‘Sovereignty’– why do they allergic to third world sovereignty? -Part 7
Posted on April 29th, 2010

Geethanjana Kudaligamage

Rajapakse, regional politics, “Eurocentric Developmentalism” and the western hegemony

Metaphysics- the white mythology which reassembles and reflects the culture of the west; the white man takes his own mythology, Indo-European mythology, his own logos, that is, the mythos of his idiom, for the universal form of that he must still wish to call “ƒ”¹…”Reason” (Derrida)

 The question of the day is, whether national sovereignty is an obsolete concept or a necessary tool for our survival? However weak it may be, however even waning that could be, sovereignty still provides the only safety-net for the third world countries those are vulnerable to western sponsored separatism. If there was no residue of sovereign rights left in global political culture, then most certainly we might have been lost the war at the very beginning of it. Of course there are cases that sovereignty could do nothing to stop mass murder issues elsewhere, but the remaining idea of sovereignty still “ƒ”¹…”delegitimized’ all such aggressions in the contemporary world history. For that reason, our goal must not be the submission for all utterances coming from the west for the advantage of their own political, military and economic ends, but to struggle to safeguard existing tools that would be useful for our survival. Sovereignty is one such tool.   

 Nostalgia and the yearning of globalization derived from its deceptive perpetuation of the notion of global integration, transcendence of the limits of race, nationality, religion, geographical boundaries, citizenry etc, etc. reclamation of lost hope, a site of reconciliation of identity differences. But what we witness under such banners is something different. The division, suppression of multitude, restrengthening of age old colonial exploitive apparatus, are all we witness; nothing new, but in new terminology. National sovereignty has become an obstacle to the mechanisms of integrating our national space into the global rule.

 Referring mounting global socio-political culture, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri say that this global rule doesn’t originate from a particular physical space. “Sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call empire” Although it is theoretically correct, in actuality, global rule displays all the signs of the direction of its sway and their linking hands. As they claim, if globalism is for the sake of just globalization, and if current globalization schema doesn’t have anything to do with the neo-colonial global ambitions of the west, then fragmentation of the periphery wouldn’t be a part of its agenda. But we know that it is a major part of the design. That means, current globalization agenda is not an innocent enterprise, but it has been functioning with many other sub agendas. Separatism has been a major part of this complex web of globalization circuits and its related western ambition of the continuation of their dominance upon the rest of the world.

 What is the reason behind west’s incessantly promoting separatism in south Asia and elsewhere in the periphery? Although this appeared to be paradoxical, uniting the world through globalization while promoting separatism on the one hand and attacking third world sovereignty on the other are precisely two sides of the same coin. As I said, it falls within the same category of the grandiose globalization program. These forces of liquidating nation state being Unleashed and instigated from old colonial centers of the west “ƒ”¹…”to bring the whole world under the single logic of Trans National Corporations’ control. But for globalization, it has been presented as a force eradicating differences and uniting all masses in the globe, but why then they need its exact opposite of promoting separatism in the non western world? That is a very interesting thing to learn about.  

Sovereignty is not outdated but displaced

In this era of globalization, the moment of promoting separatism in the periphery, sovereignty is not outdated at all, but it has gotten even more currency. Some says it is outdated. If it is out dated, why it has been out dated, and in relation to what updated concept that made this concept to be out dated? Where these outcries come from? Who benefits out of this outcry and who looses? Finding answers to those questions will take us to the true reasons behind this outcry. The question of the sovereignty comes to the surface only within this on going restructuring of the global apparatus of late capitalism. Separatism in Sri Lanka also must be explained within this said context.

 Instead of letting third world sovereignty to fall pray under the western agenda, the nations in the global south must be organized to use sovereignty as their “ƒ”¹…”site of resistance,’ at least against separatist forces of the globalization. Nullification of nation’s sovereignty will never be a reality if whole world wouldn’t approve such a convention. The global south is the majority of the global population. Without their approval it is impossible to bring whole world into such single system other than bringing the globe back to direct colonial rule.

    It is true, in the wake of the new Trans nationalized global market system, national sovereignty has been declined. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri observe this situation as follows”¦ “After the collapse of Soviet Union”¦we have witnessed an irresistible and irreversible globalization of economic and cultural exchanges. Along with the global market and global circuits of production has emerged a global order, a new logic and structure of rule””‚in short, a new form of sovereignty. Empire is the political subject that effectively regulates these global exchanges, the sovereign power that governs the world”¦globalization of capitalist production and exchange means that economic relations have become more autonomous from political controls, and consequently that political sovereignty has declined”¦it is certainly true that, in step with the processes of globalization, the sovereignty of nation states, while still effective, has progressively declined” (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri)  

 Hardt and Negri do not reveal that this “ƒ”¹…”decline’ of sovereignty of the weak nation state in the periphery is actually a shift, precisely a displacement and relocation of their sovereignty to the metropolitan centers of the world economic powers through other mechanisms. It is a decline for the peripheral world, but it is a strengthening of neo-colonial sovereignty in the centers of world economy.

 Without turning into history, especially into European history, and its colonial history, interpreting state sovereignty in strict modern sense will easily fall into errors. The idea of state sovereignty in modern era occurred only in the aftermath of the treaty in Westphalia. But, again, denying the coevalness of the old world, and also attempting to present this concept of sovereignty as a unique invention of modern time, the west explicitly attempts to deny the existence of the concept of sovereignty in pre-modern world especially in Asia. They deny the pre-modern sovereign history of their colonies. They even do not want to take that part into their discussion, and considered to be nonnegotiable and therefore excluded.

 In historical sense, (although western critics do not want to accept this) there are, mainly, two kinds of nation states in the world. (In relation to Columbus’s invention of Amerindia and European colonial expansion afterward) There are post Columbian nation states including post WW 2 modern states. United States, is a post Columbian modern state, most of African nations and Latin and Central American nations and Canada, Australia are post Columbian nations states. And then there are pre Columbian nation states. Sri Lanka is pre Columbian nation state, not a POST Columbian nation to begin with; it is not like South Africa, Zimbabwe, Pakistan or Bangladesh to name some among many other modern states; even India as a current political entity, what we recognize as India, can be considered as a modern state since the establishment of current political entity of India was establish only during British India. These post Columbian nation states were born only during modern age.

 But Sri Lanka was a sovereign nation, to the strict sense of independent statehood, since the beginning of the known history of mankind. It was there as a part of the “ƒ”¹…”old world’ of Asia. Only difference now is that we were introduced to capitalist democracy in the twentieth century by the British to keep us within the fold of the modern world system, in which Europe was in the center. But, as the west wants us to assume, our history has never downed after the British East India Company embarked on our shores. 

 Even for modern world system, and its production and exchange; without having a systematic control over the sovereign function of nation states in the world, a world system can never have a proper function. Now, the attack of third world sovereignty is coming from the rich world, north to south and west to east; because those rich countries are the ones in control of the existing world system and emerging global world system. But our problem is not about globalization, but its assortment of separatism. That is our main problem. Sovereignty is not only regulating market operations, it also protects territorial integrity as well. So attacking sovereignty of a country like Sri Lanka can bring harm in multiple fronts.

 Current attack on state sovereignty is only a symptom of something else. The true reason is that the state sovereignty has been constantly collided with the ongoing restructuring of a passage for a smooth function of the production and exchange in the emerging Trans national global market system and its global apparatus.

 For the controllers of the world system, sovereignty has become outdated concept now. What western theorists imply in this line of thought is that the sovereignty is “ƒ”¹…”our’ (western) invention and we lend it for you to use it for time being, but now we think it is out-dated so we take it back or else, we nullify it. In that sense, our sovereignty is a borrowed one. Similarly at a point, when the French authority in Algeria took away the citizenships of all French Jews lived in Algeria including Derrida’s one, Derrida simply questioned, how can one take away another’s citizenship? Is it a paper document or an authentic birth right? That is the simple question. There is no need to bring hair splitting arguments. The simple question is how can someone take away our authentic sovereign rights, which we have invested with the state of Sri Lanka for thousands of years?

 Sri Lanka was in the world map for millenniums. She ruled her territories, made laws, protected her people inhabiting the land, which was our sovereignty. Now all of a sudden, they say that it has been out dated. For whom? We don’t feel that way. For us, it’s still like brand-new, after reclamation of it in 1948, then revival of it in 1956, after abandoning it for long time, (forgotten by our previous administrations) then again after the battle of UN Human Rights debate, by singing it in redemption tune, then the defeat of western sponsored terrorism”¦ we feel like our sovereignty has gotten energized over time ever more. But they say it is no more valid”¦ But, as 19th century Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov once said, Brandishing saber and dashing forward into the enemy line shouting with eyes shut” shouldn’t be our brand of gallantry in dealing with this kind of issues. We need to understand the pedigree of this line of thought, word by word, phrase by phrase. Then only we can formulate a safety mechanism. For this enemy of third world sovereignty is much wiser and much superior force than LTTE, emotional reactions will never help us. However, one thing we know for sure. “Someone hates “ƒ”¹…”third world sovereignty’ a lot, but it is not us though.”

Sovereignty in modern world system

Western concept of sovereignty in modern sense can be interpreted as having supreme, independent authority over a territory. It can be found in the authority to rule and make law that rests on a given political entity, most of the time selected by people, in accepted norms. The concept has been discussed, debated and questioned throughout the modern history, and it has changed its definition, concept, and application throughout. The current notion of state sovereignty was originally laid down in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which, in relation to states, clarified the basic principles of territorial integrity, border inviolability, and supremacy of the state.

 (The term “ƒ”¹…”Treaty of Westphalia’ stands for the two peace treaties of Osnabruck (15 May 1648) and Munster (24 October 1648) that ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618″”…”1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War (1568″”…”1648) between Spain and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.)

 In “Leviathan,” a book written by Thomas Hobbes, published in 1651, concerns the structure of society and legitimate government, and is regarded as one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory in the west, argues sovereignty as a contract between ruler and the ruled.

Hobbes’ hypothesis that the sovereignty as a contract between ruler and the people, for his maintaining their safety, led him to conclude that if the ruler fails to deliver this safety, then the people are released from their obligation to obey him. (Don’t forget, this obligation in the western world is much greater burden than we Sri Lankans can imagine of. Citizenry obligation in the west is, for Sri Lankan standard, is a life long punishment) Now see the contradiction, on the one hand west advocate us to discard this Westphalian sovereignty as an outdated obstacle to our progress, and on the other hand, blames the state of Sri Lanka in the strict Hobbesian variant and Westphalian sense, branding it as a “ƒ”¹…”failed state’ for not safeguarding its sovereign duty of protecting its people. Isn’t this a “Hathara Beeri Katha” (utterances of four deaf) of the west?

 Colonial Sovereignty and the world war

Before modernism there was no world system as such to inter connect the whole world into a single system of function. Britain and France and other major colonial powers formulated a world system, in which they were in the center. The sovereignty of the modern nation state was the cornerstone of imperialism that European powers constructed throughout the modern era. In the colonial era, sovereignty of the colony was in the hands of the mother country. It was displace from its original location to the new location of the colonial power. Today, the former colonial powers are looking for ways and means for dislocating it once again under the pretext of outdating it. Whatever the word they call it, in future global world somebody will take decisions in behalf of the whole world. Who is that?

 During colonial era, they divided Africa, Latin America and Asia among them, (European powers). They invaded Australia, Pacific islands forming their colonial empires. For their greedy accumulative desires, they brought misery to millions of people world over.

“The boundaries defined by the modern system of nation-states were fundamental to European colonialism and economic expansion; the territorial boundaries of the nation delimited the center of power from which the rule was exerted over external foreign territories through a system of channels and barriers that alternately facilitated and obstructed the flows of production and circulation. Imperialism was really an extension of the sovereignty of the European nation-states beyond their own boundaries” (Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri)   

 Then in order to regulate and limit the flow of production and circulation they used these newly created colonial political entities as unique sovereign entities under the sovereignty of mother countries. Then imperial powers like Britain created imperial preference system to have monopoly over the commerce in its colonies. By that way she regulated, controlled economical exchange of large part of the world. In this regard, Chris Bambery wrote”¦.

“The Second World War was a conflict between rival imperialisms. A conflict as much between the victorious Allies as between them and the axis. Similar pressures were affecting Britain, the United States and Japan. All were locked into a system of trade protection where the only solution to their economic problems was a repartition of the world. Russia was a partial exception given its

vast territory and raw materials. But even Stalin could not separate the autarkic Russian economy from the competition between states.

 See how west has used sovereignty of their countries and ours for their advantage. The concept of sovereignty was used for the advantage of the existing imperial powers.

“¦war dictated by the logic of imperialism. This conflict was fuelled by the 1929-1932 crisis, the gravest the world capitalist system had yet experienced. In order to escape from this crisis Germany, the US, Japan and Britain, together with the lesser powers, France and Italy, adopted a similar strategy. To various degrees they looked towards creating their own protected trade areas together with state direction of the economy.”

“¦By the 1930s Britain’s share of world manufacturing was well below Germany’s and a third of America’s. Britain was attempting to control a quarter of the world with just 10 percent of global manufacturing. “¦

“¦The United States objected strongly to the creation by Britain of a sterling bloc and imperial trade preference scheme. Britain used the political legacy of empire to create a trading zone from which its rivals were excluded. This contained British colonies and dominions, much of the Middle East and countries like Argentina. Prior to the war the Sterling Area and North America accounted for half of total world trade. Any settlement between the US and Britain would shape the new world order following the war.” (Bambery)

 When the Europeans used colonial sovereignty for their advantage, it was considered good, and then precisely this particular global economic imbalance in the world created the necessary condition for two world wars and caused millions of people’s lives. In that sense if there was no Hitler, we would have been tied to the British yoke even by now. Hitler’s ambition of taking over the existing colonial empire being diverted to a new post war world order by USA , demolishing British and French empires and positioning itself in the center of the new world. So the sovereignty what we’ve got now, once taken away by the devil and suddenly by accident, fallen into our hands as a result of the clash of all devils.

 “The destruction of this set up (existing function of colonial sovereignty in world trade) was America’s key aim in its dealings with Britain throughout the war, as the British ruling class was well aware.

They were trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea–in the shape of Hitler and Roosevelt. Rab Butler, junior foreign minister, a pillar of the Tory party and a leading appeaser, wrote a month before war broke out, ‘In my political life I have always been convinced that we can no more count on America than Brazil.”

(C. Ponting, 1940: “Myth and Reality)

 However we condemn Hitler for his crimes, but it was his action changed the world situation to get the third world out of colonial exploitation that was in effect until the war was broke out. In that sense, it was not the fake and hypercritic British democracy that freed the masses of colonies, but however brutal that may be, Nazism of Hitler.

 “The United States was prepared to openly attack British colonialism (though hiding its own version of colonialism in places like the Philippines) in order to supplant its allied rival.” (Bambery)

 The choking condition of Imperial preference scheme that enforced by Britain through the colonial sovereignty was creating far reaching negative effects in US, German and Japanese economies. For that reason the main culprit who created the global condition for world-war was not Germany, actually Britain. To the prevailing condition, war was eminent. If Germany had not started the war at that point, however USA might have considered about it to gain access to world market.

 Communists articulated these prevailing conditions as”¦US capitalism is up against the same problems that pushed Germany in 1914 on the path of war. The world is divided. It must be redivided. For Germany it was a question of ‘organizing Europe’. The United States must ‘organize’ the world. History is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American dominance.

 Still at the very midst of the war, Britain was fighting to save its colonial empire and its colonial sovereign rights for further exploitation.

Except for USA at that point, fighting fascism was never the main concern of allied rulers, their exact aim was to maintain colonial rule.

“The British ruling class’s real agenda was summed up by Leo Amery at the India Office, who stated in December 1942, ‘After all, smashing Hitler is only a means to the essential end of preserving the British Empire and all it stands for in the world.” (B. Lapping “End of Empire”)

  This particular reason created such a situation at the end of the war, when the colonial territories were given independence, these sovereign political entities were left as divided as they were under colonialism, and made to rule by a cultivated colonized lumpen bourgeoisies like Ranil’s class, to rule them for the benefit of by-gone colonizers.

 To understand this, look into African example. In some cases in Africa, same indigenous tribe have been divided into different neighboring political entities, at times ruled by different colonial administrations of different countries of Europe; it may be Britain in one entity and France in the next. In the post colonial era, the west still continued their plunder by setting these people against each other. African man, the Amerindian and the Aborigines of Australia are the bleeding causalities of the modern development of Europe. Our position in Sri Lanka is still much better than that of theirs. To the amount of atrocities the European man has unleashed upon the universal humanity is unimaginable and absurd. No wonder why they do everything possible to prevent progress in the global south. If it is not the fear of their own past, what else?  

 One can argue that the invalidity of sate sovereignty is an effect not a cause within this twenty first century global atmosphere. That’s true. And also there is another thing; the first world sovereignty is still remaining with minor adjustments but most part still state sovereignty is very effective even in regulating market forces. For example, during President Bush’s administration an attempted purchase of an American oil company by a Chinese business enterprise was prevented by US government due to their eastern nightmare. And then in another occasion, port operations contract was denied to a company, due to the said company’s origin in the Middle East proving the fact that none of the economies in the world are free.  

 Time to time western countries introduced different myths as they move from one concept of hoodwinking the global south to the next concept. So throughout the history, Western administrations have moved from one deceptive concept to another to trick the rest. At the beginning, it was civilizational concept that was covering-up the exploitative colonial agenda of the west. Then it was the modernization concept that was covering up their post WW II neo colonial project. Now it is the globalization concept that is covering up their Trans National Corporation’s exploitative project of late capitalism, according to which national sovereignty has become a myth. The latest of them is the “myth of sovereignty.” When they needed to divide Africa and Asia, and played the game of “divide and rule, they wanted these countries to be sovereign nations. Then it was an excellent concept. Now, the time has been changed, their game plans have taken a new twist. In such condition, now they find that the concept of sovereignty has become a barrier for their free movements of messing-up our home. Now they attack sovereignty branding it as an “old fart” of the old queen.

If globalization is strictly for unification, why can’t they divert their whole effort for reuniting India and Africa?

If sovereignty is an “ƒ”¹…”old concept’ why they promoted separatism in Sri Lanka for last thirty years to make the Tamil community to exercise their sovereign rights separately, outside the mainstream of Sri Lankan politics under the pretext of supporting self-determination of Tamils? If sovereignty is an outdated concept, and nation state is a myth, why they create many more independent nation states around the world? Why can’t west promote unification of the world instead of promoting separation? Why can’t they promote reunification of India to begin with? Why can’t they divert all their recourses and superior espionage machinery to bring India, Pakistan and Bangladesh under one flag, and plot against their separate positions to unify these countries to create a greater INDIA? Secret services must be able to deliver results in both extremes, not only division, but also unity. Why can’t they do the same unification in Africa? Why people need to be divided by racial, religious and ideological lines instead of uniting all different races to begin with? Isn’t that the aim of globalization? Isn’t that better future for this envisioned utopia of global village? Can Minister G’L peiris ask this question from British prime minister and the secretary of state of USA when he meets them next time?

 Isn’t that a wonderful world? We whole heartedly support any super power to build such a world. But intended global village is the opposite of it. In that world, still the Niger will be the Nigger. Yellow freak and Indian coolly will be in the same trash can; in that world, racism apartheid, xenophobia will take in different shapes and different forms. Our world has been built on white man’s racial vision. Although there are so many good white people falling outside of this category, in most cases white man takes his racist ideologies with him to his next life. He is the biggest victim of his own philosophical fallacy. Since he is so arrogant and proud of his own ignorance, we even cannot help him. The living testimony for this kind is Mr. David Miliband; the funny part is, being a born Jew and a victim of the white racism, now he plays the role of the victimizer. It is said that emancipated slave is much brutal than the slave master. 

 We do not have to rediscover our motherland through the eyes of these intellectual hooligans like Gareth Evans. Our sovereignty was there since ancient times and we definitely entertain its autonomy as long as the west continually undermining it, and even beyond. We can not fight against these forces just by ourselves. The government of Sri Lanka must take initiative to enter this subject matter into the agenda of the next NAM summit for the rest of the countries in the global south to take collective measures to handle this new threat and to strengthen the sovereign rights in their respective political entities. If we can make such coalition of global south, that makes 80% of world population bringing into one slogan. We can make world history, by mobilizing global south against these unethical policies of global north toward poor nations. By that way at least we can hope to amend the project of globalization into a location where we can demand a reasonable share of distribution of resources, and also to stop its prevailing sub project of dividing periphery, including India for the single aim of maintaining European hegemony intact in the future global system. That is the only foreseeable protection plan we can have under this shadow of Trans Nationalization of the planet with the juggernaut of the superior military power of the west dividing and bringing misery to the global south.

 However, current globalization project has been identified by many critics as a mechanism of seizing control of the globe by a few, very few people of corporations for their greedy accumulation in the west. Our sovereignty has become an obstacle to that. If that is the reality of globalization, then it wouldn’t bring any good to the rest of the world population.   

(To be continued)

One Response to “‘Sovereignty’– why do they allergic to third world sovereignty? -Part 7”

  1. gunarat Says:

    If Mr. G. K. could document his thesis in terms of Eastern philosophy, particularly using the veracity of dependent co-origination (paticca samuppada) as his guiding framework, he could do a signal service to his Asian readers.

    In this lengthy essay, he has said very little that has not been said before–by the likes of Hardt and Negri, whom he quotes often. This tendency attests to his subservience to dissident Western scholarship to substantiate the Western concept of sovereignty as a safety valve for developing countries.

    According to Buddhism, globalization has existed from Day 1. Western pundits have re-invented it limiting its applicability only to anthropocentric concerns.

    This is a positive criticism that I offer to enable you to direct your creative talents to de-Westernize world scholarship and journalism. If you like, I can cite some of my own scholarly articles aimed at doing so.

    –Dr. Shelton Gunaratne, professor emeritus
    Moorhead, MN

    The crux of Buddhism is the three truths of existence: anicca, dukkha and anatta. Is sovereignty defensible in terms of these three interdependent truths? You cannot be a Buddhist if you cannot defend the crux of Buddhism.

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