrong With Pakistan?)

 

 

Part II

Should globalization be rejected out rightly?

 Technological advancement particularly in the last two decades has changed the face of the world. They have to be factored in all political, social and economic analysis and strategies. We may indulge in a simplistic explanation that the cheap labour of developing countries is being exploited by the developed world. But imagine a world for the poor of developing countries without the jobs created by outsourcing and off-shoring. Looking at things dogmatically and not dialectically will leave the writers to preserve the values which cannot be sustained by the new economic relations and in many cases are retrogressive. Culture and languages cannot remain untouched.

 Marx and Engels dwelt on the impact of the technology ushered in by industrial revolution on social relations in mid-nineteenth century. Today we have passed that stage, same formulations are not applicable. We are in the information age where knowledge matters most. Thanks to optic fiber, global linkage, satellite and internet, knowledge is no more a secluded property of the few. Technology is providing more opportunities to the people in the developing world. All this is leading to spruce social mobility. The size of the trickle for the people is expanding, because it is the need of the capitalist system to survive. Poverty is declining of course not at the rate we want. But we don’t have to be cynical about it, if it is not happening under our prescription and off course not at the pace we desire.

 So what should be the writers’ agenda now? And what we should be doing to move forward–instead of acting protectionist of the cultural values which are feudal and tribal? I think it’s time for the writers to ponder on what is to be done on more immediate basis – something that can influence the readers not to wait for the trickle to expand and drop, but to take affirmative action to reduce poverty and inequality. It has to be a step-by-step approach that touches peoples’ sensibilities and rally them. Please, no more promise of distant dreams!

 I had the opportunity of attending the Golden Jubilee Conference of the PWA in Luckhnow; the first thing which struck me was that the Indian intellectuals are still debating as to what is the link language of India? While the North India writers insist that Hindi is the link language, their counterparts from the South say that English is the lingua franca. Now if the forum on which it is being debated is that of ethno-linguistic nationalists one can understand the diversity of the views, but such a debate should have been wrapped up by the progressives long ago. In Pakistan progressive writers have assigned the lingua franca role to Urdu and all other major languages are given equal status of the national language. This view is at times challenged by some narrow-minded Urdu supporters. The progressive writers had always maintained that Urdu does not need its over-zealous supporters. It is the language of the ‘bazaar’ across the country from Karachi to Siachen and is growing by adopting more English words than Arabic and Persian as attempted by its pundits. Move to borrow from old Sindhi and Sanskrit by Sindhi writers also failed to get popular support.

 In India the supporters of Hindi and even some progressive writers have gone a step ahead. In 1986 speeches made in Hindi at the Luckhnow conference, which was chaired by Kaifi Azmi, were easy to understand. In 2012 April the ‘Sanskritised Hindi’ spoken by many Hindi writers was so difficult that many Indian students and writers of other languages found it hard to digest in Delhi. Hindi journalist Sanjiv Upadhyaya narrated an interesting anecdote: “I asked the auto driver (Rickshaw) to take me to ‘Kendriya Sachivalya’ and he refused saying that he does not know where it is. When I told him how come you don’t know the Central Secretariat, he said tou Hindi may bolo na.” So the Hindi of Hindi movies and the street is likely to continue growing naturally. All doctored movements to make it difficult with Sanskritisation by some hard core intellectuals are not likely to be popular.

 The questions that I want to leave here for the experts are: Should language and cultural puritanism be supported in complete disregard of the fact that their organic growth to meet the social and economic changes is necessary? Has deliberate Sanskritisation of Hindu and Arabanisation of Urdu been successful? Is culture a static thing which can be protected from the influences of the economically developed societies’ culture? Isn’t culture and language considered as a super-structure of the economic structure of the society? Are we taking into account that the culture of invaders of any country mixed with the local culture always presented a synthesis? Isn’t it a fact that in the 21st century the information democratization has brought the winds of distant lands in our sitting and bed rooms thanks to television and internet?

 In the absence of progressive interpretation of social and economic changes and technological revolution, most of the debate on the globalization in the progressive writers circle is not much different than what is being said by the reactionary religious parties. The negation of human progress and process of dialectical development of society with the difference of progressive and religious semantics is not going to help the people.

 The litmus test for sifting the good influences from bad impact should be simple. If anything contributes in reducing poverty and inequality, helps in the upward social mobility of the lower classes, helps in eliminating gender, communal, caste and class discrimination — it should not only be supported but the process should be hastened. Sweeping condemnation of globalization is simplistic and anti-people.

 Culture is not a static thing it has to change with time and space today we are in the knowledge age of 21st century and whether we like it or not the is a flat village shrinking with the changing technology. So let’s not be Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and fight the windmill which was new technology in early 17th century.

 (Writer can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail.com His author of What’s Wrong With Pakistan?)

 

 

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