September 21, 2012

Nationalism and Fear of Foreign Capital: The Indian capitalists in organised retail are angels are they?

BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, CPI leader Amarjeet Kaur, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and BJP president Nitin Gadkari share the dias during a rally organised by Confederation of All India Traders against FDI in retail and other anti-people policies of the UPA government, in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: V. Sudershan

see the news report in The Hindu

A platform called Confederation of All India Traders against FDI in retail, i.e. small traders fora part of the unorganised retail (a heavy support base of the communal Hindu right) organised the big rally in Delhi uniting the Left and the Right wing parties. One can understand the left opposing rise in price of fuel and gas but opposing FDI in big retail beats all logic other than rabid nationalism.

I am writing this to neither defend the interests of foreign multinationals that may or may not come to India with their foreign direct investment in organised retail, nor this elitist policy decision of the UPA govt. This decision by the 'golden boys' of the UPA govt to open the gates to FDI in retail will in all probability be a damp squib and not lead to any deluge of foreign firms entering India. The foreign firms heading to India to enter retail may not lead to a million jobs but certainly to a few thousand. The point is why is the left not willing to confront capitalist retail head-on, why is it burying its head in nationalism. Left's opposition to FDI in retail comes over as a preference for Indian capital as opposed to devilish foreign capital - i.e., as a nationalist rather than class critique. The left could present a cogent alternative economic proposals that they take to the public along with a critique of prevailing economic policy. But, they must take a clear social distance from right wing BJP opposition party.

Reliance, Godrej, RPG, Birlas, Kishore Biyani's Big Bazar are major domestic capitalist firms in India's organised retail and they have been there for the past 10 - 15 years, still these groups control just 5% of India's retail market. The omnipresent local corner stores, street vendors, thela-wallah outlets that often employ child labour and dont pay minimum wages in India's cities havent dissapeared because of the arrival of Indian capitalists in organised retail. This unorganised sector forms the majority of all retail. The WalMarts and the Carrefours if they do manage to come to India will not decimate the small retail. The arrival of big firms in retail will provide an opportunity to organise workers for better rights and working conditions. The left should go whole hog to unionise these workers instead of peddling a nationalist posture that fuels xenophobia.

This nationalist opposition to FDI, seems to come from a shared language of the Left and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch type fora.
- Harsh Kapoor /sacw.net