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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 12

Is Socialism a Non-Viable Casualty and Capitalism the Only Alternative?

Monday 10 March 2008, by V R Krishna Iyer



Socialists of India unite! You have nothing to lose except a few crypto-capitalist super-pragmatic Marxists. You have a creative crimson destiny to gain and a billion-strong have-not humanity to win! Why then, do you, sage comrades of Marxian vintage, renege and hug a capitalist sorceries. With a cornucopia of Socialists, Communists, Marxists, rich in daring cadres and leaders committed to extirpate exasperating, ubiquitous corruption and cannibalistic exploitation, willing to join the long march to poorna swaraj, our dauntless Democratic Republic can be great in self-reliance, dynamic development and egalitarian ethos—sans alien investment mendicancy. But this proud prospect is being dubiously debased by tycoons, lackeys, looters, freebooters, mafiosi and now, with some ‘Westoxicated’ investment-operators becoming favourite Big Business stars, alas, nascent neo- Marxist innovators who surrender to the syndrome of toxic consumerism and glitterati life-style. A dangerous class has thus emerged with the dominant doctrine of ‘money is more than man’, pollutive industry more than hungry humanity, foreign imports, wiping out swadeshi, as developmental dazzle, globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation—phoney mantras—as more than liberation from exploitation, human rights of women and children, workers and peasants and public sector economy with accountability and employment for all.

Our Swaraj culture puts humanity above commodity, sober, enlightened values above grabby, greedy glamour. Gandhiji once wrote: ‘In so far as we have made modern materialistic to craze our goal, so far are we going downhill in the path of progress.’ The hidden agenda of the capitalist North is to capture the resources of India and the Third World, debunk its socialistic ambition and make our country a mere market and banana republic. The Founding Fathers of our Constitution desiderated an economic democracy, a socialistic polity, a people’s sovereignty.

My critique of the Marxist policy novelty has to be viewed in this background. The CPI-M, the major political party which wields state power, participates in elections and sits in the House, always uncompromisingly conscientises its cadres for a socialist transformation and struggles ideologically for it among the people, spearheaded by the working class and the proletariat, for a Leftward change, is scuttling its foundational militancy. Indian humanity, developmentally energised, its genius technologically catalysed, its elected government geared to people’s planned greater good, and its collective discipline triggered to promote progressive and inventive achievements with a vision and passion—this cumulative, massive locomotive is a national trust to breach which is betrayal. This Himalayan human capital can outstrip tempting monetary investments by the capitalist class materially motivated to rob labour from jobless have-nots and deprived sectors. We want radical humanism and revolutionary patriotism to pool all available talent and toil and maximise societal change for the better happiness of the humblest and lowliest. Imperial Appetite Incorporated, with Exotic Investments Unlimited to stimulate ‘star war’ culture has undermined the lot of the vast poor, devalued our Constitution and sapped the very soul of our Swaraj. It is egregious error to consider Socialist transformation an idle dream not worth even preparatory projects, and MNC Big Business the only pragmatic strategy without an alternative. O, the pity of it!

Kerala and Bengal have had Marxist govern-ments for decades. Capitalists, native and foreign, have had considerable hold over our national economy; and for nearly 20 years the American pressure on our country’s governance has pulverised our noble traditions and social grace. No serious socialist policy has been tried by any State. My experiments as a Minister, under EMS 1957, have convinced me that people, whichever their party (or do not belong to any) and even NGOs and bureaucrats are willing to toil free for community development. Speaking generally, since 1991, the national economy is noxiously contra-constitutional, and anti-people and dollar drug-addicts. Let me cite Shashi Tharoor:

India annually gets richer by $ 200 billion. India’s foreign resources have exceeded $ 140 billion. Remember, the country had to mortgage its gold in London because the foreign exchange coffers were dry! In the list of the world’s billionaires, 27 of the world’s richest people are Indian, most of them staying in India. A large portion of the world’s poorest people live in India too and you don’t need to go to Davos to meet them. Our country’s poor live below a poverty line that seems to be drawn just this side of the funeral pyre. Two hundred and fifty million people living in condition that are a blot on our individual collective consciences is too grave a matter to be lightly dismissed. (The Tiger Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone: Reflections on India in 21st Century, p. 6)

Why I was Shocked and Stunned

I was taken aback when Buddhadeb, reportedly successful as the West Bengal Chief Minister, declared he was running a capitalist government, ignoring how rural West Bengal was developed as a great paradigm, with people’s participation and socialistic perspective away from a feudalistic fossil. But I was stunned when the great Jyoti Basu, Marxist (never capitalist) leader, who, for long, had inspired his people and many like me by his Leftist, simplest genius, strangely reversed gear, jettisoned his party fundamentals, abandoned socialism as currently impractical. The Constitution always had a socialist bias and the Planning Commission had been set up to work out a socialistic pattern of society. Nationalisation of banking, big hydel and irrigation schemes, were set up and other like Left programmes were adopted. Land reforms and urban land ceiling laws were enacted, public sector industries were built—these were not capitalist, mark you, but socialistic. Nehru, in the Constituent Assembly asserted:

We have given the content of democracy in this Resolution and not only the content of democracy but the content, if I may say so, of economic democracy. Well, I stand for Socialism. I hope, India will stand for Socialism and that India will go towards the constitution of a Socialist State.

Many parties and Parliaments have come to govern and the fundamental wonder is that the words ‘We, the People of India’ and ‘Socialist Secular Democratic’ have survived or/and every President and Minister ever in power or Judge on the Bench has taken his/her oath of office pledging to uphold those very words of the Constitution which sustains our Republic. Jyoti Basu and Bhattacharjee took office after taking an oath to uphold this Socialist Secular Democratic State. How can they now betray it after gaining State Power? Anticipating future deserters, maybe, Karl Marx in his letter to Engels once wrote:

All I know is that I am not a Marxist.
(Oxford Quotation, p. 33:12)

The workers have nothing to lose in this (revolution) but their chains. They have a world to gain. Workers of the world, unite!
(Oxford Quotation, p. 333:4)

Please remember the Marxian mandate:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

The only hope of the Indian masses is this socio-economic manumission from feudal-colonial submissiveness. Will Marxists renege?

I am aware that a crimson economy will not be born tomorrow. But I am equally aware that a powerful co-operative movement, a large-scale public sector, a just land ownership with limited ceiling, urban and rural, a nationalisation policy and workers’ organised farm policy and industrial-marketing economy can today become a reality, given the will and vision. Have you faith in people’s participation? I have. Corruption has ruined Indian politics. Exploitative industrialisa-tion, mafia menace, market racket, hospital terrorism, hotel ‘star wars’, slum slavery, freebooter robbery with no law to reach them—this is the capitalist alternative.

The author, who was the Law Minister in the first Communist Government in Kerala (1957-59), is a former Judge (now retired) of the Supreme Court of India.

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