Globalization and Swadeshi: Gandhian Perspective 

Published: 24.01.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015


7th ICPNA, Jaipur, November 10 to 14, 2008

TUESDAY,  November 11, 2008

4th Plenary Session

Globalization and Swadeshi: Gandhian Perspective 

The 20th Century was a strange and contradictory century. It was the bloodiest century in history with two world was and a number of bitter and endless conflicts. The last decades have put the world on the path of globalization, where the phenomena of intolerance, terrorism and war are inherent.

If we look at the balance sheet of development and human wellbeing of achievement and deficits, of profit and people, of power and poverty, of the global over-class and local under-class of universalism and particularism, of hegemony and equilibrium, of masculinity and feminism and, above all, of the global village idea and the fractured civilization, a disastrous picture of the new world (dis)order emerges. The basic nature of the cosmos - the word ‘cosmos’ means ‘order’ - truth,  beauty and goodness - is shattered.

Globalization is a tricky game of the West. Though formal colonial rule has been handed down, western domination and control continues to have an impact on large parts of the non-western world in ways which are more subtle and sophisticated, but no less destructive and devastating. The newly independent nations, after freeing themselves from their colonial masters, come with a new agenda of neo-colonialism. As a result, even though formally independent, the dominant West controls global politics and economics in one way or another.

Globalization is not a simple, but a complex set of processes that operate at multiple levels of politics, economics, culture and ideology. It is a process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which actually people are receding.

By catching hold of economy, the West in general, and America in particular, wish to have a cognitive and ideological superiority over the rest of world. Charming concepts like “global village” etc. are fake and illusionary and it is nothing else than concentration of wealth, power and knowledge in the hands of America.

Globalization has generated widespread social, economic and cultural insecurity. It is not the cross-cultural interactions of diverse societies, but an imposition of a particular culture on all others. It is the predation of one class, one race, one nation and one gender. Within the "global" the dominant "local" (the West) seeks global control. The global is not a universal human interest; it represents a particular interest and culture, which has been globalized through its reach and control.

The liberalization of trade led the way to enslavement of people. The industrial and technological development, military supremacy, cultural hegemony, arrogance of the English language, dehumanizing competition, commoditization and commercialization, have endangered the very existence of the human species and mother nature. The world is composed of solitary individuals and big markets. The world is a world without families, neighborhood, ethnic communities, towns and even nations. Globalization is giving rise to new slavery, new holocaust and new apartheid. It is a war against nature, women, children and the poor - a war which is transforming every community and home into a war zone. It is a war of monocultures against diversity, of big against small, of technologies against nature.

Thus in this hegemonistic paradigm of development there is no place for a poor, weak farmer, worker, dalit and for women. So if we want to break this trinity of poverty, powerlessness and patriarchy, let us say no to globalization and reclaim Gandhi's ideas.

Today more and more people in India and elsewhere are beginning to question this new colonialism and global democracy where you have the right and freedom to go and buy what you want. But democracy is the responsibility to be accountable to every one around you. Democracy is freedom from hunger, unemployment, fear and hatred. To fight this neo-colonial hegemony we have to go back to Gandhi and interpret global solidarity of "Vasudhev Kutumbakam" (Earth as one family) and Gandhi's vision of Swaraj (Self-governance) and Swadeshi (Politics of establishing people's own control over their environments - ecological, social, political, and cultural).

Swadeshi is an anti-colonial concept. It refers to the structures of power which colonize both externally and internally. Swadeshi is key concept in Gandhi's philosophy. It is not merely an economic doctrine, but also has ideological implications. In Swadeshi, Gandhi not only envisaged the economic salvation of India, but found an answer to psychological and political problems.

It is a people-centric concept. It refers to self-control from the individual to the society. Swadeshi is the spirit which restricts us to the service of our immediate surroundings in stead of more remote ones.

Swadeshi is search for our own identities like individuals, communities and nations too have their own identities. Particularly for societies that have suffered under a form of colonial rule, Swadeshi reclaims the right to self-dignity, self-reliance, Swavlamban and Swaraj.

Swadeshi is search for our nation's identity. Gandhi says "My nationalism is as broad as my Swadeshi. I want India's rise so that the whole world may benefit. I do not want India to rise on the ruin of other nations. No nation on earth has risen without adopting Swadeshi as the principle of life. Swadeshi for Gandhi is central to the creation of peace, freedom and sustainable development. Swadeshi or self-organization in economic affairs is the basis of economic freedom, without which there can be no political freedom or self-rule. Swadeshi is Swaraj. Swaraj is the birth right of all people and so is Suraj (Good Governance). It implies governance not by a centralized state but by decentralized self-governance by local communities. Spinning wheels and wearing khadi were symbolic for Indians. Basically Mahatma Gandhi was not against industrialization, but he was opposed to the type of proletarization where poor people are not left behind, but pushed out and excluded from access to their own wealth and resources.

The idea of Swadeshi is as old as national consciousness, arising spontaneously and mostly in an unorganized and isolated manner. The Swadeshi movements in the early phase gathered wide-spread support from the vernacular press and the local efforts of innumerable faceless men. It created a patriotic sentiment which served as moral force to boycott foreign goods. The ideology of Gandhi regarding his deep interest, support and propaganda for Swadeshi had deep links with the economic problems of unemployment of our people. He encouraged men and women to ply charkha and spin khadi and boycott foreign goods. It promoted a deep sense of love for goods manufactured in India and their use generated the spirit of selfless sacrifice amongst the masses.

Swadeshi is the creative alternative to the rule of the centralized nation-state as well as the rule of global corporations and institutions such as the WTO. Economic freedom requires reduced control by the World Bank, IMF, WTO the G-7 (or -8) and global corporations. It is freedom for the people to have secure livelihoods, to have control over policies and resources that make their livelihoods.

Swadeshi as conceived by Gandhi was not against internationalizing. He wanted India to be a self-dependent unit as only a self-dependent India can support the world. A weak unit could neither sustain itself nor help others. According to him, the main aim of Swadeshi was the protection of the home industry. Gandhi did not favour isolation of India from the world.

Some people consider Swadeshi as outdated. To the economist it is anti-economic, to the intellectual it is anti-modern, to the industrialist it is anti-technological, to the media it is amusement, and to the policy maker it is an embarrassment. The combined column of all these powerful people created deep prejudice against the idea of Swadeshi.

But now the Swadeshi view has overcome all the unfair attempts to label it as obsolete today, many intellectuals admit that Swadeshi is not a reactionary idea. Many industrialists agree on Swadeshi as the idea of strengthening the Indian industry and creating Indian multi-nationalism. Swadeshi means trusting our own genius to handle our own problems unique to ourselves.

The Swadeshi ideology has scientific value. In fact, no country has risen to heights without paying proper attention to its indigenous institutions and resources. It does not mean that we isolate ourselves from the world or process of liberalization should be reversed. What we need is a well conceived, prolonged strategy by which we can realize the economic growth on a sustainable basis. We should put more emphasis on social policies, education, poverty and raising standards of living of people. This can be achieved only by reformulating India's development policy. We have to place greater emphasis on the labour intensive sector than on capital and technology. This type of economic policy would be real Swadeshi.

Gandhi's policies are revolutionary. Those follow from Gandhi's personal experience. After all he gave up all types of privileges by choosing simplicity in his life. His philosophy involves strengthening the individual, family, community and society which in turn by its very nature weakens, fundamentally the hold of the existing market and state framework. The major appeal of Gandhian economics is to the masses and not the elite where he belonged. No government has promulgated Gandhi.

The need today is to re-invent a positive, an inclusive, a generous Swadeshi, to build and renew confidence in our abilities and skills in our people and knowledge system. Above all it means to be willing to learn, to change, to adopt and to keep our doors and windows open and not be swept off our feet.

Thus, the need is to actively think, analyze and participate in several transnational alliances and movements for creating a politics of counter-hegemonistic globalization. In all this, the long-term goal is to bring the immediate environment - social, economic, cultural and ecological - in which the people live within their own reach and control.

As intellectuals and Gandhian scholars we have to create a political culture of counter-hegemonistic globalization, i.e. Swadeshi culture.

The movement working in local areas invariably defines local issues in trans-local terms and gives a platform to counter globalization. There are social groups working for appropriate technology, human rights, gender issues, biodiversity, the whole green movement, construction of big dams, global working etc.

Then particularly, democracy and development can be conceived as parallel politics of social action, creating and maintaining new space for decision making (self-governance) by the people on matters affecting their own lives directly. As a form of practice "Swadeshi democracy" is thus a long-term social and political culture aimed at creating a new system of multiple and overlapping governances, functioning through more direct participation and control of concerned population.

At the end I would like to say that to combat globalization we have to equip ourselves with Swadeshi techniques. Instead of saying "Tina" (there is no alternative), let us say Tiaa (There is an alternative).

Dr. Rudi Jansma, Jaipur
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. 7th ICPNA
  2. 7th International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action
  3. Biodiversity
  4. Concentration
  5. Consciousness
  6. Environment
  7. Fear
  8. Globalization
  9. ICPNA
  10. International Conference On Peace And Nonviolent Action
  11. Jaipur
  12. Mahatma
  13. Mahatma Gandhi
  14. Rudi Jansma
  15. Self-governance
  16. Space
  17. Sustainable Development
  18. Swadeshi
  19. Swaraj
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