People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

August 29, 2010


Globalisation and Political Alienation of Youth


R Arun Kumar


THIS August 15 we have celebrated our 64th independence day with 'pomp and pageantry'. Media was flooded with advertisements tom-tomming the 'achievements' of the government. The prime minister gave his customary speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, while the president too addressed the country. Articles analysing the present state of affairs and the distance our country travelled, occupied prime space in the media.


Amidst all this brouhaha, an interesting fact telecast in a television channel merits serious introspection. The anchor of a TV show had asked some youngsters from Mumbai a series of questions. The answers were startling. “Barring one, none could name the country's incumbent prime minister and not even one could tell the year of India's independence. One young man thought, 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' was a slogan coined by yesteryear actor Manoj Kumar”. These youth certainly do not represent the entire Mumbai nor do their answers prove the level of intellect of today’s young generation. Nevertheless, this episode points to an important emerging trend that does not augur well for the future of our country.




Compare these youth with those during the freedom struggle. Thousands of young people were inspired by the sacrifices of Bhagat Singh, his comrades and their like. Millions had responded to the call given by the Indian National Congress, gave up their studies, personal comforts and joined the freedom struggle. They took active interest in public affairs, closely followed the political developments and worked with a social purpose. They merged their personal dreams with the social – freedom to the motherland. The youth of those days not only participated as active followers, but also contributed to the debates – the means of struggle for independence and the vision for an independent country. In a way, they played an important part in radicalising the freedom movement, pushing it to adopt more progressive slogans and further broaden its scope. Their role assumes greater significance when viewed in the background of the constraints under which they had worked – absence of proper communication facilities and the brutal repression. Their hardships and sacrifices assume monumental proportions when contrasted with the immense opportunities for easy and fast communication available today.


So, what was it that moved the youth of yesterday? One answer could be the presence of the external enemy – colonialists ruling over the country. But, it was the pitiable plight of the suffering multitudes that led them to identify the external enemy as the threat. It made them discourse the colonial rule and expose it. Their sensitivity to hunger, discrimination, oppression and denial of opportunities made them question the colonial rule and revolt.


Comprehension and sensitivity to the socio-economic problems of a society depends on that particular stage of the society and the corresponding consciousness level of the people. The role played by the emerging middle classes in freedom struggle is a case in point. The middle class of those times represented the interests of the Indian ruling classes which were contradictory to the colonial interests and as the masses also shared a similar contradiction, they represented truly national interests. They have thus played a progressive role. Most of the young freedom fighters came from this class.


Independence for India did not end inequalities. Today we are a society of severe contradictions. On one hand, we have a growing number of dollar billionaires and on the other, a population more than the entire Sub-Saharan Africa suffering from hunger. We see an incidence in the cases of both obesity and malnutrition. The middle-class, which was earlier sensitive to the suffering of the unprivileged, is slowly made to shed its alliance with the poor, the downtrodden and thus their progressive element. They are slowly being co-opted by the ruling classes in their pro-liberalisation privatisation and globalisation project. As Lenin states, “...monopoly yields super profits, i.e., a surplus of profits over and above the capitalist profits that are normal and customary all over the world. The capitalists can devote a part (and not a small one, at that!) of these super profits to bribe their own workers...”. They are given incentives to take an active part in market. Market is flooded with innumerable options of consumer goods and an intense publicity blitz ensures that these sections long for those consumables that are above their budgets, with a fond hope. An intense ideological campaign is carried glorifying markets and consumerism.




Part of the same ideological plan is, actively promoting individualism as opposed to collectivism – individual well-being as opposed to collective or social well-being. This is indeed an important departure from the pre-independence days where individual well-being was considered to be intrinsically wedded to the collective well-being. Jawaharlal Nehru, during the independence struggle, exhorting the students to boycott their examinations and take part in the freedom struggle said, “who lives if India dies and who dies when India lives”. But today the ruling classes nonchalantly state, 'You just bother about your life, do not care about those mud-eating children or debt ridden farmers'. Individualism and consumerism, are successfully used to confine their attention to the 'consumer world', far away from the real world. Life's purpose is stated as just to realise these 'consumer dreams'.


Another clever machination resorted to 'hide' the real world is, changing the very definition of what India is or who do constitute India, the country. An eminent Telugu poet had remarked in the early 20th century, Desamante matti kaadoyi, desamante manushuloyi (roughly, 'it is not soil that defines a country, but it is its people). The concept of who those people are, is given a new meaning by the ruling classes. This is distinctly understood through the slogan of 'Shining India'. 'People', now mean just the rich and the middle-classes – those who are participating and can participate in the activities of the market. All the others are personae non gratae. It is not just the problems that are sought to be brushed under the carpet, but the very existence of the poor multitudes is being denied. Poverty rates are fudged; malnutrition, hunger, starvation deaths, suicides...everything is blatantly denied.


Mainstream media, the ever eager cohort, plays its part in erasing all the 'disturbing facts' and 'distressing signs' from the Indian drawing rooms. To prove that 'all is well', stories of how globalisation is doing good for the country, the increasing number of billionaires, the beautiful picture of high growth rates, spacious airport terminals, fashion shows and page 3 parties are churned with systematic regularity. Of course, at times, social evils and economic miseries too are 'covered'. But enough care is taken to ensure that these are not attributed to the private-greed encouraging LPG policies. Instead, the reasons for this sorry state of affairs are ascribed to an individual, a political party and/or politics in general. Policies are cleverly de-linked from politics and a conscious apathy towards politics and political participation in particular is generated. Remember, it is these very ruling classes, which had urged the students and youth to take interest in politics during the freedom struggle and this popular participation had transformed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi into a Mahatma. But today, once on the saddles of power, they urge the youth to shun politics.


The ruling classes are not bothered about the long-term havoc this does to our body politic. They are not just unconcerned about the harm to the democratic fabric, but in fact, want it. This does not mean that they stop talking about rights and freedoms – they extol individual rights, but despise collective rights. Right to organise, right to dissent, right to protest, right to strike, etc are castigated. It helps the political patrons of globalisation to pose as avowed democrats, but in reality they crush all forms of dissent that challenge their authority. Finance capital always strives for domination and not freedom. This explains the curtailment of labour rights and some judicial pronouncements on strikes, students' union elections etc. The scope of democracy is severely limited to just being part of the voting process, ignoring the fact that political democracy is intrinsically linked to economic, social and cultural democracy.




Globalisation is a philosophy that is contradictory to the basic principles enshrined in our constitution. It is not only opposed to socialism, but also inherently opposed to real democracy. It does not bother much if citizens are socio-political illiterates, ignorant of who their prime minister is, leave alone the policies implemented by the incumbent government. In fact, it desires the production of such individuals in hundreds of thousands. Globalisation also promotes cultural homogenisation and alienation. It alienates the youth from their decision making capabilities. They are made docile and indecisive about their future – even their education and employment. Market influences their decisions and decides for them. This passivity extends to the political sphere too and makes them shirk from their social responsibilities. Globalisation, thus, denies our country from harnessing the creative faculties of its youth by barring them from opportunities in all fields – educational, scientific, technological, cultural, social, economic and political. Ruling classes hope to thrive on this alienation of the youth.


History, however shows that their dreams are short-lived. Just as prince Siddhartha, coming into contact with reality turned into the Buddha, the middle-class and the youth too would once again realise their historic role. British thought that their education system would entrench their rule in the country. But it also produced visionaries and revolutionaries who sounded their death knell. Similarly, the efforts of the ruling classes to wean away people from their social responsibility too would only bear temporary dividends. As the crisis intensifies and the vacuousness of capitalism is exposed, they see through the illusions and join the real world in the struggle against the system. This of course, does not happen on its own. It needs to be worked upon.


The middle-class, which was earlier sensitive to the suffering of the unprivileged, is slowly made to shed its alliance with the poor, the downtrodden and thus their progressive element. They are slowly being co-opted by the ruling classes in their pro-liberalisation privatisation and globalisation project.