Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Balagopal Reading Group- 17 Oct 2020

Balagopal Reading Group

Two aspects to Globalization:
  • The entire world becoming an uninhibited, unrestrained marketplace
  • A revolution in communications connecting anyone from corners of the world


Mr. Wolfensohn and his falsehoods- K. Balagopal/ 24-11-2000

"..has been refuted by the Opposition parties, but in understandably vague terms"- understandable because they also agree/ collude with and ostensible opposition is just political posturing?

Need more context around this-Possibly this BV Raghavulu essay (yet to read)

BG raises the question of distinction between guidelines, even conditions, and behaviour-altering prescriptions

The tussle of highest power between Republic Sovereignty and Multi-National Corporations is quite old. But is it really that different from the collusion of Big Business and a National Government?

-Mandatory Policy Directive:

  1. Governmental subsidy should be reduced and eventually be taken down to zero
  2. Cross-subsidy: "the rich could be charged more so that the poor could be charged less" should be completely eliminated
  3. Tariff proposals must be approved by the World Bank
  4. By 2007, distribution of electricity must be completely in private hands
  5. Tariff payable by customers must increase by 15% for first two years, and 12% thereafter

To what extent should the executive have unguided fiat? And when is it okay for the legislature to create an independent body to oversee its workings? Isn't the office of the CAG an example of that? Also, this reminds me of a P Sainath talk criticising the Jan Lokpal Bill for wanting to create an 'independent', unaccountable body to oversee the workings of the elected representatives.

"Mr. Wolfensohn was telling lies"- What were they?

I remember this time when CBN wanted to turn into the CEO of Andhra Pradesh and wanted to run an efficient Economic state-corporation a la Singapore.

The World Bank is obsessed with giving out loans to third-world countries, under the guise of poverty alleviation, because:
"as little as possible of Society’s savings should get into the hands of the State, because that way lies fiscal profligacy and economic disaster, or so the new wisdom says. And then, as much as possible of the resources that do get into the State’s coffers must be put to use for developing the high-tech and high-cost infrastructure that multinational Capital needs if it is to grace these wretched lands."
"The World Bank's model of restructuring puts a high premium on the capitalisation of all natural resources"- This, though quite obvious since the past few years, must still have been accepted knowledge even at the time of writing. That this obsession with 'growth' was unsustainable and, more importantly, unrequired. This is the famed insatiable hunger of capital. I guess most of us thought that those in power knew what they were doing until GFC blew away all pretensions of control and anything other than greed.

"These natural means of livelihood – of `poverty alleviation’ - are put out of the reach of the poor, and reserved for the engines of growth."

Infact seen this way, populism is an expression of democracy where a large group of shunned people get together to pull down the 'elites'. The bigger problem ofcourse is to prevent from a new elite rising up. I need to read up if any society (larger than a tribe of few hundred people, if even that) has managed to create a more equitable society for large periods of time. And if not, why our 'liberal' obsession with that? Or is a vocal opposition to that idea in itself the means and the end to keep power in check?

The World Social Forum Arrives in Hyderabad (Opposition to Globalization)- K. Balagopal/ 09-08-2002

Opposition to World Bank-style Globalization must be global itself:
So that those in power get to see the large numbers of people opposing them
So that people opposing globalization for various reasons get a chance to speak with each other. Some of those flavours of opposition:
Leftist groups who believe that Globalization is only an intensification of capital exploitation
Environmental groups, artisan groups, housing rights groups etc.- Possibly because they're against the global homogenization of everywhere (?)
Some who may not oppose capitalism or the market-economy but believe that "in the form of neo-liberalism it lacks the minimal human concern that civilised existence demands"

Principal international agents of Globalization: the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO etc.

World Social Forum meets at the time, and as opposition to, World Economic Forum on the first principle that Social Concern is missing from the prescriptions of WEF on the Third World.

They identified Discrimination as the opposite pole of Globalization.

The intention of the WSF is good but to organise something at this scale requires large funds and that means, obviously, to reach out to the 'Elites of WEF'.

Its the same old problem: Should you protest against Facebook's policies on Facebook itself? If I don't, I might show personal integrity but it is detrimental to my cause. And if I do, I might be able to reach large sections of people but my message would be corrupted before I get a chance to say it.

Another: As a liberal nation, should I allow illiberal organizations to form in my country. If I don't, I'm undermining my own principles. And if I do, I'm letting an enemy build enough forces to pull me down despite my nobler intentions. And ofcourse liberalism is not a suicide pact.

The best answer I've received so far to this conundrum has come from Kapil Komireddi in this wonderful, despite Komireddi's know-it-all tone, conversation with Amit Varma around his book, Malevolent Republic. Komireddi argues that Khilnani's Idea of India, which in itself is an articulation of Nehru's vision, is the one idea that can hold all the other ideas of India, and the same can't be said for, say, the Hindutva Idea of India, and so making that a much higher principle.

So I think that Mathematical formulations of political problems is not always the best way to proceed and to enter the realm of politics is to move away from definite absolutes to a more porous reality. Like Prof. Pratap Bhanu Mehta says, a politician who compromises is a way better politicians than the one who argues as if he has an autonomy over truth. Ofcourse, its important to understand the reason for compromise and if its purely lacking in higher principles.

"People’s movements tend to be represented in international gatherings by those who have access to funds, who are not those who are truly representative of the ideas and aspirations of the masses."- I don't understand if he's saying this is a good or a bad thing.

Do turkeys enjoy Thanksgiving? 

(This was not part of the readings but was shared as it was a speech at WSF 2004)


Like Gujarat was the laboratory of Hindutva, AP was the laboratory for Neo-Liberal reforms.

Basheerbagh 2000 protests

Neo-liberalism is not the state moving away from regulating the market but re-regulating it to suit the need of MNCs

Electricity is : Production -> Transmission -> Distribution

And WB forced CBN to unbundle and handover distribution to private firms

WSF one crucial schism was between Social Forums and NGOs

Why are NGOs more accepted than Armed Resistance in a Capitalist society?

EPW article- Electricity Bill 2020

Direct Benefit Transfer is a way to slowly remove Subsidy

"Now we are no more citizens, we are tax-paying consumers"

This is being celebrated by the middle-class because they think corporations improve on efficiency

Chomsky- The pandemic is a creation of the neo-liberal product

Progressive International

Do we want everyone to oppose Capitalism or we want to create a coalition?

Amartya Sen's conception of Freedom

Federalism vs Capitalism- Stars Project in Education. Federalism is interested in State-building and as such is not in favour of or against Capitalism. But now we see Big Capital using Federal structure to entrench itself further.

"State not being the bigger power must compromise infront of Capital"

Protest infront of two companies profiting from Iraqi war (from the Roy essay)- Related topic is SC recently ruling that Shaheen Bagh protestors cannot protest and inconvenience people for long times. But if the protest is not causing disruption, isn't it just posturing?

From ascendancy of free markets of that time, we've come down to countries wanting to close down their borders

The importance of groups representing themselves (Eg: Not an Economist talking on behalf of farmers regarding Farmers Bills 2020)

Even well-meaning leaders, once they come into power, inevitably end up being controlled by capitalists. What can be done to fight that?

Amaravati example: Inter-Shudra rivalrly between Kammas and Reddys

30,000 acres of land was taken without spilling a drop of blood

"Ideology has served its purpose when it becomes commonsense"

Another participant: The Inter-Shudra rivalry is not an essential part of it.

Narmada Bachao Andolan opposed WB in the 1990s.

WB pulled out of Amaravati because Jagan, who is more pro-welfare, won with a huge mandate and they felt that their demands would not be met.

Apart from the economic dispossession, there is also cultural dispossession. The sacred sites of tribals have literally been submerged."The perversion of mind is more dangerous than appropriation of matter"- BG
All said and done, you must agree that Capitalism is enticing.

<I left the discussion about an hour in>

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