FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

American Swadeshi

Out looking for a bike for my son, we found ourselves at a prominent bicycle store in our town. The young man who waited on us was courteous, patient, and seemed to know everything about every bicycle in the store — except for one aspect — where the bicycles were made!

He was uncharacteristically tentative when I asked him a question I have begun to ask when buying anything, “Is it made in the USA?”. The response is rarely in the affirmative, and this no longer surprises me. But I am still shocked every time by the evident lack of disquiet over the fact. Shop assistants and customer service personnel simply shrug their shoulders as though it had nothing to do with them; worse, when they do venture a view, it frequently reflects a hapless fatalism.

“That’s the way everything is these days”, said our bicycle expert matter-of-factly, sounding more like a wizened old-timer than the lad of 25 he was, as I read out from the phalanx of Schwinn’s and Trek’s, American icons of old, in what sounded to me like a requiem for the US bicycle industry: “Made in China”…”Made in China”…”Made in China”… As he continued to indulge my curiosity in the best traditions of American salesmanship, we discovered shortly that there was not one American-made bicycle in the whole store! (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should add that we did finally buy a Trek from him — made in China.)

“Men go on saving labor”, wrote Mahatma Gandhi long ago, “until millions are out of work”. Change “saving labor” in Gandhi’s statement to “cutting costs”, and you have a fairly good picture of today.

As I watch the pageant of jobs board a remorseless flotilla bound eastward, nothing surprises me more than the good humored sense of inevitability with which this is accepted. Fatalism is usually regarded as a facet of the Orient. The word “Kismet”, of Kipling fame, captures the supposed mindset. In a seeming reversal of roles, it is the east today which disdains notions of predestination (witness the surprise rout of the favored globalists in India’s recent elections) while the unlikely denizens of Main Street, USA appear mired in an uncomprehending funk. If you think that is an exaggeration, consider the following: with all the ongoing discussion of unscrupulous business leaders shipping jobs abroad, the United States Congress just passed a bill giving businesses further incentives for doing more of the same! The passage of the bill made a little splash on that day, mainly on Lou Dobbs’ program, but disappeared quietly into the night thereafter. The phrase ‘taking the people for granted’ could not have found a more fitting explication.

Writing in the Guardian some months ago, columnist George Monbiot predicted that if you live in the Western Hemisphere and if your job depends on a phone or a computer, it will, within the next decade, to have fled abroad. What a shining example of abjectness! Nor is Monbiot alone — every major politician in America tiptoes around the issue of job loss with the mandatory incantation, “of course some jobs will go abroad, that’s inevitable”. No one seems to ask, Why? What is so ‘inevitable’ about the loss of millions of jobs?

In his time, Gandhi did. He looked the biggest engine of economic pilferage the world had seen, the British Empire, in the eye, and raised the call of Swadeshi. Swadeshi, which means “of the nation”, was a campaign to push for the boycott of British cloth and other foreign made artifacts, promoting the use of Indian-made (village made) goods. It served not only to resuscitate India’s cottage industries and reduce unemployment in the villages, but also gave Indians a renewed spirit of nationalism. Hand-woven cloth (khadi), in Nehru’s picturesque language, was the livery of India’s freedom.

The time is now ripe for an American Swadeshi movement.

During Gandhi’s movement in India, huge bonfires were made of British cloth and fineries, and people felt honored to use homespun cloth. Imagine the glory of an American politician who started a movement to “Buy American”. Such a politician would first of all perform a great public service, by establishing the connection between our economic behavior and its consequences — a social lesson whose very loss is one cause of such abject defeatism. This would be people’s power at its finest, wielded in their own interest and for the country as a whole. Let no one doubt, the same profiteers who suddenly discovered the virtues in “helping the third world” by sending American jobs abroad, would switch just as quickly to the slogan of “standing by your country” as soon as they discovered that “Made in America” was the surest way to profit.

A giant mantle awaits the leader who takes up such a campaign. The issue touches every nook and cranny of America, and in the end, involves nothing less than the country’s sovereignty. Cast and led properly, it has the potential to sweep everything before it — Presidency, Congress, Senate — all.

Does Kerry dare?

 

More articles by:

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail